Archive for June, 2011

The Pain of Hell


                “Therefore as the tares are gathered together and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness.  And will cast them in to the furnace of fire; where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Mathew 13: 40-42.)


                Tares are weeds that disguise themselves as wheat in the early stages of growth.  These parasitic imposters infected the wheat fields of many 1st century Judean farmers.  They unknowingly cultivated tares with their wheat.  When the tares had matured enough to be identified they could no longer be removed (the roots were inseparable.)  Tearing up the weeds would damage the surrounding crops.  The farmers had no choice but to allow them to grow together until the harvest.  During the reaping season the farmers cut the stalks and collected and stored the wheat; the weeds were uprooted and burned.  In this world, the wicked and the just live side by side; but the harvest day approaches; a day of judgment dawns on the horizon.  In that day God will separate the evil from the good; those who have obeyed His commands will live forever with Him in paradise.  Those who have denied Him and practiced evil will be gathered together and burned in hell.  Hell is a place where “there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  Very few things can produce enough pain to cause a person to gnash their teeth (un-medicated amputation; stomach trauma; compound fractures; large kidney stones, etc.)  Gnashing is a symptom of extreme suffering; the brain, overwhelmed by pain, flexes the jaw muscles, forcing the teeth together.  Only those who have experienced gnashing can truly comprehend the level of misery that awaits those who deny God.    

                June 28th, 2011, was a day I will never forget.  Early in the day, I began to feel a slight gnawing pain in one of my teeth.  I finished my shift in the church office and began picking up friends for a Tuesday night bible study I taught in my backyard.  Before arriving home, I stopped off to pick up some oral anesthetic.  Although it initially relieved the pain, it did not stop its progression.  I was able to teach the study, stopping from time to time to put more gel on my tooth.  After concluding the message, we began the sharing portion of our discussion.  The pain had become so great I excused myself briefly and headed inside.  I pulled ice from the freezer and put it to my jaw (no relief.)  Desperate, I held an ice cube directly against the afflicted tooth (no reprieve; the pain continued to increase.)  I stammered back and forth in my living room, slobbering, drooling, and wincing in pain; I didn’t want the men outside to know just how bad my pain truly was [for an instant I remember thinking back to all of the movies I’ve seen where a spy facing torture had said something like, “No matter what you do to me, I won’t talk.”  In that moment I knew how ridiculous such a claim was […] I was experiencing a level of pain that would open the lips of any spy.]  The pain overwhelmed me, and I staggered to the backyard, unable to hold my posture or composer; I announced that I was going to the emergency room.  A friend recognized that I couldn’t drive, and offered to take me.  As we raced to the hospital every red light made my heart sink.  My muscles were clinched and my body contorted.  I drooled, and moaned, and my legs began to shake.  I imagined getting to the ER, storming past the nurses’ station, and demanding that someone, anyone, give me something to stop the pain (Thankfully when we arrived, God gave me the grace to act properly.)  When I was taken to the back I was given something for the pain, and I returned home.  Much to my delight, the very next day the dentist cleaned out my infected tooth.  Throughout my ordeal, I had done quite a bit of “wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  The suffering had been so great that the idea of running out in front of a bus had actually crossed my mind.  The hope of relief and the knowledge that the pain would end is what allowed me to hang on; I’m not sure what I would have done without medical attention.  Unfortunately, the same or greater pain awaits those who enter hell.  They will wail and gnash their teeth without hope; there will be no escape from their pain; no redemption; no death; no one to save them from their unending misery.

                Eternal suffering is not a popular discussion topic (but it is an essential one.)  Hell is a very real place, created by a very real God; it cannot be avoided by denying that it exists.  Embracing, acknowledging, and fearing the pain of eternal torment arouses fear of the Eternal God.  Do you fear Him today?  Do you fear Him enough to obey Him?  Show me an unmarried couple going to church and sleeping together, and I’ll show you two people who have lost the fear of God.  Show me an atheist, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t know his true destination.  Show me someone who entices other people to deny God, or to fall in to sin, and I’ll show you someone who has no understanding of the terror and misery that eagerly awaits.

                “Lord Heavenly Father we fear You.  We desperately desire to avoid the agony and pain of hell.  By the power of Your Holy Spirit, help us to serve You, to obey You, and produce fruit for You.  We want to do Your will, and Your good works in this place; but without You we cannot.  Give us the strength, the desire, and the ability to do good and not evil, and to enter in to Your eternal kingdom.  We love You Father, we praise You, we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.  

Do you trust God?


                “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on […] Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?  And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.  For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you” (Luke 12: 22, 27-32.)


                Fear causes people to become anxious and worried.  Fear is produced when a person perceives that a present or future need may not be met.  Through great effort, the fearful heart strives to meet those needs.  Jesus pointed to the lily; one of the most beautiful flowers in all creation.  God intricately forged its soft slender pedals and painted them in a variety of vibrant colors.  He has clothed and provided for the needs of every lily.  God also took great care in designing the human body; molding it in to His own fearful and glorious image (unlike the lily which blooms for an instant before withering away, God’s children live eternally (those who have faith in Christ.))  His sons and daughters are far more important than a perishing flower.  God has always known and provided for the needs of humanity (He clothes the naked and feeds the hungry.)  Still, many are filled with fear and lack faith in God’s provision.  In the hopes of conquering their fears, many strive to possess large excesses; they become their own God’s, but the peace they had hoped to find in their possessions escapes them.  Numerous people have spent whole lifetimes putting everything and everyone ahead of God; many have sought money, relationships, careers, and possessions, but have gained nothing, because they failed to seek God first.  Had they looked to God, He would have given them all that their hearts desired.

                Just recently I picked up my friend James for bible study.  I could tell his heart was troubled; his phone had stopped working for some time, and he was unable to receive calls.  We drove by the phone store to get it checked out; he was told that their network was down and it could be a while before the problem was fixed.  We continued to the bible study, where it was obvious, he was still worried about his phone not operating correctly.  Near the end of our study, we took prayer requests.  James wanted us to pray for his phone situation.  Knowing that God is concerned with even our smallest needs, I told him a story about a pastor whose car wouldn’t start and whose wife suggested they pray about it; the pastor replied, “Honey I don’t think it works like that.”  Humoring his wife, they prayed for the car to start; sure enough, just after praying he turned the ignition over and the engine roared.  I told James to go and try his phone after we were finished praying.  Sure enough, immediately after praying his phone was working perfectly.  He was overwhelmed and excited.  His worries had slipped away.  He spent much time worrying and trying to fix his phone, when all he needed to do was to turn to God for his solution.  His anxieties and fears were the result of not seeking God’s provision first.  [We see the same thing in a recorded healing in the gospels.  A woman had a serious medical condition and had been hemorrhaging for nearly twelve years.  Filled with fear and a longing to be cured, she sought physician after physician; she used up an entire fortune seeking help from those who could do nothing to help her.  She needed a miracle, and after a lifetime of anxious fear and disappointment, she finally turned to God.  One day as Jesus was walking down a road, the woman sought him.  She thought, “If only I can touch the hem of his garment, I will be healed.”  She pushed her way through the crowds that thronged Jesus, and was able to touch his cloak.  Instantly her bleeding stopped, her fears were relieved, and her needs were met.

                What fears and worries fill your heart?  Do you turn to God for His provision, or do you seek to provide for yourself?  Do you have peace today?  Many do not, because they trust in themselves; they strive for gain, believing if they can amass enough wealth they no longer have to fear going without (in so doing God has no place in their lives.)  To the faithless, fear is a constant companion and no amount of planning, saving, or striving will bring them peace.  Do you believe that God is your provider?  Do you have faith in His abilities?  Turn to God, and rely on Him.  Put your trust and faith in your Eternal Father; allow Him to be your provider; and fear will be a stranger to you, and you will know and understand true peace; unending peace; the peace of God “that surpasses all understanding.”

                “Lord Heavenly Father we desire Your peace; we are tired of striving to provide for ourselves and we look to You now for Your provision.  Remove our fears, our worries, and our anxiousness, and replace them with a faith and trust in You.  May we seek You first in all matters, and may You grant us wisdom, guidance and direction.  May we never lose hope and trust in You Father.  Clothe us, feed us, provide for all of our needs.  We love You Father, we praise You, we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”  God bless all of you.  

When does God withhold forgiveness?


“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11: 25-26.)


A ‘trespass’ is a harmful voluntary action taken against another person.  In a world filled with human beings, trespasses abound; accompanying those trespasses are resentments; a ‘resentment’ is ‘any feeling of hostility, anger, or hatred toward another person as the result of a real or imagined harm.’  Trespasses against God are also abundant, and very easily remedied; one need only ask God for forgiveness, and He is willing to forgive completely.  The Lord harbors no hidden resentment as human beings often do (even after professing true forgiveness.)  God’s mercy is great but not without condition.  Lack of forgiveness for others is the one circumstance in which God withholds His forgiveness.  A person cannot receive the benefits of God’s forgiveness, if they refuse to extend that same forgiveness to others.

Jesus used a parable to illustrate how God deals with those who are unwilling to forgive others.  He said, “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.  In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt…But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’  Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt…But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment…His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded.  But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full…When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.  Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me.  Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’  Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt…That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sistersfrom your heart.”

Take a moment to ponder the worst trespasses you have ever committed (trespasses that perhaps you have never revealed to anyone.)  […………………………….]  Has God forgiven you for your evils?  […]  Now take a moment to search your heart for any anger or resentment; is there anyone you have refused to forgive?  […………………………..]  If there is anyone at all, forgive them completely; let go of any lingering pieces of anger; let go of the hurt and the pain; allow God to replace your contempt with love, and your hatred with understanding and compassion; knowing that the God of mercy has fully forgiven you, and requires that you extend that same mercy and forgiveness to others.

“Lord Heavenly Father, please reveal any hatred or resentment we hold within our hearts.  By the power of Your Holy Spirit, give us the ability to forgive all those who have sinned against us.  May we forgive completely, and may our hearts and minds be cleansed of any lingering anger.  May we feel love for those who have trespassed against us.  Father we thank You for Your forgiveness; for Your mercy; and for Your patience and love.  We love You and praise You; and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

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