Go to Hell!

A fantastic poem written by John Ault, senior pastor at New Hope Community Church in connection to Luke 16:19-31).  Thank you Pastor Ault for allowing me to share!

“Go to Hell!” Have you ever said those words and meant it?
We imagine Hell to be an awful place and wonder how a loving God could invent it.
Maybe the rationale for hell is hard to see
because of the dysfunction inside of me.

Science tells me the universe has laws,
and every effect is there because of a cause.
It makes sense that if its true on the physical level
moral and spiritual choices also have results that are inevitable.

Want to spend eternity locked in a room with Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin,
Ossama Bin Laden, Saddam Husen and Charles Manson?
Guess what? God doesn’t, And neither do I.
What makes us think that a person’s values change just because they die.
Put the damned in heaven and in time they’ll turn it into hell.
If you have any doubts, look at the earth we live on. I’d say we’re doing that here quite well.

Jesus told about a cruel, self-centered rich man who died and got hell as his sentence.
His heart was just as hard when he got there; totally devoid of repentance.
He expected God to send the beggar who sat in sickness outside his door, on whom he had no compassion
He expected God to command the beggar to leave the bliss of heaven to suffer in hell as his servant.
The man had no change of heart, but continued on in his totally self-centered and wicked reaction.
My response is, “Of all the nerve!
You got what you deserve.”

Now, we rationalize and say,
“I’m not as wicked as they!”
But project a straight line beyond the choices you make to the directions they take.
Are the restraints on your life’s immoral directions really from within or from without?
Where is your real love? What are the real desires of your heart?

God is Love and takes no pleasure in damning people.
But God is also good and just, so Hell was prepared for the devil and the rest of those who love evil.
Hell is not a necessary consequence.
Hell is for those who refuse repentance.
It is not an irreversible destiny.
God said through Jesus, “Come, rest in me.”
He undid the consequence of my rebellion and dysfunction when he paid the price on the tree.
He brought forgiveness and the promise of new life and heaven for you and me.

A Stone to Remember

pile-of-stonesThe grind of the academic year screams to halt upon the submission of final grades. There is a beautiful silence that echoes through the halls as the daily traffic ceases. Colleagues are more ready to engage in more lengthy conversations, summer research goals are easily and quickly carved. Students will occasion your office, sometimes with tears of joy and other times with sadness.

This term, the emptiness of my office lingered heavy on my mind. My time at Baylor University was ending, a new chapter beginning at Clarkson University. My books were boxed, pictures were delicately stacked in a corner, letters from students now put away. My voice echoed about the room like a pinball machine with a hundred balls! All that was left was my external hard drive, a pen, and a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress.

The book was to be gifted to my colleague and mentor Qin Sheng. I opened the inside cover and within minutes wrote an inscription and poem to Qin expressing my gratitude toward his mentorship. Why do we write these inscriptions? To say thanks? To express our heart to someone? Or is it so that we both remember that moment?

Throughout my entire life I have habitually taken rocks as a reminder of a certain experience. I have a rock from my last baseball game that I played in. I have a rock from when I ran a 2:03 half mile. I have a rock from the day that I graduated college. I have a rock from when I was to be baptized. I now have a new rock that sits at my desk. None of the rocks are labeled nor fancy, however I can remember where and when I picked them up. Why do I do this? Because, like many of us, we have the tendency to forget!

The rock serves as a testimony to the faithfulness of God.  This practice is seen throughout the Bible. In that light, the entire Bible is dedicated to reminding ourselves to what God has done for all of us. It reminds us what He will do, it tells us how to find the path home through Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the natural tendency is to forget.  Often-times,  focusing on the ordinariness of life.

I think about the 12 stones from each Isreali tribe that Joshua stacked to remind themselves of what God had done and was about to do. God then parted the Jordan river and the people marched into the promised land for the first time en route to Jericho (Joshua 4:8-18).

I think about David’s Song of Praise, a testimony to God delivering David from his enemies, when it seemed at many times all hope was lost (2 Samuel 22).

I think about the writing of the names during the convenant renewal made by the people of Isreal when the wall of Jerusalem had been rebuilt (Nehemiah 9:5-38, 10:1-27)

I think about the Song of Moses, a testimony of God leading His people out of slavery, defeating the Egyptians, and parting the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1-21).

In each instance the people forgot, regardless of the written testimonies, songs, or erected monuments. No amount of supernatural miracles prevented this. They forgot. We would have forgotten, we do forget. Instead of taking a rock as a reminder, we throw them at the very one who will offer us bread and life. Yet, no matter how hard the stones are thrown, it never takes away from the incredible grace offered to us through the cross.

We are fickle and we’ll forget. However, even if you are eating the slop with the pigs and snubbing our noses at our Father He is still there waiting to forgive, if only we turn to Him. And when or if that occurs for you, I am assured that a new rock, a cornerstone in fact, will form for you that you won’t forget so easily.

Do you wear your jacket well?

Outside the wind is blowing.  The snow blankets the sash of your windows, but the sun shines through onto your face.  You are thoughtful, thinking of the day ahead.  All of a sudden your neighbor bursts in through your door ranting, raving, flaying their arms directly at you.

They exclaim, “How could you? Give it all back!”

You raise your arms in defense, hoping to quench their temper, and figure out what this is about.  You ask, “what have I done?  Give what back?  My friend, what is it?”

They stop their advance, nostrils still flaring, “You know what! You broke in my home and stole my belongings!”

You are taken aback, “What?  I did no such thing.  It wasn’t me!”

They laugh mockingly, “You didn’t?  I saw you do it today!”

“You did not! How could I? I  have been here all day! It was not me!”

They look coldly into your confused eyes, stating, “I saw you, you had your long, brown, patched jacket with your brown ball cap.”  He sees your jacket hung over the chair, he reaches and takes it.  “You know! This!,” he boldly asserts.

“I promise you it was not me, it was someone else.  How can I prove this to you?”

“You never can, you broke my trust.”  He storms out without a second glance back, leaving you in a state of utter confusion, disbelief, and hurt.

This story is too familiar to Christians sharing their faith with others.  Many of the lost, broken, and hurting people of our world lack the one thing that can bring them peace, joy, and ultimate fulfillment: Jesus Christ.  However, many men and churches  have failed them.  Other ‘Christians’ bore your jacket and wronged these people.  Now they blame you, regardless of the Truth.  They twisted Psalm 118:8 and incorrectly blame God for the failure of man. They wish to take their hate, anger, and bitterness over the failure of men by forfeiting the possibility of a relationship with the one that wants them dearly and did not wrong them, God.

They are quick to mock the hypocrisy and sinful nature of the believer, while never realizing that this is the point of the Gospel.  We all fall short of the glory of God; fallen and dead to our sins (Romans 3:23).  They condemn the failed Christian with absolute certainty while, on the hand, state there is no absolute judgement.  They view such wrongs as sinful, but lack the realization that they are pointing to a transcendent reality! A reality that hates sin and will absolutely punish accordingly (Romans 6:23).    We are fallen, corrupted, for which even our good works are viewed as dirty tampons (Isaiah 64:6). We are completely depraved, evil to the core, all Auschwitz enabled (Deut 28:56-57, Milgram, Jones). However, that punishment is readily taken by Jesus, if we are willing accept that gift.  There is no other way, no deeds worth enough to forgo the pending judgment. When we accept Jesus’ merciful act God will change you from the inside out (Mark 1:8, 1 Cor 3:16-17, Phil 1:6) molding you into the likeness of Christ.  This is contrary to every other worldview, that depicts change stemming from our own human effort and trickling down from the top.  God is responsible for that change,  that is, if we let him!

Hence, Jesus has covered us, given us His jacket, and we now wear it.  Let us wear it well.