Monday, March 28, 2011

The Mercy of Hell

If it's ok with everyone (hope so, cause I didn't ask), I want to jump on the bandwagon of talking about Hell. Now I know Rob Bell ruined it for us, but I want to take a different spin if I could. You see, aside from theology, I have some things in common with Rob. We are both from the same generation, we are both Gen Xers, he is slightly older than I am. We both ask many questions, and we both question the established system. That is where we depart, I headed more towards Driscoll, he went towards McLaren.

That being said, I see the meta-narrative approach, and I understand where Bell misses it. You see, the scripture can't be cut and parcelled into chunks, so the question comes up, how can a loving and merciful God send people to hell? Bell says He doesn't. I say, there is mercy with Hell. Are you scratching your head a little? Think maybe I am as crazy as Rob Bell? Let me unpack it just a bit.

If you remember Isaiah chapter 6, the prophet is suddenly in the presence of God, and his reaction was overwhelming guilt and shame. He exclaimed "woe is me". It was then when an angel came with a coal and cleansed his lips and only then was Isaiah able to hear the words of the Lord.

Once judgement comes to pass, there is no more cleansing of sin. It was done once and for all through the blood of Christ. Jesus made the atonement and we are saved through that power. Those who are not covered in the blood of Christ still carry their own sin. There is no atonement, there is no cleansing power.

I submit to you, for your discussion and input that the only thing worse that being separated from God for eternity in hell would be eternity before God bearing the weight of your sin with no hope of forgiveness. The reality of hell is knowing you are being punished and eternally atoning for your sin. Heaven with sin would be guilt and shame heaped upon remorse and unworthiness for all of eternity. Being in the presence of the Glory of God, but never able to look upon it. To look upon the face of God with sin is to bring death, so in a sense, it would be eternal death worse than the eternal punishment in hell.

If this is true, then casting the sinner into the flames of hell where they face punishment is loving and merciful, and having them suffer the crushing weight of sin for eternity in God's presence would show no mercy. This is where I believe Rob Bell missed it, Universalism for the unsaved would be worse than hell. What do you think?

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher

I read "The Sacred Meal" by Nora Gallagher, and I really enjoyed it. I am from an Evangelical background, and Nora Gallagher writes from her view point of the Episcopal Church, and it was really great to get her view point. I agree with so much of what she wrote, and it helped give me a deeper and greater appreciation of Communion. I really recommend this book to those who want a view of communion that is more powerful and well rounded. I really appreciate her view of community based communion that brings people together and levels the playing field. This is something that I have been thinking about myself, that communion requires community. It was very thought provoking to read the point of view from someone who celebrates a more formal view of communion through consubstantiation. It was a really powerful and influential message for me. Great book, quick read and I recommend it highly.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Importance of an Appretice

If you have spent any amount of time with me, you know that I am a Star Wars fan. I grew up with the Star Wars movies – I remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in the theaters for the first time. I had lot of Star Wars toys and, to be honest, I still have a few.

There are a few lessons we can learn from Star Wars. In the movies, the Jedi and the Sith hold to two sides of the same ideology, and they both teach that ideology to others. When a Jedi becomes a Master, they acquire an apprentice. They teach what they have learned to the next generation; taking them along on assignments, mentoring them, answering questions. All Jedi Masters were once apprentices and it's the hope that each apprentice will someday be a Master.

Unfortunately we have lost the master/apprentice relationship in this country. Many of the trades are no longer handed down from a master tradesman to an apprentice. Carpenters, electricians, masons, and many building trades are now learned in tech schools instead of being taught one-to-one by a Master Builders. The church is beginning to follow suit . . . many young men and women who go to Bible schools and seminaries are not being mentored. There is nothing wrong with Bible schools or seminaries, or with technical schools. There are some really great teaching institutions, but we learn practical application most easily and effectively when we have the opportunity and allow ourselves to be mentored by a master in whatever the field of study may be.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in seminary, but I learned much more from four men that God put in my life. They mentored me. As a young man, both the Pastor and the Director of Missions at our church were very influential in my life. They gave me opportunities to serve and to work alongside them in a variety of ministries; I was only 15 when I preached in a Sunday morning service, and God used that experience to change me forever. In college, the Pastor at my church really took me under his wing; he gave me opportunities to be active in that ministry, even while I was ‘interim pastor’ at another church. He helped me in so many ways; I will always be grateful to him. Finally, a pastor I served with in Arizona walked with me during a very difficult part of my life. I am not sure I would have survived those years in ministry if not for his guidance.

In addition to these four men, there have been countless others who have taught me, helped me, encouraged me, supported me. School was great, and I enjoyed Seminary; but there is no substitute for being mentored. I have tried to ‘pay it forward’ as much as I can, giving helps and opportunities to others to fulfill their calling. Much of my goals and work here at Heartland isn't to do ministry as much as it is to aid and equip you to be involved in ministry – thereby expanding effective ministry hundreds of times beyond what one person can do. It’s the law of multiplication – If I do ministry alone, I can only do as much as one person can do. If I help you do it, we’ll get more done. If I help you and you help someone else, then even more gets done. It goes on and on, until the whole world is impacted.

Today I want to encourage you to find a mentor and to find a student; find someone who is teaching you, and find someone to teach. It will make a lasting impact for the Kingdom.