The Funny Thing About Hell…

In truth, there is nothing whatsoever funny about hell. Nothing. It’s more serious than a heart attack, more gnawing than cancer, and unlike both of these, it is eternal and spiritual, not temporary and physical. Hell is not funny in the least.

But people do have some funny ideas about hell.

When I was a young atheist, I remember discussions about how much more fun hell sounded than heaven. The thought process went something like this: “If I got to choose, hell is the place I’d go. I mean, if all the fun stuff you’re not supposed to do isn’t found in heaven, then it must be in hell, right?”

Well, to be blunt: No. No it isn’t.

But the good news is that we do get to choose. Either we choose Yeshua who is the Way to heaven or we choose hell by default.

Make no mistake: Satan is not the ruler of hell, nor is he the life of some fiery party. He is in misery already because of his rebellion, and his mission is to take as much of the clay creatures stamped with the image of God – that is, humanity – into eternal misery with him.

…and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever…

…And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:10, 15

Whether the image of a lake of fire is literal or symbolic doesn’t matter. It isn’t a nice place to be. Hell is Satan’s torture chamber, and I believe his hatred of humankind is partly because of the redemption offered us and his own bitterness towards God.

Looking around this world – the suffering, the heartache, the pain – I can’t help but think there’s hell enough on earth. Why would anyone choose to continue suffering throughout eternity? Most, I think, simply don’t really believe in the reality of hell or heaven.

Now that I am no longer young nor atheistic, I can look around at many of those who embraced the mentality of hell as the “fun” choice and ran with it to its logical conclusion.

Some of them are heroin or meth addicts. Others have adopted a more legal drug dependence, but they have cabinets full of drugs – and drugs to counteract the side effects of drugs – just the same. Others are addicted to sex and shallow relationships or drink so much they don’t know they’ve had the same conversation 85 times. Still others are dead.

I guess the last sort know by now.

My heart breaks for the dead who didn’t choose the Lamb of God and whose names were not written in His book of life. I literally cry for some of them, and I weep and plead for salvation for those who still live and have not yet chosen the Way.

May my God draw them to Himself and may they choose to surrender to Him now. O Lord, please; let it be!

Hell is a far cry from an eternal party. Honestly, after watching the party scene for a few years and seeing the end results – addictions, broken relationships, broken lives – even if it was a party, I wouldn’t want it.

The sex, drugs, and alcohol party lifestyle is its own hell. Just ask any sweat-drenched addict as he pukes his guts out between fixes. Or anyone who is a prisoner of their own fear. Or anyone who age catches unaware after they’ve squandered life on shallow physical relationships and now face old age and death alone.

No, my friends, you do not want hell. I don’t want hell for you. And if I know you personally and you are not a follower of the Lord, chances are good I pray frequently that you will come to Him of Your own free will.

I so desperately want you to choose life. I so desperately want to keep you from hell. But you know what? As much as I want this for you, God wants it even more. He wants it so much, He paid the price of your sin with His own blood.

Please. Choose life.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose lifeloving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…

Deuteronomy 30:19a, 20a, emphasis mine

Tuesday Prayer: Victory

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

Romans 6:17-18

Mighty Savior, we praise Your holy name for You are good. You are not only Creator of all that is seen and unseen, You are merciful. You’ve shown compassion on us even when we were in rebellion to Your created order and ways.

Though we were Your enemies, You stepped into our midst to live in perfection, to lay down Your life, and to redeem us when there is nothing we could do to extricate ourselves from slavery to sin. Thanks be to God for the victory He has given us in Christ Jesus!

But Lord, we confess that we do not always walk in victory over sin. Sometimes we toy with it as if it is a child’s plaything and not the very gateway to death. Other times, even though You have loosed the chains of sin, we cling to them as if bound and give in to self-loathing rather than fixing our eyes on You and stepping out in the freedom You’ve already given. In many other ways, Lord, we allow ourselves to be entangled by this world instead of caught up in rejoicing and praising You for our salvation.

And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.

Luke 8:14

Forgive us, we pray, and help us to remember that when it comes to sin, we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. Lord, today we cry out passionately and boldly: give your people victory over sin! Whatever has held us back to this point, pry our fingers off it and show us our freedom in Christ. Wherever we have embraced a lie, show us Your Truth and help us to believe it.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

1 John 5:4

Because of what You have done, we are no longer slaves to sin but have become slaves to righteousness. May we truly live this way, walking in the light of Your great love and enjoying daily and hourly victory over whatever sins have harried us throughout our lives.

Whether we’ve struggled under addiction, depression, anxiety, fear, lust, anger, unbelief, or any other thing, show us how to live victoriously over the plague of sin, rejoicing in the Lord who saves us and who is with us always.

Not only for us, Lord, but for our loved ones – please bring victory over sin. For those who are lost and still in captivity, open their eyes to the truth of Christ and set them free as well. May they see us victorious over sin and want to walk in that same victory.

Use us, Lord, to show them Your ways and draw them to our Lord Jesus. We pray to see a mighty work of Your Spirit, shaking the prison and flinging the doors wide so the captives can walk free along with us in genuine, joyful, and breathtaking victory over sin, amen. 

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin…

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:6-7, 11

Book Review: Parenting Beyond the Rules by Connie Albers

How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.

Proverbs 16:16

If I’ve learned nothing else in my 18 years of parenting, I’ve learned that I don’t have all the answers. There are tremendous benefits in staying teachable and gleaning tips from the acumen of others.

This is why I appreciate the wisdom and advice Connie Albers shares in her book, Parenting Beyond the Rules: Raising Teens with Confidence and Joy. There is great value in seeking wisdom from those who have gone before me, and Connie has not only been there, she’s gained excellent wisdom and insight straight from the Lord to share with us.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Proverbs 9:10

Between her experiences raising her own five children to adulthood and her 20 years of experience working with teenagers, Connie certainly has the credentials. The wisdom she shares is offered with humility and boldness; both confronting and challenging as well as offering grace and hope for the weary, battle-worn parent.

Personally, I was convicted by chapters 7 and 8 which cover listening to your child and monitoring your own mouth. The chapters served as a bit of a spiritual gut check to me because the Lord had already been addressing these very topics in my walk with Him.

You see, for over a decade, my homeschool mom habit of capitalizing on teachable moments whenever they arose in conversation served me well. However in the teen years, my favorite tactic has failed painfully more than once. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have permanent gunpowder stains from the sheer number of backfires!

Rather than engaging in a lively conversation springing from such “teachable moments,” suddenly my teenagers began to shut down and make their way into another room as I spoke.

Because of this, Connie’s words in Chapter 7 rang true to me:

“But that day – and many others like it – I learned that most teens don’t need our steps; they need a good set of ears if we want them to share what’s on their heart…

…Although our words may provide valuable information, it’s not usually what’s needed at that moment.”

Besides listening more and talking less, God has been showing me how frequently I misuse that most deadly of weapons: my tongue. Here again, some of Connie’s words from Chapter 8 reinforced what my Lord has been revealing:

As parents, we think we are saying one thing, but our teen hears something completely different… Communicating well and with intent begins with being slow to speak.

…When we don’t control the words that come out of our mouths, we hurt the relationships we long for and unintentionally model a pattern our kids will one day use to parent their children.

In Parenting Beyond the Rules, there are many other convicting truths, but I love that Connie also shares how she learned through her own failures – and how God changed those failures to successes as she humbly submitted to His teaching through His word.

She doesn’t flinch away from confronting sin, but neither does she shrug her shoulders at confession as if to say, “Well, we all sin. No one’s perfect.”

No, she goes a step further to show how God has made a way to walk out of the sin and into a rewarding, loving relationship with our teenagers. Easy? No. Worth it? Absolutely.

In Parenting Beyond the Rules, Connie Albers offers real-world, in-the-trenches advice for those of us willing to go to battle for the hearts of our kids. Not only that, but she offers grace and hope, recognizing that it is God who takes our imperfect efforts and through our weakness shows that His grace is sufficient – even for our teens.

You always have the opportunity to add new coats of forgiveness, wisdom, and maturity.

Connie Albers, Parenting Beyond the Rules

Tuesday Prayer: Godly Grief

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 
(2 Corinthians 7:10)

2 Corinthians 7:10

Perfect Father, Your word tells us that You reprove and discipline those You love, reminding us to be zealous and repent of our sin (Rev. 3:19). Today we want to thank You for giving us a chance to repent. As our Creator, You would be within Your right to simply exterminate us as a people for our rebellion. Yet in Your overwhelming mercy and compassion, You gave Your only Son to ransom us from our captivity to sin. O Lord, may we never cease to wonder at Your astonishing grace!

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Revelation 3:19

Today we pray that Your Spirit will lead us into a time of reflection and sober self-judgement. Open our eyes to any places we have lied to ourselves about sin or any area in which we have believed the lies of the enemy simply because they are cultural norms. Help us to see every single sin for what it is, Lord, even in the most subtle disguise. Then once we have understood and acknowledged our sin, we pray for the Godly grief which produces repentance leading to salvation without regret.

Because of what You have done, because You are powerful and truly do use all things for the good of those who love You, we do not have to be weighed down by unending remorse for any sin we have confessed, for Your forgiveness is sufficient. Though we may bear a temporary consequence for our crimes, You have removed the eternal punishment through the work of Jesus on the cross. For that, we are grateful beyond measure!

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Not only to us, O God, but to those we loved who are not yet saved, we pray for Your Spirit to stir up this Godly grief. Let none be weighed down with worldly grief – either the false grief which is only an outward pretense nor the grief of inescapable guilt by which repentance is not produced but only a continual downward spiral of self-loathing and misery.

Please, Lord, do not let our loved ones be caught in this worldly grief but set them free by repentance and joy in Christ! Draw them to Your Son and heal their spiritual sin sickness by salvation through Him. Use us to share of Your great mercy and grace and by our changed lives and joyful love of You and Your ways.

Help our lives to show others the way out of sin and the despair it causes. Bring hope to the hopeless, Lord, and by Your loving discipline, bring the unsaved to a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, amen. 

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Taking It Personally

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Revelation 2:29

I’ve often heard it said that the church from Revelation which most resembles the modern American church is the lukewarm, spoiled church of Laodicea. And this is true.

As a whole, we do tend to be complacent in a rather shallow, wealthy, and self-serving social club we call the church. We neither offer a refreshing drink of cool Living Water to the world around us nor a sanitizing scalding from the heat of holy fire. We are, to use the modern vernacular, meh.

But the letter to Laodicea isn’t the only one we could take to heart as a solemn warning. Like Ephesus, many of us have forgotten our first love of the Lord – going through acts of service as if our works will save us and not His grace. We can be guilty of making service into an idol, serving others out of humanistic motives rather than from an overflow of the love of God in our hearts.

Like Pergamum, we think we can compromise with the world. We think we can trust the modern-day Balaams who go thrice with the kings who desire to curse God’s people and eventually urge us to mingle our God-ordained values with the fluctuating and unstable mores of the world around us.

Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor…

Numbers 31:16a

Like Thyatira, we tolerate sexual sin within our churches and the exploitation of our freedom in Christ to the point of causing others to stumble when they see us behaving in a way which appears to them to compromise with the culture’s petty gods.

In those days, some would see the eating of food sacrificed to idols as actual worship of said idols. Today, the practices are more subtle but not less damaging to the consciences of others and are still tolerated within the Body of Christ. For us just as for them, tolerance has become a pitiful alternative to love.

Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

1 Corinthians 8:12

Like Sardis, we are capable of pantomiming vigorous, Spirit-led worship, while inside we are spiritually dead. What looks like worship is sometimes nothing more than reactivity to stirring music; automatons who respond to stimulus, going through the rote of worship while failing to truly adore and serve the Lord our God.

But I want to take these things more personally. Not us, not we, but me.

Where do I stand in all this? Is my worship genuine and alive or just a task I check off my list? What evils am I overlooking in my heart or my home, tolerating them in the name of getting along and not rocking the proverbial boat? Where am I compromising with culture or serving others just because I should but without the love of Christ? Have I grown stale and complacent in my walk with the Lord?

For me, this season is a time of prayerful self-examination. I invite the Lord to answer these questions, exposing sin in me so that I may repent and turn fully to Him. You see, I believe the promises He gives to the one who conquers. I long for them.

I want to eat of the tree of life, enjoy the hidden manna of His presence, receive my new name, be given the Morning Star, and be clothed in bridal white before my King. I long to be with Him forever, enjoying Him and His people and utterly free from the battle against sin and death that I constantly wage in my earthly body.

And in my longing, there is a strong desire never, ever to grow spiritually lazy and complacent.

Oh Lord, grant that I may always grow in Your love and wisdom and in the knowledge of You. Bring revival to my heart, my home, and Your Church and restore us to our first love. Teach us to repent of tolerance and compromise, of lifeless worship and service by rote. Teach us to hunger for Your Word and desire Your Kingdom above all. Remove the god of entertainment from the throne of Your Church and restore us to proper zeal and reverence for You. May it be to us for Your glory and Your Name’s sake, amen.

Tuesday Prayer: Glory to God

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Psalm 115:1


Oh Lord our God, You are the Almighty; the Holy One whose patience is beyond imagining and whose compassion knows no end. Thank You for loving us enough to step down from Your throne and walk in the midst of the mess of humanity. Thank You for paying the price of a sin debt we could never hope to repay and setting us free from slavery to sin! We owe You everything, Lord; may it be that we cheerfully give all to the One who gave Himself for us.

As we minister to others here on earth in Your name, we confess that often our pride creeps in. At times, we begin to do a work for You, yet we secretly hope for recognition or praise for the thing we have done. Other times, we trust in our good works rather than in Your grace, not remembering that the best we have to offer You is nothing more than rags stained with our own self-righteous conceit.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Isaiah 64:6

We confess that sometimes we forget apart from You, we can truly do nothing of eternal value.

Forgive our pride, Lord! Forgive us when we seek glory for ourselves or when we serve others for accolades from man rather than from a posture of humility and gratitude for the undeserved gift of salvation. Teach our hearts true humility. Change our hearts to love serving You for who You are and not for applause and accolades. Let the love of You be motive enough for us to do all that You call us to do. 

May it be that if any amount of recognition or praise falls on us, we shift the burden of it to You. In truth, glory is a burden too heavy for mortal shoulders to bear. You alone are able to carry the weight of glory without being warped or twisted by it. When we seize glory for ourselves, we become distorted by it and our pride advances like a cancer infecting all we do. Thanks be to You, our King, that Your grace saves us from our own self-importance!

Open our eyes to places where pride has encroached on Your grace, then uproot our pride and destroy it, Lord. As we repent of pride and reject it, make our lives into an accurate a reflection of Your glory. Purify our motives by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Teach us to delight ourselves in You, doing justice and loving kindness all while walking humbly with You, our God.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

Then, O Gracious Lord, use us as ministers of Your grace, love, and truth everywhere we go. May our changed lives be evidence of Your redemptive power, and may we glorify You in all we do so everyone we encounter will hear and see the goodness and excellence of our mighty God. In the name of the Son we pray, amen.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Jude 1:24-25

Sanctuary

Last week, I chaperoned my tenth-grader’s field trip to New York City. One memorable site we visited, at least to me, was the magnificent St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

As is often the case with field trips, we had little time in the building. Still, for the time I had, I trailed my fingers over the heavy polished wooden pews as I took in the ornate ceiling, columns, and alcoves all bathed in light filtered through stained glass windows.

My thoughts strayed from the sights before my eyes to the beautiful descriptions of the two Temples given in Scripture. For a moment, my heart stirred with sorrow and I whispered, “O Lord, when did we stop building You such glorious houses of worship?”

He whispered back, “This is not My house, child. You are.”

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 3:16

The thought has been with me since.

On this day, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, I invite you to join with me in an endeavor which will have eternal benefits. Now that God’s people are His house – His temple – let’s do a little spiritual housecleaning. If our bodies are God’s temple, ought we not be certain the bodies we offer Him are worthy of His residence?

So by His grace and with the sound counsel of the Paraclete – the Holy Spirit our Helper – let’s resolve to search our temples by the Light of the Word. When we find something unsavory or rotten, let’s remove it, banishing it from the house. What is filthy, let’s cleanse; what is ugly, let’s beautify; what is dishonorable, let’s cast out.

From here on out, let’s join together in Christ to become a Temple of incredible beauty. Let the worship performed in these, our temples, be genuine, breaking forth from the overflow of gratitude for His sacrifice which has set us free from sin.

Then let us choose to live as free men and women every single day. Let’s keep these houses swept clean of debris and deceit. Daily, we’ll let the Light in so that by the light of the Word we can see clearly. We’ll let the Spirit of God do His work in us, putting our houses in order so that by our lives and in our bodies, we can magnify the beauty of our great and awesome God!

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20