Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why would a loving God make a place like Hell to send all the "bad" people to?

I have been asked two questions over and over again. 
1. Why would a loving God make a place like Hell to send all the "bad" people to? 
2. How could God send "good people" to Hell?

It is possible that you have asked these questions from time to time. I assure you there are answers to these questions.  Both of them have a similar answer.

Let's start with the first one.

Question 1: Why would a loving God make a place like Hell to send all the "bad" people to?

Answer: He didn't.  
He didn't make Hell to send all the bad people to.  He made Hell as a place of punishment for Satan and his demons.  He only wants Satan and his demons to go there. He does not want you (or anyone else) to be there. 

More on that in a minute.

Question 2 : How could God send good people to Hell?

Answer: It is not his choice.  It is theirs.

Let's say you are on a high skyscraper, and you look over and see a fireman on a ladder outside the window.  You open the window and the fireman says that the bottom five floors are engulfed in flames and the building could collapse at any minute.  The fireman says he has to stay on the ladder in order to keep it steady in the wind.  He tells everyone to come over to him and he will help them go down the ladder.

Everyone in that room has a choice.
  1. There are people that might say "I don't see any fire, and I don't smell any smoke.  I don't believe there is a fire.  I am going to keep doing what I am doing."
  2. Then there might be people who say: "Ok I believe there is a fire, but I don't believe the fireman is the only way to safety.  I am going to use the stairs and find my own way out."
  3. Then there might be people who say: "Ok I believe there is a fire, but let me get my things together first."
  4. Then there are going to be the people who say: "I trust you, fireman."
The first and second groups are going to die because they won't even attempt to trust the fireman.

The third group might have time to trust the fireman, but there are no guarantees.  The building could collapse at any moment.    

The last group are the only ones who have a guarantee of making it.

The fireman wants to save everyone. It is not his choice. It is theirs. 

To answer both questions with one answer.

God wants everyone to escape Hell.  That is why he sent only His son, Jesus. Jesus paid the punishment for our sins, he is the ultimate firefighter.  He knew we wouldn't be able to pay the price, so he came to earth, lived a sinless life and died for us.  He is waiting for you to come to him.
Jesus has paid the price, he is holding out the gift of eternal life in Heaven.  All you have to do is accept it.

It is as easy as A B C.
A.               Admit – Admit you are a sinner, and have done things wrong.
B.               Believe – Believe that Jesus, who is God’s son, died and rose again.
C.               Confess – Confess your sins and ask Jesus to forgive you and to come into your life and take           you to Heaven when you die. 

That’s it.  God doesn't want you to go to Hell.  He wants to save everyone.  It is your choice.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

God cares about stuffed animals?

Parents this one is for you.
It is a post from a guy by the name of Karl Bastian. He is the founder of, a website devoted to helping those people who are called to minister to kids.

So without further ado here is Karl.

How do you teach your children that God answers prayer? It's simple, right? You challenge them to pray about their needs and concerns.

Then it happens. Your son loses his beloved "Charlie" dog. So he prays for it to be found and returned. We think it was left at school. All weekend we wait... Monday morning... boy's "best friend" is not there. The house, yard, and everywhere else has been searched. The dog appears to be lost for good. Then comes a distant memory... lunch at Chick-fil-A middle of last week... would they save a well-loved stuffed animal for a week, even if it was left there? Dad calls, turns out, there is a brown dog that for "some reason" they decided to hang on to. "It just seemed loved."

It wasn't until I showed up at school with Luke, dog in arm, that I learned from Luke's tearful teacher that he said just the day before the dog was found, "I'm thankful for God because I prayed and He is going to return my dog to me." I felt relieved that God had answered his prayer. Why? Because I doubt? Is my faith weaker than that of my son? While my prayers were hopeful, his were matter-of-fact.

If God cares about stuffed dogs and the simple prayer of a five-year-old for something as "unimportant" as a brown stuffed dog, what am I hesitant to ask for?

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! - Matthew 7:11

Monday, November 26, 2012

How do I find God's will for my life?

I don’t know if you grew up in church or not. I did. As I was growing up it seemed like every other message I heard was on "Finding God's Will for your life."  To me, it was like God's will was some hidden quest that would take a lifetime to find.  And it would always end up with me being a missionary in the jungle somewhere, eating frog skins, with ant stew and drinking termite tea. 

But that is not the case. 

You see, God has a plan for everyone. 

Even you! 

Most of the time this plan is referred to as a “calling,” or “God’s Will.”  For some people their calling is going to the mission field. But God does not call everyone into missions. If he did there wouldn’t be anyone left to send them.  He calls people to do all sorts of things. And God prepares those people by giving them a desire to do what he wants them to do.

Let me explain. 

I have never really been able to learn a foreign language.  I have tried many times but it just doesn't click.  The best I can do is say a few words.  El baƱo I believe is "the bathroom." I can count to around fourteen in Spanish, ten in French and I can say “Do you speak German?” in German.  But that is about the limit of my foreign language skills.

Also, I don’t like the idea of sleeping out in the open.  I don’t mind camping as long as I have a tent, and air mattress, some tarps, firewood, and maybe even a shower nearby. So just looking at my qualifications, God didn’t plan on me being a missionary to a foreign country.

However, I have always been good with kids. 

As the oldest child, I pretty much got to pick where I sat in the car. (If you had brothers or sisters you are aware of this unspoken rule.) However on long car trips I chose to sit in the middle. My sisters would sit on either side and I would use their stuffed animals to put on puppet shows for them.

I also remember being a teenager and my little cousin, who was around one or two years old, fell down.  She started crying and I scooped her up and stopped the flow of tears.  I then carried her around the house for a good while after that.  I overheard my uncle say, “That is amazing!  She cries if anyone but me or her mom even tries to pick her up.  But there he is carrying her all over the place.”

For me, God first equipped me to be good with kids, then he later called me to teach kids about Him.
God also does not call everyone to be in ministry.  But he does want you to tell others about him.  I personally know a guy named Dave, who God has called to tell people about Jesus by using a Dodge Viper.  

Now I am not saying that God is going to give us all Dodge Vipers. (I wish) But he has already prepared you to do His will.

Let’s say you are good with babies.  Spit up, drool, and dirty diapers have no affect on you.  In fact if your idea of heaven would be surrounded by babies, then my guess is God is going to ask you to do something with babies.  

God has a purpose and a plan for you. It is not some hidden task that is going to take you forever to find. God’s plan has been in place since before your were born.  Just ask him and he will show you what it is.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Got a problem?

What is the picture you think of when I say God?

Is the picture of some big invisible being somewhere who is waiting for you to mess up so he can hit you with a lightning bolt?

I want to think of God as bigger than everything and more powerful than I can imagine. But I usually end up thinking that God is like a giant grandfather.  You know, about ten feet tall, and someone who does not understand modern things.

When I used to talk to my grandfather, I couldn’t really talk to him about new technology.  He didn’t understand it.  Even when I tried to simplify it for him he didn’t get it.  He couldn’t understand the idea of email. He thought I was trying to send a paper letter and envelope through the computer.  I would try and explain how just the words went and not the paper. He would give me a puzzled look then change the subject.

All to often we think that God is smaller than our problems.  We also think that he only hears us when we talk in big words like older preachers usually do.  We don’t do this on purpose.  It just sort of happens.

I realized this one night when I was praying with my son.  He was about two years old and earlier that day he had scraped his knee.  So that night I knelt down to his bed and he told me that his boo-boo hurt.  I told him that we could pray about it.  So we closed our eyes and I started praying. 

I said, “Dear Lord, we know you are the Great…” 

That was as far as I got.  I almost said Physician.  But then I realized that my son had no idea what a physician was.  He knew what a doctor was though.  Then it dawned on me.  God knows what a doctor is too.  He doesn’t need us to pray in old English. With all of the Thous, Therefores, and the Withersoevers.  So I continued

“Doctor.  And Alex has a…”

This is where I stopped again.  I was going to say something like: scrape on his left knee.  But again it dawned on me.  God knows what a boo-boo is.  He knows where it is.  He knew this was going to happen before Alex born, before I was born.  So I kept going. 

“boo-boo on his knee.  Please help make it all better.”

That day I changed the way I talk to God.  It really opened up my prayer life.  
God wants us to talk to him.  I have told him about excitement in my life as well as disappointments.  I have told him that I was frustrated with what he was doing, as well as praised him for the victories he has given me. 

Some things we need to constantly remember about God is that:

He is omnipresent. (om-nee-present)
That means he is everywhere at the same time. 

Psalm 139:7-10
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  

9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;  

10  Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

As humans we can’t really understand how God can be everywhere at once.  I am sure when you were a kid, someone told you:  “Well I can’t be in two places at once!”  And that’s true. We can’t.

But God can.

He is omniscient.  (om-ni-shent)  
That means he knows everything. I mean everything! 

Psalm 139:2-6
2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising , thou understandest my thought afar off.
3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.
5 Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high , I cannot attain unto it.

He knows everything.  This is something else we as humans can’t get.  Because there are things we just cannot understand. Every once in a while my wife will try to talk to me about insurance and deductibles.  I just put my good listener face on and let my mind run like a box of hamsters.  I don’t understand it.  It will not sink in.  You might be saying, “You can’t understand insurance?  That is so easy!”  But I guarantee there is something you don’t understand.  

For instance:

Why do they call them apartments when they are all so close together?

When we send something across land it is called a shipment, but when it is by boat it is cargo.  Why?

Why does Wal-Mart have 47 check-out lanes but only 3 of them open at one time?

God knows everything.  He knows how many hairs you have on your head.  He knows your secret hopes and dreams that you have never told anyone else.  He knows what you are thinking about right now.  He knows about your problems, and when you will face them.  He knows about all the disappointments and hurts in your life and the best way to deal with them.  He knows all the answers.  Some of the answers we won't know this side of Heaven, but others we will.

Often when a solution doesn't turn out the way we want, or when he doesn't take away the problem, we start thinking (unconsciously) that He isn't able to take care of it. But that isn't true. He lets us go through tough times so we will come out wiser, stronger, more humble, etc.. He also lets us go through something tough so we can minister to someone else later.

The third thing we need to remember about God is that:

He is omnipotent (om-ni-po-tent)
That means he is all powerful!

Genesis 18:14a
14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD?

Luke 18:27
27 And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

God created the universe by speaking.  Stop and think for a second about how big space is.

It is big.  Really big.  We can’t think about how big because it never ends. God created it.  And he is far bigger than the universe and more powerful than anything we can think of.  And he cares about you.  We are just a speck of dust on a speck of dust and the mighty Creator of all things cared so much for you that he sent his own son to die for you.  Wow. 

Now some people might say they don’t believe that God spoke and the universe was created. 

Well let’s take the word: Universe, and break it down. 

Uni - means one or a single.
Verse – A spoken sentence.
So together universe means “A single spoken sentence.”

He said “Let there be…” and there was.

God is truly all powerful. The power of God is amazing and it has always been a wonder for me. I often look at the clouds and the sky, and the veins in a leaf or dragonfly’s wings and am just amazed by God’s power.

He is far bigger and more powerful than that problem in your life.  He is just waiting for us to ask him for help. 

Just ask.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

How to read your Bible

I will be honest with you.  I have been saved for over 32 years, I have taught Sunday School, and Children's Church, worked with teens and young adults.  All the while I never read my Bible.  The only time I ever looked at it was at church.  I could go days, or even weeks without knowing where my Bible was.  

My generation was taught in order to be a "Good Christian" you had to read your Bible through in one year.  I felt like this was an impossible task.  So I never did it. I knew that God wanted me to read his love letter to us, but because I couldn't do it in a year I gave up. Even though I started many many times; I couldn't do it.  

One day I realized that God hasn't set a time limit on reading his word. Man did. 

I believe you get out of it what you expect.  Let me explain.

If you read your Bible only to say "I read my Bible through in one year!"  Then you have gotten out of it what you wanted.  You only wanted to brag.

But if you read the Bible to know what God is trying to say and you don't care how long it takes; you will gain knowledge and wisdom, insight and direction.

In a month or two I will have finished reading my Bible through for the first time ever.  Did I do it in a year?  No.  Two years?  No.  Three, Four?  No.  It will have taken me more than five and a half years to read the Bible through.  

How could I do it now and stick with it when I tried so many times before?

Well two things happened.

First, I heard a guy on the radio who said.  
"I don't suggest you make a vow to God. Mainly because God takes vows VERY seriously."  (That is why marriage is such a big decision.  But that is another topic for another time.)  But he made a vow when it came to his daily Bible reading.  He was a big breakfast eater and he said "God I vow that I will read my Bible before I have breakfast."  He said there are days when he doesn't get to do his Bible reading.  On those days he doesn't eat breakfast.

I told God, "Well, God I don't eat breakfast very often… but I love coffee! I make sure I have coffee everyday.  So I will read my Bible before I drink any coffee."  That was 5 years ago.  And I am happy to say that I have not broken that vow, except once when I was going to tell my boss that I was leaving the company to be a stay-at-home dad.  I was nervous how he was going to take it and how the meeting would go.  I was so nervous that I fixed a cup of coffee and drank it before I realized what I was doing.  I immediately asked God to forgive me and went and read my Bible.  During that Bible reading the Lord comforted me and gave me peace about the meeting.  I was still a little nervous, but not near what I was when I woke up.

The other thing that helped me out a lot was I got a new Bible.  Now I had several Bibles growing up, but they had all been picked out for me.  For my first Father's Day present, Kristy took me to pick out my own Bible.  I looked through almost every one on the shelf. I finally found the Life Application Study Bible.

If you want to check it out here is a paper version on Life Application Study Bible - Paperback

The Life Application Study Bible helped me out so much.  Most of the time I would read something then look up as if to say, "I have no idea what I have just read."  But this Bible explains it in a way you can understand.

For example:
           Proverbs 25:27 It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory.

Ok so does that mean we are not to eat honey?  Or should we not want honor or praise for what we have done?   So we look at the bottom of the page for a clue.  It says:

           25:27 Dwelling on the "glory" or honors you deserve can only be harmful.  It can make you bitter, discouraged or angry, and it will not bring you the rewards you think should be yours.  Pining for what you should have received may make you miss the satisfaction of knowing you did your best.

The Life Application Study Bible is full of ways to apply the Bible to our lives. 

I can hear you saying, "Ok so Jeff that is great for you and all, but how do I read my Bible?"

With any other book you start at page one, and go until you finish.  You don't have to do this with the Bible.

I started in 1st John  Then went 2nd and 3rd John.  Then to the gospel of John.  By this time I was ready to tackle the first book of the New Testament, Matthew.  (So-and-so begat so-and-so etc…) Then the rest of the gospels.  I skipped Romans and kept going. 

(If you find a particular book that is too hard go understand, mark it and go to the next one.  Some of them are very easy to read, others are not. Just don't give up!)  

Once I got to Revelation, I started at the beginning in Genesis. I am currently in Daniel and have the rest of the Old Testament to go, then Romans.  Once I finish with Romans I will have read it entirely.  Then I am going to start over again.

Also another problem is that I am not a very organized person.  My wife is, but I'm not.  I could never remember where I was and what I last read.  I would reread some parts, skip over others, get frustrated and stop.  

Now I have a journal that I use.  I write the date, the day, and the chapter I am reading.  This keeps me on track so I remember where I was the day before.  I break my journal entry into two parts.  
The first is my prayer. Sometimes it is long, other times it isn't. 
The second part is telling God what I got out of that day's reading.  

I try and read a chapter a day.  Notice I said TRY.  Sometimes I might just read a few verses. Other times I might read two or three chapters.  I just write where I stopped.

It looks something like this:

4/15/12 Sun

Ezek 14 

Good morning Lord.  Lord I can't seem to get my mind to focus on any one thing this morning.  My brain is tired and you know I am not a morning person.  Lord please help me focus.  Thank you.

Lord the people of Israel let other things occupy the throne of their lives instead of you.  Lord I want you to have the throne of my life.  Lord please continue to keep me close and clean.

I realize that this might not be your thing, but it has helped me.  I have filled up numerous journals and every so often I glance back at some of the entries.  It helps bring to mind things that I was going through at the time, or insights that I have forgotten.

I encourage you to read your Bible at your pace.  Don't let anyone tell you that you are reading it too slow or you are not reading enough at a time. 

Ask God to guide you as you read his word and he will.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Choice

Our text today comes from Luke 5:4-11.  Jesus is teaching by the lake Gennesaret (Which was also known as the Sea of Galilee or the Sea of Tiberias).  There are so many people that they are crowding Jesus.  So Jesus sees some fishermen who are washing their nets.  He steps into one of the boats and tells the owner, Simon (soon to be Peter), to push out a little way from the shore.  Simon does and Jesus was able to teach without being crowded.  Then we come to our text.  Let's read: 

   4Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
   5And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Demon's Letter

I found this article and thought it gave insight into how the Devil might try and trip up Christian leaders.
Following in the footsteps of The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, Jared Wilson writes from the perspective of a senior demon to his apprentice on how to oppose and confound Christians. This imaginative piece offers powerful insight into the subtle ways leaders might be led astray.