Month: July 2016

Hell: A Place of Delusion

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This reflection series deals with the topic of Hell. Using Jesus’ illustration of the Rich Man and Lazarus as recorded in Luke’s gospel, this week we’re reflecting on hell as a place of delusion.

Read Luke 16: 19-31

Most people can relate to chasing the elusive, longing for more and settling for less. We desire fellowship, love, and presence, and often drive it away or can’t hold on to it when we have it. The tragedy is that for all our awareness of our problems, most of us do little to change the state we find ourselves in. We go year after year chasing things that repeatedly leave us dissatisfied. We go year after year making choices that do more to isolate us from others than unite us with them. If we know this to be true, why don’t we do anything to change and stop the cycle?

The answer lies at the center of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. While the Rich Man is open to his suffering and loneliness, what he isn’t open to is his desire to leave the place he is in, or to admit to where he is. Not once does he ask Abraham to take him out of hell. He instead requests satisfaction be brought to him in hell. He even believes that he remains the master to Lazarus even after Lazarus is in the Kingdom of God and the Rich Man in hell. The Rich Man is hopelessly delusional about his problems and his fate.

The terror of hell does not end suffering and loneliness. The scariest aspect of hell is that the Rich Man is hopelessly delusional about himself and his condition. In the same way an addict will deny the damage they have caused to themselves and others, an occupant of hell is forever in denial. The nature of sin is such that a person bound in it is so obsessed with, so fixated on themselves that although they suffer and although they are unhappy, they are addicted to the very suffering and loneliness they want to escape.

Sin tempts us with things that God knows will not satisfy us. But under the influence of sin we are willing to damage anything, anyone, even ourselves to have them. Sin creates delusion, and hell is the end result of sin in a human life, cementing eternal delusion on what is good for them and what they actually need.

Only Lazarus is named in Jesus’ story. This detail is not subtle at all, if one sees that the choice to only name Lazarus was made in the context of a lesson regarding hell. The named man Lazarus has an identity. He is real. He is accepted. He is loved. He is forever at peace with the Father, as Lazarus. The unnamed “Rich Man” is eternally anonymous. He does not know who he is. He does not know what he needs. He does not know how to fix what he knows is wrong. He is eternally separated from the God who gave him life, left to live out eternity in isolation, forever searching for what he will never find. His life was consumed by wealth that replaced God as the focus of his worship. Thus, his eternal state in hell echoes the priorities of his worldly life. In eternity as in life, he was simply “the Rich Man.”

Tuesday Devotional: Ezekiel 43

Read Ezekiel 43bible

1Then the man brought me to the gate facing east, and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory. 

We are easily overcome by two things: what is powerful and what is beautiful.  When we are in the presence of something more powerful than we are, it is easy to submit to its power.  When we are in the presence of something more beautiful than we are, it is easy to submit to its beauty.  When Ezekiel had this vision he noticed the power of God’s voice and then he noticed the radiant glory that His presence brought to the land.  Many of us have read the Bible and have yet to experience the power of God’s voice.  Why is that?

Perhaps we must ask ourselves if we even want to experience the power of God’s voice as it is meant to be heard.  Or do we know that to hear the voice of God unobstructed might mean that the authority of His power and voice would override ours, and tell us what we don’t actually want to hear? Might that voice lead us where we don’t ever want to go?  There is undeniable power in hearing the uncompromised voice of the living God, and there is unavoidable authority with that power.  If we want to experience the power of the living Word and the voice of God we must listen to Him.  If we listen to Him, we will be overpowered by Him.  Not the power that takes life, but a power that transforms and creates NEW life.

Many of us have sought God in our spirit and in the Bible and have found nothing but a judgmental, angry and violent God.  We have yet to find the beauty that Ezekiel witnessed in this vision.  How can we experience His beauty?  The first answer seems obvious.  First, we have to look at Him.  We cannot rely on the second-hand illustrations and compositions, and testify to have seen God and an ugly God for that matter.  We have to gaze upon the LIVING God as He was and is.  If we observe His anger, ask yourself, “Why is He angry?”  If you observe His violence and anger, ask yourself, “What preceded His anger and violence?”  “Was He always angry?”  “What made him angry and was the violence justified?”

To know God’s beauty we have to look upon God and witness Him completely.  Second, we have to see His impact on His surroundings.  Notice that verse one did not merely say that He possessed glory but that He brought glory to the land.  Something of beauty beautifies its surroundings.  People will climb up dangerous, foreboding cliffs in order to capture a photo of a rare and stunning plant or animal.  Something of beauty brings out the beauty in the things that it encounters.  God does not simply desire that we find Him beautiful.  He desires that we see His beauty in creation and that through His creation we ultimately see Him as the most glorious figure in our lives.  To know God is to know His power and be overcome by it.  However, without an awe for His beauty and the beauty of all He touches we cannot attest to having known Him as He is.