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Fireheart 1945


"Defend your clan, even with your life." - Warrior code, Warrior cats novel series

More Blog Posts223

  • Today
    Sin affects others, not just ourselves

    In Chapter 7 of the book of Joshua, a soldier named Achan steals some of the treasures of Jericho. It had been commanded of Israel that they would either destroy with fire what they could or, if the material in question (such as gold or silver) could not be destroyed by fire, it would be given into God's treasury (6:18, 24). Achan stole a mantle (NIV translation says "robe"), 200 shekels of

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  • 1 week
    On knowing God

    One of my Christian professors once said that they were a skeptic about God. He continued, saying that he was skeptic about God in the sense of us - humans - ever being able to know God exhaustively. There is no shame in saying, "I don't know," regarding God if we cannot know the concept in question, or in admitting that we can't know it completely. Even with eternity to know God, those who are

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  • 1 week
    The Assyrian Invasion of Judah and its implications

    In 2 Kings 18-19, 2 Chronicles 32, and Isaiah 36-37, King Sennacherib of Assyrian invades Judah. Given that King Hezekiah of Judah had rebelled and stopped paying tribute (2 Kings 18:7), this was not surprising; the Assyrians were brutal in dealing with rebelling peoples, dealing cruelly with war captives and deporting rebellious nations in an effort to kill future rebellion and destroy their

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  • 2 weeks
    How the devil ensnares us

    In Chapter 4 of Charles S. Stanley's book, "When the Enemy strikes," the author relates a story to the reader. A pastor teaching a group of children had one strong boy come up to the platform. He then told the boy to break the string, which he easily did.

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  • 3 weeks
    My Favorite part of War of the Worlds

    7:37 and beyond;

    To paraphrase a meme;

    HMS Thunderchild; teaching Martian [invaders] to respect the Royal Navy since 1897.

    2 comments · 25 views
Feb
23rd
2020

Where do we find the balance? · 5:59am February 23rd

I've been talking about hell quite a bit recently. A lot (actually, ALL of it) is coming from books I'm reading for one of my college classes. This isn't to blame the class, and that's not the point.

The point is that the church often either doesn't talk about hell enough, and thus minimizes the fact of eternal suffering for those who don't truly love God, or else they overemphasize it and make people fear hell instead of loving God.

Both are a problem. Hell is a terrible place to be. However, the church has a way of minimizing this, and focusing on God's love, mercy, and grace. These aren't ungodly teachings in and of themselves - they're true - but forgetting God's wrath against sin and the fact that we as sinners deserve only destruction is disastrous. It makes our sins seem not so bad, and thus reduces our awe and gratitude and love for God given ho much we deserve death and how undeserved our salvation is. God's severity toward sin and against the failure to reflect His glory is just as important as preaching about His love, because it shows just how much that love is unmerited and undeserved by ANYTHING we say or do, and highlights God's equally undeserved mercy towards sinners by send Jesus to pay the price for our sins and failures.

On the other hand, overemphasizing hell does little to make real believers either; even if people come to the faith, it's not out of love for God but fear of hell, and that's not enough to avoid that fate. Ironically, over-focusing on hell might not lead people to make the right choice.

The only thing we can do is accept - truly accept - Jesus' invitation to eternal life with Him and to submit to and obey Him.

Those words - submit and obey - usually carry negative connotations when spoken or thought of by an American or anyone whose values include independence. It makes us think of tyrannical kings or dictators, who are unworthy of being obeyed. This thinking leaves out the idea that some authorities - and especially THE Authority - deserve to be obeyed, and are worth obeying and submitting to. Jesus definitely counts.

In any case, these two extremes - lets call them extreme liberty and hadephobia - have been rampant in church thinking, and not just in today's culture. On the extreme liberty side, we get the exact kind of people that the apostle James was writing to, who thought that all they had to do was believe in Jesus, and that that was enough for salvation (this is not to say that works save, but they are a fruit of salvation). As James says, even the demons believe, and shudder at the eternal destiny that awaits them (James 2:19). The problem is that people on this side focus on passages in the Bible - when they read it at all or read a popular passage that someone has put up somewhere - that support their desires and hopes. Taking Bible passages out of context is nothing new. I'm going to paraphrase from Matt Chandler's book "The Explicit Gospel" a bit to show what is meant.

Some people take Habakkuk 1:5 out of context; "I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told." Many people take that to be a wonderful thing, and there's no denying that God does wonderful things, even in our day. But the verses before and after that put it in its proper place; Habakkuk is complaining prior to this verse about a lack of justice, and after this verse God is promising to repay those who have done these injustices.

Others mistake the meaning of a verse. Isaiah 6:8 is another verse that can be taken out of context; "And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”" The issue here is that it fails to take the message before and after that verse. Beforehand, Isaiah had been in the temple in Jerusalem, and suddenly had a vision from God, where upon he sees God, and angels (seraphim) that can't and won't even look at God because of His holiness and glory. Isaiah, in the presence of holiness, can't help but see his sins magnified, and cries out that he is doomed for looking upon God. One of the seraphim takes a coal and touches it to Isaiah's lips, whereupon his sin is purged. Only then does he have the courage to cry out, "Send me!" After this, God tells him that he will be preaching to a people who will refuse to hear him, and that that preaching will only stop when "cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, the land is a desolate waste, and the land is a desolate waste, and the Lord removes people far away (6:11-12)."

Yet another verse that can be taken out of context is Jeremiah 29:11; "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." What many people fail to recognize in the moment is that God is saying this as part of a message to exiled Judeans in Babylon, promising them that He will take care of them and provide a future, as well as ordering them to submit to the Babylonians, not hate them, and even pray for them, while rejecting the words of false prophets that say that Babylon will be destroyed soon and the people will return prior to the time that God has chosen. That doesn't mean God can't take your disasters and turn them around, or that he can't make a great future for you and others; He can, IF He chooses to do so. But this verse was written directly to a specific audience, and we should keep that in mind when thinking and talking about this verse.

Taken altogether, human propensity to look for their own interests often leads us to minimize God's severity towards sin. It leads us to spiritually be afraid of a kitten (other humans) while thinking its okay to slap a lion (God) in the face (paraphrased from Matt Chandler's book again).

On the other hand, hadephobia is not great either. It's easy to scare the living daylights out of people; for some reason the film industry churns out horror movies for every season and holiday, not to mention for everything else. However, preaching about hell without a proper focus on God and God's mercy and love makes people want to join the church (body of believers) only to stop the fear, not because they love God. Admittedly, God can turn any of our mistakes in His masterpieces, but we should still be careful. Focusing too much on hell can potentially lead people to view God the way a lot of people already do; as a vengeful God, who is waiting for people to make a mistake and write it down. It forgets that the same God who notes human error is the same God who both takes and continues to take steps to save us, the primary one being Jesus' atoning death upon the cross to satisfy God's wrath and His resurrection as proof of God keeping His promises as well as His conquest of death.

Hadephobia leads people to do things not out of the love of God, but out of terror of Him. At the same time, extreme liberty causes people to distance themselves from God because it minimizes human error and God's hatred of sin. So we have to find a godly balance between the two extremes, a balance that fully takes in God's wrath for sin while not making us do things out of fear (as in being afraid as opposed to out of awe, love, reverence, and respect), and that assures of of Jesus' work for our salvation while not leading to laziness, worldliness, or to other things that cause us to slide away from God. We should realize that it is due to God that we can be saved at all, and be awed at His grace, mercy, and love while not forgetting His justice.

God's justice and God's mercy meet at the cross of Jesus the Christ. It is God's answer to Man's sin. All who truly call upon Him will be saved from eternal death. And those people will be changed by the grace of the Lord, from sinners to liberated saints. Amen.

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