Hellbound

It’s the traditional teaching of many of the 30,000+ denominations of Christianity in our world today, yet not a belief that is held by all Christians. In my interactions with my pagan neighbors, I discovered Christianity isn’t the only religion in the world who believes in some form of hell.

But should this even matter in the grand scope of Christ’s finished work?

In my earlier years of religious study in fundamentalism, hell was a major factor of doctrine. At the same time, I was taught ‘once saved, always saved’. So to me, hell wasn’t really an issue since I had faith in Christ. They teach you that once you believe in Christ by faith, that you absolutely will never go to hell. It didn’t need to be a concern for us as believers. However, it was still a concern if your loved ones and neighbors were on the road to hell.

I had to come to the place where I was going to trust God with whatever plan he had for humanity and follow his teaching of ‘love your neighbors as yourself’, regardless of what version of hell people did or didn’t believe in.

So does hell matter in the Christian tradition?

From the description on the website Hellbound? the Movie, we see a variety of perspectives from all sorts of spiritual leaders. My husband and I have studied diligently and can see how each denomination comes to their individual conclusions. We understand. However, we also take into consideration the testing of interpretations by measuring them against the fruit of the spirit (faith) and the works of the flesh (doubt).

It’s very important to understand many things when studying the bible from the era the writers lived in, their culture, the message from God for each of those generations, and how we grow or weaken based on those teachings.

When a teaching puts us in bondage to fear, worry, doubt, panic, restlessness, and anger then we would be wise to reconsider the teaching. However, that is not to say that we should totally disregard the passages, but rather look at them again and see if there is a different message than what we were previously taught.  If there is a different perspective then we should look for it. We should be better stewards with the scriptures than what we had been in previous generations. One no longer has to spend an outrageous amount of money to attend a seminary. We have a lot more free resources now and better ways of communicating than ever before. There is no longer an excuse to not study for ourselves.

Take the following questions and paste them into Word or on your blog and prayerfully answer them. Avoid trying to answer them with the scripted responses your church tradition has taught you. Answer them from the depths of your heart. From the place where you are truly you. Consider providing examples from your own journey. Avoid yes or no answers. Please give thoughtful soul widening responses.

  1. In the long run, how does the teaching of hell affect our lives?
  2. How has Christianity become complacent towards their fellow man, because their salvation is secure and have nothing to worry about?
  3. How satisfied are we with our evangelism efforts if our neighbors might burn in hell for all eternity?
  4. How often have we felt like evangelistic failures when our loved ones refuse to accept Christ, no matter how much we beg them, and they die not ever proclaiming faith in Christ? How does this affect us?
  5. How do we carry the weight of their lost soul for the rest of our lives?
  6. What kind of ‘accountability’ is there toward us when we face God?
  7. How will we feel if their blood really is placed on our hands?
  8. What sort of experience will we go through when we see them cast into the lake of fire right before our eyes before we get to walk through the pearly gates? What kind of rejoicing will we partake in after witnessing that?

This doesn’t sound like a very encouraging scenario nor does it sound anything like the abundant life Christ is said to have brought us into.

So I’ve gone back to the scriptures to see where we, as Christ followers, should find our foundation in this very important discussion.

  • If Christ has paid for the condition of sin once and for all, then why do I have to live in constant worry for others?
  • I thought faith in Christ ‘saved me from hell’ and if I’m saved from hell then why must I continue to fear hell?

This doesn’t sound like a ‘saving to the uttermost’ to me. Even the scriptures say that anything of fear is not of faith.

  • So do we really have total, absolute, faith in Christ and his finished work or not?
  • If we’re saved from hell then why must hell be the focus to get us to Christ and to living a Christ-like life?
  • I thought Paul said the Law (the former schoolmaster) was what led us to realize our need for Christ.

Isn’t a life in Christ supposed to be about love, faith, and grace? He said we would be safely grazing beside the rivers of life, well protected, and peaceful.

But this doctrine of literal eternal torment is anything but peaceful.

If we really believed in this literal hell, then why haven’t Christians all over the world given up everything in their lives to walk the highways and bi-ways of life and tell every single person out there about this hell and how to avoid it?

Maybe we have this inward voice asking us, “What if I’m wrong?” What if we are so wrong about this doctrine, what is it that we have done?

  1. Terrorized our neighbors with a make believe horror story with them as the star of the story?
  2. Disrupted any amount of peace they had in their lives with an image that causes nightmares?
  3. Created such a fear that near death experiences become more traumatic than the illness they already suffer?
  4. Sent people into severe depression when their loved ones die before the preacher can get to their house to explain the bible?
  5. Divided entire families due to the forceful begging and pleading to get them to recite a prayer and go to church with you?
  6. Isolated people in their churches and homes, afraid to live life to the fullest?
  7. Cause doubt of their own standing with God if they didn’t ‘get saved right’ or put enough faith in Christ to actually save them?

It seems to me that this is not the Kingdom in which Christ established for us.

  • Why would he die and resurrect only to bring us into such an awful place of worry, depression, and doubt?
  • How can we possibly trust him with our own salvation and believe that he will make us watch our loved ones get tossed in the lake of fire?
  • What kind of groom is that?

If something scary flashes on the TV screen, my husband covers my eyes for me, to protect me. Don’t we do the same for our children? But it is a popular belief that Jesus will make you watch your loved ones be thrown into everlasting torture. Many years ago, barbarians would force husbands to watch as they tortured their wives and children. They would force the wives and children to watch as they tortured daddy. This was equally torturous for the entire family. Is this really who God is?

Maybe this movie, Hellbound?, will help us to re-examine this teaching and broaden our own hope in Christ to a place where we can truly say, “Jesus is the Savior of the World”. Or perhaps it will solidify the belief of hell and we’ll all quit living our own enjoyable lives and start relentlessly banging down the doors of everyone in our towns.

If you decide to answer all the questions on your own blog, please come back and comment. Give us the link to the post so we can come read your thoughts on this controversial, but much needed discussion.

Sisterlisa

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Finding Grace in Sheol

With all the ongoing debate about the doctrine of hell, I’ve had to step back and re-examine this belief and what that belief does to our mental health, our emotions, and our spiritual growth. Regardless of what the popular crowd of Christianity says about what they believe, I am only responsible for what I believe…and what if they’re wrong?

Taking into consideration that in the Old Testament the word is actually sheol, which is simply the grave, then what does this mean? King David made his bed in sheol and God was with him. Jonah was in sheol and God heard his prayer and delivered him from that dark place. I’ve been in this kind of sheol before and He certainly lifted me up and put my feet upon the Rock.

I view this sheol as a place of torment, I should know… I’ve been there. It’s dark and frightening, but it most certainly is place where God still comes to us and lifts us out. His mercy endures forever.

This sheol is a place where we can find humility. Many have been brought low into sheol in order that they turn their eyes upward to see their day of salvation.

It seems to me that these many instances of sheol in the Old Testament is part of God’s design to bring us into greater depths of his grace. For it is in sheol that we realize we need his mercy and grace.

I believe this sheol is a valley of death where we find correction from what we think is the “right way” and discover that his rod and staff do indeed comfort us. The Great Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to go find the one and when we are falling down into this sheol, his hook shaped staff is lowered down to bring us up into his warm embrace. Contrary to popular belief, the Great Shepherd does NOT break the legs of the sheep, nor does he condemn us…he saves us.

When I view sheol in this perspective, I am brought to the place where I understand the power that resides in all of our failures…the power to redeem. Without times of failure we would not understand redemption. Through all this we can sing praise to Him who sits on the throne. We can come to understand that all things really are in Christ and his ‘will’ most certainly will be done.

In the popular view of sheol, being a literal fiery torment, there is no restoration, mercy, or forgiveness. However, we know that King David and Jonah both received salvation from the Lord while they were in sheol. This perspective alleviates our mental anguish of ‘eternal torment’ and gives us the hope that in the darkest of valley’s he is still there. We can face the fact that we will suffer consequences in this life time, yet still reach out and grab the staff of our Great Shepherd, our Kinsman Redeemer.

The concept of what we will answer for in the after life is not only a continual debate, but an unproven one. Since I can not prove or disprove exactly what will happen in the after life (if there is one), then I will do the best I can to understand how sheol interprets into my every day life. While the popular crowd of Christians insist that sheol is an after life place of torment, they have no factual evidence of this and there is far too much wonder and enjoyment in this life to protect than to worry about what may or may not happen after we die. Their claims that you must believe in this place of eternal torment is a requirement in order to be a Christian is a fallacy. Scripture never indicates that we must believe in eternal torment in order to follow Christ. Following Christ is a narrow path indeed and one who desires to do so follows Him by faith, not under threat of fiery torture.

Remember that when someone insists that you believe ‘x,y,z doctrines’ in order to follow Christ, just remember that love does not insist on it’s own way.

Sisterlisa


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Hell is not THAT Clear… or is it?

My friend John Fincher shared this video with me and I thought it was amazingly courageous of this Mennonite pastor to share his thoughts on this wildly controversial topic. He gives a short…very short, over view of 4 perspectives that have been a part of the debate for centuries now. The idea behind one denomination or movement of Christianity having the “right” perspective is quite arrogant. But what I find very intriguing about this video is that he leaves it up to you to decide. With the very few verses he shares on each of these 4 perspectives, there are a lot more that he doesn’t give and that’s ok.

When I study the bible for answers about doctrines I study out every passage a theologian has presented and I chase each passage down and if there are weak points of unanswered questions, I break through those areas and explore further.

In the end of this video this pastor declares his utmost concern about this ‘doctrine’ and about the people who believe in it. I admire his bravery to present this in the manner in which he did and even more so, I applaud him as a pastor to allow his congregation to make up their own minds.

You Asked For It — What About Hell? from Jon Carlson on Vimeo.

An Odd Exchange

It’s like a phantom pain, deep within my heart, that aches so deeply when I see them again. Those who I once endeared as family, those friends so dear. After all the years of faithful friendship, the barriers went up when I chose to question and search out the truth away from their theological box.

When they reject me for asking, pondering, dissecting, and chewing on scripture to see if it’s truly what *I* believe or if it’s just what they tell me to believe, why does it hurt so much?

When I hold out in faith, for the hope that forgiveness will really reach down deep and grace will embrace so steadfastly to those I once doubted were ‘saved’, why does my hope in God offend them so? Why do they want to let go of such a long held friendship when I want to believe that God’s grace really does much more than we can even imagine?

Why is it that when I place my hope so deeply in my Savior to redeem the lost that these who were once so close think my hope is “of the devil”?

Do they view me as if I am the devil?

Years go by and as my children remember them and speak of them fondly, I can feel my heart healing. I can hear their names and no longer weep. I hold my head high and realize I can move forward with new friends and pave my way through this life while embracing those memories in love..and then I see them..and they ignore me again. I see them on Facebook and they befriend my other online friends, but they still won’t have anything to do with me. And the pain comes back to haunt me again.

What did I do that was so wrong?

I remember asking..what did I do? How have I hurt you? To which I got no reply. No opportunity to reconcile.

No idea what I did…except that I no longer abide in the same theological box.

I left the notion that God can’t forgive my dad. That he hates him and is torturing him forever..all because he didn’t recite a specific prayer. All because he didn’t follow a theological box. All because he didn’t “get it”. I choose to believe in my great God and in the power of his grace to save. I forsake the idea that he cries at night, writhing in pain.

The offense of the cross, that finished work. The salvation that saves us even from our ignorance, our lack of theological education, the weakness of not knowing how to believe. Believe? But what does that mean and how do I know I have believed enough to be saved?

The hope in Him who saves us from even ourselves.

The knowledge and peace he brings to show us that we don’t have to measure our belief or our trust, because he IS our hope and our trust.

An odd exchange wouldn’t you say?

To have confidence in my hope that my daddy was reconciled in exchange for my friends rejecting me for such a hope.

Had I lived my life believing he was in hell, I would still have my friends.

Yes, an odd exchange it is.

The pain of ‘hearing’ my daddy screaming in my mind every night, while he burns forever in that torturous flame..or the phantom pain of losing fellowship with friends.

Maybe they weren’t really friends..but that doesn’t change how much I love them and how much it hurts that they reject me still.

But it’s not just about my daddy. It’s about my God.

Some have said, “I’m sorry, Lisa..but God just isn’t that forgiving.”

One day… there will be glad rejoicing over there… and my tears will shed as I see their faces light up for joy that their loved ones were really reconciled too.

Then we’ll have an eternity of friendship.

Some day all heart ache will be gone

Some day he’ll come to claim us all

Sorrow will be over, every tear drop wiped away.

So when it hurts so bad you can hardly stand

Just remember..

It will all be over some day.

worship by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere

Sisterlisa


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Dual Citizenship

There is a powerful truth spoken of in the scriptures that seems to get tucked out of sight in order to force another issue into our minds that leads us to think God will continue to dangle us over a hot pit until we get things in our lives all worked out. There are perspectives that will tell you that it’s not by works, but by His grace that you are saved and that “once saved always saved” but they keep dangling you over the pit as if it matters. Seems like a contradiction to me. Then there’s another camp that says you can still end up in the pit of flames even if you do believe in Jesus. I can see why they think so, because Jesus said many would say they served him, but he does not know them. These conflicting perspectives puts people in a constant state of panic, fear, and doubt that God has them securely in His grasp. So maybe it’s time we sort all these matters out and try to find some balance and accountability.

I know the hell debate has spanned for centuries, but for the sake of this very powerful, yet often ignored topic, lets put hell aside for the moment. I don’t believe that the popular doctrine of hell is needed in order to believe in Jesus. There are other denominations that do not believe that hell is defined the same way and they still effectively preach Jesus. I believe that in order for us to be able to really begin to be discipled we need to be able to put our full trust in the redemptive finished work of the cross. Until we do, we will continually walk in doubt and fear and that is not the way of the Kingdom. Jesus wants us to be able to enjoy the blessings of living the Kingdom life as a Royal family together. Trusting that we are reconciled to God through the work of the Anointing is just the beginning of our abundant lives.

If we think that living the Kingdom life means we walk a tightrope over hell and can fall at any time, then that is not the Kingdom. There are no threats in the Kingdom of God and Jesus said the Kingdom is within you. So lets put our perspective on the fact that he completed his work of reconciliation so we can learn to navigate this earthly life and walk in the Kingdom at the same time.

There is a song that says “This world is not my home” and for some this gives them the sense of what is to come and while this is a great and wonderful thing, let us not forget that the meek inherit the earth. Jesus said his kingdom is not of this earth, yet he also said his kingdom would be here with us and God told Adam to take care of the earth. It’s a paradox.

We have dual citizenship.

We live on earth, inherit the earth, and reign in the Kingdom as a Royal Priesthood all at the same time. Knowing how to navigate this earthly life is found in walking in the Kingdom. Here is where I will introduce you to such a powerful truth that seems to get ignored so much of the time. The King reveals to us that when we live by the powerful principle of “reap what you sow”, we can effectively live within the bounds of our dual citizenship. You may also see the same concept in the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. If we took this matter seriously, then we do not need the threat of hell to navigate in this life.

Living by the understanding that we will reap what we sow is a powerful teaching of personal accountability. Some in the camp of “once saved, always saved” have committed such atrocities in the Body with the deception that their actions won’t matter because they are “saved and can’t lose their salvation”. I have ministered alongside my husband in an addiction and recovery ministry for over a decade and I can tell you very clearly from personal experience that our decisions always matter. We have seen pastors commit horrible crimes against their congregations and cover it up because they think they can “rule” their church kingdoms as if they are gods. Their actions have infiltrated their churches and put the lives of their congregants in a literal hell on earth and they think they are above the law. This is a gross misrepresentation of the Kingdom. Jesus is always going to bat for the oppressed and abused. Through their deception, the wounded now feel as though they will not be avenged because their abusive clergy is “the Lord’s anointed” and “saved” and therefore will not suffer judgment for what they have done.

Let me assure you that is not the case. We live in the Kingdom that is governed by the principle of reap and sow. Many clergy in several denominations have covered for molesters only to later fall victim to becoming a molester themselves or their kids grew up to be molesters. Clergy in various denominations have been deceitful in manipulating people to give money to their ministry and misused those funds only to be stolen from later in life. Ministry “leaders” have manipulated and abused clients in their programs only to later reap destruction on their ministries as another in their ranks swindles them out of their own ministries. Why do these things happen? Do the actions of a parent come back to haunt them through the lives of their children? Some seem to think so, but my friend Laurie pointed this out to me..

Jeremiah prophesied about the days of the New Covenant (which Jesus instituted) that: “In those days they shall no longer say:

”The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. ‘But everyone shall die for his own sin. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.” (Jer. 31:29-30)

Thank God there is great hope for my children – the hope of the Gospel, which is the only hope for any of us.

My friend Lois says, “No…..we can only reap in ourselves what we have sown…they have to do their own sowing and reaping.”

Then my friend David says, “No way! But we’re gonna totally reap what we sow to them by our deeds. Again and always, the thing is… teaching by example.”

In the examples of abusive clergy that I gave above, we can see all this advice from my friends is valid. Now what happens when an abusive Christian seems to get away with what they’ve done, because they had a hot shot lawyer get them off the hook? God doesn’t miss a thing! God has given us the nation’s justice system, but it is not a perfect system and although we have it at our disposal, we can not rely on it the way we can rely on the Lord.

It may be that an abusive Christian is Christian in name only and not really living the Kingdom life. They might look the part and participate in all the religious activities, but not have the fruit of the Spirit and they allow their flesh to run their lives. This is an unfortunate thing and there are times when we do need to BE the Body and step in to assist in situations that require our intervention. But even in the cases where someone seems to be getting away with what they have done, the Lord sees it all and will deal with them in his own ways. They will not get off “scott free”.

We need to take this “reap and sow” principle to heart! No matter what you believe about hell, the Kingdom is not governed by the threat of hell, it is governed by Christ and he clearly says that we will reap what we sow. If you reap ‘a hell’ on someone’s life, be prepared that ‘a hell’ will be sown in yours at some point as well.

Sisterlisa


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Francis Chan Reconsiders Hell

Shortly after I read ‘Love Wins’, by Rob Bell, I saw a video published by Francis Chan where he seemed to genuinely and lovingly shared his grievous heart about the open discussion of hell. I can understand that concern, since I had been in a hell fire brimstone church for 15 years. I understand that concept as they teach it and by golly if you believe unbelievers will go to hell forever you ought to be more vocal about it. But many times Christians wrestle with how to be loving while telling someone they’re going to hell. Most Christian parents would forbid their children from ever telling someone, “Go to hell”. Yet, at the same time isn’t telling someone they ARE going to hell, in fact, worse than saying “Go to hell”?

So Francis Chan, with a heavy heart, began studying this popular topic of hell and Charisma magazine reported that Francis Chan has reconsidered this teaching a bit. His new book ‘Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity and the Things We’ve Made Up’ is scheduled to be released in July. It will be interesting what he has to say, yet I highly recommend you read Julie Ferwerda’s new book first. This topic of hell has had me intrigued for quite a while and I have taken what Rob Bell opened the discussion with, and Julie’s thoughts, into serious consideration. Julie presented a very detailed in-depth study in what I believe is well within context of the plan of God to make all things right.

I believe there is indeed a Judgment, however the way in which that plays out is not so clearly defined. Key words such as grave, fire, flames, darkness, etc are used in symbolic ways throughout many parables and symbolic teachings. When I personally look up the word ‘hell’ in an English version of the Bible, then look in Greek I find the word ‘hades’ which is actually ‘grave’. Just a few days ago, I passed the local cemetery and didn’t find any grave spouting up flames anywhere. I also find that Jonah was in ‘hell’ for three days, God heard his prayers, and delivered him out of ‘hell’, all while Jonah was still alive. Then in the book of Revelation we see hades (the grave) emptied and destroyed (which means no one stays in the grave, ‘hell’, forever). There are many instances like these that leads me to believe that ‘hell’, or more accurately translated ‘grave’, is not quite what I was previously taught.

But this is not my intended purpose for this post. It’s just the beginning. Many Christian writers, pastors, teachers, theologians, and many others including Atheists and Pagans are reconsidering what the overall message of Christ really is. In the history of growth of the congregations on this planet, we have seen changes in their teachings. New denominations are formed regularly and anyone with a small group can file for a 501c3 (in America) and begin a new religious establishment. Do we really need more churches when we see so many of them dispersing into homes as it is?

My point in this article is about the changes. Each person has their own soul liberty in their journey to understanding the Divine Creator, however if we use the bible as a historical guide as to what has happened to the early believers we can see an over all theme and that theme is love, mercy, correction, and reconciliation. When we reconsider that hell is actually the grave, then the major premises of evangelicalism makes a swift change from threats of torture to a wooing of the Spiritual lover of our souls.

So can Christianity survive without threats of fire torture? I suppose that depends on what you think being a Christian is really all about. Surely the Bride of Christ, whose Head is Christ, will always survive because she can not disappear. The gates of Hades will not prevail against the Kingdom. However, if the head of a entity called “Christianity” is not Christ, then it will surely fail. Maybe we just need to ask ourselves if we’re following the real Christ, or if we’re following a man made copy all decked out in man’s bricks and mortar lead into a program of circus tricks, smoke, and mirrors.

Sisterlisa


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Julie Ferwerda Raises Hell With Orthodoxy

Yes, a startling title for a very grave book (pun intended). I have been reading Julie’s blog this year and conversing with her on Facebook. She is a lovely confident women who is bold in speaking out about discrepancies and discoveries she has noticed in her spiritual journey. If she lived in Anne Hutchinson’s time she would have been tried for heresy and possibly burned at the stake. What does Julie have to say that is so beautifully dangerous to mainstream Christianity? How could a pregnant home keeper like Anne Hutchinson, cause such a stir that it brings men to the front lines with full throttle hostility toward her and imprison her?

Grace

Anne Hutchinson taught grace. Oh yes, the clergy had a slew of other issues with her beliefs, but the bottom line was grace. She simply spoke up about another preacher that she felt taught more on grace than the others. So now we have Julie Ferwerda in the 21st Century and I believe Anne Hutchinson would be standing shoulder to shoulder with her if she could be here today. Julie has dared to go against the grain to proclaim that the Gospel is actually better than we thought. Julie picks up where Rob Bell left off. Don’t get me wrong, I like Rob Bell’s book ‘Love Wins’, but I think Julie’s new book, ‘Raising Hell’ knocks ‘Love Wins’ out of the ballpark.

If you thought Rob’s book was controversial you haven’t seen anything until you’ve read ‘Raising Hell’.

Julie Ferwerda raises hell with Orthodoxy and by golly she ought to! If you are a KJV proponent and think all other versions of the bible are mistranslations then you need to read this hot topic book filled with in-depth research into the Hebrew and Greek languages and just how many mistranslations there really are. Mistranslations that have altered and hidden the Good News under an English blanket of fear mongering fiery threats. Mistranslations that have side stepped a very serious and grave understanding about Judgment that we MUST understand if we think we’re going to live a “good Christian life” that is “well pleasing to God”.

Julie not only dices through the popular topic of hell, she brings to the forefront of our minds and hearts that there is a reckoning day and if you choose to “go out and do whatever you want” you will have “hell to pay”, so to speak, but it won’t be anything like what you once thought. In fact, I think it’s worse than hell.

Keep in mind that I have read Julie’s book with my own filters, as anyone else will. But from what I get out of ‘Raising Hell’ is that there is a consequence and process to our life, and the after life, that is much worse than the traditional hell doctrine. How dare those who force ‘Orthodoxy’ not tell us about this! How dare they! How dare they keep something THIS important away from us!

What could be worse than hell, but brings out how great the Gospel really is?

Julie Ferwerda is presenting, what I believe, is a well balanced view of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She does not candy coat the Judgment in the least bit. In fact, I view her perspective on the Judgment as a very startling wake up call for all of Christianity. She addresses the popular doctrines of Calvinism and Arminianism that will shake their followers to the core. Without her mentioning it, I think she also raises awareness of the “once saved always saved” doctrine as well as the “you can lose your salvation” doctrine. Being rejected and thrown into hell forever and ever is the easy way out. What Julie presents is much harder to deal with. We face God and we have no escape. (How could that be an uncomfortable thing? Read the book!)

I do believe that the bigger Story is much larger than we can imagine and I feel that Julie has done an excellent job at trying to bring that larger Story to us and I believe with all my heart that this perspective is a must read. Lets just say that Julie is onto something worthy of our attention(which I believe she has), what has she done? She has given us a glimpse into part of the bigger picture. She has not revealed anything new, she isn’t pulling doctrines out of a hat nor is she diminishing the Gospel. In fact, she is highlighting some things that demand our fullest attention! She has journeyed to the very center of the original ‘Orthodox’.

Here’s a simple analogy. The playground has been all stirred up with kids fighting and arguing back and forth. Even the teachers have not been able to calm the crowd and hostility. In fact, the teachers have entered the fight and all the kids are cheering on the fighting between the teachers! But a whistle blows and while everyone is piled high on top of one another and blood has been flung all around, they look up and there stands the superintendent with the rule book. The detention center doors are open and the time for reckoning is at hand. The teachers are not exempt from discipline, no matter how many years they have been teaching and no matter which union they have to protect them. The parents of the kids will have no choice but to allow their kids to suffer the consequences to their behavior, no matter how wealthy they are and no matter how much community service they have partaken in.

It’s called accountability.

Surely grace has them covered and no matter how much thieving some clergy have done, no matter how many deacon pedophiles they have allowed to walk free, no matter how many folks they have gotten to recite the sinner’s prayer, not exactly…they will answer for themselves.

You might be thinking, “Has Julie cheapened grace?” Oh heavens no! She has brought to our attention how incredibly valuable this grace really is.

Has Julie made the consequences and sentence of hell easier? I don’t think so, not in the least bit.

Is Julie hiding the all inclusive love that Universalists hope for? No, in fact I believe she presents a very good understanding of the reconciliation of all things in Christ coupled beautifully with appropriate personal accountability.

For those deeply wounded and taken advantage of by “Born Again Pastors” who claim they are covered by grace. No need to worry that you are not avenged by the Savior. He hasn’t missed a thing they have done to you. They won’t get off “scott free”.

I believe this book will grab you by the shoulders and shout “Snap out of it!” Or at the very least, I hope it will.

Julie Ferwerda’s book, ‘Raising Hell’ should be an incredible eye opener for all denominations of Christianity. Not only them, but I believe Atheists and Pagans will read this book in amazement. Is this a view of Christ that even they have recognized? Could it be that many Atheists and Pagans have been believers all along and many Christians have been “unbelievers”?

So what could be worse than hell, but better than grace? How could an all-inclusive Gospel still include the Judgment and appropriate consequences for those needing them? How has the ‘Orthodox’ doctrines of hell and judgment caused us to drift so far off course that we desperately need this wake up call?

‘Raising Hell’ by Julie Ferwerda will be available at Amazon.com You can read more about it’s release, here.

Pre-Order at Amazon.com, here.

Additional thoughts, cautions, and recommendations are below.

Sisterlisa

Now don’t you go and tweet out “Farewell, Julie Ferwerda” so quickly. You may find yourself facing the Almighty one day as he asks “Why didn’t you listen to the messenger I sent you?” and the male ego that tries to dismiss a woman with no formal seminary training as heretical, uneducated, or not Orthodoxy just may be faced with his response, “Did I not send word through Joel and Peter that your sons and DAUGHTERS will prophesy? Did I not already choose unlearned men from the warf to teach you as well?” Perhaps God is humbling us a bit further than simply sending unlearned fisherman to teach us the way of Christ, behold… he also sends women.

This book is not a threat to male theologians and they have no need to be afraid to read it.

If you are a faithful hell doctrine believer, I recommend that you read this book as an opportunity to refine your doctrines. If you believe your literal hell is fact, then you need this book to test your beliefs on hell and quite possibly solidify them. But read it all the way through, even to the last section of resources about Hebrew and Greek before you jump in to debate her view of hell. You will need to be very well equipped with her entire view through this book in order to adequately chop through the first section on hell. Without understanding the full scope of what Julie has presented, any debate you compose based on that first section will make you look like an idiot to all those who will have read this book in it’s entirety. If you want to maintain any integrity you have within the Christian community by debating this book, be sure to read it and study it thoroughly. But not as a way to debate between the views, but to look at the research as it stands. Then draw out your comparison.

This book presents quite a paradox. Parables will look much different in ‘Raising Hell’. It might even confuse some folks and while many believe God is not the author of confusion, scriptures actually do reveal that there are times when he does, in fact, blind people for a purpose. So when you sort through the parables Julie has presented, you may want to take some time to study the chapters rather than simply reading them.

Challenge yourself as a student of scripture. This book is much more than just a ‘good read’, it is an opportunity to be a Berean. No matter what you believe before you read the book and no matter what you will believe after reading the book, ‘Raising Hell’ is one of the best books to challenge our biblical academics.

This book is not for the weak in faith. However, I do not think this book would cause someone to “fall” from Christ either. If your faith is in Christ, this book will not cause you to falter. However, if your faith has been in religion and doctrines have become a sacred cow to you, then I believe this book would reveal that to you and set you upright face to face with God.

If you fear this book would lead people to become Atheists: Some books out there have certainly caused some to become Atheists, but I do not think that would be the case with ‘Raising Hell’. If a person becomes an Atheist it is more likely that they have done so because of the total lack of love among some Christians, in addition to their hypocrisy, than from doctrines and books they don’t agree with. A person who is an Atheist is not automatically a “stupid” person because they don’t agree with Christianity. Many Atheists are quite intelligent and loving people. I believe this book will challenge their intellect and pleasantly surprise them.

For my Pagan friends, I would deeply like to hear your thoughts on this book if you choose to read it. I am deeply interested to hear your thoughts on the section of the Harvests. I know Pagans celebrate seasonal sabbaths and I would like to dialogue with you on the similarities and differences between the Torah feasts and celebrations and the ones you observe, according to Julie’s presentation in ‘Raising Hell’.


Biblical argument for Gays

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How Does a Christian Respond to the Death of Bin Laden?

Power and Respect by tww, on Pix-O-Sphere

I remember arriving at my daughter’s former school that crisp September morning. I was on volunteer duty that morning as the children were arriving at school and a friend of mine hollered frantically for me to come to her van. She turned up the volume on the news and I heard the screaming over the air waves.

Over the last several years America has held her breath in anticipation that Bin Laden would be captured.

Tonight several news sources announced the DNA results of Bin Laden are positive, Bin Laden is dead.

I have mixed emotions.

I have no doubt that Bin Laden’s name will be added to the world’s most infamous criminals when the topic of hell comes up.

Hitler, Stalin, Bin Laden.

Is there a hell hot enough or big enough for all of them?

This last year, I came to reject the traditional concept of hell in favor of a type of universal reconciliation. Many people are at odds with what that means or what it will look like. My views on this are different from even many Universalists I know.

I believe in justice.

How does a Christian respond to the death of Bin Laden?

Does the idea of a literal fire torture chamber appeal to people and make them feel good about Bin Laden’s death?

{photo credit by Tom Wasinger}

Is death ever something to rejoice over?

Proverbs 29:2 When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.

If the people groaned when someone like Bin Laden ruled, then surely his departure from this earth is one of relief.

The weight off the shoulders of American citizens is indescribable.

Over the next week we will see all sorts of emotions and I have no doubt those who believe in a traditional hell will become hostile with those who don’t.

How does one reconcile these mixed emotions with our faith and trust in a sovereign God?

Did we trust in His sovereignty when the Twin Towers were attacked?

Can we trust God with this sovereign moment of knowing that enemy has been defeated?

Can a Christian rejoice that a terrorist is now gone?

I can’t help but to wonder if Christians and many others, are rejoicing that he is in their idea of hell.

Isn’t it enough to know he’s dead?

Romans 6:23 tell us “For the wages of sin is death”

Bin Laden is gone.

Is death enough for us or do we hunger and thirst for more blood?

Even the Jewish Law said an ‘eye for an eye’.

It didn’t say ‘eternal torture for an eye’.

To be just is to have equal punishment… under the old covenant with the chosen people.

In the New Covenant with Christ, he has covered us.

But there are those who rejected our interpretation of who Jesus is.

Mainstream Evagelicalism and many other camps of Christainity will adamantly state that Bin Laden will suffer for eternity.

They won’t know what took place in his heart over the last several years. They won’t know what took place between his heart and mind with the voice of God as he pillowed his head at night.

But many Christians have already judged Bin Laden as a permanent citizen of their idea of hell.

What they believe doesn’t change where Bin Laden really is.

Does this literal torturous hell make Christians feel better about people who reject their version of Jesus?

Do they feel superior somehow?

I am relieved that Bin Laden is gone, but I will not make a judgment on his soul being in torture forever. I don’t need that thought to find peace with his death, nor within my own self.

I trust a sovereign God who told the Pharaoh that there was a purpose for him.

Romans 9: 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

I pray that Christians will be wise in how they openly respond to the news of Bin Laden’s death.

We are not demons dancing at a party in celebration of burning the bleeding souls of men over a bonfire forever and ever.

Any death in this life is a death plain and simple. There are people who loved Bin Laden. He was some mother’s son.

No matter how wrong a crime he committed, his penalty was death. The just payment and he died.

graveyard by lady_jess, on Pix-O-Sphere

My friend called to tell me of this announcement and I sat in shock and disbelief.

I checked several news sources where I saw it as the headline “Bin Laden is Dead’.

I began telling my oldest daughter of the news and my lips quivered. I cried. I held my breath, then let it go with a sob.

It’s ok to cry, it’s ok to be relieved, and I believe it’s ok to experience any emotion that comes naturally to us at this time.

How will the Christian community respond to the news of his death?

There are hurting people in this nation who will experience all sorts of emotions.

Do not push their buttons.

Be kind.

Let them experience their feelings.

Be a light to shine peace.

{photo credit by Lady Jess}

Let’s not fight and argue over how we “should” respond.

For those who can, be gracious.

My idea of universal reconciliation varies in a few different ways.

I believe our breath is the very breath of God that gives us life. Without our breath, we die.

I believe our breath returns to the one who gave it.

What He does with that breath is up to him.

Do our memories or personalities live on in the mysterious after life?

I would hope so.

Will we have understanding of who we are in the after life and have our flesh dealt with there?

I know that is a popular thought, but if we drop our robes of flesh then how does flesh get dealt with in the after life?

The flesh and everything that goes with it does not go to our Creator in a way that our breath returns to him.

I don’t believe Bin Laden’s flesh or psyche, that has all evil thoughts of murdering people, is with God.

Even in the parable of the self righteous brother of the prodigal son, he does not enter the party.

But I do believe the essence of life that came from our Creator is returned to the Creator exactly as it was given when Bin Laden took his first breath.

He breathed in and he breathed out.

He’s gone.

Rest well and peace be with you.

Buschart Gardens by nonpoppop, on Pix-O-Sphere
{photo credit by Mike Davis}

Sisterlisa


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The Heretics

There has been some humorous teasing going on around Facebook about the word ‘heretic’ and in many churches the word ‘heretic’ is used in a way that does not fit the context in which they are using it. Some endearingly accept the label of heretic as a confirmation that they’re headed in the right direction. Some claim to be a Christian heretic while others shake their heads wondering how a Christian can be a  heretic and still claim to be a Christian. What I have found in the Greek about this topic is quite eye opening.

Original Word: αἱρετικός, ή, όν

Part of Speech: Adjective

Transliteration: hairetikos

Phonetic Spelling: (hahee-ret-ee-kos’)

Short Definition: factious

Definition: disposed to form sects, sectarian, heretical, factious.

Cognate: 141 hairetikós (an adjective, derived from 138 /hairéomai, “to choose, have a distinctive opinion”) – a factious person, specializing in half-truths and misimpressions “to win others over” to their personal opinion (misguided zeal) – while creating harmful divisions (used only in Tit 3:10).  (hairesis).

Disposed to form sects. That sounds like the various denominations to me. They have formed sects. Half truths and misimpressions. This is taking verses out of context and forming new doctrines where there is none. To reveal where their half truths are, will bring out the name calling label. If you have been labeled a ‘heretic’ by a denominational person, then you are the one who are free and discovering their half truths are just that, half. And the one calling you a heretic, is indeed the real heretic.

In my religious studies of various denominational view points, I have carefully compared the viewpoints of each denomination on the matters they all divide over. What I have found is they each have partial truths mixed with their own opinions. If they could just sit down together in love and with patience and really study TOGETHER, they would find what I believe to be the whole truth on those matters. Instead they divide the people from one another’s view points. They are heretics.

I have been labeled a heretic many times, but I don’t ask people to divide over disagreements, I have been trying to show them where they all have something in common and try to encourage them to really look at each other’s views. They each have a piece to the ‘puzzle’ and they withhold their pieces from one another and push each other away when the topic comes up in conversations.

Using the word ‘heretic’ as a name calling method to scare people away from other believers who are studying..who are being like the Bereans, is divisive. THOSE are the heretics. They want to cut off others who believe differently, they create sects.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with carefully studying the Bible, double checking the Hebrew and Greek and presenting your findings to your fellowship. This is what we all should be doing. Asking tough questions about why some people get a mansion and others get the lake of fire or what the hell is hell anyway are acceptable questions. It is time to grow up, get out of the high chair, no more spoon feeding. Those who insist that we remain in the high chair, refuse to give the meat, and who rebuke you for wanting to grow up, are the real heretics.

Will the real heretics please stand up?

1 Corinthians 11: 17But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions(factions, heretics) among you. And I believe it in part,d 19for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

When these, who seek to divide and create sects, stand up and begin name calling..we will know who they are. They are the heretics.

But they are needed. Paul said it is so that those who are genuine can be revealed. Those who are willing to be like the Bereans, who study and walk by faith. Those who offer the same freedom to others. Those who limit our freedom to be like the Bereans are divisive. When you are studying and walking by faith, being like the Bereans and you are labeled a ‘heretic’ by a sectarian, then you have received a truth telling that you are genuine. The believers will then look for fruit. Are you just stirring the pot just to stir it? Or are you walking your friends through freedom in Christ? If you bear no fruit, then you are no different than those real heretics..you’re just causing more sectarianism.

Discovering truth is not just to cause problems like some class clown does in grade school. Discovering truth is to bring people to freedom.

The recent revealing of Rob Bell’s upcoming book, ‘Love Wins’ has caused quite a stir in the faith community. He presents some of the questions that people have been secretly asking for many years. His introduction video presents topics that Anne Hutchinson brought up many years ago that landed her in prison. We live in a time when we are protected from such treatment for disagreeing with someone’s theology. No matter what Rob Bell’s book reveals about his beliefs, he has shown courage to stand up and present his views in the face of the Christianity community.

When we see disagreements about the interpretation of the Bible, look for the fruit. The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: because against such there is no law. {Galatians 5:22-23} When you see people openly disagreeing with Rob Bell, or any other writer, speaker, or blogger, is their fruit among their disagreeing? Any sort of insult, belittling, or accusations are not of the fruit of the spirit. That would be a work of the flesh, a work called strife. {Galatians 5:20}

John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Sisterlisa


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Hell Cries at Night

Do you ever lay in bed at night in the silence of the darkness and tears stream out of your closed eyelids and trickle down your cheek? Then your nose starts running a little and you sniffle..and your husband asks, “What’s wrong?” and you saying quietly..”Nothing” But in your mind and heart you are sobbing..because your mind is racing with ‘what ifs’.. the ‘what ifs’ that would get you totally cut off from the people you love if you were to speak these ‘what ifs’ out loud.
Do you live in frustration that you can’t express how you really feel or what you truly believe or even over the things you question…about your religion. Will my friends shut me off if they knew I questioned a doctrine, or the reality of who the pastor really is when I saw him…do something when no one else saw? What if they don’t believe me? What if he denies it and calls me liar?
Since I already believe in Jesus and that He reconciled us to Father, then why does it matter if I question many of these other traditional teachings? (whispering) I know… I know why… people are generally afraid..but I discovered that many of them feel the same way. And we live in fear of being judged and labeled as ‘rebellious’ but we aren’t…we just have questions. Questions that scream out of our heads late at night as we lay there trying to sound like we’re sleeping..because what if our spouse is like they are…what if he gets mad that we question things? So the tears flow out of my closed eyelids and stream down my cheeks…and all I can do is ask Him..”God? WHO are you?”
And I quietly sob deep deep down and my throat feels like it’s swelling shut as my heart feels like it’s being ripped in half as I want to scream out “Do you really hate my daddy and is he REALLY in a torment for ever and ever?” and the tears flow so fast that I feel like Alice drowning in my own tears and in my mind I scream at Him with desperation in my soul…”WHO ARE YOU?!” and my body shakes as I try to keep my sobs muffled in bed..late at night as I think of my daddy…and Father gently asks me..”Who do YOU say that I am?” and I cry out through sobs..”YOU ARE AGAPE!”
And He says..”Then look for Agape” and I sob again… imagining my daddy screaming and crying forever and ever because someone told him lies about God and he rejected the ‘God’ that was introduced to him. Father caresses my soul and says, “Do you think I failed to reach your daddy?”

I catch my breath and try to breathe slowly as I listen to Him… and I muster up the courage to reply, “no, my Lord.. you never fail.” and He says, “Agape never fails”. I then cry out, “I love you God…” and I sob uncontrollably as I ‘see’ my daddy seated in the heavenly places, just like I am. And Father reminds me of His greatness..He is so powerful that He can reach His creation with His love and His love is so amazingly powerful, who can stand up in the face of such love? 

And He gently brings to my awareness..that not everyone truly believes in His greatness anymore. He shares with me that so many people who say they believe, actually believe the adversary’s power is just about equal to His….that people think God fails to save billions of His own creation. But I know my God is much bigger than humans imagine He is. And tonight I rest my head, knowing who God is to me. And understanding that I will lose many friends when they find out how I feel. I don’t have all the answers to the questions, but I know there are enough verses and whole passages in the Bible to give me Hope. I’d rather hope and believe that God is much bigger than humans think He is, than to believe He is less than, God never fails.

{1 Corinthians 15:22} “As in Adam ALL die, so In Christ shall ALL be made alive.”

clouds by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere

Sisterlisa


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