Tag Archives: Hell

unfinished 


This morning I write surrounded by chaos. For almost a week now we have been living in a house turned upside down. You see, shortly after Christmas we had some of our floor get ruined by a leak from our laundry room. Also the carpet in the boys room was ruined by an air conditioner malfunction so that was torn out as well. But, although we’ve been living on partial concrete floors for a while now, the real fun has come during the last week when we had the floor installers scheduled and realized all that needed to happen before the installation. We now have even more bare floors, our dressers are all in the garage, all the rooms have all the other furniture shoved to the side and most of the rooms are missing doors. So yeah, it feels a little chaotic, a little incomplete, a little unfinished. But the end is in sight…at least I think it is.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like that first Easter weekend. On this day, which we  call Maundy Thursday, the disciples gather with their teacher to share a final Passover with him; not even knowing it will be their last. A few hours later he is arrested and through the night he is tried, mocked, beaten, whipped, ridiculed and eventually sentenced to death in the early hours of that Friday. It was the end. The disciples had fled, the movement had died and even some of the last words of Christ on the cross himself were, “It is finished.” And yet for those who knew Jesus best, for his closest followers and family, something had to feel unfinished. It really couldn’t be the end, could it? When Jesus was alive during His earthly ministry he was once confronted by religious leaders who were frustrated by his actions and teaching. The gospel of John records it this way, “Then the Jewish leaders asked him, “By what authority are you doing these things? What miraculous sign will you show us?”Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it up.” The Jewish leaders replied, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?” – John 2:18-20 Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days? We of course have the insight to understand what Jesus was talking about and yet…it still seems impossible. Rebuilding the temple in three days would have been an engineering feat to daunting for any nation, let alone a person. Resurrecting a body was something that just didn’t happen. So either way we look at the passage it seems unfathomable.

If ever we need the story of Easter it is in our world today. It is easy to see that we are surrounded by chaos, brokenness, incomplete stories, unfinished lives, death, sin and hell. We need the story of the Resurrection. We need the temple (Christ body, but also the church) to be rebuilt into all that God intends for it to be. We need to feel as if there is a work being completed in us that will bring wholeness, healing, life and love to the world around us. We need to be caught up in a hope so fierce that it defies anything that the news, the nations,  or the naysayers might throw at us. We need the finality of Easter because in the end death does not have the last word. Unfinished is not the end of the story and love and life reign supreme for Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed!

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evil eye

Okay, let’s get something out of the way. Sometimes the Bible is just weird. There I said it. And I am still typing so I didn’t get struck by lightning. But really. Sometimes when we try to take concepts or illustrations from the Bible and put them in today’s context…it’s just, well weird. I ran across one of those instances just this last week as I was preparing for youth group with our students. The passage is a familiar text to most of us. It is commonly referred to as The Parable of the Workers in The Vineyard and it is found in Matthew 20. But in verse 15 it get’s a little weird. The owner of the vineyard is speaking to the workers hired first and he says, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”. At first glance this isn’t that weird (and I just realized I have used the word weird a lot…I need a thesaurus). But there is a phrase in the Greek that stands out a bit if we go back to the original text and it is ophthalmos ponēros. Which the translators in the NIV labeled envious, but a more literal translation would be ‘evil eye’.

I don’t know what this sparks in your mind, but I almost picture a pirate or something with his evil eye staring down at me, ‘arrrr’. But that doesn’t really help us here. We have to look a bit more about what Jesus was saying in regards to the owner of the vineyard and the early workers. He is actually asking them if they are looking to do harm to the later workers because of his paying them the same wage. Now I don’t know about you, but this strikes me as strange at first. Why in the world would Jesus accuse these workers as wishing harm upon the other workers? But then I think about human nature.

We all have those people who we are a bit envious of, frustrated by, hate to be around, etc. etc. Maybe it’s someone who seemingly has been blessed more than you. Maybe it’s that person who has made a life of taking advantage of the system. Maybe it’s the person who just rubs you the wrong way because of the life they lead. But here’s the true rub of it…Jesus died for all of those people. And he extends Grace (unmerited favor) to not only us but to EVERYONE. I think sometimes we forget that. Sometimes in our desire for retribution or equality (really this version of fair is only about us coming out on top) we really want some people to get their just due. I think if some of us were honest we might even wish Hell upon some of these people…talk about an evil eye. But if God doesn’t want Hell for any of these people, shouldn’t we be the same way? Shouldn’t we be so consumed by Grace that we become instruments of God’s imbalanced economy? I know for me this is insanely convicting and I hope you and I can start to see people a little bit differently…regardless of when they start working in the vineyard.


gates of hell

I imagine the title of this one probably caught your eye. Most of the time when someone throws out the word “Hell” in the church it creates some sort of a stir, although not always for the right reasons. But, title aside, I was running around Flint this morning and I couldn’t help but think about Hell, violence, poverty and the church. Let me try to bring you along on my thought journey (my mind goes everywhere when I run, so this may not work).

Last night during youth group our text that we covered came out of Matthew 16, “Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it”- Matthew 16:16-20. This text is unique because of Jesus’ geographical location when he spoke these words. He was in Caesarea Phillipi which was one of the Roman centers of culture and actually a locus for the worship of Pan. Attached to this worship was a cave, referred to as the Gates of Hell/Hades, where much of the Imperial based Pagan worship took place. So essentially Jesus was saying that Peter’s confession of his Lordship (the son of the Living God) was such an affront to the surrounding culture that even the gates of Hell couldn’t stand against it.

That’s the thing about gates…they aren’t an offensive strategy. Very rarely do you hear of someone being injured or beaten with a gate. They are actually a defensive strategy. So our confession of Christ/our alternative way of living is actually an offensive against the gates of Hell. Against the dominant culture. When is the last time you thought of Christianity as being rightly offensive instead of weirdly defensive?

Which gets me back to my morning run. My run this morning followed the blue line that is the Crim course through and around downtown Flint. Flint is a city known primarily for it’s violence and poverty (at least by much of the country). You might say these are the things that define the dominant Flint culture (i.e.i. the Flint logo with a handgun for the letter L). But you can see the effects of this culture and my question to us is, “How is the church attacking the gates of Hell in Flint?” Where is the church being effective in combating the violence and poverty in Flint? These aren’t issues where we rely on political rhetoric or voting polls to do the work of the Kingdom for us, but these are the trenches we need to get in and espouse the values of the kingdom (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness and Self Control). One of my favorite quotes in understanding what an offensive church looks like goes like this, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Are we driving out darkness? Are we driving out hate? Or are the gates of Hell standing strong against us?


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