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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Devotions and Bible Study Inspirations

I can't say I've been consistent in doing my devotions or studying the Bible and prayer every day like I should. I'm embarrassed to confess my sins of neglecting God. The one who loved me enough to give His Son's life to save me and I can't take time out of my schedule to get to know Him. He loves me because He created me and created this world for me to live and sent His Holy Spirit to live within me when I got saved and gave me His Word... but I neglect and avoid Him. God forgive me.

And He does forgive me when I repent. I have no need to avoid Him as He is a merciful, loving and forgiving God. I should run to Him when I mess up and not try to hide behind my fig leaves!

But I've given a lot of thought on how to motivate myself to spend this time daily with God. It takes self discipline for sure. But by that I don't mean I have to force myself. That doesn't work too good as we don't have a lot of will power. God knows how hard it is for us understand spiritual things so He sent His Holy Spirit to live within us when we are saved to empower us and enable us to understand. Just think! His very Spirit lives within us to help us with understanding Him and His Word. All we have to do is ask Him for the help and take the first steps.

I've been there. Where I'm not in the mood to study the Bible but I ask for God's help and wisdom and make myself pull out the Bible. Before you know it, I'm diving in and excited with what I'm learning.

Sometimes we need a little inspiration. We need to change things up a little so we don't get bored. When I go to the gym and walk on the treadmill every day I get bored with the treadmill so I need to switch around to other machines. This also helps develop other muscles and strengthens us in different areas of the body. So let's look at some ways to study the Bible or do our devotions in new ways.

We may be used to reading a verse and an inspirational paragraph or two. There are many devotional books out there that you may have heard of such as My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, Streams In The Dessert by Lettie Cowman.  You can take it a step further by choosing one of these excellent devotional books with a notes section. I'm a big believer in using a pen and I underline things. Others like highlighters and others like using sticky note arrows (and if you don't want to damage your book with markings, then use sticky notes). As you read, underline/highlight/place indicators. Then make notes. You can journal your thoughts on what you've read; write a prayer based on what you've read; jot down other scriptures that go along with what you've read. Of course, if you have the book but it doesn't have a notes section, just use a blank book for your notes.

We are used to the Bible-In-A-Year reading list. If you have never done this, I suggest you start with this. This is a list for every day of Old and New Testament readings that will lead you through the entire Bible in one year. Please, if you miss a day, don't let that stop you. Just pick up where you left off. Just because it says the reading is for February 21st and you missed a couple of days, doesn't mean you give up. Even if it's March 3rd, just go back to February 22nd and pick up where you left off. No one, especially not God, is going to smack you because you missed a couple of days and are behind in the reading list. I guess that's one of the most important things I could tell you... If you miss a day, don't give up. I have a tad of OCD so if a devotional book or reading list says February 21st, I think I've got to read February 21st. If I don't, then it overwhelms me and I would rather give up or catch up. I finally realized how very silly that was. If I just tell myself to forget the dates, don't even look at them, and continue where I left off, I do better. God loves us and desires time with us, He will take us whenever we come to Him. I'm not saying to take our time with Him lightly. I'm just saying, He is always there when we finally stop long enough to reach out to Him. We hurt ourselves when we don't check in with Him daily. He is our source and we need that contact daily. Not because He needs us, but we need Him. Our bodies need nutrients to stay healthy. When we don't eat, or take in nutrients, our body weakens. So it is with our spirit. Our spirit was made to receive nourishment from the Father. We are weakened when we don't get that daily flow of spiritual nourishment. He is still God, still on the throne, still in control and still as powerful as ever. He doesn't need us. He wants us, but He doesn't need us. He has always been God, is God and always will be God. His perfection and completion is perfect. He wanted us, He desires us, but He doesn't NEED us in order to be God. But we need Him. If a branch is torn from the tree, does it stay alive and keep growing? No, it dies, shrivels, gets brittle and decays. We need to attach to the tree to receive spiritual strength, nourishment and health. If we miss a day without God, we are the ones who are hurt. But never let that stop you from running to God when you can. Start where you left off and never let guilt or procrastination stop you from getting right back to it.

Another way to add a little change is to select a devotional book that is targeting a special area. For instance, a devotional for Mothers, a devotional for alcoholics, a devotional book that targets certain problems like unforgiveness, anger, negativity. Or look for a devotional that targets some spiritual fruit that you want to see grow in your life like humility, holiness, worship.

Short devotional books are great for those who have limited time. I have a lot of time that I could use for Bible study and devotions but a lot of people don't with jobs, families and activities. So these devotionals can be what you can grab, open, and jump right in without having to do any searches, homework, etc. For me, I use devotionals for short time periods that I have during the day. I keep them at hand with a pen attached and can use them when I have 10-15 mins available. Such as when I'm waiting on the clothes to dry or the water to boil.

You don't have to be stuck with one devotional book per year. Right now I have two devotional books  (pens attached) that I'm working my way through during those short time periods I have available. That's in addition to my other Bible studies. So when you are in the mood to read Streams In The Dessert, grab that one. When you are in the mood to read God Calling, grab it.

That's another tip. Some of you may need, and want, to read the devotions for the day, everyday. So on January 1st, you read the devotion for January 1st. But, for me, I quit following the schedule. I was OCD about it and it really bothered me. I would read every day for 3 days then miss a couple of days. When I would go back to it, I struggled with whether I go back and catch up or just start on the day. I found that my OCD trigger was causing me to start avoiding going back to my devotions. I.e., if I missed 3 days of my devotions, I would feel like I'd messed up the schedule so I might as well give up. So now I've forced myself to not even look at the dates. I just pick it up where I left off despite what date is at the top of the page. This has freed me! Sometimes I read 2, 3, 6 devotions all at one time. Sometimes it's just one. Just depends on the time I have for it.

Some denominations have devotional books or magazines along with prayer lists that come out once a month or quarterly. The Baptist Courier is the official Christian news magazine of the churches of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
For those who like to follow lists, this is a great way to direct your readings and prayer. For instance, each day you read a scripture, read the inspirational reading and then pray for schools and Missionary John Smith in Africa. Although I'm a list maker, note taker, etc. this doesn't really work for me BECAUSE, once again, that little bit of OCD in me makes me feel guilty and overwhelmed if I miss a day or week and then, before you know it, I'm avoiding it altogether because I feel so guilty. I try to release myself from lists and rely on the Holy Spirit directing my prayers. But I know it's very helpful for others and you may be one of those. Maybe you need, want, appreciate that kind of structure and that's great! I have gone through periods of my life where I made prayer lists and followed prayer lists. If you are not a member of a denomination or your denomination doesn't have these type of structured readings, devotions and prayer lists - ask someone to bring them to you from their church. These publications are usually free and handed out at church. Take advantage of these.

Read a Christian book in short sections as a devotional. There are so many wonderful Christian books. Take one and read a chapter at a time and then think about it, journal your thoughts.

Use the hymnal to do your devotions. Take one hymn at a time. Look it up on Google to find out the history of that hymn. Read the verses. Then journal about it.

Verse mapping. I did a whole blog post on this.

Topical studies. Choose a topic that interests you and begin to delve into it. Are you interested in angels? Do some research on angels. Google it. Check out some books at the library or get one or two from Amazon. Read scriptures on angels, keep notes on all that you learn. Don't get off on rabbit trails laid out by people who are unbalanced and out in left field. Some people worship angels rather than the God who created the angels. Some people get way out there. So don't get caught up in that. Select any topic you want to learn more about. Maybe you want to learn what God has to say about gardening. That would be a huge topic because God used nature all the time to teach lessons. Maybe you have a question about what happens to animals when they die. Or maybe you want to understand what a man's role is in the home. Maybe you need parenting help. You can study about Heaven (or Hell). When you feel satisfied with a subject, then go to another topic. But don't leave the topic until you feel satisfied. Study it, read about it, find all the scriptures about it and read them. Get books about it, look it up in Nave's Topical Bible and Concordance to find all the scripture references to it. Keep your notebook with you and take notes. Remember, it's not a test. You aren't studying for a passing grade. There is no pressure. You are learning about something that you need, or are interested in, for your own satisfaction.

Chapter studies - Each day read a chapter in a book of the Bible. Read it at least 3 times and preferably in different translations. Finish by reading it outloud to yourself. Then begin to focus on things that stand out to you. Underline, highlight. Do you have questions? Write them down and try to find answers by checking in concordances.

Book studies - Focus on a book of the Bible and tear it apart! Let's say you want to study Hebrews. Be ready to read it in short segments or chapter by chapter or even verse by verse. Read the concordances notes and explanations. Pick out primary words and look them up in a Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. There are books you can get that focus on just a book of the Bible. Psalms is a great one to start with. Maybe take apart a chapter of Psalms each day. I've also done Ecclesiastes. I'm working on Revelation and should finish it this year. Some people like to do the gospels. I might suggest, if you do them, that you use a chronological Bible. This is a Bible that takes the scripture and puts it in chronological order, the order in which the events actually happened. Prophetic books are interwoven with the historical accounts they accompanied. Psalms follow the events about which they were written. Proverbs are placed in the time they were compiled. The life of Christ is woven into one moving story. And Paul’s letters to the young churches in the first century are integrated into the book of Acts.

Prayer book devotions - You can order prayer books and then do them as devotionals. The Episcopals have the Common Book of Prayer. The Catholics have prayer books. But we can also type in prayer book at Amazon and get a whole list of prayer books. These are books with written prayers that we can read and study and then simply pray them. I don't mean to just repeat them outloud but really focus and pray them. Such as the prayer books by Stormie Omartian like The Power of the Praying Wife (and one for the Praying Husband), the Power of the Praying Parent, etc. Then there are books like Prayers That Avail Much and the 12 Step Prayer Book. There are so many to choose from.

Psalms - Reading Psalms as a devotional was mentioned under Book Studies. Psalms is such a wonderful study.

Listening to your devotions - You can try listening to your devotions. Listen to pod casts, play worship music, listen to sermons on CD.

Youtube devotions - You can google subjects and watch Youtube videos on your topic. Most pastors now have their sermons on video whether it's live streaming or a video library. Some people have created devotions on video. Like I do my blog posts, they feel comfortable doing it on video and posting on Youtube. Go to Youtube and search on Bible Devotions and start picking the ones you are interested in. You will eventually find ones that you like - pastors or teachers you like, styles you like. Just be sure they aren't teaching crazy stuff as there are false teachers (just like the Bible warns us).

Draw your devotions - If you are artistic, then you might challenge yourself to draw as part of your devotions. This can be simple stick figures all the way up to art projects. You start by reading your scripture and then you begin to draw or paint what comes to mind. Let's say you are reading through Revelation and you read a few verses and then you begin to draw, sketch or paint what you are seeing as you read it. Is it the red dragon or the New Jerusalem, the Great White Throne Judgment, etc.

These people had some artistic skill. Depending on your level of artistic skill, draw what you are thinking about when you read the Word. Use a sketch pad and pencil/pen, or paint, or just doodle in the margins of your Bible (your own illustrated Bible). I would love to be able to paint what I'm seeing in my head while studying the Word. But I'm not an artist so all I can do are stick figures. Here are some of mine in the margins of a parallel Bible I have:

Color and chant - There are new adult coloring books now. Some people really love them. It's soothing to them to color the complex pictures and designs. But did you know they make some of these coloring books with Bible verses? I got one on Psalms. You have the Psalm written and then a picture so you can color it in. It's good for memorizing the verse. As you color chant the verse over and over. You can sort of sing it too if you like. A lot of praise and worship songs are just scripture put to music. You can do a Google image search and find some for free, just print them. Either complex ones or simpler, even children's coloring pages. Don't get caught up in the art or coloring but color as you focus on the scripture, repeating it over and over again.

Study a person in the Bible - Pick a person in the Bible to study. Maybe Esther, David, Jonathon, Abraham, Peter, Timothy or some of the judges. Find all the scripture you can on that particular person. Remember there may be mentions of this person in other books of the Bible. For instance, if you study Moses, you will find references for him all over, even in the New Testament. So read everything about that person. Try to develop a timeline of that person's life. You might need to do a little genealogy and make a family tree. If you are studying Adam, it will surprise you how long he lived and who his descendants are. Here are some examples, But make charts that make sense to YOU:

If you are studying Leah, you will be interested in who her ancestors were. If you study Samuel, you will want to study what he said and his prophecies too. If you want to study David, read the Psalms that he wrote too.
Now that might sound like a long study but who is to say how long your study should last? It can be a year long study, or more. As long as you are still interested, take as long as you want. You are released from the study of that person when you feel released.

Pray scripture - Read the scripture of the day and then pray it. Sometimes that's pretty easy as it seems to be written as a prayer. But sometimes it may be challenging. Let's say your daily Bible reading is in the "begats" of the Bible. How can you pray this scripture? How about praying for your family, thanking God for your ancestry, thanking God for your spiritual heritage. Thanking God that He works through the lines of men.

Study Christian history - I did this one time and learned so much. My husband was taking it as a class in college so I used his textbook and Google and followed Christianity from the early church through the Reformation. You can do as I did and teach yourself from the early church forward. Go to Amazon and search for books on Christian history and you will find quite a few. Or you can take certain time periods and study them such as the early church, the Crusades, the Inquisition, mission work in the newly discovered Americas, the Reformation, early American revivals, etc. You could also study historical Christian men and women such as saints, missionaries, Christian writers like C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, American revival leaders, circuit riding preachers, etc.

Do a Bible study with others - Every year I try to take an indepth Bible study with a group. Whether it's a Sunday School class, a women's group, a study led by your pastor on Wednesday night, etc. Not just regular preaching or little short inspiring Sunday School classes but if it's an indepth study then it qualifies. For instance I know a pastor who set aside Wednesday night for an indepth study on Revelation. It took several years of weekly services to finish the study. He took it verse by verse. That would certainly qualify. Other times I've done a group study to go through classes like Beth Moore's Bible studies, Erilynn Barnum's Bible studies, etc. You get a book and/or a workbook to go along with the video you watch each week and the discussion.
I've always loved this because the discussion can be so interesting. Maybe you and your spouse would like to study something together. There are lots of books for couples studies. We went through the Love Dare Devotional and Exercise as part of a couples class. On Amazon there is Couples Devotional, Devotions for Sacred Marriage, Couples Devotional Bible, Moments Together, etc.  Maybe you and your siblings, other family members, a group of friends, or coworkers, want to do a devotion together.

Focus on the Names of God - Make a list of the names of God in the Bible and then study each one. God is called Jehovah, Yahweh, Elohim, Alpha and Omega, God Almighty, etc.

What kind of Bible resources are there to study the Bible? A lot! And the best are old enough to be free and accessible on the Internet! (I.e. No copyright problems.) You can purchase all of these in hard copy books through Amazon. You can get these in free apps for your mobile devices. You can access them on your laptop/desktop computer via the Internet.

There are Bible Dictionaries such as Smith's Bible Dictionary, Easton's Bible Dictionary, Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Hitchcock's New and Complete Analysis of the Holy Bible, King James Dictionary.

There are Commentaries such as Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, Matthew Henry's Commentary, Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, Jamieson-Faucet-Brown Commentary, Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, Pulpit Commentary.

There are Concordances. You can look up any word in the Bible, even by different translations. It will list every occurrence of that word in the Bible. If you look up "angel", it will list every occurrence of the word "angel" in the Bible. It will give a snatch of the verse with the word in it so you can look for a specific verse. There is even the biggy! Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. If you buy a hard copy of this book, it's a very large book. You have 3 sections: the concordance (and exhaustive means it literally lists EVERY word). Once you find the word, it has all the verses where the word occurs. You select the verse you are interested in, locate the number to the right. The next two sections of Strong's are the Greek dictionary and Hebrew dictionary. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek. So if the number has a G in front of it, you look the number up in the Greek Dictionary. If the number has an H in front of it, you look the number up in the Hebrew Dictionary. Strong's goes into a lot of detail that might mean more to Greek and Hebrew scholars but you can get what you want from it and overlook the rest. For instance, you probably don't care what the word looks like in Greek or how it's pronounced in Hebrew, etc.

There are topical studies. For instance, if you want to study all the Bible has to say about the fruits of the spirit. Look up "gentleness" in the Nave's Topical Bible and it will give you topics and the scriptures that go with gentleness.

Easton's Bible Dictionary
Lookup any topic, name or word just like a regular dictionary. Here is the entry for Ham.

Ham: warm, hot, and hence the south; also an Egyptian word meaning "black", the youngest son of Noah (Gen 5:32; Gen 9:22,24). The curse pronounced by Noah against Ham, properly against Canaan his fourth son, was accomplished when the Jews subsequently exterminated the Canaanites.

One of the most important facts recorded in Gen. 10 is the foundation of the earliest monarchy in Babylonia by Nimrod the grandson of Ham (6, 8, 10). The primitive Babylonian empire was thus Hamitic, and of a cognate race with the primitive inhabitants of Arabia and of Ethiopia. (See ACCAD.)

The race of Ham were the most energetic of all the descendants of Noah in the early times of the post-diluvian world.

Here you look up the Bible verse and then search different commentaries for explanations about that verse. Some commentaries are virtually verse by verse studies. Some are shorter by taking segments such as comments, explanations, and studies of a segment of scripture such as Luke 16:19-31. See following example:

Luke 16:23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
23. in hell—not the final place of the lost (for which another word is used), but as we say "the unseen world." But as the object here is certainly to depict the whole torment of the one and the perfect bliss of the other, it comes in this case to much the same.

Matthew Henry Commentary
16:19-31 Here the spiritual things are represented, in a description of the different state of good and bad, in this world and in the other. We are not told that the rich man got his estate by fraud, or oppression; but Christ shows, that a man may have a great deal of the wealth, pomp, and pleasure of this world, yet perish for ever under God's wrath and curse. The sin of this rich man was his providing for himself only. Here is a godly man, and one that will hereafter be happy for ever, in the depth of adversity and distress. It is often the lot of some of the dearest of God's saints and servants to be greatly afflicted in this world. We are not told that the rich man did him any harm, but we do not find that he had any care for him. Here is the different condition of this godly poor man, and this wicked rich man, at and after death. The rich man in hell lifted up his eyes, being in torment. It is not probable that there are discourses between glorified saints and damned sinners, but this dialogue shows the hopeless misery and fruitless desires, to which condemned spirits are brought. There is a day coming, when those who now hate and despise the people of God, would gladly receive kindness from them. But the damned in hell shall not have the least abatement of their torment. Sinners are now called upon to remember; but they do not, they will not, they find ways to avoid it. As wicked people have good things only in this life, and at death are for ever separated from all good, so godly people have evil things only in this life, and at death they are for ever put from them. In this world, blessed be God, there is no gulf between a state of nature and grace, we may pass from sin to God; but if we die in our sins, there is no coming out. The rich man had five brethren, and would have them stopped in their sinful course; their coming to that place of torment, would make his misery the worse, who had helped to show them the way thither. How many would now desire to recall or to undo what they have written or done! Those who would make the rich man's praying to Abraham justify praying to saints departed, go far to seek for proofs, when the mistake of a damned sinner is all they can find for an example. And surely there is no encouragement to follow the example, when all his prayers were made in vain. A messenger from the dead could say no more than what is said in the Scriptures. The same strength of corruption that breaks through the convictions of the written word, would triumph over a witness from the dead. Let us seek to the law and to the testimony, Isa 8:19,20, for that is the sure word of prophecy, upon which we may rest, 2Pe 1:19. Circumstances in every age show that no terrors, or arguments, can give true repentance without the special grace of God renewing the sinner's heart.

1Ch 1:4 Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
1Ch 1:8 The sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.
1Ch 4:40 And they found fat pasture and good, and the land was wide, and quiet, and peaceable; for they of Ham had dwelt there of old.
Psa 78:51 And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:
Psa 105:23 Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
Psa 105:27 They shewed his signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham.
Psa 106:22 Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea.

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance
Lookup the word in the Concordance section and find the number on the right side (in this case it is G86, see below)
Matthew 11:23 G86
Matthew 16:18 G86
Luke 10:15 G86
Luke 16:23 G86
Acts 2:27 G86
Acts 2:31 G86
1 Corinthians 15:55 G86
Revelation 1:18 G86
Revelation 6:8 G86
Revelation 20:13 G86
Revelation 20:14 G86

G=Greek  (If it had an H, then H=Hebrew Dictionary)
Lookup the number in the Greek Dictionary

properly, unseen, i.e. "Hades" or the place (state) of departed souls
Derivation: from G1 (as negative particle) and

Nave's Topical Bible
Gentleness: Of Christ
Isa 40:11; 2Cr 10:1; Mat 11:29

Gentleness: Of God
2Sa 22:36; Psa 18:35; Isa 40:11

Of Paul,
1Th 2:7.

Gentleness: Exhortations To
Gal 5:22; 2Ti 2:24-26; Tts 3:1, 2; Jam 3:17

Links to some great Bible Study resource material all for free!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

What We Need To Know About Hades and Hell

Luke 16:19-31 19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

Our pastor, Manning Strickland, preached on this story and did such a wonderful job explaining. I decided to ruminate over it some more in this blog post. It was just too good not to meditate on it. And one way I can get it deeper in my spirit is to write about it and study it over again. Thank you, Pastor Manning Strickland (Legacy Outreach, Pauline, SC) for this timely and deep word.

Pastor Manning pointed out that this is not one of Jesus' Parables. Because it mentions a man by name and says "there was a certain man". This was a true story that Jesus was relating.

This story is NOT describing Heaven or Hell. I have discussed this in previous blog posts. What happens when someone dies? We all go to a place called Hades (the Place of the Dead) where there are two areas that are separated by an uncrossable chasm. One are is called Torments (aka Tartarus) and is reserved for those who are lost and die without Jesus Christ. The other is called Paradise and is reserved for those who have believed in Jesus and are saved. This is a temporary address. We will not spend eternity in Torments or Paradise (all part of Hades). We are there until the end of times when Jesus judges from His throne.

You see, there are those who refuse Jesus Christ and are therefore dead in their sins. Once you are dead, you no longer have a choice. While we still have breath in our bodies, we have a choice. We can choose to accept Jesus Christ and His forgiveness for our sins or we can continue to reject the offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. Once we are dead, and we no longer have a heartbeat, the choice you made is eternal. So for those who have rejected Christ, they will enter Torments and begin their torment and punishment. For those who have trusted in Jesus Christ and been forgiven of their sins, they will enter Paradise to begin their joy and blessings.

When God created us, and He blew His breath of life into us, our soul was eternal. It will live forever either with Christ or without Christ. Your soul is the part of you that makes you who you are. It's your memories, intelligence, your experiences, your recognition of who you are and who others are. It's not the physical body. If I were to write a letter to a loved one and forgot to sign it, they would know who it's from anyway because of my handwriting, my words, the expression of my concerns or activities, etc. I am uniquely known by my loved ones. God made me who I am and He knows me as different from anybody else. Same for you. That part of us will live forever somewhere. Where will you live? In Torments and then Hell or in Paradise and then Heaven?

At the end, there is the Great White Throne Judgment.

Revelation 20:11-15 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

If you are saved through Jesus Christ then your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. You have no fear of the Great White Throne Judgment. You are saved. This judgment is reserved for those who are lost. So the dead, the unsaved, will be brought before this throne. Those in Hades will be brought out of Torments and will be brought before this throne. The books will be opened and I imagine all their sins are revealed for what they really are. No justifications, no talking your way out, no conning, no explanations - it is what it is and you will know it when you see it. Then you are thrown in the Lake of Fire.

Mark 9:42-48 (King James Version - KJV) 42 And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. 43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: 48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

"Where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched". These words are a quotation from Isaiah 66:24. Normally, a fire extinguishes when it no longer has fuel to feed it. A worm dies when there is no longer anything to feed upon. But, in this case, it's everlasting, no end to the torment. St. Bernard says "the worm that never dies is the memory of the past, which never ceases to gnaw the conscience of the impenitent." Gill's Exposition says, "the consciences of sinners, will be continually flying in their faces, bringing their sins to remembrance, accusing them of them, upbraiding them with them, aggravating them, tormenting them for them, filling them with dreadful anguish and misery, with twinging remorses, and severe reflections, and which will never have an end. This will be always the case; conscience will be ever distressing, racking, and torturing them; it will never cease..."

Let's read this again in a modern translation (New Living Bible): 42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’

Some think you just cease to exist when you die. Or that the lost will be thrown in the Lake of Fire and burned up, annihilated. But this scripture speaks to a continual, everlasting torment. It doesn't end, people! You will have eternity of regrets, of tormenting, gnawing punishment.

Some will say, "A good God wouldn't have a hell or send people to everlasting punishment. That's not my kind of God, my God is a God of love." You haven't thought it through have you? God is a good and loving God and He did provide a way out for everyone. He sent His only Son so that whoever believes on Him shall have everlasting life (John 3:16). God didn't want anyone to go to Torments and then to the Lake of Fire so He, personally, provided a way out. But we have to take His way out. It's not up to us to save ourselves, for we cannot do it. We are all sinners. We all need salvation. We all need forgiveness. And Jesus provides it. We want to believe that we can save ourselves, that we can be in control, that we can dictate the terms of salvation. But there is only one way to salvation and Heaven and that's God's Way, through Jesus Christ, His Son. God loves each and every human being He created and He wanted to provide a way for everyone. So Jesus came to earth and took our sins upon Himself and provided the way to salvation. But it has to be through Him. No other way works. All religions don't lead to the same God and to Heaven. You can't be a Buddhist, Hinduist, Atheist (yes, that's a religion), Agnostic, Humanist, Wiccan, etc and think you will end up in Heaven. It is God's Way or no way and God's Way is only through His Son, Jesus Christ. Don't be deceived into thinking that you can be a good follower of the Native American Great Spirit and it lead to God and salvation. You have to believe and acknowledge Jesus Christ and Him only.

What is judgment for the believer? There is another throne and only believers will stand before it. It is the Judgment Seat of Christ. We are saved and our eternity is assured but our works will be judged at this throne. Only those who are saved appear before this throne.

2 Corinthians 5:10 10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

Matthew 6:19-21 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus Christ is our foundation but we each build upon that foundation by our works and life. Do we build with wood, hay, straw or do we build with gold, silver, costly stones? When you put wood, hay or straw in a fire, it burns up and is gone in a whiff of smoke. If you put gold, silver and costly stones in a fire, they are purified and remain. So what is left after the fire will be what our rewards are based upon. We are saved, but we get rewards. I'm not sure what these rewards will be. They will include crowns! In the Greek Olympic games the winners got a crown of leaves to wear. The leaves would wither and die but our crowns are imperishable.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable.

There will be mansions! The Greek word here actually means an abode or place to live in so it's sometimes translated as room(s) rather than mansions but it means Jesus is preparing a wonderful place for each of us to live in and it's close to Him.

John 14:1-3 1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

We will have jobs perfectly suited to us and in which we will be very happy. Will our rewards have something to do with our jobs? I.e. Jesus says we will rule with Him and maybe some rule more or less based on our rewards?

But none of this is going to change the fact that we are welcomed into Heaven and will spend an eternity with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and everything will be perfect with no more sin, sickness, aging, pain or sorrow! But our works will be judged as through fire.

So let's go back to our scripture about the rich man and Lazarus. In Hades, in the area called Torments, everyone is receiving the same degree of punishment because they haven't stood before the Great White Throne Judgment yet. In the area called Paradise, everyone is enjoying the same bliss and joy because they haven't stood before the Judgment Seat of Christ yet. At these judgments, the unsaved will be raised out of Torments and stand before the Great White Throne. They only thought they had been in torment while they were in Hades/Torments. They will have no say and cannot plead a cause because they are lost. Once you die, it's too late to change your mind. The saved will be raised out of Paradise and stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. They only thought they had been blessed and joyful in Paradise, but now they are about to enter their eternal reward and how much better even it will be than Paradise was. Jesus was with them in Paradise. As they were crucified on the cross, the thief believed in Jesus Christ and Jesus made him a promise.

Luke 23:42-43 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” 43 And Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

2 Corinthians 5:8 "to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord".

Now the rich man didn't go to Torments because he was rich or had an easy life. And the poor man didn't go to Paradise because he was poor or had a rough life. In verse 30, the rich man knows it was because he had not repented. Lazarus was in Paradise because he had repented. To repent means to change your mind about your sins and agree with God that your sins damn you and you need a savior, Jesus Christ, to forgive you and give you eternal life. The moment you quit trying to rely on your "goodness" and "good works" to get you into Heaven; the minute you realize that you are damned if not for Jesus Christ; the second you get the true picture and reach out to Jesus... you have repented. It's a free gift and all you have to do is repent and ask for Jesus.

What about those who have never heard of Jesus? See this post. The mentally handicapped, young children, someone living on a mountaintop in the Himalayas? Do you really think that God cannot reveal Himself to each and every person? He certainly knows where each person is and what condition they are in. He also knows if they have a heart after God, a desire for God, an attitude that seeks for God. He will make sure that all who hunger for Him will be fed. It may be that a missionary is sent, or a dream is given, or a vision reveals truth, or it's heard on a radio wave or in a TV program or a Bible finds it's way to them. But God is not limited and He certainly knows how to reach each person.

I recently read a story in The World of Lore: Wicked Mortals by Aaron Mahnke. I have no idea if it's true but a certain young nun in Spain began to have visions of visiting a Native American tribe called the J_______ (I can't remember the name) and for 3 months she had these dreams or visions of teaching them of Christ. Then the visions stopped. Her order of nuns wore blue robes. One day, in the New World (in Texas), a group of Indians came to a frontier town and asked a Spanish Priest if a missionary could come to their village and teach them more about Jesus Christ. Talk about a missionary work falling into your hands!?! The Priest was curious about how they even knew to ask for someone to teach them about Christ. The Indians said they had seen a young woman in a blue robe and for 3 months she had taught them about Jesus and they wanted to know more. The tribe of Native Americans were called the J________.

Of course, I don't know if this story is true but I certainly don't doubt God can do that in order to reach someone if they have an open heart towards God. A child can only be responsible if they have reached an age where they understand and accept (or reject) Jesus Christ. Same with someone who is mentally handicapped. Either God will be able to get through to them (He did create their mind, their brain, did He not?) or they are not held responsible.

On the second part of our pastor's message, he said there are things we can know about Hades from the scripture passage.

1) There is sensory perception. You are conscious. The rich man lifted up his eyes (sight), he cried out to Abraham (speech), he heard Abraham's reply (hearing) he asked for a drop of water to touch his tongue (taste), he talked about a finger (touch). He does not have a physical body, but he is still able to see, hear, taste, touch.

2) He has a spiritual form because it talks about a finger, eyes, tongue. He has some type of form that is recognizable and with which he can still use his senses. (His physical, earthly body is buried in the earth and won't be raised until the end.)

3) Recognizable identity. The rich man knew himself. He recognized Lazarus. He knew Abraham. He was in Torments but he could look over the chasm into Paradise and recognize people there (Abraham and Lazarus).

4) There is memory. He remembers his former life and how he knew Lazarus. He remembers he has 5 brothers still living. He remembered his lost opportunities to repent.

5) He has a desire to escape but he can't. He knows he can't. This remorse and regret is tangible.

6) He has a hopeless concern. He remembers his 5 brothers and is concerned in case they end up in Torments with him. But his concern for them is frustrated as there is nothing he can do. He had a chance on earth to lead them to repentance and to God but he didn't and now, he can't.

7) He has misguided theology. He tried to reason with Abraham about theology and how to figure out a way to reach his brothers.

27 "I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

8) The rich man was still ignoring the truth. He had been given every chance because God had sent "Moses and the Prophets" but he, and so many others, had ignored it. And, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and spoke to His disciples and many others before they saw Him ascend up to Heaven. And still people don't believe! Jesus came to this earth and actually lived amongst human beings, teaching them, exampling how to live, dying a horrible death, took on all our sins, rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven - all this done very publicly and was written about by eye witnesses. Then He sent the Holy Spirit back to work in our hearts to try to open our eyes and our hearts to receive the truth and we STILL reject Him! People refuse to believe Moses and the Prophets. They still refuse to believe the written word of God, the Holy Bible. They still reject the work of the Holy Spirit to lead them to Jesus and salvation. They refuse to believe Jesus, even though He did mighty miracles and rose from the dead. What else could God do to get our attention and lead us to salvation?

So now the question is, Why?!? Why do we refuse and reject the only way to forgiveness, to a better life, to an eternal life in glory!?!?! Our eyes are blinded, our ears won't hear, our heart is hard and refuses the truth, our minds are deceived. We are willful and stubborn.

Now stubborn isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as you are stubborn for the right things. You have the power to determine what your heart accepts or rejects. You can harden your heart against the devil and that's a good thing. I can stubbornly believe in Jesus Christ, in the inerrancy (meaning, without error) of the Word, and in living my life as close to God as I can. These are good things. If I'm stubborn about it, then I won't be tossed about by every whim and new doctrine or ping-ponging back and forth to every fad or new fangled idea. For instance, no matter how "modern" and "American" it is, I still believe that sin is still sin in God's eyes and something we need to fight against. Just because everyone else has accepted it as a "lifestyle choice" doesn't mean it's no longer a sin. Or just because a wave of fashionable ideas takes on, doesn't mean I fall for it. I compare it to the Bible, my standard, and I stubbornly accept what the Bible says above any new thing. For instance, racism is wrong and according to the Bible, we should love our fellow men/women no matter what color or culture they are. They are created by God and are loved by Him and Jesus died for them just as He did for me. So being a racist is wrong according to the Bible. On the other hand, the way these anti-racists went about pushing their "new" agenda was very wrong. Calling themselves Antifa (Anti-Fascist), being violent, trying to steal and kill their way to the top is as wrong as it gets and I cannot be a part of it. I'm stubbornly sticking to what the Bible says: we are all loved by God but we are all sinners who need a Savior. Being white or black or purple doesn't make us any more, or any less, a sinner or any more superior, or inferior, than others.

But being stubborn can be a very bad thing when you are stubbornly rejecting Christ, stubbornly refusing the work of the Holy Spirit to lead you to salvation, stubbornly keeping your eyes and ears closed to the call of Jesus. We can be hard headed and cold hearted.

A hardened heart is: (1) unable to perceive, (2) unable to understand, (3) unable to see, (4) unable to hear, and (5) unable to remember. Someone with a hardened heart just can’t see spiritual truth. Mark 6:52 “For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.” The disciples had Jesus right in front of them and had just seen the miracle of Jesus dividing the loaves and fishes and feeding thousands of people but they still weren't getting the point. They "considered not" which means they didn't study, ponder, deliberate, examine, focus on, think upon, or meditate on it.

Jeremiah 18:12 "But they will say, 'It's hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.'

Isaiah 42:18-25 Israel’s Failure to Listen and See
18 “Listen, you who are deaf! Look and see, you blind!
19 Who is as blind as my own people, my servant?
Who is as deaf as my messenger?
Who is as blind as my chosen people, the servant of the LORD?
20 You see and recognize what is right but refuse to act on it.
You hear with your ears, but you don’t really listen.”
21 Because he is righteous, the LORD has exalted his glorious law.
22 But his own people have been robbed and plundered, enslaved, imprisoned, and trapped.
They are fair game for anyone and have no one to protect them, no one to take them back home.
23 Who will hear these lessons from the past and see the ruin that awaits you in the future?
24 Who allowed Israel to be robbed and hurt?
It was the LORD, against whom we sinned, for the people would not walk in his path, nor would they obey his law.
25 Therefore, he poured out his fury on them and destroyed them in battle.
They were enveloped in flames, but they still refused to understand.
They were consumed by fire, but they did not learn their lesson.

Jeremiah 16:12 You too have done evil, even more than your forefathers; for behold, you are each one walking according to the stubbornness of his own evil heart, without listening to Me.

Matthew 13:11-15 11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. 12 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. 13 That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand. 14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. 15 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart..."

Don't harden your heart against Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Don't reject the working of the Holy Spirit who is trying to get your attention and point you to the truth.

One last point our pastor made: Knowing how horrible Torments (aka Tartarus) and then the Lake of Fire is, wouldn't you want to stop people from ever going there? Jesus has provided the way out and we know the truth. Frankly, I wouldn't want my worst enemy to spend eternity in hell. I know people get mad and say things like, "I hope you rot in hell" or "Go to hell". But do they really know what they are talking about? It's not something to take lightly. If we believe in Torments and Hell why aren't we telling everyone? If we aren't, either we don't really believe or we are satisfied that we are saved and could care less about anyone else's salvation. How selfish is that? I know people don't want to hear the gospel and many will say things like, "Don't try to force your Bible down my throat". They won't appreciate your intent to help them.

We need to approach people with love and respect. Once we've told them the truth about salvation through Jesus Christ, then it's no longer our responsibility and it's between them and God. But if we don't tell them the truth, then we may be held accountable for our failure in speaking up. Don't get me wrong, their salvation doesn't depend on me. What I do, or don't do, doesn't have enough power to determine someone's eternal life. If I'm not obedient, I will be held accountable for my disobedience, but God will use someone else or another way to reach out to the person. Nothing hinges on me. That would give me too much power. But my goal, as a Christian, is to learn what my wonderful Father wants me to do and do it! I love my Father God and I should want to obey Him. His Word tells us to witness so I should be obedient and tell others of Jesus Christ and the way to salvation. It's called sharing the gospel (the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ) or witnessing.

After these two sermons, our pastor gave an altar call. It was not only to ask if anyone needed to come forward and accept Christ, but also for those who want to join in God's work in sharing the gospel and who want to be obedient. That's what got me. I'm ashamed to confess that I don't witness like I should. I have neglected this commandment and I had to ask for forgiveness.

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