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Posts Tagged ‘hell’

Like probably many of you I have met people who are fascinated, compelled, or drawn to Jesus, but some question or obstacle keeps them away. They may have heard from a Christian, “This is how it is – end of discussion. The Bible says it, so that settles it.”

Or they might have been taught that to follow Jesus, they had to go down a certain road and believe certain things, some of which they found problematic. What interests me is the power of questioning and the experience of solidarity in finding you’re not alone—of always wondering, “But what about that?” and then finding out, “Oh, other people feel the same way.”

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Rob Bell wrote a book back in March 2011 called Love Wins.  You may have heard of it.  The subtitle – A Book about  Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. If you haven’t read or heard of this book – its not a book about hell, fire and brimstone.  It’s a provocative book that upset lots of fundamentalist Christians.  For me, that was a compelling reason to get myself a copy.

The first chapter of Love Wins poses this interesting question:

If a missionary got a flat tire, and missed meeting with a nearby village, would this really mean that the villagers missed the only opportunity to hear about God, and would not be saved? Would a flat tire mean that they are all destined for hell?

This of course raises a couple of far more disturbing questions like:

Is your future in someone else’ s hands?

And then the next question:

Is someone else’s eternity resting in your hands?

Perhaps Rob’s purpose here is that we get loosened up with the questions – that the questions pull out us out of ourselves and wake us up, like a triple shot flat white coffee. It’s okay. There should be no fear in the questioning and no hesitation in the asking. We can go there. The biblical tradition, particularly the Hebrew tradition, is actually filled with questions, all the way to Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Many people are afraid to question their faith, having been taught that this is tantamount to either rejecting or losing one’s faith. The best evidence against this line of thought is the Bible itself, in which both God and all the main characters ask many, many troubling questions.

Asking questions is, in fact, a means God often uses to help us rid ourselves of limited and wrongheaded notions about God, so that we catch a larger and expanded vision of who we worship. The bible is full of questions, and full of people who have many doubts and need answers.

By the way – if you’re still stuck or maybe uncomfortable about the two questions following the flat tyre question above then the answers are “most likely no – God has a Plan B.”

Perhaps questions are actually one of the ways we meet the Divine. Somewhere in here we find our own questions and we learn that we are never alone.
And the quest – behind the question is even more interesting and compelling than the questions.

May you, my brothers and sisters remember this week that the questions of life may be more important than the answers. May you recognize your quest behind the questions and may this take you to a place where you can sit in wonder and awe at what the Divine is doing in your life and how much he loves you.

Grace and Peace.

The Quest Behind the Questions

The questions that we ask
Follow the answers the we seek
They riddle the hours of our lives
As our days become our weeks

As we strive to understand
The complexities of life
We miss the here and now
As our worries lead to strife

As we wonder how the past
It teaching us the way
We miss the burning bush
As we rush past it every day

It is not the ‘why’ the matters
As we seek to know the reason
Don’t we just accept the sun
As it moves through every season?

Perhaps the ‘what’
Is the one compelling question
As it grounds us in the present
With it’s beckoning suggestion

That perhaps these questions comfort us
As we seek what keeps us safe
As our present hope is anchored
On our the object of our faith

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Heaven on Earth

William Blake would have to be my favourite poet of all time.  His depth of poetry is without equal.  What I really like about Blake is that he is the master of the poetic form and content. Blake’s poems inspire me. I have many favourites, one of them is Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is a short poem written in 1804  from William Blake’s collection of writings known as the Prophetic Books. Today it is best known as the hymn Jerusalem, with music written by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916. Check out he video clip at the end of this post.

It has been said that the poem Jerusalem was inspired by a legend that a young Jesus, accompanied by his uncle Joseph of Arimathea, a tin merchant, travelled to the area that is now England and visited Glastonbury during Jesus’ lost years. The legend is linked to an idea in the Book of Revelation (3:12 and 21:2) describing a Second Coming, where Jesus establishes a new Jerusalem. The Christian Church in general, and the English Church in particular, used Jerusalem as a metaphor for Heaven, a place of universal love and peace.

In the most common interpretation of the poem, Blake implies that a visit of Jesus would briefly create heaven in England, in contrast to the “dark Satanic Mills” of the British Industrial Revolution. An interesting story.  Could it be possible that like William Blake, we could invite Heaven to Earth?

Because with every action, comment, conversation, we have the choice to invite Heaven or Hell to Earth. ~ Rob Bell

What do you think about this?  Could Heaven really be a place on Earth, not now – but sometime? What’s your view of Heaven?

Jerusalem

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land

~ William Blake

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What Dreams May Come, directed by Vincent Ward, won an Oscar in 1998 for its expansive and impressive visual vistas depicting heaven.

Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams), a doctor, with his artist wife Annie (Annabella Sciorra) suffered through the loss of their children, who were killed in a car accident. Although Annie’s all-consuming depression nearly destroyed their marriage, the couple rebuilt their relationship and are now living out a comfortable middle age.

Stopping one night to help a motorist in a wreck, Chris is hit by a car and killed. At first confused about where he is, Chris meets Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.), an Angel guide who helps him to realise he’s passed away and that he must move on to Heaven. After trying with  limited success to communicate with the devastated Annie, Chris moves on and discovers Heaven can become whatever he visualises.

Chris’s creates his paradise as the paintings of his wife, and he awaits the day when Annie will eventually join him. Tragedy strikes again when Annie commits suicide and goes to Hell. Although it is rarely done, Chris insists on traveling there, risking his eternal soul to save the woman he loves. Accompanied part of the way by Albert and another guide called The Tracker (Max von Sydow), Chris finally reaches Annie in Hell, and must convince her of the truth in order to release her from her dark prison, before he himself is also trapped with no way out.

This movie is one of my all time favourites.  I like the idea of Heaven being a colourful landscape , that’s my kind of paradise. I also believe that hell is a place without God.  Again the movie is pretty accurate to my idea of hell.  It also reminds me of how we can paint our own heaven or hell on earth.  It’s our choice which world we live in. 

So what about you?  Where are you living? I watched this movie again a few months ago and felt inspired to write about it.

Colour your Heaven

If you asked me to paint my heaven,
I’d choose colours of red, yellow and blue,
And create a vast vivid landscape,
Of a place I somehow knew.

If you asked me to play my heaven,
I’d use the key of G.
With a minor fall, and a major lift,
To sustain life in harmony.

If you asked my to write my heaven,
I’d use words of depth and rhyme,
To draw you in to my Maker’s world,
Where space departs from time.

If you asked me to share my heaven,
I’d speak the greatest story ever told,
Of Jesus who died for me and you,
So we could walk the streets of gold. 

So what colour is your heaven?
What is the best musical key?
To write and paint your heaven,
For those who need to see?

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