Trinity Lutheran Church McAlester

May 13, 2024
by Pastor Glenn

Is there a hell? What’s it like?

Origins of hell

Revelation 12:7ff describes the ancient war in heaven, in which Michael and his angels fought the dragon and his angels. Defeated, the ancient serpent and his angels were cast out of heaven and thrown down to earth, where they will be tormenting humans until the final judgment to hell. No longer sinless, the evil angels and their leader had to be separated from God’s presence. Something of a parallel, the humans God created and placed in the Garden of Eden were perfect and knew no evil until they ate the forbidden fruit. After that, they knew evil and sin, and they were destined for death. God banned them from the garden lest they eat of the “tree of life” and live forever in that state of separation from God – akin to eternal death (hell). He protected them from that fate to afford them the better future of heaven and being with him forever.

We expect that hell came to be either as a result of the war in Heaven or when humankind received it’s curse for sinning. Before that time, all creation was peaceful and united with God in holiness and perfection.

Names for hell

Other names for hell include sheol, hades gehenna, abyssos and the lake of fire. Hades is the place mentioned for where Capernaum will go for not accepting Jesus as the Christ. It is also where the rich man went after he died as a place of anguishing torment and flame. That story by Jesus (Luke 16) is seen as a parable. It also describes a “great impassable chasm” that exists between Lazarus and his paradise place with God and the “rich Man’ in the torment place. It is most often used as the name for where those destined for hell go when they die to await the second judgment and their final place, the lake of fire – eternal hell.

Hell described

Following the description from Lazarus and the rich man story, we realize that hell is total separation from God. We get that same picture from Jesus suffering on the cross and his enduring hell as he says, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus suffered hell as total separation from the Father. Also, similar to Satan and evil angels separated from God in heaven.

When you take to heart the worldview that “all good things come down from above.” And then consider that the world is only evil, broken, and belongs to the devil, the picture of separation from God is a scary, tormenting place of suffering with God not there holding off evil. That world matches the Bible’s descriptive words like: burning sulfur smell, lake of fire, pain, thirst, screaming, crying. These are all the things that God wants to keep anyone from experiencing endlessly in the afterlife.

May 7, 2024
by Pastor Glenn

Is there a heaven? What’s it like?

Heavens initiated

In the beginning. It all starts here. The first verse of the whole Bible. 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 (ESV) The verses following describe God creating the universe according to his design. He established two categories: 1) heavens, and 2) earth. Reading on we see creations and separations. light created to oppose the dark. Land from water, planet from sky and outer space. Most importantly, God saw that it was good! He did not create anything evil, flawed or bad. We say: perfection!

Heaven named?

One separation with the name heaven comes in verses 6-8. 6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8 And God called the expanse Heaven. Genesis 1:6–8 (ESV) Based on our world, we could understand waters above the expanse as clouds and water under the expanse as surface and sub-surface water. Because the Garden of Eden’s plants were watered from sub-surface water, some postulate that the expanse in the sky was a layer of ice that formed a protective filter for the sun’s radiation and light. Their modeling suggests a rain-free, very temperate, constant climate. The theory goes that this collapsed in the flood that happened in Noah’s time. The expanse heaven is the first heaven.

Heavens in the plural?

Good clues help us understand multiple heavens. St. Paul writes of being in the “third heaven.” 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 2 Corinthians 12:2–3 (ESV) From that day, Christians have known the third heaven as “paradise” – the place where saints go in eternal life, where God and the angels dwell. The first heaven, then, is the sky that we see – where birds fly and clouds float, water in all forms falls to the ground. The second heaven covers the universe beyond the second heaven – outer space in our minds.

Heavens is like?

We get some interesting images of the paradise heaven. Heavenly mansions, Jerusalem coming down from it, a fertile land of milk and honey. One overarching description is from Jesus. “I will make all things new.” Rev. 21:5 (ESV) “… he comes to restore.” That word, “restore” occurs 65 times in the Bible. Many Old Testament prophecies speak of restoring Israel – the name for God’s people. The bottom line is this. On the last day, Jesus makes all things new – as in the image of the Garden of Eden. The new heavens and the new earth … it’s all restored to perfection. Our bodies are resurrected along the lines of Jesus. Everything in creation — broken and corrupted by the fall into sin — restored in a perfect way. That means – the paradise heaven is the new Eden, with the heavens also made new and perfect. The Bible gives tiny clues, but St. John’s revelation doesn’t begin to find words and images to describe the new heaven no one living has seen, except Jesus.

April 30, 2024
by Pastor Glenn

What is sin and how does it concern God?

Sin origins

In the beginning, God created …. It was paradise – perfect, sinless humans in a perfect, holy world. He gave them one rule to follow to show their love and trust for him. “Don’t eat the fruit of The Tree.” But they ate it anyway because they wanted to be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3) (they didn’t know evil before). That first sin corrupted everything God had made perfect; and God cursed Adam and Eve and the whole earth (universe) with brokenness. Since then, people struggle to keep from sinning against God and each other. That is, they don’t’ show love for God or humans. If they did show perfect love as God does, then all would be the Garden Eden again. Jesus promises to restore “all things” when he comes again to judge all people and things.

Sin defined and described

Meanwhile, we live in a world where God’s will to love one another needs lots of definition and examples. He gave his chosen people, Israel, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). He gave them lots more direction in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Jesus and the apostles refined them in the New Testament books. Most of these rules/laws are helpful to guide people to act right toward one another and God. Some are ceremonial and later were abolished when Jesus died and rose again. (e.g. the sacrifices, the temple rites, later added rules to keep the Sabbath). Sound confusing? It is unless you have a church scholar trained in Old Testament and New Testament to help understand them. Plus, there’s Jesus’ statement in Matthew that he came “not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” Unpacking that phrase takes a knowledge of the whole Bible and what Jesus does to save people from their sins.

Jesus also simplified what is sinful — what is the law as summed up in the Old Testament — the law and the prophets: “… love the Lord your God for your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mat. 22:36-40)

“The church” helps us to expand on “the law” in the Ten Commandments with the Catechism (particularly Catholics and Lutherans). These books bring in many aspects of each commandment to help us know both what to do and what not to do. As an example, I’ve pulled in from Luther’s Small Catechism, The Eighth Commandment. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.[1] (Luther. (2017). Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (p. 14). Concordia Publishing House.)

What to do about sin

Now, to the person that wants to know what to do about a particular act they feel guilty about as it might be sin, ask a Lutheran pastor. They have training, knowledge and experience to discern and apply God’s law; and to offer the saving Gospel of forgiveness in private confession and absolution — a confidential process.

Sin defined. Sin is an act committed or omitted towards another person, yourself, or God that is not loving.

[1] Luther. (2017). Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (p. 14). Concordia Publishing House.

October 25, 2023
by Pastor Glenn

How is the Father and the Son one God, yet Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father?

This question comes from verses like: “But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”” (Luke 22:69, ESV). From numerous places we see that son of man and son of God both refer to Jesus. It helps us with “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20, ESV) It means God [the father] is God and his son, Jesus, is God. Not two gods, but one god. This comes from one of the most revered passage of the Bible by the children of Israel was ““Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deut. 6:4, ESV) Hence, a core tenet of God is his oneness. Personhood is the philosophical concept that helped us grasp the son and the father being separate, but one – separate persons, not separate Gods. Being seated on the right of the Father-God helps us visualize the importance and power, and the close relationship of God the son to God the father. This is a mystery of God that will only be revealed to us on the last day when the Son is seen descending from the clouds in all his heavenly glory. Until then, we rely on what we know and trust in the one true God, the one we describe as triune. But, for brevity, we’ll save the topic of God the Holy Spirit (the third person of God) for another blog.

October 18, 2023
by Pastor Glenn

Why does God allow evil people to lead governments?

Whether you like the person heading the government under which you live or hated them, God uses them for your benefit. We may not like it, but that’s what the Bible says in Romans 13:1–4a (ESV) 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good.

If you watch world news and pay attention to conflicts and wars, you see places where there’s no government control. Somalia comes to mind. Today, it’s just a battleground for militia groups and pirates. The people are starving – surviving on relief organizations. Other countries are similarly dangerous for citizens, who give everything to immigrate to a safe life in the United States. Even evil governments provide a level of order to punish bad behavior and provide infrastructure that enables life.

We expect that elected governments are better than dictators and democracies than martial law ruling by force. In Jesus’ time, Romans ruled by force, yet allowed the religious rulers of Israel to serve under them, applying their laws where practical to keep order. It was highly unpopular, but God used that  governance structure to fulfill his plan for Jesus to die for the sins of all people as Savior of the world.

October 4, 2023
by Pastor Glenn

Why might a merciful, all powerful God allow bad stuff to happen?

In the beginning, God created the universe in 6 days and declared that his work was very good. It was perfect. The man and woman he put in the garden of Eden were as perfect and eternal as the world he made. He gave them but one rule – perhaps as a demonstration of their love for him to obey: “Don’t eat the forbidden fruit or you will die.” But, they made the choice to disobey that damned humanity and cursed the world to its imperfect, broken state. It’s all because of Adam and Eve’s sin (see Gen. 3.16-17). When God cursed the formerly perfect, now sinful couple, he cursed their children and the entire universe with the promised death they chose by eating the forbidden fruit. Because of the curse, suffering, deterioration and brokenness exists. That is an underlying factor in bad stuff happening.

But God doesn’t let evil and bad stuff go wild. The wonderful part of our God is his mercy to limit evil and bad stuff. He chooses to intervene at special times in miraculous ways to help suffering. It is only through his goodness and mercy that anything good happens. When it does, we thank him as we see his glory demonstrated. It’s like the case of the man born blind in the Bible. “And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:2-3, ESV) Jesus healed the man to reveal his power to do so as the son of God.

Another example was the children of Israel living in Egyptian exile 400 years. Near the end, they grew so powerful that Egypt, out of fear, made them slaves to control them. They endured the bad stuff life of slavery for decades before God sent them a deliverer. And it got worse for a while before it ended. Why allow it? Why so long to stop it? Only God knows. We can see after the fact how God limited the evil and how he blessed them, even using the events to foreshadow the Savior that would come much later.

Summing up the points, bad stuff happens in the world because we are sinful, broken people living in a broken universe, all brought on by the failure of the perfect first couple, Adam and Eve. Bad stuff happening is the necessary consequence of sins we do and the broken universe that is unruly. Yet, God in his mercy intervenes when it suits his purposes to alleviate or mitigate certain suffering to demonstrate his power and glory. So, God doesn’t deserve our malice for allowing bad things happening that mankind deserves, but only our thanks for his mercy and goodness to care for us, answering our prayer requests with yes, no or wait for my time.

September 26, 2023
by Pastor Glenn

Do I forgive even if there is no apology?

Forgiveness is a grossly confused concept in our culture, and even in the Christian circles of churches on earth.
Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV) 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
Jesus makes a hard to live up to, but critical point to living in the kingdom of God. Forgive, then forgive again. And forgive some more. Never stop forgiving. He doesn’t give any preconditions, no procedures — just the advice to forgive.
On the other hand, how does the culture around us see forgiveness?
Forgive, but don’t forget. That is the popular psychological advice of the day. I mean, really? Forgive, but don’t forget. It not’s really forgiving if you remember, is it? Not in the Biblical sense. Not according to God’s word. In his word, forgiving is forgetting, period. See also Mk. 11.25; Col. 3:12-13

Pastor Glenn portrait

Pastor Glenn A. Meyer

April 1, 2014
by Trinity Web Admin

How to Read the Bible?

You are in the right place if you never read the Bible and want to start. Of course, the most profitable way is participating in an organized Bible Study group led by Pastor or experienced Bible teacher. Yet, personal reading can change your life, too!

First thing: realize the Bible is its own genre of literature. It contains history, but is not a history book. It is not mere religion, but it is a book with a goal. The very words of the triune God are its content. Communicating the love of God to promise a Savior and then send his son to become the man, Jesus who fulfilled all the promises and saved the world is its purpose.

Another important point is reading poetic sections as poetry, filled with symbols and word pictures and word play, while narrative sections may be linear or spiral in their view of events happening over time. Always read in context of what comes before and after anything. Context helps identify metaphors versus prophecy versus simple description. Daniel and Revelations are apocryphal books, written in times of duress for the people. Much symbolism and some prophecy helped disguise these books intended to bring hope to the readers in their time and ours. Some even say they are “dripping” with visions of a loving Savior and heavenly home as the future.

To see the message at the end properly, start reading from the first book, Genesis, and read through to the end, Revelation. If a person can’t believe in an almighty creator-God, then how can one believe anything that follows the spiral narrative of creation? Either there is a supreme, divine God or god is a product of one’s personal design (picking which parts to believe). One eye opener to the triune God is slowly reading Genesis chapter one and John chapter one together. Jesus is the Word. Nothing is created except through him. The Holy Spirit hovers over the waters. The Father speaks the universe into existence. (The word translated as created means created out of nothing) The Word is truth. That is a defining fact.

Questions? Just ask-post reply.

November 1, 2012
by Pastor Glenn

How do I know if I’m going to heaven?

The mere asking of the question, “Will I go to heaven?” indicates that a person believes heaven exists — a good starting point. In any religion except Christianity, the answer is always: “You can’t know for certain because you never know when you’ve done enough good to overcome the bad.”

That also carries for some Christian groups, such as many pre-Vatican II Catholics, who arrive at the same point in various ways.

For Christians of conservative Lutheran and those with Reformed origins, two responses dominate. The Reformed tend to rely on Romans 10:9 (ESV), “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Lutherans rely first on, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV).

Whether a person is “believing in one’s heart” or seeing that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith,” both point to faith as the key factor. It’s just that the first is not nearly so comforting as the second. The faith expressed in Romans 10 is entirely subjective to the person. Is there a feeling in the heart that strongly, completely believes in the risen Jesus? On most days, faithful Christians will testify to this feeling. But other times, they doubt themselves, questioning if they really believe because they lack a certain warm, fuzzy feeling that Jesus is in their heart – the subjective. Such feelings can wane much as love and affection in certain marriages.

The Lutheran foundation, on the other hand, points to God doing the saving, not the person’s determining level of faith. If God has saved the person purely by grace, then even the smallest tidbit of faith that Jesus rose from the dead is enough. Jesus once compared powerful faith to something the size of a mustard seed, which has power to move mountains. So faith is a gift of God and he promises not to take back such a gift. We say this method is objective because it depends on God’s work, not the person’s feelings.

So do you want to know if you’re going to heaven, Christian? Then read Ephesians chapter 2 and wander through Romans chapter 3. Cling to the objective truth that salvation (going to heaven) is by grace alone, faith alone, and God’s Word alone.

October 18, 2012
by Pastor Glenn

How do I turn down the volume in my marriage or committed relationship?

Don’t you just hate it when you come home and your partner starts out the conversation with a complaint instead of a kiss or hug? How often do the comments sound like a political debate where you’re the opponent catching the mud the other one is slinging?

Perhaps you’d just like to turn down the volume on that person? If any of these ring true for you, read on.

To explore partner relationships, we need to start with the way we’re made. God did it. In Mark 10:6-9, ESV, Jesus says: “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”” So God designed humans for a committed relationship between male and female partners that would be for life – not until some person decides it should end.

What do we do with that information? We work really hard to follow the way we’re designed to be in marriage: committed for life, which every marriage vow promises. Other so called “committed relationships” without that kind of commitment fall short of the glory of God.

God says committed relationships are worth saving! But when the volume gets out of control, new tools are in order. A pastoral counselor is the first place to look, if you have access to one. Otherwise, here’s some tools.

  1. How to listen: Sit down in a calm place with your partner and take turns talking for about 3 minutes. When the first one finishes, the second reflects back, saying, “I heard you say …” Then let the first one say if the reflection is correct and if not, correct it. Then the second person gets a turn to do the talking, while the first listens and reflects back. Through this exercise, each of you may begin to find out what the other person really has on their mind. More sessions like this develop more understanding.
  2. How to love: Read the book, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, taking the test at the end to discover your love language. Then invite your partner to read it. Share what you both found out about your love language. Do the actions for your partner that speak to that person’s love language — often.

When your partner starts to feel loved, then they will have the capacity to love someone else. Your job is not to expect the love back, but to love the other person with all your power. Hopefully, your partner will see the change in you and realize how you would be happier if they loved you according to your love language. When people are heard and loved, they speak in loving tones. Hence, the volume is turned down in the relationship.