Monthly Archives: October 2020

Does Hell Exist? (Luke 12-13)

I don’t believe Jesus ever wasted a word. I think everything he said was carefully chosen because He knew His time on earth was short, and He had a lot to say. So, when Jesus spoke about hell, I am pretty sure he was serious.

But I will show you whom you should fear; Fear him who, after killing the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:5)

What does “throw you into hell” mean except “throw you into hell.” Yes, I know Jesus often spoke in parables. This was not one of them.

People who want to believe no such place exists would be wrong to believe that. No, it’s not some underground cave with a hot furnace burning, people chained to a wall and suffering from scorched skin. Hell is much worse than that.

Jesus in verse 13:28 tells us:

There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.

Hell is not only the absence of God, it is the presence of agony, regret, hopelessness, aloneness, a burning desire that will never be met, despair, darkness more complete than you have ever known.

Think of the worst day of your life. What were you feeling? How badly did your heart hurt? How consuming was your grief? How heavy was your burden? How long did you weep uncontrollably before you were able to dry your eyes?

If you had to live that day over again every day for eternity, that would be bad enough. Add the absence of God to that. Add the realization that things will never get better, you will never get through this, that there is no light at the end of any tunnel, that you will never be able to stop weeping from the depths of your soul. Add to that the realization that God had revealed Himself to you over and over in this lifetime, that He died for you, that He created you to be with Him instead of in hell, but you rejected Him. You rejected Him, not the other way around. Add to your agony the fact that you did this to yourself, you chose this, and now it’s too late. There is no way out. Ever.

Hell is real. You might not like that idea. But Jesus said there is a place where people who reject God are thrown. If I were you I’d take His advice: fear the One who has the power to condemn you to an eternity in that very real, very awful place Jesus called hell. Fear Him, and accept this grace and mercy while you have the ability to choose. As real as hell is, Jesus went to the cross so no one has to go there. But you must choose the narrow door (13:22-28).

For those of you who understand this truth and have accepted God’s forgiveness, you are assured that your eternity will be the feast Jesus talks about in this passage. As awful as hell is, heaven will be the total opposite. But don’t be satisfied with the fact that you are home free because you are a Christian. Look around. There are people headed straight to hell. What are you doing about that?

Because hell is real.

Forgive? But… (Matthew 18)

When Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray (Matthew 6), He told them to ask for the ability to forgive as they had been forgiven. What does that even mean?

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant. The master called the servant “wicked” and threw him into debtors prison even though he’d already forgiven the servant’s debt. Why?

Because, after having been forgiven an enormous debt, the servant turned around and refused to forgive a fellow servant who owed him a few bucks. The wicked servant had had a debt of millions of dollars forgiven! Then he refused to forgive someone who owed him a few dollars.

We who are believers in Jesus have had our enormous debt forgiven. Our sins demanded a price we could not pay without dying for them. We had no resources from which to draw, no hope of ever being able to pay our sin debt in this lifetime. Yet because we accepted God’s grace through Jesus, our outstanding balance reads ZERO!

Now we are told to offer the same mercy to others. Not as easy as it sounds sometimes.

Forgiving like we are forgiven doesn’t happen if we still hold a grudge. The old. “I can forgive, but I’ll never forget,” is just another way of saying, “I will never forgive you,” if we are really honest. If we are to forgive like we’ve been forgiven we must throw those memories, those things we claim to forgive into the ocean, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and remember them no more.

That’s what God did for us. That’s what we are to do for each other. Jesus, in verse 35, says we are to forgive each other “from your heart.”

Has someone wronged you? Is what they did so awful, so unthinkable you believe you will never get over it? Do they deserve to be forgiven? You hear people tell you you need to forgive them, but you automatically think, “But…”

I am very glad God didn’t forgive only some of my sins, like lying to my fifth grade teacher, or not returning extra change at the grocery, or being jealous of someone, but couldn’t bring Himself to forgive the awful, unthinkable sins I’ve committed against Him. When I asked Him to forgive me, HE DID. 100%. And He isn’t holding a grudge, either.

And that’s what He is telling me I need to be doing toward anyone who has wronged me, no matter how small or how big the transgression. Forgive from my heart. And there’s more:

In verse 35 Jesus warns that if we don’t forgive like we’ve been forgiven, there will be severe consequences. The master in the parable threw the unforgiving servant into prison until he could pay the once-forgiven, multi-million dollar debt himself.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.

So the next time you know you need to forgive someone and think, “But…” think again. Giving forgiveness from your heart doesn’t just benefit you, it is obedience.

No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Immediate (Mark 8)

I find it interesting, and personal, that it took Jesus two tries to heal the blind man in Mark 8. Or did it?

Some people had brought the man to Jesus for healing, and Jesus took him by the hand and led him to a private spot. This was not going to be a public display of God’s power. This was personal.

Jesus spit on the man’s eyes and laid hands on him. But the man was only partially healed. He confessed he saw, but not clearly. Jesus touched him again, and he was healed.

Now I know Jesus could have absolutely healed him immediately – with a word. (He’d healed people immediately many times before.) So why was this healing a two-parter?

I think it’s something to consider in our day of instant gratification, impatience, entitlement, and self-absorption. We pray and, knowing Jesus is able to answer, we expect immediate results. We don’t want to wait, and we certainly don’t want our request answered in stages.

Then, what if the end result isn’t exactly what we’d prayed? What happens to our faith? What if, when the man in Mark 8 realized his sight wasn’t fully restored the first time, he left in a huff, if his faith was only as good as the immediate? He would have missed the complete healing.

I think of a fellow-blogger who was diagnosed with ALS 24 years ago, is confined to a wheel chair with a mind that is sharp, and a body that will not move. I didn’t know him back then. But I imagine he and those around him prayed for healing. I imagine those prayers are still being brought to God. Those prayers were met in other ways, besides a physical healing. If you want to know more about his journey, check out Unshakable Hope.

Our Good News club is looking at the life of Joni Eareckson Tada. She’s another example of a believer whose physical body was not healed, although there were a lot of prayers to that end. The answers to those prayers came in stages, and the end result looked much different than those praying imagined. But both of these people have ministries today they would not have had if they had been healed of their physical challenges.

As I think about these people, the man in Mark 8, others I’ve prayed for without seeing the results I wanted, I have to ask myself if I really trust God even when my requests aren’t fulfilled in my timing or in the exact way I’ve prayed?

I find it’s not about the outcome of my prayers, but the faith I have along the way. of course I believe God can do anything. He could remove Covid from the world right this minute. That’s not what God wants me to see today, though. God wants me to see Him, to trust Him, to have a faith that is not shattered if answers to my prayers aren’t immediate.

If God answers my prayers in stages, I pray that I will have the patience to see Him working in my life and in the lives of others in the situation with me while we wait. I pray that if the outcome isn’t what I demanded, I will trust Him enough to know and do what’s best for eternity.

I think God is reminding me today to pray, to trust, to have faith that He does all things well, and to rejoice in every step of the way.

Do Not Follow Your Heart (John 6; Mark 7)

I am sure at some time in your life, you’ve heard someone say, “Follow your heart.” Maybe it was said to you as you faced some personal dilemma. Maybe you’ve even said it to someone else you thought needed a bit of encouragement. We want to believe we know what is best for us, that somewhere deep inside us is the key to happiness and contentment. We ask “What does your heart tell you? Go with it.”

Is that sound advice? Listen to what Jesus says about trusting our hearts:

For from within, out of men’s hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. (Mark 7:21-22)

These words are recorded in John 6 as well.

Someone once said to me, “The heart wants what the heart wants.” That may be true. But what the heart wants, according to Jesus, is sin.

We Jesus-followers should never tell another person to follow their heart. Never! Instead we should be encouraging each other to follow God, spend time in His Word and in prayer, ask others to pray with us and for us, truly seek God’s heart in the matter. God will reveal His will if we let Him.

God’s will might not be what our hearts “want.” But wanting what God’s heart wants for us is so much better than we can imagine.

Follow God. Do NOT follow your heart.

A Really Big Deal (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9)

It occurred to me today that when Jesus fed the five thousand, He used what was given Him. He took the meager portion of bread and fish, and made a meal of it for all the people. He didn’t add a salad or dessert. The meal they ate was a direct result of the food placed in Jesus’ hands.

Sometimes I think we are timid about serving God because we feel what we have is not enough. Or maybe we look at the gifts and abilities God has given us, and tuck them away because we think they are unimportant and insignificant compared to what others seem to have.

But how can you know what God can do with your offering unless you give it to Him? Who in their right mind would have looked at the hungry crowd, then at the five loaves and two fish, and thought: “This will do.” No one!

But placed in the hands of Jesus, it was more than enough.

What spiritual gifts have you been given as a result of your relationship with God? What abilities and talents were you born with? You might think they are no big deal. And you might be right in your own power. The disciples couldn’t feed that crowd on their own, either.

But place your gifts and abilities in Jesus’ hands and watch what a big deal He makes of them. Watch as He takes what you give Him and multiply it over and over. Watch how He takes you and uses you to feed, to nourish, to bless a multitude.

That’s a really big deal!

Seeking and Sought (Mark 4-5)

Jesus went to the people. We see Jesus going through a storm to get to the demoniacs. These men, possessed by awful demons needed Jesus, so Jesus sought them out and healed them.

The people went to Jesus. Jairus for one, then a large crowd, then a woman who had been ill for twelve years all sought Jesus. They recognized their need and sought out the One who could meet their need.

John MacArthur, in his study entitled “Twelve Ordinary Men,” and in the chapter on the Apostle Philip talks about the “classic tension between sovereign election and human choice.” Both, Dr. MacArthur says, exist in perfect harmony.

Jesus Himself said this: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

We see our God, tirelessly revealing Himself, drawing all men to Himself, not willing any should perish, seeking us, calling us.

We see us, created with a God-sized void in our lives, trying to fill that void with all kinds of worthless idols. Idols of self, positive thoughts, money, relationships, alcohol…

We seek. God seeks.

And when our seeking meets God’s seeking, His sovereign plan is fulfilled. We are saved.

What a wonderful Savior. What a loving God.

Friend, I hope that if you have not yet received the forgiveness of your sins through Jesus’ work on the cross, you will recognize that is exactly what you are seeking. That is exactly what you need and what your soul longs for. And I hope that you understand that God Himself is seeking you! He wants you to know Him. Will your seeking meet His today?

That is my prayer.

Are You Listening? (Luke 8)

The parable of the Sower has something to say to all of here in 2020. Jesus says good seed was planted, and there were four results from the planting:

  1. Some seed fell along the path and were trampled, then eaten by birds.
  2. Some fell on rocky soil and didn’t take root.
  3. Some fell among weeds that choked the growth out of them.
  4. Some fell on good soil and yielded a harvest.

I have heard this passage interpreted to show how sinners receive the Gospel message. Some pay no attention, some hear it but don’t receive it, some allow the Gospel to take root but then the trials of life and the lust of the world smother it, but some receive the precious Gospel of Jesus with gladness and grow to maturity in the Truth.

I certainly can’t argue with that interpretation. And all of us, whether believers in Jesus or not, have or do fall into one of those categories.

But Jesus is talking to His disciples, His followers here in Luke 8 and, as always, I try not to apply God’s Word merely to any “them.” What does this parable have to do with my walk with Jesus today?

Therefore, consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” (verse 12)

Jesus said these words to His disciples after sharing the parable of the sower, and the parable of the lamp stand. Be careful how you listen, He warns.

Every time I open my Bible or hear a sermon preached or lesson taught, there will be a response similar to one of the “seeds” in Jesus’ parable. Think about it:

  1. Maybe I don’t like the preacher or the tone of voice of my teacher. Maybe when I open my Bible I am distracted by the TV or by thoughts about my plans for the day. I hear or read the words, but they fall on deaf ears. The devil comes and takes away the word from my heart. That is a sobering thought.
  2. Maybe I really do listen to the message and/or lesson and may even squeak out an “amen” if I agree with something that is being said. But I walk out the doors of the church and promptly forget. I go about my life as though I never heard the Truth at all. Maybe I read my obligatory Bible verses in the morning and, although I read every word, my mind is elsewhere and I get to the end of my “quiet time” without allowing it to take root. Jesus said that when the trials of life come, there is a danger that I could fall away. Another sobering thought.
  3. Maybe I’m trying to balance my love of God with my love of the world. I go to church, maybe serve on committees and sing in the choir. But I surround myself with ungodly people the other six days of the week, I blend in, compromise, compartmentalize my life into the church me and the worldly me. My “quiet time” takes a back seat to the busy-ness of my day. I read my Bible and listen to the lessons, but all of that has to fit into an already cluttered heart. Jesus said I’ll never mature if that’s the case. Is it possible to be comfortable among the weeds? Yet another sobering thought.
  4. Or maybe I’m that fourth seed. I listen AND obey. I dig my roots deep into Scripture, I trust the Gardner to water and nourish my soul, and I use what I learn to get out there and share Jesus with people in my world.

I have to ask myself if I am growing every day or am I stunted, ineffective, allowing Satan to steal what is mine? Do I hunger to know more about God, eager to grow and learn and be strengthened by the Truth of Scripture? Do I take it in and allow it establish root to become a fruitful disciple of my Lord?

Every time I hear a sermon, every time I read God’s Word, there will be a response by me. God is challenging me to be careful how I listen.

Finger Pointing (Luke 11)

Jesus was invited to dine in the home one of the Pharisees. It appears the man had also invited some of his colleagues because Jesus began addressing them. Jesus told the Pharisees they were hypocrites, that they were all show, like unmarked graves people trample over without even knowing they were there. I don’t think Jesus would get the World’s Best Dinner Guest Award. However, He wasn’t there to win friends. He was there to win souls.

Now here’s the part that makes me laugh: Another guest identified only as a teacher of the law addresses Jesus. I would imagine Jesus’ remarks to the Pharisees had to make for a very uncomfortable situation for everyone present at that dinner. I picture the teacher of the law sitting near enough to Jesus to be able to lean over and whisper in Jesus’ ear. Maybe the teacher patted Jesus on the back and winked at Him like a friend sharing a private joke.

The teacher said, “You know, Jesus, and I’m sure you don’t mean to, but when you are talking like that to the Pharisees – not that they don’t deserve it (wink, wink) – you’re kind of hurting our feelings, too.”

Now this what makes me laugh out loud: Jesus, after hearing this gentle hint, turns to the teachers of the law and instead of saying, “Oh, I’m sorry guys. I didn’t mean to offend,” He says “Woe to you!” Jesus then proceeds to reveal their sins, too.

I find it funny. And serious. That’s why I try not to read about “them” in Scripture. It’s tempting to read about the Jews, or the Pharisees, or the teachers of the law and overlook the fact God has something to say to me, too. When I read about the Pharisees being like cups that are clean on the outside and filthy on the inside, I want to check my own heart’s condition, my own witness. When Jesus accuses the teachers of the law of hindering people from knowing the truth, I have to ask myself if I am guilty, too.

I will read Scripture for what it is: profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in right living so that I will be fully equipped to be the woman God wants me to be to share Him with a world that needs Him.

You’ve heard it said that when you point to someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you. I think we need to pay attention to the fingers pointing to us every time we spend time in God’s Word.

I Wasn’t Supposed To Grow Old!

Please take time to read this post. I pray it will speak to your heart like it spoke to mine.

Unshakable Hope

Over the last twenty-four years that I’ve had ALS, Mary and I have learned to take one day at a time. But this day, October 5th, is noteworthy because it happens to be my 60th birthday!

I was diagnosed just weeks after my 36th birthday. The prognosis was that I’d be dead before turning forty. My 40th birthday was a big deal. My 50th birthday was a bigger deal. But now I am 60!

“Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34).

Like the manna in the wilderness, God’s grace is only sufficient for today.

Taking this trial one day at a time, with God’s grace and the prayers and help of family and friends, we’ve been able to cope for over 8700 days. If you’re going through a difficult time right now, focus on today, and…

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It’s Not Ridiculous (Luke 6)

It’s tempting to read these passages for the umpteenth time and overlook something God might want to say to us about it. That almost happened to me this morning. I was reading what God said about loving our enemies. You know it, right? Love them, do good to them, turn the other cheek. Yada Yada Yada.

My mind kept going to the climate in our nation here in 2020. Sadly, the term “enemy” has come to mean a person who simply disagrees with you; someone who is from a different political party than you; someone who supports a different side of the abortion issue. There are those who would like us to believe we should look at people with different skin color than our’s, or in a different tax bracket than us as the enemy.

And how do we treat our enemies these days? We burn down their businesses. Pull out a gun and shoot them. Beat them up. Slander them. Hate them.

The idea of turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, giving the shirts off our backs, loving our enemies and doing good to them is scoffed at. It’s weak! It’s ridiculous!

Did you know that Jesus gave us the Golden Rule as part of His message on how to treat our enemies? Yeah. Our enemies.

Now here is what I almost missed this morning. I believe God wanted me to see a short phrase in verse 36:.

because he (God) is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

Really? You might think that’s not at all right. God should destroy mean people, ungrateful wretches! Instead, Jesus tells us God is kind to them. Ridiculous?

Oh, it get’s better. After Jesus tells us this, he turns to us and says…

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Now wait a minute, God. If you want to be kind and merciful that’s up to you. But how can you expect me to be kind and merciful to these thugs, these degenerates, these people who call me names and threaten my safety?

“Because I said so,” He seems to answer me.

I challenge you to read this portion of God’s Word, and check your kindness meter. Is it reserved only for people with whom you agree? Do you have the attitude, “I’ll be kind to them IF they are kind to me? I’ll show mercy IF they show it to me first?”

Do you see an “IF” in God’s command to us to be merciful? I sure don’t.

Jesus tells us if we obey Him in this, “Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.” He’s not saying we earn our position as His child by being nice to people. But He is saying that if we obey Him, people will notice and will identify us with Jesus, will recognize that we belong to God.

That’s not ridiculous!