Tag Archives: hell

(Numbers 11-15) It Will Kill You

God wants us to take a good look at sin from His vantage point. Whether it’s the coveting of what non-believers seem to enjoy as in the case of the Jews wishing they were back in Egypt where they were well fed; not trusting God like the Jews who campaigned against going into the Promised Land; or open defiance of God’s Law like the Jewish man who gathered firewood on the Sabbath, God wants us to know He will not tolerate sin in any shape or form.

You want meat like the Egyptians? You’ll get meat. And it will kill you.

You can’t trust God to give you what He’s promised? Don’t go into Canaan. And it will kill you.

You think an act of disobedience is no big deal because you think collecting wood is more important? Go get your wood. And it will kill you.

How much more clear can God be? You can defy Him, reject Him, rationalize your sin…

and it will kill you.

That is a death, my friend, worse than anything you can imagine. That death, eternal agony, void of any hope, endless pain and suffering is the death God wants you to understand.

Your only hope is to confess and repent of your sin, accept the fact that Jesus paid your death sentence, and allow Him to cleanse you and give you the power to be obedient.

You can live in your sin… but God wants you to know it will kill you.

Tears (Revelation 18-22)

My heart is heavy on this last day of 2020. Why not, right? This has been a very difficult year, unlike any I have seen in my lifetime. But I’m sitting here broken-hearted, not because of COVID, or isolation, or the loss of freedom. My tears are not for myself, but for a former student, the daughter of a co-worker and friend, who is facing life this morning without her nine-year-old daughter.

What started out as a fun road trip to California with extended family ended in a horrific accident which took the life of this precious child. Her mom and dad took the first flight out of Texas where they live, to rush to their daughter’s side in a California hospital, only to be met with the news their child had died. I can’t even think about what that was like for them.

Many of us have faced similar circumstances, and although we can’t know exactly how this young couple is feeling, we can remember how we felt when we received devastating news. Hearing what happened this morning brings back the feelings of the day we lost my nephew Geoff. It’s a pain I wish no one ever had to experience.

Yet Payton’s family is in that same heart stopping, suffocating, crushing pain this morning, and will continue to be for a very, very long time.

The last verse Mom underlined in her Bible is Revelation 21:4. Listen to what John had to say about what God has in store:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Personally, I’m ready to see that day come.

But let me say something to you in love. That day is reserved only for God’s children. There is another existence for people who reject God, who don’t accept the grace God gives to those who surrender to Him. It is a place where there will only be weeping and gnashing of teeth, no reprieve, no comfort. Forever.

Oh dear one, none of us is guaranteed another second in this life. Not if you are 90 – or 9. Please don’t wait another moment to give your life to Jesus. If you never have asked Him to forgive your sins and be your Savior, do it now while you still have time. You might not see 2021. Payton didn’t.

Would you pray with me for the Osmond/Veigel families? They are hurting right now in an unspeakable grief. May God be their strength and comfort.

And may you know the assurance of an eternity where there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. A place where God Himself will wipe away your tears.

Prophesy Fulfilled? (Acts 20-23

Paul was warned that if he went to Jerusalem he would be arrested, bound, and imprisoned. He responded with this:

Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. (21:13)

Paul’s friends recognized the signs and warned Paul there was danger ahead. But Paul wasn’t interested in the signs. He was committed to the mission, focused on sharing the truth about Jesus – no matter what, signs or no signs.

Almost every day I hear or read something like : “Bible prophesy is being fulfilled! The end is near! We are living in the last days!” It seems to me many people have become so obsessed with connecting the dots. But what good is simply connecting the dots?

Paul didn’t deny the signs. But he didn’t waste time investigating the details, either. His focus was on sharing the Gospel for as long and as loudly as he was able.

I’m reminded the Church has been reading the signs since the day Jesus went back to live in heaven. Many people believed Hitler was the antichrist back in the 1940’s, and were sure Jesus’ return was on the immediate horizon. The truth is, there have been Bible prophesies fulfilled, probably every year since John’s vision we know as the book of Revelation. People – even Jesus’ own disciples – believed Jesus was coming back in their lifetime. The signs were there.

But here’s my question: if you are reading the signs of the times and are convinced that we are living in the last days on earth – how has that belief effected your life? How urgently are you telling people about Jesus? How focused are you in sharing the Gospel with people who are facing hell, while you still have time to tell them?

Because if you aren’t frantically warning sinners, I’m really not interested in your opinion about prophesy.

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.

God’s Judgment (Ezekiel 20-21)

When you consider God’s final judgment, what comes to mind? Some people picture a big old drunken party around a campfire. Some see people wandering aimlessly through space, dragging the chains they formed in this lifetime. Many people don’t want to believe there will even be a final judgment, just nothingness, that we will cease to exist when we die.

God told Ezekiel to spell out exactly what His judgment on the disobedient Jews would entail, and Ezekiel complained, “Ah, Sovereign Lord! They are saying of me, ‘Isn’t he just telling parables?'” (20:49) Those Old Testament Jews didn’t want to believe in judgment any more than people in 2020.

So let me ask again: what do you believe about God’s judgment?

I notice as I read Ezekiel this morning how often God tells us His judgment protects His Name, that His judgment reveals who He is to the nations of the world. His Name which is Holy, Holy, Holy. If there was no judgment, He could not be Holy.

Scripture also tells us God’s judgment is without mercy. Can you wrap your mind around that truth? Some will argue that because God is love He wouldn’t condemn anyone to a terrible eternity in hell. That because God is merciful, He wouldn’t judge without mercy.

What do you say to that?

Was God speaking in parables, in fairytales, or using scare tactics to get us to obey Him? Or is there an actual place, void of God, void of light, void of fellowship, where the groans and wailings of the condemned are the only sounds, where there is no hope, no reprieve, no comfort? Is there a place where pain and suffering beyond anything anyone has ever experienced in this lifetime, no matter how awful, is the only reality forever?

What do you say to that?

Ezekiel kept telling Israel about the judgment that was coming even if they didn’t believe him. We need to do the same. Because God will seriously judge without mercy, and hell is real.

But, we also need to tell people the one and only way they can avoid God’s final judgment. They need to know that Jesus paid that awful penalty for them. He met His own requirements so no one has to spend eternity without Him.

Just as God judges the guilty without mercy, He shows mercy to those who come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. To all of us who repent of sin, who find forgiveness in the cross, we need have no fear of God’s final judgment.

What do you say to that?

Do You Hear It? (Isaiah 27)

Isaiah continues to talk about God’s judgment on sin. But he also reminds us God will protect His children from the outcome His enemies will face. I love this picture:

“Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it.” (2b-3a)

I am part of that vineyard, God’s Church, through the blood of Jesus. God says He protects it, waters it, guards it against harm. I know that a healthy vineyard goes through pruning, and harvest, and that’s not always comfortable. But God assures us He’s got our backs even when we face the trails of life. It gives me such peace to know the One who cares for me.

Then God says something that I need to remember. Listen to verse 4:

“I am not angry. If only there were briers and thorns confronting me! I would march against them in battle; I would set them all on fire.”

This verse should terrify some. God will pass judgment on anything and anyone who tries to harm His Church. And it will not be a gentle tap on the wrist. The idea of God going to battle against anyone, or condemning someone to that fire should throw fear into hearts. But God is not motivated by anger. He is motivated by love, and here’s how I know that:

“Or else let them come to me for refuge; let them make peace with me, yes, let them make peace with me.” (verse 5)

Do you hear God’s heart? I do. God’s will is that no one die without Him. He WANTS everyone to come to Him, to accept what He died to give. He WANTS to protect and defend and nurture and ultimately to spend eternity with each and every one of us.

Some people will go to hell. But that’s not what God’s heart wants.

Do you hear the tenderness in verse 5? He says He will destroy His enemies, but He’d would rather not. “Let them make peace with me.”

Have you ever heard the words, “I love you,” from that special person in your life? Those three words can bring such joy when you know the sentiment is true. What happens then, when that special someone repeats those precious words a second time? Maybe slower, softer, emphasizing each word?

“I love you. I. Love. You.”

That’s what I hear in God’s voice as He said these words in verse 5, as He talks about people who position themselves as His enemies. As He readies to go to war against them, to mete out that final judgment, His heart still cries out:

“Make peace with me. Oh, make peace with me!”

Is there someone I know who needs to make peace with God? May I hear the anguish in the heart of my Savior as He pleads with them to come to Him. May I be faithful to tell them how they can do exactly that, to introduce them to the Savior who loves them so much.

But sharing Jesus isn’t just about helping someone avoid hell. It’s about hearing God’s heart. Do you hear it?

 

 

August 21; The Reality

Psalms 102, 120, 137; Lamentation 1-2

Jeremiah looked at the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple in ruins, his neighbors and friends either dragged away into captivity, or starving in the streets. And he was sad.

Yes, he’d warned them that God was going to punish them if they didn’t repent. And when they refused to stop sinning, I’m sure it came at no surprise to the prophet that God did exactly what He’d said He’d do. But I don’t think even Jeremiah knew how bad God’s judgment would be.

I don’t think we do, either.

Most of us know there is a heaven and a hell. John, in his vision, tries to describe a reality more wonderful than we can imagine, an unspeakably amazing eternity with God. But Scripture also tells us there is another reality for those who reject God.

As unspeakably wonderful as heaven is, hell is unspeakably horrible. That reality without God is worse than anything we can imagine.  I just don’t believe any of us know how bad God’s judgment will be for those who die in their sin.

Read these chapters in Lamentations. Feel the despair, the loneliness, the utter hopelessness. See the filth and the horror. And know hell is an eternity much worse.

I think if we really allowed ourselves to get a glimpse of the reality of hell, we wouldn’t go to bed tonight until we shared Jesus with our loved ones, with passion and urgency. Jeremiah’s heart was broken by the suffering he saw in the people who had refused to obey God.

Dear God, break my heart over the same reality.

March 21; Do You Want The Good News First, Or The Bad?

Deuteronomy 27-28

So the first thing the Israelites were to do after they’d crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land had to do with the Law. Moses instructed them to erect the equivalent of a modern-day billboard, and carve God’s Commandments clearly enough for everyone to see. Their occupation of that land came with conditions. Their future depended on them obeying God’s Law.

God gave them the good news first. “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commandments… all these blessings will come upon you…” (28:1-2) Then He proceeds to describe what life would be life for God’s obedient children:

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock – the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. (vv 3-6)

It doesn’t even stop there. Victory over enemies, full barns, nations recognizing the fact they are God’s holy people, abundant prosperity…

I’d pick door number one!

Because beginning in verse 15, God describes in gruesome detail what life would be like if they chose disobedience over obedience.

You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. (vv16-19)

Oh, it gets worse. Much worse. From devastating losses in battle, to awful diseases, to broken relationships, barren land and famine, such suffering that cannibalism would be the only means of survival.

There’s more. It’s just too awful.

God spent fourteen verses talking about the blessings for obedience. He took 53 verses to warn them about the consequences for disobedience.

I’m reminded God does not want ANYONE going to hell. He takes no delight in the death of an unrepentant sinner. He is desperate for us to know the truth about what is ahead.

The blessings speak for themselves. You know what I mean, if you’ve given your heart to the Lord, and are careful to follow His rules. The blessings are there! It’s the bad news God wants to make clear.

If you think what we read in chapter 28 is bad, you’ve seen only a glimpse of eternity without God. Only the first day of eternity in hell.

The good news is that God is so desperate, so driven to have us with Him, He came to earth Himself and paid the price for all our sin. When we accept His gift of grace, when we follow Him and choose to obey, He opens the floodgates of blessing. Our enemy is defeated, our sins are forgiven, we experience love and joy and peace like never before. And we know for certain that no matter what happens in this life, what comes next will knock our socks off.

And because God is so desperate that no one die without Him, He wants you to know what it is you are choosing when you choose to deny Him, As you read what God said to Israel here in chapter 28, put yourselves in their shoes. Feel the pain, the humiliation, the fear. Feel what it would be like if God removed Himself, no longer tried to get your attention. Realize the desperation, the anguish, the abandonment that comes from disobedience.

Then understand that without following God, there is no hope for mercy. No possibility of relief. Ever.

The bad news… the really bad news is…

Eternity is a very long time to be without God, my friend.

 

February 20; Not Diseased Any More

Leviticus 13:47-15:33

Don’t read these chapters while you are eating. It’s pretty disgusting to read about leprosy and mold and body fluids with a spoonful of cereal in your mouth. Trust me.

But don’t let that stop you from reading these chapters. God has some serious warnings, and a beautiful promise for us to hear through His Word today.

Scripture often uses leprosy or disease as a physical picture of the effects of sin in our lives. (Ps 147:3; Isaiah 1:5-6; etc.) So as I read chapter 13 I see that sin goes deep into our souls. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us:

The heart is deceitful above all and desperately wicked. 

Paul even said in Romans 7:18:

For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) no good thing dwells.

If you believe in the innate goodness of humanity, you would be wrong.

The diseased person was considered unclean, and anyone coming in contact would also be considered unclean. So lepers were forced to live in isolation, outside the city. Even then, if a person would come near, the leper had to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” to warn them not to get too close.

The Bible tells us sin isolates us. Oh, we may enjoy hanging out with other sinners, but your sin is your sin, your hangover your hangover, your venereal disease destroying your body. And, be warned: Hell is the ulitmate isolation. Don’t count on receiving an invitation to a party there. Don’t expect to even be chained to the wall next to your buddy. Your sin, your choice to isolate yourself from God, will isolate you from everyone and everything, including God, for eternity. Not into nothingness, but into an eternal state of knowing you are unclean, and without hope.

Don’t stop reading with chapter 13. There is a sweet picture in chapter 14 of forgiveness, of cleansing. I love how the former leper is pronounced clean. It’s a description of Jesus Himself; confined to a clay jar of flesh and bones, blood shed and applied, then He rose again! It’s also a picture of me: bound in a clay jar of sin, accepting the blood of my precious Savior, and free to fly, free from the disease of sin!

If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive our sin, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9) That’s a promise you can count on!

Oh, another thing. Notice in chapter 14 the priest went to the leper. The priest defied the “Do Not Touch” order and went to where the leper was. Does that remind you of anyone?

I love Jesus so much!

Chapter 15 reminds me of my responsibility to others. There is nothing sinful about bowel movements, sex between a husband and wife, (or a sneeze). But allowing myself to do those things without cleaning up, can be harmful to those with whom I have contact. It involves a washing every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

God tells us to be holy, like He is holy. That doesn’t involve a bath, or baptism, at some point then assuming you’re fixed for life. Every time God points out a blemish, a sin, I need to throw it under the blood. I need to repent, receive His forgiveness, let Him clean me up. And once that is done, I am not diseased any more. And I need have no fear of spreading the disease of sin to anyone else.

Thank you, God for drawing us this picture in Your Word. Some of the details of the diseases, the creeping crud, the body fluid are disgusting. But I’m reminded sin disgusts you even more. Thank you also for the picture of forgiveness in the two birds used for the cleansing ceremony. Thank you for the truth that once I was lost, diseased, disgusting, I am found, heal, and holy in your sight because of what Jesus did for me. I love you!

 

 

Daniel 5-6; Parenting In The Lions’ Den

My Mom and Dad used to love taking their young grandchildren on adventures. One of their favorite destinations was the Columbus Zoo.

Dad said that one time, while visiting the lion exhibit, my nephew who was about three at the time, got the attention of one of the adult lions. Ryan walked up to the thick glass wall, and the lion met him there, face to face. Ryan walked a few steps to the right, the lion followed. Ryan walked to the left, the lion followed. It soon became a game between boy and lion, and the crowd of people at the exhibit laughed at the silliness.

“Isn’t that cute? The lion likes the boy.”

“Yeah,” my dad said. “For dinner.”

That lion wasn’t playing a game of follow-the-leader with the boy. That lion was stalking its prey. And only the glass wall prevented my nephew from being torn to pieces and savagely eaten by the wild beast.

Do you remember Roy Horn of Seigfried and Roy, entertainers who used white tigers in their act? Roy raised those animals from a young age. He treated them like kittens, loved them, played with them. They were his pets.

But one night, one of those “pets” savagely grabbed Roy around the neck, and began to drag him off stage. Roy sustained life threatening injuries, and his life has never been the same.

A wild animal is not a character in a Disney cartoon.

Throwing Daniel into the lions’ den was sentencing the man to an awful, violent, and terrifying death. But we know he didn’t die.

The story doesn’t end there, however. Darius, the king who had been tricked into condemning Daniel, had the men who deceived him thrown into the den of lions. He sentenced those jealous, evil, conniving low-lifes to the same death they’d planned for Daniel.

Now if that was the extent of it, I’d say they got what they deserved. But the Bible tells us Darius didn’t stop with the men who’d plotted against Daniel. The king had their wives and children thrown into the lions’ den as well. Their wives and children met with the same gruesome end as the men.

I can hear you shouting, “NOT FAIR.”

I’m not going to try to argue that except to say, if you read this you’ll not see God tell Darius to kill those people.  I know the God of the Bible takes no pleasure in people dying without Him. He doesn’t want anyone to suffer the agony of hell. In fact, He paid the awful, violent, and terrifying death we all deserve.

But the Bible is also clear: the guilty will not go unpunished. Hell is real. And people who die without honoring God really do go there.

Here’s what occurred to me today: Many people – maybe you although I pray not – are ignoring God, or disobeying Him. Some deny Him or defy Him. The Bible tells us if that’s the case – be prepared for an awful, violent, terrifying existence for eternity, knowing you had a chance to avoid it all.

But I want to ask you – how many of your loved ones are you willing to take down with you?

You might brag like a post I read on FaceBook recently, “Yeah, I’m going to hell, and enjoying every step of the way.” But what is that message saying to your children? You do know, don’t you, that you are the single greatest influence on your children for the good or for the bad.

You might be appalled at the story here in Daniel, when you are doing the exact same thing. Your life does have an effect on your loved ones… an eternal effect. You may be foolishly willing to go to hell. Just understand that that precious child in your lap is watching you, imitating you, learning to think and believe like you.

It’s NOT FAIR of YOU to take them with you.