Tag Archives: mercy

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.

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?

Savior or Executioner (Judges 3-5)

Sisera was running from his enemies, the children of Israel. Jael gave him shelter, AND guarded the door. Sisera was thirsty and asked for water. Jael went one better, and gave him milk. I can only imagine how that sweet liquid felt to Sisera as it hit his tongue. Sisera was weary. Jael provided him with a warm bed.

Yet with all the kindness Sisera received at the hands of this Jewish woman, Sisera remained an enemy of God. He did not repent. And the one who had lavished him with grace and mercy became his executioner.

We must not take God’s grace and mercy for granted. The sun rose today on everyone. There is oxygen to breathe in every corner of the world. Working limbs, hearing ears, love and laughter are enjoyed by the vast majority. And to top it off, Jesus died for the sins of every individual. For God so loved the world!

Yet some who are enjoying the grace and mercy that is ours at the hand of a very patient and loving God, will one day meet Him as their executioner. Some who accept His blessings in this lifetime will die His enemy unless they accept what is their’s through the blood of Jesus.

Yes, God is a loving God. He is slow to anger. He is actively working in the hearts of people everywhere to come to Him, to love and obey Him, to repent of sin and know Him.

But one day we will look into those eyes and see our Savior, or our Executioner. There is no third option.

November 16; Wisdom From Heaven

James 1-3

I will be honest. I haven’t been watching the impeachment hearing on TV. My blood pressure has it’s limits. I don’t know on which side of the aisle you are, but I think God has something to say to all of us through James this morning.

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find discord and every evil practice. (3:16)

I guess when I try to watch the proceedings I find discord and evil practices fueled by envy and selfish ambition. Did God give James a glimpse of the USA in 2019? It seems so. But the next verse is what I want to highlight today:

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (3:17)

Can you imagine the change that would come about in our country if God poured out the wisdom that comes from heaven onto Washington DC? Peace-loving? Considerate? Submissive? Merciful? Impartial? Sincere? I don’t care which side of this issue you are,  but can you say you wouldn’t want those things to be evident in all our politicians?

Let’s pray for the wisdom that comes from heaven for our political leaders. But let’s also pray the same for each of us. Our country can hardly be described as peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, impartial, or sincere, can it? Can you be described in those terms? Can I?

We need the wisdom that comes from heaven.

 

August 22; It’s Morning

Lamentations 3-4

 

Jeremiah is feeling old. He sees his wrinkled skin, considers his brittle bones and his toothless grin, and says, “All my splendor is gone and all I had hoped from the Lord.” I am going to my high school class reunion in a couple weeks. I hear you, Jeremiah.

But the prophet isn’t consumed with his failing body because he is vain. This chapter comes after his description of the devastation of God’s wrath on the people. Jeremiah feels helpless, useless in their situation.

But then Jeremiah changes his focus. He turns to the Lord. He was able to say things like:

Because of God’s great love we are not consumed, his compassions never fail, they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (3:22-23)

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him. (3:25)

For He does not afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men. (3:33)

I figure if Jeremiah, being feeble and discouraged, could have such faith and confidence in God in the middle of the famine and war, then I certainly can have the same faith and confidence in God in the middle of whatever situation I am facing. Because God’s faithfulness IS great. His mercies ARE new every morning.

And it is morning.

April 23; The Lord Be Exalted

Psalms 31, 56, 40; I Samuel 27:1-12; 28:1-2; 29:1-11; I Chronicles 12:1-7,19-22

I hope Psalm 40 is your testimony. David waited on God, and God heard him, lifted him up out of the depths of sin, and put a new song in David’s mouth. David knows how blessed are we who put our trust in God, who hide His Word in our hearts, who obey Him, and tell others about Him.

David is honest to say life was still hard for him. But even in that, he proclaimed God’s mercy, God’s love, and God’s saving power. Knowing God was in his life gave David reason to rejoice.

It does the same for me. God is our help and deliverer.

The Lord be exulted!

That’s my testimony. I pray you can say the same.

Hosea 6-14; Take Words With You

The book of Hosea is a picture of unfaithfulness and judgement. But it is also a picture of God’s grace and mercy. It is so beautiful.

I would encourage you to read Hosea and ask God to speak to you about your own walk with Him. What was true concerning a group of people known as Israel or Ephraim in Hosea’s day, carries with it spiritual truth for us in 2018. I read these chapters today and replaced any reference to “Israel” with my name. It became very personal, because what God said to the Jews through Hosea, He is saying to me. I love God’s Word!!

When I read verses like 5:4, I ask myself if there are things I am doing that do not permit me to draw near to God. Do I have a spirit of prostitution in my heart by harboring hatred or unforgiveness, by holding on to a “secret” sin and telling myself it’s no big deal? Are there times I am more concerned about my “self” than about God?

I hear God say He hates His wicked children. (9:15) HATES! Do I give God reason to hate me because of my own disobedience? That is a sobering thought. Hosea reminds me God rejects the unfaithful.

But then I also read verses like 6:6 and realize God wants only to love me, to show me mercy. Look at 10:12:

Sew for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love…

Doesn’t that encourage you to sew righteousness by putting on Jesus’ righteousness? Don’t you hunger for the fruit of God’s unfailing love? I do.

When I read 14:2 I had to stop a minute and think what it means to “take words with you” as you approach God. God is not asking for an animal sacrifice. He’s not asking me to go to church, give to the poor, or be a good neighbor. What He’s asking is that I come to Him purposefully, repentant, and say the words, “Forgive me,” and mean it.

Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: Forgive all (my) sins and receive (me) graciously, that (I) may offer the fruit of (my) lips. 

It goes on to say God wants me to realize nothing else can save me. Nothing and no one but God Himself.

What is the result of such a prayer, of a heart that is honest before my Holy God? Hosea tells me He will heal my waywardness and love me freely! (14:4) God will give me everything I need to be fruitful. (14:8)

Then listen to the way God inspired Hosea to end his book.

Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. (14:9)

I want my walk with the Lord to be intentional, honest, and fruitful. When I go to Him, I want to go with the words He wants to hear. And I want to mean them from the bottom of my heart.

 

 

Hosea 1-5; The Allure

We know God disciplines His children. You probably know that all sin comes with consequences. But Hosea reminded me something today about God I’d like to pass on to you.

You remember, Hosea, don’t you? He’s the prophet God told to marry a prostitute as an example of God’s relationship with His people. I kind of feel bad for Hosea, because I think he might have loved the unfaithful woman. Then I remember – I am that unfaithful woman, and God is the One who loves me still.

Make no mistake about it: God hates sin. He never condones sin or ignores it. Every sin comes with a death penalty. God is a just, and harsh judge. But there is a side to God we might sometimes either overlook or misinterpret. That is His mercy.

God, through Hosea,  calls out His children, exposes our nakedness, our depravity, and God tells it like it is – we have turned our backs on Him. We deserve it if He turns His back on us.

But I want you to notice 2:14. After exposing Israel’s sin, God says this:

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. (emphasis mine)

I love that so much. I would expect God to say, after expressing how He looks at our sin… “Therefore I’m done with you!” Instead, God in His mercy says, “You’ve done awful things, You have sinned, turned Your back on me, defied Me. So I’m going to court you, and woo you back to me.”

“Here I  am,” He says. “Love Me. I love you.”

That allure can occur as you read His Word, or in answered prayer, in the changed life of a believer, in a hint of joy in sorrow, in unexpected blessings, or any number of reminders of God’s love in your life. Those sweet whispers from God are personal and intimate. Don’t miss God’s repeated attempts to woo you, to entice you to come to Him.

Because God doesn’t want you to live – or die – without Him. Just don’t mistake God’s tenderness for acceptance. His mercy has conditions.

Please know, if you accept Him on His terms, His mercy and grace are yours! Jesus paid the penalty for your sin and for mine. And God only wants you to accept it.

I want to share what Matthew Henry had to say about this:

“Those who will not deliver themselves into the hand of God’s mercy cannot be delivered out of the hand of his justice.” (Commentary in One Volume, Zondervan Publishing, 1961; page 1107)

Pay attention to God’s attempts to allure you, whether it’s to find Him for the first time, or to draw you closer to Him as His child. There is no one He loves more than you.

April 7 – Redeemed!

Ruth

The book of Ruth is a precious love story. Naomi loved her daughters-in-law, and they loved her. Ruth loved Naomi enough to leave her own family and travel with her mother-in-law to Naomi’s homeland. And Ruth learned to love Naomi’s God.

One of the greatest declarations of love ever recorded is here in these chapters. You probably have even heard it read at a wedding or two.

Boaz demonstrated love toward Ruth in a lot of little ways, from making sure she had grain to pick, to seeing to her mid-day meals, to making sure she was safe.

But the main theme in Ruth’s story is redemption. As a widow, and a foreigner, Ruth had no claim on her husband’s inheritance. But when Boaz paid the price for her redemption, she belonged to him, became his wife, and was guaranteed a position in that family. She received all the blessings being part of that family afforded her.

I’ve been redeemed, too. As a sinner, I had no claim on heaven, or the inheritance promised to a child of God. But when Jesus died on the cross and paid the price for me, I was able to be redeemed through His grace and mercy.

I belong to Jesus! All in Him is mine. And He lavishes me with every good thing.

Redeemed! How I love to proclaim it.

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

Redeemed through His infinite mercy.

His child, and forever I am.

(Fannie Crosby, 1882)