Prepare or Perish; I Cannot Be Quiet.

“Come, NOW is the time to worship.”

2021-03-27 House on FireI wish this could be more gently expressed, but like a man seeing the house of a friend on fire, I must SHOUT IT.  There is too little time to say, “Oh, maybe I will disturb him or interrupt his nice supper; I’ll call him later and tell him his house is on fire.”  What kind of friend would I be!?  That said, no one can force you out of a burning house if it is your choice to stay there.  But still, I have to warn that Jesus made it clear, we must Be Ready or we will perish.

We have examined the evidence of evil.  There are people who sell other people into the sex trades or some form of indentured servitude.  Just as bad, there are people who buy and use them.  There are people who will sell drugs to anyone with money to purchase, no matter how badly addicted their victims are; others who will turn a blind eye to crises because it is politically inconvenient or will cost them their job or make them look foolish to others; even more who simply shrug and say, “Well, I am not doing that.  It is not my problem.”  The mass of German citizens seemed shocked when they were paraded into POW camps after WW2 and said, “Oh, my, we didn’t know.”  But their complicity was in not listening to the warning sirens of Jews being “labeled” and marginalized; ignoring the buildup of power into a select few, all in the name of “purifying the race;” making life better for “all of you.”

We have looked at the Scriptures for what Jesus, the apostles, and Old Testament prophets taught about hell and its misery.  Gehenna (translated ‘hell’ or ‘fiery furnace’ or similar analogies) was the garbage dump outside Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”  This was His picture of hell; a place not intended for human habitation, but where those who cannot serve their purpose wind up; a place of disposal; strangely, a place “chosen” by those who will reside there because they refuse to trust the Creator and Jesus, in [whom] the whole fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily

Evil is evident.  Hell is authentic.  So how can one avoid it?  Jesus spent most of his parables telling about the Kingdom of God and how to get into it.  He gave several stern warnings, though, against being deceived.  In Matthew 24, four times He told His followers to beware.  He then conclude this teaching with a blessing and a severe warning (verses 45-51) .

 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.  Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.  But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

He then tells the story of ten women who went out to meet a bridegroom.  In that culture, the groom would come to his bride at an unannounced time after meeting with his friends.  Five were foolish and five were wise.  At the end of the story, this Jesus that everyone thinks would always be so kind and forgiving, excludes the foolish women from the groom’s banquet, and quite harshly!

He then tells a story of a landowner who commits responsibilities to his servants while he is away.  The wise servants invest his loans to them, but a foolish one hides the money so he can give back only what he received.  He gets a tongue lashing that would make Bear Bryant blush, and the land owner orders the worthless servant [to be cast] into the outer darkness . . .  where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

He concludes a trilogy of parables with a story of sheep and goats being separated.  To the “goats on the left” Jesus will tell them, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels . . . And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  Note, the eternal fire was never intended for humans.

The fearful thing for most people is that Heaven is not our default destination.  In our natural state, the way we are born, we are already condemned to hell!  John wrote in his Gospel, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already!John 3:16-18

That is why Jesus told the Pharisee that he needed to be “born again!”  Being born into this life was NOT enough!  As lovely or successful or rich or powerful or comfortable as one can be, we are all condemned to hell UNLESS we specifically and personally take a step of faith and “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” to be saved.

It would be “nice” if everyone would get into Heaven, but Jesus clearly teaches that many will NOT!  How can I invite you to read the Gospels, the Good News, so that you do not have to go to hell?  What can I do to persuade you that you were created for a better life than this?  Are there any words I can write that will convince you to trust Jesus for eternal life?  What can I show you of how much God, the Father, loves you beyond the fact that Jesus died in your place, in my place?

The promise is completely inclusive: ANYONE can come to Jesus, regardless of past sin, problems, ethnicity, success or failure; NOTHING excludes you!
But the promise is completely exclusive simultaneously: ONLY those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved.

Someday, at the name of Jesus every knee [WILL] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue [WILL] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” when He is fully revealed at the end of time.  But there is a special blessing and fellowship of the Holy Spirit and of other Christ-followers for those who bow their knees now, and confess now that Jesus Christ IS Lord.  Do not be deceived. 

Please, dear friends reading this blog, you to whom I have emailed this link, those of you just stopping by for a visit:
Pray to Jesus to be born again and to guide you by His Holy Spirit.
Begin reading the Bible, especially starting in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
Find someone near you who knows Jesus and start meeting regularly.

If you do not know of anyone in your hometown or country, email me at capost3k@gmail.com and I will help you find someone out of our international connections.  If you want to Zoom with me, just email me, but I encourage you to find someone locally who speaks your ‘heart language.’  Please, prepare or you will perish.

 

Hell Is Authentic


The result of living without Jesus is .  Not just a fantasy, not just a short-term separation from what is good.  It is a final loss, a final “mercy” of God to those who refuse any blessing.  He will not let an evil person go on hurting others into eternity, or even themselves; so He places them in outer darkness (Matthew 8:11-12), alone and apart from any source of light or life, because that is what they have chosen.  “All that are in hell choose it.  Without that self-choice, there could be no hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find; to those who knock it is opened.” (C.S.Lewis, The Great Divorce)

If they would choose to know The God Who Is Here, anyone can enter into His Life, Light, Joy, Peace and every other blessing that comes from living in consistency with “the universe.”  There is only one way to know The God Who Is Here, and that is by getting to know Jesus, the Messiah, aka Christ.  “Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)  There simply is no other way.  Father loves each one of us so much that if there was another way, He would inform us and provide us with the alternatives.  But THIS is the nature of the universe.  It is what He created and knowing Him is the only way. (Acts 4:10-12)

Like the Children of the Day sang, “Don’t try to drive the darkness out; You just turn on the light.”  Hell is the absence of light.  It is the absence of love.  It is the absence of community.  It is the absence of peace.  It is the absence of selfless joy.  It is the absence of life. 

Note, by that I do not mean the end of existence.  It that were the case, “hell” would not be all that bad.  If when we died we simply vanished into nothingness, there would be no reason for warning and inviting people to Life.  However, God created each of us, created YOU, to enjoy Him forever.  There is no Infinity Stone that can simply snap away our existence.  The gift of existence is without do-overs. (Romans 11:29)  We were created for eternity and “He has put eternity into man’s heart.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

One of Job’s visitors described hell as the destiny of all those who do not know God, a dreadful place he calls the king of terrors.”  Hell will be a place of eternal death, because its inhabitants will be separated eternally from the Source of Life.  There, like the demons who believe and shudder (James 2:19), its occupants will hate God and the exposing light of his glory.  “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain)

Before Him “Every heart will melt, and all hands will be feeble; every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water” (Ezekiel 21:7).  Just as the kings of the earth will call to the mountains and rocks, “Hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne” (Revelation 6:16), in hell God will give them what they want, a place of complete eclipse, darker than anything we can imagine. (Matthew 22:13; 25:29-30

As we have noted before (see ), anyone who longs for joy can find it.  Moses said in Deuteronomy 4:29, “If you will seek Yahweh your God, you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” But this is not like trying to find Easter eggs, either in the yard under bushes, or a hidden message in a movie.  You do not have to scour the internet or decode mysterious anagrams or learn a particular language.  God is not hiding, making you wade through mazes or difficult terminology to find Him.  He makes Himself clear to anyone willing to see Him (Romans 1:19-22)  Further, He has revealed Himself throughout history via prophets, priests, church leaders and lastly through Jesus.

It would be nice if we could say those who go to hell will only stay there for a little while and then be granted entry into Heaven, kind of like an earthly prison sentence.  But remember those who go there go by their own choice because they do now want to live in God’s Kingdom; they refuse to live with someone else that is there; they object to His rulership.

So what awaits one who refuses to believe what God has revealed about Himself? 
“This is what Yahweh, the LORD, says:
“Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’
Therefore hear, O nations, and know what will happen to them.
Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people,
    the fruit of their devices,
because they have not paid attention to my words;
    and as for my law, they have rejected it.…
Therefore this is what Yahweh says:
‘Behold, I will lay before this people a stumbling block against which they shall stumble;
fathers and sons together, neighbor and friend shall perish.’”
(Jeremiah 6:16-21)

You have this opportunity while you live. (Hebrews 9:27-28)  There is no guidance on making this decision after you die, and why would anyone refuse the Lord of Life now while they can learn to know Him before that time?  The choice is yours to make.  we will look a little more at the choice.

Time heals all wounds . . . NOT!

Please forgive my use of an old idiom in the title, the “NOT.”   Then again, I have an excuse, so I prefer your understanding to forgiveness.  Recall last week I noted that when we have excuses, we only need understanding, not forgiveness.  Forgiveness only functions when the offender is without excuse, which is the main reason it is so very hard to forgive.  Besides, “time heals all wounds,” right?  We’ve heard this mantra for generations and it even shows up as a “word” in Merriam-Webster and in Dictionary.com!

Sophocles.jpgMost attribute “Time heals all wounds” to Chaucer in Troilus and Criseyde: “As tyme him hurt, a tyme doth him cure.”  But such imprecise quotations should take us back to Sophocles, the ancient Greek playwright (495-406 B.C.), who said, “Time eases all things” in Oedipus, the King.  However, as illustrated in the play, this proved false.  Time could not heal the problems in that family!  Even the deaths of the parents and Oedipus’ blinding did not heal the wounds, but only solved the problems in the nation.  The personal injuries followed . . . rather, chased . . . the individuals to their graves.

In the same way time will not heal the wounds in your family, or in your former friendships, or in your job, or in any relationship where you have been deeply injured.  Time does not have the power to heal.  Rather, we may forget some offenses over time, but if reminded of them, we will find the pain and the hurt of the offense is still there, even after 60 years or more!  Like peeling a scab off an old scar, fresh blood will flow again, and we will find the wound is still there.  In some cases, reminders of the impairment will keep it continually fresh even over years passing as if we were constantly picking at the scab, rehearsing every detail of the wrongdoing and sometimes even worsening the offense as we embellish with added “memories” of what happened.

This is reflected in reverse in the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13: “[Love] keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (13:5-6)  Think of this in contrast to the man who says, “I remember the twelve years ago like it was yesterday.  She had on those red shoes she used to wear.  It was a Saturday morning and was raining.  The neighbor was mowing his lawn in the rain when she knocked at the door, and she said …”  Love does not keep these records.  “Regret cannot change your past; worry cannot change your future.  Only forgiveness can change your past; only trust can change your future.” (Steve Elliott)

But, you may say, what about someone who keeps on offending!?  Must I forgive him/her continually?  Well, yes and no.  If an offender is genuinely repentant of their fault, we are called on by Jesus to continually forgive (Matthew 18:21-22).  The key here is the repentance.

Repentance means a turning away from a former way of doing things.  An alcoholic may repent of his drinking many times, but still fall prey to his weakness and lapse into a drinking binge.  He genuinely repents each time but can only succeed with significant outside help and guidance, e.g. AA or some other program that offers forgiveness as well as assistance to avoid the temptations.

John The BaptistHowever, there are times a prophetic caution should be given such as John the Baptist gave to his hearers when he was attracting big crowds: He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.’” (Luke 3:7-8)  Not exactly what one would expect from today’s seeker-friendly sermons, but led by the Holy Spirit, John addressed the “penitents’” problems.  They were looking for an easy fix that did not involve a real heart change!

James, the brother of Jesus, also understood this.  In his short letter to the dispersed Jews who had fled the persecution in Jerusalem, he repeatedly advised on his theme, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17)  A wise man once said, “We are saved by faith alone, but not faith that is alone!” (Dr. Ronald Wright)

So how do we know when a penitent is genuine?  How can we be sure when we forgive we will not get burned . . . again?  Unless the Holy Spirit reveals this to us, we cannot know.  We must proceed on the basis of our understanding and the love God puts in our hearts, sometimes a love intended to be wounded.  Just as Jesus knew He came to go to the cross, there may be people in your life who you must let crucify you.  As painful as that may be, there will be a joy set in front of you that will help you endure (Hebrews 12:2) and continue to forgive as our Lord prayed from his execution stance, “Father, forgive them because they do not realize what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

However, forgiveness, when it comes from your heart, is transformational!  First you will be transformed by your choice to forgive.  You will find the prisoner of your anger or bitterness was never the offender at all.  You were the one bound in the prison of your own acrimony.  Then, free from the bitterness, you will find your forgiveness may be transformational in the life of the offender you forgive, just as Jesus’ forgiveness has transformed you.  Of course, the power of your forgiveness to transform another is entirely dependent on his/her willingness to be forgiven.

As strange as it may seem in a discussion of forgiveness, there are those who will refuse forgiveness.  Either they will take offense at thinking that you think they need your forgiveness, or they will be too full of pride to admit that they know their need, unwilling to be humble and accept your forgiveness.

As strange as this may seem in such an academic exercise, in the “real world” experience of forgiving and being forgiven there are hard choices to make and some may prefer to wait and hope that time will heal the wounds.  Sadly, it will not.  As C.S.Lewis noted in The Great Divorce, All that are in hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

So if you are offended, forgive.  Time will not heal the wound.  Forgiveness will.

 

I met a man in hell last week.

“At the end of things, the blessed will say, ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.’  And the lost will say, ‘We were always in Hell.’  And both will speak truly.” C.S. Lewis

I met a man in hell last week.  Note, I did not say he was from hell, nor did I say he was going there nor that I went to hell to meet him.  He is there, even while he is here in this world.  His life is very sad, and whenever he crosses my mind, I will say a prayer for him that maybe someone else will be able to help him see where he is.

From our first meeting, there was a quiet discomfort in working together on a house my company is building.  But he seemed knowledgeable and nice enough.  More importantly he said he had done the flat-work of concrete for the house next to ours, and I had seen that work was all right.  But there it was, in the back of my mind, like a kind of gnat flying around that I could not quite see quickly enough to smack, yet not so big or nasty of a bug to gain my full attention.  So I hired him to do our flat-work and he would come back after we got the walls poured.  If I had been wise, I should have asked the builder of the house next to ours whether he would recommend this man, as I found out later, he had never heard of him.

We finished pouring the walls on May 22, followed by removal of the braces that had supported the ICFs during the pour, and that was followed by the plumber getting the rough in plumbing done for the basement – the work that would need to be below the basement floor.

So by May 27 the plumber finished as we were ready for the pour of the basement floor.  But the flat-work guy would not be available till Monday, June 1, so we thought we could wait for the job to begin.

There were problems with this guy that almost made me delay the pour and hire someone else, but he appealed to me, and part of why I started my company was to help some of the tradesmen I would encounter.

But one thing after another went wrong on the job, and in our communication.  As patient as I was with him, nothing seemed to be right; no one seemed to do their part of the job correctly;  deceit seemed to be common for him, from claiming to be married to claiming to be at one site when he was not there, to claiming his “wife” was out of town when she was not.  I really felt badly for the guy, as nothing ever seemed to work right for him; everybody seemed out to take advantage of him; no one would look out for his interests.  He accused me of ordering the concrete late; not having my act together; not knowing what I wanted to do.

When we resolved matters of how much to pay him, after two days of argument over what equipment he had, what he had promised to do, etc, I asked if we could talk for a few minutes.  Per his standard operating procedure, he said he had too much to do and other places to be, lines I had heard repeatedly in our dealings.  As conciliatory as I tried to be, he left angry and frustrated, that he had again been taken advantage of, and I assure you he was not.

I felt very sad the rest of that day, as I remember being there about 30 years ago when I was not living right.  No one understands, no one cares, nothing is ever going to go right, I was always going to be on the losing end.  I was in hell back then until I found peace in Jesus Christ.   But the next day, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  His life in hell had been draining me and dragging me down.  Try as much as I could, I could not get through to the man, and help him to see how he could get out of the hell he is in.  It is scary to see someone going down a path I once was on, wishing he could find the way out.  Scariest is that I could still be on that path except for the grace of the God Who Is There.

C.S.Lewis from The Pilgrim’s Regress:

Nearly they stood who fall; themselves as they look back
See always in the track the one false step, where all
Even yet, by lightest swerve of foot not yet enslaved,
By smallest tremor of the smallest nerve, might have been saved.

Nearly they fell who stand, and with cold after fear
Look back to mark how near they grazed the Siren’s land,
Wondering that subtle fate, by threads so spidery fine,
The choice of ways so small, the event so great, should thus entwine.

Therefore oh, man, have fear lest oldest fears be true,
Lest thou too far pursue the road that seems so clear,
And step, secure, a hair-breadth boundary,
Which, being once crossed forever unawares, denies return.