Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Journal 1/23/08

Death – no one escapes it. One out of one will die and it is always a tragedy when it happens to someone you know or admire. Yet we fail to realize the seriousness of the frailty of life and the seriousness of the afterlife. If we have not given our lives to Jesus the reality is that we will be in a very harsh reality and wake up call when we die. Oh my heart is broken for those who die without knowing the only One who can save them from Hell. Oh the depths of regret one will have on that day when they take their last breath if they have not given themselves to the One who loves them with a passion.

I can’t even begin to imagine what the horror would be like if I were to close my eyes for the last time only to open them up in a place of torments. To go from living out the American dream to weeping and gnashing my teeth would be so tragic, yet that is the reality for many, many people.

When will we Christians wake up to this reality and start sharing the life giving good news? When will we lose our fear of rejection and start pouring out our lives in reaching the lost before its too late for them? I have the same fear as all of you, but life is to frail and one minute we are here thinking we will live forever and the next minute our time is up and we are in eternity.

I can hear and feel the heart of God weeping over those who reject him. I can hear the sobs of God over those who choose to ignore his pleading. His heart is broken over the death of the those who refuse to deal with the reality of what awaits in the afterlife.

Jesus has done everything that is possible to be with us. He gave everything, he gave his life away for us; just to be with us. Time is running out, we MUST get outside of the four walls of the church and start sharing this reality.

Every 1.5 seconds someone enters eternity, and that someone could be someone you know personally. What will you do with the time allotted to you? Will you love that person enough to warn them of what’s to come? Or will you cave into your fear and refuse to warn them? You were created in this time and age to reach your generation. What you do with this time is up to you, please use it wisely.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Romans 9:1-5 - A Heart for the Lost

I taught this to the high school kids this last Sunday

Romans 9:1-5
(A heart for the lost)

“1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”

Let’s pick it up in verse two. “that I have great sorrow & continual grief in my heart…” The word “Great Sorrow” is used for people who mourn. All throughout the gospels it is used for people who mourn. It’s amazing to me that Paul had this heart that was inwardly mourning. He felt as though he had lost a loved one.

I don’t know if you have ever lost a loved one, but I have. And when Paul uses a word here that describes mourning & great sorrow, I say, Paul you are crazy. Because I understand mourning, I have been there. I understand the depths of the pain that even crying can't relieve.

I can remember many sleepless nights filled with the terror of grief for my son. I can remember not even being able to function properly. I had no one to talk to, my life was completely torn apart. I felt as though something inside of me had died.

I can remember the 1st day that I lost my oldest son. I was young & naive. My sons mother & I were living together with her parents & we were having a hard time with her mother. I had become a believer & her family really wanted nothing more to do with me. I thought that it was only her mother that was thinking that way, I had no clue that my sons mother thought that way also.

Well, we got into an argument with my ex-girlfriends mother & my ex asked me if we could go to Arizona for a while to get away. It was about 10:00PM & I asked her how did she expect us to get there because we had no money. She told me to call my grandmother & see if I could borrow $100 dollars. So I called & asked my grandmother for money & she said yes, she could tell something was wrong, because I wouldn’t tell her what I needed the money for. I just told her that it was an emergency.

Where we lived & where my grandmother lived had about a 60 mile gap between the two cities. My ex told me to drop her off at the house & she would pack up while I get the money. So I took her home & I did about ninety miles an hour to get to my grandma’s house. She loaned me the money, it was around 11:00PM when I had got there & I raced back to get my son & my ex. When I got back to the house around midnight, they were all gone.

They were gone. The locks had been changed in those two hours that I was gone & my son was gone. I called my grandmother collect at 12:30AM that night. She didn’t even know who I was. I was sobbing so hard that I could not even talk. It took all that I could to muster up the strength to get my name out to her in a way that she could comprehend. I was mourning. I had lost my one & only son. My grandmother talked me into driving back to her house & stay with her there. That was 13 years ago.

So when Paul says, “that he has great sorrow & continual grief in his heart”, that hits home with me. Because I understand mourning & I have been there. I understand the anguish within the heart. All you can do is fall to the ground & convulsively sob & groan & shake. That is all you can do.

And Paul says here, “I have great sorrow, there is mourning in my heart. Not only is there great sorrow in my heart, but there is also continual grief & unceasing torment afflicting my soul.” Now if I were to read this verse only as Paul is saying that he has continual sorrow & unceasing grief & torment. I would be tempted to come up to Paul & ask him:

“What happened to you? Was it your wife who left you because you were a Christian? Is that what is causing you all of this heart ache? Did your dad die? Are you experiencing financial burdens? Is this sorrow from the persecution that you are receiving from being a believer? What is it Paul?”

Paul says, “No, it’s not any of those things. Those things don’t bother me. This is something that is way worse than all of those combined.” Look at what he says, Romans 9:3 – “3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh.”

What was it that caused Paul to have great sorrow & mourning in his heart? It was the fact that his fellow Hebrews were going to Hell. It drove Paul nuts. The only way that Paul could express the anguish of his soul was through convulsing sobs.

Now there is something that we need to understand. Paul says that his sorrow & grief are for his countrymen. The Jews were not nice to Paul. In fact, the Jews were the cause of the majority of Paul’s problems. By this time in Paul’s life, these guys had whipped him 195 times. He received 195 lashings on his back by his countrymen.

Could you imagine mourning for a group of people who were responsible of tearing your back to shreds by whipping you 195 times? These guys would follow Paul around wherever Paul would go & start riots & mobs. They would attack him. Can you imagine having a heart for someone like that. All these people wanted to do was kill him.

This blows me away. “Paul says that he has continual sorrow & grief for someone who hates him.” He goes on to say in Romans 9:3, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.”

The word “Accursed” means that Paul wished that if it were at all possible, that he could be Damned to hell instead so that these Jews who hated him could come to Christ.

I don’t know about you, but I do know about me. I don’t have this heart for those who love me, which means that I definitely don’t have this heart for my enemies either. My prayer is that God would give us His heart. I pray that God would speak to us & convict us.

We get so caught up in our little lives & we tend to think that our plans & hobbies, our goals & activities are so important. We tend to think that they have to be done & we go through life forgetting that each & every day people die & go to Hell. Does that even move you to have compassion for those who are going to hell? I pray that it does.

This reality does not even enter into our minds. We don’t even think about it. Since the beginning of the church, there have been men & women who have opened up their hearts to God. They have asked God to take His heart & place it into their hearts.

They say, “I want You Lord, to take the way that You feel & cause that to be the way that I feel. Lord, whatever moves you, I want that same thing to move me.” And since the beginning of the church, there have been people who God has been able to use to stain this world with the blood of Jesus Christ through their lives.
Today God is looking for a man or a woman whom He could use to stain this world with the blood of Jesus Christ. God desires to use our lives for His glory. God wants to use us to bring people into salvation. Today, in our age of technology & science, God is looking for a man or a woman. God is looking for ANYONE, it doesn’t matter who it is. ANYBODY.

God is looking for someone who will say, “Here I am use me. Lord, I won’t get caught up in this worlds system. I won’t just pass through life without praying for the lost & without telling people about Jesus Christ. Lord, I won’t go through this life just living out my will because my life is not my life anyways.”

There was a Scottish Reformer by the name of John Knox. And it was said of John Knox that he would be there in bed next to his wife. He would look over to his wife & say, “How can anyone sleep? PEOPLE ARE GOING TO HELL!!!” So he would rise up out of bed & go upstairs & his wife would occasionally sneak up stairs & see him in the middle of the night pleading for the lost.

He would pray, “GOD GIVE ME SCOTLAND LEST I DIE!!! How could anyone sleep when people are going to hell?”

Bob Pierce is another man I would like to mention. Do you know who he is? He is the man who founded World Vision & The Samaritan Purse. Franklin Graham is now the CEO of the Samaritan Purse. Bob Pierce died in 1978.

Billy Graham writes in one of his books about Bob Pierce & he says how he always hated sleeping in the same room as Bob Pierce. The reason he hated it was because Bob Pierce would pray for four hours every single night no matter where he was. It didn’t matter who he was with, he prayed & he prayed out loud.
Can you imagine sleeping in a room with someone who cries out for four hours a night in prayer? Billy Graham goes on to say, “How can you get in the flesh with someone who cries out to God for four hours every night?” Bob Pierce was a man who was transformed by the love of God. He was a man who God was able to use to do great exploits for God. He was a man who allowed God to change his heart.

Vs. 3) “Paul said that I wish that I could be damned to hell…” Paul did not say this lightly he knew what hell was all about & he wished that he could go instead of his countrymen. He says in Philippians 1:21-25, “that he is willing to stay out of heaven so that he could strengthen the church.” So Paul is willing to go to hell for the non-believer & he is willing to stay out of heaven for the believer.

Now in Luke 16:19-31 Jesus tells a true story of what Hades is like.
“19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ 27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’””
As of right now, when a person dies who is not born again, they go to Hades. Hades is a place of torment. One day this place called Hades will be cast into the lake of fire as described in Revelation 20:11-15.

Paul knew all about this. Paul knew that Hades would be thrown into hell one day. When Paul wrote Romans 9:3, he wasn’t just saying it because he was all emotional. “Oh how I wish that I myself would be accursed that my countrymen might be saved.” This was in Paul’s heart, he knew how real Hades was. He knew how real hell was.

It says here in Luke 16:22, that the rich man died & was buried. You need to know that it is not over when you die & are buried, there is more to come. Vs. 23, Notice the word “Torments”. He was in torments, it’s plural. He wasn’t just experiencing one torment, but numerous torments. There were many different kinds of torments & circumstances that were thrust upon him. HE WAS IN TORMENTS!!!

Vs. 24) “24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’”

What does the person in Hell experience? They experience TORMENTS!!! This rich man who mistreated this guy Lazarus was being tormented in this flame & he was begging that he could get just a drop of water on his tongue. He was begging for just a little bit of comfort. He was looking for something that could just temporarily minimize his torment for just a second.

Think about this for a second, If you were dying of thirst, would a drop of water satisfy you? What if you were in flames? No way, but this rich guy was in so much torment, that he begged Abraham to have Lazarus dip his finger in water & cool his flaming tongue.

Do you know that this is a true story? This is a true story that Jesus told us about 2000 years ago. Do you know what that means? That means that for the last two-thousand years, for every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year of every decade of every century of every millennium, this rich man has been crying out these same words.

He has been saying, “I am tormented in this flame!!!” We read this story & we just think that this is a story. BUT IT’S NOT JUST A STORY, IT’S A TRUE STORY!!!

Jesus left heaven & died on a cross for this particular mans sin. And for two-thousand years this man has been crying out the same thing. “PLEASE, IS THERE IS ANYBODY, WHO CAN JUST DIP THEIR FINGER IN SOME WATER & COOL MY TONGUE, FOR I AM TORMENTED IN THIS FLAME!!!”

Look at what it says in Verse 28-31. Look at what he says. “I have five brothers, please tell them so that they won’t come to this place of torment.” If God would open up Hades & give us a glimpse of what is going on there. If God would allow you to hear the cries of the souls that are in Hades, do you know what they would be saying to us?

They would be saying to us, “PLEASE, GO & TELL MY MOTHER, MY BROTHER & SISTERS. PLEASE I BEG YOU TO GO TELL MY FATHER & MY FRIENDS PLEASE, I BEG YOU, LEST THEY COME TO THIS PLACE OF TORMENT!!!” That is exactly what the cries of Hell would be telling us. “PLEASE!!! GO!!! PLEASE!!!”

Is hell real to us? Is Heaven real to us? Is Jesus real to us? Is this church thing that we do, just some social thing that we do? Is this just a club that we joined? Is this a reality? PLEASE, CHECK YOUR HEART!!! Is Jesus the reason we move & live?
Do I really believe that Jesus redeemed me? Do I really believe that unless the Lord would have intervened that I would have gone to this place of torment? Or am I just a Christian because it gives me warm fuzzies? Well Bill, it really makes me feel good!

Turn to Jeremiah. Jeremiah was known as the “Weeping Prophet”. He was always weeping because of the back-slidden state of the nation of Israel. He wept over their sin & he wept because they had strayed from God. And he was weeping because Judgment was coming & it was going to be upon them. He would get up every single morning for 30 – 40 years & preach God’s word to the children of Israel.

He was unceasing in his dedication to the Lord God. He said at one point in His ministry that he would never preach again. I mean, Jeremiah preached for over 40 years & do you know how many people listened to him in those 40 years? ZERO, Not even one!!!

In Jeremiah 20:9, it says, 9 Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not.

No one was getting saved, no one cared & because of his preaching he was getting persecuted for it. He was eventually thrown in prison for preaching God’s Word. But he couldn’t stop because it was burning in his heart like a fire.

But there was something else that caused Jeremiah to preach God’s Word. Turn to Jeremiah 9:1.

“1 Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night For the slain of the daughter of my people!”

Jeremiah loved his people. He loved the ones that were going to hell & he wept over them. He couldn’t stop preaching to them because he knew that if he didn’t share God’s Word that they would end up in Hades like the rich man. Jeremiah wept day & night for the lost.

Do we? Do we even care about people who are going to hell? Jeremiah said that his eyes were a fountain of tears. Turn to Jeremiah 13:17.

“17 But if you will not hear it, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the LORD’s flock has been taken captive.” He would weep in secret.

Jeremiah 14:17. “Therefore you shall say this word to them: ‘Let my eyes flow with tears night and day, and let them not cease; for the virgin daughter of my people has been broken with a mighty stroke, with a very severe blow.”

He was a man who wept because of the judgment that was going to come upon them.

Going back to Romans 9, Paul the Apostle, the man we admire & the man who’s example we seek to copy. Paul was a man who could not be stopped. He was stoned to death & dragged out of the city. God raised him back from the dead. And as soon as he was raised from the dead, Paul goes back into the same city that had just killed him & preached the gospel again. He would be beaten & go from city to city preaching the gospel. Stuart just taught that last week from Acts 13-14.

He was a man that could not be stopped even though he was whipped 195 times. He was a man who was taken captive three different times & beaten with bamboo sticks. He would not stop preaching the gospel.
When Paul was in Philippi, he cast a demon out of a young girl & was whipped & thrown into prison for it. He would not stop preaching the Gospel.

And we look at that & we say, “Hey, I want to be that devoted to the Lord! I want that fire burning inside of me! I want that passion & zeal. I want that knowledge.” But there is something that we miss. We miss the fact that Paul & Jeremiah wept & mourned for the lost. We miss the fact that Paul wished that he could go to Hades instead of his countrymen.

You know, if we were in Hades, we would be crying out for people to go & tell our family & friends about Jesus. I can promise you that. We want to partake of the miracles that Paul partook of. We want the warm feelings. But we miss out on the fact that Paul had the heart of God beating in his own heart. Paul knew the Lord & knew the Lord’s heart.

Not only that, but the very heart of God was beating through Paul. God’s heart consumed Paul so much that Paul wished that he could go to hell instead of his countrymen.”

When God’s heart is beating in your soul, you cannot help but walk around & look at all the people who are going to hell & start to weep. You will start mourning for them.

Turn to Romans 15:18-20. What I want to focus on here is the fact that Paul preached the gospel FULLY from Jerusalem to Illyricum. If you look at your maps in the back of the bible. Illyricum is 1400 miles from Jerusalem.

Now when we follow Paul’s missionary journeys in the book of Acts, we never read of when he goes to Illyricum. But here in Romans 15 he says that he has fully preached the gospel. He says that he has gone as far as he can. He says, “I have preached from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum, 1400 miles, sharing the gospel. I have planted churches & discipled people.” To travel 1400 miles in that day was not easy. Do you know what he went through in order to preach the gospel?

Turn to 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. “23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”

He went through it. He went through all of this in order to preach the gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum. And we don’t even know when Paul went to Illyricum, but he did.

And even in Romans 15:23-24, Paul says that he was going to go to Spain also. You see, Paul was a man who was haunted by the fact that people are going to hell. Paul was going to go as far as he could. He would not stop for any reason. He knew that hell was a real place. Paul would not & could not be stopped.

As a matter of fact, the only way that they could actually stop him was to cut his head off. They had stoned him, beat him, whipped him, thrown him in prison, & nothing stopped him. So they cut his head off.

Paul fully preached the gospel. Paul made it his goal & aim to PREACH THE GOSPEL. Paul had a vision & a goal. It was to go to those who had never heard the gospel.
In Romans 1:14–17. “14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Paul had one ambition, one aim & one goal. Can I ask you, WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?

Are you focused in on what God is focused in on? Paul was not ashamed of the gospel, are we? What is it going to take to get us to go & preach the gospel? What will it take for us to quit playing games with the Lord & start to get serious about our walks with Him? What will stop us from continuing in sin & JUSTIFYING our sinful behavior?

“Well, it was only one cigarette. I only had a wine cooler, & that is only 5% alcohol. Well, this was just a small little white lie.” How long will we play games? When will we get serious about the Lord. You know, every 1.5 seconds a person enters into eternity. SOMEONE DIES EVERY 1.5 SECONDS!!! Will we share the gospel with them?


Monday, January 07, 2008

Journal 1/7/08

It has been a while since I have blogged, I don’t really have much to say these days. God is good and that is the most important thing to remember when things get tough. He will get you through to the other side and our hope is in our future with him in eternity, not in this present age. So please be encouraged as you journey through this world as a pilgrim.