Monday, April 26, 2021

Ed & Jesus Have Special Arrangements

 Ed & Jesus Have Special Arrangements

     In a far away land, long ago missionaries attempted to give new hope to the natives by teaching them how to drastically improve their health.  Calling the elders of the tribe to the mission clinic they showed them microscope slides revealing filthy infected bacteria were present in the town water supply.  Late that night the Clinic lab was broken into and the microscopes were destroyed.

     What would Heaven’s report be about how God’s eternal microscope...the Bible is treated?  Not in a far away land. Not long ago.  But here.  Today.   Why do I ask?  When my Cardiologist did an angiogram and said, “Larry, I’m referring you to a special heart-valve clinic or you’ll be gone in less than six months,” he was serious.  Deadly serious.

     In the weeks full of tests, consultations, considerations, and weakening health I became more occupied with eternity.  Bible passages discussing Heaven … and Hell.  Living a good life and a bad, faith heroes and backsliders became my focus.  Some days my nerves seemed to shake at weird times.  I listened to Gospel music and felt invigorated.  Then I’d tear up at the tiniest little development.

     I’d notice on social media the passing of former friends always reading their “graduation” congratulations acclaimed  by well-meaning friends.  Then it hit me.  Who am I to conjecture anyone’s eternal destiny?  Who is anybody to do so?  Don’t take these wonderings wrongly.  The Scriptures clearly teach the Sovereign of the Universe and time and all Eternity doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell.  However He has established a Judgement bar and a plan of salvation.  Yes, He is the Graduator.  I am not. 

     As my hour glass relinquished sand drops I sensed the doctor was exactly correct about my morbidity.  I began to thank him for his words.  They were a warning.  Just as Jesus’ brother had written: “And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year.  We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.”  You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow.  You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.  Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.” (James 4:13-15, MSG)  This passage nudges me to always end all “tomorrow plans” with two words: Lord Willing.

     Having a common name like “Jones” must cause some difficulties at times, especially when you also have a popular first name.  In one street there were two Jones families where the husband was named “Bill.”  The Minister Bill Jones had just passed away.  The businessman Bill Jones, however, went on a business trip to India.  His plane was diverted to a different airport.  He sent a telegram to his wife, but the mail person delivered it to the wrong Mrs. Jones.  It read: “Arrived safely, but not where I thought I was going.  Terribly hot here."
     Sometimes a joke about Hell strikes a funny bone or two, but Hell as described by Jesus is the worst of anything imaginable.  Jesus doesn’t only reference hell, he describes it in great detail.  He says it is a place of eternal torment (Luke 16:23), of unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43), where the worm does not die (Mark 9:48), where people will gnash their teeth in anguish and regret (Matt. 13:42), and from which there is no return, even to warn loved ones (Luke 16:19–31).  He calls hell a place of “outer darkness” (Matt. 25:30), comparing it to “Gehenna” (Matt. 10:28), which was a trash dump outside the walls of Jerusalem where rubbish was burned and maggots abounded.  Jesus talks about hell more than he talks about heaven, and describes it more vividly.  There’s no denying that Jesus knew, believed, and warned about the absolute reality of hell.” (L.Schmucker)

     The Apostle Paul, who probably was the best example ever of making a flip flop of his whole belief system, gave a powerful homiletic dictum to a young preacher.

     “I can’t impress this on you too strongly.  God is looking over your shoulder.  Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead.  He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch.  Challenge, warn, and urge your people.  Don’t ever quit.  Just keep it simple."

     You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy.  They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.  But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5, MSG)

     God’s Holy Spirit Inspired Bible declares:

     “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:14-15, NIV)

The Lord’s Special Plan For Just Ed

     Ed was superb with people.  Caring.  Sensitive.  Honest.  He also had a severe lung disease which caused frequent breaks gasping for air.  I grew to admire him for how long he’d tough it out before each “catch my breath moment.”

     The more I knew him, the more I loved him.  My soul ached to present the Lord to him.  But he kept turning down offers to share a meal during which the Gospel would be the dessert.  But then it happened.  Ed had a severe attack and was hospitalized.  He was told he could not work anymore and that he’d be smart to move to a dry climate...for the little bit of time he had left.

     Arizona?  No, Ed, please tell me you’re not moving to Arizona.  But he already had made the arrangements and had paid for his apartment a year in advance.  So when I told my wife I wanted us to make a trip to Arizona it took a little explaining.

     A few months later vacation arrived and we drove to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon and meet with Ed.  The trip was just over 1,200 miles one way.  Ed met us at the restaurant and looked better than before.  He said the climate really had made a difference.  The meal was scrumptious.  Then they served dessert.  I prayed for wisdom and, looking Ed right in the eyes, began sharing the Lord Jesus Christ with him.  He gasped for a fresh lung refill and half raised one hand and said, “No need to go there.  He and I have a special arrangement.”

     I knew Ed wasn’t a Christian as I’d heard him talking with other employees and customers back at the Shop.  I said, “Ed the Lord doesn’t grade on the curve nor does He make “special arrangements” with anyone.  Each and every person will find the Lord is fair and just to the inth degree.  There will not be any who sneak in, or squeak by.

     But Ed’s face pallor turned ashen and he said, “Larry, like I said He and I have special arrangements.”  Then he slid his chair back and courteously said, “Thanks so much for coming to see me.  I’m going to head back to the apartment now.  You and your wife enjoy your vacation now... and be safe.”

Isn’t this what King David imagined also?

     He could adulterate with Bathsheba and murder her husband and get away with it and remain judgemental of others.  After all "I’m the King and I can do whatever I want, take whatever delights my eyes and God will allow it.  No sweat.  After all, God had me anointed King.  Even more, God has often shown me He and I have a special relationship."  O’ foolish man, God was sending Samuel with a message.

     “But God was not at all pleased with what David had done, and sent Nathan to David.  Nathan said to him, “There were two men in the same city—one rich, the other poor.  The rich man had huge flocks of sheep, herds of cattle.  The poor man had nothing but one little female lamb, which he had bought and raised.  It grew up with him and his children as a member of the family.  It ate off his plate and drank from his cup and slept on his bed.  It was like a daughter to him.

     4 “One day a traveler dropped in on the rich man. He was too stingy to take an animal from his own herds or flocks to make a meal for his visitor, so he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared a meal to set before his guest.”

     5-6 David exploded in anger.  “As surely as God lives,” he said to Nathan, “the man who did this ought to be lynched!  He must repay for the lamb four times over for his crime and his stinginess!”

     7-12 “You’re the man!” said Nathan.  “And here’s what God, the God of Israel, has to say to you: I made you king over Israel.  I freed you from the fist of Saul.  I gave you your master’s daughter and other wives to have and to hold.  I gave you both Israel and Judah.  And if that hadn’t been enough, I’d have gladly thrown in much more.  So why have you treated the word of God with brazen contempt, doing this great evil?  You murdered Uriah the Hittite, then took his wife as your wife.  Worse, you killed him with an Ammonite sword!  And now, because you treated God with such contempt and took Uriah the Hittite’s wife as your wife, killing and murder will continually plague your family.  This is God speaking, remember!  I’ll make trouble for you out of your own family.  I’ll take your wives from right out in front of you.  I’ll give them to some neighbor, and he’ll go to bed with them openly.  You did your deed in secret; I’m doing mine with the whole country watching!”  (2 Samuel 12:1-12, MSG)

     Too many people fool-heartedly hazard like Ed and King David:  “See I told you so...I knew God wouldn’t consider my little sin a big deal.  After all, He and I have always had a special relationship.”  That’s a hazard indeed!

Jerry’s Encyclopedias

     When he was exposed for his immorality he kind of chuckled and said, “Nobody is perfect.  I don’t see who got hurt that badly.  No big deal.”

     I led him into my library and said, “Jerry...there are about 20 Encyclopedias on this shelf.  Go ahead and remove the bookend.  Now push against the first book.”

     “If I do that they’ll all fall down just like a row of dominoes.”

     “Go ahead let's see what happens.”

     He pushed and as it leaned the whole row tipped sideways and a couple books slipped off onto the floor.

     “Now stand that  “A” Encyclopedia up like it was.  He did.  “Now Jerry what have you accomplished?”

     “I’ve got the same book standing up.  So I don’t get what you’re trying to show me.”

     “Think a bit deeper and notice what has changed.  You’ve got one book back up but what about the other 19?  This is the desperately sad thing about sin.  The guilty one might repent and receive forgiveness but what about the others who fell because of your sinful behavior?  How do we get them back up?”

     I’m sorry to report that Jerry’s immorality flamed up again.  Then I observed in my Counseling practice a considerable number of Christians came to learn how to overcome addiction.  As my mind pondered helping them I further became aware that immorality was ubiquitous in America and throughout much of the world.

     Worse though was that the Sacred Scriptures put a resounding kibosh on addictive behavior.  Whether it’s gambling, drugs, alcohol, sexual sin, on and on.  Recently I heard the former Cochise County, Arizona Prosecutor plead for Addicts to come clean because: “Methamphetamine is everyone’s mistress but the Devil’s wife.”  Do we, as Christians, want to sell our soul to the Devil because we refuse to use the Holy Spirit’s awesome gift of Self Control?  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatian5:22, NASB) Consider some serious warnings from throughout the Bible.

     “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-30, NIV)  Jesus spoke this ominous message in the Sermon on the Mount.

     “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-22, NIV)

     “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (Revelation 22:15, NIV) 
This is in the last chapter in the Bible.

     It is apparent that the Holy Judge on the Great Judgement Day will not accept feeble excuses, lying denials or blaming others.  It is and will be serious business.

     Perhaps you’d respond as one adulterer did, “Oh that’s just your old fashioned opinion.”

     Trying to warn each and everyone is a Bible teacher’s requirement to faithfully discharge his duty to the Lord.  So let’s note an example of how serious this sexual sin behavior is to the Sovereign Lord who created us.

     A minister in the Pacific Northwest preached against marital immorality.  A couple came forward in repentance.  He was startled to see two others come to confess adultery.  But wait.  There were more.  The Praise leader tearfully admitted he was fighting addiction to pornography.

     The leadership held a special meeting midweek because of how many lives had been impacted on Sunday.  An Elder said, “I can’t believe it.  Who would have imagined such a thing in our church?”  The Minister left the meeting feeling really down.  Had he not been preaching faithfully enough?  Then the Holy Spirit spoke to his soul.

     Next Sunday he told his congregation, “The Lord has laid a heavy matter in my heart this week.  He wants me to preach against immorality again today as there are more of you who need to repent of addictive behavior.  And he gave me the text.

     “Flee sexual immorality. Every other sin that a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought for a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20, NASB)

     The Holy Spirit’s heavy message to the Minister was correct.  Three people confessed they were part of a wife swapping coterie and pledged they’d repent and never participate again.

     The Minister went home and wept ~ ~ so hard ~ ~ he nearly passed out.

Susan Branch writes,

     “Her little girl was late arriving home from school so the Mother began to scold her, but stopped and asked, “Why are you so late?”

     “I had to help another girl. She was in trouble,” replied the daughter.

     “What did you do to help her?”

     “Oh, I sat down and helped her cry.”
     The late Jessie Dixon, having read Paul’s dictum, sang a song that came from the Apostle Paul’s 180 degree turn around, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him.”  (Philippians 3:7-10, NIV)

     If each of us could make this song our Christian mantra the world would be enriched.  Then warning them about Hell could save many, many tears.  

“I Lost It All To Find Everything” 
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