Luke chapter 16 contains the famous Parable of Lazarus and the rich man (verse 19-31) so often quoted by so many through these two thousand years since they were written. It pains us to read of the rich man’s selfish indifference to one in such need as Lazarus. Those of us who still have the good sense to “just believe the Bible” know that they both died [verse 22]. We know they were both “released” from this body of dust [Genesis 3:19]. It is put beautifully in Ecclesiastes 12:6 where the soul is compared to a silver cord “loosed” from the body or like a golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern – once this body of dust finally caves in and the soul is set free from it the soul moves on to the “next” place. We bury the dust…not the person [Luke 16:22 the beggar died…the rich man also died, and was buried]. Next notice that verse 23 tells us that the rich man was immediately in the hell he didn’t believe in. The hell he thought was just a scary story made up by ignorant people. That’s what Napoleon Bonaparte thought before he went to it. Will you believe the word of God or the words of a man? Next we see the rich man tortured in hell and pleading for Lazarus to be sent to warn his 5 brothers [Verse 28] whom he knows will join him there soon. Lazarus however was in comfort after all these years of suffering. Dwight L. Moody told of a group of young boys who were asked in Sunday School “which of the two they’d choose to be, the rich man or Lazarus? One boy answered – “I’d like to be the rich man while I live and Lazarus when I die”. Kids are funny. But the problem is – that cannot be. Now the rich man had five godless brothers whom he knew didn’t believe the Bible any more than he had. So, he begged for someone to be sent to warn them. In fact, he even asked if Lazarus could be sent from the dead to warn them for surely a dead man might convince them of the truth of bible and the horrors of hell. What an answer he is given! They have the Bible; they have Moses to tell them the truth and that’s plenty good enough”. But still the rich man pleads saying “no they need something more than that”! The answer is as loud as a thunderclap! “No, if the word of God isn’t enough to convince them, nothing would convince them, even if a man rose from the dead”! You see, a man has already risen from the dead and He pleads that we should hear him yet still…not even a resurrected Jesus can convince some of the truth. God has given the world Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Solomon, David and even His own Son to testify to the truth of the words of God and still it is not enough! Why? You already know the answer. Because some people, most in fact, just won’t be convinced or converted to the truth. They love their sin. It has their heart and they will not allow anything to change it. This Sunday could be your Sunday to choose to be Lazarus! Calvary Baptist Church in Palestine hopes to see you soon! Across from Pizza Hut on the Loop.
Isaiah 6:1 has a phrase I want to point out – it says “In the year that’ King Uzziah died I saw…” If you will, allow me to call your attention to the words ‘in the year that…’ as we take up the thought “What in the world will be brought into my life in this coming year?” For Adam and Eve just one year brought great failure, great success, a terrible crime, a horrible murder, a son’s funeral, another son’s departure in shame and a tearful goodbye. For Noah there was a year that he saw everyone on the planet die except for his family. Then too he saw the loving remembrance of God who was with him in his life.
A year came into Daniel’s life that brought new friends, cruel and subtle enemies, betrayal, arrest and a lion’s den. For David there was a year that brought a giant, a mad king, a sling and a great victory, a terrible betrayal, a new devoted friend and a throne. There was a year that brought funerals and victories. For Job there was a year of such loss and heart ache that it’s equal is unknown among men. However, that year brought God’s tender hand into Job’s life like never before. All throughout the Bible we read of how drastically lives were changed in a moment, in a day, in a month and in a year.
In Mark chapter 5 we read about the devil possessed man of Gadara. He had been possessed for God knows how long…and then one day the King of kings and Lord of lords (my Lamb and Redeemer) stepped out of a boat and changed that devil possessed man’s life forever! I see him in my mind, years later, saying to a group of men “that was the year my life changed completely…” Can you hear him telling the story? Can you see the tears in his eyes as he shares how Christ Jesus turned his darkness to day and returned hope to his family? I hear him saying “that was the year that brought in a day where I went from naked and cursing to dressed, in church and sitting at Jesus’ feet”.
What a year that was for the woman caught in adultery [John 8:1-11]. I can see her in my mind as she tells a group of young women about the years she spent in the defilement & filthiness of adultery; of how it blackened her heart, withered her soul and robbed her of joy until the fateful day she was caught at it and dragged out to a crowd to be stoned. I see her tears of wonder and joy as she reaches the part of the story where the Son of God said “neither do I condemn thee…go and sin no more”.
Oh friend! What will this year bring in your life? In years to come will you be saying to your loved ones “that was the year that God turned my life around…”? Will it be the year you remember as THE YEAR you rededicated your life to Him? Will 2019 be the year you’ll be telling loved ones about? Or will this be just another wasted year? I remind you before it happens that there will be funerals, tears, heartaches and there will be laughter, sweet memories and mile markers of life. Make them count!
The book of Jonah has always been one of my favorite Old Testament books. It is full of ‘life lessons’ from start to finish. Chapter 1:2 tells us that God told Jonah “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me” and verse 3 sais “But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD”. It would help you tremendously to read the whole book of Jonah, it is only a few chapters. In our text though, Jonah has been shown the will of the Lord. If that wasn’t enough, God told him plainly what He wanted Jonah to do. No doubt many reading this column are thinking “I sure wish God would show me His will for my life” or perhaps “I sure wish God would tell me plainly what He wants me to do”. Well there is good news, HE HAS! If you look closely at the Bible God has plainly told us all exactly what He wants from us and what His will is for us. Let me illustrate: We’ve all had someone hold a flashlight for us while we search for something and half the time it seemed like they were pointing that light at everywhere but where we needed it pointed. In much the same way God’s will is like a beam from a flashlight. He points it where you are supposed to look! Until you look where He’s pointing his words and His will you won’t see what his will is for you. So God told Jonah what to do but Jonah flatly refused to do what God wanted. He decided he absolutely wasn’t going to go where God directed him. So in verse 3 we read that Jonah went looking for a ship to take him anywhere but Nineveh. We pastors see this all the time. When someone is looking for a ship to escape God’s will, you can bet they’ll find one. It doesn’t matter which ship, any old clunker boat will do. Many rebels like Jonah have we pastors seen. Those who refuse to submit their will to God. Those who refuse to submit their heart to God. Those who refuse to surrender the throne of their life to God. Mark this down in your bible. If someone is looking for a ship to get them out of God’s will, they’ll find one. The S.S. DO-AS-I-PLEASE is just waiting for them to pay the fare. It is heartbreaking to see the high price some people have paid for a trip out of God’s will. I’ve seen many pay a fare for a trip they regretted with all their heart.
Some years ago I was preaching in a jail in Tennessee to a handful of men, most of whom had been in tears throughout the sermon and afterwards one asked to speak with me privately. He told me how he’d ruined his life with booze & drugs and of how he had really ‘messed up this time’. I told him about the Lord Jesus Christ [the Life-Changing miracle worker] and prayed with him. A few days later this same man’s long-term ‘fiancé’ called me and asked if she could meet with me regarding the sermon her fiancé had mentioned from the jail service I’d held. Later, when I met with her, she told me of the charges she too was facing and wanted to know if there was yet hope. She described having been raised by loving parents but said she couldn’t stand their rules. They were ‘strict and uncompromising’. Her father was demanding and her mother unreasonable she said. She hadn’t spoken to them in over two years. She told me of how she’d left home under wrong circumstances, gotten into drugs which had cost her a good marriage and two teen children (whom her parents were raising). She cried and told me she hadn’t seen her kids and had no relationship with them. She’d had a string of run-ins with the police and multiple failed relationships. At the moment she had a whole new set of charges pending ahead of her. She was being abused, a constant victim of domestic violence, etc. I asked her if she couldn’t simply call her parents whom I was sure would be thrilled to help (John 15:11-24). Her answer? NO! My father demands I dress a certain way, behave a certain way, talk a certain way and dictates the places I can go and who I can socialize with and be friends with. Nearly shouting by this point she said, I REFUSE TO BE TOLD WHAT I CAN AND CANNOT DO! Gently I asked her “even if that refusal has ruined your relationship with your parents [whose demands and standards were there for her protection], and has cost you a marriage? Even if that refusal has robbed you of your children and has destroyed your relationship with them? As she went on describing her outrage at all they who had tried to keep her from the life she’d chosen I felt a great pity for her. Sunken eyed, hollow cheeks and unkempt hair – It made me angry again at the old devil who had turned her against her family and even her own children. Even faced with the terrible consequences of her rebellion and pride she still couldn’t see what it has done to her. As I sat there listening to her I imagined her shackled like Charles Dickens fictional character Jacob Marley with great heavy chains of rebellion forged link by link and lock by lock. A great ponderous iron ball dragging along behind her. That’s where many people are in these last days! They’ve not realized that some rules are good and some standards are loving. This is Pastor Malcolm Harrison inviting you to bring a Bible and join us at Calvary Baptist Church in Palestine. We have services at normal church times as well as Sunday school for all ages.