An Invitation From God

Revelation 4:1-2

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”  Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.

  • We were all born in sin.  Because we are the offspring of Adam and Eve, we have sinned.

Romans 3:23 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

  • We are all, unless we have received Christ, potential residents of hell.  There are those who say there is no hell.  There are those who say the only hell is here on earth.  There are those who say that hell is the grave.  When you are dead, you cease to exist.  When you are dead, you are dead.  There are those who say there is no proof of a hell.  They say it is just the religious fanatics that have concocted the idea of hell to somehow control people with their own brand of right and wrong.

But wait!  There is proof of hell.  There is one who died, went to hell and preached, and then returned to earth and testified about it.  I am willing to take His word for it.  How about you?

1 Peter 3:18-19 – For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,  by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison.

  • Hell and heaven are not entrees, like in a cafeteria.  You cannot just go, take a look and decide whether you want to stay or go to the other place.  Hell is a place – a real place.

It is logical, even you and I can figure it out for ourselves.  God is a God of fairness.  It just makes sense.  Would he not prepare a place for those who do not wish to be with Him in heaven.  Hell is there for those who willfully and knowingly wish not to live with God.  God, has prepared this alternative for all those who reject Him.

Most of us live in homes with many different rooms.  Two to three bedrooms, a kitchen, maybe even a family room or den.  If you need all the conveniences of your nice home, you will not like it in hell.  There will be no comforts and room like that.

Consider the heat.  The Bible says it is a place of heat and torment.  That torment will never let up, never diminish.  If you do not tolerate heat too well, do not plan on going to hell.

Even if you could deal with the heat and torment, think of being in a place where God has removed His love?  God’s love is the explanation for our existence.  God’s love is the explanation for our welfare.  It is the love and grace of God that sustains us.  To be shut off for one hour, one day from the love and grace of God – the very thought is intolerable.

  • There are souls in hell. 

Luke 16:19-31 – There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.  But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.  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.  And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  “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.’  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.  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.’  “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house,  for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’  Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’  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.’”

The rich man could remember when he was here on earth.  He could feel the flames.  He was so alive that he was praying in hell.  Prayers prayed in hell are prayers prayed too late.  Prayers prayed in hell are just like the prayers that are prayed here on earth when we know we have sin in our life, but do not care to change.

You may be in comfort and convenience here on earth.  Your job or your retirement may be secure.  Your financial situation may be good.  But if death should strike you down, would you lift your eyes in hell?

You may say, “I’m ok.  I’m a pretty good person.”  Your own goodness is not what keeps you out of hell.  There is only one thing that keeps you out of hell and that is accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and lord.

Mark 16:16 – He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

When you pray, it is not ceremony, not just repeating pious words.  It is praying heartfelt, sincere words to a loving God who is standing with open arms and ready to forgive.  It is meaning what you say, not just today, but tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.  It is remaining faithful to the words of your prayer.

John 3:16-18 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  He who believe in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

If you go to hell, you are in the home of the fallen angels.  Your neighbors will be demons.  Sinners will be your companions.  Think of Hitler, Stalin and all the evil men in the past.  No such thing as comfort there.  Nothing but malice, envy, strife, violence, weeping and grinding of teeth.  We sing songs bout heaven, but there will be no singing in hell.  There will be nothing to rejoice about.  No getting right with God in hell.  It will be too late. 

  • Jesus will judge the nations.

Matthew 25:31-46 – When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’  “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’  “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’  “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

  • Jesus invites you

John 6:37 – All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

  • Have you made your reservation?
  • Have you sent your RSVP note in?
  • Have you told Him, “Yes, I want to be with You – in heaven?

Back From the Dead

Romans 6:8-11 (New Living Translation)

And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:8-11 (Amplified Bible)

Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God [living in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus.

This testimony is not my testimony of how a life is changed.  It is rather a statement of fact of what God will do in a life, when that person surrenders to Him.  I want to focus on the goodness and the love of Jesus Christ my Lord and Master and for Him to receive all the glory. 

Looking back on my life from the post salvation view, I believe that I was called by God to the ministry at about the age of thirteen.  I was the sixth of seven children born in 1940 to poor parents who were still struggling from the affects of the Depression.  They had purchased a three room house in Bethalto Illinois in 1936 and attended the church just three or four blocks away.  We all lived in that three room house, minus two children that had died in infancy, along with a grandmother.  Togetherness…yes. 

I attended that church every time the doors were opened but even though I had experienced a closeness or call of God at thirteen I never was baptized, nor did I ever take communion.  No one ever questioned this fact.  Today I ask myself, why did they not question.  The deacons that passed out the Communion, the Pastor, the Sunday School teachers I had had, even my own parents never questioned this.

When I was eighteen, having finished high school, and having no job, I went into the Air Force and eventually spent twenty years, retiring in 1979.  Of course, as is often the case, I drifted away from Church and what relationship I had with God. 

I went deep into sin.  Drinking, carousing, smoking, cursing, dirty stories, porn, drugs, and all the things that sin does over time.  I was calloused to the things of God, even though my position in the service was working in the Chaplain’s office.   Again, no chaplain or supervisor ever questioned my behavior.  I was foul in my language and what I lacked in size I did very well at trying to make up for with my mouth.  My biggest problem was the alcohol.  One drink was never enough.  I believe now the reason I had this insatiable addiction to booze was due to lack of self control and insecurity.     At eighteen I weighed just 110 pounds and because of my insecurity, I was scared to death to say anything to anyone.  I was a different person when I was drinking.  I couldn’t remember my insecurity when I was drunk – so I drank.

On more than one occasion after a night out on the town drinking, I would come home in a taxi or someone would drive me home.  Several times I had to go looking for my car the next day.  Many times I just drove drunk not remembering a thing the next day.  God was merciful for He spared my life on many occasions when I was in that condition.  I remember one occasion as I was driving home in the middle of the night, drunk as usual, I heard an inward voice say to me, “Your mother’s praying for you.”

While I was stationed in Taiwan in 1973-74 my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I went back to see her on emergency leave because family did not believe she was going to live.

Up to this point I was without question, a sinner, lost, undone, chained, condemned, bound for hell and its torment, and without hope, bound for eternal separation from God’s love.  I was doomed, eternally lost.

Romans 5:8 (New King James Version)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

On my way back to Illinois on emergency leave, I had a layover in Seattle-Tacoma Washington International Airport.  All I could think about was my mom and losing her.  I was thirty four at the time.  It was past the hour of the bars being open, so I was alone with my thoughts, or so I thought.

At some point there in the middle of the terminal, while I was alone with my thoughts, there appeared what I would describe as a street sign. One part of the sign where the name of the street would normally appear said heaven and was pointed upwards.  The other part of the sign was pointed downward and it said hell.  As if this wasn’t enough of a shocker, I heard a voice inwardly that said, “And which way are you headed?”

Of course I knew enough about the bible and church that I knew where I was headed.  In my heart I answered and then I surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus Christ.   Hallelujah.

I got to St Louis International Airport and my brother picked me up.  I went to my sister’s house where my mother was staying.  She was taking chemo and radiation treatments and could not stay by herself.  I said nothing about the airport encounter to anyone. 

Several days later my mother was feeling a little better and she wanted to go home to her house and her own bed.  She told my sister that Paul could go with her and if she had any problem she was only about six blocks away.  That night as she slept in her own bed and I lay on the sofa I could not sleep.  In the wee hours of the morning I could sense an awesome presence of the Lord.   I believe His presence was in the whole house.  My mother was one of those great prayer warriors we often hear about.  That was probably the main reason she wanted to go to her own house, to have His presence.  I slipped off the sofa and sat on the floor near the door of her bedroom.  After a few minutes, she said, “Paul, is that you?”  She wanted to know if anything was wrong.  That is when I told her about what happened at the airport.  Her statement when I finished telling her of my encounter was “I knew something was different about you.”   My mother went into remission and lived for another five years when the cancer returned.

I went back to Taiwan where I was stationed.  The first thing I did when I got back was look up a fellow serviceman I  knew attended church.  He told me where we went and that Sunday I headed to the church.  

Of course, this foul mouthed, drinking serviceman was no longer foul mouthed and drinking every night of the week.  It did not go unnoticed and I began telling what God had done in my life.  The little church suddenly began to have other individuals and families that did not attend church show up.  A revival was truly in progress. 

The four or five busses going to the base some thirty miles away suddenly became filled with new Christians.  No more cursing, no more dirty stories were heard.  Instead, bibles were being read, questions about scriptures were being discussed.   One weekday we took a bunch of musical instruments up to the base from the church and did a gospel music concert during the lunch hour at the dining hall. 

Fast forward…now out of service…now a graduate of Bible School…now a definite call to the ministry.   In 1984 God gave me a Christian wife to work with me in my ministry.   Victory Tabernacle, Alpha Chapel, Bible Fellowship Church,  House of Prayer, Gospel Lighthouse, New Life Tabernacle, all churches where we served and Missionary to Iloilo Philippines along with Jessica our youngest daughter.  She is also a minister today.

Today I am retired – but you can never completely retire from God’s call.  My wife and remain active in our local church and try to share God’s love whenever and wherever we meet someone in need.

I am so thankful for a mother who never gave up but kept praying for me.  I am so thankful for the mercy and love of God that kept me and brought me back to Him.

Never give up praying for your family.  

  • Matthew 19:26

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”