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Showing posts from June, 2009

Do People Die and Go to Heaven Forever? Not Exactly.

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There is nothing like a conservative Christian who takes the Bible literally to use an issue of semantics to construct a catchy, cheap title just so you will read his post. Yet you are here. I win. People talk about dying now and living in heaven “as it is now” forever. Such a thought or statement isn’t exactly right. It is true that the most prominent use of the word heaven is to describe the place in which the full presence of God is manifested. In that sense, saying, “When saved people die they spend eternity in heaven” is true and will always be true. Yet, we should acknowledge that heaven as it exists right now at 11:00 a.m. on June 30, 2009 is not the heaven that will be for all eternity. After all chaos and judgment is complete, after the resurrection, after the followers of Christ have received body 2.0, John says in Revelation 21:1-4, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I

Will You Be Recognizable After the Resurrection?

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This week we will be looking at issues surrounding the final state. What will life be like in the end, permanently, eternally? When discussing this topic there are two questions that must be answered: 1) What will be the final state of the body? 2) What will be the final place of existence? Let’s first talk about the body. For those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit the Bible gives a wonderful promise that one day they will receive a new glorified body (Romans 8:18-25). Even if a person dies and undergoes decay for many years, to the point that all is left is a pile of dust, they will not be exempt from resurrection and glorification. Even if a body is totally destroyed it can be and will be resurrected. At this point the question usually becomes, what will those bodies be like and will we be recognizable? The popular answer to this question is that we will have bodies much like we did in the prime of our life, between the ages of 25 and 30. Even yesterday at church someone said th

The Intermediate State (Sermon Audio: Sunday A.M.)

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There is a problem with death. The body is very much here, but “you” are very much gone. Where do people go after they die? What is life like after death? This sermon explores the idea of the intermediate state. What will life be like after death until the resurrection? The answers may surprise you. Listen to audio

Living on the Edge of Hell

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I have been discussing popular ideas concerning the intermediate state. Where do people go between death and resurrection? I have posted on the ideas of purgatory and soul sleep. One more popular scenario remains. Between death and resurrection, people dwell on the edge of Hell. This is the scenario known as Abraham’s Bosom. I should also qualify that it does not teach that people currently go to the edge of Hell in the intermediate state, but they used to do so. If you read the story from Luke 16 of the rich man and Lazarus you see that a poor man named Lazarus left the agony of poverty in the world of the living only to experience the blessings of paradise postmortem. On the other hand, a rich man left the comforts of his own riches on earth only to experience the excruciating torments of Hades postmortem. The setting of the story is in a location in which those in the place of blessing can converse with those in the place of torments. Though they cannot pass from place to place du

Soul Sleep

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I am already late for the next session of teaching so I will make this short (though it did not turn out to be so). In fact, I have chosen to give you a brief synopsis of what Wayne Grudem shares in rebuttal to the idea of soul sleep on pages 819-821 of his Systematic Theology (which you should purchase, if for no other reason than the fact that we all need at least one huge book in our home that raises the perceptions of our intelligence, and we all need that!). Soul sleep is the idea that when people die their soul (the “you”) enters into some sort of ethereal unconscious or barely conscious existence as it awaits resurrection. Support for this idea comes from the many references to the dead as those who sleep (Mt. 9:24, John 11:11, I Cor. 15:6, 1 Thess. 4:13) as well as the passages of Scripture that seem to teach the dead do not have a conscious existence (Psalm 6:5, 115:17, Eccl 9:10). The problem with this interpretation of these passages and its resultant idea of soul sleep

Purgatory

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The Roman Catholic church teaches that upon death the souls of believers enter a place called purgatory. According to www.catholic.com, “The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a "purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven," which is experienced by those "who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified" (CCC 1030). It notes that "this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned" (CCC 1031).” The purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27) and, while we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.” As an outsider looking in it seems that the Catholic church supports their doctrine from two primary sources. The first is an Apoc

Unbodily Conscious

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Death presents an immediate problem, the body is here but “you” are gone. There is no denying that in death the body remains very much on the earth. We have abundant empirical evidence this is true. If you do not believe me one afternoon touring your local funeral home or cemetery should do the trick. Yet while the body is very much here, where does the rest of “you” go? When I say the rest of “you”, I mean the conscious you, the “you, you.” Those that hold to strictly materialist positions would say that the body in the casket is “you.” Because you are simply a material body death reduces you to little more than decomposing matter. Death means you no longer exist, you are no longer conscious. The Bible presents a much different picture of man and death. The Bible teaches that man is more than just a body. In creation he became something far different from simply a creature. Not only does the fact that God breathed into him the breath of life suggest this, but also the impl

The Meaning of Death (Sermon Audio: Sunday A.M.)

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No one survives life. Everyone has an appointment with death. What does the Bible say about death? The language the Bible chooses to describe the death of the saved is inspiring, hopeful, and encouraging. The language the Bible chooses to describe the death of the lost is grim, hopeless, and sobering. Listen to audio

Death Dos

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In one of its most awful passages the Bible refers three times to a second death (Rev. 20:6, 14; 21:8). As horrific as physical death is the second death is even more heinous. When our bodies quit working, we die. This is death number one. Death number two is of a different sort. Death is not extinction. After our physical deaths we will remain conscious. In short, the second death will be experienced by those who are not born again in Jesus Christ. They will be brought before a great white throne and judged according to what they have done (Rev. 20:12). They will also be judged according to whether or not their name is found written in the book of life (Rev. 20:15). As a consequence of their names not being found written in the book of life they are thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). Death is awful in any context. To die twice is hard to imagine. What makes the second death more heinous than physical death or the first death is the consciousness of it. The second death is fi

Was Man Created Immortal?

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Many people believe that man was created immortal with no possibility of death. This is not the case. Death has always been the penalty for sin and so we can say that death was always a possibility for man, and as such he was created mortal (Gen. 2:17). Although man was created mortal, with the possibility of dying, it was also possible for him to live forever in his sinful condition. In the Garden of Eden there was not one tree, but two. There was a tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). This is the tree from which Adam and the woman were forbidden to eat. Upon eating its fruit they became sinful. In the garden there was also a tree of life that made it possible for humans to live forever (Gen. 3:22). God banished Adam and the woman, now named Eve (Gen. 3:20), from the tree of life as penalty for their sin, thus making it impossible for them to live forever in their sinful condition. “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in kno

Can You Change Your Appointment with Death?

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On Sunday I will begin a three week series of sermons entitled “The Afterdeath.” What does the Bible teach about death? What does a person experience after they die? What will eternity be like? In preparation for this series I will be submitting a some posts to help us all begin thinking about the upcoming sermons. One thing is certain, no one survives life. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:26 - 27, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Most people interpret this verse to mean that all of us have an appointed moment for our death; like 3:00 on a Thursday afternoon. The Greek word interpreted “appointment” does carry the idea of destiny. But can our appointment with death be changed like an appointment with your dentist? Can you procrastinate death? Can you actually be late for

The Blessing of the Persecuted (Sermon Audio: Sunday A.M.)

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Sometimes exegesis is done with books, at other times it is done in people. Last week I had the opportunity to traveling to Romania . While there I asked the question of several Christians who had suffered the oppression of the communist regime, “What is the blessing of the persecuted?” In answer to that question I heard many stories that demonstrate the marvelous power of God. It is true, there is a blessing for the persecuted. Listen to Audio

Delta Abandoned Me

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This is the final chapter I did not want to write. I intended our journey to end without warrant for recording. I thought my post on persecution would be the finale. Yet there is one more nightmarish chapter. This is the story your hear from others but place in your “I hope that never happens to me” file. There is now one less entry in my file. If you have ever flown Delta it will not take you long to concede a great deal of inconvenience. You will hurry up to get on a plane that barely gives enough room for a 5’5” person to extend a toe. You will sit on the runway. You will be rushed to make your next connection. You will visit Atlanta. You will pay money to do these things. Boring you with all of those details does not make for a story, but you should keep the mounting pressures of them in mind. Our return trip started with a casual breakfast in Oradea. Goodbye brown eggs. The time for our last meal would mean all of us woke up at what would have been 11 p.m. Thursday

Persecuted

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Today we visited an orphanage in Arad (pronounced “a rod”) and Freedom Square in Timiasora (Tim i shwora - I think). The orphanage was one of the most visionary facilities for special needs children I have ever seen. It would be a model for Americans to use in the same area of ministry. The facility houses over thirty children with needs that range from physical abnormalities to autism. Some of the children are highly functioning, some of them are barely functioning. Either way, each child gets what he or she needs. Each child receives the love of Christ, a family, an education, and a close to normal life. The director of the facility shared that when they receive the children most of them cannot communicate. He said we first learn to communicate with every child. Some speak. With some they use sign language. With others they use pictures. In any case they find a way to communicate with the child. You can read more about this program at RCE.org. They accept two internatio

Romanian Hospitality

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Romanians go out of their way to make you feel at home. When you are far from home, hospitality makes you feel as if you are not so far away. In just a few short days Craiva feels like a second home. We had dinner at the Mayor’s house tonight. I could not understand a word that he said but I loved being around him just the same. His business is bread. As a gift he gave us about 12 loaves freshly baked. Shannon loves bread. There could not be a more perfect and unique gift for her. At the end of the worship service tonight pastor Adrian presented gifts to every member of the team. You could sense that our visit was special to him and to the people of Craiva. The member of our team have been looking all week for gifts that are uniquely Romanian. The problem is that in every market all you can find are gifts that are uniquely American. Tonight our team finally found something Romanian. The Romanians may think that our genuine native artifact was in their gifts. Yet our team

Acts 1:8 in Shoes, A Return to Romania?

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This morning I taught a class on Creative Preaching to second year college students. It is a humbling experience when you realize you are talking to a class of young men who will represent a large percentage of the preaching that will take place in Romania in the coming generation. The post revolution Baptist church is still very young here. Emanuel University is sending out laborers into a ripened harvest. These young men are intelligent and highly motivated. Most of them complete their college education, master’s training, and Ph.D work before the age of thirty. During those years they will leave their families and dedicate themselves almost completely to studying the Bible. Their dedication to being good stewards of the Word of God is a model for all of us. Carnelush has been driving us around this week. On our way to Craiva this afternoon I had an opportunity to hear his story. He is one of five brothers; the only one of his family who is a believer. After High School he

Till the Cows Come Home

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Nothing can prepare the soul for Romanian driving. I know in almost every post I have mentioned something about the driving here. Tonight we were returning from the village of Craiva on very small, 1.5 lane, bumpy, country roads. Brent pulled out his iPod and dialed up an app. that converts Kilometers Per Hour to Miles Per Hour. He would peer at the speed dial, enter it into his iPod and then flash it over the seat so I could see it. At one point we hit 86 MPH. If I was not born again before this trip, I am born again now. I was born again about seven times tonight. I prayed to receive Jesus as Savior three times on the way to Craiva and four times on the way home. The crazy thing about it all is that I have not seen one single wreck nor hardly a crashed car. I am not naive enough to say they don’t wreck in Europe, but I have never driven from my house to downtown Birmingham without seeing a wreck. The people driving us around act as if all of this is normal. They are very

God Gave Me a Song

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We are good Baptists. At least we were good Baptists. We may have turned a corner this morning at the Baptist Church at Topa de Crisa. It goes without saying that being in the presence of believers of another tongue is an amazing experience. When they sing an old hymn in the native language it is euphoric. All was well with our soul until communion. The bread was passed and taken without incident. Then it came time for the cup. In the Bible Belt the wine is grape juice, Welch’s, fortified with antioxidants and Vitamin D. You can buy Baptist Bible Belt communion juice next to orange juice and just down the aisle from cheese at the Piggly Wiggly. In Romania, communion juice comes from the vineyard, off the vine, aged, fermented, wine! There I stood beside Pastor Othneal, facing the congregation, and also facing the front two rows filled with our Bible Belt mission team. I knew what was about to happen. The communion cup looked like that of the Piggly Wiggly variety, not of

Gypsy Beggars

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So far I have almost been run over by a bus, a Mini Cooper, an Opel, and a bicycle. You must be careful while crossing the street. Today we walked through the city. At every corner there is a light signal that displays a countdown of how many seconds you have to get to the opposite sidewalk. I think it is a countdown to your impending death. At one crosswalk our guide said that the cars had to yield to pedestrians. After the dude in the itty bitty car almost tagged my leg I gathered that she might be wrong. One aspect of a mission trip is the work, which we begin formally tomorrow. Another aspect of a short mission trip is the cultural experience. When you are in someone else’s city they enjoy showing you the culture. While in Budapest I read an article about the Romo. Apparently Romo is a derogatory term for gypsies. Today, while in Oradea, we ran into several gypsies. All of them were beggars. The women were dressed in brightly colored wraps with lots of beads. They lo

Crossing the Border With Swine Flu

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So far today (6/5) has involved more travel. Though the journey is a relatively short distance between Budapest, Hungary and Oradea, Romania it takes some time. A few kilometers takes several kilo-hours. It only takes a few kilo-minutes in a car to realize that Hungarians and Romanians are ready for NASCAR. I am confident that soccer “futbol” is not enough to release European tensions. It seems they experience their release while driving. There is no road rage as such. No one seems angry to get cut off, it is just the way it is. The roads here are like Talledega. Forty cars separated by only inches going as fast as they can possibly go. Romanians are experts in the slingshot pass. They cinch up to the bumper in front of them and then when there is a space between cars greater than 3.5 inches they make their move. I stared several Mercedes 18 wheelers in the face today. Romanian truck drivers have nice teeth but bloodshot eyes. While crossing the border I was lectured on

Chicken Soup in Budapest

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This is my second trip to eastern Europe. The first one was to Russia in 1993. In both cases I would describe day one the same, as the day that never ends. You fly out in the morning, get to New York after a few layovers in the evening, and start across the pond just before sunset. You eat dinner, struggle to get comfortable enough to sleep, give up, and crack your cabin window open just far enough to see the sunrise at 12:30 a.m. You land geographically at 10:30 a.m.; mentally and physically it is 3:30 a.m. You feel like a missionary with a hangover. You are a missionary with a ‘tude. Every statement you make in your 10:30 geography with your 3:30 mouth is short, snappy, and laced with ill. Perhaps this is why on both of my mission visits to Europe our contact has a strategic plan called “take a tour of the city.” Pen the ill pot missionaries up on a bus, do not allow them to speak to the natives, they will love Jesus again after jet lag burns off. In short, Budapest, Hunga

Your Mp3 Cathedral - Using Your Computer to Listen to Sermons

For those who are not computer savvy I have some good news on how you can use technology to deepen your Christian faith. Many churches now use podcasting technology as a way to post sermon audio online. This allows you the user to subscribe to a podcast and download sermons to your computer. If you own an mp3 player you can take that audio wherever you go. Most car radios now come with an audio jack that allows you to plug in an mp3 player. How can I listen to sermon audio online? There are TONS of FREE mp3 programs online you can download to your computer that will allow you to subscribe and listen to podcasts. These programs include iTunes (which I recommend) or something like WinAmp . If you use iTunes you can search a massive listing of popular Podcasts that will also reference other podcasts that are like the ones you choose. Each week on my blog I post the audio from the previous week’s sermon. These sermons become episodes and they are catalogued on our podcast. If y

Off to Romania

On Wednesday my family and I will be headed to Oradea, Romania. I want to thank all of you who have supported us and have made this trip a reality. I believe God is not only going to speak great things into my life while I am away, but I truly believe God is going to do something incredible in the life of my wife and daughters. Morgan is nine years old and God has given her such a unique opportunity to see His glory at a time when she is so moldable but yet influences, ideas, and memories become so concrete. I believe this trip will shape the rest of her life. As for Kiley, just pray for her and the flight, her mother and the flight, me and the the flight, and everyone else on the fight! So many of you have invested in this, trip and for you I am eternally grateful. While we are away I will be posting to the blog as often as possible. We are also taking a camera along for Morgan. We thought it would be interesting to see this trip through the eyes of a nine year old girl. She