Friday, March 30, 2012

The Centrality of the Church

CLICK HERE to see a great "Two Minute Warning" by Chuck Colson on the role of the church in the lives of God's people. The short video clip is entitled "No Lone Rangers!"

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hades, Hell, Gehenna, Paradise, Heaven, etc.

This morning I got a great e-mail question from a very bright teen-aged young man I met a few weeks ago...

Where did Jesus' soul go when he died (from Friday to Sunday morning)? The "Apostle's Creed" says he descended into hell. Does that mean literally or figuratively? But, Jesus told the thief on the cross that "Today you will be with me in Paradise." Since he was fully God and fully man, was the human part of him in hell (in our place) and the divine part of him always with the Father in Heaven? Yet, he said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

(another thing I was wondering: when was hell created? after the fall of Lucifer and 1/3 of the angels? before the creation of man?)

What a great couple of questions! There's a lot that could be said here, but I'll try not to write a whole treatise...

The original word in the Apostle's Creed is the word "Hades" - which doesn't mean hell as you & I think of hell, actually. It basically means "the place of the dead." Before Christ's resurrection, the souls of all the dead were kept there by the Lord... waiting for the great day of judgment. The souls of those who repented of their sins & believed in God's promise of salvation through the Messiah were kept there, as well as the souls of those who remained in their sins. All were in Hades - though it looked very different for the one than for the other. For the one, it's a place of blessing & delight (no more suffering, no more sin - though still with some tension to be resolved because they're waiting for their bodies to be resurrected from the grave & redeemed & reunited to their souls.) For the other, it's a place of torment. And there's a great chasm in between (see Luke 16.22,23).

So, "Hades" (the place of the dead) was very different for one soul than another. When Jesus entered into the curse of death, he really & truly entered into it. His soul was separated from his body (the curse of death!). His soul went to Hades, and his body went into the grave. But his soul was not "abandoned" in Hades, as the Scripture says in Acts 2.31. Nor did his flesh in the grave see corruption.

The Greek word that was used for what we think of as hell - the final place of judgment for those who remain in their sin - is the word "Gehenna." Hades & Gehenna are two different places. The Apostles' Creed can be a bit confusing at this point. I think it's just a matter of how language has evolved over the centuries.

But what did Jesus do in Hades? The Scripture seems to indicate that he declared his victory over sin & death, and led the host of those whom he had just redeemed by his blood out of Hades & into Heaven - where they are now - still waiting for the redemption of their bodies, but now on the other side of the finished work of Christ. And he took the believing soul of that thief on the cross next to him with him into Paradise/Heaven. And he did it that very day, just as he promised.

1 Peter 3.18-22 is one of those texts that seems to have about a half-dozen possible interpretations, but take a look at it with what I've written above in mind, and see if it helps make sense of it.

But the souls of the redeemed now go straight to Heaven... where we wait for the New Heavens & the New Earth, which will be totally free from all aspects of the curse. All will be made new. Renewed bodies on a renewed earth - no sin, no suffering, no death. Revelation 21.

As to the creation of hell... the Scripture says it was prepared for the devil & his angels (Matthew 25.41). So, I would guess maybe it was created after the Fall in Genesis 3.

If you wanted to read a good book on these kinds of things, I would recommend "Body, Soul, & Life Everlasting" by John W. Cooper. But it's some fairly heavy theology. Randy Alcorn's books on Heaven may have much of the same information and be much easier to read... but I haven't read those.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

October Baby

Check out what Chuck Colson has to say about this movie...

Stories of Life
October Baby and Doonby

by Chuck Colson

Movies that deal with the sanctity of life are suddenly in the news. One of these, the long anticipated independent film Doonby, is scheduled to open in theaters later this year. And another one, October Baby, opens in theaters today, Friday, March 23.

Both of these films delve deeply and fearlessly into an issue that the entertainment industry has rarely been brave enough to tackle.

But of course, the biggest question is, how do they handle that issue? As I’ve said more than once, Christian filmmakers must always remember that a movie needs to be a movie, not a sermon. Movies reach people not by preaching at them, but by telling stories — stories that resonate with us and move us.

And that’s what these filmmakers are doing. They tell stories about people whose lives have been deeply, permanently affected by abortion. And in doing so, they remind us of the human dimension of an issue that’s too often treated as nothing more than a political football.

In October Baby, we have the story of Hannah, a college student suddenly hit with earth-shattering news. Not only is she adopted, but her biological mother had tried to abort her. Her overprotective adoptive parents had tried to shield her from the truth, but the lingering health problems caused by the procedure finally force them to tell her what happened.

The devastating news propels Hannah on a journey to learn more about her origins, but she finds out even more than she bargained for.

Hannah’s cinematic story was inspired by the real-life story of Gianna Jessen. Gianna was born with cerebral palsy after a botched abortion and has become a celebrated pro-life speaker. After watching October Baby, Gianna said that watching the film was a healing experience for her.

For those of us who haven’t been through anything like what Gianna has, the film is a valuable glimpse at experiences that we can hardly begin to imagine. It raises awareness of the unseen person who is always involved in an abortion, and asks us to identify with that person in a way that we never have before.

But another one of October Baby’s strengths is that it doesn’t present only a single perspective. Hannah talks with a nurse involved with her abortion. She learns about a clinic bombing that affected that nurse’s life.

The film, you see, doesn’t do any demonizing; it shows the pain that surrounds this issue for everybody, from the abortion-minded mother to the adoptive parents dealing with the fallout of her decision.

As I mentioned, October Baby, which is rated PG-13 for mature themes, opens today. Come to, and we’ll link you to the movie’s website so you can see if it’s playing at a theater near you. Then go and see this strong yet sensitive depiction of the human side of abortion, and take your friends.

As October Baby and Doonby show, a good story can do so much — even more than a sermon or a lecture — to reach people and help them look at life in a whole new way.

And we Christians would do well to support films and filmmakers that do just that.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It's a beautiful day Don't let it get away It's a beautiful day

DPC had a great time at the Kickball Spring Kickoff on Sunday afternoon.

The Lord gave us a beautiful day for it!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cliff & Whitney!

One week ago lots of DPC'ers were in Mobile, AL to see Cliff & Whitney get married, and it was beautiful! And the feasting & joy & dancing that surrounded the event was a strong reminder of what marriage is meant to be.

The Bible starts with a marriage! God Himself was the Father who escorted his daughter down the aisle and gave her away to the groom.

"And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man" (Genesis 2.22).

And the Bible ends with a great wedding feast!

"Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” (Revelation 19-22, selected verses)

And in between, the Bible is frequently found talking about marriage.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5)

The mystery is profound indeed. To properly understand the gospel, we need to understand something about marriage. And to properly understand marriage, we need to understand something about the gospel.

"My beloved is mine, and I am his." (Song of Solomon 2.16)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Kickball. DPC. Bring it on.

Church family,

Let me quickly tell you one of the most rewarding things I've ever seen in a church family (this was back in Missouri)...

There's a young pre-teen-to-teenage boy and there's a middle-aged man. As long as they've been aware of one another's existence, they've basically ignored each other. Apparently nothing in common. Just inhabiting the same room for a couple of hours every Sunday morning. They know nothing of the richness of one another's lives and personalities.

But then one week you see them, and suddenly they're smiling big in each other's presence! They're telling stories, making jokes, shaking hands, becoming friends, learning from each other, sharing life together. ...What made the difference?

The Sunday afternoon previous to the transformation our church family had enjoyed a Sunday afternoon softball game together. The middle-aged man (seeing that the young boy was struggling at the plate) gave the kid some hitting tips. And the tips worked. The boy could hit. But it wasn't just a bat to ball connection that was finally made; a life to life connection was made. And it was awesome. Such is the power of sport and play when it's shared together as a family.

This Sunday. Kickball. At DPC. 2:00pm. Everyone's Invited. Bring a friend. Bring a lawn chair. Bring a cooler. Bring your best game, but it doesn't have to be any good. Children and adults on every team. Also: we've been preparing the fields by cutting the grass & annihilating the ants, but you still might also want to have shoes on every child.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Using & Leaning

A well-known passage in Proverbs says this:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. (Prov.3.5-6)

This is a key passage (from a key book) with respect to the difficult & life-long task of learning wisdom.

What does wisdom look like? A few hints we're given here: we're warned against leaning on our own understanding. Of course, that's not the same thing as using our understanding. Our God never tells us "Do not use your own understanding."

But he does tell us "Do not lean on your own understanding." There is a difference between using & leaning. I don't necessarily completely trust the things I use. But I do completely trust the things I lean on.

Part of wisdom is leaning on the Lord. Trusting in the Lord. With all our hearts. And from that standpoint, we're then called to use our understanding.

But what we foolish, unruly children of Adam have a natural bent towards is leaning on our own understanding and using the Lord.

That's just the opposite of wisdom.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Redeem the Time, Part IV

In earlier posts (click HERE for part III) we were considering God's command in Ephesians 5 to Redeem the Time that is given to us.

A few more thoughts along these lines...

  • How we use our time is a precious decision. It determines what kind of person we're becoming. Are we maturing? Growing? Reflecting the glory of God? Enjoying his presence in all the moments of this life? Or are we wasting and squandering and frittering away all of our time on stupid trifles to the point that we're diminishing all the time - become flat-souled people?
  • Our time here is actually quite short. And whenever a commodity is scarce, a high value is placed upon it. See 2 Kings 6.25 for an extreme example of that! We should prize our time in this world. There is a boundary set upon it; we just don't know where and when that boundary is. The Lord knows.
  • And once a certain season of life is gone, it's gone. Your childhood, your youth, the early days of marriage before kids, the time when the kids are small, the time when the kids are at home, time with parents, time with grandparents, the number of Lord's Day worship services we have allotted to us, the number of springs/summers/falls/winters we get to enjoy, the time you have to devote to the noble calling God entrusted to your stewardship, etc.

May the Lord give us wisdom to use our time purposefully.

When we see or hear of someone who's done something extremely foolish we sometimes say "He's thrown away his entire future with one terrible act. How horrible."

And indeed that is horrible. But aimlessly throwing it all away in little pieces or big chunks day by day is not much better.

We cringe to see people doing that with their money. But time is worth far more than money.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The declining art of friendship...

The following is a post that RC Sproul Jr. just put out via his blog. Thank God for the gift of true friendship. May we invest our lives more heavily towards the handful of good, true friends than the hundreds of the virtual variety that require (and give) so much less.

I Have Friends

by RC Sproul Jr.

It was, I suspect, somewhat early on in the growth of the “accountability” movement. I had heard the concept but had not given it much study. The deacon at the church I attended as a young married man apparently had studied it. And so, seemingly with the approval of the session, he sat perched by the entrance of the sanctuary. He asked me, as he asked everyone passing by, with all the tact and enthusiasm of a carnival barker, if I had an accountability group. Being young and na├»ve I stopped and asked, “What’s that?”

“Well,” he explained, “it’s a group of men who are active in your life, that care for you enough to challenge you when you fall into sin. They watch out for you, support you, and encourage you to grow in grace and wisdom.” “In that case,” I retorted, “I do have an accountability group. It’s just that I call them my friends.”

Twenty years later I find myself having the same kind of conversation. When people find about the loss of my wife, they suggest that I find myself a group. Though I seek to mask my skepticism, it apparently shows through. “Really,” folks tell me, “you need people that you can talk to, that you can be real with. You need people you can count on to be there for you.” The answer is the same. I understand the need. And it is well met in my life, by my friends.

Now I have nothing against accountability, nor accountability groups. I am positively in favor of grieving, and have nothing against groups built around that theme. What puzzles me on both counts, however, is how we have lost what is natural, and sought to replace it with programs. What does it say about the culture, both inside and outside the church, that callings normally born by friends now are met by something so artificial, so inorganic. These groups strike me as the emotional equivalent of a multivitamin. Sure enough many of us are not getting enough vitamin D or zinc in our diets. But isn’t eating a few more veggies a better way to solve the problem?

Institutional solutions to relational problems at least do this for us- they expose our relational weaknesses. If our lifestyles make healthy meals a challenge, we need to change our lifestyles. If the transience and cyber-ness of our relationships make, well, friendship, a problem we need to change how we relate. We need to love near, and serve near.

And if, on the other hand, we have healthy relationships- real, personal relationships where we encourage one another toward righteousness, where we are free to be ourselves, where we talk with depth, and love with sincerity, we yet have this to do- we need to give thanks. We need not create a gratitude committee at our local church to create a gratitude program. No, we need to give thanks. So here I do. I have friends and family that love and care for me and my children. They check up on me. They look me in the eye when they talk to me. They hug me when they see me. They tell me they love me, and joyfully receive my love in return. They mourn when I mourn, as I rejoice when they rejoice. And I pray that they know that I give thanks to Him for them. I have friends, more and better than I deserve.

Sobering Thought.

Just got this e-mail...

The death of Whitney Houston is on the news several times a day.

No question that she had a wonderful singing voice.
But then there are these guys:

Justin Allen 23
Brett Linley 29
Matthew Weikert 29
Justus Bartett 27
Dave Santos 21
Jesse Reed 26
Matthew Johnson 21
Zachary Fisher 24
Brandon King 23
Christopher Goeke 23
and Sheldon Tate 27...

These are all Marines that gave their lives for us last month.

There is no media attention for them; not even a mention of their names.