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Category Archives: Theology

What the Bible says about heaven & hell

Book Review: What Happens After You Die: A Biblical Guide to Paradise, Hell, and Life After Death, by Randy Frazee

If a friend on their death bed asked, “Is belief in Jesus enough to get me into heaven?” how would you respond? That question was posed to pastor and author Randy Frazee by his mother. While he answered his mother with a confident, “Yes,” the question bothered him enough to do a thorough study of the Scriptures. The results of his study are explained in his latest book, What Happens After You Die: A Biblical Guide to Paradise, Hell, and Life After Death.

Pastor Frazee deals with the five most important questions about life after death.

  • Is Jesus enough to get me into heaven?
  • What happens if I die without Christ?
  • What happens if I die with Christ?
  • What happens if I don’t know Christ when he returns?
  • What happens if I do know Christ when he returns?

In addition, he also answers questions such as:

  • Are there such things as ghosts?
  • Are our loved one in heaven watching over us?
  • Is there such a thing as purgatory or Limbo?
  • Are there different degrees of hell?
  • Can we earn wings?
  • Will rewards be given out?
  • Will there be pets in heaven?
  • Will we keep our memories or regrets from life now?
  • Will there be marriages and family in God’s new kingdom?
  • What will our resurrected bodies be like?
  • What will we eat?
  • What will a day in the life on the new earth be like?
  • Do we have guardian angels?
  • Is it okay to be cremated?
  • What about people making predictions about the return of Christ?
  • What about life-after-death and near-death experiences?

As Frazee explains in the opening chapter, the book was born out of a deeply personal search for truth after his mother’s death. Throughout the book, he attempts to separate what is simply cultural tradition from what is truly biblical. He explains not only the death Jesus came to save us from but also the life he came to save us for.

The book is very helpful and encouraging. It clearly explains what Scripture says about what happens after we die.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in Books, Heaven, Scripture, Theology

 

What do we mean when we say, “Rest in Peace”?

This was originally published in July 2013. Since I have seen “R.I.P.” posted twice in the past week I thought it might be time to repost.

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I’ve noticed recently that several Christian friends on Facebook post “Rest in Peace” when a well-known actor, author, or celebrity dies. It caused me to ask the question, what exactly do we mean when we say, “Rest in Peace”?

In one sense, death is a time of rest, at least for our physical bodies. Scripture uses the metaphor of “going to sleep” to describe death. This picture is mentioned three times in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Dr. Luke uses the same concept in Acts 7 and the apostle Paul uses it again in 1 Corinthians 15 on two occasions. In Mark, chapter 5, the daughter of a religious leader had died and Jairus, her father, begged Jesus for help. Jesus said, “She’s not dead; she is asleep.” In this sense, death is a time of rest.

In another sense, death is a time when we rest from our labors and enjoy our inheritance. Hebrews 4 talks about the “Sabbath rest” for the people of God. It links the idea to God’s work of creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh day as well as Israel’s wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. Tying them together, to rest means to cease from our labor of trying to earn God’s favor and enjoying the inheritance and blessings he has prepared for us.

This doesn’t mean, however, that eternity will be spent floating on clouds strumming a harp. Scripture pictures heaven as a place where we engage in meaningful activity. We will be engaged in worship (Revelation 22:1-3), praising Christ for providing our salvation. We will also be serving as we reign with Christ in eternity (Revelation 20:6).

However, these pictures of rest are only true of those who trusted Christ for salvation during their lifetime. Those who rejected Christ as savior will find themselves in hell enduring an eternity of suffering (Matthew 13:42, 50).

With this is mind, we need to be careful about whom we say “Rest in Peace” to. We don’t want to come across as closet universalists who believe all people go to heaven regardless of their beliefs or lifestyle. Nor do we want to communicate that we secretly believe God grades on a curve and the more well-known you are, the more likely you will be in heaven. We also don’t want to act as if this life is all there is, and there is no afterlife. In addition, we don’t want to say “Rest in Peace” simply because we don’t know what else to say.

Eternal rest is only available to those who stopped working to earn their salvation. For the Christ follower, they can go to sleep and later wake up in the arms of Jesus. They can rest and fully enjoy the blessings of salvation and heaven.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2017 in Facebook, Funerals, Heaven, News stories, Theology

 

Why we engage in social ministries that bless the community

Growing up, I scoffed at churches engaged in a “social gospel.” They are not “true evangelicals,” I concluded in my high-minded ways. “They have compromised the Scriptures,” I stated as I looked down my nose at them.

I have since grown up and discovered that a “social gospel” is a valid approach to ministry, provided it comes with a few caveats. (1) It is a supplement rather than substitute for the gospel. (2) It is part of a holistic approach that meets physical, spiritual, emotional, and other needs. (3) It is an entry point that demonstrates caring and earns us the right to be heard when we address spiritual issues.

Christ taught and demonstrated a balanced approach to ministry. Jesus gave us the Great Commission, to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). He also said that when we give a cup of cold water to someone, we are ministering not only to the individual but to Jesus himself (Matthew 25:31-40). Jesus preached repentance and healed people of their diseases. We are to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:2) as well as live as salt and light, doing good works to glorify God (Matthew 5:13-16).

This philosophy of a multifaceted approach to ministry explains why First Central Bible Church offers a tutoring program to neighborhood children in addition to our Awana program. This approach illustrates why we preached the gospel and celebrated communion during our Good Friday service and then served coffee, snacks, and water at the City of Chicopee’s Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday and then preached about how to move from skepticism to belief during our worship service on Easter Sunday. A balance of spiritual and social is why we have Bible studies for seniors and why we pull weeds and help with gardening at the Chicopee Senior Center. Taking a holistic approach to ministry is why we sent a short-term ministry team to Ghana to do evangelism and also sent work teams to camps in Shutesbury, MA, and Warsaw, OH, to help reroof several buildings and build a deck. It is why we offer Camp KidConnect and Awana Camp in the summer and Trunk ‘R Treat in the fall.

We want to be like Abraham in Genesis 12:2, to be a blessing to the world. We seek to bless the community by preaching the gospel and making disciples. We seek to bless the community by teaching children to read and succeed in school. We seek to bless the community by helping people grow deeper in their faith. We seek to bless the community by building camps and adding beauty to senior centers.

We want to fulfill the Great Commission, to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20), as well as practice the Great Commandment, to love God and love people (Matthew 22:34-40).

 
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Why we struggle with sin

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in Quotes, Theology, Tim Challies

 

Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human

Last night, I taught the Awana T&T lesson at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. The theme was “Jesus is fully man.” The main idea of the lesson is that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human. When he lived on earth, Jesus experienced the same kind of struggles that we do, but he never sinned. Jesus became human to save us from our sins.

To help the kids grasp the idea, I had them do a Scripture search. We read a number of passages and then talked about whether the verses described Jesus as God or as human. As we went through the lesson, we put the information into the following chart.

Jesus Christ

Fully God

Fully Human

Jesus came from God; Jesus knows all things

(John 16:27-30)

Jesus was hungry

(Mark 11:12-13)

Jesus cast out demons

(Mark 1:21-28)

Jesus was tired and fell asleep

(Mark 4:38)

Jesus forgave sins

(Luke 7:44-50)

Jesus felt sadness; Jesus cried

(John 11:33-35)

Jesus healed a man’s hand

(Mark 3:5)

Jesus was thirsty

(John 19:28-29)

Jesus did things that only God could do

Jesus experienced the same emotions and physical needs that we do

We could have added many more verses, but our time was limited. Why don’t you take the chart and add more examples for the deity and humanity of Jesus?

 

A glimpse of God’s amazing grace

grace-is-greaterBook Review: Grace is Greater: God’s plan to overcome your past, redeem your pain, and rewrite your story, by Kyle Idleman

Pastor and author Kyle Idleman has penned another insightful and helpful book, this time offering insight and perspective on the grace of God. Rather than being a theological treatise, his book is aimed at helping his readers see and experience grace as if for the first time. As with his previous books, he digs into the subject by combining Scriptural teaching with his own story and the story of others.

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 is about the fact that grace is greater than our mistakes—our guilt, brokenness, and regrets. Part 2 explores the idea that grace is greater than our hurts—our wounds, bitterness, desire for vengeance, and resentment. Part 3 wraps up the discussion by stressing that grace is greater than our circumstances—our disappointments, weakness, and despair.

The book will help the reader to grasp the truth of God’s amazing grace. It is a truth that is best understood when you experience it.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2017 in Books, Theology

 

How football illustrates sovereignty and free will

Is God sovereignly in control? Does man have free will? Does God choose people for salvation? Do people choose God? This is the age old tension of theology, Calvinism versus Arminianism.

In his book on the life of Joseph, Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny, pastor and author Dr. Tony Evans uses football to explain how both sovereignty and free will can be true and work together.

Since God is sovereign, nothing happens outside of His rule. But within His rule He has created freedom. Freedom means you get to choose. There is no freedom without choice. You are free to say “yes” or to say “no.” You are free to go or you are free to stay. God created freedom. But how can a sovereign God control everything while simultaneously creating freedom? Let me try to explain it through an illustration of football.

In football, there are sidelines and goal lines, which serve as sovereign boundaries. These do not move. You can’t negotiate them. You can’t make them wider or narrower. These are fixed standards with which the game of football is played. If you step over a sideline, you are out of bounds. Period. Because that is a boundary.

But within those boundaries teams are free to run their own plays. They can call a good play or a bad play. They can gain yardage or they can lose ground. They are free to play within the boundaries established by the game.

God is sovereign in the boundaries He has set for us. But He allows freedom within those boundaries that give us the choice to do good or to do bad. To be right or to be wrong. To intend evil or to intend well. While freedom doesn’t cause evil, it does allow for it. Yet He limits how free He lets us go within His providential connection of all things. Providence is God either causing or allowing things to happen for His purposes. That is not to say He endorses evil or sin, but rather He redeems it. He redeems the bad intention of someone who may have hurt you on purpose by intervening in you to twist that thing to work for your good. His merciful hand will use what was meant for harm—for good. He will even use evil to accomplish His purpose, as we have seen with Joseph. (In the book, he was referring to Genesis 50:20).

For a simple-minded person like myself, Tony’s illustration makes a lot of sense. It might not answer every question in the sovereignty—free will debate, but it helps.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2017 in Joseph, Quotes, Theology