Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Lord of Rest

I hope that some of you had a chance to put Sunday's sermon into practice with the Memorial Day Holiday. Sunday's Message, "The Lord of Rest," focussed on Matthew 12:1-14 and tried to explain what Sabbath Rest is all about.

Like the Pharisess, we, too, have perverted the principle of Sabbath Rest, but in a different way. They legalized it, but we've abandoned it completely. We need a Biblical recovery of the principle and practice of Sabbath Rest in our day.

For some reason, this passage was particularly valuable and encouraging for me personally. I think it brought together some important Biblical themes, but at the same time was so practical. Once more, the Gospel of Jesus is right there at the center of it all.

What was the most surprising thing about the message/text for you?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Music Recommendation: "Redemption Songs"

Susie was recently craving some new music for our home and stumbled across a brand new album by Jars of Clay entitled "Redemption Songs." On a whim, recognizing a few songs she knew and intrigued by the titles she didn't know, she downloaded the album from the iTunes Music Store (Yep, we're Apple nuts!).

This is a great album filled with some classic hymns redone as well as some just downright fun music. It's doctrinally deep and celebrates the richness of God's grace in the Gospel. You can actually listen to the whole album before you buy, by going to the Jars of Clay website. Given the broad range of tastes and preferences represented here at Grace, Jars of Clay won't be for everybody, but we're sure enjoying it.

The doctrinal depth of the album got me wondering about these guys and their spiritual backgrounds, so I did a bit of poking around and discovered this great explanation of the album entilted "The Stories Behind the Songs: A Collection of Reinvented Ancient Hyms and Spiritual Songs." (A worthwhile read!)

I really want to sing a few of these songs here at Grace, so I am trying to turn Al on to the album. Stay tuned!

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Happy Birthday, Zeke!

My son, Ezekiel, turned 3 today. What a gift he has been to our family! What life and laughter and testosterone he has added to our family. I love who he is and who he's becoming. What a joy to watch him grow. How time flies!

He was so excited about the Thomas the Tank Engine pieces he got for his birthday and so looking forward to his "baseball party" on Saturday. We enjoyed our Coldstone ice cream family time after the Awana Awards Ceremony tonight.

"This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." To think I am My Father's "beloved son" in Christ blows me away.

Blogging this late at night makes me sentimental!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Congregational Meeting Feedback Welcome

Big 2005 Annual Congregational Meeting here at Grace last night. Quite a blur for me. I think I am still recovering this morning as I dive back into Matthew's Gospel, chapter 12. If you missed it, you need to at least get a copy of the 25 page annual report. Just email me or call the church office.

We welcome your feedback. What did you think? What did you hear as you talked with others? How might we improve our annual meetings in the future?

Here are few of my own impressions. . . .

• Everyone did a great job presenting their pieces. We have such a great group of people involved in leadership.

• We had a good turnout, lots of families represented. I wish we had provided some childcare.

• I was encouraged by the many new folks present for their first Grace Congregational Meeting. A good sign.

• We went a little long on time, but I'm not sure what I would cut.

• I am very glad we took the time to pray at the end. I think that was a highlight.

• The Pastor Ken Transition was the biggest surprise for most.

• It's going to take time for folks to get used to 3 services. There is loss, but I don't see an alternative.

• I heard good feedback from those I talked with. No one seemed shocked, rather most were very "matter of fact" about where we are going.

And here's a "cut and paste" from my "Looking Forward by Faith in 2005" report. . . .

5 ways we can live by faith in light of God's faithfulness to us:

1. Pursuing our Vision & Mission: We need to “excel still more” in our understanding and application of the Gospel. We need to work it into our lives and then work it out of our lives. We need to believe that it is the power of God for salvation and life transformation (Romans 1:17). We need to pursue more ways to put feet on the Gospel in this community though sacrificial service to one another and to others. We need to be the people of God proclaiming and practicing the Gospel. Growth Groups are the building block of Grace Church’s future and the key to making a large church feel like a small church. Growth Groups provide an opportunity to be in a true Christian community, a small group of people with whom we can learn and live the Gospel. This will undoubtedly require personal faith and a reordering of priorities and schedules. Make a commitment to get in a Growth Group this year!

2. Adding a 3rd Worship Service this Fall: Have you noticed how full our services are these days? While there’s still some room in the 9:00 AM service, we believe that we are going to continue to see numerical growth in the days ahead. We want to proactively prepare. After a thorough review of the options, we’ve concluded that adding a third Sunday morning worship service is the best option for Grace at this time. So, this Fall, on September 25th, the week after our 2005 Fall Kick-Off, we will make the leap to 3 services with new service times at 8:00, 9:30 and 11:00 AM. This is going to require faith and flexibility on the part of all. Start praying and preparing now!

3. A Transition for Pastor Ken: After nearly 25 years of working with youth and 15 years serving formally and faithfully as the Pastor of Youth Ministries, here at Grace, it is time to work toward a transition for Pastor Ken Peet. This is a move that we have been planning for more than 2 years and the time has come. Our vision is to see Ken become our Pastor of Family Ministries who will give oversight to Youth and Children’s Ministries and staff, as well as pioneer some new areas of Family Ministry. We anticipate this transition involving the hiring of a new full time Pastor of Youth Ministries and the conversion of the current Youth Intern position into a part time Jr. High Director. Obviously, the selection of a new Pastor of Youth Ministries is a crucial one for Grace, as we do not want to see our youth ministries compromised, but rather advanced. This transition will require the faith of many. Our desire is to fund this ministry expansion for the second half of this fiscal year and beyond beginning January 2006.

4. 75th Anniversary Celebration: 2006 will officially be our 75th Anniversary and a unique opportunity to celebrate God’s continuing faithfulness to Grace Church over these many years Preparations are being made for a 6 week celebration beginning Easter Sunday 2006 and climaxing Memorial Day Weekend 2006.. Our desire is to see folks from the rich and storied history of Grace Church, scatterd throughout the country and the world come again and join us for this wonderful celebration as we look back in reflection and forward by faith. So set aside the whole Spring and plan to here with us. Steve Potratz and Pastor Al have assembled and are leading an excellent and diligent 75th Anniversary Committee who are actively planning NOW!

5. Annex Renewal: It is time to move forward toward the renewal of our Annex Building and a renenew Osos Street entrance. This has long been a component of our Facilities Master Plan. This will create improved circulation and access throughout our facility and new multi-use space for our growing ministry in the present and in the years to come. We believe this project is an essential part of our Vision and Mission in these days, and our desire to be a church in the community serving the community.

Now don't you want a copy of that Annual Report?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I'm Back!

I've been away for a few days, just Susie and me. Much needed and much enjoyed. Things were so nuts before I left, trying to prepare for this Sunday's 2005 Annual Congregational Meeting (6:00 PM), that I forgot to sign off "life together."

Anyway, I hope you're planning on being there Sunday evening as we reflect on God's faithfulness, and look forward in faith. It's going to be great and informative time together. See you then!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Little Voices Singing to the Lord

I, for one, am very excited about the emergence of two new Children's Choirs at Grace this Fall. I give thanks to God for His raising up of folks who can give leadership to these new expressions of ministry. Here's a little something from the Children's Ministry Spring Newsletter that gives a few details.

Yes! It is finally coming back to Grace! The sweet, sweet sound of children’s voices lifted up in praise to our Loving Savior! Children in grades first through eighth will have a chance to sign up this August to begin singing in choir.

There will be a 1st-3rd grade choir called “Joyful Noise” and a 4th-6th grade choir called “His Image” beginning September 4th, 2005. Each student who signs up will commit to a full session (8-12 weeks). At the end of the session, the choir will perform in the sanctuary and will learn to help lead in worship. The student can choose to sign up again for another session or stop their choir commitment at the end of each session. More details will be coming this summer!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Are you coming to the Spring Picnic this Sunday?

Here's a congregational email that has been sent to the church family at Grace today. If you don't receive congregational emails, but want to, just email my assistant Debbie at debbiej@graceslo.org and let her know. Hope to see on Sunday afternoon!

Family of Grace,

This is a "last call" reminder about our Spring All-Church Picnic this Sunday, May 15th. It is immediately after our morning services across the street in Mitchell Park. We've had over 400 sign up for lunch (BBQ beef sandwhiches + other goodies, $4 per person over age 5). Since last Sunday was Mother's Day, I suspect that there are many who were out of town who have not had a chance to sign-up. If you are planning to join us and you want lunch, then it would be very helpful to hear from you by noon Friday. Please call the church office or email my assistant, Debbie Johnston at debbiej@graceslo.org. If we don't hear from you by Friday, you are still more than welcome, but we will assume that you are bringing your own lunch.

By the way, it's still not too late to invite friends, family and neighbors to join us on that day. Give them a call or email them now and then include them in your family count. Our great picnics are a neat and non-threatening way to introduce folks to "life at Grace." Go for it!

On that day, I want to encourage you to step out and get to know some folks outside your immediate circle of friends. As we've done in the past, we'll identify folks who are new to Grace with specially colored name tags. Since our other two all-church picnics are more heavily programmed, this Spring picnic will be a bit more low key and casual. There will be, however, several self-serve activities for folks of all ages.

I'm looking forward to being together on Sunday!

Lovingly. . . Pastor Tim

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

FAQ: What about Membership at Grace?

Ok, so maybe this isn't a "frequently asked question", but it is an "occasionally asked question," one I was just recently asked in an email I received last week. . . .

Pastor Tim,

I won't take a lot of your time but I do have a quick question. We have been attending Grace for approx. 6 months. We heartily agree with your teaching. We have looked through the church's website and can't find any information on church membership. Does Grace have church membership? If Grace doesn't have membership how do they deal with discipline, elder's responsibility to shepherd the flock, etc...?

Thank you so much and have a great day!

I thought it might be valuable to post answers to these frequently and occasionally asked questions here on the blog as one more way to keep us all moving in the same direction and let you know what's happening "beneath the hood" here at Grace. There is so much to communicate and never enough time or ways to communicate it. As much as is possible we're committed to "transparent leadership" at Grace. So feel free to ask questions that are on your mind. We'll take them one at a time as time allows. Here's my response to the "membership" question. As always, your comments are welcome and encouraged. I read them all, as do others.

Dear Friend,

Thanks for your question about membership here at Grace. A little background might be helpful. . . .

When I began to explore a possible call to ministry at Grace, just over two years ago, I, too, was surprised to discover that Grace Church has never had a consistent formal membership over its 75 year history. In the late 80s/early 90s there was an attempt made to implement what they called a "covenant of fellowship" but the church did not actively pursue the concept over the long haul and it soon disappeared. In the candidating process, I was very clear with the Elders about my commitment to membership as a shepherding mechanism. The Elders all expressed an openness and a willingness to explore the concept. In my first year here, we worked to develop a 1-3-5 year vision for Grace which included a "roadmap to church membership" and its implementation over a three year time frame. (We are a bit behind schedule on this project!) It will be a delicate and complicated process for Grace (and may meet with some resistance) that will involve an overhaul of our constitution, but this is process to which we are committed. Currently, we have assigned two Elders to the task of gathering constitutions and membership information from other churches.

Second, here are five reasons, off the top of my head, why I am committed to church membership at Grace:

1. Care/Shepherding/Discipline: Galatians 6:10 says "So, then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, but especially to the those who are of the household of the faith." This passage establishes a priority of care. We need to know who is of the "household of the faith" to whom is our first responsibility for care and shepherding. Currently, we don't know WHO Grace Church is. The church is very dynamic with lots of folks coming and going. We are committed to the concept of church discipline, but without a formal membership it'`s difficult to know who to go after in the event of sin. This is an ongoing frustration of our Elders and one we discuss often. A formal membership will enable us to shepherd more effectively those who are of the "household" and also "all men."

2. Guarding the Faith & the Flock: We need to insure those who are serving have a confession of faith. I want to know that those who teach my kid's classes are believers. Part of membership should involve hearing a testimony of faith. It is our responsibility to guard the faith and guard the flock.

3. Assimilation: We need to more quickly assimilate new folks at Grace into service at Grace. Right now this happens haphazardly and randomly. Folks need to be around for a while before they find their place, because we aren't sure where they are spiritually. Membership can "fast track" this process and give us an opportunity to explore gifts, talents, experience and how they might be employed at Grace for the glory of God and the good of his people.

4. Training: Membership provides a purposeful and strategic way to instill the theological and philosophical distinctives and core values of Grace Church (For example, the "centrality of the Gospel!"). We need to be clearer about who Grace is, how Grace works and how folks can be involved.

5. Building Commitment: Membership provides a way to communicate expectations of members and expectations of leadership at Grace. It allows us a chance to emphasize and call folks to Christian service and Christian stewardship as important dimensions of the Christian life and life at Grace.

I hope this is helpful. Like you, we believe this is an important issue. It's on the radar and in our sights. It will take a while for us to get there. In the meantime, please join us in praying that God would bless the process. If you have any additional questions, please don't hesitate to ask them.

In Christ. . . Pastor Tim

Monday, May 09, 2005

5 Practices of Biblical Families

Yesterday's Message entitled "Heaven & the Home" centered on Colossians 3:1-21. The audio is available now at http://www.graceslo.org/grow/mp3/

Here's a rough outline. . . .

I. The POWER of a Christ-Centered, Heaven-Focused Family

A. The Family is part of God’s plan to bless us.
B. The Family is part of God’s plan to change us.
C. The Family is part of God’s plan to change the world.
D. The Family is part of God’s plan to glorify Himself.

II. The PRACTICES of Christ-Centered, Heaven-Focused Family

1. Connecting (Col. 3:12-14, 18-19)
2. Modeling (Col. 3:5-10)
3. Teaching (Col. 3:16)
4. Correcting (3:20-21)
5. Abiding (Col. 3:15)

Growth Groups will be discussing and applying the message/text throughout the week, but I thought a little online discussion among the Grace Family and others might also encourage our hearts. I asked a bunch of questions in the message. Here a few of them to get a little dialogue going. . .

1. Which practice is most present in your nuclear family ? In our church family?
2. Which practice is most easy to neglect in the nuclear family? In our church family?
3. Why is abiding so necessary in the life of the nuclear family? In our church family? ( I'd love some of our older saints to share their experiences of parenting prodigals and how they've learned to trust God through the process.)
4. What impact might Biblical families at Grace have on our broader community?
5. What's the relationship between connecting and correcting?

I am eager to hear your thoughts and experiences. Let's not be merely hearers of the Word, but also doers!

Patricia Heaton in Life Mag

Did you happen to see the Patricia Heaton interview entitled "Everybody Loves Mom" in last weekend's edition of LIFE Magazine? Heaton, the 47 year old mother from the hit show Everybody Loves Raymond, talks about her experience as a mother of four boys and an actress in Hollywood, but she also gives a great confession of faith in the interview. The article doesn't seem to be available on the internet, so here's an excerpt:

LIFE: Has faith always been a part of your life?

HEATON: I was raised Catholic and I'm a Presbyterian now, but I've always been a Christian, regardless of denomination. I believe Jesus is the way. So, of course, I pass that on to my kids.

LIFE: How does your faith influence your dreams for your kids?

HEATON: My goal is not. . . .that they should achieve a certain amount of fame or financial success or even worldy success. It's not that I don't think education is important, its just that you could be a very educated person and be soulless. Whatever they end up choosing to do, my goal from them is that they know God in their life. The only way to know who you are is to know the one who made you. That's my hope.

Good for Heaton and good for LIFE for not trimming this part of the interview.

Knowledge of God and knowledge of self are inseparable! I so wanted to quote this interview in yesterday's sermon, Heaven & the Home, but there just wasn't space or time.

Personal note: I think I have only seen Everybody Loves Raymond once or twice, but thought it was funny. (This is not an endorsement!) I think I enjoyed it because Heaton plays Raymond's spunky wife and I happened to be married to my own spunky wife!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

More Musings on Hell

I have been encouraged by the many of you who have taken the time to email me and chat with me about Sunday's sermon on hell. We are living "life together," meditating and processing God's Word with one another. I received the following letter from one guy in our congregation. It's an excellent overview of some of the issues that surround this difficult topic, but it also demonstrates the intellectual and emotional struggle that many of us have experienced in trying to come to grips with God's Word on these matters. It's a thoughtful response and helpful extension of the discussion we began last Lord's Day. I don't necessarily agree with it all, but I won't tell you which parts. I do appreciate the well-articluted paradox between God's sovereignty and human responsibility (notice I didn't say God's sovereignty and man's free will. The difference is significant and crucial.).

Free lunch to the first person who can guess who wrote it. . . .

May 5, 2005

Pastor Tim:

I appreciate your courage in preaching on Hell last Sunday. After your series on Heaven I mentioned to my wife: “the subject of Heaven may not be taught enough in church but if Pastor Tim was really brave he would preach on Hell.” You are either a brave man or are trying to avoid going to three services by winnowing the flock.

I confess that I have struggled with the doctrine of Hell (haven’t we all?). C.S. Lewis has helped me accept that it is ok to not like the idea. His ‘The Great Divorce” has helped me to imagine that it could be possible for the Lost to in some way choose hell rather than relinquish their autonomy to God (I am aware that this allegory is not necessarily scriptural – it suggests the idea of purgatory for example). However, I’ve still not found a satisfactory way to think about Hell. Instead, I gave up trying to understand the doctrine and just trusted that God knew what he was doing.

From time to time the questions resurface. Philosophical questions like: “How can a Just, Sovereign God create creatures destined for eternal punishment?” Practical questions like: “How do I relate to unsaved loved ones if their destiny is really eternal damnation?” I am hoping to find a tolerable way to think about Hell (rather than ignoring the subject) without compromising my sense of Joy in the Lord. My fear isn’t that I won’t understand the doctrine, but that I will understand and will therefore find it difficult to worship God. Here are my thoughts, Tim - any help you can offer would be appreciated:

Consider the following Christian beliefs:

1. God is Just.
2. All humans are born with a sin nature.
3. Without God’s intervention the destiny of sinful humans is Hell.
4. Hell is a place of punishment.
5. Hell is eternal in duration.
6. God elects (chooses) who will be saved (Eph 1:4-5)

The difficulty is understanding God’s justice if 2-6 are true. Man cannot help but sin – he is born with a sin nature. How can man be condemned for what he is genetically programmed to do? The answer given is that it is still man who chooses to sin. Somehow we are both responsible for our sin and unable to keep from sinning. We must accept that there is an irresolvable paradox between God’s sovereignty in choosing who will be saved and man’s responsibility. I can’t think of any analogy that helps explain this and am resigned to accept that the dilemma can’t be resolved.

This would just be an academic exercise except that the stakes are so high. The punishment for our sins does not seem proportional to the offense. Our concept of justice includes fairness and a weighing of the circumstances to fit the punishment to the crime. A traffic violation will get you a fine. Murder someone and you will go to prison. If premeditated with special circumstances you may forfeit your life. It is difficult to imagine how 70 years of sinful living merits eternal torment (putting aside the issue of responsibility). It’s even harder if we think that this punishment will be earned by the nice people we know who try to live moral lives but do not know God (its not quite as difficult if we think about the most wicked transgressors).

Our sense that justice requires punishment proportional to the crime is not unique to our culture. Consider Leviticus 24:20: “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him.” In your sermon you noted that our God-given conscience cries for justice when we experience a wrong. Why does our conscience fail us so badly in acknowledging that Hell is the just reward for our sin? It does no good to say that God’s justice is “above ours” – that when we apply this attribute to God it doesn’t mean what we think of when we apply the word to human circumstances. Then why use the word “just”? Why not simply say, “God can do whatever he wants”? When we say: “God is Just”, we must mean something very like what we mean when we say that Solomon is just, or that a particular law is just (fair).

I don’t expect to understand the paradox of God’s justice, but I’d like a way to think about it. We may confess with our lips that God is Just but our hearts falter when we think about Hell. If we really don’t believe that God is Just then we will have difficulty loving and worshiping him. This is why we don’t think about Hell. It’s too risky for our faith. It’s safer to meditate on how “God demonstrates his own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Even then, in the back of our minds, our compassion for unsaved loved ones causes us to question God’s justice: “Will He really allow them to be banished to Hell? If God elects (chooses) those who will be saved why won’t he choose them?”

Practically, how are we to relate to those we love who are unsaved. If they are really destined for eternal punishment then it seems absurd not to spend every moment trying to coerce them into salvation. Except that it is not us, but God who saves. We go about our daily lives, casually relating with and loving people who are condemned for all of eternity. We should shout: “Something bigger is going on here! Your eternal destiny is hanging in the balance!” Why don’t we? Is it because we really don’t believe in Hell?

I have convinced myself that since it is God who saves, my responsibility is to pray for the unsaved and to be a good witness. But with the stakes so high I wonder if that is enough. I have excused myself from more radical efforts by asking the following rhetorical question: “Can it ever be the case that someone will not be saved (and therefore banished eternally to Hell) because of something I did or didn’t do?” I’ve always believed that the answer must be no. If yes, then how is it fair? How can someone else pay the ultimate price for my negligence? How does that reconcile with Divine Justice? (but then I haven’t done so good understanding God’s justice to begin with).

How do I presently think about Hell, God’s justice and the unsaved? Honestly, I try not to. But I desire to think about God rightly – in a way that balances His Justice and Mercy and allows for the doctrine of eternal punishment without diminishing my belief that God is Just and loving. Here’s my present thought formula:

1. Affirm that God is Just and Merciful (in the normal way that we use these words).
2. Accept that I don’t have enough information to understand how eternal punishment could be a proportional and just punishment for sin.
3. Acknowledge that I really don’t know who will be saved from Hell. Only God knows our hearts.
4. Hope and pray that the lost will be saved – especially loved ones and those nice people that just don’t seem deserving of eternal damnation.
5. Believe that God does not wish for any to perish (2 Peter 3:9)
6. Remember that Jesus, God’s incarnate son, suffered and died to save us demonstrating God’s Mercy.
7. Trust that God knows what He is doing even if it doesn’t make sense to me at this time.

At the risk of slipping into heresy I confess to also sometimes speculating on the following possibilities:

1. Perhaps accepting the doctrine of Hell is like Abraham accepting God’s command to sacrifice his own son, Isaac. Abraham didn’t question whether this was the kind of request a Just God would make. He trusted God and everything turned out fine in the end. No harm, no foul. Is it possible that Christ’s atonement covers more than we imagine – that somehow our lost loved ones will be snatched from eternal damnation at the last minute just as God stayed Abraham’s hand as he was preparing to sacrifice his son?

2. What if the Elect are from a larger pool than we imagine. Is it possible that some of those who do not confess Christ are also part of the Elect, chosen for salvation? On the human responsibility side of the equation are some judged to have trusted God even if they don’t call him by name? Lewis suggested this idea in the Last Battle where the Calormene Emeth is saved though he worshiped the false god Tash because he did so with the attitude of one who worshiped Aslan. We know that: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” (Rom 10:9-10) and that: whoever shall deny me [Jesus] before men, I will also deny him before my father who is in Heaven (Matt. 10:33).” But what of those who do not confess or specifically deny Jesus? Is there such a category? If so, could they be judged by a different standard (human responsibility side), chosen by God for salvation (God’s sovereignty side) with all still made possible by Christ’s atonement? I’m thinking of Romans 2:15: “…their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.”

3. I have tried to find a way to show that maybe God didn’t mean eternal (as in duration of time) when the Bible describes Hell as eternal punishment. However, as you pointed out in your Sunday sermon, Mathew 25:46 really makes this interpretation difficult because eternal also refers to eternal life in the parallel phrase.

4. If God does not wish for any to perish (2 Peter 3:9) then our prayers for the Lost are consistent with God’s desires. Surely He will do everything possible to answer these prayers and save the Lost. Is it possible that God has burdened our hearts to pray for certain individuals because He has already chosen them for salvation (Divine side) and knows that they will (not because they will) turn toward him before they die (human side)?

A lot of the difficulty in accepting the doctrine of Hell has to do with the paradox between God’s sovereignty and Man’s responsibility. I’ve focused more on the role of God in choosing the Elect for salvation. If we focus on man’s responsibility Hell is more understandable. God cannot welcome sinful man into heaven. If we turn from God and choose to make a god of ourselves there ought to be consequences. C.S. Lewis seems to focus more on the human responsibility side of the equation and suggests that those who turn away from God would continue to do so for all of eternity (The Great Divorce). This somewhat helps to justify the eternal duration of Hell. Still, I’m not sure why God couldn’t just annihilate the Lost rather than send them into eternal torment. He brought them into existence – couldn’t he just take them out? Of course God is under no obligation to tell us why it doesn’t work that way.

I’ve gone about as far as I can go with this subject without starting to do research. However, I’m not sure that spending any more time thinking about Hell would be productive. I am interested in any helpful feedback you might have, Tim. Do not think that I expect a response right away – I know you are busy. It’s been helpful just trying to think through this subject a little. Your Sunday sermon on Hell is to blame.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

National Day of Prayer Gathering

Wow! I've been so busy, its been difficult to find time to blog! Life is moving fast. Lots of fun. Lot's of responsibility. Lot's of opportunities. Hanging on by my fingernails. Living by faith. Isn't it nice to know you aren't the only one?

I hope you can join other Christians tomorrow at the National Day of Prayer Gathering. It's on the Courthouse steps in Downtown SLO on the corner of Monterey and Osos Streets from 12:10 to 12:40. I know Mayor Dave Romero and several other pastors will be there. We'll spend just a half hour praying for government, media, families, churches and our community. Come on by!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Musings on Hell

I was surprised how difficult it was for me yesterday to preach a straightforward sermon entitled, "What does the Bible teach about Hell?" How seductive our culture is and how susceptible we all are to the applause and approval of the crowds. Or maybe its just me.

Why is hell the big elephant in the room that Christians today refuse to talk about?

Here's another quote from J.I. Packer on the subject that I just couldn't squeeze in. . .

The pupose of the Bible teaching about hell is to make us appreciate, thankfully embrace, and rationally prefer the grace of Christ that saves us from it. It is really a mercy to mankind that God in Scripture is so explicit about hell. We cannot now say that we have not been warned. --from Concise Theology, pg 263.

And one more from C.S. Lewis too. . . .

In all discussions of hell we should keep steadily before our eyes the possible damnation, not of our enemies nor our friends (since both these disturb the reason) but of ourselves. This chapter is not about your wife or son, nor about Nero or Judas Iscariot; it is about you and me. --from The Problem of Pain, pg.128.

Good advice.