Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Playdough Scripture Hebrews 11:1-2

Now faith is being sure of our systematic theology what we hope for and certain that our Biblical worldview is truth of what we do not see. This is what theologians in recent centuries have worked hard to figure out for us the ancients were commended for.

Hebrews 11:1 - 2 (Playdough Version)

What do you think? Have we re-defined what faith is?

Is our faith more like a box of answers or like an unfinished puzzle?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jesus Models How to take Up Cross

Matthew 16:24 (NIV)
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
Matthew records Jesus saying something like this twice, and Mark once.

So what is Jesus asking of us? Should all Christ followers be crucified?

Or is this another image of what it means to make Jesus Lord? Deny oneself - allow God's will to be done instead of our will. The type of cross or sacrifice will likely be different, but it will be something that fits into God's grander plans that we don't see clearly.

And then we see Jesus model this attitude for us before he takes up His cross.

Luke 22:42
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."
And Paul explains this further in Romans 6. When we are baptized with Christ, we are united with Christ in His death and resurrection. We go with our sins to the cross with Christ. Our selfish ways die, and we find new life with Christ.
Related Posts:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Polycarp the Atheist

Just read about the Martyrdom of Polycarp, who is regarded as one of three chief Apostolic Fathers.

Quotes taken from here: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/martyrdompolycarp-hoole.html
9:2 Then, when he had been brought in, the proconsul asked him if he was Polycarp. And when he confessed, he would have persuaded him to deny, saying, Have respect unto thine age, and other things like these, as is their custom to say: Swear by the fortunes of Caesar; Repent; Say, Away with the Atheists. But Polycarp, when he had looked with a grave face at all the multitude of lawless heathen in the arena, having beckoned unto them with his hand, sighed, and looking up unto heaven, said, Away with the Atheists!
I find it interesting that the Christians were called Atheists in this period. Why would Christians be called Atheists? Was it because they did not believe that Caesar was Lord? Interesting.
9:3 And when the proconsul pressed him, and said, Swear, and I will release thee, revile Christ; Polycarp said, Eighty and six years have I served him, and in nothing hath he wronged me; and how, then, can I blaspheme my King, who saved me?
So the story goes that Polycarp was burned in the arena at 86 years of age, but the fire could not kill him so they killed him with a sword. All because Polycarp remained faithful to his King.

His final words:
"O Lord God Almighty, Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received our knowledge concerning thee, the God of angels and powers, and of the whole creation, and of all the race of the just who lived before thee, I thank thee that thou hast deemed me worthy of this day and hour, that I should have my portion in the number of the martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, unto the resurrection of eternal life, both of the soul and body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. Among these may I be received before thee this day as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, even as thou hast prepared and made manifest beforehand, and hast fulfilled, thou who art the unerring and true God."
Polycarp saw this as partaking in the cup of Christ. His Lord's words to take up his cross and follow Him were very real. I also see a similarity here to Paul in Romans 6 where we learn that those who are baptized into Christ died with Christ on the cross and are raised into new life with Him.

Related Posts:

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Slaves to sin or God

What's our relationship to sin now that we are part of the kingdom of God?

Paul describes it well in Romans 6. This is just my attempt to internalize Paul's teachings.

We used to be slaves to sin. We used to let our own selfish ways rule in our lives.

Now with Jesus on the throne, we are now ruled by His will, guided by the Holy Spirit. Paul uses the word slave, and in a sense we are slaves to God. (Yet I think God still gives us a free will, and at any point we can go back to our own selfish ways - so the slave analogy breaks down.)

So what happened to the sin that once ruled our lives? It died on the cross as we died with Jesus on the cross... That's hard to imagine, but in some sense my sins and I died with Jesus on the cross. My being baptized into Jesus means I am united with Him. In some mysterious way I died with Him, and rose victorious over sin with Him, and will live with Him for eternity.... Wow.

It would be foolish to let our selfish ways reign in our lives again. We know that our selfish ways lead to death, and that our selfish ways have been put to death on the cross... so why would we go back to being slaves to death when we've been given the Holy Spirit which will guide us in ways that lead to holiness and life.

Don't just take my word for any of this, read how Paul describes it in Romans 6.

Related Posts:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Is Caesar Lord?

Who is Lord? Caesar or Jesus?

This was the question for the early church. The Roman Emperor claimed to be Lord. Romans were asked to declare "Caesar is Lord". The title King of Kings and Lord of Lords was a title reserved for the Emperor.

Into this time and place comes Jesus preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God. That He is King... but that His kingdom is not of this world, it is not a kingdom one can say "10 miles north and you'll find the kingdom of God". The kingdom is mysteriously within those who follow Him.

What was different for those who followed Jesus the messiah was that they confessed that "Jesus is Lord". Jesus ruled in their lives. His Holy Spirit lived in them and through them, and they were members of this body of Christ, this kingdom of God.

These Christ followers refused to acknowledge Caesar as Lord but insisted that Jesus was Lord. It is said that many were so stubborn about this that they were martyred as a result of this confession.

The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the God who is Love and light wants you to be part of His Kingdom. That's great news! ...but not necessarily easy news.

So the question still is: Who is Lord?
You? Some mortal man/woman? Your selfish ways? Or some other idols in your life?
Or is the loving God of the universe sitting on the throne of your life?

Not only was this the essence of the good news of the kingdom of God that Jesus and His disciples preached, it was a central belief of the early church. Here's a collection of related verses and the apostles creed.

2 Cor 4:3-5 (NIV)
"And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake."
Philippians 2:11 (NIV)
"and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Romans 10:9 (NIV)
"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
1 Corinthians 12:3 (NIV)
Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 8:6 (NIV)
"yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live."
Eph 4:4-5 (NIV)
"There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism;"
Acts 2:21 (NIV)
"And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Acts 2:36 (NIV)
"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
Philippians 2:8-11 (NIV)
"And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."
Apostles' Creed
1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.
6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins,
11. the resurrection of the body,
12. and life everlasting.
Related Posts:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Introduction to Gospel of the Kingdom

In a previous posts we have Angels proclaiming to the shepherds that He is Christ the Lord. In another an angel tells Mary that Jesus will reign on the throne of David, and that His kingdom will never end.

Here is a third miraculous event in our Christmas story that introduces us to the good news of the kingdom of God.

Matt 2:1-6 (NIV)
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:
" 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"
Here at His birth are three miraculous stories introducing Jesus as King or Lord.

The gospel message that Jesus and His disciples shared was that Christ was King, that He can reign in our lives now and into eternity. God's power is available to us. We don't have to do everything in our own strength and wisdom. If we allow God to rule in our lives, instead of our selfish ambitions He will restore our lives to what they were intended to be.

At Christmas reflect on who is on the throne in our lives. Do our selfish ambitions reign, or are we acknowledging that Christ is King?

Related Posts:

Friday, December 18, 2009

He is Christ the Lord

Is this another gospel proclamation in the Christmas narrative?

Luke 2:10-11(NIV)
"But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."
(Sorry if I'm beating a dead horse here. But I'm blogging this primarily to track my learning.)

For some the 'gospel' is defined by atonement.

I think the gospel message that Jesus and His disciples preached was about Him being King or Lord. And I think we may be missing something if we over emphasize a different part of Scripture and neglect the message that Jesus focused on.

So here's another clue in the Christmas story of the good news of Christ being Lord.

Are we still proclaiming the same good news message?

Related Posts:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Throne of his father David

I'm just taking a fresh look at the Christmas story. Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom of God. Does anything in the Christmas story point to this message as well?

Luke 1:30-33 (NIV)
But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

Now, I'm not 100% sure on this. I'd rather if this said "The Lord God will give him the throne of our hearts", and "he will reign over those who follow him forever".

But I'll take a stab at understanding what this may mean.

Option 1:

It could be still a future prediction. That Jesus will reign in Isreal over the Jewish nation.

But if this is so, I find it odd that this is what the angel says to Mary before Jesus is born. And then add to that that Jesus spent his life teaching about the present realities of the good news of the kingdom of God.

Option 2:

What was the throne of David? It was the throne of the kingdom of Israel. And the kingdom of Israel was the nation who had God's revelation given to them so they could share God with the world.

So could the throne Jesus claims be the throne of the people whom God has revealed himself to?

It would then make sense that He would reign over these people forever, and this kingdom would never end.

Are we as followers of Christ part of this present kingdom of God? Does Jesus reign in our lives now and into eternity?

John 18:36 (NIV)
Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
Matthew 21:32 (NIV)
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
Luke 17:21 (NIV)
"nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you."

Are there any other ways to interpret this?

Related Posts:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Playdough Scripture Matt 24:14

"And this gospel of the kingdom of God’s saving activity in the person and work of Christ, including his incarnation in which he took to himself full (yet sinless) human nature; his sinless life which fulfilled the perfect law of God; his substitutionary death which paid the penalty for man’s sin and satisfied the righteous wrath of God; his resurrection demonstrating God’s satisfaction with his sacrifice; and his glorification and ascension to the right hand of the Father where he now reigns and intercedes for the church will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."

Matthew 24:14 (Playdough Version)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Commanded to Love

If someone put a gun to your head and commanded you to love them - would you?

Or would you just pretend to love them?

Is this similar to the way you started your relationship with God?

We can't force ourselves to love God if we don't know and feel loved at our core. Do you believe God loves you no matter what? Or is it like Santa who knows if you've been good or bad and will give you good gifts only if you've been good? Being told to love God or He will torture you in Hell for eternity is not going to produce true love. It may produce obedience, and and religious duty, but we will be confused about our love.

1 John 4:18-19 (NIV)
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us."
If any of our doctrines or teachings have portrayed God as something other than love, lets take another look at them. Yes God has other characteristics, but they can not contradict or ever take away from His love for us. God's love is Holy and pure, His love can be demonstrated through his justice, God's love for us can be shown by His anger against the sin that would destroys us.

Romans 8:39 (NIV)
"neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Yes, we could quote some scripture either way. The words Love and Holy both show up in the Bible about the same number times (547 & 549). They must be both true of God at all times.

1 John 4:10 (NIV)
"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
We can only really love God when we first know and feel loved by Him. It will then be a natural response to His overwhelming love for us.

Who is God really?

This is a question we all need to work through. And there is no better way to find the answer to this than asking God himself. May He reveal His true nature to each of us.

Related Posts:

Sunday, December 13, 2009


This Christmas season be reminded of this passage.

Matthew 1:23 (NIV)
"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" —which means, "God with us."
It just reminded me of the truth that Jesus is "God with us". Jesus was "God with us" when he walked on this earth 2000 years ago. Jesus is still "God with us" when he lives in and through us. That is what the new covenant we live under is all about.

Hebrews 8:8-12 (NIV)
But God found fault with the people and said:
"The time is coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,'
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more."
Related Posts:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Playdough Scripture 2 Timothy 3:16

OK... I may not be popular for this one... :)

I'll try to explain my concern.

2 Timothy 3:16 (Playdough Version)
"All Scripture (the 66 books we call the Bible, some of which were not even written before 2 Timothy, yet including these and all New Testament books which would be compiled into a canon a few hundred years later by the early Catholic Church) is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (and the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative word of God)"

My concern here is how this verse is frequently used as the main proof that the Bible passed down to us is word for word God's words. It is often presented as a simple proof without acknowledging the stuff I added above in red.

It may be true that God moved the pen for every word of our Bible. But I don't see any verse in our Bible stating that this was the case.

And even if the Bible ended with the line "Every word in this volume of 66 books is God's inspired words", would that prove on it's own that it is true? If the Da Vinci Code ended with "Everything in this book is 100% true"... would making that claim make it so?

Young's Literal Translation gives a different look to 2 Timothy 3:16:
"every Writing [is] God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for setting aright, for instruction that [is] in righteousness,"
But I'm still not sure what that means. Every writing? Which writings? That's what I'm concerned with. Did Timothy know which books would be included in the canon that came together over a few hundred years of the early church?

OK... so what I am left to hold on to? I think the early church confirmed that these books were the best books describing the life of our Lord, and the life and teachings of the early church. There are other early christian writings that may also shed light on the early church. But there was reason for enough doubt and they were excluded from the canon.

I believe the 66 books we cherish do point us towards knowing the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God. I believe it is possible that God spoke clearly to the authors as they penned the books in the Bible. I hope all of it is 100% accurate. It would make sense that a loving God would want to preserve an accurate written account of who He is. But even if it isn't 100% accurate, I am thankful that I hold a book that reveals to me who God is, and that He wants to relate to me in a personal way. In that relationship I can hear God's words to me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why are there divisions and schisms?

Why are there strifes, and tumults, and divisions, and schisms, and wars among you? Have we not [all] one God and one Christ? Is there not one Spirit of grace poured out upon us? And have we not one calling in Christ? Why do we divide and tear to pieces the members of Christ, and raise up strife against our own body, and have reached such a height of madness as to forget that "we are members one of another?" Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, how He said, "Woe to that man [by whom offenses come]! It were better for him that he had never been born, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my elect. Yea, it were better for him that a millstone should be hung about [his neck], and he should be sunk in the depths of the sea, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my little ones. Your schism has subverted [the faith of] many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all. And still your sedition continues.

(First Clement Chapter 46, 80-140CE)
Yes, I think it is clear the members of Christ's church have 'reached such a height of madness', and have forgotten that "we are members one of another?".

Interesting connection here with Mark 14:21
"...But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."
Is there a connection between 'betraying the Son of Man' and not recognizing that Christ's Church is one body? Would a similar 'woe' apply?

It is true that the divisions in Christ's Church have discouraged, given reason to doubt, and destroyed the faith of many. Yet many Christ followers see no reason to change, and continue to protest and fight over who is right and who is wrong.

In a family, when battles go on too long, there is a point when it doesn't matter who is right and who is wrong. The members of a healthy family will recognize the need for reconciliation.

I pray we can seek wisdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, and he will guide us towards love and respect.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

O Lord Remember Your Assembly

"O Lord, remember your assembly, remember to rescue it from every evil and to make it complete in your love, and to gather it from the four winds into your kingdom which you prepared for it--it, which has been made holy. For yours is the power and the glory for the age." - Didache (50-120 C.E.)
The early church remembered to pray for Christ's global Church. It was much smaller then, rooted closer to Christ's teachings, and had thousands fewer divisions - yet they still prayed.

May we also remember to pray for Christ's Church. May each member find their fullness in Christ's love... and those who do will be united in Christ.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Thanks Robert Stephanus

Thanks Robert Stephanus, for the gift of numbering all the verses in our Scriptures in 1551.

Without those numbers it would be much harder to win any theology debates. :) When quoting Scripture to support your ideas, you'd have to just point someone towards reading a whole chapter (or the whole book before 1227).

And maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing.

... but I'll keep using those numbered verses if they help prove my points. :)

The rest of you... you should stick to seeing bigger picture. :)

Playdough Scripture 1 Corinthians 14:26

"What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn sing a song, or and one of you give a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church."

1 Corinthians 14:26 (Playdough Version)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Word In You

James 1:18-25 (NIV)
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.
As Christians we are often encouraged to 'be in the Word'... and I see no problem with that.

I've usually read this passage thinking it was encouraging us to be in 'the Word'... you know... the 'Word Of God'... the 66 books we call the Bible.

However there's another way it can be read, and we may miss out on some truths if we don't consider this interpretation.

Was James talking about the 66 books we call the Bible? Likely not considering the book of James was probably written before any of the other New Testament books. In context I don't think he was referring to the Old Testament writings. He may have been referring to partial written works circulating at the time, but certainly not the OT + NT Bible we usually think of when we hear 'Word of God'.

What else could James have meant by "the word of truth", "the word implanted in you". What 'word' was James saying we should listen to?

Was James use of 'the Word' similar to the use in John 1:1 & 14 (NIV):
1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
14. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus is 'the Word'.

The 'Word' is implanted in us, Jesus lives in us (or the Holy Spirit... I'm not clear on a difference here)

Listening to the Word could mean listening to the Holy Spirit, or Jesus who is living in us.

And of course... don't just listen to what the Holy Spirit tells you... but do it.

So don't just be 'in the Word', but learn to recognize and listen to 'the Word' that is in you!

P.S. I am not stating here that the Bible is not also the Word (or words) of God. I'm not debating here whether the writings in the Bible are inspired by the Holy Spirit... and therefore also 'the Word of God'.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Funny Link - are you a Calvinist?

purgatorio: Help! I'm Going Hyper!

A humorous way to discover if you are Calvinist. :)

Let Your Alms Sweat In Your Hands

From Chapter 1 of the Didache:
" it has been said, Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give."


I'm guessing for the early church alms giving was different than putting money in a plate that gets passed around on Sunday morning. We may sweat over how much to give, but do we sweat over who to give it too?

Related passage - Matt 6:1-4 (NIV)
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Good Works

What is required for salvation? Works? Faith?
Can you be saved if you have faith but not works?
Can you be saved if you have works but not faith?

It may help to define what we mean by being good, or doing good works.

Is being good adhering to a list of do's and don'ts?
Is being bad breaking that list, or breaking those laws?


Is being good doing whatever our Father, our Lord asks of us.
And being bad (sin) is not doing what our Father, our Lord asks of us... but doing what our selfish hearts want.

Without knowing God's will for us, is it possible to know right from wrong? To really do good?

If doing good is defined as doing God's will, then it is impossible to separate good works from faith... or faith from good works. You can not believe Jesus is Lord of your life without letting Him be Lord.

Yes it is possible to do things that look good, but do them for selfish reasons. It comes down to who is Lord of our lives. Us or God?

Romans 10:9
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Does that make any sense?

Related Posts:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


(Note: In case someone reads this thinking I'm directing this at you - I wrote this last week after watching a video - so it likely isn't you... unless the person who made the video is reading this... which I doubt)

Over the years I've heard an accusation about the Pharisees of Jesus day.

That they took the law, and kept adding more and more to it. They believed that it was their duty as interpreters of the Mosaic Law to come up with a right and wrong answers to every scenario that could arise.

What have we learned from this?

Has Christianity stuck to the same simple message that Jesus came to share?

Or throughout the centuries, have we taken the Bible and built a system of beliefs and doctrines based on it to the best of our abilities?

Do we hold tightly to our doctrines or to the Jesus of the Bible?

Do we spend more time teaching and defending our doctrines than we do introducing people to Jesus?

The Pharisees thought they were doing well. They had taken the message that they had been given, and created a complex system of beliefs that they believed fit well with the original message.

Whenever I read some doctrinal belief, I always wonder... if this was the message God wanted us to believe, why didn't He have the Bible written this way? When we have to pick snippets from all over the Scriptures and string them together with some logical argument, I'm frequently becoming suspicious. Why wasn't the Bible written like a list of doctrinal beliefs?

I used to wish the Bible was written as a clear list of beliefs.

Now I suspect it wasn't written as a list of doctrines because then we would take it and use it as a rule book to create some legalistic religion... Where what God wants is a relationship with Him. If all the answers to life's questions were clearly listed, we may not feel the need to seek Him personally for guidance.

Yes I believe many Christian doctrines are true. I think the Apostle's Creed could be considered a list of doctrinal statements... and I'm not questioning those. But is there a point when we have gone too far? Have we created too many? Have we given them too much emphasis?

What do you think? Have you ever wished there was less room for interpretation in our Scriptures? Is it our duty to take the Scripture and create a Biblical system of beliefs from it? Or is the Bible primarily stories introducing us to a God that wants a relationship with us?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who's The Man

The man was given life by God.

The man was loved by God, every detail of his life was made just the way God saw best.

God made sure the man's environment was also an excellent place for the man to live.

God made provisions to take care of all of the mans needs.

God had great dreams and ambitions for the man.

But the man also had great dreams and ambitions for himself.

The man was faced with a choice.

Should he do what he wanted, or what God wanted.

The man wanted to be in charge of his own life, he was confident he'd be OK on his own.

So the man did what he wanted.

This was a mistake, there were consequences to follow.

The man no longer got to live in the perfect environment God had set up for him.

The man had to work harder to take care of his own needs.

Work was hard for the man.

God still loved the man, and provided for the man, but over the years the man frequently chose to do what he wanted and ignore what God wanted.

The man and God had an on and off relationship. Things always worked out best for the man when he did what God wanted, but the man often let his own desires get in the way of God's desires.

.... and they lived happily ever after. :)


So the question is: Who's the man?
There is a similar story in Genesis where our Bibles translate 'The Man' to the name 'Adam'.

However the man in this story also tells my story.

Is the story in Genesis a story of a man that fell from being good to being evil... and now the rest of us are now born in this evil state.

Is it the story of the fall of just one man? Or is it also a story that all of mankind repeats over and over again?

Unfortunately I often choose to be 'The Man'.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What Gospel does your neighbor need to hear?

Your neighbor Bob has shared some problems he's having in his life. He feels trapped and burdened.

"Hi Bob, I see you are a sinner. Do you want to hear some good news? God used to require His people to kill animals to receive forgiveness for their sins. Then Jesus came to die for your sins. You don't have to kill animals as burnt offerings to restore your relationship with God anymore. Confess your sins to God, believe in Jesus and what he did on the cross, and you will have eternal life."

Bob:"Huh? I wasn't talking about my sins. And the thought of killing an animal as a sacrifice for my sins has never crossed my mind. So what's the message of the cross have to do with the problems I'm burdened with?"

OR should we try this good news message:

"Did you know God's power is available to you? You don't have to do everything in your own strength and wisdom. If you allow God to rule in your life, instead of your selfish ambitions He will restore your life to what it was intended to be."

Which good news message is closest to the message Jesus preached as He traveled from town to town?

If Bob accepts the good news message of the reign of God, he will want to learn more about how this all works. As he studies the Scriptures he will also learn about the work Jesus did on the cross, and understand the problem of sin. Bob wouldn't be the first person to be saved without an understand of Christ's work on the cross first.

Would the good news Jesus and His disciples preached before the cross still work today?

Related posts:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thoughts on Membership

I mostly I agree with GotQuestions.org on this one.

The way we do church membership is not found in Scripture. The body of Christ is a universal body. The members of the body are all Christ followers... not just those who make a commitment to a local gathering.

I think the biggest downside of church membership is that of exclusion. Some people are 'in', and others are 'out'. And those that are 'in' may get confused and view those that are outside to be not part of Christ's body. The church that meets down the block or across the street has a different membership list, and may not be considered part of the same body.

Other than that... I've concluded that it is likely not a sin to submit to the desire of others on this one. If it's the way they think the church functions best, and it's what they require for us to be involved, it's likely not a sin to go along. I can't find a verse that says "Thou shalt not become a member of a local assembly."

At our Sunday morning event, and throughout the week, I value and respect the sincere love for God that I see in many people from Christ's Church. We all need each other to encourage each other, teach one another, love one another, submit to one another, share hospitality with one another, forgive one another, serve one another... (and the list goes on)... and I'll repeat love one another.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Playdough Scripture 1 John 4:15

"If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, prays a simple prayer like this: "Heavenly Father, I know that I have sinned against you and that my sins separate me from you. I am truly sorry. I now want to turn away from my sinful past and turn to you for forgiveness. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your Son, Jesus Christ, died for my sins, that He was raised from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become my Savior and the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You and to convict me when I sin. I pledge to grow in grace and knowledge of you. My greatest purpose in life is to follow your example and do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen."

... and then continues to regularly attend a church, give to a church, and live a moderately sin-free life...

...God lives in him and he in God."

1 John 4:15 (Playdough Version)

Have our traditions made things more complicated than they were meant to be?

Monday, November 23, 2009

How can I gain your love?

What did you need to do to gain the love of your parents?

What do your kids need to do to gain your love?

What did you need to do to gain the love of your grand-parents?

In most cases - Nothing!

I can't imagine my kids arriving at my parents home when we visit for Christmas and asking "Grandma, what can I do so you love me?" They just know they are loved.

We don't need to try to earn it. We should know too that we are loved by our Father, and learn to live within that perfect loving relationship... being guided by the One who loves us and knows us best.

Playdough Scripture Matt 10:8-10

"Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep, it's OK to make a profit from the gospel."

Matthew 10:8b-10 (Playdough Version)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Is The Problem Our Separation?

On my 'What I believe' page, I started with a number of quotes from Billy Graham Association. I picked them because I know most Christian denominations have agreed to work with the materials they provide at their events... so I thought it was a good place to start for the sake of unity.

Here's one of them:

The Problem is Our Separation

God created us in His own image to have an abundant life. He did not make us as robots to automatically love and obey Him. God gave us a will and a freedom of choice. We chose to disobey God and go our own willful way. We still make this choice today. This results in separation from God. http://www.billygraham.org/SH_StepsToPeace.asp
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." —Romans 3:23 (NIV)

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." —Romans 6:23 (NIV)

However, the shortest blog post ever here got me thinking (and the responses that followed).

"True or False: Sin Separates us from God"

I believe Rom 8:35-39 may apply… nothing can separate me from the love of God.

When I rule my life by going my selfish way (sin… like the prodigal son) I can distance myself from participating in the kingdom of God…

But God is all powerful... He has the ability to reach out to us even when we are sinners…. while we were sinners, Christ died for us...

Jesus was a friend of sinners. It’s not like sin creates a gulf that God himself can not cross to reach across to love sinners... and that was the perception I've had in the past. I thought God was incapable of loving sinners because of his Holiness. My love isn't even as pure as God's, yet I am capable of loving my kids when they sin against me... I don't think we should limit God's love this way.

Sin separates us from God?
True – when we sin we separate ourselves from God’s ways.
False – God's love can always reach out to us.

I think the image of separation has gotten me confused in the past. I'm going to change my 'what I believe' page to read: The problem... our self centered ways.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Playdough Scripture Rev 20:10

"And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet, and everyone who is not a Christian had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever."

Revelation 20:10 (Playdough Version)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Do you support torture?

I don't live in the U.S. but here's a story that saddens me. I think it's a sad reflection of a people who should be living as a reflection of God's love.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.


More than 60% of people who attend 'Evangelical' churches at least once a week say torture is often or sometimes justified against suspected terrorists.

Only 42% of people who seldom or never go to church believed the same.

How could this statistic be true? Why could people who know the love of Christ, who have used the phrase "what would Jesus do", support torturing suspected terrorists?

Could the way they view the work of the cross play into it. They see God torturing and killing His own Son....

Or does the idea of double predestination and the traditional view of Hell play into thinking that since God has chosen those who will remain unsaved and He plans to torture them for eternity... it must be OK for us to do the same here too with those who are obviously unsaved.


God I pray that your people would get a personal glimpse of who you are, and portray that image to a broken world.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Do Doctrines Unite?

Is the greatest calling for Christian communities to come up with shared statements of beliefs?

Do we need to work on our doctrinal statements until we find unity?

Does having doctrinal statements create unity or do they create divisions?

Doctrinal statements may help define what it takes to be united within a certain group... but what does it do to those on the outside of the well defined list of beliefs?

Colossians 3:13-15 (NIV)
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Or would a renewed focus on love be a better way forward?

Is that why Jesus focused on love as the greatest commandment... is that why love is the true mark of a disciple of Christ. Is it possible that we could look past our differences when we recognize true love in each other?

When I recognize true love for the same Jesus I love, I am able to look past disagreements on less essential matters.

When I understand God's love extended to towards me, and recognize that He also loves others who follow different traditions, I am able to recognize that we are part of the same family.

I also recognize that when I know someone loves and respects me... I have an easier time discussing disagreements. If we start with love and respect... we may actually make progress on doctrines as well.

So... to make this practical...
If you are a 4 point Calvinist, think Hell is eternal torment for the wicked, and love the penal substitutionary atonement theory... if you love Jesus... let's celebrate that as we encourage each other to follow God's leading in our lives.

... Or if you believe the Pope has a unique position of authority in the church, pray to Mary, and follow some other traditions that seem different to me... if you love the same Jesus I do... let's recognize that and encourage each other to follow that Jesus whom we love.

... Or if you _____(fill in your own blank here if you are one of the 30,000 different Christian denominations not included in the previous two statements... I don't want to leave you out) _____ .... if you love the same Jesus I do... let's recognize that and encourage each other to follow that Jesus whom we love.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Parable about a Divided Family

from: http://www.alanknox.net/2009/11/a-parable-about-a-divided-family/

I just read this Post by Alan Knox, and had to repost it here:

A man had several children. He loved his children and provided for them as any loving father would. And, like most children, they often disagreed and fought. But, the father would bring the children together and make them deal with their disagreements.

One by one, as the children grew up, they moved out of the father’s house. However, they all stayed close by. One son moved into a house a block away. A daughter moved into the house next door. Another son moved across town. Each child moved into his or her own house, married, and began to start their own family.

Also, one by one, the children stopped talking to one another. Their disagreement and fights became more serious and divisive. And, since they no longer lived with their father, they no longer came together to work out their differences.

Whenever they saw one another at the store, or on the sidewalk, or at the park, they would point out their differences and disagreements. Often, the arguments would become loud and heated, such that people walking by would notice. Eventually, the people in town knew the family as “the divided family.”

The name “divided family” grieved the father, so he invited his children to come together to work out their differences. They all agreed. But, one by one, the children declined the invitation when they heard that the other children were invited as well. Each one refused to get together with their father as long as the other children were invited.

The father continued to spend time with his children one-on-one, but he could not convince the children to come together. Whenever he attempted to invite more than one of his children to his house, the children would refuse and point out their disagreements and differences with the other children.

As the grandchildren grew older and moved out of their parents’ houses, they also began to disagree with one another. They would often argue with their parents as well. While each of the children and grandchildren and (eventually) great grandchildren loved to spend time with the father, they refused to get together with one another.

Whenever the father tried to bring them together, the children and grandchildren and great grandchildren would complain to the father about the others, and tell him that their family was right and the other families were wrong. They explained passionately to their father why they could not get together with those other families.

One day, in his grief, the father wrote a letter. In the letter, the father acknowledged the hurt, disagreements, and arguments that had split his children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. He acknowledged that it would take great efforts on all their parts to bring them all back together again.

“However,” he concluded, “in all of your arguments and disagreements and divisions, you have forgotten one thing: In my perspective, as long as you live as separate families, you are living a lie. You are one family – my family – and I will never see you nor treat you as multiple families.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Playdough Scripture Acts 2:38

"Peter replied, "Repeat this prayer after me:
"Heavenly Father, I know that I have sinned against you and that my sins separate me from you. I am truly sorry. I now want to turn away from my sinful past and turn to you for forgiveness. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your Son, Jesus Christ, died for my sins, that He was raised from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become my Savior and the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You and to convict me when I sin. I pledge to grow in grace and knowledge of you. My greatest purpose in life is to follow your example and do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen."
and you will be saved. Repent and Then after you've taken baptism classes be baptized, every one some of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Acts 2:38 (Playdough Version)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Graham Cooke part 2

Part 1 of this video here.

"Everything always comes back to the nature of God, always. What is God like for me, what is my experience with Him, what am I enjoying about Him and that's where your passion comes from, and you should live in your passion about God... you know... it's supposed to be a joy, a pleasure, and a delight to be with God, because He has a joy, a pleasure, delight with being with us."

"Whatever God wants from us He intends to give us. So if He wants us to be faithful, He's gonna be faithful, because He is the model, He's the example. And in fact it takes God to love God. Only God can love God. So what does that mean? It means that for me to love God properly I have to be loved wonderfully by Him. So the chief role of a Christian therefore I think is to allow themselves to be wonderfully loved. So when God touches you, who He is comes into you, sets you free and that's what you manifest."

"I am so passionate about church, I think church is such a brilliant idea. But you know the problem is we've taken God's whole idea of church and we've made it in our own image... we've put it in a box... you know this is what church is. The only time God put himself in a box He said you touch this thing and I'll kill you. But the whole idea of God is for freedom that Christ has set us free."

"So church really should be a community of dream seeking permission giving people. The best leaders are leaders who can facilitate the growth and the development, not only of the individual, but the corporate. So they are permission giving, they don't mind if people make mistakes because sometimes when you do something for the first time you learn how not to do it. So they're real fathers, but they're dream givers. The Pharisees are the dream thieves of their day. They stole peoples dreams."

"One of the discrepancies in Evangelicalism, speaking as an Evangelical, is that we have put the great commission ahead of the first commandment. The first commandment is love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. That is the real role of the church in the earth. The great commission actually is the second commandment. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. And so our prime role in the world is to know God, love God, encounter God, and then be part of the release of that understanding and that experience into the world."

"... it is His deep joy in you that captures your heart. And you realize that, for me it was... OMG, He's the happiest person I've ever met, and also He's the kindest person I know, and you get totally awestruck by the nature of God, and what He's like... and then it's like my hearts swept, it's not like you can't go back... you can't find your way back"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

80% Muslim

I just thought I'd do some research to explore what common ground I share with Muslims, so the next time I chat with a Muslim I have a better idea of what they believe.

Literally, the word Muslim means "one who submits (to God)".

Check - I have the same desire. In this sense I could call myself Muslim.

They believe God has sent many prophets all over the world. These are their top 5 prophets:
  1. Nuh (Noah)
  2. Ibrahim (Abraham)
  3. Musa (Moses)
  4. Isa (Jesus)
  5. Muhammad
I'll score myself a 3.5/5 on this one

Most Muslims believe that Jesus ascended into heaven, but not the death and resurrection part.

I'll score myself a 1/3 on this one

Muslim 6 articles of faith:
  • One God
  • Angels - messengers of God
  • Prophets (already mentioned above)
  • Scriptures - They are the Suhuf Ibrahim (commonly the Scrolls of Abraham), the Taurat (Torah), the Zabur (commonly the Psalms), the Injil (commonly the Gospel), and the Qur'an.
  • The Day of Judgment and the Akhirah or afterlife
  • Predestination- "Allah has knowledge of everything in his creation. Nothing occurs except by his will. Human beings are given free will, and it must be made clear that destiny does not have a cause-and-effect influence of the choices humans make. The choices that humans make are all within Allah's knowledge."
I have a slightly different Scriptures and Prophets list. I'm not Calvinist, but I'm good with this description of Predestination. I'd give myself a 5/6 on this one.

Virgin Birth of Jesus


"Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself."


Once they reach puberty, his/her account of deeds is opened in Paradise. To attain paradise, at death, their good deeds (helping others, testifying to the truth of God, leading a virtuous life)... must outweigh their evil deeds.


"There is no other god beside God." (Qur'an 47:19)


"My Lord, make this a peaceful land, and protect me and my children from worshiping idols." (Qur'an 14:35)


"And make not Allah's (name) an excuse in your oaths against doing good, or acting rightly, or making peace between persons; for Allah is One Who heareth and knoweth all things." (Qur'an 2:224)

"O you who believe, when the Congregational Prayer (Salat Al-Jumu`ah) is announced on Friday, you shall hasten to the commemoration of GOD, and drop all business." (Qur'an 62:9)

(most of us don't keep the Saturday Sabbath either - I'll ask for an exemption on this point)

"....and your parents shall be honoured. As long as one or both of them live, you shall never (even) say to them, "Uff" (the slightest gesture of annoyance), nor shall you shout at them; you shall treat them amicably." (Qur'an 17:23)

"....anyone who murders any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people." (Qur'an 5:32)


"You shall not commit adultery; it is a gross sin, and an evil behaviour." (Qur'an 17:32)


"They shall not steal." (Al-Mumtahanah 60: 12)


"Do not withhold any testimony by concealing what you had witnessed. Anyone who withholds a testimony is sinful at heart." (Qur'an 2:283)

"And do not covet what we bestowed upon any other people. Such are temporary ornaments of this life, whereby we put them to the test. What your Lord provides for you is far better, and everlasting."


OK, my belief system is different than most Muslim's on some key points, but very similar on other key points. A quick tally says I'm in agreement with 80% of these beliefs. I know this is a brief overview, but this percentage may be close. I imagine most conservative Christians share more ethical positions with Muslims than they do with our secular culture.

I've also recently discovered I am not 100% Protestant or Catholic either... I wonder what percent of shared beliefs is required to qualify.

Oh well... I found this quick study informative... if anyone is reading I hope you find some value in recognizing some shared beliefs as well. And may we encourage those we meet to seek God to direct us all to understand whatever percent of truth He wants us to understand.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Graham Cooke - Do you know God's voice?

I love hearing how God first reached out to Graham Cooke. The first few minutes are a great story of God's desire to restore a messed up life. Worth the watch...

And then Graham goes on sharing these challenging words:

It's really interesting that people say that they are 'Bible believing', but they don't know how to hear the voice of God. It's not like God wrote the book and stopped talking... I mean what is that?... that just makes me giggle. I think God is always talking. And the promise of Jesus is 'my sheep know my voice'.

Do you know God's voice?

(Part 2 of this video here.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Playdough Scripture 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

"He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction torment and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power... but they won't be destroyed.

2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 (Playdough Version)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From That Time On

Matthew 4:17
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

This was the core message of Jesus teachings, whether parable, by life example, or straight forward teaching.

'From that time on' emphasizes this was no small topic to Jesus.

From this time onwards I also desire to share this same good news message.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Playdough Scripture Rom 14:17

"For the kingdom of God is not will be a matter of eating and drinking in God's presence in heaven, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,"

Rom 14:17 (Playdough Version)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What Are You Waiting For?

The Jews in Jesus day were waiting for the Messiah, someone to lead and restore their nation to a position of power - free from the domination of Rome.

Jews are still waiting for the Messiah:
"Basically, the Messiah in Jewish thought is a descendant of King David who will also be a king and will bring the Jews together to live in the Land of Israel and to keep the commandments. He will fight wars against the enemies of the Jews, will prevail, and will inaugurate an era of everlasting peace when the Third Holy Temple will be built in Jerusalem. It is commandment to long for the Messiah every day and to expect him to arrive. There is no time that it is impossible for the Messiah to come, even in the darkest hours. "
The Muslims are also waiting for a Messiah/Savior:
"According to the unanimously accepted saying of the Prophet Muhammad, God will bring about a saviour before the end of time to establish the global domination of Islam over all religions. In other words, the saviour will establish the Kingdom of God on this earth. In Islamic traditions, that saviour is known by the name of "al-Mahdi".
Christians are waiting for the second coming of Messiah:
The second coming of Jesus Christ is the hope of believers that God is in control of all things, and is faithful to the promises and prophecies in His Word. In His first coming, Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby in a manager in Bethlehem, just as prophesied. Jesus fulfilled many of the prophecies of the Messiah during His birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. However, there are some prophecies regarding the Messiah that Jesus has not yet fulfilled. The second coming of Christ will be the return of Christ to fulfill these remaining prophecies. In His first coming, Jesus was the suffering Servant. In His second coming, Jesus will be the conquering King. In His first coming, Jesus arrived in the most humble of circumstances. In His second coming, Jesus will arrive with the armies of heaven at His side.
What are you waiting for?
  • To Grow up and move out of your parents home?
  • To find a spouse?
  • For your kids to get out of the diaper stage?
  • For your kids to get past the rebellious stage?
  • Retirement?
  • Going to Heaven?
  • Are you waiting for someone to come and save you from the mess you are in?
What was Jesus message to those who were waiting for Messiah?

He claimed to be the Messiah:
The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he." (John 4:25-26 NIV)
However His Kingdom was not of this world:
Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." (John 18:36 NIV)
His Kingdom was starting during that generation:
I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." (Matthew 16:28 NIV)
Jesus core message was about this Kingdom of His. He often used parables to describe it, and focused his preaching on it.
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 4:17 NIV)
You don't have to be like the religious leaders of Jesus day:
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. (Matthew 21:32 NIV)
The good news is that God's Kingdom is here now. Change your way of thinking, believe this message:
"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15 NIV)

Related Posts:

Friday, October 23, 2009

What is the Gospel?

The word Gospel gets used a lot in Christian circles... but do we know what we mean when we use the word?

John Piper:
"What's the Gospel?
What’s the gospel? I’ll put it in a sentence.
The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy. "

Question: "What is the true gospel?"
Answer: The true gospel is the good news that God saves sinners. Man is by nature sinful and separated from God with no hope of remedying that situation. But God, by His power, provided the means of man’s redemption in the death, burial and resurrection of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Gospel means good news.

And yes I agree that the above statements are good news.

Gospel also refers to a style of music, and of course 'the gospels'... usually referring to 4 books that tell the good news story of Jesus.

But I keep asking... What was the Gospel that Jesus preached?

Matthew 4:23 (NIV)
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
Matthew 9:35 (NIV)
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
Matthew 11:5 (NIV)
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
Matthew 24:14 (NIV)
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Mark 1:14-15 (NIV)
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.
"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"
Mark 8:35 (NIV)
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
Mark 10:29-30 (NIV)
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.
Luke 3:18 (NIV)
And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.

Luke 4:16-20 (NIV)
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him,
Luke 4:43 (NIV)
But he said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent."
Luke 9:6 (NIV)
So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.
Luke 16:16 (NIV)
"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.
Luke 20:1 (NIV)
One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. (NIV)

Is it worth wondering what the good news message was that Jesus preached as he traveled from town to town?

I'm pretty confident he wasn't preaching the gospel message of his death and resurrection... I think there was a different core good news message He must have been preaching.

And what are we to do in response to Mark 16:15 (NIV):
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

What good news message are we commanded here to share with the world?

Are we commanded here to share gospel music with everyone?
Are we commanded here to share the 4 gospel books with everyone?
Are we commanded here to share the good news related to Christ's death and resurrection?

Considering the larger context of how gospel and good news is most frequently used in the gospels... I think we're commanded here to share the good news of the kingdom of God.

Related Posts:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A quote from the Pope

"And this, dear brothers and sisters, is true for every Christian: Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us."


Spirit Of Truth

John 14:15-21 (NIV)
"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
I pray that this Counselor, the Spirit of truth, would be with me at all times... I desperately need Him.

There have been times in my life when I have recognized the Holy Spirits presence with me... and here's a promise that I hold on to... that if I ask I will receive.

Luke 11:13 (NIV)
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
And what will this Spirit of truth teach me?

John 14:26 (NIV)
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Hmm... will the Holy Spirit teach me all things? What could this mean?

I'm not certain this spirit of truth will teach me all truths about Science, Math, History, Medicine, Business, Accounting, Biology, Information Technology, Music, Art.....

If I want to learn how to fly a plane, should I ask the Holy Spirit to teach me?

Or maybe it's not all truth, but the most essential truths that we can rely on the Holy Spirit for.

Just like in this passage... considering the context, what truth did Jesus come to testify to here?

John 18: 33 - 37 (NIV)
Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
"Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?"
"Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"
Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
"You are a king, then!" said Pilate.
Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
Jesus came to testify to the truth... the truth that He is King.

I think it's fair to assume that the Holy Spirit will also testify to the fact that God Reigns... in our lives now, and for eternity. Recognizing this truth will also realign our thinking as we live our days...

I doubt having the Holy Spirit with us is a promise that we will know all truths on all topics... that would be cool, but...

We don't have to be in charge of our lives and make stupid selfish decisions that harm ourselves and others...

We don't have to rely on our own wisdom to to guide and direct our decisions in life... we can request wisdom from God.

Related Posts:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Playdough Scripture Acts 1:8

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you study correct doctrines; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Acts 1:8 (Playdough Version)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Does Scripture say Hell is Eternal Punishment?

OK, one more summary post on this 'Hot Topic' of Hell. Most Christian denomination teach that Hell is a place of eternal conscious punishment for the wicked. There are some verses that when read alone can make a good case for this belief. There are other verses that imply the consequence for not seeking to live in God's kingdom, is death, perishing, being destroyed, a second death, or not getting to live for eternity.

Either way, eternity with God is a better choice.

If you are of the opinion that you don't understand, and that there are more important things to focus on while living this life than trying to figure out exactly what eternity will look like.. read no further... do not waste another moment on this debate... I agree with you 100%.

Still reading? Then I also want to say that I'm not sure getting this correct is as essential to ones faith as maintaining unity and love. I strongly believe scripture is crystal clear that unity is essential, and love is essential for all in the body of Christ. If attempting to dialog on less essential topics like this causes harm to unity and love, then we should take a break from the dialog and agree to disagree until the Holy Spirit prompts further growth in us.

OK, enough of a preamble... If you think it is important to have a firm position on the eternal conscious punishment in hell, and hold a high view of Scripture, I'd suggest it's worth looking at verses on either side of this issue. I confess I had strong beliefs on this issue for years without searching the scriptures for myself.

Verses That Don't Sound Like Eternal Punishment

Ezekiel 18:4 (NIV)
For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.
(Do all souls live forever? - Ezekiel 18:20 repeats "The soul who sins is the one who will die")

Matthew 3:12 (NIV)
"His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
('burning up the chaff' - does this sound like the chaff keeps burning, or burns up.)

Matt 7:13-14 (NIV)
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
(Destruction for some... life for others)

Matthew 10:28 (NIV)
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
(destroy both soul and body in hell)

Matthew 19:16 (NIV)
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
(doesn't everyone get eternal life? what does eternal life mean? will those in hell live forever?)

Matthew 19:29 (NIV)
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
(again what does eternal life mean? will those in hell live forever?)

Luke 10:25 (NIV)
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
(again eternal life for some... implies some won't have eternal life.)

Luke 13:1-5 (NIV)
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you to will all perish."
(what kind of perish? Like having a tower fall on them? Not very eternal. If Jesus wanted to say "unless you repent, you to will all be punished eternally in Hell", I think he could have said it, and also found a better analogy.)

John 3:15 (NIV)
that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life
(again eternal life for some... implies some won't have eternal life)

John 3:16 (NIV)
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
(did Jesus mean "... shall not have eternal life of torment but have eternal life of bliss"?)

John 3:36 (NIV)
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."
(some get eternal life... and others will not see life)

John 4:14 (NIV)
but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
(again eternal life for some... implies some won't have eternal life)

John 5:24 (NIV)
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
(here eternal life means they have crossed over from death to life)

John 6:40 (NIV)
For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
(again not everyone will get eternal life? will those in hell live forever?)

John 6:47 (NIV)
I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.
(everlasting life? will everyone live forever, even those in hell?)

John 6:50 (NIV)
But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die
(who will not die? everyone?)

John 6:51 (NIV)
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
(who will live forever? will those in hell live forever?)

John 6:54 (NIV)
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
(not everyone will get eternal life? will those in hell live forever?)

John 6:58 (NIV)
This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."
(who will live forever? will those in hell live forever?)

John 8:51 (NIV)
I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."
(who will not see death? will those in hell live forever?)

John 10:28 (NIV)
"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."
(not everyone will get eternal life? will those in hell live forever?)

John 12:25 (NIV)
The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
(not everyone will get eternal life? will those in hell live forever?)

Romans 2:7 (NIV)
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life
(Do we all possess immortality? Will everyone live forever?)

1 Timothy 6:15-16 (NIV)
which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
(Do we all possess immortality? Will everyone live forever?)

Romans 5:21 (NIV)
so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(not everyone will get eternal life? will those in hell live forever?)

Romans 6:13 (NIV)
Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
(what could it mean to be brought from death to life?)

Rom 6:23 (NIV)
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
(death for sinners - eternal life is the gift God is offering)

Romans 8:13 (NIV)
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,
(sinners will die - those living by the Spirit will live)

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV)
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
(some will perish, others are being saved)

2 Thessalonians 2:10 (NIV)
and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
(some will perish, others are being saved)

Galatians 6:8 (NIV)
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
(some will be destroyed, others will receive eternal life)

Philippians 3:19 (NIV)
Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
(some will be destroyed)

1 John 2:17 (NIV)
The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
(will everyone live forever?)

1 John 3:15 (NIV)
Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
(will murderer's have eternal life in Hell?)

1 John 5:11 (NIV)
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
(Is God giving everyone eternal life? Some get good eternal life, some bad eternal life?)

2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 (NIV)
"He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power."
(what does destruction mean? Are they destroyed for eternity?)

2 Peter 2:12 (NIV)
But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.
(perish and destroyed)

2 Peter 3:7 (NIV)
By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
(ungodly men are destroyed?)

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
(what does perish mean?)

James 4:12 (NIV)
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
(some are saved, some are destroyed)

James 5:20 (NASB)
let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
(can a soul die?)

1 John 3:14 (NIV)
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.
(contrast is death vs life... not eternal torment vs eternal bliss)

Jude 1:7 (NIV)
"In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire."
(What kind of example was Sodom and Gomorrah? Are they still being punished? The fire may be eternal, but we know that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.)

Revelation 2:11 (NIV)
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
(What could second death mean? To die a second time, after the final judgment?)

Revelation 20:6 (NIV)
Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
(What could second death mean? To die a second time, after the final judgment?)

Rev 20:12-15 (NIV)
"And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
(What could second death mean? To die a second time, after the final judgment?)

Rev 21:8 (NIV)
"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
(What could second death mean? To die a second time, after the final judgment?)

Other Explanations for some of these verses

Some have argued that the word destroyed and perish in some of these verse don't actually mean they die. Some say some of the words would be better translated lost. Others explain that what is meant in some of these verses is that it is simply describing a bad thing that happens to the wicked.

I've read a few of these arguments, but sorry I can't do a good job repeating them. There are simply too many verses here, and they are consistently translated using destroy, perish, death, etc, contrasted with life, eternal life, etc. If we can't trust most of our translations on all these verses, we've got another problem. If there was just one or two obscure verses, I'd consider these arguments...

It's Greek to Me

You may be used to reading these verses in non-literal ways. Not thinking that
  • perish could mean perish or die
  • destruction could mean destruction or die
  • destroy could mean destroy or kill
  • death could mean death
  • eternal life could mean living forever
If you are used to reading parts of some verses literally, but other parts of the same verses figuratively, have you ever asked yourself why? (In a previous post I ask why do we read parts of some verses literally, and other parts of the same verses figuratively?)

Here is some greek if that helps as you try to sort out what the above verses could mean.

Destruction in Matt 7:13, Phil 3:19, 2 Pet 3:7
apoleia ap-o'-li-a: ruin or loss (physical, spiritual or eternal) -- damnable(-nation), destruction, die, perdition, perish, pernicious ways, waste.

Perish from verses like Luke 13:3-5; John 3:15, John 10:28, 1 Cor 1:18, 2 Thes 2:10, 2 Peter 3:9
apollumi ap-ol'-loo-mee: to destroy fully (reflexively, to perish, or lose), literally or figuratively -- destroy, die, lose, mar, perish.

Perish from 2 Peter 2:12
Destruction from Gal 6:8
phthora fthor-ah': decay, i.e. ruin (spontaneous or inflicted, literally or figuratively) -- corruption, destroy, perish.

Destruction in 2 Thess 1:9
olethros ol'-eth-ros: a prolonged form); ruin, i.e. death, punishment -- destruction.

Destroy in Matt 10:28
apokteino ap-ok-ti'-no: to kill outright; figuratively, to destroy -- put to death, kill, slay

Death in Rom 6:23
thanatos than'-at-os: (properly, an adjective used as a noun) death -- deadly, (be...) death.

Eternal from John 3:16
aionios ahee-o'-nee-os: perpetual (also used of past time, or past and future as well) -- eternal, for ever, everlasting, world (began).

Life from John 3:36 (both times)
zoe dzo-ay': life -- life(-time).

(all greek definitions from http://scripturetext.com )

Ok... I could spend another day looking at the greek and checking if 'the' means 'the'.
I guess if someone wants to believe that in all these verses destroy, death, perish, die are not literal but mean "bad stuff happens - like being tormented for eternity" that is up to them.

I find it interesting that the same people who would argue that death and annihilation are not just and fair enough... that the wicked deserve greater punishment than death... will tone down verses that say perish to mean "a loss". Perish is too strong in these verses, because they want the wicked to survive to be tormented for eternity. (???)

Verses That Support Eternal Torment

Matthew 18:8 (NIV)
If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.
Matthew 25:30 (NIV)
And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Matthew 25:41 (NIV)
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
Matt 25:46 (NIV)
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Luke 16:22-24 (NIV)
"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
Revelation 14:9-11 (NIV)
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name."
Revelation 19:3 (NIV)
And again they shouted: "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever."
Rev 20:10 (NIV)
"And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Other Possible Explanations for these verses

Matthew 18:8 - does not state if the person would survive in this eternal fire or if they would perish in it.

Matthew 25:30 - people would also weep and gnash their teeth on their way to being destroyed. Again this verse does not state eternal torment.

Matthew 25:41 - again does not state if the person would survive in this eternal fire. It could be similar to Gehenna. Gehenna (translated hell in our Bibles) was a burning garbage dump near Jerusalem which burned forever. Things thrown into the burning garbage dump would be destroyed. The fire burned forever, but the things thrown into it perished.

Matt 25:46 - This one is a bit harder to explain away... it does say "eternal punishment".
For myself I'm fine giving a point to the eternal punishment side. :)
There are some who have alternate explanations for this verse, you can try these:

Luke 16:22-24 - Not sure if this fits the doctrine of Hell - where the wicked go after the final judgment. This story continues describing how the rich man wanted to send someone back to warn his family members who were still alive on earth. If anything this is a description of some abode of the dead before the final judgment - or some purgatory like place.. ???

Revelation 14:9-11 - tormented in the presence of the angels and the Lamb... forever and ever?? Are they being tormented in Heaven or in Hell? This may not be after the final judgment but a separate punishment for those who took the mark of the beast. If you continue reading Revelations there are still people on earth... I don`t have a great understanding of Revelations, but I`m not sure this passage speaks of final judgment for all the wicked.

Revelation 19:3 - again I'm not sure if this great prostitute refers to all the wicked after the final judgement.

Rev 20:10 - The devil, the beast and the false prophets may be eternal beings... they may possess eternal life - and spend it in Hell. This verse may not say anything about eternal punishment for mortals.

Used for either Side

Mark 9:43-48 (NIV)

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where " 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'

This passage is often used to support the idea that hell is eternal. But we also need to consider that Jesus is quoting Isaiah 66:24 here:
"And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind." (NIV)
Note the reference to dead bodies, not living bodies. Also Gehenna (translated hell in our Bibles) was a burning garbage dump near Jerusalem. Things thrown into the burning garbage dump would be destroyed. The fire burned forever, but the things thrown into it perished.

Two Sides, Which Side To Pick?

There are some verses above that do not fit well in the 'Hell is eternal punishment' box.

There may be some verses above that do not fit well in 'God will annihilate them' box.

I see four options when confronted with a passage that doesn't fit in my box:
  1. ignore the passage
  2. re-word and re-explain it to force it to fit the box (playdough scripture)
  3. Get a different box
  4. admit I don`t understand it, don't know what box to use, and just keep collections of truths and questions scattered around like an unfinished puzzle for now... when/if I need to understand it, I believe the Holy Spirit will guide me to understand the truth.
I vote for option 4.

I'll conclude the belief in the eternal nature of hell is not an essential part of following Christ. If understanding this issue was a requirement of being a Christ follower, I think Jesus would have spent more time describing it.

Maybe, just maybe, we can agree to disagree on this one.

What difference does it make?

Here are some questions to consider:
If scripture was clear, I don't think I'd be asking the above questions. But there are enough verses to give me some doubt. I'd rather admit I don't know for sure one way or the other, than give someone a potentially false image of God.

Either way eternal life with Jesus is still the obvious choice. I'm just questioning if the doctrine of Hell, that most denominations support, is clearly true to scripture. To be destroyed or perish may simply mean that those who do not choose life with Christ do not get to live eternally.