Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Absent from the body...

Just heard a reference to 2nd Corinthians 5:8 at the basis for the famous quote "Absent from the body, present with the Lord" -- the theology that when Christians die they're instantly in heaven with Jesus.

That contradicts the "soul sleep" theology of the Seventh Day Adventists, which we'll save for another day.

Anyway, Paul's actual quote is "We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord."

I don't see how you necessarily get "immediate transformation" from that.

For instance, if I say, "I would prefer to be away from Minnesota and at home in Hawaii" (which, if I weren't okay with wintertime, might be the feeling right now)... that doesn't mean that the process of getting from Minnesota to Hawaii wouldn't involve long flights, invasive TSA agents, lost luggage, etc.

So, what are the verses and arguments against a "soul sleep" theology?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A note on a ministry

Just heard about Urban homeworks ( -- interesting that they said they complement Habitat for Humanity because they'll do rehab for rentals.

Probably too much risk to my back to get involved in this "on the ground," but worth looking into...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tweet from: @emlarson

From: @emlarson
Sent: Oct 28, 2010 7:46a

@C3POJones Mulling that insight in context of (Odd phrasing in 4:1; does God lead us to temptation?)

sent via ??berTwitter in reply to @C3POJones

On Twitter:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Another example of Satan "thwarting" Godly work...

...Or was Paul's desire sufficiently not "of God" because, had it been, Satan couldn't have stopped them?

"For we wanted to come to you???certainly I, Paul, did, again and again???but Satan stopped us."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What is "Truth"?

Put this one in the "to read" category (when I get the chance, am thinking clearly, etc. etc. etc.)

"Inventing a Planet ?? Blog Archive ?? Truth"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Creating a worldview...

In the "give me a cause..." category, I think there are some good insights in "Inventing a Planet ?? Blog Archive ?? Weird People Terrify Me"

I'm not sure if the premise of "...because we're afraid of dying" is necessarily correct -- the same conclusion could follow for other reasons, no? -- but the observations seem accurate...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Quick poll of a deep question I'm pondering; help me out here.

"Denominations are..."

A) "...evil works of Satan trying to divide the church and draw people away from the One True Church (which is perfectly represented in _____)"

B) "...healthy opportunities to engage with different spiritual truths which, while contradictory and thus one is 'wrong,' are not 'salvation issues' (e.g. Calvinism vs. Arminianism)"

C) "...fine as reflections of stylistic preference but dangerous if they stray from right theology (which is represented in _____)"

D) "

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Can Christians make "commands"?

Apparently, Rick Warren has gotten in trouble.  Here’s a blog post about it:

Warren Tweeted:

I challenge any church in America to match the spiritual maturity, godliness and commitment of any 500 members of Saddleback.

The blog author (Jared Wilson) argues that:

Stating (unsinful) pride in one's church, however, is different than challenging others to measure up to its awesomeness. "I challenge" you "to match" us? This is beyond pride in one's church and into boasting in one's superiority over another.

Yet the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1 boldly asserts:  “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Note that Paul  didn’t merely say “Follow the example of Christ” (though I would argue that he does make that clear elsewhere) but says quite plainly “Follow my example”.

Isn’t that a challenge? 

So… our possible options:

  1. Paul was wrong to make his challenge to the Corinthians
  2. Only apostles are permitted to make these kinds of challenges; today’s pastors aren’t
  3. These challenges can be made on an individual level but not at a collective ‘church community” level

Other options?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How do you answer this theology?

From: @jamesshelley
Sent: Aug 10, 2010 12:54p

RT @martyryl: God loves you unconditionally and can do anything, except forgive your sins, apart from the "condition" that you believe he killed his son?!

On Twitter:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

An UnSundaySchool?

Don Ball of the CoCo collaborative workspace in St. Paul has a great summary of the principle of "unconferences".

"The whole model of an unconference is based on everyone answering the big questions themselves, whereas a traditional conference model is based on everyone listening, often quite passively, to a few peoples??? conclusions. It???s centralized planning versus democracy."

It made me realize something: This is the structure I've been unknowingly following for the adult Sunday School I lead.

It's a learning style that's not cut out everyone -- Grow's learning/instruction model makes that clear -- and that's a value-neutral statement; if it works, great, and if not that's okay too.

The thing that excites me is that I think it's a model not often found in churches. Let's try it!

One last note: We're talking about class format here, not curricular authority. A Bible study is still studying the Bible. But, how do we decide _what_ to study?

The only catch in a Sunday-morning class is the time constraint; hard be democratic plus cohesive in less than an hour...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

So, exactly what (if anything) are "demons"?

Haven't read this enough to know if it's enlightenment or heresy... So more reading's ahead. :)

Origin of Demons:

Friday, July 9, 2010

On the light topic of sexual ethics...

Brother-in-law mentioned this article and rather than reading up on it, I went straight to the critique. Hmmm...

"Of food and sex, and how Mary Eberstadt gets both history and ethics quite wrong at Hugo Schwyzer"

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Issues in the Holy Land are never clear-cut

More than a "free speech" Twitter issue... How do we untangle complex and layered political (and human rights) issues?

Hypothetical question: Is it "respectable" to take a stand and be less evil than your peers, even if you're still pretty evil? If not, then how "pure" or "sinless" do you need to be before we can "respect" you?

From CNN, "Nasr explains controversial tweet on Lebanese cleric":

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Witnessing Effectively from "Heaven and Home"

I finally got around to tracking down that clip from the little radio show I heard earlier this month, in the "How to Witness Effectively" series from Dr. James Christensen (

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Starting at about 7:00 into the recording there's a great take on John 4. Christensen summarizes that we should be "active, going out, looking, and then being moved with compassion and then taking action"

Jesus made contact with the woman at the well
Find a common interest; "preludes" aren't a waste of time
Create or arouse interest
No rushing; don't go too far, too fast
Don't condemn
Don't get diverted from the main issue
Ask about a decision

The point that caught my attention was #5. "Notice that he didn't condemn the woman, even though her sins were great in verse 17 and 18". And this isn't just some spiffy idea from the latest televangelist; this is the pattern that Jesus Himself set out. He wasn't waving picket signs in people's faces; why should we think we ought to?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Evangelism series from "heaven and home" on kkms - Google Search

I've got to look this one up -- the end of "part four" had a seven step process based on Jesus' conversation with the woman at the well. The best part was the explicit statement that Jesus didn't condemn the woman (even though, of all people, He could have). That point is lost on a lot of today's evangelicals.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What is a "church"?

Berean friends (or others) should listen to this overview of the new Awaken plant:

- theological distinctions between BGC and Covenant
- the role of a "missional church"
- the audience of "cultural creatives"
- when to hold church - what does 5:00 p.m. get you, what does it not?
- why keep these plans a secret and then spring them on the congregation?

As frank and open as any on-the-record conversation could be, I think.

Podcast Title: Soulstice Podcast
Episode: Awaken_Q&A
Media URL:

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Podcast feed URL:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

So THAT's why death is bad!

Just heard the Easter message from Micah Witham at Soulstice and he said something that, believe it or not, I'd never heard explained this way before:

Podcast Title: Soulstice Podcast
Episode: Death Does Not Win
Media URL:

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Podcast feed URL:

The key point is that God is the only One who can create life. Therefore, the ultimate anti-God thing for Satan to do is to bring death. That's why death is such a bad thing, even though we know it will result in an eternal life of the soul in heaven. This might also explain why Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus (which always puzzled me; He knew he'd be up and around in a few minutes, so why the tears?).

Ironically, as I was walking down the sidewalk listening to this, I saw a squirrel try to run across four lanes of traffic. As they often do, they make it across three, back two, up another one, back again... He disappeared behind a car, which swerved to avoid him... and when it passed, all that was left was a ball of fluff.

All that life and exuberance, snuffed out in a second.

I'm not weeping for a squirrel, but it was an interesting demonstration of "alive" vs. "dead".

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What is the purpose of life?

"You find it more comforting to believe that this is it?"

"I find it more comforting to believe that this... isn't simply a test"


Friday, April 9, 2010

Unbundling church?

Super-profound thought here!

There's been lots of talk lately about "unbundling" higher education. The metaphor given in the conversation is the record industry, where songs were "bundled" into albums -- you bought all the songs at once, mixing in the good with the bad (where the former subsidized the latter).

The latest observation is that at universities, you can't just join the chess club or take one class -- you "enroll as a student" and get a whole bunch of "services" like free campus comedians and basketweaving classes and weight room access, some of which you take advantage of and some of which you don't, but all of which you really pay for. The talk now is about "unbundling" university services -- e.g. let students take one class for a fee -- because if you don't, they're going to figure out a way to do it (e.g. take a class from University of Phoenix and then transfer the credit to a university that's willing to accept it).

Got the idea?

I wonder if there's value in using the same "bundling" language to describe church services.

Think about it. On a typical Sunday morning, you have some sort of adult teaching hour or "Sunday School" or Bible Study. Then there's the "worship service" which consists of singing, observing a performance or two, giving money, hearing about upcoming events, prayer, communion (sometimes), and a teaching sermon.

It's a package deal. I suppose you could show up late for the sermon (or leave early before the sermon, depending on your preferences), but that's seen as tacky; most people take the whole thing, the "good" with the "bad".

But... today's "televangelists" have "unbundled" that and offer the teaching/sermon separately.

And while not terribly popular, things like the iWorship DVD series offer the "worship" portion (missing the collective element, of course), and finding a good religious "performance" on radio or YouTube or even PBS is easy.

I even saw Perry Stone talking about taking communion at home (on a Paula White show a year or so ago -- consider the source, but it's an interesting concept at least).

I have no idea how today's church service compares to the church in Acts (which, I suppose you could argue, was even more "bundled" as they lived life together in community)... but I wonder if this "unbundling" is going to be the wave of the future in the church community?

Thoughts? Any other examples that I'm missing?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

By a thread...

I've found that physically challenging times bring me closest to the "spiritual" -- not simply because they trigger "God, I want the pain to end" moments, but because they're a tangible, inescapable reminder of just how fragile and fleeting our lives in "earthen vessels" are.

Jonathan Edwards wrote in "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" of dangling over the fires of hell like a spider on a thread. But we all dangle just as precariously over a life after stroke, aneurysm, ruptured disc, cancer diagnosis, or hundreds of other challenges.

I remember visiting the Body Worlds exhibit with a doctor friend of mine (who eagerly brought along his anatomy textbook for reference). It was in 2006, during a sciatica flare-up, so my ears perked up at a woman and her 30-something daughter examining a skeleton with spinal nerves suspended in air, intact. "Right there, that's the disc that's causing it" they said, marveling at the interwoven strings of nerve fibers. They were clearly discussing the same problem that I had... And it was amazing that a tiny bulge agains an even tinier nerve could affect an entire body (and mind).

So if you're out there enjoying good health right now, thank God for it (your choice; ask me for recommendations if you're searching) and then pray that you can openly receive the insights you need without getting a wake-up call of fear and pain to make you listen.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Answers in 1st Peter

Tim got me pointed to 1st Peter and I think meditating on chapter 1 will give me my answer for how we balance "fighting the evil one" vs. "letting God's will reign"...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thwarting God?

Pondering discussion questions for our worship pastor (who'll be talking to our little adult Sunday school this week, health permitting -- join us; ping me for details if you need them).

And I'm wondering about where he falls on the "can we thwart God?" question.

He's a Calvinist (but we love him anyway) so I suspect the answer is "No"... But as he said last Sunday (listen to episode 126 at for the quote) he felt he had more good years of service to God in him and is surprised that he's going to die at just 51.

So... What does God think? "Yeah, it's a shame you built all those model airplanes as a kid and the xylene in the glue hosed your gall bladder; too bad that Satan can use that in the fallen world?"

Or, "No, its my prerogative and I'm taking you home now?"

Or, "Well, that's just how it happened to go and I'll work around it because I'm God and I'm that good?"


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Circular prayers? The "Catholic Meal Prayer"

A colleague of mine mentioned that he and his wife argued over the grammar of:

"Bless us, O Lord! and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord."

Because, doesn't that seem redundant or something to pray to the person you received something through, yet mention that person "in the third-person"?

"Thanks, Eric, for the pencil you gave me, and for the eraser that Eric gave with it?"

I said that I assume the first "Lord" is God the Father... and that we have to be careful about our Trinitarian theology as we ponder these things. :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

How to grow?

We all want to grow, right? Even the most "inclusive" learning community would encourage personal growth. But doesn't "growth" require that we leave/shed something that was wrong/bad and then pursue something different?

Even if you say, "Sure, but that's different for each person..." You still have individuals "confronting" people with something that is "wrong" in their lives, right?

More to come...

Friday, February 5, 2010

To quote myself...

In a conversation today I said, "There's got to be a happy medium between arrogant suburban evangelicalism and hip emergent cluelessness... But I've not found it yet."

Hey, since you're reading this (yes, YOU), do you have any advice or suggestions for me?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Engaging Believers

I'm still reeling from a really observant point made by someone at a leadership team meeting of a regional men's ministry. He said "The traditional definition of insanity is doing the same things expecting different results. But I think the opposite is true, too; we plan new outreach and ministries but don't expect a different outcome from what we see now. If the Spirit is moving, we'll see men rise above their nature or psychology."

That's the #1 struggle I have with my Christian life: if I care about the things I profess, why don't I see an intrinsic (not of self, but of Spirit) motivation unstoppably bubbling up inside of me?

The standard response of "in your natural state you'd be [insert bad thing here] and the fact you're not there is thanks to God's power" might be true... Or it might not, and the answer is certainly too easy and "pat" to give any real satisfaction or direction.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Describing the coming Messiah

I was reading John Crotts' book Craftsmen this morning and in chapter 3 he's discussing the wisdom of Jesus as outlined in the book of Isaiah, which describes the coming Messiah.  In Isaiah 11:4 we read:

but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

So far, so good.  Very wise.  Good standard.  But then Isaiah goes on to the second half of verse 4:

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

Knowing what we do about Jesus and His life... this doesn't seem to describe Him.  From our New Testament theology we know that His future work will include this kind of judgment... but other than the famous "turning over the tables in the temple" incident, Jesus really didn't do the striking and slaying thing.

I have to admit, if I witnessed my "messiah" being beaten to a pulp and dragged into an electric chair or gas chamber by the foreign government that occupied my country, and if I knew anything about the book of Isaiah, I'd think that these things don't really line up.  Do they?

Monday, January 18, 2010

I'm still here...

...But juggling four theological books right now so I have no coherent thoughts to share. Thanks for checking, and stay tuned...

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

I was just looking at a friend's theologically-themed blog and thought of chiding him for not posting since December 17... and then I realized it's been awhile since I've posted here.

I don't have any dramatic resolutions for 2010 -- maybe I should, but I've never been much of a "resolution" person.  The Christian buzz-word is to make sure you have a "daily quiet time" and I've never been good at that... but "resolving" to do it isn't going to get me any closer to the goal.  I'm hoping to tweak the structure of my life in a few other areas (regular podcasting because it's somthing I love to do, better preparation for my bi-weekly Bible study, less clutter around the house/garage/den) and maybe "quality time with God" will bubble up from that.

Is that lame, or is it realistic and prudent?