Did Jesus Go to Hell?

I recently discovered a new song celebrating the resurrection. It looked like a great fit for the last message of a post-Easter sermon series, Because He Lives.  Beautifully sung by Kari Jobe, the song is called Forever (We Sing Hallelujah).

My exposure to Forever was on the Worship Together website, an interview preceding a “live” performance. I quickly glanced over the lyrics, then clicked play for the interview.

Kari said this, “My favorite part of the whole thing is … we talk about the death on the cross and we talk about the resurrection,but that time in between was when Jesus was in hell [bold italics are my emphasis] rendering hell and ransacking hell and defeating the enemy taking those keys to death and hell and the grave to be victorious over that when he rose from the dead.”

She believes Jesus went to hell? Is that in the song?
I studied the lyrics more carefully, and there it was, the foundation of the second verse.

One final breath He gave 
As heaven looked away
The Son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken

What’s wrong with that?  I’m willing to give give the benefit of the doubt to many a lyricist.  Poetic license allows you to get away with overstatement or understatement.  We could nitpick the old hymns and find plenty of quirky lines, if not crossing the line to heresy.  Why pick on this song when others get a pass?

Here is the problem. Forever embraces an error that is at the heart of the most important events of our faith, the death and resurrection of Jesus. In summary, it teaches that the battle was not won on the cross, but the real battle took place in hell during the time between the death and resurrection of Jesus.  That is what seriously distorts the truth and why this song must not be used.

Where was Jesus on Saturday? Was he in hell? Continue reading “Did Jesus Go to Hell?”

Mother’s Day Trauma (a pastor’s perspective)

I confess it is my least favorite holiday and I don’t think it’s because I’m a scrooge or a grinch.  I may be that, but I don’t think that’s what this is about.

Mother’s Day is huge in our culture, a major impact on the economy in flowers, jewelry, candy, and eating out, I don’t normally contribute much to that economy, so there you have your proof of my grinchness. But please, don’t misunderstand me. I want to honor mothers, along with fathers, the most significant influence in our lives, whether present or absent. I want to encourage mothers and hope that my rather unorthodox sermon on Mother’s Day will encourage them. I love and honor my mother, now in heaven for 30 years. I love and honor my wife of 42 years who is the mother of my children, now for almost 39 years.

But I also know that Mother’s Day is a day of suffering and pain for millions of women and I don’t want to add to their pain or call attention to it in a way that makes it worse. I know many women, devout believers in Jesus, who will not attend church on Mother’s day because they are afraid of what might happen to them. Just last week, a professional woman told me she would not be here that day because it is too hard. But because we don’t understand experiences that aren’t ours(or at least that of someone very close to us), we tend to be insensitive, we don’t get it. Certainly perilous for me to try and explain it to you, so I’ll turn that over to Amy Young in her recent article An open letter to pastors (A non-mom speaks about Mother’s Day).

I will acknowledge Mothers on Sunday, trying to choose my words very carefully. I do not have a traditional text, not Proverbs 31 or 2 Timothy 1.  I’m preaching on the resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15 and the implications of it for mothers and everyone else. If Faith Church is your home church, I hope you will come and not be afraid and have a good experience and go home excited that the resurrection is true and all disappointments will one day be resolved… because He Lives!


The Gospel of Ecclesiastes?

Meaningless! Meaningless! says the teacher, Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.

With that start, Ecclesiastes in the Bible may be as challenging as Proverbs in finding links to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But it will take us in a different direction. Ecclesiastes is similar to Proverbs in that it includes proverbs, lots of them, yet has more cohesion from start to finish as the writer seeks meaning in life and finds it difficult, virtually impossible. So, where is the Gospel in Ecclesiastes?

The Need for Gospel Good News is evident as the writer seeks meaning in every imaginable pursuit, all of them coming up empty, whether it be vineyards, gardens, parks, fruit trees, lakes, herds, flocks, silver, gold, musicians, women… I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. 2:10   The verdict? everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun 2:11.  Even the pursuit of wisdom did not satisfy, knowing that whether wise or foolish, it would all end in death. 2:18

One might begin to despair that even God is scarcely found in this book, let alone any hint of the Gospel. But don’t give up yet. Continue reading “The Gospel of Ecclesiastes?”

False Gospel of Job’s Friends

Major space is taken in the Book of Job with the record of speeches by Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, rebuking and challenging Job, explaining the definitive cause of all his troubles and calling him to repentance. In the end, when God speaks, it is these three friends who are rebuked by God, I am angry with you…because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Job 42:7

What did Job’s friends get wrong? Continue reading “False Gospel of Job’s Friends”

The Lost Vision of World Vision

March Madness took on a new meaning this week as World Vision, a once great and solidly Christian organization, tragically caved on a central biblical principle regarding marriage, Then after 24 to 48 hours of feedback, reversed their position.  I was glad for that reversal, but not resolved in my mind, not satisfied that this puts the matter to rest. Why not?

I became aware of the new policy through Christianity Today.com, World Vision:  Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages. As I read the article and the World Vision basis for this new policy, what I noted first was that the headline grossly understated and frankly misrepresented the decision. This was not about who could be hired to work for World Vision. That is a different and debatable issue as to whether all or certain employees must adhere to all the beliefs and values of an organization.

What happened is that while claiming to affirm a long held position that all World Vision employees must “restrict their sexual activity to marriage,” but opening the definition of marriage, based on those states and denomination that embrace same sex marriage, thus giving endorsement to same sex marriage as a legitimate option for Christians. And they claimed to do this as if still holding to biblical authority while somehow serving the interests of Christian unity. Continue reading “The Lost Vision of World Vision”

Ash Wednesday

Well, the Brits won!  The annual Shrove Tuesday International Pancake race between Olney, England and Liberal, Kansas is over for another year, won by Devon Byrne, who broke the record she set last year, covering the 415 yard course from The Bull Pub to the Olney Parish church while carrying her frying pan and flipping her pancake in 55.61 seconds.  More details in the Wichita Eagle.

If you didn’t read my previous post, this will probably make no sense to you; and if you did read my previous post, it still may not make any sense. You just have to be from Kansas or England.  It was disappointing in reading the article with the race results that there was barely a hint to the religious background.  Instead of calling it the Shrove Tuesday Pancake race, it is now the International Pancake race.  Tsk-tsk, now even the Pancake race has been secularized. Continue reading “Ash Wednesday”

Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day

It doesn’t get much weirder than this.  While New Orleans celebrates extreme decadence the day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday, the folks of Olney, England and Liberal*, Kansas have a different way and a healthier way of preparing for Lent –  a pancake race.  Yes, a pancake race.

And no, it is not like the Gingerbread man who jumped out of the pan and ran away.  This is no fairy tale.  It all started in 1445 AD in Olney, England. Here is the explanation from the website of International Pancake Day  Continue reading “Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day”

February 17 – The Day My Mama Died

I got the call early in the morning.  My mother had died overnight. I was with her briefly the day before, but I had expected to see her again.  Oh,I knew she was very sick.  She had battled ovarian cancer for more than a year. But somehow, I was still surprised.  Psychologists call it denial.  No matter the reality, we create our own false reality and then are surprised when the obvious occurs.

So February 17 is now among those most significant dates in my life.  My birthday I suppose is on the list, certainly the day I got married (42 years ago this June), the days each of our four children were born, our six grandchildren and other milestones.

But February 17 is in a category of its own.  I was already in my eighth year as a pastor.  I had done plenty of funerals, hard funerals, not just the glorious funerals of aged saints.  My first funeral, five weeks after I became a pastor was for still born twins, placed together in an infant casket and taken to the cemetery in the back seat of my car Continue reading “February 17 – The Day My Mama Died”

Grace and Truth about Marriage

The article below was published in the Indianapolis Star, Faith and Values page of January 25, 2014.  The title was not my choice as it implies my weighing in on the current Indiana Legislature debate on adding an amendment to the Indiana state constitution, defining marriage.  I do support such an amendment, but that is not my focus here, rather an effort in the very limiting space of 350 words to offer a historic Christian and biblical perspective to counter the common arguments that the Bible does not give defining limits to marriage.  I address that issue more fully in my post of last June, Before Citing the Bible, Be Sure to Read It First.

Seeking Grace in Marriage Debate

Last summer, I preached nine sermons on Sex in a Broken World, based on Paul’s New Testament letter, 1 Corinthians.

My goal in preaching is biblical faithfulness, and following Jesus, “full of grace and truth” (Gospel of John 1:14), especially when preaching highly sensitive subjects like sex.

I hold to the historic Christian understanding of marriage as a monogamous covenant between a man and a woman, a commitment “until death do us part.” God’s design from creation reflects His purpose for the two sexes, for the raising of children, for family relationships.

I also affirm, consistent from Moses to Jesus to Paul, that sexual relations are sacredly designed for marriage between one man and one woman.  Any other sexual relationship is outside of God’s will and is destructive to those who participate and to society.

So how does that work in a culture where hook ups, co-habitation, divorce, polygamy, homosexual relationships and even more are widely accepted?

The changing winds of morality do not dissuade me from preaching what I believe God reveals.  So, where is grace?  How do grace and truth coexist? How does the church respond where marriage is redefined to be outside of the historic time tested boundaries?

While holding to what I believe is truth, I also celebrate the grace modeled by Jesus – to a woman who had multiple marriages and other relationships, to more than one adulteress or prostitute, to at least two cheating tax collectors, to a young man bound to his money. Yet, as Jesus expressed extravagant grace, he didn’t back off from truth, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).

In our sexually permissive and sexually confused culture, how do we express grace?  1) Honor the dignity of all persons; 2) Sympathize with the struggle (we all have that in common); 3) Distinguish between temptation and behavior (temptation is not sin; surrendering to it is). 4) Declare the grace of God in the Gospel and call to repentance.  There is hope for us all.