Rappin’ With Rick

Communion Meditations

We are so blessed by those who bring our communion meditation each week. In fact, I’m almost too blessed. They are obviously all worthy of printing in the newsletter, but I can’t print them all.

Three weeks ago Kirk pulled at our heart strings as he shared how his grandfather had responded to strangers in need. The following Sunday Chris shared with us a thought provoking question he had faced at his sister-in-law’s wedding the day before. Last Sunday Jack made us think about our faith on a scale of 1 to 2.

After printing Kirk’s I asked Chris and Jack to give me copies of theirs, and then I had to decide how to squeeze them in. I ended up condensing Jack’s for the front, and am now sharing excerpts from Chris’s for my article. As I said, we are so blessed.

“At about 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, I found myself in an awkward, but not entirely uncommon situation—talking with a stranger outside of a restroom—having what could have been the most important conversation of this particular man’s life. This man looked at me and asked, ‘Well…is it worth it?’

Perhaps it was after seeing me participate in the tag-team event that is wrangling two children during the hours of running around, waiting around, standing around, and sitting around that is the joy of participating in someone else’s special day. Perhaps it was this that led to an existential crisis about raising a family in today’s world…and to seek wisdom from me, a total stranger.

Or perhaps it was after seeing me saddled with my wife’s and my mother-in-law’s bags, waiting outside of a restroom, that led this man to consider the people in his life that he loves and what sacrifices he could make in order to serve them and others…to seek wisdom from me, a total stranger.

Or perhaps, through some Spirit-given insight, this man, who may have not been a Christian, was seeking guidance from a man who was a Christian on whether or not a relationship with Christ was worth it…and this led him to seek wisdom from me, a total stranger.”

Chris responded with “Yes…yes it is”, and then assured us that that’s how Christ would respond if asked the same question about us.

Copies of both meditations in their entirety are in the hall rack.

God Bless, Rick

Unbelievable?

The unnamed assailant struck again, only this time he suggested that I read a book. But no, he wasn’t handing me something to counteract an error I had made or a position that needed to be confronted. He simply said I’d probably like the book he was offering. I told him I’d add it to the stack on my sofa, but couldn’t promise when I’d get to it. But, for some reason, perhaps because I value his opinions, the book found it’s way to the top of the stack.

The book is Unbelievable? by Justin Brierley. It’s subtitled “Why, after ten years of talking with atheists, I’m still a Christian.” The author is the host of a radio program of the same name in the United Kingdom.

The format of the program is simple; he invites an unbeliever and a believer to interact on the air. Sometimes the opposing views come from Christians, but most often they are between an atheist and a Christian. The show began in 2005 and included a call-in opportunity for listeners, but eventually became a recorded podcast that now has almost 2.5 million downloads a year.

Justin tries to keep his positions out of the broadcast conversations, but decided to put his convictions in print. The book is therefore an apologetic for the faith. And no, apologetics is not making apologies for the faith. The word comes from the Greek word for making a defense. It’s fulfilling the admonition found in I Peter 3:15 to always be ready to make a defense for our faith and to give an account for the hope that is in us.

In some ways this book reminds me of Letters from a Skeptic that we studied together several years ago. That book related the conversations between a believing son and a skeptical father. This one relates some very interesting interchanges that took place on the air.

I found the book to be enlightening, and a joy to read. I’ve included a couple of excerpts from the book inside today’s newsletter. I also have two unmarked copies in the office that you can borrow. Or, I’m sure you can borrow Jonathan’s highlighted copy.  Oops!

God Bless, Rick

Delightfully Corrected

Printing out my sermon so you can read it while I preach it is a two-edged sword that cuts both ways. I really try to follow the preacher of Ecclesiastes’ pattern of seeking to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly. When I do it successfully everyone has a copy of the words they can reference for further reflection. When it doesn’t go exactly as planned, everyone has a copy of the words, that while being delightful to some, haven’t been written correctly. Such was the case last Sunday morning.

While passing by the “young adult” class I was gleefully accosted by an unnamed assailant. He asked if I really meant what I said in my sermon about those in our society who reject what is obviously contrary to reason and nature. What he said didn’t make sense to me. It was the opposite of what I had said. At least it was the opposite of what I had intended to say.

Other members of the attack squad quickly directed to me the center of my sermon where they had apparently already located the words in question. I had said that our Sunday night study is giving us an understanding of how we’ve come to the place in our society where things that are obviously contrary to reason—and nature itself—are rejected by so many.

Reading it over I discovered the obvious error. The point I was trying to make was that our society has accepted as true things that are contrary to reason and nature. A case in point is how we’re being told that a person’s sexual identity has nothing to do with the way he or she has been created. That our physical characteristics are irrelevant, and that all that really matters is the way we feel.

I had brought up what we are studying on Sunday nights because in our text for Sunday morning Paul admonished us to be kind to all, and show gentleness when correcting others. If we didn’t know each other so well I could have been offended, and would have thought they had missed that point of the sermon.

Truth of the matter is that I loved it!

God Bless, Rick

Muddled Marveling

Even though I don’t wear cowboy boots, and I ride a Harley instead of a horse, some may be getting the idea that I’m a wrangler, especially on Wednesday nights. I say that because, contrary to Paul’s admonition that we refrain from wrangling over words, it might appear that that’s what I do at our Bible study.

Last week we were looking at II Thess. 1:10-12. The week before we spent the entire class time on verse 9, trying to determine if Paul was opening the door to the eventual annihilation of the wicked. Last week we struggled over the question of who would be marveled at, at the Second Coming.

Obviously, we’ll marvel at the glory of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But Paul speaks of Him coming to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed. Does that mean He’ll simply be marveled at in the midst of His saints, or that there will be something in the saints that is also marvelous and glorious?

In verse 12 Paul says that the Lord Jesus will be “glorified in you, and you in Him.” That almost seems to indicate a mutual sharing of glory in heaven. And in verse 11 Paul said that he prayed God would count us worthy of His calling, and challenged us to fulfill every desire for goodness and work of faith that we have.

Whether those desires come from Him, or from us after realizing all He has done for us, we didn’t agree. But we did agree that the ability to fulfill those desires are made possible only by His power, through the work of the Holy Spirit in our life.

So what’s the point of our possible wrangling? The thing that excited me was thinking that not only will we bow before His glory in heaven, but that if we have lived lives that are worthy of His calling, we will share in His glory. If that doesn’t challenge us to live a Christ honoring life, I don’t know what will.

When responding to a text I received later that night from someone struggling over who was being marveled at, I responded by simply saying, “Maybe both Jesus and the saints will be marveled at. Only thing I’m sure of is that it will be marvelous!”

God Bless, Rick

Eternal Punishment or Eternal Destruction?

Last Sunday morning we were reminded not to wrangle about words, but last Wednesday night we did a lot of wrangling over the words “eternal punishment.” I trust our wrangling was not useless, nor did it lead to the ruin of the hearers Paul warned us about.

We actually started the wrangling with the words “eternal destruction” that we found in our study of II Thessalonians. Paul spoke of those who will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord. The obvious question is why the change of words, and does eternal destruction define the punishment, opening the door to at least the eventual annihilation of the wicked?

The traditional view is that eternal punishment is punishment that remains eternally active. And Jesus did speak of hell as a place where the worm never dies and the fire is not quenched, and in Revelation we are explicitly told the devil will be cast into lake of fire, and will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

However, while it does go on to say that those whose names are not in the book of life will also be thrown into the lake of fire, it does not say they will likewise be tormented day and night forever and ever. And John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” It says“perish”, it doesn’t say be tormented in hell for all eternity. And In Matthew 10:28 Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

While some insist that to suggest that after a time of appropriate punishment for sin those in hell will be annihilated is heretical, I believe it can be supported biblically. And while we must never assume the proper interpretation of Scripture can be determined by what we think best reflects our understanding of the nature of God, being eternally cut off from the presence of God seems to be more in keeping with the God who has revealed Himself as both just and merciful. And to be eternally cut from God is indeed eternal punishment.

God Bless,
Rick