Book Plunge: Will Dogs Chase Cats In Heaven?

What do I think of Dan Story’s book published by Kingdom Come Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I got Dan’s book in the mail. I had requested it for a possible interview especially seeing as I am married to an animal lover. I don’t hate animals or anything, but I’m not the most crazy about them. Generally, I’ve been a cat person and when it came to choosing our first pet, as luck would have it, Allie found a cat that she just fell in love with. Our little treasure is a white Turkish Angora, possibly another breed as well, named Shiro, the Japanese word for white.

Dan’s book is about addressing the question of if animals will be found in the afterdeath. Some of you might think that there is not much that can be found on this topic. I could understand that, but Dan really brings out a lot that you wouldn’t consider. It’s not light material either. It is a serious look at science and the text.

Dan also includes many stories of animals and their interactions and the way that they think. Many of us are quite interesting to hear about. If you’re an animal lover, you will go through this section with a smile on your face. Dan has done immense research drawing stories from all over the literature.

Dan also does go into eschatology here and I was very pleasantly pleased. Dan rightly gets that Heaven is not some far off place in eternity and this world is an afterthought. No. This is the world that we are meant to live on. This is where we are to fulfill our purpose. The final reality will be the marriage of Heaven and Earth. This will be far better than Eden in the end.

Dan interacts with a number of great biblical scholars in this work. Great minds like Richard Bauckham and Anthony Hoekema show up in this work. He will also interact with many philosophers like C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft. If you know works of apologetics, you will recognize names in here.

Dan’s handling of the Biblical text is also very careful and reasoned. Some passages that you would think have nothing to do with animal resurrection are brought in, such as Jesus being with the wild beasts in Mark. I came to this one with skepticism as well, but Dan made a good argument and having it backed by Richard Bauckham gives some credibility.

There are some minor points I will disagree with Dan on still. I am not convinced about a literal millennial kingdom, but I don’t think that that is necessary for the thesis in the book. The points I saw of disagreement were over peripheral points and none of them were substantial to the main thesis of the book.

Animal resurrection is something we can hope for and it’s not a hill I’m willing to die on yet, but it’s certainly one that I think a strong case has been presented for. I think anyone who is interested in this question should look at the information presented in this book. It’s a good and short read that is readily approachable by all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/20/2017: Matthew Bates

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

What must I do to be saved? This was the question of the Philippian jailer and yet today, it’s still a debated question. Believe on the Lord Jesus. Okay. What does that mean? What all does it entail? Can you just walk down the aisle and say a prayer one time and boom, you’re good? On the other hand, we don’t want anything legalistic to say you must always be doing XYZ. What of Christians who have a habitual struggle with sin?

A recent book on this topic is by my guest on this week’s episode. The book is called Salvation by Allegiance Alone. It is a look at what it means to believe and how that relates to salvation and what all salvation entails. Is it just about making sure my sins are forgiven or is it something more? The book’s author is my guest coming back for the second time to the show and his name is Matthew Bates. Who is he?

According to his bio:

Matthew W. Bates is Associate Professor of Theology at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois. Bates holds a Ph.D. from The University of Notre Dame in theology with a specialization is New Testament and early Christianity. His books include Salvation by Allegiance Alone (Baker Academic), The Birth of the Trinity (Oxford University Press, 2015), and The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation (Baylor University Press, 2012). He also hosts OnScript, a popular biblical studies podcast.

We’ll be discussing what it means to be saved and what it means to show allegiance. Are there some flaws in our popular evangelism message? Could it be we need something more than tracts and such? Are we lulling people into a false sense of salvation based on saying a prayer one time?

Why also is there so much talk about going to Heaven when we die? To hear many sermons, you would think the whole purpose of salvation was to make sure that people get to go to Heaven when they die. Is it? What purpose does this world serve in understanding salvation?

And what about our nature? What does it mean when we are said to be in the image of God? How does creation affect our final reality? Is this world a lost cause? Are we meant to live in new and glorified bodies forever? When we are in eternity, what kind of activities are we going to be doing? Could it actually be that there is work to do in “Heaven”?

Bates’s book is a fascinating look at an important topic and one I urge you to read. We’ll be discussing what we need to do for salvation and what difference it makes. I hope to also discuss matters related to those who have regular doubts about their salvation. How can we have allegiance and assurance at the same time? Be listening then for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Also, please go to ITunes and leave a positive review of the show!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

God As An Afterthought

Does God really play any role in our Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was thinking just now on what to blog on today when I was scrolling through Facebook and saw someone post something about how there is only one way to get to Heaven. I’m not about to deny that Jesus is the only way. I just want to ask, what is Jesus the only way to? Some of you are thinking the obvious answer is Heaven, but is that what Jesus Himself said?

If we go back to John 14:6, Jesus says “No man comes to the Father, but through me.” Jesus didn’t describe Himself as the way to Heaven, but as the way to the Father. You will find very little in the Bible about “Going to Heaven.” You will instead find plenty about resurrection and the Kingdom of God. Oddly enough, much of the focus in eschatology in the Bible is not on Heaven, but is on Earth.

The meek will inherit the Earth, until God just decides He wants to do away with the Earth. Let your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, until once again, the Earth is done away with. It will be even harder to come up with something for Revelation 21 where the city of Jerusalem comes down from Heaven to Earth. We have things exactly reversed! We think we go up from Earth to Heaven.

I cannot say for sure when this happened in church history. Perhaps someone who has studied all of church history better could give an answer to that. At this point, we can hear many an altar call where someone gives their lives to Jesus. Why? Because they want to go to Heaven someday. In this case, God is an afterthought. You believe in God not because He’s there and you trust Him not because of Jesus per se, but because you just want to go to Heaven when you die. God becomes many times a means to get to Heaven.

Think of how you would hear Heaven being described anyway. How often does it really include something about God? It could include something about Jesus, and don’t think I’m denying the Trinity or full deity of Christ or anything like that, but there is nothing really said about the Father. Jesus emphasized the way to the Father. We don’t do that.

Heaven is often just one example. God is often an afterthought in anything that we do. God is there to fill in the gaps when we have a need. There is a real problem with the God-of-the-Gaps argumentation. The problem is when you put God in a gap, what happens when that gap starts getting filled by something else?

What about suffering? In the past, the things that we consider hard suffering could often be commonplace to people. Diseases that are far and away from us were everyday realities to them. We cry when a small child dies, which we should, but for them, that was a real risk taken every time you had a child as the chances of a child dying were far greater.

It’s fascinating that the problem of evil is much more often a problem to people who are in well-off societies instead of people who actually have suffering around them all their lives. Many of these people are far more grateful and appreciative for what they have. We today have a lot in the West and we don’t really appreciate it. Many of them in these societies have very little and appreciate everything that they have.

Why is evil such a problem to us? Because we think if God was there, He wouldn’t allow XYZ to happen to us. Everyone seems to think that they’re special. (Isn’t it fascinating that the self-esteem movement produced a generation that has immense ideas of entitlement and yet low self-esteem?) When suffering comes in our lives, we don’t have a way to explain it because reality isn’t supposed to be like this. God isn’t doing His job, because, you know, His job is obviously to make sure life is good for us.

We talk very little about what we are supposed to do for God. That’s one reason we’ve probably lost so much the idea of the Kingdom of God. We don’t talk about the resurrection save as a means of showing that Christianity is true. What difference does it make? That’s a deeper question and one that the surface is hardly scratched on. (It’s also like how we stand up for the Trinity, but normally as a tool to answer Jehovah’s Witnesses on a point we don’t really understand the point of.)

Ultimately, this all leads into our once again “me-centered” Christianity. You should become a Christian not because it’s true that Jesus rose from the dead, but because you want to go to Heaven and/or you want God to do something special in your life. You can hear an altar call after a sermon where the resurrection of Jesus isn’t even mentioned. Sadly, many of these people who come forward will never be discipled. They will never be taught about the basics even of Christianity and what a shock when they apostasize and become angry atheists because Christianity failed them, a Christianity that they hardly understood to begin with. (Some of the most uninformed people you can meet on Christianity are apostates.)

What’s it going to take? Let’s start with the pastors. Give your congregation something more. If you think some people will walk away because they don’t like firm teaching, oh well. Better to have a few extremely dedicated than to have a multitude that is wishy-washy. Let your church know about the resurrection. Let them know the Christian life is a sacrifice. It’s not sunshine and rainbows. Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow Him. We are promised in fact suffering and trials and tribulations. Of course, give them the good news that God is with them in everything, but let it be known that not everything that happens is something that they will like.

To the layman, if your pastor won’t educate you, one thing you might want to consider is finding a new church. If you can’t find one in your area, then educate yourself. You’re not dependent on your pastor. Read blogs like this one and read good books and listen to good podcasts. (I do recommend mine, but I could be biased.) Study to show yourself approved. If you think Christianity is the most important thing in your life, live like it is. We often say Christianity is the most important reality in our lives, and then spend more time studying our favorite sports team than learning about Christianity.

To those of us out here in the field, we need to find a way to engage others around us. We need to engage unbelievers and give them a real challenge. Don’t give them the light Christianity, but give them the hard evidential Christianity and let them try to tell you why it’s not true. For our fellow believers, equip them. Train them. Teach them about the cross and the resurrection. Show them that they are supposed to be all about God and not the other way around.

I look forward to a day when I scroll my Facebook page and I find more about the resurrection and the Kingdom of God than I do about going to Heaven. It might be a long time coming, but it will be worth it. Are you and I going to do anything to change that?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Book Plunge: Salvation By Allegiance Alone

What do I think of Matthew Bates’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Matthew Bates has written a book with a certainly interesting title. One can expect based on that that people on both sides will be tempted to go after him. (Cue James White having a twelve part series on his show about this.) That would be a shame if it happened because a lot that needs to be said is in this book.

Bates is not wanting to undermine grace, but he is wanting to get rid of a sort of system that is more centered on getting people to get saved instead of getting them to realize Jesus is their king, which would include salvation. We are at a point where we want to get people to sign on a proverbial dotted line and then lo and behold, our work is done. A church group will go out and witness in the streets and get one person to commit their life to Jesus, most likely to get his evangelists to shut up, come back to church shouting success, and that person will never ever darken the doors of a church. Discipleship is not a part of the process.

Bates starts with going after the term faith and that we really shouldn’t use it. I agree with him on this. Faith is a term that has been so misunderstood in our day and age that it leads to more problems. Bates looked at some bad definitions of faith. He wrote about Mormons who wanted someone to believe on faith based on the burning in the bosom. I would have liked to have seen in this section of bad usages of faith the fact that new atheist writers regularly describe faith falsely. People like Dawkins and Harris call it belief without evidence. Peter Boghossian called it pretending to know things you don’t know.

Another good one to look at would have been the Word of Faith movement. Bates looks at this some with saying some people think faith is positive thinking, but this is certainly that and going beyond in a more twisted way. This faith results in the death of children because, hey, you’re not supposed to go to a doctor. Have faith.

With this, it’s time to return to the full Gospel. The Gospel is not me-centered. It is Jesus-centered. It depends on what God has done in Jesus. He gives the Gospel eight parts. Not all have to be explicitly mentioned, but they are all part of the story. Jesus pre-existed with the Father, took on human flesh to fulfill the promises to David, died in accordance with what Scripture says, buried, raised on the third day again as prophesied, appeared to many, sits at the right hand of God as Lord, and will return to judge. This is indeed much more thought out than “Jesus died for my sins.”

It’s also important to realize Jesus taught this Gospel. Too many times when we want the Gospel, we jump straight to Paul. The Gospels pretty much tell us about how Jesus lived, but if you want to know about salvation, you really need to go to Paul. This is not to be anti-Paul or to say that Paul and Jesus contradict, but it is to say we should look at what Jesus said about the Gospel.

Bates then goes on to say that true salvation is allegiance. This is not to make people think of works salvation, as he gets into when he answers questions. We could say one does works not to earn salvation, but because one has sworn allegiance to Jesus as king.

Some of this part to me is still unclear. We do know that John wants us to know we have eternal life (1 John 5:13) and we don’t want to have people living in fear of their own salvation. At the same time, we don’t want to undermine obedience to Jesus. As someone in a ministry position, I do know for instance of many men who come to me and who want to be good Christians, and yet have the struggle of dealing with pornography. Bates does recognize we still have entangling sin and he himself has some sins he is struggling with, but I wonder how this would be handled in a pastoral situation, but more on that later.

The next major section is on new creation. Bates says we have too often made Heaven the goal of Christianity. I couldn’t agree more. Some of my biggest problems with funerals today has been the emphasis on Heaven. Don’t get me wrong. There is a glorious after-death waiting for us. The problem is that the grand coming of it is not until the resurrection and it’s not in a place far far away. It’s right here on Earth. God is going to recreate this world and it will be better than ever before.

Bates then says we need to restore the idol of God. Some people might wonder what he’s getting into with a chapter like this, but he’s entirely correct. Bates says that in ancient Hebrew terminology, we being in the image of God would mean we are the idol of God. We represent God. No piece of wood could ever do that. The main example of this is, of course, Jesus.

When we restore humanity to its rightful place, we will also treat one another better. Each of us is someone who bears the image of God. To treat your neighbor unjustly is to treat God unjustly. To love your neighbor rightly is to love God rightly.

The final chapters are much more theological and the systematic theologians will love it. This is looking at the ideas of righteousness and atonement. Those who are curious about the New Perspective on Paul will find an interesting look here at the material.

I would liked to have seen more on the pastoral side in the book as it is written for the lay audience. I could picture a mother reading this and saying “So does that mean when my son accepted Christ at a young age that it was illegitimate because allegiance was not sworn?” I do not think Bates would say this, but I think there needed to be something like that there. I do agree that we need allegiance brought in. We said the pledge of allegiance to the flag every day in school. Why not to our Lord every Sunday in church?

While there are points of clarification that will be brought out later, Bates book is full of good material that needs to be learned. It is a call to return to discipleship. It is a call to remember Jesus is indeed your friend and you have a relationship with Him, but He is your king and deserves no lesser treatment.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Whatever Happened To The Resurrection?

Have we forgotten the central Christian doctrine? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last week, I was at a funeral for a small child and whenever I go to funerals, I often think about how much sadly Christianity is missing out on its central doctrine. You don’t hear talk about the resurrection at funerals. You hear plenty of talk about Heaven, but the resurrection is absent. When I got up to speak, I made resurrection absolutely central to what I said.

I gave two contrasts. I said that if Christianity is not true, then we can believe that the death of this child is just something we don’t like in a chaotic and accidental world, that she is dead and that is it. Game over. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. We can create a bunch of little joys for ourselves despite this, but they won’t matter because the universe will die itself anyway and all will be for naught.

However, if the resurrection is true, then this is not the end of the story. This girl will rise again. It means that death is in the process of being conquered once and for all and we can all participate in the Kingdom.

Unfortunately, I see the ignoring of the resurrection often at funerals. When my own grandmother died, I was one of three assigned to speak at her funeral. Her pastor went before me and said, “Right now, she is experiencing the power of the resurrection!” I wanted to say “I’m sorry Pastor, but I’m looking and I’m pretty sure I see a dead body right there.” No. She will experience the resurrection, but not right now. The resurrection is not just a spiritual reality, but a physical one.

Go forward a couple of years and I have an aunt who dies. I’m at her funeral and after the pastor speaks about how he came back from his vacation to do this funeral (Who cares Pastor?), he then goes on and on and never once mentions resurrection. After awhile, he then says we have that blessed hope that Paul spoke of in 1 Thess. 4.

I know this passage! I’m getting excited! Say it! Say it! Say it!

“That we will see our loved ones again in Heaven.”

I slumped in my seat defeated yet again. That’s not what 1 Thess. 4 is about. 1 Thess. 4 is about the resurrection. That was the great hope. Why don’t pastors get this?

I wish it was just funerals, but it isn’t. Scroll through Facebook. If you see something about asking if people are saved, it becomes “They won’t go to Heaven when they die!” Go to your average church service. What happens in the sinner’s prayer? “Forgive me of my sins so I can go to Heaven when I die.”

Whatever happened to the resurrection?

Some of you might think it hasn’t gone away. After all, I am in the business of defending the resurrection. My father-in-law is one of the best at it. His mentor is the best at it. Christian apologetics today emphasizes the resurrection. It’s not forgotten.

Yet even then, I wonder if we have let it sink in. You see, we often say that if Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is true, which I agree with, but then we don’t ask “And what does that mean?” Was the resurrection just one really awesome trick God pulled off to show what He can do?

No. Jesus’s life was based around a series of claims, mainly to be the Messiah of the people of Israel. This is why understanding the Old Testament is so important. We can often give a Gospel presentation where we start with Adam and Eve, good, and then skip straight from the fall to Jesus, as if the flood, the calling of Abraham, Moses, and the formation of the Kingdom of Israel is this superfluous part in the middle that we can just dispense with.

So what does it mean when the Messiah has come? It means the Kingdom of God has come. God is going to rule His Kingdom. What does that mean? Do we think God is building up a Kingdom here made of those who bow the knee to Him only to just do away with everything in the end and zipline us to Heaven?

No. This place is not a mistake. I do hold that one day the Earth will be reborn as it were undergoing its own resurrection, but I don’t think we will ever truly abandon it. Look at Revelation 21. Do you see the New Jerusalem going up to Heaven? No. You see it coming to Earth. It’s the marriage of Heaven and Earth.

What are some implications? For one thing, your body matters. One of the great heresies that first came to Christianity was Gnosticism which held that matter was some wicked evil thing. Christianity disagreed with this profusely because Jesus, who was and is fully God, lived in a human body, and I would contend still does.

Sometimes skeptics will look at our rules about sex and say “God sure seems to have a strange interest in what I do with my body.” Yes, and so do you. It’s no big deal supposedly where one puts their genitalia, until someone gets raped. Then it is a big deal. We all know it. A complete stranger grabs a random girl and kisses her? Okay. Sexual harrassment. The girl could be shaken for a bit, but she will be fine ultimately. If he rapes her, it’s something entirely different.

Christianity had to deal with this too. Some people said that sex should be avoided because it imprisons innocent souls in evil matter. Others said, sex makes no big deal because the body isn’t a big deal period. Christianity said both were wrong. There was nothing evil in being in matter, and that what you do with the body does matter. Sex was not an evil, but it was a good to be controlled and used in the right time and place, namely between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage.

This also has something to say to ecology. This world is meant to be our home and a place for future generations. We should take care of it. This is the world God created. It’s not readily disposable. It’s to be stewarded. Now that doesn’t mean I embrace the environmentalist movement. Not at all. If one wants to help the environment, I recommend working with the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

This also means that indeed Israel matters. When Paul writes in 1 Cor. 10, he tells the people that our ancestors went through the Red Sea. For the new Christians, Israel’s history was also their history. What happened to the Jews then mattered and we Christians should know about it. If all you understand is the New Testament, you essentially have the end of the story without seeing how it begins.

Of course, we can’t deny that this means that death is not the end, but it’s not that we float off to a disembodied existence and stay that way forevermore. Let’s also not say anything like that we become angels or something of that sort. We don’t. Angels are not your fallen relatives that have gone on. Humans and angels are different creatures.

What happens is we get raised to a newness of life. We overcome all forms of death, spiritual and physical. God does not grant the devil a victory. He does not give up on this creation. He made it to dwell with us in it forever and that is what He is going to do. If someone doesn’t want to participate in that, that is their choice.

Please people. I urge you to not lose sight of the resurrection. It is our central doctrine and it means a lot more than that Christianity is true. It means a lot more than even this short blog post can say. A whole book could be written on this kind of topic. The resurrection is not just joy for the future. It’s joy for right now.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

What’s The Point?

Why are we living the Christian life? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I saw one of my Facebook friends had a status where she was told by someone else that her time in Bible College being educated in the Bible was a waste. After all, will that help you to go to Heaven? I hate to say it, but I have encountered this attitude many times before. It’s a dangerous problem for the church.

I could focus a lot on the point that the Bible doesn’t really talk so much about going to Heaven as it does about the resurrection and the Kingdom of God, but that’s another point. The problem is that our Christianity today has made the goal of life be to get to Heaven. Unfortunately, in our descriptions, getting to Heaven seems to be the goal and God is often kind of secondary there.

What is the relationship between God and Heaven? Few people seem to think about this. That’s because few of us seem to really think about God anymore. Well, that is aside from thinking about all the stuff He ought to be doing for us. Isn’t it strange we don’t think as much about all that we should be doing for Him? God is often seen as someone there just to meet our needs.

This also causes us to ignore this world. I still think back to what one lady said in a Bible Study I was at with a church we used to attend. “I’m saved and my children are saved so we’re just waiting for Jesus to come.” Apparently, their Bible said, “You’re saved, but if you want to you can go into all nations and spread the Gospel, or you can just wait until I return one day.” Yes. Jesus needs to return to relieve our suffering, but what are we going to do for the suffering of others meanwhile?

Sadly, an education is often seen as a threat. Couldn’t your learning get in the way of knowing God? I did write about this in an earlier post. To say that it is is like saying “I want to be married to my wife, I just don’t want to waste time on all that stupid stuff like getting to know her as a person. Oh yes. I want to make sure that she also has plenty of sex with me.” Of course, most any husband will want plenty of sex, but what would we think of the man who wanted it absent of really knowing who his wife is as a person? Such a person is essentially just using his wife to meet his own desires. Are we guilty of doing that with God?

It’s easy for us to sit back and talk about all that God owes us. Let’s make it simple. What does He owe you? He only owes you that which He’s already promised He will give you. If He has not promised it, He does not owe it. He doesn’t owe you perfection this side of eternity. He doesn’t owe you feeling good about yourself every day. He doesn’t owe you money or fame or anything else? Now let’s reverse the question. What do you owe God? You owe Him everything you have and it’s the selfish tendency of you and me to want to hold on to things that we have no rights to as if our true happiness is found apart from God. Of course, God gives us many things that can help bring us some happiness, but none of these will bring us ultimate happiness. When we start treating them like they will, they become idols and they quickly become our masters. (This is called addiction in extreme cases.)

The sad part is a greater education could help with this. One of the greatest boosts of mine to Christian living is to know the things that I believe and why and what a difference they make. Christianity has something to say about every aspect of life. It speaks about money, leisure, sex, friends, family, etc. Nothing I do is untouched by Christianity, or at least it shouldn’t be.

When we fail in our evangelistic duties and start thinking about how Christianity can help us, we become increasingly self-centered. For all of us, our tendency is to look out for #1. Aren’t we all thankful Jesus didn’t do that? Had Jesus done that, the crucifixion would not have happened. Jesus chose willing suffering to bring about redemption and the glory of God. Many of us think we can reach the glory by bypassing the suffering. It just won’t happen. The Bible regularly connects suffering with righteousness. We often connect it with the idea that we’re not living Christianity right.

I applaud my friend for wanting to have a greater education in the Bible. I wish we all did. We have too many sermons and Bible studies where we skip straight to the question of “What does the text mean to my life and how do I apply it right now?” instead of asking what the text meant to them and about the situation when it was written. We will not properly understand the latter without having some understanding of the former. We also increase the likelihood of a self-centered Christianity.

It’s my sincere hope that we return to a faith that is lived out well but understood well in the mind as well. We won’t all be intellectuals, but whatever intellect we all have we should focus some of it to understanding Christianity and what a difference it makes. We can look forward to Heaven, but let us not ignore the world around us as if Heaven is plan B because God’s just given up on this world. Greater knowledge of what we believe will not hurt us. It is the ignorance of the knowledge and the defiance of it that will.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/7/2016: Justin Peters

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We live in a world full of hucksters. There are always people trying to trick someone and sadly, faith is one of the ways they do it. We also live in a world of experiences where if someone has an experience, they can use that to lord over others or get their fifteen minutes of fame. The stores are constantly full of stories about people who have had trips to Heaven. While I do not deny the validity of NDEs, I do get suspicious of the guided tours of the after-death. Others have got so suspicious that it has led to this hilarious Babylon Bee satire article and we all know about what children report seeing when they come back.

sixfigurebookdeal

Not only that, we have people who teach the Word of Faith doctrine and speak about miracles on demand. Again, I do not doubt that miracles are happening and miracles have happened, but there are sadly a lot of phonies out there. There are too many people that think it’s a virtue to believe something without evidence. There are elderly people sending in their social security checks to frauds expecting to receive a blessing back. Fortunately, there are some people who are giving a call to discernment. There are some who are warning about ideas like fake stories of people dying and going to Heaven. One of the more prominent ones is Justin Peters. (No relation yet as far as we know)

Who is he?

JustinPeters

Justin received a Master of Divinity with Biblical languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2000. He also received a Master of Theology with minor in New Testament from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2002.
Not only this, Justin has a specific interest in the Word of Faith movement due to his life with disability, something I can resonate with. I happen to be one who has a steel rod on my spine due to scoliosis surgery. I also have Aspergers as does my wife Allie. Disability awareness is something important to me and I do get angry about people who are known frauds trying to trick those who are disabled.
Of course, Justin and I both believe that miracles are happening today, but how can we develop discernment? Are we not calling into question God when we don’t “have faith” that he can heal? If we see a claim, are there any signs we can look for that could differentiate a true miracle from someone who is a fake? What can we do to help our brothers and sisters who are falling for the tricks of those in the Word of Faith movement?
I’m looking forward to this talk with someone else who shares not just my last name, but also my care for those who are disabled and a passion for truth. As a former worker at CRI, I have seen the damage of the Word of Faith community. I hope you will be listening in to this episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Look At Death

What happens when someone crosses over? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my wife received word that an older friend of hers had died of cancer after a long battle. This was a friend I had never got to meet and a friend who also valued Allie and if there was something of Allie this friend wanted, it would have been to have a husband. This friend will not get to have that dream realized as she passed away at 2 P.M. yesterday.

Now frankly, I’m not the best comforter in those times of need. For someone like myself, it can be difficult to have that emotional connection. Were things the other way around, this is the area my wife would excel at. She is quite good at connecting with people emotionally. I am not. I much more excel at connecting with people intellectually and rationally.

So let’s look at the topic of death. Too often, I think we forget what death really means. Death means that this side of eternity, there will be no interaction. You will not get to hear their voice again (Save recordings and such). You will not get to talk to them. You will not see their face. (Save pictures.) You will not share a laugh or a joke. Nothing ever again.

It’s a pretty bleak picture.

A lot of times, we say things that are meant to console. They don’t. In fact, if we were being honest, nothing we say could console. Perhaps we do it also to relieve our own stress at not being able to help a loved one. No doubt, we mean well, but everything we say is empty, and frankly, it should be. It shouldn’t be that we hear something and think “Why oh yes! Thank you! I’m no longer grieving over this loved one!”

In some ways, you will spend the rest of your life grieving. It depends on how much the person meant to you. There are many people that I’m not consciously thinking about every day. Still, when I see something about them, I remember and I have some sadness. I think right now of my friend Gretchen Coburn and Jonathan Dileo. (Jonathan’s charity can be found here.)

The closer the person was to you, the more you will grieve. Lose a friend? You’re going to grieve. Lose a best friend? You’re going to grieve even more. Lose a spouse? That will be intense grieving. I will not dare to speak yet of how intense it is to bury a child, though I have known people who have done that. It is said that burying a parent is losing the past, a spouse the present, and a child the future.

Death is something we’d all like to do without.

And this is what makes Christianity so important.

Often when Christians talk about death, we often make the mistake. The whole idea is “I wanna go to Heaven when I die.” For that kind of thinking, it’s like the Earth is an afterthought. It’s not really needed here. The whole idea of “This world is not my home. I’m just passing through.”

No. God made this world to be your home.

Now does that mean something doesn’t happen when a person dies? Not at all. If I am hearing about a Christian, all I will say is that they are in the presence of Jesus. They are not there in their bodies, which means there is something missing still, but they are in the presence of Jesus. The body though is not the accident. God made us bodied creatures.

Gnosticism was one of the first great heresies of the early church and it was a highly dominant view and one benefit it had was it dispensed with the body. Matter was wicked and evil. No need of it. Christianity said no. Why? Because Jesus really lived in a body. He wasn’t acting. Jesus really rose from the dead in a body. It’s the real deal.

This was the harder route, but it was the route they took because they had to be true to the facts. This changes our view of everything. If the body is good and matter is good, it should work with how we handle issues relating to the environment, issues related to sex, issues related to life, and issues related to death.

For the Christian then, we can mourn when someone dies. In fact, Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 4 that we do mourn. Indeed. We do. We do not mourn like those who have no hope. If our mourning is exactly like those who are non-Christians, then we have not treated our Christianity seriously.

The resurrection changes everything. The resurrection shows that death is not the final outcome of us all. It shows that even death can be defeated and reversed and in fact, so can all of the evil in our lives. If history was a symphony, the resurrection of Jesus would be the moment where everything starts to come alive with a grand crescendo waiting the final moment of the return of Christ when all is made right again.

This is also why you need to know the reality of the resurrection. The resurrection does change everything. It was the belief that changed the world and overtook the Roman Empire.

I wonder if it could do that today if we gave it the same attention and made it as central as the early church did?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Our Dangerous Familiarity With Scripture

Is there a danger in our society where Christianity is normative? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If your household is like mine, my wife and I do frequently discuss the Bible and what it means for us, particularly when we are going through a difficult time, which we all go through. We also contrast it with others we see who fail along the journey and ask what they did wrong and how we can avoid it. One thought that comes to my mind is that too many people who call themselves Christians just aren’t taking Scripture seriously enough. The sad thought is that every one of us to some extent falls into that category.

You see, we will share with our neighbors and on Facebook and on our blogs and web sites about the glorious truths of Christ. We will talk about how His power is in us to work and to bring about the Kingdom. We will even listen to Christian songs that sing that message and sing those same songs in our church service. We will stand up and we will cite the creeds in our church services as if to say that we give full support to them and back them entirely. Many of us will stand up for the Inerrancy of Scripture and say that we fully believe that which is written in the Bible.

We’re good at talking.

We’re not so good at walking.

You see, we’ve become in some ways so familiar with the text that it no longer strikes us as radical in any way. Our Biblical morality has become normative for many cultures in many ways. We don’t realize how much of a change it is to dare suggest that a person should not be a slave, that a woman has value in herself, that sex is something sacred for marriage, that we should want to give to the poor, etc. Even many atheists today will agree to some of the claims before. (Probably you’d only find the most resistance on the third one) These have seeped into our background knowledge so much that we don’t realize it. Many people do not realize they are living with a Christian morality and frankly, we don’t even realize it.

When it comes to the story of the Bible, we’ve grown up with so many cute Vacation Bible School and Sunday School lessons on this that we have not got to have the shock value. We grew up thinking this is the way not only that the world is but that it has always been. The surprise of it has never been taught. Unfortunately also, we’ve made God detached in this one. We don’t really talk about who God is at all or what He intends to do in us. We talk about what He will do for us and very rarely does that seem to include personal holiness. Instead, it most often means things like providing comfort and peace when we need it and He’ll come when we pray because we’re in a bind. We don’t see Him as a day to day reality in our lives. It’s almost like we look and say “Well yeah, I know God is there and He loves me, but so what? Look at what’s going on in my life.”

We must really ask ourselves if we’re saying “So what?” to our worldview.

What does it mean when we talk about God? The great work of Jesus was that He gave us access to God, and yet we don’t really bother to learn anything about this God He gave us access to. How many of you men would like it if your wife treated you like just a paycheck so she could get the things she wants at the store and did not come to really know and appreciate you as a person? (And how many of you wives are doing just that?) How many of you women would like it if your husband only came to you when he wanted sex but just showed no interest in you otherwise? (And how many of you husbands are doing just that?) Yet too often, this is how we have treated God, you know, the being we say is the most awesome and wonderful and majestic one of all. The one who has all the power to do what He wants, all the knowledge to know what the right thing to do is, and is all present meaning He sees everything. Oh yes, we also believe He’s going to judge us at the end of our lives and everything we have done, thought, or said, will be called to account.

Tell you what. Let that last part sink in for awhile before moving on.

Everything. There are no exceptions.

Every. Single. Thing.

As I thought about this, I remembered a meme my wife put up that is a sentiment I have shared many times that a marriage cannot be 50-50 but 100-100 and I thought “Could it be that we do not seek to give all we can in our marriages when we don’t even do that with God?” In fact, it looks like we more often than not seek to give the bare minimum. Let’s consider a line like “You should not have sex before marriage.” We can look at that and say “Okay. I get it. No sex before marriage.” But then the rationalizations come in. “Yes, but what constitutes sex? Does this mean I can do absolutely nothing truly intimate before marriage?” It’s like we want to get as close to that line before we cross it. It’s practically thinking that we suspect God is holding out on some joy and keeping it from us.

Why on Earth would you give God the bare minimum? Do you think He’s going to waste what you give to Him? Do you think that if you give money or time or service to Him that He will waste that? Do you not realize that your actions in this life really show the world what you think of God? If your actions do not match up with your words, you can be sure that the people will go with your actions instead of your words.

Now some of you can say “God is going to judge me, but I’m saved so I get to spend eternity with Him.” Well to begin with, that’s just taking advantage of the grace of God. It’s saying “I’m already covered so this sin is no big deal.” That despite the fact that any one sin is enough to require the death of the Son of God so you can be forgiven. Sorry, but to Him, it’s all a big deal and if you do not see sin in your life as a big deal, then frankly you are not taking God seriously. You must also realize on the bright side that if you do take it seriously and come to Him and ask Him seriously for help as you repent, that He will help you.

Still, let’s suppose as we have good reason to that it is true that you will make it into His Kingdom. How you spend your life here will determine how much you will enjoy eternity the next life. So let’s look at you men again who might say “Look. I mainly value my wife for sex, but I love her still and our marriage is fine. What’s the big deal?” To begin with, I’m not sure why you would want your marriage to be described as “fine” when it should be described as awesome, but if you treat your wife as a sex object, you can certainly get a lot of jollies down here, but if you’re married to a Christian, that Christian is the temple of God and you will get called to account for how you treated that temple.

Your capacity to enjoy God in the next life could be greatly lessened by your failing to appreciate Him in this life.

Let’s also add in the case of Jerry Walls. Walls is a Protestant who believes that we shouldn’t have jettisoned the idea of purgatory. God has to make us holy somehow and he doesn’t see a guarantee of a sudden zap when we die. There will be a time of waiting according to Walls where God will purge our unholiness out of us.

Let’s suppose that that is true.

If so, do you not realize that living a life of sin means you will be further and further from experiencing the joy of the Kingdom because you lived so long in contradiction to it? I’m not sold on Walls’s idea yet, but it does make me look at myself and say “Am I taking sanctification seriously? Am I taking holiness seriously?” We can often act like our wrong doesn’t really matter to God and on what basis do we normally do it?

Feelings and experience.

“Sure. I did this thing I normally shouldn’t have, but I didn’t feel awful and the sky didn’t come crashing down around me so it must not be any big deal to God.” If personal experience and feelings were a guide to holiness that was surefire, I suspect many of us would be living better. Unfortunately, how we feel in a situation is often a result of not just that situation but a lifetime of training our emotions and feelings a certain way. They become repetitive. We can numb ourselves to any idea that we are doing something wrong by just ignoring it. That’s one reason so many guys can get caught in internet pornography. They ignore the one feeling and they emphasize that other feeling that certainly feels oh so good to them.

But for that, judgment is still coming. You will stand before God.

Again, let that sink in for a bit before moving on.

And what are the consequences of not taking Scripture seriously and thus not taking holiness seriously? Look around you.

How many of you live lives that the rest of the world will look at you and say “Wow. That’s what I want my life to be like.” How many of you husbands would have your wives be able to wake up and say “My husband is just so much like Jesus it’s a joy to be married to him.” (And wives, if you are saying that, are you indeed giving him your very best like you should give your best to Jesus?) How many husbands get up and say “I love my wife so much that I am willing to die for her at this moment.” (And if you say that, dying is no doubt difficult to do for someone, but are you willing to also live for them?) Again, many of us seek to give the bare minimum in our marriages. That could be why the divorce rate is so high.

Okay. I know there are times that a divorce is Biblically allowable. I also don’t think the claim is true that it’s just as high for Christians as it is for non-Christians since it’s my understanding that Christians who regularly worship and pray and read the Bible together and thus seek to live out a Biblical worldview have a much lower divorce rate. Despite that, divorce is a tragedy. Even if it is Biblically allowable, divorce is a tragedy. Our hearts should weep when we hear about it taking place in the church again even when we think it needs to be done. In fact, at our house, unless we’re discussing it in a context like this, we never use the word. It is simply “The d-word.”

This also includes our sex lives. Isn’t it a shame that we look at sex in our culture and the Christians are seen as the prudes who don’t really enjoy sex? We Christians should be the ones who are enjoying it the most. (Adding in if we are married of course.) If you want the world to look at your marriage and see it as something that they should desire, that will include your sex life in it. Sex is a covenant making activity and it serves the role in marriage of renewing the covenant as it were with your spouse. You come in and give everything you have to your spouse and leave yourself totally vulnerable to them. Yet in that vulnerability, there is to be the greatest of joy for you come knowing you are fully accepted and loved. Christians should in fact corner the market on having great sex and too often, we don’t.

What do you take the time to enjoy the most? Peter Kreeft spoke about one of his sports teams in baseball he likes once and said sometimes he worries he’s more of a fan of them than he is a fan of Jesus. How many of us could say likewise? How many of us follow our favorite sports team with more devotion and excitement than Jesus. Now some of you might call foul (pun intended) on me in this saying that you know I’m not a sports fan. Fair enough. Could I be more interested in a game I am playing at the time? Could I be more interested in a TV series I am watching at the time? Unfortunately, looking at the state of my prayer life, I think I could often say that yes, some things are more appealing. Could it in fact sometimes be that the ministry of Jesus is more appealing than Jesus Himself?

To get back to judgment, some of us will read and say, “Yes. I know I need to get things right, but judgment is off in the distance.”

For some people in Chattanooga, judgment came suddenly yesterday. I am not saying that their deaths was God’s judgment on them. Not at all. I am saying that they woke up yesterday morning I’m sure thinking they had the rest of their lives ahead of them. They had time to do things they meant to do. They had time to tell their loved ones that they loved them. They had time to play with the kids later on. They had time to show their spouse how much they appreciated them.

But they didn’t.

Before the day was over, they unexpectedly stepped into eternity.

And what guarantee do you have that the same won’t happen to you today?

We often look at our world and wonder how it got the way that it did. The idea of redefining marriage would have been unthinkable decades ago. Now it’s normative to most people. We can actually rip apart a baby in the womb and have people that will defend and celebrate it. Many of the things we were sure would never happen have in fact happened and as I tell people as an apologist, it really blows my mind the things that I have to defend today because I never would have dreamed someone could think otherwise.

This did not happen because the world did what the world does.

This happened because the church did not do what the church is supposed to do.

Do we really think this would have happened if we were taking the claims of Christ seriously? Do we really think this would have happened if we had properly informed ourselves on our worldview? Do we really think this would have happened if the church had more consistently lived what it believed? No. The blame falls on our heads for not doing the job of standing up and contending for the faith and we will be called to judgment for that.

In fact, we often talk about caring for the poor in Christianity. You know who’s job that is in Christianity? Yours. It is not the job of the government to take care of the poor. It is the job of the church to do that and the reason the church is having such a hard time is we decided to ask Caesar for his help. Do we really think that Christ is so weak and incapable that His church would need the help of Caesar to do what He had told them to do? The sad reality is yes, yes we do in fact think that. We can know we think that because that is in fact what we did.

Please also understand I am not going hard on everyone else and ignoring myself in all of this. I do take a serious look at myself and ask if I’m doing all that I could be. Of course, we can all always do more. None of us will live perfectly, but if I really do think God can help me in my struggle with sin, that He can empower me to live a holy life, that eternity of bliss with Him is the best thing that can possibly be, and that He will be my judge one day, I should take it seriously. If I believe the Bible is from Him and the commands in there are true, I should take that seriously.

Am I? Good question.

Are you? Also a good question.

Think about it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Please Don’t Say These At The Funeral

Are there some things you just shouldn’t say at a funeral? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve only done one funeral and that was my grandmother’s. I’ve attended a number of them and sadly, one of the worst parts is hearing the awful messages that preachers give because they just don’t have good theology to them. There are many preachers who haven’t studied the issues involved and say some messages they shouldn’t. Some of these aren’t really harmful to the audience. Others really can be. I’d like to look at a number of them and I’m going to save the worst one that I’ve ever heard for last.

At one funeral, I remember hearing the preacher talk about the deceased and saying “Right now, she is experiencing the power of the resurrection!”

Um. No.

You see, this might be a shock, but when you go to the funeral service, barring some catastrophe, usually the person’s body is right there. You get to see the body. Resurrection means something. It means that the person is again in their body after life after death and is walking around. For our purposes in Christianity, it means they are back in a body that will never die and they will live forever. Resurrection does not mean going to Heaven when you die. Of course, if you want to say when someone dies, they go to be in the presence of Jesus, I have no problem, but let us not say that they are experiencing the resurrection. They are not. The resurrection of Jesus is not about Him leaving a body in a tomb and being taken in spirit to be with the Father. It is about the body that went down coming back up in a new and glorified state. For Christians, that won’t happen until the end.

“God needed another angel.”

Frankly, this one is cruel. Really. It is. You want to go to a little child who has just lost their mother and say “We know you’re hurting, but God needed another angel in Heaven.” Not only is it the problem that angels are not dead humans, but what kind of God are you presenting? A God who has to kill the mothers of children so He can have angels for His purposes? Many children believe it or not do not have a sophisticated theology. You are already presenting them with a God who will take the mother that they long for and cherish just because He needs another angel in Heaven. If you have ever said this to someone, shame on you for saying it.

“He’s walking on streets of gold.”

This one I didn’t hear at a funeral per se, but it was said by a preacher in a sermon where he talked about a friend who died and how right now, he’s walking on streets of gold. It was one of those points where my wife Allie had to reach over and gently touch my leg as if to say “Please calm down.” She knows I get really agitated when I hear bad theology like this. Why is this bad? Because this is more of a gnostic view than anything else. We have this view that the body is a sort of prison to be escaped and then we die and we’re walking in Heaven. No. We’re not. We have no body to walk in and if you want to see those streets of gold, they’re talked about in the last two chapters of Revelation when Heaven is described. Where is Heaven? Take a look. It’s not the case of “I’ll Fly Away” from this world and leave it behind because “This World Is Not My Home. I’m Just Passing Through.” Heaven is coming down to Earth. The Kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of God. God takes over finally. We have the marriage of Heaven and Earth.

Christians must be people who view the body as important. We do not dare say there is a sort of spiritual body that is walking on the streets of gold. We have to emphasize that we are incomplete without our physical bodies.

“Paul’s hope was we would see our loved ones again in Heaven.”

I remember being at a sermon and the pastor was really flubbing it in my thinking. Sadly, he spent more time talking about himself than he did about the deceased, but then he said we have the same hope that Paul described in 1 Thess. 4. Okay. I was starting to get hopeful here. I know what 1 Thess. 4 is about. It’s about the resurrection. So will the pastor get it right? Will he say we have the hope of the resurrection?

Nope. Instead, it was that we would see our loved ones in Heaven.

*Groan*

Just going to Heaven is incomplete. If anything, it means that death does have a victory. Death has a victory because our bodies are still subject to it. For Paul, the resurrection means everything. It means that death has been truly conquered and cannot hold us down just like it could not hold Jesus down. Either death has the last word over our bodies, or God has the last word over death. We will see our loved ones again one day, yes, and that is something we are meant to comfort one another with, but that reunion takes place after the resurrection. That was the great hope.

Unfortunately, even just yesterday I saw an internet atheist trying to argue that Paul’s great change he made to Christianity was he promised people Heaven. Paul’s message was the resurrection, and he was right in line with what the rest of the early church was saying. Even in our evangelism, we act like the goal is to get people to go to Heaven. The goal is to get people to become righteous in Christ and be disciples.

“Their Last Act Was An Act Of Love.”

I must place this one in the proper context. My parents told me about hearing this one at a funeral that they attended where it was said that the last act of the deceased was an act of love. What was it? A police officer taking a bullet for a fellow officer? A soldier throwing himself onto a grenade so his buddies would be safe? A firefighter rushing into a building to save a child? Nope.

The deceased had committed suicide.

Suicide is many things, but it is not loving and it should never be seen as loving. Instead, there were children and nieces and nephews and others there who were told that day that a person committing suicide was an act of love. I understand the preacher got a lot of flack for his statement. He should have. Funerals are meant to comfort those who are left behind and to honor the deceased. This kind of statement does neither.

Let’s remember when we have our services that we are Christians. We believe in a bodily resurrection. We believe that God is conquering evil. We believe that the world will bow the knee to Christ at one point in time. None of this should be downplayed. That we do not realize this and celebrate this enough is a fault of our churches not teaching good theology and not discipling.

In Christ,
Nick Peters