On my personal blog, and through e-mail, I sometimes get reader requests for posts.  People often have interesting questions about a wide variety of issues, and I do what I can to try to tackle reader questions when I can.  One of my relatives sent me a question a little over a year ago, and seeing that I had the same question boiling around in my mind many years ago (before I figured it out), I’m thought I’d tackle it and clear up what is a somewhat common question.

jesus-descend-into-hell

The question has to do with whether or not Jesus went to Hell after the cross and why the Apostle’s Creed reads that Christ “descended into hell” (descendit ad inferna).  The problem is confounded in that not only does the phrase appear in the Apostles Creed, but it also is arguably insinuated in Acts 2:25-31, Romans 10:6-7, Ephesians 4:7-10, 1 Peter 3:18-20 and 1 Peter 4:6 (though due to time I won’t tackle the biblical texts but rather leave that to people who have already done a far superior job to my possible offerings).[1]  So how do we unpack this idea and figure out what is going on in the Apostles’ Creed? Continue Reading…

hatfield-mccoy_pigThis is a long story, but I’ll keep it short. In 1878 Floyd Hatfield had a pig. Somehow this pig got a tiny bit of its ear bitten off or otherwise severed, or so Hatfield claimed. You see, on the other side of Tug Fork river on the border of Kentucky and West Virginia, lived a family called the McCoys.

The McCoys notched their pigs’ ears, to be able to identify them if they got stolen. When Randolph McCoy saw the notched hog in a Hatfield sty, he accused Floyd Hatfield of swine theft. The matter soon escalated into a bitter lawsuit. Randolph McCoy took Floyd Hatfield to court over the issue.

The problem was complicated in that the local justice of the peace was the honorable Anderson Hatfield. He found no evidence that Floyd had stolen the pig, and based on the testimony of one Bill Staton, ruled in favor of the Hatfields,. The case was closed. Or was it?

Bill Staton was later killed–supposedly in self-defense–by two McCoy brothers. Around that time Roseanna McCoy was courting Johnson Hatfield and the McCoys arrested the young man for bootlegging. The Hatfields rescued him by force. But then Johnson Hatfield abandoned the pregnant Roseanna McCoy, and married her cousin. Later, Roseanna’s three brothers killed a Hatfield (I forget which one). The Hatfields then hunted down the McCoy brothers, tied them to pawpaw bushes and pumped them with lead. The Hatfields were arrested, but mysteriously got away with no punishment. So, the McCoys used political connections to reinstate the charges. In retaliation the Hatfields burnt down a McCoy cabin. Two McCoy children were killed that night, and eight Hatfields were arrested (one of them hanged). Well, to cut a long story short, the notorious Hatfield-McCoy blood feud raged bitterly for decades, claiming a dozen lives from both families. Eventually the governors of Kentucky and West Virginia intervened, and even the US Supreme court got involved! Like I said, it’s a long story.

I have no idea what happened to the pig.

What I do know is that when family feuds turn violent, the end is never initiated by the feuding families. The dispute must be settled by the intervention of supreme powers.

I’m about to begin preaching a series of sermons in the shortest book of the OT, namely Obadiah.

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Heb 1;3The Old Testament had much to say about the presence of God. Throughout the history of Israel, God’s presence was mediated through fire (Exod 3:6; Deut 5:4), through blazing light (Exod 33:18–23), through visions (Ezek 1:28) and angels (Jdg 6:21–22; cf. 13:21–22), through the temple worship (Pss 27:4; 63:1–2), and even through God’s own Word (1 Sam 3:21). But with the coming of Jesus and the New Covenant era, the glory of God’s presence is now uniquely and supremely manifested “in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). This makes sense, of course, because Christ is the perfect “image of God” (2 Cor 4:4).

This is precisely the testimony of the opening verses of the Book of Hebrews. Though God had revealed Himself by speaking to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days He has spoken finally and decisively in His Son (Heb 1:1). Christ is therefore the radiance of the Father’s glory (1:3)—the manifestation of the very presence of God, the “effulgence of the divine glory,” as one commentator colorfully puts it.

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I came to faith in Christ when I was eighteen-years-old. I knew that the previous way I had handled dating relationships was sinful, and I also knew that I was not spiritually mature in any real way—and thus I was not ready for marriage.

So instead of finding a wife, I set out to find other Christians my age who were in love with Jesus, and who really wanted to maximize their singleness for the glory of God. We formed a group that was committed to NOT dating, so that we could be fully committed to serving the Lord in the church. Our pastor referred to us as—you guessed it—“bachelors till the rapture.”

In fact, he (jokingly?) gave us a code of conduct to live by.

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prayingI remember the first few times hearing about a heavenly prayer language. Some called it praying, or speaking, in tongues. Not long after coming to faith in Christ, a group of friends took me to a few meetings where this would be happening. We gathered in homes, the forest, and a local church to experience these supposed, Holy-Spirit-induced prayers. What I witnessed was fairly similar: various individuals caught in a trance-like state, speaking, or praying (I wasn’t sure), out loud using non-language noises in somewhat of a repeated fashion. The prayers/noises sounded something like, “Hasha-batta, kala-hasha, nashta-kala, hasha-batta..”

Subsequent to that, others reported that they were having similar experiences during private prayer to God. They said that the Holy Spirit gave them an ability to pray in non-language sounds as a means of infusing their prayers, and encouraged me to seek this out. About one year later, I observed some of the same, a supposed Holy-Spirit-infused prayer language, while attending one of the largest, and most well-known charismatic churches in the nation. These were some of my first experiences with this prayer language phenomena. I soon discovered that it is a widely practiced phenomena (in various forms) both inside and outside Christendom.

I, like many, began to ask: Is this prayer phenomena in Scripture? And, if so, what does Scripture say about it?

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I tend to read a fair bit, though not as much as I used to (ever since I’ve been fighting Hepatitis, my low energy levels have made reading far more difficult), but I definitely don’t write many book reviews these days.  One of the last reviews I wrote was also the most positively received review I’ve ever written, and the original long review is here.  I’ve truncated the review for Cripplegate readers in order to pass along a solid apologetic resource that will likely be of tremendous help and blessing to everyone!  So without further ado, here’s my thoughts on Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace.

Cold Case Continue Reading…

This is a précis excerpt from Holding the Rope: Short-Term Missions, Long-Term Impact

I felt called to Botswana. Actually I felt called to date this girl, and she was going to Botswana, so for me the call was just as clear. I was a freshman in college, a spiritual neophyte but this opportunity was for an all expenses paid trip—thanks to the widow’s mites and other donations. Ten days of roughing it in Africa, including four days of overland travel in 4×4 Land Rovers. It was a Camel adventure for non-smokers, a way to beef up my passport stamp collection, and a chance to serve God under the gaze of the girl I liked. I was sold. So, armed with four hours of training and the Roman’s Road freshly memorized, I over-packed my knapsack and joined the band of brothers and sisters who would take the gospel to the unreached masses in the Kalahari dessert. Whoever said being a Christian wasn’t fun?HTR

Kalahari Conundrums

The adventure was not exactly the way I had pictured it. Four dusty days in a Jeep seems a less glamorous journey now that I’ve experienced it. Since none of the vehicles had air conditioning, I selfishly opted for the convertible. I soon discovered that the most under-appreciated tool on my Swiss Army knife is the toothpick. I frequently employed it to exorcise from my teeth the legion of tiny bugs that lodged there as we zipped through the dunes like a brood of determined sidewinders being force fed with fauna all day long.

The six days that we were with the missionaries were even more challenging to my city-slicker constitution. Water took forty minutes to pump manually and transport back to the compound. We bathed in a steel drum, the entire grimy team reusing the same water. During the day under the blazing sun we dug and hoisted, mixed and measured, in order to erect a corrugated tin roof shelter that would function as a gathering place for the six or seven local believers who met weekly with the missionaries. In our prayer letters we labeled that project “building a church” but it was so shoddy that I suspect it cost the missionary some personal funds after we left to improve it.

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When the world’s attention shifted to Ukraine and Israel last week, the Islamic leaders in Iraq capitalized on the distraction. For weeks the functional government in central Iraq (ISIS) had told Christians they had to make one of four choices by this past Saturday: forfeit their property as a “Christian” tax, convert to Islam, leave, or die. But a week ago ISIS revised their list, and said paying the “tax” was no longer an option.

When Friday came around, residents awoke to an Arabic “N” spray-painted on the houses, property, and farms of all suspected Christians. The government had come during the night to demonstrate that they knew who the Christians were, and the spray-painted N’s were a not-so-subtle reminder that the deadline to convert, flee, or die was only 24 hours away.   Continue Reading…

July 23, 2014

Holding the Rope

by Jesse Johnson

A lifehack is a trick that makes common activities easier and more profitable. With many lifehacks, once you try them they seem common sense, and every other way of doing the same thing—even the way you used to do it until you learned that lifehack—seems so ignorant and strange.

Holding the Rope, by fellow Cripplegate blogger Clint Archer, is an attempt to show that most people do Short Term Missions (STM) wrong. Archer isn’t just content to show that they do it wrong, but he also then gives a better way. Reading this book felt like learning a new lifehack (a missionhack?). Once you understand his point, the other ways of doing STM just seem so outdated.

Here is how most churches do STM: they find a place they want to go, or perhaps a task they want to do. They then look for churches in that area and ask if they can host a STM team. Often the trip itself involves spending way more money on travel than it would have simply cost for the STM to get the job done by sending the cash. Generally there is no lasting relationship between the STM team members and those served—or more likely, those who serve the STM team! In best case scenarios, where a church might go to the same place year after year, even then the relationship looks like “Thanks for letting me crash on your floor…see you next year!”

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In today’s post, I would like to briefly consider one of the most well-known and often-quoted verses in the New Testament. In fact, it is one of the most popular verses in American evangelical culture today.

It has been printed on posters and inspirational wall art. A quick internet search reveals that you can buy key chains, rings, buttons, t-shirts, stickers, postcards, bracelets, handbags, and other Christianized trinkets with the words of this verse emblazoned, embroidered, or embossed upon them. This verse even gained some notoriety among college football fans a couple years ago when a championship quarterback sported the verse on the glare-reducing strips he wore under his eyes.all_things_football

But the irony is that, by taking this verse out of context, many people have actually turned it on its head—making it mean the opposite of what it actually means. They have turned it into a slogan of personal empowerment—a declaration of self-achievement, ambition, and accomplishment. For many, this verse has been trivialized into some sort of motivating motto for material prosperity, career advancement, or athletic success.

But in reality it is nothing of the sort.

By now, you may have guessed that the verse I am describing is Philippians 4:13. There, the Apostle Paul writes, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Now, if we read Philippians 4:13 in isolation, apart from its context, it’s possible to see why so many take it as a declaration of personal empowerment.

Out of context, the “all things” seems like it could refer to whatever someone might want to accomplish—from winning a football game to losing weight to getting a new job to gaining material wealth. Out of context, it is often treated like a spiritual boost of self-confidence that can be applied to any ambition or aspiration in life.

But in context this verse has a very specific, defined meaning—one that most Americans don’t want to hear about, but one that is very important for us to remember as believers. Continue Reading…