Tom with kids in Kuwait

Tom with kids in Kuwait
Tom with kids in Kuwait

Sunday, August 14, 2011

God Loves You

It is a simple message but one that we all need to hear daily.
It is a simple message but one that our children really need to hear time and time again.
It is a simple message for a complicated world.
What’s the message?

God loves you.

So I wrote a simple book.
It’s designed to be read to your children until they can read it on their own.
It’s about God’s love.

Even if you don’t buy, borrow, or steal the book, tell your kids that you love them and that God loves them.
Tell them often.
Put a note in your son’s backpack.
Send your daughter a letter.
Write it on a cupcake.

God Loves You!
That’s forever.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tuff Stuff kicks off on 12 September 2011

Tuff Stuff Bible Study

You are not invited to attend this Bible Study.


 You are challenged to fully participate in this Bible Study.

 It is not for everyone.  Everyone is not encouraged to attend.  This is only for those who want God to work in their lives through the reading, study, and discussion of his written word.  This is only for those who will commit to reading relevant scriptures for each topic area.  Compare this study to a fellowship meal.  You bring something wonderful and you enjoy many wonderful dishes.  But in this fellowship meal you are expected cook and eat.  You are expected to study, share, and listen.

Why such a hard line approach?

So we can study some of the more difficult passages, explore some tough concepts, and not be afraid to examine some of the more controversial topics of our generation.  Like what?  Topics such as:  Atonement, Discipline and Punishment, Divorce, Fear, Hell, Homosexuality, Sex, Soteriology, Stewardship, Taxonomy of Sin, War, and others.  Concepts such as:  Dealing with unholy behavior in fellow Christians, Role of Christians in Government, Wisdom and Judging, and others as selected by the group.  (Listed alphabetically not by order of study).

This is an open ended study group.  That is, we will not lead you to a predefined finding or try to convince you that you are wrong.  You will be challenged to seek the truth.  The truth itself is a wonderful liberator.

This study is not offered in lieu of worship.  This is Bible Study.  The group will meet only twice each month on the 2nd and 3rd Mondays from 6:00-8:00 pm.   It is for men and women from high school to too old to count the number of years.  Pray about this.  There will be commitment cards available in August.

The first meeting is 12 September 2011.

The format will involve reading and research on one topic for two weeks.  The areas addressed within each topic will be:

FTBTMS – For the Bible Tells Me So

Red Letter Words- What Jesus had to say on the subject

Word Studies- The width and depth of the original text
Commentaries/COF- What others have published on the matter

Unique Context- Were these passages written only for the original audience?

Personal Opinions- Here’s the fun part.  At the beginning of each new topic, all participants will be asked to write down what they think/believe in about a paragraph or less.  Each person will then seal this in an envelope not to be looked at until the study of the topic is complete.  These will be opened at the end of the study, shared if desired, or just used as a benchmark as to how much more each participant learned.

You will find the format unique and the discovery process to be genuine.  The study will be moderated by Tom Spence, but all who commit are expected to fully participate.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How many first century Christians are in hell?

How many first century Christians are in hell?
Modern day Christians most often look to John for the plan of salvation.  What about those first century believers that that heard the good news from those who repeated what we now have in Matthew, Mark, or Luke?
What about those who attended the church in Jerusalem?  With James as the head of this church, how much did he preach about Jesus?  James speaks to those who are servants and believers in Jesus Christ in his letter to the Diaspora.   Surely John didn’t get to all of those places first?
None of the synoptic gospels have the equivalent of what we find in John 3:16  or Romans 10:9-10.  We just don’t see the command to confess Jesus as Lord before a person can receive salvation.  What happened to those people who heard the good news as it was captured in Matthew, Mark, and Luke?  Were they condemned because they only had part of the story?
Did Matthew shortchange those who heard him speak because he spent too much time on beatitudes and teachings and not enough on being born again?
Mark is probably the recording of Peter’s gospel.  Peter—the rock—Dude, how could you miss this?
How could Luke repeat stories about Jesus that said a man could have eternal life if he loved the Lord with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind and love his neighbor as himself?  It’s right there at the beginning of the parable  of the Good Samaritan. 
Luke was likely a very educated man who ministered with Peter and with Paul.  How could he not have included such life saving language?
Some might say that when Jesus said love the Lord he meant love Jesus and that’s close enough to professing Jesus is Lord.  Was Jesus then master of the parable but inept and finding the right word for himself?  Surely not!  He used the Son of Man, Son of God, and the One sent by God very fluidly in the context of his teaching and discussions.
Were only those who heard the good news from John or Paul truly saved?
Or have we taken the good news of Jesus Christ and doctrinalized it to the point where only one formula works?
Have we become modern day Pharisees?
Will one who truly loves God not come to know Christ?  Would God invalidate the relationship on a technicality?  Would God call us to recannonize the Bible today and discard all but John’s gospel?
Were all of the disciples not commissioned to take the good news to the world?
We are blessed to have 66 books of the Holy Bible.  God set these apart for us as scripture.  He used a bunch of flawed men to canonize them, but he has a habit of doing that.  Abram was something of a liar, Moses a murderer, David an adulterer, and the list goes on.
Today we are blessed to have the Bible that we have, but it has not always been so ubiquitous.  Did God not find a way for flawed people to spread good news before we published all 66 in a collection?
Do we discount John’s gospel as too restrictive?
By no means!  It is the shortest distance between two points.  It is the most direct route to salvation.  It is the first book I tell new believers to read.  But I do tell them to read the rest of the gospels later on.  These other gospels cannot be relegated to just books on how to live or an account of the life of Jesus.  These words brought good news and salvation to many as well.
Is the question academic to the current generation as we have been privileged to easy access to the complete Bible all of our lives?
But to give John’s gospel such preeminence is to discount the search for salvation and good news in the other gospels.
Does this in any way lessen the passion and urgency with which we take messages that we have learned from John’s gospel and Paul’s letters to the world in which we live?
Not at all!
But it does open our eyes to the truth.  Sometimes we have excluded much of God’s word from the truth because we as modern day Pharisees must fit all of God’s word into our comfort zone.
I remember a Marine Corps fashion statement from over 30 years ago when I was a second lieutenant at the Basic School in Quantico, Virginia.  Marines teach fashion?  Absolutely!  Nobody does camouflage like we do.
The advice I received from one of the captains assigned to teach us was to dress comfortably cool.  You always needed a reason to generate a little body heat.  Some comfort was good.  Too much put you to sleep.  You needed to be able to get up and move out without getting overheated.
We too should have comfort and assurance in our salvation.  God really does love us.  He really has preserved us.  He is surely not finished with that for which we have been predestined.
But we should not shrink back into our comfort zone.  God has much to teach us about his Love.
Paul had great anguish that Israel appeared to be lost.  They had rejected Christ.  But they had surely not been hung out to dry.
Let us read every gospel with the expectation of finding the good news that Jesus commissioned those first disciples to proclaim.
I don’t think that anyone who heard the good news from any of the commissioned was deprived of life saving information. 
OK, so how many first century Christians are in hell?
What an absurd provocation.  Why would anyone even ask this?
Because today we are quick to assign God’s judgment and threaten a person with hell when we are commission to spread good news.  We are commissioned to tell of life in Christ and salvation through faith in him.  We are commission to make disciples, baptize, and teach.
Somewhere along the way we decided that no one would respond to the grace of God unless we scared the hell out of them.
Is love not stronger than fear?
Can you really confess Jesus is Lord out of fear?
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge, but does the fear of hell make for a true confession?
Read the gospel that John wrote.  Preach salvation through Christ alone.  Then read the rest of the Bible not trying to make it fit into your comfort zone.
It will be a challenge.
More than that, it will be a blessing.