What is the goal of the Church?

What is the goal of the Church?

What is the goal of the Church?

This is a review of a sermon given by the pastor of First Baptist Church of Umatilla, Brooks Braswell, on Baby Dedication Sunday, January 12, 2015. To listen to other sermons (audio or video), go to www.fbcumatilla.org and click About Us and then click Resources. The scripture references for the sermon are Genesis 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 1:10-11, and Revelation 3:16. The recording of the sermon that is posted online is not the from the service I attended, and my notes are sparse, so there are instances where I’d like to insert a direct quote but can’t. If I unintentionally misrepresent Braswell’s words as a result, it is my hope and prayer that he’ll let me know (I contact pastors with blog links to sermon reviews), and then I’ll update the blog post with his comments. It is especially unfortunate that the sermon video is from a different service, because there were two particular things Braswell said that I wanted to address word-for-word. I’ll identify those later in the blog series.


Why come to church?

Braswell says there are three reasons to go to church:

1. To get fed spiritually

2. To feed others spiritually

3. Grow

Believers interacting with believers is a good thing. During my time as a member of the institution, I got fed spiritually and hopefully fed others spiritually. I went to big congregation meetings, participated in small group bible study, and interacted socially with other believers who I met through the institution.

Most of my spiritual growth during my time in the institution, however, took place when I interacted informally and socially with other believers — the conversations that didn’t involve study guides and weren’t facilitated or guided by a group leader. In my experience, the institution, functioning sort of like Facebook, was a platform for meeting other believers. It was and is definitely useful in that way. The real relationships with other believers happened not because of but in spite of the platform.

For example, let’s pretend Zuckerberg felt called by God to become a pastor, and he decided to make Facebook an online institutional church.

Imagine logging into Facebook and finding out that Zuckerberg would be doing most of the talking, and that if Zuckerberg were not talking, that all group conversations would guided and moderated by Zuckerberg-approved group leaders. Any conversation that wasn’t relevant to Zuckerberg’s sermon would be permitted, perhaps for a short period of time before and after Zuckerberg’s sermon, and during a three-minute meet and greet time. Any conversations that called into question Zuckerberg’s sermon content would be briefly tolerated, but once conversation threads with such content had more than a handful of comments, those threads would be deleted. Facebook members that persisted in such conversations would either have their accounts suspended until they repented or have their accounts deleted altogether.

Obviously, true freedom of expression and the opportunity to explore ideas that weren’t part of the planned group discussion would need to take place outside of the institutional church of Zuckerberg.

I know it’s a silly analogy, but it serves the purpose. The institution limits and defines the interaction of believers. And that’s part of the reason why the institution is in decline. Continue reading for more about this decline.

Maybe some Facebook members would argue that members get fed spiritually through Zuckerberg’s sermon, and that members get fed and feed others spiritually through small groups. I wouldn’t disagree with that. But I would argue that the unmoderated interactions of believers, especially when there is no threat of having one’s account deleted, would tend to be more genuine, more relevant, and more likely to lead to the growth of the Reign of God on this planet.

The goal of the church?

According to Braswell, the goal is to grow. My initial reaction to his idea is to wholeheartedly agree. The Reign of God is not yet all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28), but the more its slow (yes, slow and almost imperceptible Luke 13:20-21) growth continues the better off the entire human race will be. As believers fulfill their role as ministers of reconciliation, the Reign of God grows not only in their own hearts but in the hearts of others. This incredible transformation is an internal one that can’t be measured mathematically or scientifically, only measured in how we relate to one another, especially when there’s conflict.

Please understand that there’s a difference between the Church (any believers gathered anytime and anywhere) and the church (certain believers and sometimes not-yet-believers gathered as laity under the leadership of clergy, usually with a statement of faith, a religious organization).

I’m pretty sure that Braswell’s idea of grow and my idea of grow are two entirely different ideas. Thankfully, he offers definitions for the word grow, and then expounds on what grow means to him.

First, the definitions:

To undergo natural development by increasing in size and changing physically.

To progress to maturity.

To become larger or greater over a period of time, to increase.

Then, Braswell expounds,

The goal of the church, I believe that the Bible would teach that if a church is meeting, that the main goal is to grow. Not to sit still. Not to go backwards. A large, large percentage of churches all across the United States are either plateaued or they’re declining. Declining meaning they are losing membership. They are on their way to being extinct. You know, they’re losing and losing and losing, and they’re not ever gaining anything. They have no vision. They have no passion. They really have no ministry. They are kind of just stuck in that rut. They are being who they think they need to be, but they are not willing to make some changes that really need to take place.

And what’s sad is, folks, that’s the majority. I mean, you drive around Lake County — there’s churches everywhere. But why do they always look the same? Why do you never hear about what’s taking place in some of these other churches?

And then you hear about places like First Baptist Church of Umatilla, and I’m going to brag on the Lord for a little bit today. It’s not going to be about you guys, so don’t get excited.

And you hear about the growth of a church like First Baptist Umatilla, and it’s so rare. And what blows my mind is how can a message of hope, how can a message of salvation be a message that doesn’t change lives, where people don’t grow, where churches don’t grow, where they don’t go from one service to two and two to three, new buildings, and add things?

We have excitement. We’ve got unity. We’ve got a vision.

Which definition of grow matters most to Braswell? I have my suspicions, but I can’t say for sure, because only God knows a person’s heart and intentions. But I can say that he uses well over one-third of his sermon time to talk about various ways to grow the membership of FBCU and a good portion of the remaining time to contrast his perceived positive qualities of FCBU with his perceived negative qualities of other institutional churches in Lake County. Listen to the sermon for yourself.

Growing the institutional church is hard work. Personally, I don’t think the benefits (yes, I’ll admit there are some benefits) outweigh the time, money, and effort involved. I’ve been there, done that, and know how exhausting it can be — at least, for those truly invested in growing the institutional church (as opposed to those who just show up, throw a few dollars in the offering, and leave).

If you think that your time, money, and effort — all valuable resources God has entrusted to you — are more wisely invested in the institutional church than in other charitable efforts or non-profit organizations in your community, that’s between you and God. Just realize that as the centuries come and go, institutional churches spring up, spring leaks, decline, and go extinct, the Kingdom (or Reign) of God remains and continues to grow through the centuries.

 

David Hayward cartoon

Comments
  • Nikki Ceglar January 18, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    Mom, I am surprised…you are doing the very thing that the sermon said not to do. “Divide, or multiply.”.. You are trying to create/validate division from church. How could that be a good idea for Christians? Your ideals push Christians away from a place where they can become firmly planted in their faith. I don’t get it. Also, I didn’t know that when you decided to come to the ceremony that it was going to become this big debate/review/blast against our church and pastor. You’ve thrown in a sprinkle of “sympathy” in here and there, but for the most part, disected Claire’s ceremony and thrown it under the microscope, making it appear ugly for anyone that reads your blog. That’s really not what I had in mind for her dedication day.. A big family religious blowout spectacle. Maybe you are angry about the past, if that’s so, you, dad, whoever should have just come to me and said something. But this whole thing just hurts my heart. Yet, another blog post downing my church in reference to this day. I pick and choose my battles. I feel like my family doesn’t know how to do the same.

  • Alice Spicer January 19, 2015 at 12:08 am

    Braswell, on baby dedication Sunday, announced that all the babies were lost (church-speak for those babies BURNING IN HELL FOREVER if they don’t get saved prior to the age of accountability), talked about political gay marriage stuff, how great FBCU is and how not-so-great so many other Lake County churches are (then talks about how OTHER people create division in the church, go figure), told women to wear more clothes… fig leaves is the term he used, said all the staff members who left FBCU to start NPF were following a man over God which was an insult to me as he knows nothing about my motives, and sanctioned crowd manipulation techniques for altar calls. All of this on baby dedication Sunday. If he officiated your wedding or Poppop’s funeral and did this, you would be livid. But he does this for Clair’s baby dedication, and you want me to pretend like he didn’t cast a dark, ugly shadow on the special event? What did his sermon have to do with baby dedication? I kept my mouth shut and didn’t walk out of the service. That’s all the tact I could muster. It could have been much, much worse if I had gone with plan A, that is, not to sit quietly during a sermon any more when I hear things that hurt the body of Christ, but to speak out, even if it is a humiliating social taboo. It won’t hurt my feelings if we agree to leave me out of institutional church events from now on. Like that song goes (not that it’s good advice but in this case, appropriate lol) … your momma don’t mind what your momma don’t see.

  • Lanny A. Eichert January 19, 2015 at 1:07 am

    See what a mess of things you made, Alice. You really need to get over this thing and forget your complaints. Grow up.

    • Lanny A. Eichert January 19, 2015 at 1:57 am

      The bottom line is your fight against everlasting torment has become a monster out-of-control in your life. You haven’t engaged the resurrection of the wicked first reunites them with their same corruptions they had a love/hate relationship all their lives in their bodies which they loved more than Christ and will continue to love more than Him though they burn in their lusts now in flames of torment without end. Their resurrection bodies suit perfectly their corrupt souls, so they never cease to want their sins, never want redemption, which they hated and rejected all their mortal lives. They are unable to die in the flames because they are post-mortem and cannot be again resurrected to life. As I’ve told you before, your scheme fails because a person cannot be resurrected twice: the first time to judgment and thereafter the next time to life. That’s impossible or else resurrection is not resurrection. What’s your explanation?

      where there worm is not dying, and the fire is not being quenched {Mark 9: 44 YLT}
      Just as your skin cells are always dying and being replaced now, so their cells are always being eaten by the worms and being replaced so the worms may continue to eat them in a never-ending cycle.

      Hebrews 12: 29 for also our God is a consuming fire. His fire never goes out.

  • Mary Vanderplas January 19, 2015 at 5:03 am

    I agree that the institution with its hierarchical structure tends to stifle freedom of expression among members – with the effect of inhibiting rather than fueling spiritual growth. However, I can’t say that I think your description of the situation of tight control and censorship on the part of the pastor and other leaders is characteristic of most churches. No doubt it’s true of some, but in my experience, there is more freedom of expression in churches than your description suggests. At any rate, I don’t disagree that greater freedom than what is present currently in most churches would be a good thing and that it would likely lead to greater growth of the body and its individual members.

    I like what you say about the growth of the kingdom being slow and nearly imperceptible, though I wouldn’t say that God’s liberating, transformative work is confined to the hearts and lives of individuals. God’s power is at work not only in our individual lives but also in the world, defeating the powers of darkness and bringing reconciliation and freedom and life. I agree that the goal of the church is to fulfill the mission of being agents of God’s liberating and reconciling work in the world and not merely to add to the membership of the church. I don’t see, though, that adding to the membership is incompatible with the larger purpose. On the contrary, I think that inviting people into the membership of church, where they can experience the liberating love of God (which was present in their lives all along) and live by God’s love and command together with other people who know, trust, and serve God, is entirely in keeping with the larger purpose of being agents of reconciliation in the world.

    While Braswell’s bragging about the growth of the church he pastors and his negative comments about other churches are, I think, less than admirable, and while his focus on growth defined as adding services and buildings and other “things” is in my view misplaced, I can’t say that I disagree with what he says about the need for churches to have a vision for ministry and growth. I think he’s right that without a vision for reaching out with the good news, churches will stagnate and die. While I don’t disagree with some of your criticisms of the institution and am challenged by your questioning the wisdom of investing in it, I don’t share your negative view. I see the institution as having an important role to play in the growth and extension of the kingdom of God, not as being an impediment to, or a distraction from, God’s transformative work in the world.

    • Lanny A. Eichert January 19, 2015 at 9:08 am

      Mary, WW1 & WW2 proved the church a failure in liberating and setting the world free. That utopian vision of the church died at each war and you should have learned that lesson which is now being retaught by world-wide terrorism. Church evangelism seeks to find and save the small remaining number of God’s elect of His church and when that is soon completed, Jesus will return to the clouds and call His church bride away from this wicked world to His Father’s house for the prophetic bridal week before He returns with her in glory to set up His kingdom over Israel and the world for one thousand years. Your Reformed tradition is out-of-date and you need to abandon it for reality. Jesus may return any minute now and you aren’t ready. You are about to be “Left Behind.” I Wish We’d All Been Ready. It is not just a movie – it is reality. The Way Of The Master.

    • Alice Spicer January 19, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      Regarding your comments about freedom of expression in church and my misrepresentation of them, you could be right, to a certain extent. My experience, my dad’s experience, and the experience of countless others around the world who are finally speaking out about such things could be the exception. I don’t think that’s likely. But since I am not everywhere all the time, maybe my view is based on inadequate information. So to clarify, based SOLELY on what I’ve experienced and observed, freedom of expression is welcomed, as long as the expression doesn’t contradict certain beliefs, and as long as it is not expressed loudly or persistently.

      • Mary Vanderplas January 20, 2015 at 5:02 am

        I think it’s a mistake to generalize from the fundamentalist Baptist tradition to the whole of the institution and to write off the institution as stifling interaction among members – which is what I see you doing. Not all Christian traditions are cut out of this mold. The Southern Baptist tradition tends to promote claims of doctrinal certitude and exclusive possession of truth. Given this, it’s no surprise that some/many of the leaders do the sorts of things that you describe – namely, squelch free expression of questions and alternative understandings, take a heavy-handed approach toward those who dare to voice disagreement with doctrinal stances, and otherwise exert near-total control over what is spoken and taught. But there are other traditions, other churches, that don’t profess doctrinal certainty and that are tolerant of alternative doctrinal viewpoints and encourage dialogue between those who hold opposing views. I would urge you or anyone who has been burned in an intolerant church/tradition to check out another church/tradition that doesn’t make the claims that fundamentalist Baptists do. I think you’d be pleasantly surprised.

        • Lanny A. Eichert January 20, 2015 at 10:06 am

          Other churches, that don’t profess doctrinal certainty, yes, Mary, spoken like a true liberal. Alice, that’s because they don’t distinguish true from error because they don’t know the Truth. All they are is social clubs. I’d expect you’d still get in trouble there, too.

        • Lanny A. Eichert January 20, 2015 at 10:48 am

          So, Mary, are you recommending that certainty does NOT matter? That truth is what the individual makes it? Urging people into such an environment is enlisting them into psychological support social clubs. Certainly many liberal churches are only that. They redefine being saved and being born again as finding oneself and the difference that it makes in their life. I knew a man one time who stopped smoking and enjoyed a new smoke-free lease on life calling that being saved and born again. By your urging you demonstrate a lack of urgency to flee from the wrath of God against your sins or you’re willing to compromise it in another’s life. Isn’t that the hypocrisy you two have been criticizing.

          • Mary Vanderplas January 21, 2015 at 5:05 am

            I’m saying that there’s a difference being having strong convictions about what is true and right and claiming possession of final truth, claiming spiritual certitude. The former is consistent with an appropriate attitude of humility and openness to alternative viewpoints; the latter is not. The latter allows no room for alternative understandings of “what the Bible says,” eschews self-criticism, and all too frequently leads to the denunciation of others. No, I’m not blowing in the wind doctrinally as you like to picture me and other “liberals” you routinely denounce.

            • Lanny A. Eichert January 21, 2015 at 12:29 pm

              So does Alice claim spiritual certitude or is she simply having strong convictions?

        • Mary Vanderplas January 21, 2015 at 5:08 am

          I’m not suggesting here that you join a church. I’m suggesting only that you check out other churches/traditions before making judgments about what “the institution” is like.

          • Lanny A. Eichert January 21, 2015 at 12:58 pm

            Mary, it is a beautiful recommendation that you make with a noble goal, but whether the church is governed by a confession or by a statement of faith, both will address the orthodox destiny of the unbeliever which is Alice’s rejection and alienation. The problem is not the churches, but Alice. She’s cultic and her only fit is a cult. She has gone on record declaring the churches are lost in a world-wide historical conspiracy. That’s why I asked you, does Alice claim spiritual certitude or is she simply having strong convictions?

            • Alice Spicer January 21, 2015 at 8:10 pm

              Lanny, I don’t expect everyone to believe what I believe. I do, however, expect believers to be able to have calm, rational discussions and debates without completely freaking out, shunning one another, insulting one another, and using authority/power to silence one another.

              • Lanny A. Eichert January 21, 2015 at 11:00 pm

                Alice, you don’t know when enough is enough: that’s why you run into problems like right here about your baby granddaughter’s dedication. Nikki told you so.

                The problem is not the churches, but that you don’t to want to accept your double resurrection cannot happen. Are you capable of calmly and rationally RECKONING this?

                Reckon λογίζομαι logizomai {logic}
                calm, rational discussions and debates

                And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast ALIVE into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. {Revelation 19: 20 & 20: 10} And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
                Alive and tormented from the moment they are being thrown into it.

          • Lanny A. Eichert January 21, 2015 at 3:10 pm

            Mary, if Alice truly wants to come out of her cultic way she must recognize her reconciliationist scheme requires the double resurrection of the lost person and that’s an impossibility. I’m sure she understands the double resurrection thing, but she’s not willing to admit to herself that it is impossible. When she finally learns that it is impossible and admits it to herself without reservation then perhaps she’ll find rest in some church. She knows too much to be satisfied in any church, so her choice will be limited by her moderation and convictions.

  • Nikki Ceglar January 19, 2015 at 8:23 am

    He made a JOKE. If you were upset by his “twisted sense of humor” than that is how both you and dad should have referenced it as taking place (though I would have preferred you not to at all). We enjoy a sense of humor in sermons, maybe you don’t feel the same or understand it for that matter, because you aren’t there on a regular basis to hear it used all the time. “Have you ever walked into that nursery and seen the things that are going on in there? Those kids are lost, they don’t know what’s going on! (Congregation laughs and smiles at his joke)…”

    • Alice Spicer January 19, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      I disagree. But we have nothing to examine other than our own memories, which admittedly, can be flawed. That’s why I posted in the blog, “The recording of the sermon that is posted online is not the from the service I attended, and my notes are sparse, so there are instances where I’d like to insert a direct quote but can’t. If I unintentionally misrepresent Braswell’s words as a result, it is my hope and prayer that he’ll let me know (I contact pastors with blog links to sermon reviews), and then I’ll update the blog post with his comments. It is especially unfortunate that the sermon video is from a different service, because there were two particular things Braswell said that I wanted to address word-for-word. I’ll identify those later in the blog series.” (Lost was one of those two things.) Perhaps you can request a copy of the 9:30 Baby Dedication, if it’s available. All that’s posted online is the 11am service, no Baby Dedication, just the sermon. Or you can ask Braswell to comment on this blog and clarify his views on eternal destiny and the age of accountability. I sent him a link, so unless someone dropped the ball in the office, he knows about the blog series.

      Ultimately, his views on these things don’t matter as much as the parents’ views on these things, when it comes to what the parents on that stage, including you two, had in mind when they decided to dedicate her to God.

      How old do you think Claire will be when God decides she should go to hell if she doesn’t get saved before she dies?

      You know that I think dedicating Claire to God is the most responsible commitment you two, as parents, can make, because we can trust God to do what is in Claire’s best interest, not just now, but ALWAYS. I am so proud of you both and thankful that she has you as parents.

      BTW, If my question bothers you, take it up with Braswell, not me. He’s the one who, unless I am terribly mistaken, implied it at her baby dedication service. And if that wasn’t his intent, then he should speak up, because dad and I (and probably many others in attendance) misunderstood him.

      • Lanny A. Eichert January 19, 2015 at 8:02 pm

        Alice, “How old do you think Claire will be when God decides she should go to hell if she doesn’t get saved before she dies?” How can you ask such a thing? If your granddaughter goes to hell, it will have been her moral decision, not God’s. She will have neglected or refused God’s grace and will herself have reaped the consequences. The Cross is sufficient for all of the world’s people, but God requires they individually receive it and that’s why they are individually judged for their choice.

        • Alice Spicer January 21, 2015 at 8:18 pm

          I ask not because I believe it, but because I wonder if she believes it. Christ is sufficient to overcome unbelief.

        • Lanny A. Eichert January 27, 2015 at 2:15 am

          Modern psychologists and social engineers generally hold that children are born innocent. Any evil they do is learned from those around them. Based upon this notion, they advise that children should not be spanked because that spanking only teaches violence. This modern teaching contradicts the biblical teaching that we are born in original sin, inherited from Adam. Belief in original sin is accepted in some form by most Christians, Jews and practically everyone who has ever raised children! In 1999, science stepped into the debate. Psychologist Richard Tremblay of the Universite de Montreal studied 511 children, all under 18 months old. He found that 70 percent of the children grab things. Forty-six percent push others, 21 percent physically attack others, 23 percent fight, 27 percent bite and 24 percent kick. These evil behaviors were going on long before the children could have learned them from those around them. Psychologist Tremblay concluded from his study that the parents’ real task is not to teach children to be themselves but rather to teach children to obey moral principals. This research supports the biblical teaching of original sin, and by implication, supports the Bible’s account of Adam and Eve. One theologian pointed out that this explains why parents must daily battle against self idolatry and must do this for their children until their children learn to do this for themselves. This study simply supports what the Bible has been saying for thousands of years.

  • Nikki Ceglar January 19, 2015 at 8:24 am

    I don’t take those words as grounds for a pastor saying babies go to hell. Sorry.

    • Alice Spicer January 19, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      That’s why I wrote, “if they don’t get saved prior to the age of accountability,” which I’m pretty sure is standard Baptist teaching. To me, Braswell made it seem as if the one of the main reasons the parents were dedicating their babies to God was to give them a their best chance of avoiding the consequences of remaining lost. This is a pleasant way to communicate something unthinkable. And as most Baptists know or ought to know, their doctrine of the consequences of being lost after the age of accountability is eternal torment in hell. Some people suggest the age is 13. Others put it later, up to mid-twenties. The cognitive dissonance that comes with imagining your offspring (at ANY age) doomed to such an irrevocably hopeless and horrifying existence as eternal torment is at least a slightly alleviated when it is packaged in a simple word like “lost.” If Braswell really believes this, how can he also believe God is pro-life?

      • Lanny A. Eichert January 19, 2015 at 6:29 pm

        Alice, “If Braswell really believes this, how can he also believe God is pro-life?” What would that look like if God were not pro-life? What would He do? Abort all the babies who would not get saved after the age of accountability?

        • Alice Spicer January 21, 2015 at 8:19 pm

          Isn’t that what eternal torment in hell is (if it were true)? A divine abortion of humanity that goes on and on forever.

          • Lanny A. Eichert January 22, 2015 at 12:35 am

            Calling the judgment unto condemnation abortion is neither calm nor rational coming from some one who wants calm, rational discussions and debates. You use an emotionally charged word like abortion and apply it to the cessation of the process of reconciliation due to unending torment. You lack reason because the offer of salvation ceased at mortal death not that it is everlastingly interrupted by unending torment. There is neither an offer extended post-mortem nor an example of it accepted post-mortem anywhere in Scripture, while there are abundant texts showing BOTH the offer and the acceptance in this mortality as a Scriptural record. If such hope as you assume were God’s plan, He would have announced it as a sure hope for His people, but He didn’t; yet He announced the hope of salvation to mortals only. All references to post-mortem punishment do NOT include any note of improvement because the punishment is penal, not remedial. You fail to support calm and rational debate, dear Alice., also by avoiding how contrary your two resurrections for the wicked are.

            • Alice Spicer January 22, 2015 at 7:00 pm

              Synonyms for abortion include: abandonment, cancellation, recision, revocation. I agree that it is an emotionally charged word, but it is also a fitting descriptive of what happens to the lives of the majority of humanity according to the doctrine you profess. I suggest that the doctrine elicits a strong, negative emotional response (and rightly so) and that words like abortion fall short of describing the horror of the doctrine.

              • Lanny A. Eichert January 22, 2015 at 8:29 pm

                Revelation 14: 10b is not exactly abandonment. You know better than that, deceptive Alice.

                he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb

                Also you know their everlasting existence is totally dependent upon God maintaining them in their everlasting punishment. You complained about BOTH on this site. You violate your own logic. Abortion is not suitable at all by your explanation.

                What about your double resurrecting of those who physically die without confessing Christ? Don’t you know that’s neither possible nor rational leaving you without an explanation of post-mortem salvation. You want rational discussion but you will not be rational. You’re just a dreamer of false dreams. {Jude 8}

      • Lanny A. Eichert January 19, 2015 at 6:45 pm

        Alice, God being pro-life means He creates >90% of the babies to grow up and perish unsaved in contrast to His saints as a display of His wisdom and grace “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” {Ephesians 3: 10 & 11}

        They had the opportunity to desire salvation, but they didn’t, so “an irrevocably hopeless and horrifying existence as eternal torment” is their proper judgment and condemnation.

  • Stephen Helbig January 20, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    What is the goal of the Church? ~ Long division is good for the soul. 🙂

    All Ground is holy ground. There is a realm of Divine that is always amongst, around, upon, and within us, which allows us to wake up to our true self in God, One with God. The question is, will we now and do we give our life for another? Salvation is not a ticket to another place or a code, it is not our oath or superstition, but it is a divine force of God’s energy in our imperative powerlessness of self. The weak is the new strong and disruptions are every bit as part of it. This is a process of growing into His Image. “Long Division is good for the soul”. The result of our division ends with our prime number “ONE”, for all factors begin and end with this. Another way of thinking of this is that every number is the product of multiple factors. Learning how to factor – that is, break up a number into its component factors, one can and will find this is an important mathematical skill and great skill in our pursuit of life
    .
    p.s. ~ Even prime numbers can be written as the product of 1
    🙂 This requires some backwards thinking. Determine whether any of your factors can be factored again. End result is to reduce each factor to itself times one. This is the purpose of the church, continue until you reach 1

    • Stephen Helbig January 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm

      p.s.s. ~ (Luke 12:51) ~ “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division”; ~ Jesus

      p.s.s.t. ~ ( John 17:22) ~ “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one” ~ Jesus

    • Alice Spicer January 21, 2015 at 8:14 pm

      Ha! Brilliant! I finally understood one of your difficult comments without having to ask for an explanation.

  • Stephen Helbig January 20, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Correction to above quote for one is not considered prime in mathematics~

    ” Quote ~ “The result of our division ends with our prime number “ONE”, for all factors begin and end with this.”

    Correction ~
    (The number 1 itself, is considered neither prime nor composite — ( it’s a special case.) ~ so the correction is as follows : ~ “The result of our division ends with our SPECIAL number “ONE”, for all factors begin and end with this.”

    Note, Jesus prayed a “special prayer” ~ and this prayer we all NEED TO PRAY.

    Jn. 17:20 ~ “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; (21)”that they may ALL BE ONE”; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You,
    THAT THEY ALSO MAY BE IN US, ~ (“ONE”) ~ so that the world may believe that You sent Me”.

    ~ One is indeed a “special case”

  • Lanny A. Eichert January 20, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Mary, it sounds as if Stephen goes to one of those “other churches, that don’t profess doctrinal certainty”

  • Ian Dean January 22, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    I am a former Christian, but I will forego my beliefs, if only momentarily, to thank God for putting Lanny A. Eichert in front of my face to remind me of the ‘love of God’, just as I remember it capable of degrading to. Thank you Lanny. I hope your God is ok with you professing yourself as his ambassador of judgement, otherwise you may have some answering to do. You are truly all the witness I needed to know that I made the correct decision. I realize that you’ll say I’m going to burn in hell – which is fine, as I will not have to share that space with you. Have a great day! 🙂

    • Lanny A. Eichert January 22, 2015 at 8:41 pm

      Dream on, Ian Dean: Jude 8.

      My friend, your dad, must by now know 1 John 2: 19
      They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
      A former Christian, well spoken.

      The last time I saw you was 1980June when with my wife, Deborah, and my 6 year old son, Jonathan, we came from N. J. to visit you mom and dad ib Orlando.

    • Lanny A. Eichert January 22, 2015 at 11:50 pm

      Ian, it really is amazing how one person’s sin in the church can so nearly thoroughly destroy an entire family. Sin cannot be contained to an individual person and remain private. It gets found out and destroys many persons’ faiths and lives. Sin is a powerful destroyer and yet God can use it to expose what is false confessions and reveal the one He approves in the ministry.

      Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. {Mark 10: 34 – 37}

      This text is fulfilled in your own family, dear Ian, and you saw it happening along with Alice. I’m glad I was not there; that it was your trial, not mine. That’s for what I’m thankful to God. And that your dad endured.

      • Mary Vanderplas January 23, 2015 at 6:22 am

        Why, of course. It stands to reason, given your “I’m-God’s-perfect,-holy-instrument” stance, that you would try to deflect attention away from your own craptist theology and usurping of the divine prerogative to judge by pointing to “one person’s sin in the church” in the distant past – something about which you know nothing except what you evidently have heard from someone who is as un-self-reflective as you are. No, the problem here is YOU. YOU are the reason why some are leaving the faith of their youth.

        • Lanny A. Eichert January 23, 2015 at 3:30 pm

          Mary, you honor me placing me along side Ian’s dad, Sean Dean, by the accusation of being together “un-self-reflective” since we both trust the Cross in life as well as in death.

          I wish you all could know the joy of Philippians 3: 8 – 11
          Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

          My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholely lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.

          • Mary Vanderplas January 24, 2015 at 5:14 am

            Point the finger, point the finger, point the finger. Quote the Bible, quote the Bible, quote the Bible. Act spiritual, act spiritual, act spiritual. None of it changes the fact that the problem is YOU.

          • Mary Vanderplas January 24, 2015 at 5:37 am

            You’d be smart to save your crapola for someone less savvy in these things than I am. I’m a chaplain, remember. I have a knack for identifying and cutting through shit.

            • Lanny A. Eichert January 24, 2015 at 5:39 am

              Mary. your vulgarity proves who’s side you’re on.

            • Lanny A. Eichert January 24, 2015 at 6:08 am

              Humm, “as un-self-reflective as you are”; your subject is worth some reflection here now.

  • Lanny A. Eichert January 23, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Ah, Mary, what a perfect expression of bitterness flows from some of the Dean family and friends from “the distant past.”

    Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; {Hebrews 12: 15}

    The distant past is still infecting you all to this day because the root of it remains as an unresolved itch, a continuous poison ivy. Only one of the original participants has not failed of the grace of God. The solution is evident that the rest return to the grace of God, but, as you say, it is not so likely, although some are closer than others.

    You use a term, un-self-reflective, which reveals how much you depend upon self-improvement instead of Galatians 2: 20 and the Cross of Christ.

    I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

    This site is built on being PURGED IN THE LAKE OF FIRE as the means of post-mortem salvation. That’s far from completely trusting the Cross. Alice can’t explain how such a person can be resurrected TWICE: first to Judgment and thereafter to life. She’s irrational with bitterness. That bitterness is here affecting Nikki as you can read in her several posts. One person’s sin in the church does continue to bear bitter fruit many years later. That’s proven here.

  • Alice Spicer January 24, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    The purpose of this site is to clear away misconceptions about Who God is and what God does. Is God like this or that? Does God do this or that?

    These things can be difficult to examine, when one’s current belief system is on the table under scrutiny. How much easier it is to focus the attention on the one (Braswell) who makes claims, the one (me) who put the claims on the examination table, or the ones who make observations (write blog comments) about what’s on the table, than it is to focus on what’s actually on the table. If it’s true and right, it can stand up to scrutiny. If it can’t stand up to scrutiny, it’s probably not true and right. There’s nothing wrong with knowing why you believe what you believe.

    If this were about bitterness, I would be putting people, not beliefs and claims, on the table. Here I have examined Braswell’s words, not Braswell himself, just like I examine the words of other preachers and teachers both past and present. I barely even know Braswell. How could I be bitter toward someone I don’t even know?

    So can we put this business of it’s-about-me or it’s-about-my-family or it’s-about-Braswell or it’s-about-the past aside long enough to examine what’s on the table?

    For this blog post, here’s what’s on the table:

    Does God expect believers to interact with one another, get fed and feed others, grow in spiritual maturity, and share the Good News in their circles of influence? (I propose, yes. Feel free to debate, though.)

    Does God expect believers to go to a particular institutional church to interact with one another, get fed and feed others, and grow the membership of that institutional church? (I propose, no. Again, feel free to discuss.)

    It’s not about me or my family or Braswell or blog readers. It’s not really even about FBCU. It’s about Who God is and what God does – in other words, the Reign of God within us. Also an important consideration is how the above is communicated to and perceived by not-yet-believers.

    • Stephen Helbig January 24, 2015 at 6:40 pm

      Magnificently stated Alice
      (¯`v´¯)
      `*.¸.*´
      ¸.•´ ¸.•*¨)¸.•*¨)
      (¸.•´(¸.• (¸.•´¸¸.•¨¯`•.¸¸.♥ Love it

      (¯`’•.¸ //(*_*)\\ ¸.•’´¯)
      *`• .…* ♥ * ♥ *… •´*… Angel Card for today is …. There is a working of the Spirit, the breath of God unto oneness , which is love. This is who we are, and who we were created to be. Can artificial intelligence love, yet I can see the love of God. I say let us clear away all these misconceptions about Who God is and what God does.

    • Lanny A. Eichert January 24, 2015 at 8:09 pm

      This site is built on a completely false notion of being purged in the Lake of Fire as the means of post-mortem salvation. That’s far from completely trusting the Cross. Alice can’t explain how such a person can rationally be resurrected TWICE: first to Judgment and thereafter to life. She’s irrational since she has no proof of her insistence it is so, just like she expects Jesus to eventually save Judas Iscariot whom He prophetically pronounced lost/perished even before Judas physically died {John 17: 12} when He, Himself, prayed to God His Father by the Holy Spirit. She’s further irrational for not accepting God’s perfect literal Holy Bible closes with the Lake of Fire populated without remedy in the description of the eternal state. She will not accept the end of the Book where it ends. Her reference to “not-yet-believers” is a clue to her progressive views as heresy and far from orthodox. She will not accept they are “never-will-be-believers” when in the Lake of Fire having gotten there because they weren’t believers when they could have been.

      Alice can’t explain how such a person can rationally be resurrected TWICE: first to Judgment and thereafter to life. Can’t stand up to scrutiny = not true.

      • Stephen Helbig January 24, 2015 at 8:55 pm

        Lanny, to see what this site is built on, go to the link below, ( “About This Site” web page ) ~

        http://www.whatgoddoes.com/about-what-god-does/

        “Test everything. Hold on to what is good.”

        p.s. ~ And Alice, I particularly appreciated reading the following quote found in the above link,
        Quote ~ “There are thousands of people all around with world who haven’t entirely given up on their own spirituality but are sick to death of the hypocrisy and hate that seems to inevitably accompany spiritual discussion. This blog is concerned with Who God is and what God does, without all the showy pretenses and quid pro quos imposed by the corrupt spiritual police of this world.” – Alice

        • Lanny A. Eichert January 24, 2015 at 9:36 pm

          Stephen, test if the person who physically dies without Christ can rationally be resurrected twice: first to Judgment and thereafter to life, then discard the false gospel according to Alice.

          • Lanny A. Eichert January 24, 2015 at 10:26 pm

            Stephen, let me help you with John 5: 28 & 29
            #1) Where are they when they hear Jesus voice to come forth?
            #2) From where do they come?
            #3) Did Jesus ever say they come from the Lake of Fire, the Second Death?
            #4) Is that sufficient testing?

            • Stephen Helbig January 25, 2015 at 3:50 am

              Lanny, ~ John 5: 28 & 29
              #1) Where are they when they hear Jesus voice to come forth?~ “Graves, vs.28”
              #2) From where do they come? ~ “graves”
              #3) Did Jesus ever say they come from the Lake of Fire, the Second Death? ~ “Yes, Read on” ~
              #4) Is that sufficient testing? ~ “No” ~

              Lanny, the following is found in chapter 12 of the book ~ “Her Gates Will Never Be Shut” Hell, Hope, and the New Jerusalem ~ by Bradley Jersak, ~ And it is worth testing when it comes to your above questions addressed to me, for I probably couldn’t state it better than Bradley did, except maybe one on one with you in a private conversation.. ~ In the phrase ~ “Her Gates Will Never Be Shut” ~ We find Hints of Ultimate Redemption located in Revelation 21– 22

              “~ Rev 21: 1— Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away (ap ēlthan) .

              The final chapters of Revelation signal a new period. Though we experience their truth in part already as “those upon whom the end of the ages has come (t a telē tōn aiōniōn katēntēken” (1 Cor 10), in Rev 21 we find that God will finally hit the restart button on the cosmos. Old is gone (passed away); new has come. The redemption of all things visible and invisible, earthly and heavenly has come to its telos (end/ fulfillment) at last through the blood of Christ (Col 1).

              Traditional eschatology has rightly identified the new heaven and earth as the eternal state of God’s elect, permeated by God’s presence and devoid of any suffering or wickedness. Since the final judgment has disposed of Satan, sin, death, and the damned once and for all, everlasting bliss can commence as God , his glorious angels, and the elect enjoy the static blessedness of the New Jerusalem— at least that’s what I was taught.

              But if we look carefully, this is not exactly what is in the text. Questions and aporias arise defying easy answers. People and processes appear that seem out of order— unless God continues to bring his Alpha purposes to an inexorable Omega. Troubling anomalies surface, but then offer us a possibility: Is the End just the Beginning? Perhaps the only thing that can truly bring clarity is hope.

              ~ Rev 21: 5— And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new (kaina poiō panta).”

              Why am making (present active indicative)? Not in anticipation (I will) or in retrospect (I have)? The One on the throne in the midst of his people in the thick of the New Jerusalem is saying, “Watch. Behold the active processes of the new creation.” And so we shall.

              ESCHATOLOGICAL HOPE IN REVELATION 21– 22
              The Wicked Located ~
              1. In a lake of fire ~ “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars— their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Rev 21: 8)
              2. Excluded from the city ~ “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev 21: 27)
              3. Outside the city gates ~ “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs . . . and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (Rev 22: 14– 15)

              The Invitation Opened ~
              1. The river of life comes from the throne. ~ “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Rev 22: 1)
              2. Those in the city partake freely. ~ “Then he said to me, ‘Done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I give freely to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life.”’ (Rev 21: 6)
              3. The Spirit and bride say, “Come to waters.” ~ “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Rev 22: 17)

              Gehenna Transformed ~
              1. Remember Gehenna’s location: ~ Gehenna is the loathsome place of fire and destruction in the valley just outside the city where the dead bodies are cursed and burned. (Isa 66: 24)
              2. Remember Jeremiah’s New Covenant promise: ~ “The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown . . . will be holy to the LORD.” (Jer 31: 40)
              3. Remember the Psalmist’s forecast for the valley: ~ “While thirsty hearts journey to appear before God in Zion, the valley Baca (Gehenna to the 1st century rabbis) becomes a place of springs!” (Ps 84: 5-7)

              Entry into the City ~
              1. Her gates are never shut. ~ “On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.” (Rev 21: 25)
              2. To enter: wash robes in the blood of the Lamb. ~ “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” (Rev 22: 14)
              3. Remember the Psalmist’s forecast for the valley: ~ “While thirsty hearts journey to appear before God in Zion, the valley Baca (Gehenna to the 1st century rabbis) becomes a place of springs!” (Ps 84: 5-7)

              History of the Kings and Nations ~
              1. Deception, immorality, and dominance ~ Rev 14: 8; 17: 2, 10-12, 15, 18; 11: 2, 9, 18; 18: 3, 9, 23
              2. Rebellion and defeat ~ Rev 6: 15; 16: 12-14;17: 14,19; 19: 18-19,20: 8; Isa 34: 1-2;60: 12, 20
              3. Surrender and submission ~ Rev 12: 5; 15: 3; 17: 14;19: 15-16; Ps 2: 8
              4. Homage and restoration ~ Rev 15: 4; Isa 60: 3,60: 5-9, 11; Rev 21: 24,26; 22: 2
              5. Honour and servitude ~ Isa 60: 10, 13; Rev 1: 5;2: 26; Is 60: 14, 16; Eph 1: 18, 4: 4

              Destiny of the Nations ~
              1. Isaiah’s vision: ~ The nations gather at God’s holy mountain with gifts of service and worship. Under the reign of the Prince of Peace, predators and victims reconcile where harm is abolished. (Isa 60; 65: 17-25; 66)
              2. Kings and nations walk by the light into the gates: ~ “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it . . . The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.” (Rev 21: 24, 26)
              3. The leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations: ~ “And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.” (Rev 22: 2b-3a)

              LOCATING THE WICKED ~
              The first obvious anomaly is the stubborn reappearance of the wicked! Where are they located?
              1. The Wicked are in a Lake of Fire ~ Initially, we find them where they “ought to be”: consigned to the lake of fire (whether consumed or in torment):
              ~ Rev 21: 8— But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars— their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.

              One may wonder philosophically where and how hell exists in the new order where suffering and death have already been expunged. A question for the ages, but not even half the problem, as we shall see.

              2. The Wicked are Excluded from the City ~ Here, only a little more is revealed:
              ~ Rev 21: 27— Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

              The shameful and deceitful cannot enter the New Jerusalem. Of course not, but this should have gone without saying. It seems redundant to mention it when their exclusion was already established by their removal to the fiery lake . Why mention it? It’s not as if they are waiting outside the city gates . . . Or are they?

              3. The Wicked are Outside the City Gates ~
              ~ Rev 22: 14– 15— Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city (kai tois pulōsin eiselthōsin eis tēn polin). Outside (exō) are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

              How is this? How did the wicked escape the flames to a location outside the city gates? Are they the same wicked we read about earlier? Or after the final judgment and lake of fire, were a new batch of wicked spawned somehow? Or is the lake of fire situated just outside the New Jerusalem? But how can this be if there is no suffering, death , or sorrow in the renewed creation? Or are the lake of fire and the place outside of the city different visions of the same realities? The text is not the problem; it simply resists propositional systems of eschatology in favor of narrative development. Remembering that John is having a series of visions that don’t require consistent, mutual cross-referencing helps us realize that the book is not truly conflicted.

              Seeing as the wicked here are still wicked and still exist outside the city, we cannot presume their eventual annihilation or salvation. John issues a very strange statement that seriously causes us to wonder whether their status is set in stone:

              ~ Rev 22: 11— Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.

              This is very odd in that up until the time of death, we are always exhorted and invited to repent and return. Once dead, it sounds like something has changed. If that were the last we hear of those outside the city, we would need to surmise their permanent doom. But as we continue reading, what we see is more than a growing ray of hope for these exiles: the invitation is renewed along with the rest of creation.

              THE INVITATION OPENED ~
              One argument for conditional immortality is the river of the water of life, from which one presumably must drink (literally or symbolically) to sustain and enjoy eternal life. While I imagine drawing water from a crystal clear stream, Jesus reminds us that this spring represents eternal life (cf. John 4), represents him (cf. John 7), and has been established in us (John 4: 13; 7: 38).

              1. The River of Life Comes from the Throne ~
              The river of life flows from the throne of God, who is now present in the midst of his people within the New Jerusalem

              (Rev 21: 3– 5). From there, God reigns over and generates the new creation. The life spring of Christ flows like a nourishing river to irrigate the whole city with pure water.
              ~ Rev 22: 1— Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

              God has dreamed this river through the prophets before. Ezekiel saw it spring from out of the temple to become an ever widening and deepening life-source:
              ~ Ezek 47: 6b– 9, 12— Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. . . . Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither , nor will their fruit fail . Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing. (Cf. Zech 14.)

              Isaiah saw the New Jerusalem frequently, sometimes as a mountain city or a voluptuous valley or as an enormous tent. Note again the combination of city and river:
              ~ Isaiah 33 :20– 21— Look upon Zion , the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes broken. There the LORD will be our Mighty One. It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams. No galley with oars will ride them, no mighty ship will sail them.

              2. Those in the New Jerusalem Partake Freely ~
              As in the Garden of Eden where our proto-parents could eat freely of the tree of life, the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem have free access to the eternal -life-giving river that flows down the middle of the street within the city (Rev 22: 2).
              ~ Rev 21: 6— Then he said to me , “Done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (telos, fulfillment). I give freely to the one who thirsts (egō tō dipsōnti . . . dōrean) from the spring of the water of life. [my translation]

              In visionary context, God is not relating the details of a populace tangibly lapping up water from a river. It is about appropriation of the eternal life of Jesus, and not as we quaff the Gospel in this life . We continue to partake of the life of Christ in the age to come, in the New Jerusalem . We are called to drink from the river, which is symbolic for the living waters that flow from Christ, our eternal fountain. The spring of eternal life (z ōē aiōnion) that Jesus promised the woman at the well (John 4: 10–14) gushes forth with living water (hudatos zōntos) (John 7: 37– 38) generously and eternally to anyone who is thirsty.

              3. The Spirit and the Bride Say, “Come to Waters” ~
              Now for the punch line: the Spirit and the Bride issue their invitation.
              ~ Rev 22: 17— The Spirit and the Bride say , “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

              Careful now, to what is the invitation? The eternal water of life. To where? The river that flows from the throne down Main Street, New Jerusalem. To whom? At first, we heard that it is only available as part of the inheritance of the overcoming ones (ho nikōn) (21: 7). But in Rev 22: 17, the invitation is thrown open: the Spirit and the Bride call “whoever is thirsty” and “whoever wishes” for a drink . But if the Bride is the city (21: 2), who is left to invite?

              The excluded, meanwhile, are at first seen in the lake of fire (21: 8) and then later outside the city (22: 15). Have the damned been relocated? Or more likely, are the two images synonymous? It comes time for us to remember three earlier points from our study:

              GEHENNA TRANSFORMED ~
              1. Remember Gehenna’s Location (Isa 66: 24): Gehenna is the loathsome place of fire and destruction in the valley just outside the city where the dead bodies of the cursed are burned . The lake of fire (condemnation) is adjacent to the city walls.
              2. Remember Jeremiah’s New Covenant Promise (Jer 31: 40): “The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown . . . will be holy to the LORD.”
              3. Remember the Psalmist’s Forecast for the Valley of Baca (Ps 84: 5– 7): Pilgrims whose thirsty hearts are in journey to appear before God in Zion are met at the open gates. Even while the pilgrims are still in the valley (Gehenna, to the first century rabbis), Baca becomes a place of springs! It is as if the gates have been flung wide and the renewing river of God’s love pours out into Gehenna . Jesus’ great parable comes to its climax: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15: 16). The door is open, indeed.

              ENTRY INTO THE CITY ~
              1. Her Gates Will Never Be Shut
              The simple math of the New Jerusalem Gospel is beautiful and powerful, even surprising: The wicked are outside the city + the gates of the city will never be shut + the Spirit and the Bride say, “ Come” = hope! But I’m rushing ahead (it’s difficult not to)
              .
              ~ Rev 21: 25 —On no day will its gates ever be shut (hoi pulōnis autēs ou mē 1 kleisthōsin), for there will be no night there.

              This verse alludes to the new heavens and earth section of Isaiah 60, where we read: “Your gates will be open continually; They will not be closed day or night, So that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession” ( Isa 60: 11 NASB). Those who were once outside now come in; those whom the Bride welcomes into the Holy City are entering, becoming part of it! How so?

              2. Only Entry: Washing Robes in Blood of the Lamb
              ~ Rev 22: 14— Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.

              It would be tempting to excerpt this verse from its context to make it read that we are blessed if we have washed our robes in the Gospel blood of Christ in this life so that we can be welcomed into the gates of the New Jerusalem in the next. In fact, to avoid any posthumous possibility of salvation, one must read it that way. But if we remain ardently biblical (now is not the time to waffle), the text says far more than that.

              First, those who say yes to the Gospel in this life are already part of the Bride, adorned in righteous robes, coming down as the New Jerusalem and issuing the invitation to others to enter. I.e., those who are washed are already “in.” The universal invitation is for those outside the city and needing to enter after the establishment of the new creation.

              Lest the invitation be misunderstood as an anything goes pluralistic universalism, there is a hard pause. Anyone can come , but only if they have their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb. Only upon a specifically Christian redemption can one enter the gates and eat from the tree of life that grows in the city (another picture of Jesus). This vision declares the possibility and the hope that even in the next age , there are those whose thirst will finally bring them to say yes to the Lamb, even those who were unable to do so on this side of the grave.

              Now just who are these who finally enter the New Jerusalem? Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21 call them “all the nations.” In Evangelical Universalism, Gregory MacDonald calls us to track the progressive destiny of the kings and nations throughout the whole book of Revelation. As we do so, note especially the chronology of events.

              HISTORY OF THE KINGS AND THE NATIONS IN REVELATION ~
              1. Deception, Immorality, and Dominance: The kings and all the nations are deceived by Babylon’s sorcery. She gives them authority to rule, yet she rules over their kings. The kings and all the nations are in league with Babylon against God and his kingdom. They persecute God’s people, city, temple, and witnesses
              (Rev 11: 2, 9, 18; 14: 8; 17: 2, 10– 12, 15, 18; 18: 3, 9, 23).
              2. Rebellion and Defeat: The kings and nations gather for war against God. They assemble for battle, but fire comes down to devour them, and birds devour their flesh. For a while, the nations are freed from the dragon’s deception (Rev 20: 3), after which they rebel against the Lamb a second time, only to be defeated utterly (Rev 6: 15; 16: 12–14; 17: 14,19; 19: 18– 19; 20: 8; Isa 34: 1– 2; 60: 12, 20).
              3. Surrender and Submission: Christ becomes King of Kings and rules all nations with a rod of iron (Rev 12: 5; 15: 3; 17: 14; 19: 15– 16; Ps 2: 8).
              4. Homage and Restoration: The kings and all the nations come to worship the Lamb (Rev 15: 4), to walk in God’s light (Isa 60: 3), and to bring their glory and riches (Isa 60: 5– 9, 11) into the city (Rev 21: 24, 26). As they enter, the leaves of the tree of life are given to heal the nations (Rev 22: 2).
              5. Honor and Servitude: The kings and nations rebuild the city walls, serve God’s people, and adorn her sanctuary (Isa 60: 10, 13). God’s people are given authority over kings, and the nations bow to honor them (Rev 1: 5; 2: 26; Isa 60: 14, 16). This represents the hope of our eternal calling (Eph 1: 18; 4: 4).

              THE DESTINY OF THE NATIONS ~
              1. Isaiah’s Vision (Isa 60; 65: 17–25; 66)
              I do not doubt that John was both a genuine mystic and a literary genius. I believe that as immersed as he was in the prophetic tradition, what he saw in the spirit and by the Spirit brought to remembrance texts that would put language to the ineffable. He makes liberal use of Isaiah 60– 66, particularly on the festive arrival of the kings and nations. The magi were mere hors d’oeuvres for what Isaiah imagined. We can see how the kings and nations who congregate with outlandishly valuable gifts and willing servitude can symbolize the ingathering of the Gentiles to worship and follow Christ. Surely this is fulfilled through the global expansion of Christianity through world missions until the end of the age— or is it? For Isaiah and for John, this is a new heavens and new earth reality.

              Reading through the final stretch of Isaiah in one sitting is overwhelming. I will dispense with a summary and draw your attention to one text for thought: “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD (Isa 65: 25). The parallel passage is found earlier in Isaiah: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox” (Isa 11: 5– 7).

              The literalist mind reels at the prospect of lions or wolves becoming vegetarians. Of course, we knew that this must be so, for how could death have any place in the coming age? (Although Isa 65: 20 is a real pickle.) In response , I propose that these verses have little to do with dietary preferences in the animal kingdom. Could they be, instead , symbols of peace and reconciliation in God’s kingdom (both now and later)? Predators and victims come together in harmony through an exchange of repentance and forgiveness . This doesn’t just happen between God’s furry creatures but within and between the nations gathered. At Christ’s table, former government death squad members and terrorist rebels embrace. The disappeared reappear, resurrected to speak the word of release to their torturers. Occupying forces bend the knee before those whom they sequestered in refugee camps. Holocaust victims, who went like sheep to the slaughter, make gracious eye contact with the wolves who gassed them. On God’s Holy Mountain, all harm is abolished. From lime pits to extraordinary rendition to suicide bombing, humanity’s nightmare is exposed and washed out like camera film in the sun’s brightness.

              That’s what Isaiah saw. The Prince of Peace will ensure it someday. Creation is groaning for it today. God’s people were to model it as of yesterday.

              2. Kings and Nations Come through the Light into the Gates with Their Glory
              With our history behind us, the kings and the nations— vis-à-vis the Lamb and the Bride— make an incredible journey . Throughout the first twenty chapters of Revelation, there are only two groups of people: the kings and nations who are evil and the Bride, who has come from “out of the nations” (a synonym for “out of exile”; cf. Ezek 36: 24; 37: 21). So the nations begin in deception, idolatry, and violence, and then are destroyed in battle, devoured by fire, eaten by birds, and cast into the lake of fire . But in Revelation 21– 22 (and Isaiah 60), we find them ultimately coming to submission, servitude, and salvation as they enter the city!

              This cannot simply refer to a series of nations (the bad ones before, then the good ones since), because at the final battle and final judgment, all the nations are defeated and dispatched and only the Bride remains. From there we see the Bride touching down in the newly integrated heavens and earth, only to begin inviting in all the nations. From where did these nations come? Were a new litter of kings and nations spontaneously generated after judgment? Or did we retrieve the old batch from hell and relocate them outside the city? Or is “outside the city” a parallel image to the lake of fire? Or perhaps a remnant of repentant nations remains from their division into sheep and goats (in Matt 25). But then the “all the nations” label both before and after judgment seems nonsensical.

              Again, the difficulty of a seamless harmonization of conflicting visions is probably impossible and unnecessary. John must speak of both universal judgment and universal conversion— juxtaposing images of the vintage of the earth (Rev 14: 17– 20) and the harvest of the earth (Rev 14: 14– 16)— because at any point up until judgment, either are bona fide potentialities.

              “We do not take the images seriously if we allow either to qualify the other. The picture of universal judgment does not mean that the picture of the universal worship of God is not to be taken fully seriously , nor does the picture of the universal worship of God mean that the picture of universal judgment is not to be taken fully seriously. Because Revelation deals in images, it does not make the kind of statements which have to be logically compatible in order to be valid. Each picture portrays a valid aspect of the truth. The two pictures correspond to the choice presented to the nations. . . . It is no part of John’s prophecy to pre- empt this choice by predicting the degree of success the witness of the martyrs will have. One thing is certain: God’s kingdom will come.” ~ Richard Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, 309.

              This commentary highlights two critical revelations concerning the nations. First , in this age, the urgent message of hope that we who were once enemies and persecutors of God’s people can now join as full heirs of the covenant, worshiping in the light of God and bringing wealth and splendor as gifts to the Savior -King. Second, in the age to come—however it works— all nations will come into this destiny. Here is God’s end game:
              ~ Rev 21: 24, 26— The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it . . . The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.

              3. The Leaves of the Tree of Life Are for the Healing of the Nations; the Curse Is Lifted
              ~ Rev 22: 2b– 3a— And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. Bauckham explains the end of the curse as it applies to foreign nations: ~ “Revelation 22: 3a recalls the judgment of the nations that worshipped the beast and opposed God’s kingdom, but declares that, with the coming of God’s kingdom, the nations which have been converted to the worship of God and the acknowledgement of his rule need never again fear his judgment. In this way the vision of the New Jerusalem supersedes all the visions of judgment and brings to fulfillment the theme of the conversion of the nations which was set out in 1: 13; 14: 14– 16; 15: 4.”- (Bauckham, 318)

              Supersedes all the visions of judgment? Is he suggesting that the previous judgment visions are not merely followed by this reconciliation scene, but that God actually provides a saving alternative that overtakes, supplants, or curtails the judgments altogether? Was this not exactly the experience of Nineveh in Jonah’s time? I suppose that will largely be up to the nations as they stand at the crossroads of possibility.

              Once into the New Jerusalem, the nations receive leaves for healing from the tree of life, which grows on each side of the throne -sourced waters. More questions arise: From what do they need healing in the new cosmos where suffering and mourning have been abolished? Would this not already have been taken care of through death and resurrection— or by having their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb on the way in? Without forcing answers into a particular eschatological system, let us accept once again the possibility of a next-world process of healing where the Lamb, himself, will shepherd us to the waters and will wipe away the last vestige of tears from this present evil age (Rev 7: 17; 21: 4).

              The promise is that there will be no katathema. Once again, to Richard Bauckham, who sees here an allusion to Zechariah 14: 11 and the sacred ban of destruction, which Yahweh pronounced against his enemies, necessitating their utter destruction. – Baukham, 316.

              “John has taken [Zech 14] to mean that the nations who dwell in the New Jerusalem, where they are healed of their idolatry and other sins by the leaves of the tree of life, will never again be subject to the destruction which God decrees for those nations who oppose his rule.”~ Richard Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, 317

              . THE ONE QUESTION: THE EMERGING VISION
              What we know of the new heaven and new earth came completely in dreams. But they weren’t just Isaiah’s and Ezekiel’s dreams or Daniel’s and John’s dreams. They are God’s dreams, poured out by the Spirit into the hearts of old and young, women and men, even to the least of his kingdom servants. And God is still dreaming of the world to come, sharing extravagant visions that make us thirsty for more.

              My wife, Eden, dreams these dreams. In night visions, she sees a house on top of a mountain. A spring of water bubbles up from the floorboards and trickles across the floor. By the time it exits the door and crosses the deck, it is two feet deep. Running off the deck and toward the cliff, the stream becomes a powerful river. Then it plummets as a deafening waterfall, increasing in volume as it descends to the lush valley below. I believe such dreams come from the same Spirit who enlivened John’s dreams, recounting spiritual truths in familiar ancient symbols, a foretaste of what is to come
              .
              More than a foretaste— an inviting question: Are you thirsty? (cf. Isa 55: 1– 5). It’s the question that opens the door of the city and leads the way into it as far as the river’s source. It’s the invitation-question of the Spirit and the Bride to the nations outside. It’s the question that Rev 21– 22 asks both then and now . Are you thirsty ? As I’ve marinated in those chapters for the past two years, this vision has emerged for me . . . Lost souls languish outside the gates of the great city, their thirst deepening as they fester in the smoking valley of Gehenna. Time has lost all meaning in this non -life of non -being. Lips and hearts are cracked with hopelessness like baked clay. Their time to choose has passed, their judgment just and certain, death eternal their lot. They cannot even make themselves care.

              And then an intrusive question forms in their hearts. Are you thirsty? Beyond ludicrous— the question reawakens the exiles to their torment and intensifies their thirst. Are you thirsty? They recall the pointless supplication, “Have pity on me and send someone to dip a fingertip in water to cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” Hopeless.

              But the question has begun its work. Hearts gaze longingly at the city walls. The question has energized a plea. What if we trudged out a pilgrimage to Zion’s gates to seek an audience with the King? What if— hope against hope—someone opened the gates? Even without hope or courage, the thirst itself drives them. Are you thirsty? There is no choice now. They must try.

              Even as the damned set their hearts upon the journey, while still a good distance away, the heart of God is already turned toward them, for the question originated from his throne, amplified beyond the city walls by the voice of the Bride and the Spirit. The question and its answer gushes out with life-giving rivers of liquid love. Christ, the river of living water, pours out of the open gates and into the valley of death. Streams flow into Gehenna, where green shoots spring up on widening banks and moisture feeds the valley.

              Parched for life and love, the outcasts rush to the river, falling on their faces to lap up the sparkling water. Tasting the goodness gives them a thirst for even more. They are drawn , freely yet irresistibly, to follow the river upstream. Its path welcomes them in through the gates, beckons them up the streets, a clear path to its mountain source—to God himself . As the rapids of Christ’s love flow out of the city, so the nations stream into the city, joining the Bride, exalting the Bride, becoming the Bride, ready for the love of her King.

              My vision . . . Isaiah’s vision . . . John’s vision . . . God’s vision. To what degree does this vision represent pure possibility— a choice we can pursue or reject? To what degree is it the eternally planned choice of God? How do our choices and God’s plan intersect? And for how long will God pursue the dream?” ~ Chapter 12, “Her Gates Will Never Be Shut” Hell, Hope, and the New Jerusalem ~ by Bradley Jersak,

              • Lanny A. Eichert January 25, 2015 at 11:34 am

                Stephen, #3) Did Jesus ever say they come from the Lake of Fire, the Second Death? ~ “Yes, Read on” ~ is no answer at all, except an attempt at avoiding the correct answer to a direct question.

                • Stephen Helbig January 25, 2015 at 12:02 pm

                  “Did Jesus ever say they come from the Lake of Fire, the Second Death? ~ “Yes, Read on” ~ is no answer at all,…” – quote lanny

                  Lanny, Did you in fact “read on” ?

                  “Her gates are never shut”. ~ “On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.” (Rev 21: 25)

                  The Spirit and the Bride Say, “Come to Waters” ~

                  Now for the punch line: the Spirit (OF JESUS) and the Bride issue their invitation.

                  ~ Rev 22: 17— The Spirit and the Bride say , “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

                  To whom is this invitation? ~ Answer ~ Those outside the City I.e. “Lake of Fire” ~ To those “The Spirit” ~ (Breath of God) ~ Word of God ~ Jesus, along with His Bride say “COME”

                  • Lanny A. Eichert January 26, 2015 at 3:58 am

                    Stephen, you’re fabricating your own interpretation because it doesn’t say Lake of Fire, Second Death, is their departure site. You can’t support Alice’s heresy. You haven’t a single text of proof. It doesn’t even say they come from judgment.

                    The previous verse tells you to whom the invitation is addressed
                    to testify unto you these things in the churches
                    These churches are on this present earth, not in the all things new eternal creation. Don’t be ignorant.

          • Alice Spicer January 25, 2015 at 8:45 pm

            Lanny, you’re putting words in my mouth again. Guess I should be used to it by now…

            • Lanny A. Eichert January 26, 2015 at 3:07 am

              Alice, what I wrote above January 24, 2015 at 8:09 pm is exactly what you proposed on this site. You have described the Lake of Fire as a place of purging and purifying the unbeliever until he qualifies to be resurrected to life. That’s what your deal about fire and brimstone was all about. It is a failed plot because to get to the Lake of Fire he has to be resurrected to judgment. That means once he’s purified sufficiently his resurrection to life is his second resurrection and he can’t be resurrected a second time because he was already resurrected to get there in the first place. You tried to avoid a double resurrection by proposing a non-linear chronology theory. You have no Biblical proof for your scheme. Get honest, will you, if you would dialogue, or else your site isn’t what you pretend it to be. Also this particular January 18th blog of yours does revolve against your bitterness against the orthodoxy of everlasting torment, which means it is about YOU. Again get honest. You proposed ET to be an historical conspiracy by clergy to subjugate the masses and allow them to maintain control. You’re always harping against clergy for keeping control of dialogue in the churches. ET is never off the subject since you often slide a comment of it in your blogs. Now what in my representation of your scheme is a misrepresentation and how is it different than what you think you posted?

    • Mary Vanderplas January 25, 2015 at 5:17 am

      Involvement in a particular community of faith is an important part of my life as a Christian disciple. I would have a hard time finding a substitute for it. While I don’t doubt that I would survive spiritually if for some reason I couldn’t be involved in a local church, I know that I would miss greatly the experience and fruits of weekly worship and fellowship, along with faith-building opportunities to give and serve in the context of the church. I don’t think, though, that belonging to a local church is essential for living out one’s faith. Nor do I think that God is any less pleased with those who choose not to belong to the institution but to live out their faith in other ways. Neither, though, am I ready to say that God is more pleased with those who walk away from the institution, that the institution is subpar and other ways of living out one’s faith are better or more faithful. And I’m not ready to say that adding to the membership of the institution is in conflict with God’s kingdom purposes in the world. I’m inclined to say that regardless of how one chooses to live out one’s faith, either as a part of the institution or outside it, one can be an effective agent of God liberating power and love in the world.

      I don’t think that the reign of God is strictly an internal, spiritual reality. The Luke 17 text can be translated “The kingdom of God is among you,” which seems to me to be a better translation than “within you.” It seems likely that in the context of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ question about when the kingdom was coming (v. 20), the intended meaning of Jesus’ words is that the kingdom is already present in his ministry, that it is a reality that can be perceived only by spiritual discernment of those who are open to receiving what God is doing. Moreover, that the Lordship of Jesus Christ encompasses every area of life in the world argues against limiting the ruling of God to the hearts and lives of individuals.

      While I don’t deny that the institution in its varied forms has flaws and stands in need of renewal and reformation, I am not quick to dismiss it as being other than a chosen instrument of God’s healing presence and rule in the world.

      About the other issues you address, I have only one thing to say: When my best friend is the target of a reputation-destroying attack on this website or in any public forum, I don’t remain silent. So it has been, and so it will be.

      • Stephen Helbig January 25, 2015 at 10:54 am

        Mary with regards to your last paragraph let me just say I appreciate the virtue of Meekness found in you. It is especially noteworthy that this virtue, of being meek, our lord showed. It is also interesting the way Aristotle defined this virtue. 🙂

        Aristotle defined this Greek word (praoutes) as the mean between being to angry and never being angry at all. To put it another way, the person who is “praus” is one who is kindled by indignation at the wrongs and sufferings of others, but is never moved by the wrongs and insults he/she ~ himself/herself has to bear. ~ He/she is the person who is always angry at the right time but never angry at the wrong time. ~ (Meekness, “gentle-force”) begins with the Lord’s inspiration and finishes by His direction and empowerment. ~ Again “praótēs” (“meekness”) is the fruit (product) of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:23), i.e. it is never something humanly accomplished (or simply “biological”), and it has three main meanings found in the New Testament.
        (a) It means being submissive to the will of God. (Matthew 5: 5; 11: 29; 21: 5)
        (b) It means being teachable, being not to proud to learn. (James 1: 21)
        (c) Most often of all it means being considerate (1 Cor. 4:21; 2 Cor. 10:1; Eph. 4: 2)

        “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and MEEKNESS, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love. (Eph. 4: 2)

        p.s. ~ Thanks for being you 🙂

        • Mary Vanderplas January 26, 2015 at 5:24 am

          I appreciate your kind words, Stephen, and your insights into the meaning of this Greek word. I appreciate all of the ways you bring light and encouragement on this website.

      • Alice Spicer January 25, 2015 at 8:43 pm

        Thanks for your comments, Mary. My comments weren’t really aimed at anyone in particular. I do realize that Lanny is the one who got off topic. I’m glad you responded. I just wish there wasn’t a need to respond to off-topic junk in the first place.

        • Lanny A. Eichert January 26, 2015 at 3:28 am

          Alice, your bitterness toward the church goes back to BOTH your personal dismissal and your parents dismissal since both have seriously affected your attitude, even with your daughter and granddaughter. Your honesty is grossly marginalized by your denials. Lying is sin if you haven’t noticed. One person’s sin in the church hasn’t stopped infecting this family and friends. Mary does you no good coming to your aid. Neither does your brother, Ian. ET is your emotional issue stemming from the collapse of your family and the consequent rejection of Fundamentalism.

        • Mary Vanderplas January 26, 2015 at 5:26 am

          Yes, so do I.

      • Lanny A. Eichert January 26, 2015 at 3:40 am

        Mary: ” Nor do I think that God is any less pleased with those who choose not to belong to the institution but to live out their faith in other ways.” Your statement is in direct opposition to Hebrews 10: 25

        Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

        Why are you “thinking” when God has spoken on this subject? Your thought is sin against God as proven by the text quoted. You need to repent before God and get forgiveness or you’ll perish in the Lake of Fire. Now what will it be?

        • Lanny A. Eichert January 27, 2015 at 2:10 am

          BTW: Most Christians realize that going to church, and worshiping in earnest, keeps them spiritually healthier. A study by Duke University researchers backs up an earlier study that people who attend church at least once a week do have better health and live longer lives. Researchers interviewed almost 4,000 people between the ages of 64 and 101 each year for seven years. They asked about general health, their social activities and alcohol and tobacco use. During the seven year period, weekly churchgoers were 28 percent less likely to die than those who were not regular worshipers or did not worship at all. The head of the study cautioned that the study does not show that those going to church for health reasons will get better. Rather, he said that it shows that those who attend worship for religious reasons have better health and live longer. An earlier study in California tracked over 5,000 people ages 21 through 65 over 28 years producing similar results. Other studies have shown that regular churchgoers tend to have lower blood pressure, less depression and stronger immune systems than those who don’t worship regularly. We should stress that attending church simply to gain better health is not a conclusion of these studies. These studies were concerned with finding possible correlations between attitude and general health. The results indicate a relationship between spiritual health and physical health.

          • Alice Spicer January 29, 2015 at 1:53 pm

            Interesting.

            • Lanny A. Eichert January 30, 2015 at 7:30 pm

              The results indicate a relationship between spiritual health and physical health.

              Therefore, Alice, you yourself can’t enter into the full benefits of physical health, because your spirituality is a satanic spirituality, a false imitation of the true, since you haven’t been born-again without a perfect literal Holy Bible.

              But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. {Hebrews 11: 6}

              Faith in the exactness of the spelt words of God’s Holy Bible’s text is required at the moment you fully trust Him for salvation. You can’t be saved on maybe that’s what the words are and mean. Salvation is not a maybe faith. It is an absolute faith. That’s the only way it can “stick” forever. You can’t say one text is absolute, but others may not be. If others may not be, then maybe the one you’d say was absolute is not so absolute after all. God does not save apart from faith, not His faith, but a person’s faith. You already know even the faith to believe is a gift from God and not a work of man, but the exercise of it is required of man for him to be saved. God hands everything necessary for his salvation to man, but he has to receive it, trust it. If not he remains in death forever without hope or remedy. That’s everlasting torment.

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