Friday, November 28, 2014

What Happens When We Die?



Question: What happens when we die?  Do we go to heaven right away or is it something else?

Short answer: We don’t know exactly.

Longer answer:

    Many people believe that Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:6-9, by saying “Absent from the body and present with the Lord” is suggesting that we are, in fact, immediately transported to heaven.  But if you read the entire passage in context the argument is something less than convincing.  This is especially true when we read 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 where Paul says, “51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. “ Which certainly sounds like whatever happens, waits for the second coming and the day of judgment.

    On the third hand, we have Revelation 6:9-10 at the opening of the seals during the Great Tribulation and John says, “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”

    So here, before the second coming, are the souls of the martyrs are in heaven under the altar of God.  Where is everyone else?  I don’t know.  But scripture never mentions any kind of “in between” existence other than life on earth and life in heaven.  This picture in Revelation describes only the *souls* of the martyrs and not the martyrs themselves so they seem to be existing without bodies.

    On the fourth hand, James 2:26 says that “"the body without the spirit is dead." So if we’re dead, then the spirit has left, so where did it go?  Ecclesiastes 12:7 says that at death “the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”  And in 1 Thessalonians 4:14 Paul says, “For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”  Which indicates that the souls of the dead live with Christ and  return with him on the day of judgment.

    On the fifth hand, Jesus spoke of Moses, and Elijah and Abraham in the first person as if they were people that he knew, who were alive and able to carry on a discussion, not as people who were in any way “asleep” of somehow “in between.”

    Also of interest is Jude 1:9 that hints that the archangel Michael was guarding Moses body/soul from Satan as he was carried to heaven and there are other references of angels “carrying” the souls of the departed to heaven.

    In the end, there are two schools of thought. First that upon death we fall into some sort of “soul sleep” or “slumber” during which time we have no perception of the passage of time until that moment when Christ returns, we hear the trumpet, and meet him in the sky.  To me, the evidence of scripture would seem to be strongly against this.  The second is that we return to God immediately upon our death, but whatever body we have is not the body that will be given to us on Resurrection day.  On that day, we are told, that we will be like Jesus with a body that is clearly different (and yet similar) from our earthly bodies.  Bodies that will be without pain and suffering and which will be immortal and imperishable.

    Scripture does not, in any one place, provide a clear picture of what happens.  I can find no evidence at all of “soul sleep” or any sort of delay until Judgment Day.   For me, all of the evidence points to us going to heaven immediately.   How exactly that happens might be a little fuzzy, but I trust Jesus enough to trust him with the details. 


 Note: I invited our church and my online readers to write down any questions that they had about faith, the church, or life in general.  This is a part of that series.

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Other questions and answers in this series can be found here: Ask the Pastor

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Will You Help to Rescue a Generation?



I want to ask for your help.

    I have been thinking about an idea for ten years but, particularly with the death of my father, I just can’t put it off any more.

My parents grew up during the Great Depression.

    As I grew up, I heard a lot of stories from them, and from my grandparents, about how they survived.  Both Patti and I learned how to save for a rainy day, and how to get by when you don’t have much. Those lessons helped us to get through two years of unemployment and the first few years in ministry when our budget was stretched beyond the breaking point.

    Because many of you have learned those same lessons, during the Great Depression, during your own lives, or by surviving your own struggles, I would like to assemble your tips, advice, and stories into something that, together, we can share with our children, our grandchildren, our friends from Perry Helping Perry, and anybody else that could use some help and wisdom to get them through the lean times.

    To provide you with some ideas and provide a little organization, here are some basic categories of that you might think about: 

·         Saving for a rainy day
·         Kitchen tips (cheap meals, money saving tips, or whatever)
·         Cars (buying, selling, repairs, etc.)
·         In the Laundry Room
·         Clothes (children and adults)
·         Sewing and mending
·         Gardening/canning/freezing
·         Personal care (shampoo, shaving, haircuts, or whatever you think of)
·         In the Garage: Tools, Repairs, etc.
·         Vacation
·         Date nights or dinner out (how to save a buck)
·         Gift giving, Christmas, Birthdays, etc.
·         Needs/Wants/Necessities
·         Personal Stories

    I know that I am certainly missing a few things, but this is just to get you thinking.  I hope that you will write down some of the lessons that you learned from your parents, lessons that you learned from the “school of hard knocks,” and any tips, or pieces of wisdom, that you would like to pass along to your children or anyone else who is struggling to get by.

    Patti and I were able to get through that difficult period of our lives because of the lessons that our parents taught and modeled for us.  But many young people today did not have the advantage of having such good teachers.  

That wisdom lives in people like you.

    I hope that you will share your tips, tricks, tidbits of wisdom, and even your stories about how you survived those lean times and the times when there was more month than money. 

Your wisdom could make a huge difference in someone’s life.

Won’t you please help?




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Friday, November 21, 2014

Six Degrees of Social Media Separation



    In the last few decades, there has been much talk about “Six Degrees of Separation,” which is the idea that any person in the world can be introduced to any other person in the world, by being introduced through our networks of friends.  Statisticians have demonstrated that anyone in the US can be introduced to almost anyone else in the US by going through only two or three friends.  But as often as we hear such things, it is still amazing when it happens “in real life.”

    This week I received a private message on Facebook from a woman I never met.  And that was the beginning (or possibly the end) of an unusual series of connections through my life and through social media.  To understand the connections that led to this message, let me go back in time to high school.

    After my eighth grade year, my parents moved to the south side of Akron, Ohio.  At our new church I met Keith and Jamie Weaver, who would, within the next few years, depart for Kenya, East Africa as missionaries through Africa Inland Mission where they would serve for twenty five years.  After I graduated from college and began working in Cleveland, I was back at that same church and reconnected with Keith and Jamie during their occasional visits home. 

    When the time came for them to consider a return to the states, our church realized that no one (other than their children) had ever had the opportunity to visit them in Kenya.  Two women, Sandi, and my wife, Patti, volunteered and along with our missions committee, we decided that we would raise the funds to send them. 

    While Patti and Sandi were in Kenya visiting Keith and Jamie, they met Steve and Nancy Peifer.  Nancy was the librarian at Rift Valley Academy; Steve was the guidance counselor and also ran a feeding program at local Kenyan schools (Kenya Kids Can).

    With that as background, we return to the funeral preparations for my father.  As soon as it was available, I posted his obituary on my Facebook page and many friends, including Steve Peifer, posted their condolences. 

    The next day I had a private message.  The woman who sent that message acknowledged that we had never met. She had seen my name pop up when Steve had written on the link to my father’s obituary and it had seemed familiar.  She followed the link, read the obituary, realized who my father was, printed it, and showed it to her parents.

    What we discovered was that our fathers had sung together in college, he had been the best man in my parent’s wedding and my father had been the best man in theirs.  Our parents had exchanged letters and cards, but over the years had lost touch with one another.  She sent me a current photo of her parents to give to my mother, and I sent a current address so that they could send their condolences and reconnect.  My Mom was a little stunned when I handed her the photo and explained who it was.

    I know that we live in a connected world, but it was still exciting to see old friends reconnect because of two children on the Internet, two missionaries to Africa, an obituary, and social media.




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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What's My Reputation? - Guest Blogger - Mark Partridge (my brother)

For those of you who haven't heard through church or Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere, I lost my Dad this past week.  In the last few days our family shared stories, shed tears and said goodbye.  What follows is a story that all of us heard (with some variations) about Dad's experiences during WWII that my brother Mark shared online. Not only is it one of my favorite stories about my dad, it is deeply insightful and will make you think about who we are when we are out in "the world."  With his permission, I share Mark's story with you.

****************
 Guest post by Mark Partridge)

Mark Partridge
In honor of Dad, one of my favorite stories:

    During WWII, Stanley, from a small family farm in Ohio, left high school early to enlist in the armed services. When his classmates were donning caps and gowns for graduation, Stanley was already in the uniform of the U.S. Navy. Aboard a munitions ship in the South Pacific, the U.S.S Manderson Victory, they tied up to battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, re-arming them with every kind of shell and armament. While he never talked much of the war, he certainly saw it’s horrors up close; seeing their sister ship blow up in an immense fireball when it hit a mine; coming under heavy bombardment during the invasion of Okinawa. But for the crew of the Manderson Victory, perhaps the most perilous time they experienced wasn’t during battle, but during a storm. A storm that pitched the ship around so violently that the racks holding the munitions in the hold began breaking; timbers the size of railroad ties snapping like toothpicks. Shells rolling around, clanking together - they were one spark away from meeting the same fate as their sister ship. Up on the bridge, the Captain muttered something about needing a “man who knows how to pray”. One of the officers heard the comment, went and fetched Stanley, and brought him to the bridge. Stanley said that during the entire war, this was the only time he had ever seen fear on the Captain’s face. The Captain looked at Stanley, said “I understand you’re a man who knows how to pray. I need you to pray us through the storm,” and he handed Stanley the microphone to the ship’s public address. And Stanley prayed.
Dr. Stanley I. Partridge


    We know a lot of stereotypes about sailors. We hear phrases such as “cuss like sailor”, “drink like a sailor”, “a woman in every port”. And if you took a teenager from a small farm in Ohio and dropped him half-a-world away in the middle of a horrific war, you’d probably be willing to cut him some slack if he picked up a few vices. But this young man, far from home, had earned the reputation of “a man who knows how to pray.”

    And so I remain challenged by the legacy of my dad. When I’m at work, with friends, in various groups I socialize with, I always ask myself,

“What’s my reputation?”



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Friday, October 31, 2014

The Death of Grace?



     We are witnessing the end of grace in the church that was built on a foundation of grace.

    If you are a United Methodist, you have almost certainly heard of Rev. Frank Schaefer.  An ordained elder in The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church, in 2007 he chose to officiate at his son’s same-sex wedding in Massachusetts.  As a result, charges were brought against him, a trial was held and he was suspended for 30 days so that he could consider whether or not he could promise to uphold the “entire” Discipline of the church (essentially a promise never to do this again).  After 30 days he returned and said that he could not promise to do so and the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) voted to remove his credentials (the newspapers call this being “defrocked”).

    What follows is a weird sort of legal maneuvering.  Rev. Schaefer appealed the decision of the BOM essentially on the grounds that he was punished twice for the same offense, first a 30 day suspension, and then the removal of his credentials.  He won that appeal, and then this week, that appeal was upheld by the Judicial Council, the church’s highest “court.”  The basis of their decision is not really a cause for celebration or concern on either side.  It really does hinge on a technicality and does nothing at all to change church law.  The Judicial Council upheld Rev. Schaefer’s reinstatement on the grounds that the original ruling (by the BOM) was poorly written.  It did not clearly state that Rev. Schaefer would lose his credential permanently after the 30 day suspension even though it was apparent from the beginning that this was their intention. 

    And so, Rev. Schaefer will have his credentials returned to him, he will receive his back pay, church law is unchanged, and everything is the same as before.

Except it isn’t.

Rev. Schaefer might have won, but everyone else lost.

    It is reasonably obvious that the Board of Ministry never intended for the 30 day suspension to be the only punishment.  The 30 day suspension was intended as an act of grace, a second chance, a recognition that we do things for our children that might be unwise or against the rules, and a chance for Rev. Schaefer to walk away with his integrity (and his credentials) by admitting that he loved his son enough to break the rules. 

Perhaps it was poorly written, but now it appears that an act of grace is being punished.

An act of grace is now responsible for undoing the entire trial.

And so now, even though the poorly written decision was “technically” responsible, grace will suffer.

    In future trials (and I have no doubt that there will be more) those who make similar rulings will remember the trials and the appeals of Rev. Schaefer.  They will want to avoid being misinterpreted.  They will want to avoid mistakes.  They will want to avoid being overturned on a technicality. 

There will be no recognition that sometimes people make unwise decisions.

There will be no understanding or sympathy because we love our children.

There will be no second chances.

We are watching the death of grace.

No matter which side you think is right, 

                  ...when we lose grace, 

                                   ...we all lose.

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