FAQ: Is purgatory a real place?

A lot of our Catholic brothers and sisters believe in a place called purgatory, where the soul goes after one dies to be purged or to be cleansed and prepared for heaven.  To be honest, the Bible doesn’t mention purgatory anywhere.  The Bible does say in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”  No mention of purgatory.  Hebrews 9:27, “Just as a person is destined to die once and after that face the judgment.”  Purgatory is not a real place.

Our First and Foremost Spiritual Task

Our first and foremost spiritual task is to claim God’s unconditional love for ourselves through Christ. 

This is not an easy identity to claim because to deserve being loved our society requires us to be successful, popular, or powerful. But God does not require our success, popularity, or power in order to love us. Once we discern our identity and accept God’s unconditional love, we are free to live IN the world without being OWNED BY the world.

When you start believing this, this spiritual knowledge will grow until it transforms your daily life. You will still have rejection and you will still have pain and losses, but you will live no longer as a person searching for his or her identity.

Happy Church Leaders

It is important that church leaders be happy in their work, that we “serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2). A church experiences love through the happiness of its leaders. Hebrews 13:17, “[Your Leaders] are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Indeed, it is a joy to serve First Christian Church  and serve our community alongside the FCC family.

Pain and Suffering aren’t Obstacles in Light of Jesus’ Pain and Suffering

Luke 24:26,

Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?

These words are among the best known of the gospels for they radically change our view of suffering. Pain and suffering are no longer obstacles to the glory of eternal life, they have become the inevitable way to it.

Rather than expecting a life without disappointments or moments of depression, we see that Jesus comes to meet us right in those moments, with hope and the potential for a new way of seeing and believing. It is the suffering of Jesus that is the source of new life.


5 Reasons You Need A Small Group

The reality is that we “can’t do life alone.” We need each other. So why not join a class or group? At FCC we have Adult Bible Fellowships (ABFs) on Sunday morning and Connect Groups on Wednesday nights (and a few at other times).

5 Reasons You Need a Small Group (thanks to Rick Warren)

  1. It’s the classroom for learning how to get along in God’s family. Only in regular contact with ordinary, imperfect believers can we learn REAL fellowship and experience connection God intends for us to have.
  2. A small group helps me to develop spiritual muscle. You’ll never grow to maturity just by attending worship services and being a passive spectator.  We need more than the Bible in order to grow; we need other believers.  When others share what God is teaching them, I learn and grow too!
  3. A small group confirms my identity as a genuine believer. I can’t claim to be following Christ if I’m not committed to any specific group of disciples.  Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  You can’t be the Body of Christ on your own.
  4. A small group will help keep me from spiritually backsliding. “Mind your own business” is NOT a Christian idea when it comes to helping each other!  We’re commanded to be involved in each other’s lives.
  5. The Body of Christ needs me! You have a background and experiences that other people can learn from and draw strength from!

So if you aren’t already in one, then I encourage you to get involved in one soon.

Prayer isn’t All About us

The word “intercession” in the original language of the New Testament means “having freedom of access.” It was originally a technical term that meant meeting with a king in order to make a request. In the Bible, intercession means “making a request of God on behalf of others.”

Job 42:7-9,

After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.

The privilege of access is given to us not simply so that we may ask for OURSELVES but so that we may ask FOR others, especially those who have no access, that is they don’t use the access offered to everyone.

Change is Painful! Or Smart Pain Vs. Dumb Pain

Change is painful! You already knew that…but there is such thing as “smart pain” and “dumb pain.” Let me explain…

After my mom quit smoking she decided to get in shape. She wasn’t obese but she hadn’t exercised in a long time. So she got up one morning and said, “I’m getting in shape.” She got down to do some sit ups. “Uhhh…”  She could not do 1! No joke. Nor a push-up. She walked around the block and about died.

I laughed. What a supportive son I was!

I didn’t pay attention after that to her attempt to get in shape, but about a year later she asked me to go with her to a 5K race walk. I was cocky and said, “I’m not just going with you. I’m entering and I’m going to beat you!” So I did…enter, that is. I got an early lead on her and many others (after getting a tutorial on what race walking was precisely).  After about 2 or 3K my shins were killing me. I wanted to quit. But I’m too competitive to quit.  So I just slowed down…to a crawl. Everyone was passing me. Some 80 year-old lady passed me.  My mom passed me (laughing at me). I finished the race and I didn’t come in last but I was in pain. I hadn’t trained for it so I paid a stiffer price than most of the other racers.

What’s my point? My mom trained for that day. And over the year she went through muscle fatigue but now she was in shape! I hadn’t done anything to prepare but I wish I had.  My shins ached for a week and I finished at the back of the pack.

Change in any church or organization is like that. It’s going to hurt either way, but there is “smart pain” and “dumb pain.” If you prepare, do your homework, survey the landscape, take things slow, help the “middle adopters” understand the changes you propose then the changes will still hurt. Some people will still complain, maybe leave, but you laid the groundwork for success. Most people will understand it and eventually embrace it. But if you ignore the proper process of change in your organization, refuse to listen to others’ opinions, never compromise, and say, “To heck with those who disagree,” then the changes will hurt .  People you love (and who love you) will leave because they don’t understand the need for those changes because you didn’t explain it. And you’ll look stupid.

Discerning How God is Calling

Everyone is called to some kind of ministry. Each of us has a mission in life. We seldom fully realize we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks. We act as if we have to choose how, where, and with whom to live. We act as if we were simply dropped down in creation and have to decide how to entertain ourselves until we die. But we were sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was. Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do.

God wants us to stay close to His heart and to let Him guide us. You will know what you are called to do when you have to know it.

The gospel tells the story about Andrew and another disciple of John who followed Jesus: Jesus said, “What are you LOOKING for?” They said: “Rabbi, where do you live?” When Jesus said, “Come and see,” they STAYED with him. Later Andrew SHARED with his brother Simon what they had seen and heard, so Simon came to Jesus (John 1:38-42).

This story offers 3 important verbs to reflect upon in discerning how God is calling: to LOOK for, to STAY, and to SHARE. When we search for God, stay with Him, and share what we have seen with others, we become aware of the unique way Jesus calls us.

Chronos vs. Kairos (or time vs. time)

The New Testament uses two words for “time.” Clock time (chronos) is divided into minutes, hours, days, etc. Its divisions dominate our lives. In chronological time, we hope to connect incidents and accidents in our lives in a way that manages or subdues them so we can feel in control of our lives. Time becomes a burden unless we convert it into God’s time.

God’s time (kairos) has to do with opportunity and fullness of meaning, moments that are ripe for their intended purpose. Time becomes not just something to get through or manipulate or manage, but the arena of God’s work in us. It’s where we intersect with the Kingdom of God.

God’s time is timeless. Kairos contains both past and future events in the present moment. Words like “after” and “before” or “first” or “last” belong to mortal life and chronology.