Monday, April 21, 2008

From the Mouths and Pens of Youth

One more reminder of the schedule for Hope for Eternity, which will be held in the sanctuary of Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church.

7:00 P.M. Wednesday, April 23
Hell: Thinking the Unthinkable

7:00 P.M. Thursday, April 24
Hell: Biblical Basics

7:00 P.M. Friday, April 25
Hell: Everlasting Destruction

10:30 A.M. Sunday, April 27
Heaven: In the Presence of the Lamb

6:00 P.M. Sunday, April 27
Heaven: Being Made Like Him

And in case you need some encouragement, how about these invitations from some young people in our congregation?


Listen to this radio ad.
It will air three times a day this week on WWKI.


Read an editorial published this week
in the school paper, the IUK Correspondent.

Students ask about hope for eternity
By Candace Jones

Finals. Looming finals. Are they really worth all the pain? Every semester we reach the crunch time just when we feel like a week-long nap would be better than big tests. But what if a crazed senior decided to forgo their finals and spend their last week watching reruns of Happy Days. Would it be so bad?

Well it all depends on your level of preparation. If you’ve been making a solid A+ in every class, no problem. But for the rest of us, let’s say for a senior with a GPA of 2.0, the effects could be disastrous. Picture them finding a letter from IU Kokomo, and opening it to realize the truth. Their GPA has dropped below a 2.0, and during their last semester they flunked out of college. Four years (or five, or ten) have passed, and they have nothing to show for all their work.

“Well what a lovely thing to think about right before finals,” you may say. But like it or not, the point is the same-- finals matter. When we aren’t prepared, it shows, and we can flunk out of everything we’ve been working for.

Recently a group of students went around campus and surveyed others on their views of heaven and hell. You may have seen us roving the halls with clipboards, speaking with anyone who would talk to us. The questions were brief, the answers were multiple choice, and we really wanted one thing--their honest opinion. Why did we go to the trouble of asking 100 students about eternity? In short, we were concerned about finals.

For oddly enough, everyone believes that life has its own final too. Atheist or Christian, Muslim or Zenist, everyone has an opinion about what the afterlife is like. When the questions started cranking, the answers would come, and there are certain significant points to note. For instance:

Nearly three-fourths of the respondents (73 percent) thought that hell was an eternal place of judgment. Some students called it “a ticket for being judged,” or “contrary to what heaven would be,” even “a toilet bowl for all eternity.” But very few (only 4 percent) thought that they personally would be sent to hell when they died. Clearly, for many, flunking this final was out of the question.

A significant majority (69 percent) believe that we will be judged by God for our behavior in this life. And if judgment has any connection to being in hell, we must find a way to avoid it.

When asked how someone might get into heaven, the students had something of a variety. Around a quarter attributed it to religious or personal duty, and a sixth were not sure, or said that everyone is going to heaven. The rest, 58 percent, said that one must trust in Jesus Christ to get there. For this majority, then, it’s safe to say that we humans are not A+ students. We have to have help to make it.

And interestingly, the ratio of those who thought they would go to heaven versus those who said they were going to hell was 17-to-1. Is this ratio true to life? Are most of us going to end up in heaven?

The Lord Jesus Christ had a different message; He said expect the ratio to be the other way around, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matt 7:13-4 NIV). If so many of us want to go to heaven, why was Christ so sobering? Because we are not preparing for the final.

The survey ended with this question, If what you believed about the next life was wrong, would you want to know? 66 percent said yes. This is important enough to think about right now. But are we really doing anything to prepare for this final? Are our beliefs about eternity right? Are they wrong?

The students who participated in the survey were invited to come to a free series of talks April 23 to 27, called Hope for Eternity. The Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church in Kokomo is bringing Edward Donnelly, a special speaker from Ireland, to discuss this very subject. He will give five talks about heaven and hell with follow-up discussion afterward. Everyone is invited to attend. If you have been wondering about eternity, come prepare for the true final, and not flunk out of life.

In the end, the analogy doesn’t wholly fit. In college you could miss some finals and scrape by. You could even flunk out and go on to do great things. But we cannot flunk out of existence and go on. And no one is getting a 4.0 GPA on life. Be prepared for the end, listen with an open mind and heart, come to Hope for Eternity, and find hope to live by, now and forever.

Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church is located at 300 E. Mulberry St, Kokomo. For more information call (765) 864-0850 or visit


This Sunday I found a note scrawled in crayon on my desk saying, "Please use this to help pay for Hope for Eternity advertising." On top was a ten dollar bill. The young people want you to come. Will you?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Heart Ache

Not that I consider my life very dramatic, but last week did have its fill of heart-stopping and heart-wrenching moments:
  • An IRS audit for my mother's 2006 taxes saying I owed over $25,000 was sent to me. Whoa! Fortunately, a CPA check over the records revealed they had only counted the gains but not the losses on her investments. Never had I felt so relieved in writing a tax check for "only" $500 after the corrections were made and then hearing the CPA tell me the 2007 return was fine.
  • I have stood by the bedside several times of Bill Scott, a member of our church and the first fruits of our Rescue Mission ministry, as his health had diminished to the point he was placed on a ventilator last Wednesday. As he had requested not to be placed longterm on life support, the doctors weaned him from the ventilator this weekend and we prepared for the worse. Yet for the second time in a month the Lord has revived him from the brink of death. He even said last night that "the Lord has resurrected me from the dead." A visit today found him once again joking wryly with the nurses.
  • Two former members of the church, both who have been excommunicated previously, are interacting with me and asking about restoration. As they have brought great pain to us, have experienced severe personal providences since leaving the church, and struggle with shame and confusion, I find communicating with them heart-wrenching. I hope for their restoration yet wonder about their sincerity.
So I would be the first to admit this shepherd was feeling a little emotionally drained already. Then came the appointment my heart was truly dreading. I had to meet with Lindsay.

For the past two months our oldest daughter, a freshman at a local university, has been auditioning at four music schools. Last Thursday was decision day, so she, Miriam and I met in my office for the final discussion and prayer. Through His kind providences, the Lord had made it clear to all of us that Geneva College was where He was leading her. She shared the message from a preacher friend and the Scriptures God had used to confirm this direction (most notably Mark 10:29-30) to her mother and me. We granted her permission and affirmed the same sense we had of the Lord's leading. The crying and praying came all at the same time. The thought of not having Lindsay around each day, her sweet spirit and beautiful music missing from our home, is almost too much for her mom and dad to bear.

Yes, we know our children are being raised in order to be sent (Psalm 127). We rejoice in belonging to a church that has such a fine institution as Geneva with faithful congregations in the area who will care for her. We have confidence in God's leading and our daughter. We understand there are much greater pains others endure. I am happy and excited for you, Linds.

Yet that still does not take away this ache in my heart.


The above painting was posted by permission of the artist, Natalie Thoman. You can view and even place an order for her work here.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Advertising the Gospel

I have been to the conferences that tell you how to market the church, and have seen the efforts by churches in the community to do so. However, beyond informational uses such as a Yellow Page ad, sign in the front, or a webpage, we have not made advertising a big effort of ours during the history of our congregation. I am uneasy with promoting the church, as the marketing efforts that are commonly used by churches appear to practice the oneupmanship that is contrary to our Lord's injunction to be humble and not seek the chief seat. As the Cambridge Declaration states, "In practice, the church is guided, far too often, by the culture. Therapeutic technique, marketing strategies, and the beat of the entertainment world often have far more to say about what the church wants, how it functions and what it offers, than does the Word of God."

But with just over two weeks remaining before our Hope for Eternity Outreach on April 23-27 will be held, as you can see below we are pulling out all the stops in advertising to get the word out. Let me tell you some of the things we are doing, then end by briefly explaining why I believe this is different than marketing the church.

Ten of us watched Saturday as Robert Jones went "way up in the middle of the air" on a mechanical lift to hang the
banner pictured above on the side of our building announcing Hope for Eternity. This banner is designed similarly to the billboards that are now around town.


4000 copies of the premier edition of our newsletter have almost all been distributed in neighborhoods, workplaces, on campuses, sent via mail, etc. We have also uploaded it online, as we are seeking to combine traditional media with old forms. For instance, we are asking the young people involved in the campus ministry to create an event on Facebook and use their walls to make it known to their friends.

By the way, many have commented on the incredible graphic artwork of our newsletter, billboards, and other pieces of media. Susan Spiegel has given her efforts and talents to producing these high-quality works. Having a talented graphic artist in our midst has been a blessing!


Our college students surveyed 100 students at IUK using the survey below. One of them will be writing an article for the school paper to publish the results. Even if those who took the survey or read the article do not come to the outreach, we hope they will be stirred into considering what takes place after this life.

1. Which statement best describes what you think about hell?
A) Hell is a place of eternal judgment.
B) Hell is a place where I will have a good time with my friends.
C) Hell does not exist.
D) Hell is a waiting place to some other part of the afterlife.
E) Other: Hell is _______________.

2. If a person wanted to go to heaven, how do you think he could get there?
A) He should try to be a good person.
B) Everyone is going to heaven.
C) All he needs to do is be faithful to his religion.
D) He should trust in Jesus Christ to get there.
E) I’m not sure.

3. How will our actions in this life impact the next? A) Our efforts in this world will help us move to a higher level.
B) We will be judged by God for how we lived our lives.
C) Our good works will outweigh the bad.
D) Since there is no afterlife, our good works just help others now.
E) Other: _______________.

4. What do you think will happen to you when you die?
A) I’ll go to heaven.
B) I’ll go to hell.
C) I’ll no longer exist.
D) I do not know.
E) I do not care.

5. If what you believed about the next life was wrong, would you want to know?



We have recorded a radio ad done by a young boy in the congregation who has demonstrated a real heart for this outreach. Several times a day during the outreach week it will be airing, with him asking the listeners questions about eternity and inviting them to come.


I could share other things, but back to the question at hand. Is not all this just a slick marketing campaign by the church? Perhaps some will accuse us of that. Yet I see a vast difference between marketing the church and advertising the gospel. Advertising can be used for self-promotion, but it is better used to serve others by making them aware of what they need. With the opportunity for the community to hear Pastor Ted Donnelly from Ireland preach three times on the topic of hell and twice on heaven, we want to do everything possible to let people know they need to hear these massages.

Afterall, we may not be able to perform signs and wonders as the apostle of old did to draw people to the gospel, but can we not use signs to encourage people to wonder about their eternal destiny?