The Salvation Army On Abortion *Updated*

November 20th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

The Salvation Army’s position on abortion is horribly weak.  They begin by stating that life begins at “fertilization,” it is a “gift from God,” and that “All people – without exception – are of value to him…”

They finish their statement with a great statement about treating women who’ve had abortions with dignity and love.  The problem is the moral relativism and spiritual schizophrenia sprinkled throughout the whole thing!  They make room for abortion in the case of rape and fetal abnormality!

Read it for yourself and ask yourself if a group with such a weak position the issue of life deserves a penny this holiday season when plenty of other organizations are doing the same work.  It’s one thing to panhandle by ringing bells that drive you mad as you shop.  It’s a totally different thing to contradict the Word, your mission, and common sense on an issue as important as life and expect support from pro-life individuals, especially Christians.

Change your position, “General.”  It’s the Biblical thing to do.

I’ll be avoiding donations as anyone who affiliates with an international office that takes a lame stance like this isn’t going to get my money.  However, this article may make you feel better about the position of the U.S. Salvation Army.

Haters Gonna Hate

November 17th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

My son informed me that a child at school hears stories at home from their parent(s) about how I’m a compromiser, I’m weak, and that I’m not good at my job. This child, according to Kyle, doesn’t quite know what to think about all that. I told my son to smile back and shower this (truly great) kid with love.  The fact that I adore this kid makes it all the more notable for me.

Not sure if I’m annoyed at the whole thing, feel pity for the parent, or am amused that someone thinks I’m important enough to talk about but not talk to.

Telling slander to your kid knowing it might spread through the class and get back to that parent through their own child is less-than-classy, though.  I was surprised as my wife and I try VERY hard teach our kids to respect and care about others and believe the best (like the Scriptures tell us to) until we find out otherwise.

It was one of those parenting moments where I felt like it was more important that my son know it’s not always important to defend yourself.  It’s not the first time I’ve been attacked.  When I was appointed to the State Board of Education, a hateful blogger lied about me and tried to paint me in a negative light.  What really made my eyes roll, however, was that this blogger than tried to connect with me on LinkedIn a week or two later.  I declined.  The lesson I learned with that blogger, however, is that I made the right choice to ignore it.  If I had defended myself, or fought back, I would not have changed him and he would have had additional readers to his blog that I had sent.  I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of additional traffic.  Does that prove I’m weak or point to the fact that I might be trying to stay above board? » Read the rest of this entry «

How Then Should We Advocate?

November 12th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

The 2012 Election is behind us.  Now the question remains:  whether as an active citizen or a professional activist, how then should we advocate for the things we care about after any election result?  I’ve written about much of this before but wanted to get some additional thoughts off my chest for my own benefit if nothing else.

First, what is advocacy and activism?  Issue advocacy and activism can include writing a letter to your legislator, showing up for an event at the Capitol, running for office, posting political opinions on Facebook or Twitter, lobbying, writing letters to the editor, walking in parades for candidates, or discussing politics at a friend’s house over dinner.

If you are a Christ-follower and looking to contribute to a political organization or considering getting involved in any way, here are the top five things you must keep in mind in order to be a good advocate:
» Read the rest of this entry «

The Path Of The Fatherless

October 29th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

(This post has been adapted from a former iteration of this website and various other websites that reposted it in March of 2010.  Posted here in October of 2012 and edited June 27, 2013)

I grew up fatherless. I saw my dad a few times growing up. I knew his name and whereabouts. I spent about two weeks with him in 1992-ish and he was always very kind to me when we saw each other. I got cards most birthdays and most every Christmas. But he wasn’t a part of my life, was never married to my mother, and we lived many states away from each other most of my childhood. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I began to get to know my dad and to develop a friendship with him. We are a testimony to genetics and I’m proud to be his son.

My mother was young and I was a surprise. I never wondered if she loved me but I also knew she struggled in many ways raising a son herself.

The Long Road Graphic / Fatherless

The path of the fatherless can be confusing and long…

The path of fatherlessness was a long and painful road shrouded in insecurity for me.  It is a path so far off the one God meant for families that I didn’t know I was even on it until I had my own kids. As I’ve been reflecting on my role in my own kids’ lives, it’s proven to be extremely painful for me as I look back on my childhood. So I figured I’d write a bit about it:

I look at my son and my daughter now and I see young souls that need a type of protection their mom couldn’t provide in spite of her commitment and good maternal instincts. They need a structure and authority I alone can provide. They need a dad they respect to hold them with grace when they expect nothing more than justice. These are things my kids can only get from me. For all the beauty and wisdom that is their mother, she provides a separate set of skills and wisdom I can’t offer them. God designed the nuclear family to raise healthy children.

What potential in me was lost not having a father and being exposed to men who were perfect losers? What struggles would have been overcome earlier in life or avoided altogether? What could my father and I have learned from each other? How much less am I equipped to be a father and husband having not had many positive male role models for most of my elementary and Jr. High years? How much relational heartache and how many unhealthy situations as a kid would have been avoided? How did the fear and insecurity that plagued my childhood affect me today? » Read the rest of this entry «

Those Beautifully Horrible Moments in Life

September 10th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve had, like most everyone, less than ideal moments that elicit gratefulness later in life. I call them “those beautifully horrible moments in life.”  I faced childhood challenges largely alone, moved out of my mother’s home when I was 14, moved away from friends time and time again growing up, lived with tremendous anger and misguided theology for years as a teenager and young adult.   I see this pain and disappointment as the back of a tapestry over thirty years in the making.

I’ve also had some beautifully horrible moments.  Watching my daughter die shortly after she was born was one.  But the spiritual lessons have been invaluable.  Watching my wife suffer through subsequent miscarriages was horrible.  But we are who we are as a result.

My past is in perspective and seen within the context of Providence. » Read the rest of this entry «

An Open Blog Post To Republicans From An Average Guy

August 27th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Everyone knows the Republican Party is in the midst of a Civil War.

On one side you have those who would go the same direction the rest of the world is going, but in a much more “pragmatic” and “realistic” way.  They figured out most of the world’s problems between the 13th and 18th hole on Friday.  Libertarians and Social Conservatives call them RINOs (Republicans In Name Only).

The other side of the GOP is a coalition are the “Evangelicrats” aligned, strangely enough, with the Ron Paul crowd (aka: Paul-bots).  Evangelicrats would have you believe that every Founding Father was a born-again evangelical and that, regardless of the polling, “We The People” always and overwhelmingly agree with them.  The Ron Paul segment of this strange coalition is itself a diverse group consisting of constituencies ranging from Ayn Rand atheists to true Libertarians to chronic discontents and crazies who love the cult-like atmosphere surrounding Ron Paul.

I paint with a broad brush and the variables for individuals within these two major armies within the GOP are too numerous to stereotype down to the individual RINO or Right-Winger.  We basically, however, have “Democrat-light” on the left side of the Party and the always principled and angry hyper-right on the other side  with very few in the middle where wisdom and principled leadership usually reside.  (For what it’s worth, I believe base human nature is always liberal so the burden is on those with Judeo-Christian or Libertarian values to be accessible and relevant instead of chronically angry and weird if they want to be taken seriously.)

So what do people like me who doesn’t identify at all with either camp need to hear from the 2012 Republican National Convention?  What does does the average blue-dog Democrat (do they exist anymore?) or the moderate to conservative Independent voters need to hear this week from the Republicans to consider kicking Obama out of office?  How can a Party at war with itself present a message of unity that inspires a nation to support it? » Read the rest of this entry «

Perseverance Of The Saints

August 15th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

This is my last post on the individual doctrines of T.U.L.I.P. (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints).  I believe the doctrine of “eternal security” or “perseverance of the saints is – more than any of the others – unable to stand on its own.  It is like the clincher in a good story or a flower to the rest of the plant.  If we are elected, if we react to His grace, and if His action on the cross was efficacious, than doesn’t it make sense that God would “…complete it…?” (Phil. 1:6).  The doctrines of election and grace lead us to the logical (and Biblical) conclusion that there is certainty in salvation.

The Westminster Confession of Faith sums up the doctrine that has been held by most of the Church throughout history until recently this way:

They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

The confusion in this doctrine rarely comes from Scriptural back-and-forth but from how people “feel.”  We see people live the Christian lifestyle, profess a faith, walk as we walk, and then fall away.  We see people who were once pillars of faith renounce it altogether.  We have good friends, family, and church members slowly slip away as they make poor choices and succumb to modern-day idolatry.  We point to Jesus’ story of the seeds falling on different soil and figure that the state of being a plant is being saved instead of the state of being a seed means being human.

No where in the Scriptures does it say that everyone who professes the Christian faith are certain of heaven.  Only those who truly believe and are called as Saints persevere.  Many will profess or “pray the prayer” or whatever it is that modern evangelicals think equals salvation only to fall away, but they don’t fall away from salvation for they never had it!  Believers are tempted, fall into temptation, sin horribly, but are restored by their status as saints with new hearts that long after God even as it battles the “old man.”

Consider the covenant made between God and Abraham: God did all the work and promised the result.  Abraham was, at times, a real putz, but God made a promise.  We are his children because we believe in His Son.  We are the elect, the atoned for, and the grace-filled responding because we both have to and want to by loving our brother, our neighbor, and our Savior – imperfectly but as those sanctified.

John 3:36 – He who believes in the Son has eternal life…

John 10 – Jesus is the good Shepherd and no one can snatch us from his hand.

Romans 5:8-10 – He said those He died for shall be saved.

Romans 8

Why Politics And History Do Not Mix

July 18th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares.  She cries out in the chief concourses, at the openings of the gates in the city She speaks her words:  “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?  For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge.” – Proverbs 1:20-22 (NKJV)

Ever notice that one political party in the U.S. seems to never pay attention to what has worked or failed throughout history when it comes to the basic philosophies of governing while the other major political party never learns from history when it comes to strategy and messaging?  Ever wonder why we keep repeating the same mistakes of the past over and over again, departing from what works to what feels better?

Have people fundamentally changed over the last ten millennia?  No.  Do people still want all the same things from government they have wanted throughout history?  Yes.

There will always be a dangerously large part of every population that hears what it wants to hear.  They see what they want to see.  Combine this with the fact that most people find it in their base human nature to want to be in power or be on the side of lopsided power and you have what we’ve always had – beloved governments that last a very short time until moral depravity, debt, or both does them in.

As long as we have one party fighting against Judeo-Christian values at every opportunity, spending and taxing its people into oblivion and another party so motivated by fear of the next election that they can’t speak the truth that a majority of active American voters will resonate with; we are screwed.

Until we decide as a nation that empowering bad behavior, subsidizing sub-standard living situations, catering to entitlement mentalities, and punishing productivity is not a good idea…we are screwed.

Until we recognize that a hand-up by charitable people is superior to a hand-out by administrations that benefit from their dependence…we are screwed.

Until we recognize that perceived “rights” at the expense of another’s inalienable rights are merely misguided preferences…we are screwed.

Just my observation for the day…

Irresistible or Efficacious Grace

July 2nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

If you look at the “five points” of Calvinism as a timeline or storyline of how salvation works, then I believe they are easier to understand and appreciate than if you look at them in a disjointed or segregated way.  Consider that “Total Depravity” describes our disposition as sinners before regeneration, that “Unconditional election” is the Father’s choice to engage in our lives, that “Limited Atonement” honors the effective and purposeful death of Christ, and that “Irresistible Grace” is the Spirit’s sanctifying work within us to author the state of being “born again” within us.

The Scriptures paint a very clear picture of predestination, redemption, and the Spirit’s never-failing transformation of those whom He called.  David Steele said it best in the book I often quote from (The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented):

The gospel invitation extends a call to salvation to every one who hears its message.  It invites all men without distinction to drink freely of the water of life and live.  It promises salvation to all who repent and believe.  But this outward general call, extended to the elect and non-elect alike, will not bring sinners to Christ.  Why?  Because men are by nature dead in sin and are under its power.  They are of themselves unable and unwilling to forsake their evil ways and to turn to Christ for mercy.  Consequently, the unregenerate will not respond to the gospel call to repentance and faith.  No amount of external threatenings or promises will cause blind, deaf, dead, rebellious sinners to bow before Christ as Lord and to look to Him alone for salvation.  Such an act of faith and submission is contrary to the lost man’s nature.

Therefore, the Holy Spirit, in order to bring God’s elect to salvation, extends to them a special inward call in addition to the outward call con tainted in the gospel message.  Through this special call the Holy Spirit performs a work of grace within the sinner which inevitably brings him to faith in Christ.  The inward change wrought in the elect sinner enables him to understand and believe spiritual truth; in the spiritual realm he is giving the seeing eye and the hearing ear.  The Spirit creates within him a new heart or a new nature…”

So the general call of the gospel is God’s way of demonstrating to us that nothing saves outside of the power of the Spirit utilizing the tools of election and His Word and redemption to create a new heart within us!  The lack of ability of the non-elect to respond to the gospel and the irresistible nature of the Spirit’s work within the elect demonstrate the nature of Sin and the power of God!

Some of my favorite Scriptures that help paint the picture:

II Corinthians 3:17-18 – “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Ezekiel 36: 26-27 – “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.”

John 5:21 – For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.”

Matthew 11:25-27 – At that time Jesus declared, ‘I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.  All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.'”

Luke 8:10 – “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

I Corinthians 2:14 – “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

[Interesting how Acts 5:31 and Acts 11:18 describe conversion as being given or granted repentance…]

Acts 18:27 – “And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him.  When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed.”

Romans 9:16 – “So then [it is] not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”

I Corinthians 3:6-7 – I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”

There are countless other Scriptures that place the work and responsibility for regeneration squarely on the shoulders of God.  Why would we, when there is no evidence in Scripture for it, place any responsibility on ourselves or other men or pretend that we have the power to approach God in our depravity or resist the power of God when He has determined to redeem and regenerate us?

Limited Atonement

March 16th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Many I speak to on these subjects agree that we are totally depraved, that God elects sinners for salvation, and that He is the Good Shepherd who will finish the work he began in us.

We are, therefore, relatively “reformed” in our theology together…which is an interesting label considering that, from our perspective, should probably be labeled “recovered” theology as this teaching was changed by the institutional church early on in Church history and was reaffirmed during the Synod of Dordt as the common, ancient, and Biblical doctrine of salvation.

However, debate continues amongst reformed theologians and we lowly lay people about atonement. Did Christ die for everyone or for the elect and why do we care?

Some Background
First, the “Five Points of Calvinism” includes the third of five points commonly called “Limited Atonement.” Many people call themselves “four-point Calvinists” because they believe in all of it except this very controversial third point.

I used to be what most call an “Arminian.” The vast majority of American Christians are. I’ll reiterate again that I hate the labels, the simplicity of “five points” of Arminianism or Calvinism but they are what they are…let’s move on…

Everyone Limits Atonement
With the context of the other four points in mind (we’ll get to four and five soon!), let’s consider the third point – Limited Atonement.

I believe that everyone limits atonement. Most churches in Western Christendom teach that Jesus died for “ALL” men – that Christ’s work made it possible for all to come to Him. They would say that “Christ died to save all men if…” and follow this with any number of qualifications, actions, or reactions to the Gospel.

I would throw this out for thought: everyone limits atonement. You either limit it in extent/scope (Christ died for the elect) or in effectiveness (Christ died for all but redemption needs you to…). I also would throw out that Christ’s death was obviously capable of saving every person who ever lived…but He didn’t choose to die for that purpose.

“Jesus Actually Saves”
There is a GREAT book that articulates the concept of election and atonement very well. In The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented (a classic and a great resource I’m borrowing from quite a bit to write these posts); David N. Steele articulates in the latest version of the book on pages 41 and 42 my feelings on this subject. Under a section titled “Jesus Actually Saves” he writes:

“The Scriptures describe the end intended and accomplished by Christ’s work as the full salvation (actual reconciliation, justification, and sanctification) of His people.

The Scriptures state that Christ came, not to enable men to save themselves, but to save sinners.

Matthew 1:21: ‘She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

The book goes on to list a number of other verses that seem to suggest that He came to sacrifice Himself for those who were called to be His. Pick up the book and pour through it with an open mind. You’ll be blown away – even if you already believe in four or five Points.

But how about the Scriptures that say he died for “all” or “the whole world?” What about John 3:16 – For God so loved the world…?”

If you take the multitude of Scriptures that declare He died for His people, His elect, His chosen race and then consider the cultural and spiritual climate at the time of the Scriptures; wouldn’t it make sense that the inclusive words “all” and “world” may have been used to combat the notion prevalent amongst the Jews at the time that only Jews could be saved? Could the Scriptures be reiterating that Jews AND Gentiles are among the elect? That the whole world is worth reaching out to with the Gospel in order to bring the message of salvation to those He has predestined?

Ramifications/Why do I care?
So…who cares? If God chose some and not others and died for them, what does that matter? If we are both believers and disagree on this…so what? Aren’t we both preaching the Gospel and is it profitable to have this discussion? This discussion has caused division in the past, so why rehash it now?

Two reasons:

1. For the believer with a Biblical view of election and perseverance, it is easy to look at the “Arminian” and shrug his/her shoulders. Either way the message of Jesus is being preached; even if those who don’t feel the way the Calvinist does may live with a distorted picture of how salvation works or the character of God as relates to His chosen race. The Gospel of Jesus gets preached and we are brothers. But to those who don’t share the views of the Calvinist it is easy to look at the Calvinist as fatalistic and unwilling to reach out. Few things are more misunderstood than reformed theology by those who don’t share the same views. Discussing this respectfully brings Arminians – if not to the ‘truth’ – to a realization that Calvinists embrace evangelism and Scriptures as much as they do.

2. “Calvinism,” for a lack of a better term, offers a doctrine of assurance and peace that is worth discussing. If we are right about election and atonement, it offers so much more gratefulness and peace to the weary soul.

In his 1932 book, “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” (quoted in “The Five Points of Calvinism”), Mr. Loraine Boettner says this:

“Any other system which holds that Christ’s sacrifice did not actually save anyone, but that it merely made salvation possible for all if they would comply with certain terms, reduces it to good advice; and any system which carries with it only a ‘chance’ for salvation, also carries with it, of logical necessity, a ‘chance’ to be lost. And what a difference it makes to fallen man as to whether the Gospel is good news or good advice! The world is full of good advice; even the books of heathen philosophers contained much of it; but the Gospel alone contains for man the Good News that God has redeemed him.”

Isn’t the very nature of God and His plan for us worth discussing? Isn’t the very heart of how we are saved worth exploring? I think the problem has been in how we have discussed this issue – not whether or not we should.

If you don’t believe in all “Five Points of Calvinism,” that’s not a hill I want to die on with you – you are still very likely chosen as a fellow Christ-follower.

If I limit atonement, however, I want to limit it to Good News that you are redeemed…not limit it in effectiveness and put a burden of “if you…” on the searching soul.  The Scriptures seems clear – Jesus died for the elect.  Christ’s death was designed to secure salvation, not to simply make possible election.

Some interesting Scriptures to ponder on the subject:

Galatians chapter 1 says that Jesus “gave himself” for our sins “to deliver us” from evil according to “the will” of the Father.  If he delivers whom He elects, than His will was for Christ to die in order to deliver.  It doesn’t say He gave Himself so delivery was possible.

Jesus said himself that he lays down his life for his sheep.  Who are these sheep?  The Father gave the sheep to Christ!  The sheep are the elect!  He died for the elect:
John 10:11,14-18 – “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.  For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.” (verses 24-29 reiterate that he gives the sheep he lays down his life for eternal life and they were given to him by his Father!)

Note also that in John 17 (verses 1-26) Jesus prays not for the whole world’s population but for those given to Him by the Father.  He says “I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me.”  Read the whole prayer.  If he died for more than the elect so that salvation was possible if…wouldn’t He have prayed such?

Hebrews 9:15 – “…Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many…”

Acts 20:28 seems to suggest that Church leaders are to feed the flock, which the Lord “obtained for Himself with His own Blood.”

Ephesians 5 paints the picture of limited atonement when Paul exhorts husbands to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up FOR HER, that he might sanctify her…”  The relationship of husband and wife is a picture of Christ laying down his life…for His Bride!