Confounded By Those Who Write Others Off

February 21st, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

I am confounded by those who write others off.  I don’t think I’ve ever done it in my life. Disagreements, awkwardness, relational struggles, and/or distance? Sure. But to simply write someone off?  Weird.  To those who have written me off: it won’t be reciprocated. I’m always here.

I have friends who, through the awkwardness that comes with conflict they’ve had with mutual friends or family, will no longer engage in a relationship with me.  I have friends who were legitimately hurt by my actions or words and who will not respond to communication or apologies.

I can’t understand it.

Relationships are hard as most good things are.

I’m currently reading “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and this concept reminds me of something he said about human interaction and community:

“Human love has little regard for truth. It makes the truth relative, since nothing, not even the truth, must come between it and the beloved person. Human love desires the other person, his company, his answering love, but it does not serve him.”

He also states his belief that people cannot live in true community and love without coming to each other in love that comes from God.

I think I agree.  One fundamental truth about love is that it believes the best about people, it bears all things, and it is patient.  Human love – the kind that humans are capable of in and of themselves – is incapable of this kind of patient selflessness.

I fail at loving people the way they should be loved as friends or family all the time.  But one thing I have never struggled with is the confounding, downright cruel act of writing people off.  I’ve experienced friends I love break all ties with me because of a disagreement, a lack of proximity, their awkwardness when we experienced great loss, and over doctrinal or worldview differences.

I’m not sure anyone who is pursuing Christ can write off anyone.  There are those who mean to do us harm or those who are foolish and should be avoided.  But even these deserve open arms and unconditional love should they come seeking it in humility.  The cruel sickness that is the abrupt ending of a friendship stings more than it should.  And it stings forever.

An Interesting Post On Thomas Merton

February 12th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

I’d never heard of Thomas Merton before my wife sent me a link to an interesting post on him:

7 Reasons Why Evangelicals Should Read Thomas Merton

There are parts of of the article I love.  One line, however, I found disconcerting:

sola scriptura ecclesiology easily leads to an iconoclastic view of history. Or to say it another way, if you skip over two thousand years and use Acts as a blueprint to recreate a pure church, your cloud of witnesses will be on the small side. That’s the tradition I grew up with, and it left many people feeling untethered.

Read more:

I believe some touting sola scripture ecclesiology are iconoclastic, narrow-minded pharisees.  No doubt.  But to say that sola scriptura “easily” leads to issues any more than those who don’t have the bedrock of Scripture as their base is ridiculous.

That being said, I highly recommend reading the blog post and letting the rest of what he has to share soak in.  I might just need to read a little more about and from this Thomas Merton character.

Five Things Christians Should Stop Saying

May 14th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m not sure any commentary is needed.  I agree.  Click below and let me know if you do too.

5 Things Christians Should Stop Saying

The Antidote to Anemic Worship

August 19th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The antidote to anemic worship, if bottled, could also be the elixir for a suffering generation.  My friend Shane Vander Hart posted the following article on Facebook and I appreciated the overall message in the post.  You can click the following link.  It’s a quick read:

Expository Preaching—The Antidote to Anemic Worship

A few things about this post:

1. The author, Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., rightly describes the problem facing evangelicals: that they have bought into the entertainment culture of the church and are so focused on music and multi-media that the teaching of the Scriptures has taken a back seat – or been kicked out the door in many cases.

2. He makes an interesting statement:

“Thanks be to God, evangelism does take place in Christian worship. Confronted by the presentation of the gospel and the preaching of the word, sinners are drawn to faith in Jesus Christ and the offer of salvation is presented to all.”

It’s hard to argue with that…except to discuss what is supposed to happen at “church.”  Are we there to evangelize or is the purpose of our church gatherings to “equip the body/saints for the work of ministry?” (Eph. 4:12)  Can you conclude from Ephesians 4 that the gathering of the saints on Sunday (or whenever the Church meets) is not for the work of the ministry itself but to equip the body of Christ for the work of the ministry?

If so, then I fully agree with Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. that evangelism often takes place when a person attends a church service and the Holy Spirit moves them to the point of salvation or repentance.  I simply would postulate that this act of “evangelism” is incidental to the purpose of the gathering and is a wonderful thing that God often does in the midst of the equipping work of the church service.

3. I could not agree more with his final paragraph:

“The anemia of evangelical worship—all the music and energy aside—is directly attributable to the absence of genuine expository preaching. Such preaching would confront the congregation with nothing less than the living and active word of God. That confrontation will shape the congregation as the Holy Spirit accompanies the word, opens eyes, and applies that word to human hearts.”

A church fellowship without solid expositional teaching is like a person who is never weaned from spiritual milk and refuses to mature past weekly playdates.  We are created for so much more.

I hear many people who attend mega-churches, “seeker-driven churches,” “emerging churches” (does anyone still use that term?), or churches with plenty of bells and whistles and little meaningful teaching justify their choice by saying: “I feel like I’ve found a church where I finally get fed.”  They are insinuating that they are getting what they need to mature as believers.  Maybe.

I would argue that most choose such places to worship because we have fallen into the trap described in 2 Timothy 4.  Here Paul exhorts:

“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Tim. 4:2-5

Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers must, by way of example, “preach the word,” “be watchful,” “endure afflictions,” and “do the work of an evangelist” before we can expect the Church as a whole to follow suit and fulfill its ministry.

Thank you to Dr. Mohler Jr. for hitting the nail right on the head.

Why Christian Radio?

February 28th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Radio is a powerful medium for communication.  In the U.S. alone there are over 550 million radios in use including more than 170 million in vehicles as standard equipment.  That amounts to almost six radios per household! Additionally, a huge percentage of Americans have access to streaming radio through Apple TV, Roku box, a browser, or apps on smartphones and iPods.  Americans utilize radio more than any other medium during the workday, averaging over 2 hours per day listening in their cars alone!  Granted, the average commute varies greatly from metro area to metro area, but those listening averages are mind blowing! An incredible 96% of adults age 25-54 listen to radio on a regular basis with the 12+ demographic not far behind!

Why is radio so compelling that most every American family has six radios and spends hours per day listening to it?  It is, like broadcast TV, a free and over-the-air medium.  Unlike TV, however, it is a more “psychological medium.”  It draws out the listener’s imagination, emotion, and sets a creative stage in the theatre of the mind more than TV because we feel the need to picture what we are hearing, to guess at the DJ’s face, to respond to the spirit of the music, and react to advertising messages that beg us to intersect our lives with the advertiser’s product.

So one obvious question is how best to utilize this powerful medium for the Kingdom of God.

» Read the rest of this entry «

Amusing Church Marketing

November 25th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

There is a real lack of amusing church marketing.  This is because churches shouldn’t market – they should tell the Truth, love their neighbors, and take care of practical needs.  That’s church marketing enough.

But once in a while you see a church or a pastor doing something truly unique and downright fascinating.  I just saw such a thing a few minutes ago over at The Daily.

Hilarious.  Concealed weapons training at church to attract local men.  We’ve seen it all.  And I’m very amused.

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.

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 «

Unconditional Election

March 16th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

The “second point” in the Synod of Dordt’s response to the Remonstrance written by the followers of Arminius was that of “Unconditional Election.”  Remember, the “five points” are simply a direct response to the five main points in the Remonstrance, or Arminian positions.  it isn’t fair to the Scriptures or their Author to boil down the God-story to five points and each point should be taken into consideration within the whole context of the Scriptures.

Because Adam transgressed, God made it clear that he and all his decedents are guilty.  The sentence for that guilt is eternal death.  God was under no obligation to save Adam or a single decedent of Adam. His justice would have been completely satisfied by saving no one or obliterating His creation at the moment of Adam’s transgression and started over.

The doctrine of election, however, articulates the Scripture’s position that God, before He even created the world, chose some of Adam’s decedents upon whom He’d bestow amazing mercy.  These were those He would “save” from eternal punishment.  He could have chosen to save all men or none.  He, instead, chose to save some.  The fact that He chose only some is in no way unfair unless “…one maintains that God was under obligation to proved salvation for sinners – a position which the Bible utterly rejects.” (David Steele, The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented)

Election doesn’t actually save anyone.  The Father elects, the Son gives Himself as redemption to save, and the Spirit renews the heart and instills that saving faith in the Elect.

Some interesting verses that highlight this election:

Revelation 13:8 – “And all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lam that was slain.”

Matthew 11:27 – “…no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

1 Peter 1:1-2 – “…chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with blood…”

God’s choice is not based on any foreseen merit or action by man:

Romans 9:11-13 – “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, she was told, ‘The elder will serve the younger.’  As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'”

Romans 9:16 – “So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy.”

God didn’t choose us because he foreknew we’d choose Him:

Acts 13:48 – “And when the Gentiles heart this, they were glad and glorified the word of God; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”

Philippians 1:29 – “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.”

Exodus 33:19 – “…I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”

Ephesians 1:5 – “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.”

There are countless others.  This was the doctrine that I stumbled upon.  The other doctrines of salvation I knew I was wrong about as a young believer (I didn’t always believe this way!  I was an Arminian believer for years!) were easy to overcome.  This one was hard.  He isn’t “fair?”  He “chooses” hell for some?

As the image of my daughter dying in my arms was still very fresh and as I considered the ridiculous books that some well-meaning people handed me full of unBiblical junk about salvation and how it happens, it hit me: If He created the universe, set the standard, and works out His will and personality through His creation; perhaps I should re-read the Scriptures without the lens of human preference and see what He is really saying.  The whole counsel of the Scriptures is about the Author, the Potter, and the Lord writing His story, molding His clay, and ruling over His creation.  Who am I to question His plan or his will?  Who am I to read into the Scriptures some effort, work, or decision I must make to be saved?  It sits well with my current base nature…but not with His eternal truth.

Total Depravity

March 6th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I am going to try to go through the entire five points of Arminianism and Calvinism over the coming weeks.

The Arminian points came first as a response by the followers of Jacob Arminius after his death to the current teaching of all known Protestant faiths at the time.  Their “Remonstrance of 1610” challenged Church teaching about salvation and free will up to that time and the Synod of Dordt was called to address the issue.  Church leaders from all over Europe were called together to consider the five points of Arminian followers in the Remonstrance.  The teachings of the Church in the known world at the time had their roots in the Scriptures as well as in the fight against Pelagianism and other heresies by early Church fathers including Augustine and others.  Five points came out of the Synod in response to the five that were outlined in the Remonstrance.  The Synod made it very clear that the doctrines of salvation should not and could not be defined by five points but they felt that the Remonstrance needed a point-by-point rebuttal.  The term “Calvinism” was adopted over time, not because John Calvin was anything extraordinary, but because he taught extensively on the subject throughout his ministry.

The first of these five points in the Arminian Remonstrance of 1610 defined “Free Will.”  An overly elementary summary of the first point by Arminians is that humans, although seriously affected by the Fall, have not been left spiritually helpless but are left a remnant of spiritual light capable of understanding the Gospel and choosing to embrace it of one’s own Free Will.

The Synod of Dordt reaffirmed the belief that we are totally depraved.

My favorite book on the subject, The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, defines total depravity this way:

“Because of the Fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free; it is in bondage to his evil nature. Therefore, he will not – indeed he cannot – choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ. It takes regeneration, by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation, but is itself a part of God’s gift of salvation. It is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God.”

Frankly, when I took off the spiritual lenses I inherited as a normal American evangelical and started to read the Scriptures with purpose in my heart to be as objective as possible and let the Scriptures speak for itself, I could see where I got off track with Arminian Doctrine. Depravity and Election is so clear in Ephesians 1, throughout Romans, in the Gospels…

One hang-up some have with “total”depravity is that they don’t believe that people are incapable of doing any good. I don’t disagree. Evil and lost people do ‘good’ things. But the “total” in Total Depravity is more of a holistic totality. The totality of the individual is lost and incapable of choosing salvation. We are not, under the Curse, given the power to reach out to God in any way that affects our eternal disposition without Him choosing us first.

I also believe that man was not created depraved initially but it is solely a consequence of sin through Adam. And who are we to arrogantly tell God that the punishment for sin (depravity) is too great?

We are spiritually dead from the beginning:
Psalm 51:5 – “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
Psalm 58:3 – “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.”

We have dark minds and corrupt/depraved hearts:
Genesis 8:21 – “The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”
Romans 8:7-8 – “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Job 15:14-16 – “What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous? Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight; how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water!”

We cannot change by ourselves:
Job 14:4 – “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one.”
John 6:65 – “And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.'”
1 Corinthians 4:7 – “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
2 Corinthians 3:5 – “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.”

Note the myriad Scriptures that make it clear that God Himself gives faith, grants repentance, and creates new hearts.

Spiritual life, theology, and doctrine reside on a spectrum.  On one end is the lie that Satan himself wants us to believe (that we are unworthy or that His Word doesn’t mean what It says) and on the other end of the spectrum is human pride that leads to works-related doctrine.