Monday, November 24, 2008

Election, Adoption and Acceptance

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. --Ephesians 1:4-6
*NOTE: I'm not looking to stir up trouble with the post, I'm just starting a study on Ephesians and I wanted to share my thoughts on this very controversial passage.

This particular passage of scripture does a good job of laying out salvation for us in three steps:
1. God Has chosen us.
2. God Has adopted us.
3. God has accepted us.

He Has Chosen Us
Warren Wriersbe once said, "Try to explain election and you may lose your mind. But try to explain it away and you may lose your soul!" I have yet to find a single Christian who will disagree with me that Salvation begins with God and not with man. Where we tend to disagree is on where the transaction takes place.

Scripture tells us in no uncertain terms that it is not us who chooses God, but He who chooses us, (John 15:16,) and that left to his own nature, a lost sinner does not seek God, (Romans 3:10-11,) but rather that it is God who seeks after the sinner, (Luke 19:10.) I find it particularly interesting that God chose us "before the foundation of the world." To me, this says as well as anything that our salvation is entirely God's doing and not earned by us in any way, shape or form.

Is this passage implying then, that the sinner responds to God's grace against his own will? No, he responds because God's Grace makes him willing to respond. It's at the urging of the Spirits convictions and by the will granted to us from God, that we respond to his call, accepting the grace given by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Wiersbe continues on to say, "As far as God the the Spirit is concerned, you were saved when you yielded to His conviction and received Christ as your Savior. What began in eternity past was fulfilled in time present, and will continue for all eternity!."

He Has Adopted Us
I will guarantee my three beautiful little girls an inheritance when I die. If they were not a part of my family, but I chose to bring them into the family, I would adopt them as my children and guarantee them an inheritance as well. This is much like it works with God. When God "adopts" us, He is giving us a place in the family. This guarantees us our inheritance, (Ephesians 1:11.)

He Has Accepted Us
One of my favorite terms is "imputed righteousness." (Not just because I sound smart when I say it.) We know that as humans, we have already fallen short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23,) and that we are seen as "dead in trespasses and sins," (Ephesians 2:1.) But the the passage tells us that we are not accepted because we have somehow made ourselves acceptable, but rather because He made us accepted in the Beloved." The doctrine of imputed righteousness tells us that although we are not righteous before God, Christ has imputed His righteousness on our behalf so that we may be seen as righteous.

God the Father chose us before Time began, The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins so that we might repent and we are made acceptable to God through the grace allowed to us by the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God's plan since the beginning of time, laid out for us in three simple verses in the Book of Ephesians.

Isn't the Bible amazing?

The Calvinist

Q: What did the Calvinist say after he fell down the stairs?

A: Man, I'm glad I got that over with.

Heard this from Todd Friel. I don't know where he got it from.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Prayer for the Sick

"Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." --James 5:14-16
The passage you just read is, by no means, a blanket formula for healing the sick. I have seen countless prayers offered up by "righteous men" that have simply gone unanswered. I think that the circumstance that James is talking about here is a special circumstance. I think James is describing a man in the church who is sick because he is being disciplined or chastened by God. This is made evident by the fact that he calls the elders to his church and confesses his sins to them.

A fine example of how to pray in faith is found in 1 John 5:14-15; "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him." (emphasis added) The prayer of faith is offered when you know the will of God. The elders of the church would seek the mind of God in the matter, and then pray according to his will.

I find three excellent lessons to be taken out of this passage:

1. Sin can lead to sickness.
-After King David had committed so many terrible sins against God, his neighbor and the Nation that God had entrusted to him, rather than confess those sins, he chose to sweep them under the rug. Later, he would remember this period of time like this: "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer." (Psalm 32:3-4)

2. Sin affects the whole church.
-Sin has a way of growing and festering within us. We sin and it causes others to sin. I believe one of the reasons this man had to call the elders to his bedside and confess his sins to them was because he had also sinned against the church itself. His sin had probably driven a wedge into the body of Christ and this man wanted to receive forgiveness for that.

3. There is healing when sin is dealt with.
-This healing is certainly spiritual, but it can also be physical healing. Proverbs 28:13 tells us that "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." As I've said before, there is no guarantee that physical healing comes with confession of sin. Sometimes it is just plain God's will that we are sick.Those who claim that God heals every case and/or that it is not God's will that anyone be sick, are denying both scripture and experience.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Prayer for the Suffering

"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray." --James 5:13

Often times in our lives, we find ourselves suffering. Maybe we become ill or fall on hard financial times. Maybe we've lost a loved one and must now grieve our loss. Often, we have to endure these hardships despite the fact that they are not the result of sin or the chastening of God. Two of the best examples I can think of are when Paul tells us he is suffering for the sake of the gospel (2 Timothy 2:8-9,) and Job, who suffered terrible losses because he had so much faith in God.

When we find ourselves in situations like this, I believe there is only one appropriate answer: Pray.

Not only can prayer remove our suffering, (if it is in God's will,) but it can also give us strength to endure the trouble. The act of prayer is to humble thy self before the Lord. We must admit that we are not truly in control and that only God can carry us through our suffering. We know that "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble", (James 4:6,) so wouldn't the obvious answer be to humble ourselves before him?

Sometimes, it is simply God's will that we suffer. It's OK for us to ask God to remove our inflictions, but we should be prepared to accept "no" as an answer. Paul prayed three times that God might remove the thorn in his flesh, (2 Corinthians 12:8,) and the answer was no. Jesus himself prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will,” (Matthew 26:39.) God did not remove the cup from Jesus Christ, but he did give him the strength he needed to go to the cross and die for our sins. Just as he will give you and I the strength to suffer through our hardships as well.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." --2 Corinthians 12:9

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Power of Prayer

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. --James 5:13-20

When I was a teenager, there was an old woman who attended the church that I attended. While I can not tell you her exact age at the time, I would guess her around 75 years old. She was one of the most godly people I knew.

As the story goes, around that time, she was diagnosed with cancer. Her doctors gave her a few months to live. The church was heart broken. I remember my typical anger with God for allowing this to happen to some one who "didn't deserve it."

I remember one Sunday, she stood before us to speak. We waited with baited breath. What could this woman say? What could an old woman with cancer possibly say? What she did say absolutely floored me. She said that she had lived a good life and that she owed it all to God. She told us that if it be God's will that her life be taken by cancer, that was fine. If it was God's will that she live another 5 years, that was fine as well. If it was God's will that she be healed completely, that was also fine by her. Her only prayer was that God's will be done in her life.

Another Sunday, she was brought before the entire church. We gathered near the alter and placed hands on her. The Pastor prayed that if it be in God's will, that He would remove her cancer.

One month later, her body was completely cancer free.

"Prayer is not getting man's will done in heaven, but getting God's will done on earth. It is not overcoming God's reluctance but laying hold of God's willingness."

Friday, November 7, 2008

How to Tick People Off


Disclaimer I ran across this the other day and thought it was funny. I do not condone any of this in real life. In some ways, I regret posting this at all, as it does not portray me in a completely Christian manner. I have chose not to delete, because I'd like to allow others to see some of the ways that God convicts me and to see that a young pastor is no less susceptible to mistakes than anyone else.

1. Leave the copy machine set to reduce 200%, extra dark, 17 inch paper, 99 copies.
2. In the memo field of all your checks, write "for sexual favors."
3. Specify that your drive-through order is "TO-GO."
4. If you have a glass eye, tap on it occasionally with your pen while talking to others.
5. Stomp on little plastic ketchup packets.
6. Insist on keeping your car windshield wipers running in all weather conditions "to keep them tuned up."
7. Reply to everything someone says with "that's what you think."
8. Practice making fax and modem noises.
9. Highlight irrelevant information in scientific papers and "cc" them to your boss.
10. Make beeping noises when a large person backs up.
11. Finish all your sentences with the words "in accordance with prophesy."
12. Signal that a conversation is over by clamping your hands over your ears and grimacing.
13. Disassemble your pen and "accidentally" flip the ink cartridge across the room.
14. Holler random numbers while someone is counting.
15. Adjust the tint on your TV so that all the people are green, and insist to others that you "like it that way."
16. Staple pages in the middle of the page.
17. Publicly investigate just how slowly you can make a croaking noise.
18. Honk and wave to strangers.
19. Decline to be seated at a restaurant, and simply eat their complimentary mints at the cash register.
21. type only in lowercase.
22. dont use any punctuation either
23. Buy a large quantity of orange traffic cones and reroute whole streets.
24. Repeat the following conversation a dozen times.
"Never mind, it's gone now."
25. As much as possible, skip rather than walk.
26. Try playing the William Tell Overture by tapping on the bottom of your chin. When nearly done, announce "No, wait, I messed it up," and repeat.
27. Ask people what gender they are.
28. While making presentations, occasionally bob your head like a parakeet.
29. Sit in your front yard pointing a hair dryer at passing cars to see if they slow down.
30. Sing along at the opera.
31. Go to a poetry recital and ask why each poem doesn't rhyme.
32. Ask your co-workers mysterious questions and then scribble their answers in a notebook. Mutter something about "psychological profiles."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Westboro is at it Again

A radical Kansas church group says it will protest Grosse Pointe South High School's production this month of "The Laramie Project."

The play is about the torture, beating and death of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was killed in Laramie, Wyo., in 1998.

The Westboro Baptist Church, an independent church not affiliated with the Baptist church, is planning the protest. The church is best known for protesting at soldiers' funerals nationwide, contending their deaths are God's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality.

The planned protest "motivates us," said cast member Sean Buckley, a 17-year-old senior. "We feel passionate about what we are doing."

Shirley Phelps-Roper, a member of the church, said they learned about the play from an e-mail.

" 'The Laramie Project' has a function -- it's to teach rebellion," Phelps-Roper said. Teaching rebellion violates the teachings of the Bible, she said.
Read the full story here.
As I've said before, my problem is not so much with what the Westboro folks say, (spare me the comments.) My problem is with the way they present themselves and the way they present the gospel.

I support being controversial if it's done properly. For example, street preaching using the law to appeal to one's conscience, is a controversial way of evangelizing, yet can be extremely effective. Protesting dead soldiers funerals and high school plays with signs that read "God Hates Fags!" is NOT an effective means of evangelism.

The only thing that Westboro Baptist Church is accomplishing is to act as a stumbling block, (Romans 14:3, 1 Corinthians 8:9,) to believers and non believers alike. In my eyes, that is NOT ok.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Scripture Twisters: Mark 11:22-23

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.--Mark 11:22-23

This passage was given to me to defend the Word of Faith Movement. The basic premise is that if you REALLY TRULY believe something and you speak the words, God will be forced to follow through with your request. Let's apply my two favorite rules of Biblical interpretation here.

1. We must consider the verses in context.
In verse 14, Jesus had cursed a fig tree. Now we see Jesus and the disciples walking past that fig tree a second time. upon noticing the fig tree had whithered, the apostles ask Jesus about it. Jesus proceeds to make a point about faith rather than words.

2. We must interpret the unclear with the clear
This is the more compelling argument that this passage does not support the idea that we might force God's hand with our spoken word. A VERY clear teaching of the Bible is the omnipotence of God. (Mathew 10:29, Romans 8:28, Revelations 19:6) In other words, The Bible teaches that God is in control of all.
So if the implication that we get from the passage is a clear contradiction to biblical truth, it must not be the implication that was intended. Jesus was not teaching the disciples that they can force God's hand if they simply have enough faith and speak the words. Obviously, the whithering Fig tree was within God's will and if the mountain got up and hurled itself into the mountain, it would have been within God's will as well. God is in control, not you or I.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My apology, (or lack there of)

Over the past few weeks, I have been called ignorant, stupid, a bigot, out-dated, hateful and unrespectable. These are only the names that are being called to my face. Why have I been called these names? Simply for standing firm on biblical truths.

I apologize to anyone who is reading this who has been offended by my beliefs. I will not, however, apologize for having those beliefs. I will never back down from what I feel is right. I will not idly sit back and allow thousands of babies to be murdered without uttering so much as a word about it. I will not back down from my stance on roles in marriages, (which those who will attack me don't fully understamd the message I am trying to convey.) I will not back down from preaching that salvation is through Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone.

Have fun discussing amongst yourselves what a horrible person I am.