Thursday, May 30, 2013

We cannot Choose God

In the debate between Calvinism and Traditionalism, the argument must be man's ability to reject salvation. When God calls, can we walk away. The idea of us choosing God should not even be an issue, because we cannot choose God.

John 15:16 says He choose us.  John 6:44 says no one comes to the Son unless the Father draws Him. John 1:13 says we are born again from the will of God. Romans 3:11 and 12 says no one seeks God, all have turned away. I Corinthians 1:18 says the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.

In the light of these verses that state we cannot choose God, we have to conclude that God chooses and calls us. The reason for the calling can be debated, our response to the calling can be debated, but the call is clearly seen in scripture. We respond to the call with trust, faith, belief, but we do not seek God. No one seeks God, that is clear.

Will we as believers accept the scripture, or will we reject what the word teaches because we don't like the way we feel about it? Maybe it's time to move away from feelings and move toward a simple faith that trusts in the sufficiency of the Word.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Maybe we need less Finney and less Billy.

My goal today is to propose and idea, not attack or hurt anyone. I may say some things about men you respect, beliefs that you hold and methods you employ. It's not personal, it's a discussion, so remember I love you, your church, the SBC and most of all, Jesus. Let's reason together.

If you are familiar with Finney and his theology, you know that much of our modern Evangelicalism is influenced by his focus on decision. Much of what we do today during an alter call is from the theology of Charles Finney.  Having people come forward, making a decision for Christ, many of these activities have ties to Finney.

Finney opened the door to men like Billy Sunday and Billy Graham.  Graham has used the alter call method, calling thousands upon thousands to come down to the stage and give their lives to Jesus. They are called to make a decision to ask Jesus in their heart.  This strategy has been incorporated into the local church, people come forward and make a decision to trust Christ and recite the sinner's prayer.

My question, is this how we are commanded, instructed and modeled to do what we are commanded to do? Is this our New Testament mandate, to call people to make decisions?  Are we commanded to have people recite the sinner's prayers and raise their hands? Is this effective, are the people really and truly becoming disciples? I can't answer this in your specific context, but I know what I have seen.

I have met a lot of people who have prayed the prayer, raised their hands, walked the isle and have no interest in following Jesus. They don't want to change, follow, or obey the teachings of Jesus. They think they will go to Heaven because they are good people. Many live in sin, and ignorant about anything of faith, but think they are ok because they recited a prayer at church years ago. Are these people disciples? Are we making disciples with this method?

Now I'm not saying that people don't get saved this way. I walked the isle when I was young, I prayed the prayer, I did all of those things, yet that isn't what made the difference in my life. My parents, my pastor, my Sunday School teacher taught me the Bible, prayed with me, discipled me. I was born again before I walked the isle, I have no doubt because the Lord opened my eyes to my sin, and my heart cried out for forgiveness. I walked the isle because I thought I was suppose too, not in order to be saved.

Have we created a works mentality inadvertantly, where people earn salvation by walking the isle, saying a form prayer, raising their hands and saying "amen".  When we go on mission trips and lead people to a prayer, do we have lasting results? Are we making disciples? Sometimes I fear that our mode and model is creating people who will say "Lord, Lord" and will hear "depart from me, I never knew you". Not just church members, I fear there are teachers, leaders, even Pastors who have a false idea of what Salvation is. They feel that they have done bad things and just say they are sorry and they go to Heaven. They are not convicted, they don't see themselves as sinners in need of a Savior. Too often we talk about the sin, without confronting that we are God's enemy without Christ.

We have come to a place where the Pope claims Universal atonement for all if you are a good person. I fear we are not to far from this, to be a good person, just walk an isle and raise your hand. This doesn't match what Jesus said, this is not following, discipleship or taking up our cross. Is this all we think salvation is? A prayer, a hand raise and nothing more?

The solution in my opinion is that we must preach the reality of being a sinner. Unless people are broken and convicted, they cannot be saved. Without the Spirit, there is no Salvation. When people are broken, they will cry out, and when they cry out, we walk with them. We have expectations for them to grow, learn and serve. When we don't, we need to again tell them about sin and the reality of their nature and God's wrath. If they are not following, they are not disciples. We are not called to make converts, but disciples.

Billy Graham had great success in his crusades, but the model is not what the local church needs in my opinion. What we need is a culture that sets the expectation of people to become disciples, to take up their cross and to hate everything in comparison to Christ. Are we willing to do

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Sinful Christian

The question was posed to me, can a born again Christian have a perpetual sin in their life?  The command in scripture is to basically quit sinning. None of us will be completely free of sin until we reach Heaven, but we continue to become more like Christ. This is called Sanctification.  There are times and events where a believer has a sin that they don't let go of for whatever reason. Most of the time it's an emotional attachment to an activity, person, thing or an addiction. Does this sin cause us to lose our salvation? No, of course not, nothing can separate, us from the Father when we are His, not even our actions. There is a price however.

We are commanded in scripture to lay aside everything that hinders us. Hebrews 12 says we should run unhindered towards the prize. The hindrance on the believer is sin dragging them downward. Picture a runner with a prison ball chained to their leg. The runner runs while dragging this steel ball, slowing them down, causing their run to be disjointed, one leg free and the other hindered. This is the effect of sin on the believer, a life out of balance, slow and frustrating, full of soreness, pain, anxiety and suffering.

The solution of course is to cut the chain, but often that is easier said then done. Often the ball is not steel, it's gold, silver, diamond or pearl. We love the ball, we chained it there because we don't want to lose it. It can come with us across the finish line, but we can't bear to let it go. We cherish it, love it, even feel as if we need it and must have it. It's not easy to toss aside, we struggle to let it go. Only when we decide the prize and racing for the prize has more value than our hindering treasure chained to our leg can we be free.  Winning comes from losing, freedom is in slavery, finding life is losing life. It's hard, it's painful, and most of us either have, are, or will experience it. The Christian caught by sin, let's all pray for freedom.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Hematoma Saga Continues

If you have been on my facebook page at all, you know I am entering the third week of a hematoma, a pocket or clot of blood under the skin. At first it was a painful knot. Then the bruising started and the swelling and it currently looks like my foot, ankle and leg has been beaten repeatedly.  It drives me crazy because of the length of time. I can handle pain and swelling if it goes away. This won't, and there is a specific reason it bothers me.

Being Mother's day, this story has some extra meaning for me today. It was Dec of 1996 when my mom slipped and thought she pulled her hamstring. It became swollen and sore and she stayed off it. The swelling, bruising and pain wouldn't go away and after 3 months, they began some more thorough investigation. It was April of 1997 when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Seven months later, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and three years later the died.

Now I am not saying my hematoma is really a cancerous spot. It's true that I have had 6 family members fight cancer.  The fact that my friend and family doctor Thor Swanson is having chemo isn't real comforting either (especially since they removed part of his leg). I don't think I have cancer, I think I have a nasty hematoma, but it does get you thinking. Your life may be shorter than you anticipated. You may think you get 80 years and wind up with half that. My mother was 47. I am 11 years from being the same age she was when she died. Time is gonna go by fast, it always does. Do what you gotta do, cause it may be gone tomorrow.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Ultimate Revelation of God about Himself

Do you know the Hebrew name of God? It's Yahweh. This is basically the "to be" verb in Hebrew twice. I am, I am. Exodus 3:14, God gives us the greatest self-revelation there is, I Am who I Am.  He says I Am. Do you get it, let this truth wash over you, God just is. None of us can say that. There was a time when I was not, and I had a beginning. There was a time I was a child, there was a time I was a teen, there was a time I was. . .  There will be a time when I'm retired (I hope) there will be a time that I'm a grandfather, there will be a time I'm dead and gone. I have was, is and will be. I'm subject and at the mercy of time, I change.

God IS. He just completely and absolutely is, without changing, without beginning, without end. God doesn't know or see or understand anything more or less today than He did one million years ago. God is never surprised, never shocked. God never looks forward at backwards because He IS. He is in this moment, and in the moment past and the moment to come and for God, there is no break. I can only be now, then is over and I haven't arrived as soon yet. When I do, now will be then and I can't go back. I am subject to time, it has authority. God is not, time has no authority over Him, He can be then and now and soon all at once. He is in this moment and the moment He revealed Himself to Moses and every other moment because He is infinite, He is eternal, He is absolute, He IS.

Does the reality of our God make your brain hurt? We are trapped inside time and we can't even fathom what it's like outside of time. It blows our mind to even try to fathom this reality. It's amazing to know we are protected and watched over by a God who is timeless, all powerful, a God who just IS.