Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Quiet Soul Killer; Dealing with Bitterness

Have you been hurt?  If you haven't been hurt, then you are probably in a vegetative state and can't be reading my blog.  Either that, or you are a hermit that been raised by wolves.  Whatever the case, if you are in any sort of relationship with people, you've been emotionally hurt.  Even those of us with limited emotional facilities have, can and will be hurt.  It's just a part of life and part of being in relationship.  Most of the time we get over it.  Things are sorted out, we apologize or others apologize to us.  Things usually get fixed and relationships are mended and restored.  Not always.

Sometimes things happen that cause bigger hurts.  These fester and amount to what we could call an emotional infection.  Bitterness takes root and it's very difficult to get rid of.  We dwell, we stew and the infection begins to kill our soul.  It's not something that people see, and if we silently dwell then no one will know the anguish that we hide.  The bitterness eats us from the inside out and causes more damage than we can imagine.  Relationships with others begin to suffer, trust erodes and the door is open to anger, hate, rage and all sorts of negative emotions.

There is no pill that will get rid of the disease of bitterness, but there is treatment.  The first is confession and admitting you have bitterness in your soul.  I know I have this sickness in my soul and I have spent years hiding it.  It will take time for it to be cleared out, but it will never go away if we don't acknowledge it's there.  It's easier sometimes to just deny the hurt and try to forget, but we have to deal with it.  There is no way to treat the illness until we admit we are sick.  It's at that point we begin to take the most powerful medicine, prayer.  We pray for God to heal the bitterness and to heal the hurt and damaged emotions.  We should also ask others to pray with us and for us.

Some will say that you need to resolve the issue, but I am going to politely disagree.  Some issues are not resolvable.  If you have a problem with someone who has passed away, there is no resolution.  You may have issues with someone who you can't speak with.  They may make the issue worse or continue to hurt you.  You may have tried to resolve the issue and it blew up in your face.  The reality there are plenty of sociopathic people around.  You can't reason with them, you shouldn't argue with them, and confrontation will only make the issue worse.  Bitterness is your issue, not theirs.  You have to find a way to let it go.  It's a big step, a huge task and a major undertaking.  There are people that I would rather back my truck over that forgive, but God is calling me to forgive them.  Most of the time in these situations, the person feels justified in hurting you.  They blame you, you blame them, and it's an issue.  Chances are, you have conflicting personalities and different views on life.  I'm an abstract and there are some who are so concrete that I want to just take a jackhammer too them.  I can't do it, and neither should you.

In the end, we have to live with ourselves.  Even if the person who hurts us is a family member, we still have to find a way to sleep at night.  Scripture tells us that as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Find a way to have peace with them, sometimes that means just smiling and being polite.  Pray for the person, make a commitment to love that person.  It's not easy or fun, but it might just save your soul.  Find someone who encourages you and share your struggles (don't bash the person, but share how you are hurt and ask for prayer).  Remember, emotions are like stray dogs, if you feed them, they follow you home.  If you stop feeding them, eventually they go away.

Admit the bitterness, prayer and peace.  It's hard to make peace with someone who hurt you, it's harder to make peace with yourself.  Let's be real for a second, the reason it hurt is because whatever it was hit a little close to home.  If someone says something, does something and hurts you, it hurts because of the way it makes you feel about yourself.  You feel bad, wrong, dumb, dirty, unwanted and unloved.  You are angry at the person, but part of the anger and bitterness is directed at yourself.  We have to find a way to make peace with ourselves, to believe God is who He says He is, and we are who He says we are.  We have to love ourselves to love others.  God loves us and cares for us, and we have to find a way to accept that.  Find a way to lay down and go to sleep at night without the pain in your soul.  There is no easy way to do this, no short cut, no magical formula.  Talk to people, get spiritual guidance from a pastor, elder or mature Believer.  Be in small group, pray, read your Bible and trust God.  It's a long, slow and steady process, but you'll get there.  It's a long road, a hard journey and it will take time and energy.  It will all be worth it in the end.  You are not on this road alone.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Danger of Popular Theology: The Slippery Road to Heresy

There was a man named Arius who proposed a theological idea that seemed to catch on pretty well.  So well in fact that is became the theology of the Emperor and many in the Universities.  The theology simply stated that Jesus was a created being and was not equal or coequal with God.  It took away the original divinity of Christ, making Him less that God.  We scoff at this idea in Modern Evangelicalism, but we were all pretty close to being Arians today, if not for a few men who stood up and said "no".  Men like Athanasius of Alexander stood in opposition.

Even with men fighting Arianism, it was denounced as heresy, then made a come back and had to be denounced again.  It seems that when men in powerful positions hold to a theology, it becomes harder to get rid of.  Today, we have the wide proliferation of communication, and theological ideas come and go, they are here and there and everywhere.  If you have an idea, chances are you can find a "scholar" or "expert" who agrees with you and has written something to give you some traction.  No matter what your particular pet issue is, there will be someone to agrees with you.  This isn't a new thing, the proliferation of ideas, biblical and non biblical have been around as long as the Scriptures.  As long as the Church has existed it's fought against heresy.  The question is, today who is fighting heresy?

In our day, it seems that everyone and no one are taking up the fight.  Everyone has their position, defending against everyone else.  There seems little to no consensus to what constitutes Orthodoxy.  It seems that everyone claims to be orthodox, based on popularity or history or shear numbers.  In the end, are any of us holding to real orthodoxy?  This was much of my motivation to begin this journey called Woven Theology.  In the end, it may be exactly the same as a dozen theological views, but I didn't want to find the opinion of scholars or experts, it's getting hard to find who to trust.  I will review their work, read opinions and hear out the opposition.  I will use every resource to my disposal, based firmly on scripture as I read and study and pray.

I'm not saying that I'm infallible, but I want to do my best to learn as much from as many as I can and arrive at truth.  I want to speak what is true about God and I am most concerned with knowing Him more.  I don't want to begin to slip into heresy because it makes sense to a logical human mind, because it's popular, because it's been around for a long time, or because important people believe it.  I want a theology that is true to scripture and God's revelation of Himself.  I hope that you'll join me in resisting heresy where ever it appears and hold fast to the truth.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Providence and Supernatural

In my life I have seen incredible things happen and see God move.  I have had God provide for us in a way that we called a miracle, but to my recollection, every miracle we have seen has been an act of providence.  Don't get me wrong, it was no less of a miracle and we are grateful.  We have been at the end of the line and God has provided in amazing ways, but they have all been acts of providence.  Things showing up at the right time for the right amount from different sources, things that could be a coincidence, but we know them to be acts of providence.

Where I struggle lately is my strong desire to see something that is purely supernatural.  Maybe I am part of a wicked generation that seeks a sign, but I want to see God do something that cannot be explained as coincidence.  I have heard about and know people who have received healing and incredible recoveries that had to be a miracle.  An amazing man of God and a pastor I served with had his wife experience an amazing healing at the hands of a man they believe to be an angel.  A friend was healed from her RA through a miracle, and she has been there when a man's heart was healed.  I have read and heard stories, seen the reports and I believe that God heals.  I believe that God has all the power and His plan is perfect and He can do anything.  I just haven't seen it.

Maybe I'm selfish or have weak faith.  Maybe I'm too sinful or too prideful or just not the guy.  I have lost my parents to cancer, I have a hole in my esophagus, my daughter can't straighten her arm due to an injury.  I have seen my fair share of illness, injury and death but I have yet to experience a healing.  I have heard about them and seen them.  My friend died in the ER while we prayed in the other room.  My youngest has had 5 surgeries, he was always protected and came through them all great, but never has been healed by a miracle.  I want to experience God's healing presence, in my daughter's arm most of all.  I want to see Him do something that only He can do.  I have prayed with her and for her, and had others pray over her.  The elders prayed over her and we are longing for a healing.  I know God can do it, I have no doubt that God could make that arm fall off and a new one grow in it's place if He so willed.  My struggle is, why doesn't He desire to bring healing into my life.  Into her life?

I praise God for His sustaining power in my life, and His care for us.  I praise Him for His acts of providence that got us through times like this, when we are flat broke and praying there is enough to get us by.  He provided each time we were in need, but I yearn to see something different.  I want to see His awesome healing power at work, for Him to do something no one can explain.  I guess I just don't understand why He wont.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Note of Appreciation for You

I want to say thank you for being one of my readers.  I have been writing on this blog for about 6 years now and I have enjoyed every post.  Some have been really good, some have been not so good, but every blog has been part of me.  I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts and ideas, unpacking some theology, reviewing books and some movies.  We have shared some deep ideas and truths and joked around a great deal too.  I love having this blog.

I have no plans to stop blogging, I will continue to post here and on some other sites.  I am so thankful for you who read and follow my blog.  Thank you for sharing my blog with others, if you read something that you enjoy, I would ask that you share it with someone.  The great thing about blogs is the ability to dialogue, to leave comments and comment on other's comments.  It's imperfect community but it's community none the less.

Feel free to write me at if there are topics or questions you would like me to post about.  I am always open to ideas and suggestions, even some critique if there is something I need to do better.  I am always working to become a better writer and communicator.  It's very important to me to write in a way that is readable and enjoyable.  Thank you again for reading and joining me on this journey!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Why So Serious?

The line "why so serious" was made famous by Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker.  I am not advocating being the type of person who just wants to watch the world burn, but there is a little wisdom in the words (just not the context).  We seem to be a world who takes ourselves way too seriously.  The reason, maybe it's because we think we are so worthwhile, but I think often it's the opposite.  Here are some observations I've made about most people as I go through life.

Most people have a fragile sense of self worth, and the harder they advocate they are awesome, the more fragile it really is.  Criticism, negative feedback and even banter will shatter their carefully designed facade.  We take the words of others so seriously and have forgotten what the phrase "a grain of salt" means in dealing with other's opinions.  In reality, most people who are being critical are doing so to save and manage their fragile facade and delicate sense of self worth.  The reality is, we find ourselves comparing everyone to everyone, and then putting ourselves in the mix someplace.  If we can make someone else seem less that ideal, then we can be more ideal.  It's an attempt to level the playing field in a sense.  We want to protect our ego.

Motivation has largely become fear.  There are really two things that motivate, and I plan to write about them in another blog, so I'm not going to give away spoilers.  I will say this, too often we are motivated by fear.  We are afraid of getting hurt, of losing, of being last and being nobody.  We are afraid of getting __________ (fill in the blank with one of the thousand things).  At work, we are afraid of getting fired, yelled at, maybe demoted.  We are afraid of losing our edge in competitive activities, sometimes we are afraid of pain, suffering and of course death.  Some fear is good and some fear is healthy.  It keeps us from doing incredibly stupid things (mostly) and works together with self preservation.  Fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom, so says the scripture.  The issue isn't fear, fear can be an ally, it's the fact that motivation is fear.  When Paul says we have not been given a spirit of fear, he is talking about this very thing.  We should have boldness in approaching the world, because we know Him who runs the show.  We should embrace our passions head on and not be afraid to do what is right, what is honoring to God and what benefits others.  Fear makes us too serious.

We have began to treasure our hurt.  Things like forgiveness and letting go have become outdated.  Now we want revenge, we want vindication and we want the world to know we've been wronged.  I'll admit it, I've struggled myself with this issue.  The advent of social media has given us all an outlet for mass whining.  Yes, I have twhined (twitter + whined.  I just made that up, impressed?).  I have posted hurts on facebook for all to see.  We have taken our hurt and our injustice and made them a platform to the extent we are not sure how to function without it.  Proverbs 19:11 says that good sense makes us slow to become angry and it's good to overlook an offense.  Basically, stop being offended when you don't have to be offended.  We try to be offended so often that we walk around looking for reasons to be mad.  When we find one, we hold onto it and we cherish it.  We have failed to notice the hurt is poisoning our soul.

Solution?  Take a lesson from one of my favorite authors and speakers, Ken Davis.  It's time to Lighten Up and Live.  Take some time to enjoy some relaxation, some humor and some fun.  Do something you really want to that doesn't threaten lawsuits or jail time.  Enjoy the day, smile and laugh with friends and family.  Be nice to people, be friendly.  Try to complement someone and encourage them and be a friend.  Laugh and don't be so serious.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I Don't Think That Word Means What You Think That Word Means.

Every issue has a root cause, and often that root cause boils down to communication, or lack there of.  If you are active in the Southern Baptist Convention, you know there is a big gobildy goo over Calvinism vs Traditionalism.  As I have been involved in the issue and seen it played out, I have come to this conclusion.  As Southern Baptist, we have tried to be inclusive to both sides.  In order to do so, we have been vague in defining terms.  There are a few terms that if we defined definitively as Southern Baptists, it may cause us to be in one camp or another.  If Southern Baptist took an official position on what the definition of several terms, it would include or exclude individuals.  Here are some of the things I think we often define how our theological system allows.

Work.  What is a work?  We know that man is saved by grace, but not by works.  A Calvinist would say that if salvation is dependent upon any of man's effort, that's a work.  A traditionalist would agree, but would say accepting Christ, having faith and seeking God are not works.  If we defined if choosing Christ and accepting forgiveness is a work or not a work, it would draw a sharp divide.

Predestined.  The Bible says in several places that we are predestined, it calls us elect.  What do those words mean?  Does the Bible mean that we are elect, that we are chosen by God to be saved before we make a choice, or does it mean that once we are saved, we are chosen to become like Christ because of the decision we made?  If we set down what the Bible means when it says we are predestined, it would draw a line in the sand.

The world.  There are verses that say Christ died for the sins of the world.  The two places I can think of both say that Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.  Does that mean every person on the earth, or every nation on the earth?  When we talk about the whole world, what are we talking about?  We disagree on: is the whole world describing nations or individuals ?  When the Bible talks about Jacob and Esau, it that individuals or nations?  If we defined those two items, it would decide if the SBC was moving Calvinist or Traditionalist.

There are other passages that each side claim as "deal makers/breakers" that are defined by the other side differently.  If the SBC defined what they believe on these few passages, it would set up a stone pillar in favor of one side or the other.  So, the question is, what do we do?  We could bring together a task force to study, exegete and pray over these passages, but would it every come to a conclusion?  Not as long as either group is unwilling to admit the possibility they could be wrong.  If we let scripture be our guide, have scripture interpret scripture and then look to help from commentaries, lexicons and experts, where do we end up on these things?  Is accepting Christ a work of man?  What defines a work?  What does the Bible mean when it says we are predestined, or that Christ died for the sins of the whole world?  Did God love Jacob and hate Esau, or is that a metaphor that God chose Israel over Moab?  Is man being a slave to sin a metaphor, or literal?

All these things need to be defined to have a theological base, but I am not sure we as a group can ever come to an understanding to what these words really mean.  They will always be vague and mysterious if we wish to be a convention that has both Calvinists and Traditionalists.

Monday, May 19, 2014

What Would You Die For?

If you look around, you will see that in many subtle ways our culture is becoming more hostile to the Christian faith.  The West has grown more open to Eastern religion (which is ironic, because Christianity started in the Middle East).  It has begun to embrace religious views that are more inclusive.  The Muslim faith is gaining more power in the United States as well, leaving little room for Christianity.  The Christian viewpoint is far from being erased, and we are in little danger of persecution beyond some inconveniences.  Sure, the Freedom From Religion group doesn't like us, but we are pretty much free to practice as we'd like.

What about around the world?  Women are being disfigured and even killed for Christian views, like the woman who is sentenced to be hung in Sudan for leaving the Islamic faith and becoming a Christian.  While others trying to convince her to renounce Christ, she would rather give her life than turn her back on Christ.

What about us?  In the average American church, if men walked in armed with guns and said they would kill everyone who doesn't denounce Christ, what would you do?  I sit in church with my wife and three kids who I love more than my life.  If they told me to denounce Christ, to give up my faith and throw away my Bible, or they would kill my children, what would I do?  Christians face these sorts of struggles in other parts of the world, hiding from the authorities so they can worship.

Would you die to have your Bible?  Would you die for the freedom to pray, to share Christ and to worship?  It's easy to say "yes" when we are in the safety of the United States.  It may not always be this way.  Those things we feel are so necessary like our church buildings, our paid pastor, our worship team, what if they were all gone?  When it becomes illegal to have a Bible, will you hide yours?  I pray my children never have to face that, but if that day comes, I pray they will have a faith worth dying for.

Reflection of an Orphan, 15 years later

This year it will be 15 years since my parents went to be with Jesus.  I was 22 at the time, I was engaged to my beautiful wife (we will be married 14 years this year).  That doesn't really make me much of an orphan I guess, since I was an adult an about to be married.  No one really is prepared to lose both parents at 22.  If you don't know the back story, let me fill you in.  My mother was diagnosed with a sarcoma that enveloped her hamstring.  They removed her hamstring and sciatic nerve along with the tumor.  The tumor was malignant and spread into her lungs which eventually took her life.  My dad was diagnosed with adeno-carcinoma in his kidney, seven months after my mom was diagnosed.  His went into his spine and through his bone system, but the tumor in his kidney eventually caused him to bleed to death.  My mom died the end of August, my dad the beginning of September, 13 days apart from one another.  It was a traumatic time to say the least.

You learn a few things when you watch your parents be eaten alive from the inside from cancer.  You learn that you don't want cancer.  You learn that stress is contagious, and that often it is passed between family members.  You learn that peace is also contagious, that it can be passed between people and family members.  You learn that not all people suffer the same way.  You learn that things like cancer and death are hard for your friends to deal with because they have no idea what to say.  You learn that God will bring you through anything, but you also learn that when people tell you things like "God won't give you more than you can handle" that they have no idea what they are talking about (and that's not a Bible verse.  The verse says you won't be tempted beyond what is common to man).

I wasn't ready for my parents to die, but the cancer didn't really ask my opinion.  I had said that I don't know if I could be able to handle it when my dad died, he and I were very close.  It was beyond hard to watch the cancer take his strength and turn him into someone who didn't even have enough strength to put his glasses on or to speak clearly.  Fifteen years later, thinking about the events that happened and seeing my dad that way, I still feel like my heart is crushed.  My dad outlived his diagnoses by months, and he continued to hang on.  I traveled home from college to tell him it was ok to die.  He died three days later.

Looking back on those days and what I went through, it was a blur and I know how emotionally numb I was.  It was painful and now the pain continues in new ways.  My dad's name was Jeffery Lee.  My real name is Jeffery Daniel.  My oldest son is Jeffery Collin (we go by our middle names).  Collin often asks me about the man he shares a name with, and I wish so much that he could know him.  Collin and his grandpa would have been great buddies, they would have really had a great relationship.  I am sad my mom will never be able to spend time with my wife and her grand daughter.  These days, that hurts the most, that my kids will not know my parents this side of eternity.

I think one of the most important lessons that I learned is how God provides.  My parents are gone, but I have never lacked having people in my life that filled in for them in different ways.  I always have older men and women there who care about me and who help and encourage me.  God gives us a family through adoption in Christ, and it goes way beyond the local church.  It's so much more powerful than that.  There are people all over the US that have loved me and encouraged me and been there when I needed them.  My parents were not there for my wedding, for the birth of my kids, when I graduated seminary, when I was ordained, and they have missed the struggles and battles too.  My parents couldn't be there, but I have never once been alone.

The church has been commanded to take care of widows and orphans.  Now, orphans are kids who are not able to take care or provide for themselves, so I am not really an orphan.  I was 22, I was an adult, I lived on my own, paid my own bills and provided for myself.  Never the less, I wasn't ready to be on my own completely, and I never was.  I never have been abandoned, I have always had people to give me guidance and support.  God has provided for me through His people, and I know God's love for me because His people have shown it too me.  I am so thankful for that.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Is The Great Commission Pointless? Wovenist Answers.

The final issue I want to cover deals with this idea that if people are predestined, then sharing faith is pointless.  I want to give you a couple reasons why sharing the Gospel is the greatest thing you can ever do, but first I want to examine the flip side.  The idea of Universal Atonement.  There are those who say that the blood of Jesus has covered everyone, that everyone is basically covered and forgiven and they just need to accept it.  There are a couple of problems here.  First, if everyone is covered by the blood, everyone is forgiven of sins.  That means they are either saved or not saved based on what choice they make when presented with the gospel.  This means that accepting the gospel completes the work that Christ began on the cross, that the work was not finished by Christ.  It's a problematic situation.

So, the question is then asked, if Jesus died for the elect and the predestined, then when don't need to share the gospel, right?  Well, we have to remember that time is not an issue, that for our purposes, time can go backwards.  From God's eternal perspective, God predestined at the foundation of the world, Christ died and the person accepts Christ by faith in the same moment.  They are all one event, there is no separation.

Let's add a layer, the layer of our duty as believers.  First, we are commanded to pray for all people and all people groups.  We are to pray for the salvation of others, knowing that our prayers change things.  If we pray for people, God can move in their hearts.  We are also commanded to share our faith with them.  God uses our words and our sharing of the Gospel to move and the Holy Spirit is present in the sharing of God's Word.  So, we pray and we share, the person is predestined, Christ died for them and they accept through faith and they grow in faith and bear fruit at one moment.  We may view these things as different events that happen in different time periods, but they all overlap and fit into the one event that we call the Miracle of Salvation.  It's one even, different time periods, different places but all the same to a God who exists in all places and all times simultaneously.

When we share our faith, we are becoming partners with Christ, working with the Holy Spirit and giving honor and glory to God the Father.  We are growing in relationship with God, we are growing in relationship with others, growing the Church and building community.  Our faith is being strengthened and God is reaching out to someone.  Lives are being changed and God's power is displayed over sin, over time and space.  Sharing the Gospel with someone, praying for someone and speaking truth is something that we do that can have impact through all time periods.  Ultimately, someone who is saved will exit time with us and dwell with God for eternity.  It's a powerful thing, it's never wasted and is never fruitless.  It's the most important action we can take.

If you would like to know more about how to share your faith, please email me at and I would love to share some resources with you.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Wovenist Answers, Can Man Choose God on His Own?

The question we need settled is, will man choose God on his own? There are many who say that yes, man is capable of free will, meaning that man has the ability to choose good and bad on his own, without assistance or divine intervention. This is the point on which everything hinges. With God being outside of time (and inside time to interact with man), predestination is a truth from man's point of view, since there is no “before” or “after” for God, just now. Without having to worry about “before” the if it is God who initiates salvation, He does so at the beginning of time, at the moment of faith, and at the end of time simultaneously, since it's all the same to Him. You could say that if you are in Christ, you are saved, you have been saved and you will be saved. Christ died to pay for your sins outside of time (since it's God who forgives) and you just are saved. So, if time doesn't matter to God, then the key question is, who initiates Salvation, man or God?

Many would say that man hears the word, repents, cries out for forgiveness and is saved. I agree with this, that from our perspective, a person hears the Word and is broken for sin. After being broken and convicted of sin, the person then cries out to God for forgivingness. Is this action all initiated by man, what part does God play in Salvation? Does God only interact when called for, or is He present before? It's ultimately a question of depravity, does man seek God on his own? Those who reject the idea of total depravity

I have been told by bloggers (in public forums, not in private) statements like:
By contrast, Trads affirm that man, though totally depraved and full of sin, is nevertheless made in the image of God with a capacity for reason and choice. We further affirm that God truly desires all men to be saved and that his Holy Spirit draws men through the gospel in such a manner that they can indeed respond to His offer of salvation to all by either ACCEPTING or REJECTING His grace.
-Rick Patrick

I do not believe in total depravity or inability. I do not believe God regenerates ANYONE nor are faith and repentance gifts from God… these are responses from anyone who belongs to Him. It is the cross that compels us to turn to Him; God does not regenerate us to save us; He saves us through regeneration which is His response to us because of our response to His self revelation of who He is and what it is that He has come to do for us and with us… IF we will hear His voice and come to Him in obedience.
-Bob Hadley

The question becomes, what is God's involvement in the salvation of individuals? Is God active or passive? Those who say that man accepts God on their own, using free will that God is passive. He has created all the parts together and then lets man do whatever man wants to do. The other side of this coin is that God initiates Salvation, and man then responds to God's call. Does man initiate salvation or does God initiate salvation?

This brings us back to the first question, can man accept God on his own? As a Wovenist, there are always two perspectives we need to examine. What is happening outside of time, what is happening inside of time? From the eternal perspective, those who are saved are saved and God has set them apart. We are more concerned with what is happening inside of time. Inside of time, the process happens over and over, we can witness it and many of us experience it. We are open to the idea of being in a place where God is working. Most of us, it's church or an event, revival or other place where God is being preached and proclaimed. Sometimes it's one on one, sometimes in a group, God is being preaching and the word is opened. The word being preached reaches the heart and the Spirit of God moves, bringing conviction. God is initiating salvation by moving in the hearts of the hearer and bringing conviction. Man is drawn to God by the realization of his nature and his place before God. This realization bring man to the point of repentance, where man cries out to God and God answers, bringing the Holy Spirit to enable the individual to confession and repentance, faith and trust and ultimately regeneration. This process is a process, like planting a seed. The word is preached, the seed is planted in the heart and the person responds to the conviction of the spirit. The person is moved towards faith, and either grows, having faith and trust and bearing the fruit of salvation, or the care of the worlds, temptations and problems kill the plant before it grows and bears fruit. This process has caused some to believe that an individual can lose their salvation, but Jesus tells us the plant dies before it bears fruit. God calls, man responds, God fills, man gains faith. From the eternal point of view, the individuals who spout and die are not saved, are never saved and never have been saved. Their is no calling from this eternal perspective, because God's eternal calling creates “the called out ones” or Church. God moves as His word is preached and there is a movement of th spirit that happens in the heart of many, but they are not saved. They reject, they are choked out, scorched out and never bear fruit.

As a response, we preach the word, we preach to everyone, knowing that some will be saved and some won't. We don't know who will be saved and who will not, but it's a reality. Those who are anti-Calvinist look at this through determinism, that those who are saved because of predestination have already been saved, meaning that some can't be saved. As a Wovenist, we understand that predestination is simply a way to explain that God has already called from the eternal point of view. It's not that they can't be saved, it's that they won't be saved. No preaching, teaching, pleading or crying will work. There are those who will be saved, but we need to preach, teach, plead and cry. We don't know who is who, so we preach, teach and lead everyone to Christ.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Dream Killers

I have been away from the computer for a few days, but I want to take a quick break from our Wovenist Answers posts.  I want to take a quick aside today and talk about dreams and those who kill them.  I would classify myself as a dreamer, though as I grow older it may be a more jaded dreamer.  I have dreams of what I want to do, including writing and publishing and coaching and counseling and doing church consulting and working to help churches achieve dreams.  I have these dreams of all I want to do in ministry, of this house church network that others are having great success with and may be the Post Christian American model.  I have dreams and I have lived a few.  I worked in college ministry, I worked in youth ministry, I was Pastor of Education (basically, didn't title) for years and I was loving it.  There are things in church ministry that I adore, helping people achieve dreams mostly.  I love to see people empowered to do ministry, to see people fall in love with God.  I love it when people dream big and achieve big and grow close to God in the process.  My dreams were true for a while, but sometimes something wakes you from the dream.

Not everyone shares the same dreams.  Sometimes their dreams require yours to die, and sometimes they are in the position to kill your dream.  Sometimes people mean well, but they don't understand, they have different priorities.  Especially in the church, members with a passion different from yours, with a dream that doesn't involve what you are doing will kill your dream.  Discipleship vs growth sometimes occurs.  Care vs outreach, or theology vs pragmatics.  Even ethics vs results can cause conflict and lead to the death of a dream.  The dream can be shattered suddenly, all of the sudden it's over.  The dream can be slowly eroded as you see your labor be in vain.  Your dream can be crushed by an angry church member who works to destroy you, a member of the board who has a different goal, someone who disagrees with your theology, or a lead pastor who is going a different way.  It doesn't mean these people are bad, it doesn't mean they are evil or out to get you (sometimes they are).  It just happens when dreams conflict, and sometimes your dream has crushed theirs in the past.  Remember, it's a fallen world.

The fallen world also kills dreams.  The reality of life is that we need an income to survive.  I would do ministry for free if I could, I would write and teach and preach and lead and coach and help and not take a dime, but I have bills and a family and money is required.  I have to eat so I have to work for a paycheck.  Dreams can be killed by the reality that your dreams won't pay the bills.  Much of those things I dream about are in short supply because of the reality of money.  I want to work for a company called Lifeway, it's been a dream since I was in High School (20 years ago), but there are more people applying that job openings.  There are people with more education, more experience and a better resume, and my dream gives way in the face of reality.  I won't give up on my dream, I continue to gain experience and I work on my skills and make goals.  Maybe one day it will be true, but in the mean time, I am not living much of my dream.  I love writing and I have been fortunate to write a great deal.  Publishing, however, comes harder and necessary things like editors and agents come at a cost (they have to eat too).  When you are not living your dream, when you are working outside your field you are not going to get rich.  The reality of the lack of income vs the need to achieve your dream is often a dream killer.

Money, time, rejection can all kill your dream.  As you struggle to overcome odds, there will be people lined up to tell you why your dream is a dumb idea.  They will tell you how it won't work, you can't afford it, you can't achieve it and you shouldn't bother.  They will tell you how hard it will be and how likely you are to fail.  I have a dream to plant a house church network.  I can't right now, in my current job, but I dream.  I am often told, it will be hard, house churches don't make it, there are already too many churches, I should just give up.  I'm not going too, I know it's going to be hard and it's a battle.

What is a dreamer to do in the face of the hordes of dream killers?  Should we just keep dreaming all together?  I'll admit that sometimes in my darker days, it's tempting.  It would be easier to just give up a dream and let it go.  We shouldn't do that.  We can keep the dreams alive.  First, make sure your dreams are God's dreams.  I have this church planting thing in my heart and I didn't put it there.  I have this writing thing, this disciplining and teaching thing in my heart in a place only God can reach.  My dreams come from who God has shaped me to be, and no dream killer can trump God.  I keep going because God keeps me going.

You should find an encourager.  Yes, I made up a word.  Technically, it's an encouraging person, and they are few and far between.  There will be people lined up to discourage you, many who love you.  They will say "this is for your own good" because they don't want you to fail.  It happens, and I'm sorry but those closest too you will sometimes squash your dreams.  Maybe they are worried about you, maybe they are just worried.  Not everyone has a gift of encouragement.  I don't.  I have to force myself to encourage people, my flesh is sarcastic and cynical.  It's poison to your dream and people will flow it out of them like water.  You have to find someone who supports your dream, who believes in your dream and who will encourage you, support you and pray for you.  Hang on to that person, share your dreams with that person and thank that person.  On a side note, don't expect to find that person on Social Media or by blogging.

Find those who have achieved your dream and ask for help.  I'm not planning this home church network from scratch, there are great successes out there.  I have my own spin on it, but I am looking to others who are doing similar things and asking for help.  I am constantly reading other writers, looking at those who are successful in writing, blogging, communicating and editing.  I try to stick close to guys at Lifeway, to learn as much as I can from my little corner of Iowa.  I read Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer and David Francis and Trevin Wax because they are living their version of my dream.  They are smart and gifted men, but they are still men who have struggles and failures as well as victories.  I try to learn as much as I can from those who are dreaming big.

Sometimes you have to rest.  There is this idea of go, go, go and never stop.  You can do that, and as a result, you will burn out.  There have been great men of history who pushed hard and made huge strides and they often died young and painful deaths.  Spurgeon was not a healthy guy.  You will get tired, you will get sick, you will get burned out and drained.  You are human, even Jesus took a nap in the front of the boat.  Rest and play golf or go fishing or watch a movie.  What good is a dream if it becomes a nightmare.

Keep dreaming, and keep taking steps forward.  I know I have more dreams than I can handle, but I am focusing on the ones that I know are God given.  I hope God has filled your heart and mind with great dreams and that He empowers you to take the steps forward.  It's hard, and you will struggle, but if the dream came easy, you wouldn't love it so much, right?  Hears to the dream.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Can Man Choose God Without Being Predestined? pt 1

One of the questions that is asked and a concern held by the non-Calvinist group is, what if God doesn't predestine someone and they hear the gospel, can they be saved? Can people be persuaded to seek God, even if they are not predestined? Can the un-elect be saved? Has God already ordained and set out those who can be saved? This question isn't complicated when you take the nature of time out of the equation. This question is based on the assumption that God does something in the past and then moves forward in time. It makes the assumption that man on His own will choose God, but God simply refuses.

If we look in 1 Corinthians, we get a clue to what is going on. Paul writes:
6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.  8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.  16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 
1 Corinthians 1:6-16

It's the Holy Spirit that bring conviction, and it's conviction that brings a man to repentance and leads him to salvation. The Spirit of God brings us to saving knowledge of Christ, and without that, no one comes to salvation. The verse also says that the Spirit knows the depth of man's heart. So what is going on in a man's heart must make a difference. The Spirit probes the heart, and the depth of a man's heart and knows the desires and evils that dwell there.

I am not comfortable saying that someone is saved because they have a good heart, but the condition of a person's heart and their openness to come and hear the word are definitely part, as we see in scripture. Cornelius was God-fearing man, so God used him to be the first of the gentiles to receive faith from Peter. Even though the heart is evil, filled with sin and selfish, there is a condition that Bible calls hardness, and it's that hardness that closes a person off to the gospel. So here is where things get complicated, no one deserves to be saved, and there is nothing we can do to earn salvation. We are saved because of God's grace and love, but there is definitely things that we do. Those people who are open to the gospel, they are open to attending church, they want to find the truth and they love and care. Are they open because they are opened, or because God opens them up? I would say the answer is yes. Progression of events matter letter with a God outside of time.

Maybe the question we should ask is "will a man choose God without being predestined"? We will open this up more in the next blog, let's together ponder this and come back in a day or so and see what else God has for us in His word.