Saturday, June 13, 2009

Satan's Designs for the Modern Times

This is something more or less interesting I composed. I think that Satan has a very real hand in how everything goes on in the world, and we don't even realize it. Please note that this writing has a high degree of sarcasm to it. Also, please note that I am not in any way insinuating that Satan invented the school system, rest homes, cars, the entertainment industry, etc. This is for merely literary purposes, and is designed to make you think. Events may not also be in correct chronological, topical, or spatial order.

Satan had a hand in the design of the modern way of life. Early on, he carefully conceptualized and designed things to work specifically to his needs.

One of the first things he did was to shut up all the kids in a sort of institution where he could more effectively indoctrinate them. Of course, he couldn't start feeding their little spongy brains evil right off the bat. He had to bide his time and make sure to make schools look like a good thing for education. For a while, he left them to pray and learn about the Bible, but slowly he weaned the school systems off of God and on to things more suitable to his purposes.

He realized, of course, that it would be very foolish to keep old people, who are wise and experienced, in situations where they could share their wisdom. So, he conceptualized a second institution to keep the wisdom of the older people away from the impressionable youth. This institution would also serve the purpose of making old people look and feel worthless, a very important goal.

Then, he decided he had to do something about the way people traveled. Sure, walking was all right, but far too many travelers had truthful, honest, meaningful conversations and relationships along the way. So he made a gradual change once again - first horses, then buggies, then cars. The car was a fine invention. Human beings all traveling the same direction would now be in little glass and metal cases and unable to converse and develop relationships while on the road. And, of course, rising gas prices would help to keep cars small so that there would be fewer people to interact with each other in each vehicle.

Of course, something must also be done about the infernal way that the Church strengthened one another and helped each other out. This was the most gradual process by far, and it involved taking the church and boxing it in. Satan figured out that he could get people to meet only one day of the week for a very short time. With such a small amount of time to work with, the Church would be powerless!

But naturally, far too damaging things could be done when the body of believers were all gathered together, no matter how short a time they were given. So instead of the believers all strengthening one another in their faith and working together, why not just have them watch a little show at the front of the church? Satan had this worked out gradually, like everything else he did. First preaching, then singing, then rock bands and videos. Church groups had to go for entertainment instead of faith!

And it could not stop there, Satan realized! He needed more ground still. Why not divide up the entire church gradually?

The churches could form denominations based on their beliefs! Then, they would be divided against one another! And better yet, those searching for truth would be unable to decide which denomination possessed it, and they would be confused! No body of Christ, only Lutherans, Methodists, Reformers, Baptists!

Now, Satan knew that somehow he needed the wise older people and the impressionable younger people divided. And the young adults are, of course, in the most danger of sinning when none of the aforementioned people groups are around. So he created classes and study groups for all of the different age groups!

All right, that would do! He categorized everyone by age and kept them all away from one another. It worked perfectly! The church was all divided!

Now, what to do next? The next thing to do, of course, would be to get rid of that infernal institution of marriage. Marriage was simply too difficult and frustrating. Human beings could not be permitted to have relationships and committments. They should not have the "family ties" that keep them together and away from the pleasures Satan could bring them! They should not be able to strengthen one another! They should not be able to love one another!

So, Satan began his attack slowly as always, with great planning, always taking just a little more ground. First, he threw away that old idea of men and women playing certain roles in marriage and replaced it with equality! Now, the idea that men and women play the same role in marriage would do nicely, because it would lead to endless frustrations.

A few quick lies about "soul mates" and how when you find the "right person" everything will be peachy and perfect would do the trick to prepare for the next step.

Divorce! Yes, of course, Satan used the dissatisfaction he had created to bring about thousands of divorces. More and more couples broke off and tried again!

Now, a new move: getting women into the workplace! Husbands and wives very rarely get jobs in the same corporation, so that means that men can be around attractive females they are not married to all day long!

Satan realized he had hit the nail on the head. He gradually coaxed on more and more affairs, until eventually divorce was not even necessary. Now, he could get men and women to live together without being married!

Wonderful! But what next, he wondered? Wait! Why not attack marriage from the ground up? Yes, certainly, that is what he would do! He could challenge the very basis of marriage: one man plus one woman!

Not only would that cease reproduction, keeping thousands of those stupid little human beings off the planet, it would help to increase frustration and immorality!

There were already a whole slew of broken families, thanks to divorces and affairs. That left many, many broken children, wonderfully unable to live their lives properly. Why not use the craving the boys have for a father's love they never experienced as a springboard to get them to try to lust after other men? And the same for girls!

Satan could even convince people that homosexuality was a genetic trait! He could have gay festivals and celebrate the diversity! A celebration of broken, hurting people is exactly what Satan loves!

Yes, Satan loved the way the country was turning out! After all, he hates humans. They are stupid little creatures who always seem to be getting him in trouble with God. But gradually, of course, very gradually, he can take over their system - without them detecting a thing!

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Chosen" Does Not Mean Calvin

Again, on the Calvinist debate. I read this in a document sent to me by a friend.

In 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, Paul references election four times, and
then ties the doctrine of election to humility, “so that no human
being might boast” (v.29).

Let's look at 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.

1 Corinthians 1:26-29
26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before Him.

Hang on a sec, do you see where Paul references election four times? I don't! I do see the word "chose" in there three times and "called" in there once. Is that referring to election? I don't suppose so!

Can you be called whether or not election is true? Yes, you can.

Does it say here that God chose people, specifically for salvation? No; it says He chose "things". Foolish things to shame the wise.

It seems like every time a Calvinist sees the word "chose" or "called", he immediately points it out, happily shouting, "look! Calvinism!"

This attitude is one of the things that convinces me that Calvinists have no scriptural basis for their idea of "unconditional election". Surely if it were true they would point out more clear scriptures than this!

Let us also look at the parable of the wedding guests, one of the times when Jesus used the word "chose".

Matthew 22
1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

4"Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.'

5"But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless.

13"Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

14"For many are invited, but few are chosen."

What does Jesus say here? Many are invited, but few are chosen! What does this mean? The Calvinists would say it means that many people are invited to accept the Gospel message on their own, but few are chosen to be filled with irresistible grace so that they may accept it.

But now let us look at this verse in context. Read the entire parable. Who are the chosen ones, do you suppose? They are the ones who were invited and wore the wedding clothes.

Who was thrown out? The man who did not wear the wedding clothes!

Let's think about what these "wedding clothes" symbolize.

Wedding clothes are traditionally white. Jesus' blood clothes us and makes us spotless and clean. We are not actually pure ourselves, but we are pure in the Father's eyes because of Christ's blood, shed for our sins.

The man without wedding clothes, as I see it, was not clothed with the blood of Christ, so he was not saved. He was cast out, because he was a sinner.

The chosen ones were the ones who were clothed with the blood of Christ. They were chosen because they were wearing the spotless wedding clothes of the Son. Those wedding clothes were, of course, not their own invention! Christ provided them. But that man refused to wear the clothes he was graciously offered, and was cast into Hell.

When were the chosen ones chosen? They were chosen not before the dawn of time, but once all was said and done, at the end. They were chosen because they took the second chance they were offered.

See, not all that says "chosen" means Calvinism!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Calvinism in Ephesians 1?

I am not Calvinist. If you have read much of my blog or talked with me about such matters you might already know that. I have been debating predestination and election, and Calvinists keep pointing me to Ephesians 1:4. So I have decided to go over all of Ephesians 1 in an expanded study.

"He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,"

As I see it, there are two possible meanings here:
1. God has chosen every single individual who will be saved out of the whole of humanity.
2. God has chosen the believers, not necessarily a set group of people, to inherit righteousness.

Let's look at the context of the verse.

Ephesians 1 (NIV)

"3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love 5He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— 6to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. 7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9And He[d] made known to us the mystery of His will according to his good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, 10to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

11In Him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, 12in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. 13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of His glory."

In the context, what is Paul talking about? In the first paragraph, he talks about how the believers were chosen and predestined. He then goes on to talk about what the believers were chosen and predestined for: to be sons, to have redemption, to be given wisdom and understanding.

In the second paragraph, Paul starts out again talking about the believers being chosen and predestined. He then moves on to how individuals join this body of believers. "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit."

First off, note here what Paul did not say. He did not say, "and you were included in Him before the creation of the world." He said, "and you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation."

I cannot think of a second meaning for this part; it has one meaning. Of the two possible meanings I gave earlier for the fourth verse, only the second one can be reconciled with this verse. This verse clearly says that those who hear the word of truth are included in Christ. They are not included in Christ before the dawn of time!

If you don't accept that, then I have more evidence that Paul intended to convey the second meaning. Obviously, if there are only two possible meanings, and one meaning contradicts other passages with only one possible meaning, then that meaning must not be true. It is simply good hermeneutics.

Romans 10:4
"Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes."

Romans 10:13
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Romans 10:9-11
"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

Matthew 4:17
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

There are many such verses in the Bible, that exort us to repent, believe, confess, and be saved. And of course, if a person does not follow these verses, then he will not be saved. I believe in the simple truth of Romans 10:9-11. I believe the simple truth of John 3:16, the most striking and well-known verse of the Bible. Whoever believes in Christ will not perish, but have eternal life. Not the predestined, not those chosen, not the elected. Whoever believes.

Listen to what 2 Peter says.

2 Peter 3:16
He [Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

I believe firmly that the Calvinists have distorted the simple truth in Paul's letters. Look at what he said to the Romans! He clearly believed in a Christ who would take anyone who believed! He clearly understood the simple truth! Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life! Anyone who says otherwise, no matter how noble their intention, is distorting the simple, beautiful truth of the Bible.

I do not believe in unconditional election. I believe that Christ died to give every man on earth one thing: a second chance. And I believe that God extends that second chance to everyone, and that Christ's blood is more than enough to cover anyone who will believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Predestination Debate - Eklektos

Sam and I were again debating, and I think there is some very interesting stuff here. I've been learning a lot, and I am beginning to see Calvinism as more incorrect than ever. Here is part of a message I sent to Sam. It is very long and rather in-depth, but I think it is interesting. Note especially the part about the possible mistranslation of the Greek word eklektos.

And what about the verse about the Holy Spirit being resisted? Can't that happen? What do people do when they listen to gospel messages, shake their heads, and switch off the radio? Don't they resist the Holy Spirit's urging? Were they predestined to do that? Were they unable to accept the message? What role does Satan play in that kind of encounter if it's already predestined? Why does Satan even care to try to distract us from the pure gospel if people's salvation is already predestined?

Oh, and what do you believe concerning infant baptism? Do you believe it is necessary?

Also, think about what you are saying when you say that election is unconditional. Jesus said that it is hard for a rich man to enter heaven. That means that the surroundings of a person can affect their eternal destination!

The Bible seems to very clearly say, to me, that "whosoever will" call on the name of the Lord will be saved. Therefore, whosoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved, not "whosoever has been elected". The verses on election and God's choice all seem to speak about the subject of salvation in a more muffled way, and I think that most of them are eisegesis, to be exact, reading Calvinism into the Bible. In other words, Calvinists take verses that are not really dealing with salvation and read Calvinism into them.

I looked up the verses you gave me, and they were pretty interesting.

I'll start with Romans 9:11-16. I looked at the entire context - Romans 9 itself. It talks about Jacob and Esau, and how God "hated" Esau and "loved" Jacob. I think this is an example of the Semitic monochromatic mindset. The Israelites believed things were either one way or another, and it seems to me they viewed things as additive. For instance, if you have a great love, and you add hate, the love becomes a little less. That's what Christ meant when He said that we have to hate our mother, sister, brother, father, and even our own life to be His disciple - we should love all those people less than Him, not hate them entirely! Or love Him so much that our love for everything else is like hate.

So I think God loved Jacob and Esau, He just loved Esau less.

In this passage, Paul is talking about physical stuff that happened to these people. In their lives on earth, we know Jacob received compassion from God, Esau did not. I don't believe we were ever even told in the OT whether Jacob and Esau were saved, but we were sure told about their lives, so that must be what Paul is referring to.

And as for Pharaoh's heart being hardened - his heart was already hard against God, God just increased the direction Pharaoh had already chosen.

Plus, it is absolutely true that nothing depends on man's desire or effort, but God's mercy. However, is this actually referring to salvation? The Bible seems to make it clear in other passages that in the case of salvation, God is merciful to and has offered a second chance to everyone. Titus 2:11 and Acts 17:30 both make it clear that Jesus died for all men. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God wishes for all people to repent.

If God desires every person to be saved as the Bible says, and as the Calvinists say, the only instrument required for salvation is God... then why is everyone not saved?

Also, this guy shines an awesome light on the Greek word eklektos and how it is used and perhaps mistranslated.
This could be where the whole "chosen" idea incorrectly receives its support. With this in mind, Ephesians also makes more sense.

As for 2 Timothy 1:9, yeah, God has saved us and called us to a holy life, not because of anything we've done but because of His compassion. (And having faith is not really doing, is it?) That's why He sent His son. And I do believe the plan of salvation was in place before time began. However, does it say that the individuals who inherited that grace were actually chosen? Not really.

On Romans 11:5, check the context. "And what was God's answer to him? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace."

This passage includes a use of the Greek word eklektos, which, as the article I noted above points out, can also and most likely does mean "special". If you read this verse again substituting the word "special" for "chosen", then Calvinism has significantly less hold on this verse.

This is an excellent article.
This one is also good, although the writer seems very furious with John Calvin.

Oh, and I found how to search the old Greek manuscripts of the Bible... does it. It's a division of However, I can't figure out how to search it, so I'll just give you a sample URL.
Just edit that URL to whatever verse you like. (Unfortunately, it can't do whole passages that I know of.) Just thought you might like that, I was excited when I found it.

Anyway, I am very much enjoying this debate. It has been helpful to get me to dig very deep into the Bible.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Calvinist Assumptions

I have been having a bit of a friendly debate (more like a brainstorming session) with Sam. Basically, we're trying to figure out how predestination, election, and free will work. He's basically coming from a Reformed point of view, and I'm coming from a free will, sort-of Arminian point of view.

Here are my latest thoughts, just putting out into the open some faulty assumptions Calvinists make.

1. If God's will is more powerful than man's will, God's will must always overpower man's will, every time. (I.e. God does not restrain His power.)

2. If God has total control, then God will always use that control, down to the finest detail. (I noticed Jesus says God knows when the sparrows fall, not that He necessarily "makes" them fall!)

3. If God gives someone the ability to receive something (i.e. salvation) it must be given the moment they receive it, not when He created them. The general attitude of the Calvinists is that this somehow shortchanges His sovereignty.

4. Likewise, if God gives someone the ability to do a good work, of course for Him to be sovreign, He must give them that ability right at the very moment they are doing the good work. He couldn't give the ability to do good works when they're created.

There is also one statement that Calvinists repeatedly make against those who don't believe in election that cuts both ways. They cut off their own heads with attacks against their opponents, as John Piper (humorously, a Calvinist) would say.

1. Arminianism is deadly, because if you hinge your eternal security on your acceptance of Christ's gift and not on Christ, then you will be damned. This is true, but you could also theoretically hinge your eternal security on being elected, and not on Christ, and be damned.

And my final, closing point:

All those who believe in election also believe they are one of the chosen.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Thoughts on Predestination

I had a meeting with Sam and Makenna today, and we briefly brought up the subject of predestination, that is, whether or not believers are "predestined" to be saved. I currently don't really agree with predestination, but I admit I could be wrong. Here are just a few of my thoughts.

As far as predestination goes, I know the Reformers believe in "irresistible grace" and that people are saved when the Holy Spirit irresistibly fills them. However, I found this verse. “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” (Acts 7:51) Please do note what I'm saying, here, though... I'm not saying that God cannot overpower people through the Holy Spirit! I'm definitely not saying that God does not have power over man's decisions. I'm just saying that maybe He doesn't choose to use the full extent of His power on us so that we can still make a choice.

Also, if everything we do was predestined, then why should humans be condemned for sins that God essentially forced them to commit? If we have no choice about what we do, believe, etc., then we might as well live the way the atheists do, claiming no responsibility for our actions.

And Scripture states that salvation is a free gift. If I received a gift on my birthday from my father, and I reached out and took it, would I get the credit? No, not really. My dad would get all the credit for giving me the gift, of course! Sure, I had to accept it, but accepting it really didn't take much. Actually, I would have been doing much more if I had rejected the gift! It would have taken a lot more effort and stubbornness.

I do think that in a way everything is "predestined" - God knows everything, so He knew before and outside of the confines of time who would be saved. But I don't think He moves humans like pawns in the salvation process. And I don't think it subtracts at all from God's sovereignty if He gives man a choice.

This verse from Ephesians is often used to support predestination:
"For He chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will - to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves."

This verse, to me, could be taken two ways. First of all, it could mean that each individual person who will be saved is predestined, that God hand-picked individuals to be saved before they were even created. It could also mean that God simply predestined the plan of salvation. He knew humankind would fall and created a way for the group of believers to be adopted as His sons. Christ was predestined, then. The believers are His chosen people, like Israel. But of course the Israelites did have the freedom of choice whether to follow Him or not. Not all the Israelites were saved, even though they were chosen!

I think a later verse rather helps to clarify this point. "And you also [referring to the believing Ephesians] were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,"

In other words, later on, people are grafted into this chosen Body of Christ. The Body of Christ was chosen, yes, but perhaps it is not necessarily predestined who exactly is included in that body.

I'd really like to check with a Greek scholar on this passage.

I don't know, these are just my thoughts, and I could be wrong. Predestination could be right, wrong, or part right. Scientists are still freaking out over how light can act like a particle sometimes and like a wave other times. Yet they use light, because they know that no matter how it does it, light scatters darkness, and light is good.

Like Sam said today, though, whether you believe in predestination or not, we can all agree that God first loved us. That's the most important thing. And if we trust that Christ's atoning death on the Cross is what saves us - not our own choice or our election - then we will agree on the important thing, and we will be saved.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

MaryEllen's Trip to the Dominican Republic

My friend MaryEllen (from Canada) took a trip to the Dominican Republic to, as she puts it, "to experience their culture and experience the different kinds of social injustices around there... and how they deal with them and what kind of things they do... and how we can take that and bring it home and work on things here."

Her blog on the subject is really quite interesting.

It was pretty refreshing for me to go and read a little bit about another culture that lived differently. We get so caught up with America, America, America. (Or Canada, maybe.) It's all about us, how we live and what we do. Well, there are other people out there, and they live very differently, and we can learn from them. We can teach them, and we can learn from them too. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Slow Progress From Wimp to Evangelical

Well, I'm working slowly on becoming less of a wimp about sharing my faith in Christ. The title says it all. This post will be just a few witnessing-related thoughts.

Makenna gave me seven tracts a couple weeks ago. A biblical number, really. I took two to the grocery store tonight, determined to return with zero.

I did. Actually, I wish I had brought all seven.

I'm such a wimp. After years and years of being a Christian, I have spent probably less than a half hour total sharing my faith in Christ. Something is wrong with that.

Thousands upon thousands of people die every day. Every one of them goes, as a very nice black man I met said, "either upstairs or downstairs". And there is only one good destination if those people ever want to be joyful and full. The more I realize that, the more bold I become.

Seriously though. I wish I cared more. Satan has made me fall for a whole bunch of lies. I'm starting to see through these lies a little bit.

Lie #1: Shouldn't you get to know people before you witness?
Response: 9/10ths of the witnessing conversations in the Bible are to total strangers. If we're going biblical, we'll be witnessing to strangers. Besides, if you try to do it that way, it will never happen. You get to know someone and don't talk to them right away about Jesus. Three months into the relationship, you don't talk to them about Jesus. Six months, still no Jesus.

Lie #2: Jesus is kind of off-topic right now.
Response: By the world's standards, Jesus is always off-topic! That's the point! He will never be on-topic. What am I waiting for? Someone to ask me about Jesus? That could never happen, and there are thousands of people dying and going to Hell every single day. What's off-topic is the way those people - and us - are living our lives. In contrast to that stark reality. Witnessing is on-topic. Everything else is off-topic.

Lie #3: Isn't witnessing kind of invasive?
Response: Absolutely. Lots of acts of love are very invasive. It's extremely invasive to tie your best friend to a chair so he can't shoot himself, and yet I would do that any time, any day. Shouldn't we be quicker to be invasive if people are shooting themselves in an eternal sense?

Lie #4: That person is on the job, he/she doesn't have time for this.
Response: It doesn't actually take that long to witness. About as long as a friendly conversation does, and people on the job are supposed to have those. Besides, a person's soul is more important than their job!

I met an old man today and gave him a tract. He got sort of a twinkle in his eye and asked what it was about. When I gave him my version of a not-so-eloquently worded bare-bones plan of salvation through Christ, he absolutely lit up! This random old man I had selected to hand a tract gave me a big hug! He told me that he had been a pastor and had started five churches and most of all, absolutely loved Christ.

He was so enthralled that I would be out witnessing, and he gave me some extremely encouraging words. But the best encouragement was just the look in his eye, the absolute love for God and the delight that someone would be telling others about Christ.

I'm just really encouraged and a lot more ready to share my faith. I need to start learning to view witnessing as a joy. I can help Christ in the salvation process! Obviously, I can hardly move an iota in the grand scheme of things, but boy, am I happy to be able to help!

The old man took the tract, and I doubt that he will waste it. The man who took the other tract was a deli worker who seemed very genuinely interested in the information and tucked the tract inside of his white deli coat.

Even though you might not ever read this, thanks, Makenna, for turning my opinions on witnessing on their head.

Thanks to the old man in the grocery store, for all the encouragement. I really needed it.

And thanks, Jesus. I cannot believe what You did for me. Let me be able to share Your joy with others.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Overcoming Pride

One of my great struggles in life has been overcoming pride.

Pride is extremely dangerous. As C.S. Lewis has noticed in his book, Mere Christianity, pride is the only sin that alienates people from other people.

Every other sin can bring people together in some way. People who like stealing go on raids together. People who like lying pull off complicated deceptions. People who like adultery will congregate to do inappropriate things.

But pride is different. Pride is the one sin that makes someone completely alienated. When you are prideful you want to be above and beyond everyone else, having no fellowship with them at all. Sure, people's compliments can fuel you for a while, but those compliments only serve to push your airy head as far past those people as it can get.

And worse, pride can alienate us from God. Ezekiel tells us that Satan fell from Heaven because of pride. He loved how good he was, he pushed himself above and beyond everyone else, including God, and he rebelled and got kicked out. He's still rebelling, and we're helping him every day.

Yup, pride is dangerous, and I've definitely been guilty of it. Worse, I've usually been very confused about how to fix it.

But I've been thinking about it a lot and studying the Bible, and I think I may have figured out my problem. It can be summed up in one phrase.

Dealing with pride is not done by thinking less of yourself. Dealing with pride is done by thinking more of others.

That's the problem. I usually try to think less of myself - oh, never mind, sure, I did that, but I'm not really that great a guy. I belittle myself and try to fake myself out that I don't think too highly of myself.

But maybe there's another way to fix the problem. Maybe instead of trying to knock my opinion of myself down, I can raise my opinion of others. Maybe instead of trying to serve myself less I can try to serve others more.

As a last thought, I think I'll share something from Communications class. It's the most valuable thing we learned all year, in my opinion. It is the acronym:


It stands for Jesus, Others, and You. That's the order of priorities.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Not the Kind You Kill

I've been realizing something very big, and one phrase sums it up pretty well.

If you watch a lot of action movies and read a lot of Scripture, you quickly begin to run into some contradictions.

Like any kid, I've daydreamed of being an action hero - smashing through panes of glass and dropping fifteen feet to down one crook, giving another a jaw-crushing uppercut, backflipping to avoid a third crumb's kick, and delivering a whirling kick of my own right into his solar plexus. And naturally, I would save someone. Likely a girl. I'd be a hero with my quick moves.

Adrenaline is pretty intense.

But after lots of Scripture reading, studying the Bible and studying the ways of God, I've started to understand things in a different light. Actually, I'm rather embarrassed of my action movie and adrenaline-fueled ways of thinking, and I'm starting to view it as rather wrong.

There are really no bad guys. Not the kind you shoot at and punch and chop and kill, anyway.
We're all bad guys, really. We're all just out to feed our own selfish selves. We're all out to snub other people to make ourselves feel better. We're all just out in total opposition to God. Like my pastor says, with every sin, we try to kill God.

But the main thing I've been realizing is that those who would be portrayed as "villains" in action movies - villains to be attacked and decimated without regret - are just people. People every bit as real as you and me. People who have hurts and pains and desires. People with the Imago dei, the Image of God.

People Jesus died for.

That's how I hope to change my mindset. I am hoping and praying that if anyone ever pulls a fast one on me - stealing my money or kidnapping my friends - I will be able to do the same thing Jesus would do, the same thing Jesus did do for those who "pulled a fast one" on Him.

He loved them.

I hope and pray that I will be able to see everyone as valuable in God's eyes. I hope that I will be overcome with the beautiful love God has for people. And if anyone tries to "pull a fast one" on me, I hope I will not use him as a human punching bag like the action movies say to do.

I hope that I can show him the hope that I've found. It seems so right and so Jesus to witness to someone who's just wronged you. Because I could be there, in his shoes, by all rights a villain. Actually, I guess I am.

No human is so degraded that he is a punching bag to be kicked, shoved, and spit on. Every human deserves it, but that's what grace is all about.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Thoughts on Bible Translations, Mostly the KJV

I was going to send the following message to a couple of friends of mine. We're working on starting a "Do Hard Things" (think Alex and Brett Harris) group under the premise that the world has enough groups that just sit and talk about things (including churches!) and very few that actually go and do stuff. So we hope to have a group that goes out and shares the good news of Jesus Christ, memorizes Scripture, and does service projects.

I was going to send this to my friends, but it's a bit long and rant-like, so I thought I would just post it here, on my blog, my thinking space and give them a merciful condensed version. These are just a few of my thoughts on Bible translations and especially the KJV. I edited it and expanded it a great deal. I wasn't actually going to send them all the Greek stuff!

As far as what translation of the Bible to use, I think we should use a modern translation, although be a bit careful in that respect, because a lot of modern translations are very off-base and liberal. I'm not a KJV-er, though, for various reasons.

First of all, I don't consider the KJV to be an English translation, because you have to understand Old English to read it. The point of a translation is to make things understandable to the reader, and the KJV isn't good for many readers, including me, since I grew up with the NIV. I can understand the Old English fine, but the extra step of deciphering it keeps me distracted from the actual content of the Bible. Of course, I am OK with the KJV, and I know those who have grown up with it and don't have a problem with it because they can understand it well. But if we're witnessing we will most likely encounter people like me who aren't so well-grounded in Old English, so we might not want to go KJV.

Secondly, I'm a little bit wary of the cult-like following the KJV has gotten. I know of many people who hold that the KJV isthe literal, inerrant Word of God. They believe it's an inspired translation. I simply don't believe that, and if you need examples of translation errors I can provide them . I think there is no substitute for studying the original Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic manuscripts to truly understand the Bible. At the very least I don't think the KJV is an inspired translation.

Let's take, for instance, the famous verse, John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

The KJV-ers are quite pleased with the use of "only begotten" in this text. This phrase comes from two Greek words. You will probably recognize both!

mono - one, only
genesis - beginning, creation

So the KJV translators translated "monogenesis", a compound Greek word, into "only begotten". Good, right?

No, because like in English, compound words in Greek can mean something completely different than if the words were separate! For instance, "firefly" is very, very different from "fire fly". "Firefly" means a little flying lightup insect. "Fire fly" means flying fire! And so monogenesis means something very different than mono genesis!

I think there's a serious theological error here too. "Begotten" insinuates that Christ was created, which isn't indicated anywhere in the Bible. If He's part of the Trinity, then He couldn't have been created. Also, Christ was involved in the creation process, as the book of John tells us. How could He create if He was in fact created?

If I'm correct the actual translation of monogenesis is a lot closer to "unique" or "precious", which is how it is translated in the Psalms. It also carries with it some of the meaning of the birthright - the rights of a son to the power of the father, or something along those lines.

I use the NIV, which I definitely think has several serious translation errors, probably easily as bad as the KJV. I don't consider either translation more superior to the other, I'm just used to modern English and also a bit put off by those who insist that the KJV is inspired. I don't think there is an inspired English translation of the Bible, and if there is, I haven't run into it yet. KJV, NKJV, NASB, and NIV alike all have their share of translation errors.

But I believe the last statistic I heard is that English translations such as the ones above are 99% free of error, so we should be fine. I just prefer not to throw Old English at someone! But NKJV, NASB, and NIV are all fine by me for witnessing. If anyone has any comments or disagreements, please don't hesitate! Hopefully you two won't mind that I went on something of a rant concerning this subject.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I'm Solidifying

I've noticed something rather scary that's been happening to me lately. In one sense it elates me, and in another, it scares me to death.

I feel like I'm beginning to solidify.

When I was a lot younger, I was much more impressionable. I mean, if anyone said something it would stick with me quickly. It would affect me seriously. Think about the word "impressionable" for a moment. What is an impression? It is like a handprint or a footprint. When you place your foot on the soft sand of the beach, you leave a mark of your foot there. The sand takes the shape of your foot.

As an impressionable youth, I was the same way. It was easy to shape me. I was like soft sand, and anything anyone said or did left an imprint on me.

I have done a lot of online debating, mostly on the subject of creation/evolution. Actually at one point when I was thirteen I debated for almost a straight week, spending every spare second online fighting for my beliefs.

I became very angry and confused. I didn't know what to think because so many atheists assaulted me all week long. I didn't know what to think. I didn't know if what I was taught when I was young (and even more impressionable!) was right.

I learned in debates this year that it doesn't matter which side sounds more impressive or has more evidence, the other side can still be right. There can usually be evidence for any idea if you look around hard enough. I think it's a combination of learning truths like this and just growing up that is causing me to solidify.

So in a way it's a good thing. I'm starting to be able to hold on to my beliefs more strongly. I debated atheists again over the past few weeks. I've been able to hold up a lot better. I guess I also have more knowledge in addition to more faith.

But in another way, I'm afraid of solidifying. I've heard that the teen years are the end of the impressionable years. When you're 16, 17, 18, you're becoming the person you're going to be for the rest of your life.

I'm scared that a lot of artifacts that I don't want in that person will solidify with the rest of me. What if I lose the most impressionable time of my life, the time when I'm shaping and molding myself and letting God shape and mold me into the man He wants me to be? What if I solidify before I'm ready, and it's no longer so easy to change?

I guess I should be comforted. Because with God, all things are possible. But I should also be careful of who I am now and who I am becoming.

So should you.

Monday, June 1, 2009

George Tiller's Death

George Tiller, sometimes known as "Tiller the Baby Killer", a late-term abortion doctor, was killed on May 31, 2009. He was shot while serving as an usher in his church.

I have a few thoughts on this.

The first thought is that this man deserved the death penalty because he was murdering babies. By the laws of the country he should have received capital punishment.

I just really hate the mode of his death. It just seems very wrong to me.

There's something different about sentencing a man to death after giving him a fair trial with a judge, jury, etc., and having a sniper take him out.

And now it is a prominent worry of the pro-life movement that George Tiller's death will make him a martyr for the pro-choice cause.

Most of the pro-life movement has responded very graciously, and respected the life of George Tiller every bit as much as they respect the babies they try to save.

I like Operation Rescue's statement. It says everything. "We are shocked at this morning’s disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down. Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning. We pray for Mr. Tiller’s family that they will find comfort and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ."

Yeah. That is what we need to be doing. We don't need to be taking out abortionists with snipers. We need to be praying for them. We need to respect their lives and their salvation, too. Sure, we should keep them from aborting babies with every means possible, but in the end, their lives are no less and no more valuable than the lives of those babies. Abortion doctors are no more valuable because they're all grown up, and no less valuable because they are killers.

Jesus died for them, too.