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Covid-19, Abortion and Seeking the Lord

Covid-19 is taking its toll on the US I feel it – the uncertainty, the fear, the mounting cases and corresponding death tolls, the economic uncertainty….

I’m a numbers guy – and I keep tracking every day – What is the death rate? What is the R0 rating? What are the projections?

And I am a God guy. In this case meaning I believe God rules over all things on heaven and on earth and does whatever he pleases. His rule includes Covid-19. So I am asking myself where is God in this circumstance? What does he have for me – for my neighbors and friends – for the world?

As I have reviewed the numbers I keep comparing Covid-19 with other deaths and I keep being shocked by what a tiny number it is compared to abortion. This is not to minimize the devastation of the virus. We are rightfully saddened by the deaths it has and will cause.

But, how many of us, myself included, have anything approaching what we feel about Covid-19 directed towards the loss of life via abortion.

The map below shows the total number of deaths in the US from Covid-19 at 3,902 as of this morning. And what an alarming number that is. And yet for March 2020 alone in the US more than 78,000 babies have been aborted. That’s more than 20 times the cumulative total of Covid-19 deaths. 20 times!

I posted yesterday from Amos 3 – God asks his people this question – “Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has done it?” It is a rhetorical question and the answer is No. The Lord is in and rules over even disasters. And as in Amos he has something to teach us.

In Job 37 it describes God’s rule over the destructive elements of the world and the section concludes with this needed truth: “whether for correction or for his land or for love, he (God) causes it to happen.”

What God’s purposes in this crisis are I can only speculate. Abortion has been a blight on our national conscience for over 40 year. Millions have been killed on the altar of convenience and self-absorption and very few of us bother to consider it much less care. We refuse to look.

There is an invitation in the middle of the the judgement that Amos declares and it says “Seek the Lord and live.”

“Seek good, and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you,
as you have said.
Hate evil, and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. “

“Seek me and live;
but do not seek Bethel,
and do not enter into Gilgal
or cross over to Beersheba;
for Gilgal shall surely go into exile,
and Bethel shall come to nothing.”

Seek the LORD and live,
lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph,
and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel,
O you who turn justice to wormwood
and cast down righteousness to the earth!

He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
and turns deep darkness into the morning
and darkens the day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out on the surface of the earth,
the LORD is his name;”

There is hope beyond Covid-19. There is hope for a calloused nation that causally murders its young and most vulnerable. There is hope for you and me – sinners though we are.

This is the hope I need and my friends need and the world needs. It is a hope that goes far beyond the hope of Covid-19 going away. Infinitely greater hope. Jesus said “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28.

Yes fear Him because he rules over all things. It is before Him that you will give an account.

But then Jesus adds,

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

Perhaps Covid-19 is an opportunity for repentance- yes of our national sins – and yes of our personal sins. The invitation of God is clear “Seek the Lord and LIVE!”

https://dailycaller.com/…/coronavirus-map-united-states-de…/

https://worldpopulationreview.com/…/abortion-rates-by-state/

Covid-19 is taking its toll on the US I feel it – the uncertainty, the fear, the mounting cases and corresponding death tolls, the economic uncertainty….

I’m a numbers guy – and I keep tracking every day – What is the death rate? What is the R0 rating? What are the projections?

And I am a God guy. In this case meaning I believe God rules over all things on heaven and on earth and does whatever he pleases. His rule includes Covid-19. So I am asking myself where is God in this circumstance? What does he have for me – for my neighbors and friends – for the world?

As I have reviewed the numbers I keep comparing Covid-19 with other deaths and I keep being shocked by what a tiny number it is compared to abortion. This is not to minimize the devastation of the virus. We are rightfully saddened by the deaths it has and will cause.

But, how many of us, myself included, have anything approaching what we feel about Covid-19 directed towards the loss of life via abortion.

The map below shows the total number of deaths in the US from Covid-19 at 3,902 as of this morning. And what an alarming number that is. And yet for March 2020 alone in the US more than 78,000 babies have been aborted. That’s more than 20 times the cumulative total of Covid-19 deaths. 20 times!

I posted yesterday from Amos 3 – God asks his people this question – “Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has done it?” It is a rhetorical question and the answer is No. The Lord is in and rules over even disasters. And as in Amos he has something to teach us.

In Job 37 it describes God’s rule over the destructive elements of the world and the section concludes with this needed truth: “whether for correction or for his land or for love, he (God) causes it to happen.”

What God’s purposes in this crisis are I can only speculate. Abortion has been a blight on our national conscience for over 40 year. Millions have been killed on the altar of convenience and self-absorption and very few of us bother to consider it much less care. We refuse to look.

There is an invitation in the middle of the the judgement that Amos declares and it says “Seek the Lord and live.”

“Seek good, and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you,
as you have said.
Hate evil, and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. “

“Seek me and live;
but do not seek Bethel,
and do not enter into Gilgal
or cross over to Beersheba;
for Gilgal shall surely go into exile,
and Bethel shall come to nothing.”

Seek the LORD and live,
lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph,
and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel,
O you who turn justice to wormwood
and cast down righteousness to the earth!

He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
and turns deep darkness into the morning
and darkens the day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out on the surface of the earth,
the LORD is his name;”

There is hope beyond Covid-19. There is hope for a calloused nation that causally murders its young and most vulnerable. There is hope for you and me – sinners though we are.

This is the hope I need and my friends need and the world needs. It is a hope that goes far beyond the hope of Covid-19 going away. Infinitely greater hope. Jesus said “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28.

Yes fear Him because he rules over all things. It is before Him that you will give an account.

But then Jesus adds,

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

Perhaps Covid-19 is an opportunity for repentance- yes of our national sins – and yes of our personal sins. The invitation of God is clear “Seek the Lord and LIVE!”

https://dailycaller.com/…/coronavirus-map-united-states-de…

https://worldpopulationreview.com/…/abortion-rates-by-state/

What if….? The Power and Promises of God that bring Peace in Uncertainty

FEAR
In recent weeks the entire world seems to have been caught in grip of its cold steel tongs.

What if I or my loved ones contract Corona Virus?

What if _________ becomes president of the United States?

The stock market is plunging – How can I feel secure?

The wheels of the world seem to be coming off as we fly at breakneck speed over some unseen precipice.

BE STILL

“Be still and know that He is God!”

“Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”

PEACE – SELAH

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

SELAH – PEACE

“Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.

Be still, and know that I am God.”

There is a God in heaven who rules over the affairs of men. Those who trust in Him are glad. Even in great storms when the waves swamp the deck of our little boats – our anchor strikes firmly on the rock.

HIS PROMISES:

“I will never leave your or forsake you”

“Fear not! I am the one who helps you.”

“I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no Savior.”

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

“”Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

“Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

TRUST HIM!

These are God’s promises to his people – to all who are His. Instead of giving in to fear turn your eyes to the One who alone rules over all things – to the one who has provided redemption and life and joy and peace that endures through any towering waves in this life.

If you don’t know this God – Seek Him today while he may be found – Call upon Him and you will find He is very near.

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;

God is a refuge for us. Selah”

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Life as a Symphony

See the source image

Life is like a frenetically played William Tell Overture. It gallops by at breakneck speed punctuated by shocking staccato notes that make us gasp in pain and pleasure and then concludes as a dramatic dissonant chord with unplayed notes hanging in the air.

But this is but a beginning. More – it is but the faintest breath of a beginning – the opening bars of an ongoing symphony.

And when the page is turned we will find the notes resolve and are played with a sweetness that we could not have imagined previously. The scale of time will extend like the vanishing point of a master painter’s watercolor sunset. And we will wonder how we ever lived any other way.

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Kobe Bryant – 1978-2020

Along with many of you I am shocked and saddened by Kobe and his daughter’s death as well as those others who were in the helicopter with them. No matter when it comes, death is shocking. But when it comes like this to a young man and young girl – to a celebrity – suddenly – it is even more shocking.

But as shocking as it is to me, I wonder how many of us consider that our days are also numbered. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. While shocked when an event like this happens we struggle to bring the reality home to ourselves. We naively believe “this will never happen to me.”

But it will – at some point or another – all of us face sudden death. “It is appointed to men once to die and after this the judgement.” Were Kobe and Gianna prepared to stand before a holy God today? I pray they were. But perhaps the more appropriate question to ask ourselves is – Are we? Am I ready?

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

If you mind immediately goes to evaluating whether or not you are a good enough person – could I just encourage you to consider a different answer? The Bible says that NONE of us are good. NONE of us stand a chance before a holy God – because God is perfect and nothing and no one imperfect can stand before Him.

Kobe wasn’t perfect. Gianna wasn’t perfect. I am not perfect. You are not perfect. And the Bible says the just penalty for our imperfection or sin is death.

There is One who is perfect and His name is Jesus. Every other religion says be good enough – work your way to God. Christianity says God comes down to us. Jesus – the perfect, spotless Lamb of God – came to dwell among us – to die our death and be resurrected to triumph over sin, death and the grave.

We are joined to the life of Jesus, not by working for it, but by believing that the gift of God to sinners is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” II Corinthians 5:21

“Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.”
Romans 4:4

This is my hope and I hope that it is yours as well. But if it isn’t – I pray that you do not let this tragic reminder of our mortality go to waste. Turn to the Lord and you will find him welcoming you with open arms.

An Open Letter to William Shatner in 24 Tweets.

I have long appreciated Star Trek and Captain Kirk. As a result, over the years, I have watched or read numerous interviews with William Shatner including this recent one. I have noticed that he frequently brings up the topics of death, the afterlife and God. And I have often thought I would love to talk to him and discuss how he can find the answers he seems to be seeking, in Jesus. In lieu of that I sent him 24 tweets in the hopes that God would see fit to show himself to Bill, through his Word, even in a medium as imperfect as twitter. Here are those tweets.

Bill, I write this with great affection and longing for you – You have asked these questions in many places over the years I have followed you “What have I done?” “Why am I here?” “What’s going to happen?” “Is this the end?” – What does life mean?  What is death?

And as David accused Kirk – “You’ve never faced death before” perhaps you feel somewhat like Kirk – You know death is inevitable – at 88 you feel it – yet in many ways have cheated death. You have tasted all this world has to offer but you also taste its inability to satisfy you.

CS Lewis wrote “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” As Spock aptly noted “There are always possibilities” Perhaps the answer to your questions lie in a possibility….

I’m sure over the years someone has presented Jesus and Christianity to you. For whatever reason – Jesus has not captured your attention – maybe the messenger was flawed – maybe you find His story implausible – Maybe you hate the judgement of religion – I don’t know… but…

Here are some things I have found to be true and give me hope facing my own mortality – more than hope – joy – happiness even in my sorrows. Every good story must have a villain – Kirk must have his Klingons. And in the story of the human race – we are the villains.

Now I know this may sound like religious stone casting – but I’m including myself – I am broken – not good – not righteous – and the Bible indicts all of humanity as sinners Romans 3:10 – “There is NONE righteous…. no not one” Romans 3:23 “The wages of sin is death, BUT…

Let me leave that “but” hanging for a minute, because until we realize our diagnosis is bad and justifiably so the “but” is just sentimental meaningless drivel of religious people. Jesus said “I did not come to those who have no need of a physician but to the sick” not because

some are sick and some are not – but because all of us are sick but not all of us recognize it. Most of us believe that if there is a God he will accept us because we are “not too bad.” We compare ourselves with others based on our intentions and decide “I’m ok.”

And maybe compared to other sinners we are mildly better. But our maker is not a fellow sinner – he is a holy, perfect, radiant in splendor, dwelling-in unapproachable-light being – If we were to come into His presence in our self-evaluated, not-too-badness – we would be undone

If you were to compare not to others or by your good intentions, but instead to a perfect being-pure in every way- you would cry out like the Prophet Isaiah – “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips …for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Scripture has this diagnosis “It is appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment.” If that judgment is by our creator and he is in fact perfect and his requirement of us is perfection-because no one imperfect can stand before him…What will his judgement be of you?

I don’t ask you this as someone better than you – save for one thing I would stand condemned, with you and all of humanity. I ask because as I stated before – unless we understand our plight, our condition – we will not understand the meaning or need of the solution.

The sacrifice of Spock to save the Enterprise is silly, unnecessary-a waste, even embarrassing-if the context of what is at stake not understood. If it truly is life and death-and the stakes could not be higher then the sacrifice is understood for what it is-absolutely essential.

Your soul is of great value. Jesus asks “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his own soul?” … You have been a man who has, more than most, tasted what this world has to offer and, I suspect, found that it is not enough to satisfy you…

Your soul need not be lost. Let’s come back to the “BUT” “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”There is salvation for your soul and it is found in one person-Jesus. He says “I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father BUT by me

Jesus is not one path of many – He is the Only path to the Father and to eternal life. That is his claim. So here is what us Christians call the “Gospel” – Gospel just means “Good News” It is a proclamation of what God in Christ has done for sinners like you and me.

  1. “BUT God demonstrated His own love for us – EVEN while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 – What this means is that God our creator saw our rebellion, our sin and our failure and instead of moving away from us condescended to send his Son to rescue us.
  2. Jesus, who is God and one with the Father, came as a man, humbling himself as one of his creatures and lived the perfect life that we have not, died the death we deserved so that all those who trust in Him alone will be raised to life as he was raised.

II Corinthians 5:21 says “God made Him (Jesus), who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God.” So our just penalty for our sin (death) was borne by Christ and his perfect righteousness is given to us because God is rich in mercy.

Ephesians 2:4 says “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”

The grace of God alone is able to rescue you, my friend. Not your goodness or efforts to do right. Titus 3:5 “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy”

So the meaning of life and death is not found in ourselves or in our accomplishments or failures. Our souls are not designed to find the answer to our longings in our work or possessions or accolades. The longing that CS Lewis references can only be satisfied in knowing Jesus

He is your maker – and despite all your failures, and sin, and pride he has come that you may have life – eternal life – with your maker and designer – with the one who formed you and loves you. The question is What will you do with Jesus? Will you trust him alone to save you?

I don’t know, Bill, if you will even see this and if you do if it will make any sense at all to you. But I know this is my only hope in life and in death. Jesus is the answer to the Kobayashi Maru scenario. And I am praying that you will find peace for your soul in Him.

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Is Tongues the Way to Experience the Fullness of God?

Experiencing the fullness of God does not require that one speak in tongues or heal or prophesy. Sometimes we can overemphasis a radical experience or gifting as the essence of knowing God, but scripture doesn’t talk that way.

I Cor 12 “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.”

So what does Scripture say about knowing and experiencing God?

The heights of intimacy and the pinnacle of experience with God is found when through the ministry of the Word applied by the Spirit of God, I encounter and embrace the outlandish love of God.

Ephesians 3 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

I am joined to the fullness of the love of God and the joy of knowing him by faith – the faith which comes by Spirit wrought hearing through the Word of God.

Philippians 3 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection…”

Spirit-born faith that revels and delights in the undeserved love of God as revealed in God’s Word, yields a knowing of him that does not rest on my works or my giftings but instead rests on his mercy alone. In these things I am filled with all the fullness of God and experience the power of his resurrection.

Hey! Why is My Refund Smaller on My Taxes??!!

A few notes about 2018 taxes:

1) There seems to be a lot of consternation over a decrease in tax refunds. I get how it seems great to get a huge refund in February – however all that really means is that you gave too much money to the government throughout the year. So if your refund is smaller it is likely due to the increase in your regular check and/or due to your increase in pay. I do a lot of people’s taxes and everyone paid less in total taxes than they would have paid for the same income in 2017. The withholding tables changed a year ago to more closely align to what you would actually need to pay which in my book is a good thing, but would cause your refund to be smaller. If you love having a huge refund just have your employer withhold extra from your check by changing your W4. You could call it the government sponsored interest-free savings program. (And who doesn’t like free things?)

2) If you have a decrease in your refund it is for 90% of you not because your taxes have increased. Unless you live in a state that has high state income taxes that are no longer deductible, you received a tax break in 2018. For the middle class here are the main benefits of the tax reform.

a) Your tax rate on your taxable income was decreased by roughly 3%.

b) Your standard deduction nearly doubled (for all filing statuses) from $12,400 to $24,000 (Married). This change has the added benefit of making it unnecessary for most Americans to need to itemize thus simplifying your 1040. A standard deduction reduces your taxable income.

c) You lost your exemptions for each member of your family. Prior to tax reform you received an additional $4050 deduction per person in your family. So for a married couple with no children who did not itemize this means your effective standard deduction was $20,500 in 2017 and is now $24,000. So $3,500 less taxable and the 3% reduction in tax rate is the net gain to you. If you previously itemized and your itemizations were between $15,900 – $24,000 you will have more taxable income in 2018. This will largely be offset by the 3% reduction in your rate – though the closer you are to $24,000 in itemizations the less benefit the tax reform will give you. If your itemizations are above $24,000 you will benefit on the amount above just as before with the major exception of state income tax deduction is limited to $10,000.

d) Another significant change was made to the child tax credit. For those with children this credit doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 per child under the age of 17 in 2018. A credit is much better than a deduction because it comes off what you owe. So this credit is better than the previous tax code where you received an exemption of $4,050 and a credit of $1000 per child. The income limit at which you can take the child tax credit was raised significantly from $75,000 to $200,000 and from $110,000 to $400,000 for single and married respectively. Additionally up to $1,400 is refundable even if you don’t owe taxes.

e) Finally a dependent credit of $500 was added for people living in your household above the age of 17 who are dependent on your income – this can be a child or other family member for which you are caring. This is a new credit that did not previously exist.

Bottom line for most people especially in the middle class, tax reform will result in a moderate reduction in your taxes paid in 2018 vs 2017.

Lastly – if you do not have complex income taxes (like a business or self-employed) please do not go pay a ton of money at HR block to get your taxes done. You really can do it yourself – the tax code is as simple as it has ever been. If you choose to ignore this advice please do not pay extra to get your refund early on a debit card – it is just a complete waste of money.

I would be happy to help you do your taxes if you are stuck. I actually enjoy doing taxes.

Also I have a very effective tax calculator that I can send you if have excel that can help you calculate 2018 taxes and help you look at what you need to withhold for 2019. If you are interested message me and I can email it to you.

So enjoy the tax season – it’s a rush! 😀

A Response from a Calvinist Woman to Andy Stanley

My wife, Christie, listened to the recent discussion between Andy Stanley and Dr. Flowers and felt compelled to write a letter to Pastor Stanley.

“Dear Pastor Stanley,

This morning my husband was listening to an interview you did with Dr. Flowers a couple of days ago.  He came across it through a Twitter post.  I later went back to listen to the entire thing for myself.  I have never listened to either of you before, but felt drawn to offer you my point of view on an area that you stated ignorance of, which is how someone (particularly a mother) who believes Calvinist teachings could, with honesty, teach their own children or be part of children’s or student ministry. 

By way of introduction, I grew up in a GARBC church (you may or may not be familiar with this relatively small group of Baptists).  I remember my mother teaching me that God “didn’t want us to be robots” and emphasizing our free will in coming to Christ.  I have never been part of a truly Calvinistic church, although my understanding of Scripture through plain reading has led me to believe Calvinistic doctrine (I would affirm all 5 points of Calvinism).  I am not a “Reformed” person and don’t claim to know all that they teach.  In fact, I am presently a member of a charismatic church where my theology doesn’t fit with most other people, but where I know God is working and the Word of God is preached. I understand people can be seeking God sincerely and come to differing understanding, but it doesn’t mean I have to hold my firmly held convictions loosely, and there are doctrines which are so crucial to me that if they were taught in opposition to my understanding of Scripture would cause me to leave to minister elsewhere. 

That said, I do believe in God’s sovereignty in election because it’s what I see clearly in passages such as Ephesians 1 or Romans 9 (I see his divine sovereignty in many other places as well, but I realize I don’t need to load you up with “proofs” on the matter).  Listening to the discussion this morning, I disagree with the idea that believing in God’s sovereign election and enablement of belief would cause a person to have a lower view of evangelism or ministry preparedness.  I have taught children for years and earnestly desire them to see the beauty and glory of God in all his magnificence and grace.  I can’t even imagine a person who believes in God’s election putting that forward as the main thing for someone to understand in order to come to Christ.  That doesn’t even come up in my Gospel presentation, but God’s divine work enables me to go out at all.  Honestly, if I felt it was my persuasiveness on which their salvation hinged I would be petrified to speak for fear of doing it wrong.  Believing that God enables us to come to him and has chosen to use flawed instruments for this purpose gives me the ability to present to them the Gospel, knowing that no matter how well I prepare (and I spend a LOT of time in preparation every time I teach—I want to give God and others my very best and represent my Savior well) I will miss something but He will take my sincere efforts and multiply it for his purposes. 

I am a mother of six sons, and I can affirm that it is not only men who believe that God sovereignly determines those who are his.  I do believe that if any of my sons rejected the faith, God would have a purpose in it and would be glorified in some way.  That does not blur the lines between evil and good, making evil good and good evil as you stated—but recognizes that everything serves to glorify him, including punishing the sin we bring onto ourselves through our own decisions/actions. Belief in God’s sovereignty in salvation doesn’t dismiss our own will/choice in the matter.  This is a false representation of my beliefs (and, I would expect, the beliefs of most Calvinists).  The Bible clearly teaches both the sovereignty of God and the will of man (for example, Proverbs 16:9, Genesis 50:20, Exodus 4:21/Exodus 8:15).  It is not one or the other separately, but in the end we understand that no matter how I freely choose (freely being limited by my own sinful nature apart from God’s intervention), God will work his purposes. His will supersedes mine, to his glory.  In regard to a child wandering from the faith, even if my own heart was breaking and I begged God to bring them back to Himself, I would trust him.  How could I possibly even pray for Him to bring them to salvation if I didn’t believe he could sovereignly overcome their unbelief?  I was struck by your example of your church member, Amber, praying for God to show truth to her parents.  That alone shows that we are utterly dependent on God to do the work of revelation and salvation in our lives—he uses us, yes, but we are helpless apart from his ultimate work in opening our minds/hearts to be able to see and love Him.

 I believe that Christ died for the ones the Father has given him (John 6: 35-40: John 17:6, 9-12, 24-25). Yes, a Calvinist can preach with intellectual honestly through the book of John.  I believe in sovereign election, and that God ordains the use of the folly of preaching to reach the lost.  As a mother, I struggle with the same things every parent does—things like second guessing myself, being discouraged when I don’t handle things well, hoping the best for my children in spite of my shortcomings—but because I know God uses all things for his purposes and that he works all things together for good for those who are called according to his purpose, I trust that even my failures can be used to as an example to my children of the loving grace of God to rescue even a screw-up like me (or them).  I can trust them to him.  I do my best, but am freed from the burden (should they choose to reject Christ, although I do my best to show him to them experientially) that if I had only done/said something differently they would have made a different decision.

It is my belief in the sovereign election of God which enabled me to have the courage to step out in faith and lead Good News Clubs in local schools (granted, I generally downplayed some of the material that I viewed as rather legalistic and emphasized more strongly the beauty of our sovereign God stepping into the mess of humanity).  I don’t trust myself to be eloquent enough to convince anyone of anything, and if I believed that it was up to me to do it right, I would likely have stayed home for fear of “doing it wrong.”  Trusting that God can use my feeble efforts and overcome my shortcomings to reach children for adoption into his family gave me the courage necessary to step out in faith and preach the good news of God’s Son coming to take our place, paying for our sin and reconciling us with the Father.  I teach the children in my own church as well, with the confidence that God will be the one to soften anyone’s hearts and enable them to love him while knowing that his chosen method of doing so is the sincere preaching of the Word to them.

You asked how I could present a sincere invitation to them.  Simple.  I present the truth, as you stated, that whosoever will may come.  I understand (without needing to explain it all to others in my presentation) that apart from God stepping in to cause us to see him rightly, we are limited by our sinful nature to always choose to reject him but that, in his mercy and for his own purposes, he opens the hearts and minds of those whom he chooses (John 9:35-41; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18; Ephesians 1:17-21; 1 Peter 2:4-10).  I present the Gospel that Jesus has come to rescue sinners, not based on our worthiness but on his goodness.  I present to them the penalty of sin and the provision of our Savior.  It is up to God to use that in the hearts and minds of the hearers.  I always assume that unbelievers are in the room.  The fact is, the message is the same whether we are already a believer or not—Sin must be punished, Christ satisfied that requirement by taking our place on the cross, and because of his resurrection and the grace of God we can come to God for forgiveness, reconciliation, and the hope that he will transform us into his likeness (in part now, and fully when we see him face to face).  Both believers and unbelievers need to hear the truth of law and grace distinctly so that our hope is in God and not ourselves.  Unbelievers can be drawn to him and believers freed to cling to him even after we still sin.

I was actually stunned that Dr. Flowers indicated that an example of the pre-eminence of man’s free will was that Paul was striving to convince the hearers in Acts 28.  Of course, when we preach we want people to understand and turn to God, so we prepare and do our best, trusting God with the outcome.  Evangelism is so important—God has ordained the foolishness of preaching as the means for those who are called to come (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)! And preparation is important—we should be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:14-17).  Paul obviously did his best, but did not trust persuasive words to be the draw to salvation, but the work of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:1-5), and that is how I, as a Calvinist, approach evangelism and ministry as well.  It is not dishonest to recognize both that both God’s sovereignty and man’s choice work together in a way we cannot fully explain, but believe because God’s word presents it so.  The primary difference between us, I think, is which we believe to be the final determining factor in salvation:  God’s will or our own. I believe that the sinful nature in any person will cause them to always freely choose to reject God’s salvation, but that when he graciously chooses to open the eyes of that person (change their nature) to see him clearly, they will freely choose to love him.  I am comforted by the Bible’s teaching that while I am living out my salvation, it is God who works in me, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).

I recognize that this may be a somewhat lengthy answer to your question of how a Calvinist (particularly a woman/mother) can honestly present the invitation of the Gospel to children, students, or anyone anywhere else in the world for that matter.  I know others could more eloquently have answered you, and that I have not exhausted the matter, but I thank you for your time in hearing my perspective.”

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A Call to Gospel Race Relations In Response to Recent Statements by Thabiti Anyabwile

I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about the race issues among believers that have been seemingly widened this week or probably just uncovered some more via the MLK50 conference. I’ve discovered I don’t have the ability I would like to express what I want to, nor do I have the wisdom or knowledge to solve all the complexities of this sensitive and intensely personal discussion. That goes without saying of course. So why bother trying to say anything? And I guess the best answer I can give is that I love the church – for all of its messiness – I love the body of Christ. So in the spirit of Ephesians 4:2-3 “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” I take up my pen to say what I hope will, by the Spirit, push toward the Spirit’s peace and the Spirit’s unity. I am basically going to express how my thoughts unfolded this week and do my best to draw some concluding thoughts at the end.

  1. Thabiti’s blog post in relation to the Gospel Coalition’s MLK 50 conference

In case you have not seen it, Thabiti Anyabwile posted a blog entitled “We Await Repentance for Assassinating Dr. King” in which he called for white evangelicals, as a starting point of making amends to the black community, acknowledge that their parents and grandparents were complicit in the murder of Dr. King. Here is the most controversial quote with a link to the whole article.

Until this country and the Church learns to confess its particular sins particularly, we will not overcome the Adamic hostility that infects the human soul and distorts human potential.

Don’t get me wrong. I know Dr. King’s life was much greater than his death. I understand that his death gives us opportunity to reflect on his legacy. But it also gives opportunity to reflect on that twist in our soul that rose up and killed him. It gives opportunity to repent of the things some have with too much pride too often refused to admit is there.

My white neighbors and Christian brethren can start by at least saying their parents and grandparents and this country are complicit in murdering a man who only preached love and justice.” LINK

It is an irritating and frustrating thing to say that feels borderline absurd. Even if I wanted to comply how would I do it? Would I wear a shirt with mug shots of my parents and a caption reading “complicit in the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr?” My dad pastored a Baptist church in which he started a Hispanic ministry, and my mom would tear up anytime she spoke of the treatment of blacks she witnessed as a kid in Louisiana. These parents are complicit in the murder of Dr. King and should be judged guilty purely on the basis of their skin color and the time frame in which they lived? There are some implications in this quote that I believe are at best unhelpful and at worst contrary to the gospel. Here are some questions.

Many leading evangelicals, denominations, churches and individuals have already expressed sorrow and remorse publically either for overt racism or for not engaging on the issue as they should have during the civil rights movement – how would Thabiti’s requirement be deemed fulfilled?

If every white American Christian were to acknowledge their parents and grandparents were complicit in the murder of Dr. King, then what? What else will be needed before reconciliation can be considered?

Should gospel forgiveness be offered once the perpetrator has made full amends and satisfied our list of demands?

Do whites have a corner on the sin of judging someone based on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character or is this one of those sins “common to man?”

(If you would like to read more, this has been discussed ably by Joshua Sommer at The Baptist Reformation which you can read here

I would also recommend James White’s recent Dividing Line Episodes which you can find here)

Four posts later Thabiti attempts to clarify.

“To put a fine point on it as a closing: When it comes to racism, especially during the original period I was addressing in my first post (1950-60s), white America is Cretan in its understanding and actions. That does not mean every single white American was a racist–“as some people slanderously charge us with saying.” Reasonable people know better and they’ve shown so by other tweets not mentioned here. I praise God for those white Americans who had their consciences awakened, marched for equality, stood against injustice, and even gave their lives in the cause. So far from being guilty, such persons are among the righteous who will be rewarded at the resurrection of the just. “ LINK

This leads to even more questions for me – The first post may not call everyone a racist but it clearly calls every white American to confess their parents were complicit in the murder of Dr. King. Second, while I’m glad Thabiti recognizes that some whites did stand for what is right, I know of no Bible verse that teaches that means they will be “rewarded at the resurrection of the just.” Marching for equality, while admirable, cannot be equated with believing the gospel. I know this seems obvious, and I presume it is a misstatement by Thabiti, but it may also be a misstatement that reveals an imbalance in Thabiti’s theology. Al Mohler says: “In our own context, one of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.” When “in or out” is based on whether or not I improve my activity level in social justice activities we have missed the radical nature of the Gospel.

As I considered Thabiti’s initial post over the course of the week I found myself trying to understand why Thabiti would make such a statement. Regardless of my reservations about his comments, there are a number of realities that should be acknowledged.

  • Over the course of the history of our country, blacks have been grossly mistreated.
  • The ramifications of slavery on the family unit sowed issues that are still being reaped today http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/freedom/1609-1865/essays/aafamilies.htm
  • The post-Civil War treatment of blacks via segregation, discrimination and Jim Crow laws continued the abuses of the previous era. Jim Crow laws stayed in force until 1965.
  • Redlining and financial discrimination from some financial institutions continued into the 1980’s ensuring the road to financial stability continued to be unfair.
  • Some of the church defended these practices to their shame. Many churches did not speak out or ignored the issue. This was wrong. This was damaging to the name of Christ and undermined the truth of the gospel.

If there are churches or institutions or individuals that have not acknowledged these truths, they are irrefutable and should be acknowledged. The ramifications of these actions despite significant reforms in America since the 1960’s have ongoing implications today on family units, relationship with whites, and the finances of the black community. It is neither accurate nor appropriate for white evangelicals to dismiss the hurt of blacks under the guise of “it is all better now.” There are ongoing ramifications from the past and ongoing incidents of racism and discrimination that rip the scab off again. We must do a better job of applying I Cor 12:24 “If one member suffers, all suffer together.” The ongoing indifference to both the past injustice and continuing incidents of racism I think cause Thabiti to cry out, “Can you just at least acknowledge the guilt of white America – of white evangelicalism – can you not dismiss our suffering because you don’t want to look at it?” If this is part of the underlying heart of Thabiti’s original post I can better understand while not agreeing with how it was expressed.

  1. Adamic Sin and Victimization

As Thabiti rightly states in a couple of spots in his sequence of posts – sin infests the heart of every child of Adam. Sin knows no color boundaries, and because of that no race has a corner on any specific sin. “No sin has overtaken you except that which is common to man.” There are people of all races who judge others on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.

One of the great challenges to believing the gospel is the requirement that I come horrifyingly guilty before God. Paul said in Romans 7 “Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of sin?” and he says to Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief. “ And one of the great challenges for true victims of any crime is recognizing their desperate need to turn in repentance and faith to a mighty Savior because it is easier to see the sins of those who have trespassed against them. Phillip Yancey references in What’s So Amazing About Grace the reality that there is no one so self-righteous as a victim. Having one’s core identity be “victim” creates a reality where that individual or group can participate in almost any manner of sin without compunction because no matter what I do it is always less than what has been done to me.

It is understandable why this would be the case with many in the black community, but it is a roadblock to the gospel for individuals and gospel-based race relations. The reality is that everyone on the planet is a victim of others’ sins. For some the wounding is cuttingly deep and for others it is lighter, but the omnipresent reality is that the heart of every man is sinful and sin is devastating in its effects on others.

However, when God speaks to us it is rarely on the sin of others because though we are all victims of sin we are also all perpetrators. And of the two, God desires that we recognize at a level deeper than anyone else’s sin that I am a sinner in need of the grace of God. “Not my brother. Not my sister. But it is ME oh Lord…” As long as we say “yeah, yeah I know I’m a sinner, but not like those black people or those white people” we are the lost ones. And we are holding ourselves up like the Pharisee looking down on the publican. Oh let us beat on our chest, not daring to look to heaven and say together “God be merciful to ME a sinner” and see if God will not meet us there.

  1. Some Answers

The task of reconciling the races seems an impossibility. The complexities are too great – the emotions too high. I am too messed up. I cannot fix myself much less the human race. Yet in the acknowledging of our weakness as believers, we are able to fix our eyes on the one who declared, “It is Finished.” Even though I am speaking to believers I fear this answer may be skipped past as too simplistic. But if we continue to argue amongst ourselves where the blame lies and who did what to who and castigate those with whom we disagree and continue to say “I’ll do X if you do Y” I fear we will continue to live separated. But in Christ the impossible becomes possible.

Ephesians 2:13- 22

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Truth begins with, we are fallen. Not just Satan is fallen, or the world is fallen, or the United States is fallen or even the church is fallen, but you and me – we are fallen. We are sinful. We are broken. Not just that we are fallen, but that we can’t fix ourselves. Sometimes I think we get in our minds that if we could just read one more book, find that magic principle, finally turn over that new leaf, we could fix what is wrong. But we can’t. Scripture tells us there is none righteous, no not one – we are in desperate need of something we cannot provide for ourselves, and to keep trying is futile. The “wrongness” is too much. We need something greater than ourselves. We need a Savior.

And the alienation that was between a holy God and ourselves far exceeds any alienation between the races. But GOD!! Christ Himself is our Peace! Through HIM black and white have access to the same grace, the same forgiveness, the same Lord, and through Him we are joined into one body. And God Himself is building us – Black and White and everyone in between, from every tribe, nation, and tongue into a dwelling place for Himself. There is something more core to our identities than our race for those that are in Him. For those that are in Christ he has become our peace. My identity in Him is no longer what I deserve – to be alienated – to be condemned – to have the bondage of sin define me – NO! With my Father there is peace because of the blood of the Lamb who has satisfied the justice of God for me and for you. No longer must I demand my rights be served – No longer must I demand that justice be given to me – instead I am free to lay down my life for my friends, for my enemies, for my neighbors and coworkers without regard to race, culture or creed. In Him I have been given far more than I could give.

Ok, you say, sounds great but it sounds a bit pie in the sky. Maybe that can happen in the future but seems unlikely right now. And yes, there is a now and not yet aspect. Nevertheless, I believe God is able to do miraculous things in our relations with each other right now. Even as you are reading this.

My wife and I watched “I Can Only Imagine” over the weekend. And the whole movie brought me to tears. The film tells the story of Bart Millard, lead singer for Mercy Me. His father was, in Bart’s words, a monster. He beat him up physically and emotionally from a young age. So as soon as he is able, Bart leaves his father’s house. But sometime later Bart randomly returns and finds his father is different. As they sit down to breakfast his evil father’s scowl is gone. He bows his head and prays – something Bart had never seen. His tone is not angry. He mentions that God answered his prayer that his son has returned. Bart is unwilling to accept his father’s change. The past injury is too much. Where is the justice? His father has not grovelled. He has not begged for mercy. So Bart in anger leaves only to discover a note that says his father is dying of terminal cancer. And God begins to make peace. God begins to soften. God begins to dissolve the indissoluble. And something beautiful and spectacular happens. Bart turns with love to his father – the mean, angry, vindictive, abusive dad, now precious in his sight. This is the power of the gospel. And my brothers and sisters I am begging and praying that in our hearts – the hearts of His children – we would find a way to love each other that reflects how we have been loved.  Let us submit to the work of God to build US into a dwelling place for him.

I have one last point I want to share. God created the physical differences in the human race. God delights in the people he has made in their differences. I can see no evidence that ethnicity is going away in the new heaven and new earth. I had a picture as I was dwelling on this of God delighting in the colors and cultures of each race and tribe. Look! I made a black people group! Look at my Asian people groups! Look at my Hispanic people groups! When God makes us one he does not eliminate our ethnicity! When God says in Colossians 3 “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, Slave, Free – he is not saying all physical and cultural identities are removed – They are not…. Ever! He is saying that at our core we are no longer Greek or Jew, or Black or White, or outcast – No! Christ is now all in all!

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