Friday, September 15, 2017

YOU Can Change the World

Don't underestimate your potential.  You have the ability to change the world.  It's been said that one person with purpose makes a majority.  Think of the amazing difference single individuals have made throughout history.  And you don't have to be wealthy or famous.  Ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference.  Consider the following story told by Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas.

Edward Campbell was a mere carpet salesman in Boston in the 19th century.  And he taught a Sunday school class at his church for high school boys.  Just an ordinary Christian.  There was one young man in his class, 18 years old, who he was especially concerned about.  So one day Mr. Campbell decided to go to the boy's place of work, which happened to be a shoe store in Boston.  Mr. Campbell asked the young man if they could talk for a moment, and so they went to a back room, and Mr. Campbell led the young man to give his life to Christ.  That young man was Dwight L. Moody, who went on to become the greatest evangelist of the 19th century.

Under the ministry of D.L. Moody, another man came to Christ by the name of J. Wilbur Chapman, who went on to become a pastor and evangelist.  Under the ministry of J. Wilbur Chapman, another young man came to Christ -- an ex-baseball player by the name of Billy Sunday.  Billy Sunday went on to become one of the biggest evangelists in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  In 1924 Billy Sunday led a crusade in Charlotte, NC, and as a result an organization of Christian business men was formed.  It was called the Charlotte Christian Business Men's Club.  Ten years later, in 1934, that club sponsored another evangelistic crusade in Charlotte, and they invited an evangelist to speak by the name of Mordecai Ham.  During that crusade, a young teenage boy became a Christian.  His name was Billy Graham.  God used him to preach to more unbelievers than anyone else in history.

Twenty years later, Dr. Graham did a crusade in Dallas, TX, where Dr. Robert Jeffress's parents lived.  Dr. Jeffress's father was a Christian, and a member of FBC Dallas, but his mother was an unbeliever and refused to even attend church.  (One reason was that she hated the pastor, Dr. Criswell.)  But she agreed to attend the crusade, and one evening she got saved.  It was announced at the crusade that Billy Graham would be preaching at FBC Dallas the next Sunday, so she finally agreed to visit the church with her husband.  That Sunday, after the service, Billy Graham joined the church (and remained a member of FBC Dallas for the next 54 years).  When he did that, Dr. Jeffress's mother said, "If it's good enough for Billy Graham, it's good enough for me," and she joined the church.  A year and a half later Dr. Robert Jeffress was born.  And years later he would grow up to become the pastor of that very church.

The point of the story is that many, many lives were impacted and transformed because of the faithfulness of an ordinary Christian, Edward Campbell; a carpet salesman; a high school boys Sunday school teacher.  Don't ever underestimate your potential to impact the world for Christ.  Stay faithful.  Keep planting the right seeds.  Nothing you do for Christ is wasted.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

If Abortion Were Criminalized, Should We Punish The Mothers?

If you keep up with the abortion debate, then you know that one of the tactics that is often used by pro-abortionists is to ask the question, “If abortion were criminalized, should we punish the mothers?  If so, how?”  I guess the goal is to make pro-lifers look cruel by showing that they "hate" women.  This question was posed to Donald Trump by Chris Matthews as he was running for president in 2016, and his answer was that women should be punished, although he didn’t specify what the punishment should be.  After he was criticized for his answer by those on the right and on the left, he “clarified” his position, saying that what he meant was that if abortion were outlawed, it is the doctor who should be punished (you can read the transcript of the exchange HERE).

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, seems to take the same position – while abortion should be illegal, the law should focus on shutting down the industry, not punishing the women.  According to Moore, the women seeking abortions are just as much the victims of abortion as are the unborn.  (Read Moore’s take on the issue HERE.)

But I disagree with Moore.  I think President Trump’s first answer was the right one.  Our God-given sense of justice tells us that the punishment should fit the crime.  So the question is what kind of crime is abortion?  If abortion is criminalized, it will be because states decide that it is murder.  So if the crime of abortion is murder, then shouldn’t the punishment for abortion be the punishment for murder?

Let me put it another way.  What do we call it when a mother kills her six-month-old child?  We call it murder.  And it doesn’t matter what her reasons are.  We don’t give her a pass because she might be single, or because she might be poor, or because she might be young, or because she might be a victim of rape or incest.  We might feel sorry for her, but we don’t give her a pass.  We certainly don’t see her as just as much a victim as her dead child.  She is guilty of murder, and she should bear the full weight of the law.  Now let’s compare that to abortion.  If an unborn child is a human being, and if aborting an unborn child is murder, then shouldn’t the mother and the doctor be punished for murder?

The only reason that the crime of abortion should not receive the same punishment as the crime of murder is if the law does not equate abortion with murder.  But if abortion is not murder, then why would it be criminalized at all?

Regardless of which road you take the abortion debate always ends up in the same place:  What is it?  Is it a human being, or is it just a clump of cells?  If it is a human being, then abortion is murder, and murder is the most serious crime of all and should be punished as such.  If it’s just a clump of cells, then an abortion is no different than the removal of a mole.

So the next time you are discussing the issue of abortion and the question of punishment comes up, get to the heart of the matter with the more important question:  Is the unborn child a human being or not?  If it is, then the issue is not whether to punish women for abortion, but whether to punish women for murder.  I don’t want to live in a society that allows abortion, but I also don’t want to live in a society that recognizes abortion as murder but does not punish the murderer.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Quoteworthy: Finances

"It's not so much what you earn as what you do with what you earn."

Jim Rohn

Friday, August 11, 2017

How To Talk To a Leftist

Leftists, progressives, liberals... label them how you want.  If you are a student of political science then you know who I'm talking about.  They are our fellow citizens (and sometimes relatives) who practically view the government as god.
"There's no problem the government can't solve.  There's no problem the government shouldn't solve.  Government is the answer, the solution, the savior.  The government should take money from the rich and give it to the poor.  The government should control and oversee everything because people aren't smart and virtuous enough to run their own lives.  The government is never the problem; the problem is that people have too much freedom.  But we can trust the government, because the government is god.  If we only gave the government more money and more control, we could achieve utopia!"
Since the leftist view of the government strongly conflicts with that of America's founders, leftists call themselves progressives rather than conservatives.  Progressives want to "fundamentally change" America from its original design.  (Conservatives on the other hand have deep respect and affection for the first principles of our founding -- freedom, limited government, natural rights, federalism, and the unbreakable link between religion, virtue, and freedom.)

Because leftists practically view the government as god, then to them religion is not very important, and is sometimes even viewed as a threat.  To a leftist, everyone must put the government and its goals of equality and social justice above everything else, including religion.  This is why leftists are the ones fighting to get God out of the schools, out of the courtroom, out of city hall, out of the military, and out of the workplace.

As well, because leftists worship government instead of God, they tend to reject traditional Christian morals, and they also tend to undervalue religious liberty and see it as much less less important than the highest goal of all -- sexual liberty.  To a leftist, religious liberty is not genuine, but only a mask to conceal hatred, bigotry, and discrimination against the LGBT community.  (This is why leftists view evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox Jews as hate groups for their beliefs against gay marriage, abortion, and transgenderism.)

So the question is, How do you talk to a leftist?  They definitely need help.  They are wrong on many accounts, and their ideas are damaging our nation and culture (hopefully not beyond repair).  To persuade those on the left, we need to be able to talk to them.  But how?  If you've ever tried to talk to a leftist, then you know how challenging it can be.

All you need to effectively talk to a leftist is to understand one thing.  Leftists do not want to discuss ideas, they want to discuss how hateful you are.  Leftist ideas don't make sense.  They are not based on science, on history, on logic, on the Bible, or on reality.  Therefore leftists don't want to discuss ideas.  If they did they would lose.  So leftists have one tactic when they confront disagreement:  Avoid discussing ideas and attack the person.

For example, if you say that you are against legalized abortion, a leftist will attack you for hating women.  If you say that you are against affirmative action, a leftist will accuse you of racism.  If you say that you are against welfare, a leftist will accuse you of not caring about the poor.  If you say that you are against gay marriage, or that you think a wedding vendor should have the freedom to not participate in a gay wedding, a leftist will accuse you of homophobia.  In other words, leftists won't attack your ideas, they will attack you.  They want to change the topic from legalized abortion to your hatred for women.  And before you know it, rather than debating abortion you are debating whether or not you are a bad person; you are spending all of your mental energy on defending your character rather than defending the right to life!

The goal of the left when using this tactic is two-fold.  Number one, steer the conversation away from ideas so that they don't have to defend their views.  Number two, label you as such an evil person that they are justified when they become uncivil and when they avoid genuine discourse.  "You're not worthy of a conversation, and you deserve to be reviled until you repent of your views."

The key to talking to a leftist is simply to understand their tactic.  As soon as they change the topic from abortion or gay marriage to how hateful you are as a person, simply ignore their personal attacks and steer them back to the discussion of ideas.  If you can do this with gentleness and respect (without raising your voice and resorting to insults), then you will be able to plant some seeds that have the potential to bear fruit down the road.

Speaking to the left is scary.  They hit below the belt, and they hit hard.  They will not hesitate to unfriend you on Facebook and ban you for life from their social circle.  But our country is at war.  It's a civil war.  It's a battle of ideas.  And if we don't speak up, then the left wins, and we forfeit the greatest country in the history of the world.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

3 Big Problems With Calvinism

I'm not a Calvinist.  I'm an Arminian.  Arminians and Calvinists agree on two points -- Total Depravity and Perseverance of the Saints (although some Arminians believe that you can lose your salvation).  Other than that, the two views of soteriology (the study of salvation) are worlds apart.

The heart of Calvinism is the doctrine of unconditional election, also known as predestination.  It is the view that God, from eternity, chose some for salvation and some for condemnation, and this is not based on anything in the person – neither performance, nor free will, nor faith.  It is not conditioned on anything the individual does.  There is nothing different between the elect and the non-elect.  God simply chose some sinners for salvation, and some for damnation.

By contrast, Arminians believe in conditional election, which is the view that God decided before the foundation of the world to save those individuals who He foreknew would believe in Jesus.  God loves everyone, Jesus died for everyone, God wants to save everyone, but God elected to save those who He knew would believe in Jesus, the only way to salvation.  His election is according to His foreknowledge

Calvinism has become cool over the past decade or so, similar to how dispensational eschatology did in the twentieth century.  Many of the most popular, most beloved Christian leaders in America were dispensationalists, and so not surprisingly most Americans adopted that view (incorrectly, I might add).  In the same way, many of America's most loved Christian leaders are Calvinists -- Albert Mohler, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Wayne Grudem, Russell Moore, David Platt, Mark Dever, etc.  So it's no shock that Calvinism is now in vogue.

But Calvinism is unbiblical, illogical, and dishonoring to God.  There are three big problems with unconditional election that I want to briefly share with you.

First, how can God love everyone if He can save everyone but chooses not to?  (John 3:16)  That's like seeing a person drowning, having the ability to save Him, but choosing not to.  That's not love.

Second, how is it possible that God desires to save everyone if He can but chooses not to?  (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Tim 2:3-4)  That's like saying that I desire to help you fix your car, and I have the ability to help you fix you car, but then not helping you fix your car.  That doesn't make sense.

Third, why is the invitation to believe for salvation extended to the non-elect if God does not choose to save them?  (Jn 3:16; Rm 10:13)  That's like me deciding in advance that you will not be allowed to attend my birthday party, but then I still invite you.  Something's not right with this picture.

On the other hand, the Arminian doctrine of conditional election is Biblical, logical, and it upholds the love and justice of God.  Does God want to save everyone?  Yes.  Why doesn't He?  Because salvation is only through faith in Jesus Christ.  So before the foundation of the world God elected some to salvation according to His foreknowledge of who would believe in Christ (1 Peter 1:1-2; Rom 8:29-30).  The non-elect are those who God knew would reject Christ.  God's election is based on a condition that the individual has met -- faith in Christ.

Unconditional election?  No.  Conditional election according to foreknowledge?  Yes!

Friday, August 4, 2017

How to Communicate Without Fighting

Titus 3:2 says to "avoid fighting."  This refers to physical fights and verbal fights, such as arguing and quarreling.  Easier said than done.  How do we talk about sensitive matters in marriage without it escalating into a fight?

The answer is not to avoid talking about sensitive issues.  For the marriage to flourish, you must go through the tunnel of conflict.  Conflict does not have to escalate into a fight.  A conflict is simply the existence in a relationship of a disagreement, frustration, or hurt feelings.  If conflict is not dealt with then you will gradually fall out of love and eventually grow to despise one another.  If you don’t verbalize and work through your unmet needs, frustrations, and hurt feelings, the marriage will fall apart.

So again, how do we talk about sensitive matters in marriage without getting in to a fight?  The following six communication principles are the answer.

First, don’t cut each other off.  Let the other person talk.  A person who cuts people off is called a steamroller.  Don’t do that.

Second, don’t insult one another.  Avoid saying anything that might hurt your spouse’s feelings or offend them.

Third, don’t raise your voice.  Carefully monitor your volume.  If you notice that you or the other person is getting louder, stop talking and listen for a while.  If you lose your temper and yell and scream at your spouse, you are training them to avoid all conflict with you in the future.  Rather than revealing their true feelings, they will go into hiding to avoid your wrath.  This will eventually destroy the marriage as your spouse will gradually fall out of love with you, and you won’t even know it and be able to address it.

Fourth, don’t assume motives.  Don’t act like you know why your spouse did or did not do something.  You don’t know their heart; you can’t read their mind.  Assuming motives will only anger your spouse.

Fifth, avoid absolutes.  Avoid saying, “You always leave your clothes on the floor,” or “You never get home on time,” or “I always do more work than you.”  Statements like these are not true and are offensive because they make your spouse sound worse than they are.

Sixth, avoid offensive body language.  Avoid rolling your eyes, making mean faces, chuckling at your spouse's words, and not looking at your spouse when they speak.  These behaviors communicate disrespect and contempt for your spouse and are highly provocative.

These communication principles work, but they take time to learn.  Be prepared to fail at first, but don’t give up.  Keep practicing, and it will pay off.

Avoid These Parenting Pitfalls

Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they won’t become discouraged.”

What does it mean to exasperate your children?  The dictionary says it means to “irritate intensely; infuriate (Google).”  The NIV says don’t “embitter” your children.  The ESV says don’t “provoke” your children.  The NLT says don’t “aggravate” your children.  The Amplified Bible says, “Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or exasperate your children [with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by favoritism or indifference; treat them tenderly with lovingkindness]….”  I like best how the New Century Version puts it.  “Fathers, do not nag your children. If you are too hard to please, they may want to stop trying.”  The behavior that Paul wants us to avoid is treating our children in a way that will discourage them so that they stop trying to please us.  We must avoid treating them in a way that will aggravate them, exasperate them, embitter them, so that they won't care any more; so that their spirits are crushed and they will give up.

Commentator William Barclay wrote, “There is always a problem in the relationship of parent and child.  If the parent is too easy-going, the child will grow up undisciplined and unfit to face life.  But there is a contrary danger.  The more conscientious a parent is, the more he is likely always to be correcting and rebuking the child.  Simply because he wishes the child to do well, he is always on his top.  The danger of all this is that the child may become discouraged.  The duty of the parent is discipline, but it is also encouragement.  The better a parent is the more he must avoid the danger of discouraging his child, for he must give discipline and encouragement in equal parts.”

Bible scholar F.F. Bruce wrote, “Fathers are enjoined not to irritate their children lest they lose heart and come to think that it is useless trying to please their parents.  Let parents see to it that they deserve obedience:  and more than this, that they make obedience easy.”

So how can we make sure that we don’t treat our kids in a way that causes them to give up trying to do what is right and wise?  We can start by avoiding these nine pitfalls.

9 Parenting Pitfalls

First, avoid all insults.  This includes abusive language, cutting remarks and name-calling that diminishes your child’s worth, belittles them, and hurts their feelings.  Calling your child names like, “Stupid, idiot, dumby, worthless, loser, fatso, lazy, ugly, problem child, slut,” and the like can damage a child’s self-esteem for life.  There’s no place for that in a godly home.

Second, avoid hypocrisy.  There are two ways that hypocrisy discourages and aggravates our children.  First, when we expect or demand that they do as we say and not as we do.  And second, when we live an inconsistent lifestyle – acting holy and kind when we’re in front of our church friends but acting totally different when we’re at home.

Third, avoid over-correction.  This takes the form of constant fault-finding, nit-picking, and nagging.  You’re always on your child’s case about something.  “Stop that.  Don’t do that.  Don’t touch.  Get your elbows off the table.  Don’t talk with your mouth full.  Don’t yell.  Don’t run.  Lower your voice.  Stop complaining.”  Correct, but don’t over-correct.

Fourth, avoid ineffective discipline.  By ineffective discipline I mean continuing to use disciplinary methods that don’t work.  Avoiding discipline altogether is not an option (Pr 13:24).  But the purpose is correction.  The key then is to only use disciplinary methods that actually do correct; discipline that actually modifies the child’s behavior.  If your methods are not working, move on to something else.

Fifth, avoid favoritism.  This is obviously for families with multiple children.  Children are created with a sense of fairness and justice.  They intuitively recognize it when you are being unfair or unjust, and they will come to resent you for it.

Sixth, avoid unreasonable expectations.  By unreasonable expectations, I mean expecting your child to be and to do more than they are actually capable of.  As a result, they will continue to fail, you will continue to show disappointment and discipline them, and eventually the child with get aggravated, frustrated, discouraged, and will stop trying altogether.  Be sure that your expectations are possible and reasonable.

Seventh, avoid selfishness.  By selfishness I mean pushing your child to perform, either academically, athletically, behaviorally, or in any other way for the purpose of making you look and feel good.  In other words, you’re not pushing your child for their benefit, but for yours.  You’re not doing what’s best for your child, you’re doing what’s best for you.  You want your child to succeed because it will make you look good and feel good as a parent.  Your children will eventually pick up on this and come to resent you for it.

Eighth, avoid unfaithfulness.  By unfaithfulness I mean breaking your word; telling your child you will do something with or for them, and then not following through.  Perhaps nothing is more discouraging and aggravating to a child than when a parent says they will play ball, or help with homework, or go to their game, or take them to the movies, and then fails to follow through.

Ninth, avoid severity.  By severity I mean raising your voice and yelling at your kids or becoming physically violent with them.  Severity is always the result of letting your anger get the best of you.  This sends a message to your kids that they are worthless, and that you hate them, and this will cause them to become discouraged and give up.  As well, you are teaching them to handle their problems in the same way.  You are teaching them that if they ever have a problem with someone, whether at school, at work, or even in the family, the way to handle it is to yell and scream and get physical.