Thursday, December 5, 2019

3 Big Problems With Calvinism

Calvinism is a system of theology which says that God decides who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, and people have no say in the matter.  God's choice is not based on a person's faith, or repentance, or choice. 

Arminianism is a system of theology which says that God wants everyone to be saved, and made it possible for everyone to be saved through the atonement of Christ, but only chooses to save those who repent and believe in Jesus.  I am an Arminian.  Let me give you three big reasons I reject Calvinism

One:  Calvinists believe that God doesn't want to save everyone, only the elect.  He only wants to save a few to glorify His love; He wants to send the rest of humanity to hell to glorify His holiness and justice.  The term for this is "unconditional election," meaning God chooses to save some and not others, and it is completely unconditional -- it has nothing to do with any conditions that the individual has met.

What does the Bible teach?  God wants to save everyone.  You can genuinely say to any person you ever meet, "God loves you and wants to save you from your sins." 

  • Matthew 18:14 “In the same way, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones perish.” 
  • 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” 
  • 1 Timothy 2:4 “[God] wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 

Two:  Calvinists believe that Christ did not die for everyone, only the elect.  Calvinists cannot say to one another, "Christ died for your sins," because that's only true of the elect, and nobody knows for sure who the elect are.  This is called "Limited Atonement," because the atonement was only for a limited number. 

What does the Bible teach?  Christ died for everyone.  He died for the sins of the whole world. 

  • John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” 
  • 1 John 2:2 “He himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.” 
Three, Calvinists believe that everyone cannot be saved.  Salvation is only available to the few whom God enables to repent and believe.  This is called "irresistible grace," because God irresistibly enables a few people to believe.

What does the Bible teach?  Everyone can be saved by faith, because Christ draws all men to Himself.  God enables all men to believe when they hear the gospel, but this grace is not irresistible; people must decide to receive or reject Jesus Christ.
  • John 3:16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” 
  • John 12:32 "As for me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself."
To learn more about the "FACTS of Arminianism" be sure to check out the Society of Evangelical Arminians.  

Sunday, February 24, 2019

My Bible-Highlighting System

When I read the Bible in my daily quiet time I like to use highlighters.  Highlighting helps me to remember the verses that jump out at me, and it helps me to apply the Bible to my life. 

I use four different colors:  Blue, pink, yellow, and green. 

I also recommend that you use gel highlighters rather than markers.  Markers will bleed through the page.  You can usually find good gel highlighters at Walmart in the office supplies department. 

Blue:  Use blue whenever you come across a truth to believe

Pink:  Use pink whenever you see a sin or error to avoid.

Yellow:  Use yellow when you see a promise to claim.

Green:  Use green when you see a command to obey or an example to follow.

If you happen to use a Bible app like Bible Gateway or YouVersion, then you can use the same system, because they have all the highlighter colors that you need.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

5 Ways to Get Better at Loving Others

The Puritan Thomas Watson said, “Love is the soul of religion, and that which constitutes a real Christian.  Love is the queen of graces.”

Christianity is all about love -- God's love for us as demonstrated through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and in response, our love for Him and for one another.  The greatest commandment, which is the sum of all the commandments in the Bible, is to love God, and to love others. 

The Bible says that our love can grow cold, and it can also increase (Mt 24:12; 1 Thess 1:3).  So what can we do to get better at loving others?

First, salvation.  You must be saved.  We don't love others to get saved; we can't love others until we are saved.  1 John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 

Second, learn how to love by studying God's word.  1 John 4:8 "God is love."  Study God’s character and commands.  How does God act?  How does God display love?  Henry Drummond, the author of the famous sermon "The Greatest Thing on Earth," suggests reading 1 Corinthians 13 (known as The Love Chapter) every day for a month.

Third, participate in church.  Hebrews 10:24-25 “24 And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, 25 not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”  In church you will be around people who are striving to grow in love.  And you will be around people who are encouraging you to live a life of love.  This is one of the purposes of the church.  To provoke love and good works.

Fourth, pray for the strength to love.  1 Thessalonians 3:12 “And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we do for you.”  A life of love is impossible without God’s power.  So pray.  Daily.  All day long.  “Lord, please help me to love.”

Fifth, reflect on God's love for you.  Luke 7:47 “Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.”  This is the story of a very sinful woman who experienced the love of Jesus.  When Jesus was dining at the home of a Pharisee, she entered and stood behind Jesus at his feet, weeping.  She washed His feet with her tears and her hair, and kissed His feet, and then she poured some very expensive perfume on his feet.  The other people at the table couldn’t understand her behavior.  And Jesus explained that her great display of love was in response to her experiencing God’s great love.  The more you understand God’s love for you, the more you will be empowered and inspired and compelled to love others. 

You have probably read the book Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo.  It’s the story of Jean Val Jean, a man who had spent 19 years in an awful, torturous prison.  When he is released, he can’t find work, and he can’t find anything to eat, and so he eventually finds himself in the care of a priest for one night.  The priest is kind to him and gives him food.  Later that night, Jean Val Jean decides to steal the silverware and run off, only to be caught by the police.  When the police bring him back to the priest so that he could confirm that Val Jean had stolen his property, the priest said, “He didn’t steal the silverware, I gave it to him.  But you forgot something.”  And the priest also gave him the silver candlesticks.  Jean Val Jean was so impacted by the priest’s love that it changed him.  He deserved punishment, but he was lavished with kindness and generosity.  He spent the rest of his life trying to show that same kind of love to everyone he met.

God has loved you with a remarkable love.  You deserve punishment, but God has saved you, and given you everything.  Let God’s love transform you into a person of love. 

Bonus Resource:  Sermon Video.  If you want to learn more about loving others, then be sure to watch my sermon "Growing in Love."

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Take Comfort! God Will Use The Bad in Your Life for Good.

J.C. Ryle
If you are going through a hard time right now, then the story of JC Ryle should lift you up.  It is a story about how God uses the bad for good; how He uses the trials to train us, and direct us to the best path for our lives.

JC Ryle was a great preacher and writer in England in the nineteenth century.  He ministered at the same time as Charles Spurgeon, DL Moody, George Mueller, and Hudson Taylor.  He was born into a very wealthy family, and was the oldest child and heir to the estate.

He didn't follow Christ as a young man, but before college graduation he contracted a serious lung infection.  This trial pushed him to seek comfort in prayer and the Bible for the first time in fourteen years.  Not long after this, he went to church and heard someone reading Ephesians 2:8, and he was born again.

After finishing college, Ryle went to law school with plans for a career in politics.  But then tragedy struck.  His father's bank crashed, and with it Ryle's funding for a career in law and politics.  This changed the trajectory of Ryle's entire life.  He was set to inherit everything -- the family home and money; he was headed for a life of ease, luxury, and wealth.  But it was all gone.  His Oxford education qualified him for the ministry, and so he was ordained as a pastor.  This was all part of God's plan, leading Ryle to find his true calling.  He went on to become one of the most famous preachers of all time.  

But God wanted Ryle to do more than preach.  On May 9, 1845, a large crowd assembled for the opening of the Great Yarmouth bridge, but it collapsed, causing the deaths of over one hundred people.  The entire country was disturbed.  Ryle then wrote his first tract about the uncertainties of life and the assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ.  Thousands of copies were sold, launching his career as one of most beloved Christian authors of all time.  He wrote more than 300 pamphlets, tracts, and books.

Ryle faced many difficulties in life -- poor health, the loss of three wives, the loss of his inheritance -- but God used it all for his good and God's glory.  And God promises to do the same for you.  He won't keep you from trials, but He will use every trial for your good (Romans 8:28).  As you endure this present trial, "with all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgment.  Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow (Proverbs 3:5-6, CEV)."

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

5 Simple Decisions to Get Control of Your Finances This Year

Okay.  So I know that money is a huge source of stress for many of you.  It's probably your biggest source of stress.  It causes marital strife.  It keeps you up at night.  Money problems can keep you from enjoying your life.  It's like they say, "Money is not everything, but it is kind of like oxygen."  So in this short post I want to offer some help.

Below are five decisions that can revolutionize your finances -- and your life.  They are easy enough for a child to understand.  They can be practiced by both rich and poor.  And they are backed up by the best Christian financial experts -- Larry Burkett, Ron Blue, Dave Ramsey.

I can't force you to make these decisions.  But I can tell you from personal experience that they work.  Lydia and I have been living by these principles our entire adult lives.  So here they are:

  1. Don't pay interest on credit cards.  Either don't use them at all, or pay them off before the end of the month.
  2. Pay cash for cars.  Yes, people actually do this.  You have to stop using your car to impress people.  Dave Ramsey said, "Having been a millionaire gone broke, I dug my way out by making a decision about looking good versus being good.  Looking good is when your broke friends are impressed by what you drive, and being good is having more money than they have."
  3. The only debt you should have is a mortgage.  And if possible, pay cash for your home.  Larry Burkett said, "God doesn’t prohibit borrowing, but He certainly does discourage it.  In fact, every biblical reference to it is negative."
  4. Tithe to your church.  Remember, God doesn't need your tithe.  You need to acknowledge that your money comes from God and belongs to Him.  If you don't tithe, then your wealth will be the fast track to spiritual ruin rather than the blessing of a generous God (Richard Swenson).
  5. Give, save, and then live on the rest, and in that order.
There's a lot more to learn about money if you want to prosper financially.  And I often teach those principles and skills.  But if you will decide to start here, then the rest is easy.  These decisions don't take a lot of smarts, but they do take a lot of heart.  How much do you want financial freedom?  What are you willing to do to achieve financial security?  
"Winning at money is 80 percent behavior and 20 percent head knowledge.  What to do isn’t the problem; doing it is.  Most of us know what to do, but we just don’t do it.  If I can control the guy in the mirror, I can be skinny and rich." -- Dave Ramsey

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Don't Worry About A Thing

It is very tempting to jump into the waters of worry.  Sometimes we find ourselves drowning in worry and don't remembering choosing it.  It seems like worry just happens to us, like the weather, or an illness.

Worry is a miserable state.  It can be worse than an illness.  It is a mental illness.  But it affects more than the mind.  It causes suffering from head to toe.  It can lead to weight loss (no appetite).  If you're like me and wouldn't mind losing a few pounds, then worry probably has the opposite effect on you -- weight gain caused by overindulging on your comfort foods.  Worry can lead to substance abuse, or sexual immorality, or any number of sinful behaviors in our attempt to find relief from the misery of anxiety.  Worry can cause anxiety attacks -- shortness of breath, uncontrollable shaking, and sleeplessness.  Worry can actually drive you to the point where you need medication just to function.  Worry steals your joy.  It leads to depression -- chronic sadness and gloominess.  Worry is a form of soul self-mutilation that takes a terrible toll on your mind, body, and relationships. 

Fundamentally worry is a distraction.  And that's the biggest reason it is a vice.  Worry is a hyper-focus on the negative that might occur that distracts you from today -- today's responsibilities; today's choices; today's opportunities; today's joys.  In essence, worry stops you from living -- truly living.  You become a spiritual zombie.  On the outside you appear to be alive, but on the inside you are dead.  Your mind is not there.  It is somewhere else.  It is in the future.  It is stuck on "what if?"  Worry is a sin because if you are distracted by what might happen tomorrow, then you cannot focus on being the person God wants you to be today.

Worry is a choice.  That's the good news.  As Christians the Lord commands us not to worry (Matthew 6:25, 31; Philippians 4:6).  That means we don't have to worry.  We don't have to be spiritual zombies.  We don't have to live in misery.

Why don't we we have to worry?  Because God cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  He promises to provide for us (Philippians 4:19).  He promises to work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). 

So how do we repent of worry?  If you've every tried to stop worrying, then you know it is not easy.  In fact, you may even think it is impossible.  But I assure you it is not.  If the Bible is God's word (and it is!), then we can choose not to worry.  How?

First, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).  Immerse yourself in God -- Bible study, prayer, other spiritual disciplines, serving God, reaching the lost, building your church, serving people in need, repenting of sin, cultivating the virtues.  Rather than trying to stop worrying, shift your focus to actually doing something.  Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  Stop worrying and start working -- for God.  Get so busy doing the Lord's work that you don't have time to worry!  God promises that if you will seek Him first, "all these things will be provided for you."  “The result of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quiet confidence forever. Then my people will dwell in a peaceful place, in safe and secure dwellings (Isaiah 32:17-18).”

Second, give your worries to God in prayer (4:6-7).  If you are worried, stop obsessing and start conversing -- with your Heavenly Father.  Tell Him your fears.  Tell Him your worries.  Tell Him what you need.  Get alone for an extended time with God.  Go for a drive by yourself and cry out to God.  And don't just do this once; do it every time you are tempted to worry. 

Third, give thanks (Philippians 4:6-7).  Rather than just focusing on the negative that might happen, focus on all the good that has happened and is happening.  In prayer, count your blessings.  Compare yourself to those who are much worse off than you.  Tell the truth -- it could be worse.  The promise for those who pray and give thanks is amazing:  "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Fourth, immerse yourself in God's word.  Stop stressing and start studying.  Stop worrying and start meditating -- on Scripture.  When you are tempted to worry, get out your Bible, and start reading.  I especially enjoy the Psalms and the New Testament epistles.  Feast on the Bible.  Go deep.  Do a word study.  Pick a topic, perhaps related to what you are worried about, and look up every verse in the Bible on it.  Write down what you learn.  And then share it with the rest of us.  "Abundant PEACE belongs to those who love your instruction; nothing makes them stumble (Psalm 119:165)."

God loves you.  He's got you.  He's going to take care of you.  He's going to work it all together for your good.  So don't worry.  Seek first.  Pray.  Give thanks.  Study.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Are You Prepared For Your Own Financial Shutdown

Everyone is talking about the government shutdown.  This is the longest shutdown in history.  I've lost count.  This is day 25, or is it 26?  The main reason I'm unsure is because I don't work for the federal government.  But for many who do, the story is one of panic.  The government shutdown has exposed a bigger problem in America -- financial foolishness.  The reason many government employees are in a state of panic about the government shutdown is because they are not handling their finances wisely.  They have no margin.  They are living paycheck to paycheck.  They are not financially prepared for contingencies and emergencies.  And of all people, you'd think that government employees would be prepared, because there seems to be a shutdown every year. 

But you should be prepared too.  Even if you don't work for the federal government, your own financial shutdown is coming.  They always do.  You might get laid off.  Your income might drop drastically for some reason.  Your car might break down.  Your air conditioner may finally kick the bucket.  Your roof might finally give up the ghost.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your financial winter is coming.  Are you ready?

Proverbs 22:3 "A sensible person sees danger and takes cover, but the inexperienced keep going and are punished."

Financial experts advise that if you want to "take cover" and be prepared for those inevitable, yet unpredictable financial shutdowns in life, then you need to have an emergency savings account at your disposal.  This emergency account is not for Christmas shopping or vacations.  It is not to be used to upgrade to the latest smartphone.  It is for emergencies.

How much money should you have saved up in your emergency fund?  Three to six months of living expenses.  Notice the term "living expenses."  That will probably be less than your monthly income, unless you spend every single dollar that you bring in.  Figure out how much it takes for your family to live in a month.  Just include the bare essentials.  If you had to, you could get rid of the kids' smartphones, cable TV, the gym membership, you could stop going to Starbucks every morning before work, and you could stop eating out several times a week.  Once you figure out what it would take to live in a month, then you need to save up three months of living expenses if you are a two-income family, and six months if you are a single-income family (like mine).

If you don't have your own emergency savings fund in place, then it needs to be your financial priority.  I can't tell you how much weight it will take off your back to know that you are prepared for something to go wrong.  With an emergency savings account in place, financial emergencies are no longer emergencies, they are just setbacks.

The past few weeks were a little crazy for us.  First the dishwasher broke.  And then the fridge broke.  And then the dryer broke.  And then the car broke.  It wasn't fun dishing out all that cash in such a short amount of time, but because we had an emergency savings fund, we were fine.  It wasn't an emergency, it was just an annoyance.

I want you to be prepared for your next financial shutdown.  So put all your other financial goals on hold, and get crazy-serious about building up your emergency savings fund.

By the way, I have a friend who works for the federal government, and he is loving the shutdown.  Why?  It's extra time off, and he has plenty of money saved up for emergencies.