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22 minutes | Aug 9, 2021
Why I am Giving up the Recovering Faith Podcast and Blog
Welcome back to the Recovering Faith Podcast and Blog. As you have undoubtably noticed, I have not had a new episode of the Recovering Faith Podcast and Blog for almost a year now, for which I apologize. Since I just abruptly stopped producing content and didn’t say a word about it, you have probably been wondering why, and some of you may even be worried that something traumatic and terrible has happened in my life to cause me to abandoned the podcast after not missing an episode in two and a half years. Nothing quite so dramatic has happened, and the answer to the question as to why I haven’t been posting is a bit complex, and I myself have been struggling to put it into a cohesive thought, which is what this episode is attempting to do. Some of you may be greatly surprised by what I am about to say, and others probably saw it coming for a long time.I have always been an introspective person, sometimes to my own detriment, however, it has not always been easy for me to explain, even to myself, exactly what I was feeling or why I was feeling it and it takes me a while to parse it all out. My hope is that by the end of this work I will have untangled the gnarled mess of a web that is my mind and that I will have explained myself so fully and succinctly that you can understand where I am coming from. After I have said my piece and put my thoughts out on the public chopping block, I hope you will be able to empathize with, me even if you can’t relate, and that if you feel the need to comment you do so from a place of love and mutual respect. However, being a realist, I know how the comment sections of internet pages work, and I don’t expect everyone to play nice. With that said, let’s begin.First off, I have a confession to make, I am an addict and was so for as long as I can remember. No, I am not addicted to alcohol or any substance, or even any vice, I am addicted to religion, and try as I may, I have never been able to shake the addiction. For some reason, whether I am participating in a religion or not, religion and theology have always been maniacally important to me, and I have no clear idea as to why. My sisters were raised in the same culture and environment that I was and subjected to the same religious fervor and teachings, and they share no such obsession of religion, which offers some interesting insights into the nature vs. nurture debate, but that is not the subject of today’s podcast and blog, so we will move on.In order to fully understand why I haven’t been posting for quite some time, and to understand why I have taken such a long time to talk about why I haven’t been posting, I must first discuss why I started the podcast in the first place. As the name of the podcast, Recovering Faith, indicates, it was an attempt to help both myself and others recover their faith after coming from an abusive or controlling religion, or after loosing faith altogether. All of the before mentioned scenarios apply to me and my situation as I was involved in, not one but, two different cults, and then I completely lost my faith in a rather public and dramatic fashion, putting my hatred of all things religion on display for the world to see. For the sake of those who may not have read all of my earlier blogs, or listened to my earlier podcast episodes, I will go through a little of my religious journey. Hopefully in doing so I’ll provide an understanding of my life and mental state leading up to the founding of this blog and podcast so that my reasons for starting the project in the first place will make sense. My first encounter with religion was, realistically, my first day on earth as I was taught my father’s particular brand of hell fire and damnation, fear the end of the world, everything that is not part of the religion is of the devil, fundamentalist Christian religion from birth. My mental state as a child is a bit difficult to explain as I thought that everything my parents taught me must be true because they were teaching it to me while, at the same time, doubting literally everything they told me as it was painfully obvious that much of it was not exactly congruent with reality, and demonstrably so. In the religion I grew up in, physical and mental abuse in the name of God were the norm, the rules and doctrine were constantly in a state of flux, and almost everything that happened in the world was a sign of the end times and therefore cause to panic. While I logically knew from an extremely early age that the religion of my birth was not correct and that noting about it was good, wholesome or holy, a deeply instilled fear kept me from admitting, even to myself, that I was questioning the faith. I was taught to believe that if I were ever to question the faith even slightly that by doing so I would be committing a mortal sin that would not only offend God, putting my eternal destiny in jeopardy, but I would also be betraying my family in the most vile and disrespectful of ways. I also could not lightly dismiss the real possibility that if I questioned my father’s teaching too much that I may disappear to never be seen again, or at least not alive. Some of my father’s favorite things to say were, “I could be like Jim Jones if I wanted to be,” and, “If you ever betray me no one will ever find your body.” I eventually broke free from the faith, but it took years and countless hours of therapy to mostly root out all of its tendrils from my brain, but the years of intense conditioning caused me to think I needed to replace the false faith with one that was true. Honestly, I am not sure that I will ever be able to completely undo all of the harm and mental conditioning instilled in me by my childhood. When I gave up on my father’s religious teachings I am not sure that I had what could be described as a “God shaped hole” in my soul as I had never had what could be considered a true religious experience, but the abandonment of my faith certainly left a noticeable void in my psyche. Breaking free from an oppressive religion gave me too much freedom and I wasn’t sure what to do with it so I subconsciously felt the need to give away some of my freedom for structure and some sort of a promise of future happiness. With a mindset such as I had at that time, it wasn’t long before I was deceived by yet another cult. The new cult was enticing to me because of how nice the people were to me and because of how much they truly seamed to care about me, and also in no small part due to their persuasive recruiting tactics. I was searching for meaning in my life but wasn’t sure what that would look like so I was a prime candidate for conversion to the faith. I had severe doubts early on in my new faith that persisted throughout, but not willing to admit that I had been deceived yet again, only this time by my own doing instead of it being forced upon me from birth, I convinced myself that the problem was with me and not the religion. As a result of thinking I was the problem and not the church, I devoted my entire life to the church for more than ten years, giving everything that was asked of me, and then some, even going so far as to spend two entire years fully committed to converting others to the faith. I really should have learned my lesson and cut my losses sooner, but I have not always subscribed to the notion that a person should not continue in a mistake just because he or she had so much invested in it. When I finally broke free from the second cult that had ensnared me, I decided that all religions were false and that there were no God and I set out to prove to the world that god was nothing more than a fairytale, and an insidious one at that. For the better part of five years I could accurately be described as a militant atheist, or even a militant anti-theist. The point is, I made it my mission in life to destroy religion, and honestly, during that point in my life I was so angry at having devoted my entire life to a lie that I was often an insufferable jerk, to put it politely. At the time, I worked for a tour bus company and the boss, who was also atheist, thought it was hilarious to put me with church groups as he thought it would make me uncomfortable, and sometimes it did. Mostly though, I just ignored the religious passengers and never let on that I did not buy what they were selling, partially because I thought it may effect my tip, but mostly because I just didn’t want them to try and convert me to their brand of religion. You see, if they thought I was already deeply converted to another sect they would just let me be, but if they thought I was lost they would make it their mission to save me. Eventually I was at the right place in my life where the right group would have some effect upon me and I started to reconsider religion and the existence of God. I was just starting to recover mentally and financially from a horribly contentious and devastating divorce, and I felt there was something truly missing from my life, and since having some sort of meaning was always exceedingly important to me, when I was invited to join in on the group I agreed, and the event affected me the way in which it was designed to, I eventually started considering the possibility that there may be a God, and I even started attending church. I’m not sure why I thought attending a religion would give purpose and meaning to my life as faith in God and participating in religious activities had never given me a sense of purpose or meaning before, but I thought that perhaps I just hadn’t tried the “right” one. Despite the fact that I was attending church every week, reading the Bible daily, praying, going to Bible study, and doing all of the things a “good Christian” is expected to do, I was still plagued by doubt and determined that I should organize my thoughts as to why I doubted and thought that perhaps it would help with my faith.After a while I decided that my faith journey may even help others in a similar situation and I started the Recovering Faith podcast and blog. The ultimate goal, or as some may say, the prime directive, of this podcast and blog was to work through all of my issues of doubt, and in the process, grow and strengthen my faith, hopefully helping others in similar situations along the way. Sounds simple, right? Well, it was not always as easy as that, and despite often sounding confident in my faith, not only were my efforts not having the desired effect upon my faith but I began to struggle mightily with the motivation to continue the podcast and blog and I often had to force myself to produce new content, which was sometimes almost more than I could mentally handle. For the record, because I hosted a Christian podcast, some people came to the conclusion that I was solid in my faith, despite the fact that I never actually claimed that I was, and I was always fairly honest and upfront about my doubts.Part of the reason I struggled so much in producing new episodes is that, while others had no way of knowing this, I was struggling so much with faith that I felt like a hypocrite, a poser, a fraud, a fake Christian and a charlatan in urging people to have faith in something that I myself struggled with so deeply and on such a fundamental level that it kept me awake countless hours at night. I felt stuck. By this point I had quite a following on my podcast and blog and felt like I would be letting people down to quit, yet I didn’t know if I could continue. When I finally manage to miss an episode, it became much easier to miss the next time, and even easier to miss the one after that, and the one after that, until I finally gave myself permission to quit. Looking back, I really should have just announced that I was going to take a break from the podcast, but I had convinced myself that I would start it back up the next week, and every week I told myself that until a year had passed by. From the day I decided to give God a second chance, I read the Bible almost daily and prayed multiple times per day. I persisted even though I didn’t get much out of reading the Bible and it felt like nothing more than reading a book I had read multiple times before and the act of praying made me feel silly and awkward, like I was having a conversation with myself. I chided myself, and even judged myself, for feeling that way, but I could not help how I felt and I didn’t know what to do to change the situation.I longed for that deep relationship with God that people often tell me they have, but praying has never amounted to much more than talking to myself and I have never felt like I have received a divine answer to a question asked of God or divine intervention to a situation I brought before God, and I have never felt the presence of God in my life. Most of my life I felt like if there was a God who cared about his children and communicated with them that I must be doing something wrong as I received no such communication and never felt the unconditional love others talk about so fondly. I reasoned that either there was something so deficient in me that God did not care about me, or else everyone else was exaggerating their encounters with God, if not outright lying about them. As is typical with me, I went with the assumption that all of the people who were telling me they have a deeply profound relationship with God spoke truthfully and accurately when the described their experience and that the problem was with me.I often say this, but it is completely true: There have been times in my life when I was absolutely certain there was a God and there have been times in my life when I was absolutely certain there was no God, but there has never been a time in my life when I haven’t cared either way, and I think therein lies the problem. Faith and religion have always been such a huge part of my personal identity that, honestly, I am not sure I know who I am without it. Often as a child when my sisters were thinking about the latest cartoon or toy, I was thinking about God and religion and otherwise trying to figure out life. My sisters always wanted to watch cartoons, but I would often get up early on Sunday mornings and watch the preachers on the television. I am well aware that at this point most of my atheist friends, assuming they even care enough to read this or listen to it, are thinking I was foolish to “go crawling back to religion” and my Christian friends, assuming they care enough to read this or listen to it, are worried that I am backsliding and putting my salvation at risk. There are quite a number of my friends at church, including the pastor, who say they listen to my podcast, and their reaction to this post, or lack thereof, will tell me whether or not that is actually the case.I am still doing all of the things, or at least most of the things, expected of a “good Christian” man such as attending church, volunteering to help at church, leading a small group Bible study, which I did not volunteer for, and reading the Bible, but the honest truth is, my faith hasn’t grown, hasn’t been strengthened and I am just going through the motions. Despite the undisputed fact that I know the Bible better than anyone else in my small group Bible study, I think I am the person least qualified to lead it on account of my faith deficit and I feel like a fraud every time I teach, yet when I asked the church to release me they declined. So far as I know, no one in the group knows that I tried to quit. At this point I feel stuck as I don’t feel like I can quit, but I don’t feel right about continuing either. With all that I have revealed, you may ask why then do I go to church at all, and the honest answer is because I desperately want and need it to be true, but knowing this, I don’t think I can continue to put out episodes of a podcast encouraging people to have faith in something that I myself don’t have faith in. If I were to continue to put out episodes I would either have to be honest about my doubts, which may cause others to doubt, or I would have to be dishonest and disingenuous. I want to believe that there is an all-powerful all-knowing, all-loving God that has a divine plan for my life and that all of my suffering, and indeed all of the suffering throughout the world throughout all time, has been to further some greater purpose, but I would be lying if I said I actually believe that. Even when I was militant against religion, I wanted to believe there was a god who loved me and had a divine purpose for my life, I just couldn’t and I saw no reasonable argument for it. I still have seen no evidence that there is a God, or at least not a God that takes an active part in the affairs on this earth, and especially not a God that cares about my life.The reason that I now consider myself to be a Christian and a “believer” in Christ is not because I have seen some irrefutable evidence, because as far as I can tell, no such evidence exists. It is not because I had some deep and profound religious experience, because I have had no such experience; the best I can claim is one time getting emotional during a church service, while I was also deeply depressed. The reason I go to church, the reason I call myself a Christian, and the reason I consider myself a follower of Christ is simply and truthfully because I want to believe it and I want it to be true. Religion and faith meets a deeply seated emotional need and I can’t otherwise justify my participation in it or my adherence to it. I am no fan of Karl Marx, but he perhaps was correct when he said, “Religion is the opium of the people.” Perhaps at this point in my life I need a little opium, but it may not always be the case. C.S. Lewis, who is widely considered to be one of the greatest Christian writers of all times, said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is marginally important.” I completely agree with Lewis on his assessment, and I hope and pray that I will be divinely, or scientifically, shown that Christianity is of ultimate importance, but for now, it is fulfilling a utilitarian need in my life, but I am not sure how long it will remain so in the absence of evidence. So, as Paul Harvey always said, “Not you know the rest of the story.” Hopefully you now understand why I have not been posting episodes of the Recovering Faith Podcast and Blog, and hopefully you don’t now look at me in too unkind a light. This is Gene Curl signing off.
19 minutes | Sep 1, 2020
Is God an Angry, Absent and Abusive Father Just Waiting For Us to Mess Up so He Can Punish Us?
20 minutes | Aug 5, 2020
Here's Your Sign.
A sign at a Church near Joplin, Missouri. A lot of people, knowing full well what they should be doing, say they are looking for a sign that will tell them whether or not they should do it, and then ignore all of the blatantly obvious signs because they are not telling them what they want to hear. There are many instances in life where people ignore the signs that are clearly before them, such as the signs of a bad relationship, but I think the most important sign people often refuse to see or listen to are the signs that they should follow God. Some people say they are waiting to go to church or follow God until they see a sign, but then discount every sign they see because they don’t want to go to church or follow God. There were times in the Bible when righteous people asked for a sign from Heaven, such as Gideon when he was asked to lead an army, but when something is clearly laid out in the Bible there is no need for any additional signs on the matter. A lot of people say they don’t know what God expects of them and that is why they won’t go to church, and yet they have not spent any real time reading the word of God. It is clear in the Bible that God wants us to worship him and to gather with other believers (Hebrews 10:25), but there is no clear call for an individual to fight a war, much less lead an army against an enemy that is far stronger and far more equipped for battle. If I was told to lead an army I would need a little reassurance, or rather a lot of reassurance, as well. I can’t fault Gideon for making sure it was actually God who was asking him to lead an army. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years, and the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of the Midianites, the children of Israel made for themselves the dens, the caves, and the strongholds which are in the mountains. So it was, whenever Israel had sown, Midianites would come up; also Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. Then they would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, coming in as numerous as locusts; both they and their camels were without number; and they would enter the land to destroy it. So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord.And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried out to the Lord because of the Midianites, that the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. Also I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; do not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.” But you have not obeyed My voice.’ ”Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!”Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.”Then he said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me. Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You and bring out my offering and set it before You.”And He said, “I will wait until you come back.”So Gideon went in and prepared a young goat, and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot; and he brought them out to Him under the terebinth tree and presented them. The Angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so.Then the Angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of the Lord departed out of his sight.Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the Lord. So Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.”Then the Lord said to him, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it The-Lord-Is-Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.Now it came to pass the same night that the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s young bull, the second bull of seven years old, and tear down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the wooden image that is beside it; and build an altar to the Lord your God on top of this rock in the proper arrangement, and take the second bull and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the image which you shall cut down.” So Gideon took ten men from among his servants and did as the Lord had said to him. But because he feared his father’s household and the men of the city too much to do it by day, he did it by night.And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, there was the altar of Baal, torn down; and the wooden image that was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was being offered on the altar which had been built. So they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And when they had inquired and asked, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, because he has torn down the altar of Baal, and because he has cut down the wooden image that was beside it.”But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Would you plead for Baal? Would you save him? Let the one who would plead for him be put to death by morning! If he is a god, let him plead for himself, because his altar has been torn down!” Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, “Let Baal plead against him, because he has torn down his altar.”Then all the Midianites and Amalekites, the people of the East, gathered together; and they crossed over and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel. But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon; then he blew the trumpet, and the Abiezrites gathered behind him. And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, who also gathered behind him. He also sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali; and they came up to meet them.So Gideon said to God, “If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said— look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.” And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.” And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, but there was dew on all the ground.Judges 7:1-40 NKJVThere are also times when a person is not capable of changing their behavior without divine intervention and God will send an unmistakable sign, such as when Jesus interacted with Saul on the road to Damascus, but that is the exception rather than the rule. However, without such an intervention, Saul would never have become Paul the apostle and instead would have continued killing Christians, thinking he was doing God a service. There are times when we are so misguided that we can’t accept the sings because they are contrary to what we think is right and God has to smack us over the head with truth. Sometimes we don’t see or accept the signs because we don’t want to, and other times we are simply not capable of accepting them until God intervenes in our life. Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.”And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.Acts 9: 1-22 NKJVWaiting for a sign that we are to change our lives and follow God makes about as much sense as waiting for a sign as to whether or not we should go to the hospital for our sickness or injury, as if being in massive pain were not enough of a sign on its own. A lot of people in this world are hurting, both from their own actions and those of other people, and yet they are not willing to do the one thing that wold have the biggest benefit in their life, both here and in eternity. If you need a sign to tell you that you should seek out a relationship with God, and even go to church, than consider this your sign, consider the Bible your sign, and consider how flawed and broken the world is a sign. Even if you can’t visit a church in person right now where you live due to local restrictions resulting from the pandemic, you should visit a local church online, listen to the sermons, and reach out to the church so they can get to know you.
6 minutes | Jul 9, 2020
DON’T GIVE UP
You may not see immediate results, but patience and persistence pays off. don’t giveup At the time of this writing, I have been hosting the Recovering Faith podcast and blog for over two years now, and to be honest, there have been times when I’ve had my doubts about whether I should continue, and I have seriously considered giving up. Writing a weekly blog and hosting a weekly podcast is a lot of work, requires a huge commitment of time and energy, and it costs me money rather than making money, and there have been a lot of times when I have written a blog and recorded a podcast when I didn’t feel like it just so I could say that I have never missed a week. I can no longer say that I have never missed a week as I have now missed two, one when I went on vacation and one last week when I had some significant technical difficulties after moving my office. As far as the money goes, I have never intended to make money on my podcast and blog, and I still don’t, but I have often wondered if I am even making a difference. After all, since making a difference in people’s lives is why I am putting all of this effort into this project in the first place, if I am not making a difference in anyone’s life than I am just wasting my time and money. I have determined that, for whatever reason, God wants me to continue with this podcast and blog as every time I consider quitting I receive an email telling me how one of my podcast episodes has impacted them, or someone comments on one of my posts and lets me know that my words have touched them, and whenever that happens it makes me realize that I have made a difference, in at least one person’s life, and if I make a difference in at least one person’s life than it is all worth it, all of it. With that said, not all of my blog posts or podcast episodes will personally impact someone, but continuing on a schedule keeps my content higher in the search engine algorithms and that makes it easier for those who are searching to actually find what I write and say. Whenever anyone sends me a private message I make sure that it remains private and don’t share their information publicly but rather respond to their message with as much grace, compassion and knowledge as I possess, however, when someone leaves a public comment on one of my posts I feel like it is ok to share it since it is already public. One such comment was on an older post called “What is Grace and Why Do We Need It?” Awesome reading. Brought my level of gratefulness, compassion, empathy, love and Thanksgivings to another level! I want to work on my awareness of how much God sacrificed for us to receive his grace. I forget that sometimes. I pray for wisdom to become aware when my own selfcenteredness blinds me from realizing at what price was paid for my salvation Randy, Nazareth, PA.I really appreciate it when people reach out to me, not because it in any way stokes my ego, but because it lets me know that I am doing a good thing and that my efforts are actually helping people, at least in some small way. I often think of a story I read once in which a little screw in a clock believed his job was utterly unimportant and therefore he was not respected or needed and decided to work himself loose, and when he did the spring unwound and the clock stopped working. Everyone has an important role to play, though it may not always be obvious. I think there are a lot of people who have given up just before their big break or just before they had an impact, never knowing what they could have accomplished had they continued. There are also notable examples of people who held strong in the face of opposition and failure, with amazing results. The Grand Canyon was carved out by the Colorado River, not in a day or even a lifetime, but many, many years. At this point in time where Christians are being openly persecuted and are told they are not allowed to peaceably assemble - a right which is guaranteed by the constitution - and being threatened with fines by tyrannical governors or physically assaulted by angry mobs, it would be easy to give in and give up, but nothing great ever came from giving up and if Christians give up the fight for morality and for what is right than there is no reason for them to even call themselves Christians. All that is required for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing. It would have been easy for Paul to give up after all he suffered, but he endured through it all, even knowing it would cost him his life. Paul gave up everything for the sake of the gospel and suffered greatly as a result, but he considered it to be a great honor to do so, as did the other apostles. But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. -2 Corinthians 11: 21-28The Bible has a lot of verses about not giving up, and listed below are just a few of them:Galatians 6:9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.James 1:12Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.Philippians 4:13I can do all this through him who gives me strength.Hebrews 12:11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.Colossians 3:23-24Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.The reason I decided to write this week’s blog on this subject is because of how tempted I was to give up, until I received a message and two random phone calls, one from someone I had not talked to in a long time, and one from a complete stranger. I may not have all of the answers, and I know full well that I don’t, but I do know that I am able to help those in my sphere of influence, and that is enough.
17 minutes | Jun 24, 2020
Did God Forsake Me?
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.-Deuteronomy 31:6 Did God forsake me? This week’s podcast episode is an answer to a question that was sent as a comment to an earlier podcast/blog called Why Does God Hate Me? The message that this episode is attempting to address is, “Holy Spirit left me because I was so dejected I said the Bible wasn't true. Even though I do believe it's TRUE I was told he left me. I felt Him leave even though He said He would never leave me or forsake me. He left me behind as all my female friends and ex's got married. My life is like being on a hamster wheel. Never changing, always unhappy while everyone else moved on. God hates me.”
19 minutes | Jun 11, 2020
Unrest in America
Though I initially did not think I would talk about the subject, this is my take on what is going on lately with all of the protests and riots. Basically, police should not be killing unarmed civilians, and there should be more accountability in law enforcement, and also, rioting and looting does not accomplish anything and instead hurts people, including the people the rioters are claiming they are helping.
17 minutes | Jun 2, 2020
I Wish I Could Undo It: My LDS Mission
While this is not part of the series I did on my mission, it is about my mission, In this episode I discuss some recent thoughts I had about my two year LDS Mission.Army of God: My 2 Year LDS Mission, The “Best” 2 Years of My Life: My LDS Mission, and Homecoming.
27 minutes | May 26, 2020
What I Learned as a Bus Driver: Part 2
This episode is the second in the series of things I learned while driving a bus. This episode is about the summer I spent taking a group of ultra-orthodox Jewish girls camping in the national parks, which was the longest summer of my life.
21 minutes | May 20, 2020
Things I Learned as a Bus Driver
When I drove for Pocatello Regional Transit in Pocatello, Idaho. When I was in college, the first time, I was working for a construction company and the owner was going through a rough time in his life, and though he had previously been a good boss, he was at that point making poor choices, not paying his employees on time and getting angry at small things, so I was forced to find a new job. Mostly because I wasn’t getting paid though. One of my friends worked for the city driving the city bus and suggested that I apply there, so I did and got hired, but told myself that I would only work there until something better came along. I was there for five years, and by the way, I didn’t finish college during that time. By the time I left the bus industry, many years and several companies later, I had driven a bus for almost exactly a third of my life, not just a third of my adult life but a third of my entire life. An interesting tidbit is, when I first moved to Pocatello, Idaho, the town where I drove the city bus, I once had to ride the bus and said that I would never drive a bus. You know what they say about saying never. During the many years that I drove a bus, I learned a great many things, and some of them were painful lessons. One of the things I learned is that, even if you have the information someone desperately needs, if they did not ask you for it they are not likely to accept it from you, and may even become hostile with you for having offered it. Let me explain. The city of Pocatello, Idaho has an agreement with the university and they run a campus route that is fare free, and during the time I drove for the city, I was often assigned to the oldest and least reliable bus in the fleet, well not the oldest, that one would be the bus used in the movie Napoleon Dynamite which was only used for special occasions, but my bus was a close second in age. The bus I typically drove had an electrical issue that necessitated removing a panel and flipping a couple of breakers to reset the effected systems. For reasons that I no longer remember, one day I was assigned to one of the new buses and the driver with the most seniority was assigned to my typical bus, and when it inevitably had the problem previously mentioned, she called the driver with the second most seniority to ask him how to fix the problem, but he had absolutely no idea since he had never driven that bus. Once the driver said that he did not know how to fix it I responded on my radio and told her the procedure to fix it, and to my great surprise, she was not welcoming of the information and said that she did not recall asking me anything and then went on to ask for assistance from the mechanics. The mechanics also did not know what the problem was and suggested she ask the other drivers, so I again laid out the procedure for fixing the problem, and this time it was all she could do to not swear at me over the radio. It wound up that she had to sit on the side of the road for half an hour until the mechanics could get to her to figure out the problem, and then they fixed the problem in the EXACT manner that I had twice described. This lady got off work at least two hours before I did, but she patiently waited at the dispatch until I got off work so that she could tear me a new one for daring to offer advice when it was not asked for, since she had asked the other driver instead. “And did he have the answer?” I asked, knowing full well that he didn’t. “No, he didn’t,” she said, “but that is not the point. No one asked you anything,” “So,” I said, as calmly as I could, “you are telling me that you would rather get thirty minutes behind on your route than even try what I suggested to see if it helps?” “That is correct,” she said firmly and rudely. “Unless I specifically ask for your advice, and I never will, you had better not say a (insert expletive here) thing.” I think it is important to mention that getting behind on a route was not looked kindly upon by the city and getting behind caused the drivers a lot of stress. I mention this to stress how firmly opposed to accepting my help she really was, though I am not sure if it was just because she didn’t like me, because of my age or because how recently I had started driving a bus, just a year or so before that point. I had driven a commercial vehicle before though, but not a bus. Before driving a bus I drove a dump truck for a construction company and a large box truck for the newspaper company. A few weeks after my confrontation with that one co-worker I offered helpful and accurate advice to another driver and my supervisor’s boss said that he would like to hear my voice over the radio a lot less, so from that point on I would completely ignore the radio unless there was some reason I was mandated to use the radio, such as being behind on a route, having a mechanical issue, or when someone specifically called for me on the radio. Even when one of the fixed routes was behind and I was driving an unstructured route such as one of the special needs routes, and was ahead on schedule, I would not volunteer to help catch them up and would only do so if specifically asked to do so by by boss or dispatch. I am not saying I was in the right by not helping anymore, but I had decided that I would no longer offer assistance or advice unless it was asked of me because I had no desire to be censured for simply offering assistance which I was qualified to give and free to offer. Since I have decided to make this a series instead of a stand-alone blog/podcast I am not going to try to cram all of the things I learned while driving a bus and all of my funny or interesting stories into one episode, and though I had thought about doing so, I am not going to go through my experiences in a strictly chronological manner. Another of the many things I learned while driving a bus, though not as quickly as I should have, is to be patient when people do stupid things and let the small things pass and not consider them to be personal insults. One day while driving for the city I was leaving the university area and a car pulled out of a parking lot and cut me off, almost causing an accident, so I did what I thought was the logical, and most satisfying thing to do, and that was to lay on the horn to make sure the driver knew he had done something wrong. Despite the fact that the light was green the car that had cut me off stopped in the middle of the road, but instead of just stopping, it stopped at an angle that made it all but impossible for me to get around it with the bus. After the car came to a screeching halt the driver jumped out and angrily approached my bus. At first he tried to jerk the door open, and when that failed he came around the other side of the bus. It was a hot day and there was no air conditioning on the bus I was driving, so I had my window open. When the man came around to my side of the bus he started swearing at me and tried to drag me out the open window so I put the bus in reverse and started backing up, which made the man let go of me. since the man was not able to drag me out of the bus and beat me for honking at him for almost causing an accident, he jumped back in his car and drove off. I, of course, told my boss about it and the incident was reported to the police, and it turned out the man was a professor at the university. There were never any charges filed, but I did receive more than a little satisfaction when I learned that the man who tried to assault me got fired from the university for his poor conduct. So far, my most expensive mistake at least as far as work goes. I almost got fired for getting the bus stuck in the mud, the company had to give the passengers a lot of their money back, as well as pay for the towing service, and I got a hefty ticket for taking a bus down that road. After a little more than five years with the city I moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, and while I did not initially drive a bus when I moved there, I wound up driving a bus most of the time I lived there. When I first moved to Nebraska I drove a truck, but after I got laid off when things got slow I started driving for the university of Nebraska-Lincoln, as well as a party bus. I hated driving the party bus possibly even more than I hated driving a city bus, but I will get into that later. I have, quite obviously, made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I previously told this story in an earlier podcast and blog post titled “The Parable of the Groundhog,” but it bears repeating here. During the time I drove a tour bus I often drove church groups, and I had dropped off a group of Nebraska kids at a Bible camp in Kansas and a week later I went to pick them up. When I had originally dropped off the kids and their leaders, I took the route that the GPS told me to take, ignoring the passengers when they told me to take another route that would take a half hour or so longer. The reason the passengers did not want me to follow the GPS is because it took us down a dirt road that was questionable at best. We got to the camp ahead of schedule and I didn’t see what the big deal was. When I was on my way to pick up the kids to take them back to Omaha, Nebraska I had originally planned to take the longer route, but I got stuck in construction and was way behind, so I decided to take the shortcut. Keep in mind that the passengers were adamant that I not take the shortcut. It had rained previously, but the surface had dried and it wasn’t immediately obvious. There was a sign that read, “Road closed when wet.” Of course, I didn’t think the road was wet and ignored the sign. Once I turned onto the road I immediately knew it was wet, but decided I didn’t want to back out onto the highway and decided to proceed, after all, it was only about a quarter of a mile to the other end where I would come out on the other highway. I was literally only about fifty feet from the end of the road when the bus lost traction and was hopelessly stuck. It really doesn’t take much to get a tour bus stuck. I called the group to let them know I would be late, and I had to call my boss to ask for a tow. A few minutes later an extremely angry sheriff showed up and immediately made sure that I knew he was not happy, and then made sure I knew how much of an idiot I was. The sheriff gave me a nearly six hundred dollar fine for failure to follow posted directions, and if he wanted, he could have also charged me for the damage to the road, but I got off lucky. The sheriff told me he had half a mind to not allow the tow trucks to pull me out and make me stay until the road dried, but he said he didn’t want my kind of stupidity to stay in his county. I showed up five hours late to pick up my group, all because I wanted to save half an hour. In the end, it cost me close to six hundred dollars, and after paying a few thousand dollars to get the bus towed and refunding the passengers their money, I cost the company a substantial sum of money as well. The sheriff would not let the tow trucks - it took two trucks to get the bus unstuck - pull me the fifty feet to the other road and made me back all the way out the way I had come. After all the effort and trouble, I still had to take the longer route, the route I should have taken in the first place.When I picked up the group they were livid with me, and rightly so, and if they were not Christian, they might have killed me and driven the bus back themselves. After yelling at me for half an hour, the group didn’t say a single word to me the rest of the four hour trip back to Omaha. Needless to say, I did not get a tip, nor did I deserve or expect one. Once I got the bus back to the bus garage my supervisor informed me that he was extremely disappointed with me and he had to bend over backward to convince the company to keep me. Honestly, I was surprised that I didn’t get fired, and I completely deserved to be fired for my stupidity. I stayed with the company another four years, and I turned out to be a good investment, but they still went out on a limb by keeping me as they had no guarantee that I would make the company money and had every reason to consider me a liability. For the entirety of the next year I felt like I was walking on eggshells to keep from doing anything wrong. I made it a point to not turn down any run, regardless of how horrible I knew it would be, and I made sure not to complain about the trips or the groups. I am grateful that the company kept me, and even if they had fired me, I would not have a single bad thing to say about the company and they were one of the best companies I have ever worked for. Of course, the most important thing I learned while driving a bus is that God is real and that he loves me, and I have talked a lot about that in the past and I will continue to talk about it. What I will say about it today is that due to driving a bus, I was put with the right people who brought me back to faith after being an atheist for three years or so, and I will forever be grateful that God did not give up on me when I gave up on him.
14 minutes | May 6, 2020
Do Humans Have Intrinsic Value?
So far, in the two years or so that I have been hosting the Recovering Faith podcast and blog, I have given any and all controversial topics a pretty wide birth, but today I am going to break that streak and dive headfirst into a topic that should not be controversial but is and has been since long before I was even a twinkle in my father’s eye, as the saying goes. My controversial stance is that babies are people, actual and whole, and that they should not be killed. It is sad but true that simply saying that babies are people and should not be killed will cause some people to develop an unbridled hatred for me and say all sorts of unpleasant and untrue things about me, and I suppose that it is their right to do so, despite the fact that it is not warranted or justified. I would rather stand with God and be judged by the world than stand with the world and be judged by God. When it comes to the topic of abortion it typically comes down to the question of whether or not a woman has the right to to terminate a pregnancy or whether or not a baby at a specific phase of development can feel pain, but those should not be the real questions; the question we should be asking is whether or not people have intrinsic value that cannot be granted or taken away by anyone. If people do not have any intrinsic value and only have the value assigned to them by their government or society than anyone would be hard pressed to make the case that murder is wrong, especially if it is against a person or group of people the government or society has deemed to have little or no value, and this horrific belief ultimately leads to discrimination, bigotry, racism, slavery, ethnic cleansing, and many other tragedies and injustices. On the other hand, if people do indeed have intrinsic value and worth that can not be granted or taken away by any society, government or person, and I firmly believe they do, than all life is sacred and there is no real justification for abortion unless it is the ONLY way to save the life of the mother, and as former Surgeon General of the United States Dr. C. Everett Koop said, “The fact of the matter is that abortion as a necessity to save the life of the mother is so rare as to be nonexistent”(1). The data shows though that such cases are extremely rare and even if the baby can not be delivered naturally or carried to term without jeopardizing the life of the mother a c section is relatively safe procedure and with modern medical technology, extremely premature babies can be saved with a great deal of success. There is no reason to kill the baby in exchange for the mother when both could live. A lot of people in their arguments for abortion and against the sanctity of life falsely conflate abortion with capital punishment, but as I will explain, the two could not be farther apart. I am not making a case for capital punishment, and in the most part, I am against it, but that is a topic for another day. Today my only aim is to show that support for capital punishment does not exclude a person from caring about the sanctity of life. Many governments around the world have enacted laws where specific crimes such as treason, arson, murder, rape and other serious offenses, if committed, will forfeit a persons life. When a person performs any of those crimes which carry the death penalty they do so of their own volition, knowing full well the possible consequences of their crimes should they get caught. A baby, however, is truly innocent and has done nothing to forfeit his or her life, not could they have. I think it is a fair statement to say that people are allowed to kill their own babies, at least before birth, because it makes their lives more convenient, but the same case that is made for abortion could just as easily be made for mercy killings to get rid of people with certain illnesses, deformities or conditions, and the same argument that is made for protecting those people can and should be made for the unborn babies. Saying that a vile criminal who willingly hurt other people should be protected while at the same time arguing that an innocent child should be murdered as a matter of convenience is wicked. With the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic, there has been a lot of talk about the sanctity of life, and I have to believe that a lot of the people that are talking about it as of late have no idea what it means, nor do they care; they are only talking about it now because in the context they are using it, it is politically expedient. During this crisis there have been numerous governors of states, and other elected officials, who have said that if even one life was saved by the forced shut downs, shelter in place orders, and the exponential growth of government power that took away many constitutional freedoms was justified, and yet they deemed abortion clinics “essential services” and allowed them to remain in operation. If those politicians truly believed that all life was sacred and that it was all worth it to save on life than they would have closed the abortion clinics. If there was any other industry on earth that killed as many people as the abortion industry does than the majority of the world would be in an uproar about it, but since babies can be inconvenient, and since they can’t speak for themselves, it is allowed for some unfathomable reason. If you believe in the God of the Bible than you must believe that people, all people, have intrinsic value and that value was given to them to by the God who created them, but if you don’t believe in God than there is no particular reason to believe that humans have any value above what is assigned to them by society and the government. There’s a famous passage from “The Grand Inquisitor” section of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov in which Ivan Karamazov claims that if God does not exist, then everything is permitted. If there is no God, then there are no rules to live by, no moral law we must follow; we can do whatever we want. Without a belief that humans have intrinsic value that there is no legitimate moral argument against racism, prejudice, bigotry or slavery. If humans do not have any intrinsic value than to say that murder is wrong has no more moral weight than to say that the color yellow is bad. If humans decide the worth of other humans than there will always be a group or groups of people who are marginalized, mistreated or murdered because they are not useful to or wanted by those who are in power. Romans 2:15 says that the law of God is written in our hearts, so even those who don’t believe in God know on some level that it is wrong to hurt people, and that is why there is such a large scale effort to dehumanize those who society does not like, in this case unwanted babies, because if they can convince themselves that they are not human than they won’t feel so bad about murdering them. A common argument is that an unborn baby isn’t human, it is only a fetus or an embryo, and while it is true that an unborn baby can accurately and scientifically be described as a fetus or an embryo, any doctor or scientist would have to admit that the embryo or fetus inside a pregnant woman is a human embryo or fetus and that it is very much alive. Embryo and fetus are just ways of describing specific stages in the development and saying they are not human makes no more sense than saying someone is not human because they are a an infant, a toddler, a teenager, or even an octogenarian. It has always seemed odd to me that when a pregnancy is wanted it is referred to as a baby but when it is not wanted it is refereed to as an embryo or a fetus. No one ever says that the princess is carrying a fetus, they say she is pregnant and carrying a child. Whether or not the child is wanted does not change the fact that it is a human child and has great value. The argument that it is OK to murder a baby before they can feel pain is also insane. I doubt very much those who make that claim would use the same argument for someone who is in a coma, even if the person had little or no chance of recovery, and yet that argument is made to kill millions of innocent people whose only crime was to not be wanted, people who could have had bright futures if they had been given the chance. Those who support abortion say that if we prevent abortion than we are also responsible for providing for the baby for its entire childhood, and potentially its entire life, but saving a person from death does not make you responsible for taking care of them. However, Christians are the largest group who adopt and provide for children and are more than twice as likely to adopt than non Christians are (1). The argument that if a person does not want to or is not willing to provide for a child its entire childhood or its entire life they only want to punish women and don’t care about life is insane. Let’s apply the same logic to a person who saves a teenager form being murdered by their abusive step-father. No one in their right mind would say that if you saved a teenager than you would have to adopt them or pay their way up through college. If you save a homeless man from getting hit by a truck would that mean you had to invite him to live with you or buy him a house? Of course not, and saving a baby does not obligate you to provide for it either, though as I already mentioned, many, many Christians do a lot for the unfortunate, run adoption centers, soup kitchens and many other charities to help the disadvantaged and do not just care about the baby until it is born. It is the Christian duty to protect the most innocent among us, and it is the morally right thing to do. Whether or not a person is wanted does not make them more or less valuable. God is the one who assigns value and He has decreed that we have great value, so much so that he sent Jesus to die on the cross on our behalf so that we could be granted salvation. https://www.nrlc.org/archive/abortion/pba/HowOftenAbortionNecessarySaveMother.pdfhttps://ethicsdaily.com/christians-more-than-twice-as-likely-to-adopt-a-child-cms-21267/
13 minutes | Apr 29, 2020
CHRISTIANITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Southeast Idaho. Photo by Gene Curl. For as long as I can remember I have had a great love and respect for the outdoors, and I always stood in awe at the beauty of God’s creation. From a young age my mother taught me to leave everyplace better than I found it, both out of respect for those who would visit after me and for God who created it. Even now, whenever I go camping or fishing or when I go on a walk, I pick up other people’s trash and dispose of it properly, and to the best of my ability I try to leave no trace. I have always cared about keeping the water and air clean, and I have always cared about the preserving the beauty of the wilderness and saving the habitat for the wildlife that life there. I think it would be a fair statement to call me an environmentalist, but I am in no way extreme, and to be honest, I don’t think man-made climate change is a real thing and some people may make me the villain for that and say that I am a science denier, however, the same people who are saying that are denying the aspects of science they don’t agree with. I am not saying that the climate is not changing or that people are not horribly polluting the earth, just that the impacts of human activities are given far too much weight considering how small of a time we have actually been here and how many warming and cooling cycles the earth has had up to this point. Honestly though, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things whether or not I believe in man-made climate change because I am a huge proponent of clean air and water, and regardless of whether or not human actions contribute to climate change, I am a firm believer that we should all do our part to conserve precious resources and keep the air and water clean so we don’t kill ourselves and our children and the myriad of other beautiful life forms that God put on earth. There is a false dichotomy when it comes to the environment; either you hate humans and think we need to get rid of automobiles, electricity and all modern conveniences to save the planet, even if we don’t remain on it, or you are a horrible person who could not care less about the fate of he world so long as you make enough money. The truth is that we can both protect the environment and live in relative comfort. We don’t have to choose between the economy or the environment, and we don’t have to choose between freedom and the environment. There are some Christians who believe it is no big deal to pollute the air and water and otherwise destroy nature because they think God will just come and clean it up at some point anyway, but there are so many problems with that mindset, one of which is an extreme ingratitude to the God of the universe. Imagine if your children decided to have a wild party and destroy your house while you were out of town because they knew you would fix it when you got home. Would you be happy with your children for destroying the house and leaving a mess for you to clean up? I would wager that you would be furious and would feel completely disrespected. If you are a Christian you should believe that God can and will set all things right someday, but you absolutely should not intentionally or through neglect make more of a mess to clean up, and in the process make life difficult for those who come after you. If you are pouring your used oil into the street drains or in the river, or if you are duping your trash along side of the road or in the forest, you are not a good Christian or a good person. While it is true that the Bible says the earth was made for man and everything was man’s to rule over, it also says that God made man the stewards of earth, and the Bible is clear that God expects us to be good steward of anything and everything he put us in charge of. If God is upset with the servant who buried his talent, imagine the reaction to one who destroyed it. “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’Luke 25:14-30Another parable that illustrates how God expects us to treat whatever he puts us in charge of is in Luke 12, and it also makes it clear how God feels about those who do not honor their commitment and repay the trust that was given. The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.“The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.-Luke 12: 42-57The Bible also says, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever,” (1 Timothy 5:8 NIV), and polluting the air and poising the water is definitely not providing for your family, or at least not your descendants. While it is extremely important to protect the earth, we should not revere or worship the earth because, despite what some people will tell you, the earth is a thing and not a sentient being and is definitely not a god. We are to worship God and God alone and to worship the earth, which is what a lot of environmental movements do, is to worship the created instead of the creator. Yes the earth is awesome and should be respected, but as awesome as it is, the one who created it is even more awesome. Ultimately all things were created for the glory of God (Colossians 1:16), and it brings glory to God when we protect and respect the things he so graciously provided for us, but God is also a jealous God and strictly forbids us from worshiping anything but him Exodus 20:4-5). Some people who worship earth and nature make it more important than humanity, but the earth was made for man, not the other way around. Also, I see little point in trying to save the earth if if means we will all die, but luckily those are not the only choices, far from it. There is no reason we can’t be good stewards and protect the earth and still remain on it and fully enjoy the things God gave us.
12 minutes | Apr 22, 2020
TRUSTING GOD WHEN THE PLAN DOESN'T SEEM TO MAKE ANY SENSE
20 minutes | Apr 15, 2020
That Dog Don't Hunt
The term “That dog don’t hunt” originates from the Southern United States and compares bad ideas to a dog that doesn’t hunt and both are believed to be equally useless. When Christianity mixes with culture a lot of misinformation and bad theology emerges, and this episode is about some of the bad ideas that are believed to be true about Christianity and the Bible, but are not.
14 minutes | Apr 8, 2020
Hang In There
The Dog has nothing to do with this podcast episode, I just thought I would share the photo. Things are a little rough right now for practically every person in the world, but we will get through this together, we just need to be kind to one another and have a some faith in God. This episode is some random thoughts I had this week about life, the Bible and COVID 19.
13 minutes | Apr 1, 2020
Careful What You Ask For
King Saul Was the answer to the people’s request for a king, and they quickly realized that they did not actually want what they thought they did. Sometimes we ask for things we think we want and insist we get, but as the people of Israel learned when they demanded a king, what we think we want is often not what we want at all.
18 minutes | Mar 25, 2020
Where Do We Go From Here?
Everything in the world is Crazy but Jesus will never leave or abandon us The world is a Topsie turvie place right now, full of uncertainty and fear for the future, and the world is collectively holding its breath, just hoping and praying that things don’t get any worse and that life regains some form of normalcy soon. This may very well be the scariest and most uncertain time in your life, and it is not a situation to be taken lightly. People all around the world are sick and dying, millions are out of work, not knowing if their industries will survive the shutdown, not knowing if they will even have a job to return to, not to mention the fear that they, or someone they love, will perish before things calm down. As bad as things are right now, and as bad as they may become, this is far from being the first time of great unrest and anxiety, and it isn’t even the first such time in my life and both the Oklahoma City bombing and two separate terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. Previous generations were called off to fight in Vietnam, taught to hide under their desks in the event of a nuclear blast during the cold war, (I have seen the videos of the tests and have no idea what hiding under a desk was supposed to actually accomplish), living in fear that every day may be the day humanity ends, and that any survivors would have to suffer through nuclear winter. Previous generations went through civil wars, two world wars, a great depression, famines, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, fires, floods, natural disasters of epic proportions, as well as the many pandemics that have ravaged the world. No, this is not the first time the world has been a scary place, but that does not make the trials we face any less real or urgent. My entire childhood was full of fears and uncertainties, and since I grew up in an extremely impoverished family, there were often times when I had no idea when, or if, I would get to eat again, and any visit to a hospital or clinic was all but out of the question. I remember one time when I was a child when both my older sister and I had the whooping cough and we had no money to see a doctor, no money for medicine and little or no food. At times during our illness my mother had the very real fear that either me or my sister, or both of us, would be overcome by the illness and die. Strangely, what I remember most about that time was not how sick and miserable I was but rather how awesomely delicious the watermelon was that a nice man gave to us out of the kindness of his heart. There have been times when every member of my immediate family was deathly ill at the same time and, because of a lack of money and opportunity, we ran out of both food and the means to heat the house. It would have be easy, and even understandable, to throw up your hands in a circumstance like that and give up and direct all of your anger to God, or to simply abandon all faith. Despite all of that, I don’t think a single day of my childhood passed without me witnessing my mother praying, mostly after my sisters and I had gone to bed and my mother thought we were asleep. I often saw my mother kneeling down and praying by a step ladder that we kept in the house, though as a small child I did not fully understand what was going on and one day the curiosity got the better of me and I asked my mother about it. “Mom,” I asked, “Why are you always on your knees talking to the ladder?”My mother had me sit on her lap and she told me all about God and why she prayed, and I recall asking her why she continued to pray even when things did not seam to change, and she told me that God loves us and that we are to trust God and pray to him regardless of how good or bad things are in our lives and trust that He has our best interest at heart. Growing up I always believed in God, but admittedly I didn’t always trust Him or believe that he had my best interest at heart. Don’t get me wrong, I truly wanted to believe that God was always looking out for me, but daily life made it difficult to believe that it was so. As I have mentioned numerous times in my podcasts and blogs, my father was a failed preacher who used the Bible, taken out of context, to justify his horrible actions and he was an overly unpleasant and narcissistic individual who made the lives of all who interacted with him difficult and unpleasant. I remember numerous times when my mother would work long and hard to provide money for the family and my father would selfishly blow it on himself or gamble it away at the casino. Somehow, despite how horrible my father was, my mother never said a bad thing about him in my presence or that of my sisters as she wanted us to form our own opinion of him and didn’t think it was right for her to speak ill about our father to us. However, I could not ignore the obvious fact that he did not respect her, treated her poorly, and often made her cry. I remember numerous times when my parents would argue because my mother would earn money and my father would blow it before we could buy the things we needed. One time my mother had managed to save enough money to buy essential groceries, but when we got to the register we realized that someone had stolen her purse and that we were flat broke. There is nothing quite so humiliating as putting groceries back because you can’t afford them, and that is a feeling I grew up experiencing. There are a lot of stories about wonderful people who step in and pay for people’s groceries in such circumstances, but this was not one of those times and we wound up eating food out of a dumpster, and that was far from being the only time that we did, and there were definitely times when we got food poison as a result. Sometimes I am amazed that I survived childhood. I could not see it then, but looking back I can clearly see that God had his hand in my life from the start and that it is only through the mercy and grace of God that I am alive. When I was in college, in one of my classes, we were reading a story in which one of the characters was eating food out of the dumpster and one of the other students said, “No one actually eats out of a dumpster. No one is ever that hard up.” At that point I spoke up and said, “I have eaten out of a dumpster on many occasions.” Everyone, including the professor, was surprised and for the rest of class that day everyone asked me questions about what it was like to be that poor. I am not rich, far from it, but I have steady and reliable employment and I have a roof over my head that I own, I have a car, a boat, a motorcycle and always have food and heat. I have been richly blessed in life, and despite what some people think, blessings are not always realized through money or the accumulation of things. Despite how many blessings I have had in my life, there have been more than a few times when I have been left holding the bag with no idea how to proceed, but just because you don’t know what to do and are uncertain of the future does not mean that God has abandoned you or that he has forgotten about you. When Jesus called the apostles they left their careers to follow him, thinking he was going to overthrow Rome and lead the Jewish people to physical freedom, likely hoping for a place of prominence in his government, but since they did not pay as much attention to his teachings as they should but instead heard what they wanted, their world came crashing down around their heads when Jesus died and they were left wondering, “Where do we go from here?”When Jesus died the apostles felt lost and afraid, and to them it seamed as if all was lost and that everything they had done the past few years was for naught. When Jesus came back to visit the apostles they were not boldly preaching the ressurection, they were hiding in fear from the rulers of the Jews with the curtains drawn and the doors locked. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.-John 20:19-22 NIVEven after the apostles knew that Jesus had risen, even after he told them that he was sending them to share the good news, they returned to their previous lives and professions. When Jesus next visited the apostles they were fishing, and I have heard some people say, “there is nothing wrong with fishing,” and as a fisherman I wholeheartedly agree. First off the apostles were not doing some sort of recreational fishing, they were fishing commercially, and while there is also nothing wrong with fishing as a profession, the thing that was wrong is the apostles gave up on what they were called to do and went back to their old lives. Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”“No,” they answered.He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.-John 21:1-25 NIVIt is OK to have concerns and to be a little afraid, but don’t let that fear consume you, and remember, even if God doesn’t take you out of the storm, he is with you though the storm. We may not know what the future holds, and all we may be able to see is one step in front of us, but as Ralph Abernathy said, “I don't know what the future may hold, but I know who holds the future.”
15 minutes | Mar 18, 2020
How Should Christians Respond to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis?
When the world is in chaos God wants us to trust him, knowing that everything is in his hands and that even if he doesn’t remove the storm he will be with us through it.
68 minutes | Mar 11, 2020
Can We Choose God Without Him First Choosing Us?
1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us There are two schools of thought in Christianity when it comes to predestination and free will, reformed theology (also known as Calvinism) and Arminianism, and whether or not you are aware of it, if you are a Christian, you subscribe to one of the two ideas. The major difference between the two ideas is Arminianism teaches that we can choose God without him first choosing us and that if he chooses us we can ignore him, where Calvinism teaches that we are not capable of seeking for God until he first changes our nature and that if God chooses us his grace is irresistible and those he calls WILL follow him. There are other differences between the two schools of thought, but the subject of predestination and irresistible grace is the biggest difference. Some people may label me a Calvinist, but for the record, I have never read a single thing that John Calvin wrote, and honestly, I don’t have any immediate plans to change that. I came to the conclusions I did based entirely on the Bible and not any commentary by any preacher or religious influencer. For most of my life I fell firmly within the camp of Arminianism, but when I took it upon myself to determine God’s thoughts on predestination and free will from the word of God, the Holy Bible, I came to realize that there is undeniable evidence that, whether I want to believe it or not, God chooses whom he will, not based on our works but rather on his good will and pleasure, long before we ever existed. I think my biggest problem with believing God was the one doing the choosing is that I have always been plagued with the sin of pride, and as a result, I have always wanted to think that it was my idea, even if it isn’t. I was born on the 4th of July and, as far back as I can remember, I have always been extremely patriotic and I have always been extremely proud of being an American, and that is something I will never apologize for. Most of my patriotism is due to the tremendous freedoms we enjoy here in America, and while freedom is a great thing, I think we can also sometimes place freedom on a pedestal and worship it as our God, if we are not careful. All people, but especially Americans, are obsessed with everything they do being their idea, and even if it isn’t their idea, they want to have the illusion that it is. In one of my favorite movies, and arguable one of the best movies ever made, Shane, there is an especially pertinent scene, and if I spoil some of the movie I am not sorry because it has been out since 1953 so you really should have seen it by now. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, watch it after you finish reading this. Shane, who is the protagonist of the film, is a gunfighter returning home to Wyoming to give up gun fighting in exchange for a simpler life and in hopes of rekindling the love of an old flame, Marian, only to find that she didn’t wait for him, is married and has a prepubescent son named Joey. When Shane rides into the area he is unaware of the fact that the homesteaders are being terrorized by a cruel and uncaring cattle rancher intent on running them out of the area, by whatever means necessary, up to and including bloodshed. At first the homesteaders are welcoming to Shane, but when they see a group of the rancher’s men riding up in a cloud of dust they assume Shane is their hired gun. Wanting to have the upper hand before anything goes south, Joe Starett, the man who married Shane’s one time love, trains a gun on him and tells him to leave, to which Shane responds, “You mind putting that Gun down? Then I’ll leave.” “What difference does it make?” Joe asked, “You are leaving anyway.” Shane responded with the way most people feel, even when they don’t like to admit it, and said. “I’d like it to be my idea.” “I’d like it to be my idea” is a phrase that a lot of us use as our guiding star, even if we don’t verbally or consciously acknowledge it. Even the recent movie Inception played on that idea where the goal was to not only plant an idea in someone’s head but make them believe that they had come up with it themselves because people are a lot more likely to accept something if they have the illusion that they are the one who came up with the idea. Some people, actually a lot of people, have that idea about salvation, and though I hate to admit it, I did as well for a while. Some people don’t want salvation unless they can think they chose God instead of God choosing them, as if they can in some way buy salvation and the affection of the eternal God by their own actions and “good works,” works which Isaiah says amount to no more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Also, some people act like salvation isn’t worth having unless they can choose it for themselves, but nothing could be farther from the truth; there is nothing worthwhile to us than salvation. Even though I have always had a personality inclined to follow orders, it has always infuriated me when I was told to do something that I was already doing or planning on doing, even if it was something I liked doing, often to the point of making me not want to do it at all. As I already admitted, I have always had a bit of a problem with pride, and since I have always been aware of it I have never made the gross error of thinking that I am humble. Somehow, getting paid for the work I do has never been enough and I always want to be appreciated for my work and given credit for it, and when I was younger I wanted to do something great, something that would change the world, not because I actually wanted to change the world, but rather because I wanted to be remembered for changing the world. I have since come to realize that it doesn’t matter if no one remembers my name when I am gone so long as I do all I can in this life to make sure people remember the name of Jesus. I have always wanted to take credit for things I felt I accomplished and I have always wanted to think that I was completely free and that everything I did, both good and bad, was my decision and that I was not influenced by external forces, not even God. Such thinking is problematic and fallacious at best, and heresy at worst. When I look back at the course of my life, though I have made many decisions, some good and some spectacularly bad, almost all have been influenced heavily by external forces, despite the fact that the decision was ultimately mine to make. If I am honest, I can’t take complete credit for anything. I have read through the Bible more than almost anyone I know, including a lot of the pastors I know and have known, but because of my pride, whenever I came across a verse that indicated, or outright said, that unless it was given to me by God I could not have faith and that, apart from God, I completely lacked the ability to choose anything but sin, I would ignore the verses or rationalize them to mean something entirely different. Don’t get me wrong, I always had the freedom to choose God, as do we all, but my sinful nature made it all but impossible to do so. I was not able to choose God until he changed my nature, and the same is true of all of us. If you were to put a tiger in a room with raw meat and fresh vegetables, the tiger would have the freedom to choose to eat the vegetables, but its nature would cause it to eat the meat and not even think about eating the vegetables. similarly, if you put a horse in a room with raw meat and fresh vegetables, though the horse would have the freedom to choose to eat whatever it wanted, its nature would cause it to choose the vegetables and ignore the meat, assuming of course that the horse was not psychotic or otherwise mentally ill.When people ask me whether I believe in predestination or free will I say, “Yes.” The Bible makes the case for predestination and free will, and they are not contradictory, which I will explain. When God really wants to persuade us he does because it is impossible for God to fail. Sure, we can resist the grace of God, and the Bible has a lot of verses about people resisting the spirit, but when God truly wants to persuade us he knows exactly how to persuade any of the people he created and can overcome our skepticism and our reservations, and that is called irresistible grace. When God changes our nature it enables us to choose him and makes it difficult to not choose him, though we still have the freedom to not choose him we are no more likely to not choose him than a fish is to choose not to stay in the water. God is completely sovereign, and that means he is also sovereign over salvation, and it since it is impossible for him to fail, when he wants to save someone he does. With God and salvation, or anything else, it is like what Yoda said to Luke Skywalker, “Do or do not. There is no try.” If God tried to save someone and was unable to convince them to choose him than that would, by default, mean that God failed, and a God that can be thwarted by man is no God at all. A lot of people say, when someone leaves the faith, or when they decide not to follow God in the first place, that the devil stole them away, however, if the devil could actually steal people away from God than that would mean that the devil bested God and that God failed, and a god that can be bested by a fallen angel could not be the Almighty God. Jesus said (John 6:39), “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” This verse does not say “and this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall save most of those he has given me, only loosing some, and raise them up at the last day,” but rather that Jesus will loose NONE of those he has been given and that All of those he has been given will be raised up at the last day. If God wants to save someone and gives them to Jesus, there is no power that can stop him, and that in and of itself is an argument for “once saved always saved.” The problem I have always had with reformed theology, oddly enough, is also my biggest problem with Arminianism, and that is the principle of irresistible grace. I have always thought that it seamed wrong somehow for God to choose a person and save them against their will, though logically that doesn’t make sense because I have never had a problem with saving a person from suicide or other harm against their will, and saving a person from hell is a much greater gift than saving a person from physical death or injury. I was also failing to realize that God is not choosing us against our will because he changes our nature, and while we have the freedom to choose the devil instead of him, our new nature makes us want to choose God. Of course, my major hangup with the principle of irresistible grace had always been that if we only go to heaven because God chose us, than that also means that those who go to hell, despite the fact that no one who doesn’t deserve it ever goes to hell, goes there because God did not choose them. However, if we could choose God without him first choosing us than that would mean that we could take at least partial credit for our salvation, but the Bible is quite clear that it is a gift form God and that the only thing we can possible contribute to our salvation is the sin that made it necessary in the first place. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—-Ephesians 2:8 NIVMany religions either distort God by limiting his power, distort sin by making it less serious than it is, or both. A lot of religions and a lot of people will say that sin isn’t all that bad, we are not all that bad, and therefore we have the ability so aid in out salvation. Other religions say that grace and what Jesus accomplished on the cross is not enough and we must help to facilitate our own salvation by our own works. Both of those beliefs are blasphemous and wrong. Not only is God’s grace necessary, it is sufficient, and yes, sin is “that bad” and we are “that bad.” Romans tells us that it is God who justifies and that NOTHING can separate us from God’s love, including our own actions.What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.-Romans 8:31-39 NIVIn Psalm 135 it tells us that God does whatever he wants and the chapter lists some of the mighty things he has done, so it would be a stretch, and a blasphemous on at that, to say that God wanted to save a person but was unable to, for whatever reason. Either God is sovereign and can do whatever he wants and is the ultimate God or he isn’t, and if he is, it means he is also sovereign over our salvation and if he wants to save us we are saved, end of story. If God can create everything than there is no logical reason to believe anything could prevent him from saving anyone he wants to save. In John 10 says that God calls his own sheep and they follow him because they know his voice and that they won’t follow a stranger because they don’t recognize his voice. Notice that is says that the sheep WILL follow him, not that they may follow him. If there are any sheep who don’t follow the good Shepard it is because they are not his sheep. “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.John 10:3-4 NIVWhen Jesus fed the five thousand he asked his disciples a question, not because he was curious how they would respond, but to test them; he already knew exactly what he was going to do and the answer to his question did not change the outcome. Jesus was and is sovereign over the universe, and therefore was also sovereign over this conversation and event. Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.John 6:2-6 NIVA lot of the rest of the case I will making for us humans not having the ability on our own to choose God until he first chooses us comes from John chapter 6, after Jesus gets to the other side of the lake and gives the sermon on how he is the bread of life. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”-John 6:15-30 NIVJesus said the work God requires to be saved is to believe in him, but those who were asking Jesus for a sign did not actually believe in him, beyond his ability to provide free food, nor did they at that moment have the capacity to believe. From other passages in the Bible we know that we can’t even believe in God without God giving us faith as a gift. Hebrews 12:2 (NIV) tells us that Jesus is the “pioneer and profecter of faith” and the KJV says he is the “author and finisher” of our faith. If Jesus is the pioneer or the author of faith that means that it originated with him, not us, and that we only have faith because of him. Romans 12:3 (NIV) tells us that we only have faith that was allotted to us and we can’t even take credit for our own faith. “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” As we can clearly see from the next set of verses, even though some of the people saw the miracles performed by Jesus they still did not believe because they lacked the ability. So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”-John 6:30-40Jesus said, “But as I have told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All the father gives me will come to me.” Jesus is plainly saying that the reason those who do not believe in him don’t believe in him, and can’t believe in him, is because the Father has not given them to him, but ALL of those who the father gives to him WILL come to him, not just some of them. This is strong evidence not just for us lacking the ability to come to God until he calls us but also the principle of irresistible grace. Before I go on, I feel compelled to clarify what it means when someone subscribing to reformed theology says, “once saved always save,” and also what it doesn’t mean. When I was a teenager I asked a reformed pastor if I was predestined to eternal life would I still be saved if I pulled a gun and killed him, and the pastor responded that I would indeed still be saved, “And that is why I can’t believe in that doctrine” I said. What the pastor should have said is that if I were predestined and saved I would not want to murder him, or anyone else, because when God saved me he changed my nature, but since the pastor apparently didn’t know his own doctrine, or was otherwise unqualified to be teaching it, I came away with a gross misunderstanding of what reformed theology actually is.To say “once saved always saved” does not mean that if we are saved we can live however we want, and in fact, living a Godless and sinful life is evidence that a person has not been saved in the first place. Once saved always saved means that if God wants to save you there is no power that can stop him, and when he saves us, while we will still commit some sin since we are living in a sinful and fallen world, we won’t give over our lives to reckless abandon to wanton sin. When Jesus says in John 6:39 that he will loose none that the father has given him he means it. If Jesus could loose some that the Father gave him than he would not be much of a savior and not much of a God. To believe that Jesus wants to save a person but is somehow unable is to believe that Jesus in impotent, ineffective and incompetent. If we can loose our salvation that means that either Jesus can loose those the Father has given him or else he is choosing those whom the Father has not given him, and either view does not put Jesus in a very good light. Also, Jesus ONLY did the will of the Father and not his own will and therefore it would not be possible for him to choose those the Father had not given him, and since it is impossible for God to fail, Jesus can not loose those the Father gives him. In John 6:40 Jesus says that it is the Father’s will for those who look upon the Son to be saved, but in verse 44 it says that NO ONE can come to Jesus UNLESS the Father draws him. At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”-John 6:41-51Notice that Jesus said that NO ONE can come to him UNLESS the Father draws him and that and ALL those who the are drawn to him WILL be raised up at the last day and that EVERYONE who has heard the Father and learned from him WILL come to him. Jesus says that the one who believes has eternal life, but he also makes it clear that we can ONLY believe if we are called by God and given the ability to believe. If we were able to believe on our own, and not through the gift of God, than we would be like the one who climbs over the fence instead of going through the gate, and such a one will never be accepted. No one should be upset that they did not come to faith on their own but rather eternally grateful that God had mercy on them and granted them saving faith. Mostly though, when people oppose reformed theology they do so because they can’t accept the fact that God could have saved everyone but instead only saves some, but the alternative would be that he tried to save all and failed to save the vast majority of humanity, and that does not make God look impressive or mighty. Those who grumbled in verse 43 at the doctrine Jesus was teaching did so because they were not chosen and lacked the ability to believe it. I am not saying that a person has to believe in reformed theology to be saved, far from it, but what I am saying is that if you have saving faith in Jesus than you did not acquire it on your own but rather it was a gift from GodOn hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit e and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.-John 6:60-66When Jesus preached this sermon there were a lot of people, even some of the disciples, who just could not accept what he was teaching and stopped following him, and those were the ones who had not been drawn to Jesus by the father. From the very beginning Jesus knew who would believe and who wouldn’t, and not just from the beginning of the conversation but the beginning of time. It would be a mistake to say that God looked through space and time and decided who he was going to call based on their actions and their belief because as we already learned, Jesus already knew what he was going to do and our actions did not determine the outcome but rather the decision God made before the foundation of the world determined our actions and our faith. If God was just looking through time to see who would believe, and basing his actions on that, than he is not all knowing but instead is learning, and that is not Biblical. It is impossible for God to learn something he doesn’t already know because he is all knowing and knows all there is, and all there ever will be, to know. When people grumbled at what Jesus was teaching them he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” It was at that moment when many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him, because they were not chosen, and because they were not chosen they simply could not believe what Jesus was teaching. Contrast that to the response of those who had been drawn to Jesus by the Father, namely the apostles. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”-John 6:67-69The reason the apostle’s response was different than that of those who no longer followed him was because the were drawn to him by the Father and given the gift of faith, as explained in John 15:16 (NIV) “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” If the apostles brought people to Christ and salvation but they did not remain saved than they would not be bearing “fruit that will last.”Everyone has traditions, and many traditions can be and are wholesome and uplifting, but we always have to test our traditions against the Bible and discard the ones that are in opposition to it. Many who have been brought up in Christianity were brought up to believe that we are saved because we chose God and that because we chose him he saves us, often with our help in the form of good works. The Bible tells an entirely different story though and says that we were chosen before we did any so called “good works,” even before the foundation of the world. We can’t even take credit for what little good we do as the Bible says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” (Ephesians 2:10).Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.-Ephesians 1:3-14 NIVWe were not chosen because of anything we have done, or anything we can do, but because of God’s “will and his good pleasure.” It is all about God and not about us at all, and God has mercy on whom he will have mercy and chooses whom he will choose, not because of us, but because it will bring him glory. We were “predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.”I used to be greatly bothered by the verses in the Bible that say God loved Jacob but hated Esau (Genesis 33:9, Malachi 1:2-3, Romans 9:13-16) until I realized the great mystery isn’t why God hated Esau, who was obviously a vile sinner, but why he loved Jacob, who was obviously a vile sinner. The great mystery is not why God saves some and not others, the great mystery is why he saves any of us. It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.” Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?-Romans 9:6-20 NIVGod chose Jacob over Esau long before they were born, long before Abraham was born, and even before the universe existed, before the foundation of the world, not because of anything they would do, but because God chose to do so to bring himself glory. Some people may ask why didn’t God just make us to have a nature not inclined to sin, but when they ask that question they are failing to remember that when God created man there was no sin and sin didn’t enter the world until man trusted someone other than God and chose to disobey God. People often then ask why then didn’t God create man without the ability to sin, and the short answer is because he didn’t want to, but a bit more in the way of explanation is that he wanted people, not robots. I have been told that I am distorting the gospel by saying that only those whom God chooses will be saved, but I am not the one who said it, I am just taking God’s word for what it actually says instead of what I would like it to say. I have also been told that I am distorting the gospel of God by limiting the atonement, but we all limit the atonement unless we outright deny the existence of hell, the difference is how and where we limit it, and whether or not there is scriptural support for it. If Jesus truly died for every person who has ever been born than means he died for people who will spend eternity in hell, which by necessity means that his death and resurrection was insufficient to save them and that God sometimes fails at being God, which in and of itself is problematic doctrine at best and heretical blasphemy at worst. Calvinist limit the atonement to only those who God chose, but Arminianism limits the efficacy of the atonement by saying that God died for person x but that it still doesn’t matter, and in the end was not enough, because that person went to hell anyway, despite God’s best efforts. The important question is whether or not the way you limit the atonement consistent with the Bible and not just supported by your emotions; one in Biblical and the other is blasphemy. When people say it isn’t fair for God to save some and not others, what they are really saying is they know better than God who should be saved and who should not. Basically, when we say God isn’t fair we are judging a perfect God by our deeply flawed standards. If God were fair and just none of us would be saved and we would all go to hell, which is what we all rightly deserve. The only reason something is good or bad is because God has said so as God determines what is good or bad and not us. The question then becomes not “why God saves some and not others?” but rather “why does he save any of us?”No one actually wants what is fair and just from God, we all want his mercy and grace. People say that it isn’t fair for God to save some and not others when in reality, none of us deserve to be saved. If you were to give food to one homeless person are you evil for not giving food to all homeless people? Probably not, but depending on the motives behind feeding the one person it could be evil, but God’s motives are always pure and it is not evil for him to not save everyone, it is benevolent for him to save the ones he does. I have had people ask me what is the point in praying for the lost if God chooses us instead of us choosing him, so I turn it around and ask, “What is the point in praying for the lost if God’s plan can be thwarted by man or the devil?”God never sits up in heaven lamenting that he wasn’t able to save someone saying, “I really wanted to save Johnny. If only there were something more I could have done!” God can do whatever he wants, and if he wants to save someone they are saved. I have noticed that whenever Armenians pray for their lost friends and family they pray like Calvinist. When anyone prays for the lost we do so because, deep down, we know that God is the one who saves and it has nothing to do with us, and if we didn’t believe that it would make no sense to pray for the lost and we would not pray that God would change their hearts. Again, we are all free to choose God or not choose God, just as a lion has the choice to eat the grass or the gazelle, but until God changes our nature to be inclined to choose him we will never do so. We are all dead in our sins without God and he has to make us alive, we can’t in any way shape or form do that ourselves. We are free to make our own choices, but we always choose according to our nature and our ability. When we have friends who don’t believe in God and say that they can’t believe in God, even if they don’t know that it is true, what they are saying is true and they can’t believe until God changes their nature. If you can persuade someone into believing something than someone else can persuade them right back out of believing it. The only one who has the power of eternal persuasion is God, and we call that divine persuasion. The dead can’t bring themselves back to live and we can’t persuade ourselves into saving faith, even if it seems like that is what happened. The entire reason we even had the spark of belief and was in the right place to believe is because of the divine intervention of God. The best thing we can do for people who don’t believe is to pray for them, but of course we should also tell them about God because they can’t believe in a God they have not heard about, but when they turn their lives over to God he gets all the credit and glory, not us or the one who was converted. Armenians say “if God is truly sovereign than what is the point of evangelism since he already decided who to save?” I always turn the question around and ask, “If God is not truly sovereign than what is the point of evangelism because that would mean that God could try his best to save someone and still fail because of forces outside of his control?” If God is completely Sovereign, which he is, there is nothing outside of his control and we have a 100% success rate with evangelism because it is not up to us but God and we just share the message and God saves all he wants to save. Some people mistakenly think that if we are predestined than every action was chosen ahead of time and we can’t be held accountable for our actions, which is a dangerous distortion of the true gospel. God does not make us do anything, our sinful nature does, and God did not make us sinful, we made ourselves sinful. If you will recall, sin entered the world when our first parents disobeyed God by doing the ONE thing he told them not to do. When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.-James 1:13-15God does not make us do evil but rather he allows us to make our own choice and do the evil that is in our nature. Without the aid of God we are all depraved and the only time we do good things is because of God’s influence on our lives. God allows sinful humans to commit sinful acts and he uses those acts to bring about good, but he did not make us do those acts. When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery they meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20). A lot of people use John 3:16 as an argument against predestination because it says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” (NIV). The argument is that God gave his son for whosoever believes in him, which is true, God did give his son for anyone who believes, however, and it is a big however, not everyone has the capacity to believe. We can’t come to saving faith until we are called by God since he chooses us, not the other way around. When we look at this verse in context, Jesus was talking to Nicodemus who was a leader of the Jews and he wanted to make sure that Nicodemus knew that he was going to die for all people groups and not just for the Jews because God predestined people from all nationalities and races to be saved, but this does not mean that Jesus died for every person who has ever and will ever live on earth. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the propitiation for sin (Hebrews 2:17, Romans 3:24-25, 1 John 2: 1-2, 1 John 4:10), which means that he paid our sin debt in full. In order for Jesus to propitiate for sin that means he diverted the punishment for our sins away from us and onto him, but it is obvious that he did not propitiate for those who are in hell because they would not be made to spend eternity in hell if their debt was already paid. A bill collector would not come after you for payment if someone called them up and paid your debt for you, and hell is the ultimate debt collector. If Jesus tried to propitiate for the entire world, meaning every man woman and child to ever exist on the earth, than the mere existence of hell means that he failed to save those he tried to save and did not divert the wrath of God away from the sinner and was bested by the devil or thwarted by insignificant humans, which would mean that he is not sovereign and is not much of a God. If the atonement is truly a perfect atonement, and by perfect I mean saving all who God intended for it to save, than the only two explanations for people in hell is that those who are in hell are there because God chose not to save them, or else he was mistaken about the power of the atonement and is not much of a God. The first is explanation is Biblical, the second is heretical blasphemy. Another verse that proves that what Jesus accomplished on the cross saves ALL of those who the Father calls to Jesus is in Matthew when the angel appeared to Joseph to tell him the child Mary was carrying was of God. Pay close attention, the angel said that Jesus WILL save HIS people from their sins, not that he might save his people from their sins or that he will try to save his people from their sins. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21 NIVIf Jesus paid for the sins of ever single individual human than there would be, and indeed could be, no hell because there would be no need for such a place as everyone would be saved, and that line of thought leads to universalism which teaches the heresy that all roads lead to heaven and salvation and Jesus was just one of the many ways to be saved. universalism is absolutely not Biblical. Yes, the Bible says that Jesus died for the world, but in Matthew 24 Jesus said that before the temple was destroyed the gospel would be preached to the whole world, however, the temple was destroyed in year 70 of the Common Era but America was not discovered by the Europeans until 1492, so Jesus was clearly not saying that the gospel would literally be preached in every spot of land on the planet but rather that it would be preached to the gentiles and the cultures in the known world. Again, Jesus was speaking to a Jewish audience so he wanted to make it clear that he was going to die for Jews and Gentiles alike, not just Jews.Another verse people like to try to use against predestination is Matthew 23:37, and the argument is that Jesus wanted to gather the children to him but the children were not willing, but a careful reading of the chapter reveals that Jesus wanted to gather the children to him but the leaders of the Jews were not willing. This verse, nor any other verse in the Bible, even slightly suggests that Jesus wanted to save people but he was unable. Over and over Jesus makes it clear that he is speaking to the leaders of the Jews, and over and over he pronounces woe upon them for trying to prevent the people from believing in and accepting the Messiah.“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”-Matthew 23:13-37 NIVAnother verse that is commonly used as “evidence” that Jesus died for every individual is 1 Timothy 2:4 because it says, “who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth,” but this is another verse that when read in context clearly means all types of people and not all people. I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.1 Timothy 2:4 NIVIn the passage Paul is talking to poor people, again, context is important, and he tells them that they are to pray for kings and those in authority as well as the poor because God wants to save all type of people, and he also makes mention of the Gentiles, noting that the gospel is not just for the Jews. The passage says that Jesus is the mediator for all people, meaning all types of people, because if he was the mediator for the people who wound up in hell than he was not a good mediator, and again, it is impossible for God to fail. A lot of people say that their problem with irresistible grace is that God would never command someone to love him, but anyone who says that is ignorant of scripture because the first great commandment is to love God, so obviously God can command us to love him. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.-Matthew 22:36-38Whenever anyone says that it is not fair that some people go to hell, the only reason that statement is true is that it is not fair that all of us don’t go to hell. Everyone who goes to hell deserves it, and everyone who doesn’t go to hell deserves it just as much. We are all willingly on a one way road to hell up until the moment when God intervenes and saves us from our own self-destructive behaviors. Hell is where we all belong and hell is where we are all headed until God calls us to himself, changes our nature, and offers us salvation. The belief that we can choose salvation without God first choosing us robs God of his glory and gives us at least partial credit for our salvation, but anything that adds to or subtracts from the cross is heretical blasphemy. Anyone who wants to take credit for what God has done needs to immediately get off of his or her high horse and humble themselves before God and just be grateful for what he did, knowing full well that he didn’t have to and that they in no way deserved it. One last verse I will talk about that critics of reformed theology like to use as a supposed proof that Jesus died to save every human, despite the troubling implication that it would mean that he tried and failed to save not just a few, but multitudes, is 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance,” (NIV). At first that verse appears to be the perfect trump card to “prove” that the atonement was for every single man woman and child to ever exist, but upon closer inspection, and when the verse is taken in context, it is clear that it is not at all what it means. In the first verse of the epistle Peter makes it clear exactly to whom he is speaking, those who are already in the faith, “ Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:”As we move through the epistle we see that Peter reestablishes who he is speaking to and says, “Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles,” (2 Peter 3:1-2 NIV). It is abundantly clear that Peter is talking to and about those who are already in the faith and not those who have yet to hear and/or accept the gospel. At this point, Peter begins to address a concern held among the believers as to why the Lord had not yet returned, and this is where we arrive at the paragraph containing the verse in question: But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare-2 Peter 3:9-10 NIV Peter is explaining to the church, not to non-believers, that the Lord is patient towards them so that none whom the Lord has called will perish. Jesus isn’t just taking his time, he is waiting for all future generations of Christians to come to faith. Everyone should find that encouraging. This text has absolutely nothing to do with God’s sentiment towards the entirety of mankind, everywhere and for all time but rather, it’s a beautiful demonstration of God’s love for His people and their assurance of salvation. Jesus will return when every single one of his sheep have been returned to the fold. Every moment that the Lord doesn’t return is a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His elect. For a moment, pause and reflect on how amazing God’s love is for His people. He is delaying the ushering in of His eternal kingdom, in spite of all the world’s injustices and evils, to ensure that not one of His beloved is lost. Praise to His glorious grace!If you Love God and want to serve him, “We love because he first loved us,” (1 John 4:19 NIV), not because you came to that place of your own volition. Everything we have, and everything we can ever hope to have, is a gift from God and we should be eternally grateful for it instead of trying to take partial credit.
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Rob Sivulka: Josephlied.com
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