Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Calvinism vs. hyper-Calvinism

One of the classes I'm taking  this semester is "Faith, Reason and the Christian Mind" which is being taught by Dr. Jamie Dew.

The question came up  about how Calvinists could support missions (or Evangelism) if they believe that God controls everything, and that only certain people are called or elected to salvation. Dr. Dew handled the question superbly. A fellow student was simply going on what they had been told by others, and I'm really glad that they asked the question so they would no longer hold such a skewed view of many of our Christian brothers and sisters.

Early on in my conversion I was a full fledged 7-point "Piperist". I got through that phase but I would still consider myself Calvinistic, let's call me a "moderate" Calvinist, a term I have heard in a couple of books I have been reading.1

I won't quote Dr. Dew here, but we agree that there have been many from church history such as Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards, Boyce, Broadus, Judson -- all Calvinistic men who were evangelical, missional and still embraced Reformed Theology.

It brought back to mind some thoughts I'd had as I was reading the two books I mentioned above. So many times I hear where people relate 5-point Calvinism (or "High Calvinism" as a term I've seen in both of these books as the opposite to "Moderate Calvinism") to hyper-Calvinism. I'm going to quote from an excerpt from an e-mail our seminary president, Dr. Danny Akin wrote back in 2006 in regards to some concerns he had with students and theological integrity and responsibility.
In regards to 5-point Calvinism being the same as hyper-Calvinism: This statement again demonstrates historical ignorance. Hyper-Calvinism is a particular movement that appeared in the mid 1700's that rejects the mandate to share the gospel, denies man's responsibility to repent and believe the gospel, and in some instances runs perilously close to making God the author of sin...Perhaps what some mean by "hyper-Calvinism" is extreme Calvinism or Calvinists with an attitude. I have met more than a few in my lifetime and to be sure, they were not of much value when it comes to the health of the church and reaching the lost. Still, we need to be honest with history and accurate with the facts. Mischaracterizations are of no value on any level.2
I don't believe a contemporary supralapsarian 5-point Calvinist would agree with any of those points.

I would also like to point you to an article our seminary president Dr. Akin wrote back in 2006 on Calvinism. Now, if you know Dr. Akin's theology, you'll know that he is not a 5-point Calvinist but I feel he described and critiqued the doctrines of grace very succinctly here and I highly commend it to you if you are interested.

Sure, there are some Calvinists that are jerks about their theology, but I've come across some non-Calvinists (I won't use the term Arminian for this blanket category) who were also jerks about their theology. I don't feel that either camp does anything to help the Kingdom. We should be focusing on a sound, Biblical theology that preaches the gospel of King Jesus rather than standing on different sides of the issue and pointing fingers over things that Christians have consistently disagreed about throughout the history of the church such as soteriology and eschatology.


Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism and Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue
2 Sage, Courageous Counsel from Dr. Danny Akin

Friday, August 8, 2014

SEBTS, Day 1.

Well, I finally made it.

The Lord led me here. I am so thankful for the blessings that have been bestowed upon me to get me here. God's hands have been all over my life the past few months.

Today was the first time I ever set foot on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, but I've known it was where I was supposed to be for months now.

I walked around the campus late this afternoon. I can really feel God's presence here. I am so thankful He put me here.

I felt God's calling strongly in September. I told myself I was crazy -- there was no way I could go to seminary. I felt called to SEBTS right away. I knew it was where I was supposed to go, but  I couldn't see the plan yet. God knew the plan, and he knew that I'd be sitting right here in the basement of Shaw house at SEBTS today.

I have been so blessed.




Thursday, July 31, 2014

Go therefore and make disciples...

I have been blessed in so many ways over the past few weeks. I have wanted to put some words together, but there has been so much going through my head, it's been tough. This is going to be long, but if you are interested in what makes me tick, read on.

I was raised up in church most of my life. As a child, my Mom took me to many different kinds of churches: Southern Methodist, Free Will Baptist, Pentecostal Holiness, Assemblies of God and a few others. As a child I was "saved" and baptized as a part of a Free Will Baptist church...old school style in Lynches River while everybody was singing "Shall We Gather at the River". It's a great memory. I'm glad I had that experience.

I first felt the call to be a minister as a child really, as funny as it sounds. My Mom (and others around me) thought it was 'cute' when I preached to people in Dr.'s office waiting rooms, etc. That faded and again, in my teenage years I felt another tug at my heart. Sadly, I didn't listen, or even tell anyone about it.  The first major setback in my life plans happened when I was about 16. My Mom was a baker in a grocery store. We never had much when I was growing up, but she did the very best she could with her 9th grade education. We ended up moving and I ultimately, sadly dropped out of school -- I went to work as a concrete finisher.

A few years later my Mom had gotten really ill, and became unable to work. We moved back to my hometown so that she could be closer to family. I went into a pretty deep state of depression about school and the fact that I had allowed myself to do something as dumb as dropping out. On an absolute whim I drove to a local Technical College to ask what I could do. I was 19 at this point -- to old to go back to High School. I met with an admissions counselor she said I could start school in the fall, but I had to take the GED as soon as I could. The next opportunity to take the GED was in September, approximately a month later. I had to pass or I couldn't stay in school. I passed.

You would think that would have taught me a valuable lesson, but ironically it didn't. I had been a musician my entire life. I literally started playing guitar at age 4, and I've known how to play so long I don't even remember learning. As I got older I joined band in school and I had my eyes set to be a HS Band Director. I had my heart set on being a HS Band Director but the local University didn't have a Music major. I couldn't leave my Mom so I transferred anyway from the Tech school to the University after completing a couple of semesters of General Education classes. I flopped around between a few majors and I kind of settled on History. It's a subject that had interested me my entire life. Aside from music, it was the next most logical choice. In college though (as I'm sure so many do) I changed, and not for the better. Two things happened. I discovered I had a problem with Alcohol and through a Music professor I got interested in Computers (using them to Notate/Create music). Shortly, I got interested in the machines themselves and I left school and went full-time into the IT/Computer industry.

All along, my alcohol problem was festering. I no longer did anything but go to work, go home, drink and play video games online. I was a mess. You see, the company I went to work for was a good Christian based organization that creates software for Churches. After about a year and a half my drinking problem caught up with me, I came to work hungover, blew up at my supervisor and I walked out and quit.

I was unemployed for about 6 months, and I wound up working at an electronics retailer. I hated it. I did manage to work my way up through the ranks, but I couldn't help but miss the old job, and I had not only tackled my drinking problem and beaten it, I'd grown as a person. I got in touch with the IT Director and by the grace of God I was allowed to come back to work here. This was in 2007. During all of this, actually at some point during college, I had walked away from Christ and the Church. I'd completely turned my back on my faith.

Fast forward to last year, 2013. It was a horrible year in a lot of ways, except for this one thing. My neighbor kept bugging me to go to a July 4th celebration at a small country church just down the road. I resisted with all my might and came up with every excuse I could possibly come up with. Nothing was enough and my Mom and I went down to this event. As I was sitting there, listening to a youth pastor from another church speak, I quite literally felt my heart change sitting right there in that field. I will always remember the moment I was converted.

My friend, and boss had always been asking me to go to his church. He knew I'd hit it off with the pastor -- he was an ex-IT guy/Programmer also. I decided to visit the next Sunday. Not only have I joined that church, that Pastor has not only become my pastor but one of my best friends. I have since rededicated my life to Christ, been re-baptized and sometime in September of last year I felt that call again.

Except this time, it was irresistible. I hadn't read an entire book since college. Since September, I've read the Bible cover to cover twice (in two translations: HCSB & NASB), and I'm up to Philippians in my third translation (ESV). I spend much time in the Word every day now. Not only that, I can't keep track of all the books I've read since then -- everything I can get my hands on, I read. I have an insatiable hunger to learn, and teach. I am thankful that my pastor has given me the opportunity to teach several times at Wednesday night Prayer Meeting. It's been a great experience. I look forward to any chance I get to dig into God's Word and share with others.

I know I have been led to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I knew that was where the Lord was leading me. I prayed every day for God to show me how...show me a way, any way to make going to SEBTS a reality.

I have to say, I have been blown away by the kindness of everyone I have interacted with from Southeastern. I have been blessed and helped immensely by several staff members. I was devastated when  I discovered I couldn't get student loans, but the school jumped into action and helped me get financial aid. It still hasn't fully sunk in that I will be there next week! I am truly as excited as I have ever been in my life. I finally feel like I know where I belong, and what I should be doing.

This leads to the second part of my blessing. The company I work for, ACS Technologies. At 34, with a job, a house and a dependent parent, it was hard to make a decision to do something this life changing.

Luckily, like Southeastern, ACS Technologies is a Great Commission company. Just check out this tweet from my account back in March at our annual company meeting:

I am truly blessed to be part of the ACS Technologies family. They are allowing me to follow my calling, and continue my work even while in Wake Forest studying. This is really small potatoes compared to some things I've seen this company do. It's an extended family, it really is.

I don't care what kind of need arises, or what tragedy happens ACST employees rally together to help each other. I can't count the number of bake sales, chili lunches, hot dog lunches and other fundraisers that have happened seemingly on the spur of the moment when a need arises with an ACST employee. I am so thankful to work for a company with the same values I have. A company where I am a person, and not just an employee number.

I am so thankful for this opportunity that has been given to me by both ACS Technologies and SEBTS. I am proud to be a part of the ACST family, and I am proud to say I Am Going to SEBTS!

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Golden Rule

We've all heard about the "Golden Rule". There are a couple of verses of Scripture that demonstrate it:
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. (Luke 6:31) 
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
It goes beyond just being nice to people because we would want other people to be nice to us. It really extends to giving grace to others, and forgiving them just as we have been forgiven by our Father in Heaven.

I feel that in order to do this properly, we have to grow personally in our understanding of what Christ accomplished on the Cross.
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Even though we were enemies of God once, because of the blood shed by Christ, we have been reconciled to the Father. Christ took us in one hand, and the Father in the other and reconciled us to each other. He cancelled out that death sentence we deserved because of our sins.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-13)
We should also extend grace to others, simply by forgiving them when they have wronged us.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12, KJV)
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13)
We have to remember that we didn't deserve God's grace. Just as we didn't deserve forgiveness from God, others may not deserve forgiveness from us, yet that doesn't matter. We are still commanded to forgive.

We see in Hebrews what happens when we fall short of grace:
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled (Hebrews 12:15)
If we don't forgive others, we will fall short of God's grace. This causes bitterness and that doesn't hurt others, it only hurts us.

Always determine to show grace to others, don't hold grudges and always show forgiveness to others. Always remember that Christ gave us far more than we deserve, so we need to remember that when we feel that we are wronged by others. It is just one of the ways we can show others that we as Christians are different.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Here I Raise My Ebenezer!

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit, Till released from flesh and sin, Yet from what I do inherit, Here Thy praises I’ll begin; Here I raise my Ebenezer; Here by Thy great help I’ve come; And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home. (From "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" by Robert Robinson)
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12)

The word Ebenezer comes from the Hebrew words ’Eben hà-ezer (eh’-ben haw-e’-zer), which simply mean “stone of help”

I had a pretty interesting year last year. I had some great things happen and I had some really bad things happen.

The best thing that happened was the Lord put me at Ebenezer Baptist Church. He had been trying to call me to ministry for many years, and I needed to be in the environment that I've been in at EBC in order to really hear and understand that call. I'm thankful that in that environment I've been encouraged to teach and to grow. I'm so thankful for the body of believers that God has put me with.

I wait anxiously today to hear if I will receive financial aid to attend Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary this year. I hope it works out, but if not, I know that God has a greater plan, and perhaps it just isn't the right time. If it does work out, likewise, I'll know it is the right time.

It doesn't matter if good news that I can go now comes today, or if I find out I have to wait another year, I can pray with the understanding that God has helped me in my life, and that God has put me where I need to be.

What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. (1 Corinthians 14:15 KJV)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fundraiser for Seminary

I have never been good at asking for things. I found out about this fundraising site via a tweet from a seminary twitter account. I have been blessed in many ways in my life. I have had great times and I have had many struggles. I'm thankful for each and every experience I have had.

I was involved in church most of my life, from childhood through college and I've felt the call to ministry several times. When I was originally in college I stepped away from my faith and away from church for far too long.

Last year, my neighbor kept bugging me to go to a July 4th celebration at a small country church just down the road. I resisted with all my might and came up with every excuse I could possibly come up with. Nothing was enough and I went down to this event. As I was sitting there, listening to a youth pastor from another church speak, I quite literally felt my heart change sitting right there in that field.

My friend, and boss had always been asking me to go to his church. He knew I'd hit it off with the pastor -- he was an ex-IT guy/Programmer also. I decided to visit the next Sunday. Not only have I joined that church, that Pastor has not only become my pastor but one of my best friends. I have since rededicated my life to Christ, been re-baptized and sometime in September of last year I felt that call again. Except this time, it was irresistible.

It is always hard paying for school, but it's even harder when you are 34 years old with a disabled parent you help support. I also recently found out that I don't qualify for Student Loans.

Thank you so much for taking time to read this, and even if you can't give a monetary donation, I always ask for prayers.

Thank you! - See more at: http://www.youcaring.com/tuition-fundraiser/help-me-pay-for-seminary-studies-at-sebts-/205032


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: The Pastor's Kid by Barnabas Piper

Barnabas Piper is the son of John Piper, the well known pastor, author and scholar. In this book, Barnabas shares some of the issues that are common to pastor's kids (PK's). Although this book is primarily geared toward the children of those in vocational ministry, I found the book quite insightful, and I could see it being helpful for many people, and even many parents (Chapters 5-7 especially).

First off, here is a good reason not to buy this book -- you aren't gonna get any dirt on John Piper -- this isn't an exposé. Although he does share some personal stories, this book isn't about digging into his parents and airing his families dirty laundry. He also isn't just telling his story. Barnabas is speaking for a greater community of PK's everywhere, and he includes insights from other PK's throughout the book.

Although I think I know a lot about Barnabas' dad (his books and teaching have really helped shape who I am as a believer), I also have followed Barnabas on social media enough to know that Barnabas is not his dad! In my opinion, that is the entire point of this book!

Barnabas reminds us in this book that pastor's kids are sinful, fallen humans just like everyone else. They didn't inherit some special DNA that grants them automatic sanctification right out of the womb. He also reminds us that pastors themselves are sinful, and that the families of those in ministries share many of the same struggles, conflicts and dynamics that all of our families have. The difference? They live in a giant fishbowl. Everyone in church knows them. In the case of Barnabas in particular, the fame of his father reaches far outside of Bethlehem Baptist Church, outside of the Twin Cities, outside of the United States even. His dad is very well known, and Barnabas is not only in a fishbowl, his family is on display in the aquarium.

Although I am not a pastor's kid, I do hope this book helps me should I wind up a father in a pastoral ministry role someday. Many parts of the book resonated with me, and many parts made me laugh (out loud). I especially loved the part about pastor's kids knowing all about how to pray, use the right words, the right voice (a half-octave higher), and how to throw a little King James around when need be.

Barnabas' writing style was perfect. I could see this book easily being read by teens who are perhaps struggling with some of the many things that Barnabas describes from his own life, to adult PK's to pastors themselves.

I plan to pass my copy along to my pastor's son, and hopefully I can get him to write up some of his thoughts once he has finished it.

Here is the trailer for the book: