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Five truths about predestination. Truth #4: predestination is according to foreknowledge.

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Article copyright by Bob Rogers, Th.D.

(This is the fourth in a series of five articles about predestination.)

Some people object to the idea of predestination because they think it takes away human responsibility and free will. Yet the Bible says predestination is “according to foreknowledge.” In other words, God can speak of something as destined to happen, because God already knows the future.
Romans 8:29 (ESV) says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined…” Peter said, “To those… chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…” (1 Peter 1:1-2, CSB). This concept is plainly stated in the Gospel of John. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:65, ESV). That sounds like predestination, doesn’t it? But read the verse before it: “For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe…” (John 6:64, ESV). There it is again—foreknowledge!
Let me illustrate it like this. Once I was a passenger on an airplane coming into the airport in Savannah, Georgia, which is near Interstate 95. As we descended, I could see a wreck on I-95 that was several miles to the north. I knew that the northbound cars immediately below me were going to come upon that wreck, because I could see farther that they could see. In a similar way, since God exists beyond time, and knows the future, he can speak of it as certain to happen (predestined). He already knows what we will do, but we are still free and responsible for what we do.

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Five truths about predestination. Truth #3: predestination is not double-edged.

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Article copyright by Bob Rogers, Th.D.

(This is the third in a series of articles on predestination.)

On the subject of predestination, the verses in Romans 9 that are central to this discussion are Romans 9:22-23. These verses have been interpreted as teaching “double-edged predestination,” which is an extreme version of hyper-Calvinism that many Calvinists themselves to not take. What exactly is “double-edged predestination”? It is the idea that predestination cuts both ways like a double-edged sword– not only are the saved predestined to be saved, but that the lost are predestined to be lost. Some people interpret Romans 9:22-23 this way, because the verses speak of the “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” and “vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory.” However, what many people miss here, is that Paul describes the vessels of wrath (the lost) and the vessels of mercy (the saved) in different ways in this passage. The Greek grammar in verse 22 describes the “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” with a perfect participle in the middle or passive voice. Thus it describes the objects of wrath, which refer to the lost, as “having been made ready for destruction,” which may mean they prepared themselves for destruction by their own unbelief. Notice also that God “endured with much patience the vessels of wrath.” In other words, God patiently waited for their free choices, because, as 2 Peter 2:9 says, God is not willing that any be lost. Paul speaks of the lost by implying it is the result of their own choices, which God in His omniscience already knew they would make. (More on that tomorrow.)
However, the Greek grammar is different when referring to the “vessels of mercy” in verse 23. Paul describes the “vessels of mercy” as those “which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” This time, Paul uses the active voice to describe God’s action of salvation. In other words, Paul speaks of the saved as actively being predestined by God. Paul uses the word “beforehand,” to speak of the predestination of the saved, even though he did not use the word “beforehand” when speaking of the lost.
Thus we may speak of the saved as being predestined to be saved, but it is wrong to speak of the lost as being predestined to be lost. Just as God announced the judgment of Nineveh through Jonah, but responded to Nineveh’s repentance with forgiveness, in the same way God announces that all unbelievers are “vessels of wrath,” but if they react with repentance, God, who foreknew they would do so, responds with grace and forgiveness.

Five truths about predestination. Truth #2: Predestination is not unfair.

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Article copyright by Bob Rogers, Th.D.

(This is the second in a series of five articles on predestination.)

John Calvin, in his commentary on Romans 9:18, said, “the wicked themselves have been created for this very end—that they may perish.” This implies that God is arbitrary and unfair, creating some people who are already predetermined to go to hell, with no will to resist this. Yet Paul reminded us in Romans 9:14, “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!”
When Romans 9:18 said that God shows mercy on whom he desires and hardens whom he desires, this does not mean that God is arbitrary or unfair. Let’s look at the context of this statement. In the previous verse, verse 17, Paul spoke about Pharaoh, whom Moses confronted, demanding Pharaoh let the Jewish people go from slavery in Egypt. Exodus says that Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people of Israel go. But if one reads the story in Exodus, one finds that half of the time it says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and half of the time it says Pharaoh hardened his own heart. What Exodus described was the process by which God brought out the hardness that was already in Pharaoh’s heart. As Charles Spurgeon said, “The same sun which melts wax hardens clay; and the same gospel which melts some persons to repentance hardens others in their sins.” (Charles Spurgeon, “The Lesson of the Almond Tree,” Sermon No. 2678, April 7, 1881. Accessed on the web at: http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols46-48/chs2678.pdf.) Thus God was not making Pharaoh do something that Pharaoh didn’t already want to do. He is simply revealing what was already in Pharaoh’s heart. Likewise, God does not take away our free will to obey or disobey. God’s predestination is not unfair.

 

Five truths about predestination. Truth #1: two kinds of election.

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Article copyright by Bob Rogers, Th.D.

Predestination is generally understood as God’s foreordaining of what will happen, especially who will be saved. It is often associated with the teachings of the Protestant Reformer John Calvin, and thus sometimes referred to as Calvinism. Presbyterians, Reformed churches, many Baptists, and some other Christians emphasize this doctrine, although they hold to differing interpretations of predestination. In this and the next four posts, I will expound on five truths about predestination, primarily from the ninth chapter of the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans. In the third post, I will give special attention to different ways of understanding predestination.

Truth #1: There are two kinds of predestination: nations and individuals.

In Romans chapter 9, the apostle Paul was trying to explain why most of his fellow Jews had rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ. He explained it by talking about God’s “election,” or predestination.  Paul implies that there are two kinds of election: election of nations, and election of individuals. The Jews were, and are, God’s “chosen people.” Romans 9:13 quotes Malachi 1:2, “Jacob [Israel] I loved.” Despite this, not all Jews will be saved. Romans 9:6 says, “for not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” That’s because there is a second kind of election, which is individual election to salvation, and that requires faith. Romans 9:30-33 says that many Gentiles became believers, even though they were not an elect nation, because they got “a righteousness that is by faith,” but Israel, which is an elect nation, “did not succeed… Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith…”

To be continued tomorrow…

Pascal’s wager that God exists

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Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), was a brilliant French mathematician and scientist often remembered for “Pascal’s triangle.” But he was also a Christian writer. In his classic work, Pensees (Thoughts), he proposed a fascinating reason for believing in God, often called “The Wager.” Here it is. Feel free to share your reaction in the comments below:

Either God exists or he does not exist. But which view should be taken? Reason cannot answer this question. Imagine a coin is being spun which will come down heads or tails; how will you wager? Since a choice must be made, let us see where your real interest lies. You have two things at stake: truth and happiness. What is the gain and the loss if you call heads, that God exists. If you win, you win everything; if you lose, you lose nothing. A gambler, where there is an equal chance of gain or loss, would place a bet if the possible gain was twice the possible loss. But here the possible gain is infinite, and the possible loss nothing. Every gambler takes a certain risk for uncertain gain. Here you are taking a certain risk with the prospect either of infinite gain if you win, or no loss if you lose.

 

Favorite Billy Graham quotes

Billy Graham Preaching to Crowd

Here are a few of my favorite quotations from the great evangelist Billy Graham, who died today at age 99:

“Without the resurrection, the cross is meaningless.”

“The Bible teaches that we are to be patient in suffering. Tears become telescopes to heaven, bringing eternity a little closer.”

“The devil doesn’t need to invent any new temptations; the old ones work as well as they ever have.”

“In some churches today and on some religious television programs, we see the attempt to make Christianity popular and pleasant. We have taken the cross away and substituted cushions.”

“Thousands of pastors, Sunday school teachers, and Christian workers are powerless because they do not make the Word the source of their preaching and teaching.”

“The Bible is the one book which reveals the Creator to the creature He created! No other book that man has conceived can make that statement and support it with fact.”

“Evangelism is not a calling reserved exclusively for the clergy. I believe one of the greatest priorities of the church today is to mobilize the laity to do the work of evangelism.”

“Philip is the only person in the Bible who was called an evangelist, and he was a deacon!”

“If God were to eradicate all evil from this planet, He would have to eradicate all evil men. Who would be exempt? God would rather transform the evil man than eradicate him.”

“I have never been to the North Pole, and yet I believe there is a North Pole. How do I know? I know because somebody told me. I read about it in a history book, I saw a map in a geography book, and I believe the men who wrote those books. I accept it by faith. The Bible says, ‘Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God’ (Romans 10:17, KJV).”

“People do not come to hear what I have to say– they want to know what God has to say.”

“When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God.”

“We have changed our moral code to fit our behavior instead of changing our behavior to harmonize with God’s moral code.”

“If you are ignorant of God’s Word, you will always be ignorant of God’s will.”

“Go is the first part of the word Gospel. It should be the watchword of every true follower of Christ. It should be emblazoned on the banners of the church.”

“The Gospel shows people their wounds and bestows on them love.  It shows them their  bondage and supplies the hammer to knock away their chains. It shows them their nakedness and provides them the garments of purity. It shows them their poverty and pours into their lives the wealth of heaven. It shows them their sins and points them to the Savior.”

 

 

What we learn from great leaders in the Bible

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Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

Five leaders of the Bible come to mind as role models for us: Abraham, Moses, David, Peter and Paul.
Abraham was willing to take risks. He was told to go to a land the Lord would show him. Are you willing to take the risk to go where you’ve never gone before, for the good of those you serve and lead?
Moses was willing to stand alone on his convictions against Pharaoh and later against his own fellow Israelites when they rebelled against the Lord. Are you?
David was willing to face a giant. Are you ready to take on giant tasks?
Peter was willing to admit his mistakes and change, after denying the Lord and after denying fellowship with Gentiles. That’s an important quality in leaders to be willing to admit when we are wrong and change.
Paul was able to get a vision and follow it. When he saw a vision of a man of Macedonia saying, “Come over here and help us,” Paul took the gospel into the continent of Europe for the first time. Do you, like Paul, have a vision for your work, and see the big picture?
As helpful as these five role models are, I have not mentioned the greatest example: Jesus Christ. Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself for the good of others. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). If you and I will follow the example of Jesus, and be willing to sacrifice our own desires and put others before ourselves, then God will bless our leadership. After all, Jesus knows better than anybody, that life can be as tough as nails.

The Next IMB president

Doug Munton writes an excellent blog on what we should pray for in the next president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

via The Next IMB President

How to Overcome Worry

WorryWoman

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
There are more things to worry about than sand on the seashore. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Don’t worry about your life… or about your body” (Matthew 6:25, CSB). Jesus followed that statement with five reasons why we don’t need to worry. In each of these reasons is a truth that teaches us how to replace worry with something else!
1. Life is about more than things (6:25). Jesus said, “Don’t worry… Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?” This question teaches us to overcome worry by changing our priorities in life. Once Jesus turned down lunch from his disciples and said, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about” (John 4:32). He was referring to the satisfaction in His soul of leading the Samaritan woman at the well to faith. Jesus didn’t worry about things, because His priority was spiritual.
2. Since God provides for His creation, you can trust that He will provide for you (6:26). “Consider the birds of the sky,” said Jesus. “They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” This truth teaches us to replace worry with faith. Instead of turning over negative things in your mind, meditate on positive gifts from God. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6, NLT).
3. Worry doesn’t change your problem (6:27). Jesus asked, “Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying?” This truth teaches us that worry is a waste of time—time that could be spent doing something useful, such as taking action to deal with the problem. My friend Melisa Grubbs says, “I can be a worrier or a warrior.”
4. If you focus on God instead of your problem, God will provide (6:33). When you hold a small object close to your face, it looks bigger than any object in the room. Worry is like holding your problem close to your face, instead of looking to God. Jesus promised, “But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” He was teaching us to replace worry by looking closely at God instead of looking closely at the problem. Scripture and prayer help us focus on God. Some helpful verses are: Psalm 27:1, Psalm 34:4, Isaiah 26:3, Matthew 11:28-30, Philippians 4:7, and 1 Peter 5:7.
5. Learn to live in the present (6:34). Jesus said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.” How often have you fretted in anticipation of something out of your control, and later learned it was not an issue after all? So, replace worry about tomorrow by living in the present. Don’t miss the beauty of today by imagining things that may not even happen tomorrow.
No wonder Jesus Himself could sleep through a storm, and then wake up and calm the sea (Mark 4:38-40). Rest in the Savior, and He can calm your storm, as well. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7, NLT).

Did the preacher really say that? Pulpit blunders and bloopers

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I once heard a dignified preacher talk about visiting Hoover Dam. He said, “I looked over the whole dam project.” There was a pause, and then he blurted out, “I mean the project of the dam!” That’s when the congregation erupted in laughter.
It’s an occupational hazard of preachers. As pastor Chuck Pourciau says, “If you say a lot of words, the odds are that eventually something will come out wrong.” I asked some pastors to share their stories, and they generously told the following. Don’t judge them for things that sound risqué by accident. It was not their intention.

Preachers know it is dangerous to talk about politics, but Jonathan Kittrell remembers trying to say something about Osama Bin Laden and accidentally saying Barack Obama. However, his biggest blooper was not when he misspoke but when he miss-stepped. He did a character sermon on Job in costume. It going beautifully until he sat down on the stage. He forgot to put shorts on under his biblical attire. (I think that story is brief enough.)

Dick Allison was pastor of FBC Jellico, TN. He was preaching about Joshua and the walls of Jericho, except that he continually said throughout the sermon, “The walls of Jellico came tumbling down!” (Now that’s what I call bringing the sermon home to the congregation.)

Larry Robertson says that once he was preaching a topical series on Sunday nights about “Hot Potatoes,” hot topics/ethical issues facing the church. That evening he was going to be addressing the issue of pornography, and he was encouraging everyone to be there, only that’s not how it came out. He said, “We’ve been looking at ‘Hot Potato’ issues facing the church on Sunday nights lately, and tonight we’re going to be looking at pornography. You don’t want to miss tonight’s sermon as we look at pornography together…”

Robbie Passmore says he was preaching a funeral and instead of saying Lighthouse, he said Outhouse. (He may have been in the dog house after that funeral!)

Chuck Pourciau was once doing a graveside service, and said, “Thank you that Mrs….” He meant to say the name of the deceased, but instead he said the name of a friend of the deceased who was sitting under the funeral home tent, very much alive. He thought, “I can’t say, Thank you that Mrs. So-and-so isn’t dead, too,” so he just started the sentence over again and said the correct name.

James Canada says that once he meant to say “a live organism” but he left out a syllable, which undoubtedly caused the congregation to gasp.

Donnie Brannen has several stories about the bloopers of other preachers. He heard a syllable stumble like the one above, and another blooper by a preacher friend who was asked by the deacon body at his church to address the issue of women wearing pants to church. As he preached, he said, “When the Bible was written, pants weren’t even invented. What the Bible says, is that men shouldn’t dress as women and women as men. But women’s pants are not men’s clothing. They don’t look the same; they aren’t cut the same. Men, have you tried to get in your wife’s pants lately?”

Now before you get offended at these stories, let’s acknowledge that many Christians need to lighten up and not take ourselves too seriously. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:4 that there is a time to laugh, and Jesus pronounced a blessing on laughter in Luke 6:21. So when the preacher’s tongue gets tangled, smile a mile, forgive, and remember that we are all sinners saved by grace.

How can believers respond to doubters?

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Recently I taught a Bible study on the story of “Doubting Thomas” to my Bible class at church, and again at a local prison. We read in John 20:24-29 how Thomas said he would not believe Jesus was alive unless he saw the nail prints in His hands and put his hand into His side where He was pierced. Then Jesus appeared to Thomas and encouraged him to do just that! Thomas responded with his confession of faith, “My Lord and my God!”

I asked both classes, What lessons do we learn about responding to doubters from how Jesus responded to “Doubting” Thomas?
The Bible class at church gave six answers:
1. Don’t “blast” them; don’t attack them for their doubt
2. Show them what they need; give them evidence, books to read, etc.
3. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead
4. Be loving, compassionate, not judgmental
5. Pray for them
6. Plant the seeds and be patient

The Bible study group in prison added two more answers:

7. Share my own testimony

8. Live my life in a way that shows Jesus is real.

How about you? What have you found that is helpful to respond to those who doubt the faith? What has helped you in times of doubt?

My top 5 blog posts in 2017

In case you missed them, here are the top five blog posts that I wrote in 2017, in order of how many reads they received. Click on each link to read the post:

  1. The HCSB is now the CSB: What’s the difference?
  2. When you’re not getting “fed” by the pastor’s sermons.
  3. Bishop Jackson’s inauguration prayer for President Trump.
  4. 7 signs of a healthy church.
  5. Movie review: The Shack.

Book review: “Touching Heaven: Real Stories of Children, Life and Eternity”

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Touching Heaven: Real Stories of Children, Life, and Eternity by Leanne Hadley is an inspiring collection of true stories by a United Methodist minister, primarily telling the stories of dying children she met as a young chaplain in a children’s hospital. Her stories of faith are deeply moving. She opens with her own story of faith as a preacher’s daughter, and how she began to doubt her faith. Then she tells a dozen stories of the faith of children who faced their own death, and the death of her own mother. This short book concludes with a summary of lessons learned that ties together the stories well, and shows how the faith of those to whom she ministered erased her own doubts. Some of the stories of children’s faith and encounters with angelic visions are amazing, and even startling, yet there is little reason to think that she is embellishing them.
This book is encouraging to anybody facing a terminal illness, especially the terminal illness of a child. It is also a great resource for those who do hospital ministry, as Hadley models good practices, and is honestly self-effacing about her feelings of inadequacy at times to do this ministry.
I could hardly put the book down, it was so engaging. I highly recommend it.

Praying over Christmas cards: A post-Christmas tradition

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Copyright by Bob Rogers.

Many people enjoy displaying the Christmas cards that they receive during the holiday season, but what do they do with them after the New Year begins? Stick them in a drawer? Throw them away? Several years ago, my wife Mary and I adopted a simple tradition of praying over our Christmas cards in the New Year.

When we receive Christmas cards, we enjoy looking at them, and then put them in a basket. We place the basket on our dinner table, and sometime in early January, we begin to pray for the people who sent each card, one card at a time, one week at a time. Here’s how we do it: On Monday evening when we sit down to eat dinner, we draw a Christmas card from the basket and look to see who sent it. We share memories of that person or family, and needs they may have. Then as we say the blessing for our meal, we include that household in our prayers. We pray for them at each dinner that week. The next week, we draw the next card from the basket, praying for that family each day of that week. We continue the process throughout the year, and sometime in the fall we empty the basket, as we finish praying for all of the people who sent us cards. Then the basket is ready to refill during the next Christmas season!

Many times we have drawn a card and prayed for somebody at just the time that we know that person has a special need. At other times, we have prayed for them with no idea what they are going through, only to learn later that the timing was perfect. Of course, there is no bad time to pray for another person! This simple tradition has been a blessing to us, too. During the busy Christmas season, we have little time to savor each Christmas card when we first receive them, but later in the year, we have a whole week to reflect on each and every one. It’s an easy and meaningful tradition that you could adopt in your own home.

 

 

Guest blog: Why We Don’t Do Elf on the Shelf

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(This guest blog is written by my daughter, Melissa Rogers Dalton. She and her husband Steven have two sons and live in Virginia, where she is an elementary school teacher, with an endorsement as a Reading Specialist.)

Article copyright by Melissa Rogers Dalton

When I first learned about the idea of Elf on the Shelf a few years ago, I was completely sucked in. I didn’t have any kids yet, but the idea of setting up an elf with all of these great little tricks greatly appealed to the prankster inside of me that has become dormant since my college days.

I mean, how cute are these!

Once Keagan was finally old enough to enjoy it, I brought it up to Steven and he immediately shut it down. He knows that I have a tendency to get overly involved in things like this and could picture me staying up way too late every night trying to concoct the perfect scheme for the next morning. Yeah, he knows me way too well… 😉

But over the past two years, I’ve decided he was right to say no for a completely different reason.

Teaching our children that they have to be good in order to receive gifts is completely opposite of what the gospel preaches and, therefore, goes against everything Christmas stands for.

You see, Jesus was sent to Earth because we couldn’t find our way back to God on our own. He is our Rescuer and Redeemer, and there is NOTHING we can do to earn his gift. Actually, the definition of “gift” says “a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.”

So this whole myth about Santa and his naughty or nice lists really should disappear.

I’m sure some well-meaning parent created it somewhere along the line because kids at this point of the year start going a little crazy, but we have to put an end to it. Even as adults, we struggle with remembering/understanding that our actions are not the path to heaven. Just listen for two seconds, and you’ll hear it all around. I had a coworker tell me just a few days ago that she was going to hell for saying something mean about someone else. Technically, yes you can, but stopping it isn’t going to get you to heaven either.

All we have to do is realize that we are beyond unworthy, but God sent us the perfect gift of His son to come, live, and ultimately pay the penalty for our sins with His life so that we could be reunited with Christ someday. Then we just accept that gift by choosing to follow Christ. That’s it. Our works will never be enough.

If you have an elf and want to continue your fun with it, by all means go ahead. I love seeing what creative schemes you create. But PLEASE stop telling your kids that they won’t receive Christmas this year if they don’t behave. Instead, preach the true gospel to them. If you need any ideas for ways to bring it down to their level without missing the importance, I highly recommend the Jesus Storybook Bible.

The reason I like this particular Bible for kids is because they end every story by bringing it around to Jesus and the gospel. It doesn’t matter if the story is about Leah or the actual birth of Christ. They all talk about the Rescuer coming to save us so that kids can understand that everything in the Bible points to Him. They aren’t just individual cool stories that happen to be in the same book.

There is also a FREE Advent Calendar that goes along with this Bible (it includes the actual scripture references as well if you don’t have/want this Bible). I know it may be too late for this year, but I plan on using it next year.

Merry Christmas, and God Bless!