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Thursday, December 4, 2008

"Pastoral Blogging"

Can “Pastoral Blogging” be a good thing? I’d like to talk about it here for a bit. In this day of “politically correct speech” slowly taking over this Country, and please don't be fooled as we are slowly drowning in this sea of what is okay to say, seems to me that many Pastors have need for an “outlet” or place to share some of the things they may feel they for whatever reason, they cannot say on a Sunday morning in any of their sermons, or maybe have no place in their sermons or Pulpits & that is valid! For instance right now there is a lot of talk about Pastors getting overly political behind their pulpits. Maybe you have heard, but if you haven’t over 30 Pastors of large Churches the Sunday before this past election choose to defy the IRS 501c-3 law that states non profits must not & can not take political sides in any election. These Pastors I guess feel that the pulpit is indeed the place to speak out on politics. This Pastor couldn't’t disagree more! I am no fan of the IRS, God knows that for sure & I see this rule being broken time & time again, especially by those on the left, but becoming as they are is not the answer, other than my humble feeling that the pulpit is not the place to endorse Candidates. I think the evidence is quite clear after this election just how fractured Evangelicals are by all the various person’s they supported. Certainly we can & should use our influences to try to get people to vote their faith & conscience, but to blacken the pulpit with political rancor just de-values God’s Word & our places of Worship.

So having said that, Pastors NOW more than ever need an outlet, a place to vent gracefully of course things that have been “simmering” in their souls for many years! And the beauty is that you can write about almost anything! On my blog here, I have written about topics ranging from the Tampa Bay Rays baseball run to the World Series to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956! Just about everything is “open game”.

So from first hand experience, I can honestly say that blogging for Pastors I believe is really very healthy, both mentally & spiritually. I hope you will consider starting your own blog today! I started here on Goggle & like this site & I am sure that there are many more out there, so Happy Writing Friends!

Stay Tuned,
Al

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Post Election Thoughts

Well, the Election is finally over & I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts. Before I do, I’d like to share with you what a friend wrote on their Daily Devotional site in regards to the Election & it’s outcome.

This is from Jerry Scott, Pastor of Washington Assembly of God in New Jersey & he writes:

President-elect Obama! A year ago, who would have thought it probable, much less possible? Our President-elect is no friend of evangelicals. Unless he governs differently than he campaigned, he is not going to be supportive of Biblical values that are so important to us. Now that the election is over, I will admit to a deep sense of concern over the direction our nation will likely take during his administration. He will be governing alongside of leaders in Congress that are equally hostile to evangelical Christian ideals, so there will be little reason to be a moderate. Most troubling for me personally is the kind of judges our new President is likely to appoint to the Federal bench. Despite all of that, I see his election as a real opportunity for evangelicals to get back to our calling to be the Church. I hope that we will embrace God's call to pray for our leaders, to work for a just society, and to proclaim the transforming Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work. We can now stop looking to the Oval Office and our legislators for initiatives to save our nation from her sins! It time to feed the hungry, to care for the dying, to visit the imprisoned, to become the defenders of the oppressed, to offer love to the outcasts and hope those who are enslaved by their sins. These words from Romans challenge us to remember that God gives us leaders and demands that we pray for them and live as good citizens. It becomes even more compelling for us when we remember that the authorities at the time these words were written were pagans, not just apathetic toward Christianity but in many cases actively persecuting the Church.

Read these words, then take time to pray for those elected to serve us. "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God's servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God's servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do." (Romans 13:1-6, NLT)


I copied this because I felt like he really hit on a few good points, one of them is that so many in our Country today seem to look to the Government for or as their “source”. This is a disturbing trend, you would of thought these Candidates were running for “Pastor general” or something! It was promises, badly failed promises from the past that have caused so many people to look to the Government as their source, we gave these initiatives nice feel good warm & fuzzy names like, “the new deal or the great society”. But I believe time has shown that these programs have practically “enslaved” people to relying upon Federal help as the answer, rather than working in tandem with the private sector where opportunity, when pursued, pays huge dividends in the long run.

Like so many of you, I was very disappointed with the outcome of the Election. It is hard to describe though what I am so sure many people felt as I, that while then outcome was not what we had prayed & hoped for, in our hearts we truly wanted to be glad for how far we have come as a Nation. A black man, a woman, or like back in 2000 when we had a Jewish man run for V.P. it truly a testimony to our openness & the opportunity in our society! The problem with Mr. Obama has ALWAYS been his ultra liberal voting record in his short Senate tenure to date, never the color of his skin! But now to the other point Jerry made & is made clearly in Scripture, we need to be about the business of praying for this President-elect. The campaign is over & now our prayer is that he will govern as we are hearing from at worst, the center & that alone will take movement on his part & show his sincerity to lead ALL Americans.

And pray we will! If he does well for the Country, so be it! If we are really besides ourselves & upset, we must also remember that he was elected by a clear majority of the people in our Republic, so if he does not do well or goes back to his ultra left wing stances, perhaps he is only a reflection of us as a whole? I have often thought that whoever we elect is only a mirror of us anyhow, so when we point at him, we point at ourselves.

So today, I fully understand the joy in the black communities & in all minority communities who finally feel like their voice was heard. We have witnessed a true & genuine piece of American history that will & should live on in our history books for generations to come, should the Lord tarry. Blacks especially has suffered for so many years in this Country, something us whites MUST never ever forget. Bigotry & hatred were the “norm” in so many states for so long. I pray that the Black community as a whole today feels a lot better about their place in American history & that the “Dream” that Martin Luther King so eloquently spoke of some 40 years ago is being fulfilled before our eyes! I also deeply appreciated John McCain’s concession speech, one could easily tell that he was speaking from his heart; he knew all along he was running against history, if you will. I have no doubt Mr. Obama was touched by those words & hearing today that President Bush said he will do “all he can” for a smooth transition, confirms even more so that something has taken place bigger than all of us. May we at least give him a chance first!

Again, I am very concerned about this President elects contempt on deep moral issue’s, who he would place on the Nations highest court bench, etc., but I will be praying for a true & real change of heart, may I ask you all to join me?


Stay Tuned,
Al

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Baseball, Oh I Remember……..

Recently I got the chance to watch a few episodes of Ken Burn’s award winning series about America’s pastime, Baseball entitled “When It Was A Game”. Probably like millions of guys my age, baby boomers, it was hard to sit through these episodes without my eyes tearing up here & there. It also made me realize that Baseball, like so many things today has really lost it’s “innocence”. Now if you know a little about the game, then you know that the it was Cardinals player Curt Flood who in 1970 challenged Baseball’s “reserve clause” that lead to the start of free agency & that allowed players to now move much freer from team to team. And although I get that & do understand that the owners were a huge part of the problem by making millions off these guys & paying them pathetically low wages for the ballpark draw they were back from the roaring 20’s through the early 70’s, I wonder if there couldn’t have been a “middle ground” found somewhere? As far as I can remember, it seems to me the last guy I can think of who played for 1 team his whole career was Robin Yount & he retired back in 1993 & was with the Brewers for 20 seasons I believe! Today, it is practically impossible for a player to stay with 1 team his whole career! But this wasn’t the case back “then”. My all time favorite player, good old number 8, Carl “Captain Carl” Yastrzemski, affectionately known as “Yaz”, played his whole career for my beloved Boston Red Sox from 1961-83, 22 seasons. But today everything has changed sadly. A man I really admire & simply cannot understand why he is not Baseball’s Commissioner is sports reporter, Bob Kostas. He recently did a program with “Hammering” Hank Aaron, in my eyes still the home run king! and Willie “the say hey” kid Mays. It didn’t take long to realize that guys of this magnitude are simply few & far between these days! They spoke also about Mickey Mantle & what a great player he was as well & I fully agree, this coming from a Red Sox fan no less! If “the Mick” would of taken care of himself, it wouldn’t surprise me if he would of hit over 800 home runs, like May’s, he was what they call a “5 tool” player, the whole package! It was nice to see him make peace with all those who loved him before he died & mainly, with himself….

As I write this, my Sox are down to the Tampa Bay Rays (see what happens when you drop “Devils”!!) & being the true baseball purist I am, it is hard for me to root against this group of young guys who have gone from “worst to first”. (Remember the 67 Sox, the Impossible dream") Manager Joe Madden should be crowned “Coach of the decade” for supplanting both the mighty Sox & Yanks! And all with a payroll of 44 million, compared to over 200 million for the Yanks & 170+ million for the Sox. If they beat us, I won’t be all that upset & will certainly root for the Rays as an American League fan, except of course when the Yanks win, sorry New Yorker’s!

But I guess I just miss the innocence of the game & the strategy. I lost count of how many times the Sox all season this past year had runners on 1st & 2nd with NO one out & DID NOT bunt???? Is it me, or don’t the percentages speak for themselves? Runners at 2nd & 3rd w/ 1 out, no automatic double play, 2 chances 95% of the time to score, what is wrong? Could it be that many of today’s players can’t even bunt? I am not a National League fan, but it would seem to be, they still play “small ball” that they manufacture runs! Only Mike Scoscia, manager of the Angel’s, (btw Los Angeles Angel’s of Anaheim, am I missing something?) still believes in small ball. Perhaps because he was a National League catcher for so many years? Last, here’s some teams, names & just some memories from the past:

Seattle Pilots, played 1 year only, 1969 at Sick Stadium & in 1970 became the Milwaukee Brewers. Washington Senators have a long storied past, they would say: 1st in war, last in the American League! I think everyone wanted them to come back as the Senators, or at least the Grays as a tip of the cap to the Negro Leagues, but the old Senators became the Minnesota Twins in 1961. I am the only one who missed those old Seattle Mariner uniforms with the trident from 1977? Or what about those awful San Diego Padre uniforms from the early 80’s? Does anyone still remember Lenny Randall blowing the bunt foul down the 3rd base line for the old Mariners? Does anyone miss the old Municipal Stadium off the banks of Lake Erie in Cleveland? What a miserable place! The team back then didn’t help either, but some great players came through there. The “Eck” Dennis Eckersley, Andre Thornton, The “Hawk” Ken Harrelson & his Nehru jackets!
Anyone miss the “Bird” Mark Fydrich? This guy would talk to the ball, you had to love it! Detroit has seen it’s share of greats also, “Stormin” Norman Cash, Al Kaline, Micky Lolich, Lance Parrish. Old Tiger Stadium was unique as well, Billy Crystal filmed his movie about Mantle there “61” just before they tore it down.

One of my favorite things to do is visit old ballparks…. I just sit there & think of all the players who every played on those fields & the dreams they had of “making it” to the “Big’s”. In Waterbury, my home town, one year back in the mid 70’s Richie Zisk, former big leaguer hit 50 homers, Bobby Bonds once played for the Waterbury Giants at Waterbury’s storied “big ball park” as Bob Palmer would call it back in the 60’s. I listened intently as a friend told me how a ball was hit to deep right field in the corner & a guy tried to score from 1st base & Bobby Bonds took the ball & threw this guy out at the plate with a bullet & strike in the air no less!
As a side note, Bobby ended up coming back to Wtby. year after year as he truly loved the City. He was from all accounts, a class guy. Jimmy Piersall was also from Wtby. As a kid, I played in the Piersall League & Joe Conner & Grasshoppers!

There’s something about the serenity & beauty of a ballpark. I will always be thankful that my Dad took the time to bring me to a few games here & there, even though he wasn’t a sports fan very much. I cherish those times & will never forget them, I hope to have done the same for my children as well & have given them a love for America’s “Pastime”. I pray that the integrity of the game will remain, but I am not hopeful sadly….certainly not when you have a former owner in Bud Selig overseeing baseball's day to day operations. Sort of like the Roster watching the hen house! I vote for Bob Kostas as Basball Commish! he'd restore some integrity to the game & btw, don't let me forget these other names from the past worthy of our respect:

Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Sandy Koufax, Joe DiMaggio, "Big" Frank Howard, Boog Powell, Harmon Killebrew, The 69 Mets! Willy Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Juan Marichal, Louie Tiant, Goose Gossage, Reggie Jackson (ouch!) Whitey Ford, Don Drysdale, tony Conigliaro, Marty Patten, Bob Gibson (maybe the best ever!) Roger Maris, Stan Musual, Willie McCovey, Pete Rose, Jonny Bench, Joe Morgan & I could go on forever!


Stay Tuned,
Al

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Deadly Price of Liberal Theology (Part 1)

If any of you have been looking at some of the recent research data & answers to important Biblical questions put out by Barna, Gallop & others, then you know that there is an alarming move toward Liberal Theological views among many of our young people as well as many so called “ordained Ministers”. Questions relating to such key & basic topics ranging from the virgin birth to the deity of Christ & the authenticity of Scripture have been shocking to say the least. In the past, going back some 50 years ago, belief in the Scriptures as “God breathed & inspired” were around 50%, whereas today that same question draws a positive response in only 1 out of every 4 Americans or 25%, half as many as 50 years ago! Statistics among Clergy are just as frightening in their responses to similar questions. Never before has Hosea 4:6 meant more where God states “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”. It never ceases to amaze me how people will constantly refer to themselves as “Christians” & then spout out their own views on these topics which are in direct conflict with “thus says the Lord”.

The following is an article that you may find as a real “eye opener”

Only Half Of Protestant Pastors Have A Biblical Worldview January 12, 2004

(Ventura, CA)-In his recently released book and a subsequent research report on worldviews, author and researcher George Barna made waves by citing statistics showing just 9% of all born again adults and just 7% of Protestants possess a biblical worldview. That information pricked people’s curiosity regarding the worldviews of the nation’s religious leaders, prompting Barna Research to conduct a national survey on that topic among Protestant pastors. The numbers are now in – and the outcome may again shock many people. Interviews with 601 Senior Pastors nationwide, representing a random cross-section of Protestant churches, Barna reports that only half of the country’s Protestant pastors – 51% - have a biblical worldview. Defining such a worldview as believing that absolute moral truth exists, that it is based upon the Bible, and having a biblical view on six core beliefs 1)the accuracy of biblical teaching, 2) the sinless nature of Jesus, 3) the literal existence of Satan, 4) The omnipotence and omniscience of God, 5) salvation by grace alone, and 6) the personal responsibility to evangelize), the researcher produced data showing that there are significant variations by denominational affiliation and other demographics. “The most important point,” Barna argued, “is that you can’t give people what you don’t have. The low percentage of Christians who have a biblical worldview is a direct reflection of the fact that half of our primary religious teachers and leaders do not have one. In some denominations, the vast majority of clergy do not have a biblical worldview, and it shows up clearly in the data related to the theological views and moral choices of people who attend those churches.”

Denominational Distinctions

The survey of pastors included ministers from more than four-dozen denominations, each of which was represented in proportion to the number of churches it has in the U.S. That enabled the researchers to analyze the responses of seven denominational segments more closely. There is considerable variation in the worldviews held. An example of the gap among churches is reflected in the outcomes related to the nation’s two largest denominations, the Southern Baptist Convention and the United Methodist Church. (Of the nation’s 320,000 Protestant churches, more than 42,000 of them are Southern Baptist and more than 35,000 are United Methodist; these two denominations alone account for roughly one-quarter of all Protestant churches in the U.S.) The Southern Baptists had the highest percentage of pastors with a biblical worldview (71%) while the Methodists were lowest among the seven segments evaluated (27%).
Among the other segments examined, 57% of the pastors of Baptist churches (other than Southern Baptist) had a biblical worldview, as did 51% of non-denominational Protestant pastors, 44% of pastors of charismatic or Pentecostal churches, 35% of pastors of black churches, and 28% of those leading mainline congregations.


Demographic Differences

The survey brought to light some unexpected differences based on pastoral background. The most intriguing of those relates to theological training. Educationally, the pastors least likely to have a biblical worldview are those who are seminary graduates (45%). In contrast, three out of five pastors who have not attended seminary operate with a biblical worldview (59%). The largest gap related to gender. Whereas 53% of male pastors have a biblical worldview, the same can be said for just 15% of female pastors. Overall, just 6% of all Protestant Senior Pastors are women. Another huge gap was based on race. White Senior Pastors were nearly twice as likely as black Senior Pastors to have a biblical worldview: 55% versus 30%, respectively. Age and experience entered the picture. The youngest pastors in the nation (those under age 40) are more likely to have a biblical worldview than are their older peers (56% versus 50%). Similarly, Pastors who have five years or less experience in leading churches have a higher rate of biblical worldview possession (58%) than do other pastors. Even geography is related to worldview. Fewer than half of all Senior Pastors in the Northeast (43%) and Midwest (49%) have a biblical worldview, compared to majorities in the South (57%) and West (58%). In fact, of the nine geographic divisions defined by the Census Bureau, the one with the highest proportion of pastors giving evidence of a biblical worldview was the Pacific division – California, Oregon and Washington. Although the people in those states are among the most liberal in the nation, nearly two-thirds of Protestant pastors there (64%) have such a moral and spiritual compass in place.

A Worldview Is Taught As Well As Caught

Referring to the multi-year research project that formed the foundation of his recent book on the subject of worldview development (Think Like Jesus), Barna suggested that people do not get a biblical worldview simply by regularly attending church. “A biblical worldview must be both taught and caught – that is, it has to be explained and modeled. Clearly, there are huge segments of the Christian body that are missing the benefit of such a comprehensive and consistent expression of biblical truth. “The research also points out that even in churches where the pastor has a biblical worldview,” he continued, “most of the congregants do not. More than six out of every seven congregants in the typical church do not share the biblical worldview of their pastor even when he or she has one. This intimates that merely preaching good sermons and offering helpful programs does not enable most believers to develop a practical and scriptural theological base to shape their life. Our research among people who have a biblical worldview shows that it is a long-term process that requires a lot of purposeful activity: teaching, prayer, conversation, accountability, and so forth. Based on our correlations of worldview and moral behavior, we can confidently argue that if the 51% of pastors who have a biblical worldview were to strategically and relentlessly assist their congregants in adopting such a way of interpreting and responding to life, the impact on our churches, families and society at-large would be enormous.”

Research Source and Methodology

The data described above are from telephone interviews with a nationwide random sample of 601 Senior Pastors of Protestant churches conducted in November and December 2003. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with that sample is ±4.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. In addition, telephone surveys were conducted with a national random sample of 2033 adults during September through November 2003. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with that sample is ±2.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All of the interviews were conducted from the Barna Research Group telephone interviewing facility in Ventura, CA. Adults in the 48 continental states were eligible to be interviewed and the distribution of respondents coincided with the geographic dispersion of the U.S. adult population. Multiple callbacks were used to increase the probability of including a reliable distribution of adults. “Mainline” churches are those associated with the American Baptist Churches/U.S.A.; United Church of Christ; Episcopal Church; United Methodist Church; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and Presbyterian Church U.S.A. The Barna Research Group, Ltd. is an independent marketing research company located in southern California. Since 1984, it has been studying cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. If you would like to receive regular e-mailings of a brief overview of each new bi-weekly update on the latest research findings from the Barna Research Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna Research web site (www.barna.org).

In my next article on this subject, I will take a close look with my experience at the following key bit of information:

Fewer than half of all Senior Pastors in the Northeast (43%) and Midwest (49%) have a biblical worldview, compared to majorities in the South (57%) and West (58%).

Until next time,
Stay tuned

Blessings,
Al

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lakeland Evangelist To Step Down

Dear Friends,

Awhile back, I wrote about these meetings in Lakeland Florida. As you can read from that past blog, I centered my concern around the serious lack of accountability, despite all the sincerity of seeing the Lord move & our true & deep desires for such. Hence, the following article was just released & as should always be the case, may we be saddened when these things happen. Last, perhaps "GODTV" should also be held accountable as well....

Stay Tuned,
Al


Evangelist Bentley stepping down

Allie Martin - OneNewsNow - 8/19/2008 11:05:00 AM


Todd Bentley will step down as head of Fresh Fire Ministries, after the ministry revealed he had an "unhealthy relationship" with a female staffer. That announcement comes one week after Bentley's ministry announced he and his wife were separating. The announcement from the board of directors acknowledged that Bentley had an "unhealthy relationship" on an emotional level with the female staff member. Bentley is best known for leading a series of public meetings in Florida since April that have attracted around 300,000 people to churches and a baseball stadium. The Canadian evangelist will also cease all public meetings, including a 38-city stadium tour of U.S. cities. In a recent article in Charisma magazine on the meetings, editor Lee Grady said many of those who defended Bentley displayed a "lack of discernment," in part because of a "raw zeal for God." Grady also pointed out that Bentley had serious credibility issues from the beginning of the meetings, claiming to have talked to an angel in his hotel room, and bragging about tackling a man and knocking his tooth out during prayer. "Many of us would rather watch a noisy demonstration of miracles, signs, and wonders than have a quiet Bible study," the Christian journalist wrote. "Our adolescent craving for the wild and crazy makes us do stupid things. It's way past time for us to grow up." Grady also criticized GodTV for telling people that any criticism of Bentley was "demonic." GodTV carried the Lakeland meetings live every night.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Eternal Security (Part I)

So here we are again, tackling yet another “biggie” in the Body of Christ. Namely, the question of whether a Christian can truly fall away? Many individuals I truly appreciate have written books on this topic, from BOTH sides of the argument. Men like Calvinist Pastor Charles Stanley, H.A. Ironside, Brethren Pastor & Dispensationalist & on the other side, Carl J.E. Nelson and Ray B. White among others. I even saw this title “Eternal Security, License to Sin!” So there is certainly enough in print out there about the subject, but again let us take a journey though the Scriptures & see what the Bible says & what we can draw from the Word of God. Now, again I want to emphasize that although I will be drawing a conclusion from this study, I am very respectful of those on EACH side of the argument & when I am finished, I refuse as many others, especially on the one side, to call anyone a “heretic” as we are limited in our understanding as long as we live in this body of flesh & bones, which is not a cop out, but must be something as humans, we always remember, especially when we get overly dogmatic! Certainly the following passage is used often in defense of Eternal Security, also btw known by many as “once saved, always saved”.
We read this in:

John 10:27-29 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I have heard these verses used many times in the argument for E.S. (we’ll call it that from here in) and I concur that indeed a Christian cannot be “snatched or taken” out of the Father’s hand upon His finished work in them! So this gives rise to the following thought: can a Christian then “walk away” from Christ, or can a Christian receive Christ into their life & then continue on in a life marked & dominated by sin, yet still be ‘saved?” The Apostle Paul stated this concerning a person who has meet Jesus as Savior, but perhaps not Lord, although they did pray perhaps to ask Christ to come in:

Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

Further on this the Apostle John states the following:

1John 3:9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, (perhaps practice sin?) because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.

And the writer of Hebrews emphatically states this:

Heb 10:26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,

So if we piece all these verses together, certainly we have a picture that simply “praying a prayer" or saying one thing & doing another is not sufficient unto salvation! This would tend to gives us a picture that salvation is a “progressive’ (ongoing) work in a person’s life. Made complete by continuing in a life that is pleasing to God & no longer practicing sin, this neat term I once heard applies here: “Christian are not sinless, but they do sin less!”. Meaning we no longer practice sin, but are tripped up by it due to our “Adamic” natures which we came out of the womb with according to the Psalmist in:

Ps 58:3 Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.

But Hebrews 10 does give us a picture undeniably that if a person lives a “double” life, even though they have invited Christ in, or maybe never missed a Sunday service, or like a women in Middlebury, Ct. once told me so many years ago when I was going door to door: “Al, I know I am going to Heaven because I sing in my Church’s choir”, or whatever external thing that seems right on the outside, they are still lost in context to salvation! I heard it put this way: “just because you join the lion’s club, it doesn’t make you a lion!” So one may argue that what I am saying is that we are then ‘earning” our salvation, NO! We can’t earn it as that is already established in Scripture friends. (Eph. 2:8-9 & Titus 3:5-6) But we must “work or walk it out” as the Bible teaches us in:

Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

And the Lord Jesus Christ said these very words concerning the faithful members of the Church at Thyatira found in Revelation 2:24-26:

“Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you) 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come. 26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—

So even in addressing the faithful here, the Lord Jesus tells them to stay true “to the end”.

In Revelation 3, Jesus warns members of the Church at Philadelphia to beware lest they have their crowns taken from them, so we can see that there is a sense of “progression” in salvation, that we simply can’t “sit” on what we have been given. In fact, the parable of the talents is an excellent example of this, what happened to the one servant who “buried” his talent? Yes, he was thrown into that place of weeping & gnashing of teeth. I see a great parallel between that parable & salvation in general. And of course the Apostle James really opens up the window to show us what happens when we get “fat & happy” so to speak with our salvation
And begin to think that “it’s a lock”. Let’s read his words found here in:

James 2:20-26 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend.
24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

In fact the question is posed, can a man who says he has faith without works be saved by “that” kind of workless faith? James states this which has an obvious response:

James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?

Of course not friends! So in this opening, I think we’ve established that a person certainly cannot simply “pray a prayer” & that’s it, they can go off & live whatever way they want & still be “saved”. We’ve also established that salvation is a “progressive” work that is ongoing. Many would disagree here, especially High Calvinist & that is okay! We further know that our faith MUST, again MUST be accompanied by works in order for it to be valid friends. For how else can God judge us? Just imagine how many people are going to stand before Him & say things like, “but Lord I loved you, I this & I that, etc”. Will not God then direct them to specific instances that would prove there can be no doubt that they spoke the right words with their lips, but by their actions denied Him all along? So these things truly go hand in hand and an over-emphasis on either is wrong! And we must endure to the end, we must remain faithful. This I find most intriguing because if salvation is a “one time” it’s a done deal over with proposition, then why must we “endure” or “walk out or work out” our salvation as the Scriptures teach? Arminian Theologian John Wesley had much to say about this, what is the sense in asking people to endure & continue on unless there is indeed a sense of the importance of walking through this life & being found faithful unto the death, whenever that time my come should the Lord tarry? Next, we’ll get more into the possibility of being able to fall away & whether or not we are indeed “once saved, always saved”.

Stay Tuned,
Al

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lakeland "Outpouring"

Well,

Once again I am going “where no man likes to go” I guess, lol! In this post, we’ll talk about what is happening down in Lakeland Florida where there has been meetings going on night after night for quite awhile lead by a young Canadian man named Todd Bentley. And the reason I want to talk about this is because whenever something like this sprouts up, there are ACTUAL sign’s friends we can look at to see if this is something that is just good intentioned or is it a “God thing” along the lines of a Azusa Street or what God did back in the 50’s when Billy Graham came to New York City. Bottom line is can we really check things out to see if they are genuine? I truly believe we can! Now I know many will say “Al, why even bring it up, people are getting healed & some good things are happening, aren’t you for that, etc”? Believe me I am friends! I want nothing more than to see the Power, Glory & Majesty of God show up in this World & through us & our Fellowships, but just because some “good things” are happening. That is certainly NO reason for us to turn a deaf ear when we see Godly principles & order being shrugged off because of what is taking place, always remember this Christian, THE WORLD IS FOREVER WATCHING US & we need to be accountable & so if various organizations, inside & out of the Body of Christ want to see if Todd Bentley has been accountable there along with the local leaders of that meeting, then there can be nothing to fear or hide from such an honest investigation, especially if it is a Christian organization! So we’ll allow the record to speak for itself. World Magazine is an excellent source of information & a magazine I would highly recommend & one who did try to contact Todd & the people there, but sadly what they were told was far from accountable…. Mr. Bentley was quoted as saying something to the effect of: “I just don’t have time for interviews & need to be about God’s business, etc. Also when World Magazine asked about the ATM machine’s being placed in the lobby for the offerings which ran approx. 30- 40 minutes each evening, per eyewitnesses of World mag. and also began to ask general questions about offerings & funds coming in, again they were given the “we’re about the Father’s business” answer.

The truth is friends, someone there needs to let those on the outside know exactly what is happening with the finances, as by all reports, massive amounts of money are flooding into their books there. You may not know this, but whenever Billy Graham has held a Crusade in an area, within a Month or so afterwards, they release a full disclosure of all the finances. Perhaps that is a big part of the reason that the B.G.E.A. has been so blessed throughout the years, because they have always been accountable. In this age of Ministries carrying Lear Jet’s in their arsenal & so forth, never has there been a greater need for accountability!
I am sorry, but ATM’s in the lobby trouble this person greatly, as does 30-40 minute offerings, regardless of what is happening there! Sadly, all too often Christians look at outward things like “sincerity” instead of inward things like integrity! Show me a place that is accountable & I’ll show you a place that is indeed seeing a move of God. Yes, there are great things happening there because of who our God is, even when we miss it, he promises to lead us still in the paths of righteousness & be with us simply for “His names sake”. (Psalm 23)


Back when a similar thing was happening in Brownsville in Pensacola, Fl. I never forgot that when they looked at the local statistics, they saw that despite the claim of “Revival”, the crime stats & all similar stats across the board remained unchanged! I think there was a simple reason for this, it was because what was really happening was that 70-80% of the people who were coming to Brownsville were from other areas! There was a revival alright, but it was a revival of people visiting & not so much getting saved! I am afraid, that although this is being called an “outpouring”, the main pouring has been people pouring in from other areas! I do rejoice with all those who have received from the Lord, but like many others, including MANY from Charismatic circles, which I include myself, there is much concern for the local leaders refusal to “open” all things up & be accountable. There have also been many questions about Mr. Bentley's rather "un-orthodox" methods of things ranging from kicking to slapping folks as well as more than once re-canting claims of healings, including rising from the dead, all things that God has & continues to do friends, but we must defer to Jesus & His example of love & humility & not "showmanship". So time will tell, but it may be too late because my guess is that Mr. Bentley will be taking his show on the road all over no doubt to a town near you!

Stay Tuned,
Al

Sunday, July 20, 2008

In Defense of God's Desire, Nature & Character (Opening)

Hello Again Friends,

I have been in the long process of writing my 1st book entitled: "In Defense of God's Desire, Nature & Character, as found in Arminian Theology". This is a book which is birthed from the "heart" of "Classic" Arminian Theology, it is the "engine" if you will, that runs this view of our Heavenly Father. Friends, at the heart of Arminian Theology is the rejection that God, in the beginning only chose certain people for salvation & although being the Creator, He in some way shape or form, left people out of His salvation plan! I ask & appeal to you with simply this....is there anything in Scripture that we know & have studied about our God that would lead you to believe that He created certain people to salvation while others to spend eternity in Hades/Lake of Fire by leaving them out of His plan of salvation? I thank the Lord that I am FAR from alone in seeing the mis-representaion of God in this. I can say however, that time & time again, I see the opposite in Scripture, we see God speaking here in:

1Ti 2:4 "who (God) wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men-- the testimony given in its proper time"

Notice that God desires that "all men" come to know Him! Further please notice that Jesus was a ransom given for "all men". If God's desire has been that He wants all men to come to know Him, could it still be possible that He left many out of His plan of salvation? For Jesus told us this in Matt. 7:13:

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it".

Notice that Jesus, God's only Son, just stated that most people are heading the wrong way, to destruction, so if God only saved an "elect", then the hard fact can ONLY be that He created MOST/MANY people only to be left out of the Salvation plan, as Jesus clearly stated here that most people are heading the wrong way! Friends, how can this be true? I submit that upon a clear & close examination, this just cannot be true from a Scriptural basis, despite the fact we all respect John Calvin & those who agree with his Theology & the good work he was able to accomplish during his lifetime realizing that ALL of us are far from perfection, thus unlike many Calvinists, I will not "mock or chide" their views & do & have always considered them to be my brothers & sisters in the Faith, albeit we have a very different view of the Desire, Nature & Character of God! So we see that God's desire is mis-represented when we hear High Calvinists making claims that God provided salvation for ONLY certain people.

And so then comes God's Nature... let's look at a bit as this & see a few things about the Nature of God.
  • Ps 147:5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. We are told here that besides how powerful our God is, that His knowledge (understanding) is infinite. I often ask myself, if I being human, have trouble with a belief system that NEVER gives a person a chance, then what must this doctrine sound like to God?
  • Ac 17:24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Here's is Paul at Mar's Hill giving his discourse on who our God is & notice that in verse 27, Paul says things are this way so that men Would seek after God & even perhaps find Him! Needless to say, what would be the sense of seeking or even finding God, if everyone was already "predestined"? In short, yes we must allow for God's Sovereignty, which Classic Arminians do & so God can certainly do "what he wants, with whom he wants, and how he wants", etc., but we see in God's Nature that He desires for man to long after Him, to seek Him, that He (mankind) may find Him! Jesus Himself stated in Matthew: "seek & you shall find, knock & it will be opened to you" In Exodus 20, where we find the 10 commandments, God states this to us about His Nature: "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

He is a jealous God, thus it would seem logical that He truly desires our hearts & that he truly wants us to be with Him, not away from Him friends! Also notice the great balance here contrasted in verses 5 & 6, God truly is the "perfect balance" & in keeping with this thought, Arminian Theology is likewise a Theology that is balanced in that we believe in God's direct intervention, while maintaining man's 'freed" will, which God has seen fit not to infringe upon, outside of His Sovereign will in specific situations. And last, but certainly not least is God's character & perhaps to many Arminians like myself, this is what concerns us most. One could clearly argue that if these things we've stated above from High Calvinist's are indeed not true, then one can argue that God's character has been badly maligned throughout the ages! And I shutter to think of the repercussions of such a teaching, for instance, how many people upon hearing this, felt it to be "unreasonable or un-balanced" have then turned away from the Living God? I am of the mindset that many have sadly..... Think about our lives friends, are they not filled with choices? How is it that we would somehow have this "freed" will to make choices daily & yet many/most have NO choice in regards to salvation? I submit it simply just doesn't add up... Well, you at least got the introduction to what I am writing!

Stay Tuned,

In Christ,

Al

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Calvin / Arminian Viewpoints (Part III)

Well, here we are at my 3rd discourse on this interesting, too say the least topic. As a refresher, below is what High Calvinism’s acronym “TULIP” stands for:

T……….the total depravity of Man

U……….unconditional election

L………..limited atonement

I…………irresistible grace

P………..perseverance of the saints


In this section, we’ll now take a close look at the “L & then I” in TULIP. Now for the record, thus far I have disagreed with the ‘U’ & this next point, Limited Atonement I have the hardest time with of all 5 points. So let’s define what the ‘L’ stands for in H.C. Also called "particular redemption" or "definite atonement", the doctrine of limited atonement is the teaching that Jesus' substitutionary atonement was definite and certain in its design and accomplishment. The doctrine is driven by the concept of the sovereignty of God in salvation and the Calvinistic understanding of the nature of the atonement. Namely, Calvinists view the atonement as a penal substitution (that is, Jesus was punished in the place of sinners), and since, Calvinists argue, it would be unjust for God to pay the penalty for some people's sins and then still condemn them for those sins, all those whose sins were atoned for must necessarily be saved. Moreover, since in this scheme God knows precisely who the elect are and since only the elect will be saved, there is no requirement that Christ atone for sins in general, only for those of the elect. Calvinists do not believe, however, that the atonement is limited in its value or power (in other words, God could have elected everyone and used it to atone for them all), but rather that the atonement is limited in the sense that it is designed for some and not all.

To go further on this matter, I’d like to quote Classic Calvinist Theologian Edwin Palmer who states the following: “The Bible teaches again & again that God does not love all people with the same love”. “The atonement of Christ is limited in it’s scope, that Christ intended to & actually did remove the guilt of the sins of a limited number of people – namely, those whom God has loved with a special love from eternity”. “Thus, the atonement of unlimited value is limited to certain people”.
- Palmer, Five Points Of Calvinism, pg. 27


Friends, if you did not find those statements, “music to your ears”, have no worry for you are far from alone! With this opportunity to contrast such a statement, I will now quote Nazarene (Arminian) Theologian Orton Wiley speaking for all Arminians he writes:

“The atonement is universal.” “This does not mean that all mankind will be unconditionally saved, but that the sacrificial offering of Christ so far satisfied the claims of the divine law as to make salvation a possibility for all”. “Redemption is therefore universal or general in the provisional sense, but special or conditional in its application to the individual”.

Orton Wiley, Christian Theology ( Kansas City, Mo. Beacon Hill, 1941)

Amen indeed! So Be it!

So the issue here is whether or not Jesus death applies for all, regardless of their standing with Christ. This passage of Scripture immediately comes to mind:

1 Timothy 2:5-6 “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men-- the testimony given in its proper time”.
Friends, notice the use of the word “ALL” in this context. These 2 verses are telling us, especially v6 that Christ Jesus gave Himself at Calvary a ransom or a “payment” if you will for ALL of mankind, not a limited amount of mankind. What is does not say here is that Jesus gave himself as a ransom for “only a elect”, etc. but rather for us all.

In staying with this thought, another passage of Scripture is found in: Mark 10:45 which states: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
So notice here the word used is not all, but many. Now we have already talked about the “U” in Tulip & in doing so addressed predestination, but here we do indeed see God’s foreknowledge which is the term I like to use instead of predestination because of its inference. So in this passage here I would argue that because God knows all & is omniscient, He certainly knew that His Son, Jesus would die for all, but He also foreknew that not all would accept Him, thus this passage that tells us that although Jesus was given for us all, only “many” would accept Him! My point being that I do not believe this passage is saying Jesus death was on limited scope. To further bolster this Classic Arminian view, let’s look at a few more passages.

John 3:16, known to us believers as the “Golden Text” of the Bible.

"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". If Jesus death was somehow limited to certain people, we would need to remove the “whosoever” from this hollowed passage! Whosoever means just that friends, ANYONE!

Hebrews 9:14-15 “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 15for this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-- now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”

In another passage we are told this: “many are called, but few are chosen”. Do you remember where I stated earlier that there are truly many areas where both viewpoints intersect? Well, we both believe that people are indeed called & that people are indeed chosen if you will, but what remains a very strong difference between these viewpoints is just exactly HOW that calling comes about & just exactly HOW people are called, but we all do certainly believe in such a calling of people, but WHO plays WHAT part is where we differ. In the discourse on "Prevenient Grace" a Classic Arminain viewpoint, you can go back & see where we differ from each other on WHO does WHAT, etc. Okay, this got a bit long so we’ll discuss the “I” in the next post.

Blessings & Stay Tuned,
Al

Women In Leadership Today

Friends,

Here’s another topic that your probably thinking I am crazy to take on! And the truth is, I can fully understand your reason for thinking that! This subject has literally caused a “firestorm” of controversy in the Body of Christ, in particular maybe over the last 20 years with the advent of many Women teachers who have become prominent in Christianity. There are MANY trains of thought on this subject ranging from the Fundamentalist viewpoint that women should not be in any form of leadership to many in the Pentecostal circles who have embraced women teachers & preachers, but what does Gods Word say in context?

First off, as a general observation & you are hearing from a very truthful man in this subject, I truly believe that women, for the most part have it all over us guys! What I mean is that they are certainly more “aware” of their surroundings then us, they are more “perceptive” & just have that “6th sense” about them. I have even gone as far as to say that women as a rule are smarter than us! Sorry guys, I know I just ticked off a few of you, but that is my observation! The picture in the Garden of Eden & the fall shows us further this great contrast between the 2.
Remember once they ate & God came looking for them what transpired? When God asked Adam, he did perform the 1st ever recorded case of P.T.B.! or pass the buck when he turned the situation around & said to God: “the women you gave me”, etc. thus effectively blaming God for his own sin. Certainly Adam could of obeyed God & told Eve that what she did was wrong. No where do I see that Eve had to push Adam. On the other hand God asked Eve what happened & she spoke plainly: “I was deceived”, hence, women generally also tell the truth, whereas men often fabricate things or lie. Why am I pointing this all out? Because I do not want any men out there to flatly dismiss women from any form of ministry! In Romans 16, we see that Phoebe was referred to as a “servant”. Now there has been much made over the Greek word used here because it is not the “normal” Greek word used for Deacon, but none the less, it is the same basic root word, (diakononso) so we have Scriptural precedent that women can indeed be Deacons. Now it was clear that back at that time, women were forbidden to preach, but rather here Phoebe must have been a strong mature believer & one who was hospitable & had much love for the “Saints” & even possibly opening her own home. Now clearly today, much, if not all of the controversy surrounds the Apostle Paul’s words found in: 1 Corth. 14:34 which states “women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says” (NIV) And again in 1 Timothy 2:12 which states
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent". (NIV) I think you would agree that these are 2 strongest verses & are what are usually quoted in refuting Women in leadership, wouldn’t that be fair friends?

Now I’d like to share something from Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible. I have always used this as a good & solid reference & there are some very important points made here in regards to women in the Church then & now. This was a Jewish ordinance; women were not permitted to teach in the assemblies, or even to ask questions. The rabbins taught that "a woman should know nothing but the use of her distaff." Continuing, the A.C.C. goes on to say: This was their condition till the time of the Gospel, when, according to the prediction of Joel, the Spirit of God was to be poured out on the women as well as the men, that they might prophesy, i.e. teach. And that they did prophesy or teach is evident from what the apostle says, 1 Corth. 11:5, where he lays down rules to regulate this part of their conduct while ministering in the church. But does not what the apostle says here contradict that statement, and show that the words in chap. 11 should be understood in another sense? For, here it is expressly said that they should keep silence in the church; for it was not permitted to a woman to speak. Both places seem perfectly consistent. It is evident from the context that the apostle refers here to asking questions, and what we call dictating in the assemblies. It was permitted to any man to ask questions, to object, altercate, attempt to refute, &c., in the synagogue; but this liberty was not allowed to any woman. St. Paul confirms this in reference also to the Christian Church; he orders them to keep silence; and, if they wished to learn any thing, let them inquire of their husbands at home; because it was perfectly indecorous for women to be contending with men in public assemblies, on points of doctrine, cases of conscience, &c. But this by no means intimated that when a woman received any particular influence from God to enable her to teach, that she was not to obey that influence; on the contrary, she was to obey it, and the apostle lays down directions in chap. 11 for regulating her personal appearance when thus employed. All that the apostle opposes here is their questioning, finding fault, disputing, &c., in the Christian Church, as the Jewish men were permitted to do in their synagogues; together with the attempts to usurp any authority over the man, by setting up their judgment in opposition to them; for the apostle has in view, especially, acts of disobedience, arrogance, &c., of which no woman would be guilty who was under the influence of the Spirit of God.

I think that Paul’s words are very important & apply here as well found in Gal. 3:22-29 “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. 23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. 26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, MALE OR FEMALE, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise".

So in closing on this controversial subject, let me state that with the information above, I believe that God is indeed using Women in the Body of Christ today. Perhaps you know of such a women? I have had the pleasure of meeting many & I would found to be a liar if I was to state that I did not believe God was using them! Now I will also say this to “balance” what I have said here. While I do believe as the Scripture states that “God is the head of Christ, the Man the head of Women, etc. this does not mean Man is to “lord” over Women any more than the Apostle Peter’s charge of 1 Peter 5 states the same of Pastor’s “lording” over their flocks. But what is sad today is this & I believe it to be 100% true: Men in so many Churches have “vacated” their leadership role ordained by God! Just stop & think friends, how many times have you seen a women married to a “spiritually absent” Man & so she has now had to take on the role of spiritual head? I have often asked myself where would the Church as a whole be today without the women? So I for one thank the Lord for the women who have “stepped up” & now take part in their Churches & although it may not be the way God ordained it. (for the record if all was right & men were in their rightful place as a whole, I still do not think God intended women to sit still & be quiet! My God, for where would husbands be without the wisdom & insight of their wives as a whole?) So while in I may not be completely doctrinally comfortable with women Pastor’s I am open to just about every other office & opportunity they that may be given to serve!

Stay Tuned,
Al

Friday, July 4, 2008

How 'Bout Those Rays & Manny Being Manny

Well, if you follow Baseball, how about those Rays? Although I am a passionate Red Sox fan, I love to see a team come together that’s “unadulterated” sort of speak by high salaries & huge Ego’s, etc. My 2nd favorite team is the Minnesota Twins who have been doing well for many years with a low budget & few big name players & now here is Tampa Bay! Even though they swept my Sox, I think what they are doing is great & Manager Joe Madden deserves all the credit in the world. The question now is this: can they keep it up after the all-star break which is when the “dog days” of the LONG Baseball season start to kick in, so time will tell & we shall see!

On another note, Boston beat sports writer Bob Ryan wrote an excellent column the other day in the Globe about good ole Manny. Seems that when this guy who clearly lives in a “bubble” impervious to the fact that people actually work to make a living, got upset at Jack McKinley, the sox traveling Secretary, which if you know anything about the inner workings of baseball is really a tough & thankless job catering to these guys, got thrown to the ground by Manny when he couldn’t produce 16 tickets to a game at the last minute. Now this guy is in his 60’s & here’s Manny throwing him to the ground, but what is worse is that the Sox have yet to take any action! Well maybe Mr. McKinley will! What a message the Sox management is sending to their players & to us when they allow guys to do such things. Bob Ryan went on to say that what happened amounted to assault! Maybe this will be Manny’s last year in Boston & I for one say “Adios Amigo”.

Stay Tuned,
Al

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Electoral College, What It Is & Why...

Are you familiar with the Electoral College?
Can any of you describe with any detail what it is or why it was started? Let me start this topic then with a little introduction of exactly what the Electoral College is & why our forefathers had the tremendous insight to put it in place. Then we’ll fast forward to 2000 to see exactly how their vision actually came to pass! Here is a legal definition from the Dept. of State: Often misunderstood today, the Electoral College was established early in our country’s history and continues to play an important role in the American political process. Although the name suggests ivy-covered walls and classrooms filled with books, the Electoral College is responsible for formally selecting the next president and vice president of the United States. To be elected president, a candidate must receive at least 270 of the 538 electoral votes cast nationwide. If no candidate receives 270 votes, the final decision is made by the U.S. House of Representatives. Only two American presidents have been chosen by the U.S. House of Representatives because they lacked enough Electoral College votes. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson and, in 1824, John Quincy Adams both took office after the election was sent to the House of Representatives. To understand why the Electoral College, and not the people, ultimately determines who is president requires a brief look into our country’s turbulent beginnings. The Electoral College was written into the U.S. Constitution in 1787, a time when our nation was new and still struggling in many ways, including politically. Of primary concern was the possibility of a nationwide election breaking down into chaos and confusion. To counter the politically volatile environment of the late 18th century, the Electoral College was established to balance the state’s and people’s interests. The idea of mass communication and the dominant two-party political system we take for granted today could never have been anticipated by our country’s first leaders as they wrestled with the problems of the early republic. Our country was founded on the principle of government of the people, by the people and for the people. Voting is one of this country’s most cherished rights. Our political system, including the Electoral College, is designed to ensure the full realization of this fundamental principle. In 2000 we actually had the incredible opportunity to see this in place! If you look at the map of the U.S. & which state voted from whom, you’ll notice that President Bush won very small states that only have 3-5 electoral votes. States like, North & South Dakota, New Hampshire, Idaho, Montana & Wyoming. This is significant because these states put the president “over the top” in the election, thus giving less populated states a fair & honest say in any & all presidential elections. However friends, there are many on the left & even some on the right sadly who want to eliminate the Electoral College in favor of the “popular” vote, which Al Gore won in 2000. Now on the outside that may seem to make sense, so what is the fuss?

For one I just shared with you a very good reason above, those small states if there was a popular vote would rarely if ever see the Candidates. Plus, as we see today, very large populations of people in concentrated cities are voting a certain way & in heavy populated area’s of people voting the same way, the rural area’s in both those states as well as different states would never stand a chance! In 2000 this is exactly what we saw & I must say that our founding fathers had great insight to protect ALL the states at least politically wise. Eliminating the Electoral College would be an attack upon the framers vision of our Country & would certainly spell the end of any influence of those living in rural America, important workers like Farmers & all those who make a living off the land or with livestock, etc. It is said that there will be a strong push come 2012 to remove the Electoral College so we need to be aware friends & speak up about it, lest we see another building block of our framers going by the wayside!

Stay Tuned,
Al

Friday, June 27, 2008

Calvin / Arminian Viewpoints (Part II)

Okay,
we're back to take another step forward in this discussion of these 2 contrasting Theological views. Now I used an important term in my 1st discourse. This term was “High” Calvinism or “5 point” Calvinism. I’d like to define now for you what it means. In Calvinistic Theology, there are those who hold to a form of Calvin’s teaching & accept them, but not to the extreme & such could be stated also about Arminian viewpoint’s, albeit they are in no way anywhere near as harsh as High Calvinism, after all they are based upon what we believe to be the truth that God gave mankind a freewill to choose, while also providing for a way for us to be “re-joined” back into fellowship & Covenant with Him, should we respond to His leading, etc. Some folks even like to be called “Calminian’s”! You’ll hear that a lot, I have a few Pastor friends who claim to be such! So let’s look at this 5 point system that created the need for a rival Theology like the Arminian viewpoint to come about in the 1st place. The acronym is “TULIP” which stands for the following:

T……….the total depravity of Man

U……….unconditional election

L………..limited atonement

I…………irresistible grace

P………..perseverance of the saints


Hence the term “Tulip”. In this 2nd discourse, I want to look at the first 2 points of High Calvinism, “total depravity” & “unconditional election”. So first, let’s discuss total depravity. Here is what is taught in H.C. (I’ll use this to define the term High Calvinism)

1) Total Depravity
The doctrine of total depravity (also called "total inability") asserts that, as a consequence of the fall of man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures. (The term "total" in this context refers to sin affecting every part of a person, not that every person is as evil as possible.)


Jacob Arminius himself and some of his later followers, such as John Wesley, also affirmed total depravity. This is an area of some of that “common ground” I spoke of earlier. BOTH systems of thought agree that due to the fall of Man in Adam, all flesh has inherited a corrupted nature in bondage to sin. So we have common ground here, but I must also say that despite man’s “sin nature”, we clearly see that there are many good & wonderful people in the World at all times who live lives apart from Christ. In a recent conversation with a dear friend who shares most of the Calvinism viewpoint, he confessed to me that he was having a hard time with the concept of total depravity based on this observation that there are many good people out there who do many good & Godly type things while all the time not knowing Christ, hence I see this total depravity as more of a “overall” problem with our nature in general & it is Spiritually based, meaning that a person can indeed live a “good” life while denying Christ, but in the end as Proverb’s 14:12 so honestly put’s it “there is a road which seems right, but in the end it is the way of death”. So it would seem that the Enemy (satan) himself jumps in & convinces people that things like “Good Work’s, Philosophy & yes even Religion (not RELATIONSHIP)” are the way to happiness both here & in eternity. But certainly we see this concept based in Scripture & starting back in Genesis 3 at the fall of Man in the garden of Eden. So in this 1st point, there is common ground between the 2!

Let’s now look at the 2nd point of H.C., “Unconditional Election”. This is where things start to get much more interesting. Let’s define what H.C. means by this term:

2) Unconditional election

The Doctrine of unconditional election asserts that God's choice from eternity of those whom he will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God's mercy alone. The doctrine of unconditional election is sometimes made to stand for all Reformed doctrine, sometimes even by its adherents, as the chief article of Reformed Christianity. However, according to the doctrinal statements of these churches, it is not a balanced view to single out this doctrine to stand on its own as representative of all that is taught. Unconditional election, and its corollary in the doctrine of predestination are never properly taught, according to Calvinists, except as an assurance to those who seek forgiveness and salvation through Christ, that their faith is not in vain, because God is able to bring to completion all whom He intends to save. Nevertheless, non-Calvinists object that these doctrines discourage the world from seeking salvation.



I think it would be wise for me to quote John Calvin on this:
By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death." (Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 21, Section 5)

Yes, you heard that right, but just in case, I’ll explain. Here’s basically what he just said: The doctrine of Unconditional Election stresses that man has no choice (no free will) at all because man has no ability to seek God, (Total Depravity) therefore it is by God's sovereign choice that anyone is saved. So we must take this doctrine carefully to its “end implications” to see the outcome of such a Doctrine. Here’s what that would be friends: The bottom line, from everything I’ve read & know about this Unconditional Election, is that if true, basically in the beginning God said YES to Jane Doe, NO to John Doe, YES to Anne Doe, No to Jim Doe, etc. Get the picture friends? In other words, God Almighty in His creation, created some people who would have NO way to salvation! Now I can’t speak for anyone else, but I will speak for myself, this is totally inconsistent with scores of passages throughout the Old & New Testaments, while also being incompatible with the God I have come to know friends! As I pointed out earlier in the tree in the garden of Eden, in the Ark of Noah, in John chapters 3 & 7, it just does not line up with God creating us as "free moral agents" with choice. It also contradicted I think whom God reveals Himself to be & furthermore, His character is now being distorted in that what is being said is that He gave some NO freewill! Now there is certainly the subject of "Sovereignty" & I have NO problem acknowledging that God intervened more than a few times & we'll tlak about HIs Sovereignty in another part, but please allow me to close with this thought: “predestination is NOT pre-determination

Stay Tuned,
Al

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Popular" Preachers Who Take Serious Liberty With The Scriptures

Hmmm, what a topic, huh? Maybe your asking, “why in the world would anyone want to write about that”? It is true after all, that many of us have certainly “missed” it at times when sharing God’s Word, well I know I have! So what is the difference you may ask? Well, for one thing, when I do & someone points it out to me, or when I go back & realize that maybe I slipped up, I am always willing to accept the fact that I may of taken something out of context & need to be more careful next time. However, what I find alarming today is this: It seems to me that when confronted in grace & love, many of these individuals just push their point’s even further! Plus the fact that they have a “following” & certainly we all have those personalities that minister to us & seem to speak directly to our hearts & I thank the Lord for such people! For me, I have always appreciated people like the late Dr. Lester Sumrall, Billy Graham, Dr. Leighton Ford & Dr. Joe Stowell among other’s & they all seem to be men of humility as well, albeit Dr. Sumrall could really get going at times, lol! So we all know we miss the mark & as humans are fallible. (Rom. 3:23) But it seems that some people out there have “bypassed” that verse. I remember watching Jimmy Swaggart many, many years ago & when he was speaking about a controversial subject said that “if you don’t like what I’m saying, take it up with my boss”. I remember right then & there, that something is wrong here when ANY of us speaks in such a way that OUR words are “mint”, or equal to Scripture! I for one, do NOT believe when I reside behind my, or anyone’s Pulpit on a Sunday that what I say becomes “infallible”. I am human, I am corruptible as such & only when, as the Scripture states I put on the incorruptible, will I “be like HIM”, Amen! Thus, I have NO right to make such a strong statement, UNLESS it is something that is CHRYSTAL clear friends! Today however, this trend continues of people almost “deifying” personalities & taking what they say as “Gospel”, yes there are many things I say that you can “take to the bank”, but NOT everything! Well, maybe you thought that I was going to name a few people & so let me say I am not, however I think that many of us know a few of these people out there & certainly we know those who “follow” them! I remember getting ready to pray for a women who had a hideous goiter on her neck, only to have her say, “no, please don’t pray for that as I am saving that for Oral Roberts”, I kid you not! It was no surprise that when I saw her again, she still had that ailment on her neck. I am always encouraged by the Church found in Berea in Act’s chapter 17 who when the Apostle Paul came through we’re told “searched the Scriptures to see if the things he said were true”.
Friends, NEVER take what a “Popular Preacher” says simply because he is on TV or radio, etc. Especially today when we see Scripture being stretched & many times twisted to fit one’s doctrine or teaching on a given subject. One of the great rules of Biblical interpretation is as follows: “Scripture interprets Scripture”! If you have questions, keep reading, you will find the answer soon enough! So please be aware of strong heavy handed statements like “The Lord told me, or is telling me”, etc. This is not to say that HE doesn’t speak to us, but all too often such a statement is used because there is a lack of Biblical evidence to support such a teaching or doctrine & so the person reverts to using “divine” appointment as the reason they can say something so unbiblical. Remember, whatever is said, MUST always line up with God’s Word for HE will never give someone something that is contrary to HIS Word friends! Stay Tuned!

In Christ,
Al

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Calvin / Arminian Viewpoints (Part 1 - Opening)

Oh boy, perhaps you’re saying to yourself, who would ever want to dive into this topic? After all, it’s one of those “secondary” issues isn’t it, that some people & Churches have made primary? I guess that is a fair statement, I think at least?
This debate has been going on for a long, long time, all the way to the days of Reformation! So again, why write about the subject? Before I list a few of my reason’s, or at least my perceptions & also my undeniable experiences. Here is the MAIN reason why I am taking this on friends... And I suspect that many of my fellow Arminians would agree or perhaps feel the same way? Namely that our God, whom we have come to know through His Son Jesus Christ & through His Word, if High Calvinism is incorrect, then there can be no doubt that the Nature & Character of our God has been for a long time & continues through today to be impugned & badly mis-represented & we'll see this for sure in the 2 points of High Calvinism known as the "U & L" or Unconditional Election & Limited Atonement, thus you know exactly what drives me friends! It seems to me that we Arminian’s are all to often taken badly out of context, or are constantly being called things like “heretic’s or Pelagian’s or Semi[Pelagian's” by “High” Calvinist’s & actually even mocked very often by these High Calvinists on their websites & in print. Now I realize in order to share some good & valid information with you, I first need to define a few terms. When I say “High” Calvinist, I am referring to those who call themselves “5 Point or TULIP” Calvinist’s. These people have a much different point of view & approach to our Heavenly Father & His nature & attributes then those who simply called themselves “Reformed or just Calvinistic” in their thinking. They adhere to a system of thought that we will be looking into in depth in a bit. I seek to challenge a few of these thoughts for truly one basic & very important reason. Could it be that God’s character is being misrepresented in any or a few of these thoughts? We’ll come back to this later. Is the constant charge of Calvinist that Arminian’s are Pelegians, or Semi-Pelegians really true?
Let’s take a look at this charge first in depth to see if it hold any merit, sound okay? Now Pelagianism is a theological theory named after Pelagius. It is the belief that original sin did not taint human nature (which God called very good), and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without Divine aid. Thus, Adam's sin was "to set a bad example" for his progeny, but his actions did not have the other consequences imputed to Original Sin. Pelagianism views the role of Jesus as "setting a good example" for the rest of humanity (thus counteracting Adam's bad example). In short, humanity has full control, and thus full responsibility, for its own salvation in addition to full responsibility for every sin (the latter insisted upon by both proponents and opponents of Pelagianism). According to Pelagian doctrine, because humanity does not require God's grace for salvation (beyond the creation of will), Jesus' execution is devoid of the redemptive quality ascribed to it by orthodox Christian theology. (Thus Pelagianism is Heresy or Un-Orthodox Theology) (Calvinists also regularly have accused Arminian’s of being “Semi-Pelagians” because of their free will emphasis) Okay, so that’s the skinny on Pelegianism. So let’s look at 2 crucuial points to see if Arminian Theology is a close companion or not as many High Calvinists claim.

That original sin did not taint human nature…… and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without Divine aid. In Genesis 3, we see the recorded “Fall Of Man”. That Satan tempted Eve who partook of the forbidden fruit & then gave it to Adam, who ate also & then later blamed God for giving him Eve basically! What was the outcome?
Was it not that sin entered the World? Was this not the “original” sin that lead humankind to walk down this path & now all humans would be born with what we refer to as an “Adamic” nature? Do we not also see here in Genesis 3 that the 1st effect or emotion of sin was fear? (Ge.3:10) So if one was to deny original sin or the fall of man, we see it would be unscriptural to do so! Also we see in Gen. 3 that fear entered in & we continue to see from God’s Word that many other effects of sin began to quickly show up leading to murder. (Cain & Abel) So to say that the fall of man or original sin did not taint the human race would be a denial of Genesis 3 & thus would void God’s word! I can honestly say I have never saw anything in the writings of Jacob Arminius or ever heard anything by a person who understands classic Arminian Theology that would adhere to such Pelegian thought. Prevenient (or preceding) grace is divine grace which precedes human decision and allows a person to thus engage their God given free will to make a choice concerning Christ. It exists prior to and without reference to anything humans may have done. As humans are corrupted by the effects of sin. Ephesians 2:8-9 I believe goes hand in hand with this view, for the Scripture here states the following: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God 9 not by works, so that no one can boast”. Notice “not from yourselves”, in other Words GOD gives us this Grace & it is a gift, hence we further have the gift to choose, WE have that gift. Friends, when I think about the concept of freewill or choice, I see over & over in Scripture example after example, thus prevenient Grace I humbly submit is a view that is compatible & in harmony with Scripture.
Here’s a few examples:

The Tree in the Garden of Eden……….. What did that tree represent?
Was it not freewill? Would not Adam & Eve of been a sort of “robot”? God says jump & Adam says “how high”, etc. Freewill to me at least & many other believers is the 3rd greatest “Gift” God gave us other than His Son & His Word!

The Ark of Noah…… In Genesis 6:5-7, God made this incredible statement:
“The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth-- men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air-- for I am grieved that I have made them." 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD”. Have you ever stopped to think that if God here would of allowed anyone else in the Ark if they were also found righteous? Do you see anything here to the contrary? God found Noah to be right before Him & thus He saved him & his family, but does this automatically mean He wouldn’t have allowed other’s in if they too were righteous? Remember the Scripture tells us that it was Noah who found God’s favor, thus NO one else had! In verse 5 God stated that with the exception of Noah, ALL men’s hearts were to do evil continually, hence only Noah & his family were saved from the flood, but the point is that God perhaps (feel free to disagree!) would have provided for others who CHOSE to place Him first in their lives as did righteous Noah. Thus I see the Ark as a provision for those who would choose to live righteous, sadly only one did!


John 7:37-38 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him”.


John 3:16-17 “John 3:16 "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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.



I am sure by now you get what I am saying, I can certainly provide many more examples! Thus I believe the concept of choice & choosing is found all throughout the Bible, just as many Calvinists (not High Calvinists) can claim also & I get that & respect & understand that. One thing I am very happy about is that I rarely if ever have seen or read any writings of Arminian’s who mock or refer to Calvinists, especially High Calvinists as “heretic’s”, we’ll save that term for them. (only joking!) So my point is that as you can see, WE DO believe that it is God who is at work to “will” as the Scripture states, but while saying that, because we believe God made man as a “free moral agent”, mankind does hold the right or gift to choice, not only to chose Jesus, but what about the choices we make everyday? Do we not chose to attend certain functions, or go to certain places to eat, to pay our bill’s & so forth? God gave us very capable faculties, we need to use them in conjunction with His good & perfect will!

Thus I am hoping you can clearly see that Classic Arminian Theology is in NO way Pelegian, Jacob Arminias taught nothing of the kind & the truth be told, the 2 systems of thought, basic Arminian & Calvinistic thought are actually closer than you may think! Okay, that’s my 1st discourse on this most interesting topic, more to come, stay tuned & please share your thoughts if you dare, lol!

In Christ, Al