Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my four cats Hobo, Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It's About Christ

I love reformed theology. To me, it is the highest and most God glorifying system of theology there is. If you want to worship God to the highest then you want to be reformed. in my humble opinion.

It is no secret that there are many opposed to reformed theology. They come from a different mindset. They read the Bible and draw entirely different conclusions about God and his work than reformed Christians do. Some come to conclusions that put them outside the scope of the Christian religion. Most do not. But they do come different conclusions and God and salvation.

Let me back up and make a few things clear. I am speaking of theology within an American (and sometimes British and Canadian) evangelical framework. Lutheranism is something else. It is a different branch of Protestantism than Evangelicalism. Pelagianism is a heresy and I am not speaking of them here. I am speaking of, what is normally called, Evangelical Protestantism in the United States. On one side stands the Calvinists, the Reformed Christians. On the other, the Arminians, the non-reformed Christians. What divides them is the very nature of the world, of God, and God's work in the world. They understand it from two totally different worldviews.

And oftentimes these two sides debate. Sometimes civilly, sometimes not. I confess, a lot of times there is more heat than light generated by these arguments. My point for this blog post is to remind my readers of one (very often overlooked) point. It is all about Jesus.

It is important to discuss and come to an understand of who God is, what the world system is, and how God is at work in the world and in the hearts of men. How we view these affects how we worship, pray, evangelize, and live as Christians. There is a baptist saying that goes "Right belief leads to right living." What you believe makes a difference in how you live it out. So it is good and right to study these issues and debate and argue them. Iron sharpens iron the Bible says.

But we must not forget that these debates are in-house debates, that is, Christian on Christian debates. Arminian Christians argue against Calvinist Christians with each side trying to deepen their understanding of God and his work. Our goal is not to understand Calvin better or Arminius better unless such study and understanding leads us to understand Christ better. I pray sincerely that none of us who engage in such arguments ever hope to lift up John Calvin or Jacob Arminius. May it never be said that I glorified Calvin or Knox or Spurgeon or any one of the reformed saints whose writings I read and learn from. Any teacher, no matter who they are, are only as useful as they are biblical. Because every argument we have, every debate, every discussion is never, ever about Calvin or Arminius or Knox or any one else ... it is only Christ.

It is Christ who is our God. Christ is our savior. He is our Shepherd. Our Bright and Morning Star. He is the Fairest of 10,000. He is the One whose blood cleanses us from our sins. He is our Advocate. It is Christ and it is always Christ. All our study and debate has it's goal to bring us closer to Christ. Arminian Christians and Calvinist Christians must not ever think to lift up or exalt any man or even any system of theology but there is One who is worthy to be exalted. Christ Alone.

On a side note, may we ever conduct ourselves as befitting the high theology we each claim to hold. Amen.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Soli Deo Gloria

Those words are Latin for "To the glory of God alone." It is the 5th sola of the Reformation. "Sola" means "alone" or "only". In Latin they went sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria. In English we would say it like this ... "According to the scriptures alone, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone." This 5th point was the tie that bound all the others. Everything that happens does so for the glory of God.

Over the years the various branches of the Christian church have struggled with the interpretations of the scriptures. This has caused the formation of various denominations and various systems of theology. Sometimes these groups have competing theologies. That is one group will say one thing based on their interpretation of the scriptures and another group will say something else.

The scriptures (ultimately) and the tradition of church history (as an advisor) tells us what the boundaries of orthodoxy are. And sometimes the scriptures are unclear and can possibly be interpreted in more than one way.

Now a small caveat belongs here. For every passage of scripture there is one and only one correct interpretation of the passage. (There may be more than one application but only one true interpretation). So, if men put forward two then one of them are wrong. However, we see through a glass darkly and we may need to wait till we all get to heaven to learn which one was actually correct.

Having said that, if we are offered two possible interpretations of a passage of scripture, we must choose that interpretations which most debases man and most glorifies God. Always, God is elevated about men.

That is one reason I find reformed theology to be the most biblical. I believe, as I read that Bible, that reformed theology is most correct on the nature of men and most glorifying to God. This is not saying other theologies are heretical, but I find reformed theology to be the MOST correct about glorifying God. Other theological systems may be within Christian orthodoxy but they are (in my opinion) not as correct or God glorifying as that theology of the reformers.

But this post did not start off to be about reformed theology but to remind readers that when they are offered two possible interpretations of a passage of scripture, the one in which God is most glorified is the one that must be embraced. Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Are Mormons Christians?

A lot has been written this election year about the Mormon religion. Front running Republican Mitt Romney is a life long Mormon. As he works hard to convince conservative evangelical Christians they ought to vote for him he is trying to position himself as a solid Christian conservative. As he does so, many people have called his Mormon religion into question. This is bringing out commentators from the left and the right to declare what they believe about Mormonism. A Texas pastor called Mormonism a "cult" in a speech given on behalf of another Republican candidate. Is Mormonism a cult? More to the point, is it Christian?

The short answer is "no." Mormonism shares NO doctrines with Christianity, either liberal or conservative. Even Mormons will say "We have to be Christians we have the name of Jesus in our church's name." The official name of the Mormon church is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." The are called the "LDS" church for short.

The LDS church was founded in the mid 1800s by a New York man named Joseph Smith who taught that he was a direct descendant of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. He was concerned about which Christian church to join when he was visited by an angel of God who told him ALL Christian churches were apostate and that the religion of Christ had passed off the earth. He had been appointed by God to restore the true faith to the earth. In another visitation an angel named "Moroni" led the young Smith to a hill in Palmyra, New York where Smith retrieved golden plates written in "Reformed Egyptian" detailing a civilization on the North American continent. This race were descendants of the Hebrews and were eventually wiped out in an epic battle. But a survivor carried the golden plates with their history on them to New York and buried them to be found by Smith at the right time.

Smith, using a magic seer stone, translated the tablets which taught truths foreign to any Christian church up to that time.

The core of the Mormon religion is summed up in the sentence "As man is God once was; as God is man may be." Mormons teach that a man can become a god by learning to perfectly the "Word of Wisdom" ... a list of 1000 commandments which include abstaining from caffeine and tobacco, among other things. Through successive lifetimes (one on earth and continued on other planets) one learns to obey. When perfect obedience is achieved the man has become a god. He appears before a Council of gods on the planet Kolob. The council includes Jesus, Elohim (the name of the god of our world), and Joseph Smith. That new man-god is assigned a planet over which he will be god. While alive, the man will have women sealed to him in celestial marriage ceremonies and each of these women are given secret names that only he knows. When he arrives on his planet, he uses the secret names to call his wives to himself. Through celestrial sex his wives produce babies who will become the people of the planet over which this man will rule as god.

Thus, there are many gods.

Joseph Smith taught that when Elohim wanted to set his children's feet on the pathway to godhood, he called his sons Jesus and Lucifer to him and asked them to present a plan of salvation which would lead them to godhood. Lucifer presented a plan whereby Elohim used his power to force his children to obey the word of wisdom and thus become gods too. Jesus presented a plan wherein he joined the human race physically and lived so as to show Elohim's children how they ought to live and thus set their feet on the path to eventual godhood. Elohim sided with Jesus. Lucifer then rebelled against Elohim and led one third of the spirit children in the heavenly realm to fight against Elohim. Jesus led the loyal forces and defeated Lucifer. Lucifer was given the name "Satan" and was cast out. His followers were forever denied human bodies and so could never become gods. Those who followed Jesus in heaven were promised to be born on earth "white and delightsome." This guaranteed they would eventually become gods.
Those who remained neutral in the heavenly war were to be born in dark skinned bodies to mark them to the loyal followers of Jesus. In 1978, Mormon prophet Spencer W. Kimball had a revelation from Elohim in which the stigma against black people was removed and they could begin the pathway towards godhood with their white brothers.

Women, by the way, only become goddesses if they are sealed to a Mormon man who will become a god. On their own, there is no pathway to godhood.

All I have typed so far should be more than enough to demonstrate that Mormons are in no way Christians. And all I have typed so far by no means covers all the differences Mormons have with Christians.

Mormons are taught to be strong supporters of strong families. This is good. They are generally good people who are honest and hard working. They believe sincerely in their religion. But they are not Christians. It is not mean nor antimormon to admit this. This is simple Christian discernment. It is just being honest.

So are Mormons Christians? Emphatically "NO!"

Monday, January 02, 2012

We're Back!

A lot of things, both good and bad came up in 2011. They overall effect has been to keep me from posting very often. One of my plans for this new year is to do a better job of those things I need to be doing.

There is still a Calvinism worth defending, lesser theologies still diminish our Mighty God, and the people of God are under attack like never before from enemies both inside and outside the Church.

There is still a lot to say those who have ears to hear. Happy New Year. See you all throughout.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

An Arminian Dilemma

Paul asks in Corinthians "But you know who made you to differ..." He implies that we know that it was God who made those who are saved to differ from the unsaved around us. But this creates a dilemma for the Arminian who agree with the Calvinists that man is totally depraved. But the Arminians teach that God gives every human being in the world a measure of "prevenient grace", that is the grace that preceeds the other works of God. Now this prevenient grace moves all humans to a neutral position so that their salvation depends on whether or not the person will cooperate with the grace God has given him or her.

Then they teach that Christ's atonment was for every human being in the same way. So there is this ... if every person is given a measure of prevenient grace and if Christ dies for every person in exactly the same way, then who really makes one man to differ from another? God has done his part. The deciding factor lies in man, not God. This is called synergism in salvation. God and man works together in bringing man to salvation.

For folks who say they hold to salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, this poses a dilemma.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Whosoever Will ... A Story

I knew a guy once who was a real wretch, by religious standards. If there was ever a candidate for reprobation (being unelect and outside the saving grace of God), this guy was one of them. There were no redeeming qualities that were apparent to anyone who knew him. But as with all things, his style of living eventually took a toll on him and he contracted a disease for which there is no current cure. It was killing him.

At the end of his life, his family members became concerned for his soul and told him of his sins and this man became greatly fearful of facing the wrath and judgment of God. He knew what kind of life he had lived and he knew the things he had done and he indicated to his family that he wanted to know how he could die and not have to fear God's wrath.

His family only knew one preacher who would spend time talking to this man ... so they called me. They told me he was on his death bed and would die that very day. The man's voice was gone so we had to communicate by me saying something and he would blink his eyes to indicate that he understood or agreed.

I reviewed his sins and he freely admitted to the things he had done and he knew he stood under the just wrath of God. He knew if he died without forgiveness then he would rightly spend eternity in the eternal lake of fire. All this he knew and admitted. Then I told him about how God came to the earth and died a criminal's death, taking on himself the punishment for sin that was rightly due to sinners and that every sinner who turned to that God-man believing that he died for him (the sinner) personally that sinner would find the forgiveness of sins and peace with God.

He indicated that he understood and (I certify) that with his next to last breath on this planet, he indicated that he had looked to Christ and found the forgiveness he was looking for. He died after his next breath and died at peace.

We humans do not know who God's elect people are. We don't know when or how God will choose to call them to Himself. Our job is to be faithful to preaching the good news of the forgiveness of sins through the shed blood and finished work of Jesus Christ. And do know this .. that every person, no matter how bad we judge them to be, every person who looks to Christ alone finds the forgiveness of sins and has peace with God. Truly the scriptures speak when they tell us "Whosoever may come and drink of the water of life freely."

This story I have told you is true. I am usually skeptical of deathbed conversions. But it is not my place to judge those who have professed faith in Christ as their savior. This man died assured of forgiveness and I told his family that God promises that every person who comes to him is received of him. God is good and He calls sinners everywhere to repent and turn to Christ alone as their one and only hope for salvation. And every sinner who comes, whosoever will, will have eternal life and favor with God.

Monday, May 09, 2011

My Son Is Married

Two weeks ago today my son Stephen married a really nice young woman from Colorado named Hilary Harris (now Hilary Sneed). Who would have thunk it from Stephen? We wish them all the best. I know now he has his eyes turned towards his upcoming deployment to Iraq in August. I wish him health, safety, a happy marriage and a quick return from Iraq under only the best of circumstances.

It just goes to show no matter how old they get they can still surprise me. LOL