God Empowers Us to Serve Others Through Trials

Yesterday’s Sunday School lesson, as well as sermon, both focused on why we have pain and suffering in our world. These are tough topics for anyone to address. I was and am thankful to for the opportunity to facilitate this lesson at church for several reasons, however. This has been a topic on my mind and heart more frequently than usual in the past few months. It’s also, according to Barna research, the most common question asked by people about God everywhere. “Why does God allow pain and suffering in our world?”

One idea which emerged during our class discussion yesterday is this: While we often (or always) “come up short” understanding the grand plans of God and how individual cases of pain or suffering fit into them, as Christians we often DO experience situations where God empowers us to serve others through our trials and through the trials of others. As one of the speakers in the longer video we watched yesterday explained, often our best response when someone comes to us in pain and suffering is to embrace them and cry with them. We may not have “the answers,” but do have the capacity to love and support each other. We can embrace others and embrace God through faith, and have confidence that God is the one opening the door for us to love each other through our struggles and our dark valleys.

This is also one of the most important ideas which emerged for me yesterday during our lesson: God invites us to call upon him and use the name of Jesus to bring strength, peace, healing, and love into our darkest and most painful moments. I have experienced times like these in my own life, when I have literally cried out to God for help and assistance to bring me back from the abyss of despair. It’s a bad place to be, and an especially bad place to be ALONE. But that’s exactly one of the key messages of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: We go nowhere alone. God goes with us, and he promises to never abandon us or forsake us. What good news this is to everyone facing the suffering and trials of this life! We may be uncertain about the timetable of God’s cosmic plans and how our lives fit into them, but we can be certain about His reality and His provision in our times of need.

The name of Jesus is powerful! Do not hesitate to call upon the Lord when you are feeling isolated or alone, when you are suffering and full of despair. Call upon the name of Jesus to fill you with God’s Holy Spirit in all circumstances, whether they are filled with light or darkness. This is the Good News of the Gospel, that Jesus came to save us from our sins and the destructive power it has in our world. God wins. And we’re on God’s side. This is good news.

A couple more items from yesterday’s lesson.

Here’s the short video I shared with our class, as I gave a brief summary and enthusiastic recommendation of The Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. Sarah and I were able to spend about 4 hours there last week during our visit to the area, and it was fantastic!

Here is a 44 second time lapse version of my sermon sketchnote yesterday, on Eric Laverentz’s (@ericlav) message, “The Problem of Sin.” I drew this and exported this video with the ProCreate app for iPad. Learn more about creating sermon sketchnotes in this chapter of “Pocket Share Jesus: Be a Digital Witness for Christ.” I added quite a bit more to this chapter over the weekend, but still need to add more to the chapter on “Narrated Sketchnotes.”

It worked well to use the website mentimeter.com yesterday to get members of our class to respond to a question using their smartphones. I used this as an opening question on the screen when class members came into class, “What is your favorite encouraging Bible verse?” This was a good way to start a relatively “heavy” lesson on pain and suffering.

May God bless you richly this week as you seek Him and strive to better understand His call upon your life. Make no mistake, God will open doors for you to not only draw closer to him in relationship, but also serve others with whom you have contact today and this week as you ask Him to.

Praise God for His love and the revelation of His truth through His Holy Word. Have a great week!

Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?

These are resources for our Sunday School class on April 22, 2018, focusing on lesson 3 of “The 7 Big Questions” series by ExploringGod.com.

We are using the website mentimeter.com for today’s interactive polling questions. A copy of our printed handout is available.

Video 1: Pulse of the World on Pain & Suffering

  1. Did you identify with anyone’s expressed views in the film? If so, who and what resonated with you?
  2. Was it surprising to learn that the top question people would ask God is, “Why is there pain and suffering in the world?” What would be some of the questions you’d ask God?

Video 2: The Curiosity Collective: Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?

  1. In what ways can you identify with any of the stories in The Curiosity Collective? What did you find intriguing or compelling?
  2. On a scale of 1 to 10, how difficult is it for you to reconcile the existence of both suffering and God (1 = easy; 10 = impossible)? Why?
  3. One of the Pulse speakers noted, “Some of the best lessons I’ve learned in life . . . came from very painful times.” In what ways might good come from bad? Do you have any experience with this?
  4. If there’s a God, why do you think he allows evil in the world?
  5. In the video, what did you think of James’s suggestion that God “understands our suffering . . . [and] is seeking to heal it”?

Recommended videos and resources related to our topic today include:

  1. Video: What Is the Reason for Suffering? (5 min)
  2. Video: What Is God’s Role in Pain and Suffering? (3 min)
  3. Book: The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis
  4. Book: Evil and the Justice of God by N. T. Wright

A wealth of additional resources relating to the topics of pain and suffering are available on the ExploringGod.com website.

How Can God Be Real, Good and Powerful When Bad Things Still Happen?

I remember the setting vividly: It was the summer of 1991, and I was spending three weeks in England at RAF Upper Heyford during the summer before my senior year at the Air Force Academy. Highlights of that trip included visiting Oxford University, Westminster Abbey in London, and getting a ride in a F-111 fighter jet– breaking the sound barrier briefly over the North Sea. I was eating breakfast one morning in the mess hall, when an Amy Grant song came on the cafeteria PA system. I don’t remember the exact song, but I think it was from her “Heart in Motion” album that had been recently released. The song had a lyric about “everything good coming from God.” I was struck by how unrealistic that seemed: How could people ascribe only the good things to God and not the bad things, if God is both omniscient and omnipotent?

I was raised in a Presbyterian church attending family, and I professed faith and joined our church as expected at the conclusion of “communicant’s class” in 8th grade, but it wasn’t until pilot training when I was 23 years old that I had a true “come to God” moment which was transformative for my personal faith. Eating my eggs and bacon in the chow hall at Upper Heyford that morning, I don’t think I had anyone to discuss these ideas with, but they made a vivid impression in my mind which persists today. Unlike my 20 year old self, however, I have better answers for this important and perhaps eternal question which Amy Grant encouraged me to ask:

How can God be real, good and powerful when bad things still happen?

Yesterday our family was almost involved in a very dangerous and destructive high speed automobile chase in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I posted about it on Facebook afterward. In the post, I gave thanks to God that we were not injured. Someone posted in reply, “Why didn’t God protect the other people who were involved in the accident?” I shared a brief response, but didn’t have time then for a more extended answer which this question deserves. This post is my attempt at that longer response.

When we hear the news which is almost universally filled with stories of tragedy, crimes, war, and people generally acting poorly toward each other, it can be easy to be pessimistic. Bad events happen every day. The world is filled with darkness. How can this make any sense, alongside a conception that a supernatural, creative force in the universe exists who has the power to intervene in human affairs? Why would God act to save people in some cases, but appear not to act in others?

We can ask this question in the specific circumstances of our own lives, or as we look at the broad brushstrokes of history. Why did my wife lose her husband to cancer when she was just 26? Why did my friend’s father commit suicide in 1989? Why did Hitler and the Nazis kill millions of Jewish people during the Holocaust? Why did whites almost exterminate native people when they came to the Americas in the 1500s onward?

There are a lot of things I don’t know and won’t claim to know, but here are some insights I’m confident of today which help me face these questions and make sense of them.

  1. I know God exists, is real, and responds to my prayers because of an ongoing relationship I have with him, as well as specific things he has done in my life which “he has given me eyes to see.”
  2. I do not know how God decides when and where to intervene in human affairs and the events of planet earth, but I strongly suspect that is a divine mystery we will never be able to fully comprehend in this life.
  3. I know that when we choose to seek God and ask Him to reveal Himself to us, He answers and responds. God communicates to us through our prayers, through His Word shared in the Bible, and through other people. There are many ways we can be led astray and down ill-conceived paths if we seek “religion,” but if we seek God through the power of his Holy Spirit I know he can and will respond to reveal Himself, His nature and His truth to us.

When we are faced with bleak tragedy in life: the loss of a loved one, the loss of a life’s dream, a crippling injury, or something else, we sometimes come to this choice more directly and abruptly than at other times in life. Will I choose to believe in God and his goodness, or will I reject God because the circumstances of my life are simply too bad to imagine that a loving God would ever allow to exist?

This is the step of faith. Faith is believing when I cannot see, and trusting when I cannot know the outcome. Faith is a gift from God, but it is a gift we can ask for and receive, just as he is gracious to give us all good gifts. The fruits of His spirit are good:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)

Amy Grant asks and answers this same question about which I am writing in her song, “Ask Me.” God does not always answer our prayers in the ways we expect or want. God is not a vending machine. God DOES promise to always be with us and never forsake us, even when the darkness surrounds us and we are overwhelmed with fear, pain, and sorrow.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

I have experienced those emotions in my life, and God has walked with me through those dark valleys. Those experiences have strengthened my faith, once feeble and timid, to the point today where I see and acknowledge His goodness when it is manifested in my life.

Evil exists in the world, and yes, God has allowed that evil to remain. But that is not the final state for humanity, and in the end, evil does not win out. As we learn in the Bible, the existence and persistence of evil is closely tied to our human pride. And even though evil may seem to triumph at times in this world, God has overcome evil and the world through his Son, Jesus Christ, whose life and teachings serve as a blueprint for our actions as Christian believers.

My encouragement to you, if you have found this post and are struggling with questions about God’s existence and his goodness, is to seek Him. Seek God through prayer, and seek Him through your own reading of the Bible. Start with the Gospel of John. Seek God through the counsel of trusted friends whom you respect, and who profess faith in God and Jesus Christ.

Pray to God that he will give you eyes to see and ears to hear. Many who have heard and hear today the words of the Lord do not comprehend them, but he offers the promise of understanding and of FAITH to those who seek Him. As we read in Matthew’s gospel:

‘The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. (

Matthew 13:10-16)

I pray this day God would give us, as seekers of His truth, ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to understand his goodness.

Amen.

Sketchnoting the reality of Christ’s Resurrection

Today in our church service Carl Bosteels preached about the reality of Christ’s resurrection from death on the cross, and read Luke 24:1-12. This was the week’s lesson in our ongoing congregational study of the book, “The Story.” Since Shelly continues to serve on our pastor nominating committee, which meets on Sunday mornings during the early service, I attended both church services today and made sketchnotes during each. I exported both from the iPad app ProCreate as videos, slowed them down by a factor of two, and then narrated them in iMovie for iPad. The narrated video, embedded below, is 29 seconds long. I added both to my Flickr Sketchnotes album, which now has 38 creations in it.

 

 

Considering an Endowment Fund for Our Church

To start our church session meeting this evening, our pastor shared a devotional focusing on these verses from Matthew 6:25-24. We are hearing a presentation from a subcommittee that has proposed the creation of an endowment fund for our church. When this was brought up for a vote a few weeks ago at our annual congregational meeting, some members expressed concerns that creating an endowment fund might not follow Biblical directives regarding the use and stewardship of the congregation’s funds.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

This endowment is NOT intended to take the place of our operating budget or existing stewardship programs. As a result of congregational concerns, a presentation has been created to explain the rationale and proposed setup / operating procedures of this endowment fund.

Here are a few key points from the presentation:

Endowment Gift / Types:

  • Undesigated: Bequests received which are not designated for a particular purpose or restricted in any way
  • Missions, Evangelism, Outreach
  • Scholarships: First preference for active members, either high school graduates or those seeking advanced degrees
  • Christian Life Development: Youth program expansion, camp scholarships, leadership training, etc.
  • Music, Worship, Arts: Enhance the worship experience
  • Building: Provide capital improvements, repairs, equipment, etc.

I liked these comments from one of our elders at the meeting:

Our tax laws were not around during the time of the 1st century church.

Also:

Many of us are [financially] worth far more dead than we are alive.

There are stories being shared of members of our church who gave to endowments for other area churches in the past in their will/trust, rather than to our church, because this giving option was not available at our church. I know a little about the value of endowments because of the work my dad has done with our local community foundation in Manhattan, Kansas.

This is the current, proposed flowchart for how the church endowment would work.

Tweets from Presentations by Nabeel Qureshi in Oklahoma

These are my tweets from a sermon and afternoon presentation by Nabeel Qureshi at First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, Oklahoma, on February 9, 2014. My Christian Twitter channel is @eyesrightblog – my professional channel is @wfryer. Nabeel’s web bio is:

Dr. Nabeel Qureshi is a former devout Muslim who was convinced of the truth of the Gospel through historical reasoning and a spiritual search for God. Since his conversion, he has dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel through teaching, preaching, writing, and debating.

Nabeel has given lectures at universities and seminaries throughout North America, including New York University, Rutgers, the University of North Carolina, the University of Ottawa, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Biola University. He has participated in 17 moderated, public debates around North America, Europe, and Asia. His focus is on the foundations of the Christian faith and the early history and teachings of Islam.

Nabeel is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He holds an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University, and an MA from Duke University in Religion.

Commenting Publicly About Our Church’s Congregational Vote

This afternoon I left the following comment on the January 25th NewsOK article, “First Presbyterian Church of Edmond set to take historic vote.” This comment went on the NewsOK article comment thread and also cross-posted to my Facebook page. These are contentious but important issues. Please keep our congregation in your prayers tomorrow as we take this historic vote, and the deliberations of our Presbytery in the week to come on whether or not they will “graciously dismiss” us.

As highlighted in this NEWSOK article, our congregational vote tomorrow at FPCE has to do with the authority of scripture, the central tenets of our Christian faith, and church discipline. Members of our church have been working for over a decade to reform our denomination from within, and after long study (and work) determined that is not going to be possible. Our vote tomorrow is the culmination of YEARS of work and study.

One of the core beliefs of our congregation which we are standing firm on, for example, is that faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the unique path to salvation. We are not universalists or Unitarians. This is one of several core faith issues about which there is dissension in the PCUSA denomination. The Evangelical Order of Presbyterians (ECO) denomination is a new Presbyterian denomination founded in 2012 which will offer many opportunities for our congregation to focus more on evangelism, mission and discipleship rather than denominational differences.

As to the issue of “being afraid of gays and lesbians” or “hating” the LGBT community, I can assure you we are not a congregation of fear or hate. I deeply regret and mourn the hateful behavior and words of some people using the title of “Christian” who have made the term “evangelical” regrettably associated with “anti-gay” in many contexts. As Tim Keller has pointed out, “Being a heterosexual doesn’t get you into heaven.” Being gay certainly does NOT condemn someone to hell either. As individuals and churches, these are issues we need to understand better as well as communicate more clearly… and with love.

First Presbyterian Church of Edmond has a wonderful Wednesday night class this semester, in fact, discussing Andrew Marin’s excellent book, “Love Is An Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community.” This class is providing a challenging and needed opportunity for us to grapple with the complex and difficult questions which surround the LGBT community and Christian churches. Anyone is welcome to attend, as well as chime in our online discussions about the book (and DVD series by Andrew) on http://faithdiscussions.org.

ECO - A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians

Theology and Essential Tenets of ECO: The Evangelical Order of Presbyterians

These are my notes from the session meeting of the First Presbyterian Church discussing and studying the theology and essential tenets of ECO: The Evangelical Order of Presbyterians. MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE ALL IN CAPS.

ECO - A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians

This is a sheet we received originally not in October: ECO Essential Tenets – A Summary

See “Theology and Essential Tenets of ECO” (PDF)
Also mirrored here

3 basic questions the interview committee from ECO wants us to answer:

– Why do you want to join ECO?
– What did your process of discernment look like?
– Can your elders affirm the ECO essential tenets for themselves, your leadership and congregation whole heartedly?

There was “infallibility” verses “inerrancy”

– inerrancy typically means everything in the Bible is true at face value (Example: simple inerrant believer would say when Jesus said “the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds” there is yet to be discovered a smaller seed, even if microscopes show otherwise)
– on face value

someone who speaks of the “infallibility” of scripture says the message
– teaching in a parable
– common knowledge of the day included mustard seeds
– this wasn’t a scientific statement to stand the test of time, it is a statement about the Kingdom of God
– Jesus was teaching about the Kingdom, and what Jesus says about the Kingdom in that story is infallibly correct

Fuller Theological Seminarians would say the Bible is “Infallible with respect to faith and practice”

One of the litmus tests in the evangelical / fundamentalists camps
– book “The Battle for the Bible” by Linzell, had been a professor at Fuller and moved to Dallas Seminary in late 1960s
– he claimed Fuller was headed down a slippery slope in no longer holding to the ‘inerrancy’ of the Bible
– it was an in-house battle, most others in the world were not paying attention
– many people

Our ECO document begins saying our overarching belief is God created the human race to bring Him glory (glorify Him) and enjoy Him forever
– the “chief end of man” is singular
– the predicate is plural
– this is a dual answer
– you have to ask why was this worded this way, this was a carefully crafted document
– most reformed believers would say glorifying God and enjoying God are the same answer
– good answer: God is most glorified when we find our enjoyment in him (Jonathan Edwards answer)

Subheadings of doctrine: The authority of God’s word
– authoritative self-revelation
– the God of the Bible is a God who loves to disclose Himself
– He’s not most interested in revealing truths about THINGS, He’s most interested in a relationship with human beings
– His LOVE within the trinity is the focus of God

Augustin’s answer to defining the Holy Spirit in the Trinity:
– Holy Spirit is the vital love union between God the father and God the Holy Spirit

In the West we identify that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (from the Gospel of John), the spirit is not ‘begotten’
– vital to the Council of Constantinople discussions
– this is all human language of course, and in the end human language fails to fully disclose who God is

The bond between the Father and the Son
– when the Spirit lives within us, we have the one who is the window between God the Father and God the Son
– we don’t know of another creature in humanity who has this opportunity: the in-dwelling of God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts

Before the fall there wasn’t an issue in terms of communion
– we see God walking in the garden, communing with his creatures, including Adam and Eve
– after the fall that was broken
– the rest of the Bible is God’s quest to draw humans back into a love relationship with Him

propitiate means to appease the anger of someone
– this was a key element for pagans in offering sacrifices to try and appease the gods
– the gods were seen as capricious by pagains

The Bible shows us that God is not capricious, his wrath toward is evil is always consistent
– so if we’ve fallen into evil, how can we get out of this dilemma
– in His love, God gave himself (His Son) as
– God propitiate’s himself to do for us what we could not do

We are using terms and language which is bound by time, but God is not bound by time
– everything has happened in eternity
– there is NOT a time before the Son was

The Roman Empire provided ways for news to be communicated in ways that had not been possible in any other era of human history
– for this reason the gospel could ‘get out’ at that time around the world in ways it could not have before that time
– only God knows why this was “the fullness of time” for when Christ came in human time

The Trinity
– we confess this and the incarnation are the “master mysteries”

Jews didn’t believe in God as trinity
– there are hints in the OT about God’s plurality of character and his nature

Genesis 19 when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah

Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah–from the LORD out of the heavens.

Are other references to the plurality of God, even Genesis 1 in God’s decision to make human beings
– let us make God in OUR own image
– inherent in the creation story, idea of plurality of the creator as well as singularity, and man being complete in duality of being male AND female
– something evocative about this

in NT we have the Father being spoken of, Jesus making his own declarations about his own divine nature and his relationship to the father
– statements about Jesus
– links between OT declarations unique to who God is (YahWeh) applied to Jesus
– when you hear about God being jealous and not sharing his glory, and the portrayal of Jesus in the NT as being the same as the God of the OT
– when Jesus teaches about the Holy Spirit and teaches that the Holy Spirit has the same nature as He (Jesus) does

Also

Doctrine of the Trinity is not written in the scriptures but we find it in multiple places both in the OT and NT
– interestingly you DO in the Koran because it’s trying to ‘disabuse’ people of the

All there persons in the Trinity are co-equal, they ALL share in the divine attributes
– that is why orthodox Christians argue it’s wrong to speak of God in functional terms rather than relational terms
– God is always spoken of as Father, Son and Holy Spirit

The Father is the enternal begetter of the Son
– the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son

In liberal circles you will sometimes hear and read people use functional language to try and eradicate the personal/relational terms of the

We don’t tend to celebrate “Ascension Sunday” that much in Protestant circles
– Jesus’ bodily ascension is made very clear in Acts 1
– important for the physical reality of the resurrection
– God the Son bears his humanity, his bodily existence, at the throne of God, and He sits on the throne with the Father
– God the Son existed from eternity, but Jesus the incarnate Son of God did not exist from eternity
– something big happened at the incarnation: since his birth, death, resurrection and ascension, his human life has been taken up into the Trinity
– the divine nature of Jesus and the human nature of Jesus are inseparable, and they reside within the Trinity
– this is really mind blowing

“The divinity of the Son is in no way impaired, limited, or changed by His gracious act of assuming a human nature, and…His true humanity is in no way undermined by his continued divinity. This is a mystery that we cannot explain, but we affirm it with joy and confidence.”

In the ancient world there were many men like Hercules, demo-gods, more power than human beings but less powerful than the gods
– demi-gods were seen as half-breeds
– the church wanted to be REALLY clear that Jesus is NOT a divine man, he is not half-God, half-man

The fall: not God’s doing but a result of humanity’s free, sinful rebellion against God’s will

Total Depravity: every sphere of human life / every arena in which human beings can think, will or do something is laced with sin
– there is no part of human life that is untouched by sin
– visual depiction: If human nature is a vial of pure water, you take a drop of ink and drop it into that vial, the ink will color everything
— there is not part of the water NOT touched by the ink, this is the same idea of total depravity
— sin is in every part of our lives
– essential: we are not merely wounded in our sin, we are DEAD, unable to save ourselves

Ephesians 2: We are dead in our sins and trespasses
– we are unable to help ourselves, but God who is rich in mercy sent His Son for us
– one reason we believe in the acronym TULIP ideas (T – total depravity) is because we are powerless to initiate by ourselves
– that is why the U of TULIP is unconditional election (God doesn’t say “I will choose you if you show me some things, like faith”
– God’s election is unconditional, we are completely at God’s mercy

I = irresistible grace
– if we are those whom God has unconditionally elected, we will be drawn into salvation, drawn into relationship with the Son
– no one can resist God’s grace

We can’t say “all are elected” because that would mean
Matthew 22 passage

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

The call of the Gospel goes out to the whole world, and everyone is free to respond
– if they wanted to respond, they could
– the key is in WANTING to respond
– that wanting comes from God stirring deep within us
– for reformed believers, this is how we’ve tried to understand these teachings from scripture
– no one can respond unless the grace of God stirs in their heart
– people can hear the truths

Before Mateen became a Christian he had heard the gospel, he could tell what it was but he didn’t believe it: he thought it was nonsense (God becoming a human being?)
– so everyone can UNDERSTAND the gospel
– the question is will people EMBRACE the gospel?
– only those who God woos to Himself, via his irresistible grace

Why God elects some and not others is hidden, we can’t look into that
– we know it’s not whim or capricious, God has a plan and a purpose

Election means God’s choice from before time
– He has decided, outside of human experience

We undervalue the power of the Bible to authenticate itself in people’s lives
– if we can just get people to read it, to put aside biases and suspend their disbelief: read it
– the Bible has great self-authenticating power

[AT THIS POINT MATEEN SHARED A WONDERFUL, EXTENDED STORY ABOUT HOW GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT WOOED HIM AS A STUDENT AT STANFORD, AFTER HE’D SPENT A YEAR STUDYING IN INDIA UNDER A GURU]

disciple means student of Jesus

We are called to widely sow the seeds of the gospel, it is God who causes seeds to grow

2 key positions:
– either God’s sovereignty rules in the salvation of human beings, or
– human free will rules

b/c not everyone is going to be saved, that is the Biblical position
– what keeps people from being saved?
– either they haven’t been chosen, or God is doing his best to try and rescue everyone but human beings by their own actions can frustrate God’s desires and actions (God is defeated by human actions)

Jacobus Arminius was a Calvinist but said in the end he couldn’t accept it was God’s decree about who was saved
– he said human beings made the ultimate determination

As Americans we are “incipient armenians” because we live in a culture that celebrates choices, being the ‘captain of your own soul,’ etc.
– the majority of the world isn’t shaped by that vision of life
– much of the world has people who see themselves shaped by forces beyond their control, a cork bobbing at sea
– question about whether God chooses or not, many people outside the USA say “of course God chooses, He does whatever he wants”

Romans 9 deals with idea of people being created out of the same lump of clay for noble uses and some for ignoble uses

Romans 9:20-14 Revised Standard Version

Rom 9:20 But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me thus?”

Rom 9:21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?

Rom 9:22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction,

Rom 9:23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory,

Rom 9:24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Election is also referenced in Deuteronomy 7:7-9

The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.

When we are generating more heat than light, we need to stop our discussion

Ed Koster article:
– saying we have lost our theology and doctrine because we have refused to apply discipline in ANY circumstances
– anyone can do what is right in their own mind if no discipline is present (author of Judges)

God is the principal actor between justification (we are “declared right” before God) and glorification (we have been made right/perfect before God)

Let’s turn briefly to our questions and how we will answer them…

Women in Authority

I am very challenged by these verses from Paul and do not fully understand them in context. I do not believe God calls women today to avoid all positions of authority and teaching. Neither do I believe God calls those who are enslaved by others via the rampant sex trade or via other financial obligations / situations / relationships to remain enslaved forever. I want to understand these verses better for myself and so I can explain them to others. I feel challenged and ill-equipped to do so today.

Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result. But women will be saved through childbearing, assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 NLT

http://bible.us/116/1ti.2.11.nlt

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