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Predestination in Light of the Cross

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Satan knows our salvation is found in the love of God. Therefore he does his best to skew the love of God that shines from the cross. One horrendous ways he does that is by presenting a “gospel” in which the unbeliever, instead of perishing, is burned and tortured throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. Another way he skews the love that shines from the cross is by teaching that God’s sovereign will has predestined some people to be lost. They simply have no choice. This teaching suggests that because God knows the end from the beginning there is no way we could have any choice. John 8:36 tells us Jesus came to free us from Satan’s dominion over us. Thus the Almighty’s sovereign will and the purpose of the cross is to give us freedom so we can choose who we will serve.

So first, let’s look at choice.

In Genesis 24 Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac. The servant prays for a sign showing who God picked to wed Isaac. The sign points to Rebekah. After much discussion and the family all agreeing God had picked Rebekah, look what happens:

 Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” Genesis 24:58 NKJV

So even though God knew the end from the beginning Rebekah still had a choice! Did God know Rebekah would say, “Yes”? Sure! Did he force Rebekah to say Yes? No!

On the fourth Sunday of the month all my friends know I am going golfing. Do my friends make me go golf? No! So knowing what will happen is not necessarily forcing what will happen. In the case of Rebekah and Isaac, God did arrange the meeting with Rebekah, but Rebekah still had a choice.

Of course, God foreknows much differently than we do. He reminds us that His ways are not like our ways. (Isa 55:8) Thus we just have to accept what He tells us, even when it is outside our realm of experience. That, too, is a matter of submitting to His sovereign will. Over and over He gives us a choice, and He also tells us He knows the end from the beginning. It was not God’s will for Israel to wander 40 years in the wilderness, but because most of the spies chose not to believe, that is what happened. It is not God’s will for people to starve to death around the world. These are the results of sin which are a by-product of allowing freedom of choice for this planet, and not specifically the consequences of God’s sovereign will.

Remember that we are in this sinful world in the first place  because God realizes that love without choices is not real love. That’s why He created Lucifer, even though He knew that he would become became Satan. God knew that, in order for love to reign in the universe, free choice has to reign too. Jesus says,

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” John 12:32

Jesus is drawing everyone to Himself. Everyone. Nowhere in the Bible do we see where God chose anyone to be lost. We will get to that in a bit, but for now we see that while Jesus draws everyone to Him, obviously everyone is not choosing to be saved. That is why Paul tells us in Hebrews 2:3 not to neglect this great salvation and in Hebrews 4:7 not to harden our hearts against this salvation.

Jesus is drawing the world to Himself, and the only way to be lost is to resist this love! You have to choose not to be drawn to Christ, otherwise, according to Scripture you will be drawn to Him.

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: Matthew 25:41 NKJV

Notice the fire is not prepared for anyone but the devil and his angels. Jesus does not say, “the fire prepared for the devil and his angels and those who I have not elected” or “those whom I’ve predestined to be lost.” He does not even say “Judas!” Clear and simple: The fire was prepared for the devil and His angels, and nobody else. Will Judas be there? Sadly inspiration tells us yes, but not by God’s choice. It will be by Judas’ own choice!

God’s choice is for us all to be saved, which leads us to the next point I want to share.

The Bible does teach predestination!

But it does not teach predestination without choice. Also, whenever the Bible mentions predestination, it is always predestination to be saved. The Bible nowhere teaches that God has preordained or predestined anyone to be lost.

“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! Isaiah 45:22 NKJV

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved…1 Timothy 2:4 NKJV

“All” has to mean “All.” If God wants all humankind to be saved, that has to mean that He does not want anyone to be lost. Therefore He has not chosen or predestined anyone to be lost.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29

having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself…Ephesians 1:5 NKJV

These and Romans 8:30 are the only times predestination is mentioned in the NKJV. God’s predestination always leads to salvation. Nowhere does the Bible teach that anyone is predestined to be lost. Some people reason within themselves, independently from Scripture, that since God knows who is going to be lost, that takes free choice away. But Scripture teaches we are all predestined to be saved. Therefore the only way to be lost is by using our God-given free choice to be lost, totally independent of God’s plan.

Wait a minute though! Didn’t God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Yes, in the same way that the same sun that melts butter hardens clay. When we choose to resist God’s love we actually use God’s love as a way to harden our hearts.

Exodus 8:15 says,

“But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.”

And again in Exodus 8:32 we read,

“And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.”

So we clearly see that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, while God takes responsibility for what He allows or does not prevent, since He gives us all a free choice.

Does Romans 9 teach us God wanted Jacob to be saved, but Esau to be lost? Didn’t God even say, “Jacob I loved, Esau I have hated?” Yes, but by using the words love and hate, God was not saying He loved one and hated the other as we use those words today. Remember in Luke 14:26 Jesus says we must hate our families in order to follow Him. Of course He simply means we must prefer Jesus over our families. Likewise, in Romans 9 Paul is not saying God wanted Jacob to be eternally saved and Esau eternally lost. That was not the issue of Romans 9. The issue is clear:

 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” Romans 9:12 NKJV

The issue was clearly the temporal birthright and not eternal salvation. God wants all men, including Esau, to be saved.

Some say that God predestined Judas to betray Jesus, but while God did know what would happen, it was not God who arranged for Judas to betray Jesus. It was not God but Satan that entered into Judas.

Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” John 13:27 NKJV

So we have seen that God wants all men to be saved, and that predestination in the Bible always refers to salvation and never condemnation. While God wants everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) does that take away our choice or does God give us a choice?

choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…Joshua 24:15 NKJV

I believe Ellen White stated it well when she wrote:

The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him. Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians. Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith. -Ellen White, Steps to Christ Pages 47-48

Just as God worked everything out for Rebekah to be Isaac’s bride while she was still allowed to choose if she would “go with this man,” so today Jesus has worked everything out for us to be His bride, but He still gives us free choice. Will you go with this man?

You may study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here. 

Coaching and Mentoring Vs. Grooming

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back I was watching my favorite show at the time, Unsolved Mysteries. This episode was about a young boy who was mentored by a young man. Since it was Unsolved Mysteries, where we’re often told to call the 1-800-876-5353 number (still works btw) to catch the bad guys, I was bracing myself for the turn in the story, when the man would harm the boy. That time never came. Instead the boy, grown, was using the show to find his mentor, to thank him for being such a great friend in his time of need. It turned out to be a heart warming story about an adult mentoring a child.

Sadly the media often shares the horror stories which have made a couple of my friends, both male and female, afraid to mentor children, even though they would make amazing mentors to worthy young people, like the boy in the Unsolved Mysteries story. The horror stories, sadly mostly true, that get passed from church to church, scare legitimate mentors away from helping children as well. They do not want their intentions to be misconstrued.

This week at school, I heard an excellent discussion about child safety, which mentioned grooming. Grooming is where an adult with ill intentions, over time gains the trust of a child, only to abuse that trust. During the talk, it occurred to me, exactly why some would-be great mentors refuse to mentor. Is it possible to them, mentoring and grooming look alike? After all Satan has to have his counterfeit for everything good. He knows how vitally important mentoring is, so he wants his counterfeit, grooming to look like mentoring. This gives him a double victory. He can destroy innocent lives through grooming, and make good people afraid to mentor for fear they will be considered groomers. As a matter of fact, before I started writing this, I Googled, “Mentoring and grooming,” and found this website saying that grooming and mentoring are synonyms! That gave me a hunch that I may be on to something.

So I thought it might be a good idea if potential mentors could have a clear picture of mentoring, and a clear picture of grooming, so they could tell them both apart. I realize I am not an authority on the subject, so I would like to paint a picture of both just to get the ball rolling, and hopefully some people a lot more skilled than I am can chime in and agree or disagree and add some insight. Here goes:

Mentoring: A coach works with a group of children and other adult coaches to give each child a sense of belonging to the group and community. When a particular child needs extra coaching, the parents and/or child approaches the coach, and the coach gives the extra one-on-one instruction on the group site, only as requested and needed. The goal of the coach is to get the child back into the group mainstream. The coach networks to get the child the help he/she needs. If Sally needs extra help memorizing her Sabbath School memory verse, the coach will share tips, like word associations, and then encourage other students and/or coaches to practice with Sally. The coach wants Sally to feel like she is a valued part of the community, and trains Sally to be a useful and healthy member of the group and community. Mentoring is community driven and social in nature.

Grooming: A coach meets a child in a group, but then isolates the child from the group, under the guise that the child needs extra and “special” training that only he/she can give. He/she may even claim that Sally should not be working with others, as she may become “confused” by the tips others may give along with the tips he/she provides. The coach wants Sally to feel like she is special when she is around her/him, instead of feeling special to the entire group. Instead of training Sally to be a healthy member of the group and community, the coach teaches Sally to rely on her/him and the special instruction only she/he can give. Grooming is one-on-one driven, and is isolating in nature.

Does this make sense? Does this help? I hope together, we can give a clear picture of what healthy mentoring looks like, as boys and girls can use, not one or two, but many positive male and female mentors in their lives. The more the merrier-and the healthier!

Modesty: It’s Not About Sex, It’s About the Holy Spirit

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I am writing today from beautiful Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. Mark 5:15 NKJV

When the demoniac became converted, he was clothed and in his right mind. So today, the closer we come to Jesus the more appropriately we dress. In Genesis 3 when Adam realized he was naked, he tried to make a garment of fig leaves, and work out a way to cover his nakedness. As always man’s works failed. God covered Adam’s nakedness with animal skins, meaning an animal had to die to cover his shame. This pointed Adam to the cross, where Jesus would die to cover our nakedness. I believe we grieve the Holy Spirit when we refuse to acknowledge our nakedness physically and spiritually. The demoniac was physically naked (Luke 8:27) and so was Adam (Genesis 3). When they both met God they both became clothed. So physical clothing is a part of the gospel. One way we show the Holy Spirit has convicted us of our need of a Savior is by dressing appropriately.

When we let Jesus’ righteousness cover our naked souls we also cover our naked bodies. This is what happened in the Bible with Adam and the demoniac.

Jesus’ message to Laodicea draws a close parallel between physical nakedness and spiritual nakedness.

… you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed. Revelation 3:17-18 NKJV

When the Holy Spirit convicts us of the need of a Savior, to cover our spiritual nakedness, we dress appropriately physically as well. By dressing inappropriately what we are saying is “I don’t need a Savior.” This greatly grieves the Holy Spirit!

While the Bible uses men illustrating the need for modesty, we usually use women today. We talk about how men are stimulated by sight so women need to be careful how they dress. In discussions on modestly, you can always count on a woman saying she dresses modestly to keep men from lusting at her. It doesn’t sound modest at all. It sounds arrogant and assuming. It takes the focus off of the cross, placing it on sex instead. I have listened to Christian people talking about modesty, in a way, that would make you think sex was the focus of their life instead of the cross of Jesus.

When we accept the Holy Spirit, and acknowledge our need of a Savior, we dress appropriately, because we sense the presence of God. Truly modest people don’t assume their beauty is a stumbling block. When we are truly modest, meek and poor in spirit, we cover up, because we realize people need to see less of us and more of Jesus. Our dress is not in response to who may or may not be turned on. Our dress is in response to the Holy Spirit telling us we need a Savior. After all, the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus, those who have the Holy spirit, glorify Jesus in their words, actions and dress. When we do so we make the Holy Spirit happy!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

“In the Spirit”

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  John 4:24

I am sure that you have friends that no matter how long you are apart from them, once you get together, your friendship resumes right where it left off, as though you had never been apart. This may sound weird, but maybe in one dimension you never were apart! We have physical dimensions such as time and space, but have you ever thought that there is another dimension we can be in that is not bound by time or space? To me, that dimension is the Holy Spirit. I believe why many of our Christian friendships take up right where they left off even after long periods of no physical contact is because we have actually been together the whole time “in the Spirit!”  Why do those friendships take up right where they left off as though no time has passed by? Because we are in the great “ I AM”. With God there is no time. He is in one eternal Now. He is not the “I WAS” or “ I WILL BE”, He is the I AM.  Same with space, The Holy Spirit is everywhere. The Holy Spirit is with our Christian friends, so if we are in the Spirit and our friends are in the Spirit then we are together.

As a matter of fact, all the love we receive from our friends actually comes from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when I left my friends in Texas and went to Florida and made new friends there, I still received the exact same love I had in Texas. Love does not come form human beings. We can not generate love; all we can do is let the Holy Spirit’s love flow through us. Therefore, the love I receive from people half way across the world is the same exact love I receive from the people I live with right here. It all comes form God. So as long as you have God’s love you can’t miss a friends love, because the only love they gave you came from God and He is still with you!

I am so thankful for all my friends whom I can share God’s love with! Thank you all, who are my friends on SSNET, as well as my offline friends, for being a part of my life. I hope God has been able to love you through me as we worship Him in Spirit.

Satan’s Counterfeit Gift

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Last week we studied about the gifts of the Spirit. This week we are studying about the Holy Spirit and the church. Satan has a counterfeit for most everything. There are some people in the church, who claim to have the gift of “discerning spirits,” when in reality they have Satan’s “gift” of judging and condemning.

1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love thinks no evil. Titus 1:15 NKJV tells us,

To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure.

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit we look for good. Those who truly have the gift of discerning spirits will find good as well as evil, but I have witnessed too many people in the church, claiming to have the gift of discernment, who could only discern evil. But those with the mind of the Holy Spirit gravitate towards,

whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy— Philippians 4:8 NKJV

In a former district there was a woman, who would not allow her husband to even talk to women at church, because she “knew” they all wanted him. She would not allow her teenage daughters to date even in groups, because she could “discern” what “all” the boys were up to. I thought the woman was really strict and conservative, until her trustworthy family members confided in me, that she had numerous affairs of her own. I should not have been surprised. Paul says,

Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. Romans 2:1 NKJV

Satan accused God of being a tyrant when in reality Satan was the tyrant. I have often found that when people talk about others, they are really talking about themselves.

Those who truly have the gift of discerning spirits don’t make a habit of accusing others. Jude talks about those in the church who make bold accusations, while Michael, who definitely could discern spirits, made no accusations.

 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Jude 1:8-9 NKJV

So what do those with the real gift of discerning spirits know and do?

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 NKJV

The Holy Spirit teaches and inspires the Word of God. See 2 Peter 1:21. Those with spiritual discernment can tell when ideas come from man, or from the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 16:17 Jesus tells Peter that his revelation came not from flesh and blood but by the Father. Later in Matthew 16:23, during the same conversation, Jesus says, “Get thee behind me Satan!” When Peter comes up with an idea that was not from the Father or Holy Spirit. Jesus was not calling Peter “Satan”, right after telling him his previous revelation came from the Father. Jesus was not accusing Peter of being Satan. Jesus just discerned which of Peter’s ideas were from the Holy Spirit and which were not. The gift of discerning spirits is just that, discerning spirits, not people. Those with the gift of spiritual discernment can reject an unbalanced idea without condemning the person, just as Jesus did with Peter.

Let no accuser of others credit himself with discernment; for in so doing he clothes the attributes of Satan with the garments of righteousness. -Ellen White, Review and Herald, March 12, 1895

Nobody is Better Than Anybody Else

In Matthew 17, Peter, James and John were invited to an exclusive experience of the kingdom of God when they witnessed the transfiguration of Christ. Moses and Elijah were there as well, Moses representing those who will die before seeing the kingdom, and Elijah represented those who will be alive when Christ returns and will never experience death. Both Elijah and Moses were there to encourage Jesus in His humanity. As wonderful as it must have been to be translated without ever seeing death, who do you think was the greater comfort to Jesus? Since Jesus was facing actual death, do you think it is possible that Moses may have been able to comfort Jesus, considering that Moses actually died? On the other hand, Elijah knew what it was like to feel alone, thinking everyone was out to get him. Do you think Elijah’s experience also helped him help Jesus in a unique way?

When they returned to the bottom of the mountain after the transfiguration, they found the rest of the disciples unable to heal a boy with an evil spirit. Jesus healed the boy, but when the disciples asked why they couldn’t do it, Jesus told them,

“You don’t have enough faith”  Matthew 17:20 NLT 

You may or may not agree, but I don’t think they lacked faith in God’s healing power. They had seen plenty of that. I believe, knowing the disciples, they were feeling left out of the transfiguration experience and were doubting God’s love. They thought Jesus loved Peter, James, and John more than them. Because of their lack of faith in God’s love they were unprepared to participate in a remarkable miracle delivering a boy from demons! They did not esteem their role as being just as important as what Peter, James and John had been called to. Their lack of faith in God’s love prohibited them from accomplishing their calling.

While the prodigal son in Luke 15 was starving in a far away country, he very well may have compared himself to his “perfect” older brother who did all the right things. He may have wished he could have been more like him. However at the end of the story we see the older brother outside of the father’s home exactly like the prodigal had been, struggling with his own issues of selfishness. So as it turned out, the prodigal’s brother was no better than he was.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the gifts of the Spirit. We all have different gifts, but that does not mean one is better than the other. Young or old, rich or poor,  Paul says,

 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT

While Moses and Elijah had different experiences they were both vital in befriending Jesus. None was better than the other. While Peter, James and John were called to the Mount of Transfiguration, the other disciples had an important calling too. None was better than the other. While the Prodigal perceived the older brother to be “all that,” it turned out that neither was better than the other.

Each has his place in the eternal plan of heaven. Each is to work in co-operation with Christ for the salvation of souls. Not more surely is the place prepared for us in the heavenly mansions than is the special place designated on earth where we are to work for God.-Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, Pages 326-327 

We all have different callings in life, but young or old, rich or poor, none of us are any better than anyone else.

Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant! 2 Corinthians 10:12 NLT

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

4 Reasons why I Love my Ereader

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I am writing from the beautiful Tampa Bay area, where I love to relax and read my ereader.

I’ve had my ereader two weeks now and am already in love with it. Initially I got it because it doesn’t have the light, like a cell phone or tablet, that strains your eyes. Here are some more reasons it has become my favorite gadget.

  1. While several of my friends tell me they need a break from Facebook, Facebook is actually a part of my ministry. I don’t need a long break from Facebook. My ereader allows me to break away, long enough to connect with God through the Bibles on my Kindle. The Bibles I have purchased at a reasonable price are easy to navigate, similar to an app. I can read, pray and meditate without social media notifications interfering. What is cool is that I can still post passages to Facebook, through Kindle even though the ereader doesn’t have Facebook! When I use my ereader in church, I can’t be “accused” of going onto social media instead of my Bible as there is no social media on ereader.
  2. I already mentioned there is no light, which is not healthy to stare directly into for long periods of time, like a cell phone or tablet. By the way I brought my ereader to the school where I help, and a 6th grader asked me how I read it at night, since it has no light. I told her I turn on a lamp. She thought that was a splendid novel idea! Since there is no light it is so easy to read in daylight! I can take my ereader to the park on Bayshore, my favorite place to read, and there is no glare or shadow.
  3. The battery life is long. In two weeks my battery has never gotten low. I have charged it just a few times for 3 or 4 minutes to keep it at maximum. I can take my ereader anywhere without worrying about the battery going dead. This makes it more like a real book, but it is actually an entire library.
  4. In just two weeks I am finding that my reading time has become much more focused, meaningful, and intentional. I select specific books to read and am not distracted by other articles on the Internet, that are nothing more than petty distractions. I’m sorry! Were you reading something important before you clicked on this article? I won’t distract you any longer then, so you can get back to your important reading. Just remember, ereaders are cool!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             “You can search for Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble Nook ereaders on Google.” -Captain Obvious istock_e-reader