True Shepherds vs. Hirelings

The present-day church seems to have bought into the lie that being loving means that you are never stern or tough with anyone. But the Bible says in Romans 12:9b that we ought to “Abhor that which is evil.” Ephesians 5:11 says, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” And in 2 John 9-11, the Bible says not to bid anyone Godspeed or receive him into your house if he does not bring the doctrine of Christ.

In John 10:11-14, Jesus said:

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”

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Jesus is called the Chief Shepherd in 1 Peter 5:4. Christ is the example to all the under-Shepherds. Christ does several things which show that He is the Good Shepherd: lays down his life for the sheep, cares for and tends to the sheep, and feeds the sheep.

Christ also protects the sheep. Notice in the passage above from John 10 that Christ does not leave the sheep when the wolves or false teachers come. That is contrasted with the fleeing hireling, who cares for his wages and not the sheep.

Sadly, there are many national religious and denominational leaders in our country who have left the door wide open to the wolves. In fact these same leaders seem to cozy up to the wolves while at the same time criticizing the sheep for raising concerns about the danger that the wolves pose. A true shepherd will side with his sheep over the wolves. If a shepherd defends the wolves, you know that he is a hireling. That person is not serving the sheep, but himself.

We as Christians need to be able to discern between true shepherds and hirelings. We also need to be willing to confront evil and oppose it instead of tolerating it. A true shepherd may seem harsh to some when he carries out this function, but he is really carrying out his Biblical role. Remember, a true shepherd will protect the sheep.

In Defense of the Unborn

It’s raining today, which seems appropriate since it is the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. That tragic Supreme Court ruling has led to the deaths of over 60 million innocent babies. It has also inflicted untold psychological, physical, and spiritual harm upon millions of women. Abortion is much more than a political issue. Primarily, it is a moral and theological issue. It is also a family issue.

The Bible makes it clear that we as human beings are made in the image of God. Human life is sacred, and we are not to shed innocent blood. Some verses to consider along these lines are: Genesis 1:27, Genesis 9:6-7, Exodus 20:13, Psalm 139:13-14, and Luke 1:39-45.

Sadly, our conscience as a nation has been seared. It seems that we can no longer weep over our sins. I think about those babies inside the womb fighting for their lives, trying to get away from the instruments of the abortionist. Do we ever stop to consider what goes on within the walls of an abortion clinic? Do we ever think about the suffering of those innocent babies and what horrible pain they endure? Do we realize the depth of emotional damage caused to women who’ve had an abortion? What about the impact upon our society of the absence of millions of people–who should be here, but aren’t? Have we aborted a person who would have cured a disease, been President, or become the next Billy Graham? And obviously a person doesn’t need to be famous to have worth. These innocent babies could have grown up to be someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter. That is why abortion is a family issue. That is why it is a societal issue. It doesn’t just affect the woman. It affects everyone.

When I hear phrases like the woman’s right to choose or it’s the woman’s body, that all sounds very selfish to me. No thought at all seems to be given to the innocent unborn life. They are sacrificed on the altar of convenience.

We cannot ignore this horrific problem. It is being carried out on an industrial scale. It is a huge stain upon our nation’s conscience. Let us repent, seek God’s mercy, and take action. There are many pro-life charities and organizations with which people can get involved. Adoption is also a great solution for the woman who feels that she is unable to raise her baby. Many would-be parents are on waiting lists and would gladly raise that child.

If you have had an abortion, there is hope and forgiveness to be found in Jesus Christ. Thank God for his mercy. And perhaps the best way to find healing is to help other women avoid making the same tragic mistake.

So on this very sad anniversary, let us pray, let us renew our commitment to oppose this great moral evil. Let us lend a helping hand of mercy to those who have been affected by it. Let us vote for leaders who will stand up for the unborn and protect them. And let us do all that we can to prevent more babies from being killed. Let us choose life.

Why I Love the King James Bible

As someone who loves the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, also known as the Authorized Version (AV), I feel a little out of place these days. Let me first say that I don’t subscribe to the “KJV Only” argument because it seems to be an intellectually untenable position. I believe there are other good English translations out there, but there are a lot of weak translations as well. I would not recommend the New Living Translation, for example, although I have one at home.

There is a lot of misunderstanding out there about the KJV. Many people just seem to write it off as archaic and too hard to understand. Those who do use the KJV as their main devotional study Bible are often portrayed, quite unfairly, as legalistic, uneducated, or as a fundamentalist.

In this article, I would like to give some reasons why I enjoy reading and studying the KJV, as well as refute some of the myths and misunderstandings about the sacred text.

I’ll start with my personal history of the KJV. My very first Bible given to me by my mother was a KJV. It was just the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. I still have it, and it can fit in my pocket. The cover has an illustration of a boy handing Jesus the five loaves and two fish in the miracle of the feeding the 5,000. In all honesty, I looked more at the pictures than I read from that Bible; I was only four after all.

My next Bible given to me was by the church that I grew up in when I got saved, or became a Christian. It was a New American Standard Bible with a blue cover, and it had pictures in it, such as the Garden Tomb. I remember reading Psalm 1 in that Bible. I would always turn to the Psalms because it was in the middle of the Bible. I rarely got beyond the first one.

When I went off to college, I wanted to really begin reading the Bible in earnest. So I went to The Living Word, the local Christian bookstore in the mall. I picked out a black leather Thomas Nelson KJV Study Bible. I don’t remember exactly why I chose the KJV at that time, but I’m glad I did. That Bible became my main study Bible, and I use it to this day, some 25 years later. The cover is coming off and part of Genesis falls out when I open it if I’m not careful. It’s the Bible that I first read all the way through. I’ve highlighted large portions of it, and I’ve memorized the location on the page of many passages. If I remember correctly, it is the Bible from which I preached my first sermon. I cherish that Bible, and I’m not sure what I’d do without it. I do have other Bibles, and sometimes I use other translations as I study for my Sunday School lessons. But I always seem to come back to that one.

Before I discuss the benefits of the KJV, let me first address a common objection to the translation–that it’s too difficult to understand. We live in an age where things are often dumbed down. Many people feel that they need to have a modern-English translation that is easier to read. I’m not trying to be elitist or snobby in saying this, but sometimes we as humans would do well to tackle something that is challenging so we can grow and learn from it. People often live up to the expectations placed upon them. It’s not that people are incapable of understanding the KJV, it’s that we sometimes rob them of their confidence and scare them away.

This is where the notes and tools in my study Bible really come in handy. In the center column between the texts are translations for difficult or archaic words. For example, in 2 Thess 2:7, the KJV uses the word letteth, which could be confusing because the contemporary usage of the word let is the opposite from what it used to be in the early 17th-century. There is a superscript number after the word, however, and if you look in the center column you will see the word restrains. The word let previously meant to hinder or prevent. At the time the translation was a good one, but over time the meaning of the word changed. The alternate translation note informs you of the actual meaning of the Greek word in the manuscript. And you actually learn more about the text and the history of words than you would have known just using a modern translation. There is also commentary below the text, especially for difficult passages. The KJV Study Bible also has doctrinal and archeological footnotes as well as personality profiles on major Bible characters. All of these tools solved any problems I encountered with difficulty understanding the text. In fact, it helped me to learn more than I would have otherwise. If you own a separate concordance, it also allows you to look up any word in the Bible and find which Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek words were in the original manuscripts. So, the bottom line is that the KJV is not too hard to understand, especially if you have the proper study tools to help you.

I should also say that my favorite preacher, Adrian Rogers, preached from the KJV. And to this day, his sermons are some of the most powerful from any preacher I’ve heard. I can’t help but think the translation he used played a part in that. Personally, I believe God’s blessing is on the translation.

Having given you a personal history of my experience with the KJV, let me now endeavor to outline some more objective reasons as to why I love it.

First, the KJV is a formal equivalence translation, or word-for-word translation. This makes it more faithful to the original text. Some prefer dynamic equivalence translations, or thought-for-thought, but in my opinion, these translations often take too many liberties with the text. Proverbs 30:5a reminds us that, “Every word of God is pure.” If a translation does not translate each word, it seems to me that we are losing some of the Word of God. The italicized words in the KJV let the reader know that those words were added by the translators for help with understanding and that they were not part of the original text.

Second, the KJV has had a huge impact on the English language and literature. Quotations and allusions to the KJV repeatedly appear throughout English and American novels, stories, and historical speeches. Try to read a few of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches without coming across a quotation from the King James Bible. Also, there are poetic passages in the King James Bible, such as Psalm 23, Ecclesiastes 3, and 1 Corinthians 13, which do not sound as majestic when coming from other translations. We dare not lose the wonderful heritage and history of the interweaving nature of the King James Bible and the English language. But when we forsake the KJV in favor of more modern translations, it seems we do exactly that.

Interestingly, many seem to criticize the KJV’s use of the outdated second-person pronouns such as thee and thou. However, these too actually help the reader better understand the original text. The Hebrew and Greek languages make a distinction between second-person singular (thou, thee, thy, thine) and second-person plural pronouns (ye, you, your, yours). So by paying attention to which pronoun is used, you can glean key information that is not always evident in English. Galatians 6:1-2 is a good example of this.

Third, there are key words and phrases entirely left out or relegated as a footnote in many other translations but included in the KJV. The New Testament of the KJV is based upon the Texus Receptus, a Byzantine text-type (the Majority Text). It was compiled by Erasmus in the 16th-century. Modern translations do not use the Textus Receptus. You may have seen charts that juxtapose the KJV and the modern translations like the NIV and show the differences between the two. The modern translations leave out key words and even entire verses found in the KJV, such as Acts 8:37. James R. White addresses this in his book, The King James Only Controversy. I’ve read this book, which takes the side of the modern translations. White did bring up some interesting points in the book, and he provides plenty of material to think about. But he didn’t convince me that the Alexandrian manuscripts are superior to the Byzantine, nor did he convince me that the modern translations use superior manuscripts. Like I said before, I’m not KJV only, but I do prefer the KJV. Something just bothers me when translators start removing verses and words from a Bible which has been used for the last 400 years.

That brings me to the fourth reason I love the KJV. It has stood the test of time while modern translations have not. The KJV, completed in 1611, just celebrated its 400th anniversary. How many countless millions of people have been transformed by the King James Bible? One notable fact about the modern-day translations is that a new one seems to come along and replace the previous one every few years. For sake of honesty, it should be stated that there have been several editions of the KJV. The one that we read today is based upon the 1769 edition, which is easier to understand. Spelling was updated, use of italics was increased, and printing errors were corrected.

The fifth and final reason I love the KJV is that it has no copyright. Well, technically the British Crown owns the rights to it, but you can quote the KJV freely without getting permission. If you pick up Christian books using modern-day translations, you will probably notice that somewhere in the front, usually on the back of the title page, there are notes saying that the author or publisher got permission to use the translation. Another translation, the American Standard Version (ASV), had a copyright, but it has expired. So, it also is in the public domain.

The King James Bible is rich with tradition and history. Its beautiful, poetic language has become a part of the rich tapestry of our culture’s religious life, literature, and even our political rhetoric. It is also a faithful and reliable translation of the Bible. Choosing a Bible translation for one’s personal use should be done after much prayer and study. And if you decide upon the KJV, you will have made a wonderful choice and reap many benefits.

Clear Choice in 2020

On Columbus Day, President Trump and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s statements on the holiday gave a clear indication of their parties’ vastly different visions for the United States of America.

Warren tweeted support for Indigenous Peoples’ Day and lamented America’s “long and painful” mistreatment of Native Americans. Trump, on the other hand, issued a Presidential Proclamation commemorating Christopher Columbus, calling him a “great explorer” and noting his courage and skill on his “daring voyage.” President Trump displayed appreciation for our country’s heritage while Senator Warren exhibited contempt for our history.

Warren isn’t the only Democratic candidate who wants to remake America. In CNN’s “Equality in America” town hall event last Thursday, Beto O’Rourke said he wanted to revoke the tax-exempt status of religious institutions that opposed same-sex marriage. This sent a clear signal that O’Rourke and the Democrats would come after churches and people of faith for their sincerely held beliefs. In contrast, President Trump and Vice President Mine Pence have been friends of evangelical Christians, not just in theory but also in practice.

Democrats offer a radical vision on the issue of abortion as well. In the CNN Democratic Presidential Debate on Tuesday night, Senator Kamala Harris attacked states with strict abortion bans and said that people need to keep their hands off women’s bodies and let women make their own decisions. Among the Democrat candidates, Harris is not alone in her radical pro-abortion views. The Democrat Party has stooped so low that it now seems to celebrate the murder of babies. President Trump, however, has been one of the most pro-life presidents in recent memory. Vice President Pence has publicly declared he would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

So we have a starkly clear choice in the 2020 election. The Republican Party stands for America, faith, and life, while the Democrats are hostile to all of the above. If we want to preserve America, religious freedom, and promote the sanctity of life must vote Republican. The choice could not be clearer.

Reflections on the Last 40 Years in America: The Nineties

This is the second of four articles in a series entitled, Reflections on the Last 40 Years in America.

The Nineties were an exciting decade. It was a time of tremendous technological change. The internet, cell phones, and digital music changed society in unfathomable ways. It was also a time of political and cultural change. The Nineties were definitely not boring. Sadly, though, the decade also included several tragedies. So let’s look back on that time for a few moments.

POLITICS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, AND TERRORIST ATTACKS

As the Cold War drew to a close on Christmas Day of 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union (what a nice Christmas present!), the geopolitical situation changed fundamentally. Instead of a bipolar world, the United States became the world’s only superpower. On that night, the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time at the Kremlin and replaced by the Russian tricolor. Gorbachev resigned and was replaced by Yeltsin. Atheistic communism was shown to be the complete failure it had been all along.

As Ronald Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush oversaw the transitional period of the end of the Cold War. He chose to take a soft approach toward the old Soviet Union and decided against taking victory laps.

Bush was deft in foreign policy as shown in his handling of the First Gulf War (a.k.a. the Persian Gulf War). Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990. The U.S. led the largest allied coalition formed since WWII, quickly defeated Saddam’s forces, and liberated Kuwait. The war had lasting consequences, however. Bush’s son would have to deal with Saddam again twelve years later. In addition, Osama bin Laden, angered by U.S. troops stationed in Saudia Arabia, would mastermind the 9/11 attacks.

Bush ran into trouble on the domestic front, especially the economy. The President broke his famous pledge at the 1988 Republican National Convention, “Read my lips: No new taxes.” The combination of Bush’s decision to raise taxes and the economic recession of the early 1990’s helped pave the way for Bill Clinton to defeat Bush in 1992 and win the White House. Clinton was popular with baby boomers and younger voters, but as a candidate and as a President, he and his wife Hillary would be plagued by multiple scandals.

The near downfall of Clinton’s presidency occurred when Matt Drudge broke a major story on his website, the Drudge Report, about Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern. The nation was dragged through the gutter as it learned the sordid details of the Starr Report. Clinton went on to survive impeachment by House Republicans when the Senate failed to convict, but his administration was badly damaged.

In foreign affairs under Clinton, the U.S. intervened militarily in places like Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Some were skeptical about America’s involvement in these places. Others felt that the U.S. should have done more to prevent the Rwandan genocide, in which hundreds of thousands Tutsi, Twa, and Hutu people were murdered.

Also on the international scene, Nelson Mandela was released from prison and became the first black South African President, helping to end apartheid and foster reconciliation; the Oslo Accords were signed; and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a fellow Israeli who opposed the terms of the Oslo Accords.

There were several terrorist attacks in the decade. The first World Trade Center attack took place on February 26, 1993. A truck bomb was detonated below the North Tower. Islamic terrorists were responsible. Ramzi Yousef was the mastermind behind the attack, while his uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, financed it. The intention was to topple the North Tower into the South Tower and cause both to collapse. Thankfully, that did not happen, but sadly the attack killed six people and injured over a thousand more. It would be a preview of a much more horrendous attack to come eight and a half years later.

Other terrorist attacks included the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah and Iran were found to be responsible. In 1998, the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed. The Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda were behind these attacks. As a result of the bombings, the FBI put Osama bin Laden on its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

The Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19, 1995 was one of those events in which everyone remembers where he was when it happened. I was a senior in high school, and our Physics class was outside launching rockets we had made. We heard a blast and then saw smoke in the distance. We went inside and turned on the radio to learn more about what had happened.

Timothy McVeigh, with the aid of Terry Nichols, had set off a bomb in a Ryder truck in front of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building. McVeigh was upset with the federal government over its handling of Ruby Ridge and the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. The Murrah bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil until 9/11. It remains the deadliest domestic terror attack in the country’s history. There were 168 people killed, and hundreds more were injured. Volunteers rushed to the scene to help, and the tragedy united Oklahomans and bolstered their resolve. Later, President Clinton and Billy Graham came to OKC to attend the memorial service.

On a positive note for the city, the hugely successful MAPS project revitalized Bricktown and downtown OKC.

TECH

Sneakers, a 1992 comedy-thriller film, foresaw the implications of the technological change that the decade would bring. There’s a great quote in the film by the character Cosmo which sums up the seismic shift in technology and society which took place in the nineties:

There’s a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it’s not about who’s got the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think… it’s all about the information!

The material excesses of the eighties gave way to the technological sophistication of the Information Age. Of course the biggest tech development of the decade was the World Wide Web. Suddenly all kinds of information was available at our fingertips. The internet shrank the world by connecting people from distant places. Email and chat rooms became popular new forms of communication. The internet quickly changed the way we did business, commerce, education, music, and even dating. The web was not all good, of course. The negatives included such things as pornography, social isolation, and technological addiction to name just a few. Also, the Dot-com bubble in the stock market caused by massive speculation would lead to the Dot-com crash by the year 2000.

Cell Phones started to become widespread near the end of the decade. I still remember my first one–a Qualcom QCP 2700. My friend worked at the Sprint store and got me a good deal on one. I sent my first text in 1999.

Advancements were made in genetics as well, and major ethical questions were raised when Dolly the Sheep was cloned. It was the first time an adult mammal was cloned from an adult somatic cell.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit in 1990 and provided detailed images of deep space.

The media landscape also changed substantially. Twenty-four hour news came into being with the advent of CNN, Headline News, and the internet. Alternative media such as Fox News and the Drudge Report also arose and challenged the liberal establishment.

One of the crazier events (or maybe I should say nonevents) of technology in the decade was the panic over the Y2K crisis. Endless news stories were generated about how computer bugs involving the inability to properly read the year 2000 would lead to mass chaos in society. Not much happened, though, and in hindsight the hysteria seemed misplaced.

SPORTS

In the sports world, John Elway and the Denver Broncos finally won not just one but two Super Bowls. In baseball, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire battled in a home run race. The Braves made frequent trips to the World Series, but not in 1994, when a strike cut the season short. In 1996, Derek Jeter and the Yankees won the World Series, one of three championships for the Bronx Bombers in the decade. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dominated the NBA. And in April 1997, Tiger Woods won his first major, The Masters, and became the youngest player, at 21, to win the tournament.

ENTERTAINMENT

Popular movies of the decade included Jurassic Park and the beginning of a new (or should I say old) Star Wars trilogy. Titanic was the highest-grossing movie. It included a hit single by Celine Dion, My Heart Will Go On, which filled the radio waves. The Matrix trilogy, Independence Day, and The Lion King were other blockbusters. Classics like Braveheart, The Shawshank Redemption, The Prince of Egypt, Forrest Gump, Schindler’s List, and Pretty Woman also appeared on the big screen. Harrison Ford starred in a cinematic remake of the old television show, The Fugitive. Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones appeared in the entertaining swashbuckler, The Mask of Zorro. First Knight satisfied audiences who loved medieval themes and Authurian legend. Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York became overnight Christmas classics, while the computer animation of Toy Story completely changed the landscape of children’s movies for the foreseeable future.

Seinfeld, Wings, Friends, Walker Texas Ranger, Coach, Full House, Frasier, Home Improvement, and the Saturday morning favorite Saved by the Bell were just a few of the popular television shows of the decade. I loved Wings. I remember watching it after Seinfeld on Thursday nights in college, and I still watch reruns of it to this day. Seinfeld and Friends were not just T.V. shows. They were cultural phenomena. “Double dip”, “close talker”, and “soup nazi” entered our vocabulary thanks to Seinfeld. Friends made the coffe shop popular as a hangout; and Ross and Rachel became America’s favorite couple. One of the more underrated shows of the decade was Becker. Ted Danson starred as a cranky doctor in the Bronx who lacked bedside manner and liked to hang out in a local diner.

Seattle’s Grunge music exploded on the scene in the first half of the decade. Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam were three of the most popular grunge bands. When Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain committed suicide, it shocked fans. I still remember walking out of school that day when I heard the news.

Other alternative rock bands like The Cranberries and The Cure also dominated the era. I had my own alternative rock band, Introspective. We played a few shows, but mostly we got together to jam and hang out.

Brittany Spears and boy bands like NSYNC dominated the latter part of the decade. On the rap scene, Coolio and Dr. Dre were mainstays on MTV.

Napster changed the way young people got their music. It allowed for the sharing of MP3 files, but it soon ran into copyright infringement issues. The cat was out of the bag though, and the way people acquired their music would never be the same. The days of going to the record store to buy a CD were going the way of the card catalog.

On the book front, The Firm, a legal thriller, catapulted John Grisham to stardom. Also, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park was the basis for the hit movie mentioned above.

SOCIETY

Multiculturalism was a major factor in the nineties. Race issues were front and center when a video of the L.A. Police beating Rodney King was released to the media. Then the trial of the decade, maybe the century, occurred after O.J. Simpson was arrested for murdering his girlfriend, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. But the drama began before the trial even started. Millions watched on television as authorities chased O.J. Simpson and his friend A.C. Cowlings down the L.A. Freeway in a white Ford Bronco. Simpson was found not guilty, but many were convinced that he was guilty.

When Princess Diana was tragically killed in Paris in an automobile accident as she and her boyfriend fled the Paparazzi who were chasing them, a worldwide outpouring of grief and sympathy occurred. Mourners left flowers, candles, and messages outside of Kensington Palace in her honor.

On April 20, 1999, the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado shocked the nation. Two teens, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered twelve students and a teacher in their school before committing suicide in the library.

CONCLUSION

The nineties were a mixture of triumph and tragedy. Two major events can serve as bookends for the decade. The fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War ushered in the nineties while the impeachment of President Clinton and political dysfunction ushered it out. The United States that would enter the new millennium would be a far different country than the one at the beginning of the decade. Technological, social, political, and geopolitical changes had transformed not only the country but the world. And unbeknownst to the United States, trouble lay on the horizon.

Reflections on the Last 40 Years in America: The Eighties

This is the first of four articles in a series entitled, Reflections on the Last 40 Years in America.

The Eighties were my favorite decade. Those were the years of my childhood. Times were so much simpler back then–before the internet, ubiquitous cell phones, texting, Netflix, Facebook, and email. Let me try to take you back to that time.

Ronald Reagan was President, and he presided over a time of relative peace, stability, and prosperity. By the end of the decade, the Berlin Wall had fallen and the Cold War was drawing to a close. There was definitely less division in the country; many Democrats actually voted for Reagan. It seemed like everyone loved America. We felt safe, and society was much more peaceful. There weren’t shootings and disasaters every week like now, but the Challenger disaster did stand out as one of the tragedies of the decade. Americans looked to President Reagan to soothe the nation as he talked about how the crew of the shuttle had “slipped the surly bonds of earth.”

On the technology front, personal computers began to be mass marketed for home use. IBM released its first personal computer, while Apple released its Macintosh personal computer. It was the first commercially successful PC which used a mouse and a graphical user interface. Cell phones began to hit the market, although they were mainly a luxury for the wealthy and not yet widely used by the general public. The internet, then called ARPANET, had been in development since the 1960’s, but it would not become available to the general public in the form of the World Wide Web until the 1990’s.

On the weekends in the eighties, teenagers went to the mall, the skating rink, or the movies. Popular movies included the Indiana Jones trilogy, E.T., The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, the Back to the Future trilogy, Top Gun, Rocky IV, Star Trek II and IV, Three Men and a Baby, and Crocodile Dundee. Television was much cleaner back then. We had classic shows like The Cosby Show, Family Ties, and Magnum P.I. Popular books of the decade included Beloved, Lonesome Dove, and The Color Purple. And Rush Limbaugh began broadcasting his famous radio show nationally from New York City in 1988.

Musically, it was the beginning of MTV (back when they actually showed videos). Bands like U2, Duran and Duran, and The Police were in vogue. Almost every young person had seen Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. I still remember listening to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 on the radio on Sunday with my brother after we got out of church.

As kids, we played board games like Risk, Monopoly, and Stratego. Hot wheels, Legos, and Star Wars figures were the popular toys for boys. Girls had Cabbage Patch Dolls and Barbies. We called our friends on the phone and talked for hours since there was no texting. We spent the night at each others’ houses on the weekend and played video games like Super Mario Brothers on Nintendo. We had our birthday parties at the arcade at the mall. We played Little League and traded baseball cards. My dad coached our team in 6th grade.

One of my most vivid memories was watching the New York Mets come from behind in Game 6 of the ’86 World Series with my brother and mom. How exciting it was to watch Ray Knight score the winning run as Mookie Wilson hit it down the first base line!

Family was important. We loved and respected our parents and visited our grandparents often. We ate at cafeterias like Picadilly’s and Luby’s. Of course we got plenty of Happy Meals at McDonald’s, too. We played basketball and football with our cousins on the weekends. We went to church on Sunday mornings and studied the Bible. My mom led me to Christ in our living room when I was eight years old.

My mother was a teacher, and I was in her math class in 2nd grade. One of my favorite memories was going to the school carnival in the Fall and playing all the games. We also had Land Run day in April where we dressed up and brought covered wagons to school. We said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang My Country ‘Tis of Thee at the start of each school day.

My dad and stepmom owned a restaurant called, Pro’s Coney Place. My brother and I spent many Saturdays there playing video games like 1942 and Pac-Man, eating Frito Chili Pies, and walking around Holiday Square. We also went golfing with dad on Saturday mornings at the neighborhood 9-hole course.

Yes, it was a great decade. I have many fond memories of that time. Our country was more united, more secure, more caring, and more optimistic. I thank God that my childhood was in one of the best decades ever.

Ten Ways to Make the SBC Great Again

1. Shut down the ERLC.

2. Remove liberals from leadership within the convention.

3. Fire seminary professors who teach or preach Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and/or social justice.

4. Foster a pro-American atmosphere within the denomination.

5. Cut all ties with ecumenical groups like TGC.

6. Reveal the salaries of top SBC executives.

7. Shift power from the Executive Committee back to the local churches.

8. Take a strong, Biblical stance on homosexuality.

9. Reaffirm the SBC’s commitment to the prohibition of women pastors and preachers.

10. End diversity-motivated hiring practices.

Five Reasons Why I’m Not a Calvinist

With the popularity of the reformer John Calvin and his teachings seemingly on the rise, perhaps it is important to examine his doctrine more closely. Calvinism can be explained with the mnemonic device, T.U.L.I.P. (T=Total Depravity; U= Unconditional Election; L=Limited Atonement; I=Irresistible Grace; P=Perseverance of the Saints). Calvin didn’t invent the device, but scholars use it to summarize his teachings. Let me also say before I begin that I have friends who are Calvinists, and I understand that well-meaning people can disagree over how to interpret the Scripture. So my intention is not to start a fight or draw a line in the sand as a test of fellowship. Having said that, here are five reasons why I’m not a Calvinist:

1. God Desires for all to be Saved

Calvin’s idea that only a few elect are predestined to be saved seems to be challenged by 1 Tim 2:3-4. The letter U in T.U.L.I.P. stands for Unconditional Election. While the Bible does talk about the elect, the idea that God predestined unconditionally a select few seems to contradict what Paul says about God in verse 4: “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Also in 2 Peter 3:9, the Bible says (in the context of Christ’s return), “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Again we see that God does not want anyone to perish.

However, God’s Word is clear that not all will be saved; so we can agree that the Bible refutes universalism. But if God desires salvation for all mankind, then why wouldn’t God elect everyone for salvation? In light of the fact that God desires for all to be saved, the idea of free-will is the only apparent explanation that explains why all are not saved.

2. Christ Died for All

I also believe that Scripture clearly refutes the L in T.U.L.I.P. The letter L stands for Limited Atonement. If we examine 1 John 2:2, we see that Christ is the propitiation, or atoning sacrifice, for the sins of the whole world. Also in 1 Timothy 2:5-6, we see that Christ, our Mediator, gave Himself as a ransom for all. These two verses, in my mind, clearly refute Calvin’s idea that Christ only died for the elect.

3. People have Free Will

This brings us to the letter I–Irresistible Grace. This is the idea that a person cannot resist the grace of God. This negates the concept of free-will. In the Bible we find admonitions against hardening our hearts and resisting God’s grace. Here are a few Scriptures that seem to indicate that we have a choice in whether we follow God or not: Deuteronomy 30:19-20, Joshua 24:15, Jeremiah 29:13, Jonah 3:9-10, 2 Corinthians 6:2, Titus 2:11, Hebrews 3:7-13, and James 4:8. In Titus 1:9, Paul says that an elder or bishop should be able to exhort and convince the gainsayers. Why would it be necessary to convince those who oppose the Gospel unless people have a choice in whether they receive or reject the truth?

There are also numerous passages which, while not necessarily dealing specifically with salvation, show us that God responds to people’s prayers as they seek Him. Moses interceded for the children of Israel in Exodus 32:11-14, and God relented from his anger and did not destroy them. In the well-known verse of 2 Chronicles 7:14, God spoke to Solomon concerning Israel:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

The evil king Manasseh, in 2 Chronicles 33, humbled himself, prayed, and entreated God. In verse 13, it says that, “Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God.

In Matthew 7:7, Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

4. God’s Character is Loving and Merciful

Calvinism doesn’t seem to fit well with the character of God that we learn about in the Bible. We see in the Scriptures that God desires to see people saved. Think of parables such as the prodigal son, the lost coin, and the lost sheep. These all paint a picture of God searching for the lost. Psalm 86:15 says, “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” Romans 5:8 reminds us that God demonstrated his love to us as sinners by sending Christ to die for us. So how do we reconcile Calvin’s idea of absolute predestination with the loving and merciful character of God? It’s difficult to do so.

5. The Word Whosoever

Finally, the most famous verse in the Bible informs us that anyone can be saved. In John 3:16, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Notice the word whosoever. The offer is available to all, though not all will receive it. Revelation 22 tells us that whosoever will (or desires), let him take the water of life freely.

I’m not going to challenge the letters T and P of T.U.L.I.P. because I believe that there is Scriptural support for the doctrines of Total Depravity and the Perseverance of the Saints. Psalm 51:5, Romans 3, and Ephesians 2:1 make it pretty clear that we were born sinners and that before salvation, we were dead in trespasses and sins. And John 10:27-29, Philippians 1:6, and 2 Timothy 1:12 are great texts which show us that it is Christ, not ourselves, who keeps us saved.

One of the major problems with Calvinism is that it seems to take the importance out of personal responsibility. Everything seems to be predetermined, and free-will is removed from consideration. The motivation to evangelize is diminished. Love also seems to take a hit in Calvin’s theology. If you are one of the elect, instead of looking at the lost with compassion, you might be tempted to look down on them.

The Calvinism-Arminian debate has been going on almost since the Reformation, so we probably won’t solve it here. And one has to concede that there are indeed hard-to-understand passages on this topic such as Matthew 22:14, Romans 9, and Ephesians 1:4-5, as well as others. This is clearly a topic that has generated much debate and discussion in the past. My point in writing this blog is to emphasize that God desires for lost people to be saved, and that his salvation is available to all. Jesus promises in John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Interestingly, Calvinists could use the first part of that verse to make their point, and Arminians could use the second part.

Thomas Jefferson, not an orthodox Christian himself, in a letter to Benjamin Waterhouse, mentioned the “demoralizing dogmas” of Calvin. While I disagree with some of Jefferson’s reasoning in the letter, I tend to agree that some of Calvin’s teachings are demoralizing. Given the harsh nature of Calvin’s theology, it’s not surprising that many people cannot subscribe to Calvin’s tenets of absolute predestination. Calvinism seems to turn a loving and merciful God into an unfeeling and arbitrary one. It also seems to remove all motivation for repentance or change of conduct in individuals. But ultimately, it’s not what we think or feel that matters. It’s what the Word of God says. And considering the previously cited Scriptural passages, I think it’s fairly clear that Calvin got some important points wrong in his theology.

Be a Berean

If I could offer one piece advice to young Christians in this age of false teaching and celebrity pastors, it would be to know the Bible for yourself.

In Acts 17:11, the Jews of the town of Berea were called more noble than those in Thessalonica because they eagerly received the Word preached unto them, and, not only that, but they also searched the Scriptures daily to check what they heard to see if it was indeed true.

In Matthew 24, Jesus warned about deception and false teachers. Not everyone who preaches or teaches is getting their doctrine from the Word of God. False teachers twist the truth to fit their own agenda. And some may honestly be misinformed or deceived themselves.

When I was in college, I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation for the first time. I searched and studied the Scriptures daily. This was invaluable to me because it gave me a solid foundation for what I believe and for a basic Christian worldview. When I heard the Bible taught from then on, I could check what I was hearing against what I had read in the Scriptures.

False teaching and deception really are widespread in our day–not just in the media or on the college campus, but sadly in the Christian world, too. So know the Bible for yourself, and be like the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily to see if what they heard was true.