7 Ways to Walk on the Way

Just some random stuff I wrote way back when about living the life we’re called to live in following Christ.

Be Generous

…it is necessary to…keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Acts 20:35

The giver of a gift is happier than the recipient. God blesses him for being generous, and he can take joy in the fact that his work fulfills the Law of Love and lets his light shine before men for the glory of God.

Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not out of regret or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:7, 8

God wants us to give cheerfully. He doesn’t want us to be generous because we feel obligated or guilty. He wants us to want to help others. Plus, He promises an added bonus: if you give generously, He’ll be sure to continue providing even when your gift seems like more than you can afford.

Get in the Word

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

The truths of Scripture come from God. Because they are from God, they are good for everything! You can learn, be convicted, be corrected, and train for righteousness by reading the Bible. Once you’ve done that, you can use what you’ve gotten from the Bible to help others do the same.

For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

See the power of the Word of God! It is good and useful to all people. It will show you the difference between your soul and your spirit, all the details of within you. By it, you can judge yourself, to find out your motives when you don’t even know them.

To finish this tip, read Psalm 119:9 – 16

How can a young man keep his way pure? 
By keeping Your word. 
I have sought You with all my heart; 
don’t let me wander from Your commands. 
I have treasured Your word in my heart 
so that I may not sin against You. 
Lord, may You be praised; 
teach me Your statutes. 
With my lips I proclaim 
all the judgments from Your mouth. 
I rejoice in the way revealed by Your decrees 
as much as in all riches. 
I will meditate on Your precepts 
and think about Your ways. 
I will delight in Your statutes; 
I will not forget Your word.

Pray!

Stay awake and pray so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Mark 14:38

Praying can protect your from temptation. The more time you spend talking to God, the less inclined you will be to violate His laws and hurt Him. Prayer strengthens your spirit, to keep you from sin.

Pray constantly

1 Thessalonians 5:17

Always pray! Pray every day, several times a day! Don’t go too long without prayer—that’s like not talking to your spouse for a long time. Pray at the most random of moments, over little things and big things. God wants to talk to you, and it will do wonders for you to talk to Him constantly.

I’ll conclude this tip with James 5:13 – 18

Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours; yet he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit.

Judge Yourself First

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?

Matthew 7:3

We can only control ourselves, not others. So then, it is pointless for us to judge others before we take acknowledge our own problems. We will have much happier relationships with God and others if we deal with our own faults before turning our attention to others.

Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment?

Romans 2:3

We need to take care our of issues, not just before judging someone on anything, but especially before judging them about something you do as well! Like the previous verse’s containing passage, remember to “First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Have Good Friends

As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

A good friend will help you. Sharpening one’s countenance is to make them feel better and help them have a better attitude. If you have good, encouraging, supportive, godly friends, you and your friends will be better.

Everything else to be said about friends can basically be found here in Ecclesiastes 9 – 12

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three stands is not easily broken.

Remember Your Short Time

Lord, reveal to me the end of my life and the number of my days. Let me know how transitory I am. You, indeed, have made my days short in length, and my life span as nothing in Your sight. Yes, every mortal man is only a vapor. Selah.

Psalm 39:4, 5

Our lives are short. God has made a world that is at least 6,000 years old, and we usually live no more than 80 years. That’s nothing. If we also kept in mind how short life is, and had a heart for God, we would live out our days passionately pursuing His pleasure and glory, to make the most of our lives.

You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are a bit of smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.

James 4:14

We don’t know the future. We can’t make foolproof plans in our short, empty lives on this earth. Instead, we need to plan according to God’s will, which is eternal in existence and purpose. See the rest of James 4:13 – 17.

Love Like Crazy!

Do not take revenge or hold a grudge against your people. Instead, you must love others as much as yourself: I am Yahweh.

Leviticus 19:18

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Deuteronomy 6:5

Therefore, love the Lord your God and always keep His mandate and His statutes, ordinances, and commands.

Deuteronomy 11:1

I am giving you a new commandment: You must love each other. In the same way that I have loved you, you must love each other.

John 13:34

Follow these commandments: love each other.

John 15:17

Love each other like family, like brothers. Honor each other above yourself.

Romans 12:10

Do not own anyone anything, except love for each other, because whoever loves others keeps the entire Law.

Romans 13:8

See, this sentence sums up the entire Law, ‘You must love others as much as yourself.’

Galatians 5:14

This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands.

1 John 5:2

7 Ways to Walk on the Way

The Baby

If you know me in real life, you probably already know this, though you might be left in the dark for some reason. At 2:03PM, on July 16, 2014, my wife gave birth to David Nathaniel Smith (aka Nathan), my son. (And yes, I am 19. And yes, he was an entirely post-nuptial pregnancy.) He was 21¾ inches and 9 lbs 2.3 oz. So began a brand new and amazing chapter of my life.

Carseat

At this point its been 11 days. They have been pretty interesting, certainly fun and a bit difficult at times. But I love every minute thus far. To be honest, I was worried a bit before the baby was born that I just wouldn’t be able to love him right. I mean, babies are just tiny and mute, and I have stuff to do, and I know I struggle with being selfish. So how could I love this boy like I should? But God is gracious, and I’m blown away by how much I’m already attached to Nathan. He’s been a huge blessing in just these few days, and I am very excited to continue life with him.

Thinker

More than anything, I want to be sure to raise him well. If I can teach him to truly love God and love people, I will be satisfied. That is really all I want from him. I do have many fantasies for my boy. I imagine Nathan and I playing Zelda games together, watching Lord of the Rings, battling it out with Super Smash Brothers, discussing theology, and going to Renaissance fairs. Alas, who knows if these will happen, or if my interests will ever interest him? Though my inner 12-year-old will be crushed, ultimately I will be happy if he follows Jesus Christ. Even if he doesn’t do it the same way I do. As of now, I’m a pretty funky evangelical Protestant with some affinity to high-church Reformed stuff, but if Nathan decides to go back to my Baptist roots, Pentecostal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Anglican, or even Catholic or Orthodox I will be proud if he lives a life of faith working through love.

Laying

I know at least one or two of you who read my blog regularly might wonder if I’ll be taking the advice from Clark’s two parenting posts. To that, I say that given I am neither an anarchist nor quite as much of a rationalist as Clark, I will probably not do everything he said, but I will definitely take a few points that I find pretty wise. He rightly sees the value of critical thinking, personal responsibility, and martial arts.

Face w Pacifier

This post, if you haven’t noticed, doesn’t have a very specific point to it. It is mostly for my various thoughts about my baby boy. But, despite not having a good angle, I did feel the urge to blog about such an important step in my life. So just know that Nathan is the most awesome baby ever, and none of you could ever have such a great baby. He he. At least in my opinion.

The Baby

Can You Actually Lose Your Salvation? Part 1

I do not believe that there is any way to lose (or give up) salvation. Or at least I do not think there is. Yet some verses in Scripture are pretty difficult to interpret this way. To get right to it, there are two major problem passages which come up often. I usually don’t spend much time on them, but by request I am now going to tackle them.

The Trouble Texts

For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt.

Hebrews 6:4-6

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment that was passed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “The dog turns back to its own vomit,” and, “The sow is washed only to wallow in the mud.”

2 Peter 2:20-22

 The Trouble with the Texts

Both of these passages make it sound very much as though salvation is something you can lose. After all, enlightenment, tasting of a heavenly gift, sharing in the Holy Spirit, and tasting the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come sounds a lot like being saved. Yet of these people the author implies they can fall away from this grace and so be completely impossible to restore to repentance. After all, he says, they are essentially crucifying Christ again, but He rose once for all. So what hope remains for them?

[fquote align=”right”]I do not believe you can stop being a true believer, but when faced with these verses I am very tempted to jump ship.[/fquote]

Same goes for the 2 Peter passage. These people escaped the entanglements of the world through the knowledge of Jesus, but have again been entangled and overpowered, now worse than they ever were. They knew the way of righteousness and then turned back from it. They left the vomit of their sin and came back to it. How can that not be someone losing his salvation?

Let me approach this honestly: these texts make me uncertain. I do not believe you can stop being a true believer, but I do not hold to this with certainty. I am willing to follow Scripture wherever it leads, and when faced with these verses I am very tempted to jump ship from my current position. Of course, this raises greater questions as well. It is the Calvinist position that believers are eternally secured, secured to persevere in the faith by God’s preservation through the Holy Spirit. I daresay this position is logically necessitated by Calvinism. So if someone can lose his salvation, does this make Calvinism false? If so, and if these verses teach you can lose your salvation, then where am I left?

What Are the Possibilities?

Obviously, there are only a few ways this can go, so I’ll lay them out. First, Calvinism could be true and these verses could not teach that you can lose your salvation. This is what I suspect is true, and I will elaborate why later on. There is also the possibility that Calvinism is false and these verses still do not teach you can lose your salvation. This is unlikely. If Calvinism is false, I think these verses would make pretty good evidence that salvation can be lost. Another possibility is that Calvinism is true but these verses do teach you can lose your salvation. This is an odd possibility, so I will have to elaborate on it. The final possibility is that Calvinism is false and these verses teach you can lose your salvation. This position seems self-explanatory. Let me go on about these last two possibilities, though.

Calvinism True/Lose Salvation True?

One interesting possibility is that Calvinism is true, but it is also possible to enter a state of grace and then fall from it. You can have temporary saving faith.

"How could this be?" you ask. "I thought Calvinism said ‘once saved, always saved.’ How can an elect person not be saved in the end?"

[fquote align=”left”]The idea is that God may grant some non-elect people grace sufficient for a temporary faith.[/fquote]

The OSAS moniker isn’t really accurate for any Calvinist, but on that point I digress. See, there is an old-fashioned Calvinist doctrine we sometimes call the “temporary faith of the reprobate.” Basically, the idea is that God may grant some non-elect people—people who are not predestined to final salvation—grace sufficient for a temporary faith. This faith, however, is not rooted deeply, or is overtaken by other concerns, per the Parable of the Soils. Eventually they cease to believe, and they return to a state worse than before, further condemned for rejecting the enlightenment they had been provided.

This view comes from John Calvin himself, and some early Calvinists. For example, directly on topic, here are Calvin’s closing commentary notes on the Hebrews text:

But here arises a new question, how can it be that he who has once made such a progress should afterwards fall away? For God, it may be said, calls none effectually but the elect, and Paul testifies that they are really his sons who are led by his Spirit, (Romans 8:14;) and he teaches us, that it is a sure pledge of adoption when Christ makes us partakers of his Spirit. The elect are also beyond the danger of finally falling away; for the Father who gave them to be preserved by Christ his Son is greater than all, and Christ promises to watch over them all so that none may perish. To all this I answer, That God indeed favors none but the elect alone with the Spirit of regeneration, and that by this they are distinguished from the reprobate; for they are renewed after his image and receive the earnest of the Spirit in hope of the future inheritance, and by the same Spirit the Gospel is sealed in their hearts. But I cannot admit that all this is any reason why he should not grant the reprobate also some taste of his grace, why he should not irradiate their minds with some sparks of his light, why he should not give them some perception of his goodness, and in some sort engrave his word on their hearts. Otherwise, where would be the temporal faith mentioned by Mark 4:17? There is therefore some knowledge even in the reprobate, which afterwards vanishes away, either because it did not strike roots sufficiently deep, or because it withers, being choked up.

John Calvin, Commentary on Hebrews

Now, this view is not to say that the non-elect have been truly born again, adopted as sons of God, sealed with the Spirit, and the like. However, they have been connected to some degree to Christ by faith, and they receive grace to live for a time nearly like a true believer. However, without the help of the Spirit to indwell them, they will eventually abandon this faith, and at this point they have truly condemned themselves.

Technically speaking, you could say this view doesn’t count as “losing your salvation,” since you were never truly born again, but those who had temporary faith were still given grace by the Holy Spirit, and in all respects would appear to be a believer, even to themselves, so I think for all intents and purposes it counts.

[fquote align=”right”]One problem is that this view simply seems a bit, well, sadistic.[/fquote]

So what of this view? Well, on the plus side, it does easily handle these texts, allowing for someone to fall from a certain state of grace. Also, it has history with Calvinism, so that helps it fit in the theological framework of which I am most convinced.

There are downsides, as well. One problem is that this view simply seems a bit, well, sadistic. Unconditional election can be hard enough, but that some of those who are not elect will be granted temporary faith by God so that they even believe for a time and think they will be saved, even though they will certainly not be—well, that just seems pretty cold. It might be one thing if they came to a fallen faith with purely human, sinful reasoning, but this is God granting them doomed faith. That’s scary.

One other issue with this view is that there is simply lacking Biblical evidence. There’s just not Scripture around to suggest that God would grant someone faith that is by nature temporary. This is an inference based on Scripture appearing to suggest that we can lose salvation, while also teaching monergism and unconditional election. It almost seems to be an ad-hoc, Band-Aid doctrine to fix a recognized inconsistency.

So we’ve possibly eliminated one option and seen the problems presented by these texts. In the next part of this two (or possibly three) part series, I’ll address the other possibilities, and perhaps finish (though that may be reserved for a third part).

Can You Actually Lose Your Salvation? Part 1

Don’t Forget to Love

As Christians, most of us do quite a bit of Bible study in some form or another. We always have a topic to talk about, a sermon to listen to, or theological issue to study. Isn’t this to be expected, though? We have 66 books (73 if you’re Catholic) which we hold to be our ultimate authority. We’re told that they’re profitable for teaching, correction, rebuking, and the like. So naturally we’ll want to get all the ins and outs sorted.

Alas, every noble endeavor has its dangers, and studying Scripture is no exception. When we’re trying to figure out how to properly exegete Romans 9, whether baptism should be administered to infants, what modesty should mean, and whether Calvinism is really better than Arminianism or just a little better, we can sometimes forget basics, neglecting core teachings of Christ.

So with this I call us, especially myself, to a reminder. Do not forget what Jesus said most often. He told us to love. He said to give generously, live mercifully, interact humbly, and judge justly. He told us to treat others as well as we would treat ourselves, even if they are our enemies, and to always show His grace to those who need it, whether they deserve it or not.

These things are easy to think of when we think of Jesus, but to actually remember that being a Christian means putting them into practice is hard. When I’m busy typing away for this blog, I might forget what my wife needs me to do right beside me. When you’re debating the proper role of tongues in edifying the church, you might find that your debate is far from edifying anyone. Or even when you are simply being a mild-mannered, not-theologically-intense Christian, you might go see Left Behind without realizing that when it comes to love some of your peers have been left behind.

Jesus told us that on Judgment Day He will identify with those who lacked food and clothing, those who were imprison, and those who were sick. So how He receives us will be based on how we receive them. Not so much on whether we worked on Sunday, we were Calvinist or Arminian, or we baptized babies. For it is love that is the greatest commandment, both towards God and towards men, and it is love which Scripture tells us will cover a multitude of sins.

Therefore until that Day, don’t forget to love.

 

Don’t Forget to Love

The One Thing I Know

I have lots of questions. This is in stark contrast to the “me” of two years ago, who had nothing but answers. But that’s how things go naturally. The more you come to know, the more you realize you don’t actually know. For many issues, I would go so far as to say that certainty is really just ignorance of possibilities.

Of course, that’s not necessarily desirable. We all—and I know especially I—want to know the truth without doubt. Some argue that it is an affront on the clarity and sufficiency of Scripture to think that we cannot. Yet the more I learn about things, the more I come to realize that, however much God has given us in Scripture and through the Spirit, we are so small-minded. There is simply so much beyond us. We’re captivated by more extra-Biblical assumptions, predeterminations, and cultural mores than we realize or can escape. At some point we realize that our quest for objective understanding is really rather vain. 

This said, the pursuit of truth is never vain. What is vain is seeking the truth through figuring things out. We have limits. We’re human beings, fallen ones at that. We’re not the omniscient God. So if we want truth, sooner or later we have to realize that we can’t find it simply by learning facts in our finite lifetimes with our finite minds. There is only one way to truth. There is only one Truth.

Jesus said to him, “I am…the truth.”

John 14:6

 

The One Thing I Know

#JustIntrovertThings

If you didn’t know this already, I’m a bit of an introvert. And I, like my introvert pals, sometimes do things that don’t make sense to other people. Socially unusual things. They are easy to misinterpret. I’m pretty sure people frequently get the wrong idea. So here’s a basic guide to weird things we do. I’ll phrase them in first person since some I’m not sure if they are just me or many introverts like me.

  • When I don’t smile when passing you by, it usually says nothing about my mood or feelings about you. In fact, quite often it means I’ve failed to decide whether it would be socially appropriate to smile at that moment in time to actually do it.
  • If I don’t say much during small talk, it’s not necessarily because I don’t want to interact with you, but that I don’t get small talk. Polite dialogue consisting of generic questions is something I know has little actual meaning, so it’s hard to invest in it. Now, if you bring up any specific topic on which I have anything at all to say, good luck shutting me up.
  • I usually won’t say “hi” first, mainly because unless I really consider you a friend, I assume my initiating conversation will be the wrong move to make for whatever relationship we do have (coworker, acquaintance, etc).
  • Social interaction can be exhausting, while still enjoyable. It’s kind of like swimming or walking. Sure, it can be fun, but I’ll be tired and want to go home and relax afterwards.

This is only a pretty short list, but these things are issues I wish everyone understood about me to begin with, since I know it’s so easy to give a wrong impression with them.

For more on introversion, I send you here: 10 Myths About Introverts | CarlKingdom.com :: Home of Carl King

#JustIntrovertThings

Quick Thoughts on Children

As Caleb awaits the birth of his child, I thought I’d rudely offer my unasked-for advice. The process of rearing children seems to me, an unmarried, unsexed, needless to say, un-patriarchal individual, much simpler than parents often admit. It isn’t necessarily that they won’t admit that the process is simple as though out of self-interest; hoping to appear more haggard and experienced then they are, rather they themselves are unaware. Let me be clear, when I say that the process is simple, I do not mean to say what the parent will feel during the process. It may feel hard or it may feel complex but it is not. If we take the statement ‘a simple process’ to mean ‘a process with only a few, easily distinguished parts,’ then we may still say that the execution of the process feels very difficult. It is also not the case that a parent need know about the process of parenting in any great depth in order to parent. Will she be effective in parenting without some knowledge of the human mind? Probably she will not be as effective as she might be, but multitudes have gotten away with it.

First, before I outline the appropriate process, let me reference at least one method of parenting wrongly. It would be easy to talk about some flagrant abuse of the patriarchal or matriarchal position, but it would be more effective if I were to reference, say, the “we-don’t-negotiate-with-terrorists” mindset employed in parenting in many conservative evangelical circles. This mindset essentially holds as its singular, paradigmatic notion that if a child is fully submitted to the parent’s will, then that child will be the poster-child of the poisonous mixture of the American dream and evangelicalism. Any break from character is met with swift, but appropriate, punishment, there is no authority but that conveyed by the position of parent, and little Johnny, if he wants to be Jesus’ friend, ought to fall in line.

There is a glaring flaw to this scheme in that it’s wonderful if you want to create a mindless drone who repeats exactly what you tell him and eventually repeats the entire process on his children. This process is terrible if you want to create human beings. Oh, little Johnny may go on to be an athletic honors student, he may lead the church worship band, he may be a wonderful street evangelist or an aspiring missionary, he may excel at small business, he may draw pretty, Christian girls, he may support young-earth creationism. But can you guess what he’s not? Little Johnny, who may not be so little any more, isn’t a thinker

Perhaps the reader might wonder why the things I’ve mentioned as accomplishments for little Johnny are bad and the quality of a thinker so great. I mean, after all, not everyone is “gifted” as a thinker, right? Well, that depends on how you define ‘thinker’. John, when he’s grown up, will find health, wealth, and blissful ignorance disguised as happiness. Any attack on the notions that you taught him from the ground to the knee and his church taught him from the knee to the casket will just be an attack by a lost world on the great fort of evangelicalism. In 1850 it was those damn papists. In 1900, the damn liberals. In 2000, the damn world. What John will not do is positively interact with art, science, music, politics, philosophy, and theology. “But he only needs to know Christ” the objection might run. What is a theology that doesn’t interact with art, science, music, politics, and philosophy? John will have become more one with the world while removing himself from it; he has got the dictum “in the world but not of it” entirely backwards; he is of the world but not in it. Christianity isn’t under siege, the world is, yet, strangely, John seems to be in a fort.

So, what is the good process to pediatric upbringing? Simply put, education. I don’t mean that little Johnny ought to be memorizing Bible verses. He ought to be. But not before he’s learned how to string a logical thought together and to read and decipher appropriately. The diagramming of sentences is more important than the memorizing of what, to him, are meaningless facts. How does one get little Johnny to learn? Again, simply put, by controlling his environment. If little Johnny doesn’t have much to do but read, write, and multiply I imagine he will be much more willing to do something rather than do nothing; it’s merely human nature to want to do something. 

In conclusion, there are two steps. 1) The child must learn to think. When he can diagram a thought on paper both grammatically and logically he will have begun to succeed at this. 2) The child’s environment must be totally conducive to his education. People complain of how “teens are distracted today by technology”. That habit, whatever it is, began in the cradle.

“But what of loving and nurturing little Johnny?” He will be more grateful for his discernment than for your ephemeral “love and nurture”; more loving is it to teach a man to fish rather than giving him a single fish.

“What of disciplining 16 year-old John?” If you have been consistent, his discernment will be such that your burden will be lessened. But if he still persists in gaining new experiences (and that’s all his rebelliousness is outside of hormones, that is, if you haven’t turned him into a spoiled idiot) don’t stop him through force but through reason. A teen works like some kind of gas; if you don’t compress it, it doesn’t get hot. Don’t tell him to try sex or drugs or what have you, tell him that he’ll regret it and give him good reasons for thinking that you’re right. If he decides after to try those things, except him back when he gathers it was a bad idea. If you’re careful though, he likely won’t leave, the comfort of home being greater than that of the unknown.

“What of 21 year-old John? What if he decides to flip burgers or something else shameful to the family name?” Then for goodness sakes let him. Christ is not enshrouded with an American flag, a business suit, a pulpit, and Capitalism.

Quick Thoughts on Children