February - Reading 3

Discussion in 'Bible Reading Plan 2016' started by Helen, Feb 3, 2002.

  1. Brother Adam

    Brother Adam
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    Thank you for getting a jump start on me Helen! I won't be around much today- I have a ton of work to do (housework and homework). So I probably won't write much on todays reading.

    "For thy loving kindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth" Psalm 26:3

    I really like that verse, not sure why, but it really stuck out to me [​IMG]

    UNP
    Adam
     
  2. John Wells

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    Matthew 11:27 (ESV)
    27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

    This is one of the clearest verses on “Election” in the Bible. Many of us, including myself, cannot understand the profound mystery of how a perfectly righteous and loving God could say:

    Romans 9:15,17 (ESV)
    15 . . . “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

    Ephesians 1:4 (ESV)
    4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

    It is true that we have the responsibility to respond to God’s calling and the work of the Holy Spirit on our hearts, but unless we were among those chosen “before the foundation of the world,” we will not choose Christ no matter how compelling a gospel message is presented to us! That’s why we “chosen” need to rejoice and thank God all the more that He chose us by His grace and mercy!

    For those struggling with this, please read the great sermon on election by the greatest preacher since the first century church, Charles Spurgeon:
    http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0041.htm
     
  3. Clint Kritzer

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    VERY good link, Brother John! Margie had just been speaking with a lady in their forum on the topic of how they wrestle with the notion of the elect and she will be lifting your link to post for her. Very, very good resource! I will be on later to post my commentary. - Clint
     
  4. Aaron

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Matthew 11
    20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
    21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
    22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
    23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
    24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    God knew that the people mentioned here would repent yet He did not do the works there that would have secured their repentance! God chooses who He will or will not have mercy based on His purposes according to election. He is no respecter of persons.

    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Acts 16
    16 ¶ And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
    17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
    18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    Questions:
    1.What was the falsehood in what the witch said?

    2.If nothing, then why didn't the Apostles exploit her influence in support of the Gospel?

    Answers:
    1. Nothing

    2. God demands that the vessel and the message be consistent with one another.
     
  5. Helen

    Helen
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    The Matthew passage tonight has one of the most famous passages in the Bible in it. Although John concentrated on the verse before it, where Jesus says that no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." The VERY next lines of Jesus are these famous ones:

    Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

    And so here is where John, God bless him, and I differ. Jesus' call seems to be to anyone who feels stressed. Whether it is people who are burdened by legalism, fear, the burden of trying to fulfill various rites and earn something through works -- all those things which cause people to crumple, to stumble and fall, Jesus says He will remove from you back. Just go to Him. The call goes out through the ages and into every culture and every time -- COME TO ME. And I would urge anyone reading this to know that He meant it and that the invitation is to you, too. He is your Creator and He loves you. You can trust Him.


    I love the Acts passage today. It is the narrative of how, first, Paul and Silas cast the demon out of the slave girl who was earning so much money for her masters by her fortune-telling. They were pretty upset about losing that source of income and dragged the two men to the marketplace.

    Now what is really interesting is that all the people started abusing Paul and Silas, too. But what has Paul or Silas done to them? Is this mob mentality only? Are they upset because a source of amusement -- i.e. the slave girl -- is gone? Or is it just fun to pick on people who can't fight back?

    At any rate, bruised and beaten, Paul and Silas are thrown in jail and bound with chains. They are singing praises to God at midnight when an earthquake hits. The men could escape, but don't. Please note that the jailor is going to commit suicide if they escape because his life will be forfeit anyway. That is the price guards paid if prisoners escaped then.

    And because Paul and Silas did not escape, the jailor is suddenly hit with the truth of their message and we have that wonderful and famous scene where be becomes a believer and he and all his family are baptized.

    The fun part about this, for me as a reader, is when Paul calls the last shot with the authorities. He demands to be escorted out of jail formally since he is a Roman citizen and was beaten without a trial.

    They got their escort! That, just like prisoners escaping, was no laughing matter. Denying a Roman citizen his rights was a serious offense under Roman law.


    Psalm 26 is an interesting one. In it David is declaring his blamelessness before the Lord, and he seems to be counting on his own obedience to the law where this is concerned. Is this conceit? Maybe not. David is listed as being a man after God's own heart. I think we can read into this Psalm the fact that David consistently did his best to honor and obey God.

    I will try to do the same.

    Exodus 7-9 covers the initial miracles of Moses before Pharoah and the first seven plagues.

    Demonically, the court magicians were able to partly imitate the first of the miracles.

    Regarding the plagues:

    1. The Plague of Blood -- was this really blood is the first question. Not from a living source, no. That would have been impossible. So what was it? The defining qualities of blood to observation are 'thick, red, salty'. Whatever happened to the waters on the surface (note the people could dig for fresh water; that was not affected) caused them to become like blood: thick, red, and salty. Pharaoh's magicians were able to copy this. There are a number of theories about what happened, and it may have been a direct miracle, but what is interesting is that there is a pattern to the plagues which indicates a possible "natural" occurrance. Someting introduced massive amounts of something rich in iron (red) into the waters of the area. It thickened them as well and also became salty. Although I think Velikovsky was wrong about many of his conclusions (although his collection of data was outstanding), he have had a point regarding the earth passing through the tail of a comet at this time. This would have introduced into the waters the color and possibly the saltiness, and it would have affected the land as well. This is not gospel! This is people looking for a reason if there is one apart from sheer miracle -- which is not being denied.

    2. The second plague is frogs. Short and sweet? They didn't like that water either.

    After each of these first plagues, Pharaoh purposely hardens his own heart against the truth he is being exposed to.

    3. The third plague was the gnats. All over everything. Tiny little bugs in eyes and ears and food and water and clothes and...YCCHHH!! Note what is written in the Bible about them "All the dust thorughout the land of Egypt became gnats." That comet tail or whatever had severely disturbed the denizens of the dust. There is also the possibility that whatever hit that region had something in it that gnats LIKE, and they procreated extremely rapidly in the following days.

    This time even the magicians, who cannot copy this one, tell Pharaoh that "This is the finger of Godk!" But again, Pharaoh's "heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the Lord had said." God knew what Pharaoh would do, but Pharaoh was still responsible for doing it. No one forced him to harden his heart and reject the truth!

    4. The fourth Plague -- here come the flies! The frogs, folks, had died and were piled up rotting. Egypt is warm. Think flies. Billions of them. Everywhere. Crawling on everything, in everything. Maggots in cuts. Maggots everywhere.

    But there were no flies in Goshen, where the Israelites lived. Partly there is a simple natural reason for that. They were clean people! Those frogs had been disposed of, I am sure, FAR from their habitations. Thus, no flies.

    This time Pharaoh tries to bargain with Moses, and ends up agreeing to the Israelites taking a three day journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to God.

    Now here is the miracle. The flies were gone at Moses' word. I never have a hard time thinking how the flies GOT there -- it's that disappearance that is miraculous!

    "But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go."

    5. And so the fifth Plague arrives. The livestock are hit with something causing rapid death. Perhaps it was brought by the flies. Flies carry many diseases. The livestock of the Israelites was spared. This would fit with the idea of no flies having been there.

    "Pharaoh sent men to investigate and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go."


    6. The sixth Plague -- boils. We don't know if this one hit the Israelites or not, but the Lord had instructed Moses to take a handful of ashes and throw them into the air. " IT will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on men and animals throughout the land." Some sort of dust in the air was so caustic to flesh that people's skins were reacting with painful boils. Were these hives? Was this a sort of universal 'allergic' reaction? I don't know. It's something to think about. If we had been exposed to something from space which entered our atmosphere and caused that kind of reaction... what was it? I'm willing to go with direct miracle, but I keep getting the feeling that all these plagues except the last one are a series from the same original cause.

    And THIS time, we read, "But hte LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart..."

    It was like God finally said to Pharoah, "You want a hard heart? You got it!"


    7. And then came the Plague of Hail.
    God gives warning about this hail to all, through Moses. They are warned to bring livestock in, or it will be killed. This will be "the worse hailstorm that has evere fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now."

    And here the people are starting to be separated by God on an individual basis. It's not just Egyptians and Israelites now, but those who will obey and those who will not. Even though the hail did not fall in Goshen, the Egyptians themselves this time had a chance to be obedient and save their livestock. Many left the poor animals out, and they were killed.

    And the hail came. With thunder and lightning and a horrible storm.

    And wonder of wonders, Pharaoh summons Moses and states "I have sinned"! He sayd, "The LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong." And so Moses agrees to stop the hail and he stops it. The storm is not a miracle; the stopping of it like that sure was!

    But now look:
    "When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, HE AND HIS OFFICIALS HARDENED THEIR HEARTS."

    It is interesting that after his, perhaps even hypocritical, admission of sin, the Lord did not harden his heart -- he had to do it himself.... again.


    How often does God have to confront each of us with the truth of Himself? And how often is He willing to?

    The writer of Hebrews made this plea to his people:

    Today, if you hear his voice,
    Do not harden your hearts.


    And if anyone ever reads this who is not a Christian, that is the plea I would make to him or her. Please, please, do not harden your heart. You are loved. Respond to that love.
     
  6. Clint Kritzer

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    Helen, I signed on to post after writing my commentary on the laptop. I apologize for any redundancy. I'm not used to posting last. ;)

    Good evening all and thank you Brother John for the earlier commentary on Matthew once again.

    The Genesis reading tonight is some of the most powerful drama in the entire Bible. The 10 plagues of Egypt are a well-known story from Sunday school lessons and Hollywood alike. There are a few significant points in this scripture tonight that I would like to point out, if I may.
    The encounter between Aaron and the Pharoah’s magicians begins the story. For as long as they can, they will match the miracles of God with sleight of hand in an effort to counter God’s omnipotence. Right from the beginning, the miracles show themselves dominate over their trickery. The snake that was Moses’ staff swallows the two snakes produced by the magicians. Snakes were, as I mentioned last night, a powerful symbol to the Egyptians. The magicians finally recognize their futility when we get to the plague of gnats.
    The plague of blood is significant because the Nile was deified by the Egyptians who called it a god, Hopi. Aaron striking the water was an act of sacrilege to the Egyptians. The next plague, the frogs, is also significant in that the frog was also deified in the goddess Heqt. So too was many forms of livestock.
    Now, a quick thought on the plagues here. When I was a high-schooler, I attended a Baptist military school here in my home town and we took Bible once a week throughout our junior year. The chaplain at that time pointed out something about this story that has always stuck with me. IF a natural disaster such as a volcano or mudslide had occurred at the time of the encounter with Pharoah, the first 6 plagues could be attributed to a chain of natural events:
    1) The nile turned blood red. We see in verse 7:24 that digging off the edge of the banks produced drinkable water for the Egyptians. Soil filtered the water.
    2) The frogs came to shore. Being deprived of clean water would of course cause an amphibious creature to seek land. We see in verse 7:21 that the fish were unable to survive the filthy water so it follows that neither would the frogs.
    3) The gnats. With all of the slime and stagnant pools left by the shallow wells of the entire Egyptian population digging for water, any insect that lays their eggs in water would have a very fertile breeding ground.
    4) The flies. We saw in verse 8:13 that the frogs had died. Again, we have an abundance of fertile breeding material for flies to lay their eggs.
    5) The plague on livestock. Flies are a terrible carrier of disease and this passage may refer to anthrax, a disease we are all too familiar with now.
    6) The plague of boils. Our knowledge of anthrax has also revealed to us the type that infects the skin.

    This is, of course, conjecture and I offer it as food for thought. The important thing is that the Israelites were protected from these scourges showing us that God protects his own. How God chooses to play out His miracles are of no concern to me. I just stand in awe of every miracle, whether it is scientifically explainable or not. The very fact that I EXIST and am sentient is a puzzle to my limited, mortal mind, much less things like eyesight, reproduction, hummingbird flight, and the cosmos.

    Now in Acts I want to point out that Paul and Silas at the end of the chapter cause a real stir when they announce that they are Roman citizens. Just as the great empire of the United States protects it’s citizenry throughout its many provinces, so too did Rome. The flogging, beating and jailing they endured were absolutely prohibited by Rome on its citizens. When Paul and Silas demand that the magistrates come to accompany them from the jail it was to show that they were innocent and this public display insured that the church they had established there in Phillipi would be absolved from any ridicule and slander from the very public arrest borne by these two apostles.
    To avoid confusion of the readers that I carried for years, Paul had a dual citizenship of Roman and Hebrew, a remnant of his high position as a Pharisee. He uses this to his advantage through much of his ministry.

    Until tomorrow night, may God bless all of you and this reading.

    - Clint

    One additional point. The sermon in the link that Brother John supplied us mentions the hardening of Pharoah's heart and encounter between Moses and Pharoah. Such an intricate work we are studying!

    [ February 04, 2002: Message edited by: Clint Kritzer ]
     
  7. John Wells

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    Helen,

    When we take the several passages of scriptures that seem to send an "inclusive" salvation message and the two to three times as many passages that send an "exclusive" salvation message - Those passages which might be selected, wherein either the word "elect," or "chosen," or "foreordained," or "appointed" is mentioned; or the phrase "my sheep" or some similar designation, showing that Christ's people are distinguished from the rest of mankind, we can then let scripture interpret scripture.

    "If you will read many of the epistles of the ancient fathers, you will find them always writing to the people of God as the "elect." Indeed the common conversational term used among many of the churches by the primitive Christians to one another was that of the "elect." They would often use the term to one another, showing that it was generally believed that all God's people were manifestly "elect."" - Spurgeon

    The call to "come" is to "all who will." It's just that God has predetermined "who will" as this passage eloquently demonstrates:

    Romans 8:29-30 (ESV)
    29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
    30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

    Spurgeon deals rather well with the justification of this Helen. Have you read it? God bless my sis!

    John

    [ February 04, 2002: Message edited by: John Wells ]
     
  8. Helen

    Helen
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    John, I was unwilling to get into this, here, actually, but it seems I have no choice now... [​IMG]

    First of all, here is the email I sent you about the Spurgeon sermon:

    I have read this one before. Look at the quote:
    "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."

    Spurgeon, and those like him, cut the quote off in the middle, just like they do with Romans 8:28! Only this time the first half is separated from the second and the first half chosen instead of the second (Romans 8:28).

    The quotation is saying that we will receive salvation through santification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, and that this is what the predestination of all believers is. In other words, there is no other way to salvation than through this santification and belief! We are chosen for THAT way of salvation and no other.

    When Spurgeon, or anyone chooses one verse or even a couple, and then builds an entire theology around it, that is not wise. The Bible as a whole speaks differently. The way of salvation is predestined. The completion of salvation in the life of a believer is predestined. But God did NOT create the vast majority of humanity for the explicit purpose of damning them to hell. Jesus Himself said hell was created for the DEVIL and HIS angels. It was not created for man.

    In the meantime, every one of Spurgeon's "proof texts" later on in the essay/sermon was taken out of context! He starts, for instance, with Romans 29. The passage starts earlier. Yes, we are elect. But the process is a mutual one, or Jesus would have never been right in saying that many are called, but few are chosen.

    You need to take the Bible as a whole, not in pieces.



    John, the word "elect" is exactly the same word in the Greek as "chosen". "Many are called, but few are elected" is just as valid a translation of that verse!

    In Matthew 23:37, look at what Christ says:
    "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, BUT YOU WERE NOT WILLING."

    God allows other wills than His own to operate. He controls all outcomes and all expressions, but those wills are allowed. He is big enough for that.

    A few months or a year after I had wrestled my way through Reformed theology, I sat down and wrote the things I had considered and thought about. I added a bit to it a year later. Today I pulled it out and looked at it, added a parenthetical note, and thought it would be good to post it here if anyone wanted to see how I worked my way through this issue. I am quite sure it will take up this post and then some, so I am expecting the next one down will be 'part II.' Forgive the length, but I honestly feel that Reformed theology badly misrepresents the character of God and causes despair where God would have hope. I have seen the fruits of Reformed theology, and they are ugly. On the one side are the 'elect' with that sense of pride, and on the other, those they cast off as simply not being one of God's chosen. And then there are the parents -- and this I am eyewitness to -- who have told a rebellious teenager something along the lines of "Well, I guess God didn't choose you, or you would be responding to Him!" What a thing to say to a young person!

    ====================

    MY RESPONSE TO CALVINISM
    Helen Fryman
    September, 1994


    I remember the first time I heard the idea that God chose who would be saved, regardless of anything a man might want or do, long before the creation of the world. I was either a teenager or a young adult in my twenties. My reaction, as a Christian, was something along the lines of "That is really dumb. Who could love a God like that? Who could believe that?"

    It was not until I was in my mid-forties, a couple of years ago, that I was really forced to understand that there is a rather large segment of the Christian church which honestly believes in what is sometimes called "double predestination." I was interpreting (or trying to) at an R.C. Sproul conference in San Diego and the concept was presented as normal doctrine. I remember I felt as though all my mental faculties had skidded to a halt as shock took over. I was not the interpreter at that particular moment, which is probably a very good thing. I remember looking around to see if anyone else was reacting. Everyone was nodding and so I thought maybe I had misunderstood what the lecturer was saying. Afterward I asked one of the leaders about it and yes, I had understood correctly. They all believed it, or said they did.

    That was my first experience with what is known as "5 point Calvinism." I left the conference stunned and very, very bothered by the concept that man has no choice. God simply chooses, to our minds seemingly at random, who will be saved and who will be damned before we are ever born. I couldn't accept it. But all these wonderful Christian brothers and sisters seemed quite convinced and sure about it! What was wrong with me? What was wrong with what I had believed for so many years?

    That started a year-and-a-half of searching. Talking to people. Writing letters. Reading the Bible over and over again. Thinking. Praying. Reasoning. Reading other books. Trying to explain my thought processes to (for the most part uninterested) friends. It was absolutely vital to me to know the true character of my God. It was not an optional, hobby-like quest -- the question burned in the deepest part of my soul: who is God, really?

    Something that really astounded me was that very few people had ever given it any thought. That included pastors. They just figured that God did what He did and that was that. But I knew I could not really love someone I did not know, and, since God had commanded me to love Him, I must find out more about Him. It was simply not an option -- if I was going to obey Him in loving Him, it was absolutely necessary that I know Him for sure. To this day, I do not understand why so many long-time Christians do not bother with this question. Or consciously avoid it. I understand new Christians, because they are still feeding on milk. I understand if a person has been busy grappling with other questions of doctrine in their quest to know God. But I do not understand the many, many "mature" Christians who have avoided this question altogether.

    "Seek (and keep on seeking), and you shall find; knock (and keep on knocking) and the door shall be opened..."

    Calvinism immediately presented me with one logical problem. Because I am a mother, I know what it is to love my own child. And I love all my children with a strong, commited love. I would do anything I could to help them at any time (of course, my idea of "help" and their idea of "help" may sometimes be radically different -- a lot like God and us!). If God had not chosen one of my children to be saved, then I was faced with the impossibility that I loved that particular child more than God loved that child! How could I love anyone or anything more than God loved that person or thing? Impossible! "God is love..." How could I out-God God?

    John 3:16 says, "God so loved the world..." The world. Everyone. And 2 Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." Everyone. Not wanting anyone -- not one person -- to perish. I knew the Bible must be read altogether, not one verse lifted out to the exclusion of other verses. So I knew I had not found the whole answer. But I also knew that there was no way correct doctrine could avoid these verses. And I knew it was not right to add a separate meaning to them, such as "God so loved the part of the world that He planned to save...." or "not wanting anyone He has previously chosen to perish, but everyone He has chosen to come to repentance." Those qualifications were in neither verse.

    In part, my heart had already found part of the answer: God, of course, loved my children far more than I ever possibly could.

    Clearly, God's perfect will was that everyone was to be saved. Well, why were they not? The only logical answer was that there was another, or more than one, will at work.

    Then could God NOT overrule those other wills? Was God not omnipotent? Of course God is omnipotent. But the other wills were at work, because so many people go to hell. So the only option is that God is allowing the other wills to work.

    Does this match what I see? Yes. But it is very important to understand that a person's desires are not the same as his actions. Romans 8:28 clearly and unequivocally states that God controls all circumstances -- ALL -- for the benefit of those who love Him. This means that no matter what an evil man may want to do in his heart, God will control how that evil expresses itself, so that the evil man will never be able to do real damage to any one of God's children.

    For instance, all my life I have wanted to fly. I just have this thing about flying. Me, personally -- not in a plane. Maybe because my legs are bad. It is a desire somewhere deep inside me. But can I fly? Nope. Not one little bit. No wings. Besides, I'm a little heavy and my first attempt would probably give me a wing sprain even if I had them. No matter how much I want to fly, I cannot. But no one ever could stop me from the wanting. Wanting is free. My will -- my want -- is to fly. But that is not in accordance with Romans 8:28, so I cannot. Maybe later.

    Or, let's take something more common to us. I am divorced. I did not want the divorce. I loved my husband, but he had had other women for many years, and finally left us for one of them. As it turned out, he had wanted to leave me for a long time. I didn't know that. He was free to want to leave me, but God prevented him from carrying out the wishes of his heart until God had set up the situation to benefit me and the children. My husband was not allowed to do what his heart wanted to do until God's timing was right. On the other hand, I wanted desperately for my marriage to succeed. But I could not do it. Still, I was free to want. But my life could not match my desires.

    (I was married again in October of 2000, to a wonderful and godly man, Barry Setterfield)

    And if we are free to want in the daily areas of our lives, then are we not free to want salvation? Are we not free to want God? Are only the people who are predestined for salvation free to want God? And if only they are free, then the want is not free at all, because they are predetermined to want what they want. And, suppose we are really not free to want to be saved -- then all the other freedoms to want mean nothing. They are a cosmic joke. Because the most important thing of all is denied to us.

    My logic continued: how can I love God if I am not free NOT to love God? God has commanded me to love Him. In all the other commandments, they are given because I not only have a choice about what I do, but I have the natural tendency to do the wrong thing and therefore must have a commandment to NOT do the wrong thing and, instead, choose to do the right thing. There is no commandment about "Thou shalt sleep" because there is no option about sleeping. Sleep or die. There is no commandment about eating, because there is no choice about eating. Again, eat or die. Breathing is the same. But "Honor your parents." That's different. In fact, the natural tendency of all of us is to NOT honor our parents. If the natural tendency were to honor our parents, then we would not have needed the commandment, would we? The commandment would simply read something along the lines of, "Behave toward your parents as you naturally want to behave toward your parents" which, in fact, is no commandment at all. But we are so proud and ornery that God had to command us to honor the people who gave us birth and raised us! The same for stealing, lying, adultery, and worshiping idols. Our tendency is to steal, lie, commit adultery, and aim our lives toward anything BUT God. And so the commandments were given to show us what is right, so that we could choose right.

    Which is not to say we can do right. Paul makes a point in Romans 7 about our inability to do the right, no matter what we desire. In fact, Romans 7 was the chapter in the Bible that convinced me that Calvinism was wrong. How can a man want what he cannot do or achieve unless his want is, in fact, independent of his sin nature?

    God commanded us to love Him. That means two things: first, that our natural tendency is to NOT love God and, second, that there is a way open to us to go against our natural tendency and obey God in loving Him. Is love, then only a feeling? No, because we cannot control a good number of our feelings. Feelings come and go with circumstances and our good or bad behavior and what others do to us, etc. One cannot command one's feelings. But actions and decisions can be controlled. Loving is a decision. Loving is an action. Loving means caring and service and commitment. Loving means giving up of yourself for the benefit of another. We cannot benefit God per se, but we can certainly benefit His reputation here on earth -- we can certainly, as it were, carry the banner. And we can obey. "If you love me, you will obey me."

    Caring, commitment of oneself, service, obedience: we can choose to do these things. We may not be able to do them ourselves, but we can want to do them.

    There is no way I could look at myself or at the people around me and not come to the conclusion that wanting was free -- free will existed. Not actions, not performance, not obedience, not even thinking -- in none of these areas were we free. But our wants, our wills, were totally free. Free to acknowledge God as Creator and Redeemer and free to deny. Free to want to fly, free to want to be 21 years old -- finally! Or of retirement age. Free to imagine a million impossible things. Free to be proud or free to submit. Free to respond to God in our hearts, or free to turn away.

    That explained to me why Jesus said God judges the heart. What did I want? Really want?

    Still, Romans 8 talks about God predestinating people because of His foreknowledge. Foreknowledge of what? He created everyone, so He knows everyone intimately. (John 1 and Psalm 139). So the foreknowledge that led to predestination could not have been simply of the people themselves, but of something about the people. Go back to Deuteronomy 30:11-20, and pay close attention to Moses' words (I am using the NIV, but the King James has no different meaning):
    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>
    Now, what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, 'Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, 'Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?' No, the word is very near you, it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

    See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
    But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
    This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Look at that! "Now choose life...that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him." Moses was commanding the people to choose! And that choice would lead to the fulfilling of the commandment to love God.

    And then it occurred to me, all through the history of the Old Testament, one of the things God is demonstrating is that He is willing to restrain Himself many times to only reacting to man's choices. God spends thousands of years demonstrating where our choices lead. And if our choices were not free, or could not be changed, then why all the history in the Old Testament? Why the same lesson over and over again: "Choose this day whom you will serve..."?

    I began to see something I had not seen before. The entire Bible is predicated upon the supposition that man is truly free to choose.

    BUT, God knows everything even before it happens. So that is the answer to the question based upon Romans 8. What did God know ahead of time to cause Him to react in predestinating who His children would be? It was knowing who would want Him. Only want. To do anything about that want would always be impossible for every man. For there is only one name under heaven by which we must be saved. Jesus firmly declared "I am the way ... no man comes to the Father but through me." We are saved by grace and grace alone, so that no one can boast. But God allowed us to want Him. God allowed us to choose to obey or disobey, although the obedience itself must be empowered through the blessed Holy Spirit, as we are absolutely helpless to perform any righteous act in and of ourselves. But we can want to.

    In Matthew 7:17, Jesus says, "If anyone chooses to do God's will..." We can choose. Maybe we cannot act. The thief on the cross was totally incapable of doing more than saying a few words. But he made the choice. And God, who knows all men's hearts, honored the choice and empowered him to say a few more words by way of testimony. And those few dying words that God gave him and allowed him to say have touched every Christian in the world who has ever had a copy of those words to read or who has heard them preached.

    Calvinists say that if you do not believe in God's sovereign choice, uninfluenced by anything a man may think or do, then you believe in salvation by works. That is not true. There is a deep difference between a man's desire and his actions. Paul could not have made that more clear than in Romans 7. It is only after we are born again of the Spirit that we are given the power to act in accordance with our desire to love and obey God. In one way, an unregenerate person and a redeemed soul are exactly the same: in and of themselves they are powerless to do any good deed. In fact, the unredeemed soul is even powerless to do all the evil he may wish to do -- he can only do that evil God will permit and that will, in some way, benefit God's children and bring glory to God. A redeemed person is really no more capable of doing good deeds than an unredeemed person EXCEPT that the Holy Spirit, dwelling within the redeemed person, empowers that person to obey the Father and thus become more and more the image of Jesus Christ.

    And this is what predestination is -- not the predestination to believe. But what the Bible is talking about, over and over, is the predestination of every believer to be fully saved and fully transformed to the image of Christ by His work and grace alone.

    It is very possible and extremely logical to say a man is free to want God but still powerless to do anything about his own salvation.

    But God knew. He knew the hearts before the hearts were born. He knew who would choose to want Him. He knew who would take a look at their own person and feel deeply sick and ashamed. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those that do hunger and thirst [deeply want] for righteousness, for they shall be filled...." And so, as God showed us through the entire Bible, He responded to those who wanted Him even before they were created!

    In the writings and the sermons I have heard from Calvinists, I have never come across one pastor who starts the Romans 8:28-30 salvation doctrine from the beginning of the verse. They always start with "...who have been called according to his purpose." But that is not the beginning of the sentence. The beginning sets everything up: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Those who love him. Those who choose life (as Moses said) and thus are able to fulfill the commandment to love. And God, knowing who would be who in all the future ages, called those who would love him, in accordance with his purpose. We cannot even love him except that he loved us first. We can't do anything right. But we can want to. We can choose life. And then we will be empowered to love Him. And then, ultimately the cross and, after, glory. His glory. But it all starts with the choice. Not the action, which we cannot do, but simply the heart's desire.

    The whole Bible seems to say the same thing. God does not want one to perish. He sent His only beloved Son for the world "that whoever believes on Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." We can want to believe. "Lord, I believe -- help thou mine unbelief!" We are so trapped when we can only want the impossible.

    And that is why I love God so much! Through His power, through His Holy Spirit, He caused the impossible to become possible for me! I CAN love Him! I CAN obey Him! I CAN serve Him! As Steve Green sang in one of his recent songs, "Any strength I have, Any good I do, Comes from the life I found in You; so in all I am, And all I do, I give the glory to You!"

    We cannot "choose this day" if we do not have free choice. We cannot love if we do not have the freedom and the ability to refuse to love. Obedience means nothing if we cannot choose to disobey and, in fact, obedience becomes doubly precious because our natural tendency is to disobey. Therefore it is only when Jesus, through His Holy Spirit in us, enables us to obey that our desire can find fulfillment in the gift of His power.

    THAT is why we work out our salvation in fear and trembling. Because through Him we have everything we need on this earth to be more than conquerors. But we also, then, have the capacity to shame His name by not obeying, not paying attention to Him, our Lord. That should cause fear, that we should cause shame to His name instead of bringing glory to it through our joyful, but humble obedience to His will.

    Before, I could only want salvation -- somehow, someway to be better than what I was. A blind groping in a fog of ignorance, but the desire for something called beautiful, something called changed and improvement. It was the beginning of repentance.

    When I first saw the mess that I was inside, that was my first choice: I could make excuses for myself or I could hate myself. Forget self-esteem. The safest way is to call white white, black black, sin sin, and good unknown. I hated what I was. Not that I didn't try to make up excuses for my behavior and my whole personality, but the honest truth is that when I saw myself spiritually, I sort of wanted to throw up. IF I had suppressed the truth with more wicked behavior, and in the process lived according to the excuses I tried, then there would have been no hope for me. Ultimately, God would have given me over to the lie I had chosen. Paul explains in Romans 1 and 2. But thank God I had a father who refused to compromise with the truth so that, after a youth of increasingly skilled lying, when my life depended on my acknowledging truth inside my heart about myself, I came down on the side of the truth. I stunk. Of course, there were enough other people helping me along to that judgment so that I would have had to work really hard to miss it, but God knew I needed a pretty good shove. And He is always faithful to give us everything we need -- ALL of us.

    That was my first choice: about myself. To admit I was truly awful and to want to change.

    But I couldn't change. Not by myself. I had one more choice to make. Did I want to try to change myself, or was I willing to give up everything and put myself in the hands of the God who created me? Which? That is the second free choice. Would I submit to Jesus Christ?

    Yes, God knew what I would choose. But He did not force me to choose it.

    I don't remember the point at which God would have been able to tell the angels, "This is the moment for her, she is a child of Mine now." The reason is because, since I was a little girl, I believed what was taught in church. But none of the churches I went to ever told me that loving God was the same as obeying Him. Obedience was never mentioned, nor was repentance. But I believed. So was I a Christian? I can tell you two things: first, I was as "Christian" as I knew how to be (which was not terrific), and, second, God kept me alive so that I would not die before I found out about obedience and being a servant. I cannot tell you other people's stories. I can only tell you my own.

    I do remember at Hope Center in Pleasant Hill when a song was taught to us entitled, "Make Me a Servant." God used that song to teach me about obedience. I remember one Sunday singing that song and suddenly meaning it with all my heart. Please, God, do something with me to make me as I ought to be. I was free to want that, although I was totally incapable of accomplishing my desire.

    God answered yes.

    And when that happened, then I gave up my own will. Now His will is operating in me, becoming one with my mind. It's a slow process, but I had to pray "Not my will, but Thine be done" for the very reason that I did/do have a will contrary to my Father's. And so that prayer assumes an urgency no Calvinist can ever comprehend. I give up my will to God. The freedom He gave me I give back. That's what submission means. Submission has no meaning if I do not have a will with which I can oppose God -- the ability to refuse to submit.

    The whole Bible, again, is predicated on the fact that God has allowed us free will -- the freedom to want whatever we choose to want. Does that take away from His sovereignty? Not at all. It was His choice to do that, and it continues to be His choice to operate everything as He desires. The fact that He gave us both the opportunity and the ability to oppose Him in no way reduces His power -- but rather demonstrates to us how much above our ability to comprehend Him He really is. We can only vaguely imagine someone whose will is so much superior to ours that our various wills are no threat to Him at all. We can only vaguely imagine a power so great that nothing we do or want to do can deter it in the slightest. And we cannot at all imagine a love so great that He was willing to BECOME sin for us, change places with us, BE SEPARATED FROM HIS OWN IDENTITY FOR US, die for us -- do everything for us -- and still allow us to choose against Him! How can that be? We are so weak, so grossly ignorant, and still such insolent beings. But He loves us. That we cannot comprehend to any degree at all, we can only experience it.

    "For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then...." But then we will know, we will see, we will understand. And we will have all eternity to learn to know Him better and love Him more. Just because we wanted to, and He allowed us to want that and then He responded to our desire -- the desire He knew we would have since before the beginning of time.

    This is the only doctrine which does not ignore any part of the Bible's teaching. This is the only doctrine that pulls it all together.

    My love for my children is but a very dim reflection, or possibly overflow from my own life, of God's love for them and for me. God loves far more than I could ever comprehend -- His very nature is love.
     
  9. Helen

    Helen
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    part II of "Calvinism and Me"


    And it is only because we truly have free will -- the freedom to want -- that, in the long run, no man has an excuse. If man was not free to choose, free to want, then it would not matter how clearly God showed His nature in creation; and therefore every man, woman, or child who ended up in hell would have an excellent excuse: "I never had a chance at heaven." It would be the cosmic cruelty -- to blame people and judge them for something they were ultimately helpless to influence or do anything about. Even we, poor wretches that we are, know better than that.


    The Calvinists say we just cannot understand it. Isaiah disagrees. So does Moses.

    [quote["Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord.
    "Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be white as snow;
    though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.
    If you are willing and obedient,
    you will eat the best from the land;
    But if you resist and rebel,
    you will be devoured by the sword."
    For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:18-20)
    [/quote]

    In other words, reasoning with the Lord means you can understand enough for salvation -- and this is followed by IF you are willing [meaning IF YOU WANT] and obedient... God directly associates reasoning with choice and choice with obedience (and therefore with love: "If you love Me you will obey Me.").

    And Moses said, as I quoted above, that God's word is not too hard to comprehend nor too far away. We CAN understand. The Bible says so. We CAN choose. The Bible commands us to. And we CAN obey when God honors our free desire to be His, to become a servant.

    That is what "I believe, help Thou mine unbelief" means! The man was saying, "I know who you are. I believe this truth. But I am helpless to act on it if you do not help me! Lord, help me follow through. Do it through me, Lord, because I cannot do it myself, but, yes, I BELIEVE!"

    When Jesus said (John 6:37) "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away." what was He saying except the same thing? God knows the desire in each man's heart, and the broken-hearted, repentant sinners who want righteousness (which is only found in God/Jesus Christ) will be given to Jesus Christ -- and none of them who go to Jesus will ever be turned away. This shows the two step process. God gives the repentant sinner to Jesus. These people God knows will freely choose Jesus, go to Jesus -- and Jesus will never tell one of them "No." Never. That is His promise.

    In conclusion, there are three phrases in the Bible which MUST be put together without disagreement if we are to understand what happens. First, God is not willing that one person should go to hell. That is His perfect will. That means that every man, at some time in his life, is presented with a conscious understanding to some degree of God's holy and powerful nature through creation. This is stated in Romans 1. Every man is given the opportunity to compare himself with the glory of creation and see how far short he comes. Then the man must choose to repudiate himself or make excuses for himself.

    Second, many are called. Those who take a good honest look at themselves and hate what they see are summoned by God. The Calvinists say God's irresistable grace makes it impossible for any man to refuse this summons. Jesus Himself says differently when He adds the third of the three phrases, "But few are chosen."

    In other words, repentance is not enough. Just like John's baptism was not enough. It is never enough to turn away from something ugly and bad, one must then turn toward something beautiful and good. And so God summons all repentant sinners to Jesus Christ. Why don't all people who repent go to Jesus Christ? Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 7:10 (and in the entire discourse surrounding this verse). "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." If a man is sorry about who he is only because he does not like the pain he is experiencing, or the unpopularity, or the lack of success, then he will never answer God's summons to Jesus Christ. Although I must add here that many churches seem to use the name Jesus Christ to attract these very people with the promise that Jesus will solve all their earthly problems and add riches on top of that. So then these people think they are Christians, but they are not following Jesus -- they never submitted to Him. But godly sorrow means that your sorrow is centered on God -- you have compared what you are with what He has shown you about Himself through creation and, hopefully, through a good presentation of the gospel message. And you have crumbled inside, realizing you deserve hell and there seems to be nothing you can do about it. Both types of repentant sinners "repent." Both types are summoned by God to "Follow Me." But only the sinner whose repentance was caused by godly sorrow can follow. Only that person will have any way of understanding his own helplessness and be willing to turn to follow Christ, the only Right, the only Good -- the Shepherd.

    God does not want any to perish, so all will be confronted, at some point, with their own sinfulness and rot as compared to what is revealed about God in their lives.

    Choice one: accept himself and make excuses for his behavior? Or feel sick with shame and pain inside? Which?

    Many are called. As many as want to turn away from their own rot and sin are summoned by God. But His grace is not irresistable, for a good many do resist it, preferring to follow one of men's religions or formulas for success rather than submit.

    Choice two: Try to improve myself or give up and put myself unconditionally in God's hands? Which?

    Few are chosen. Only Jesus is the way. Only when a person (meaning an adult at this point, as the relationship between God and children and infants and the profoundly retarded is something else altogether) believes (before knowledge of Jesus Christ) in God's promise to reconcile men to Himself through His own work and through His own plan or (after knowledge of Jesus Christ) in the fulfilled promise of Jesus Christ who became sin for us, dying and was raised on the third day, for all time conquering sin and death, and giving His Holy Spirit to all who submit and give up their lives to Him -- only then is the person truly saved, and therefore chosen.

    In the long run, the Bible indicates Jesus' flock is small -- at least compared to all the people ever created. And yet we may take comfort that when John was given his wonderful vision of heaven, there were more than he could count or see of the redeemed.

    There are many other verses, many other indications in the Bible of God's gift to us of the freedom to want, and therefore the freedom to love. But after a year-and-a-half of struggle with the Calvinist doctrine of "double predestination" I strongly feel the Bible itself totally repudiates it not only in the verses themselves but in the entire intent of the Bible itself.


    November, 1995

    A couple of other thoughts. About the time each of my children was four years old, I started allowing them to make some decisions. The first, invariably, was, "Would you like to stay up from your nap and go to bed early, or would you rather stay up late with daddy and mommy tonight but take a nap now?" I KNOW WITHOUT A DOUBT WHAT EVERY ONE OF MY CHILDREN WILL CHOOSE! I give them free choice, but I know, without exception, that the first choice of every one of those four-year-olds will be "I don't want to take a nap." Then, of course, they learn the results of that decision. It is the beginning of a long and hard road of learning to take responsibility for one's own decisions and learning to choose wisely. But, still, I know what they will say first. Do I cause them to say it? Do I present the choice in such a way as to "load the question?" No, I don't. I think that is a good picture of God and us. God knows without a doubt what each of us will choose, but that in no way influences our freedom to choose.

    From the way I read the Bible, it appears to me that after creation was completed, God, for the most part, restricts Himself to responding to man. Starting with the forbidden fruit, on through the first murder, the total rebellion of men (culminating in the Deluge), the tower of Babel, etc. etc., God shows his character and credentials in history, in prophecy, in revelation -- primarily in the framework of reacting to men. We raise our children similarly. It is no wonder Jesus taught us to call Him "Our Father."

    This, by the way, explains the power of prayer. Can we get God to do something for us just by praying? Yes and no. He wanted to do it, so, in that way, our prayer didn't matter. But, because He seems to have restricted Himself primarily to responding to us, our prayer becomes vitally important: we have done that to which He has promised us He will respond. As well, of course, as establishing such an intimate relationship with Him in the meantime.

    The one point I will concede is that, because God foreknew each person's heart, couldn't He have created each person with a heart to choose Him, since He has told us He is not willing for one person to perish? At this point I find myself stopping, willing to wait for heaven to understand more. Maybe our Father has given someone else the wisdom to go past this point, but I don't think that someone is me.

    What I do know is that it would probably require a computer to count the number of "if....then" clauses in the Bible. God did not tell the Israelites, "when you disobey me, then....." but, rather, He always said, "IF you disobey me, then...." "If" means a choice is presumed. Not the power, skill, or even the wisdom to follow through -- that is never part of the whole thing apart from God. Balaam wanted to curse the Jews, but couldn't. Would God judge his words or his heart? Jesus tells us "heart." God did everything else.

    The freedom to want which God gave us (which is implicit in being created in His image) has NOTHING to do with salvation by works and in no way takes away from the sovereignty of God. The free will -- the freedom to want -- God gave us is the absolutely necessary ingredient to allow us to love God and obey Him. For if the only alternative were true -- if our will was not free, but "programmed" into each of us -- then we could not truly love or obey God. We would only be humanoid robots responding to the programs built into us. God has told us He created us in His image. Freedom is part of that.
     
  10. John Wells

    John Wells
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    (Posted prior to reading part II)
    Greetings in the Lord,

    I really appreciate your lengthy reply. I sensed early into it where you were going and said to myself, "you know what, I think we're going to agree." Then I got to this:

    "But God knew. He knew the hearts before the hearts were born. He knew who would choose to want Him. He knew who would take a look at their own person and feel deeply sick and ashamed."

    I AGREE! And it agrees with what I wrote, although you went much deeper and more personal. I don't call myself a Calvinist. Some of my beliefs might label me as Calvinistic, but I believe one way or the other about things because of what God and the Holy Spirit lays on my heart as I study God's Word. I don't follow Spurgeon or MacArthur but rather God's fervent and effectual calling as He reveals things to me. I do highly admire these men though!

    And I think Spurgeon agrees also. He went on to address non-saved people in his sermon, admonishing them to make the choice now! FOREKNOWLEDGE is the biggest word in the "election" language. Your way of looking at and expressing it is a little different from mine - kinda like is the glass half full or half empty!

    Of the 6+ billion people alive today, among the unsaved, God knows who is going to exercise their choice wisely and surrender to Him. After all, their name was written in the Lamb's Book of Life before the creation of the world. But that also means that because of foreknowledge, there are those people who's loved ones are begging and pleading with them to seek God and they never will because God has foreknown their final choice before the creation of the world. This completely reconciles with my earlier post, and with Spurgeon, and with many Calvinists, even if they see the glass as half empty compared to our half full notion.

    Many rebuke this "election" idea with, "Why should we evangelize then?" Because we don't know who is and who isn't named in the Lamb's Book of Life! God wants His gospel preached to those "who will chose Him" and to those "who will reject Him" equally, that He may be glorified and magnified in all the earth!

    God bless you Helen,
    John

    [ February 04, 2002: Message edited by: John Wells ]
     
  11. Aaron

    Aaron
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    I am agreed this is not the place to debate Calvinism.

    I have a question for you, though, Helen.

    When does one's will become free, when he is a slave to sin, or when he is a slave to Christ?
     
  12. Helen

    Helen
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    Doesn't any slave of a harsh master WANT to be free?

    But part of being a slave to Christ meant giving up my own will.

    "Not my will, but THINE, be done."

    That also shows that there was a human will in Christ that was actually opposed to God's holy will. THAT would have been a tough one! No wonder angels came and ministered to Him there...
     
  13. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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    Yes, friends, this is not the forum for this debate. Let's move on in our study and let our priestly readers find their own view of the scriptures and God's plan for salvation. There is plenty of debate in the forums that are not as peaceful as this one. [​IMG]
     
  14. John Wells

    John Wells
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    Actually, I had hoped for more views/opinions to be openly debated in this forum as we work through the Bible than we've had so far. This has been healthy, iron sharpening iron, and Helen and I appreciate one another even when we don't totally agree. ;)

    Those who are following along, please bring up questions so that we can all grow in Christ!
     
  15. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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