A Letter To Oldest Son

 

Family letter in 1920 2

(FreeImages.com/ascom)

 

Dear Eldest Son,

You and Daddy are away this weekend.  I promised you that while you are gone, I would work on a blog just for you.

When I think of writing a blog to you, I wonder how I can summarize all that you mean to me and these past eight years we have shared as mother and son.  I don’t know if I am skilled enough for the challenge, but I know that all you care about is knowing how much you are loved and how special we see you as.  So, here it goes…

Precious Son, you have changed my life unequivocally.  A little over eight years ago, you redefined me by adding a new synonym to my list: that of “Mom,” “Mommy,” or “Mother.”  Before becoming a mom, I could only dream and imagine what it would be like to be a mother.  I always loved babies so I anticipated having one of my own.  I also had always enjoyed and worked well with children so I had dreams of having that same close relationship with my children.

Then, you came.  No dream could compare to the reality of holding my very own child for the first time in my arms.  I imagined crying when I would see you for the first time.  (I cry when I watch other new moms hold their babies for the first time.)  Your Daddy cried when he saw you for the first time.  Me?  I didn’t cry.  I didn’t cry at your Daddy’s and my wedding either — even though our wedding and your birth and the births of your siblings were my most precious earthly moments.  I think my emotions ran too deep to even express themselves in tears.  I think I was simply too overwhelmed and overjoyed.  The tears would come later…

Tears or no tears, I was amazed, overwhelmed, in awe!  There I held within my arms my very own baby, my very own flesh and blood!  You were so perfect, so beautiful!  Your Daddy and I just wanted to hold you and hold you.  We didn’t want you out of our sight for even a few minutes.

Within a few weeks, you were smiling and laughing.  That made it even more special!  You and I developed a very close bond.  I could tell that there was a special connection that you sensed too.  I remember dancing with you in the kitchen while special music was playing (a lullaby with your name in it) and looking into your eyes and seeing this look of recognition, this look of contentment and joy in your eyes.  You knew you were lovedI remember feeling so completely in love with you and thinking that I couldn’t imagine being happier.

The months passed, and you grew.  We played together, read together, cuddled together, and just simply adored being together.  Life as a mother was simply amazing!  I don’t remember you being unpleasant or me feeling remotely annoyed at you.

Life has a way of “shaking things up a bit,” and it did with the birth of your brother.  At first, you didn’t think you liked him much.  You liked him a little, except when Mommy had to feed him and you wanted Mommy’s attention.  Then, there was a lot of frustration and tears on both of our parts.  I didn’t know how to nurse your brother and keep you happy at the same time.  That was a difficult time for both of us.  Thankfully, it passed — especially once your brother started to crawl.  Once he started to crawl, you saw him as a play-mate.  You loved racing him around the dining room table (you would crawl with him).  We fit into a groove then, and I once again felt that life was absolutely wonderful and ideal.  I loved having two sons, and you guys mostly loved each other too.

At a young age, we began to see your personality emerge.  As a newborn, you were demanding.  I remember how you would get so angry when you were hungry that you couldn’t nurse at first.  I would have to calm you down, and then you could nurse.  Your personality seemed to mellow though, and you became a very pleasant and happy baby.

Those who knew you as a toddler would describe you as very personable, lively, and with natural leadership skills.  You were thought of as athletic also.  At two, you could kick the soccer ball quite well.  You were very confident as a little guy.  In the nursery, you could send everyone into fits of laughter by the funny things you would do.  You knew how to entertain.  You were also very conscious of what people thought of you — even as just a 12 1/2-month-old.  I remember how I had you dressed in this adorable outfit for Christmas (bow-tie and golfer hat with dress shirt and pants).  Two teen boys sat behind us and were laughing at you; they thought you were cute and funny.  You thought they were making fun of you so you glared at them and then slid down in the pew so they couldn’t see you.

You talked well but then regressed when your brother came.  Finally at 2 1/2 years of age, your vocabulary really took off.  All of a sudden, you were talking 5 and 6-word sentences.

You were also very tall and still are.  You have been in the 96th percentile in height for several years now.  The doctors predict you’ll be at least 6+ feet tall once you are an adult.

You are now the big brother of two brothers and one sister.  Daddy and Mommy have more demands on our time, but we still try to make time for each of you and to let you know how special you are to us.

You love to draw, write stories, play outside, read books or to be read too.  You love to build with Legos, play make-believe games, play Wii, watch movies, be chased, play sword-fight, build things, and play soccer.  You are an active boy, but you can also be calm when you are doing a quieter activity.  You understand spiritual matters and can converse on deep subjects.  You do your best in school and get good grades.  You try to please your teachers and care about what others think of you.  You can be tough but also sensitive.  You dislike change but like adventures.  You love scary rides but still love to be hugged.

These eight years haven’t been easy for you or us.  It’s hard learning to obey and to do what is right.  It’s hard learning to be selfless and patient.  When you live in a larger family, our true natures come out more.  That can be good as it can cause those rough edges to hopefully be worn off sooner than they would be otherwise.  It does create more challenges within the home environment though.

Your Daddy and I aren’t perfect, and we have let you down at times.  We thank you for your patience in working with us as we learn how to become better parents and as we learn to grow in our obedience to God and in doing what is right.  You see, Will, life is all about learning and growing.  It’s all about learning that the best way is in obeying God.  It’s also seeing that God loves each of us individually.  He loves you personally and intimately.  He desires for you to have only the very best.  He wants you to experience the fullest measure of life, liberty, and love — found only in and through Him.

W1, we are so thankful that you made a profession of faith!  Your Daddy and I continue to pray for you to grow as a Child of God.

W1, if the one thing you learn (now that you are saved) is how much God loves you and you love Him in return, your Daddy and I are completely at peace and content.  We don’t need to worry about anything else.  Those two things will sustain you and preserve you through anything.  So, Will, that is what we pray for you — that you would know God and His love for you and that you would love him intimately in return.

W1, there are so many challenges in this life.  So much suffering!  I wish I could protect you from it all.  From my Mommy stand-point, I would choose a peaceable, pleasant, prosperous life for you.  I also recognize that an easy life can often produce an “easy” faith.  In other words, our faith grows, our character develops when we do have to suffer some difficulties.  Challenges work our “spiritual muscles.”  I know how much you love the story of Eric Liddell.  He was quite an amazing runner, but it was his faith that “ran” even better.

Precious Son of my heart, can I remind you that you win, when you choose to do the right thing and to do it wellYou are in a race — the race of lifeAny race that has a valuable reward at the end requires dedication, sacrifice, focus, perseverance, endurance.  No one wins a race by sitting on the side-lines.  No one wins a race by watching the other runners.  No one wins a race by giving up as soon as they break into a sweat.  No one wins a race by dropping out when their muscles begin to tire.  No one wins a race by living a life of comfort and ease.  No one wins a race by quitting when they lose their first practice.

W1, I have heard of a simple but profound speech by Winston Churchill.  He said, “Never give up.  Never give up.  Never give up!  Never give up!  NEVER GIVE UP!”  Son, life is going to be challenging.  You’ll produce tears and sweat by the buckets in this life.  You will feel your physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental muscles strain and cry out for relief.  You will feel yourself falling, and you won’t want to get back up.  Others will mock or criticize you.  You will be tempted to believe the lies that you are a failure and not special.  The truth is you are — not just because you are my son (and that makes you very special) — because you are God’s child and He has incredibly special plans for your life.

Precious Son, lift that head of yours, throw back those shoulders, open those beautiful eyes of yours and see what God has planned for you.  Breathe the life God has given to you.  Take hold of His plan for your life, and run, Son!  Run well.  When you fall, get up again.  When you fall again, get up again.  Son, don’t give up!  Never give up!  Never give up!  NEVER GIVE UP!  You have a legacy, a heritage that no one can take from you.  So, run your race, Son.  Run it well, and in the end, you will hear, “Well done thou, good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of the Lord!”

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Opening Your Home Also Means Opening Your Heart

I just read a blog this morning that I just loved.  It was exactly what I needed — an extra reminder — of what is important to keep in mind when preparing for the holidays.  The link to the blog is:

lisajobaker.com/2012/11/entertaining-in-a-small-house

I started to write a note with the blog when preparing to post it to my Facebook account.  My note became so long that I decided that I should just write a quick blog instead.  After-all, this blog is a journal of my life’s journey.

So here is my note plus a little extra:

Perfect for me today (referencing the blog post)!  I was just thinking about the clutter on top of our computer hutch: stuff I am trying to sell and windshield wipers that I am not sure if my husband needs to install or have for warranty information (guess I should ask).

Then, there’s all those finger-prints and dirt on window-panes.  I haven’t cleaned most of our windows — mostly because they are very old — can’t even open some of them and/or because the storm windows are down and difficult to raise.  In order to clean old windows, I would need to climb on a ladder two stories up.  Not my cup of tea!

Then, there are the drippy faucets, peeling paint on my old tub and sink, there are the rips in my couches with stuffing showing.  Okay, so I hide the tears as best as possible with sofa cushions and blanket throws.  It’s these circumstances that I often look out that make me want to close my home and my heart to people.  Big sigh.

Taking a deep breath, I recognize that a clean home does not equal a welcoming home.  The enjoyment people receive from visiting my home is not found in the level of my cleanliness.  Sure, it needs to be clean enough so they feel comfortable sitting on my couch and having their kids play on my floor.  A feeling of being welcome though is found more in the way I share my heart and home then in the pristine condition of my home.  It’s allowing people to see that love and friendship can be found in less than perfect surroundings when they are shared with an open heart.

So, today as I scramble around trying to do some final cleaning for today’s and then tomorrow’s company, I am going to make it a goal to laugh at the areas that aren’t perfect and to enjoy the happy chaos that comes when I welcome an additional 20 people into my home.

May my home reflect Christ’s love: how He came — not to a mansion but to a stable, chose His disciples — not from the elite — but from the common working class, died not for the righteous but for the sinner, slept on the ground — not in a palace bed, didn’t give political speeches but spoke to the eternal needs of people, and didn’t embrace class distinctions but demonstrated that all people are equally valuable to Him.

 

She Melts My Heart

(Photo taken by Becca Davis Photography.)

I absolutely adore all my children!  Okay, some days I don’t feel like I like them as much.  If anyone or anything would threaten my children with harm though — even at their worst moments — I would gladly risk my own life to rescue them.  My “mother-bear” claws would unfurl, and watch out!

I was so excited when each of our boys entered our lives!  I treasured every minute of holding their sweet little bodies in my arms as babies.  I loved watching them do their funny things and say their cute stuff!  As we jokingly would say to one another, “You’re so sweet I could eat you for dinner!”  I thought life was absolutely wonderful with three little boys.  And it was!  I loved building train track configurations, Lego contraptions, throwing balls, pushing them on riding toys, curling up to read books, and cuddle time before bed.

In my heart of hearts though I always wondered what it would be like to have a daughter also — to share those moments that only mothers and daughters can do best: the tea parties, boy talks, shopping, painting nails, fixing long hair, cooking meals together, etc…  I had enjoyed a close relationship with my sisters and mom growing up, and I wanted to experience that too with my daughter — the comradery of women.

When I found out I was having a girl, well I was just a little excited, to say the least.  Even the boys got in on the excitement, talking about how she was going to be their princess and wear princess dresses.

Then, the princess entered our lives!  We dressed her in the prettiest outfits, fixed her hair with bows and flowers, and saw pink and purple for the first time in our house.  After three boys, I was ready for a little pink and purple.

The little princess is now 17 months old.  She has warmed her way into all of our hearts, melted them really.  Well, her brothers might disagree at times when she knocks over their train track configurations and Lego houses.  We all laugh though when she tries to dance to music and uses a flashlight with the wide part underneath her mouth to pretend to sing on a mic.  We smile when she sees a brother crying and immediately walks over to rub their heads and pat their backs.  We clap when she helps Mommy unload the dishwasher and puts some silverware on the table.  We all hold our noses when she needs a diaper change and plops down on our laps.  We laugh as she giggles when we swing her in the air and twirl her in our arms — that is when Mommy and Daddy do that.

Our little girl has warmed her way into our hearts.  She is a ray of sunshine, pure delight!  What a gift God gave to us in her!

Letter To The Future Bride

(Picture was taken by Becca Davis Photography.)

It is a special privilege to be able to write a letter to you in reference to, Lord-willing, your future role as a wife!

I have enjoyed almost 10 1/2 years of married life presently.  I hope this is just the first of many decades that I have to spend with my husband!

Per your request, I will share some of the lessons I have learned in a decade of married life:

Be ready to forgive 70 X 7 + more.  Don’t keep a record of wrongs.  “Don’t let the sun go down upon your wrath.”

Always honor your husband before others by how you speak of him, how you speak to him, and when you speak.

Practice the art of listening.

Respond with humor whenever appropriate.

Be willing to say “I am sorry,” without casting blame.

Avoid complaining.  Seek to edify and encourage.

Make your home an environment of rest both in body, mind, and soul.

Make your husband happy to come home.

Honor your husband by how you take care of yourself.  (You represent your husband.)  A wife who neglects herself may speak of disrespect towards her husband or inattention on his part towards herself.

Honor your husband before any children God gives you.  Show a unified front to your children.

Pray for and with your husband on a daily basis.

Frequently write your husband special notes of encouragement, putting them in his lunch or special places in your home.

Meet the physical needs of your husband.  Don’t view them as an obligatory burden but as a way to minister to his needs.

Be grateful and express it.

Have devotions as a couple and eventually as a family.

Discuss Scriptural questions with your husband.

Be loyal to your husband above any other relationship outside of God.

Be willing to seek Godly counsel, if your husband is truly living in a seriously un-Biblical way.

Gain your husband’s consent before making plans that affect him or the function of the family.

Be content.

Don’t be wasteful in your spending.  Stick to agreed upon budgets.

Don’t compare your husband to other men.

Avoid any inappropriate interactions with anyone of the opposite gender.

Be transparent and accountable to your husband with any male friendships/acquaintances that you might have had prior to marriage.  He should have full access to any communication.  Make sure your husband approves of any and all communication.

Avoid any appearance of evil (e.g. flirting with others, lunches with a coworker of the opposite sex.  Group situations are okay).

Dress modestly so you preserve your body as a gift for his eyes alone.

Avoid habits that are irritating to him.

Make dates a priority.

Share a mutual hobby.

Try to make meals that he finds palatable.

Create your own holiday traditions together.

Dress to please him.

Greet him with affection when he comes home from work or when he calls.

Don’t “dump” on him all the negative occurrences from your day.  Wait to share until later in the evening.

Keep his tastes in mind when decorating your home – make it mutually pleasing to both of you.

Take turns picking a movie to watch together.

Play games together, but don’t be a sore loser or an arrogant winner.

Joke with your husband.

Laugh together a lot.

Flirt with your husband – especially within the privacy of your home and room.

Dress sexy when in the privacy of your room.

Don’t be overly conscious of your body when sharing it with him.

View and treat sex with honor and as a gift.

Let him comfort you during child-bearing.  Don’t blame him for your pain.

Don’t use tears as a form of manipulation.

Try to avoid emotional tirades.  A man doesn’t know what to do with those.

If you need your husband to be more sensitive to you, gently tell him what would mean a lot (e.g. “Right now, I just need a hug from you, honey.”)

Take off the “rose-colored glasses” before marriage.  Put them on afterwards.

Only marry a man who will be compatible with these points.

Be flexible.  He might want to do something different than you had planned for the day or evening.

Keep yourself pure prior to marriage.  Present yourself as a gift to him on your wedding night.

Get your parents’ advice on the man you wish to marry.

Seriously consider any warnings your godly friends and family members may give.

Heed any inner cautions you have regarding a potential spouse.  It is better to end a courtship or engagement then a marriage!

Before marrying, pray if this is not just the right one but the right timing.  Some headaches in marriages could have been avoided if more time for maturation had been allowed.

Don’t haste to be wed.  The dating/courtship time is to be savored.

Keep an engagement as short as reasonably possible to avoid undue temptation.

Make sure you have had time to pursue any ministry opportunities God has called you to prior to marriage.  Once you are married, your focus will be on serving your husband rather than others.  (You can serve others together, but the opportunities are different.)

Get as much applicable training as possible before marriage so that you can bring those life skills and lessons into better serving your family.  Time and resources will probably be more limited once you are a new couple starting out.

Be resourceful in meeting your family’s needs.

Don’t be selfish with your time and attention in serving your family.

Serve with a cheerful attitude.

I may think of more, but this is the list I have for now.  This is an impossible list in and of yourself.  You and I both need the Lord’s grace and Spirit to help us actually live this in our daily lives.  We will sin at times and not fulfill these guidelines.  When we do, we need to humbly ask for forgiveness and then start again.

Let me leave you with this quote:

“If the manner of life under grace is superhuman, so, also, the provided enablement is supernatural, and is limitless as the infinite power of God …. Too much emphasis cannot be placed on the fact that, since God has proposed the impossible rule of life and provided the sufficient Spirit, the believer’s responsibility is thereby changed from being a struggle of the flesh to being a reliance on the Spirit. Grace thus introduces a new problem for the believer’s life which is wholly foreign to every aspect of the law. It is the problem of the adjustment of the heart to the holy presence of the Spirit, and of maintaining the unbroken attitude of dependence on Him.” ~ Lewis Sperry Chafer

How Pro-Life Am I Really?

(The picture was taken by Becca Davis Photography.)

What does it mean to be “pro-life”?  How pro-life am I really?

Being pro-life to me means that I view all life as valuableI believe human life as holding the most value of all living organisms.  I believe this because God established man’s dominion over all creatures in the Garden of Eden and because God said that man was made in the image of God.  No other creature has been given that honor.

Since we have dominion over the rest of creation, what does that mean?  Strength and power do not mean abuse.  They mean authority and responsibility.  We are accountable to God to deal responsibly with the rest of life, to not abuse that which He has placed under our care.  We are caretakers.  We use responsibly — not abuse negligently.  God created the rest of Creation for our enjoyment.  Therefore, we need to cultivate, preserve, protect, use where needed, and enjoy.  We are to be wise stewards.

What do I view life as?  What does it mean to have life? 

Webster-Merriam Dictionary defines life as this:

“: livelihood 8 : a vital or living being; specifically : person <many lives were lost in the disaster>
9 : an animating and shaping force or principle 10 : spirit, animation <saw no life in her dancing> 11
: the form or pattern of something existing in reality <painted from : the period of existence (as of a subatomic particle) — compare half-life 14: a property (as resilience or elasticity) of an inanimate substance or object resembling the animate quality of a living being 15: living beings (as of a particular kind or environment) <forest life>”Life therefore is when something/an organism came into being — began to function with life.  Life begins at the beginning of that thing or organism.  The beginning is the beginning.

What does that mean then when it comes to protecting life in this form?  Does it hold as much value?  Do we judge a form of life by its functionality?  Is its worth based on how functional the organism is to us?  If that is the case, the worth of an object is vulnerable to interpretation.  Could we also become vulnerable to interpretation?  What if our functionality diminishes?  What if we lose some function of our physical abilities or even mental abilities?  Has our value decreased because our function has decreased?  Do we determine the worth of an organism, or does the Creator of that organism (God)?  If so, it is our job then to be responsible caretakers, handling the most delicate and vulnerable with the most care.

What if I am inconvenienced in this process? Don’t I have a choice to continue a pregnancy or to terminate a pregnancy since this organism resides in my own body? Don’t I have a right over my own body?

Science/biology can be debated back and forth on this matter.  It’s been done too frequently to count.  Everyone wants to debate that if a fetus is dependent on you for sustenance, you can rid yourself of it at any time.  Thus, the debate continues over what substitutes independent living.  The argument is held that if the organism is not independent from you, you have the right to eliminate or preserve the (living) organism as you choose.

First of all, we are not debating a dead thingThe debate is over a living organism.  Establishing that basic concept raises a different point.

If this is a living organism, we must then establish if it is a separate organism from its host (the mother).  Medical science establishes this fact.  The fetus has a different heart rate, different blood type, and different gender often from its host (mother).  It is obvious this is a separate identity.  Just taking the fetus’ DNA would reveal a separate DNA from its host (mother). Here’s a quote I recently saw on this matter:

“That baby’s DNA is human from the time of conception, and is separate from his/her mother’s. Yes, it proves that it is human from the very beginning. People will try and say anything to make legalized murder ok, and call it choice. EDIT- and for those who say that just because it has separate DNA from the mother does not prove it is life, and since it cannot survive on his/her own it is not life, here is another scenario that shows these statements are false. Let us say that a baby is born 2 months prematurely, and has to be in a incubator and hooked up to machines for a couple of months. That baby cannot survive on his/her own then. But try asking this question to the mother and father of this child. “Since your baby cannot survive yet on its own, it has not life”. That mother and father would not agree with you. Also even if a child is born on time, can that baby truly survive on its own. If the mother abandons that baby , the baby will die. Do they just say it is was the choice of the mother to abandon the child- NO THEY ARE CHARGED with murder.”

“To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion … it is plain experimental evidence.” The “Father of Modern Genetics” Dr. Jerome Lejeune, Univ. of Descarte, Paris

“By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.” Dr. Hymie Gordon, Chairman, Department of Genetics at the Mayo Clinic

Here’s an excellent link to a website written by physicians on this topic: http://www.prolifephysicians.org/lifebegins.htm.  Here’s a direct quote from their website:

“According to this elementary definition of life, life begins at fertilization, when a sperm unites with an oocyte.  From this moment, the being is highly organized, has the ability to acquire materials and energy, has the ability to respond to his or her environment, has the ability to adapt, and has the ability to reproduce (the cells divide, then divide again, etc., and barring pathology and pending reproductive maturity has the potential to reproduce other members of the species).  Non-living things do not do these things.  Even before the mother is aware that she is pregnant, a distinct, unique life has begun his or her existence inside her.”

Therefore the question arises, does the host (mother) have a right to eliminate this separate life because it is the host?  In order to respond to this question, we have to return to my earlier statements:

“Strength and power do not mean abuse.  They mean authority and responsibility.  We are accountable to God to deal responsibly with the rest of life, to not abuse that which He has placed under our care.  We are caretakers.  We use responsibly — not abuse negligently.  God created the rest of Creation for our enjoyment.  Therefore, we need to cultivate, preserve, protect, use where needed, and enjoy.  We are to be wise stewards.”

Because I may have the legal right to do something, does it make it morally right?

Using the same arguments that we raised earlier:

Don’t I have a choice to continue a pregnancy or to terminate a pregnancy since this organism resides in my own body?  Don’t I have a right over my own body?

First of all, this goes beyond your own body.  This is a living organism with a separate identity, as I briefly discussed.

Why do you think you have the right to terminate this organism?  Because it is part of your body?  It isn’t part of your body, it RELIES on your body to provide its necessary nourishment until it can function independently.  That takes us back to the point of life’s worth.  Is it based on its functionality or the level to which it can live independently?  If it isn’t, then we have to admit that a human life, even in its most beginning stages, holds value because of its very nature.  It is a living organism — not just any organism but a living human organism.  It is the start of a separate human life!

As such, it should be protected under the same laws and guidelines that protect any other human life.

If we protect human life based on its functionality or ability to live independently, we fall into a “slippery slope” that can lead to the elimination of other “less” productive humans: the elderly, paraplegics, mentally-impaired, blind, and the list goes on…  Perhaps, our children will use the same reasoning we used on them when it comes to determining our worth when our functionality has diminished and when it becomes physically, financially, or emotionally expedient for them to do so.

So, if I believe all the above: that all forms of life hold value and should be respected and protected, I consider myself pro-life, right?  Yes, you are!  The question remains, “How pro-life are you?”

Are you pro-life when it is convenient for you?  Are you pro-life when you can control it?  Let me make myself clearer — where I am going with this…

What happens when my husband and I have decided we are done having children?  We like the number we have; we feel quite content with the number we have been given.  We want a specific spacing between the children we have.  What happens then when we have a “surprise” or “oops” baby?  How do I respond to the unexpected life — to the “inconvenient” life?  Do I still see it as having worth?  Do I still see it as life — a separate human life with great value?  Do I treat it with respect and with care?  I may have a good cry and be surprised, and that is okay, but what is the end conclusion/the result?  What is my official response to the unexpected/”inconvenient” lives that have been entrusted into my care?  How pro-life am I really?

Those Times When It’s Best To Resort To Humor

Life has a way of presenting us with many opportunities to challenge and stretch us.  Depending on how we respond (and of course the nature of the occasion), we can respond with tears, angry outbursts, or humor.

Humor is the best option of the three responses when it comes to some of my days — or maybe most of my days.

Some of the past few days have presented me with the following situations:

My oldest son was diagnosed with pneumonia last Friday.  That is not the humorous part.  The humorous part was not the fact that he miserably vomited all over the floor right after getting a bath to lower his 103.9 degree fever.  The humorous part for me was as I kneeled on the vomit-covered floor and guessed at what my son had eaten that day.  It was in laughing as I told my husband that this is definitely not what you picture when you think of motherhood.

I laughed later that evening when I told my husband how I had to catch my son’s vomit in my hands so it wouldn’t spew all over the doctor’s office.  I chose laughter.

At first I didn’t laugh the next day when a different situation occurred.  I have been using cloth diapers on my 17-month-old.  At times, it is necessary for me to remove larger waste through dunking the diaper in the toilet several times.  As I was dunking a dirty diaper in the toilet before transferring it to the bucket where I further process the dirty diapers, my daughter decided to imitate me.  She did so by grabbing a dirty diaper from the bucket and slopping it across the floor in her attempt to also dunk it in the potty.  Dirty waste water was slopped across my floor, my hands were holding a dirty diaper, and I had an additional mess to clean.  Would I react with anger, see the humor in it, and see the heart of my daughter?  (She merely wanted to help me.)

Life is full of these opportunities — opportunities to see things from a different perspective, from a godly perspective. 

Circumstances, people, our own sin natures are less than perfect and pleasant.  The question is how do I respond?  How do I walk with grace when life has a way of slopping dirty diapers across our way, throwing messy relationships in our path, and we are still dealing with the stench of our own sin natures?  The answer is found in God’s grace and in His Spirit.  To keep it simple, let me conclude with the following beautiful quotes:

“If the manner of life under grace is superhuman, so, also, the provided enablement is supernatural,and is limitless as the infinite power of God …. Too much emphasis cannot be placed on the fact that, since God has proposed the impossible rule of life and provided the sufficient Spirit, the believer’s responsibility is thereby changed from being a struggle of the flesh to being a reliance on the Spirit. Grace thus introduces a new problem for the believer’s life which is wholly foreign to every aspect of the law. It is the problem of the adjustment of the heart to the holy presence of the Spirit, and of maintaining the unbroken attitude of dependence on Him.” Lewis Sperry Chafer

“Holiness is in the spirit and of the Divine Spirit. It is not in forms and ordinances… It is not in prohibitions and self-denial. …Christ lives in men through the Spirit. He is no longer a model but a living Presence. Christian faith does not copy Him; it lives Him. Christ is not imitated but reproduced. Life is sanctified because He possesses it, lives it, transforms it. The Spirit of God does not work upon us; He lives in us. This is the contrast between works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit … Fruit does not come by toil but by appropriation, assimilation, and abiding. Holiness makes life fruitful because it abides in the Living Word and gives free scope to the Spirit of Life.” ~ Samuel Chadwick

Who We See God As Influences Who We Are To Others

How does the way we perceive God affect and influence the way we interact with others?  A lot!  Frankly, it affects every area of our lives.

Why is this?  Because our identity is in God.  He made us with a purpose — to have a relationship with Him and one close enough that He can call us “Beloved.”  How we perceive God will influence how we interact with Him.  How we perceive Him will influence how we interact with others.  Allow me to explain.

If I perceive God as mostly a God of truth and justice (which often is applied and interpreted as angry and unmerciful), I will very likely view myself and others with a lack of compassion and will very likely tend to be hard-nosed, rigid, inflexible.  I may tend to be over-bearing in my parenting, seeing my children as the enemy and doing anything and everything to force their compliance.  I may overuse the word “No.”  I may tend to use more criticism and overlook opportunities when praise and encouragement should be given.  I may operate out of a spirit of fear.  I may live with lots of personally enforced lists of “do’s” and “don’ts.”  I may tend toward legalism (operating out of a works-base or set of rules then from a true heart of love and willing submission).  I may seek friendships with people who tend toward following rules and man-made standards. I may witness, focusing only on God’s wrath with over-emphasis on Hell rather than on the work of Christ.

It may also mean that I react in anger and rebellion and avoid anything having to do with God.

If I perceive God as only mercy and grace, I may think that religion is only about making me feel good, everything and anything goes, that I can do whatever I feel like doing, that there are no absolutesI may tend to parent with a permissive attitude, only using rewards and never punishment to correct a child’s behavior.  I may avoid using the word “No” when communicating with my children.  I may avoid conflict at any cost — even when it means I compromise all my beliefs and stand for nothing.  I may surround myself with only people who are positive thinkers.  I may live carelessly and without discernment, lacking respect of God and other authority figures.  (My faith may be careless and casual.)  This may mean I avoid any reference to punishment, sin, or hell.  I may see any form of judgement or punishment as being wrong.

If instead, I have a proper view of God, as set forth in Scripture, I will understand that He is a God of mercy and truth.  He is loving.  He is just.  He is righteous.  He is long-suffering.  He is forgiving.  He is holy.  The list goes on…

With a balanced view of God, I respect God because He is worthy of my respect: He is Truth!  He is holy and righteous!  He is also just.  I also love God because I see that He is long-suffering, forgiving, gracious, compassionate, merciful.  I desire a relationship with Him because of this.  I also understand that in order to have a relationship with Him, I need to be obedient to Him and repent when I do wrong.  I am free to have a closer walk because He does forgive and is gracious.  I have freedom to obey Him because of His graceI cannot have a proper relationship with God without understanding these concepts regarding God.

A balanced view of God will help me to understand how I am to interact with others.  I need to speak the truth but always in love.  I am to be compassionate and loving when presenting God’s justice and also His forgiveness.  This will help me to have friendships/interactions with people of all walks of life and to be willing to invest in their lives, even when it means I might suffer personally.

My parenting should reflect a balanced usage of positive reinforcement and negative consequences.  We should be able to use the words “No” and “Yes” properly.  We should lead by example through personal obedience to God and through kind but just guidance in the lives of our children.

It is crucial that we have a proper understanding of God because it does and will influence our relationship with Him and then how we interact with others.

Is Facebook A Friendly Format?

Sometimes, I wonder about Facebook.  Sometimes, I wonder if it’s worth the drama or disagreements that occur.

Should I keep all my posts innocuous, happy, pleasant, and avoid anything and everything that could be possibly thought of as disagreeable?

What about the issue of time.  Facebook can be a huge time waster if not managed properly.

Should I continue with Facebook, or not?  Is it worth it?

The question is what are my motives?  Why do I use FB?  Why do I think I should or shouldn’t avoid FB?  Is it okay to post topics that could possibly be offensive?  Is it possible to avoid offense completely?  How far do we take this?

First of all, Scripture tells us to, Psalm 34:14: “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” 

It also tells us to: 1 Thessalonians 5:21-23 (KJV) 21 “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And yet again, 1 Corinthians 3:3: “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”

Ephesians 4:14-16: (KJV): “14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

These verses give us a guidelines to help us when we do communicate at any format.  They are:

1. Depart from evil.

2. Hold fast to good.

3. Abstain from appearances of evil.

4. Seek peace.

5. Be blameless.

6. Avoid every wind of doctrine — in other words getting involved in too many doctrinal debates.

7. Speak the truth. 

8. …in LOVE

9. Understand/respect how the Body of Christ works together (We are all unique and different.).

10. Edify and in love

Before I post something on Facebook, I need to consider whether it follows the above criteria.  Some would say that this limits us to almost everything, except “Pollyanna-ish” posts.  Well, there is the verse that says to “Speak the truth” and the other one that says to “edify.”  The key here is the word “in love.”  Do we do it with love, with peace in our hearts, and are we writing only that which is necessary?  Or are we entering into doctrinal debates that become pointless, argumentative, confrontational, disrespectful, and divisive?

Is it possible to completely avoid offense?  I think that is a difficult question.  The reason is because when we stand for anything or believe anything, someone is surely going to disagree with that.  So, we can completely avoid offense by avoiding any public format of communication.  If we keep ourselves, our thoughts, our beliefs to ourselves, no one will be offended.  Then again, some would take offense to that also because we aren’t standing for anything.  🙂

So, why do I use Facebook?  Is it worth the drama?  Only each individual can answer that question.  I have thought of getting off of it a couple of times but have not yet.  The reasons?

First of all, I have thought of getting off it because it can consume too much time or at least thought when we think about something someone posted or something we posted and the responses to those posts.  I also thought of getting off it because it can be divisive.  Sometimes, some privacy is good.  Yet, I have chosen to post updates and pictures.  I can accomplish more privacy simply by not posting.

So, why am I still on Facebook?  The reason is because I recognize that people are peopleWhen we interact with people, there is always opportunity to experience drama.  I can choose to become a recluse and thereby avoid any possibility of conflict or drama.  Or, I can choose to involve myself, invest myself in the lives of others and accept the fact there there will be some pain involved with thatWhen hearts are invested, there is always the opportunity for joy as well as for pain.

I also am still on Facebook because it is my only connection to a lot of my mommy friends.  We find phone conversations too tedious due to interruptions and time constraints.  I can jump on FB for 2 minutes, leave an unfinished post, and come back in an hour to complete the conversation without interfering with my family’s needs.  If my children are screaming or fighting in the background, no one else can hear.

Facebook keeps me in-touch with the lives of my friends so I know better how to pray, encourage, and when to help even.  Yes, and with this does mean there is less privacy and more opportunity to be hurt or offended.

The question I must personally ask myself is: “Is Facebook a friendly format?  Am I using it properly or abusing it?  Am I following the guidelines of Scripture in how I post things?  Am I recognizing that I may be hurt, but I need to forgive and be willing to invest even when it hurts?”  Otherwise, perhaps for other reasons not mentioned, Facebook has served its purpose and is no longer useful or profitable.  That, my friends, is only for each of us individually to decide.

Do We Have A Choice In Our Salvation?

Perhaps, this blog should more accurately be called, “Why I Am Not A Calvinist.”  🙂

There are far greater minds that could discuss this and use far more persuasive or loftier words.  I claim to do neither.  Feel free to disagree — just be courteous please as you do.  Thank you.

I am crazy perhaps because I know this can open a whole can of worms, but I have been thinking on the subject of predestination and wanted to write my thoughts down regarding it.  So bear with me, if you care to, and here it goes…

I also want to clearly state that those who hold the view of Predestination/Calvinism believe in eternal security for the saved, they believe in a just God, salvation, belief, etc…  The points I am trying to make is that when we believe something, we have to understand the full ramifications and end result of our beliefs.  We may not say we believe certain things, but the results of our beliefs can lead to conclusions that we need to fully contemplate.

My debate here is not with God; it is with the things that people say about God and how they interpret Scripture.  In the areas that God reveals to me in which I am wrong, I humbly submit to Him and His ways.  Because, I do know and am fully persuaded that my God is Good and He is Truth!  Whatever He does is always for the best.

I also want to state that I have many friends who are Calvinist in their beliefs.  I respect them, I have worshiped in the House of God with them, and I believe they are saved.  As such, we share something much more precious than whether or not we fully agree in every doctrinal area.  So then, you might wonder why I have even written on this subject.

I began thinking and studying Scripture on this subject as a result of hearing many messages preached on the topic of predestination from a Calvinist’s perspective.  I began to hear discrepancies and areas where I felt there was contradiction to the whole of Scripture.  I saw it as a view that was presenting conflicts to the God of the Bible that I saw.

My blog is not for me to bash others, create division.  My purpose is to simply keep a blog of many variety of topics, thoughts, and experiences.  It is a journal of my life’s journey.  You may agree to disagree with me, and that is okay.  I am only accountable before God as to how I obey Him.

That being said, I hope you may find this of some benefit…

Here are the basic “five points” of Calvinism as stated by Wikipedia:

Calvinist theology is sometimes identified with the five points of Calvinism, also called the doctrines of grace, which are a point-by-point response to the five points of the Arminian Remonstrance (see History of Calvinist-Arminian debate) and which serve as a summation of the judgments rendered by the Synod of Dort in 1619.[7] Calvin himself never used such a model and never combated Arminianism directly. In fact, Calvin and Arminias did not live contemporaneously. The Articles of Remonstrance were authored by opponents of Reformed doctrine and monergism. They were rejected in 1619 at the Synod of Dort, more than 50 years after the death of Calvin.

The five points therefore function as a summary of the differences between Calvinists and Arminianists on the doctrines in question, but not as a complete summation of Calvinist theology. In English, they are sometimes referred to by the acronym TULIP[8] (see below), though this puts them in a different order from the Canons of Dort.

The central assertion of these canons is that God saves every person upon whom he has mercy, and that his efforts are not frustrated by the unrighteousness or inability of humans.

  • Total depravity,” also called “total inability,” asserts that as a consequence of the fall of man into sin, every person is enslaved to sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God but rather to serve their own interests and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures. (The term “total” in this context refers to sin affecting every part of a person, not that every person is as evil as they could be).[9] This doctrine is derived from Augustine‘s explanation of Original Sin.

  • Unconditional election” asserts that God has chosen from eternity those whom he will bring to himself not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people; rather, his choice is unconditionally grounded in his mercy alone. God has chosen from eternity to extend mercy to those he has chosen and to withhold mercy from those not chosen. Those chosen receive salvation through Christ alone. Those not chosen receive the just wrath that is warranted for their sins against God.[10]

  • Limited atonement,” also called “particular redemption” or “definite atonement”, asserts that Jesus’s substitutionary atonement was definite and certain in its purpose and in what it accomplished. This implies that only the sins of the elect were atoned for by Jesus’s death. Calvinists do not believe, however, that the atonement is limited in its value or power, but rather that the atonement is limited in the sense that it is intended for some and not all. Hence, Calvinists hold that the atonement is sufficient for all and efficient for the elect.[11] The doctrine is driven by the Calvinistic concept of the sovereignty of God in salvation and their understanding of the nature of the atonement.

  • Irresistible grace,” also called “efficacious grace”, asserts that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved. The doctrine holds that this purposeful influence of God’s Holy Spirit cannot be resisted, but that the Holy Spirit, “graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ.”[12]

  • Perseverance of the saints” (or preservation) of the saints (the word “saints” is used to refer to all who are set apart by God, and not of those who are exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven) asserts that since God is sovereign and his will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with or will return to the faith.[13]

My statements, thoughts, and questions are in direct response to a claim that an actual Calvinist has made to me or in a quote(s) that I have summarized from an actual Calvinist website.  Note: Not all of those who hold to the Calvinist doctrine may necessarily support all of these assertions or views made by actual individuals who call themselves “Calvinists.” 

Again as stated previously, my end conclusions to their beliefs — where I believe questions lie are the end result of these beliefs.  Most Calvinists would take great offense to the idea that there is no need for salvation, no belief necessary for salvation, that God is cruel, etc…  Read though my thoughts and why I even raise those implications.

Those who believe in predestination argue that we don’t have “free will” when it comes to our salvation.  They believe that God has either chosen/predestined us for salvation or for eternal damnation. They believe this shows God’s sovereign will and that we shouldn’t question God on this, just accept it.  In response to that premise, I have set forth some questions and responses.

Is it truly a choice, if there isn’t free will?

Is it really belief, if God has chosen for us by predetermining that some will go to hell and that some will go to Heaven? In other words, if one truly believes that there isn’t any free will but only God dictating that some will be saved and some won’t, then in essence, God has chosen some to be created only to choose sin and then to be condemned to hell.

Doesn’t that mean that God then created sin?  If He created some to sin, chose sin for them, then isn’t He then aligning Himself with sin?

We say that sin is rebellion against God. Is it really sin or rebellion against God if he programmed us/predestined us to sin or to hell?  Isn’t it then “obeying” His will if he chose us to sin?  How is that rebellion if that is what God created some to do?

Is He a good God if He in essence created some to sin and then as a result to go to hell?  That sounds like cruelty to me!

How is God just if God has forced some to do what He calls wrong, yet He chose for them to do this wrong?   Justice is only found when we do have a free will and willingly choose wrong when we have been given opportunity to choose either good or bad. Justice is then the rewards of doing good or the punishment for doing bad. There is no justice in forcing someone to rebel and then punishing them for it. That sounds like someone who fiendishly enjoys watching someone suffer by controlling them to do bad and then watching them be punished as a result.

Why also would God then sacrifice His very son?  Would Jesus’ death be necessary if God already decided ahead of time in who would believe and who wouldn’t? If He’s removed free will, why then have His Son suffer? Wouldn’t that be pointless?

Joshua 24:15 “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Acts 16:31: ” Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

If we believe that God created some to believe in Him and some to not, then we are saying God created some for hell.

Matthew 24:22

  • And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.  If God has predestined it all, why would He say this?

John 10:9
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

1 Timothy 2:4 King James Version (KJV): “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

2 Peter 3:9 King James Version (KJV): “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Romans 5:18 King James Version (KJV): “18 Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”

Romans 10:13 King James Version (KJV): “13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Romans 10:14 King James Version (KJV):”14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”

Romans 10:17 King James Version (KJV):”17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Those who believe in Predestination argue that God allowing free will makes God weak.  I completely disagree.  God allows free will.  He wasn’t forced to do this.  He chose to do this.

In the Garden of Eden, He put Adam and Eve there.  He even put a tree that would test their obedience.  Yes, God in His omniscience knew they would disobey.  Why did he put the tree there, knowing they would disobey?  I would say it was to actually test their will.  It is easy to obey God when everything in life aligns itself or is pleasant to obey.  When nothing tests us to disobey have we really chosen Him? 

By putting the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil in Eden, God was putting a choice before Adam & Eve.  He wanted them to choose Him — not because circumstances were orchestrating their obedience, but because they chose Him willingly — even when something was negative towards doing so.  When they and we choose to obey God when circumstances are negative towards doing so, our choice is much more precious to Him.

For example, when I have candy sitting in my house, my kids know about it, they are tempted by it, but if they choose to not get into the candy, their obedience means more to me.  If I have removed every form of temptation possible to them, and they “obey,” is it really obedience on their part?  What will happen then when they visit someone else’ house who does have loads of candy?  As a parent, I do remove a lot of dangerous and tempting things from my kids, but I don’t remove everything.  They need to learn to obey, (and we have to live).

Back to the argument that by giving free will, God is weak.  I would disagree.  I do this all the time with my kids.  I tell them, “You have two choices.  You can choose to obey Mommy and get the rewards, which I hope you do choose.  Or you can choose to disobey and suffer the consequences (they know what those are.).”  I am in control of the outcomes (rewards or punishments).  I am trying to help them make the right choice by clearly defining what the choices are and what the consequences are.  By putting the choice in their ball-park, they see that I am not a parent delighting in punishing them, but that they chose the punishment if they disobey.  I am showing them that they are responsible for the choices they make.

Free will distinguishes between the “victim” mentality and the concept that we are responsible for our own actions.  We willingly choose how we act and therefore must take responsibility for our actions.  By removing free will, we actually give allowance to the victim mentality.  “God made me this way so He’s to blame.”

Another argument Predestination makes is, by using the verse concerning God saying that some vessels are made for honor and some for dishonor.  21 “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?”

I would respond that yes, God in His foreknowledge knows that some will choose rebellion. He uses those vessels of dishonor just like He used Pharaoh and used the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil, to name just a few.  He uses the rebellious to then test those who will choose Him.  The testing/trying refines/purifies us.  Without the negative reaction to the positive, there wouldn’t be the same outcome.  Interesting how science parallels this.  As Romans 8:28 says, “God works all things for good to those who love Him and walk according to His purposes.”  Even the ungodly serve God’s purposes.

Satan tries to thwart God at every turn, but God just takes Satan’s paltry attempts and uses it for God’s good.  God is the true Player in the game.  He controls it all.  As God, He will win — because He is God!  No one and nothing can best Him!  Free will actually displays how powerful God is!  He is so powerful that He can allow free will and still control the outcomes and still use everything we do within the parameters of His allowed free will to fulfill His will!

Free will actually displays how powerful God is!  He is so powerful that He can allow free will, still control the consequences, and still use everything we do within the parameters of His allowed free will to fulfill His will! 

For example, a parent who dictates everything a child does is demonstrating weakness.  In other words, if a parent does not give a child any choices but makes every choice for the child (what outfit the child wears that day, what songs the child listens to that day, what books the child reads that day, what toys the child plays with that day, what games the child plays that day), the parent is actually displaying weakness.  The parent’s position or authority is so weak that he has to control everything.

This applies to husbands as well.  If a husband feels that he must dictate every activity a wife makes in the day, how she spends her time, who her friends are, what outfits she wears that day, what grocery items she specifically buys, and how she spends every penny, I would argue that husband’s authority is actually weak — not strongA husband who is secure in who he is in Christ and then lives that out in how he interacts with his family will demonstrate calm, loving, gracious leadership of his family.  He will lead with graciousness and firmness only when necessary.  Allowance for freedom within a father’s clear guidelines will produce a more loving and willing obedience then a father who dictates his child’s every moment.  (This is why I try to not be a helicopter parent; yet, still give my children clear guidelines and consequences and rewards.)

Interesting how God says that our roles as husbands and wives reflect Christ’s role to His Bride the Church.

Predestination says that having a choice in our salvation makes it work-based.

The work of salvation is God’sHe provided the means of salvation.  Christ took our punishment — something we are completely incapable of doing because we are sinners, we are finite, we do not have power to rise again, etc…  The Old Testament sacrifices demonstrated how insufficient any other method is in trying to cover our sins.  Christ alone was capable of fulfilling God’s requirement for justice as well as His grace!

This is how I explain salvation to children:  Salvation is a gift.  It is completely free!  God extends the gift to all.  That is why we see verses that say: Acts 2:21 “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” and Romans 10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Salvation is available to all.

Free will enters in that we must accept that gift.  I give children an example by holding out a beautifully wrapped gift.  I then tell them this gift is for them — just like salvation is for all, but they have to take it/ accept it (see John 1:12.).  If they refuse to take my gift, I ask them if they will be able to enjoy and own the gift.  They say “no.”  I tell them that is how salvation is.  They didn’t do anything to earn or deserve the gift.  I bought the gift. The gift is from me.  I am giving them the gift because I love them.  They can either refuse or accept the gift.  The choice is theirs.

A different example concerning salvation — remember it is salvation, in other words saving us from something.  The something being ourselves (sinful natures) and the consequences of the sinful choices we willingly have made.  The consequences being as serious as they are means that God has offered a means to escape those consequences by accepting Him and then choosing a life that means transformation — transforming our sinful natures into lives lived in obedience and true life found in Christ.

Back to the example of salvation, if we are riding in a boat and don’t know it but are only minutes away from Niagara Falls.  Someone then yells from land, “Grab onto this rope I am going to throw you!  The falls are just ahead!”  We are given a choice: we can either choose to accept that gift of a rope and grab on, thereby being saved.  Or we can choose to think we are better off on our own, can figure out how to swim against the current, will hope the falls aren’t so bad, etc…  We then could refuse the warning and the offer.  Once again, the choice is ours; the consequences aren’t.

Back to Predestination saying that if we have a choice, then salvation becomes a work.  Using the example of salvation being a gift (which it is)… At Christmas, I will be receiving gifts.  When I accept the gift from the giver and open the gift, does that mean that I have now earned that gift and deserve it?  Is the gift now payment for my “work” of accepting it and opening it?  I would say, “Absolutely not!”  The gift was never earned and shouldn’t be expected.  A gift by its very description is a gift because it is free and undeserved.

We can also look at the Greek root word for “believe.”  This is what Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible states:

GREEK WORD STUDY on
πιστεύω (Gtr. pisteuo) meaning ‘to believe’ (Strong’s 4100)

Some of the many verses where this is included:

Matthew 8:13 And Jesus said to the centurion, Go; and as you have believed, so be it done to you. And his servant was healed in the very same hour.
9:28 And when he came into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus says to them, Do you believe that I am able to do this? They said to him, Yes, Lord.
18:6 But whoever shall offend one of these little ones who believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
21:22 And all things, whatever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.
21:25 The baptism of John, where was it from? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say to us, Why did you not then believe him?
21:32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and you, when you had seen it, did not repent afterwards to believe him.
24:23 Then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; do not believe it.
24:26 Therefore if they shall say to you, Behold, he is in the desert; do not go out: behold, he is in the secret chambers; do not believe it.
27:42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he is the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.

John 1:7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he authority to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on his name:

John 2:24 But Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men,
3:12 If I have told you earthly things, and you do not believe, how shall you believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
3:15 That whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
3:18 He who believes in him is not condemned: but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
3:36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life: and he who does not obey the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.

John 5:46 For had you believed Moses, you would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
5:47 But if you do not believe his writings, how shall you believe my words?
6:29 Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.
6:30 Therefore they said to him, What sign do you show then, that we may see, and may believe? What do you work?
6:35 And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life: he who comes to me shall never hunger; and he who believes in me shall never thirst.
6:36 But I said to you, That you also have seen me, and do not believe.
6:40 And this is the will of him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes in him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
6:47 Amen, amen, I say to you, He who believes in me has everlasting life.
6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray him.

These verses tell us time and again that God wants all to be saved — “everyone.”  They also tell us that He knows from the beginning (because He is omniscient) who will believe.  Yet, He gives everyone opportunity to believe.  These verses make it clear that those who don’t believe will be punished/condemned.  Those who do believe in Jesus will be saved.  The key is our belief.

Back to Strong’s definition: “to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by impl. to entrust (espec. one’s spiritual well-being to Christ): — believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.”  The concordance links this root to the Greek root of

#2. GREEK WORD STUDY on
πίστις (Gtr. pistis) meaning ‘Faith’ Strong’s 4102

Strong’s definition for this is: “persuasion, i.e. credence; mor. conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), espec. reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstr. constuancy in such profession; by extens. the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself: — assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.”

What does conviction mean?

John 8:9 King James Version (KJV): “And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience.”

Looking up the Greek root word for convicted, this is what we get: “to confute, admonish: — convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove.”  #1650 in Strong’s relates to the previous description under #1651.  It is the following: “proof, conviction: — evidence, reproof.”  In other words, this convicting involves admonishment, persuasion, evidence.  Why is there a need for this, if God has already decided our fates prior to our births? 

If belief requires no response on our part, why then does Scripture show that we must respond?  God gives us the truth, presents us with the evidence, we are then given a clear choice.  When there is choice, there is free will.  There is no choice if there is no free will.

God’s Spirit is at work, calling us all to Himself.  Some of us respond to His spirit.  Some do not.  Think about parenting again.  We love our children all the same or at least, we should.  Yet, each of our children respond differently to the same methods of parenting.  The fact that one of my children responds more obediently or more loving doesn’t mean that I have treated that child differently or been more favorable to them.  If that were the case, then is my child really more obedient then my other child(ren)?  Perhaps, if the circumstances were reversed, my child would be less obedient and loving.  In other words, by God allowing free will and allowing us to choose His gift of salvation, we really have believed in Him.  Our belief is authentic and sincere — not manipulated by God — directed but not manipulated.  The Merriam-Webster gives this as a definition for manipulation : “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.”

Back to my previous examples, I direct my children by the consequences or rewards I provide.  I manipulate if I force them to obey by actually doing the obeying for them.  The end result of manipulation does not lead to a willing obedience — only a forced outward conformity.

Is God responsive to us, or does He do whatever He feels like doing regardless of how we respond?  This is a sticky doctrinal point — mostly because it can be abused and misinterpreted, misunderstood, and misapplied.  God is in control.  He is Sovereign.  Whatever happens, He causes or allows under His jurisdiction.  In other words, He allows only what He wills.  Let me give the example of Job.

Job 1:6:  “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? 10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. 12 And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.”

God allowed Satan to test Job.  Notice though that God kept Satan within God’s limits.  Satan was only allowed to do so much.  We know that in Revelation, Satan will eventually be cast into the Lake of Fire and be destroyed.  For now, God is allowing Satan on this Earth.  I believe the reason is the same as I gave for the Tree of The Knowledge of Good & Evil.  God allows Satan so that the “wheat is separated from the chaff.”  In other words, we are clearly given a choice between good and evil — between God and Satan.

In the life of Moses, we have an example where God changed what He was going to do, following the prayer of Moses.

Numbers 14: 11  “And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? 12 I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they. 13 And Moses said unto the Lord, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;) 14 And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou Lord art among this people, that thou Lord art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, 16 Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness. 17 And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, 18 The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. 19 Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. 20 And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word: 21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. 22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; 23 Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: 24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.”

Some would cry, “You are implying weakness on God’s part!  Foul!”  I respond with, “Can God change His mind, if He wants?”

Does He sometimes wait for us to inquire in prayer before His throne, before bringing something to pass?  Yes, that is why Scripture says, James 5:16: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”  If God doesn’t respond or hear our prayers, then our prayers are ineffective.  God says they are effectual.

Take the example of King Hezekiah also,

2 Kings 20 King James Version (KJV):”In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, saying, I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.”

Predestination says that free will is just as cruel as not having a choice because people haven’t asked to be born and can choose hell.  By God not intervening in their choices when He knows ahead of time what they will choose (His omniscience), they ask why is this any better?

Having a choice is better because it puts it back in the ball-park of the chooser. In other words, we are responsible or held accountable for our choices when we have the freedom to make a choice.

Let me also respond to this by using an example of parenting.  My husband and I did the act that “created” our children (God obviously ultimately designed how life is created).  We know that our children will sin, they will rebel at times against us, and they may not even choose salvation, does that make us cruel therefore to have a child?  Our child didn’t ask to be born.  I would argue that each child does serve a purpose and once created should be given that opportunity.  Life comes from God. 

We welcome each child as a blessing from God; yet, knowing they could also become a source of true anguish and grief at times.  Knowing this, should we then just not have children so we spare them the possibility of negative outcomes?  If we choose to still have children under these circumstances, does it make us cruel?

Perhaps, a better example is this:  Let’s say we were brought to an obstacle course.  There are other contestants too.  We are each given the same opportunity, the same rewards, or consequences at the end of the competition.  There are places we are told to avoid (quicksand pits, alligator swamps, anaconda snakes, and lions).  These traps are at the turns where there is often a facade of something glittery or pleasant (something sensual, palatable, etc…).  We are told to clearly discern the signs.  We are all also given a guide book that explains the signs, the turns, even the traps.  The starting flags are waved, and we all shoot off down the course.  Some of the competitors hate rules and guide-books so they laugh as they throw their books in the bushes.  Some read only the chapters that fit their preferences and say the rest doesn’t apply to them.  Then, you have the few who saw the trustworthiness and kindness of the One giving the guidelines and decide to fully trust Him by following and reading all the directions.  Those who decide to ignore the warnings and decide that they don’t need to follow an old stodgy but should be allowed to have some fun, start to sample the pleasant and attractive entrances to the pits.  For awhile, it seems like they were right.  It is enjoyable and fun.  Soon they  find themselves so deeply in the pathway that they can’t find their way back out.  They don’t care, until they fall into the traps.  They can rant, rage, and call the One in charge mean and cruel.  They can blame Him.  Yet, He clearly defined the rules for them.  He gave them all equal opportunity.  The rewards were guaranteed for all the competitors — not just a few.  Those who chose to obey found the proper ending and were greatly rewarded.  If robots were put on that course would we all cheer for those who reached the proper destination — especially if some were programmed to choose the traps and those who “won” were programmed to choose the correct path?  Would we also cheer as loudly if the competitors were put on a course that had no challenges/difficulties or hard choices?

Jesus’ death on the cross is amazing – not because it was easy for Him but because it was excruciatingly difficult in the physical and spiritual sense!  The reward is reflected in the difficulty level.  Our salvation is so great because of who we are (sinners) and because of what it cost God — His only Son!  Because of what it cost Jesus!

I realize there are flaws within my example.  For instance, some could argue that all haven’t been given equal opportunity.  Some people have born in a home or country that is in complete opposition to Christianity.  I believe that is why God has given us a very strong command several places to preach the Gospel.  The reason for our need to share the Gospel is to give everyone the opportunity to hear the truth and to respond.  The response is theirs, salvation is of God, the consequences are established by God.

Mark 16:15
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”  There is an urgency here because people need to hear the Gospel.  We need to witness so that they can hear. Romans 10:14
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”

God also says, Romans 1:20
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”

God rejoices in our salvation because it is salvation.  He has saved us from our sin and its awful consequences.  If God had predestined us to Heaven or to Hell, then it is not salvation.  There was nothing to be saved from in the first place.  He had determined a course, and then carried it out. In other words, if some have been predestined for Heaven then no saving is needed.  Their course has already been set or determined.  Those who are predestined for Heaven were never in danger of Hell.  Their “saving” was done before they needed to be “saved.”  If the rest of mankind have been predestined for Hell, then they can’t be saved.  There is no need for salvation for them because they can’t be saved, according to Predestination.

Salvation means we need to be rescued from something — from our own sinful choices and their consequences.  God rejoices because He is saving people and people are believing in His gift!

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
“Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”

Why would He rejoice if He had already predetermined/predestined everything?

I would also think there could be a lack of confidence in eternal security.  People could question whether they are part of the elect/predestined.  Every time fears or doubts would arise, they could wonder, “What if I am not one of God’s chosen?”  When we believe that salvation is a gift to all who believe and receive it, then we understand that we do have eternal security.  As I explain it to children, once someone has given you a gift, and you have taken it, it is yours.  The giver is not going to take it back.  God also tells us in Scripture,

John 10:28: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

God doesn’t force His way.  He calls.  He knocks.  He desires us — that we would be saved!

Revelation 3:20
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

“…If ANY man hear my voice…”

The Bible clearly reveals that God is a loving, just, merciful, compassionate, truthful, holy, and loving God!