Life-Changing Focus

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“Knowing the love of God and who we are in Christ affects how we live our lives, as I John 3:1-3 reveals…  Knowing God is the most important part of our belief system.”  (Freedom From Fear by Neil Anderson)

“The cross was where the work was finished, dealing a death blow to sin and death.  The empty tomb was where the work was vindicated, assuring us of eternal life.  The presence of Jesus in heaven is where the work will be glorified…”  (Freedom From Fear by Neil Anderson)

 When I look at my circumstances, I become stressed or falsely secure.  When I look at my possessions, I either become discontent or proud.  When I look at myself, I become discouraged or selfish.  When I look to others, I can be either insecure or judgmental.  When I look to the Lord, I am made full of His goodness, and everything else dims.

 Who is the Lord and what is He like?

Jehovah-jireh (The Lord will provide.) Gen. 22:14

El Shaddai (The One Who is mighty to shed forth and pour out sustenance and blessing) Gen. 17:1-2

Jehovah-Sabaoth (The Lord of the hosts of heaven) Ps. 24:10

Jehovah-rophe (The Lord our healer) Ex. 15:26

Jehovah-shalom (The Lord is peace) Judges 6:24

Jehovah-rohi (The Lord our Shepherd) Ps. 23:1

Jehovah-shammah (The Lord is there) Ezekiel 48:35

Jehovah-nissi (The Lord is my banner) Ex. 17:15

Jehovah-tsidkenu (The Lord our righteousness) Jer. 23:5-6

(Freedom From Fear by Neil Anderson)


It is so easy to get stuck looking back at the past, with all its failures, hurts, and wounds.  We need to bring those hurts and sins to the Lord, but then leave them with Him.

It is so easy to get stuck looking at our present, and we forget that there is a far greater and broader perspective that helps keep circumstances in proper focus.  It’s called the God of eternity.

It is so easy to worry about the future with its unknown possibilities, and we forget Who controls it.

“…our lives are changed as our minds are changed by the truth.”   (Freedom From Fear by Neil Anderson)

 Who else is God?

He is…

Advocate (I John 2:1)

Alpha and Omega (Rev. 21:6)

Amen (Rev. 3:14)

Anointed One (Ps. 2:2)

Apostle of our confession (Heb. 3:1)

Author and perfector of faith (Heb. 12:2)

Beginning and end (Rev. 21:6)

Beloved (Eph. 1:6)

Branch (Zech. 3:8)

Bread of Life (John 6:35)

Bright morning star (Rev. 22:16)

Chief cornerstone (Mk. 12:10)

Chief shepherd (I Pet. 5:4)

Christ (Matt. 16:16-17)

Counselor (Is. 9:6)

Deliverer (Rom. 11:26)

Door (John 10:2)

Eternal Father (Is. 9:6)

Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11)

First and last (Rev. 20:13)

God (John 1:1, 14)

Good Shepherd (John 10:11)

Guardian of souls (I Pet. 2:25)

Head of the church (Col. 1:18)

Heir of all things (Heb. 1:2)

High priest (Heb. 4:14)

Holy One (I John 2:20)

Horn of salvation (Luke 1:69)

I Am (John 8:58)

Immanuel (Matt. 1:23)

King of Israel (John 12:13)

King of kings (Rev. 17:14)

Lamb (Rev. 13:8)

Life (John 14:6)

Light of the world (John 8:12)

Lion of Judah (Rev. 5:5)

Living Stone (I Pet. 2:4)

Lord (John 21:7)

Lord Jesus Christ (I Pet. 1:3)

Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14)

Messiah (John 4:25-26)

Mighty God (Is. 9:6)

Our Passover Lamb (I Cor. 5:7)

Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6)

Prophet (Deut. 18:15,18)

Redeemer (Is. 59:20)

Resurrection and life (John 11:25)

Righteous One (Is. 53:11)

Rock (I Cor. 10:4)

Root and offspring of David (Rev. 22:16)

Ruler (Matt. 2:6)

Savior (Luke 2:11)

Son of God (Rom. 1:4)

Son of Man (Matt. 24:30)

Teacher (John 13:13)

True vine (John 15:1)

Truth (John 14:6)

Way (John 14:6)

Wonderful (Is. 9:6)

Word of God (Rev. 19:13)   (Freedom From Fear by Neil Anderson)

“The main difference between ungodly meditation and Biblical meditation is the object of our meditation.”  (Freedom From Fear by Neil Anderson)

Do we focus on our past, our present circumstances, ourselves (our own faults, insecurities, fears, hurts), others, our possessions (health, looks, physical abilities, material possessions), or do we focus on the Lord?

The truth of God is the key to healing in all areas of our lives.  What truth about Him do we need to replace the lies in our minds and hearts that are hindering us from living the life God has given to us?

Jesus died to save us from our sins — its penalty but also from its debilitating presence in our lives.  Jesus came to give us life — His life that is abundant, grace-filled, peaceful (true kind), joyful (not reliant on our circumstances)!  If we are not living the “abundant” life He died to give us, then we must ask ourselves what the lies are we are believing, repent of them, and then ask the Lord to replace them with the truth.  The truth is found in Himself.

What truth about Him needs to replace some lies you might be living today?


Trust Is The Key To Our Relationship With God


Toma-me, ó noite eterna, nos teus braços
E chama-me teu filho... eu sou um rei
que voluntariamente abandonei
O meu trono de sonhos e cansaços.

Fernando Pessoa


If we are struggling in our relationships with others, then we have a pretty good indication that we are also struggling in our relationship with God (recently heard something like this at a wedding).

If we are struggling in our relationship with God, we have a pretty good indication that we have a trust issue.  I believe at the root of most rebellion is a trust issue.  Instead of trusting God and surrendering to Him, we trust in ourselves and pursue “distractions” to fill the needs in our souls.

The distrust starts when we believe a lie that somehow God wasn’t good enough, big enough, strong enough, just enough … that He wasn’t enough. 

Satan tempted Adam & Eve with the lie that God’s provision and God Himself wasn’t enough.  They believed the lie and disobeyed God and ate of the one tree they weren’t to eat.

In Think Differently, Live Differently, it says,

At the root of any fearful thought is the lie that, somehow, God doesn’t love me.

As a spiritually alive being, your focus and confidence should be upon your connection to your Creator.  [Confidence should be in our Creator/God.]

In the book, Freedom From Fear, it says:

As we draw closer to Christ in total obedience to Him, the enemy tries to intimidate us more than ever.  And it is usually at our weakest point.

Trust is pivotal to our relationship with God.  You can’t have a good and “intimate” (intimacy of souls) relationship with someone that you don’t trust, and you can’t have a personal and deep relationship with God if you are lacking trust in Him.  This is why the Bible is replete with verses on trust.  The following passages are a small reflection of what the Bible says regarding trust:

Isaiah 26:3-4

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in YAH, the Lord, is everlasting strength.[a]

Isaiah 25:8-9

He will swallow up death forever,
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken.

And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
This is the Lord;
We have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”

We can experience what it means to “abide in the Lord” when we are surrendered to Him

We are able to surrender to Him when we are fully trusting in Him.

It is this attitude of surrender that places us in the position of being “receptive” to the Lord: to the working of His Holy Spirit in our lives, to His inspiration as we read His Word, to His “voice” as we spend time communing with Him in prayer.

It’s interesting that “rest” — the perfect and best kind comes from trust.

A worrier, one who lacks trust, is one who also struggles with being at rest.

Hebrews 4:9-10

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

Hebrews 3:18-19

18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Hebrews 3:12-14

12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,

It’s interesting that unbelief equals unrest in the Hebrews 3:18-19 passage.  In Hebrews 3:12-14, we see that a cause of our unbelief is hardness of heart due to deceitfulness of sin.

We become hardened in our hearts/souls due to deception (lies) and our own sin (sinful natures) that deceive us.  Trusting in ourselves shows how fickle our god is.  We, in ourselves, are easily deceived.

The opposite is so wonderfully promising!  If we hold onto the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, we are become “partakers” of Christ!  What is the beginning of our confidence?  It is Jesus — the basis of our salvation and the hope of the Gospel!

Colossians 1:23

23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

1 Thessalonians 5:8

But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.

It is impossible to have this hope and to have this “restfulness of soul” if you don’t have a foundation of truth.  The blog post,, says, “If we want to know what is absolute truth, then we need to know who God is.”

In the devotional book, Men & Women Of The Bible, it says the following concerning this:

“Today many people treat the teachings of Christ lightly.   To them, faith boils down to little more than personal preference.  But a faith that has no conscience or that is not anchored to the truth is a ship sailing to disaster.  How would you describe the seaworthiness of your ship of faith?  Can it handle the rough seas of temptation, or does it need to return to port for repairs?”

We can trust God because God is truth. 

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

We can trust God because He creates reality.  What He says is.

Isaiah 42:5-9New King James Version (NKJV)

Thus says God the Lord,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it,
Who gives breath to the people on it,
And spirit to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness,
And will hold Your hand;
I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the Gentiles,
To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the prison,
Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.
I am the Lord, that is My name;
And My glory I will not give to another,
Nor My praise to carved images.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
And new things I declare;
Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

We can trust God because He is a good God.

Deuteronomy 32:4

He is the Rock, His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,
A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He.

We can trust God because He loves us unconditionally.

Jeremiah 31:3

The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.

Romans 5:6

[ Christ in Our Place ] For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

We can trust God because He works all things together for good to those who love Him.

Romans 8:28

28 And we know that all things work together for good

As we trust in God because of Who He is, we have the wonderful promise that we will be “partakers of Christ.”  We will experience the joy of His presence in our lives!

Trusting in the Lord speaks of receptivity to the Lord and also of an attitude and heart that actively invites and welcomes His Presence into our lives.

God desires to be present in each and every aspect of our lives.  Do we actively welcome and receive Him… as our Peace, our Joy, our Strength, our Love, our Truth, our Patience, our Righteousness?



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:

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

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!

Behavior Relating to Belief

I had a long discussion with Will yesterday regarding some behavior that was of grave concern to me and to God.  He was repentant towards the end of our discussion and then wanted to whisper in my ear something.  He whispered, “Mommy, do you know why I am bad every day?”  I asked him why that was.  He said, “Because I haven’t seen Jesus.  I don’t know that Jesus died on the cross.”  I was able to take that opportunity to give Will evidence that shows God does exist, to discuss faith (it’s a fabric of every area of our lives — even the atheist), and then to show him why not having a belief in God doesn’t change the truth of what is nor the consequences of our actions.  I gave him various examples, and he seemed to understand what I was saying.  We then ended our discussion in prayer.  There is a battle waging within his soul; it is crucial — one that will ultimately determine the direction of his life.  My daily prayers are that he will choose to believe and to follow a life that alone leads to peace, joy, love, and eternal life!