December 18, 2020
December 16, 2020
November 14, 2020
 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah,  and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,  and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (ESV)
November 6, 2020
Listen to this post:
If you want to spark a debate on Facebook, just mention Calvinism.
(At least in the circles that I operate in.)
Actually, you don't even have to mention that word, just quote a passage of scripture that emphasizes God's sovereignty, or share a Pastor's quote that is emphasizing the doctrines of Grace... and soon to follow, the free-will police will arrive to point out all of the "whosoever's" in the Bible.
I get it. A God that is absolutely sovereign over the entire universe can be alarming to our American sensibilities. It is disconcerting for many, the first times they encounter these passages and contemplate, not their implications, but simply what the texts are actually saying. Of course, as I have embraced these passages, they have led me to some of the most humbling and deeply satisfying and peace saturating realizations in my life. But it isn't that way to everyone.
In this blog post, I would like to share with you two of the biggest misconceptions about Pauline Theology (a.k.a. Calvinism, a.k.a. The Doctrines of Grace) that I have encountered. I want to share these misconceptions, not because I want to belittle anyone and I definitely don't want to give off an air of intellectual superiority. It is just that 99% of the debating that I have encountered when dealing with this topic, are wayward conversations that fail to tackle any of the actual issues. (In other words, most that attempt to debunk will use passages and phrases that don't debunk anything and are, quite frankly, points that I am in total agreement with, but I can tell that my debating "opponent" believes they have delivered a fatal blow in one fell swoop to my stance.)
One more clarifier before I begin sharing these two misconceptions: I am not attempting, in this post, to persuade anyone to believe anything. You will not see in this post an abundance of scripture, because that is not the purpose of this post. I simply want to address these two misconceptions, in such a way that might be helpful in clarifying any further discussions.
Misconception Number 1
The first misconception might be apparent in the previous paragraphs. Here it is: many assume that any teaching on the Sovereignty of God goes against man's responsibility. Sure, there are those that might teach that (a.k.a. hyper-Calvinism), but that is not the teaching that carries the nickname of Calvinism. I am personally drawn to "The Doctrines of Grace" because it is the only systematic way of tackling scripture that is genuinely humble in its approach. Calvinism (for lack of a better word) says that God is Sovereign and Man is Responsible - both are true. There is no attempt to reconcile these two realities in any way that will diminish the truth of the other one.
I consider this one of the biggest misconceptions concerning this particular belief system because those that are confused will tend to throw scriptures about man's responsibility and the free offer of salvation to all... as if they denounce the passages that literally state God's choice and His Election. Calvinism is the only system of belief that I have encountered that simply embraces both without attempting to explain how these truths tie together in eternity. Every other system (on either side) tends to go at least one step beyond what the scriptures say and will delve into some version of implication on those verses, and they will let one passage supersede another instead of letting them complement each other.
(If you need examples of this, I would be happy to give some in the comments section of this post.)
If you want to unseat the concept of election, in a conversation with me, then you will not be able to do that by telling me that Christ came to save all or that Christ came for the world. I won't disagree with you. All of your mic-drops when you speak about the necessity of faith will land on a pillow of my agreement: Faith is necessary - People must believe to be saved - and anyone can do this! I can say that and also say that God chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him, and that He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will (See Ephesians 1:4-5) without batting an eye. They are both true because that is what the scripture says.
It is confusing for many, sort of like trying to explain what light is. Physicists will tell you that there are aspects of light where it must be treated as a wave. There are also aspects of light that demand it be treated as a particle. Particles can't be waves and waves can't be particles. The physicist will tell you that there is an explanation that ties these both together, but that has eluded them, for now. In the meantime, they must simply accept the realities as they are revealed.
Misconception Number 2
On the tails of this first misconception comes the second one: the second misconception finds it's roots in temporal snobbery. (Temporal snobbery is what one might call the stance, intentional or not, that the thoughts and beliefs and teachings that are happening today have more weight in your mind than the 2,000 years of Christian thought that preceded us on the historical stage of the Church.)
Calvinism is simply a nickname for Pauline Theology... as I have alluded to previously in this post. It could also be called Augustinian Theology, but my favorite name for it is "The Doctrines of Grace." I mention this because the debates that occur over these things were previously heard and have been recounted for our edification.
Many, many years before Calvin, this same debate came up between Pelagius and Augustine. Pelagianism was deemed a heresy by that generation. Calvin's teachings are simply a rehashing of Augustine, and the Doctrines of Grace are only one part of that. I mention this because many will throw out there that Calvinism is heresy, but historically speaking, well... it isn't.
There are deep veins of generations of truth. Hours, years, and whole lifetimes have been spent studying scripture, and to ignore the weight of previous generations of the Church (the body of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ) seems, well, petty.
To announce something as heresy, apart from a Biblically guided church council is ridiculous. The "rugged individualism" that our American Nation has fostered has left us crippled when it comes to the glorious unity of the Body of Christ, not only in this generation but in all previous generations.
(For my thoughts on creeds, statements of faith, and the Christian heritage of the Church, see this page on my church's website.)
These are the two biggest challenges that I have encountered during any conversation on this topic or any of its branches. I share this here to attempt to be helpful, not in persuading anyone to adjust their systematic theology, but to foster a better conversation when addressing these talking points.
November 3, 2020
October 31, 2020
31 years ago I went on a Halloween date with a girl... Through a series of unexplained (but providential) events... things like VW Beetles with holes in the floor, Ghost Rallies, scared best friends in haunted houses, break up tapes, get-back-together tapes, love notes, giant pumpkins, long-distance phone bills that made for angry parents, burned-out clutches, worm t-shirts, over-loaded moving vans, multiple faulty alternators, hospital trips, dragging mufflers, living-accommodations in stranger's basements, rat-houses, old houses, run over dogs that survive, short nights, crying babies, long work hours, more dragging mufflers, root-clogged drain pipes, more basement living, more crying babies, long-distance moves, wing-and-a-prayer bill paying, over-flowing septic tanks, fallen trees, used cars, faulty gas tanks, leaking radiators, more bad alternators, ice storms, no air-conditioning road trips to the beach, zero-dollar paychecks, paying $6.83 to sell your own home, moving van road trips with a dog and two kids, guest-room living, bats in the attic, water in the basement, faulty wiring, old pickup trucks without brakes, dying pets, bi- and tri-vocational living, paying to sell your second home, hospital bills, bad backs, stress tests, fake pandemics, kids graduating, an old red van that won't quit working... we have, by God's grace, continued to weather every storm.
I'm convinced now, that you are my final destination each and every day. If changing one thing in the course of my life would mean that I'm not with you, then I would never change a thing. I praise God for the sweet and bitter providence that has led me to you and kept me with you.
Love you, babe.
October 27, 2020
October 26, 2020
September 19, 2020
Here is the first video for the third week of school. It will play in the virtual homerooms on Monday the 21st and Tuesday the 22nd. I'm calling this "Episode Number Six" ... Not sure why. Actually wondering when anyone will realize that there isn't an episode Number 3... hmm...
I'm really just hoping that my students enjoy these videos. I'm hoping that they read between the lines and realize... Mr. Harmless cares about them!
September 16, 2020
September 10, 2020
August 26, 2020
August 5, 2020
July 23, 2020
May 29, 2020
May 13, 2020
John MacArthur on whether or not we should continue to hold services if the government instructs us not to...
QUESTION: “Do you believe it’s biblical when some pastors in America are continuing to hold services even though the government instructs them not to?” From Rich.Yeah, let me make very clear this question because it keeps coming up. If the government told us not to meet because Christianity was against the law, if the government told us not to meet because we would be punished, fined for our religion and our religious convictions, we would have no option but to meet anyway. And that takes you to the fifth chapter of Acts where the leaders of Israel said to the apostles, “Stop preaching.” And Peter’s response was very simple. He said, “You judge whether we obey God or men,” then he went right out and preached.If the government tells us to stop worshiping, stop preaching, stop communicating the gospel, we don’t stop. We obey God rather than men. We don’t start a revolution about that; the apostles didn’t do that. If they put us in jail, we go to jail and we have a jail ministry. Like the apostle Paul said, “My being in jail has fallen out to the furtherance of the gospel.” So we don’t rebel, we don’t protest. You don’t ever see Christians doing that in the book of Acts. If they were persecuted, they were faithful to proclaim the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ even if it took them to jail; and that’s been the pattern of true Christianity through all the centuries.But this is not that. Might become that in the future. Might be overtones of that with some politicians. But this is the government saying, “Please do this for the protection of this society.” This is for greater societal good, that’s their objective. This is not the persecution of Christianity. This is saying, “Behave this way so that people don’t become ill and die.”Now you may not think that you’re going to have that impact on somebody, you’re not going to be the one that becomes a carrier and causes something to be passed on to somebody else down the road and somebody dies. You may think that’s going to be you. But you cannot defy the government. And I don’t think pastors should do this. You cannot defy the government and say, “We’re going to meet anyway because God has commanded us to meet, no matter what damage we do to people’s lives.”I mean, what should mark Christians is mercy, compassion, love, kindness, sacrifice. How are you doing that if you flaunt the fact that you’re going to meet; and essentially you’re saying, “We disregard the public safety issue.” You don’t really want to say that. That does not help the gospel cause.What helps the gospel cause is to say, “Of course, we don’t want to be the cause of anyone’s sadness, anyone’s sorrow, anyone’s sickness, and certainly anyone’s death. So we will gladly comply. This is consistent with what Scripture says, that we are to live quiet and peaceable lives in the society in which we live. We don’t rebel, we don’t do protests, we don’t fight the government, we don’t harass and harangue, we don’t march, we don’t get in parades, we don’t stop traffic; we lead quiet and peaceable lives, and we pray for those in authority over us, and we submit ourselves to them.In Romans chapter 13, Paul says, “You submit yourself to the government, the powers that be.” But Peter adds to that, “You submit yourself to the governor and the king,” whoever that personal authority is. I’ve heard people say, “Well, this isn’t constitutional.” That’s irrelevant. That is completely irrelevant. When you’re told by an authority to do something and it’s for the greater good of the society physically, that’s what you do because that’s what Christians would do. We are not rebels and we’re not defiant, and we don’t flaunt our freedom at the expense of someone else’s health.How do we back out of that to communicate the love of Christ? Look, Jesus came and basically banished disease from Israel. He was a healer. The last thing the church of Jesus Christ would want to be is a group of people that lived in defiance and made somebody sick, caused somebody’s death. So you restrain yourself from that.Again, the issue is so clear that even going back to Richard Baxter back in 1600s, Richard Baxter has a great section in one of his books where he says, “If the magistrate,” as he calls it, “asks you to refrain from meeting because of a pestilence, you do not meet. On the other hand, if the magistrate tries to force you not to meet because of persecution of Christianity, you meet anyway.” I think that’s the dividing line.
May 9, 2020
It started with me… wrestling with the scriptures this week. (Actually, the last several weeks.) This Socially Distant preaching has been difficult, but now I have an opportunity to preach to people directly, and it feels just as difficult, mostly because I’ve been away! (Out of practice.)
Saturday Morning... I had already studied, read the commentaries, wrestled some more… but Saturday morning, I still felt unsettled in my choice of what to preach on. I had gotten up and while I was sitting in my chair, sipping my coffee, I prayed and started this way, “Lord, I wish you would just tell me what to say. Cause I would say it. Seriously. If you just told me what to say, I would say it.”
A little secret insight on me: Sometimes I will pray and instead of asking for something, I will say, "I wish." I do this when there is something that I would like, but I don't believe I necessarily ought to be asking for it... but I still want to ask for it. I still sorta hope I could ask for it. That is what I was doing this morning. But then I sat there for a moment, and I adjusted my prayer… “ No… Not ‘I wish’ that isn’t what I mean. I usually say, ‘I wish’ when I’m not really asking for it, I just want it. This time I mean it, I am asking for that. Just tell me what to say, that is what I ask. I’ll say it!”
I finished my coffee and sat there for a couple more minutes.
Truth must be told, my next action was to head to the restroom. I grabbed my kindle on the way... sorry for the graphic mental image I am painting for you… but it must be told how this happened. I sat down. (Again, sorry.) I turned on my Kindle, and it loaded the book that I had been reading most recently: “When the Man Comes Around” a commentary on Revelation by Douglas Wilson. I picked it up and read this:
So this is how it works: Jesus speaks, and then He tells John to write what He has spoken. The implication is that the angel of the church is to speak what he has read. So Jesus speaks, John writes, the angel reads, and the angel speaks.Alright… Just so you know the context… I had just read in this book previously:
So we know that the seven lampstands are the seven churches and that the Lord Jesus was walking around in the midst of His churches. The seven stars that He held in His right hand are the seven “messengers,” or pastors of these churches. The sword in His mouth is His Word, which He gives to the successive pastors in the upcoming passages.That is the paragraph right before that little paragraph that I read. This means that the “angel” that John refers to in this portion of Revelation is the pastor of a church. Douglas Wilson writes in another portion of the book (explaining in more detail):
The word angel need not refer to what we would call an angelic or celestial being. John the Baptist was called an angel (Mark 1:2). Human beings are called angels in the Old Testament also (Job 1:14; Is. 42:19; Mal. 2:7; 3:1). And the word is used by Luke to refer to ordinary messengers. Jesus “sent messengers (angels) before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him” (Luke 9:52; cf. 7:24). Now of course it is possible that the angels of the first chapters of Revelation are celestial beings, but in my view this creates many more problems than it solves.I knew this about Revelation, so I understood that idea when I read my little paragraph. I read "angel" but thought "pastor" when I was reading that... that little paragraph that I am beginning to believe God had queued up just for me. I think you should read it again, but this time, take into consideration a couple of things. One: I had just been praying, “God, please just tell me what to say… Give me the words to speak.” That thought was still rolling around in my mind as I read that paragraph. And two: I was hearing "pastor" when I read "angel"... Here it is again:
So this is how it works: Jesus speaks, and then He tells John to write what He has spoken. The implication is that the angel [pastor] of the church is to speak what he has read. So Jesus speaks, John writes, the angel [pastor] reads, and the angel [pastor] speaks.I’ve been reading all week… not knowing what to speak. I don’t want to oversimplify the process or underplay the importance of study and the ongoing development of improving my communication skills… but in a real way: Jesus speaks, the writers of scripture write, the pastor reads the scriptures, and then the pastor speaks.
May 8, 2020
May 7, 2020
May 6, 2020
May 5, 2020
May 3, 2020
April 26, 2020
April 19, 2020
April 17, 2020
Some prominent things to mention:
- I have tried to "social distance"...
- I have only stepped foot into two different grocery stores, two different houses, and four other stores.
- Watched all of the Taken Movies.
- Have created multiple tutorial videos for teachers and students.
- Watched the Stephen King miniseries: The Stand.
- Was diagnosed with high blood pressure. (Right near the beginning, when we could still see doctors.)
- Started Blogging Again.
- Bought mulch and spread it over landscaped areas around the house.
- Watched all of the Hunger Games movies.
- Installed the electrical for a dryer and the plumbing for a washer... and hooked both up.
- Re-Watched Stranger Things.
- Bought a lawnmower... first time to ever own a new lawnmower!
- Read two books.
- I have continued to read my Bible.
- Had a family member survive the Virus.
- Been part of multiple online meetings.
- Slept until 10:13am without realizing it.
- I called everyone in my church (at least attempted) 2 times, and will try again tomorrow.
- Had one of my sons ask a girl to marry him.
- I have done an online church every week.
- I have stayed up until 3am once on accident.
- Re-Painted my bathroom ceiling.
- Live-streamed prayer meetings every Wednesday night (and have found that I have better attendance for the live streaming prayer meeting than the actual prayer meeting.
- Mowed the yard twice.
- I've taken multiple naps.
- I've learned that I genuinely miss work and all of those interactions.
April 12, 2020
Here is the live stream portion of our service:
(Originally through Facebook Livestreaming.)
Here is the pre-recorded devotional:
April 5, 2020
April 1, 2020
March 29, 2020
March 27, 2020
I am thinking about getting a part-time job. I think that I might actually be more productive at home if I have just a little bit of time where I am working. Plus, I like to be directed. I like having a job... A prescribed set of activities that I must be working on, and I must try to complete.
I never thought of myself as one who worked good under pressure, but I really am. I believe that I didn't view myself that way, because it never really felt like "pressure". I always interpreted "pressure" as a "challenge". It is a "challenge" where I subconsciously think that most people are assuming I will fail.
Please don't read too much into this. I don't actually spend any time thinking about this, not really. I am just thinking about it now.
I wonder how everyone else is fairing? I'm just thankful that I have a job that is paid based on a salary. I feel so bad for those who are struggling without jobs right now. I think that is one of the reasons why I haven't tried to get a job at a grocery store. I figure that I might be able to get a job, but I don't want to take a job away from anyone else.
March 22, 2020
March 21, 2020
March 20, 2020
March 18, 2020
I did somewhat better at social distancing today.
Oh wait, I went to my parent's house... and ... um ... Big Lots.
But other than that, no interactions... other than a second trip to the hardware store!
My normal, day-to-day job is a disciplinary dean at a large high school. This is a busy job. In fact, I would say that it is the busiest that I've ever had. From the time that I arrive at work to the time that I leave to go home, something is happening. Either I'm doing paperwork, talking to students, talking to a teacher or administrator, talking to parents, either in-person or over the phone, or I am dealing with a problem situation. It is just a non-stop roller coaster ride of activity.
I like this about that job. I like to stay busy. Idle time, for a diagnosed ADD person, is hardly ever productive. I love being directed by the flow of events throughout the day. I don't have to plan out my day and try to get everything to stick with the plan... The "plan" is going to happen, I just don't know what it is until I get swept up in it.
With current events and the closure of the schools, I have gone on an early break/vacation. Most people would like this, but I'm not loving it. Without a flow of events sweeping toward me, I am forced to create my own agenda. Once again, most people would love this, but I am not loving this at all. At work, the most important thing is the thing that is happening right in front of me. When I am in this situation, I find it exceptionally difficult to prioritize. Does the closet need attention? should I complete a class that I am working on? Does my wife need help with something? Does the dog need to go out? I wonder how the teachers are doing? Should I make some tutorial videos on how to do a few aspects of e-learning? Maybe I should make a video to reassure the people at my church. Should I be calling them? What is my son doing? Where is my other son at right now? I could've had those shelves put up by now. I should have just started with reading my Bible and then do the devotional. Maybe I should study for the devotional today. Should I blog about my experiences?
I could go on...
Needless to say, Social Distancing, as much as I love aspects of it, is also a stretch for my mind. I wonder as I type this, does anyone else struggle with this same issue?
More than ever, would love some feedback.
Read Day 1 of Social Distancing
March 17, 2020
I just finished my first day of Social distancing.
I didn't know what "social distancing" was... but I believe (as an introvert) that I have been practicing this for a long time. I don't mind keeping my distance, especially in public places. In small gatherings, I don't mind it that much but have learned that if I practice too much social distancing in these situations that I can come across as rude... But now... with this behavior being practiced by everyone, I don't come across as rude, I come across as conscientious.
Since this is a "journal" of sorts, what did I do today?
I started off the day ... oh shoot ... I went out and I forgot until just now. I went to the doctor to get my blood drawn to check my cholesterol levels. Don't worry, I stayed away from everyone.
I came home after that and ... oh shoot ... I went out again and forgot. I went to the hardware store to get some materials for a closet. I was disappointed, no popcorn at the hardware store. (I think I know why.)
I didn't do much after that, hung out at home and recorded a podcast.
I'm getting antsy already.
March 15, 2020
February 15, 2020
In this episode, I give a personal Sermon Prep Thoughts and my Saturday Update. If you attend my church, this episode might be helpful as it contains some "reviewing" of the previous few sermons at church.
If you don't go to my church, but would like to listen to the actual sermons online, you can visit Edgewood Sermon Audio on Anchor.FM
February 12, 2020
February 6, 2020
February 3, 2020
February 1, 2020
This first episode is titled: Saturday Depression.
If you listen to it, let me know: I would love to have some feedback.
(I know that this first one is pretty lame, but I just wanted to start it and see where it goes.)
January 11, 2020
Given our cultural moment, a community like this would be incredibly compelling. It is no secret that we live in a climate where inequality is a growing problem. But the thing is, every proposed solution misses this crucial point. Conservatives typically say that charity or philanthropy is the answer, that individuals should share. Liberals, on the other hand more or less go the welfare route -- the state, with our tax dollars in hand, should share. Now both of these are true -- individuals and the state should share! But both also miss something absolutely crucial (which is why both charity and welfare come off clunky and arrogant, even offensive when you think about it). Both say, "Let me give you what I think you need without taking the time to get to know you, let alone share life with you, so I can just pat myself on the back and return to business as usual with my conscience clear." If reconciliation without justice is oppression ... then justice without friendship is just arrogance! But we can avoid both dangers by sharing our goods and our lives.
Stephen Um (Commentary on 1 Corinthians: Preach the Word Series)
January 4, 2020
"It is naive to think one can function with the simple formula: People have problems and the gospel resolves them. The fact is, the gospel generates in individual lives and in society a new set of problems. One has only to love impartially and hatred is threatened and stirred to violence. One has only to speak the truth and falsehood takes the stand with pleasing lies. Invite persons of different social and economic backgrounds around the same table and the fellowship is strained, often breaking apart ... Plant the cross in a room and the upwardly mobile convert it into a ladder. Evil, by whatever name it is called, will not sit idly by and allow the gospel to transform a community ... Let the preacher, therefore, be encouraged ... when having to deal with those problems which clearly have their origin in the fact that the gospel has been released in the community. A difference is being made, and that is seldom without pain."F.B. Craddock "Preaching to Corinthians" ~ As quoted by Ben Witherington III in his commentary on 1 Corinthians.