Monday, January 8, 2024

Why Did You Believe and Others Did Not?

In an encounter with some Calvinists, one of them kept asking (more like demanding) why did you believe but others didn’t? Being that they are Calvinists, what they want to say is that the reason one person believes and others don’t is because we’re just following our nature. They want to say that God gave some people a nature to believe and others a nature to reject him. They like asking that question because it gives them a nice simple answer, while those of us who believe that the nature God gave us is to have the freedom to make choices have a hard time answering it. I can point to plenty of things that led up to me accepting Christ, but I can no more say why I made that choice than I can say why I sometimes choose vanilla ice cream and sometimes chocolate ice cream. So, I told the person that I could no more answer that than they could answer why God chose them. Interestingly, the person responded by saying, “I know why God chose me,” and then he quoted, Ephesians 1:5, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” This is interesting, because, though I have problems with the way they are using this verse, the fact that they did use this verse in this way gives me a way to answer their question. Obviously, if God choosing us by “his good pleasure” is a sufficient answer for why God exercised his freewill in the way they believe he did, then for me to say that “it was my personal preference” is a sufficient answer for me to explain why I made the decision that I did through my freewill. As you might expect, the Calvinist wasn’t satisfied with my answer. The problem that Calvinists have is that they presuppose determinism. They don’t really want an answer to “Why did you believe but others didn’t?” They want an answer to “What is the deterministic reason that you believed but others didn’t?” Of course, that is just question begging. If God has freewill and God has the power to make creatures that have freewill, then we can’t just assume that our every action is predetermined. To make it worse, Calvinists borrow from the concept of freewill to keep their doctrine from making God the author of sin. They will say that we’re just following the sin nature that God made us with, but God isn’t the cause of our sin. If you mention that their doctrine makes God the author of sin, they squirm like worms when you remove the rock they are hiding under. They never provide a good explanation for it, rather they say things like, “You don’t understand Calvinism” or “You can’t understand things that are spiritually discerned, because you are carnal.” When the simple fact is that their doctrine is just wrong.

Monday, September 25, 2023

I Would Dump ProPresenter If I Could

It's no secret that I have been vocal about issues with ProPresenter 7. We have frequently had issues in which ProPresenter would crash at inopertune times. Up until this time, my hope was that by being the sqeaky wheel they would fix the problems that I have been seeing. Instead of doing that, this weekend, RenewedVision chose to block my access to a forum that they moderate on Facebook and also their own Facebook page. The only post that I know they took issue with was "Is anyone else seeing multiple crashes that aren't reported by the crash reporting system." Aside from that, I made some comments concerning problems with their software development process. My initial assumption was that someone unassociated with Renewed Vision was resposible for blocking me, or perhaps, one employee who hadn't been trained properly. But after contacting them directly, it was revealed to me that it was, in fact, a RenewedVision employee who chose to block me and that it was a decision made by multiple employees. This is quite disturbing to me. I would not expect such unprofessional behavior coming from a significant software development company. Blocking customers because they ask a question that you don't want answered or because they see problems with your software development process is extremely unprofessional. So far, they haven't blocked me from submitting trouble tickets, but I'm now concerned that they might be picking and choosing which bugs they fixed based on whether they like you or not. I have since discovered a way to get rid of the crash that I was seeing. I deleted the Timers configuration file and then went and recreated the timers, one-by-one. It appears that the Timer's file was corrupted when either the installer or the startup code ran. But I didn't get there by RenewedVision providing me with a solution; I got there by asking that same question that RenewedVision took issue with on another forum and the resulting answers resulted in me finding an answer to the problem. I'm so tired of messing with these guys. If not for the fact that I don't believe there is other software out there that does what their software does, I would be trying to get rid of ProPresenter. In the past, I have encouraged people to try ProPresenter, but I don't know that I can encourage people to try ProPresenter when I have serious concerns about the professionalism of the company that develops it.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Understanding God in Times of Suffering and Uncertainty

How do we pray during something like this? In the news we hear about this crazy bug that is going around. We know it is causing suffering and with so much news about it it almost feels like it is hanging in the mist around us, even though the numbers indicate that’s not the case. Even if we don’t catch the bug, we’ve been affected. Some are off of work. Others wish they were off work because they worry every time they hear a co-worker cough. Normal is disrupted. How do we pray in times like this.

My thoughts turn to Romans 8. Paul was discussing some things here that often get overlooked because of some controversial doctrinal issues that laid on this passage, but it’s worth our time to focus on what he was saying and not just the doctrinal implications of the example he gave. In Romans 8:16-18 he states, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Paul was dealing with a different type of suffering, but he saw the suffering that he was going through as evidence of his future glorification.

It is within Paul’s discussion of suffering that he says, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)

This is a difficult thing. We don’t like going through suffering. We don’t like seeing other people suffering. But that suffering may result in something far greater that we can’t see, yet. It’s hard for us to pray for things we can’t see, but the Spirit intercedes for us. That’s not to say that he is asking that we be protected from suffering. Whatever the Spirit asks for will be given, but that may still cause us to suffer. That’s very difficult.

But notice what the next verse says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) We like to quote this and think about all the blessings that are going to come our way, but he just been talking about suffering. What are those “all things”? Suffering. Maybe some other things too, but definitely suffering.

There’s something that I really like about this verse. He doesn’t just say, “all things work together for good” as if he is giving his readers knew information. Instead, he begins with “and we know.” For a long time I looked at that and questioned, “how do we know that?” Paul says we know it (or at least he and his original readers knew it). Am I supposed to look at my own life and somehow it seem obvious? No, I don’t think so. This passage wouldn’t be needed if we could get there by self-reflection.

Recently, I’ve become convinced that the controversial verses (Romans 8:29-30) are there to provide evidence for his claim that we know these things. “For whom…” it begins. That “For” is pointing back at the verse saying, “we know.” So, he’s about to tell us why we know it. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

One way that people read this passage is to say that those he foreknew are all of us who will be saved. Since that would include us today, they explain the tense of the passage by saying that this means it was started in the past but is an ongoing thing, so even though we haven’t been glorified yet, it is just saying it has started and it is certain. My objection to that view is that it takes something that isn’t obvious (verse 28) and gives evidence for it with something that is even less obvious. Paul was too well educated to make that kind of mistake in his writing.

There is another way to look at this passage. What if “foreknow” actually means, “people known in the past?” What if it means people who came before Paul, but not Paul himself? Do we know of people that God knew before Paul, that he predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he called, that he justified, and that he glorified? What about Moses and Elijah? When they appeared on the mount of transfiguration, Peter wanted to build tabernacles for them. Elijah was taken up into heaven at the end of his ministry. He is an obvious example of a saint of old who was treated as if his sins were forgiven prior to the sacrifice that Jesus offered on the cross, a person called by God, and a person who was glorified. How do we know that Romans 8:28 is true? Because it was true for people like Elijah and other examples we have in the scriptures.

We have evidence that God works all things for good. Even the suffering that we face will be turned to good. And I think we can already see hints of that happening with our current situation. We don’t want to pray for suffering, even though it may lead to better things. We may even question why God would allow suffering. We might even be tempted to say that God could have prevented it and should have prevented it but didn’t. It’s true that God could have prevented it, but before we start telling God what he should do, we should look at the examples we have in the Bible of how he used suffering to accomplish better things. We don’t know what the end result of this suffering will be, but we can have faith in God and his ability to turn it into something good.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Using Video Conferencing for Church Work During Troubled Times

With the efforts to slow the spread of the virus, most churches are running up against meeting size limitations and ours is no exception. But we can’t just drop everything and wait for this thing to blow over. The work of the church must continue. One way of doing that is by holding staff, team, committee, etc. meetings online, rather than in person. Having recently conducted a committee meeting like that, I thought it might be beneficial to someone if I were to document what I did and why. Please, do not take this to be an expert opinion on how these things should be done. I went into this looking for a low cost solution that I could set up quickly. I did not evaluate all of the options and there may be a better solution out there.

Tool Selection

Going into this, my first thought was, “How can I do this with Skype?” We’ve been using Skype for Business at work for a long time, so I knew that was one possibility and it is one that would do what I needed it to do. Skype has better name recognition, but in the end, I chose to use Microsoft Teams (free). Microsoft owns both, but Teams it seems like they are trying to transition business type meetings from Skype to Teams. I chose to go with Teams, partly because I wanted to try it out and partly because there is a free version that has a lot of the functionality that you pay for when using Skype for Business. There are other tools out there that I’ve seen people use, such as Go To Meeting and Zoom. I don’t know how those compare, but the free version of Microsoft Teams will allow up to 300 users (as opposed to 50 users on Skype). Though I don’t anticipate us doing this, 300 users would be more than enough to have all of the people who attend our services in the user list.


The starting point is Microsoft will ask for your Microsoft user id and password. I pretty much just clicked through stuff until I figured out what seemed to work. I created a Team for the committee that I wanted to meet with and added them one by one. Since the free version of the tool doesn’t allow for scheduled meetings, I sent out an e-mail saying what they would need to do to join the meeting when it was time to meet, though it turns out that once a meeting is started I had some capability to add them to the meeting and to send a link they could use to join the meeting. If we were going to do this a lot, I would think that being able to schedule a meeting would be worth paying the fee, but we did alright with just the free version.

In the meeting room, we had three people, so I set up a video camera connected to a laptop via a video capture device. The others were connected via their phones or laptops. Some had their cameras turned on and some did not. I was able to join the meeting via my laptop and my phone at the same time. That allowed me to see what other people were seeing. One issue I didn’t figure out was that the video was reversed. This wasn’t a big deal because I wasn’t trying to show people anything through the video, but it was odd.

The Meeting

Most of what we did was discuss some documents that I made available by sharing a screen. If you have multiple screens, you can choose which screen you share, or you can share a particular application. Because people were viewing it through their phones, it was difficult for them to read. If everyone had been using desktops, laptops, or tablets, it probably would’ve been better. We did run into some issues with echoes and noise, but that seems to be the nature of the beast. Sometimes the sound would drop out while people were talking, making it hard to understand.

Our biggest problem wasn’t technology but lack of feedback. In a normal committee meeting, when reviewing a document, silence means people have nothing to say that they are intently looking a that document, trying to figure something out. Body language tells you which is which. On a video conference, it is much harder to pick up on those cues, even if you can see people’s faces, making it much harder to know when it is safe to move on. Move too slow and it takes forever. Move to fast and you end up with just one person talking and the others get overlooked.

I don’t want to say that these tools aren’t really designed for deliberative bodies because I would imagine that if the rule that Robert’s Rules of Order puts in place for meetings of more than 12 people then some of the issues would be resolved, since each person would have to be acknowledged by the chair prior to speaking. There would just need to be a way for them to inform the chair that they wished to speak. And a classroom setting sort of follows those same rules. It’s the small committee that has more of an issue because people tend to just speak and usually that is the best way to handle them. But the lag from when someone speaks and when their voice is heard online causes people to talk over other people.

Opportunities for These Tools

Committee meetings seem to be the closest things that churches have to the target group for a tool like Microsoft Teams, even though it isn’t ideal. I’m of the opinion that churches should make use of that. Given that a lot of other stuff has been canceled, this may be a good time for these committees to get more stuff done that scheduling conflicts may have hindered in the past. I’m very much of the opinion that it is in working groups that true church fellowship is developed.

Small groups and Sunday school classes are another place where these types of tools may be ideal. We might not have considered doing something like this when we weren’t required to limit gathering sizes, but now is a good time to try things that wouldn’t normally work.
Though probably better for normal Skype or Facetime than for a tool like Teams, video conferencing may be a good way to communicate with “shut-ins”. In fact, we’re kind of in a situation where we’re all supposed to be acting like shut-ins. There’s only so much Netflix you can watch before you get bored. Imagine it that were your life all the time.

For a church service, you probably want to stick with normal livestreaming. It would be great if we could all hear each other singing and worshiping together, but the lag would make that difficult. But want a church might do is have the pastor, the music director, and maybe a few others be on a meeting together and then livestream that meeting. They might each be in their own homes, but the music director might begin the service, someone else might have announcements (what’s church without announcements), the pastor would preach a sermon. And everyone else would participate from home without the disruption that random open mics would cause.

What about outreach? Well, there’s no reason you can’t lead a person to the Lord over a video conference. The big question is whether there is something we can do to get them on that video conference in the first place. As with all things related to outreach, that may require some creativity. Maybe we invite them to participate in a discussion of some kind. Maybe its something else. But yes, I think it is something that might work.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Psalm 91 and Coronavirus

Amid the talk of coronavirus, I’ve seen plenty of posts about Psalm 91. Many focus on verse 10, “There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.” One preacher declared that if people would claim this promise that the virus would stay away. It bothers me when I hear people make claims like this because simple observation tells us that Christians are not immune from viruses, or cancer, or automobile accidents, or anything else. How are we to explain this? Is it a lack of faith? Is God a liar? Does this passage even mean what people think it does?

Psalm 91 is a reassuring passage to read because it mentions many protections that only God can provide in a way that says it will be done. But does it really say that we can go to the Lord and say, “You promised that I wouldn’t get sick?” It’s interesting to note that Satan used this same passage when he tempted Jesus to throw himself down from the temple, but equated this with “tempt[ing] the Lord thy God.” If Jesus wouldn’t use the passage in this way, should we?
One of the questions we should answer is who this passage is written to and about. Our tendency is to look at any of the Psalms and make it about us. Verse 1 says, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” We want to interpret this as “If I dwell in the secret place of the Most High then I will abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Then we try to figure out what the “secret place” is and start making up things. We might say that those who are a Christian dwell in the secret place. But then we think that maybe it is really only those Christians who have a very close relationship with the Lord. This gives us an out if we or some other Christian gets sick because we can always say that our relationship with the Lord isn’t as good as it should be. But this is not how we should interpret scripture.

It’s interesting that the writer of this Psalm refers to the Lord as his refuge and fortress, but he seems to be talking to someone who has “made…the Most High, [his] habitation.” It brings to mind a walled city, which would be a “refuge and fortress” for the people who lived outside the city, but would be a dwelling place for people who had homes in the city.
Some people think that Psalm 91 is a psalm of Moses and suggest that the “secret place” might refer to Moses meeting with God in the cloud on the mountain. But other people think this is a psalm of David, which might call that interpretation into question. Psalm 18:11 says that the Lord “made darkness his secret place,” and has references to a severe storm. Psalm 27 speaks of the secret places of the Lord’s tabernacle and of dwelling in the house of the Lord. Psalm 81 refers to “the secret place of thunder.”

Here’s a possibility that seems to fit the context and what we know: maybe dwelling in the secret place isn’t continual, but is a place that we go for refuge in times of trouble. But it’s not up to us to choose whether we are in the secret place or not. When the Lord “covers thee with His feathers,” that is when you are in the secret place. We can run to him for help and request that he cover us to protect us, but just as Jesus would not throw himself from the temple to test this, we should not put ourselves in harm’s way just to try it out. And we should not assume that this protection will give us long life on Earth. It may be that the Lord will protect us by taking us to be with him in heaven. And as it relates to the coronavirus, yes, we can seek the Lord’s protection, but it could be that he protects some of us by allowing us to contract the virus. It may be uncomfortable for a time, but we may come out with immunity to that virus on the other side. And if it kills us and we are in Jesus Christ, we will enter into a life that is better than what we know now.

Friday, February 14, 2020

God's Valentine

Valentine’s Day is that special day when those of us who are single feel miserable because we are alone while those who are not single are all mad at their significant other for not being romantic enough. At this point in my life, I’ve spent a significant amount of time considering the question of why I’m not married. And I’ve had plenty of people give me their own thoughts on the subject. I used to have people tell me that “God has someone for you.” I believed them. And I heard of people who spoke of what they believed was God putting them together with their perfect match. While it made for a great story, I couldn’t reconcile the logic of it. For one thing, there were far too many divorces. If God were picking and choosing the people to place together in marriage then why would there be divorce? Either there were people who married when they should have waited for the right person to come along, or they were rejecting the one God had chosen. The second might have been true, but they were getting remarried. God hates divorce. Though it’s not the unforgiveable sin, I couldn’t get my head around how God could say he hated divorce and then use that as the means by which to bring the right two people together. And if he didn’t want to split people up then that might mean that the woman God intended for me married the wrong person.
Granted, it’s exactly my kind of response. If someone were to ask me, “Why aren’t you married?” I could see myself saying, “The woman God had for me married someone else.” While it would get plenty of strange looks, that is consistent with what many people believe about marriage. There is, however, another way to understand marriage that doesn’t run into the same logical problems. What if—as a general rule—God doesn’t pick who or if we will marry. That’s not to say that he never does, nor that he won’t give us advice on the subject, but what if that is something he leaves up to us and if we choose to marry a terrible person and we’re miserable, well, that’s on us. That gets us away from thinking that God caused us to marry the wrong person. That gets us away from thinking that maybe we should consider marrying someone who isn’t right because God hasn’t seen fit to bless us with the right person. It gets us away from thinking that two people who are married maybe aren’t right for each other.
Some may object that if God leaves the choice up to us then he doesn’t have foreknowledge of who we will marry. This objection is a logical fallacy. Knowledge of an event doesn’t equal causation. We might have knowledge, for example, that a train is traveling from Fort Worth to Dallas. We might even be able to describe each bend it will make along the way. We might even be able to say when it will travel through each railroad crossing, but we didn’t cause any of it. Given that God’s knowledge far exceeds our own, there is no reason for us to think that he must control every detail of future events in order to know what those events are.
Another objection that people might have is that it makes it seem like God doesn’t care who you marry. I don’t think anything could be farther from the truth, but what it might be is that there is a certain type of person that he would want you to marry. Instead of thinking there is one person that would give you the best possible marriage if you were to marry them (but they might mess that up by marrying the wrong person), think about it in terms that God is going to bless or curse certain aspects of your marriage and if you marry the type of person that God would have you marry and live according to how he would have you live that you are putting your marriage in a position to blessed. But if you choose to marry a prostitute, you’re putting yourself in a position to live out the life of Hosea. You aren’t going to miss out on the best marriage because “the one for you” chose to marry someone else and you aren’t necessarily going to have the best possible marriage because you asked God to lead you to the person you should marry.
What does this mean for Valentine’s Day? For one thing, if you are married, you have a responsibility to nurture the relationship you are in because it’s not going to last just because God picked the right person for you. You picked ‘em. As for those of us who are sitting at home and once again bemoaning the fact that we have no one who is expecting us to buy them roses, chocolate, and white teddy bears made in China, we have no reason to question God on the subject. He gave us the ability to go out in search of such a person, and he might have given us sense enough to make good choices, so that we got here, not because God likes us less than he does other people, but because we are better off than if we made bad choices. Or maybe we’re in this situation because we made bad choices. Either way, if you are sitting around asking why God hasn’t given you the Valentine that you wanted this year, you should find a better use of your time.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Reasons for Old Earth/Young Earth

What are the arguments for saying that the Earth is old and what are the arguments that the Earth is young? Below is a list of some that I have heard on both sides. I doubt that anyone will read this and go away having changed their mind on the position they hold. I do, however, think that if someone wishes to argue their position they will need to address the reasons that are given on the other side.

Reasons for Young EarthReasons for Old Earth
The Bible says creation took six days.The word used for "day" could be translated as "period."
The Bible says that Adam was "in the beginning."The word "day" is used multiple ways in Genesis 1.
The great flood would have removed evidence of anything prior to it.Hebrews 3 implies that we are still in the seventh "day."
The geniologies have enough people to cover about 6,000 years.Genesis 1:12 declares that "the Earth brought forth," implying that it took some time for the plants to grow.
Young Earth best accounts for a world in which no death occurred.Adam was allowed to name the animals before Eve was formed. It likely would have taken more than one day name the animals.
The existence of fossils is evidence that the layers of rock were formed much more quickly (such as by a global flood) than would be implied by rock layers forming over millions of years.The amount of time required for light to travel from the stars to us is more than 6000 years./td>
Radiometric data cannot be shown to prove millions of years.The Bible doesn't say that the animals didn't die, or anything, other than those who had access to the Tree of Life.
The Bible doesn't make a direct statement about the age of the Universe or of the Earth.