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Who Are You Owin’? (6)

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BY OWEN HUGHES, Associate Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

Who Are You Owin’?

Lynne Mills

     “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” - Paul

     If you have been around Conal Carr for any length of time you will know that Conal has a love and passion for youth ministry. He was the youth “pastor” (unpaid) at Oakwood for many, many years, and was previously involved with youth ministry in his former churches. His favorite verse to quote is 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (see above) as he talks about his “philosophy” of youth ministry. The verse basically says that ministry to others is more than just words, it is actions, it is sharing life, it is genuine care for others.

     Earlier this month I went back to Florida to do a wedding. I got to see a lot of my old friends from my time there. One of these friends who had the biggest impact on me was Lynne Mills. Lynne is about 10 years older than Amber, my wife, and me, so when we first met her she was in the stage of life that we are now. She and George have four children who were involved in the community and in the church. Lynne has a heart for the lost and as her kids got older, her mission was to impact her children’s friends and their families with the Gospel. The way she did that was to become a coach for a local soccer club team, where she gained a reputation for loving her team and winning a lot of games. Her involvement with the community and her love for these girls lead to something more important for Lynne: friendships. Lynne’s mission was never to be one of the best club coaches in the state of Florida (which she was), it was to impact kids with the Gospel, for Jesus.

     Lynne started several youth outreach initiatives at the church where our family attended and where I later worked. She started a successful soccer camp, VBS, and youth retreat, but her real impact was the way she invested in kids, specifically girls, in a very intentional way. She was always discipling young women, challenging them to think about their choices, and what it looked like to live in the light of Jesus. What drove Lynne’s ministry was this motto, “Kids just want to be loved and cared about.”

     Lynne and I (along with Robin Ferguson, another lady in our church that was instrumental in the youth ministry…are you seeing a pattern?), worked together for about four years. We ran the youth group, the summer programs, and the discipleship program for the church and we had a blast. There were many tears, several arguments, and a ton of laughter. Lynne’s motto became ingrained in the ministry and the fruit is that many of those kids are now in their mid-twenties, and they love Jesus, the church, and look for ways to serve the community.

     “Kids just want to be loved and cared about.” Has always stuck with me as I consider my ministry, the way I interact with my neighbors, and how I try to parent my own children. There are many times I have been tempted (and have fallen into temptation) to talk and talk and talk about what others should do and what things “could be like,” and what the Bible tells us to do, but sadly I don’t DO anything. Not that words aren’t important, and certainly, we are to preach the word, speak the Gospel, and tell others of Jesus, and I take that very seriously, but Lynne taught me that for a kid to listen to me, they needed to know that I love them and care about them, first. Lynne showed me this by always having her home, wallet, time, and heart opened to those kids.

     I need to say though, that Lynne got burned many times. When you put yourself out there, when you are “desirous” for others, then you will get burned. Loving people is wildly inefficient, hurtful, and often does not yield a good return on your investment. When Lynne, Amber, and I met again this past month we talked about these things, and about how ministry can become an identity. When our identity is tied to anything other than Jesus, we will get burned and burned out. We spent time talking about how Jesus shows us that He loves us and cares about us. We also talked about how Jesus is desirous for us and doesn’t just say He loves us, but shows us His love by giving His life for us so we can live with Him forever.

     Even in that conversation I was once again reminded of Lynne’s passion to see others encouraged and grow in their faith in Christ. Lynne spent time encouraging us, because Lynne knows “Owen just wants to be loved and cared about.”

     I am definitely ownin’ Lynne Mills for teaching me through her kindness, generosity, and love what it looks like to be “desirous for others” to the point that you will share your life with them.

So, who are you ownin’?

Posted by Rev. Owen Hughes with
in Bible

Election and Problem Verses

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 ASK THE PASTOR BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

      Question: “There are some verses in Scripture that seem to contradict the idea that God chooses only the elect to be saved – for instance, 1 Timothy 2:3-6, John 3:16, and 2 Peter 3:9. How are we to understand these “Arminian”-sounding verses?

     1 TIMOTHY 2:3-6“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”

     There are two potential problems with these verses: first, Paul says that God "desires all people to be saved;" and later, he says that Jesus Christ "gave Himself as a ransom for all." Taken out of context, these statements seem to contradict what the Bible says elsewhere - that God chose some people, not everyone, to be saved, and that Christ died for those whom God chose, not for everyone.

     However, if you look at these statements in the context of what Paul says just before them (in verses 1 and 2), it takes care of the apparent problem. In verse 1 Paul says, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people..."It's obvious that "all people" in verse 1 must mean the same as it does in verse 4. In verse 1 "all people" cannot mean every single person in the world - who of us could attempt to offer four different kinds of prayers (supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings) for all 5 billion people who are currently alive! Paul goes on to mention Kings and people in positions of high authority, because he recognizes that we tend to neglect praying for people that influence our lives from a distance. It's obvious that, in context, "all people" means the same thing in both verse 1 and verse 4, namely, "all kinds of people" - rich, poor, black, white, powerful, powerless, etc.

     This is related to one of the most important "mysteries" that God revealed in the New Covenant in Christ; that the people of God would no longer be ethnically and geographically limited primarily to Israel. The inclusion of the Gentiles and the “universalization” of the church was a new and exciting message that Paul was called by God to announce to the world. Therefore, he often emphasizes that the Gospel and the Kingdom are for all people, people from all nations, tribes, tongues, races, and social classes, no longer primarily for the Jews. Christ is the Savior for all men without distinction, not all men without exception.

     JOHN 3:16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  

     It’s ironic that this verse is seen as contradicting Reformed theology, because I see the third chapter of John as one of the clearest presentations of the Reformed view of God's sovereignty over the process of salvation. The Bible does teach that God will save anyone who will come to Him by faith in Jesus Christ. However, the Bible also teaches that, in our fallen state, we are hostile to God and would never even want to come to Him unless He first changed our hearts (Romans 3). That change is what Christ is referring to in John 3:3-5, when He says, "...unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God...unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." He makes it clear that unless the Holy Spirit gives you a new, spiritual birth you will not see, understand, or desire to enter God's kingdom. In verse 8, Jesus refers to the doctrine of God's election, "The wind blows where it wishes...So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." In other words, no one controls God's Spirit; He regenerates all whom God has chosen. Paul says essentially the same thing in Romans 9:15-16: "For [God] says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy."

     So, what is the meaning of "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish...?” The issue here is similar to the question of what "all men" means in 1 Timothy 2. Here the problematic word is "world." If you do a concordance or word study on how the word "world" is used in Scripture, you find that it has at least four different meanings: 1) the created world: land, sea, sky, and creatures 2) the world that is under Satan's dominion, that is in opposition to Christ and the church 3) all the people in the world and 4) all the different nations and types of people in the world - not only the Jews, but the Gentiles also. 

     In the immediate context, "the world" corresponds to "whoever believes in Him," and in verse 17 Jesus says that God sent His Son "that the world might be saved through Him."

     Since Scripture is clear that everyone in the world will not be saved, the word "world" in these must mean all the elect from all nations, races, and social classes. Again, "whoever believes in Him" will not be lost, but we know from the rest of the chapter (and the rest of Scripture) that only those whom God chooses and regenerates by His Holy Spirit will have the ability to see and believe in Christ, and to enter God's Kingdom.

     2 PETER 3:9“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

     This verse says that God is delaying the return of Christ and the Day of Judgment because He is patient and is "not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." Again, the key issue is who do the words "any" and "all" refer to? The context of these verses answers the question very clearly. The whole sentence makes perfect sense if the specified audience ("you") corresponds to the words to the words "any" and "all": "The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise...but is patient towards you, not wishing that any [of you] should perish, but that all [of you] should reach repentance." So, again, the words "any" and "all" refer to the elect, not every single person on the earth.

     So, the doctrine of election affirms that everyone who turns from their sins and believes in Jesus Christ will be saved; however, sinners in their fallen state do not have the ability to repent and believe unless God takes away their heart of stone and gives them a heart that grieves over its sin, desires to come to God, and believes in the promises of Christ (Ezekiel 11:17-20). That's why God must choose us before we choose Him - a choice that He made, Scripture says, before the foundation of the world. Salvation is God's work, from beginning to end.

Posted by Rev. Dan Kiehl with

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