The Plumb Line

The Plumb Line
‘For know this’, says God, ‘As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. Know that the plumb line of the world says, that the crooked is straight, and the straight is crooked. Too many Christians are trying to use the worlds plumb line and standards in the church, and then say it looks right.  But everything is wrong, when you build your life and ministry with the world’s standards.  You need to use God’s plumb line, the Word of God, as your standard.’

‘For yea, I the Lord desire to do some major demolition work in your lives, and in others, only some minor work. Yea, in some churches and ministries, there are some organizational “structures” that don’t belong there and should be torn down, because they are hindering my progress’.

‘I want to uproot, tear down and destroy your worldly foundations, and then plant and build your life and ministry in God.’

‘I want to build, increase and expand. But to build more, a deeper foundation must be laid for a greater building. And that means we must first tear down the old building, dig up the old limited foundation and lay a new foundation for a ten-story ministry instead of a one-story ministry.’

‘If you will allow me to use my plumb line, the Word of God, I will build and plant your life and ministry bigger, better and stronger than before’, says the Lord.

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Respect Is Putting Others First

Over the past several months I have read and listened to people as they express their total lack of understanding as to how those on the other side of the political debate can possibly think the way they do. However, this isn’t anything new for it happens all the time in every aspect of life. It can be as simple as why does one person believe in Ford products and another like Dodge products; Organic versus GMO; Holistic versus Pharmaceutical; Vaccines versus Non-Vaccines; and the list would never end. Take religion, not only are their thousands of different religions around the world, but even within the same religion you can have many other factions. Within Christianity you have over twenty thousand different denominations.  And those members in each denomination vehemently believe in dogma that is diametrically opposite of what their Christian brothers and sisters believe. And they are all studying from the same book. I have heard many a religious debate come to an abrupt end with both sides asking the other “Why can’t you see how wrong you are? You must be blind.”  Many of us react to others that don’t believe as we do as if they are believing the way they do only to make us mad.

Some say they have tried to understand the other person’s point of view, but they just can’t wrap their mind around their thought process. Here is part of the problem. Before we even begin to discuss, we have already predetermined that what others believe is pure nonsense; so, I will pretend to listen. However, from personal experience, we really aren’t listening, we are only waiting for our time to talk. Listening shows respect, and unfortunately, this is lacking on both sides of the discussion.

The key to answering this mystery is in asking the question differently. What we really are asking is “WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE EXACTLY AS I DO? With the focus on us, we don’t take the time to listen and learn the other person’s position. Remember, you have spent countless days, months and years of your time researching and collaborating with those of the same mindset to come to your present understanding. Don’t expect everyone else to believe instantly every word you post on facebook and twitter. Offering evidence supporting your belief from resources that are prejudiced toward every belief except yours is not irrefutable proof. Yes, it is good to introduce the information that has shaped your beliefs, but don’t make the mistake in thinking that everything you have read is the gospel truth. Odds are you haven’t taken the time to study the other side.

This is similar to the mind set of those people who are prejudice against others with different colored skin, because spending all your time around people of the same color makes it impossible to understand people of a different color. Hmm. Prejudice comes in all shapes and sizes.

Reflect back five or ten years and everyone will remember what they used to believe but no longer consider. Experience has a tendency to replace knowledge with wisdom. I saw a post on facebook where a professed millennial blamed the parents for the Trump win. His response about parents brought back memories of my youth when the intellectual elite (ages 18 to 28) were anti-establishment, anti-parents, anti-police and you didn’t trust anyone over 30. To all of today’s youth: You are going down a path that your parents and every generation before you have traveled. We (Your parents) are waiting at the end of that trail with arms wide open to welcome you. Life will change you. Campus life only makes you think you are smarter than everyone else. It is a fact that a college graduate will forget over 80% of what they were taught during their 4 years. “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” – Albert Einstein.

WALKER Church Consulting Group

Walker Church Consulting Group is a staff of professional church facility growth experts. Walker C.C.G. provides the tools for small to medium size churches to minimize their risk as they turn their building vision into a reality. This can be a very difficult feat, as attested by the findings of F.W. Dodge Corporation. This corporation is a reporting agency that provides construction information and intelligence solutions. F.W. Dodge cites that 60% of church building projects fail and 70% that make it to construction go over budget by 30% to 50%. Walker Consultants will guide the church leadership away from these pitfalls ensuring churches of a successful and enjoyable design/build experience.

The building committee is typically the decision makers during the building project, however, most have little to no experience in design or construction. However, most design firms require the church to determine the size, scope and budget for their project. This is a critical step for every building project and is one of the main reasons why projects go over budget. The lack of skills in this area can render irreversible consequences. A building project that goes over budget is a consequence of not having laid a foundation before the Architect starts to draw. When the foundation is plumb, so will everything else be that is built upon it – straight, level and true.

Determining the size, scope, and budget for a building project is as critically important as laying a solid foundation for the building. Walker Church Consultants will lay this solid foundation by providing the tools that balances the ministry space, determines affordability and feasibility, separates wants from needs, and establishes confidence in the church leadership and among the members. Walker Church Consultants also provides the tools for churches to successfully raise money. It is common among all denominations that the need to expand always comes before the money.

Walker Church Consultants also provides the communication tools that will unify the members of the church with a heartfelt sense of ownership in the building project. This is crucial for successfully raising the financial support.

 

Kisses From An Enemy

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“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Prov 27:5-6 (KJV).

by Thomas H Walker

In the book publishing industry there has arisen from the ashes of failed dreams. . . Self- Publishing companies. First time authors find it nearly impossible to be published by tradition publishers. There are some success stories with the traditional approach, but the failures out number the successes. All the commercial publishers will tell you that they receive thousands of manuscripts a month and they accept less than 4% for publication. This creates a need for the other 96% for which gave birth to the vanity press. The problem is that not everyone should write a book. Many Self-Publishing companies do not give an honest analysis of your book. The reason for this is that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. They use false flattery coupled with “kisses of praise” to get you to pay them to publish your book. If it doesn’t sell, (and by the way the odds are great that you will not sell except to family and friends) the publisher loses nothing. All manuscripts submitted to a Self-Publisher are accepted for publication. There are a few exceptions, but very few. The author assumes all the risk.

How does this relate to your vision to expand your facilities? Sixty percent of all church building projects fail and only forty percent see their project to fruition. However, 70% of the 40% go over budget by thirty to fifty percent. In other words, out of ever hundred building projects only twelve complete construction in budget.

The conventional delivery system has intentionally structured their process so that the church assumes the maximum risk. The size and scope of the project is usually the responsibility of the Church’s leadership.  It is imperative that a verification analysis be done to determine the church’s financial capability. The budget is what drives the size and scope of the project.  This needs to be done by a professional firm that has the years of experience as well as the resources so church leaders can make sound decisions. Not every church that wants to build can or needs to.  Maybe a more efficient use of their existing facility can eliminate the need for a building project, or can substantially reduce the size and scope of the new facility.  An honest evaluation may dampen the dreams of the Leaders, but it can save them heartache and financial ruin.  A critical analysis will separate the individual wants from the church’s needs. “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Prov 27:5-6 (KJV).

The best way to see the heart of a company is to measure the amount of risk they are willing to assume.  There are many hazards to a construction project and confronting these risks as to who will be responsible, will bring to the surface any self-serving agendas.  Finding a company to design and build your facility is not hard.  Finding a company that is willing to have as much “skin in the game” as you, will be your biggest challenge.  Remember, the company that has the ministry’s best interest in mind, will be up front with the realities of construction, regardless of how unpopular it may sound.  These firms want their clients to be pleasantly surprised, as opposed to terribly disappointed. There accomplishments are measured by the number of successfully completed projects that came in on time and under budget. These results are the consequences of a company that has a heart for the ministry, not their bottom line.   

Wounds Of A Friend

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by Thomas H Walker

From the ashes of disappointment and rejection arises what appears to be a shining beacon of hope – Self- Publishing – or more commonly referred to as the Vanity Press. First time authors find it nearly impossible to get traditional publishers to notice them let alone publish their work. Every commercial publisher receives thousands of manuscripts a month and accepts less than 4% for publication. This creates a need for the other 96%, which in turn creates a demand and finally a business. There are some success stories about a new author that secures a contract with a traditional publisher, but the failures out number the successes.

Overall, Self-Publishing firms do not give an honest analysis of your book – hence the term Vanity Press. Their motive behind these publishers is to flatter you with enough “kisses” to get you to pay them to publish your book. If your book doesn’t sell, (and by the way the odds are great) the publisher loses nothing. Every manuscript submitted to a Vanity Press is accepted for publication. There are a few exceptions but very few. The author assumes all the risks and the publisher reaps an income stream from publishing services and by selling back to you your own book.

How does this relate to your vision to expand your facilities? Sixty percent of all church building projects fail, and only forty percent see their project completed. However, of the 40% that complete construction, 70% go over budget by 30 to 50 percent. To make it simple, out of every one hundred church building projects only twelve successfully complete their building project within budget.

The traditional building delivery system and many Design / Build firms today have intentionally structured their process so that the church unknowingly shoulders all the risks. Determining the size and scope of a project and budget is usually the responsibility of the Church’s leadership. It is imperative to perform a feasibility analysis to determine the budget, which in turn drives the size and scope of the project. This study, conducted by a professional church facilities growth firm, will have experienced personnel that know the difference between ministry space versus square footage. This is important to know when balancing a ministry’s programmable space needs.

Not every church that wants to build can or needs to build. Maybe a more efficient use of their existing facility can eliminate the need for a building project, or can substantially reduce the size and scope of the new facility. An honest evaluation may dampen the dreams of the church leaders, but it can save them heartache and financial ruin in the end. A critical analysis will separate the individual wants from the church’s needs. “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Prov 27:5-6 (KJV).

The best way to see the heart of a company is to measure the amount of risk they are willing to assume. Many risks come with every construction project and it makes sense that the more experienced a firm, the more willing they will be in assuming these risks. Finding a company to design and build your facility is not hard; however, finding a company that will be honest with you about the road ahead will be your challenge. Remember, the company that has the ministry’s best interest in mind typically isn’t the cheapest or the most popular. Measure the firm by the number of successfully completed projects that came in on time, under budget and are ministry friendly. These results are the consequences of a company that has a heart for the ministry, not their bottom line.   

Commitment Is The Glue For Success

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During the interviewing process, you will probably hear Architectural and General Contractor firms defend their delivery system by warning you that the Design/Build Full Service Delivery System is like “putting all your eggs in one basket.” The reason they make this claim is that the A/GC system creates a strict separation of responsibilities between the key principle players. On the other hand, the D/B system creates a team mentality among the key principle partners. The A/GC system sees the design and construction as separate processes. The D/B sees it as one process. When you look deeper into their statement, they are actually saying, “You don’t want a team working together but working separately; also, you want limited commitments from the A/GC in case you need to end the relationship.”

When you sign a contract with a stand-alone Architect, you thereby limit the involvement of the Architect. When the Architect is done with design, you will sign another contract with a General Contractor who will then sign multiple contracts with sub-contractors. The church is convinced that signing multiple contracts with the Architect and General Contractor reduces the risk. However, what you have really done is to reduce the level of commitment from the key principles, because their responsibilities are confined to specialized areas of the project. This creates tunnel vision as opposed to a total project understanding.

The church is convinced that by separating the principle players, it will avoid “having the fox watch the hen house.” In addition, with the firms working on limited terms “in office,” there is never time to form a cohesive bond among all parties. Again, this working environment creates a division of responsibilities among the principle players in each discipline, triggering negative influences on your building project schedule and the final project cost. Some negative consequences are finger pointing and adversarial relationships. F.W. Dodge states that 70% of building projects go over budget by 30% to 50% and the main reason for this is due to separation. Church leaders need to read the Architect’s AIA agreement, as well as the GC contract with a very critical eye. These contracts place the majority of the risk with the owner.

A Full Service Design / Build company encourages commitment and does so without apologies. Every ministry that decides to expand their facilities to grow God’s kingdom is entering into a spiritual battle. The Design / Build process focuses on building a dedicated team of professionals that work with the Church’s Building Committee. Building a team first is the only way to create a united and committed front line of defense. In every endeavor, the degree of success and victory is in direct correlation to the level of commitment in the team members. Commitment is the glue for success.

The Need Always Comes Before The Money

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By Thomas Walker

Growth is vital to a church, and for the membership to grow there has to be adequate facility space. Typically, the impetus for a building program happens when the church has out-grown their facilities. If ignored, the lack of room will cause people to go elsewhere to worship. Irreversible damage is inevitable when the lack of adequate ministry space reaches critical mass. Many church leaders resolve space limitations by implementing “Band-Aid” solutions. By adding more services or bringing in mobile units, you can maintain and even increase membership temporarily. The main reason for these interim fixes is that the need always comes before the money. Many times Church leaders have said that they need to expand but the funds are not available.

Every ministry I have personally worked with over the past 13 years experienced the same financial challenges in the beginning. Those ministries that successfully expanded their facilities did so by deciding on who would provide them with professional assistance. Understanding the different delivery systems available and the importance of church specialists will help churches in selecting the right firm. When the right firm is selected, 80% of the battle is won.

A firm that specializes in church design and construction will first ascertain the programmable space requirements, church’s financial affordability, and a list of specific project goals. Tools, such as a color rendering, fly-around, master site plan, are needed to raise money. The purpose for these tools is to maintain unity among the members as well as to instill a sense of ownership in the project. A sense of proprietorship is what motivates members to give financially. Without the proper graphics to cast the vision into the hearts and minds of the church members, the action from the leadership is futile. A successful capital campaign is the result of writing “the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he [They] may run that readeth it” (Habakkuk 2:2). Furthermore, it is Biblical to develop a plan of action, “For which of you desiring to build a tower, doth not first sit down and count the cost, whether he have wherewith to complete it? Lest haply, when he hath laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all that behold begin to mock him, saying, this man began to build, and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:28-30).

Any ministry needing to build should to seek counsel. “Where there is no counsel, purposes are disappointed; But in the multitude of counselors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22). These professionals will provide a roadmap that gives precise directions to the ministry leadership. Strategic planning identifies the size, scope, and budget for the project and its feasibility.

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Who are the Elect of God?

by Thomas H. Walker

Calvinism versus Arminianism

This chapter discusses one of the most potentially divisive doctrinal debates in the history of the church—the Doctrine of Election. Before my discussion begins, I believe it is noteworthy to present an issue regarding the two authors at center stage of this debate, John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius. The issue at hand revolves around the question: “how can two devoted men who prayed to the same God, who were saved by the same Savior, and who were instructed by the same Holy Spirit, postulate and propagate two dogmas that are based upon different interpretations of the Scripture?” I believe that the answer to this question is as important as finding out which theologian is correct. However, I digress back to the subject of this chapter. It is my guess, that after using some building blocks from each builder, the answer to “Who is right?” will be found dead center between the two extremes. The following briefly explains both Calvin’s and Arminius’ positions on the Doctrine of Election:

Arminianism – emphasizes conditional election based on God’s foreknowledge, man’s free will through prevenient grace to cooperate with God in salvation, Christ’s universal atonement, resistible grace, and salvation that can potentially be lost. Election is based on God’s foreknowledge of those who would believe in him through faith. In other words, God elected those who would choose him of their own free will. Conditional election is based on man’s response.

Calvinism – God’s sovereignty is unconditional, unlimited, and absolute. All things are predetermined by the good pleasure of God’s will. God foreknew because of His own planning. Before the foundation of the world, God unconditionally chose some to be saved. Election has nothing to do with man’s future response. Those followers of Calvinism and Arminianism can provide a myriad of Biblical support for their beliefs, evidenced by the volumes of reading material (academic and non-academic) available. I believe that a mountain of scholarly data does not fundamentally bring greater credibility to an argument, but can bring unnecessary noise and clutter that creates confusion by burying the debate and debaters in details.

It is impossible, in one chapter, to respond to all the questions posed by both sides in the argument. However, I am optimistic that what is presented will help lay more of a solid and true foundation. This is what is missing in this debate; when the foundation is not plumb, neither is all that is built upon it.

I believe that we have just scratched the surface with our present understanding of God’s Word. We will never stop learning, and there are more revelations God wants to reveal to His children. God reveals a measure of truth to a person who then places it upon the foundation laid by others: “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it” (1 Corinthians 3:10). Like building blocks, truth builds upon truth, and if a block of truth does not fit, just as with a building, it becomes unsound.

Two points need emphasizing in 1 Corinthians 3:10: first, there is never one builder used, as many are needed to build upon the foundation; second is a warning to all builders to “take care”. Other meanings for “take care” include: to pay attention, look out, heed, make sure, make certain, watch out, think twice, be cautious, etc. As for the debate between Calvin and Arminius, division has ensued because these two men of God are viewed as theologians and not builders. I will attempt to explain this further in my discussion.

A very important foundational building block, theologically speaking, that has been forgotten, ignored, or replaced in Christendom is that God has not given up on the Nation of Israel. It is imperative that every student of the Bible, whether a scholar or layperson, recognizes God’s relationship with the only two groups of people on earth – Jews and Gentiles – for it is fundamental for learning and for coming to a full age of understanding. Even though both groups will be participants in the Kingdom of God, the roles for each are vastly different.

There is a vast amount of evidence in Scripture supporting God’s special relationship with Israel, however, to keep this discussion short and to the point, I will begin with just a few verses. Israel is, and will always be, betrothed to Jehovah: “And I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in justice, and in loving kindness, and in mercies” (Hosea 2:19). In Leviticus we read, “But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples ” (Leviticus 20:24 [ESV]). In the 26th verse we further learn, “You must be holy because I, the Lord, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own” (Leviticus 20:26 [NLT]).

The Hebrew word kherem (specially set apart) designates that something or someone is deemed holy to God. In the beginning, God chose Israel to be His chosen people forever. God chose no other nation on earth to partake in this special relationship. If you are a gentile, as I am, don’t feel unwanted. God has turned His attention to the gentile nations due to His chosen’s disobedience. God is offering, what was exclusively for His chosen, salvation to the world: “For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scripture tells us, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.’ Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on Him. For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:10-13 [NLT]).

Another version of the Bible translates “Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect” this way: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (Romans 10:12 [KJV]). A passage in Galatians says it this way: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 [KJV]) Many people have misconstrued the meaning behind these verses as purporting that Israel’s distinction as being “specially set apart” has ended and now the church has taken their place – this is wrong. What the verses are saying is that being made right with God is by one way only, and it applies to all people with no distinction.

Many Calvinists and Arminians I have spoken with believe in Replacement Theology. The Replacement Theology building block does not fit with the other building blocks laid by other master builders in the Bible. This dogma teaches that the Christian Church has replaced Israel, so exclusively that the Church now holds the promises and prominent position once held by God’s chosen people.

What does the Bible say about Israel of the past, present, and future?

In the Book of Romans, Chapters 1 – 8, the apostle Paul taught the Gentiles about the new way to become right with God and the significance of Jesus’ death. Paul preached that forgiveness of sins and eternal life are available to everyone, but by faith and not by works. By the time Paul arrived in Rome to preach, most of the believers were Gentiles, for the Jewish people had rejected the message of Jesus as Messiah.

In Chapter 9, Paul’s love for his Jewish brethren overwhelmed his emotions, causing him to digress for a moment from his message about Jesus: “I say the truth in Christ; I lie, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever” (Romans 9:1-5). We learn from these verses of Israel’s unique and highly favored standing with God.

Paul, knowing that God blinded His people due to their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, experienced a deep sorrow for his people. In addition, what made things worse for Paul was recognizing how close salvation was for his people if they would only believe. Paul’s intense desire for Israel was evident: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved” (Romans 10:1).

Salvation has come to the Gentiles because Israel stumbled. Even though Israel was down, Israel was not out: “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy” (Romans 11:11). Paul understood the pride of the flesh, so he warned the Gentiles about becoming arrogant toward their new standing with God: “Be not proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note, then, the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you” (Romans 11:20-22). If you believe that God has broken off all the original branches (Jews) and replaced them with the wild branches (Gentiles), you are guilty of what Paul warned us about: pride. If you believe Jehovah God has divorced Himself from the Jewish race, replacing them with gentiles, it would be for your admonition and instruction to memorize the following passage: “I say then, hath God cast away His people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away His people which he foreknew” (Romans 11:1-2).

For further proof that the Replacement Theology is a fallacy, let us visit the future when eternity begins: an angel called to John, who was exiled to the island of Patmos, to come up and see the things that were yet to come. “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; and had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:10-14).

By this token, how could anyone believe that God has given up on Israel when the Pearly Gates are named after each of the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve foundation stones for the wall will bear the names of each of the twelve apostles?

There are two major undertakings occurring today. First, starting on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion and continuing through to today, God has, and continues to preserve a remnant from among His blinded chosen: “Even so, then, at this present time, also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And, if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise, grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (according to the text as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber; eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear) unto this day” (Romans 11:4-8). Think about the consequences to a people (Israel) whose eyes were blinded from the truth about Jesus for over two thousand years. Without God’s grace preserving a seed – “except the Lord of Sabbath had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrah” (Romans 9:29) – Israel’s blindness would have caused a similar fate to that of Sodom and Gomorrah.

To preserve a remnant for the preaching of the Gospel to the Nation of Israel during the 70th week of Daniel, God will pour out onto 144,000 Jewish virgins His grace. “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads. And, I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Revelation 7:3-4). Jesus further corroborated this end of days event when He explained the following to His disciples: “For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days” (Mark 13:19-20).

Only God can remove the veil from those He blinded. And it will take His grace to undo the curse our Lord imposed upon Israel. Who are the elect? “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, there shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes” (Romans 11:26-28).

Secondly, the Heavenly Father is selecting a bride for His Son from among the body of Gentile believers during this two-thousand-year church age. The King’s bride will sit on Jesus’ left hand which is why He told the two disciples, “but to sit on my right hand, and on my left hand, is not mine to give; but it is for them for whom it hath been prepared of my Father” (Matthew 20:23). Who sits on Jesus’ right hand? No one can be sure, but maybe it will be the twelve apostles: “when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:27-28). A King always hand-picks those who will be a part of his royal court.

The reason there is a church age is that God has temporarily turned from His chosen people to offer the Gentile Nations what He had intended to give exclusively to the Jewish People – forgiveness of sins and salvation. God has thrown the doors wide open, inviting all who will accept His Son as their Lord and Savior to come to the wedding feast. Jesus described this event in the following parable: “Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, see, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find’” (Matthew 22:4-9).

Followers on both sides of the debate agree that God has blinded His Jewish people from the truth about Jesus, “that blindness in part is what happened to Israel” (Romans 11:25). And for a while longer – “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” – God is offering salvation to a “. . . people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God” (Romans 9:25-26).

Romans 9:13 has added much fuel to the debate on exclusivity: “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated”; perhaps we could stop looking at it in the same way and take a different approach. It seems rather harsh, nevertheless, that Jesus insinuated the same about Gentiles in the following verses:

“Go not into any way of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6).

“He [Jesus] answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Jesus referred to Gentiles as “dogs”: “And Jesus said unto her, let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs” (Mark 7:27). However, because Jesus’ death paid the penalty for sin, “all [Jews and Gentiles] who believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:39). After his vision with the unclean foods, Peter declared, “Ye yourselves know how it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to join himself or come unto one of another nation; and yet unto me hath God showed that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28).

Let us change direction by focusing our attention on the following statement made by Jesus to His disciples: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you” (John 15:16). Calvinists take it at face value, believing that Jesus was telling all believers that they do not choose Him, but that only God can make the choice as to who will receive Him as Savior. On the other hand, those in the Arminian camp say that Jesus is God and therefore has foreknowledge of those who will choose Him. In reality, Jesus was speaking only to His apostles. If you recall, Jesus went out among the people and selected twelve individuals to follow Him, “and as Jesus passed by from thence, he saw a man, called Matthew, sitting at the place of toll: and he saith unto him, follow me. And he arose, and followed him” (Matthew 9:9). Jesus did not ask Matthew if he wanted to follow Him, nor did Jesus ask the other disciples if they wanted to follow Him. These men did not choose Jesus, but Jesus chose them; apparently, with no resistance. Is this Irresistible Grace or foreknowledge?

Jehovah chose the race of people called the Jews, yet nowhere in the Bible does it say that they chose God. In the Book of Luke, we read how Joseph’s family lineage traces back to the first Adam, electing the Jewish race as the direct descendants of Adam. Here is a building block from a past master builder: “For God knew His people [Israel] in advance, and He chose them [the Jews] to become like His Son, so that His [Jewish] Son would be the firstborn among many [Jewish] brothers and sisters. And, having chosen them, He called them to come to Him. And having called them, He gave them right standing with Himself” (Romans 8:29, 30).

Here is another way to look at the statement “you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you”: the apostle Paul asserts that Israel does not understand the way God chooses His children, and that they even refuse to receive God’s way for salvation: “For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with Himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their way of getting right with God by trying to obey the law” (Romans 10:3). It is important to remember that for centuries, the Nation of Israel had as their mission statement, the following: “And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us” (Deuteronomy 6:25).

It is time to place upon the foundation the following overlooked building block. Is it possible that when God talks about choosing a people, God’s selection process is not an indiscriminant act based on an unknown criterion, but a new way to make a sinner right with God – His promise to all who trust in His Son? Let me take the liberty to paraphrase Romans 10:3: “You have not chosen the way to make yourself right before God, but I have chosen the way that makes you right before God.”

Defining “What are works?” has also caused confusion during Biblical times as well as our modern times of Christendom. Many Orthodox Jews today will not turn a light switch on or off during the Sabbath for that is considered “works.” Those Jewish people are extreme legalists working hard to obtain righteousness. In the meantime, many modern-day Christians have become extremely legalistic about not working. Some Christians (Calvinists) claim that making a decision to accept Jesus is “works.”

Eternal life is a gift or a prize from God that we accept “on behalf” of Jesus, the winner. We did not do anything to deserve it. You have seen people on TV accepting awards on behalf of the winner who was not present. The person that reaches out and receives the award or prize did not do any work. Salvation is the same. Reaching forth with a hand of faith to receive the prize of eternal life is not works; Jesus did all the work earlier, so that we can receive the gift of eternal life.

Calvinists have condensed their beliefs down to five points represented by the acronym T.U.L.I.P., which I will address in these final pages:

Total Depravity – Sin has corrupted all parts of man: will, heart, emotions, mind, and body. Man does not seek God, nor can he ever choose what is right.

Unconditional Election – God chooses the elect according to His merciful will. God does not look into the future to see who will choose Him.

Limited Atonement – Jesus died only for the elect. Although Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, it was not for all.

Irresistible Grace – When God calls His elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the Gospel message or the external call. The internal call is by the Holy Spirit working in the hearts and minds of God’s elect and they cannot resist His call.

Perseverance of the Saints – Salvation cannot be lost, because the Father has elected.

Total Depravity – Yes, humanity is sinful and there is no one righteous. However, if Calvinism is correct in that no person can be broken enough to seek God, then the stories of Israel’s backsliding and later return back to the Lord does not fit. God blessed His elect, Israel, and when they on many occasions fell away, He broke the will of these stiff-necked people with tribulation to bring them back to Him: “But from thence ye shall seek Jehovah thy God, and thou shalt find him, when thou searchest after him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, in the latter days thou shalt return to Jehovah thy God, and hearken unto His voice: for Jehovah thy God is a merciful God; he will not fail thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them” (Deuteronomy 4:29-31). Calvinists say that only God using Irresistible Grace can bring people to Him, because humanity’s will is continually evil. God gave free will to His angelic beings before the foundations of the world were laid. Lucifer, as well as one third of his angels, chose not to carry out the will of God. However, two thirds of the angelic host chose to remain with God.

Unconditional Election – Calvinists are correct in that God foreknew and predestined a very special people He called His elect. In addition, these people did not choose God, nor did they have a choice. Nowhere in the Bible does the Jewish race ever make a decision to become the children of God. All the other nations on earth God hated. Jesus came to the house of Israel and not to the Gentiles. Calvinists are correct up to a point with regard to unconditional election, but it applies only to the Nation of Israel. Salvation was for the Jews and for no other people. Yes, Calvinism is correct in that Jesus came to die for the elect of God; however, these elect are called the Children of Israel. Nevertheless, God is offering salvation to everyone (Gentile Nations) during the times of the Gentiles; also, God is selecting a Bride for His Son from the body of believers called the Church. In the meantime, God’s elect (Israel) are blinded due to their disobedience, “but by their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy” (Romans 11:11). The original guest list for the wedding feast included God’s elect, and it was by invitation only. However, the wedding invitation is open to everyone except to His elect. Israel may have lost the invitation to the wedding, but God has not stopped loving His people.

Limited Atonement – The apostle Paul builds upon the foundation with this statement, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19). My question is, if the first Adam’s actions were powerful enough to cause ALL to be condemned, then why wouldn’t the last Adam’s actions be equally powerful to redeem ALL that were lost? Calvinists believe that Jesus’ death was powerful enough to save the world, but God has elected only a few, and His selection criterion is unknown. The closer you get to the heavenly Father, the more uncharacteristic of our Father this conclusion becomes. This building block does not match; push and shove all you want, but it will never fit.

If the people of Israel had received Jesus as Lord and Savior, what then? Jesus was still destined to die, because a sacrifice was required to pay the penalty for sin. Jesus came to earth for His people: “She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Yes, Jesus came to die for the elect only, but due to Israel’s disobedience, God is now giving away what was intended for Israel to those who will appreciate it.

Parents can relate to this action by God. As a parent, perhaps you may have made sacrifices for an ungrateful child, or you may have given a costly gift to someone that showed no appreciation. A normal reaction in these situations would be to stop helping and to give the gift to one who was appreciative. It is easy to understand God’s actions when you keep in mind that God is a Father. The heavenly Father said in His Word, that to provoke His people to jealousy, He would turn to a people that were not His people. Can you relate to His feelings of anger, disappointment, and rejection?

Irresistible Grace – Grace is undeserved merit. Humanity likes to dissect everything, taking their research to the molecular level. The writers of the Bible did not categorize grace into several different types. Our modern Bible scholars propagated the dogma that there are several types of graces. From all their hard work in developing sophisticated study methodologies, systematic historical and textual analysis, and topping it all off with a large quantity of human intellect, they have managed to replace the Word of God with mountains of scholarly data. Over time, improvements and advancements are normal; however, over the past two thousand years, humanity’s scholarship of God’s Word leaves the church splintered into over twenty thousand different denominations – theologian versus builder.

Like the Pharisees, scribes, and priests who replaced God’s Word with manmade laws and traditions, the modern church scholars have also replaced God’s Word with private interpretations that cause discord and division.

Perseverance of the Saints – Generally speaking, Calvinism teaches eternal security and Arminianism teaches conditional eternal security. However, there appears to be a change of heart among some in the Arminian camp to believing in eternal security. I believe that we are secure in Christ and that God’s love is unconditional. The following passage is at the heart of the controversy: “For as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:4-6). I believe these verses are not talking about a backslidden Christian who is caught up in the world. There are consequences to backsliding, but it is not the loss of one’s salvation. Hebrews 6:4-6 refers to the following situation:

“Bart Ehrman received his B.A. at Wheaton College in 1978, and later attended Princeton Theological Seminary where he received an M.Div. (1981) and a Ph.D. (1985). Having studied under Bruce Metzger, Ehrman also specializes in the area of New Testament textual criticism. Although Ehrman had a strong background in Evangelical Christianity, having attended both Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, his personal beliefs have shifted over time. Ehrman now considers himself an agnostic” (www.theopedia.com). This is how (I believe) you lose your salvation. So who is right, Calvin or Arminius?

Independently, their conclusions are disjointed. Because we are discussing the teachings of two devoted men of God, we can be certain that God has given Godly wisdom to both of them. With this in mind, each camp of thought will have a measure of truth. God can use another builder to retrieve these building blocks of truth from each camp. The builder must take care so that the block of truth fits on the foundation with ease. A block of truth answers all questions and it fits without resistance among the already-laid blocks. Instead of focusing on who is right or wrong, regard each man as if they were a builder, building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. To understand the manmade dogma – Doctrine of Election – you need to lay a foundation using this building block:  “For thou art a holy people [set apart] unto Jehovah your God: Jehovah your God hath chosen you to be a people for His own possession, above all peoples that are upon the face of the earth. Jehovah did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all peoples: but because Jehovah loves you” Deuteronomy 7:6-8 (ASV).

A Parable by Albert Einstein

The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations.”