No Children (Part 2) – The Bad News & Good News

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In my last blog post I desired to encourage the men out there who may be a co-struggler in the burden for childlessness. At that point in my life, it seemed like all the treatments weren’t getting any where. Well, last week our medical providers advised that we stop treatments, and that we try something different. Before I get to that part, I think it is pertinent to share how the news impacted me.

The Bad News

At first, I didn’t think anything of it. At some point, you just get numb to disappointment and you sort of expect it. But then, as my day progressed, there were moments where I was deeply saddened. At work, my expression of grief was limited. Also, when I got home, it just seemed like my wife and I were a bit too busy to express our feelings about the whole thing. Privately though, I cried out to God. And my wife and I eventually talked, but I wondered if this is it? Was this the end of the road? Thankfully, it still isn’t. But it didn’t take away from the sting that there is a possibility that we won’t have biological children. But here is some good news.

A Baby Girl

Since I last wrote my article, we have been blessed with a beautiful foster child. She has been a delight to have in our home, and she is a stark reminder that we should expect God to bless us often, but not in a way we would often expect. She came right on the heels of a season of discouragement. And the funny thing is, we were actually praying that God would give us a baby girl! Since this little one has been delivered into our care, she has allowed us to express love and nurturing that we desire to express for our own biological children. So that’s one praiseworthy providence of God.

Untraditional IVF*

Another good thing is that our doctor revealed to us some alternate means that might suit our convictions to have children. He first asked if we were willing to do traditional IVF?* We expressed our disagreement to fertilizing eggs with left over embryos possibly being killed. Thankfully, he understood. I don’t know if he was a believer, but he was very accommodating. Hard to find these days. Nevertheless, he told us about a newer method of IVF that would basically freeze a certain amount of unfertilized eggs, and when we are ready, we can get them fertilized in a lab and implanted that day. We don’t have all the details yet, but I remember the doctor letting us know that this could be a cheaper option than traditional IVF. And we don’t have to compromise our convictions! We’re still looking at thousands to spend, but we know that if this is a possibility, God’s providence will make a way. If not, we will remain content with His will for us.

Embryo Adoption

But there is one more option I’d like to share that perhaps not many know about. This one can be a little different from what people are used to, but embryo adoption is an alternative that has been catching attention. Basically, it is adopting a fertilized egg(s) and having them implanted in the womb. In essence, as you would adopt a born child, you are doing so for a little one that you can carry in the womb. I know, it sounds strange. When I first heard about this, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Nevertheless, a child is possibly rescued from being destroyed in a lab. This is indeed a testimony of how far we have come in our scientific endeavors that this is even a possibility. But if your conscience is not at all clear or informed about this, or any other alternative, I would not suggest embracing it until you have solidified your convictions on it.

Why Me?

As we continue to plod along after 14 years of waiting to birth our own children, it makes me wonder how many other Christian men are finding it hard to trust the LORD in this kind of trial. It is expected for women to experience grief and sorrow over fertility, but I won’t make the mistake to think that men don’t process this issue in any way. Whether it is the sorrow we feel vicariously through our spouse, or how we ourselves feel (or both), it is my prayer that we men will hunt down contentment in Christ. I know what it is like sitting in a church pew, on your couch, or wherever you may be to yourself and your thoughts, thinking about why *I* have to be the one? Why my wife? Why me? And this is not an easy question. But if we have given eternal life, and we know Christ, we have been given the greatest gift we will ever receive.

The Good News

Christ is a great comforter and High Priest who sympathizes with our weakness and human frailty (Hebrews 4:26). He knows we are burdened and saddened by this. He has been there in every doctor’s appointment, in every miscarriage, in every negative pregnancy test, and has been extremely gracious and faithful to provide encouragement and blessings that we needed (not wanted) whenever the time came. So while I understand the discouragement, disappointment, frustration, and sometimes anger, we can feel inside as men about all of this. Remember that God has been infinitely gracious and loving toward you through His gospel, and your salvation. He has been gracious, and will continue to be gracious by giving you more than you can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20), and giving you far less than what your iniquity deserves (Psalm 103:10). This is our hope – Jesus Christ. He is the anchor to our soul (Hebrews 6:9), and the captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10). Trust him even when you’re disillusioned. Through the pain of childlessness do not let any root of bitterness take hold upon your soul (Hebrews 12:15). God has promised to fulfill His will and glorify Himself using you. Yes, even in this. And as men, we don’t have to necessarily “man up” by sucking it up or pretending it to be numb to it. But by embracing God’s will and leading our wives, and perhaps other brothers and sisters, in prayer and faith to trust God’s sovereignty.

Grieve if you need to. Call out in bewilderment to God, and truly express your grief through your own heart’s psalm. But while you do it, remember God’s goodness toward you. Don’t ever forget it. While the lashing whip of childlessness cracks against your soul, I pray the truth of the gospel and the healing balm of the Spirit will forever be your great and marvelous consolation.

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

– Until we go home

 

*(In Vitro Fertilization – this is where number of eggs are fertilized,  and then a certain amount are implanted in the womb. Meanwhile, the rest are frozen or eliminated later on).

** For more information on embryo adoption, you can go here.

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There Is No Such Thing As Street Ministry

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Witnessing with our local church at a park event

In the western world, we are pretty good at assigning categories to specific philosophies, groups, world views, etc. It’s not a bad thing if the motive is purely to make distinctions in order to establish definitions within a conversation/debate. But oftentimes, certain labels are assigned, not for the sake of understanding and clarity, but self-righteous segregation. That is, one might call such and such a person a “Calvinist” not because they seek to understand the position, but in order to ascribe more credence to their misunderstanding, and ultimately use that label as a reason to separate from that person, or pejoratively rail upon them because of their ill-conceived ideas about their beliefs. This is the most common case. However, there is a most subtle kind of over-categorization within our theology. One that, like food on our dinner plate, doesn’t want certain practices to touch in other areas of our christian walk. Specifically, in the area of evangelism.

Different Modes of Evangelism 

Ever since I was born again in 2004, God has give me the desire to make disciples of all nations. Every person who has been truly born again will also be implanted with this desire. But as I grew, I learned that there were different “strategies” which were in competition with one another. And often, in opposition to each other depending on who was advocating for which evangelistic practice. For instance, Lifestyle/Friendship evangelism practitioners would often malign or harshly judge those that would have the boldness to talk to strangers about Christ, let alone even hand out a gospel tract. Because of this, different titles have been given to such individuals. “Street” preachers being the more popular among them all. Meanwhile, others, who would have a more “tolerant” approach to the differing modes by which someone can proclaim the gospel, would just chalk it up to “whatever floats your boat.” Different strokes for different folks I guess. Who cares about the means, as long as it wins souls to Christ! This is clearly pragmatism, of course. And such thinking should not have a prominent part in our decision making when it comes to being a witness for Christ. Because, “what works” is often a recipe for false conversion and other man-centered means which God has not commanded in order to make disciples.

But above all this, there is a sinister approach to handling such categories among us who might even have a biblical view of what it means to be a regular, constant, and purposeful witness for Christ. This particular approach makes the differing modes of gospel proclamation a “calling.” In other words, there are some that will say something along the lines that ministering and reaching a certain demographic, teenagers for instance, is a separate calling of God. Some would call it “Youth” Ministry. Or perhaps your niche is to preach at retirement homes. And proclaiming the gospel to the seasoned and silver haired is where you feel “called.” Even better, maybe it is just blacks, hispanics, asians, urban areas, suburban areas, high schools, universities, just your kids or your co-workers…and the list goes on! But hopefully by now you’ve sensed a bit of my sarcastic bite when it comes to making such detrimental over-categorizations. Because after all, I haven’t even included T-shirt evangelism, hospitality evangelism, church evangelism (Easter/Christmas), homeless ministry, and most of all, street ministry. But what if I told you there are no such distinctions in Christian theology? Sure, there are contextual differences you have to take into consideration when attempting to explain the gospel to children versus the elderly, or Chicago teens versus Californian college students. But, at its foundation, should there be a “calling” or niche to certain demographics? Is there a separate calling to witness to strangers?

No Such Thing as Street Evangelism

I am always told how “different” I am in my approach when it comes to preaching the gospel. My zeal to be a faithful witness in every context has often made others in Western Christianity feel, well, uncomfortable. I don’t know why honestly. I am just doing what I hope is walking worthy of my calling as a Christian (Colossians 1:10). I just periodically take the time to witness to strangers every where I go and not just to people I know. Sometimes, I will find an event and go out with other believers to pass out tracts and engage the lost. But because of this, more often than not, I am told that street ministry is my “calling,”  but that it is not for everyone. I have even been told that giving out a gospel tract is “not their niche.” And when I probe further concerning why that is, I am constantly grieved to discover the unbiblical thinking that sharing our faith to strangers is somehow so distinct in practice, that it requires a special calling of some kind. Whether you believe this kind of thing or not, I will say this. Street preaching/witnessing is not a separate calling or title of ministry. I may be labeled a “street” evangelist for many reasons, but I don’t even believe such a title or calling exists. That’s right! You read correctly. There is no such thing as a street preacher or ministry. At least not in the sense where one wants to make it a separate category or calling of making disciples. There is also no such thing as lifestyle/friendship evangelism (for theological reasons), T-shirt evangelism, youth ministry, urban ministry, or Islamic, Catholic, Mormon, and so on. It is just evangelism! It is simply making disciples of all nations! And If our desire is to be a faithful witness for Christ in our homes, at our workplace, AND in our local area, there is no category, demographic, or location that is off limits!

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Michael Brown’s Dangerous Orthodoxy

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If you haven’t heard about the controversy surrounding Dr. Michael Brown and his association with heretical teachers, you may feel a bit out of the loop reading this. But, if you’ve ever encountered any preacher/Christian who seemed to lack the necessary discernment when considering who they approve of in ministry, then the conclusion I draw here will easily resonate with you. Since the dust has settled (somewhat), I would like to cast my widow’s mites into what I believe has been a long standing problem within Western Christendom. This issue with Dr. Brown is merely a symptom of the deeper problem that has been growing like a silent cancer right under our noses. It is concerning a brood of preachers that will indeed seem orthodox in creed, but nevertheless still dilute the pure wine of the gospel with the profane waters by who they approve of in ministry. I call them, “Troublers of Orthodoxy.”

I have met many of these troublers on the streets, in churches, and watched them grow on TV and podcasts. I call them troublers because, contrary to the many who might call them false teachers, they are not really false teachers by the historical, and even biblical, definition of the word. But they indeed can be just as dangerous! Not because of any heretical creed they profess or preach, but because of lack of discernment and unwillingness to examine those whom they labor with. Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 8b) – Jude’s Eternal Fire & 2 Peter 2:6

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Almost a year ago, Chris Date and I had several conversations about his position and about coming on our radio podcast. He first emailed us and asked us to come on the show to talk about conditionalism. Being familiar with his ministry at that point for almost three years, I desired to converse with him about some of the details of what he believed. The conversations didn’t go well. Partly because Chris felt as though I was being mean-spirited and rude. Mostly because he doesn’t know how to be critically questioned about his belief in conversation (more specifically by me) and can’t answer my follow up questions. And Jude’s eternal fire is definitely a golden calf that he and other conditionalists vehemently defend. But recently, Chris blocked me from Facebook so that I cannot see his interactions and posts. It’s a good strategy. But just like many of his followers who send him my articles and social media posts (who also aggressively swarm my brethren’s blogs and podcasts in almost militant fashion), by God’s providence, I have been give the privilege to see Chris’ recent post about Jude 7’s eternal fire. His thoughts about Jude were off back then when he shared them with me. The ones I received recently were just as fallacious. Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 8a) – Jude’s Eternal Fire

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I’ve been waiting to write this article for a while. But I have been eager too. Jude 7 is a go-to verse for annihilationists who assert that since Jude 7 seemingly speaks of “eternal fire” that rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and that fire was not (and is not still) burning, therefore, the eternal fire in Matthew 25, or anything other semantical reference about hell’s fires burning forever, is false. And since also the parallel passage in 2 Peter 2:6 mentions Sodom being reduced to ashes, that pretty much seals the deal and destroys eternal conscious torment (pun intended). Not so fast though. There is a key linguistic feature in Jude that I have yet to hear being addressed in any of the articles or podcasts being written (even though I directly challenged Chris Date with this, and his answer was appalling). But before I reveal what that is, this will be a two part article. This first one is the easier-to-read-just-get-the-gist, kind of article that will be for those of us who do not fully understand linguistic terms. I will attempt to break it down so that almost anyone can understand. The next article will be more technical.

So what is this key? First, here is Jude verse 3 – 7 Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 7a) – Rethinking Hell’s Proponents

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I keep saying over and over again that the annihilationism/conditionalism discussion would take on a different form if it wasn’t for all the heretics Rethinking Hell and others like them affirm, associate, and keep company with. As I pointed out in article 5a concerning the atonement, there are some very serious concerns that should be addressed, not just about the unsound biblical hermeneutics coming out of this camp, but also the corruptions these associations bring to the table. Saying this, have you ever taken a gander at Rethinking Hell’s list for “proponents” of conditionalism?* I have. Seems overwhelming at first. It’s almost like so many orthodox scholars and preachers would adhere to this position. Well, I have watched videos and listened to podcasts where Chris Date touts some of these names when asked for scholars that believe in conditionalism. But are you aware of what some of these people believe about some of the essentials of the faith? Are you even aware of the names of the people that are being used in the Rethinking Hell articles, podcasts, books, and conferences? You should. Because some of these people stand out if you diligently seek to know those that labor among you (1 Thess 5:12). For some of these names, it didn’t take long before something damnably heretical turned up. For others, (some of which I was already aware of), I was surprised (but not really) that Rethinking Hell, which considers themselves within the bounds of orthodoxy, would list such heretics and not call them out as they are. But if you’ve read article 5a on the atonement and how Unitarians, Universalists, and those that deny penal substitution are on the approval list for even supposed gospel-centered Calvinist like Chris Date, then this article may not come as a shock to you. Let’s deal with a few of these men now.

Homosexuality

1) Jeff Cook is listed as a modern  and Professor at University of Northern Colorado. In an online debate with Preston Sprinkle (who also is a conditionalist), he writes some pretty disturbing things. To cut to the chase, he affirms monogamous same sex marriage as not  immoral. He says: Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 4c) – Irenaeus

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I have confronted multiple conditionalists about why Irenaeus didn’t believe in conditionalist/annihilationist doctrine, but they continue to spread this lie even after being corrected. And conditionalists wonder why I say some of their content is deceptive. What’s even more discouraging, is that Chris Date, even after an online debate with Jerry Shepherd, continues to spread this. I am grateful, though, to have come across a gem a few months ago, and have been meaning to share it.

I never read this online debate before writing my first two Irenaeus articles, but yet I was still able to come to some the same conclusions. Jerry Shepherd did what I would encourage many of you to do, and that is simply read the rest of Irenaeus’ work. But just like anything dealing with annihilationist doctrine, proper literary linguistics and context will overturn much of the rhetoric that come from this camp.

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The Shepherd and His Sheepdogs

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One of the things I am passionate about is closing the gap between Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers within the body of Christ. We have become so segregated in our roles that it is almost as if they never overlap. The Pastor is in charge of the sheep, and the Evangelist is in charge of bringing the lost sheep into the fold. My dear readers, this is wrong! Just as equally wrong is the idea that the Evangelist is incapable of preaching on any other topic other than evangelism, that the burden of biblical counseling should only be left upon the head Pastor, or that Eldership belongs only to the pastors or teachers of the congregation. In accordance with Ephesians 4:11-15, I would encourage all of us to view the roles/gifts these kind of men bring to our local congregations and the universal body of Christ.

I remember an illustration a famous preacher gave one time about how the sheepdog is like the Evangelist that barks at the sheep and the sheep run into the sheepfold. Meanwhile, the sheep are Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 6a) – Eternal Life and Immortality

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I read someone asking a conditionalist in a Facebook thread concerning how they define death. Then one of them responded with, “It depends on how you define life.” I couldn’t agree more! Unfortunately, this is an area that Chris Date and some within Rethinking Hell sorely deviate from. In a debate with Len Pettis during a Striving for Eternity Conference in September of 2016, Chris Date stated that Jesus does not define eternal life as knowing the Father and the Son just as He taught in John 17:3. Chris then wrongly exegetes this Scripture by comparing the translation of the Greek word “is” with other Scriptures that contain the same word. He neglects to make a linguistic and contextual interpretation of John 17:3 by failing to see the other words which Jesus used that explicitly define eternal life.  It is presented below in English and in Greek so that you can see why Jesus defines eternal life as knowing (having intimate fellowship with) God. And please don’t run. As I did in Part 2a, you don’t have to be a Greek scholar to understand what I’m about to show you.

John 17:3

  • (English – ESV) And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
  • (Greek – MGNT) αὕτη δέ ἐστιν αἰώνιος ζωή ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν

Now, if you noticed, I highlighted the words that Chris used to make his case in blue. The Greek word ἐστιν is the conjugated form of the word “eimi” that he mentions in the video link above.  It is this word that Chris wrongly interprets in this context. But since conditionalists tend to define death in hyper-literal terms, it is no wonder that they look at Scriptures like this and have to make it fit their own annihilationistic hermeneutic. Nevertheless, Chris explicitly states that “is” does not “equate” eternal life with knowing God the Father and the Son. But let’s look at the other words within this context to help us to understand the semantic function of “is” in this context.
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Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 5a) – The Atonement

I would like to reveal and exegete more Scriptures that conditionalists use to affirm their position of annihilationism, but let’s cut to the chase. There’s an even bigger topic at hand. And it is in the area of atonement. Because whenever you change the nature/definition of eternal punishment or eternal life, you inevitably change your view of the atonement. And even though conditionalist claim to say that their view of hell doesn’t change their outlook on the atonement (in a heretical way at least), it seems that when the contributors write or speak on their podcasts, they betray themselves. And this issue is hard to tackle in writing seeing that those within the conditionalist camp are not only varied in their opinion concerning what happens in the intermediate state (between death and the resurrection), and the nature of Hell (whether it is retributive and/or restorative), but because of their hermeneutics and also some of their different applications of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA). But I contest that this position is indeed not only a gateway doctrine to heresy, but it seems to accommodate heretical company. And hopefully, the concerns below will make this more clear. Continue reading