The Vase

Reblogged from Rock of My Refuge by Paul Tanca

Most recently, it has begun to feel as though peace has been dissipating from my heart regarding certain issues. What is more disturbing is the fact that doubt has tried to occupy the freshly vacated seat of peace. Ironically, the more personal effort I invest into trying to strong-arm control of my circumstances, the more I seem to fail.

I am reminded of the story of a young boy who caught his hand inside of a very expensive vase. His parents, concerned primarily for the safety of the boy, tried everything to free his hand. They rubbed his wrist with oil, butter, and Vaseline. All to no avail. They carefully twisted his wrist to the right, then to the left without success. They tried positioning the vase in the most peculiar of ways hoping to find an angle that would yield success. Finally, when all else failed, the parents resolved to breaking the vase. As the mother held the boy close, shielding his eyes from the impending shower of flying pottery shards, the father lifted the hammer… continue reading at Rock of My Refuge

God Really is the Best, Mr. Brad Pitt

The famous actor grew up in a conservative Baptist family, but at some point he turned to apostasy (fall away from faith).  In an interview he said:

“There’s a point where you’re un-tethered from the beliefs of your childhood. That point came for me when it was finally clear my religion didn’t work for me.”

This is a common pathway for people who turn away from faith. Their conclusion portrays a misunderstanding of the gospel, of faith and of God. They believe that the aforementioned concepts are religion. But religion is merely a man-made system and not to be confused with a saving relationship with God.

So they become angry with the religious establishment, and project that anger on God. Here is how Brad Pitt does not understand God:

“I didn’t understand this idea of a God who says, ‘You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I’m the best, and then I’ll give you eternal happiness. If you won’t, then you don’t get it!’ It seemed to be about ego. I can’t see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me.”

Clearly, Brad Pitt does not understand the gospel. He thinks that he has to do something like satisfying God’s “ego” to get salvation.  There is no mention in there about the suffering and death of Jesus in the place of sinners. He conveniently left that part out, because surely he heard it hundreds of times in church while he was growing up.

Does the God who actually dies for his creation sound like the egotistical god portrayed by Pitt? Among His last words, Jesus said: Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.

The ultimate act of love and unselfishness toward humanity is what illustrates the character of the biblical God.

But we must remember that God’s attributes of love and mercy cannot be separated from his divine wrath toward unrighteousness.

Ah, but it is this aspect that irks people like Brad Pitt.  They would love a god without the standards of holiness and therefore without consequence to sin. But this is not the God revealed in the Bible.

The biblical God became shame and died for humanity in order to save believers. But at the same time the evil born in the fall of creation must be punished, otherwise God would not be consistent in his attributes.

And yes Brad Pitt, God is the best.

Theology 101: Is Decision Theology Biblical?


I used to attend Monday nights with Greg Laurie at Calvary Chapel when I was a kid. At the end of every service Greg used to invite people in the front to make a decision to accept Christ and become born-again after repeating a one minute “sinner’s prayer.”

This practice became more pompous at the yearly Harvest Crusades when after reciting the sinner’s prayer, fireworks went off and Greg would declare: “welcome to the family of God.

Is the personal decision to become born again unto eternal life grounded in the Bible? And is it ok to label a person born again after reciting the sinner’s prayer?

Billy Graham has been applying decision theology throughout his evangelistic career, and he famously declared that only 5% or less of those making a profession of faith at his crusades eventually make their way into the Body of Christ by joining a church.

It then follows that a huge number of people who make a decision to believe, make a profession that is NOT of faith. That is just the tip of a nefarious iceberg. These folks leave the crusade thinking they are saved and they continue to live unchanged lives. They are left with an empty decision, a profession, and a false declaration of salvation by a celebrity evangelist.

This problem invariably gets into the monergism vs synergism debate. Monergism holds to the supreme sovereignty of God in matters of salvation, and states that a human decision is not involved in becoming born again, while synergism claims that a human decision for salvation is necessary and synergistic with the work of the Holy Spirit.

But I argue that when it comes to conversion, philosophy can muddy the waters. Let us go to the Scriptures to highlight the fact that salvation belongs to God and it is the work of the Holy Spirit. The only thing that humans can do is abandon salvation.

First, a confession of true faith stems in the gift of faith given by God, NOT in a human decision:

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”

Second, this faith cannot be activated by a human decision because such an action is contrary to fallen human nature:

1 Corinthians 2:14 “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

It becomes clear that in order to make an authentic confession of faith one has to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit because the unregenerated natural man is not able to do this.

Even repentance is not the result of human decision but something that is granted by God:

Acts 11:18 “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.””

I need to stress that human participation in salvation is not robotic. But also, it is not a man initiated event by decisions and sinner’s prayers. It is the result of the quickening of the Holy Spirit.

An appropriate altar call should include the presentation of gospel facts and gospel terms followed by an invitation to repent and surrender to God. Decisions to become born again have no place in a biblical understanding of salvation. Neither do declarations of eternal salvation for those who make professions of faith.

Ray Lewis, When Will You Tell the TRUTH?

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will forever be haunted by a double murder in Atlanta in January 2000.

associated press photo file

Ray Lewis claims to be a changed man, a born-again Christian, but it is this claim that brings shame to the Christian faith. Lewis, the heart and soul of the Superbowl contender Baltimore Ravens has been on a joy ride of fame and glory, but also a ride of depravity and deception.

Ray Lewis, when will you tell the truth about the altercation and the double murder you were involved in following the Superbowl in 2000?

What happened to the white suit you wore at 4 AM in that night club in Atlanta, the suit that investigators could not find and you did not help them find?

The prosecutors were only able to obtain a lesser charge of obstruction of justice against him as all of a sudden witnesses changed their stories and Lewis blamed his friends.  All this despite the fact that the blood of the victims was found in Lewis’s limo.  When he could not be convicted of murder, he settled out of court for millions of dollars with the families of the victims to avoid civil law suits.

If you came clean before God after that event and you changed your life, why do you continue to father children out-of-wedlock with multiple women?

Instead of flamboyance and attention seeking behavior why don’t you practice Christian qualities like meekness, humbleness and the most important of them all, repentance?

But we are getting ahead of ourselves and dwelling on spiritual subjects which clearly do not have much meaning for Ray Lewis. He fathered 6 children ranging in age between 11 and 17 years old with 4 different women, a pattern that continued after the club murders 13 years ago. This is evidence of a life lived in sin for a man who wears his “Christian” faith on his sleeve.

The most important and visible aspect of someone’s conversion is their repentance and the regret they have for the crimes and sins of their past life. This is where Lewis fails, and he gets a pass on it by the sports media and the sponsors.

His actions on the field do are not in sync with his professed faith.  He singles himself out after every play and every win.  It’s all about him.  Victory shouts, dances, in-your-face-rub-it-in attitude that polarizes everyone who sees it.  This is not the way a Christian is supposed to act.

Despite the repertoire of sin, crime and depravity, apparently Rev. Ray preaches in some churches.  Instead of reciting Bible verses and instructing others in the way of the Lord, Lewis needs to first repent and truly repent, and then show the world evidence of his repentance.  And no, donating money to charity is not evidence of repentance.

Repentance must be evident in your everyday actions, in the way you carry yourself, in the way your life undertakes a 180 degree change from before, and in the way you tell the truth.

Ray Lewis is the same loud, flamboyant, arrogant man he always was.

And the TRUTH about the murders is still out there.

Ray Lewis, when will you finally tell the TRUTH?

Face to Face With the Reality of Abortion


I had passed many times by this door.

My naive mind always wondered why a door in the middle section of a hospital ward would have a “NOT AN EXIT” sign on it.

“It should be obvious this is not an exit… it is right in the middle of a large a building… “ I thought.

It was next to one of the elevators of a large level-1 trauma county hospital and very close to the obstetrics ward.  Dozens of happy new mothers would pass by this door every week on the way home with a beautiful newborn baby in their arms.

It was the summer of 2000, and I was a 24-year-old newbie medical student on the surgical clerkship when the issue of abortion finally became as real as it gets.  It was time to rotate through the anesthesiology service as part of the surgical experience, and I was spending some time with a 2nd year anesthesia resident.  We were on our way to prepare the obstetrics operating rooms for scheduled C-sections that day.

“Hey, I’ll show you a neat short cut to the operating room…” he says.

He headed straight for the mysterious door with the puzzling sign on it, and we entered.

To my amazement it felt like I stepped into another world.  I just went from a noisy environment of sick patients, infections, trauma, alcoholism and other plagues associated with county hospitals, into a large pre-operative waiting room filled with a dozen young and healthy looking women dressed in hospital gowns.

The room was filled with a silence as thick as death itself.

“They are waiting to get their abortions done” he whispered to me as we hurried on our way.

My heart sank as I saw the nervous, worried and guilty looks on their faces.

A horrific big picture fell into place for me that morning.  A picture that is replicated thousands of times across America in slaughter houses called “family planning clinics.”

A few months later I returned to the “county” for my 2 month OB-Gyn clerkship, and during orientation the coordinator of the slaughter-house showed up.  To this day I remember her first and last name, her face, and the air of feminist liberation in her voice.

“We are excited you will spend a week with us in the abortion clinic where you will participate in these procedures which stand for freedom of choice for women” she said.

“God, how am I going to make it through a week of this…? God, help me exercise the faith You put in me… I don’t care if I fail this clerkship, but I know You will not let me participate in shedding innocent blood”

I raised my hand and I said:

“My faith in God precludes me from participating in abortion. I hope this will not interfere with my OB-Gyn clinicals…”

There were 5 med students on that rotation, and to my surprise a female student echoed my sentiment.  If I remember correctly she was a Catholic.

Imagine the shock on the abortion coordinator’s face when light (the mention of faith in God) penetrated the darkness in her heart.  She was hardened to the point where she could not understand why we did not accept the “greatest” achievement that has ever occurred in the feminist movement, the holy grail of their agenda- a woman’s right to terminate her baby.

“Why are you even here? Why are you wasting your talents and your education? Why can’t you have an open mind and accept what we deem right as a society?”

Thank God for another reasonable clerkship director who honored our request.  Not all Christians are quite so fortunate.  There are reports in the media of nurses who lost their job because they refused to participate in termination of pregnancy.  They underwent legal recourse and lost that too.

By the grace of God I spend one week there without participating in the murder of the unborn.  I spoke to many teen girls who were about to undergo abortion.  I even tried secretly, yet unsuccessfully, to show them other options.

Ultimately, God taught me a lesson as He turned an anxiety provoking situation into a blessing.  In the end I earned an “honors” grade in Ob-Gyn.

It was a lesson that God wanted to teach me.  To put my trust in Him, and He would deliver me against evil.

Psalm 84:12 “O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in you.”