Teens and College Students, Attention: Ten Things Guaranteed to Ruin Your Life Before Age 30

photo for sbc open forum

by Mike Nichols

If I said to you, “I’ve got a plan for you to take ten easy steps that will ruin your life,” would you jump at the opportunity? Of course not! “Ruin my life” is not exactly the stated goal of the average high school or college graduate. No one tacks that to a bulletin board to remind themselves to take steps toward accomplishing ruination today. It isn’t anyone’s essential in a life plan. Teens don’t dream of becoming an alcoholic or drug addict, students don’t enroll in college-level courses teaching how to go bankrupt, and newlyweds don’t say their vows planning to fail one another or themselves.

Ruination occurs when we are faced with tough decisions, and make the wrong choices. The plan may be to do well, but the execution lacks commitment. These are the tough decisions your family has helped you make, up to this point. But you are now entering a phase in your life when the only one who can make those tough decisions is you. You are now old enough to be making important decisions about life, but young enough for those decisions to go south and become disastrous rather than successful.

How can you avoid making such mistakes? Below are ten things people can do to ruin their lives before age thirty. These are things not to do, or things to stop doing immediately if you already do them. Continue reading

Awakening to the Intellectualism of the Bible

by Dr. James Willingham

The Bible is an intellectual book; it is the most intellectual book ever written.  Holy Writ tells us of the Being who inspired it:  the God who is Omniscient.  Since Scripture is so inspired, it follows that we can expect that it should reflect the intelligence commensurate with such a source.  The source of Omniscience is revealing Himself (the masculine term is used in deference to the revelation God has made of Himself in the Book – not to any chauvinistic adherence.  God is truly above the sexual differences between male and female, having created them for His own purposes.  As to the pronoun usages which indicate sex, the real purpose is to make known that the Being who created us is personal.  In fact, there are three persons, the three person God, three in one) in a manner that communicates with human beings.  The use of logic in the written word, Roms. 12:1, reasonable service in the KJV, in the Greek, logikan,  a form of the term for logic, tells us that God is communicating in a logical, rational manner or, in other words, He is communicating in a manner to be understood.  The problem with the understanding will, usually, be the result of dislike for the ideas, concepts, precepts, practices, and natures revealed. Continue reading

Awakening to Biblical Egalitarianism

by Dr. James Willingham

In these days of recovery of the Reformation and its theological perspectives, we find that we face a complementarianism that is careless, thoughtless, and lacking in historical research.  One of the major failures of the complementarian position is the failure to recognize that authority is a function of position, not a given that is hard and fast, never to be question, examined, etc.  We have forgotten that even the King was under law, the argument of Samuel Rutherford in Lex Rex.  We have also forgotten that the ekklesia is a body members who are considered to be equals.  Beginning with the Greeks, it was incipient democracy.  We have also forgotten that the Pilgrim congregation was an outgrowth of a Separatist movement in the Church of England which recognized that every member in the church had a part in the government of the said body.  In other words, we have the beginnings of congregational government.

Congregationalism came to full flower in America with the Puritans and the Baptists in particular.  John Robinson, the pastor of the Pilgrims who did not make it to America and who did participate in the debates over the Synod of Dordt, handed us a key to the intellectualism of the Bible, when he declared, “Who knows what new light is getting ready to break forth from God’s word?”  Continue reading

Awakening to the Great Conspiracy

by Dr. James Willingham

Conspiracy is a subject the evokes disdain, unbelief, and ridicule.  However, the truth is that it is a biblical doctrine, one plainly taught in no uncertain terms, one the flies in the face of the brainwashers, the propagandists, and their manipulated mouthpieces.  Listen to Psalm 2:2,3: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and case away their cords from us.”  Those verses are a good prophecy of the conspiracy that sought to rid the earth of our Lord, when He was here in the flesh. And Daniel 2 speaks of the OLD IMAGE THAT BEGINS WITH THE HEAD OF FINE GOLD AND CULMINATES IN THE FEET AND TOES OF IRON AND CLAY (2:32-35), the last part surely extending into our day and time in history.

Iron and clay do not mix too well; they are images of strengths and weaknesses.  The cabal that runs the world today is a mixture of power and force with fault and defect.  Right now the numbers seem to be in their favor until we remember that one plus God is a majority.  In any case, the ruling of the US Supreme Court today clearly displays the reality that there are people behind the scenes who have been manipulating things in order to achieve the goal of licentious behavior.  Continue reading

Awakening to the Most Compassionate Book Ever Written

by Dr. James Willingham

The most compassionate Book ever written was and is and ever shall be the Bible.  Even what seems to be its most repulsive parts have some caring, loving purpose involved, especially when viewed through the lens of some other verse or verses bearing on the same issue.  Consider Psalm 2:4: “He that sits in the heavens shall laugh:  The Lord shall have them in derision.”  Now view the same verse from the perspective of Luke 19:41, where Jesus “beheld the city, and wept (great wracking sobs, so I understand) over it.”

The whole affair involves the most abasing, abrasive, and abhorrent issue in all of Holy Writ, namely, the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Think of how the cross was regarded up to that date and even beyond.  Think also of how the death of that one man changed our perceptions of the cross: it is now the symbol of God’s loving willingness to identify with sinners in their desperate need.  The tree, as it is also called, seems to stand in opposition to every thing we would expect of God, and yet such is the case.  But it is the vent on the cross that is the reason for such a change.  There in that cruel display of unjust law, Jesus shed His blood as the atonement for our sins, shed His blood to redeem us from our sins, shed His blood to reconcile us to God, shed His blood that we might have new life, new hope, new love, and a new Lord. Continue reading

Awakening to a Future Unimaginable and Incomprehensible

by Dr. James Willingham

Yesterday I began to download a paper on teleportation published by Warp Drive Metrics and carrying the approval of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.  Teleportation!  Imagine that!  As in “Beam me up, Scotty!”  I have printed some 30 pages of the 88 page paper, and it reads like a serious, scientific discussion of the various forms of teleportation (and I thought there was only one, generally sci/fi, until a few years ago).  The fact that an outfit bearing the title, Warp Drive Metrics, should have been commissioned to do the work surely implies that there is more, much more, to the whole subject, one that has a background going back more than a few decades.

And then there is the science educator on youtube discussing faster than light travel, like perhaps, as much as 200 times the speed of light.  We also had the testimonies of several engineer alumni of UCLA telling about the late Ben Rich, former head of the Skunk Works of Lockheed (developer of the stealth programs), speaking at a meeting in ’93 or ’94 and saying, “If E.T. were to come to us and asked for help in getting home, we could take him there.”  Imagine what that has to say about the Physicist, a Dr. Alcubierre, of the University of Mexico, who set forth a theory in ’94 or ’95 for faster than light travel. Continue reading

Awakening to the Smiting of the Iron and the Miry Clay

by Dr. James Willingham

Daniel speaks of the iron and the miry clay in the feet of the image of a great evil, a monstrous cabal throughout history, since the days of the Babylonians.  Did Washington know it, when he spoke of the illuminati being in the land. For the past103 years a cabal has run this nation, involving it in a series of wars, causing depressions, and use the cover that monetary system to rob the American people as Jefferson indicated they would do.  It is perhaps the last great struggle before the 1000 generations (note: not a millennium of years but of generations) of the peaceful settlement of THE starry heaven (mt.24:31).  The stone smiting the old image in its feet, hits it in its weakest point, the feet of iron and miry clay.  Without its feet, the image cannot stand.  But what of the stone?  The stone represents the Gospel which is found to fit the age and every age like interlocking parts, so to speak.  Our failure is twofold, a failure to understand the cabal in its strengths and weaknesses (note the miry clay is not even mentioned in the smiting).  The strength is in the iron, but it cannot endure due to the miry clay and the smiting of the stone.

The stone has been set before us in the Great Reformation, the First and Second Great Awakenings. and the launching of the Great Century of Missions.  That stone is the theology is the Gospel, the Good News of the theology preached and taught in those visitations. Continue reading

Awakening to the Lost Masterpiece of Reprobation

by Dr. James Willingham

Reprobation seems to be one of the most reprehensible of doctrines.  It is often portrayed as simply being predestined to Hell.  Actually, it a decision of God to let the sinner alone, to leave him or her in their sins.  The condemnation to Hell is for sins actually committed – not because of reprobation.  All men are lost, fallen, sinful, dead in trespasses and sins.  Dr. John Gill declared that God did not decree to damn any man but for sin.  It is sort of like giving the criminals the leeway to commit a crime in order to make their conviction sure.  To put it another way, they condemn themselves.

Interestingly enough, the doctrine of reprobation is just as much a doctrine of invitation to salvation as is the doctrines of predestination, total depravity, unconditional election, particular redemption, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.  We find our Lord combining depravity and reprobation in His statement to the woman of Canaan, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.”(Mt.15:26)  The term dogs is a denigrating word in church history; it expresses how the Jews felt toward the Gentiles in our Lord’s day. Continue reading

Awakening to the Lost Masterpiece of Perseverance of the Saints

by Dr. James Willingham

“If I believed that, I would be the happiest person in the world.”  This was the saying of a Methodist lady in the 1800s to her Baptist friend, when the latter presented to her the teachings on the perseverance of the saints or eternal security as it is sometimes called.  Actually, the doctrine involves two ideas, namely, perseverance and preservation, and it is not meant to be an indulgence for a person to live any old way the pleases or, rather, it is intended for a person to live any old way he or she pleases so long as that way is pleasing to the Lord.  The precepts that promote perseverance in the Bible are intended to move the believer to become responsible, to take responsibility for his or her conduct.

There are times, when one must stress perseverance.  At other times the idea of preservation must be emphasized.  Sadly, some have put so much weight on the preservation of the saints, eternal security, it would seem, that many have in the 20th century taken it for a license to self indulgence.  Others have used perseverance in such a way as to cast doubt on the possibility of anyone every succeeding in finishing the course as a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Continue reading

Awakening to the Lost Masterpiece of Unconditional Election

by Dr. James Willingham

Picking upon the theme of the doctrines of grace constituting a lost masterpiece, we will look in this post upon unconditional election as a lost masterpiece of evangelism,   Certainly, it is true that this doctrine was a part of the body of divinity, a term used in years gone by to describe the theology of biblical faith, which played such an important role in the Great Awakenings and the launching of the Great Century of Missions (the Modern Missionary Movement).  The preaching of so many of the leading ministers of the 18th century was very much concerned with setting forth these truths with a view to winning people to Christ, that is, the evangelism of the lost.  Our Lord apparently thought unconditional election  was a doctrine of evangelism, because He used it in two cases, one with wonderful results and the other with sore outcome.  And, in both cases, His teaching of the truth of unconditional election was of someone else being the chosen persons.

In both cases, as we shall see, it is not only election that our Lord preaches, it is that some else is the elect and not the person involved. Continue reading

Awakening to the Lost Masterpiece of Irresistible Grace

by Dr. James Willingham

“Oh, it was so wonderful that I could not resist it.”  Those were the words that a convert uttered in response to the pastor who had won her to Christ, when he asked her, “Why did you respond so readily.”  He had used one of those soul winning patterns often recommended and frequently used by so many today who believe that it is all up to man and his or her free will decides.  However, if we look at John 6:44,65, we find the word draw used, a term also used to describe the drawing of a sword from the scabbard and of dragging Paul and Silas through the streets.  Hardly illustrations of power that can be successfully resisted.

Even so, the idea of the Gospel being so winsome that one cannot resist it has often been stressed in the history of the church, especially do we find this to be the case in many of the converts of the First Great Awakening.  Illustrative of this idea is a circular letter by one converted in the period of the that awakening.  The author was John Gano, and the circular letter bore the title, Effectual Calling, a term also used to describe irresistible grace.  The idea stressed is that grace is successful.  Ps.65:4 gives a statement that describes it:  “Blessed is the man whom you choose and cause to approach unto you.”  The Hebrew verb for cause is the Piel, the verb used to describe the causative idea (if memory serves correctly).  In any case, I do know that it is the causative verb form. Continue reading

Awakening to the Lost Masterpiece of Particular Redemption

by Dr. James Willingham

Particular redemption or limited atonement as some call it is another masterpiece of evangelism; it is designed to provoke the sinner to realize that there is no good in himself whereby he might claim God’s blessed salvation.  It is also designed to provoke the lost to cry for mercy, to say, “Is there any hope for me.”  And, yes, despair is one of the realities aimed at, the despair of being able to do anything to save one’s self, despair of self but delight in Christ.  How can one be filled despair and have any sense of delight in Christ?  It is despair of oneself as a sinner, and the delight lies in the thought that Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance or, as Paul put it, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief.”

Actually, every one preaches limited atonement – even the Universalist who preaches that Christ died for all and that all will be saved.  The truth of the limitation of that view is found in the fact that it is has no power to save a sinner in this life, seeing that so many are never converted or give any evidence of salvation.  Continue reading

The 5-Tool Team… A REAL Measure of Pastoral Ministry Success

Having two tools would be nice!

Launch Clarity

Baseball is the Greatest American Sport.

Those who moan about the slow pace or belittle the idea of hitting a 3” diameter sphere hurled at speeds of up to 100 miles-per-hour do not understand the nuance, strategy and simple beauty of The Game.

Baseball players are a rare breed, equipped with lighting fast reflexes, molasses slow patience and a coiled-spring stillness that transcend other athletic endeavors. In fact, a baseball player at their finest is said to be a 5-Tool Player, excelling in hitting for average, hitting for power, running the bases with skill and speed, throwing with precision and fielding with accuracy.

There have been few true 5-Tool players to have ever stepped on a professional baseball diamond. Some, whose trading cards still remain carefully stored in attic boxes are greats I have watched play like Rickey Henderson, Bo Jackson, Barry Bonds or Ken Griffey Junior. Others are the…

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Awakening to the Lost Masterpiece of Total Depravity/Total Inability

by Dr. James Willingham

Total depravity/total inability is a lost masterpiece of theology.  It has been lost to the knowledge even of those who believe in it, because they have forgotten that it is a doctrine of invitation to receive God on His terms.  It has been lost to the knowledge of even those who believe in it, because they have forgotten that it is a doctrine designed to stimulate the sinner to the point of response.  It has been lost to the knowledge of even those who believe, because they simply do not recognize the links between this truth and that of reprobation, another masterpiece of biblical theology designed to produce a violent resolve, a dynamic decision, a desperate determination.  It is along with Total Depravity/Inability one of the most intensely compelling truths.  It has been lost to the knowledge of even those who believe, because they know little, if anything, about therapeutic paradoxes.  There is more that could be said, but let us take one example from the ministry of our Lord.

In the case of the woman of Canaan, recorded in Mt. 15:21-28, we find that our Lord said something that was seemingly repulsive to her, when she was seeking His help fervently.  Continue reading

Awakening to a Lost Masterpiece

by Dr. James Willingham

From Jan.1967-Dec.1969, I served as a Social Worker I with the Kentucky Division of Public Assistance with a case load of about 260-270 or more of ADC, PTD, GR, and OAA cases, mostly the latter (Old Age Assistance). In order to determine continued eligibility for assistance, the worker had to make a visit in the home of the client on a regular basis. One of my clients had a painting hanging on the wall of her home, It was a picture of a peasant couple standing in a field, praying over a potato harvest. The painting was greasy, stained, with a rip in it that some one had repaired by sewing. The client’s story was that one of her ancestral relatives had performed a service for the son of the artist who had recently come to America, and he had given the painting to that relative as payment for the service rendered. He also told the relative that this was the original, that the one hanging in the L’Ourve was a copy. Seems that the officials did not have a space for the artists larger painting, so they requested a smaller copy. Continue reading

Awakening to Pathological Motivations

by Dr. James Willingham

There are all kinds of awakenings, but one of the most important is that of becoming aware of the shortcomings of one’s own motivations.  I have called these shortcomings pathological motivations, because they are basically destructive to all parties concerned where they become evident.  One of the extreme examples was the mass suicides of Jonestown in South America, evil produced by the sick motivations of the leader of the group, the so-called pastor, the Rev. Jim Jones. Such examples are not all that rare.  They just happen to be not that extreme.  Consider how some people can use a controversy to advance their own causes, their own careers, and do it at the expense of others.  There are instances of pastors who must have their people at church so often that the poor souls have no time for family life or anything else, except to work and support by offerings and presence, that pastor who suffers from an inner sense of insecurity.  An inner insecurity can often be satisfied only by outward signs of security, that is, by the control the individual exercises over others.  Other forms of this can involve having the biggest church, the most baptisms, etc.  I once heard of two pastors who came to the point of actually getting in a fist fight over who had the most in Sunday School on a given Sunday Morning. Continue reading

Awakening to Theological Manipulation

by Dr. James Willingham

Theological manipulation is a reality, but most people are not aware of it.  Moreover, it comes in all forms, shapes, and fashions.  There is the manipulation of perfectionism, the idea that one can be a better Christian, if one will only adopt what the preacher, speaker, or writer advocates.   Sometimes, the effort being made is not manipulation but a sincere effort to help the individual believer to strive for a better commitment to Christ, one that involves a more successful and fruitful service.  On the other hand, there are those who discourage such efforts and even encourage a more base response (let us sin that grace may abound).  Some people hate some doctrines, and they will do anything to divert any attention to or affection for such beliefs (the beliefs can be the doctrines of grace or some form of eschatology or being responsible in conduct).  History is replete with such examples (one of the advantages of studying that subject).  However, if the reader wants to consider an extreme example of manipulation with dire consequences, let him or her reflect on the Rev. Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre.   Or one might investigate the crusade against the Albigensians in Southern France in the Middle Ages. Continue reading

Awakening a Thousand Generations

by Dr. James Willingham

“Have you ever thought about the fact that at any one time every last soul on earth could be the elect of God?”  One of the roots of this blog post can be traced to that question put to me, circa 1967-68, by a man whom I consider to have been the wisest person I ever met.

There are other sources.  For example, Jonathan Edwards’ Humble Attempt which moved William Carey, Andrew Fuller, and others to launch what the noted historian, Kenneth Scott Latourette,  called the Great Century of Missions or the modern missionary movement as it is generally known.

The most important source is our text, I Chronicles 16:15, which states:

Be ye mindful of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.

Let us look at that text from a temporal and chronological perspective.  Consider the length of a generation.  Today, we think in terms of 20 years which would mean that mankind has about 20,000 years.  If we have longer generations as is implied in the idea of a man dying at a hundred being a youth and perhaps the average man living as long as Methuselah, 900+ years, then we have 900,000 years.

Couple that with the idea of men going to the stars and setting umpteen quadrillions of planets, and the inhabitants of the same being truly converted (after all, John Owen in his Death of Death in The Death of Christ suggested that the excellency of the atoning death of Christ is of such nature that it could redeem the inhabitants of any number of worlds), one can see how the cheer of the promises to the patriarchs of a seed as innumerable as the sand by the sea shore and the stars of heaven and the statement in Rev.7:9 could also be utterly truthful, the opening of the door of a vision utterly overwhelming. Continue reading

Awakening to the American Past

by Dr. James Willingham

Dr. Thomas Kidd, a professor at Baylor University, has come out with a new volume, George Whitefield:  The Spiritual Father of America.  I hope to get access to the volume soon and write a review of it for the forum.  In the meanwhile, one can find a review of it on the blog Online Library of Law & Liberty.  I have only one note to add and that is this: If the work measures up to Dr. Kidd’s standard in his work, The Great Awakening (and I see no reason why it will not), it will deserve the time and attention of readers and historians and other scholars with an interest in the past of our nation.

Awakening To The Theology

by Dr. James Willingham

The ground work or foundation for awakening prayer as well as for the visitation that we call an awakening is to be found in the theology we find linked to the First and Second Great Awakenings and the Launching of the Great Century of Missions as the late historian, Kenneth Scott Latourette called it or the Modern Missionary Movement as it is called today.  That theology with few exceptions must be described as Sovereign Grace or Calvinism.  The latter term actually diverts attention from the reality that Sovereign Grace is taught in Holy Scripture, and the very term is predicated on the use of the word, “reign,” used in Romans 5:21: “That as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Reign or rule, of course, suggests the very idea of sovereignty, the authority and power to demand that things be done with a certainty.  Sin abounds.  Grace superabounds.  The enemy comes in like a flood, and God raises up a standard against him, a counter flood, a greater flood.  Like Noah’s flood of old which covered the whole earth, the deluge of grace shall fill the whole earth with His knowledge and glory.  The stone becomes a great mountain and fills the whole earth.

Interestingly enough, all of this is to be accomplished not by force but by persuasion  Which brings us to the statement from a work which began my journey toward this understanding of God’s design.  In his Introduction to his translation of William Ames’ Marrow of Divinity (the first textbook in theology used at Harvard, so I understand), Dr. John Eusden stated; “Predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage,….”  That statement was like a light turned on in my mind and heart. Continue reading