What is a Calvinist?

Many Christians would equate Calvinism with Reformed Theology. They are not one and the same. All Reformed Theologians are Calvinists, but not all Calvinists are Reformed. If you are a Calvinist, cool. But if you do not hold to some form of Covenant Theology and/or if you are not in a Reformed church, then you are not Reformed. And hey, it’s ok, who cares about labels? Just, if you are going to use labels, use them rightly.

The word “Calvinist” comes from the name of the great Reformer, John Calvin, and Calvinism is a summary of his teachings on the doctrine of salvation. Please remember that the historical term “Calvinism” only has to do with the doctrine of salvation. John Calvin has taught me about as much theology as anyone in the history of the Church, but I disagree with him on a few things. Calvinism does not mean you believe all things John Calvin.

Calvinism was also a consensus of teachings among many pastors in Europe in 1618, in response to a guy named Jacob Arminius, whose teachings started becoming popular. This was about 50 years after John Calvin died, and it is worth noting that Arminius thought Calvin was a fabulous teacher. But the point here is Calvinism has come to us historically as a polemic against Arminianism, which is why the way the teachings are often worded sound strange to a lot of Christians. Here is a brief explanation about the five points of Calvinism:

  1. Total Depravity- mankind is wholly (totally) unable to make any move toward real righteousness without the grace of God (Genesis 6.5; Psalm 14; Romans 3.9-20).
  2. Unconditional Election- how then can anyone be saved? As I just said, they need the grace of God. And God has graciously chosen to save many people from before the foundation of the world, not because He foresaw anything good in them (it is unconditional), but wholly by grace alone (Deuteronomy 9.4-5; Romans 9.1-18; Ephesians 1.4)
  3. Limited Atonement- God then sent His Son to purchase those elect to be His holy bride. The purpose of the atoning death of Christ was to actually purchase their salvation. He paid the penalty for their sins, bought the work of the Spirit for them, bought their new hearts for them, bought their justification, sanctification, and glorification. In other words, this is an actual atonement. Limited Atonement is a little bit of a redundant phrase in that you simply have to understand what “atone” means to understand this work is not on behalf of every single human being, but rather for the incredibly large number of undeserving sinners God chose before the foundation of the world (Jeremiah 31.31-34; Luke 22.20; John 10.11)
  4. Irresistible Grace- God then sent the Spirit to draw all those Jesus paid for to Himself. He effectually calls them to salvation through the preaching of the gospel. It is grace in that it is undeserved. It is irresistible in that this is a reference to the mysterious work of the Spirit to blow on whomever He wishes, but when He blows, people are awakened to spiritual life (John 3.5-8; John 6.44; Romans 8.30)
  5. Perseverance of the Saints- All whom the Spirit truly regenerates will grow in sanctification until they become perfectly like Christ on the last day. Anyone who professes faith but falls away– and never returns to Christ– was never born again to begin with (John 6.44; Romans 8.30; 1 John 2.19)

If you want to find out more about these great truths, and about a growing movement of Christians in America who are upholding these truths, come watch the Calvinist documentary with us tomorrow at 5pm. I am a Calvinist, and you should be too!


Does it matter whether I have been through it or not?

I know everyone means well. But it is an attack on the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture.

What I am talking about is the understandable thought that experience helps more than anything else, even more than knowing the Bible.

Imagine someone loses a loved one to a tragic death. And in their church they have a friend who loves them very much, and knows the Bible very well. They also have another friend in their church who loves them just as much as the first friend, and knows the Bible just as well as the first friend, but also lost a loved one last year to a tragic death. Is it a no-brainer for you? Clearly, the first person they should talk to is the one who has the experience that could help!

Well, it’s a no brainer for me too: it doesn’t matter! Both are going to help equally! (plus, in the real world, you can talk to both, but that’s beside the point)

2 Peter 1.3-4: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises.” I just want you to notice how a Christian gains all things for “life and godliness”; it comes through the knowledge of God.

If you know God through the Bible, that will give you everything you need to grow in things pertaining to eternal life and things pertaining to godliness. If you know God through the Bible, that will give you everything you need to counsel others toward life and godliness.

I would challenge you: the next time you face a difficult challenge, and a godly Christian offers to help you through it, and even if they’ve been through the same kind of thing as you, what you need to think is NOT, “I’m so glad I’m talking to someone who knows exactly what I’ve been through,” BUT RATHER, “I’m so glad I’m talking to someone who knows God.”

What we need to suffer well or to fight sin is not someone who has suffered imperfectly or who has also fought similar sins. We need Someone who suffered for us and defeated sin. The best help is the person who points you to that Person.

Waiehu Community Church

I am very pleased to announce that Kailua Baptist Church is partnering with Immanuel Baptist Church (Louisville, KY) and Kahului Baptist Church (Maui) in an effort to plant a church in Waiehu, Maui. The two men who will be leading the charge are Rocky Komatsu (one of our elders) and Jay Haynes (one of Immanuel’s elders).

The plan is for them to move to Maui in January (less than three months from now) and spend about a year as members of Kahului Baptist, cast vision, recruit core members, do outreach in Waiehu, and in early 2019 start a worship gathering there. This of course is all under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and subject to change as He wills, but that is the plan for now.

They are both great gospel preachers, under no illusion that God promises a church will happen, but full of faith and are very biblical in their thinking. We all agree that there is a need for a healthy, evangelical church there, and so this does seem like a good and wise endeavor.

Please consider:

  1. adding the Waiehu church plant effort to your regular prayer list
  2. giving financially to further the gospel in that area
  3. going with them to be a part of their core team

For more info, check out their website here

Sabbatical reflections

A few reflections over the last three months:

  1. A pastor is truly on-call 24-7:   I have always known this, but this was the first time in eight years that I felt that weight lifted off, a weight that I personally did not realize was there until it wasn’t. This is not a complaint on my part. This is just a statement of reality. And it is why, though no church is mandated to do this, it is a good and kind thing for a church to grant periodic sabbaticals to pastors.
  2. Stay-at-home moms are so awesome:   For about two of the three months I was a stay-at-home dad, doing more of the cooking, picking up our younger daughter from school, helping our older daughter transition into college, and doing more cleaning than I normally do (which was still less cleaning than my wife does, and she just started back to work this school year!). Then for about two weeks I did some care taking for my dad. All in all, I did less than all our stay-at-home moms do at much lower quality, and I was drained. Thank God for these moms! (this is not to say anything negative about moms who work outside the home, just a note of encouragement towards those society often looks down upon)
  3. God is doing good things in other churches: we got to visit several churches over the sabbatical, and I am so thankful for the work of faithful preachers and Christians all over our island. The gospel is going forth on Oahu! There is basically a healthy local church in every corner of our island. Praise God!
  4. God is doing good things in our church- as I got to observe KBC at a little further “distance” than usual, I realize how blessed our church is. We have many faithful teachers, connections with other faithful teachers, our people love the Word, they love God, love each other, and are trying to grow in holiness more and more. Our church is Reformed, and constantly being reformed for God’s glory. Even something like our weekly Communion is something so refreshing each week (it stood out to me when we did not have communion at every church we visited; it felt incomplete). KBC is blessed by God!
  5. I love my church- Out of the 12 weeks, I believe we were away 6 of those weeks. It was good to visit other churches. And even the weeks I was there, it was a bit awkward for everyone (i.e., “should I talk to him? should I bother him?” etc.). Now, being “back back”, I am so thankful for the faith family God has given me.

Time to go prep for a sermon and do other pastoral things…


My church has graciously granted me a 3 month (!) sabbatical. I am very grateful. Though that does not mean I should necessarily take a sabbatical from this blog, I am planning to do so. I have been trying to post twice a month for the last couple years, and it has been a blessing to be able to do so. But I will take a break from this blog until early October. I would appreciate your prayers for a fruitful time of rest

What short-term missions teams want you to know if you are hosting us

I have had the opportunity to travel to Central Asia the last few years to help several Christians in their efforts to reach the unreached. It has been a great blessing to be a part of. I realize there are many different situations, but having been a part of at least seven or eight short term mission trips, here are a few things I think every faithful short term team would want you to know, if you are either a missionary on the field, or a local church inviting us to come help you in your work:

  • We are so thankful for you! You are likely a part of the few who felt the burden to not stay, but rather to go. That means you likely sacrificed in ways most of us never will, all for the sake of the gospel. Thank you for being on the front lines of the Great Commission!
  • We do not want to be a burden. We are only coming because we think we can help you. We would not come unless you invite us. So please do not invite us simply because you think that is what you are supposed to do. If you are having to create work for us, do not invite us. If you have more work than you can handle, that is exactly why we hope to come.
  • We are willing to lead or follow during the trip. Just be clear about what you want. As a local church, we have our sights set on preaching the gospel to unbelievers, discipling believers, and organizing local churches. We are happy to lead in that. But since you are on the field in a context that is foreign to us, we are happy to follow you. Let’s just communicate clearly.
  • We are willing to pay for as much as we need to. Let’s simply communicate clearly about that as well
  • We do not want to sightsee. Please do not feel like you have to show us around. We are there to work, not play.
  • At the same time, we are not there to work 24-7. We will benefit from as much rest as is normal for the Christian life.
  • We are a local church. You are likely a missionary without normal church life, or a young church who needs help growing ecclesiologically. One of the goals in missions should be to establish healthy local churches. That means by God’s grace we have something to offer you missiologically. Please do not be offended if we try to offer it. We are simply trying to do our job, and trying to help you do yours.

I cannot stress to you how thankful we are for you, and how much we love praying for you. I look forward to discovering how God used all our efforts together to grow the Church

Reflections on our church retreat

We just had our second annual church retreat/camp. We were blessed to be able to bring a speaker from my former church for the second straight year. Pastor Ryan Fullerton brought great teaching on building a culture of evangelism. A few reflections:

  • I pray every single one of our members have these words ringing in their ears in every relationship with non-Christians: connect-God-man-Christ-response
  • I pray for every single one of our children to be saved, and that we have a culture that says, “I welcome advice in parenting”
  • Preaching the gospel to yourself is how you will persevere in this life, and we cannot expect to be effectively evangelistic if we are not rejoicing in our own salvation
  • Ryan Fullerton is still my favorite preacher in the world

Listen to his Sunday sermon here