The Debate on Biblical Authority: Mohler vs. Stanley

Debates are often good. What?!? Yes, I reiterate, debates are good. Disagreements, when handled in a godly, civil fashion, can lead to a furtherance of learning and understanding. No one is perhaps better at debating than Baptists…although some Baptist debates lose their godliness and certainly their civility. In the theological world, a debate has been ensuing between Andy Stanley and Dr. R. Albert (Al) Mohler. Stanley is the son of the great Dr. Charles Stanley (pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta) and is senior pastor of North Point Community Church also in Atlanta. Dr. Al Mohler is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky. The debate surrounds the comments made by Stanley in his message “The Bible Told Me So” (see link below). Stanley essentially states that the Bible is not the supreme authority–Christ is. He further goes on to note that if we are to reach individuals in this post-Christian culture, we must appeal to the evidential sources of Christianity and not the Bible alone (Stanley 2016, NorthPoint.org).

Mohler responds to Stanley’s message with a warning. He claims that another individual sought to do what Stanley is supposedly doing. That person is Friedrich Schleiermacher, the father of modern theological liberalism. Schleiermacher, says Mohler, sought to “salvage spiritual and moral value out of Christianity while jettisoning its troublesome doctrinal claims, supernatural structure, and dependence upon the Bible. He was certain that his strategy would ‘save’ Christianity from irrelevance” (Mohler 2016, albertmohler.com).[1] Who is right? Well, without trying to straddle the fence, I do believe that both individuals bring important truths to the table.[2] Mohler and Stanley are correct in at least three areas.

mohler

Mohler is right about the authority of Scripture as it relates to the Christian’s life (2 Timothy 3:16).

If there is a serious problem plaguing the modern church, it is the rise of biblical illiteracy. Biblical illiteracy is not going to be solved by avoiding the Bible. In fact, Christian leaders must engage the Bible even more in their messages and lessons. Quick anecdotes and savvy punchlines will not improve the lack of biblical knowledge in our day. It will take in-depth expository messages to turn the tide. Mohler’s high view of Scripture is justified. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).[3] Paul was addressing the Old Testament Scriptures (also known as the Hebrew Bible). But the New Testament writings would quickly assume the same status. Paul writes to Timothy, “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages’” (1 Timothy 5:18). The first quote comes from Deuteronomy 25:4. But the second quote is especially interesting. Paul quotes directly from Jesus as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. Notice that Paul says “For the Scripture says.” Paul elevated the Gospels to the same status as the Hebrew Bible. Peter also elevates the epistles of Paul in 2 Peter 3:15-16 when the aged apostle quips, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” Note here again that the New Testament writings are elevated to the status of Scripture. Thus, Mohler is right to be concerned with the lack of Scriptural exposition taking place in many modern churches. It is the Word of God that will bring a change in the lives of believers.

Mohler is right about the inspiration of Scripture as it relates to the final revelation of God (Titus 1:2).

I also share Mohler’s view of Scripture. I hold to the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture. The logic makes sense. Paul reminds Titus, “for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (Titus 1:2). God does not lie. It is not that God chooses not to lie. God cannot lie if He is absolutely holy. With this logic in place, it stands to reason that God cannot speak falsehood. Giving that the Bible is the revelation of God, then it only stands to reason that the Bible is true and cannot be false. Thus, a believer should place a high value on the written words given by God. I still remember, and will never forget, the advice given to me when I first entered the ministry. My mentors would say, “If you keep your messages between the covers of Genesis and Revelation, you’re on solid ground. If you go beyond these covers, you’re on your own.” I agree wholeheartedly.

Mohler is right about the safeguard that comes with a high view of Scripture.

I also share Mohler’s concern with the erosion that comes when the safeguard of Scripture is removed. Schleiermacher’s well-intended liberalism, which sought to spare Christianity from the flood of doubt coming its way from the times, led to one Rudolf Bultmann. Bultmann, a German theologian, sought to de-mythologize the Bible by removing all its miraculous content. Bultmann, who was undoubtedly influenced by Humean philosophy,[4] led a movement that would ultimately give rise to such groups as the Jesus Seminar and the like. Liberal theology has led to the doubts of many. Liberal theology has not led to the strengthening nor the salvation of Christianity. In contrast, it has led to many towards atheism and agnosticism. Mohler is right to be concerned with the lack of biblical exposition in modern churches.

While Mohler is right on several points, I find myself in agreement with some of what Stanley says as well. I agree with Stanley on three points.

andy-stanley

Stanley is right about the authority of the Christian tradition as it relates to the final apologetic (1 Corinthians 15:3-9).

Stanley points to the authority of the pre-New Testament traditions and sources. I am surprised that Mohler takes issue with Stanley on this point. The Bible’s authenticity is strengthened by the strong evidence relating to these traditions, creeds, and formulae found in the pages of the New Testament. Perhaps the most important of all these early traditions is that which is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-9. Here, Paul relates to the Corinthian church what he had received a few years after Christ arose from the dead. Paul writes, “For what I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:3-7).

The Bible does not hold authority because it is the Bible. The Bible holds authority because it is the truth. The believer should not worry. Christianity is an evidential faith. Christianity has been tested and it stands on its own. Why? It is because Christ literally rose from the dead. Christ’s resurrection is not a fanciful wish or desire. Christ’s resurrection is reality.

Stanley is right about the primacy of Christ above all else (Colossians 1:15ff).

I also agree with Stanley that we must worship Christ and not the Bible. The reason the Bible is the Word of God is because of God Himself. Thus, the Bible points us to the reality of the triune God. Paul, writing to the church of Colossae, notes that Christ “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible” (Colossians 1:15-16a). While we must place great emphasis on the Bible, we cannot allow the Bible to itself become an idol. Our worship is of the risen Christ Jesus.

Stanley is right about the need to appeal to evidence to reach the current generation.

I also find myself in agreement with Stanley in the need to provide evidence for the post-Christian generation which we are trying to reach. Most people are not going to listen to what we say about the Bible until they know that there are reasons to accept the Bible as an authentic document. Apologetics is necessary to do evangelism in modern times. William Lane Craig has noted on his podcast, Reasonable Faith, that we are amid an exciting time. An apologetic renaissance has begun. This renaissance is not something to fear. Rather, it is something that Christians, including Mohler, should embrace. This website has noted the resistance that the modern church has held against apologetics, which is quite bizarre.

So, what can one draw from this debate? I think the following conclusion can be made:

Mohler is right in his strong view of Scripture and Stanley is right in his strong view on apologetics: therefore, the appropriate view consists of a blending of both.

Let me say, I respect both Al Mohler and Andy Stanley. Both have contributed greatly to the kingdom of God. However, I think Mohler and Stanley are both guilty of accepting an “either/or” mentality when they should accept a “both/and” approach to this issue. Yes, the Christian should preach and teach the truths found in the Bible. I think Stanley is guilty of taking too low a view of Scripture. 

Yes, the Christian should engage the evidences and promote apologetics. I think Mohler has taken too high a view of Scripture, bordering on the level of fideism.[5] Quite honestly, the modern preacher should seek to find a balance between Mohler and Stanley’s view. The Christian leader would do well to wholeheartedly focus on the truths of God’s Word, discipling people in the truths of the Scripture, while also standing ready to provide evidence for the faith one holds (1 Peter 3:15). Theology and apologetics are two sides of the very same coin. Both are necessary. Both should be sought. Both should be accepted.

© October 3, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

McKnight, Scot. “In the Beginning: The Gospel—Al Mohler vs. Andy Stanley.” Jesus Creed (October 3, 2016). http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2016/10/03/in-the-beginning-the-gospel/?platform=hootsuite.

Mohler, R. Albert. “For the Bible Tells Me So: Biblical Authority Denied…Again.” AlbertMohler.com (September 26, 2016). http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/09/26/bible-tells-biblical-authority-denied/.

Stanley, Andy. “Why ‘the Bible Says So’ Is Not Enough Anymore.” Outreach Magazine (September 30, 2016). http://www.outreachmagazine.com/features/19900-the-bible-says-so.html/3.

Stanley, Andy. “The Bible Told Me So.” North Point.org (August 28, 2016). http://northpoint.org/messages/who-needs-god/the-bible-told-me-so/.

Notes

[1] For full fairness on this topic and the authors involved, the links to all the writings and resources concerning this debate are posted in the “Sources Cited” section of the article.

[2] In full disclosure, I am a pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention. Even though Mohler is part of the SBC and Stanley has connections to the SBC, I seek to examine the points of view from both participants in this debate.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001, 2007).

[4] Humean philosophy comes from the atheist philosopher David Hume who rejected the miraculous and argued that it was impossible for the miraculous to take place. Furthermore, it assumed that it was impossible to prove that a miraculous event took place in history.

[5] Fideism is the view that faith alone is necessary without any evidence whatsoever. In many ways, fideism is a blind faith and ends up committing a circular reasoning fallacy.

The Importance of Rest for the Impact of Your Ministry

Americans celebrate the holiday known as Labor Day on the first Monday of September each year. This day celebrates the hard working men and women on the labor force, offering for many a day of rest. One of the most important things Christian apologists and ministers can do to benefit their ministries is to take a necessary break.

On last week’s podcast, Nick Peters wisely warned that apologists can often become “married to their ministries.” Such is not only true of Christian apologists, the same is also true of pastors and church leaders. In fact, the danger is greater with Christian leaders actively involved in church ministry. Meetings here, study time there, and countless other tasks can drain the minister and lead to ministry failure if the minister does not take necessary time for rest and recuperation.

One of the most important classes I took during my Master of Divinity program at Liberty University was a class called Preventing Ministry Failure. The advice given in that class is invaluable. I would like to share some important truths that I learned in that class.

1. Set necessary boundaries.

It’s important to have boundaries in ministry. Michael Todd Wilson and Brad Hoffman note that “Personal boundaries help us prioritize our relationships…and focus on things consistent with our calling” (Wilson and Hoffman 2007, 140). It’s okay to say no to some ministerial offers. Many ministers think that the eleventh commandment should be, “Never say no.” However, it is often necessary to set time aside for oneself and one’s family.

2. “If you don’t control your schedule, someone else will.”

Dr. Kevin King of Liberty University once quipped, “If you don’t control your schedule, someone else will.” King is dead on the money. One of the things I am learning (and I am still a work in process) is the great importance of time management. The congregation and the minister must remember that the pastor is NOT omnipresent. He does not hold the ability to be in all places at all times. Scheduling helps gauge more important ministerial tasks from those of lesser importance.

3. Your first calling is to your family.

Somehow Paul’s admonition to church leaders is often forgotten. Paul notes that “if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church” (1 Timothy 3:5, ESV)? The minister’s first ministry is the ministry to his family. If this is forgotten, then it does not matter how many degrees he possesses, how expositionally sound his messages are, or how many individuals he has visited that week. The minister will have failed. To sustain his family, the man of God must take sufficient time with his wife and children.

4. Take time alone with God.

Mark’s Gospel documents a noteworthy aspect of Jesus’ ministry–His prayer life. Mark notes that Jesus rose “very early in the morning, while it was still dark…and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35, ESV). Simon Peter and the apostles could not find Jesus. Apparently, Jesus must have walked far into the wilderness to take time alone with His Father. If Jesus (the Son of God) needed time alone with the Heavenly Father, how much more do we? It is critical that the minister and apologist take appropriate amounts of time alone with God. The Christian ministry is a spiritual work. If the minister’s spiritual tank is empty, his ministry will be too.

Conclusion

Randy Kilby was the president of Fruitland Baptist Bible College when I attended the school in the late 90s. He used to say, “You must get under the spout, where the glory comes out. Then the glory you experience will flow out to others.” In addition to the numerous issues the church faces today, there is yet another problem that challenges the church. Many individuals in ministry are leaving. Wilson and Hoffman provide the following startling statistics:

“Of ministers in the United States: 25 percent have been forced out of or fired from their ministry at least once; 90 percent feel inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands; 80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively; 45 percent say they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence; 40 percent have serious conflict with a church member at least once a month; 20 percent admit to having an affair while in the ministry; 37 percent admit that Internet pornography is a current struggle; 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend” (Hoffman and Wilson 2007, 31).

The struggle in ministry is real. To make a long-term impact, the minister must realize that he is not Superman. He is not the Savior of the world. There is only one Savior–Jesus Christ. Understand your limitations and take the necessary rest that is needed. If the minister and apologist does so, then the impact of his ministry will grow exponentially.

(c) September 5th, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Wilson, Michael Todd and Brad Hoffman. Preventing Ministry Failure. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2007.

Combating Independence Day Anxieties

On Monday, July 4th, 2016, Americans will celebrate the 240th annual Independence Day. On July 4th, 1776, the United States declared its independence from England. Americans will gather in various locations to watch fireworks and cook outdoors to celebrate their freedoms. However, this Independence Day is marked by various anxieties. Americans have watched many of their cherished freedoms diminish at the altar of political correctness. Many are uncertain about what lies ahead for their beloved nation which has served as a bastion of freedom for 240 years. Bible-believing Christians comprise many who hold such concerns. How is it possible to truly relish in Independence Day with such anxieties tormenting us? I would like to suggest four ways to combat anxiety on Independence Day.

1. Combat Independence Day anxieties by trusting in
God’s sovereignty.

The sovereignty of God is more than a doctrine of a solid systematic theology. God’s sovereignty provides a distinguished trust. When a person acknowledges that God is in control, worries and concerns tend to fade away. Divine sovereignty is tied-in to God’s omnipotence. John S. Feinberg notes that God’s sovereignty means that “God is the ultimate, final, and complete authority over everything and everyone…God’s sovereign will is also free, for nobody forces him to do anything, and whatever he does is in accord with his purposes and wishes” (Feinberg 2001, 294). If we were to understand that God is moving to bring about a certain end in mind, saving as many people that He knows would be saved, then the anxious times we currently experience would lose the power of uncertainty. For nothing is uncertain with God.

2. Combat Independence Day anxieties by remembering the Church’s past redemptions.

If you are like me, then you have a long-term memory problem. By that, I mean to indicate that I often find myself forgetting about the ways that God has moved in my life before this time. I eventually worry about things that God has already delivered me from in the past. A classic example of this behavior is found with the disciples. Jesus had fed 5,000 men along with countless women and children with a few loaves of bread and fish (Matthew 14:13-21, ESV). The sum total of those fed that day probably ranged in excess of 20,000 people!

Interestingly enough, the disciples were met with another instance where their food supply had dwindled. Jesus told the disciples again, just as He had previously, to feed the crowd. The disciples, yet again, said, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place” (Matthew 15:33, ESV)? I can imagine Jesus saying, “Seriously?!? Are you kidding Me?!?” Well, that would be my response nonetheless. It’s easy for us to forget about how God has moved in the past.

As the modern Church faces restrictions in religious freedoms, it is important to note that the Church has experienced situations like this in the past. In fact, the Church was born in a hostile society where believers comprised the vast minority. God has delivered the Church in uncertain time. Naysayers who claimed that the Church would not make it 100 years from their time have been greatly disappointed countless times over. Voltaire is such an example. Before worrying about your present, remember the Church’s past.

3. Combat Independence Day anxieties by working the present calling.

Many modern Christians are tempted to become calloused and angry over the situations arising. While it is imperative that we stand up for religious freedoms and take our voting responsibilities seriously as Americans, we must not forget the primary calling upon our lives. We are not called to be patriots first, Christians second. Rather, we are called to be Christians first, patriots second. Often believers are tempted to focus more on the things we oppose than the things for which we stand. It must be remembered that the entire law of God can be summarized into two commandments, as Jesus masterfully put it, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40, NLT).

Our first love must be for God and God alone. But in addition to this, we must remember that we are called to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? It is the Christian: both conservative and otherwise. It is the Arab and the Jew; the Muslim and Hindu. It is the Buddhist and Sikh. It is the Wiccan, the Atheist, the Agnostic, and Secularist. It is the Republican and the Democrat. It is the Liberal and the Conservative. It is the White person, the Black person, the Asian, and Latino. It is the American, the Canadian, the Russian, and the Mexican. It is those who live like you and those who do not, those who share your values and those who do not. All of the aforementioned individuals are made in the image of God…even if the person mentioned doesn’t realize that fact.

This brings us to the issue of calling. What is the primary calling for the Church united? Jesus has told us from the beginning that our primary calling is to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT). Does this mean that we still stand for the truth uncompromisingly? Absolutely we do! But one’s stand must never be allowed to waver one’s commitment to love others the way Christ instructed. If we remember to see others through the lens of Christ, then we will be better focused on the task at hand.

4. Combat Independence Day anxieties by acknowledging future victory.

Beloved, I was reminded of a great truth the other day in my devotions. I came across Paul’s reminder to the Church of Rome where he notes that “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are…And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:18-19, 28, NLT). Russell D. Moore tells us that a good way to remember the future coming is to walk around in an old graveyard and while doing so, he writes,

“think about what every generation of Christians has held against the threat of sword and guillotine and chemical weaponry. This stillness will one day be interrupted by a shout from the eastern sky, a joyful call with a distinctly northern Galilean accent. And that’s when life gets interesting” (Moore 2014, 721).

Undoubtedly, we live in uncertain days. But the promise that our heavenly Independence Day brings us is that we are redeemed to live a life without worry and anxiety. Our sins have been forgiven. We have a purpose and a high calling upon our lives. So, this Independence Day, instead of mourning the things we have lost as Americans, why not focus on the things we have gained through our risen Lord Jesus?

© July 3, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

Feinberg, John S. No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Moore, Russell D. “Personal and Cosmic Eschatology.” In A Theology for the Church. Revised Edition. Edited by Daniel L. Akin. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2014.

Scripture marked ESV comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013.

Trusting God in an Anxious World

Today, I read about the United Kingdom’s decision to pull out of the European Union. Without engaging in whether such an idea was good or bad (I’ll leave that to the political pundits), many fear that the global economy could suffer because of England’s decision.[1] It seems to me that every time I turn on the news there is something even more shocking than the day before. For many, the looming thoughts of a global World War III seem more and more like a possibility. How does the Christian remain calm and peaceable in such a tumultuous time? Let me suggest a few points.

  1. The Church has previously endured similar circumstances and survived.

Solomon notes, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).[2] While technology increases in complexity, people never change—both good and bad news. The gospel message remains the same. The Church has endured the persecutions of the Roman empire. The Church made it through the dark ages. The Church has survived times when people thought that the gospel message would die.[3] Church, we will make it through by God’s grace. Yes, we may have to use different tactics and methodologies, but the message of Christ will never change.

2. God is sovereign: He knows what we do not.

God is sovereign. This means that God is in control. Grudem associates sovereignty with God’s power in noting that “God’s omnipotence means that God is able to do all his holy will.”[4] When the prophet Jeremiah asked for understanding pertaining to the events of his day, God inquired, “Is anything too hard for me” (Jeremiah 32:27)? The obvious answer is, “No.” When I have questions and concerns (which I have in recent days), God keeps assuring me saying, “Trust Me! I have this under control.”

3. Jesus never promised an easy road; He just promised His presence.

The Church has largely become spoiled. This is not true of those in the Eastern church and certainly not true of those in the Southern Hemisphere. But in the Western church, false promises of an easy life have overwhelmed the message of Christ. Instead of proclaiming, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27), the Western church has proclaimed, “God wants you to be a multi-millionaire and live an easy life.” It may be that some would enjoy such pleasure, but such has not been the case for the majority of Christians throughout time. In the end, we must be reminded that Christ never promised an easy road, rather He promised His presence. For He reminds us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

4. Each day is a day closer to Christ’s return.

As a futurist, I believe that the Book of Revelation gives a description of what will take place in the end of human history. I will not speculate as to when Christ will return. It is impossible to predict Christ’s coming for He has told us, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). While it is impossible for one to postulate when Christ will appear to redeem the Church, it is with certainty that one could claim that each day is one day closer to that time. Rather than become depressed at the current status of the world, we need to remember the work that is set before us. We may not have much longer before God calls the Church home.

5. The joys of a heavenly eternity far outweigh the problems of today.

The apostle Paul reminds us that “‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’—the things that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NIV).[5] The eternity that God has prepared for those who love Him far outweigh the problems that we may encounter today. If you are depressed about the events of today, focus your attention on the joys of eternity that await you. Some may argue, “Doesn’t this place less attention on the here and now?” Certainly not! When a person lives with the hope that is found in heaven, the person is able to look beyond oneself and see the larger picture.

Conclusion

The world is currently unstable. Chances are highly likely that it could become even more unstable before it gets better. Nevertheless, Christians have the opportunity to “step up to the plate.” We speak of the trust found in God. Such times allows such trust to be seen in a vivid fashion. While the world becomes an increasingly dark place, the Church has the opportunity to illuminate the light of Christ even more vividly than before. Will you succumb to the darkness of worry and anxiety or will you stand and say, “Let the floodwaters come! I will not be moved from the Rock of my foundation, the Lighthouse shining forth in an ocean of darkness—that Rock, that Lighthouse being Jesus Christ!!!” Christian, what will your response be?

Notes

[1] See Griff Witte, Karla Adam, and Dan Balz, “Britain Shocks World: Breaks with European Union, British Leader Steps Down,” MSN.com (June 24, 2016), retrieved June 24, 2016, http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/britain-shocks-world-breaks-with-european-union-british-leader-steps-down/ar-AAhznhT.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[3] Take for instance the proclamation of Voltaire who predicted that no one would read the Bible in 100 years. Voltaire lived in the 1700s.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 216.

[5] Scripture marked NIV comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011).

© June 24, 2016. Brian Chilton.

The Power of a Positive Legacy

Normally towards the first of the week, we examine an apologetic issue of importance. However, today I am still left with the overwhelming importance of a person’s legacy. This past weekend, I helped officiate my grandfather’s funeral service. I learned much more about my grandfather’s early life during his funeral than I had known while he was with us. Grandpa’s brother, Paul Sisk, said that Grandpa had led him to the Lord as well as many in their family. I also heard, from many of his parishioners, how great a pastoral leader my Grandpa had been. One word keeps coming to mind: legacy.

Legacy is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “something handed down by a predecessor.”[1] My Grandpa handed down a legacy of Christian conviction and influence. Grandpa was by no means perfect. However, he did strive to live the best Christian life that he could and used the resources he had available to him to make a difference for the kingdom of God. The issue of legacy makes me wonder what type of legacy I will leave behind. Some may inquire, “Why is it important to leave a lasting legacy when people may not remember us past a generation or two?” Such is a fair question. I feel that we must leave behind a positive legacy for many reasons.

  1. A positive legacy will inspire future generations.

The term inspire is defined as to “fill with the urge or ability to do or feel something.”[2] Inspiration is generally associated with a positive urge or ability implanted in someone. Throughout the Scriptures, we find records of individuals who have inspired future generations to do great things. Abraham is one such example. Abraham inspired the faithfulness of future generations. Abraham is revered not only in the Christian worldview, but also in the Judaist and Islamic worldviews. Others have served to inspire future generations, as well.

Jesus inspired the salvation of future generation. Jesus’ obedience even leading to the cross has inspired countless individuals to face and overcome amazing odds. Jesus noted that those who believe in him “will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).[3] If we look for a perfect example for how one should inspire others, look to the perfect example found in Christ Jesus. For it was Grandpa, who pointed me to Jesus and tried to emulate Christ as much as he could. While we all need heroes of the faith and need to be heroes of the faith for others, we should inspire individuals to always look towards the perfect example found in Jesus.

  1. A positive legacy will influence future decisions.

The legacy of an individual will influence the decision-making of future generations. If a person holds a negative influence over others, the person may propagate bad decisions in his or her children. People who constantly surround their children with drugs and addictive behaviors could influence their children to do the same. But, the opposite is also true.

We often hear about the exodus of youth from church. While we may concentrate on those things that don’t work, I have been seeking information on what does work. Michael Haverluck, writing for One News Now, notes one particular influence that keeps children in church. Haverluck writes,

“Nielson argues that firm and loving leadership at home is essential to keep kids rooted in their faith into adulthood. ‘The 20-somethings who are serving, leading, and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church,’ Nielson continued. ‘They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough, but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.’”[4]

I feel that the Nielsen studies are accurate. If a parent does not take church seriously, what makes a person think that their children will? Wishy-washy, buddy-buddy, boundary-less parenting does not lend itself towards good results. God told Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations” (Exodus 3:15). It was Moses’ and the peoples’ responsibility to influence future generations. Modern Christians hold the same responsibility.

  1. A positive legacy will initiate future changes.

One person can make a distinct difference which will initiate a future chain of events. People often like to think that the person is their own person and does not influence anything or anyone else. But this is simply not true. Instead of living isolated lives, people are interconnected through a human network so to speak. The choice of one person may directly or indirectly initiate a future change of some sort.

Take Joseph for instance. What if Joseph had succumbed to temptation? What if Joseph refused to listen to God and interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh? Well, life would be much different than it is now. Because of Joseph’s faithfulness, a chain of events took place eventually leading to the Exodus, leading towards the nation of Israel, ultimately leading to the first advent of Christ. Actions today lead towards decisions tomorrow.

Take again my grandpa. Grandpa became a Christian in part due to the ardent prayer life of my grandmother. What if Grandma had not prayed as she did? What then? I would suppose that we would not have had the Christian upbringing that we enjoy and countless others would have never heard the gospel message through Grandpa. Grandma was influenced to accept Christ due to the moving of the Holy Spirit working through the lives of those close to her. What if those people had rejected the calling of God to share the gospel? What then? We initiate future decisions by our actions and attitudes. A person must ask himself or herself, “Am I purporting positive potential future changes?”

  1. A positive legacy will insulate the furtherance of truth.

A person’s legacy is either that of one who insulates, or protects, the truth, or one who rejects and distorts the truth. The importance and value of the Scriptures were emphasized to me very early in life. My grandpa told me, “Son, if you keep your messages between the covers of Genesis and Revelation, you are okay. However, if you leave the text found between these two covers, you are on your own.” Grandpa’s sage wisdom in the area of biblical exegesis is one that I have tried to keep and maintain in my ministry. It was actually due to this advice that I left the ministry when I had times of doubts. If the text could not be trusted, then I did not need to preach at all. Once God demonstrated the veracity of Scriptures, I could then preach and teach with a newfound fervor.

I am struck by the dichotomy found in the Third Letter of John. John, on the one hand, praises one named Demetrius. Why did John praise Demetrius? Demetrius had “received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself” (3 John 12). The legacy of Demetrius was one devoted to truth. Yet, the same was not true for Diotrephes.

Diotrephes had a legacy that was one not devoted to truth. Rather, Diotrephes was one “who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority” (3 John 9). Furthermore, Diotrephes was involved in “talking wicked nonsense about us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church” (3 John 10). While scholars do not know much about Diotrephes, his legacy has been tainted in the pages of God’s Word. Can one imagine the horror of having one’s legacy recorded for all eternity as one who stood in the way of God’s church? Such is the case for all who allow themselves to be the conduits of falsehood.

Conclusion

Every person will leave behind a legacy of some sort. Theologians, pastors, apologists, and regular congregants alike leave something for the next generation. One must ask oneself, “What will be my legacy? What will others remember about me?” It behooves each person to evaluate themselves and begin building a legacy that will bring about good results. God has been too good for one to lackadaisically and half-heartedly settle for mediocrity. Let us all strive to leave behind legacies that will positively shape the generation to come.

 

© May 23, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[1] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Michael F. Haverluck, “3 Factors Keeping Youth in Church Through Adulthood,” OneNewsNow.com (May 4, 2015), retrieved May 23, 2016, http://www.onenewsnow.com/church/2015/05/04/3-factors-keeping-youth-in-church-through-adulthood.

A Tribute to an Unknown Spiritual Giant: Remembering Rev. Odell Sisk

Chances are highly likely that you have never heard the name Odell Sisk. He never wrote a book. He was never the pastor of a mega-church. He had no connections with influential leaders. He held no degrees. Yet, the influence of this individual is felt by every person who reads this post. If the spiritual legacy of Odell Sisk did not exist, then chances are likely that this website would not exist. How so? Let me explain his story.

Odell Sisk was born on Sauratown Mountain in Stokes County, North Carolina. He was one of 14 children (12 boys and 2 girls). On one fateful day, Odell met a woman named Mildred Beck. Mildred loved Odell. It was love at first sight. But there was a catch: Mildred was a devout Christian; Odell was not. Against the advice of some, as they were unequally yoked,[1] they married. Mildred’s father, Henry Beck, warned her, “You made your bed. You’ll have to sleep in it.” But Mildred loved Odell. Mildred did something that neither her father nor Odell expected. She prayed. And she prayed hard! She prayed consistently that God would save Odell, her newfound husband. God heard her prayers and began working on young Odell’s heart. Although he ran, he eventually accepted the loving grace of God into his life by receiving Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. God, however, was not done with Odell just yet.

Mildred kept praying. She prayed, “God, use him for your glory.” God again heard the prayers of this godly woman. God began working on Odell in a different way. God called Odell to preach. Odell did not have a high school diploma, something that personally troubled him, so he wondered if he could truly accomplish what God was requesting of him–much like Moses who felt like he was ill-equipped to speak for God. One day while plowing one of his fields being the farmer that he was, Odell surrendered to the call while driving his tractor.

Grandpa with kids
Odell and Mildred with their great-grandchildren.

When Odell finally accepted the call, God used him mightily. His first church was a little church by the name of Hills Grove Baptist Church in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina. He was used of God to lead this congregation for many years. Eventually, he accepted the call to pastor Albion Missionary Baptist Church in Westfield, North Carolina. Odell retired after a lengthy tenure at Albion. However, that retirement was short lived. Another church named Little Richmond Baptist Church in Elkin, North Carolina called him to be their pastor. Odell left his so-called retirement to pastor again. After serving at Little Richmond for several years, Odell retired again. But Odell’s retirement was again premature, Albion Baptist called Odell for a second tenure to be their pastor. It is unique that a church calls a minister to a second-term after a period apart. Altogether, Odell served Albion as pastor for over 27 years, a rarity in modern times. Due to health reasons, Odell had to again retire, this time for good due to COPD and other medical issues. On May 19, 2016 at 8:25am, Odell was called home to meet his Lord leaving behind a long legacy of ministry.

Albion Baptist Church
Albion Missionary Baptist Church, Westfield, NC

While not a largely popular person outside of a tri-county area in the foothills of North Carolina, Odell’s legacy is one that has influenced countless individuals. In fact: if it were not for the spiritual influence of Odell Sisk, the online ministry of Bellator Christi.com and my personal ministry might have never existed. Why? Odell and Mildred Sisk are my grandparents. I have personally witnessed countless occasions where Grandpa locked himself up in his office to have personal time with the Lord. I have seen Grandma on her knees in prayer. Grandpa consistently checked to ensure that his family knew about Christ Jesus. He was even known during his last few weeks to have evangelized the doctors who were treating him—against the advice of some.

Grandparents with me at Moms house
Grandparents with my sister and I.

Grandpa is the one who told me about Jesus. Grandpa is the one who led me to the Lord. In September of 1983, Grandpa led me in a prayer to receive Christ as my Savior while sitting in his living room. It was Grandpa who baptized me in the Dan River in the summer of 1984. When I told him about my calling to preach, it was Grandpa who said, “Run. If you can do anything else, you are not called. But if you cannot, then you are called.” When my calling was verified, it was Grandpa who said, “As long as you keep your messages between the two covers of the Bible, you are okay. But if you go outside these covers, you are on your own.” This advice is one that I take seriously even to this day.

Throughout history, we hear of many spiritual giants, such as the Apostle Paul, Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, and Billy Graham. But it is often the otherwise unknown spiritual giants that lead the way for the Pauls, the Augustines, the Spurgeons, and Grahams. Quite frankly, I feel that God uses those who are largely unknown to bring about great ends. There will be more of these unknown spiritual giants in heaven, like my simple rural grandparents. The unknown spiritual giants make an impact of the like that will not be fully known until the final pages of history are turned, and we all stand before God in eternity.

Grandpa Sisk_revised
Grandpa in his living room where I received Christ.

The apostle Paul notes that we shall all stand before the bema seat of Christ (i.e., the Judgment Seat of Christ) “so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).[2] At that time, the work of each Christian individual will be tested. Paul notes that “if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). For those whose work stands the testing, they will be given rewards. For those whose work does not stand, they will suffer loss although they will still enter into God’s heaven.

Grandpa was not perfect, but he had a perfect Savior. Grandpa undoubtedly earned many rewards as his influence is carried on to future generations. The challenge is now with us. What will we do with the legacy that God left through those like Grandpa? This challenge is not only true for my family, but for all who have their own unknown spiritual giants.

My family will celebrate the life of my Grandpa this weekend. But I must say, that God challenges me through the legacy of my grandfather to go forth and make my own legacy as well. The legacy is not really mine to give, just as it wasn’t Grandpa’s. The legacy is that of Jesus Christ. The challenge is still the same. Will we receive rewards in heaven like those who preceded us? Or will we stand before God with nothing to offer Him?

Grandparents with me at graduation
My grandparents with my family and I at my graduation from Gardner-Webb.

Grandpa left a Christian legacy. Go make your Christian legacy…even if you are largely unknown in society. For with God, there are no unknown spiritual giants–just spiritual giants.

© May 19, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

[1] Meaning that one was a Christian and the other was not.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: Lockman, 1995).

My Top 5 Recommended Study Bibles

As a pastor and a student of the Word, people often ask me which study Bible is best. For those who may not know, a study Bible is a Bible that contains scholarly and/or popular notes at the bottom of the page. These notes serve as a commentary for the biblical text. Some of these notes may provide historical information that provides insight for the passage at hand. Other notes may give a cross-reference to other passages of Scripture. Even other notes may try to explain more difficult passages of Scripture.

But many people will ask, “Pastor, in your experience, which is the best study Bible?” Such a question is good and completely understandable due to the massive number of study Bibles on the market today. Therefore, I would like to present you with my personal top 5 list of recommended study Bibles. I may revise this list in a future article as more study Bibles are published. I gauge these study Bibles according to the quality of notes and articles provided along with the usefulness of the study Bible in question.

life application study bible

  1. Life Application Study Bible. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale. 2004. Avg. price $39.99.[1] 2448 pages.

The Life Application Study Bible comes in a wide array of translations. For those who love the NIV or the KJV, you will find this study Bible for your preferred translation. The Life Application Study Bible (LASB) offers a chart harmonizing the Gospels along with over 10,000 notes. The downside to this study Bible is that the LASB offers more of an application of the text rather than scholarly notes. Thus, if you are desiring a study Bible that serves as a devotional Bible, then the LASB will be for you. In contrast, if you are looking for a more scholarly treatment of the text, then you will want to consider some of the other study Bibles given in this article.

hcsb study bible

  1. HCSB Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010. Avg. Price: $49.99. 2100 pages.

The HCSB Study Bible is the recipient of the 2011 Christian Book Award Winner. And for good reason. The study Bible offers around 15,000 study notes, 315 word studies, 141 color photographs, 62 timelines, 59 maps, 24 articles, 16 illustrations, 15 charts, and even a one-year Bible reading plan. The notes are scholarly and well-written. The only problem is that this study Bible is written from a particular perspective within evangelicalism. It is a perspective that with which I am in great agreement. However, I do not feel that it offers a fair treatment on some issues, particularly issues pertaining to the age old debate surrounding divine sovereignty and human freedom. Also, I have a love-hate relationship with the HCSB text. The HCSB is very easy to read. The HCSB is a conservative translation as well. However (and it may be where I am too traditional), it is difficult for me to get accustomed to the number of times the HCSB uses the personal name Yahweh in the Old Testament. Most translations keep the tradition in translating the personal name of God to “LORD.” Regardless, if you can get past some of the nuances with the translation, the HCSB Study Bible may be for you.

apologetics study bible

  1. HCSB Apologetics Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2012. Avg. Price:$39.99. 2048 pages.

The HCSB Apologetics Study Bible is a must have for anyone interested in apologetics. The Apologetics Study Bible offers 5 full-color maps, 11 charts, and a timeline of Christian apologists and their works. The downside to this study Bible is that it does not have many in-text notes. If you are looking for historical information pertaining to particular passages of Scripture, then you will need to look at other study Bibles in this list. However, this study Bible excels in its articles. The Apologetics Study Bible features 132 articles written by individuals such as the late Chuck Colson, Norman Geisler, Hank Hanegraaff, Josh McDowell, Albert Mohler, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, and 90 more contributors. The Apologetics Study Bible is one that the serious student, pastor, and layman alike will want on their shelves.

niv zondervan study bible

  1. NIV Zondervan Study Bible. Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 2015. Avg. Price: $49.99. 2912 pages.

The newest study Bible on our list was released in August of 2015. This Bible is chock-full of information from some of the most notable scholars in our day. Drs. D. A. Carson (PhD, Cambridge University), Richard Hess (PhD, Hebrew Union College), Douglas J. Moo (PhD, University of St. Andrews), and Andrew David Naselli (PhD, Bob Jones University; PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) are among the top contributors to this work. The study Bible offers approximately 20,000 comprehensive verse-by-verse study notes; hundreds of color photographs, maps and charts; over 35,000 verse concordance; section introductions, over 60 scholarly contributors; dozens of full length articles; and to top it off—free digital access online for those who purchase the Bible. The only downside is that the NIV 2011 updated text has come under scrutiny since the update was released (something that I feel has been both unjustified and unfair).[2] However, the fact that conservative leaders such as Joni Eareckson Tada, Tim Keller, and R. Albert Mohler have added their endorsements to this study Bible should relieve any hesitations that one may possess. The study Bible is MASSIVE which indicates the voluminous contributions that the study Bible will hold for your personal study of the Scriptures. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible is a hot-contender for the number one spot.

esv study bible

  1. ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Avg. Price: $49.99. 2752 pages.

To say that the ESV Study Bible is the king of the mountain when it comes to study Bibles is an understatement. I have many friends in graduate school and teachers alike. I often hear praises from them concerning the value of the ESV Study Bible. It is also telling that one version of this study Bible was out of stock and waiting to be refilled on Amazon.com at the time this article was published. The ESV Study Bible provides 25,000 verse-by-verse notes, over 200 full-color maps, over 80,000 cross-references, over 200 charts, section summaries, book introductions, and a massive collection of articles in the back of the Bible. The study Bible was created by a diverse team of 95 leading scholars from 9 countries, 20 denominations, and 50 institutions of higher learning. The study Bible also holds the English Standard Version (ESV) text which has been praised for its accuracy and readability. Dr. Daniel Wallace (Greek expert and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts) even praised the ESV at a recent conference for its translational accuracy from the original biblical languages. For any serious student of the Bible, the ESV Study Bible is a must-have. I recommend it as the best study Bible up to the point that this article has been published.

 

© March 11, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] All prices given are for the hardcover editions. The list prices are also given. Bibles may vary from the price listed. Leather bound study Bibles will hold a higher cost, whereas softcover editions may be somewhat cheaper.

[2] The controversy stems over the NIV’s use of gender inclusive language where masculine pronouns are intended for both men and women. However, other translations such as the ESV, NLT, and HCSB all do the same. Contrary to the hype, the NIV does not change the divine pronouns. While the NIV does make some changes that I do not like (holding that John 3:16-21 is a teaching of John rather than a quote of Jesus, and italicizing the script of the two controversial passages in Mark 16:9ff and John 7:53-8:11), the NIV is a good translation. It may not be as literal as the ESV and NASB, but many find it to read easier than others listed.

God’s Omnisapience: What is it and How Does it Affect You?

I had the opportunity to meet a great man of God early in my ministry. He was one who served as a mentor to me. His name is Rev. Gilmer Denny. While Gilmer Denny was an intelligent man, he did not have an incredible wealth of knowledge according to the world’s definition of knowledge. He had no advanced degrees. He penned no books or novels. While he was an intelligent man, Preacher Denny (as he was often called) was a simple man. But, Preacher Denny had one thing that many do not. He had wisdom.

In stark contrast, there is an atheist theoretical physicist teaching at Arizona State University by the name of Lawrence Krauss. Krauss is incredibly knowledgeable in the realm of science and mathematics. In many ways, Krauss holds an incredible amount of knowledge. However, Krauss does not possess a great deal of wisdom. Many have noted Krauss’ poor philosophical abilities. Many scholars and reviewers alike have noted that Krauss would be better served if he kept quiet on philosophical issues, noted on a recent podcast of Reasonable Faith.[1]

Knowledge and wisdom are similar, if not complementary. However, it is quite possible for one to be knowledgeable without being wise. Knowledge is acquired “facts, information, and skills.” Wisdom is better understood to have the “quality of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.” Merriam-Webster defines wisdom as the “knowledge of what is proper or reasonable: a good sense of judgment.”[2] In other words, knowledge is understanding how something works, whereas wisdom is the understanding how to apply information to life. Knowledge requires intelligence. Wisdom requires integrity. We find that God is known to be omnisapient. “Omni” meaning “all” and “sapient” meaning “wisdom.” God is all wise. In Proverbs along with other passages of Scripture, we find that wisdom is applied in four different means.

1.God’s wisdom is applied from his NATURE (Proverbs 2:5; Job 12:13; Dn. 2:20; Rm. 16:27).

In verse 5, Solomon notes that those who seek understanding will “understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”[3] In other words, Solomon notes that God is the source of wisdom. In verse 6, Solomon notes that “the LORD gives wisdom.” Job notes that “With God are wisdom and might” (Job 12:13). Daniel says, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might” (Daniel 2:20). In other words, wisdom is ultimately given through God as he is the source of wisdom.

2. God’s wisdom is applied by his WORDS (Proverbs 2:1-2, 6; Ps. 19:7; Jer. 8:9).

In verse 1 and 2, Solomon tells his son to listen to his words of wisdom because God had given Solomon wisdom…even though Solomon did not always listen to the wisdom of God. David writes that the “law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). Psalm 119 states, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The prophet Jeremiah states that “The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them” (Jeremiah 8:9)?

3. God’s wisdom is applied by his ACTIONS (Proverbs 2:11-15; Jer. 10:12; Hos. 14:9).

Explanation: In verses 11 through 15, Solomon discusses how God acts in wise ways. In verse 12, Solomon says that God will be about “delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech” (2:15). Jeremiah states that God is “he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens” (Jeremiah 10:12). Hosea states that “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them” (Hosea 14:9).

4. God’s wisdom is applied to his PEOPLE (v. 3-9; Gen. 41:39; 1 Kgs 3:28; James 1:5).

In verses 3 through 9, Solomon advises his son to seek wisdom. The one who seeks for wisdom will find wisdom in the “fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God” (2:5). Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are” (Genesis 41:39). The people witnessed the wisdom that God had given to Solomon so much so that they “stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice” (1 Kings 3:28). James also notes that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

So, how does God’s omnisapience affect you? God’s omnisapience affects you in 4 ways.

  1. God’s wisdom combined with his love means that God is going to bring about, not what you want, but what you need. David aptly writes in the 23rd psalm that “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). This does not mean that God will provide his children with every whim and fancy that comes across their mind. Rather, it means that God will provide for the needs of his children. An elderly lady I know once told me how she grew up without many of the luxuries that she possesses today. However, she noted that God always took care of them. They never went hungry and they always had a warm place to stay. Their clothes were not always fancy, but they always had clothes to wear. She said, “God was all that we had and he is all that we needed. I miss those days.”
  1. God’s wisdom promises that he is working to bring things to the best end possible. Perhaps Paul puts it best when he states that “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). God never promises that one will walk an easy road. God never says that there won’t be briars and thorns in one’s path. He promised that in the end he will work all things (good and bad) for the good of his people.
  1. God’s will is based in his wisdom and love, looking for the best for those who are in Christ Jesus. The writer of Hebrews states that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6). Sometimes God has to put us through difficult situations to build us up. For instance, God will not give instant patience to his children. Rather, he will put a person driving behind every slow person in three counties only to be met with every red light possible (I am speaking from experience)! Instead of providing instantaneous faith by metamorphosis to his children, God will, rather, put one in circumstances to build one’s faith in God.
  1. God will grant wisdom to the one who searches for him (Romans 12:1-2; James 1:5). As it was noted earlier, James states that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). Do we truly seek wisdom? Do we desire wisdom? God promises that he will provide wisdom to the one searching for him, for the one desiring wisdom. Thus, wisdom is an attribute imputed to the faithful, for those desiring the trait.

Ultimately, one can trust that God is doing the right things to bring about right result. While we do not always know how or what God is currently doing, or why he may be doing a particular thing the way he does, and confused by God’s allowance of certain things and events in life; we can trust in God’s sovereign wisdom to do the right thing in the end. We live in a good world now. But God is working to establish a perfect creation for those in Christ Jesus. Then, we will see the fullness of God’s great tapestry of wisdom in all its glory and grandeur!

 

© March 1, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[1] William Lane Craig, interviewed by Kevin Harris, “Is This Scientist a Bad Philosopher,” podcast, ReasonableFaith.org (February 14, 2016), accessed March 1, 2016, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-this-scientist-a-bad-philosopher.

[2] Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, Accessed March 1, 2016, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wisdom.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

The 10 Most and Least Bible-Minded U.S. Cities

A Barna research team recently interviewed people from various areas of the nation to see which cities and/or areas were the most and least biblically minded. That is to say, they were seeing which areas held a high view of Scripture. The study evaluated each city’s “Bible-reading habits and beliefs” (Zylstra 2016, ChristianityToday.com). The study interviewed over 65,000 adults in the 100 most populous areas.

The research noted that Tennessee “is home to more megachurches per capita (67) than any other state” (Zylstra 2016, ChristianityToday.com). As previous studies have indicated, “the South remains the most Bible-minded region of the country, with all of the top 10 cities located below the Mason-Dixon line,” (Zylstra 2016, ChristianityToday.com) said Barna. According to the Barna research, the following represents the 10 most Bible-minded cities in the United States:

10. Lexington, Kentucky (44%)

9. Greenville/Spartanburg/Anderson, South Carolina/Asheville, North Carolina(44%)

8. Knoxville, Tennessee (45%)

7. Little Rock/Pine Bluff, Arkansas (45%)

6. Charlotte, North Carolina (46%)

5. Tri-Cities, Tennessee (47%)

4. Shreveport, Louisiana (47%)

3. Roanoake/Lynchburg, Virginia (48%)

2. Birmingham, Alabama (51%)

1. Chattanooga, Tennessee (52%)

In contrast, the top 10 least Bible-minded cities are found in the Northeast and West. They are the following (note, this was a top 100 list):

  1. Salt Lake City, Utah (17%)
  2. Phoenix/Prescott, Arizona (16%)
  3. Hartford/New Haven, Connecticut (16%)
  4. San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, California (15%)
  5. Las Vegas, Nevada (14%)
  6. Buffalo, New York (13%)
  7. Cedar Rapids/Waterloo, Iowa (13%)
  8. Providence, Rhode Island/New Bedford, Massachusetts (12%)
  9. Boston, Massachusetts/Manchester, New Hampshire (11%)
  10. Albany/Schenectady/Troy, New York (10%)

It is interesting to note that Lynchburg (#3) is home to Liberty University, whereas Charlotte (#6) is home to Southern Evangelical Seminary, the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary extension in Charlotte, and a host of other Bible schools. Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute is found between Greenville, SC and Asheville, NC (#9). North Greenville University, a university with a large Christian component, is also found in the area. There are a couple of principles that stand out to me.

First, discipleship works! That is, those who have held a strong biblical mindset are using good discipleship methods in many areas of biblical training, while promoting the Christian worldview. If one considers the Bible to be the authoritative Word of God, then discipleship is mandatory. Not only should one desire to grow with God, but one should also desire to grow others.

Second, evangelism is necessary. Some may be tempted to stay away from areas with a populace possessing a lower Bible-mindset. But, how does that help? Perhaps, we need more emphasis on the Christians and the churches located in the more hostile areas of the nation. The following map, from Christianity Today (taken from Barna), provides the full top-100 list.

Barna Top100

Blessings,

 

Pastor Brian

 

© January 26, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Source Cited

Zylstra, Sarah Eekhoff. “The Bible is Still Buckled: America’s 100 Most Bible-Minded Cities of 2016.” Christianity Today.com (January 21, 2016). Accessed January 26, 2016. http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/january/bible-belt-buckled-100-most-bible-minded-cities-2016-barna.html

3 Troubling Trends Encountered This Week

This past week, my heart has been grieved. It was not grieved by events happening in foreign nations. My heart was not grieved by any assault by atheistic innuendos. My heart has been grieved by particular things that I have seen coming from the American church. I was grieved in three areas of ministry and faith which were attacked, not by persons on the outside of the church, but by persons who are supposedly church leaders. These trends are highly dangerous.

1. Anti-biblical rhetoric.

The first area represents a trend that is of greatest concern. I read an article this week by a youth leader from the Raleigh-Durham area that demonstrated a troubling trend. The youth leader dismissed the authority of the Bible. He essentially claimed that the Bible was not the Word of God. Of utmost surprise to me what that many people came to his support! I don’t know of a more troubling thing for the church than for its young Christian leaders to be found dismissing the authority of the Bible. It is one thing to hold differing interpretations about a particular area of the Bible, but it is an entirely different problem when one dismisses the Bible entirely. Such a statement is especially troubling since this individual holds a great influence over the youth of his church.

2. Dismissal of biblical preaching.

Another problem I have encountered this week stems from a lackadaisical approach to expository preaching. Perhaps this dismissal stems from the lack of authority given to the Bible. Some feel that preaching is too old-fashioned. People want to hear stories and fancy tales rather than those pesky moral codes found in the Scriptures. The argument goes, “People want to hear about nice things. People want to hear about pleasant things. People do not want to be told what to do.” Would such people allow Jesus into their church? Would they allow the prophet Amos? What about that wildman John the Baptist? These men were teachers and preachers. Jesus expounded upon the Word of God (the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible). He often quoted and explained the texts. Don’t get me wrong! The gospel provides us positive things to contemplate. One of the fruit of the Spirit is joy. However, we must expound all of the Bible instead of picking and choosing those areas that are found most favorable.

I am reminded of the late Dr. Randy Kilby, former president of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute.” He said in one of his last messages before he died, “I hear people say, ‘Preach to the people’s needs. The problem is, you don’t know what the people need. Just preach the Word! God knows what they need” (Randy Kilby, 1998)! We desperately need more Randy Kilbys.

 3. Anti-apologetics.

The third problem has been a problem area for quite some time. This problem area is an anti-apologetics movement within the church. Which is really quite bizarre! Recently, a major denomination chose not to allow the proponents of Intelligent Design to host booths at their annual conference. The move by the major denomination stunned many of the leaders of the ID movement, such as Dr. Stephen Meyer. To compound the mystery of the denomination’s rejection of ID, many of the leaders of the ID movement are also members of the denomination in question.

Conclusion

We need to stay true to the calling that God has set before us. We must remain firm in our faith. But, we also need to realize that, as Jude has told us, in the last days we must be about “building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 20-23, ESV). Pray for those flirting with spiritual disaster.

 

© January 19, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Dehumanization Found in Bad Sportsmanship

I have a confession to make…

 

Are you ready?…Okay, here we go…

 

I love watching sports.

Yes, I confess, I love watching sports. In the vast ocean of sports, my particular fish of choice is football. I love the competitiveness. The excitement amplifies me. The athleticism amazes me. And the necessity for unity in each particular team (that is, successful teams) compels me. While I have my particular favorite teams (e.g. Green Bay Packers and the Carolina Panthers) and have my lesser favorites…(wouldn’t you like to know), good sportsmanship is prized above all things when it comes to athletics.

That is why I was truly perplexed at last Saturday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback of the Steelers, was carted off the field with an injury. While he enjoyed his cart ride back to the locker room, some fans began cheering that this person had been injured and threw objects at him. The off-the-field antics by the fans spilled over to the field. Pittsburgh went on to win the game due to unsportsmanlike behavior by some of the Bengal players that literally cost them the game. Being a playoff game, the sting of defeat burned far more than usual.

Let it be said that this one game DOES NOT REPRESENT the good people of Cincinnati, Ohio, the NFL, nor the Bengals organization. Such a thing could have happened anywhere.

How is it that sports overrides a person’s humanity? I understand that we all want our favorite teams to win. But in the end, one team must win and one team must lose. However, a person remains a person. I feel the problem stems from dehumanization which stems from the objectification of a human being. That is to say, a person is not viewed as a person but as an object.

Dehumanization is nothing new. Dehumanization has happened before and unfortunately will happen until Christ returns. Dehumanization led to the gas chambers in Germany, the killing fields of Cambodia, and the countless victims slaughtered across the world.

Am I saying that fans cheering on an injured quarterback is the same as the previous examples given? No. Of course not! However, if left unchecked, such societal ideologies, attitudes, and behaviors can lead to such extremes especially when human life is devalued. So how to we keep ourselves from dehumanizing another person? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Remember that all people are made “imagio dei.”

Despite a person’s nationality, politics, religion, or race, each person is a person made in the image of God. Granted, for some people it is much more difficult finding that image. Nevertheless, each person is a creation of God and is to be valued as such. One of the Ten Commandments states that one shall “not murder” (Exodus 20:13).[1] Why? It is because that every human life holds value. At the end of the day, even if your team loses, the winners are still human (that is unless your sport features fighting robots).

  1. Keep things in proper perspective.

At the end of the day, keep things in proper perspective. If your team loses, how are you really going to be affected? Chances are likely that the vast majority of those reading this article have not invested interest in the teams for which they cheer. Even if you do, is the world really going to come to an end if your team does not win the championship? 

  1. Try to remain emotionally balanced.

Sometimes people who have had a string of bad luck with personify their favorite team. Their team somehow psychologically represents them in a real way. However, this is certainly not the case. We must find a way to keep ourselves balanced emotionally. Try not to allow yourself to become overly excited or overly depressed.[2] How does one accomplish this? Try the final principle.

  1. Keep in tune with God.

When a person sees the world the way God sees it, then the person will not be as apt to become obsessed with their team and, thereby, resist the temptation to dehumanize those individuals on opposing teams. Yes…even if the Chicago Bears were to defeat my Green Bay Packers or the Seattle Seahawks were to defeat my Carolina Panthers…(to quote Dr. Zachary Smith from Lost in Space, “oh, the pain…the pain”).

drzachscream                            sad Packers dog

In eternity, will it really matter who won these games outside of the influence that people have with one another? Not really. Life will keep moving on.

If we keep these principles, we can demonstrate good sportsmanship and, more importantly, maintain the value of every human life.

 

 

© January 12, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[2] A biblical example of this can be found in the apostle Paul. Paul could find contentment in any state that he faced. See Philippians 4:10-13.

Top 10 Challenges Facing the Church in 2016 (Part 2)

Due to the overwhelming response from the first installment, I decided to post the second installment earlier than anticipated. The previous article dealt with the first five challenges facing the church in 2016. Those challenges were:

10. The issue of the Christian’s right to self-defense (that is, the right to bear arms).

9. The sense of entitlement.

8. Apathy for evangelism.

7. Race relations.

6. Trusting God despite chaos.

See the article “Top 10 Challenges for the Church in 2016 (Part 1)” for a fuller treatment of the previously mentioned issues.

This second installment will provide the top-5 challenges facing the church in 2016. As noted in the previous article, these insights do not necessarily represent anything from the current or past churches that I have served as pastor. Rather, these issues stem from trends that must be faced as we move into a new year. Let’s first look at the fifth issue.

coexist

  1. Syncretism: Are there Multiple Paths to God?

It has been noted before, but must be reemphasized: the New Age movement has entered the modern American church. One of the hallmarks of the New Age movement is syncretism. Syncretism is defined as the “incorporation into religious faith and practice of elements from other religions, resulting in a loss of integrity and assimilation to the surrounding culture.[1] Other issues are at work with this problem. Primarily, one faces the classification of a “bigot” or “hate-mongerer” if one claims that there is only one way unto God. Secondly, the problem seems to emerge from a lack of knowledge pertaining to worldviews.

Most everyone in the continental United States has probably seen the bumper sticker that reads “Coexist.” While I agree that we should live civil with those from differing perspectives, the bumper sticker is often used to assume that all religions are the same.

Are all religions truly the same? Not really. For differing worldviews make different claims.

Buddhism, a pantheist worldview, is basically an agnostic religion. Hinduism, a panentheist worldview, claims that God has manifested himself by various gods and goddesses, whereas Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, all theist worldviews, claim that there is only one God. Yet, contrary to Islam and mainstream Judaism, Christianity claims that Jesus is the unique Son of God, the Messiah sent to save all of humanity. While all these religious beliefs could be wrong, they all cannot be right. To make matters worse for the syncretist, Jesus himself said things like, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).[2]

Logic dictates that either Jesus was right or he was wrong. If he was the Son of God, one would think that he would be right pertaining to spiritual matters. If Jesus is right, then syncretism cannot be correct. If syncretism is correct, then Jesus was wrong. If Jesus was wrong on this matter, then one must wonder whether he really was the Son of God.

Thus, the person must make the decision. One cannot sit on the fence. Either Jesus was right or he was wrong. If you accept Christ as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16), you must ask yourself “Am I going to follow the words of Jesus or not?” If it is true that Jesus is the only way to the Father, then it is extremely evil to claim otherwise as such an accusation would mislead people away from God.

How to combat:          It would seem that the solution to this problem is also the solution to the most challenging problem found on this year’s list.

 marriage

  1. Family and Marriage: Building Strong Families One Home at a Time.

2015 has brought many challenges to the church as it relates to the definition of the family. We do need to define biblical marriage. But, I think the church needs to focus on this issue by another means. We need to build strong families in our churches. Do we emphasize the importance of marriage? Do we emphasize the benefits of having a strong home? The church should be a light to the world.

Do our families serve as good examples of the home?

How to combat:          Church leaders must not allow political fear to strangle the importance of teaching and preaching on marriage. This platform should not be used to insult those that differ with the biblical interpretation. Rather, this platform should be used to instruct and teach how to build strong Christian homes. Perhaps churches could hold marriage conferences and retreats for the families in their church. Perhaps discipleship studies could be conducted on the issue of marriage. For ministers, it is more crucial than ever to perform pre-marital counseling for interested couples to be wed.

 Hostility

  1. Increasingly Antagonistic Culture: the War with Political Correctness.

We must face it. The Leave it to Beaver days are over! Not only is America becoming a post-Christian nation,[3] it is becoming hostile to Christianity. Don’t believe me? Then, start talking about Christ in a public forum. Go talk to Christian apologists who speak at public universities. Now that the shock has worn off, let us understand something important. Seeing the culture as antagonistic is not meant to alarm you. I am not saying that you should stockpile your cabinets and build a bomb shelter somewhere in the deepest, darkest, deserted woodlands.

No!

This is not said to alarm, but to inform. The modern Christian must use different tactics than one would use back in the 1950s. Living in this time is actually exciting. Why? Because when society is at its darkest, the church normally shines the brightest!

How to combat:          As previously mentioned, the church needs to employ different strategies than it did several years ago. The church needs to face the culture much like a missionary would. When a missionary enters a land where Christianity is not dominant, he or she does not assume that the person they are speaking with understands what they are talking about. It seems to me that the modern church should employ similar tactics. Truthfully, studies have shown that as many as 20% of individuals in North America have never met a Christian[4]…as difficult as that is to believe.

 fear1

  1. Fear: An Emotion that Leads to Bizarre and Dangerous Results.

When I first compiled this list, I placed this issue as the most challenging. In some ways, it is. In previous years, persecution has led the list. Truthfully, Christian persecution is an extremely problematic issue in our world. Countless Christians have been driven from their homes and have lost loved ones. Even young children! I mourn with my Christian brothers and sisters across the globe who have suffered greatly because of their faith.

However, it seems to me that there is a greater problem than just persecution. It is the problem of fear. Fear leads individuals and societies to do strange and bizarre things. Fear may even lead one to a loss of love for another due to race or nationality. Yes, I understand that there are great challenges in our time. But, were we not told that one of the greatest commandments was to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31)? Fear causes us to lose our bearings.

Paul notes that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Let the world worry about the world. Let us worry about fulfilling the Great Commission and serving God up until the time that our soul is required of us.

 How to combat: Focus less on the cares of the world and focus more on the concerns of God. Personally, I am making a resolution to watch the news less and read the Bible more in the upcoming year. Yes, we need to stay up on the current issues. We need to pray that God would lift up godly, Christian leaders. I know some good Christians who are starting to enter the political field. We need more of that. Nevertheless, it is even more important to stay focused on the eternal issues.

In case you haven’t heard: in the end, God wins!

 biblical illiteracy

  1. Biblical and Theological Illiteracy: The Problem that Propagates other Problems.

When I first compiled this list, I placed this as the 3rd most pressing challenge. However, the more I delved into the issues before us, the more I realized that most of the problems on this list emerge from this problem: the problem of biblical and theological illiteracy.

Earlier this year, I attended a pastor’s conference at a local Baptist association. I recall one pastor (who will remain anonymous) who was concerned with the lack of basic biblical knowledge by many in his church. He is not alone. Unfortunately, many individuals sit on the pews each Sunday without knowing the core essentials of the faith. To some, an epistle is the wife of an apostle…a joke, yes, but unfortunately true in some cases. Many youth do not know the Ten Commandments or the Two Great Commandments.

Why is it that the youth don’t know these truths? It’s probably because many of the adults don’t know them either!

We as church leaders are failing our congregations. More importantly, we are failing our Lord. After giving the Greatest Commandment in all the Bible in Deuteronomy 6:4, Moses wrote that the law of God was to be “on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6) and that one was to “teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7). We must ask an ever important question…

 How can we expect people to defend the faith if they first do not know what it is they are to be defending???

 How to combat:          Theology and apologetics are two squads on the same team. Theology is the offensive squad and apologetics is the defensive squad. Both go hand in hand. I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating yet again…WE MUST TEACH BIBLICAL AND SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY!!! Chicken nuggets and pizza pies are not going to cut it anymore. Yes, we should build relationships. Yes, we should build fellowship. But, we must get back to the meat and potatoes of the faith.

I dare say that if we would just fix this one area, many of the other areas would fix themselves.

Happy New Year everyone! Keep contending for the faith!

 

© January 1st, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Bibliography

 Manser, Martin H. Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser, 2009. Logos Bible Software.

 Stocker, Abby. “The Craziest Statistic You’ll Read About in North American Missions.” ChristianityToday.com (August 19, 2013). Accessed December 31, 2015. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/august-web-only/non-christians-who-dont-know-christians.html.

 

[1] Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009), Logos Bible Software.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[3] That is, a nation that appreciates the Judeo-Christian ethic.

[4] Abby Stocker, “The Craziest Statistic You’ll Read About in North American Missions,” ChristianityToday.com (August 19, 2013), accessed December 31, 2015.

Top 10 Challenges Facing the Church in 2016 (Part 1)

Since starting Bellator Christi three-years-ago, I have made it a practice to end each year with a glimpse of the challenges facing the church in the year ahead. The top-10 articles have become some of the more popular articles on the website. This year is no different.

It must be noted that I am writing simply as a pastor actively involved in church ministry. These lists are evaluations from what I see in the overall church, particularly in North America. These lists do not necessarily reflect any one particular church, or churches, to which I have served. Rather, this list reflects trends and issues that the church must address in the year ahead. While these issues reflect those facing the global church at large, the issues particularly relate to the church of North America.

 

This article will provide numbers 10 through 6. Next Tuesday’s article will provide the final five.

CHRISTIANS-GUNS

  1. The Christian’s Right to Bear Arms: To Bear or Not to Bear?

Dr. Jerry Falwell, Jr. recently supported the Christian’s right to arm themselves. Falwell’s statement seemed to ignite a firestorm not only in secular media outlets, but also in the church. Many leaders supported Falwell’s claim that Christians had the right and responsibility to defend oneself and one’s home. However, others such as John Piper condemned Falwell’s comments. That we are even having this conversation demonstrates the great cultural changes that have taken place since the days of the American Revolution. Nevertheless, the right to arm oneself, particularly that of the Christian, is not one that will be disarmed in 2016 (pun intended). With 2016 being a Presidential election year, anticipate this topic to find itself even greater ammunition (again, pun intended).[1]

How to combat:          Leaders will need to stress their views and explain why they feel the way that they do. Warning: it has been my experience that this issue can bring out great hostility by those on both sides. A spirit of comradery and openness will be necessary for advocates on both sides to allow for proper discourse and dialogue.

entitled-kid-494x328

  1. Entitlement: Ask Not What I Can Do for God, but what God can Do for Me.

The issue of entitlement is one that is beyond the scope of race or gender. Entitlement has become a phenomena for many individuals in modern culture. By entitlement, I mean the person’s belief that they are owed something. Perhaps the issue of entitlement stems from individualism gone wrong. While I am a capitalist, Socrates warned that extreme capitalism could lead to an individualized society where every person becomes his/her own island.[2] The Christian worldview is one that stresses the value and importance of community. Thus, this issue can become problematic, especially since the entitlement philosophy inherently opposes charitable endeavors. The philosophy of entitlement is focused on the self and not the needs of others.

How to combat:          Involving youth in missions work is a great way to demonstrate the impoverishment of the poor and afflicted. Charity and love for others must be emphasized.

Apathy-I-dont-care

  1. Apathy for the Lost.

Apathy has found its way on the top-ten list before. It is no stranger. By apathy, I stress the lack of concern that many Christians hold for the lost and downtrodden…particularly the lost. Other issues noted in the top five may hold a key in understanding the lack of enthusiasm that some hold. I am a congruist[3] and have many Calvinist friends. However, I do believe extreme Calvinism, especially that which espouses antinomianism, allows for such apathy regarding evangelism. This is certainly not true of all Calvinists. Many of my Calvinist friends are among some of the greatest of evangelists that I know. However, one must avoid views that negate the importance of the Great Commission regardless of one’s soteriological viewpoints.

How to combat:          Stress the Great Commission and the responsibility that Christians hold. Forgiveness does not excuse laziness and unholy living.

racism

  1. Race relations.

2015 has demonstrated just how problematic and deep the racial divide still remains. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Let us be clear. Racism and Christianity are incompatible. Racism and Christianity are oil and water. They do not mix. Unfortunately, fears and anxieties tend to diminish unity found in Christ. Instead, fears and anxieties elevate such tendencies.

How to combat:          Stress God’s impartiality[4] and that heaven will be full of various nationalities. Make an effort to befriend individuals of different ethnicities. See the value in all people. Dr. Derwin Gray is doing a great job in this area with his church Transformation Church in South Carolina.

unwavering-faith

  1. Trusting in God despite chaos.

With the increased “craziness” of the world, people—even believers—can succumb to negative thinking, conspiracy paranoia,[5] and alarmism. Hey, it happens to the best of us. Nonetheless, we must all remember that God is in control. In the midst of the chaos there exists a grand weaver orchestrating an elaborate tapestry that will in the end be for the best for the children of God.[6] While studies and surveys are useful. It is more important to trust in the sovereignty of Almighty God.

How to Combat:         WE MUST STUDY AND TEACH BIBLICAL and SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY!!! I keep coming back to the wise words of Dr. Daniel Mitchell. Dr. Mitchell is the Professor of Theology at Liberty University School of Divinity. Dr. Mitchell said, “The more I study God, the bigger God becomes.”[7] When we study the attributes of God, we come to realize just how mighty our God really is. So, to Dr. Mitchell I say, “Amen!”

Next week, I will provide the top five challenges facing the church in 2016.*

 

*Click here to read the second installment.

 

© December 29, 2015. Brian Chilton.

[1] In full disclosure, I must acknowledge that I support the Christian’s right to bear arms as I feel it is part of a person’s responsibility to protect one’s home. I do, however, readily admit that background checks should evaluate a person’s mental and emotional stability, as well as one’s ties to known terrorist agencies.

[2] See Plato’s Republic.

[3] Meaning that I believe both in the sovereignty of God and the free will of humanity. For a good explanation of this view, see Norman Geisler’s Chosen but Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010) and Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 356.

[4] Romans 2:11 and Acts 10:34-35.

[5] That is, seeing every minute thing as a conspiracy. For instance, “the weather is especially rainy. The government must not want the sun to shine!” Such a mindset provides governmental institutions a god-like status. Whether or not conspiracies exist is moot in this regard. Paranoia is antagonistic to faith.

[6] See Romans 8:28.

[7] Daniel Mitchell, Video Lecture, Liberty University.

Problems with Political Correctness for the Evangelical Christian

Recently, W. R. Castle Elementary School in Johnson County, Kentucky made the decision to cut biblical references in their recent production of Charlie Brown Christmas. This latest edition of political correctness gone haywire has brought great concern among many inside and outside of the Christian community. The biblical reference in the play is brought by the Peanuts® character Linus as he answers Charlie Brown’s question concerning the meaning of Christmas. Linus answers by reading a portion of the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2.

Defending the school’s position, the Superintendent Thomas Salyer stated,

“‘In accordance with federal laws, our programs will follow appropriate regulations. The U.S. Supreme Court and the 6th Circuit are very clear that public school staff may not endorse any religion when acting in their official capacities and during school activities. However, our district is fully committed to promote the spirit of giving and concern for our fellow citizens that help define the Christmas holiday,’ Thomas Salyer said” (Weber 2015, Christian Post).

Johnson County Superintendent Terry Mattingly, for Get Religion, says, “If you can’t put the Christmas story in a Christmas play, what do these educators propose to put in its place? Why do this play at all?” (Mattingly 2015, Get Religion).

My question is this; how is allowing a literary piece to express itself an endorsement of a particular religion? Where does this lead? Are we going to begin stifling the viewpoints of William Shakespeare, John Donne, and even George Washington, the first President of the United States? To that extreme, would we handcuff even the scientific greats such as Sir Isaac Newton and Copernicus due to their Christian beliefs?

Johnson County, Kentucky allowed an ever growing sense of political correctness to override what should have been a great Christmas moment for one reason…

Fear.

However, Christians, especially defenders of the faith, should not allow themselves to be handcuffed by political correctness for at least three reasons.

Political correctness handcuffs a person’s focus on truth.

If a person allows political correctness to be the byword of their speech, then the person is not going to stand for truth. Truth is replaced by complacency. Jesus told the woman at the well that the “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23).[1] How is a person to worship the Father in truth if he or she is constantly concerned about hurting someone’s feelings—the mantra of political correctness? If a person is stifled by truth, what does this say about justice?

 Political correctness handcuffs a person’s focus on justice.

Political correctness hinders the ability for justice. PC advocates will take extreme measures not to offend, even blatant offenders! For a person who has become a serial killer, the murderer will not be blamed. Rather, the killer’s childhood, social status, or the like will be noted as the reasons that the person mercilessly executed his or her victims. Yeah, the killer may have had a horrible upbringing, but that does not necessitate the slaughter of an innocent person! This all boils to one horrible result of extreme PC.

One becomes unable to decipher right from wrong!

It all becomes a matter of personal preference. Society cannot stand on such a shaky foundation. But, there is yet another problem with PC as it relates to the evangelical Christian.

 Political correctness handcuffs a person’s focus on love.

The amazing irony behind political correctness is that it fails to demonstrate the very thing that many PC advocates seek…love. Jesus says that “this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19). PC relishes in the darkness of sin, which is the antithesis of love.

Why?

Suppose a person is driving towards the precipice of a cliff. You have the opportunity to tell them to stop. But you do not. Is that loving?

Of course not!

 To demonstrate love, one must be willing to expose problems. Let’s give another example. Suppose a person is dying from a horrible disease, yet you have the cure. The person is sick, but they do not realize that their symptoms indicate a more serious disease. In order to provide the cure, you must have consent. Do you notify the person of their disease, knowing that it will bring great grief, in order to provide the means for the cure? Or do you simply let the person die?

If Christianity is true, then the world is sick. The cure is given in Jesus. Will Christians do the loving thing and tell others about Jesus? Obviously, the Christian would not be an advocate of extreme political correctness.

Conclusion

I realize that we must use tact when providing the message of Christ. We do not desire to “shove the message down anyone’s throat.” Yet, at the same time, Christians cannot allow the fear that promotes extreme political correctness to handcuff their efforts. I feel that Christianity is true. Because of that, I am obligated to tell others about the life-changing, mind-transforming, soul-saving message found in Jesus of Nazareth.

Are you handcuffed by political correctness or transformed by the providence of Christ?

 

© December 22, 2015. Brian Chilton.

 

Sources Cited

 Mattingly, Terry. “Dear Lexington editors: If Linus doesn’t say you know what, then what does he say.” GetReligion.org (12/16/2015). Accessed December 21, 2015. http://www.getreligion.org/getreligion/2015/12/16/dear-lexington-editors-if-linus-doesnt-say-you-know-what-then-what-does-he-say.

Weber, Katherine. “No Christ in Christmas Play, Ky. School Says; ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ to Miss Pivotal Scene.” ChristianPost.com (12/17/2015). Accessed December 21, 2015. http://www.christianpost.com/news/ky-school-charlie-brown-christmas-152801/#L7tOL77FiGCvZv6W.99.

 

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

God Can Fix This: The Role of Prayer and Service

Recently, theDaily News New York Daily Times had on its cover the words “God Isn’t Fixing This.” The cover was quite deceptive as the article was more of a political rant than a religious polemic. Rich Schapiro, the writer of the article associated with the cover, argues that “Democrats—even those not running for office—slammed the GOP presidential candidates for offering prayers instead of action” (Schapiro 2015). While I will leave the political innuendos to the exchange of pundits in the field; as a theologian and pastor, I feel that I need to address the issue of prayer as it relates to service. Walter A. Elwell notes that “both Testaments insist that while prayer and service are not to be equated with each other, they are also not to be separated from each other. With this insistence goes the belief that only the prayer of the righteous is efficacious (Prov. 15:29)” (Elwell 1996, Logos). I believe that prayer propels the person of faith to do great things for the Lord. The Scriptures provide at least 5 ways that prayer impacts the service of the believer.

Prayer provides trust to serve.

In 1 Chronicles, it is shown that prayer provides the trust necessary to do incredible things for God. The chronicler writes that “when they prevailed over them, the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hands, for they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him” (1 Chronicles 5:20).[1] Their victory came by the trust that they held in God, but it was a trust that moved the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (1 Chronicles 5:18) to serve. James also notes that the “prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:15-16). Note two important elements in the preceding passage. First, prayer was based on one’s trust in God. Second, the faith of the praying persons lead the people to action. Thus, a faithful prayer life provides one with the trust in God to serve.

Prayer provides encouragement to serve.

Luke notes that the Lord “said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people” (Acts 18:9-10). Because Paul was a man of prayer, God spoke to Paul and provided him with encouragement to go and serve. This encouragement may also address the change of mind that takes place in the person of faith. When a person commits him or herself to prayer, God begins to change the mindset of the person (Romans 12:2). The person of faith begins to see people the way God sees them. This will move the person of faith to action in order to “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17).

Prayer provides direction to serve.

People often want to see action. They want to see results. “Do something! Anything!” Such is the mindset of many. However, it is easy for a person to move in the wrong direction if they are not careful. When speaking of cutting wood for a construction project, my grandpa always advised, “Measure twice, cut once.” This means that a person needs to make sure that what they are doing is correct before taking action. Prayer provides direction. Luke notes that “the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot’” (Acts 8:29). Why? An Ethiopian eunuch was contemplating the meaning of Isaiah 53:7, 8. Philip was able to lead the eunuch to a saving faith in Christ. Why? It was because Philip was led by the Holy Spirit in the right direction. The Scriptures warn that “where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained” (Proverbs 29:18, NASB).[2] Thus, prayer provides us insight and direction as the Holy Spirit leads us. In stark contrast, a lack of prayer may lead one to “quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Prayer provides empowerment to serve.

Prayer is essential, in fact critical, if one is to see anything great accomplished. Why? It is because God provides empowerment to the believer to serve in extraordinary ways. Paul notes that “you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:15-16).

As a pastor, I have seen many people perform extraordinary accomplishments due to the empowerment of God. I remember a woman named Gaynelle. Gaynelle suffered from many afflictions. As fate would have it, her husband suffered dementia. Gaynelle’s husband fell and broke his hip. Her husband had to be placed in a nursing home where he could receive appropriate care. Gaynelle, despite suffering numerous physical maladies, drove countless miles each day to spend time with her husband. After her husband died, everyone asked her, “How were you able to do so much for your husband while being so sick?” She replied, “I prayed and God gave me strength to serve.” Gaynelle is but one example of prayer’s empowering capability.

Prayer provides opportunities to serve.

Luke notes that when Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch in Syria, they gathered the church together and “declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). Jesus says to the Church of Philadelphia, “I know your works. Because you have limited strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name, look, I have placed before you an open door that no one is able to close” (Revelation 3:8, HCSB).[3] By prayer, God provides doors of opportunity. A person who is seeking to switch jobs does not want to proverbially “jump from the frying pan into the fire.” Rather, a person of faith will desire to follow the will and plan of God. Prayer provides the means of opportunity as God opens the eyes of the believer to the given opportunities at hand. Opportunities lead one to a chance to serve.

Conclusion

So, let us ask the question again; does prayer counteract action? Obviously not! Rich Schapiro obviously does not understand the biblical concept of prayer. Prayer and service are not antagonistic rivals. Rather, prayer and service—while not the same—are complementary. Prayer leads to great means of service. So, when we say, “You are in our thoughts and prayers,” one should not presuppose that service is negated. Rather, the believer is literally saying, “I pray that God gives you comfort in your time of need.” I make no political commentary for either side of the American political paradigm that Schapiro referenced. That being said, perhaps Schapiro is correct in noting that we cannot allow prayer to supplant action. Even James notes that “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). However, we cannot allow action to override the importance of prayer either. Instead of demanding that one choose between prayer and service, or demeaning the practice of prayer; why not accept the biblical model realizing that prayer and service coincide? Could it not be that God will fix the issues of society by people of faith? Could it not be that God will use the prayers of the faithful to propel them to service?

 

© December 6, 2015. Brian Chilton

 

Sources Cited:

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996. Logos Bible Software.

Schapiro, Rich. “GOP Presidential Candidates Offer Prayers—Not Solutions on Gun Control—after San Bernardino Massacre.” New York Daily News.com (December 3, 2015). Accessed December 6, 2015. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/gop-candidates-call-prayers-calf-massacre-article-1.2453261.

 

 

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[2] Scriptures marked NASB come from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[3] Scriptures marked HCSB comes from the Holman Christian Standard Version (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).