The Pastor Who Became the Grinch

Christmas is a time of celebration. It is a time set aside each December to celebrate the birth of Christ. Christmas is supposed to be a joyous occasion, filled with showing good will to one’s neighbor. However, such was not the case in a mall in Amarillo, Texas. Pastor Dave Grisham, originally from Panama City, Florida, took it upon himself to tell a group of kids, standing in line to see Santa Claus in an Amarillo, Texas mall, that Santa Claus does not exist. He was noted as saying, as quoted by the Drudge Report, “Parents, y’all need to stop lying to your children and telling them that Santa Claus is real, when in fact, he’s not.” Grisham went on to say, “When you substitute the lies of Santa Claus in heart of your child for the truth of Jesus Christ, you are bearing false witness against God.” Eventually, Grisham was silenced by a group of fathers who told him that he needed to stop and leave. Being in Texas, Grisham is lucky that is all he got from the angry dads.

grisham-texas
Grisham at an Amarillo, Texas mall before his obnoxious stunt.

Grisham is known for his confrontational tactics with his style of evangelism. He operates a ministry called Last Frontier Ministries. In Grisham’s eyes, he thought he was doing something right. I am sure that in his mind, he thought, “Hey, I’m telling these kids about Jesus. What could be wrong with that?” However, Grisham did far more harm than good. Not only did he make national headlines (perhaps the intention of his tirade), he portrayed Christians as a bunch of nagging, obnoxious, party poopers, who cannot allow children enjoy some innocent fun. In essence, Grisham turned the Nativity (the reason for the Christmas season) into the proverbial Grinch.

Some readers will say, “Yeah, but he did tell the children about Jesus. That can’t be bad, can it?” Others will argue, “Christmas has become too commercialized. Isn’t that what Grisham confronted?” Point taken. However, it must be noted that it is not only important what is said, it is equally important how something is presented. Tactless, confrontational evangelism defeats the purpose it sets out to accomplish.

Aristotle noted that there are three important tasks in communication: logos (the logic behind what is presented), ethos (the ethical and authoritative nature of the speaker), and pathos (the emotional appeal meant to persuade the audience). Grisham arguably teetered around the logos aspect of his presentation. Yet, he completely missed the ethos and pathos aspects. That is why both the Christian and secular communities are frustrated with Grisham.

Simon Peter notes in 1 Peter 3:15, a text that notes the importance of apologetics, that one should “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV, emphasis mine). Gentleness and respect! Grisham failed to display gentleness and respect, especially to the little children.

Remember, we can be right about an issue and wrong in our presentation. When that occurs, we are not persuasive. Rather, we become obnoxious. That is what happened with Grisham. May we (and he) learn from his mistakes. Jesus is the focus of our Christmas celebration. Celebrate Him! But don’t turn Him into the Grinch. To our friends in Amarillo, Texas, on behalf of the majority of the Christian community, you have our apologies. Amarillo, have a wonderful Christmas!

Click here to see the video, courtesy of the Drudge Report. http://drudgetoday.com/v2/r?n=0&s=18&c=1&pn=Anonymous&u=http://www.theamericanmirror.com/video-pastor-heckles-kids-tx-mall-no-santa/

(c) December 14, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Advertisements

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).

Lessons Learned from Graduation

    This weekend, I had the honor to be counted among the 19,432 graduates for the 43rd commencement ceremonies at Liberty University. I cannot even begin to express the excitement and love that I felt at the university. The journey to graduation was tough. The drive to Lynchburg even proved difficult as we will soon discuss. However, my education did not end at graduation. In fact, during graduation weekend, I learned four valuable lessons that I hope to take with me for the duration of my days on planet earth. These lessons play off of the adopted biblical verse for Liberty University which is “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).[1] The context of the verse implies that God removes the veil from our eyes so that we can “see and reflect the glory of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT).[2] Thus, what does God’s liberty mean to us?

Lesson #1:      With God’s liberty, there is power to do the impossible.

Ronald Hawkins noted that the first graduating class of 1974 had 46 graduates. This year’s graduating class had 19,432 graduates. With God, there is power to do what may seem to be impossible. Our commencement speaker was Rashad Jennings who is the running back for the New York Giants. Jennings noted that he should not be playing football by normal standards. Jennings said that he was told that he was too short, in high school had a 0.6 GPA, weighed 275 pounds and had asthma. However, as Jennings noted, “With God, you can dream crazy big.”[3]

With God all things are possible. No mountain is too high and no valley is too wide for God. God can help you do the impossible. This is the very thing that the angel told Mary before she became the mother of our Lord. Mary had learned that her relative Elizabeth would be with child. Elizabeth was too old by most people’s standards. However, the angel told Mary that “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

Lesson #2:      With God’s liberty, there is love to reach the impoverished.

            My wife and I have been dealing with great strains as of late. Due to personal reasons, I cannot relay the reasons behind these problems. Both of us have been stressed for so long that it was a radiant breath of fresh air to experience numerous people who congratulated us and wished us the very best. My wife was stunned at how loving and kind the professors were. She said, “I always thought that professors were somewhat distant from the students. But, the professors here really care about their students!” At the School of Divinity, the professors laid their hands upon the graduating class praying over them. Again, our minds were blown!

My wife and I have been impoverished here lately due to the stress and strains of life. To experience the overwhelming love and kindness that we received this week from the students, families, and staff at Liberty University was refreshing. We met a man who was good friends with the late Dr. Jerry Falwell. He told us about their friendship and about the passion that Dr. Falwell had for the Lord and the compassion that he had for people. The gentleman invited us to attend his church (Thomas Road Baptist Church) some weekend when I wasn’t preaching. He gave all of us hugs and said, “I won’t say goodbye. I’ll just say, ‘I’ll see you later.’”

I learned this weekend that the love of God radiating through His children is a refreshing drink to the dehydrated soul. It is a nourishing meal to the malnourished heart. Perhaps this is why Jesus commanded us that the mark of true discipleship is love. Jesus noted that the believer is commanded to “love one another, even as I have loved you…By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Ed Hindson noted in the School of Divinity graduation that knowledge is important. However, some people will not care how smart a person is. The Spirit of God must open their hearts before they can receive the truth of Christ. The believer is to show grace and mercy to all people. Hindson’s statements really resonated with me. I have failed to show love the way I should from time to time. Perhaps some of this has stemmed from personal attacks that I have received in my ministry. Yet Christ was attacked and prayed for the forgiveness of His offenders. Love is a cherished gift from God. May we all make it a priority to focus on loving others the way Christ commanded us.

Lesson #3:      With God’s liberty, there is humility to counter one’s importance.

Going back to Dr. Hindson’s powerful message, I was reminded that despite our achievements, we must always remain humble. As noted previously, Hindson reminded us that some people will not care about how smart we are until they experience the grace of God within us. Hindson is absolutely right. Knowledge and wisdom are important. In fact, they are critical. Yet, if knowledge and wisdom are shrouded with a haughty spirit, then they are for nothing. Peter reminds us that we are to “humble [ourselves] under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:6-7, NLT).

Lesson #4:      With God’s liberty, there is strength to endure the interruptions.

“Interruptions” is probably a bad word to use for this lesson, but I wanted to stay true to the “I” theme. While my family and I were driving up to Lynchburg, we received a call that my grandpa was not doing well. My mother and father needed to go back home. We were all riding together. My wonderful wife took it upon herself to drop my son and I off at the hotel and drive my parents back home. Altogether, my wife drove for 6 hours the Friday before graduation. She told me afterwards, “You know, God gave me strength to make the journey.” God will give us strength to endure many of the obstacles of life. My grandpa improved, although he still has many health issues plaguing him.

Many have noted that when they have faced troubles and trials, God always shows up to provide them strength to endure. God also provides us means of rest if we will take it. It is up to us to make sure we give ourselves the rest that God provides. Jesus invites to “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NLT).

Conclusion

            Some will undoubtedly read this and say, “Well, you are just pumping up your alma mater.” That is not the purpose of this article. Rather, I have sought to show the importance that comes taking God seriously in both word and deed. When we devote ourselves to the Lord, we can find power, love, humility, and strength. Will you devote yourself to Christ? My challenge for all the graduates of 2016, not only at Liberty but everywhere, is to devote yourselves unto Christ Jesus. Receive His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control. Then, go spread those attributes to each person you meet. With God, we can have an impact upon the world!

© May 16, 2016. Brian Chilton.

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

[2] Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013).

[3] Rashad Jennings, Commencement 2016, Liberty University (May 14, 2016).

7 Questions the Bible Answers about Miracles

On May 8th, 2016, the final episode of Morgan Freeman’s documentary The Story of God: The Story of Us aired on the National Geographic channel. The final episode of the series dealt with the issue of miracles. From the episode, 7 questions emerged. As we have done since the beginning of the show, we will examine these questions from a biblical perspective.

  1. Does God work miracles or is everything merely random?

Freeman frequently asked the question, “Is God providentially working or is life completely random?” Freeman poses an excellent question. The answer to the question depends on how one views God. Does God exist? If so, then the possibility of God working a miracle becomes at least possible. Does God care about the world? If so, then the probability of God working a miracle increases exponentially. The mere notion that everything is merely random stems from a naturalistic assumption that God is non-existent or is uninvolved.[1] The moment, however, that one miracle occurs disproves such a notion. That there are hundreds of miracles, if not thousands,[2] demonstrates that the world is not a sterile collection of random molecules in motion, but rather the world is a wondrous lush garden of divine providence.

  1. Why does God work miracles for some and not for others?

This question is more difficult to answer, mainly because we cannot know the mind of God. God can perform miracles for any person at any point in time. However, it is apparent that God intervenes in some cases but not in others. At the time I am writing this article, God worked a miracle in the life of my grandfather. He has severe COPD. He also suffered a blockage in his intestines which would have been fatal had his intestines ruptured. In addition, he suffers from other medical conditions that complicate any surgery. The doctors were unsure if he would make it through. God saw fit that he did. In addition, he was placed on a ventilator. The doctors were unsure if he would be able to come off. He came off the day I wrote this article. God performed numerous miracles with my grandfather. I told my mom, “Either Grandpa is Iron-Man or God still has some great things in store for him.”

But why does God not perform the same kind of miracles for everyone? Truthfully, I cannot answer this question. Neither can anyone. We can know that God has a plan for each person, especially for His children. Paul writes, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).[3] The promise of Romans 8:28 does not presuppose that God will make every event in life good, but that everything will work together for good. Much more about this issue could be said, especially that each person has a date with death (Hebrews 9:27). However, we should probably leave this issue for now as it deserves deeper treatment.

  1. Can we understand the will of God to perform miracles?

No. We can know the will of God to save (Matthew 28:18-20). However, we cannot know how God is going to move or work. Faith is a vital element. Faith, biblically speaking, means trust. Thus, we must trust God to do what is right, even when we do not understand what God is doing.

  1. Does probability override the possibility of miracles?

No. On the episode, it was debated whether probability overrides the possibility of the miraculous. However, this cannot be the case. Why? Even if there is a 1 in 10 billion odds that a miracle could occur, when we discuss miraculous healings and divine intervention, the probability is zero percent if God does not exist. If God does exist, then it is impossible to gauge the odds in how much or how little God would act and respond in a miraculous fashion. God could defy the odds and perform a miracle every day of the week. Then again, it may be that God would choose not to perform a miraculous deed at any time in a given year. It seems to me that the idea of probability does little to settle anything as it pertains to miracles.

  1. Is life fatalistic or free?

When I say fatalistic, I mean to say that everything is predetermined. That is, everything is a matter of fate. How much is life predetermined and how much in life is free to choose? Such is a philosophical question that has resounded for ages. The Bible seems to suggest a congruence between God’s sovereignty and human freedom.[4] For instance, the book of Proverbs states that “We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall” (Proverbs 16:33, NLT).[5] The text demonstrates that humans have the freedom to choose certain options, but God’s sovereignty uses human decisions to direct and guide. Thus, human freedom and divine sovereignty are congruent. So, God can and does work in this work in miraculous ways while remaining sovereign over His creation.

  1. Does faith in miracles matter?

God can work miracles regardless of faith. However, it appears that faith (i.e., trust) does matter and makes a difference in the working of miracles. James notes that the “prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up…Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful” (James 5:15, 16b, HCSB).[6] Mark notes that in one particular instance that Jesus could “do no miracle…except that He laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief” (Mark 6:5-6a). Miracles come from God. However, it is important that the one asking for a miracle trust in God’s ability to perform the miracle. Even still, one should note that even those who had the greatest faith (i.e., Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc.) often suffered. So, no one should suppose that faith will cure every physical ailment. God may have a purpose behind a person’s suffering. Therefore, individuals who claim that a lack of healing stems from a lack of faith are greatly in error.

  1. Do miracles come from us or do miracles come from God?

While faith is vital, miracles stem from God. God can work in ways that we cannot. It is a common assumption to believe that if we have enough willpower, we can overcome any odds. Yet, a person cannot bring oneself back from the dead. A person cannot overcome cancer by just the sheer belief that he can overcome. Often, healing requires an outside force working in a person’s body. I believe God works through the implementation of medicine. Thank the Lord for those in the medical field who seek to help the sick and suffering. But, I also believe that God can heal a person in any way He chooses. God holds the copyright on our DNA and our being. God can and does choose to heal at His discretion.

Morgan Freeman’s series entitled The Story of God: The Story of Us was incredibly fascinating. Freeman brought forth some interesting and serious questions front and center. As we have engaged the issues, I have personally found great satisfaction in the answers found in the Bible, God’s Holy Word. We may, and in fact most certainly will, find more questions to add as we journey through this life. I have no doubts that the Bible will rise to the occasion to answer any further questions that we may possess, as well.

© May 9, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] Deists accept God’s existence but deny God’s involvement in the world. Thus, they would, like the atheist, accept that life is merely random.

[2] See Craig Keener’s two-volume work Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011).

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

[4] As I have noted in previous articles, the harmony between divine sovereignty and human freedom is called “congrusim” as so termed by Millard J. Erickson in his book Christian Theology, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 385.

[5] Scriptures marked NLT come from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013).

[6] Scriptures marked HCSB come from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003).

7 Questions from “Who is God”

This past Sunday, the third episode of Morgan Freeman’s show The Story of God: The Story of Us as aired on the National Geographic Channel. The third episode dealt with how God is understood to be in various cultures and religions. Again, I am profoundly surprised at how well this show has been made. The show has not attacked any particular worldview, as I feared that it would. Rather, the show has taken a fairly neutral position while evaluating some major topics. This episode was no different. The third episode dealt with the issue “Who is God?” This article will seek to answer 7 questions that were raised during the show from a Christian perspective.

 

  1. Is there one God or several gods?

By sheer necessity, there is only one ultimate uncaused cause. If there were several gods or goddesses, one would have to ask “How did such a number of gods arise?” It seems to me that one would be forced to accept a first uncaused cause. While it is possible to accept a multiplicity of gods and goddesses, it makes better sense to accept that only one God exists. Why? Well, I think Thomas Aquinas answers this well. Aquinas states,

 “When the existence of a cause is demonstrated from an effect, this effect takes the place of the definition of the cause in proof of the cause’s existence. This is especially the case in regard to God, because, in order to prove the existence of anything, it is necessary to accept as a middle term the meaning of the word, and not its essence, for the question of its essence follows on the question of its existence. Now the names given to God are derived from His effects; consequently, in demonstrating the existence of God from His effects, we make take for the middle term the meaning of the word ‘God.’”[1]

From sheer necessity, only one God must exist. Thus, God could manifest himself in several ways, but in the end there is but only one God.

 

  1. How does one connect to God?

If by connecting, one means relating to God, then one can connect with God in various ways. Morgan Freeman is right when he notes that it is sometimes difficult to relate to a transcendent God. However, God has given us means to relate to him. One way people connect with God is through prayer. Prayer is a means by which we can communicate with God and a way that God communicates with us.[2] Another way a person connects to God is through the written Word of God. The Scriptures are God’s revelation to all humanity. A third way a person can connect with God is through the intellect. A person can connect with God by learning more about God. Fourth, a person can connect with God through nature. As the psalmist notes, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).[3] Lastly, a person can ultimately connect with God through a relationship with Christ. When one receives Christ, the Bible tells us that the believer is filled with the Holy Spirit of God (John 14:15ff).

 

  1. Has God revealed himself to several people throughout the world?

There is but only one ultimate truth. However, this is not to say that God has not been trying to reveal himself to various peoples throughout the world. Solomon writes that God “has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). So, I am not saying that all religions are the same. Such is not logically possible. However, I feel it is quite possible that God has been trying to reveal himself throughout all of history. Ultimately, the full revelation came through Jesus of Nazareth, the “only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16).

 

  1. How do we know what’s divine?

Only God is truly divine in the purest sense. However, human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1-2). Thus, human beings bear the mark of divinity (although we are not divine). But in fact, all things bear the mark of God in reality because “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). So, only one person is truly divine (God), yet all things bear the imprint of the divine as God created all things.

 

  1. Can we imagine God?

In a way, yes. In a way, no. I think Norman Geisler puts it best. Geisler notes that “Although God can be apprehended, He cannot be comprehended.[4] Paul writes, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” (1 Corinthians 13:9). Thus, we cannot say that we know everything about God. If we could, we would be God.

 

  1. Does God indwell us?

We all bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26). However, God indwells each person who receives Christ as Savior. This person is known as the Holy Spirit.

 

  1. Can we experience God?

Yes! Absolutely we can! We experience the blessings of God every day. However, the only way to fully experience God is through a relationship with Christ Jesus. See also the answer to the second question.[5]

 

Much more could be said about God. In reality, the third episode of Freeman’s documentary as well as this article has focused more upon how humanity knows God. Such a knowledge of God is called revelation. God has revealed himself both through natural revelation (available to all) and special revelation (delivered to those of faith). If a person has not experienced God, it is highly advised that the person seek God and ask God to reveal himself.

 

© April 18, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica I.2.2., in Thomas Aquinas, Summa of the Summa, Peter Kreeft, ed., Fathers of the Dominican Province, trans (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), 59.

[2] Some individuals have argued that God does not communicate with a person through prayer. With all due respect, I have found such arguments greatly lacking. God has spoken to a vast array of individuals in the Bible through the means of prayer (e.g. Habakkuk, Job, Elijah, Isaiah, and so on). To claim that God cannot speak to a person in prayer discredits the power and personal nature of God. However, I agree that one should always “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) to ensure that one is truly hearing from God.

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

[4] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 529.

[5] Also, check out the discipleship program Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude V. King.

4 Ways that God is Grand (Psalm 27)

Scott Kelly recently broke a record for the longest time in space. Kelly spent 12 months in space. Kelly went on record saying, “It’s not as fun as you might think it would be. It’s a type 2 kind of fun—a fun that occurs when it’s over.” Kelly went on to say, “The views, especially from space walks, are spectacular. The colors are more vivid than you ever expect.” Kelly also said something that many others who have traveled in space have said, “The more I travel in space, the more I feel like an environmentalist. It’s just a blanket of pollution in certain areas, something that we can correct if we put our minds to it.” Many astronauts have said, “When I see the earth from space, I see just how special our planet is. We need to take care of it. We also need to take care of each other.” Many who have traveled in space have noted how seeing the grandeur of the earth changes their perspective.

In similar regard, when we acknowledge the grandeur of God, our perspectives change greatly, as well. In the 27th psalm, David expresses his confidence in God’s protection even while facing his enemies. Due to David’s “reference to war (v. 3), and the concept of sonship (v. 10) favor this as a royal psalm.”[1] Some have called this a ““A Prayer of Praise.”[2] As we speak of the grandeur of God, we see at least 4 ways that God is grand.

1. The grandeur of God’s BEAUTY (27:4-5).

In verses 4-5, David notes the grandeur of God’s beauty. David petitions God, saying, “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple” (24:4).[3] Notice that David uses four words in verses 4-6 “house,” “temple,” “dwelling,” and “sacred tent” “to affirm that wherever God chooses to reveal himself, that is where he wants to be.”[4] David wants to observe more of the beauty of God.

But what do we mean when we speak of the “beauty of God?” Does this simply mean that God is pleasing to the eyes and senses? Actually, it means much more. Norman Geisler defines God’s beauty as “the essential attribute of goodness that produces in the beholder a sense of overwhelming pleasure and delight.”[5] Wayne Grudem defines God’s beauty as “that attribute of God whereby he is the sum of all desirable qualities [sic].”[6] This is the positive side of God’s goodness. That is, God’s goodness is something that we should desire, something we should crave. Paul writes that the beauty of God, found in Christ, was given “to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27). People crave beautiful things. However, we often crave the baser desires of physical beauty or materialism. True beauty is found in goodness. True goodness is found in God. Therefore, God is true beauty.

2. The grandeur of God’s PERFECTION (27:1-3, 13).

In verses 1-3, David addresses God’s perfection by way of his trust in God. In verse 1, David writes that “The LORD is my light and my salvation” (27:1). Bratcher and Reyburn note that “Only here in the Old Testament is Yahweh called my light; this means he is the source of life and vitality.”[7] The Moody Bible Commentary notes that “the word light [sic] here, as elsewhere in the OT, is a metaphor for comprehensive salvation, spiritual and physical, both present and eternal.”[8] In verses 2-3 and also in verse 13, David continues to express his trust in God because he knew God was perfect and could be trusted.

When we speak of perfection, we are acknowledging another aspect of God’s grandeur which complements the aspect of God’s beauty. Whereas beauty is the positive aspect of God’s grandeur and goodness (being that he is something that is to be desired), God’s perfection is the negative aspect of God’s grandeur and goodness (being that he holds no flaws whatsoever). Grudem states that “God’s perfection means that God completely possesses all excellent qualities and lacks no part of any qualities that would be desirable for him.”[9] God holds no character flaws. God holds no weaknesses. God can be trusted because he is the ultimate good. When we experience the presence of God, we should crave God’s presence much as did David. Do we have the same desire to be where God is?

3. The grandeur of God’s MAJESTY (27:6-12; Isaiah 6:1-7).

In verses 6-12, David expresses his trust that he would be “exalted above the enemies who surround me” (27:6). David’s heart sought to seek God (27:8). While David primarily speaks of his confidence in God, one could argue that David placed his trust in God’s ability to protect him because of the great majesty of God. The prophet Isaiah described the majesty of God the best that he could in Isaiah 6:1-7. He portrays God as “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1).

When we speak of the majesty of God, we are saying, as Norman Geisler notes, that “God’s majesty consists of unsurpassed greatness, highest eminence, unparalleled exaltation, and unmatched glory.”[10] God’s majesty is associated with his honor and strength (1 Chronicles 16:27), God’s greatness and power in (1 Chronicles 29:11), and so on. Majesty is rooted in beauty and splendor. Who looks at a pile of mud and says, “Oh, how majestic”? Rather, one observes the tranquil ocean, a rugged mountain peak, a vividly colorful flower, a mighty animal, or a distant galaxy and say, “Oh how majestic!” Rather than provide the “ooo’s” and “ahh’s” that accompany many of the physical observations of beauty, we should provide wholehearted praise to the majestic God when we observe and acknowledge his grand beauty.

4. The grandeur of God’s INEFFABILITY (27:13-14; Deut. 29:29; Job 11:7: Isa. 55:8).

This characteristic is not so much an attribute of God as much as it is our limitations in fully understanding the grandeur of God. David understood that there were some things that he could not fully comprehend. While he was facing his enemies, he did not know why he must face them. Also, he did not know what would take place. However, David could still say, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (27:13-14). As the commentators of the Moody Bible Commentary noted, this “does not indicate passivity or inaction, but rather trust and confident anticipation that [God] will take action.”[11]

 The term “ineffability” literally means “incapable of being expressed.”[12] When we speak of the ineffability of God, we are acknowledging the presence of mystery as it relates to God. Mystery does not indicate a paradox (something that is a logical fallacy or logically inconsistent). Rather, again as Geisler notes, mystery is “something that does not go against reason, but beyond reason.”[13] The trinity is not something that is logically flawed and goes against reason. Rather, the trinity is something that is difficult to explain and goes beyond the capacities of reason. We should expect such things with the Creator of the universe.

There are many things in life that we cannot know. God can be apprehended (that is, we can know certain things about God), but God can never be fully comprehended (that is, understanding every detail about God). But that’s okay. We can answer many questions about God. But, there are many questions that are beyond our comprehension. For instance: why does God take a good person in the prime of his life while he allows an evil person to live many years? Why does God allow bad parents to have children while many good parents are unable to have children? Why did God allow my grandfather to take his life? Why is my godly grandmother lying in a nursing home with the horrible disease of Alzheimer’s? While I do think that there are answers to these questions, you and I can never fully comprehend why. But what I have found is that if we can trust God in the things that are knowable, then we can trust God in the things that are unknowable.

So what can we take from this?

  1. God’s beauty means that his goodness is to be desired. Have you ever recalled a time of great purity and goodness? I recall it with my time spent with my grandparents as they were people of faith. Contrast that with a time where you were in sin. Sin makes one feel dirty. Seek out the beauty of God!
  2. God’s perfection means that he holds no flaws and serves as a perfect example for you. While we have heroes in this life of whom we try to emulate, the only perfect example is that of God. Be mature as God is mature.
  3. God’s majesty means that he is highly exalted and worthy of praise. The natural response of viewing a majesty scene of nature is to exclaim “Oooo! Ahhh!” The natural response of exposure to God’s majesty is that of total and complete worship. God is majestic and worthy to be praised!
  4. God’s ineffability means that we while we may apprehend some aspects of God, we will never fully comprehend God. Relish in God’s mysteries. If you are like me, you want to know. It nearly drove me crazy trying to figure out how God’s sovereignty fits in with human freedom. I finally had to settle for congruism which acknowledges that both divine sovereignty and human freedom mysteriously coexist. It’s okay not to know everything about God. In fact, it’s impossible that you would ever understand God completely. God is God and you are not. So, do as David did. Trust God despite your lack of divine comprehension.

 

© April 5, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[1] Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger, III, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: New Testament, Abridged ed (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 828.

[2] Robert G. Bratcher and William David Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1991), 261.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).

[4] D. A. Carson, et. al., eds, NIV Zondervan Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 1010.

[5] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 526.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 219.

[7] Bratcher and Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms, 261.

[8] Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds, The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Bible Publishers, 2014), 784.

[9] Grudem, ST, 218.

[10] Geisler, ST, 524.

[11] Rydelnik and Vanlaningham, eds, The Moody Bible Commentary, 785.

[12] Geisler, ST, 528.

[13] Ibid., 530.

God’s Big Plan Found in the Hymn of Christ (Philippians 2:6-11)

I have, among many other issues, a medical problem. I have what is called “myopia.” Myopia is the technical term for “near-sightedness.” I can see close up, but I cannot see far off. I grew up in foothills of North Carolina, close to the Virginia border. It’s an area where the mountains are nearly always in view. When I was about seven or eight years old, I began to notice that the mountains began to look fuzzy. At some times, it appeared that there were two sets of mountains when in reality only one existed. The ophthalmologist helped my problem by prescribing glasses for me. To this day, I have to wear either glasses or my contact lenses to see properly. Otherwise, I cannot see except for things nearest to me.

Often, we suffer from spiritual myopia. We see things that are closest to us and those things taking place in the world. Such a focus may leave us feeling overwhelmed. When we feel such emotions, we know it is time to put on our spiritual lenses. This Easter, we need a special reminder of God’s really big plan found in and through the life of Christ. Today, Paul provides to us an ancient hymn. The majority of scholars believe that this hymn predates the writing of the New Testament. The hymn, popularly called “The Hymn of Christ,” dates back to the earliest church. Along with other early confessions (Romans 10:9) and creeds (1 Corinthians 15:3-7), Paul likely received the hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 in AD 35 when he met with the apostles in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18), particularly Simon Peter and James the brother of Jesus, to confirm the gospel message that he was preaching.[1] What do we find of God’s big plan found in Christ? We find a five-point plan.

 1. Christ’s PREEXISTENCE is evidence of God’s ETERNAL plan (2:6).

Paul first notes that Christ was in the form of God. Though Christ “was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (2:6).[2] In other words, Paul is saying that Jesus was divine. Jesus existed before he was born. This is a tough concept to imagine. However, Paul further shows that Christ did not use his divinity as a means of praise or adulation. Rather, Christ humbly left the throne of heaven to fulfill the Father’s plan. Due to God’s omniscience, God realized that if he made individuals with free will that eventually humanity would choose wrong. Why allow humanity to choose? It was to allow for perfect love to be exemplified. The sheer logic of it all dictates a salvific plan. God chose from the foundation of the world to save you! Writing of God’s salvific plan, Paul notes that “This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (Ephesians 3:11-12).

 2. Christ’s HUMANITY is evidence of God’s HUMBLE plan (2:7).

The hymn goes on to say that Christ did not use his divinity to escape any of the human attributes he possessed. While Jesus was 100% God, he was also 100% human. Christ left the portals of heaven to be born in a manger with stinky animals. Jesus could have chosen to have been born to a ritzy, flashy family. Rather, he was born into a family of faith: Joseph and his precious mother Mary. Jesus could have used his divinity to override his humanity. The Gospels note that there were times where Jesus could not perform miracles due to the lack of faith by the people (Mark 6:5). Jesus could have overridden their faith, could have chosen to not be tempted by Satan, and could have called down legions of angels for protection from the cross (Matthew 26:53); however, Jesus never did so because he chose to humbly fulfill the Father’s plan. Some commentators have noted that there is a distinct difference between Adam and Christ. Adam was the first created human being who desired to be God for his own glory. In stark contrast, Christ is God who became human in order to save humanity for the Father’s glory.

 3. Christ’s SACRIFICE is evidence of God’s SALFIVIC plan (2:8).

The hymn goes even further with God’s plan. God’s Messiah would leave the portals of heaven, would humbly take on flesh, and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (2:8). Richard Melick writes, “The impact of crucifixion on the Philippians would be great. No Roman could be subjected to such a death, and the Jews took it as a sign that the victim was cursed (Gal 3:13).[3] Christ chose to die on the cross out of his great love for you and out of his great obedience unto God the Father. He could have chosen any other means of death, yet Christ chose to die one of the most excruciating deaths possible to demonstrate his great love towards you. But why did Jesus choose the cross? Fleming Rutledge, I think accurately, states that “The horrible death envisioned for the Suffering Servant and the horrific death suffered by Jesus Christ respond to the gravity of sin.”[4] But I think Christ’s sacrifice also demonstrates another reality: that good people must sometimes suffer. Without the cross, there is not a crown.

 4. Christ’s RESURRECTION is evidence of God’s EXALTING plan (2:9).

In verse 9, the hymn alludes to Christ’s resurrection by the phrase “highly exalted” (2:9). By the resurrection, Christ was given a name that is above all others. G. Walter Hansen notes four ways we can understand Christ’s exaltation.

First, the hymn does not view the reward as the motive for Christ’s obedience. Thus, Christ’s obedience does not exemplify obeying in order to deserve a reward. Second, the hymn does not present the reward as redemption from sin…The reward given to Christ was vindication by God: God vindicated Christ’s death on a cross by exalting him to the highest place. Third, the hymn views the reward as a gracious gift. God gave the name above every name not as compensation for Christ’s work, but as proof of divine approval of his work. Fourth, the hymn views the reward as divine confirmation of Christ’s true identity, not as an acquisition of a new position. The true identity of the one existing in the form of God and equal to God was hidden by the humiliation of death on a cross, but was revealed by God’s act of exalting him and giving him the name of Lord. As long as these four qualifications of the concept of reward are kept in mind, God’s exaltation of Christ may be properly understood as God’s way of graciously rewarding Christ by vindicating him after his death on a cross and by revealing his divine nature after his humiliation.”[5]

 In other words, the resurrection reveals to the world Christ’s divine nature and his plan. Without the resurrection of Christ, people would have thought that Christ’s death was merely a tragedy. The resurrection of Christ reveals that our sins had been atoned and that death had been defeated. The resurrection shows the object through which salvation has been given.

 5. Christ’s ASCENSION is evidence of God’s VICTORIOUS plan (2:10-11).

In verses 10 and 11 of “The Hymn of Christ,” the hymn notes that eventually “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:10-11). This passage of Scripture indicates that at some point in time every person will acknowledge the identity of Jesus Christ. In ancient times, divine names were given to the Roman Caesars as it was believed that they ruled over all the land. However, this hymn notes that the true ruler of all is Christ Jesus the Lord. Isaiah writes speaking for God, “By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee will bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance” (Isaiah 45:23). Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father after appearing to the disciples multiple times over a 40 day period…once even appearing to more than 500 people at one time (more likely 1,500 to 2000). As Christ has gone, Christ will return. While things may seem chaotic, understand that Christ rules supremely.

 A few weeks ago, my wife went on a business trip to Orlando, Florida. The week was awful while she was gone. I came down with the flu. My son had to stay out of school one day of the week. I had to take him to the doctor. We were so glad when Mommy came back home. We kept anticipating her arrival. We missed her motherly instinct. Most of all, we missed her! We tracked her flight as she was heading home. As she flew overhead, my son and I went outside to wave at her as her jet passed by our home. My son jumped up and down saying, “Mommy’s home!” Mommy’s home!” As the world gets crazier and crazier, I think it is like tracking the flight plan of King Jesus. We know that these signs tell us that soon we will be shouting, “Jesus is taking us home! Jesus is taking us home!” It’s all part of God’s big plan!

 

So here are a few principles we can take home.

  1. God’s plan is much bigger than our perceptions. Many people mistook what the Messiah would do. God’s plan was far bigger than what anyone expected. You may not understand what God is doing today, but understand his plan is far better for your ultimate and eternal future.
  2. God’s plan included the utmost humility. Live humble lives. Christ took on the humblest role than anyone could. Can we think that we can live any differently? In a world of self-entitlement, self-gratification, and self-promotion, the Christian should step back and remember that Christ did not choose to be born in Herod’s palace, but rather a manger to faithful people living in poverty.
  3. God’s plan included suffering for the Messiah. Our lives may include suffering for the glory of God. As mentioned earlier, we live in a self-entitlement generation. However, we should understand that there is often a cross before a crown. If the perfect Son of God had to suffer in this life, what makes us think that we are any different?
  4. God’s plan includes an end result that is far greater than anything that occurs here on earth. Christ’s resurrection and ascension assures us that his promises are true and steadfast. There is a life far greater than anyone can ever imagine awaiting those who are in Christ Jesus. The pains of this body will be replaced by the ultimate glorified body in the resurrection. It is a body that “is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42-43, NIV).[6]

 

Keep working for Christ! God’s plan is far greater than the problems of this life.

 

© March 30, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[1] If one accepts the later dating for Christ’s crucifixion (April 3, 33AD) and resurrection (April 5, 33AD), Paul would have received this information a mere 3 years after the actual crucifixion and resurrection of Christ (that is if one accepts that the term “year” used of Paul in Gal. 1:18 refers to parts of years). Even if one accepts the earlier dating for Christ’s crucifixion (April 5, 30AD) and resurrection (April 7, 30AD), we are still only speaking of 5 years after the events of Christ took place. The information found in these early creeds, confessions, and hymns make up the bedrock of the earliest church’s belief system.

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

[3] Richard R. Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, vol. 32, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 105.

[4] Fleming Rutledge, interviewed by Mark Galli, “Why Did Jesus Choose the Cross? The reason he died a bloody, horrible death.” ChristianityToday.com (March 25, 2016), accessed March 25, 2016, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/march/why-did-jesus-choose-cross.html.

[5] G. Walter Hansen, The Letter to the Philippians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 161.

[6] Scriptures marked NIV come from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).

How Does God’s Omnipresence Affect You?

My mother and I have always been especially close. After I graduated Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, I was called to pastor a church near Southport named the First Baptist Church of Sunset Harbor…in fact, the only Baptist church in Sunset Harbor. I found great support while at the church. However, the most difficult thing about living at the beach was the absence of my family. My mother had tears rolling down her cheeks as they traveled back to their home. I shed a few tears myself. Then I truly knew the depths of our locational limitations.

In contrast to our locational limitations, God is said to be omnipresent. Again the term “omni” means all. So when we speak of God’s omnipresence, we are saying that God can be in all places at all times. In Acts 17:22-34, we hear the message that Paul delivered before the Athenians. Paul is a great example of one who never changed the message, but employed differing methodologies to reach various people groups. When confronting the paganism of this supreme intellectual city (home to many top-notch philosophers), Paul discussed the omnipresence of God. This passage of Scripture shows the depth of Paul’s philosophical prowess. He uses four types of philosophical tactics to present the gospel: 1) exordium v. 22-23 (introduction of a discourse); 2) proposito v. 23b (a statement or assertion that expresses a judgment or an opinion); 3) probatio v. 24-29 (the test of a certain statement); and 4) peroration v. 30-31 (conclusion intended to inspire enthusiasm). In his message, we find three aspects of and reasons for God’s omnipresence.

God is all-surpassing in his presence due to his ESSENCE (17:24b; John 4:24).

Paul notes that God “does not live in temples made by man” (17:24b).[1] That is, God is not a physical being. Yes it is true that Christ, the incarnate God, came to earth. But, God as he has been from eternity is non-spatial, a spirit. Jesus tells the woman at the well that God is “spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Wayne Grudem defines God’s omnipresence as the following: “God does not have size or spatial dimensions and is present at every point of space with his whole being, yet God acts differently in different places.[2] (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 173). Thus, God is not limited by physical location as we are.

God is all-surpassing in his presence due to his TRANSCENDENCE (17:24-25; Is. 66:1).

Paul notes that God “who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (John 17:24-25). That is to say, God is beyond the scope of physical creation. God is not limited by physics, physics are limited by God. When we study the physical nature of the universe, we understand the normal operation. But, God transcends such boundaries as he also transcends space-time.

God is all-surpassing in his presence due to his IMMANENCE (17:26-27; Psa. 139:7-8; Jer. 23:24).

Lastly, Paul notes that God is all-surpassing due to his immanence. This means that God is not a “dead beat dad.” He is a God who is actively involved in creation. Paul notes that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (17:26-27). I especially like the last part of Paul’s teaching. Often one may feel that God is distant from them. Feeling perhaps that God has long forgotten them. But, God’s omnipresent nature promises that God is always around us. Closer than we would ever think. So what does this mean to you?

  1. God is with you when no one else can be. You are never alone. Norman Geisler describes omnipresence as “God is everywhere at once…Negatively stated, there is nowhere that God is absent.”[3] God promises that he will be with you now and for all eternity (Matthew 28:20; Gen. 28:15). You are never alone.
  1. God is with your loved ones when you cannot. God is able to protect your loved ones from afar (Gen. 48:21). Even when you are not there, God is. Thus, while we can contact one who is ever-present to look after our loved ones when we cannot…and even when we can.
  2. God is with your loved ones who have already passed. Jesus quoted to the Sadducees who did not believe in the afterlife Exodus 3:6 where God stated that he is “the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). Jesus uses this argument to defend the reality of the afterlife. God is with our loved ones in eternity. Our loved ones continue to exist. Those who are in Christ are safely in his arms.
  1. God is working in creation even when you cannot see it. God is beyond the scope of creation, but is always working in creation (Ps. 147:4; Jer. 31:35). Thus while things seem chaotic, God is always at work being present where we cannot.
  1. God’s presence is with the believer in a personal fashion. While God is everywhere, God is personally with those who receive Christ (John 5:38; 8:31; 15:4-9). God’s Holy Spirit (personal presence) is with those who trust in Christ. Therefore, the believer definitely has a companion that is closer than anyone else could.

 

© February 23, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Bibliography

 Geisler, Norman L. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

 Notes

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

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 173.

[3] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 493.

Wrestling for Jesus: The Truth about the Christian and Suffering

My family and I joined countless others in a new phenomenon changing the entertainment business: we subscribed to Netflix. Recently, I watched a documentary on Netflix called Wrestling for Jesus: The Story of T-Money. The movie was based on the life of a wrestler/wrestling promoter who goes by the name T-Money. T-Money had organized a wrestling company that shared the gospel message during the events. The wrestling company was named, as the title suggests, WFJ “Wrestling for Jesus.”

The documentary takes a fascinating twist towards the end of the movie. T-Money and his wife seemed to have the perfect marriage. They were in church bragging about their relationship. T-Money seemed to have everything together bound together in his relationship with God. However, T-Money continuously struggled with the loss of his father who had died by suicide. This was an issue that resonated with me since I also had a grandfather who committed suicide. I understood fully the struggles and questions that he possessed. This agony along with other issues led T-Money and his wife to divorce.

Now with a broken marriage and a broken heart along with his best friend and fellow wrestler suffering a severe injury, T-Money began questioning everything he had ever believed and everything that he had ever heard. With his life in chaos, T-Money decided to fold the company.

The documentary demonstrates the problems associated with the so-called “health and wellness Gospel.” That is, the belief that Christianity promises an existence full of financial blessings and the absence of suffering. T-Money even said, “I’ve heard about God not giving you more than you can bear and about how he will see you through. It seems like none of that is working.”

I suspect that T-Money had bought into the idea that many American churches are promoting; the idea that Christianity means the absence of suffering. It may surprise T-Money and you the reader to know that the Bible NEVER says such a thing. In fact, it may be that the Christian is called to suffer. So, what does the Bible say about God’s support in a time of suffering?

God may call the Christian to suffer (Matt. 10:38).

Being a Christian may mean that one is called to suffer. What??? Yes! Jesus brought a message that falls on deaf ears in many of an American congregation. Jesus said, “whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38).[1] Understand, the cross that Jesus is referencing is not a gold-laced cross found on a piece of jewelry worn around the neck. It was an instrument of torture and death.

This certainly does not mean that the Christian should seek suffering and martyrdom. However, it does not mean that one is surprised when it happens either. The reference may not necessarily point towards even physical brutality. It may also point towards the hardships that are endured by the Christian. Many feel that God will remove any and all suffering when in fact the opposite is often true.

God will provide strength during times of suffering (Hebrews 2:18).

Many misuse the phrase “God will not put more on you than you can bear.” This does not mean that you will not be sometimes called to endure great times of stress. Folks who believe that are often perplexed when they are met with an array of troubles. The phrase would be better understood as God will provide you strength to bear many things. The writer of Hebrews notes that “because he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested” (Hebrews 2:18, NLT).[2] I am also reminded of the words of Jesus when he says, “Come to me, all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NLT).

God uses suffering to strengthen our character (Romans 5:3-5).

God has a purpose behind the Christian’s suffering. Paul writes that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). Suffering has a purpose. It is through suffering that one is strengthened and is given character which leads to a fervent hope found in God.

God uses suffering to share the message of hope (Philippians 1:12-14).

God may use the Christian’s suffering to bring others to salvation. Paul, writing to the church of Philippi, notes that his suffering had a purpose. As he was enduring imprisonment, he was able to reach individuals with the gospel message that he otherwise would have been able to reach. Paul notes that “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it is known through the whole imperial guard” (Philippians 1:12-13). Through your commitment to Christ during times of suffering, you may have a greater impact on others than one who is healthy and vibrant.

God will reward us for the sufferings that we endure (Matthew 5:12).

Jesus indicates that the suffering Christian who endures in their faith will be given a reward in heaven. Jesus says that “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). So, the eternal rewards in heaven will far exceed any suffering endured on earth.

Conclusion

Where in these passages do we find the teaching that the Christian is excused from suffering? Where in these passages do we find a “get rich quick with as little work possible” mentality? Where in these passages do we find the theology that holds that faith will eliminate any and all ailments? Keep looking, because you won’t find such teachings. T-Money had the expectation, at least as it was presented in the documentary, that Christianity excused a person from suffering and hardships. This is certainly not the case. All people are people. The difference between the Christian and the unbeliever is that God turns the Christian’s suffering into integrity and will use their suffering for good, ultimately resulting in an eternal reward. Remember, our Savior died a brutal death on a Roman cross.

Suffering is not something from which the Christian is excused. Suffering, from the beginning, has been ingrained in the Christian experience…but only momentarily. For “What 9).no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Heaven will be worth it all.

timothy-portrait          Note: If T-Money were to read this post, I would want him to understand that the promises that God has made (in that he will never leave you nor forsake  still stand. We must seek his guidance. We must seek his strength. We cannot handle these situations alone. Brother, God is not through with you yet. Blessings.

© February 5, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

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

[2] Scriptures marked NLT come from the New Living Translation (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013).

The Pneumatology of Watchman Nee (Part 3: Distinctives–Tripartite View of the Self)

The following excerpt is from the author’s academic paper “The Impact Of Watchman Nee’s Pneumatology.”

Watchman Nee held to a tripartite view of the self, also termed “trichotomy.”[1] That is to say, Nee believed that each person held three distinct aspects of being. The person possesses a soul, a spirit, and a body. Whereas the body is understood to be the person’s physical body, Nee argues that “the Bible never confuses spirit and soul as though they are the same. Not only are they different in terms; their very natures differ from one another.”[2] For Nee, the spiritual aspect of the person is the eternal part of the person. Nee notes that “The spirit is the noblest part of man and occupies the innermost area of his being.”[3] The body is obviously understood to be the person’s physical body. Nee understood the soul to act as a mediator between the spirit and body. Nee believed that before the fall, man’s soul (which consists of the mind, will, and emotions) was controlled by the spirit. After the fall, fleshly desires direct the human soul. Thus, Nee argues that the “soul is the pivot of the entire being, because man’s volition belongs to it. It is only when the soul is willing to assume a humble position that the spirit can ever manage the whole man.”[4] Are there Scriptural reasons to believe that a person is a tripartite being?

The Scripture references spirit, soul, and body in various locations. However, most trichotomists, like Nee, stress two particular Scriptures. First, the writer of Hebrews states that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Christian dualists, who hold that the soul and spirit are part of the same essence, argue that “this apparent contrast between the soul and spirit to be a figure of speech describing the power of the Word of God…it can, as it were, divide the indivisible.”[5] What of the other biblical reference often purported by trichotomists?[6]

Second, Paul’s petition for the Thessalonians is referenced where Paul prays, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The trichotomist will claim that the spirit and soul are divided, thus they must be separate entities within the human construct. Again, Geisler offers a rebuttal claiming that the text “refers to all these dimensions as being part of one whole [sic].”[7] What does one make of Nee’s claims?

On the one hand, a person must acknowledge the differences listed in the aforementioned texts. It does not appear that the division of soul and spirit can easily be cast off as mere figures of speech. But on the other hand, many difficulties arise when the soul and spirit are separated to extreme measures. For instance, if the soul represents the mind and the spirit represents the eternal nature of the person, would the person remain conscious in the intermediate state?[8] What happened to Jesus after giving up his spirit (John 19:30)? Did the soulish part of Jesus’ existence become non-existent between the time of his death and resurrection?

This paper holds that it is best to consider the person’s immaterial being (soul/spirit) as one entity, but holding separate functions. The spirit serves to function as the immaterial portion of the person that communes with God, whereas the soul is the immaterial portion of the person that holds the mind, will, and emotions. Nee is correct to note that the mind must be transformed by the Spirit of God. However, such an admonition does not necessitate an extreme tripartite view. Perhaps Geisler in correct in noting that human beings are “three in direction: They have self-consciousness, world-consciousness, and God-consciousness.”[9] This paper agrees with Geisler’s view as the theory eliminates the problems that stem from extreme tripartism, yet still notes the distinctives of the spirit and soul within the metaphysical aspect of the person.

Copyright. January 26th, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Bibliography

 Adeney, D. “Nee, Watchman,” Who’s Who in Christian History. Edited by J.D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort. Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1992.

Erling, Bernhard. “Story of Watchman Nee.” Lutheran Quarterly 28, 2 (May 1976): 140-155. Accessed November 20, 2015. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Geisler, Norman L. Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will. Third Edition. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010.

_______________. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

Hui, Archie. “The Pneumatology of Watchman Nee: a New Testament Perspective.” The Evangelical Quarterly 76, 1 (January 2004): 3-29. Accessed November 20, 2015. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Lee, Joseph Tse-Hei. “Watchman Nee and the Little Flock movement in Maoist China.” Church History 74, 1 (March 2005): 68-96. Accessed November 20, 2015. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Nee, Watchman. Sit, Walk, Stand. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 1977.

_____________. The Normal Christian Life. Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1980.

_____________. The Spiritual Man: In Three Volumes. New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, Inc., 1968.

Tennent, Timothy C. Theology in the Context of World Christianity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.

Endnotes 

[1] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 727.

 

[2] Nee, The Spiritual Man, Vol. 1, 21.

 

[3] Ibid., 27.

 

[4] Ibid., 28.

 

[5] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 735.

 

[6] Tripartism and trichotomy are used interchangeably in this portion of the paper.

 

[7] Ibid.

 

[8] Here, the intermediate state refers to the period of time between death and the resurrection.

 

[9] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 740.

 

The Pneumatology of Watchman Nee (Part 2-Distinctives: Sanctification)

The following is an excerpt from the academic paper “The Impact of Watchman Nee’s Pneumatology.”

The most distinctive trait of Watchman Nee’s theology is his unique pneumatology. Yet, it must be considered whether Nee’s pneumatology is truly unique. Perhaps, the perceived uniqueness of Nee’s pneumatology is the focus he places upon the Holy Spirit. Western theologians often place a great deal of focus on the Father and the Son while neglecting the Third Person of the Godhead. For many Western systematic theologians, the Father and Son are given entire chapters and units, whereas the Holy Spirit is lucky to have a footnote referencing his personal work. If Norman Geisler is correct in that the “Father is the Planner, the Son is the Accomplisher, and the Holy Spirit is the Applier of salvation to believers,”[1]—which this paper holds that Geisler is correct in his assessment—then the theologian is obliged to give ample attention to the Holy Spirit. In this regard, Nee’s focus may be better balanced than the Western theologian who neglects the Spirit entirely. Nevertheless, Nee’s pneumatology is marked by three distinct hallmarks: sanctification, the tripartite view of the self, and his focus on spiritual empowerment. How does Nee understand sanctification?

 Sanctification

Norman Geisler defines “sanctification” as the “present and continuous process of believers becoming Christlike, accomplished by the Holy Spirit’s power and presence.”[2] For Nee, sanctification requires an act from God and participation by the believer. First, sanctification requires the working of God, which in turn requires faith for the believer. Nee compares the act of sanctification to that of sitting, meaning that “The Christian life from start to finish is based upon this principle of utter dependence upon the Lord Jesus…‘Sitting’ is an attitude of rest. Something has been finished, work stops, and we sit.”[3] Thus, Nee notes that a person’s transformation occurs when one finds rest in the work of God. From this, one will acknowledge the substantial role that Nee gives to the Holy Spirit in personal transformation, thereby discrediting any accusation of a works-based salvation towards Nee’s soteriological discourse. For Nee, sanctification is a work of God. Nee notes that “the sinner believes in the Lord Jesus he is born anew. God grants him His uncreated life that the sinner’s spirit may be made alive”[4] While sanctification is a work of God, Nee holds that the believer plays a role in spiritual development.

Second, Watchman Nee believed that the Christian played an important role in staying close to the Spirit of God for the development of one’s spirit. Hui notes that Nee held a difference between the “external work of the Spirit which results in the believer’s empowerment for ministry…and the internal work of the Spirit which results in the believer’s spiritual renewal.”[5] Later, Nee’s idea of spiritual empowerment will be addressed. However, for now, one must note the role that the believer plays in their spiritual development according to Nee’s pneumatology. Nee held that “Authentic life can be seen only in the abandonment of self. If the nature, life and activities of the created one are not denied, the life of God has no way to express itself…Salvation, then, is to deliver man from his created, natural, animal, fleshly, and self-emanating will.”[6] Thus, the role of the believer in sanctification is to turn one’s will over unto God, while walking in the Holy Spirit. But, if a person’s will is depraved, how can they continuously turn to God? For Nee, this was possible because “God imparts new life in order for us to abandon our will to Him.”[7] God gave the believer the ability to walk in accordance with his will. Nee notes that “Sitting describes our position with Christ in the heavenlies. Walking is the practical outworking of that heavenly position here on earth.”[8] So, the human effort purported by Nee is not that human beings can save themselves. Rather, Nee follows in the holiness tradition in that a person plays a role in their sanctification. It is this area of Nee’s theology that is given the most scrutiny. Does Nee hold any ground in this area of his pneumatology?

Those in the Calvinist camp will hold the greatest problems with Nee’s theology. Nee enters into the debate surrounding God’s sovereignty and human freedom. In full disclosure, this paper does not hold to either an extreme Calvinist position or an extreme Wesleyan position. Rather, this paper holds to the balanced approach given by Norman Geisler called the “classical view because it was held by classical theologians like Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas.”[9] It holds that God’s sovereignty and human freedom coexists and works in cooperation to the ultimate end. Nevertheless, Scripture seems to indicate that the believer does work alongside the Spirit to a degree. Paul says that the Corinthians are “being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:2).[10] And again Paul writes to the Philippians that they were to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). In the end, Nee desired that believers would hold fast to the Spirit of God and strive to life out their lives in such a way that would please God. Ultimately, Nee noted that “Living in the Spirit means that I trust the Holy Spirit to do in me what I cannot do myself.”[11] In addition to Nee’s distinctive beliefs in Christian sanctification, Nee also held a tripartite view of the self.

Next week, we will examine another distinctive of Watchman Nee’s pneumatology–the tripartite view of the self.

 

Copyright January 15th, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Endnotes

[1] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011) 549.

 

[2] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 806.

 

[3] Watchman Nee, Sit, Walk, Stand (Carol Stream; Fort Washington, PA: Tyndale House; Christian Literature Crusade, 1957), 3.

 

[4] Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man, Vol. 2 (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, Inc., 1968), 9.

 

[5] Hui, “The Pneumatology of Watchman Nee,” The Evangelical Quarterly, 9.

 

[6] Nee, The Spiritual Man, Vol. 3, 82.

 

[7] Ibid.

 

[8] Nee, Sit, Walk, Stand, 16.

 

[9] Norman L. Geisler, Chosen but Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will, 3rd ed (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010), 145.

 

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

 

[11] Nee, The Normal Christian Life, 119.

 

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.

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).

The Evidence for Effective Prayer: What It Is and Why It Works

Prayer is one of the most important spiritual disciplines for a believer. But many skeptics have asked, “Does prayer work?” In fact, some skeptics will point to particular studies that demonstrate the so-called ineffectiveness of prayer. Because of such studies, skeptics will proclaim that God is non-existent. However, for one to understand prayer, one needs to understand certain things about prayer. This article will seek to demonstrate that proper prayer is effective. However, prayer is not necessarily effective for all people, for God is not a plaything that can be directed by a person’s whims and fancies. The Bible demonstrates that prayer must have certain qualities. In addition, this article will provide just a few examples of the power of effective prayer. Thus, if one were to look for a thesis, it would be that effective prayer (or prayer properly conducted) is effective.

What Constitutes Effective Prayer?

God is not an inanimate object who can be tested like a chemical compound or a piece of matter. God is an animate being. Due to this, the prayer can be deemed effective when the following three attributes are included:

Effective Prayer Requires Knowing

For prayer to be effective, it requires that one possess and intimate and personal relationship with God though Jesus Christ. When Jesus was asked by his disciples how they should pray, Jesus began the model prayer by saying, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name” (Matthew 6:9).[1] Thus, prayer must be relational in nature. It requires one knowing the person who is being petitioned. Jesus also noted that prayer should not be performed in order to put on a show. Rather one should “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

Effective Prayer Requires Believing

Jesus said, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:22-24). Thus, prayer requires faith by the person praying that God can do what is being requested. A note of caution must be added here. In the model prayer, Jesus describes that one must pray according to the will of the Father. That is to say, it may not be the will of God for you to own a multi-million dollar home even as much as you may desire one. Therefore, a balance between the faithful prayer of a person contrasted with the will of God must be kept.

Effective Prayer Requires Obeying

Jesus said that “whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). James states that one should “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 5:16). Peter indicates that prayers can be hindered. Peter states that “husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as a weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). What does all this indicate? It means that if one is not living an obedient life unto the Lord, then their prayers may not be answered. One cannot expect God to work a miracle in their lives if they are living in a rebellious fashion. God is not mocked. James did not say that the prayers of a rebellious person have great power. Rather, the prayers of a righteous person do.

Is there Evidence that Effective Prayer Works?

Does prayer work? It sure does. I have provided three examples of how prayer is powerful.

Vision Restored for Woman in Hendersonville

When I was attending Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute in Hendersonville, North Carolina, the wife of a fellow student injured her eye while playing baseball with her kids in their backyard. One of the kids had hit the ball into a field. As she bent over to pick the ball up, she fell and stuck her eye against a stick. The stick penetrated the side of her ocular cavity and severed her optic nerve. The husband asked for the school to pray for his wife. Some of us went to the hospital to see the family. After our visitation, we had a powerful group prayer for the woman. The next Tuesday, the husband was in chapel. With tears rolling down his eyes, he said, “Brothers, this weekend, my wife began seeing objects in black and white. Yesterday, she began seeing objects in color. I want to tell you that she sees better out of that eye now than she did before the accident!!!”

Personally Saved from Blast of Bolt

For those of you who know my testimony, I had rebelled against participating in the ministry for seven years. However, God sent a shot across the bow. I was in an outdoor building and was caught in the midst of a severe thunderstorm. Lightning was popping around the building. I was caught in a building with poplar trees on one side and with metal objects strewn throughout the building. Lightning was striking so close that the hairs on my body were standing on edge—a clear sign that a strike is imminent. I began to pray that God would deliver me from this storm—even if it meant that I reenter the ministry. 30 minutes later, I was able to walk out of the building without a scratch. However, a hole was left in the ground behind the building where the lightning had struck so hard.

The Miraculous Healing of Gracia

Craig Keener has written a two-volume work on miracles entitled, appropriately, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. In his book, Keener describes some of the testimonies of his father-in-law, an evangelist named “Papa” Jacques Moussounga who is originally from the Congo. According to Jacques and reported by Keener…

when his youngest daughter, Gracia, was seven months old, she was sick with cerebral meningitis, and they took her to A. Sisse Hospital. But the next day, Barhelemy Boubanga, a hospital administrator, sent word that Gracia had only twenty-four hours left to live. That night Papa Jacques and Antoinette Malombe (or Mme Jacques)…remained all night in the hospital, praying; Mme Jacques felt that the child would really die, she went into the bathroom and cried and asked God to give the child back; nevertheless, she felt despair. When the French doctor and the nurse (a nun) entered the room in the morning, the doctor asked tentatively whether the child was still alive, they were surprised to see that she was. The doctor asked to what God they prayed, and when he learned that they prayed to Jesus, he commented, “You pray to a true God.” Gracia recovered only gradually, remaining in the hospital for more than a month, though soon afterward she recovered fully. At the time of my writing this account, Gracia is thirty-five years old and healthy. She was present when I interviewed her mother about this recovery, to confirm and supplement her parents’ account based on what she had been told as a child” (Keener 2011, 336).

Keener provides several other examples of amazing miracles being performed by effective prayer. Keener also records the amazing testimony of Evangelist Daniel Kolenda who…

reported that after a meeting on December 12, 2009, a weeping mother asked him for prayer. She was holding the limb body of her three-year-old boy, whom both she and the ushers at this meeting in Nigeria believed to be dead; the ushers had tried to send her to the medical tent earlier, but she insisted on waiting until the service was over for prayer. He prayed for about thirty seconds and handed the child back. The next night the mother was back. ‘She had brought her son, and he was perfectly well. They told us that the child had come back to life almost immediately after the prayer’” (Keener 2011, 555).

So you don’t believe prayer can be effective? Tell that to the child who was healed and to the other child who was resuscitated.

Conclusion:

Effective prayer is powerful. I would argue that there is a great deal of evidence for the power of such prayers. However, I remain skeptical pertaining to so-called studies performed in demonstrating the effectiveness of prayer. Why? It is because that prayer is relational. God is not a plaything. God is a person. Thus, if one desires evidence pertaining to the power of prayer, go speak to one who has firsthand witnessed the power of God working through effective prayer.

Source Cited:

Keener, Craig S. Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. Volume One. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011.

miracles

© June 22, 2015. Brian Chilton.

 

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