Many have postulated that a rivalry exists between faith and reason, philosophy and physics, and the Bible and science. As one could note from previous posts, this writer does not view that such an antagonism exists. Should there be a rivalry between these two entities? Furthermore, should the Christian be afraid of scientific discoveries?
Is There a Rivalry Between Faith and Science?
Some ultra-fundamentalist preachers would have you believe that science is from the Devil while foaming at the mouth and turning fifty shades of red. Unfortunately, some scientists at Space.com, LiveScience.com, and other popular scientists like Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins, would lead one to believe that faith is for those who are fanciful, mentally-challenged, or unable to cope with the challenges of life. The mantra of Karl Marx, “Religion is the opium of the masses” is also the mantra of many secular scientists. No wonder there is so much strife. But, should there really be a dividing line?
Honestly, faith and science are two sides of the same coin. Although scientists seek philosophical meanings to discoveries and theologians present scientific discoveries into their rationale, the science and religious systems answer two very different questions. Science is only equipped to answer the “how” questions. How did the universe begin? How do animals adapt? How do weather patterns develop? Religion and philosophy answer the “why” questions. Why did the universe begin? Why are animals designed to adapt for survival? Why do weather patterns develop or not develop?
In order to complete a full search for truth, one must engage both. Unfortunately, many ministers have given unqualified scientific assumptions without doing the research. Equally unfortunate, many scientists have made huge philosophical blunders by assuming that science shows more than it really does. Does the Higgs Boson disprove God? Of course not! One would expect to find a step that allowed for elements in the universe to have mass since elements in the universe possess mass.
John Lennox and Henry Ford
Dr. John Lennox, a triple-doctorate, professor at Oxford University, scientist, and devoted Christian, said at a conference, “Secularists have stated that they have never found God in the universe. I say, ‘Well of course you haven’t.’ That would be like trying to find Henry Ford in a Ford engine”(John Lennox, “Gunning For God lecture,” National Conference on Christian Apologetics. Central Church of God. Hosted by Southern Evangelical Seminary. Charlotte, NC. October 2012). Lennox brings an outstanding point. Just as Henry Ford is greater and more complex than the Ford engine that he developed, so God is far greater and more complex than the universe that is created. The scientist in all of his/her glory is not equipped to answer theological questions. The same is true for theologians who have not researched science. Lennox is both a theologian and a scientist.
Lennox wrote, “ Physical laws on their own cannot create anything; they are merely a (mathematical) description of what normally happens under certain given conditions. Newton’s law of gravitation does not create gravity; it does not even explain gravity, as Newton himself realized. In fact, the laws of physics are not only incapable of creating anything; they cannot even cause anything to happen”(John Lennox, Gunning For God. Oxford, UK: Lion Books, 2011. pg. 33). So, essentially, science explains the way the universe operates. Scientists are like mechanics seeking to work with a universe already created.
So, is there a problem between science and faith? No, not at all. What about certain popular problems between faith and science?
Evolution vs. Creation
What about evolution vs. creation? Well, I would say that evolution is at a crisis point. It is not the cure-all solution to the atheist’s problem of God. Even if evolution were true, the process would still show the need for intelligence on a grand scale. The process would require a Designer to set it up. A process without a Processor would be like a computer program without a programmer. It is illogical at its core. Evolution would not even negate the influence of a Creator’s hand bringing forth the mutations at certain points…if the theory IS true. Like most things, proponents of Darwinian evolution have swept many of the problems with the theory under the rug. There are glaring holes in the naturalist’s presentation of the evolutionary theory such as the problem of the Cambrian explosion. It seems that if challenges are made, Darwinian advocates are quick to shut-down any opposition. Is this really science? Many Christians have set a line in the sand that they are afraid to examine the issue. But, evolution and a Creator could coincide. The question is whether evolution really IS true; but that is for another article.
Big Bang Theory and Christianity
What about the issue of the Big Bang? Did you know that the theory was developed by a Christian scientist? Lennox writes, “Again it was a theist, not an atheist, who had the idea that led to the current widely accepted Big Bang model of the origin of the universe. George Lemaitre (1894-1966), a Belgian priest and astronomer, challenged the theory of an eternal universe that held sway for centuries, and which even Einstein held at the time (Aristotle’s influence, once more). Lemaitre made a brilliant application of Einstein’s theory of relativity to cosmology, and in 1927 worked out a precursor of Hubble’s Law regarding the fact that the universe is expanding”(Lennox, 29). Is there a discrepancy between science and faith? No, because the Bible declares, “All things through Him (God) came to be, and without Him (God) not one thing came to be which came to be”(John 1:3, The New Greek-English Interlinear: New Testament, J.D. Douglas, editor).
What about M-Theory, Higgs Boson, and recent discoveries?
M-theory posits the existence of a multiverse. This theory is losing ground. However, even if it is true, this would not negate the need for God, for the multiverse would need to have a beginning itself if it is a natural entity. The Higgs Boson (otherwise called the “God Particle”) would be expected. The Higgs Boson in no ways negates the need for God. If a mechanic developed a combustion system for an engine, the discovery of the combustion’s trigger would by no way negate the need for a grand designer of engine.
Nothing that is discovered will ever take away the necessity of God’s existence. God is necessary for the world, the universe, structure, laws, processes, and the like to exist. This does not even enter in the complexities of consciousness, energy, and life. Science and faith coincide hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, combative scientists and combative Christians have promoted a war that should not exist. In the end, we all lose if we choose one over the other. For the scientist who strays from religion and philosophy, there is a loss of logic, hope, and love (not to mention eternal ramifications). For the faithful who strays from science, there is a loss of reason, progress, and discovery. So, should believers worry about anything found by science? Absolutely not. Scientists are simply finding what God knew from the beginning.
It is easy for a person to feel that one’s problems are overwhelming. Sometimes, a person is met with problems so great that one is left wondering, “Where is God” or “why me”? Yet, the Scripture gives a bizarre look at difficulties. It is bizarre to the world because it requires a supernatural kind of intervention. James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote about enduring difficulties. His words bring great perspective on enduring difficulties and hardships.
Enduring Difficulties Brings Endurance
“Dear brothers and sisters,* when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4, NLT).
Have you ever heard of someone training to run a marathon? A person does not choose to run a marathon on Friday and run the marathon on Saturday unless the person has previous training. Many will train for weeks, months, or even up to a year to prepare for a marathon. A person slowly builds up one’s endurance by running a little longer each time. This training brings endurance. The same is true with the trials that occur. James shows us that God uses these difficulties to bring forth endurance to the believer’s life.
Enduring Difficulties Brings Wisdom
” If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5, NLT).
Knowledge and wisdom are similar, but different. A person can be extremely knowledgeable in that one knows numerous facts and figures while remaining unwise. Merriam-Webster defines “wisdom” as “abilities to discern inner qualities and relationships…exercising sound judgment…or, possessing inside information” (Merriam-Webster, “wisdom,” “wise”). The last definition is telling. The person with sound judgment normally has inside information…that inside information comes from God. The Greek word used is “σοφία” (sophia). “Sophia” is defined as, “the intelligence evinced in discovering the meaning of some mysterious number or vision. skill in the management of affairs. devout and proper prudence in intercourse with men not disciples of Christ, skill and discretion in imparting Christian truth. the knowledge and practice of the requisites for godly and upright living” (James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2001). Although James shows that wisdom comes by asking, it is also developed through the process of enduring trials. I have heard many say, “If I could go back knowing what I know now, I would ________.” Surely God brings wisdom through our trials.
Enduring Difficulties Brings Loyalty
“But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” (James 1:6-8, NLT).
A friend who is also an enormous sports fan once said, “I can’t stand sports fans who change their favorite team according to who wins the championship each year.” He has a point. Can such a person really be called a devoted fan? The fact is; trials and tribulations force us to consider who it is in which we place our trust. Is it in other people? They will fail you. Is it in sports teams? They will eventually lose. Is it in a vehicle? It will eventually corrode. The only sure place that one’s trust can be placed in which disappointment will never occur, and faithlessness will never be found is in the Lord God Almighty. Difficulties have a way in directing our loyalty to the One whom deserves our loyalty.
Enduring Difficulties Brings Trust
“Believers who are* poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.” (James 1:9-11, NLT).
Do riches and good times bring trust? Well, consider the fact that people throughout history have strayed from God during the good times far more than they have during the bad times. When people have it nice and easy, discipleship wanes. This is especially true with the children of Israel. After Solomon’s days, Israel’s trust in God waned which eventually led to the division of the nation, the destruction of the northern part, and the exile of the southern part. God eventually brought prophets to speak to the problem of faithfulness.
The church has noticed a decline in attendance over the past century. But, have we also noticed that we have it better now than ever in the history of humanity? This is not true in all places in the world, but it is true in most “First World Nations.” The map below shows what is called “First World Nations” (in blue), “Second World Nations” (in red), and “Third World Nations” (in green). Consider this fact: the church is seeing the greatest decline in the nations listed in blue and seeing the greatest increase in nations listed in green and red. Do you see a correlation? Those nations listed in blue have it pretty nice. Yet, the Spirit of God is bringing great increase to the church in the fields of Africa, in the jungles of South America, tropical atmosphere of Korea, and the deserts of the Middle East. The Holy Spirit is moving so much, in fact, that the center of Christianity will no longer be found in the United States and Europe but in Africa, Asia, and South America. In other words, difficulties have a way in showing us where we need to place our trust. The richest is not always the happiest. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite is true especially if God is in the equation.
Map from Wikipedia.org.
Enduring Difficulties Brings Character
“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong,* and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” (James 1: 12-15, NLT).
So much can be said of the previously listed text. But for now, it must be noted that trials and tribulations bring about character in one’s life. The person has a choice: allow character to be developed by trusting in God during the trials and tribulations, or allow sin to grow and develop which will lead to death. When difficulties and trials arise, it is amazing to see which direction the person chooses. Some deal with things much better than others. Some bounce back after a problem, while others marinate in the problem. Those who dwell on the issue will eventually allow the problem to destroy them. However, if trust in God is maintained, the difficulties can be allowed to bring forth character.
Enduring Difficulties Brings Christlikeness
“So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.* He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.* He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.”* (James 1:16-18, NLT).
Did you know that if you are in Christ, you are a masterpiece? You are a prized possession. In other words, you matter!!! God is concerned about the most minute details of your life. This is difficult to fathom that that Creator of the universe would be concerned about one like me. But God is. All these traits lead us to Christlikeness. Christ, the embodiment of God come to earth, was perfect through and through. A Christian will never be perfect on this side of eternity…Lord knows that I keep a “God at Work” sign on my soul which shows that I have a looooong way to go…but, this should not keep us from striving for the mark found in the will of God.
Difficulties are indeed difficult. One thing we must remember is that as bad as we have it, there is always someone who has it perhaps a little bit worse than we do. It may be a different kind of load in which we may not be able to carry. As I recently interviewed Siv Ashley, I was amazed at her story of freedom in Christ from her sins and from the evil regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia. I do not know how she was, and is, able to keep her optimistic spirit. But, she does through the power of Christ. I leave you with one final verse which will hopefully help you in your time of need. Paul writes, “For I can do everything through Christ,* who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NLT). Keep holding on to your source of strength: Christ Jesus.
All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, 3rd ed. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007).
Yes, it is true that America may not be as strong as she once was. Yes, it is true that our morals may be at an all-time low. However, there are still many things that are good about America. I would like to take a few moments as we near Independence Day to express some things in which America stills excels.
1. American Freedoms
America is a land of freedom. This is why many evangelicals and others fight so hard for the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech. If these freedoms fall, where do people go to find that freedom? There are many other nations that hold similar freedoms, but America has always been known as the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
As of right now, we still have great freedoms. We have the freedom to worship as we choose. We still have the freedom to speak publicly, even if what we say is not popular. I may not like what my atheist American citizens say, but I defend his or her right to say it. There are many other freedoms that Americans enjoy. As Independence Day, may I suggest that all Americans stand up for these freedoms.
2. American Equality
America still excels at equality, for the most part. Even though evangelical Christians have suffered the brunt of ridicule and shame in recent years, Americans still enjoy the ability to work, worship, and live their lives as they please without persecution. This is another American virtue that is worth fighting for.
This is a biblical virtue, as well. The Bible says, “For there is no partiality with God”(Romans 2:11, NASB). This is true in the positive and the negative fashion. God saves all through Christ Jesus who come to Him regardless of race, socio-economic standards, or gender. God also judges impartially, as well.
Although America has suffered from time to time in this regard, she still strives to keep this virtue. We may many times argue what this equality entails, but I feel that all red-blooded Americans would fight to keep this standard.
3. American Values
Although her values have been changing in recent times, America still holds to certain values. The value of hard work is held by many Americans. Yes, exceptions could be made. However, I challenge you to look at the values of those working as farmers, police officers, firemen, and others. Although there are many who do not rise to the occasion, many Americans still value things like a hard day’s work, caring for one’s family, and striving to do what is right. These values may be dimmer than they once were, but those values still exist.
4. American Heroics
If you do not believe that Americans are still heroic, go speak to the many Americans who exemplify heroism today. Speak to the teacher who stood in front of her class praying that her class would be safe while the winds of an Oklahoma F5 tornado blew through her school. Speak to the 19 firemen who gave their lives to save American citizens from the fires that raged in Arizona. Speak to the police officer who risks his or her life each and every day when they suit up to enforce the laws so that you can be safe. Speak to the EMS worker who takes risks to help you with medical emergencies. Speak to the many heroes who stand up for our rights and freedoms each and everyday. Yes, most Americans are still heroic. When tragedies strike, these American heroes will stand up to the task.
America does have her problems. As we celebrate the 237th anniversary of America, our minds can quickly traverse the problems that our nation faces as we journey the 365 days leading towards the 238th anniversary. But as Americans, we can celebrate the good things that still exist during this time. As Christians, we can celebrate even more. We have ultimate freedom in Jesus Christ. We have true equality as Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NASB). As Christians, we can have ultimate values as we can know the Value-Giver. Finally, we can know true heroics by knowing the Ultimate Hero. I know of no greater hero than that which is found in Jesus Christ. True strength is found in the ability to love those who hate you. As we watch the fireworks celebrating our freedoms this Independence Day, let us remember those who keep us free. As Christians, let our minds also remember the true freedom that we have found in Jesus Christ.
Negativity…negativity…negativity!!! It seems like that is all we hear. Someone is killed over here. Someone has been robbed over there. This person is sick. That person has financial problems. The government does this. Corruption, murder, adultery…and on and on. If you listen to the news, you will be bombarded with pessimism everywhere. For the church, the bulwark of truth and love, many times we are bombarded even more. We learn about the spiritual decline in our nation. We learn of the exodus of youth leaving the church. We see the modern American church in shambles as materialism and covetousness are promoted in many circles…even, if not especially, many mega-churches. All of this is enough to send one into a state of depression. However, you do not have to be depressed. You can remain optimistic despite all of this pessimism. Many of us pastors are met with pessimistic attitudes to a great degree. However, I have learned some tips on how to stay optimistic even during the most pessimistic times.
1. Realizing God is Still in Control Can Keep You Optimistic
A caller said on the Exploring the Word radio show, “Did it ever occur to you that nothing ever occurred to God?” The caller was saying that even though things take us by surprise, nothing takes God by surprise. God is God. God is still in control. Nothing is surprising to God. As Solomon wrote, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good”(Proverbs 15:3, NASB). God sees all. Isaiah writes, “‘Present your case,’ declares the LORD…’declare the things that are going to come afterward'” (Isaiah 41:21a, 23a, NASB). In other words, God knows all the evil that takes place. He will take care of it eventually. Also, with the Isaiah passage, it is shown that we do not know the future, but God does. Don’t place your trust in psychics who think they know the future. Place your trust in the God who knows and holds the future in the palm of His sovereign hand.
2. Realizing Crime and Moral Decline are Symptoms of a Greater Disease Can Keep You Optimistic
One of the great things about the Bible is its’ honesty. The Bible diagnoses the true problem, or disease, of humanity…rebellion. Rebellion, or sin, is the root cause of all the problems of this world. Yes, a good argument could be made that Satan is at the heart of sin. But even with the case of the Devil, his fall was brought forth by a rebellious heart. The Apostle Paul writes, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”(Romans 3:23, NASB, underline mine). Should we really be surprised when a land that is turning its back on God does rebellious works? Should we really be surprised when a person living outside of the grace of God does what comes natural to that person? Unfortunately, unless I am greatly mistaken, few people will travel down the road less traveled. Jesus even said, “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14, NASB). In American society, there is a lot of talk about who is in the majority and who is in the minority. Let’s face it, the true church has always been in the minority. There may have been times when the church was more powerful than it was at other times. But just because a person claims to be a Christian, does not mean that he or she truly IS a disciple of Christ.
How do we remain optimistic through this? Realize that God is recreating everything. If you have received His gift of salvation, God has saved your soul, will recreate your mind, and will one day resurrect your body. In the book of Revelation, we learn of a day when there will be no more sadness and pain. That alone can keep one optimistic in Christ.
3. Realizing You Are Going to Make Mistakes Can Make One Optimistic
I really enjoy those Liberty Mutual commercials with the song “Human” by the 80s band Human League. At the heart of it, the commercials show the fact that we as humans will make mistakes. The song goes, “I’m only human, born to make mistakes.” The truth is that we are going to make mistakes. We have that sin nature…the nature of rebellion…within us. I have read somewhere that Saint Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, had a difficult time keeping his mind on God and not on worldly things. We are talking about a man living in a cave in the late 300s. Now picture the difficulty keeping our minds on God in our modern time with all the distractions that plague us.
Although we should strive to live a moral life for God striving for perfection, we must understand that we will not be perfect on this side of eternity (unless your view of perfection is far lowered). If you could be perfect, you would not need a Savior. We all must have a Savior for this very reason. So, do not beat yourself up for past failures. Allow God to help you correct your mistakes and prepare to do better in the future. By the grace of God, you can brush off past mistakes and strive for that heavenly prize.
4. Realizing the Power of Forgiveness Can Make One Optimistic
One of the great reasons for pessimism today is the insatiable desire for many to hold on to past troubles. A person wronged you in the past and you want to hang on to the problem. Even though I am not a Buddhist, I read a quote from the Buddha in a Sunday comic strip that read, “Hanging on to anger is like trying to poison someone else by drinking the poison yourself.” That is a great quote. Jesus said, “Yes, if you forgive others for their sins, your Father in heaven will also forgive you for your sins. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins”(Matthew 6:14-15, NCV). We do not have time to go through the theology of the issue of forgiveness in this article. But, I will say that if you have been forgiven by Christ, you have the power and responsibility to forgive others. Forgiveness does not mean that what was done to you was okay. But, it does mean that you place the situation and the person in the hands of God. You don’t have to walk with the pessimism that comes from grudges and vengeance. You can be freed by the optimism of forgiveness and love.
5. Realizing That God Brings Results Can Make One Optimistic
We live in a demanding culture. Bring results. Make more calls. Get those numbers up!!! Push…push…push!!! With the globalization that has come to the business world, competition is at an all-time high. The same can be true with pastors. It seems like pastors in many areas seek to compete against one another to see who can get the highest numbers.
A youth leader from another church approached me recently and discussed some ways that we can reach the young people of our community. I really appreciate him because he said, “I don’t care if they come to my church or to your church as long as they are in church.” I agreed completely. We as a modern church do a disservice to the kingdom of God by becoming so focused on numbers because of a simple fact. You do not bring anyone to church…GOD DOES!!! Jesus said when Peter professed that Jesus was the Messiah, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven”(Matthew 16:17, NASB).
Sure, you plant the seed. You invest your time in visitation. Ultimately though, it is God who will convict and reveal. The same holds true in all walks of life. Do your best. Leave it all on the field or in the office and leave the results to God. This certainly takes the pressure off, does it not?
6. Realizing That You Serve God…and NOT Humanity (People Will Turn on You…God will Never Leave You) Can Make One Optimistic
People are fickle. What makes people happy one moment will bring disgust at another moment. We must understand that we will not please people. So, we must stop trying to appease everyone. If that is one’s goal, he or she will be doomed to fail. If one wants a biblical example of this fact, just look at the Israelites in the wilderness. Moses, a great leader filled with the presence of God, led the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. At the first sign of trouble, the Israelites would turn on him like a pack of wolves. If you try to please others, you will most certainly be led to a life of pessimism. If, however, you seek to please God, you will find great optimism as He will bless you with the fruits of the Spirit…which are love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
7. Realizing the True Source of Your Joy Can Make One Optimistic
In correlation to the previous truth, we can always possess an optimistic spirit. One of the fruits of the Spirit, as recorded in Galatians 5:22, is joy. Joy and happiness are two different things. Happiness is a momentary emotion. Joy, “chara” in Greek, is a state of being. Spicq and Ernest writes of the word “chara,” “The proclamation of salvation is one of great joy (charan megalēn, Luke 2:10–11), which contrasts with the pessimism and despair of first-century paganism. This explains why a large proportion of the occurrences of chara in the papyri are of Christian origin, why pagan occurrences of the word are so rare, and especially why pagan joy is never that of the soul. Rather, it is the pleasure felt by a traveler returning to his homeland…” (Ceslas Spicq and James D. Ernest, vol. 3, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 498-99.). If the source of your joy comes from the worldly news, then you do not have a firm foundation for joy. However, the realization of life, love, and joy that comes from knowing God and the eternal life found in God brings a joy that no one in the world can take away. This truth brings the ultimate form of joy which can lead to the ultimate expression of joy…true worship.
The world is in bad shape. It shows no signs of getting better. Understanding the truths found in Revelation, the world will one day come to a fiery end. However, reading Revelation 21 and 22 shows us what a re-creation of this world looks like. John writes,
“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.* He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:3–8, NLT).
The last verse seems depressing. But, understand the justice that God brings for those who are violent and do all manner of evil will be final and complete. God will make all things right. So, just because it seems like the guilty are getting off scott free…rest assured that God will bring judgment on all those who do evil. But, the most important truth is that God will bring joyful blessings for all those who are in Christ. The truth is that for the lost, this is the only heaven they will ever experience, and for the children of God, this is the only hell they will ever experience. As Paul said, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21, NASB).
Prayer is one characteristics that is shared among many world religions and philosophies. In the end, the key difference is the recipient of the prayer. But what is prayer? Why is prayer important? Why do speakers, teachers, and religious leaders emphasize the importance of prayer? Books have been written on prayer. Even Jesus gave a model prayer by which we should pray. Prayer is emphasized because prayer is a very important practice. Not only can prayer bring spiritual support, prayer can also benefit a person mentally and physically. In this article, seven reasons will be listed in why prayer is an important practice, beginning with the most obvious reason.
1. Prayer is Important Because it is Communication with God.
Many religious leaders spoke of prayer, but Jesus not only spoke of prayer, He prayed regularly. The example of Jesus’ prayer life is seen in Luke, “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12, NASB). Jesus was about to select 12 men to be His disciples. Before He made this decision, He consulted with the Father. Jesus did so because prayer is communication.
When many couples attend marriage counseling, one of the key areas that is promoted is communication. How well do the individuals in marriage communicate with one another? Communication is vital to the Christian, as well. This is our time with God. Recent studies have shown that most American pastors only spend about 7 minutes in prayer a day (Dave Earley Video, Liberty University, 2011). This is not enough. It can only be assumed that the average congregant spends less time with God. No wonder we feel as if we do not feel the presence of God. It is not because God moved. It is because you did. Prayer in its purest form is communication with God. Just as you speak to a parent or a friend, you can communicate with God. God hears and will respond according to God’s will. Are you communicating with God the way you should? There is another reason why prayer is important.
2. Prayer is Important Because it is the Way to Give Thanks.
Before Jesus fed the 5,000 (more like 20,000 as only the men were counted), Jesus gave thanks. Matthew, an eyewitness to the event, recorded, “He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people”(Matthew 15:36, NASB). Later, John records boats coming from the place where the Lord had given thanks, referring to the place where Jesus performed the miracle. John writes, “There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks” (John 6:23, NASB).
In our time, one is hard-pressed to find anyone truly thankful for anything. It seems that individuals are more concentrated on what they do not have rather than what they do have. There can be found no rest nor contentment for such a person. However, if we really concentrate on what we have been given, we all have a reason to give God thanks. Yes life is not perfect. But, God has given us life. He has revealed Himself to us through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He has given us food to eat, water to drink, clothing for our backs, and a place to call home. David Platt writes, “If we make $10,000 a year, we are wealthier than 84% of the world, and if we make $50,000 a year, we are wealthier than 99% of the world.” (David Platt, “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream”, 194). So, look around you. You have something for which to be thankful. Use prayer as a means to express your thankfulness to God. Just as a person likes to hear thanks for something that one has done, I feel that God appreciates our giving thanks unto Him for the blessings that God has bestowed upon us. But, there are other areas in which prayer is important.
3. Prayer is Important Because it is the Way to Intercede.
As prayer is communication, prayer is an important means to intercede for another. What is intercession? Intercession means that we speak on behalf of another. We keep a prayer list at church in which we pray for the needs of others. I also have a personal prayer list in which I pray on behalf of another. This is a very biblical practice. Paul writes to Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men” (1 Timothy 2:1, NASB). Some wonder, “How do you pray for an hour?” I wondered the same time until I understood how many people need prayer. Do we pray for our world? Do we pray for the gospel to be spread? Do we pray for our nation and our national leaders? Even if you have an evil leader, you should still pray for him/her. It may be through intercessory prayers that one is changed. Do you pray for the sick? Do you pray for travelers? Do you pray for your police officers? Do you pray for medical staffs? Do you pray for those in the military? Do you pray for theologians? Do you pray for your neighbors? Do you pray for your family? The list could go on and on and on. Yet another element of importance is found in prayer.
4. Prayer is Important Because it is the Way to Give Praise.
The psalmist writes,
Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse. 2 Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
3 Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre.
4 Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!(Psalm 150, NASB).
Now even though this is a psalm, most, if not all, of the psalms are in fact prayers put to music. We should praise God. What is the difference between giving thanks and giving praise? Giving thanks is thanking God for what He has done. Giving praise is thanking God for Who He is. When one understands the greatness, the power, the glory, the love, the compassion, and the grandeur of God, how could one not praise God? Yet, another importance is found in prayer.
5. Prayer is Important Because it is the Way to Confess Sin.
The psalmist writes, “O God, it is You who knows my folly, and my wrongs are not hidden from You” (Psalm 69:5, NASB). God knows our faults and wrongdoings already. Some would ask, “If God knows all about it, why do we need to confess our sins?” This is a good question. Our confession of sins is admission. Through the admission of our wrongdoing, we are able to ask for forgiveness from God and also to allow God to direct us on how to correct the mistakes. Confession also brings freedom. Confession which leads to forgiveness allows one to live life without the burden of past failures. The confessor can be like the quarterback who messes up on one play, shakes it off, and goes out looking to play better the next time around. Also, with God, one does not have to worry about one’s faults being blabbered around to others. God, who is the essence of holiness and perfection, forgives, corrects, and frees. A sixth importance exists in prayer.
6. Prayer is Important Because it is the Way to Ask for Help.
Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, NASB). Who does one ask? The person asks God, seeks God, and knocks to have God’s truth opened unto them. We all need help. My wife says I need mental help many times…just kidding. To ask for help, one must lower one’s pride and admit that he or she cannot do something by themselves. This may be a shock to learn especially in our individualistic society, but you were not meant to live this life alone. God in His essence is an eternal relationship: Father, Son, and Spirit. You, therefore, were created for relationships: relationship with God and a relationship with others. That is why it is laughable to hear people speak of loving God and not desiring to be in church. Do you really think you can go this without the help of other Christians? Do you really think that you do not need to be serving God in a capacity at a local church.
Prayer allows one to go to God in asking for help. God may give help in a variety of means. We were praying for a newer vehicle because my truck was getting ragged and my wife’s vehicle was becoming undependable. God opened the doors for us both to get a new vehicle. We were not planning to do so, but God worked out a way in that we could while only spending out a little more a month than we had for my wife’s previous vehicle. This is small potatoes in relation to those who are praying for health issues and the like. But God is still in the miracle business. God can give you help in your time of need. Will you recognize your need for God’s help and ask? Finally, a seventh area of importance exists for prayer.
7. Prayer is Important Because it is the Way to Receive Salvation.
Paul writes, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NASB). Although, magic prayers do not exist. When one recognizes one’s need for God and the salvation that God offers, it is through prayer that salvation comes. Admittedly, many have promoted the recitation of a prayer and that one can go on living just as one has always done. This is not the case. Salvation requires one to turn his/her life over to God, receiving the work that God has and will do in the person’s life, and trusting in and depending on God. But the means of getting the ball rolling is prayer. Southern Baptists, the denomination to which I belong, have given a sample prayer in which one can pray. This is not a magic prayer. But, it lists the elements that need to be in one’s commitment in order to receive Christ as Savior. Such a prayer goes like this:
“Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and I do not deserve eternal life. But, I believe You died and rose from the grave to make me a new creation and to prepare me to dwell in your presence forever. Jesus, come into my life, take control of my life, forgive my sins and save me. I am now placing my trust in You alone for my salvation and I accept your free gift of eternal life”(SBC.net).
If one prays and really allows God through Christ to become one’s Lord, it is our belief that you have received salvation from Christ. This, however, is just the beginning. If you prayed this prayer, you need to find a Bible-believing church and get involved. You also need to obtain a copy of God’s Word–the Bible–and begin reading it. It is recommended that one begins with the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Mark. Would you receive Christ today?
As we have seen, prayer is extremely important. It is important for you to spend time with God in prayer every day. Do not think that 5 minutes a day is enough. Consider this chart below which was given to me by Pastor David Kiser and comes from ShareLife Ministries in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. All rights reserved. This chart shows how you can easily pray an hour a day. The only difficulty is finding a time and sticking with it. If your relationship with God matters to you, spend more time with God in prayer every day. It could be one of the most important things you ever do.
How to Spend Time in Prayer I. PRAISE Start your prayer hour by praising the Lord. Praise Him for things that are on your mind right now. Praise Him for one special thing He has done in your life in the past week. Praise Him for His goodness to your family. Psalm 34:1 2. WAITING Spend this time waiting on the Lord. Let Him pull together reflections for you.Think about the hour before you and the things you want the Lord to do in your life. Psalm 27: 14 —-~—–~—–.—-~ 3. CONFESSION Ask the Holy Spirit to show you anything in your life which might be displeasing to Him.Ask Him to point out attitudes that are wrong. as well as specific acts for which you have not yet made a prayer of confession. Now confess that to the Lord and claim IJohn 1:9 so that you might be cleansed for the remainder of the hour before you and then pick up and read the Word. Psalm 51: 1-19 4. READ THE WORD Spend time reading promises of God in the Psalms. in the prophets and passages on prayer located in the New Testament. Check your concordance. Psalm I 19:97 5. PETITION This is general request for others. praying through the prayer list. the prayer cards. or personal prayer interest on behalf of yourself and others. Hebrews 4: 16 6. INTERCESSION Specific prayer on the behalf of others. Pray specifically for those requests of which you are aware. Romans 15:30-33 7. PRAYTHEWORD Now take the Scriptures and start praying the Scriptures as certain sections of Psalm I 19 lend themselves beautifully to prayer expression. Psalm 119:38-46 a.THANKSGIVING Spend these minutes giving thanks to the Lord for things in your life. things on behalf of the church. things on behalf of your family. Philippians 4:6 9. SINGING Take your hymnal and sing a prayer song. sing a praise song. sing a song regarding soul winning or witnessing. Let it be a time of praise. Psalm 59:17 10. MEDITATE Ask the Lord to speak back to you and keep a paper and pen handy. ready to relate the impressions that He makes upon your life. Psalm 63 I I. LISTEN Spend time merging the things you have read from the Word. the things you have prayed. the things you have thanked the Lord for. the things that you have been singing. and see how the Lord brings them all together to speak to you. ISamuel 3:9-10 12. END WITH PRAISE Praise the Lord for the time you have had to spend with Him. Praise Him for the impressions that He has given you. Praise Him for the prayer requests He raised up in you mind. Psalm 145: 1-13 (From SharingLife Ministries)
All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).
Recently, I heard a respectable Christian talk show host claim that it was impossible to hear from God. He blasted Henry Blackaby’s discipleship program Experiencing God claiming that no one can learn to hear from God. He also claimed that to say that one could hear from God goes beyond the scope of Scripture. Is this true?
In my experience as a Christian, I have heard from God on countless occasions and still do. Without the guidance and direction of God, I would not know how to minister or how to live a life in God’s will. Furthermore, while I greatly respect the radio host, I fervently disagree with the host on his belief that no biblical evidence exists for the Spirit’s communication to God’s people. I have found at least five ways that the Spirit of God communicates with His people using biblical texts to present these truths.
God Uses People to Communicate His Will
“So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot.’ Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him” (Acts 8:27–31, NASB). God puts His people…the right people…at the right place, at the right moment, and at the right time to communicate powerful truths to us right when we need it. With the story in Acts, the Ethiopian eunuch was struggling with understanding a passage of Scripture in Isaiah. Philip had the answer to the eunuch’s question. So, God sent Philip to the right place at the right time to minister to the eunuch’s need. Does this not show the great importance in evangelism and missions?
In my life, God has used the works of apologists to answer my doubts and questions about the faith. At other times when I have felt down and out and praying that God would give me a sign, God sends a person with a word of encouragement that meets my need. Even during my graduate studies at Liberty University, God has put the right teachers and the right books in my life to show me His will at the right moment. God does not only communicate with us through godly people, God also uses another method of communication through the person of the Holy Spirit.
God Uses Circumstances to Communicate His Will
Paul writes, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”(Philippians 4:12-13, NASB, underline mine). Through the circumstances of life, God communicated the need to bee content in all things. Also, God uses these circumstances…especially the bad circumstances…to show the need for Paul to be strengthened in and through the power of Christ. Many feel that God is entitled to only grant His children good things in life. However, through circumstances (especially difficult circumstances) the Spirit of God communicates valuable truths to us. As Paul writes, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, NASB). The Spirit of God pours out truths to us and builds our character through circumstances of life. If you pray for patience, God will place you through circumstances that will build patience. If you pray for strength, God will put you through circumstances which will build strength. If you pray for more faith, God will place you in circumstances where you will be forced to depend upon Him more. But, God uses a third way of communicating with us through the Holy Spirit.
God Uses Scripture to Communicate His Will
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”(Psalm 119:105, NASB). The psalmist shows that the Word of God gives us insight in how we should live. Jesus said to the disciples of the Holy Spirit, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you”(John 14:26, NASB). God uses Scripture to communicate His will to us. Understand also that since the Word of God is God’s word, then it is the standard by which we all should gauge all things. God cannot lie so if you hear a compelling that is leading you away from what the Bible says, then it is not God. It could be the self. God has a way of bringing back Scripture to your mind through the Spirit at your time of need. In my life, the Spirit has brought Scripture to my mind that I had not even memorized. That is the power of the Holy Spirit. This also shows our need to study the Word regularly. There is yet a fourth way the Spirit of God communicates with us.
God Uses the Still Small Voice to Communicate His Will
At least four times in Scripture, we learn about God speaking to individuals through what many call “the still small voice.” It is written of Elijah, “Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12, NKJV). Elijah was expecting God to speak to him in a loud fashion. Yet the Holy Spirit did not speak by a thunderous earthquake or a powerful tornado, but God spoke through a gentle still small voice. In Acts, the Spirit spoke to Philip as it is written, “Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot’” (Acts 8:29, NASB). The Lord had a reason for Philip to meet to Ethiopian eunuch as we mentioned before. But, the Spirit communicated with that same still small voice. Jesus even shows that we can depend upon the Spirit to give us words whenever we are accused, or perhaps in evangelism. “When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit”(Mark 13:11, NASB). Some will say, “Pastor Brian, the text is referring to the disciples.” Yes, that is true. However, should we as disciples of Christ expect anything less today? I think not. Another text shows how God speaks to us through that still small voice. “And I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem and there was no animal with me except the animal on which I was riding” (Nehemiah 2:12, NASB). Some will claim that Nehemiah knew the Lord’s will after the event. That opinion is guilty of reading more into the text than is there. God placed the thought in his mind before the event took place. How else would he know that it was God who placed the thought in his mind? The Scripture gives us a fifth way the Holy Spirit communicate to us.
God Uses the Compulsion of the Spirit to Communicate His Will
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry.”(Luke 4:1-2, NASB). Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There are times when the Spirit of God compels us in certain directions. It may be to talk to a person at a certain time. I heard the testimony of a woman who worked at a hospital who was compelled by the Spirit of God to do an amazing act. The Spirit of God compelled the woman to ask a long haired man if he would like a haircut. She was compelled by the Spirit to use this act as a means of evangelism. She did not know why the Spirit of God wanted her to do this act, but she was obedient nonetheless. As she cut the man’s hair, the man told her that his wife used to cut his hair for him. His wife was sick and in the hospital. He had not had his hair cut in a while due to his wife’s sickness. He then began to speak of Jesus and how Jesus blessed him in his life. The woman was really stumped as to why the Spirit wanted her to use this act as a means of evangelism since the man already had a right relationship with Jesus Christ. However, to her surprise, a co-worker approached the woman after she finished cutting the man’s hair. The co-worker asked the woman, “Why did you cut his hair?” The woman said, “I did so because of my love for Jesus.” The co-worker said, “Can you tell me about this Jesus?”
It was through the compelling of the Holy Spirit that I was led to a Bible bookstore and guided to a shelf that had several apologetics books that God used to answer my doubts and questions. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was the guidance and compulsion of the Holy Spirit.
Does the Holy Spirit communicate with us? Absolutely! That is part of the process of prayer. Prayer is reciprocal. It is a dialogue. We speak to God and God speaks to us. How could anyone deny the Spirit’s power to communicate truths to us? The trouble is, many of us get into trouble when we do not listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is not only true for apologists, but for all Christians from all walks of life. We are so busy in our lives that we do not take time to listen to God. Maybe the reason we are not hearing from God is that we do not really want to listen to God. We might be frightened by what He shows us…or where He leads us.
Keep the faith,
Pastor Brian Chilton
Postnote: After further listening to the radio host and reading some of the host’s writings, I do not think that he meant to take such a strong stand against “hearing from God.” Although I do not agree with his attacks on Henry Blackaby, I do think an area of misunderstanding on my part occurred. But, I would concede that one must ensure that the direction aligns with the Word of God. Otherwise, it probably is not God that is leading.
Most readers have heard of cults. The very name “cult” may bring to mind a group of people participating in a voodoo type of dance, ready to sacrifice an unwilling participant; or perhaps, a maniacal leader, such as David Koresh or Jim Jones, who brainwashes his victims for personal gain. If this is what cults are, what do we mean by “cultic churches?”
Before we begin to list the marks of a cultic church, we need to first define some key differences between the church, cults, and cultic churches. The church is based upon the teachings and historical person of Jesus of Nazareth. The church’s main mission is found in Jesus’ Great Commission as He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus preached liberation which is ultimately found in God. Jesus did not force someone to accept Him. He openly allowed people to leave His cause as was exemplified in the Rich Young Ruler’s rejection of Jesus. Jesus did not bring secret messages, except for special instructions to His disciples…(but even those special instructions were proclaimed in front of the masses). Jesus openly taught and preached His messages before open crowds. Jesus welcomed adversaries as He bested all of His adversaries in open public forums. Jesus’ primary message was that of love: love for God and love for humanity. Compare this to that of cults.
Cults are aberrations of the truth, focusing exclusively on a human leader, and controlling the adherents of the group for the benefit of a leader or leaders. Jesus went out of His way to serve. Cult leaders desire to be served. Jesus preached the practice of doing for others. Cult leaders desire others to do for them. Jesus preached in public. Cult leaders will generally speak to a small group in private. Jesus welcomes all and allows for His love to be received. Cult leaders trap people and exclude them so that the person can be brainwashed for his/her agenda. Jesus preached love and forgiveness. Cult leaders promote hate and militancy. Jesus backed up His claims with real miracles and acts of wonder. Cult leaders claim they can do amazing things, but never back them up. Furthermore, the Bible is backed up by archaeology and history. Cult leaders base their ideology on people and events that can NOT be proven. Get the picture?
Cultic Churches are churches that have sound theology (orthodoxy) but do not have sound practice (orthopraxy). Cultic churches may range on the borderline of being called an orthodox church (right belief…not the denomination) to being on the borderline of becoming a cult. Cultic churches exist regardless of denomination. Baptist churches, Methodist churches, Pentecostal churches, and Presbyterian churches could be called cultic churches if they have the following qualifiers, or marks:
1. Cultic Churches are Focused on Leaders Instead of the Lord.
Cultic churches generally have one of the marks of cults in that the organization focuses more on a leader than on the Lord God. The leader is celebrated and praised to unhealthy levels in a cultic church. The service may revolve completely around him. The problem in such cases is that the leader is proclaiming himself instead of the Lord. This is a HUGE threat to the integrity of a church. If a leader, or group of leaders (such as elders, deacons, etc.) claims sole authority to the church, then the church is not following the leadership of the Lord, but that of humanity.
Every church will need to have leadership. This is why God calls pastors, elders, deacons, and so forth. It can be tricky deciphering this trait at some times. If the leadership is seeking the will of the Lord and following the Lord’s direction, then the church or organization does not have this mark. However, if the leadership speaks more about their wants and desires than that of the Lord, then the organization could fit the description of a cultic church.
Charismatic leaders (not speaking of spiritual gifts but of enthusiasm and attractiveness) may bring large crowds to a church. But if the leader is not promoting the worship of God and promoting the leader only, then it may be that the leader is not preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ but the Gospel of (enter leader’s name). The cultic church may be a large church and may have a lot of notoriety. But if God is not being glorified, the church is not really a place of worship.
2. Cultic Churches are Focused on Church Instead of the Commission.
Cultic churches become focused more on the inner workings of the church than that of the Great Commission. It is easy for such an establishment to become a cross-wearing-community-club if the church focuses on those of the congregation more than those of the community. Jack Gentry, a former Director of Missions in our local Baptist association, said, “Churches need to strive to adhere to the 50/50 model. Spend 50% of their time focused on the membership of the church and spend 50% of their time focused on the lost in the community.” This is true. The membership of a church does need attention, indeed. But the problem arises when a church spends the majority, if not all, of its’ time focused only on the laity instead of on the lost.
3. Cultic Churches are Focused on Laws Instead of the Lost.
Cultic churches can become ultra-legalistic. Ultra-legalists become like the ancient Pharisees; focused on the letter of the law instead of on the persons being affected. Jesus fought against this type of mentality during His earthly ministry. The Christian should fight against this mentality, too. Often, atheists arise from churches that focus more on the length of one’s hair, the style of dress, or the amount of facial hair instead of on the soul of the person.
Let us be honest. A fish cannot be cleaned before it is caught. A Christian cannot expect a lost sinner to automatically act like a Christian the first time the sinner sets foot in a church. That would be like expecting a kindergartener to master calculus before learning to count. Invite the lost in. Preach the gospel. Let the Spirit of God do the cleaning.
4. Cultic Churches are Focused on Traditions Instead of the Truth.
Traditions are good things. I am a traditional type of guy. I enjoy many of the Christmas traditions that my family and I have…and some which we have started. I enjoy the many Easter traditions…especially the sunrise service which is one of my favorite services of the year. However, problems begin to arise when we allow the traditions of man to surpass the truth of God. Isaiah, quoting God, wrote,
Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; And the wisdom of their wise men will perish, And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.”(Isaiah 29:13-14).
Should we not be focused primarily on the truth of God’s word? Yes indeed. As Dr. Randy Kilby said in his final message before going to be with the Lord, “Some will say, ‘Now preacher, if such and such person knew about this, they would roll over in their graves.’ I tell you that if God is calling you to do something that they might not approve…let ’em twirl!” To that I say, preach on Dr. Kilby…preach on!!!
5. Cultic Churches are Focused on Culture Instead of the Cause.
The culture in which is addressed may be twofold: culture of the times and/or the culture of the church. More times than not, churches that become “cult-like” are more focused on the culture of the church. In other words, the congregants and leadership only seek to attract people like themselves. They become complacent and are not concerned with reaching souls as much as keeping up a certain culture. It must be said that God uses different churches to reach different people. Nonetheless, this should not stop a Christian from inviting someone of a different race or background. It may be that the person’s native tongue is different than yours. But consider this, Jesus’ primary languages were Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek. So if you are only seeking after English speakers, you would exclude the One who saved you in the first place!!! We should not allow socio-economics to play a role either. Every person is special to God whether the person has a bank account of $2.5 billion dollars or $2.50. Do not become focused on what the person can do for your church as much as what God can do through them.
6. Cultic Churches are Focused on Past Instead of the Present.
As time moves on, it is easy to remember the past. This is a healthy endeavor. However, if one is stuck in the past, problems begin to arise. This is also true of churches. Paul writes, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 3:12). Do not stop working for the Lord. God may have blessed you in the past, but God still holds blessings for you in the present and in the future. If we spend all of our time in the past, we cannot be used in the present to transform the future. God has chosen to use you in a mighty way. Will you cooperate with the workings of God in your life? Will your church? Cultic churches become useless because they live in the perceived “good ol’ days.” But, if we believe the teachings of Christ, the “good ol’ days” are still ahead.
7. Cultic Churches are Focused on Grumbling Instead of Gratefulness.
The Psalmist writes of the children of Israel while in the wilderness, “Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe in His word, but grumbled in their tents; they did not listen to the voice of the LORD.” (Psalm 106:24-25). Cultic churches become like the children of Israel. They forget the blessings that God has bestowed upon them and focus on what they do not have. They begin to covet what God has given others. Pressed far enough, a grumbling attitude can become disastrous. Many of those in the wilderness were not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of their constant grumbling. There is great power in thanksgiving. One needs not wait until the November holiday before giving thanks. The Christian should give thanks to God every day of his/her life. The church should, as well. Do we spend our time in worship wishing we had more, or do we spend our time in worship adoring and thanking God for all the blessings of life? Churches become cultic when they focus on the “have nots” rather than the “haves.”
8. Cultic Churches are Focused on Accomplishments Instead of Adoration.
Finally, cultic churches spend their time focused more on individual and corporate accomplishments and accolades rather than spending time adoring the Lord. This becomes dangerous. It is dangerous because the attention is taken away from God and is placed in humanity. This does not mean that we should not brag on the Lord for what the Lord does for us. But, this does mean that we should keep things in proper perspective. For it is the Lord who saved us, called us, abides with us, communes with us, and directs our paths. God is the one who brings people to us. God is the one who blesses us. So, we do not save anyone. God does. So instead of spending one’s time praising the self, the person and church should praise the Lord God of heaven and earth…the maker of the universe…the Mind behind all the laws of nature…the Founder of time…the Great God Almighty!!!
If your church has one or two of these traits, it may not be that your church is cultic. However, if your church has a multitude of these traits…or all of these traits…it is likely that your church has become cultic. Two things can be done. One, you can seek to reform the church. You may need to speak to the leadership of the church, prepared with scripture to back up your claims, and in a Christ-like manner expose the problems of the church. It could be that some things are operating in ways that you did not know which may mean that the church did not actually possess the traits you thought that it had. But, if reform is not possible, it may be that you need to pray and seek another church where God is glorified and praised.
At the heart of it all, the difference between churches walking in the pathway of God and churches that have become cultic or cult-like is the area of focus. Is the church focused on service to God and others, or is the church focused on serving themselves? The reader has read the following information from this writer several times. Yet, it seems like many cannot keep their focus on what is really important. Like most things, the difference of focus between evangelical churches and cultic churches boils down to the adherence of the two great commandments given by Jesus, quoted from the Hebrew Bible, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40). If churches and individuals would focus on these two commandments, we would have a lot less problems and would not even need to worry about churches becoming cult-like.
What’s the big deal with cultic churches? For one, cultic churches do not place the focus on God the way they should. This lack of focus brings the second major problem with cultic chruches into full view. If cultic churches do not place their focus on God and place their focus on themselves, it would be very easy for cultic churches to evolve into cults. Many cult leaders did not arise from outside the church, but from inside the church (for example, Jim Jones tried to become a Methodist minister but was kept from the ministry by a mandatory psychological exam issued by the United Methodist Church for all upcoming ministers). We must keep our focus on God and remain true to biblical truths. If we surrender to the lordship of Christ and the authority of God, we will be able to spot cultic practices and cult-like teachings before we are influenced by their false dogma.
For more information concerning cults and cultic churches, see “Cults, Characteristics of” by Ed Hindson in The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), edited by Ergun Caner and Ed Hindson.
 Jack Gentry, Annual Conference, Yadkin Baptist Association. October, 2010.
 Randy Kilby, “Laughing With the Trumpets,” West Lenoir Baptist Church. February 11, 1997.
All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).
On this Father’s Day, I, being a father, contemplate on the biblical principles for fathers. Now more than ever before, we need godly Christian men to assume the role of a father. We cannot afford any more dead-beat dads who claim to
love God and love their children while not having anything to do with their children. We need men of faith who are men of courage to be men of example.
The Bible says a lot about the way fathers should bring up their children. Fathers should:
-Love their children
“For whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.”(Proverbs 3:12).
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)
It is a given that a father should love his child. If the parent is a true genuine Christian, then the parent should be overflowing with love, since love is from God. What benefit would we have if we changed our communities without first showing love to our families. As we shall see in the next passage, a person who does not provide for his/her family is worse than an unbeliever. Love should be the first priority for the Christian parent.
-Care for their children
“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8).
Paul gives Timothy some straightforward advice. A Christian parent has the responsibility for providing for one’s family. No exceptions!!! The child cannot take care of him/herself. You are instructed to care for and nurture your child. No excuses!!!
-Bring them to Christ
“Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:13-14).
One of the greatest things a father can do for his child is to lead them to a knowledge of Christ Jesus. Does the father talk about Jesus? Does the father speak about the wonders of Christ? A father cannot expect his child to know about Jesus if he never speaks of Jesus and is never in church. How important is Christ in your life? If you do not place Christ first, then do not be surprised if your child does not either.
-To train them up for a life with God
“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6).
Here is one of the more difficult aspects of being a Christian father. You must not only talk the talk…you must walk the walk. One of the best ways of providing godly instruction for your child is for you to be a living example of what the Christian life should be. The adage “Do as I say and not as I do” does not work. Why should it? No one expects you to be perfect. But, you should at least strive to be the moral man that God has called you to be. When you make mistakes, don’t be too big to admit them.
-To instruct them in God’s Word and ways
“You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19).
Do you have family prayer? Do you have family devotions? Do you read spiritual books to your children? Life is tough. Don’t sugar coat things for your children. Tell them about the complexities and problems of life (at an age-appropriate level) and show how God has helped you through the tough times of life. Provide a moral foundation. Some people say, “Well, I will just let my child decide how they should live.” Well, why don’t you let your child get behind the wheel of your fancy new car and let him or her drive down the interstate unaccompanied? That would be as ridiculous as to let your child decide the way that he or she should live. This does not mean that you restrict their freedoms. This does mean that you provide a moral foundation so that he/she will be educated on the game of life. Just as a child is trained that 2+2=4, so should a child be taught moral principles, values, and where these moral principles originate–God.
-To bless them
“He blessed Joseph, and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day…” (Genesis 48:15).
Without spoiling a child, the parent should be willing to bless a child. Sometimes it is okay to splurge. But, don’t get carried away. You do not want your child to think that he or she is owed everything. But at the same time, you want your child to know that you love them. More than material goods, this blessing shows the necessity of compassion and acceptance of your child.
I heard recently of a story on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” about a young gay man who was kicked out of his home because he was gay. Now, I do not approve of homosexuality. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle the issue. The right way is to let a child who is traveling down an unbiblical path to know that you will always love them and care for them; but, let them know that you do not biblically approve their lifestyle. The wrong way is to kick the child out and shut him/her out of your life. Remember, the Lord forgives us of our sins daily. While I am certainly not calling for the acceptance of unbiblical attitudes, morals, and lifestyles; I am calling for Christians to behave in a Christlike manner. You may not change their mentality by loving them. But rest assured, you certainly will not by acting in an un-Christlike manner.
-To correct them
“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:7).
There is a biblical call for discipline. This requires the parent to set guidelines and to consistently uphold them. If there is anything that I learned from my time in the school system, it was that children will test the limits of what you say and what you will do. If you give three warnings before implementing discipline, the child will push you to the third time. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Certainly, this does NOTcall for physical abuse. Physical abuse to a child is certainly un-Christlike and sick. Physical abuse is nothing more than pathetic bullying. Discipline does mean that limits are set and are implemented. Children left to their own whims will follow every flashy, shiny thing available to them. By the time they find that the flashy, shiny thing that tempts them is dangerous, it is many times too late. Many educational psychologists state that the parent has to the time the child is in the third-grade to set the limits. If you wait until after the third-grade, you will have a difficult time implementing something that is not set in place.
-Not to provoke them
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”(Ephesians 6:4).
Paul says that fathers should not “provoke (their) children to anger.” This means that the father does not try to run every detail of his child’s life. This also means that the father is supportive and not overly critical. It also means that the father builds up and encourages his child without showing favoritism. Can you imagine what life would be like if every father encouraged and supported his child? Our schools and communities would look a lot differently. That’s for sure.
-Not to make unholy connections for them
“So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.” (Genesis 28:1).
Sometimes, the father needs to be like an offensive lineman. The offensive lineman in American Football protects the quarterback from defensive players who seek to do the quarterback harm. In this way, a Christian father should be like a buffer. Isaac instructed Jacob to find a godly wife from people of faith. Isaac wanted to keep Jacob from making unholy connections. This does not mean that the believer should not mingle with unbelievers…heaven forbid! This simply means that the father serves as a buffer (seeking to keep away bad influences) from his child. This may mean that he needs to cut out his child’s ties to bad influences. These bad influences can be bad television shows, certain internet sites, friends who are troublemakers, or activities which may lead the child away from godly principles (including worship). Let’s be honest. A young child has no business watching an “R” rated movie or playing a game rated “T” for teen or “M” for mature. This is not only a good parental activity, it is also a biblical principle.
Outside of God, there exists no perfect father. But, that should not stop us from trying to be the best fathers that we can be. I asked a question earlier if we could imagine a community where fathers did what they were supposed to do as fathers. This would lead to certain changes in our culture. We would have no need for the Department of Social Services…with the exception of orphaned children. We would have no need for youth correctional centers. We would have children who would feel confident about themselves…so we may not need school counselors any longer. It is possible that we might even find that our jails and prisons would have many more open spaces. If fathers and mothers did what they were supposed to do, there would be massive changes, but these massive changes would have a positive impact on our communities and on our world.
Will you take the challenge to be the Christian father that God has called you to be and call out the man and woman in your child?
BE A MAN…BE A CHRISTIAN FATHER!!!
Keep the faith,
Pastor Brian Chilton
R.A. Torrey, The New Topical Text Book: A Scriptural Text Book for the Use of Ministers, Teachers, and All Christian Workers (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2001).
All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).