Hearing from God: Is It Possible to Discern the Voice of God?

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.

Conclusion

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.

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Dangers of “Cultic Churches”–Marks of Good Theological Churches that have Gone Bad

Dangers of “Cultic Churches”–Marks of Good Theological Churches that have Gone Bad.

Dangers of “Cultic Churches”–Marks of Good Theological Churches that have Gone Bad

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.”[1]  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!”[2]  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!!!

Conclusion

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.


_____________________________________

[1] Jack Gentry, Annual Conference, Yadkin Baptist Association. October, 2010.

[2] 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).

The Need for Christian Fathers: Biblical Principles for Christian Fatherhood

The Need for Christian Fathers: Biblical Principles for Christian Fatherhood.

The Need for Christian Fathers: Biblical Principles for Christian Fatherhood

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 NOT call 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.

Conclusion

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

Bibliography

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).

Some Possible Reasons Why God Allows Disasters to Strike

Some Possible Reasons Why God Allows Disasters to Strike.

Some Possible Reasons Why God Allows Disasters to Strike

It is a classic question.  “Why did God allow _______ to happen?”  You can fill-in-the-blank with a variety of terms.  Recently, this question has had to do with a rash of natural disasters that have struck Oklahoma and other areas.  Anytime a disaster strikes, one of the first questions asked is, “Why did a loving God allow this to happen”.  Even insurance companies describe disasters as “acts of God.”  Funny that we should attribute negative things to God.  Why not call the birth of a child an act of God or the miraculous healing of a person an act of God?  Some might, but many do not think about God unless something disastrous takes place.

Although it is impossible to accurately pinpoint God’s intentions in every event, God has given us some principles with which to work found in the Bible.  In the Bible, at least five possible reasons are given as to why God may allow disasters to strike.

God Allows Disasters to Occur Because of Judgment

Due to the rebellious nature of humanity, God has to keep things in check.  Although this is not popular to mention in modern times, one can easily find examples of God bringing disaster upon certain immoral societies by disasters.  The clearest example is found in the annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Did God destroy the cities by volcanic eruptions or was it by an asteroid?  This writer thinks that it is the latter.  Nonetheless, God delivered due to the moral corruption of the area.  Prior to this time, God had allowed a massive flood to nearly wipe out humanity saving only a few faithful.  In Habakkuk, God shows that God allows disaster to strike because of judgment.  God says to Habakkuk, “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and founds a town with violence!  Is it not indeed from the LORD of hosts that peoples toil for fire, and nations grow weary for nothing?  For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:12-14, NASB).  In Jonah, God allows a storm to take place due to Jonah’s rebellion.  In Jonah, it is written, “The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up…Then (the sailors) said to (Jonah), ‘Tell us now!  On what account has this calamity struck us?” (Jonah 1:4, 8a).  Clearly from these examples, it can be seen that God does allow disasters to strike due to an overflow of human rebellion.  One may ask, well why would God do this?  Why WOULDN’T God do this?  From the examples of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the days of Noah, the people were extremely wicked.  Depravity had grown to the level of becoming reprobates…a condition where the hard has grown hard and repentance is nearly impossible.  The people were not going to get better.  So God protected the innocent by giving them a way out for those who would listen.  Why would God bring judgment to Jonah?  Well, it was through Jonah that the land of Nineveh would repent and be spared.  Our rebellion may have effects on others.  God must correct our paths from time to time.  But this is not the only reason why God may allow disasters to occur.

God Allows Disasters to Occur to Build Our Faith

Humans have the innate desire to escape any and all pain and suffering.  This is a natural response because pleasure is much nicer than pain.  However, if we never went through painful experiences, would we be better or worse?  It would seem that we would be much worse.  Through difficult times, a person’s faith in God is built.  What is the biblical definition of faith; dependency on God.  Paul writes, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as it is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.  This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-5, NASB).

I love weightlifting.  The process is intriguing.  Before one can build muscle, one must first tear the muscle down by way of vigorous exercise.  It is during the recuperation time that the muscle is built stronger.  God does the same with us in our lives.  To make us stronger, God must put or allow us to go through difficult circumstances in order to trust in Him more and to develop character in ourselves.

Cindy Smith is an exceptional lady.  She is a member of our church.  Cindy was born with cerebral palsy.  The palsy makes it difficult for Cindy to accomplish things that would be taken for granted by most individuals.  However, Cindy told me once that she embraced her palsy.  According to her own testimony, she would not be the person she is today if it were not for having the palsy.  Dr. William Lane Craig, one of the premier apologists of our day, had said the same thing about his medical condition.  Craig has a medical condition which has kept him from playing sports to the level that he desired.  However, he has said that having the disease has made him the man he is today.  Instead of devoting his passion and competitive nature to sports, he did so with Christian apologetics.  This is why that he is to this day feared by many atheists (including Richard Dawkins who has refused to debate him numerous times) and revered by many Christians.  Another biblical explanation exists for why God may allow disasters to strike.

God Allows Disasters to Occur to Glorify Himself

It may sound arrogant to the skeptic.  But, God does seem to allow disasters to happen so that God may be glorified.  This glorification, however, is not to boast in Himself.  Rather, this glorification is to show others that God is a reality and that people can trust in God.  So the principle is, disasters do not always occur because someone did something wrong.  See the example in John’s gospel.  John writes, “As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’  Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him'” (John 9:1-3, NASB).  The man did become an example of God’s glory.  Jesus healed the blind man and everyone witnessed the power of God firsthand.  Furthermore, the blind man became a witness of God’s power.

Think about the Oklahoma tornadoes.  Yes the disaster was awful.  But consider the power of God shown through the miracles that occurred in the aftermath.  Think of the protection of God over the teacher who prayed over her class.  Not a child was hurt in that classroom.  Think of the compassion and love that was seen by Christians in this time of need.  Someone even said, “Don’t count on the government to help out.  Count on the Baptist men.”   Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be anyhow?  Shouldn’t the church stand in the gaps?  There is another biblical reason why God may allow disasters to occur.

God Allows Disasters to Occur for Nature’s Benefit

Believe it or not, storms and disasters can hold benefit to nature.  Dr. Hugh Ross stated at a recent conference that tornadoes can have a benefit for the land.  It is being seen that tornadoes can plow up and distribute essential nutrients in the area.  Also, tornadoes can clear out bad vegetation.  For hurricanes, these massive cyclones can bring necessary rain and moisture to dry lands.  Some areas depend on the moisture brought by these storms.  Volcanoes are important for the earth as they create new land masses, provides healthy gases even by the poisonous gases, and even provide diamonds through the intense heat.  God has made an amazing earth.  Each person must take into an account for the possible disasters in the area in which they live.  If you live near a volcano, one risks the chance that a volcanic eruption may take place.  If one lives near an area that has hurricanes, one must be prepared for a hurricane to make landfall.  If one lives near an area prone to massive tornadoes, one needs to be prepared.  If one lives in a colder environment, one needs to be prepared for a massive snowfall each winter.  That does not mean that it is any less heartbreaking when disaster strikes.  But, this at least the person will not be as surprised when disasters strike.  Job 38:34-37 says, “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that an abundance of water will cover you?  “Can you send forth lightnings that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?  “Who has put wisdom in the innermost being or given understanding to the mind?  “Who can count the clouds by wisdom, or tip the water jars of the heavens, when the dust hardens into a mass and the clods stick together?” (Job 38:34–38, NASB).  Things may occur for reasons we never know…which brings us to our final point.

God Allows Disasters to Occur Sometimes for Reasons Known Only to God

God is infinite and we are finite.  Sometimes we will not understand the things of God because we cannot know all there is to know about God.  When Job had questioned God about the difficulties that he had endured, he demanded an answer while his “so-called” friends gave possible answers.  The friends gave accusatory answers blaming Job.  They were wrong in the assessment.  God stepped in the scene and gave a response to Job’s inquisition.  God said, “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? “Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!  “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know.  Or who stretched the line on it?  “On what were its bases sunk?  Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:1–7, NASB).  The point of God’s answer was not arrogance but to remind Job that he would not have all the answers.  Neither will we.  God is the one who established everything in place.  God is the only one who has all the answers.  God knows how everything works together.  In the end, God works everything together and for a  purpose.  We may not know the the purpose until we get into eternity.  But, we can trust God in His love and infinite goodness that everything will work out in the end.

Conclusion

God has reasons behind things we cannot understand.  Even when things look bleak and do not make sense, God can bring out some great things despite the problems we endure.  Sometimes God may bring disasters for judgment against depraved societies.  Other times God may allow disasters to take place to test our faith.  At other times God may allow disasters to take place in order to glorify God and show God’s power to those who do not know God.  Other times God may allow disasters to occur for the benefit of the natural order.  Finally, disasters may occur for reasons known only to God.  In the end, every worldview must deal with the reality of disasters and suffering.  Some will choose not to believe in a loving God.  But then, what hope does that person have?  Does the person have hope in the midst of the storm?  Does the person have hope beyond this life?  What about justice?  Are wrongs just allowed to occur with no ultimate consequence?  When you understand the fact that God is a reality and that the gospel is true, then one can be filled with faith, hope, and ultimately love despite the storms of life that may come.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Brian Chilton

The Disciplines of Rest

I have just finished reading a great book by Donald S. Whitney titled Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.  In the book, Whitney lists ten different spiritual disciplines that is attributed with godliness.  Two disciplines really stood out to me: the disciplines of silence and solitude.  Dave Earley also told of another discipline called the discipline of slowing down one’s life.  These three together could be called the disciplines of rest.

Christians should be the most rested individuals on earth.  Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NASB).  Rest…is that something that we truly possess?  It seems to me that we run around always in a hurry but never finding our destination.  In this brief article, I would like to examine these little known disciplines of rest.  You may say, “I can’t rest.”  With younger and younger adults being diagnosed with stress-related illnesses, you can’t afford NOT to find rest.

Discipline of Silence

Whitney writes, “The Discipline of silence is the voluntary and temporary abstention from speaking so that certain spiritual goals might be sought.  Sometimes silence is observed in order to read, write, pray, and so on” (Whitney, 184).  We have become a culture of noise.  Noise…noise…NOISE!!!  We are surrounded by it.  Once I was at church studying for the message for the following Sunday.  I took a break and entered the sanctuary.  I sat in one of the pews.  It was amazing.  I had no awesome experience from above.  I did not have a glorious epiphany of any sort.  I just sat and relished in the beauty of silence.  It was so bizarre to my ears that my ears actually started ringing due to the absolute silence.  

We focus so much on communication.  We teach people how to pray.  But do we teach people how to listen?  When Elijah went to Mount Horeb to hear a word from the Lord, God did not speak in a tornado or by thunder but by a still quiet whisper.  Maybe the reason we do not hear from God the way we wish is due to the fact that we do not shut our mouths enough to hear from God.  Have you ever spoken to a person who asks you fifty questions before you have a chance to answer one?  I feel that we treat God the same way.  We are always talking desiring noise.  Maybe it is time for us to hush and hear from God.

Discipline of Solitude

Whitney describes the discipline of solitude as, “Solitude is the Spiritual Discipline of voluntarily and temporarily withdrawing to privacy for spiritual purposes” (Whitney, 184).  Whitney goes on to describe that silence and solitude are complementary disciplines…sometimes practiced together.  Jesus practiced this discipline more than we might expect.  Matthew records that when times were tough, Jesus alone to pray.  “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.  But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them not to tell who He was” (Matthew 12:14-16, NASB).  Did Jesus simply escape due to the pressure?  No.  When Jesus’ time came to be arrested, He did not escape and hide.  He faced His arrest and death head-on.  Rather, Jesus used this time to commune with the Father in a powerful way.

Many times when the heat is on, we take the mentality of forging on without taking time to gather our thoughts or seek the Lord’s will.  This was not the case with Jesus.  Jesus, the Son of God, needed time with the Father during the heat of the battle.  If Jesus did, how much more do you and I?  But, Jesus did not only seek solitude in the difficult moments.  He also sought private time with the Father during good times.  John writes, “So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone” (John 6:15, NASB).  This was a time when the populace loved Jesus.  They were so enamored with Jesus that they wanted to place Him in a role as their king.  Isn’t this great?  Wouldn’t this be a momentum boost?  The most important thing to ask, was this God’s will?  During the good times, Jesus went away to seek the Father’s will.  Again, if Jesus the Son of God needed to do this, how much more do you and I?

There may need to be some special planning in order to help you find solitude.  It may be that you and your spouse can take turns watching the kids.  Maybe the mom will need an hour to herself to pray while the dad watches the kids and vice versa.  Maybe when you are on vacation, you can take some time to get away to be with God.  Perhaps, you can swing by the park for a few minutes after work.  The main thing is to get away for awhile.  It does not have to be a long period of time…just a period of time.

Discipline of Slowing Down

Dave Earley mentions this discipline in one of his videos for Liberty University.  The discipline basically entails that one gets back to the basics of one’s life.  The person does not take on anything that is not considered essential.  This will mean that you will have to use a word that you hate….”No.”  Oh the horror!!!  Not every invitation and not every favor needs to be accepted.  WHAT???  I thought you pastors said yes to every person who needed a favor!!!  This is a principle that I am still learning.  The problem is that we, too often, take on things in our lives that God never willed for our lives.  Our society is addicted to busyness.  Maybe the reason you are so stressed is that you are doing more than God desires for you.  In church, 10% of the people do 100% of the work.  Maybe if you are not helping in the church, you ought to be.  Your lack of responsibility may be burdening those who are working.  If you are one of the 10%, maybe you ought to pray to see what God wants you to do and what He does not want you to do.  Maybe it is extra-curricular activities.  You may have accepted too many roles at work or helping out recreational clubs.  Sometimes our play can become work.

There is a little known commandment that is rarely kept any longer.  It is one of the Ten Commandments.  “See, the LORD has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.  So the people rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 16:29-30, NASB).  God gave us a day of rest.  Why?  God knows how we need to rest physically, mentally, and spiritually in Him.  As with other issues in the Bible, we do not hurt God by breaking His commandments.  We only hurt ourselves.

Conclusion

These three disciplines of rest–silence, solitude, and slowing down–can be of great benefit to you and your family.  Our society is speeding up at a rapid pace.  Businesses push harder than ever before in a market that is even more competitive.  There is very little you can do about society and business.  But, you hold great power and control in the way you live your life.  Will you submit to God’s ways and find rest for your soul?  As the old saying goes, we need to let go and let God take over.

Blessings in Christ,

Pastor Brian Chilton

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

Whitney, Donald S., Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991).

Are American Professional Sports Leagues Losing Their Professionalism?

Are American Professional Sports Leagues Losing Their Professionalism?.

Are American Professional Sports Leagues Losing Their Professionalism?

Are American Profession Sports Leagues Losing Their Professionalism?

By: Pastor Brian Chilton

    

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “professionalism” as:

“1     a : of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession

b : engaged in one of the learned professions

c(1) : characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession

(2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace

2       a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs 〈a professional golfer

b : having a particular profession as a permanent career 〈a professional soldier

c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return 〈professional football

3       : following a line of conduct as though it were a profession 〈a professional patriot.”[1]

As far as the second definition, it must be admitted that pro sports are still professional in the sense that athletes are getting paid for a service rendered.  However, for this article, the first definition will be targeted, particularly the definition of 1c…”characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession” and “exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.”  Three issues stand out in regard to professional sports leagues in the modern time and the evangelical Christian.  The first relates to that of politics.

Technical Standards or Political Platform

It cannot be said that all sports leagues are guilty of what the NFL and NBA are commonly guilty of committing, but since the NFL is the most popular league right now, the NFL must be examined.  The NFL is, quite frankly, the most guilty of all in allowing their league to become a “political platform” instead of maintaining technical standards.  Take Sunday Night Football on NBC for example.

During the halftime show of almost every Sunday Night Football game, NBC commentator Bob Costas, who is known for his liberal bias, will give a political topic that may loosely be based upon the game.  Let me ask you this: is this a proper platform for Costas’ political agenda?  When a person logs on to our show “Redeeming Truth Radio” at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pastorbrianchilton, the listener knows what he or she is going to hear.  However, is it fair that Costas is allowed to give his opinion without a differing opinion allowed to be given?  Some will say, “Well, that is the media not the league.”  While that statement is true, the league is allowing this to transpire.  The league permits these platforms because the league depends on the media to a great degree.  How successful would professional sports be if not for the media?  The driving force behind professional sports is money.  The apostle Paul accurately diagnosed the love of money long ago when he wrote, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many grief” (1 Timothy 6:10, NASB).  The love of money causes all kinds of problems.  This love of money has created another unprofessional manner of conduct: a seeming control of beliefs.

Courteous and Businesslike Manner or Control of Beliefs

Another attribute of professionalism is courteous and businesslike manner of conduct.  This courteousness should be revealed in the appreciation of all points of view.  However, this is not the case.  A great case in point is the “blackballing” of Tim Tebow.  Tim Tebow, the former quarterback of the Florida Gators and former quarterback of the Denver Broncos, was traded by the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets.  Why?  Tebow led the team to a first-round victory in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers that year.  Tebow was a great moral player.  While I will admit that he was not the best player that has ever played the position of quarterback, he did hold his own.  It was clear that John Elway, the owner of the Broncos, had his problems with Tebow.  Why?  It had more to do with the religious and political convictions of Tebow more than Tebow’s football performance.  Now that the Jets have dropped Tebow, it does not seem that Tebow will be hired by another team…at least not by the time this article was posted.

Some have dismissed this as a lack of performance by Tebow.  The listener hears such responses as, “Tebow’s playing style does not work in the NFL.”  Well, is it not the same playing style of Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers and Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers?  Is it really playing style or beliefs?

Clearly, the problem with Tebow is something much deeper.  Why is it that Tebow was ostracized for his beliefs?  Or was it rather that Tebow was ostracized due to the vocalization of his beliefs?  This seems to be the going trend in the NFL.  Worship the league.  Don’t be an individual.  The famous “end zone celebrations” are so restricted that the originality of the celebrations are taken away.  But, this takes us to another problematic issue with professional sports.  It seems to be the new reigning religion of America.

The Real Problem: America’s New Religion

What is the religion of America?  Some would say that professional sports are the new religion.  With the passionate focus on football, baseball, and other sports with the lack of zeal towards God, truth, and things of substance, it could be said that perhaps sports really are the new religion of America.  Chad Gibbs of the Washington Post writes,

16.3 million is certainly a lot of people, in fact it’s almost as many as 17.3 million, which is the number of people who attended an NFL game in 2009. You see the reason so many people in America check ‘Christian’ on these Religious Identification Surveys is because football is usually not one of the choices. Because if we are being honest here, and who isn’t honest on the Internet, America is really a football nation.[2]

 Could this not be part of the problem with America?  Could it not be that we are falling into the same trap that those of the Roman Empire were before the Roman Empire’s collapse?  After all, sports are only games on the level of Monopoly, Uno, Chess, and Backgammon.  When football coaches speak of running a “play,” it is just that…a “play;” playing a game.  Could professional sports be nothing more than a delusional fantasy…a delusional fantasy that helps people lose focus on the troubles of life: a dreamland where a person can pretend to be a sports star with no apparent problems?  But the truth is, sports stars have their own set of problems.  Some stars have greater problems than the ordinary Joe would ever have to face.  That is at the heart of a delusional fantasy.  The grass is always greener on the other side until you get on the other side and see that the grass is not as green as once thought.

Conclusion

At the heart of it all, there is nothing wrong in enjoying professional and college sports as long as the enjoyment is kept in healthy moderation and does not become a means of escaping reality and responsibility.  The problem lies when leagues lose their professionalism to promote a certain agenda onto the populace.  A greater problem is that many Americans are content with living in a dream world of football, basketball, baseball, and soccer.  It is an opiate that helps to keep a person from dealing with the big issues of life.  Karl Marx once said that “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”  This is of course self-defeating because Marx is giving a religious statement which must then be seen as his own opiate if true.  Acknowledging God’s existence and having a relationship with the Lord does not hide one from his or her problems.  As a matter of fact, God helps us deal with important issues…big issues…and resolve the problems in our lives if we let Him…and if we listen to Him.

Although sports are okay to enjoy in moderation, people must give sports their proper place.  If sports or games of any kind become an opiate for the people (keeping them from dealing with the important issues of life), it would be easy for a person to be brainwashed with any passing fad that the sports leagues wishes to promote.  The combination of unprofessionalism in many sports leagues coupled with the populace allowing professional sports to become their new religion can lead to a mindless, immoral, group of lemmings. This is extremely dangerous.  If one does not believe the danger involved, look at the Roman Empire.  See how the people were engrossed with the games while atrocities were committed.  See how brutality became the norm.  The parallels between the Roman Empire and our modern culture are uncanny.

This is not what God brings to His children.  God through Jesus Christ brings freedom, courage, and morality.  As Paul writes, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father” (Romans 8:15, NASB)!  It is not suggested that a boycott or anything of the sort be conducted against these sports leagues.  I will continue to watch football games and cheer on my favorite teams.  However, it must be suggested that sports, especially in lieu of the recent unprofessionalism, be kept in proper perspective.  For it will not matter how many touchdowns you threw, home-runs you hit, free throws you earned, or goals you scored when you stand before God on Judgment Day.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Brian Chilton


[1] Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary., Eleventh ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

[2] Chad Gibbs, “Football: America’s National Religion,” Washington Post. September 3rd, 2010, accessed June 3rd, 2013. {http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/09/football_americas_national_religion.html}.

Finishing Well

God did something incredible last week.  I was feeling low and discouraged.  My dad handed me a tape earlier that Sunday that I had been searching for the past year or so.  It was the tape of Dr. Randy Kilby’s last message.  Dr. Randy Kilby was the president of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute when I attended there.  Dr. Kilby died of a massive heart attack about five minutes after preaching his final message “Laughing with the Trumpets at a pastor’s conference in Lenoir, North Carolina.  I listened to the tape and found myself in tears.  God used Dr. Kilby’s message given 15 years prior to meet my present need.  He preached on the very issue with which I had been struggling.

As I contemplate on the life of Dr. Kilby, I find myself not knowing nor thinking about the early life of Dr. Kilby, but on the last years of his life on earth.  Was Dr. Kilby a wild man in his early days?  Did Dr. Kilby party hard before coming to know the Lord?  Quite frankly, I do not know, nor does it really matter.  You see, the way a person finishes his or her course matters much more than how he or she begins.  Consider the finished work of God.

The Finished Work of God

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Old-Earth Creationism, Young-Earth Creationism…it does not matter how you view the time-frame in which God created the heavens and the earth.  What really matters is that God finished God’s work.  Genesis 2 states, “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts.  By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done” (Genesis 2:1–2, NASB).  It does not matter whether God took millions of years or just a few days to create the heavens and the earth.  What really matters is that God created it all and finished God’s work.  Regardless of the time-span, God finished well.

The Finished Work of Christ

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Jesus came and lived a sinless life.  He was in fact the Son of God as the Scriptures tell us.  Jesus was met with all kinds of trials and tribulations.  Yet, Jesus never waivered.  He finished well.  John the apostle writes about Jesus’ final words on the cross, “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30, NASB).  Jesus finished His work before His resurrection.  The cross had been accomplished.  The task was complete.  Sins were atoned.  God was victorious.  At the end of His earthly life, Jesus’ finish was remembered far more than His beginning.  This is why the Gospels spend more time on Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection than they do on Jesus’ birth and early childhood.  Jesus finished well.

The Finished Work of Paul

Paul had a rough start.  He had been a persecutor of Christians.  He had even held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  Yet Paul saw the Risen Christ.  Jesus changed his life and set him on a pathway of proclaiming the gospel message.  Paul later wrote, “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24, NASB).  Paul finished well.

The Finished Work of the Christian

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You may have had a rough beginning.  You may have been involved in the party scene.  You may have been involved in other forms of misconduct.  But through Christ, you can find forgiveness.  Through Christ, you can find transformation.  Through Christ, you can find redemption.  Even though you may have had a rough beginning, you can finish well.

Conclusion

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The pathway of transformation first requires the Transformer…and no I am not talking about cars that turn into robots.  The Great Transformer is Christ.  Christ can take your life and make something beautiful.  Even though you may consider your life to be a pile of drooping clay, God can take that clay and remold it into something beautiful.  Accept Christ today if you have not.  If you have, allow Christ to transform your life.  Paul wrote, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NASB).  Allow God to make a masterpiece of your mess.  Then, you can finish well.

Pastor Brian Chilton

Reflections on Christian Coaching

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Recently, I had the opportunity to interview a member of our church who is also actively involved in coaching.  I interviewed Darryl Speer, an elementary school basketball coach and a tee ball coach.  We discussed the integration of Christianity in coaching.  You can access that interview by clicking here.  As I reflect back upon our interview, I also find myself reflecting on Christian coaching in general.  Coaching, especially when performed by a Christian male, can have a profound influence on a young person if the following five principles are kept.

The Importance of Positive Male Role-Models

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One thing that Darryl addressed, which is something that deserves more attention at a later date, is the impact of positive male role-models.  Let’s face it.  We live in a land of single mothers and dead-beat dads.  This is not always the case, but is to a great degree.  The real victims in this ordeal are the children involved.

Formerly, I worked in the school system.  I saw first-hand the impact upon a child who grows up with no father.  Mothers and fathers are vitally important to a child.  If you take one of the elements away from a child, it can be detrimental to a child.  Some children latched onto me because they needed a positive male role-model.

However, it must be said that if a male role-model is to be a role-model, he must be positive.  Children do not need negative influences. Many children who have absentee fathers only know their fathers from violent encounters, from behind a jail-cell, or from negligence.  This certainly is not the case with all single-parent homes.  For some, it is the mother who was a negligent, negative influence.  Nonetheless, male coaches need not to be remembered for yelling, screaming, cursing, and snorting.  Rather, the male coach, if desiring to be a role-model worthy of praise, needs to encourage, drive, and compliment the children so that they feel better about themselves.

The  Importance of Integrating Good Sportsmanship

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Sports are competitive by nature.  Almost every coach desires to lead one’s team to victory.  Winning is fun but losing is not.  However, sportsmanship is becoming a lost art.  The coach cannot demand character from his/her players if he/she does not display genuine character as a coach.  This demands integrity.

Ultimately, Christian principles bring forth integrity which leads to character.  Many times character does not come from winning, but from losing.  As a popular sermon illustration goes, “Fruit does not grow on the mountaintop, it grows in the valley.”  The illustration shows that it is during the difficult times of life that character is grown.  Take the words of Paul who wrote, “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).  Character must be exhibited both in winning and in losing in order to achieve a maximum impact as a positive male role-model.

The Importance of Equality

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Darryl Speer, the coach we interviewed, said something of great importance when he said, “We have learned to be impartial.  I have to treat my girl…the same as anyone else on the team” (Darryl Speer, Episode 36 “Christianity in Coaching,” Redeeming Truth Radio).  This is important.  Many of the great problems in sports have come from partiality.  The Bible says that the Pharisees and Herodians said of Jesus (although they were trying to trap Him), “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth” (Mark 12:14, NASB).  We are not to show partiality.  Coaches, especially Christian coaches, should not show partiality to any child regardless of race, gender, or even creed.  You will not show a person of another faith the love of Christ by being impartial to them.  Politics should absolutely play no role in this kind of equality.

The Importance of Evangelism

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It is difficult to have a full-impact unless you have great faith.  In some areas and in some places, this may be difficult.  The coach cannot bluntly say, “You gonna accept Christ?  Huh, huh, huh???”  Especially in this hyper-sensitive culture in which we live, the Christian coach must be careful in how he or she evangelizes.  However, the Christian can still show forth the message of the gospel in the way he/she lives, by the way he/she prays, and by the way he/she treats others.  The Christian coach may not be allowed to lead a team prayer.  But, the Christian coach has every bit of right to pray on his/her own time.  Do the children witness the coach praying at mealtime?  Do the children see the coach reading his/her Bible during spare time?  These are powerful ways to be a witness.  Rest assured; people may try to stop Christianity, but God has a way of leading the wayward heart to Him.  Isn’t it about glorifying God in the first place?

The Importance of Prioritization

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Finally, the element of prioritization exists.  Although I appreciate various sports leagues, I will be the first to admit that I am adamantly against leagues scheduling games on Sunday mornings.  There is, quite frankly, no excuse in my eyes that exists for planners of these leagues to schedule games during this time.  If there are scheduling conflicts, that lies on the planners of the leagues.  Many parents are put into a paradox on Sunday mornings due to these scheduling conflicts   Every parent must make their own decision.  However, I will go on record to say that my child will not be allowed to play in any league that schedules games on Sunday mornings…period.  He will be able to play in any sport that he chooses, if he chooses to play.  He will be allowed to play as much as he wants to play, but not on Sunday mornings.  If he chooses to play the guitar instead, that will be fine, too.  If he chooses to paint and become an artist, that will be fine, too.  If he chooses to hit the books and become a scholar, that will be fine, too.  Be that as it may; I have to answer for what I do and others will have to answer for what they do.  So, I say this not to judge, but to bring out an important question, what holds the greatest priority in your life?  If you want to be a positive Christian influence, then Christ must be on center stage.

If a parent chooses to allow one’s child to play on Sunday mornings, spiritual disciplines cannot be ignored.  When one does not engage in spiritual disciplines (daily prayer, Bible study, regular church attendance, and so on), the person will find oneself slipping into a backslidden condition.  Can a person worship God on the ballfield?  Possibly.  But, it is not likely.  Nothing takes the place of the preaching, teaching, and study of the Word of God.  If one allows their child to play on Sunday morning, it is vitally important for the parent and the child to be in church on Sunday night, Wednesday night, or both.  If your church does not have services at these times, find a Bible-believing church that does hold services at these times until the league is over and then are able to go back to your home church.  Also, don’t forget to send in your tithes if you are going to be gone for an extended period of time.  If too many Christians stay gone for too long, there won’t be a church in which to return.  Remember, if parents do not place Christ at the epicenter of their lives, what makes them think that their children will???

You don’t think church attendance and spiritual disciplines matter?  Well, you are reading from a writer who backslid from God for seven years.  It did not happen overnight.  The process of backsliding is a slow, meticulous process that ends in disaster.  The most important decision is to have Christ as the Lord of one’s life.  Some hope that his or her child will go pro.  Remember, many professional athletes have made millions only to lose it all due to unChristlike behaviors.

Why do I mention this?  Well, if there is one thing that I have learned from working with children, it is that children know when someone is legit and when someone is simply blowing smoke.  If you are desiring to be a positive Christian coach, parent or leader; you MUST be a Christian and you MUST have your service to Christ as your chief priority.  The children will not take the coach seriously about the coach’s faith unless the coach is serious about his own faith.  That goes not only for coaches, but also for parents and any person of influence.

Conclusion

When put in proper perspective, sports can be a wonderful way for children to have fun and learn life principles.  The coach can be a great catalyst to bring forth positive Christian values to a child.  There exists a HUGE demand for positive, Christian, male coaches in our day in time.  But what must be stressed is the importance of character in the coach.  This is something that is missing in many men in our day and time.  Oh, that God would bring up Christian men of integrity that will make a positive impact in the world for Christ!

Finding Fault with God

Finding Fault with God

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Just a thought.  Can God win with us?  Is it not odd that people seem to desire to pick a reason to be angry with God?  Some people get angry at God because they think that God does nothing about sinful humanity.  Then, when disasters strike, people desire to say that God is morally corrupt for allowing disasters to strike, or some will even claim that this demotes the legitimacy of a loving, powerful God.  (Consider the protection that God gave to many who prayed in His name throughout the storm.  I think there is great power in the amazing, miraculous stories of protection by prayer that we have heard in Oklahoma.)

The same is true for the Bible.  If certain passages correlate well, some may claim, “Well, the correlation proves that the Bible is in error because the apostles must have worked together to create a work of fiction.”  Then when apparent passages do not correlate, those same people will claim, “Well, that proves that the Bible is erred because there are differences in the text.”  Without looking into the evidence, many will discredit the Bible regardless of what they might find.  Does this really tell us anything about the Bible’s veracity or the skeptic’s bias?

God can’t win with us.  We will complain if bad things happen.  We will complain if bad things do not happen.  We complain if it is too hot.  We complain if it is too cold.  Many skinny people are angry with God because they cannot gain weight.  Many heavier people are angry with God because they cannot lose weight.  Young people want God to speed up time to make them older so that they can have freedom.  Older people want God to reverse time in order to make them younger.  ARE WE EVER HAPPY???

God definitely hears our prayer and answers prayer according to God’s will.  But, let’s try this on for size.  “GOD STILL KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING.”  This does not mean that it is wrong to ask the big questions.  We ask big questions right here on this website.  But, let’s be honest. Many, if not most, of us are not going to be content no matter what comes our way.  However, it does not have to be this way.  At the heart of this mentality is found a flawed theology; a theology that considers that God owes us something.  We are the creations of God and not the other way around.  This does not mean that there are not reasons for God’s allowance of such things.  It may just mean that we might not understand the full impact of such events on this side of eternity, but would that not be what we would expect being finite and God being infinite?  We do not have to live in discontentment.

Through Christ Jesus, we can be content.  Why?  Christ gives us contentment because of the promises that He gives us.  He never told us that life would be easy.  He did not say that the storms would not come.  He promised that He would be with us through the storm.  He never promised that diseases would not raid our bodies.  He promised that He would give us strength to endure.  He did not promise to remove the thorns.  He promised that He would give us roses despite the thorns.  Life is difficult.  In a few weeks, we will seek to provide some basis for understanding natural disasters and things of the sort.  But, I’ll give away one of the answers already.  God promised to be with us through it all.  The One who made the universe, the galaxies, the stars, the planets, the mountains, and the oceans told us, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, NASB).  Through this, we can learn to be content.  Paul wrote, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10, NASB).  Through the assurance we have of heaven, one can rest easy.  We can enjoy this life and have the promise of an even more blissful life with God in eternity.  Happiness is fleeting and possessions are temporary, but the contentment that we can find in Christ Jesus is eternal.  Let us thank Him for the blessings of life.  You might just find the Son shine through the midst of your storm.

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Our prayers are with those who suffered in the Oklahoma tornadoes.  To help out those in need, click here to help by way of the American Red Cross.

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Blessings in Christ,

Pastor Brian Chilton