My Unique New Year’s Resolution

As we conclude another Christmas season, people will be gearing themselves for the New Year. Many people will set for themselves resolutions for the upcoming year. While I most certainly will, like most Americans, seek to get in more exercise and limit those unnecessary, excess calories, I have set for myself a resolution that I would encourage you to set, as well. This resolution is not like most others that will be made. It is not a resolution that necessarily will earn a person more money. Likewise, it isn’t a resolution that will be provide great career success…although it may benefit both the aforementioned areas. The resolution I am making is quite simple: I am making the resolution to listen more. But why listening?

We live in a busy, busy world. It is a world of sound bites. No one takes the time to carefully reason through the information given to them. If something sounds clever, it is automatically taken to be astute. If something is derogatory, it is celebrated. In the process, gossip has been elevated to Gospel and tall-tales into truth. While all this noise has inundated us, we have since lost the ability to truly listen. The more I think about this resolution, the greater importance it begins to carry. Listening is important for several reasons.

  1. Listening keeps a person from misrepresenting another’s viewpoint.

No one likes to be misunderstood or misrepresented. Yet, so often, individuals jump to conclusions when another person holds a differing viewpoint. Much of this misunderstanding could be avoided if people would relearn the art of listening. For instance: recently I was on social media discussing a particular issue occurring within my own denomination. A few individuals verbally attacked me, claiming that I would have been against a popular civil rights leader and was an ultra-right-wing nut job. While I am exaggerating some, I am not by much. People so desire to prove their points that they fail to take into account what another person from a differing viewpoint may really be trying to say. I have been guilty of doing the same. By failing to listen, I misunderstood what others have said. In fact, I have found that some opposing views were closer akin to my own when I finally stopped to thoroughly listen. The art of listening helps us avoid misapplying and/or misrepresenting another person’s views.

  1. Listening helps a person see bias.

Everyone holds a bias—everyone. While we do not want to misrepresent another person’s perspective, the art of listening allows a person to see the argument as it is, while observing the bias held by the person offering the argument. The wise communicator will see through the foggy façade and into the heart of the issue at hand. By doing this, the person will be able to have a better grip on why the opposing person holds the view that they do, which, in turn, will help the communicator engage the true, underlying problem—something especially important for apologists.

  1. Listening guards a person in truth.

Listening and observing will help the communicator better find the truth. For instance, I read an article concerning the educational systems in the 48 continental states. The state where I reside held a far lower ranking than other states in the nation. While this was depressing at first, I stopped to truly read and listen to all the data presented. I found the states that held the highest scores only tallied 15% of the state’s system, whereas the schools that were lower-ranked tallied 100% of the schools in those states. Not only did this show a bias in the report, the art of listening and observing truly revealed the truth; the truth that the educational system in my state was not as bad as the report indicated. The same is true in all communication. Simply listening to the information presented helps a person discern the truth from fiction.

  1. Listening drives a conversation.

Listening is vital to communication. Dialogue requires two or more people conversing. If one person does all the speaking, then the form of communication represented is not a dialogue, but rather a monologue—that is, a lecture or sermon. While lectures and sermons hold their place (being a pastor, I would certainly argue that they would), communication requires two people willing to listen to the other. Person A speaks while person B listens. Then, person B speaks while person A listens.

Often in our communication classes, we promote the importance of styles of speech and manners of persuasion. However, an equally important factor is the ability to listen and observe. If society loses its ability to listen, all we have, then, is a group of talking heads with no one to listen to any.

  1. Listening educates a person.

Listening educates. When a person takes a class, he or she will listen and learn the information given to them. Listening trains a person in what is healthy and good from what is unhealthy and bad. If people simply seek to speak, they will fail to truly learn. Jesus’ disciples had to first listen and learn from him before they were ready to preach and teach. In order for one to teach, one must first learn to listen. Before one is ready to lead, one must first learn to follow.

Conclusion

            As a father, I have sought to teach my son the importance of listening. My son is a wonderful boy. He is extremely gregarious, extroverted, personable, and highly intelligent. For me, I am a typical INTJ (introverted, intuitive, a thinker, and judger–a planner, not spontaneous). Some have called my personality one of a reserved strategist or tactician. Perhaps. My son would fit the category of an ESTJ (extroverted, sensory, thinker, and judger), quite a leader’s personality. Being an extrovert, my son finds it more difficult to stop and listen. Thus, I have been focused upon teaching him the value of listening. Yet, if I am to be successful at this endeavor, I must set a good example for him by being a good listener myself. I cannot expect him to be a good listener if I fail at being a good listener. I hope to find added benefits to strengthening my listening skills along the way. While I will certainly set other resolutions for this 2017, becoming a better listener will hold a high spot on that list. Let it be said, the Christian apologist would do well to strengthen his/her listening skills. The benefits noted in this article especially relates to the apologetic enterprise.

© 12/26/2016. Brian Chilton.

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

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

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

9. The sense of entitlement.

8. Apathy for evangelism.

7. Race relations.

6. Trusting God despite chaos.

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

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

coexist

  1. Syncretism: Are there Multiple Paths to God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 marriage

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

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

Do our families serve as good examples of the home?

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

 Hostility

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

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

No!

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

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

 fear1

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

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

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

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

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

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

 biblical illiteracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year everyone! Keep contending for the faith!

 

© January 1st, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Bibliography

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

The Art of Appreciation

Have you ever went out of your way for someone only to have your efforts rejected? Perhaps you helped someone financially. Then, the person squandered the funds you provided on worthless trinkets and toys. Perhaps your gift was by physical efforts. Maybe you worked extra hard on some task for the person. Then, instead of being grateful, the person complained that you were not doing more, or perhaps the task was inadequate to their standards.

Picture a time when this occurred to you…

Do you have it in your mind yet?

Now, before you get angry at the person, ask yourself, “Why did that bother me so much?”

The answer is simple: a lack of appreciation.

We want our efforts to be appreciated. When I worked at a factory, I noticed that many workers would go out of their way to do a good job if they felt that they were appreciated. The contrast is also true. Now, I want to stretch your thinking.

How often are we guilty of being ungrateful to God???

I am seeing a trend. People get angry with God and leave the church when things do not go their way. With a proverbial I’ll show you attitude, we throw temper tantrums and act like spoiled brats when God does not answer a prayer in the manner we think God should. Now, I understand that it is more difficult when the unanswered prayers concern a person who is sick. But most of these attitudes stem from a job that was not received, extra money that did not come, trouble with a neighbor or friend, or a gift that was not given.

Recently on a podcast of Reasonable Faith, a person named Malcolm posed a conundrum for the skeptic. We ask the question, ‘Why does God allow suffering?’ But if God made a world with no suffering, then could someone not ask the same at the slightest example of discomfort? Malcolm writes that “it could be converted to the proposition that a loving God would always ensure that his creatures are happy. In such a situation, the Christian would be defending the proposition that a loving God would permit his creatures to suffer unhappiness.[1]

Dr. Craig responds by saying,

“This is a point that has occurred to me, and I think Malcolm has expressed it very well. Not only is it the fact that even if pain were eliminated you could still have things to complain about, but pain could be a lot worse than it is. As Richard Swinburne has pointed out, there is a kind of upper threshold to the pain that the human organism can experience and then we just blackout. It is not as though there is an infinite scale of pain that we might go through, as awful as it is. Pain could be a lot worse than it is. But then as Malcolm says if you eliminate pain there would still be grounds for complaint – discomfort. If you eliminate discomfort then there is inconvenience. In one sense, no matter where on the scale you are, the atheist could always have something to complain about and indict God for. I think that he is quite right in saying that it would be very difficult for the atheist to prove that if a loving God exists that he would always ensure that his creatures are happy. That would be to treat the creatures not as serious moral agents but as spoiled immature brats.”[2]

I think that Malcolm and Craig are on to something. Many quote Philippians 4:13. You find the verse on mugs, shirts, pens, and even on Bible covers. It says that a person can do all things through Christ. However, few read the preceding verses. Paul writes,

 “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).[3]

The congregants where I pastor have heard me say several times that God is not a genie in a bottle. God does not pop out and grant us wishes. Rather, God is our Heavenly Father. God is building people of integrity. Paul writes that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Conclusion

We may become frustrated when people act in unappreciative ways. However, it may be that we are guilty of being unappreciative to God. As we begin a new year, let us resolve to possess a spirit of thankfulness. Sure, things may have not gone the way you planned. Even still, you can be appreciative to God. God is building integrity in you. We really should thank God even for his answers of “no” and “wait.” As the popular country song states, we can even “thank God for unanswered prayers.”

God is loving and just. Obviously, God is far more mature than any of us could ever be. But consider how we must appear to God. God blesses us every day in ways that we will never know. Instead of being appreciative, many act like spoiled brats. Claiming, “God, I’ll show you.”

 But understand this from one who has learned this principle firsthand: if you refuse to be used by God, God will use someone else.

God is going to continue his work with or without you. This is true of individuals, churches, communities, denominations, and even nations.

 Become appreciative. Thank God for the blessings that God has bestowed upon you. Be open to the moving of God’s Spirit. May we all learn the art of appreciation in the New Year!

 

© December 30, 2015. Brian Chilton.

 

Source Cited

 Craig, William Lane. Interviewed by Kevin Harris. “Questions on Pain, Numbers, and Knowledge.” Reasonable Faith.org (November 8, 2015). Accessed December 30, 2015. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/questions-on-pain-numbers-and-knowledge#ixzz3vvWUPEx0.

 

[1] William Lane Craig, interviewed by Kevin Harris, “Questions on Pain, Numbers, and Knowledge,” ReasonableFaith.org (November 8, 2015), accessed December 30, 2015.

[2] Ibid.

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

Powerful Subjects Ahead from You the Reader!

question2-724662

We are now reaching close to 1,100 readers in 35 nations!  It is amazing to be part of what God is doing.  However, there are many serious questions that have been presented to us.  We believe that, although not every detail will be known, we can find answers in God’s Word, in logic, and in reason.  So, in the next few weeks, we will handle some of the questions from you the reader!

Next week we will look at the topic of “Death Bed Conversions.”  Is it fair for a person to live their life apart from God and then come to God before death?  This has been a difficult question to answer, but God is leading us to answers that will surprise many who read the article.

Then, we will cover a question that has been presented by many who watched the epic miniseries The Bible.  Some individuals asked me, “Why was there so much violence in the Old Testament?”  Some even asked, “Why did the people of faith partake in wars?”

Next, we will deal with a HUGE topic.  In the wake of the Boston bombings, many ask the popular question, “Why does a good God allow suffering in the world?”  This will be a two part series.  We will bring our good friend and philosopher Drew Payne in on this topic.  I will first cover the topic from a theological perspective (dealing with God, His goodness, and reasons for allowing suffering) and Drew will evaluate the topic from a philosophical perspective (dealing primarily with God’s reasons for allowing suffering and the issue of suffering itself).

Finally, we will examine a question from a fellow church member who posed, “How do you tell a polytheist that we only need one God instead of several?”  We will examine the necessity of one God and not many as we seek to answer our viewers questions in the close of April and throughout the month of May.

If you have questions that you would like answered from a theological and philosophical perspective, leave a comment to this post.  We will receive your questions and seek to answer them to the best of our ability.  You will only find answers if you ask the right questions.  As Jesus tells us, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7, NASB).

AskQuestionsPlease

God bless and remember that the “Truth” will set you free,

 

Pastor Brian Chilton

Suggestions for Spiritual Resolutions for 2013 (Part 2)

As we were discussing in the previous post, there are many spiritual resolutions that one can make for the upcoming New Year.  I am not saying that one should not make physical resolutions such as weight loss, promotions, and getting a better education.  I am simply stating that we should seek to make spiritual resolutions for the upcoming year, as well.  In this post, let’s look at four more spiritual resolutions that we could make for the upcoming year.

4.     Become More Faithful to Your Local Church

Mary Neal reported about the experience she had in heaven in her book To Heaven and Back.  One of the interesting things she states in the book is not related to her experience, but the result of what the experience did to her.  In other word, the experience set her in a new mode of thinking and a new mode of living.  She speaks about attending church in the latter part of her book.  She writes:

“I regularly attend church services and have served on the board of elders, but I believe that loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength is of the greatest importance.   I live in a beautiful and mountainous area and many people claim the mountains as their church and believe they can worship God there instead of within a building.  That can be certainly true but the question, as is often posed by my pastor, is not can a person worship God while in the mountains, but will that person worship God while in the mountains? …Churches provide a place of gathering for people who share common beliefs, support and encouragement for each other in faith, a place to find insight into and teaching about God’s Word, and they provide a time and place where people can leave the world behind and focus only on their spiritual relationship with God.” (Mary Neal, To Heaven and Back, 214).

The writer of Hebrews records,

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23–25, NKJV).  The writer of Hebrews is telling us something very similar to what Mary Neal wrote.  Church is incredibly important.  Christians are met with obstacles every day.  Our faith is not helped by increasing attacks from secular humanists, naturalists, and socialists who desire to rid the world of religious belief (that is, belief that does not promote the integrity of human life and of the individual).  Although there is a clash in this mantra due to the fact that there is a religion being promoted by the anti-religious…the religion of anti-religion.  Church brings believers together.  Church SHOULD be a place where we feel comfort.  Church SHOULD be a place of comrodry and fellowship.  Church SHOULD be a place to hear God’s word and to worship God freely.  No, there is no perfect church.  But, we need to seek to fellowship with fellow believers as often as possible.  If you are not being fed, seek a church where you will be.  But, you need to be in church.  The Christian life is not meant to be a solo project.  It is a community project.  Remember this: we Christians SHOULD be an example of unity and strength because we will be spending a LOOONG time together.

5.     Tithe To Your Church and Give to Trusted Charities

It is surprising to me how many people are stating that tithing is no longer important.  Tithing is important for the operation of the church.  Without funds, the church would not be able to afford to run ministries to help others, pay the power bills, and to pay the pastor.  Should the church pay the pastor?  Absolutely, it is biblical.  Paul wrote, Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14, NKJV).  The pastor has to eat and pay his bills, too.  In order for the pastor to be available to you, he must be paid.

God has also commanded us to tithe.  The word “tithe” or “ma’aser” means literally “ten percent.”  The first recorded instance of one tithing came from Abram when he gave a tithe of his income to the priest of God, Melchizedek in Genesis 14.  The prophet Malachi wrote, “Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me!   But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’  In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8, NKJV).

Maybe you haven’t been tithing the way you should.  Well, it’s not too late to start.  Why not help out your local church in 2013?  Also, if God has blessed you with extra funds, why not help out some worthy charities in 2013, as well?  St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and many other great dependable charities need your help.  Why not start the New Year off by helping others who are in need?  That would be fulfilling the Second Great Commandment in helping your neighbor.  Be sure to check out watchdog websites dedicated to seeking out dependable charities before giving.

6.     Fast

Normally when we think of fasting, we think about going without food.  However, fasts can be a variety of things.  Some have taken a Facebook fast.  Others have taken a television fast.  This is especially good to try around Holy Week leading into Easter.  I spoke to someone recently who was asking about hearing the voice of God.  I thought about it and it seems that we may very well miss the voice of God because we become too busy.  Our world is bombarded with information all the time.  Why not take some time off to spend with God.  Whatever you choose to abstain from, the key is replacing the time doing that activity with time spent with God.  In other words, if you choose to fast from television, use the time you would normally watch television with time spent in prayer and mediation with God.  That’s the key for fasting.

7.     Seek to Start a New Ministry (Seek ways to help)

Finally, seek new ways to help.  It may be that God is desiring for you to help out in some way.  Maybe you need to help a charity.  Maybe you can start a new ministry at your church.  Try to seek some way in which you can help others and serve God this New Year.  You may be surprised at the blessings that could come your way and to other in 2013 if you are willing to step out on faith.

Conclusion:

There may be a multiplicity of other spiritual resolutions that you can make for 2013.  The key is to try to seek a new way that you can grow in your faith, serve God, and to help others.  These are things that we as Christians should seek already.

God bless and have a very blessed New Year’s,

Pastor Brian Chilton

Bibliography:

All Scripture unless otherwise noted comes from The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982).

Neal, Mary, M.D., To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again (Colorado Springs, Colorado: WaterBrook Press, 2012), 214.

Suggestions for Spiritual Resolutions for 2013 (Part 1)

Since we made it through 2012, much to the chagrin of the Mayans, we look towards the beginning of a new year.  It is difficult to believe that it will be 2013.  I remember my grandmother telling me, “Son, time will really seem to fly by once you receive your driver’s license.”  She was not joking.  It does seem that time flies quicker the older I get.

As Christmas is now over, many will seek to make resolutions for 2013.  A resolution is a promise to do something the next year.  Before we look to the resolutions for next year, perhaps we need to examine the resolutions that we have made for 2012.  Did we do the things that we sought to do this time last year?

Most resolutions deal with weight loss, financial security, furthering one’s education, or perhaps receiving that much needed promotion.  While there is nothing wrong with making the afore mentioned resolutions, how many of us seek to make spiritual resolutions for the year ahead?  For me, I too need to lose weight and seek financial security.  God has blessed me to begin on my Master of Divinity degree in Theological Studies at Liberty University.  This has been a life long dream, especially since entering the ministry.  So, I will be making those physical resolutions.  But, what of the spiritual resolutions?  How would we go about making spiritual resolutions?  In this post, I would like to make some suggestions for spiritual resolutions that you could make.  I would like to offer seven possible spiritual resolutions to make for the upcoming new year.

1.     A Stronger Prayer Life

How long would any relationship last if there was no communication?  I thoroughly enjoy listening to Greg Koukl.  He has a great show that comes on Sunday afternoons called “Stand to Reason.”  He offers good sound advice.  However, I occasionally find that I have strong disagreements with some of his beliefs.  For one, he is a strong Calvinist, whereas I am more in line with Remonstrant or Arminian theology.  For another, he stated on the Sunday, December 23rd show that he did not feel that God communicated with a person everyday.  While I understand what he was saying, I find that I disagree with him.  He claimed that you do not find this in Scripture.  However, I feel that is not the case.  I am reminded of what Paul stated when he said, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NKJV).  Prayer is not one-dimensional.  It is conversational.  So, a strong prayer life is essential for a strong relationship with God.  

By the way, even though I do have disagreements with Koukl on some issues, he is a great, steadfast theologian overall and I highly recommend his show and his ministry.

Prayer is also very healthy.  Studies have shown that meditation and prayer are vitally important for health and wellness.  Everyone is overwhelmed with technology and media.  This may seem hypocritical since this is a media outlet using technology to get the word out.  Nonetheless, a strong prayer life gives us the break we need from the world.  I feel that we can find ourselves in the very presence of God if we allow ourselves to get away and spend time with God in prayer.  If Jesus needed time to get away with His Father in prayer, how much more do we need to do so?  A Saturday get away or a prayer retreat may do well.  Also, check out Gary Hansen’s book “Kneeling with Giants” for more tips on how to pray.

2.     Spend More Time in the Word

Biblical knowledge is at an all-time low.  Many do not know Moses from David or Peter from Samson.  This is especially evident when you read the comments from the New Atheists or anyone who is antagonistic to the faith.  You begin to see real quickly that there is a great lack of biblical understanding.  Many blogs and websites present verses from the Bible in such a way that the truth is warped or in such a way that the content is taken out of context.  Unfortunately, the same is true for those who are in the church.  The health and wellness gospel, a modern doctrine that posits that one’s financial and health status is in direct association to one’s faith, is just one example of a distortion of truth.

It is critical for the Christian to have a good, core knowledge of Scripture.  The days of the uneducated pastor and uneducated Christian are over.  Many claim that the pastor does not need an education.  Just depend on the Holy Spirit.  I think there is one thing being promoted in that philosophy and it is not faith; it is laziness.  “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil” (Proverbs 15:28, NKJV).  False doctrines have sunk into the depths of the church and many have lost confidence in evangelical Christianity because many church leaders have been ill-prepared to defend the case for Christianity and to preserve truth.

It may surprise some, but I would not suggest a one-year Bible reading.  Many attempt to read through the Bible in one year, but most fail because they get bogged down in Numbers, especially around the “begots.”  I would suggest a Bible reading plan that evenly distributes the Old Testament with the New Testament.  One of the greatest Bible readings that I have found is in the “Book of Common Prayer.”  You can pick up a copy from Amazon.com or look it up online.  The plan is called “The Daily Office.”  The Daily Office gives a daily reading in one of the Psalms, a reading from the Old Testament, a reading from New Testament, and a reading from the Gospels.  This gives a great balance.  I always look forward to the next day’s reading.  Go to www.missionstclare.com for a monthly listing of the Daily Office.  Even though the Episcopal Church puts out the Daily Office, Christians from all denominations can appreciate the Bible readings.

3.     Build Stronger Relationships

Christ’s two great commandments are based upon two common denominators–love and relationships.

“Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”  29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28–31, NKJV).

Notice that “love” is the core word used in both commands.  The English term “love” has four Greek words associated with it.  There is the word “eros” which indicates a sensual, or erotic, form of love.  There is the term “storge'” which refers to a family form of love.  The word “phileo” refers to “brotherly love.”  But, in both commands, the highest form of the word “love” is used.  The word “ἀγαπάω” (agape’) is used by Jesus to refer to the type of love that He expects us to use towards God and towards one another.  “ἀγαπάω” represents “unconditional love.”  It is a love of choice and not a love of emotion.

Suppose for a moment that everyone who claimed to be a Christian showed the love commanded by Jesus.  Suppose everyone loved God in 2013 with all their heart unconditionally.  What would happen?  Suppose that we loved God with all our mind and allowed God to direct our paths.  What would happen?  God is love.  Can you imagine if the true love of God filled every heart?

Now, let’s take this mental exercise in a different direction.  Suppose for a moment that every person who claimed to be a Christian showed unconditional love for their fellow-man.  What would happen?  Would the poor go without food?  Would the homeless be without shelter?  Would we spend our time pointing fingers or more time sharing the gospel?  Would we spend our time criticizing the illness or finding a cure?  What would our society look like if everyone just kept the two great commandments?  I think this is a resolution that we all should strive to keep.

These are the first three spiritual resolutions that I am suggesting for all to make.  Stay tuned because I will four more suggestions for spiritual resolutions to make for the New Year.

God bless and we’ll see you on the next post,

Pastor Brian Chilton