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Category Archives: Charts

Charts are especially helpful for those who are visually oriented. Feel free to use these charts in any way that may be helpful to you. Please always refer to the originator of each chart – whether person, book, etc.

10 Distinctions Between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ

Rapture 1 

THE RAPTURE

THE SECOND COMING

A “stealth” event; Christ witnessed by believers only (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

A public event, Christ witnessed by everyone (Revelation 1:7)

Christ comes for His bride to take her to heaven (John 14:1-3)

Christ returns with His bride to set up His 1,000 year Kingdom (Revelation 19:11-16)

Occurs prior to the beginning of the Tribulation (Rev. 3:10; 1 Thess. 5:9)

Occurs at the end of the Tribulation (Matthew 24:29-35)

Ushers in a time of great distress on earth (Matthew 24:15-28)

Ushers in a time of great peace on earth (Isaiah 2:6; 19:21, 23-25)

Believers are rescued from the wrath of God (Revelation 3:10)

Believers rule with Christ (Revelation 20:4)

Church age believers receive their glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-54)

OT saints receive their glorified bodies (Isaiah 26:19-21)

Christ comes in the air (1 Thess. 4:14-17)

Christ comes to the earth

(Revelation 19:11-16)

Imminent, could happen at any time

At least seven years away (Daniel 9:26-29)

No signs precede it

(Titus 2:13)

Many signs precede it, including the Tribulation (Matthew 24:3-35)

A time for great joy for believers

(1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)

A time of great mourning for unbelievers

(Revelation 1:7)

Source: David Jeremiah Study Bible. Nashville, TN.: Worthy Publishing, 2013, p. 1841.

 

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THE POWER OF DISCIPLESHIP GROUPS FOR MULTIPLYING DISCIPLES

*EVANGELISTIC ADDITION VS. DISCIPLEMAKING MULTIPLICATION

crowd

YEAR EVANGELIST DISCIPLER D-GROUP OF 4
1 365 2 3
2 730 4 9
3 1,095 8 27
4 1,460 16 81
5 1,825 32 243
6 2,190 64 729
7 2,555 128 2,187
8 2,920 256 6,561
9 3,285 512 19,683
10 3,650 1,024 59,049
11 4,015 2,048 177,147
12 4,380 4,096 531,441
13 4,745 8,192 1,594,323
14 5,110 16,384 4,782,969
15 5,475 32,768 14,348,907
16 5,840 65,536 43,046,721

**Robby Gallaty on Discipleship Multiplication in D-Groups

God has always been interested in reproduction. In fact, His first command to Adam and Eve in the Garden was not to be spiritual, productive, or upstanding citizens of earth. Rather, it was to “be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28). What God commanded the first humans to do physically is what Jesus commanded the first believers to do spiritually. The goal of every *D-Group is for the mentee, the one being discipled, to become a mentor; to multiply–make other disciples [*A D-Group is a closed group of 3-5 members of the same-sex consisting of believers who desire a deeper walk with Christ via intimate and accountable relationships resulting in community and multiplication of more disciples].

In essence, the D-Group is designed for the player to become a coach. If it is not discussed early on, members in the group will adopt a consumer mentality, with a short-sighted, self-serving focus. The heart of discipleship, as Christ modeled and instituted it, is that you are not learning only for yourself. You are learning for the person whom you will mentor in following Him.

The Great Commission is designed to be a team effort. Instead of the pastors/leaders/Sunday school teachers/deacons performing all the duties of ministry in the church, the saints are equipped to carry out the work. The ministers cannot carry out the command alone, as Paul clearly stated: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Greg Ogden, in his book Discipleship Essentials, expounds this point by graphically illustrating the contrast between someone personally seeing one person come to the Lord every day for a year, as compared to investing in the same two people for an entire year (see chart above). The evangelist hits the streets every day with the goal of sharing the gospel with as many people as needed to see God save one person. In contrast, the disciple-maker walks two people through a year of intensive discipleship.

The slow-moving discipleship process creeps forward with only four people being impacted in two years, compared to 730 converts through the solitary work of the busy evangelist. However, this radically changes with the passing of time. After sixteen years of the same activity, the evangelist would have seen almost 6,000 people come to faith in Christ, while the disciple would have impacted 65,536 people. Every person on the planet would be reached multiple times over after thirty years. It is a ministry shift from a strategy of addition, where the clergy performs the ministerial duties, to one of multiplication, where believers are expected and equipped to personally participate in the Great Commission.

Multiplication–not addition–is Jesus’ plan for reaching the world with gospel. And multiplication is the purpose of the D-Group. If the body of Christ would accept this plan, embrace it, and faithfulness obey it, then the Great Commission would be accomplished.

Nothing Grows under a Banyan Tree

The banyan is a massive tree that develops secondary trunks to support its enormous branches. A full-grown banyan tree can cover an entire acre. The tree provides shade and shelter for many animals with its branches, but nothing is able to grow under its dense foliage. Therefore, the earth beneath is barren.

A banana tree is exactly the opposite. Within six months, small shoots sprout from the ground. Six months later, another set of shoots spring up from the earth to join the others, which are now six months old. At about eighteen months, bananas burst forth from the main trunk of the tree. Humans, birds, and many other creatures benefit from its fruit before it dies. Every six months, the cycle is reproduced, with sprouts forming, fruit bearing, and shoots dying. The end result is a forest of banana trees.

These contrasting trees graphically illustrate a vital discipleship truth. Many people utilize a banyan style of leadership. Mitsuo Fukuda explained, “Banyan-style leaders have a tremendous ministry, but have difficulty finding a successor, because they do not generate leaders, only followers. It’s possible to grow followers in a relatively short space of time, and that’s a useful result on its own. But when the leader goes away, you are left only with a heavily dependent group of people, programmed with a list of instructions” (Mitsuo Fukuda, Upward, Outward, Inward: Passing on the Baton of Discipleship. Gloucester, UK: Wide Margin Books, 2010, p. 100).

Discipleship is about shoots and sprouts. These new sprouts are never a threat to the banana tree, for they ensure growth. In fact, they are expected. The goal of a D-Group is for the mentee to become a mentor, for the player to become a coach. Unless that happens, the group never progresses beyond a small group Bible study.

**Source: Chart is adapted from Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ (Downers Grove: IL.: IVP, 2007), 12. Article adapted from Robby Gallaty. Growing Up: How To Be A Disciple Who Makes Disciples. (Bloomington, IN.: CrossBooks, 2013), pp. 13-16. Thanks to Robby Gallaty for permission to print this article.

 

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Emergency Numbers in The Bible

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” – Exodus 33:14b

dark sunset at the beach

When in SORROW, call John 14

When people FAIL you, call Psalm 27

When you have SINNED, call Psalm 51

When you WORRY, call Matthew 6:19-34

When you are in DANGER, call Psalm 91

When God seems FAR AWAY, call Psalm 139

When your FAITH needs stirring, call Hebrews 11

When you are LONELY and FEARFUL, call Psalm 23

When you grow BITTER and CRITICAL, call 1 Corinthians 13

When you feel DOWN and OUT, call Romans 8:18-39

When you want REST and PEACE, call Matthew 11:25-30

When the WORLD seems BIGGER than God, call Psalm 90

When you want Christian ASSURANCE, call Romans 8:1-30

When you leave home for LABOR or TRAVEL, call Psalm 121

When your PRAYERS grow narrow or SELFISH, call Psalm 67

When you want COURAGE for a task, call Joshua 1

When you think of INVESTMENTS and RETURNS, call Mark 10

How to get along with DIFFICULT people, call Romans 12

For great INVENTION/OPPORTUNITY, call Isaiah 55

For Paul’s secret to HAPPINESS, call Colossians 3:12-17

For a SUMMARY OF CHRISTIANITY, call 1 Corinthians 5:15-19

If you are DEPRESSED, call Psalm 27

If you want to be FRUITFUL, call John 15

If your FINANCIALLY BROKE, call Psalm 37

If your are LOSING CONFIDENCE in PEOPLE, call 1 Corinthians 13

If people seem UNKIND, call John 15

If your are DISCOURAGED about your WORK, call Psalm 126

If you find the world growing SMALL, and you GREAT, call Psalm 19

 

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Finding Jesus in 2 Corinthians

Reading The Bible Through The Jesus Lens in the Book of 2 Corinthians

From Biblical Book to Biblical Hook

How To Read The Bible Through the Jesus Lens IMage

Chart adapted from *Dr. Michael Williams Book

Title for 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians: Theme

2 Corinthians 2:17

“Self-Giving”

God directs Paul to explain and vindicate his apostolic authority while encouraging the generosity of the Corinthian church.

“Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”

Christ-Focus in 2 Corinthians

Implications from 2 Corinthians

Hooks from 2 Corinthians

 Jesus gave Himself completely for the welfare of His people.

 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.

 - 2 Corinthians 8:9

 God will provide for our needs as we give ourselves to others.

 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

 - 2 Corinthians 9:6-11

 Is it really better to give than to receive?

 What if giving involves giving up comfort, safety, or even your life? Why would anyone give like that?

 Is it possible for you to give any more than you have already received?

 What have you already received from God?

About the Author:

Michael James Williams image

Michael James Williams in his own words: “After my conversion in the U. S. Navy (in a submarine beneath the North Atlantic!), I entered Columbia Bible College, where I received a B.A. (1985). This was followed by an M.A. in Religion at Westminster Theological Seminary (1987) and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (1999). In 2000, I was ordained in the Christian Reformed Church, and since 1995 have been teaching at Calvin Theological Seminary. I have also taught courses at Westminster Theological Seminary, the University of Pennsylvania, and brief stints in Limuru, Kenya; Donetsk, Ukraine; and Warsaw, Poland. In addition to articles on Old Testament topics in various reference works and academic journals, and contributing to and editing Mishneh Todah: Studies in Deuteronomy and Its Cultural Environment in Honor of Jeffrey H. Tigay (2009); I have authored Deception in Genesis: A Comprehensive Analysis of a Unique Biblical Phenomenon (2001); The Prophet and His Message: Reading Old Testament Prophecy Today (2003); and, most recently, How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture. Grand Rapids, Zondervan (2012). My amazing wife, Dawn, and I enjoy hiking and all things outdoors.”

 

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Chart of All The Supernatural Events Recorded in the Bible

Supernatural Events in the Bible Chronicled: Compiled by Dr. Norman L. Geisler

MATMM Geisler

Genesis

1 Creation of the world.
5:19–24 Translation of Enoch to be with God.
7:9–12, 17–24 The Noahic Flood.
11:1, 5–9 The Judgement on the Tower of Babel.
12:10–20 Plagues on Pharaoh for taking Abraham’s wife.
17:15–19; 18:10–14
21:1–8 Sarah’s conception of Isaac.
19:9–11 Angels blind the Sodomites.
19:15–29 The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
19:24–26 Lot’s wife turned to salt.

Exodus

3:1–15 The Burning Bush.
4:1–5 Moses’ rod turned into a serpent and back.
4:6–7 Moses’ hand become leprous and is restored.
7:10–12 Aaron’s rod turns into a serpent and swallows up the rods of the Egyptian sorcerers.
7:19–24 Water in Egypt turned into blood.
8:5–7; 12–13 Frogs brought forth on the land of Egypt.
8:16–18 Lice are brought forth on the land of Egypt.
8:20–24 Swarms of flies are brought forth on Egypt but not on the land of Goshen.
9:1–7 Murrian (deadly pestilence) is brought on the cattle of the Egyptians, but not on Israel’s cattle.
9:8–11 Ashes produce boils on the Egyptians but not on Israel’s men and animals.
9:22–26 A terrible storm of thunder, hail, and fire which ran along the ground.
10:3–19 A plague of locusts on the Egyptians.
10:21–23 A plague of darkness was brought on the Egyptians while Israel had light.
12:29–30 Slaying the first born children.
13:21–22 The pillar of cloud led Israel by day, and the fire led them by night.
14:19–20 The angel of the Lord protects Israel from the Egyptians.
14:21–29 The parting of the Red Sea.
15:23–25 Sweetening of the bitter waters of Marah.
16:12–13 The camp of Israel is covered with quail.
16:14–15 Manna is provided for Israel to eat.
17:5–6 Moses strikes the rock and water is provided.
17:8–16 Remarkable victory over Amalek.
19:16–18 Fire and smoke engulf Mount Sinai.
19:19–25 God answers Moses from the Mount.
20:1–17 God gives the Ten Commandments to Moses.

Leviticus

9:23–24 Fire from the Lord consumes the burnt offering.
10:1–7 The fatal judgment upon Nadab and Abihu.

Numbers

11:1–2 Fire from God to consume murmuring Israelites.
12:10–15 Miriam is made leprous and is healed.
16:35 Fire from the Lord consumes 250 men who offered incense.
16:28–33 Korah and his rebels are swallowed by the earth.
16:46–48 The plague stopped by the offering of incense.
17:8 Aaron’s rod buds.
20:7–11 Moses strikes the rock to bring forth water.
21:6–9 Healing by looking at the brass serpent.
22:21–35 Balaam’s donkey speaks.

Joshua

3:14–17 The waters of the Jordan are divided.
5:13–15 The appearance of the Captain of the Lord’s hosts.
6 The fall of Jericho.
10:12–14 The sun stands still upon Gibeon.

Judges

2:1–5 The Angel of the Lord appears to Israel.
3:8–11 The Spirit of the Lord comes upon Othniel.
3:31 Shamgar slays 600 Philistines with an ox-goad.
6:11–24 The Angel of the Lord appears to Gideon.
6:36–40 The sign of Gideon’s fleece.
7:15–25 God delivers Midian into the hands of Gideon.
13:3–21 The Angel of the Lord appears to Manoah.
14:5–6 Samson slays the young lion.
15:14–17 Samson slays the Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.
16:3 Samson tears down the city gate and carries it away.
16:27–31 Samson causes the collapse of the temple of Dagon.

1 Samuel

3:2–10 The voice of God calling Samuel.
5:1–5 The overturning of the god, Dagon.
5:6–12 Philistines in Ashdod smitten with tumors.
6:19 The Lord smites the men of Beth-Shemesh.
28:15–20 Samuel appears from the dead to rebuke Saul.

2 Samuel

6:6–7 The Lord fatally smites Uzzah.

1 Kings

3:3–28 God gives Solomon great wisdom.
17:1 Elijah prays and rain does not come for 3 years.
17:2–6 Elijah is fed by the ravens.
17:8–16 Meal and oil are supplied for the widow of Zarephath.
17:17–24 Elijah raises the widow’s son.
18:17–38 Fire from heaven consumes the sacrifice of Elijah on Mt. Carmel.
18:41–46 Elijah prays and God sends an abundance of rain in response.
19:5–8 Elijah is fed by the Angel of the Lord.

2 Kings

1:9–15 Fire from heaven consumes two captains and their men.
2:7–8 Elijah parts the waters of the Jordan and walks across on dry ground.
2:11 Elijah is taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire.
2:13–14 Elisha parts the waters of the Jordan.
2:19–22 Elisha heals the waters of Jericho.
2:24 Blasphemous youths killed by she bears.
3:15–20 Ditches are mysteriously filled with water.
4:1–7 A widow’s oil pot is refilled with oil by God.
4:8–17 Elisha prophesies and the Shunammite woman bears a son.
4:32–37 Elisha raises the Shunammite’s son.
4:38–41 Elisha detoxifies the poisonous pottage.
4:42–44 One hundred men are abundantly fed with 20 loaves of bread and 20 ears of corn.
5:1–14 Naaman is healed of leprosy.
5:27 Gehazi is struck with leprosy.
6:5–7 Iron axe head floats on water.
6:16–17 Elisha’s servant’s vision of the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire.
6:18 The Syrian army is struck with blindness.
6:19–20 God opens the eyes of the Syrians after Elisha leads them into Samaria.
13:20–21 A dead man is raised by contact with elisha’s bones.
20:9–11 Ahaz’s sundial returns backward by ten degrees.

Job

38–42:6 God speaks to Job from the whirlwind.

Isaiah

1:1 Isaiah’s vision concerning Jerusalem.
6 Isaiah’s vision of the Lord.

Exekiel

1 Exekiel has a vision of God’s glory.

Daniel

2:26–45 Daniel recounts and interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
3:14–30 Three Hebrew youths delivered from the fiery furnace.
5:5 The handwriting on the wall.
6:16–23 Daniel saved from the lions.
7:1–8:14 Daniel’s visions.
9:20–27 Daniel’s vision of the 70 weeks.
10:1–12:13 Further visions of Daniel.

Jonah

1:4–16 Tempestous storm from God to arrest the fleeing Jonah.
1:17 The Lord prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah.
4:6 The Lord prepares a gourd to shade Jonah.
4:7 The Lord prepared a worm to smite the gourd.
4:8 The Lord prepared a vehement east wind.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John

Matthew Mark Luke John Description
1:11–19 An angel of the lord appears to Zacharias.
1:20–22 Zacharias is struck dumb.
1:26–38 Angel of the Lord appears to Mary.
1:64 Zacharias healed of dumbness.
2:9–15 Angels appear to shepherds.
3:16–17 1:9–11 3:21–23 Holy Spirit decended as a Dove, and a voice from Heaven spoke.
4:11 1:13 Angels minister to Jesus after the temtation.
1:42–48 Jesus sees Nathanael under the fig tree.
2:1–11 Water turned into wine.
2:23 Jesus performs many signs.
4:46–53 Nobleman’s sone healed.
4:30 Jesus escapes from the hostile crowd.
5:6 Catching a draught of fish.
1:23–25; 4:33–35 Casting out an unclean spirit.
8:14–15 1:30–31 4:38–39 Healing Peter’s mother-in-law.
8:16 1:32–34 4:40 Healing many sick people.
4:23–24 1:39 Jesus heals all manner of sickness and casts out many demons.
8:2–3 1:40–42 5:12–13 Cleansing a leper.
9:2 2:3–5 5:18–20 Healing a paralytic.
5:6–9 Healing an infirmed man at Bethseda.
12:9–13 3:1–5 6:6–10 Healing the man’s withered hand.
12:15 3:10 Healing of many people.
8:5–13 7:1–10 Healing a centurion’s servant.
7:11–15 Raising a widow’s son at Nain.
12:22 Casting out a demon from a blind mute.
8:23–26 4:35–39 8:22–24 Stilling the storm on the sea of Galilee.
8:28–32 5:6–13 8:28–33 Casting out the demons and allowing them to enter swine.
9:23–25 5:35–42 8:49–55 Raising the ruler’s daughter.
9:20–22 5:25–34 8:43–48 Healing the woman with an issue of blood.
9:27–30 Healing two blind men.
6:5 Jesus heals a few sick people in Nazareth.
9:32–33 Casting out a demon from a deaf mute.
9:35 Jesus heals the sick in many cities.
14:14 Jesus heals the sick among the great multitude.
14:15–21 6:35–44 9:10–17 6:5–13 Feeding the five thousand.
14:25 6:48 6:19 Walking on the sea.
14:35–36 6:55–56 Healing of many at Gennesaret.
15:21–28 7:24–30 Healing the Canaanite woman’s daughter.
7:31–35 Healing a deaf mute.
15:30–31 Jesus heals many among a great multitude.
15:32–38 8:1–8 Feeding the four thousand.
8:22–25 Healing a blind man at Bethsaida.
17:1–8 9:2–8 9:28–36 Jesus’ transfiguration.
17:14–18 9:17–27 9:38–42 Healing the Epileptic boy.
17:24–27 Temple tax in the fish’s mouth.
9:1–7 Healing a man born blind.
11:14 Curing a demon-possessed, blind mute.
13:11–13 Healing an infirmed woman.
14:2–4 Healing a man with dropsy.
11:43–44 Raising Lazarus.
17:12–14 Cleansing ten lepers.
19:1–2 Jesus heals many at the borders of Judea.
20:30–34 Healing the two blind men.
21:14 18:35 Jesus heals the blind and the lame man in the temple.
21:18–19 11:12–14; 20 Withering the fig tree.
12:28–29 A voice from Heaven.
22:51 Restoring a servant’s ear.
27:51 15:38 23:45 The Veil of the Temple is torn from top to bottom.
27:51 A great earthquake, and the rocks were broken.
27:52–53 The tombs were opened and many of the dead are raised.
28:1–10 16:1–8 24:1–12 20:1–9 The resurrection of Jesus.
28:1–7 An angel rolls the stone from the grave and speaks to the women.
28:5–8 16:5–7 24:4–8 Angelic appearance to those at the sepulcher.
20:11–13 Two angels appear to Mary.
16:9 20:14–17 Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene.
28:9–10 Jesus appears to the women.
16:12 24:13–35 Jesus appears to the two on the road to Emmaus.
20:19–23 Jesus appears to 10 apostles.
28:16–20 16:14–18 24:36–49 20:26–31 Jesus appears to 11 apostles.
21:1–25 Jesus appears to 7 apostles.
21:6 Miraculous catch of fish.

Acts

1:3–5 Jesus appears to all the apostles. (Lk 24:24–51)
1:6–9 Jesus ascends into heaven.
1:10–11 Two angels appear to the apostles.
2:1–4 The coming of the Holy Spirit on the apostles.
2:4–13 The apostles speak with other tongues.
3:1–11 Peter heals the lame man in the temple.
5:5–10 Ananias and Sapphira are killed.
5:12 Many signs and wonders performed by the apostles.
5:18–20 Anel releases the apostles form prison.
7:55–56 Stehen sees Jesus at the right hand of God.
8:7 Unclean spirits are cast out of many.
8:13 Philip performs miracles and signs.
8:14–17 The Samarians receive the Holy Spirit.
8:39–40 Philip caught away by the Holy Spirit.
9:3–7 Jesus appears to Saul (cf. 1 Cor. 15:8).
9:10–16 Jesus appears to Ananias.
9:17–19 Saul’s sight is restored.
9:32–34 Peter heals Aneneas.
9:36–42 Dorcas is restored to life.
10:1–8 Cornelius receives a vision.
10:9–16 Peter receives a vision three times.
10:44–48 Cornelius’ household receives the Holy Spirit.
12:7–10 An angel releases Peter from prison.
12:23 The angel of the Lord kills Herod.
13:8–11 Elymas the sorcerer is blinded.
14:8–10 Paul heals a lame man at Lystra.
16:16–18 Paul casts a demon out of a young woman.
18:9–10 The Lord appears to Paul.
19:6 Believers at Ephesus receive the Holy Spirit.
19:11–12 Many unusual signs performed by Paul.
20:9–12 Eutychus is restored to life.
23:11 The Lord appears to Paul.
28:3–6 Paul protected from the viper bite.
28:7–8 Paul heals the father of Publius.
16:25–26 Prison doors opened and Paul’s and Silas’ bands are broken off.

1 Corinthians

15:6 Jesus’ appearance to five hundred people.
15:7 Jesus’ appearance to James.

2 Corinthians

12:1–6 Paul’s vision of heaven.

Revelation

1:1–3:22 John’s vision of Jesus.
4:1–22:21 John’s vision of the future.
6:12 A great earthquake.
6:12 The sun becomes black as sackcloth.
6:12 The moon becomes as blood.
6:13 The stars fall from heaven to earth.
6:14 Every mountain is moved out of its place.
8:7 Hail and fire mingled with blood falls on the earth.
8:8 Something like a great burning mountain is cast into the sea, and a third part of the sea becomes blood.
8:9 A third part of the creatures in the sea die.
8:9 A third part of the ships are destroyed.
8:10–11 A great, burning star falls from heaven and a third part of the rivers and fountains become bitter.
8:12 A third part of the sun is darkened.
8:12 A third part of the moon is darkened.
8:12 A third part of the stars are darkened.
9:1 A star falls from heaven.
9:2 The sun is darkened by the smoke from the botomless pit.
9:3–11 A plague of locusts are given power to torment men for 5 months.
9:18 A third part of mankind is killed.
11:5 The two witnesses devour their enemies by fire from their mouths.
11:6 The two witnesses stop the rain for 3 1/2 years.
11:6 The two witnesses turn water into blood.
11:6 The two witnesses smite the earth with many plagues.
11:11 The two witnesses are raised from the dead.
11:12 The two witnesses ascend into heaven.
11:13 There is a great earthquake in which a tenth part of the city falls, and 7000 men are slain.
11:19 There are lightenings, voices, thunderings and earthquake and great hail.
16:2 Fowl and loathsome sores fall on men who worship the beast.
16:3 The sea becomes as blood, and every living soul in it dies.
16:4 The rivers and fountains of waters become blood.
16:8 The sun scorches men with fire.
16:10 Darkness covers the kingdom of the beast.
16:12 The water of the river Euphrates is dried up.
16:18 There are voices and thunders and a great earthquake.
16:20 The islands flee and the mountains cannot be found.
16:21 A great hail of heavy stones falls on people.
18:1–24 The fall of Babylon.
19:11–16 The return of Jesus Christ.
21:1 The new heaven and the new earth appear.
21:10 The new Jerusalem descending from heaven.

Not all these events are miracles in the technical sense of a direct action of God superseding a natural law. Some (e.g. Gen. 7, 19) may be a special act of divine providence where God uses natural laws to accomplish His purpose.

Chart adapted from Appendix 2 in Norman L. Geisler. Miracles and the Modern Mind: A Defense of Biblical Miracles. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker (1992).

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2013 in Book Excerpts, Charts

 

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The Jesus Focus in 2 Corinthians

Reading The Bible Through The Jesus Lens in the Book of 2 Corinthians

From Biblical Book to Biblical Hook

Chart adapted from *Dr. Michael Williams Book

How To Read The Bible Through the Jesus Lens IMage

Title for 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians: Theme

2 Corinthians 2:17

“Self-Giving”

God directs Paul to explain and vindicate his apostolic authority while encouraging the generosity of the Corinthian church.

“Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”

Christ-Focus in 2 Corinthians

Implications from 2 Corinthians

Hooks from 2 Corinthians

Jesus gave himself completely for the welfare of his people.

 

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. – 2 Corinthians 8:9

God will provide for our needs as we give ourselves to others.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,

“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. – 2 Corinthians 9:6-11

Is it really better to give than receive?

Which would you rather do?

What if giving involves giving up comfort, safety, or even your life?

Why would anyone give like that?

Is it possible for you to give more than you already have received?

What have you already received from God?

 Michael James Williams image

*Michael James Williams in his own words: “After my conversion in the U. S. Navy (in a submarine beneath the North Atlantic!), I entered Columbia Bible College, where I received a B.A. (1985). This was followed by an M.A. in Religion at Westminster Theological Seminary (1987) and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (1999). In 2000, I was ordained in the Christian Reformed Church, and since 1995 have been teaching at Calvin Theological Seminary. I have also taught courses at Westminster Theological Seminary, the University of Pennsylvania, and brief stints in Limuru, Kenya; Donetsk, Ukraine; and Warsaw, Poland. In addition to articles on Old Testament topics in various reference works and academic journals, and contributing to and editing “Mishneh Todah: Studies in Deuteronomy and Its Cultural Environment in Honor of Jeffrey H. Tigay” (2009); I have authored “Deception in Genesis: A Comprehensive Analysis of a Unique Biblical Phenomenon” (2001); “The Prophet and His Message: Reading Old Testament Prophecy Today” (2003); and, most recently, “How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture” (2012). My amazing wife, Dawn, and I enjoy hiking and all things outdoors.”

 

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The Art of Cultivating a Heart of Gratitude in the Character of Christ by Dr. Ken Boa

Ken Boa

Our culture teaches us that people are basically good and that their internal problems are the result of external circumstances. But Jesus taught that no outside-in program will rectify the human condition, since our fundamental problems stem from within (Mark 7:20-23). Holiness is never achieved by acting ourselves into a new way of being. Instead, it is a gift that God graciously implants within the core of those who have trusted in Christ. All holiness is the holiness of God within us—the indwelling life of Christ. Thus, the process of sanctification is the gradual diffusion of this life from the inside (being) to the outside (doing), so that we become in action what we already are in essence. Our efforts faithfully reveal what is within us, so that when we are dominated by the flesh we will do the deeds of the flesh, and when we walk by the Spirit we will bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).

A Process from the Inside to the Outside

Holiness is a new quality of life that progressively flows from the inside to the outside. As J. I. Packer outlines it in Keep in Step with the Spirit, the nature of holiness is transformation through consecration; the context of holiness is justification through Jesus Christ; the root of holiness is co-crucifixion and co-resurrection with Jesus Christ; the agent of holiness is the Holy Spirit; the experience of holiness is one of conflict; the rule of holiness is God’s revealed law; and the heart of holiness is the spirit of love. When we come to know Jesus we are destined for heaven because He has already implanted His heavenly life within us. The inside-out process of the spiritual life is the gradual outworking of this kingdom righteousness. This involves a divine-human synergism of dependence and discipline so that the power of the Spirit is manifested through the formation of holy habits. As Augustine put it, “Without God we cannot; without us, He will not.” Disciplined grace and graceful discipline go together in such a way that God-given holiness is expressed through the actions of obedience. Spiritual formation is not a matter of total passivity or of unaided moral endeavor, but of increasing responsiveness to God’s gracious initiatives. The holy habits of immersion in Scripture, acknowledging God in all things, and learned obedience make us more receptive to the influx of grace and purify our aspirations and actions.

“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (1 John 3:21). It is wise to form the habit of inviting God to search your heart and reveal “any hurtful way” (Psalm 139:23) within you. Sustained attention to the heart, the wellspring of action, is essential to the formative process. By inviting Jesus to examine our intentions and priorities, we open ourselves to His good but often painful work of exposing our manipulative and self-seeking strategies, our hardness of heart (often concealed in religious activities), our competitively-driven resentments, and our pride. “A humble understanding of yourself is a surer way to God than a profound searching after knowledge” (Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ). Self-examining prayer or journaling in the presence of God will enable us to descend below the surface of our emotions and actions and to discern sinful patterns that require repentance and renewal. Since spiritual formation is a process, it is a good practice to compare yourself now with where you have been. Are you progressing in Christlike qualities like love, patience, kindness, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, servanthood, and hope? To assist you, here is a prayer sequence for examination and encouragement that incorporates the ten commandments, the Lord’s prayer, the beatitudes, the seven deadly sins, the four cardinal and three theological virtues, and the fruit of the Spirit. This can serve as a kind of spiritual diagnostic tool:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;

And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23-24)

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

The Ten Commandments

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet.

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come,

Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not lead us into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

The Beatitudes

Poverty of spirit (nothing apart from God’s grace)

Mourning (contrition)

Gentleness (meekness, humility)

Hunger and thirst for righteousness

Merciful to others

Purity of heart (desiring Christ above all else)

Peacemaking

Bearing persecution for the sake of righteousness

The Seven Deadly Sins

Pride

Avarice

Envy

Wrath

Sloth

Lust

Gluttony

The Four Cardinal and Three Theological Virtues

Prudence (wisdom, discernment, clear thinking, common sense)

Temperance (moderation, self-control)

Justice (fairness, honesty, truthfulness, integrity)

Fortitude (courage, conviction)

Faith (belief and trust in God’s character and work)

Hope (anticipating God’s promises)

Love (willing the highest good for others, compassion)

The Fruit of the Spirit

Love

Joy

Peace

Patience

Kindness

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

Self-control

Letting Loose of Control and Results

One of the great enemies of process spirituality is the craving to control our environment and the desire to determine the results of our endeavors. Many of us have a natural inclination to be manipulators, grabbers, owners, and controllers. The more we seek to rule our world, the more we will resist the rule of Christ; those who grasp are afraid of being grasped by God. But until we relinquish ownership of our lives, we will not experience the holy relief of surrender to God’s good and loving purposes. Thomas Merton put it this way in New Seeds of Contemplation:

This is one of the chief contradictions that sin has brought into our souls: we have to do violence to ourselves to keep from laboring uselessly for what is bitter and without joy, and we have to compel ourselves to take what is easy and full of happiness as though it were against our interests, because for us the line of least resistance leads in the way of greatest hardship and sometimes for us to do what is, in itself, most easy, can be the hardest thing in the world.

Our resistance to God’s rule even extends to our prayerful attempts to persuade the Lord to bless our plans and to meet our needs in the ways we deem best. Instead of seeking God’s will in prayer, we hope to induce Him to accomplish our will. Thus, even in our prayers, we can adopt the mentality of a consumer rather than a servant.

Perhaps the most painful lesson for believers to learn is the wisdom of being faithful to the process and letting loose of the results.

Opportunity Obedience Outcome
Divine Sovereignty Human Responsibility Divine Sovereignty

We have little control over opportunities we encounter and the outcomes of our efforts, but we can be obedient to the process.

Distorted dreams and selfish ambitions must die before we can know the way of resurrection. We cannot be responsive to God’s purposes until we abandon our strategies to control and acknowledge His exclusive ownership of our lives. At the front end, this surrender to the life of Christ in us appears to be the way of renunciation, but on the other side of renunciation we discover that it is actually the way of affirmation. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” (Luke 9:24). The better we apprehend our spiritual poverty and weakness, the more we will be willing to invite Jesus to increase so that we may decrease (John 3:30).

Another key to staying in the process is learning to receive each day and whatever it brings as from the hand of God. Instead of viewing God’s character in light of our circumstances, we should view our circumstances in light of God’s character. Because God’s character is unchanging and good, whatever circumstances He allows in the life of His children are for their good, even though they may not seem so at the time. Since His will for us is “good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2), the trials, disappointments, setbacks, tasks, and adversities we encounter are, from an eternal vantage point, the place of God’s kingdom and blessing. This Romans 8:28-39 perspective can change the way we pray. Instead of asking the Lord to change our circumstances to suit us, we can ask Him to use our circumstances to change us. Realizing that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18), we can experience “the fellowship of [Christ’s] sufferings” through “the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). Thus, Blaise Pascal prayed in his Pensees:

With perfect consistency of mind, help me to receive all manner of events. For we know not what to ask, and we cannot ask for one event rather than another without presumption. We cannot desire a specific action without presuming to be a judge, and assuming responsibility for what in Your wisdom You may hide from me. O Lord, I know only one thing, and that is that it is good to follow You and wicked to offend You. Beyond this, I do not know what is good for me, whether health or sickness, riches or poverty, or anything else in this world. This knowledge surpasses both the wisdom of men and of angels. It lies hidden in the secrets of Your providence, which I adore, and will not dare to pry open.

We are essentially spiritual beings, and each “today” that is received with gratitude from God’s hand contributes to our preparation for our glorious and eternal destiny in His presence. In “the sacrament of the present moment” as Jean-Pierre de Caussade described it, “It is only right that if we are discontented with what God offers us every moment, we should be punished by finding nothing else that will content us” (Abandonment to Divine Providence). It is when we learn to love God’s will that we can embrace the present moment as a source of spiritual formation.

As we grow in dependence on Christ’s life and diminish in dependence on our own, the fulfillment of receiving His life gradually replaces the frustration of trying to create our own. It is in this place of conscious dependence that God shapes us into the image of His Son. Here we must trust Him for the outcome, because we cannot measure or quantify the spiritual life. We know that we are in a formative process and that God is not finished with us yet, but we must also remember that we cannot control or create the product. Furthermore, we cannot measure our ministry or impact on others in this life. If we forget this, we will be in a hurry to accomplish significant things by the world’s standard of reckoning. Frances Felenon noted that “the soul, by the neglect of little things, becomes accustomed to unfaithfulness” (Christian Perfection). It is faithfulness in the little daily things that leads to faithfulness in much (Luke 16:10). Henri Nouwen used to ask God to get rid of his interruptions so he could get on with his ministry. “Then I realized that interruptions are my ministry.” As servants and ambassadors of the King, we must be obedient in the daily process even when we cannot see what difference our obedience makes.

Cultivating a Heart of Gratitude

A young man with a bandaged hand approached the clerk at the post office. “Sir, could you please address this post card for me?” The clerk did so gladly, and then agreed to write a message on the card.

He then asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” The young man looked at the card for a moment and then said, “Yes, add a PS: ‘Please excuse the handwriting.’”

We are an ungrateful people. Writing of man in Notes from the Underground, Dostoevsky says, “If he is not stupid, he is monstrously ungrateful! Phenomenally ungrateful. In fact, I believe that the best definition of man is the ungrateful biped.” Luke’s account of the cleansing of the ten lepers underscores the human tendency to expect grace as our due and to forget to thank God for His benefits. “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18).

Remember: God’s Deliverance in the Past

Our calendar allocates one day to give thanks to God for His many benefits, and even that day is more consumed with gorging than with gratitude. Ancient Israel’s calendar included several annual festivals to remind the people of God’s acts of deliverance and provision so that they would renew their sense of gratitude and reliance upon the Lord.

In spite of this, they forgot: “they became disobedient and rebelled against You . . . . they did not remember Your abundant kindnesses . . . . they quickly forgot His works” (Nehemiah 9:26;Psalm 106:7, 13). The prophet Hosea captured the essence of this decline into ingratitude: “As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore, they forgot Me” (13:6). When we are doing well, we tend to think that our prosperity was self-made; this delusion leads us into the folly of pride; pride makes us forget God and prompts us to rely on ourselves in place of our Creator; this forgetfulness always leads to ingratitude.

Centuries earlier, Moses warned the children of Israel that they would be tempted to forget the Lord once they began to enjoy the blessings of the promised land. “Then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. . . . Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth’” (Deuteronomy 8:14, 17). The antidote to this spiritual poison is found in the next verse: “But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth” (8:18).

Our propensity to forget is a mark of our fallenness. Because of this, we should view remembering and gratitude as a discipline, a daily and intentional act, a conscious choice. If it is limited to spontaneous moments of emotional gratitude, it will gradually erode and we will forget all that God has done for us and take His grace for granted.

Remember: God’s Benefits in the Present

“Rebellion against God does not begin with the clenched fist of atheism but with the self-satisfied heart of the one for whom ‘thank you’ is redundant” (Os Guinness, In Two Minds). The apostle Paul exposes the error of this thinking when he asks, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Even as believers in Christ, it is quite natural to overlook the fact that all that we have and are—our health, our intelligence, our abilities, our very lives—are gifts from the hand of God, and not our own creation. We understand this, but few of us actively acknowledge our utter reliance upon the Lord throughout the course of the week. We rarely review the many benefits we enjoy in the present. And so we forget.

We tend toward two extremes when we forget to remember God’s benefits in our lives. The first extreme is presumption, and this is the error we have been discussing. When things are going “our way,” we may forget God or acknowledge Him in a shallow or mechanical manner. The other extreme is resentment and bitterness due to difficult circumstances. When we suffer setbacks or losses, we wonder why we are not doing as well as others and develop a mindset of murmuring and complaining. We may attribute it to “bad luck” or “misfortune” or not “getting the breaks,” but it really boils down to dissatisfaction with God’s provision and care. This lack of contentment and gratitude stems in part from our efforts to control the content of our lives in spite of what Christ may or may not desire for us to have. It also stems from our tendency to focus on what we do not possess rather than all the wonderful things we have already received.

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We cannot give thanks and complain at the same time. To give thanks is to remember the spiritual and material blessings we have received and to be content with what our loving Lord provides, even when it does not correspond to what we had in mind. Gratitude is a choice, not merely a feeling, and it requires effort especially in difficult times. But the more we choose to live in the discipline of conscious thanksgiving, the more natural it becomes, and the more our eyes are opened to the little things throughout the course of the day that we previously overlooked. G. K. Chesterton had a way of acknowledging these many little benefits: “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” Henri Nouwen observed that “every gift I acknowledge reveals another and another until, finally, even the most normal, obvious, and seemingly mundane event or encounter proves to be filled with grace.”

Remember: God’s Promises for the Future

If we are not grateful for God’s deliverance in the past and His benefits in the present, we will not be grateful for His promises for the future. Scripture exhorts us to lay hold of our hope in Christ and to renew it frequently so that we will maintain God’s perspective on our present journey. His plans for His children exceed our imagination, and it is His intention to make all things new, to wipe away every tear, and to “show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” in the ages to come (Ephesians 2:7).

Make it a daily exercise, either at the beginning or the end of the day, to review God’s benefits in your past, present, and future. This discipline will be pleasing to God, because it will cultivate a heart of gratitude and ongoing thanksgiving.

The Secret of Contentment

“We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.” Uncle Screwtape’s diabolical counsel to his nephew Wormwood in C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters is a reminder that most of us live more in the future than in the present. Somehow we think that the days ahead will make up for what we perceive to be our present lack. We think, “When I get this or when that happens, then I’ll be happy,” but this is an exercise in self-deception that overlooks the fact that even when we get what we want, it never delivers what it promised.

Most of us don’t know precisely what we want, but we are certain we don’t have it. Driven by dissatisfaction, we pursue the treasure at the end of the rainbow and rarely drink deeply at the well of the present moment, which is all we ever have. The truth is that if we are not satisfied with what we have, we will never be satisfied with what we want.

The real issue of contentment is whether it is Christ or ourselves who determine the content (e.g., money, position, family, circumstances) of our lives. When we seek to control the content, we inevitably turn to the criterion of comparison to measure what it should look like. The problem is that comparison is the enemy of contentment—there will always be people who possess a greater quality or quantity of what we think we should have. Because of this, comparison leads to covetousness. Instead of loving our neighbors, we find ourselves loving what they possess.

Covetousness in turn leads to a competitive spirit. We find ourselves competing with others for the limited resources to which we think we are entitled. Competition often becomes a vehicle through which we seek to authenticate our identity or prove our capability. This kind of competition tempts us to compromise our character. When we want something enough, we may be willing to steamroll our convictions in order to attain it. We find ourselves cutting corners, misrepresenting the truth, cheating, or using people as objects to accomplish our self-driven purposes.

It is only when we allow Christ to determine the content of our lives that we can discover the secret of contentment. Instead of comparing ourselves with others, we must realize that the Lord alone knows what is best for us and loves us enough to use our present circumstances to accomplish eternal good. We can be content when we put our hope in His character rather than our own concept of how our lives should appear.

Writing from prison to the believers in Philippi, Paul affirmed that “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 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” (Philippians 4:11-12). Contentment is not found in having everything, but in being satisfied with everything we have. As the Apostle told Timothy, “we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:7-8). Paul acknowledged God’s right to determine his circumstances, even if it meant taking him down to nothing. His contentment was grounded not in how much he had but in the One who had him. Job understood this when he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). The more we release temporal possessions, the more we can grasp eternal treasures. There are times when God may take away our toys to force us to transfer our affections to Christ and His character.

A biblical understanding of contentment leads to a sense of our competency in Christ. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). As Peter put it, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). Contentment is not the fulfillment of what we want, but the realization of how much we already possess in Christ.

A vision of our competency in Christ enables us to respond to others with compassion rather than competition, because we understand that our fundamental needs are fulfilled in the security and significance we have found in Him. Since we are complete in Christ, we are free to serve others instead of using them in the quest to meet our needs. Thus we are liberated to pursue character rather than comfort and convictions rather than compromise.

Notice the contrast between the four horizontal pairs in this chart:

WHO DETERMINES THE CONTENT OF YOUR LIFE?

SELF

CHRIST

Comparison

Covetousness

Competition

Compromise

Contentment

Competency

Compassion

Character

As we learn the secret of contentment, we will be less impressed by numbers, less driven to achieve, less hurried, and more alive to the grace of the present moment.

Article adapted from several sources on the Internet – most likely originally from Bible.org or Monergism.com. Dr. Ken Boa is an outstanding Bible scholar, and Spiritual director, and author of numerous helpful books including the Outstanding Textbook on the Subject of Sanctification and Spiritual Formation: Conformed To His Image.

 

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Dave Kraft on The Key Ingredients of Leadership

Christian Leadership Defined:

 “A Christian leader is a humble, God-dependent, team-playing servant of God who is called by God to shepherd, develop, equip, and empower a specific group of believers to accomplish an agreed-upon vision from God.” – Dave Kraft

 The Key Ingredients of Leadership:

Christian leaders are, first and foremost, servants (bond slaves) of the Lord, and second, servants of those they are leading.

They are characterized by humility, dependence, and team-playing, rather than being a loner or one-man show.

Christian leaders are called by God into leadership. They do not decide for themselves to be a leader. They are not pushed into leadership by well-meaning supporters, nor do they ar­rive at leadership because no one else will do it.

Christian leaders are moving toward a specific destination.

Christian leaders are creating and sustaining an agreed-upon vision. There is an initial buy-in and a growing ownership of the vision among those being led.

 Christian Leaders Have 4 Major Responsibilities:

Shepherding—a leader loves and cares for those be­ing led.

Developing—a leader helps those being led in their personal walk with Jesus Christ to become fully de­voted followers.

Equipping—a leader trains those being led for ministry.

Empowering—a leader inspires, encourages, affirms, believes in, and frees people up to serve out of their gifting.

Contrasting Past and Future/Current Leaders

PAST LEADERS:

FUTURE LEADERS

Organizational

Relational

Operate in committees

Operate in teams

Command and control

Permission-giving

Degreed and elected

Gifted and called

Linear and pyramidal

Overlapping circles

Share propositional truth

Tell stories

People of the written page

People of the screen

Tightly structured

Highly flexible

Emphasize position

Emphasize empowerment

 About The Author:

Dave is originally from the LA area. He is definitely a Southern California boy. Dave has been married to Susan for 42 years. They have four adult children and six grand children.

He served with The Navigators for 38 years leaving that organization in the fall of 2005. In those years with The Navigators, Dave had assignments in Southern and Northern California, Sweden, Colorado and Washington State.

He served as Pastor of Coaching and Leadership Development Mars Hill Church in Seattle & currently in Orange County, CA.

In addition to his work at Mars Hill, Dave is a Life Coach with Ministry Coaching International with headquarters in Bend, Oregon. Dave has the joy of coaching pastors around the country in developing a Life Plan to stay strong and healthy in their personal and family life. Building upon this, Dave helps each pastor think through their specific vision for their ministry and their game plan for building a team to help them carry it out. Visit this link to have Dave Kraft spend a weekend at your church.

http://bit.ly/g4F3Rg

When not recruiting training and placing leaders, which he truly loves, Dave likes to read, jog, listen to music and watch movies.

The excerpts above are from the introduction to his excellent book pictured above and published by Crossway Books in Wheaton, ILL., entitled Leaders Who Last, 2009.

 

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Dr. Ron Nash on What It Means To Have a Christian Worldview

[Adapted from Ronald H. Nash. Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in the World of Ideas. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, pp. 34-45). 

“The Christian Worldview”

 GOD

The Christian worldview is theistic in the sense that it believes in the existence of one supremely powerful and personal God. Theism differs from polytheism in its affirmation that there is only one God (Deut. 6:4). It parts company with the various forms of pantheism by insisting that God is personal and must not be confused with the world that is his creation. Theism must also be distinguished from panentheism, the position that regards the world as an eternal being that God needs in much the same way a human soul needs a body. Theists also reject panentheistic attempts to limit God’s power and knowledge, which have the effect of making the God of panentheism a finite being (For a fuller discussion, see Ronald Nash, ed., Process Theology. Panentheism can be thought of as a position somewhere between theism’s belief in a personal, almighty, all-knowing God and the impersonal god of pantheism that is identical in some way with nature or the world order. While the god of panentheism is not identical with the world, this god and the world necessarily co-exist eternally Another basic feature of panentheism is the denial of the view that God can act as an efficient cause, a belief that precludes any belief in either creation or in such miracles as the Incarnation or the Resurrection).

Other important attributes of God, such as his holiness, justice, and love are described in Scripture. Historical Christian theism is also trinitarian. The doctrine of the Trinity reflects the Christian conviction that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct centers of consciousness sharing fully in the one divine nature and in the activities of the other persons of the Trinity. An important corollary of the doctrine is the Christian conviction that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man (It is important for Christians to realize that the belief that Jesus is fully God and fully man does not involve them in a logical contradiction. Critics of Christianity like to deceive people into thinking that this Christian claim is similar to believing that something is a square circle. It is not). Christians use the word incarnation to express their belief that the birth of Jesus Christ marked the entrance of the eternal and divine Son of God into the human race.

 ULTIMATE REALITY

The Bible begins with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Many early Christian thinkers found it important to draw out certain implications of the biblical view of God and stipulate that God created the world ex nihilo (from nothing), which is an important metaphysical tenet of the Christian worldview. This was necessary, they believed, to show the contrast between the Christian understanding of Creation and an account of the world’s origin found in Plato’s philosophy, a view held by a number of intellectuals in the early centuries of the Christian church (For more on this see Ron Nash. The Gospel and the Greeks). Plato had suggested that a godlike being, the Craftsman, had brought the world into being by fashioning an eternal or matter after the pattern of eternal ideas that existed independently of the Craftsman. Moreover, this creative activity took place in a space-time receptacle or box that also existed independently of the Craftsman. Such early Christian thinkers as Augustine wanted the world to know that the Christian God and the Christian view of Creation differed totally from this platonic picture. Plato’s god (if indeed that is an appropriate word for his Craftsman) was not the infinite, all-powerful, and sovereign God of the Christian Scriptures. Plato’s god was finite and limited. In the Christian account of Creation, nothing existed prior to Creation except God.

There was no time or space; there was no preexisting matter. Everything else that exists besides God depends totally upon God for its existence. If God did not exist, the world would not exist. The cosmos is not eternal, self-sufficient, or self-explanatory. It was freely created by God. The existence of the world, therefore, is not a brute fact; nor is the world a purposeless machine. The world exists as the result of a free decision to create by a God who is eternal, transcendent, spiritual (that is, nonmaterial), omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, loving, and personal. Because there is a God-ordained order to the creation, human beings can discover that order. It is this order that makes science possible; it is this order that scientists attempt to capture in their laws. The Christian worldview should be distinguished from any version of deism. This theory dared to suggest that although God created the world, he absents himself from the creation and allows it to run on its own. This view and several twentieth-century varieties seem to present the picture of a God (or god) who is incapable of acting causally within nature (This certainly appears to have been the view of such twentieth-century theologians as Paul Tillich and Rudolf Bultmann. While the term naturalism will be explained later, there is some justification for describing thinkers like Tillich and Bultmann as religious naturalists. They may have believed in God, but their God was effectively precluded from any providential or miraculous activity within the natural order). While no informed Christian will argue with the assured results of such sciences as physics, biology, and geology, the Christian worldview insists that divine activities such as miracles, revelation, and providence remain possible.

KNOWLEDGE

The study of epistemology can quickly involve one in fairly sticky problems. In fact, one should admit that on many epistemological issues (for example, the dispute between rationalists and empiricists - For the reader unfamiliar with these terms, an empiricist is a person who believes that all human knowledge can be traced back to bodily experience. A rationalist, on the other hand, believes that some human knowledge can originate in something other than sense experience) a wide variety of options seems to be consistent with other aspects of the Christian worldview. But there do seem to be limits to this tolerance. For example, the Christian worldview is clearly incompatible with universal skepticism, the self-defeating claim that no knowledge about anything is attainable. The fact that this kind of skepticism self-destructs becomes clear whenever one asks such a skeptic whether he knows that knowledge is unattainable.

It also seems obvious that a well-formed Christian worldview will exclude views suggesting that humans cannot attain knowledge about God. Christianity clearly proclaims that God has revealed information about himself (I defend this claim in Ron Nash. The Word of God and the Mind of Man). Nor will an informed Christian deny the importance of the senses in supplying information about the world. As St. Augustine observed, the Christian “believes also the evidence of the senses which the mind uses by aid of the body; for if one who trusts his senses is sometimes deceived, he is more wretchedly deceived who fancies he should never trust them” (Augustine. City of God, tran. Marcus Dods. New York: Modern Library, 1950, 19.18.). In his own theory of knowledge, Augustine was a rationalist in the sense that he gave priority to reason over sense experience. Augustine probably had a good theological reason for defending the general reliability of sense experience.

He undoubtedly realized that many claims made in the Bible depended upon eyewitness testimony. If the senses are completely unreliable, we cannot trust the reports of witnesses who say that they heard Jesus teach or saw him die or saw him alive three days after the Crucifixion. If the experiences of those who saw and heard a risen Christ were necessarily deceptive and unreliable, an important truth of the Christian faith is compromised. In recent Christian writings about the theory of knowledge, philosophers apparently operating on different tracks have found agreement on an important point. In the case of my own track (a kind of Christian rationalism that received its first formulation in the writings of St. Augustine), it is a mistake to accept an extreme form of empiricism that claims all human knowledge rises from sense experience. Older advocates of this empiricism used to illustrate their basic claim by arguing that the human mind at birth is like a tabula rasa, a blank tablet. At birth, the human mind is like a totally clean blackboard; absolutely nothing is written on it. In other words, human beings are born with no innate ideas or knowledge. As the human being grows and develops, the senses supply the mind with an ever-increasing stock of information. All human knowledge results, in this model, from what the mind does with ideas supplied through the senses—the basic building blocks of knowledge.

My alternative to this extreme kind of empiricism can be summarized in the claim that some human knowledge does not rise from sense experience (I consciously reject an extreme type of rationalism that claims no human knowledge rises from sense experience. Plato held this latter view. But as explained earlier, Augustine did not; nor do I). As many philosophers have noted, human knowledge of the sensible world is possible because human beings bring certain ideas, categories, and dispositions to their experience of the world. The impotence of empiricism is especially evident in the case of human knowledge of universal and necessary truth. Many things in the world could have been otherwise. The typewriter I am using at this moment happens to be brown, but it could have been red. Whether it is brown or not is a purely contingent feature of reality. Regardless of the color my typewriter happens to be, it could have been colored differently. But it is necessarily the case that my typewriter could not have been brown all over and red (or any other color) all over at the same time and in the same sense. The necessary truth that my typewriter is brown all over and not at the same time red all over cannot be a function of sense experience. Sense experience may be able to report what is fact at a particular time. But sense experience is incapable of grasping what must be the case at all times. The notions of necessity and universality can never be derived from our experience. Rather, they are notions (among others) that we bring to sense experience and use in making judgments about reality.

How do we account for the human possession of these categories of thought or innate ideas or dispositions that play such an indispensable role in human knowledge? According to a long and honored philosophical tradition that includes Augustine, Descartes, and Leibniz, human beings have these innate ideas, dispositions, and categories of thought by virtue of their creation by God. In fact, this may well be part of what is meant by the phrase the image of God (I have explored the roots of this theory in the writings of St. Augustine in my book The Light of the Mind: St. Augustine’s Theory of Knowledge. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 1969). After all (Christians believe). God created the world. It is reasonable to assume that he created humans in such a way as to make them capable of attaining knowledge of his creation. To go even further, it is reasonable to believe that he endowed the human mind with the ability to attain knowledge of himself.

Philosopher Alvin Plantinga has noted an important similarity between the role that God-given categories and dispositions play in human knowledge and what Reformed thinkers like John Calvin said about belief in God:

Reformed Theologians such as Calvin…have held that God has implanted in us a tendency…to accept belief in God under certain conditions. Calvin speaks, in this connection, of a “sense of deity inscribed in the hearts of all.” Just as we have a natural tendency to form perceptual beliefs under certain conditions, so says Calvin, we have a natural tendency to form such beliefs as God is speaking to me and God has created all this or God disapproves of what. I’ve done under certainly widely realized conditions (Alvin Plantinga, “Self-Profile,” in Alvin Plantinga, ed. James E. Tomberlin and Peter van Inwagen (Boston: D. Reidel, 1985), 63, 64. Plantinga’s quote comes from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, bk. 1, chap. 3, 43–44).

Plantinga shows no reluctance to describe the idea of God as “innate,” that is, present in the mind from birth, not derived from experience. These are complex issues. But it is clear that the Christian worldview is no ally of skepticism. Human beings can know God’s creation; they are also capable of attaining knowledge about God. Nor should this surprise anyone. It is exactly what we should have expected.

 ETHICS

The fact that all human beings carry the image of God (another of Christianity’s claims about human nature) explains why human beings are creatures capable of reasoning, love, and God-consciousness; it also explains why we are moral creatures. Of course, sin (yet another of Christianity’s important presuppositions about human beings) has distorted the image of God and explains why humans turn away from God and the moral law; why we sometimes go wrong with regard to our emotions, conduct, and thinking.

Because of the image of God, we should expect to find that the ethical recommendations of the Christian worldview reflect what all of us at the deepest levels of our moral being know to be true. As C. S. Lewis pointed out,

Christ did not come to preach any brand new morality… Really great moral teachers never do introduce new moralities; it is quacks and cranks who do that… The real job of every moral teacher is to keep on bringing us back, time after time, to the old simple principles which we are all so anxious not to see (C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity, 78).

When one examines the moralities of different cultures and religions, certain differences do stand out. But Lewis was more impressed by the basic, underlying similarities:

Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of doublecrossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to—whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired (Ibid., 19).

According to the Christian worldview, God is the ground of the laws that govern the physical universe and that make possible the order of the cosmos. God is also the ground of the moral laws that ought to govern human behavior and that make possible order between humans and within humans (Each of the areas dealing with God, ultimate reality, knowledge, ethics, and humankind includes its share of important but different questions that cannot be pursued in this study. One such problem in ethics is the precise relationship between God and morality. For some technical discussions of the topic, see Philip L. Quinn, Divine Commands and Moral Requirements. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978, and Robert Merrihew Adams, “A Modified Divine Command Theory of Ethical Wrongness” in Religion and Morality, Gene Outka and John P. Reeder, Jr., eds. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, Doubleday, 1973).

Christian theism insists on the existence of universal moral laws. In other words, the laws must apply to all humans, regardless of when or where they have lived. They must also be objective in the sense that their truth is independent of human preference and desire.

Much confusion surrounding Christian ethics results from a failure to observe the important distinction between principles and rules. Let us define moral principles as more general moral prescriptions, general in the sense that they cover a large number of instances. Moral rules, on the other hand, will be regarded as more specific moral prescriptions that are, in fact, applications of principles to more concrete situations.

The difference between principles and rules has advantages and disadvantages. One advantage of moral principles is the fact that they are less subject to change. Because of the larger number of instances where they are applicable, they possess a greater degree of universality. One disadvantage of any moral principle is its vagueness. Because principles cover so many situations, it is often difficult to know exactly when a particular principle applies. Rules, however, have the advantage of being much more specific. Their problem is their changeableness. Because they are so closely tied to specific situations, changes in circumstances usually require changes in the appropriate rule. For example, St. Paul warned the Christian women of Corinth not to worship with their heads uncovered. Some Christians have mistakenly regarded Paul’s advice as a moral principle that should be observed by Christian women in every culture at all times. But a study of the conditions that prevailed in ancient Corinth reveals that the city’s prostitutes identified themselves to their prospective customers by keeping their heads uncovered. In the light of this, it seems likely that Paul’s advice was not a moral principle intended to apply to Christians of all generations but a rule that applied only to the specific situation of the Christian women of Corinth and to other women in similar situations (Even if my particular interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11 is challenged, my point can be made in terms of other New Testament passages. See, for example, Paul’s remarks in Romans 14 concerning Christians eating meat that had been offered to pagan gods).

 The following chart may help clarify the points of the last paragraph:

 Advantage                         Disadvantage

Principles                                  Universal                                 Vague

Rules                                          Specific                               Situational

I recognize that the distinction I am drawing here suffers from impreciseness. This is due in part to the fact that the difference between principles and rules is sometimes relative. That is, Scripture actually presents a hierarchy of moral prescriptions beginning at the most general level with the duty to love. This duty to love is then further broken down into the duties to love God and love people (Matt. 22:37–40), and then still further into the more specific duties of the Decalogue (Rom. 13:9–10). And, of course, the still more specific duties spelled out in the New Testament, such as the prohibition against the lustful look and hatred, are further specifications of the Ten Commandments (Matt. 5:21–30). The distinction between principles and rules suggests that whenever you have two scriptural injunctions, where a more specific command is derived from the more general, you can regard the more specific injunction as the rule and the other as the principle. It is possible to read 1 Corinthians 13 in this way. First, Paul proposes love as a moral duty binding on all. Then he proceeds to provide more specific rules about how a loving person will behave; for example, he will be kind and patient. Based on our distinction between principles and rules plus a careful study of the New Testament, we can draw several conclusions:

(1) The New Testament gave first-century Christians plenty of rules. But, of course, the rules cover situations that may no longer confront twentieth-century Christians, such as Paul’s injunction against eating meat offered to idols.

(2) The New Testament does not provide twentieth-century Christians with any large number of rules regarding our specific situations. The reason is obvious. The rules were given to cover first-century situations. A first-century book that attempted to give moral rules to cover specific twentieth-century situations would have become unintelligible or irrelevant to readers in the intervening nineteen hundred years. What moral help could the first-century Christians in Rome or Ephesus have derived from such a moral rule as “thou shalt not make a first strike with nuclear weapons” or “it is wrong to use cocaine”?

(3) At the same time, some of the New Testament rules apply to situations that have existed throughout time. Passages dealing with acts of hating, stealing, lying, and the like continue to be relevant because the acts are similar.

(4) But often what many people miss is the importance of searching out the moral principles behind the New Testament rules. These principles are equally binding on humans of all generations. A careful consideration of the Bible’s first-century rules enables us to infer the more general principles behind them, principles that apply to us today. It may be unimportant today whether Christian women keep their heads covered, but it is important that they avoid provocative dress and behavior. Though few Christians in our generation are bothered by pagan butchers who have offered their wares as a sacrifice to a false god, we can profit from the principle that we should do nothing that causes a spiritually weaker person to stumble (Another qualification may help some readers. I am not suggesting that Scripture presents us with a casuistic system of morality in which specific moral duties can always be deduced from more general moral statements. Casuistry always leads to a type of legalism that is condemned by Scripture. But I do think a recognition of a biblical hierarchy of rules and principles can help us determine our duty).

While a properly formed Christian worldview allows a great deal of leeway regarding the positions sincere Christians may take on many of the tough problems that rise in the formulation of an ethical theory, informed Christians will have to reject certain views. One such view is the position called situation ethics, which asserts that Christian ethics imposes no duty other than the duty to love. In determining what he should do, the situationist declares, the Christian should face the moral situation and ask himself what the loving thing to do is in this particular case. No rules or principles prescribe how love will act. Indeed, each loving individual is free to act in any way he thinks is consistent with love as he understands it. The point to situation ethics is, then, that Christian ethics provides no universal principles and no specific rules. Nothing is intrinsically good except love; nothing intrinsically bad except nonlove. One can never prescribe in advance what a Christian should or should not do. Depending on the situation, love may find it necessary to lie, to steal, even presumably to fornicate, to blaspheme, and to worship false gods. The only absolute is love.

A proper response to situation ethics will begin by pointing out that love is insufficient in itself to provide moral guidance for each and every moral action. Love requires the further specification of principles or rules that suggest the proper ways in which love should be manifested. Because human beings are fallen creatures whose judgments on moral matters may be affected by moral weakness, love needs guidance from divinely revealed moral truth. Fortunately, Christians believe, this content is provided in the moral principles revealed in Scripture.

In spite of all this, life often confronts us with ambiguous moral situations in which even the most sincere among us may agonize over what to do. At times we simply do not know enough about ourselves, the situation, or the moral principle that applies to be sure we are doing the right thing. As many of us also know, weakness of will can hinder moral decision making.

In the unambiguous situations of life, Scripture teaches, God judges us in terms of our obedience to his revealed moral law. But how does God judge us in the more ambiguous situations where the precise nature of our duty is unclear? God looks upon the heart, Scripture advises. We are judged if we break God’s commandments. This is certain. But in those cases where we may not know which commandment applies or where we may have incomplete knowledge of the situation, God’s judgment will take into account not merely the rightness of the consequences of our act (something that we ourselves are often unable to determine in ambiguous situations) but the goodness of our intentions.

HUMANKIND

 William J. Abraham provides us with an introduction to the complex subject of what the Christian worldview teaches about human beings:

Human beings are made in the image of God, and their fate depends on their relationship with God. They are free to respond to or reject God and they will be judged in accordance with how they respond to him. This judgment begins now but finally takes place beyond death in a life to come. Christians furthermore offer a diagnosis of what is wrong with the world. Fundamentally, they say, our problems are spiritual: we need to be made anew by God. Human beings have misused their freedom; they are in a state of rebellion against God; they are sinners. These conclusions lead to a set of solutions to this ill. As one might expect, the fundamental solution is again spiritual…[I]n Jesus of Nazareth God has intervened to save and remake mankind. Each individual needs to respond to this and to become part of Christ’s body, the church, where they are to grow in grace and become more like Christ. This in turn generates a certain vision of the future. In the coming of Jesus, God has inaugurated his kingdom, but it will be consummated at some unspecified time in the future when Christ returns (Abraham, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985, 104-5).

What a paradox human beings are! The only bearers of the image of God on this planet are also capable of the most heinous acts. As Pascal put it, “What a freak, what a monster, what a chaos, what a subject of contradiction, what a marvel! Judge of all things, and imbecile earthworm; possessor of the truth, and sink of uncertainty and error; glory and rubbish of the universe” (Blaise Pascal. Selections from The Thoughts, trans. Athur H. Beattie. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1965, p. 68).

In another passage, Pascal wrote,

Man is but a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed. The whole universe need not arm itself to crush him; a vapor, a drop of water is enough to kill him. But even though the universe should crush him, man would still be nobler than what kills him since he knows that he dies, and the advantage that the universe has over him, the universe knows nothing of it (Ibid., 30).

The essential paradox here—the greatness and the misery of humankind—flows out of two important truths. God created humans as the apex of his creation; our chief end, in the words of the Westminster Catechism, is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But each human being is fallen, is in rebellion against the God who created him and loves him.

Christianity simply will not make sense to people who fail to understand and appreciate the Christian doctrine of sin. Every human being lives in a condition of sin and alienation from his or her Creator. Each has sinned and fallen short of God’s standard (Rom. 3:23). As John Stott counsels, sin “is not a convenient invention of parsons to keep them in their job; it is a fact of human experience” (John Stott. Basic Christianity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967, p. 61).

The sin that separates us from God and enslaves us is more than an unfortunate outward act of habit; it is a deep-seated inward corruption. In fact, the sins we commit are merely outward and visible manifestations of this inward and invisible malady, the symptoms of a moral disease…Because sin is an inward corruption of human nature we are in bondage. It is not so much certain acts or habits which enslave us, but rather the evil infection from which these spring (Ibid., 75-76).

In the writings of the nineteenth-century Christian writer Søren Kierkegaard, human alienation from God often rises to the surface in the form of moods like despair. As Kierkegaard described it in his technical way, two aspects of human existence (the finite/temporal and the infinite/eternal) compete for dominance in the life of every human being. Unless a person succeeds in getting these two dimensions into proper relation and manages somehow to unify them, he or she will never really be a self. Apart from God, each human being is a divided self.

Clearly, each of us is finite in many respects. We are limited and restricted by our bodies, our circumstances, our surroundings, our weakness of will. A constant and unavoidable reminder of the limitations of our existence is provided by death—the actual death of others and the realization of the inevitability of our own death. But there is also another side to our existence, a side that takes on dimensions of infinity or eternity. For one thing, our desires seem to transcend the finite limitations of our bodies. We always desire more than we have; we always want more than we can possibly achieve. No matter what we have accomplished or attained in the way of fame, fortune, pleasure, or happiness, we want more. In a very real sense, our appetites are never satisfied. This is not to ignore times when thoroughly satiated individuals pause, momentarily content with the most recent satisfaction of their desires. But the contentment soon disappears, and they are back on the trail, searching for more.

The frustration resulting from the human inability ultimately to satisfy all desires is just one manifestation of the tension between the finite and infinite poles of our being. Another example is the tendency of many to seek escape from reality through flights of fantasy. Rather than confront the truth about the closed frontiers of their existence, many people prefer to live in a world of dreams and illusions. In spite of their age, such people suffer from lifelong immaturity. They never really grow up.

Because most people never succeed in pulling the finite and infinite sides of their being together, they go through life suffering the spiritual and emotional consequences of being divided selves. Despair is one result of the failure to put the various parts of one’s life together. Despair is essentially enthusiasm that has gone astray, that has lost its bearings; it is a zeal for things that either disappear when they are most wanted or fail to deliver all that they seem to promise. If, in a person’s unconscious, he or she begins to feel that all the deepest yearnings of the soul will eventually end up unsatisfied, the onset of despair makes a kind of perverse sense. It is perfectly understandable how one’s unconscious, under these conditions, might react by repressing enthusiasm, thus producing the mood of despair.

The victim of moods like despair is frequently unaware of the problem. Kierkegaard clearly thought that despair is often unconscious. The individual senses dimly that something is wrong, without ever being able to put a finger on it. The great extent to which despair functions in human lives below the level of consciousness may be one more result of the refusal of many people to face the truth about themselves and their world. The truly unhappy person who mistakenly believes himself or herself happy tends to regard as an enemy everyone who threatens that illusion.

Moods like despair are also indications that the major source of human trouble lies within, not in external circumstances. Consider the contrast in the writings of St. Paul between sins, the overt acts, and sin, the depraved nature within. Human beings are not self-sufficient; we cannot cure ourselves. We can become selves, we can grow up and develop into complete human beings only through a proper relationship with God. The finite and infinite must be joined from without, by God himself. Despair is only one symptom of estrangement from God and consequently from the self. Divided selves can achieve the unity of selfhood only in a faith-relationship with God.

One final aspect of Kierkegaard’s analysis deserves attention. Moods like despair indicate that people are not wholly or ultimately made for this world. There is “something eternal” in us. We are to find the fulfillment of our passion for meaning and security, which is expressed in a distorted way by our typical immersion in these worldly projects, in a realm which is not subject to disappearance. A human being is not an absurdity, a futile passion, doomed either to repression or the most poignant unhappiness. He is, rather, a wayward child of God, whose restlessness and anxiety and despair can and should drive him into the arms of his Father. His despair is indeed a sickness, but it is curable when he finds his true home (Robert C. Roberts, “The Transparency of Faith,” The Reformed Journal. June, 1979, p. 11).

The eternal factor that God has implanted within leaves all of us ultimately frustrated, unhappy, and restless until we finally enter into his rest. As Augustine put it, God has made us for himself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in him. Human beings are driven to seek an eternal peace, in which everything will finally be in its proper place, in which perfect order both in the world and in the soul will be attained. Despair may be one way God informs us that we are to look beyond ourselves for our ultimate peace. It is one of several moods and affective states that ought to remind alert people that we should know better than to think that our highest good can be found in this life. The Christian worldview recognizes the human need for forgiveness and redemption and stresses that the blessings of salvation are possible because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Christ’s redemptive work is the basis of human salvation. But human beings are required to repent of sins (be sorry for and turn from sins) and believe. Accepting Christ as one’s Lord and Savior brings about a new birth, a new heart, a new relationship with God, and a new power to live (See John 3:3-21; Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 8:10-12; and 1 John 3:1-2).

Christian conversion does not suddenly make the new Christian perfect. But the Christian has God’s nature and Spirit within and is called to live a particular kind of life in obedience to God’s will. Finally, the Christian worldview teaches that physical death is not the end of personal existence.

 CHRISTIANITY’S “TOUCHSTONE PROPOSITION”

Even my short outline of the Christian worldview may seem involved to some readers. Is it possible to boil everything down to one proposition? In this connection, William Halverson makes an interesting observation:

At the center of every worldview is what might be called the “touchstone proposition” of that worldview, a proposition that is held to be the fundamental truth about reality and serves as a criterion to determine which other propositions may or may not count as candidates for belief. If a given proposition P is seen to be inconsistent with the touchstone proposition or one’s worldview, then so long as one holds that worldview, proposition P must be regarded as false (William H. Halverson, A Concise Introduction to Philosophy, 3d. ed. New York: Random House, 1976, p. 384).

There is value in seeing how Halverson’s suggestion applies to what has already been said about the Christian worldview. Does one touchstone proposition or control belief or ultimate presupposition that is the fundamental truth of this particular worldview also serve as the test that any belief must pass before it can be included as part of the worldview?

One proposition that may fill the bill is the following: “Human beings and the universe in which they reside are the creation of the God who has revealed himself in Scripture” (By Scripture I mean the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament deemed canonical by the Protestant Church).

The basic presupposition of the Christian worldview is the existence of God revealed in Scripture. This linkage between God and the Scripture is proper. It is true, naturally, that this particular touchstone proposition allows the Christian ready access to all that Scripture says about God, the world, and humankind. While that is certainly an advantage, it is hardly an unfair advantage. What would be both unwise and unfair would be any attempt to separate the Christian God from his self-disclosure.

As Carl F. H. Henry points out, God is not “a nameless spirit awaiting post-mortem examination in some theological morgue. He is a very particular and specific divinity, known from the beginning solely on the basis of his works and self-declaration as the one living God” (Carl F. H. Henry, God. Revelation and Authority, vol. 2: God Who Speaks and Shows. Waco: Word, 1976, p. 7).

Any final decision regarding the existence of the Christian God and the truth Christian worldview will necessarily involve decisions about issues related to the Christian Scriptures. Since details of that worldview flow from the Christian’s ultimate authority, the Bible, any negative reaction to one will likely produce a negative reaction to the other. Of course, to turn the coin over, a positive evaluation of one side of this equation should bear positively on the other. The Christian cannot pretend that his worldview was formulated in a revelational vacuum.

CONCLUSION

While all mature, thinking persons have a worldview, many of them are unaware of the fact. People often evidence great difficulty attaining consciousness of key elements of their worldview. Most of us know individuals who seldom think deeply enough to ask the right questions about God, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and humankind. As I have said, one of the important tasks for philosophers, theologians, and, indeed, for anyone interested in helping people in this important matter, is first to get people to realize that they do have a conceptual system. The second step is to help people get a clearer fix on the content of their worldview. What do they believe about the existence and nature of God, about humankind, morality, knowledge, and ultimate reality? The third step is to help people evaluate their worldview and either improve it (by removing inconsistencies and filling in gaps) or replace it with a better worldview. In the next chapter, I will examine recommendations regarding the best or most promising way to go about making a choice among competing worldviews.

The article above was adapted from Chapter 2 in Ronald H. Nash. Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in the World of Ideas. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

About the Author: Ronald H. Nash (PhD, Syracuse University; 1936-2006) was professor of philosophy at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He also was a professor of philosophy and theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He previously served for 25 years as Head of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Western Kentucky University. Nash was strongly influenced by such evangelical thinkers as Gordon H. Clark and Carl F.H. Henry. He influenced and mentored many young Christian philosophers and apologists during his life. He was a Fellow of the Christianity Today Institute, and a prolific author. He wrote hundreds of magazine and journal articles, as well as authoring or editing over thirty books, including:

Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in the World of Ideas. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Life’s Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought? (Student Library). Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2003.

The Light of The Mind: Saint Augustine’s Theory of Knowledge. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2003.

Great Divides: Understanding the Controversies That Come Between Christians. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993 (Republished by Academic Renewal Press, 2003).

Social Justice and the Christian Church. CCS Publishing, 2002.

When a Baby Dies. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.

The Meaning of History. B&H Academic, 1998.

Faith and Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.

Christian Faith and Historical Understanding. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.

The Word of God and Mind of Man (Student Library). Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 1992.

Poverty and Wealth: The Christian Debate over Capitalism. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986.

The Concept of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mark A. Copeland on The Church Universal and Local Distinguished

The Church “Universal”                            The Church “Local”

Composed of all Christians Composed of Christians in onelocation
Began on the Day of Pentecost Begins when people join together
There is just one There are many
Enter only by being added by the Lord Enter by joining ourselves
The Lord keeps the books of membership Enrolled by human judgment
Consists of all the saved Consists of both saved and lost
Must be in this to be saved Do not have to be in this to be saved
Has no earthly organization Has earthly organization
Can’t be divided Can be divided
Death doesn’t affect membership Death does affect membership
Does not have one scriptural name May use different scriptural names

*Mark A. Copeland is a Bible teacher in Kissimmee, Fl.

 

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