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Author Archives: lifecoach4God

About lifecoach4God

I am the Lead Pastor of Valley Baptist Church (Bay Area), born and raised in Huntington Beach, Ca,, and currently living in Novato, California. I am married to my best friend of 27 years - Dana - and have five adult children; and six grand children. I have been a Teaching Pastor for over thirty years. I was privileged to study at Multnomah University (B.S. - 1988); Talbot School of Theology (M.Div. - 1991); Westminster Theological Seminary & Northwest Graduate School (D. Min. - 2003). I founded Vertical Living Ministries in 2008 with the goal of encouraging Christian Disciples and Leaders to be more intentionally Christ-Centered in how they live by bringing glory to God in nine key areas of life: personal spiritually, in marriage, in their families, with friends, vocationally, physical health, finances, discipleship, and mentoring .

Book Review on Costi W. Hinn’s “God, Greed, And The (Prosperity) Gospel by David P. Craig

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The Truth About The False Gospel

One of the first papers I wrote in Bible college in 1985 was a critique on the so-called “Prosperity Gospel.” At the time, the big name prosperity preacher in America was Robert Schuller. As I compared his teaching with the Bible it was very clear that what’s been come to be known as the “prosperity gospel” is clearly a false or non-gospel. It’s not good news because it’s not the biblical gospel – it’s a mirage that is synonymous with the so-called “American Dream.”

As I did my research for my paper on Schuller, something really caught my attention. One, I realized that nobody in the Bible lived with total health, wealth, and prosperity. Pick just about anyone from the Old Testament or New Testament. What they all had in common wasn’t health, wealth, and prosperity, but suffering, pain, and ultimately death – many of them martyrs deaths for the sake of the real gospel. Compare the American dream with the life of Joseph, Job, Paul, Peter, and Jesus – and you have a clear bifurcation of the real and unreal gospel.

Another thing that stood out to me was how Schuller’s “Hour of Power” (his TV show watched by millions of people around the world) couldn’t get traction in communist Russia. I talked with a Russian evangelical pastor and he told me that Schuller couldn’t get traction in Russia because what he was teaching didn’t work in Russia. He wasn’t preaching the gospel because the gospel works everywhere: among the poor and rich, free and suppressed; educated and uneducated; every language; every ethnic group, etc. The gospel has never changed. The reality of the gospel is it works everywhere because it’s true and has the power of God behind it (Romans 1:16). If it can’t be preached everywhere and to everyone than its simply NOT the biblical gospel!

Unfortunately, the false gospel known as the “Prosperity-Gospel” continues to be propounded world-wide. Among the most famous proponents of this false gospel has been Benny Hinn – the uncle of the author, Costi W. Hinn. First of all, kudos to Costi for his courage in writing this book. One of my first thoughts was how hasn’t he been sued by his family for writing this book? I hope he doesn’t get sued because Costi clearly understands the difference between the biblical gospel and the false gospel promoted by Benny Hinn and those of his ilk. Costi understands that people’s eternal lives and earthly lives are at stake as to how we understand and what we believe about the gospel. It’s essential that we get the gospel right.

Who should read this book? Everyone! I have been an evangelical pastor for over 30 years and it never ceases to amaze me how many church going people don’t read their Bibles, don’t understand the gospel, and are prone to believe in deceptive lies of the enemy that are proclaimed by wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Costi does a wonderful job of bringing the reader into the world view of prosperity gospel ministries. He gives an honest assessment of its strengths and weaknesses and testifies to how he was deceived growing up in this movement. He then goes on to compare prosperity theology with biblical theology. He compares false teaching and doctrine with biblical doctrine and teaching.

He has some very helpful sections in the book that help you biblically detect false teachers and false doctrines; shows how the prosperity gospel contradicts the real gospel; and gives a balanced view of healing, health, and wealth that is truly biblically based. He also has a great section on helps to reach those who are lost and caught up in false religions and cults.

Costi Hinn by God’s grace has been spared from a life apart from truth and the genuine gospel. Now he proclaims God’s grace and the genuine gospel as a pastor and writer. May our Lord use this book to help many flee from the darkness and run to the light of the gospel: That Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and rose again according to the Scriptures, and that those who repent of their sins and trust in Him may have eternal life. May all those who are deceived have the blinders taken off and may God use this great book to help us in reaching those who were once like Costi – who was once dead spiritually and is now alive spiritually because of the mercy of God delineated by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 & Ephesians 2:1-10.

 

 

 

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Recommended Resources on Science and the Bible (Compiled by Pastor David P. Craig)

images.jpegThe Relationship Between the Bible and Science

Barret, Eric C., and David Fisher. Scientists Who Believe.

Berlinski, David. The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions.

Cabal, Theodore and Peter Rasor II. Controversy of the Ages: Why Christians Should Not Divide Over The Age Of The Earth.

Carlson, Richard F., editor. Science & Christianity: Four Views.

Collins, C. John. Science & Faith: Friends Or Foes?

Flew, Anthony with Roy Abraham Varghese. There is a God: How The World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.

Guillen, Michael. Amazing Truths: How Science And The Bible Agree

Guillen, Michael. Can A Smart Person Believe in God?

Helm, David R. and Jon M. Dennis. The Genesis Factor: Probing Life’s Big Questions.

Hunter, Cornelius G. Science’s Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism.

Kethley, Kenneth D., and Mark F. Rooker. 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution.

Lennox, John. Can Science Explain Everything?

Lennox, John. God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?

Lennox, John. Seven Days That Divide The World: The Beginning According To Genesis and Science. 

Moreland, J.P. Christianity and the Nature of Science.

Moreland, J.P. Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology.

Morris, Henry. Men of Science, Men of God.

Plantinga, Alvin. Where The Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, & Naturalism.

Ratzsch, Del. Science and Its Limits.

Ratzsch, Del. The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither Side Is Winning the Creation- Evolution Debate.

Rau, Gerald. Mapping The Origins Debate: Six Models of The Beginning of Everything.

Stokes, Mitch. How To Be An Atheist: Why Skeptics Aren’t Skeptical Enough.

Strobel, Lee. The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God.

Wallace, J. Warner. God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines The Evidence For A Divinely Created Universe.

Williams, Richard N. and Daniel N. Robinson, eds. Scientism: The New Orthodoxy.

Intelligent Design

Axe, Douglas. Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed.

Behe, Michael J. Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. 

Behe, Michael J. The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism.

Behe, Michael J. Darwin Devolves: The New Science About DNA That Challenges Evolution.

Behe, Michael, William A. Dembski, and Stephen C. Meyer. Science And Evidence For Design In The Universe.

Dembski, William. Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology.

Dembski, William. The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities.

Dembski, William. The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design.

Dembski, William and Jonathan Witt. The Intelligent Design Uncensored: An Easy-to- Understand Guide to the Controversy.

Denton, Michael. Children of Light: The Astonishing Properties of Sunlight that Make Us Possible.

Denton, Michael J. Destiny: How The Laws Of Biology Reveal Purpose In The Universe.

Denton, Michael. Fire-Maker: How Humans Were Designed to Harness Fire and Transform Our Planet.

Denton, Michael. The Wonder of Water.

Eberlin, Marcos. Fore Sight: How the Chemistry of Life Reveals Planning and Purpose.

Gonzalez, Guillermo, and Jay W. Richards. The Privileged Planet: How Are Place In The Cosmos Is designed For Discovery.

Johnson, Phillip E. Darwin on Trial.

Johnson, Phillip E. The Wedge of Truth: Splitting The Foundations of Naturalism.

Keas, Michael Newton. Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion.

Leila, Matti & Jonathan Witt. Heretic: One Scientist’s Journey From Darwin To Design.

Meyer, Stephen C. Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design.

Meyer, Stephen C. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin Of Animal Life And The Case For Intelligent Design.

Meyer, Stephen C. “Intelligent Design” in Four Views On Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design edited by J.B. Stump.

Travis, Melissa Cain. Science and The Mind of the Maker: What the Conversation Between Faith and Science Reveals About God.

Wells, Jonathan. Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Why Much of What We teach About Evolution Is Wrong.

Wells, Jonathan. The Myth of Junk DNA.

Wells, Jonathan. Zombie Science: More Icons of Evolution.

West, John G. editor. The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society.

Websites Promoting Intelligent Design: intelligentdesign.org ; discovery.org ; intelligentdesignnetwork.org ; ideacenter.org ; biologicinstitute.org ; arn.org 

Six-Day Creationism (Young Earth)

Ashton, John F., editor. In Six Days: Why Fifty Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation.

Barrick, William D. by William D. “Young Earth View of Adam” in Four Views on the Historical Adam.

Duncan III, J. Ligon and David W. Hall “The 24-Hour View” in The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation.

Ham, Ken. “Young Earth Position” in Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design.

 Hoffmeier, James K. “Genesis as History”in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters

MacArthur, John. The Battle of Beginnings: Creation, Evolution, and The Bible.

Morris, Henry and John Whitcomb. The Genesis Flood.

Morris, Henry M. Scientific Creationism.

Morris, John D. The Global Flood: Unlocking Earth’s Geologic History.

Morris, John D. The Young Earth: The Real History of the the Earth – Past, Present, and Future.

Morris, John D and Frank J. Sherwin. The Fossil Record: Unearthing Nature’s History of Life.

Mortenson Terry and Thane H. Ury. Coming to Grips With Genesis.

Nelson, Paul and Mark Reynolds. “Young Earth Creationism” in Three Views on Creation and Evolution.

Vail, Tom. Grand Canyon: A Different View.

Young Earth/ Six-Day Creationism Websites: – Ken Ham’s Ministry: answersingenesis.org ; Institute for Creation Research (Founded by Henry M. Morris) – icr.org ; Creation Ministries Internationalcreation.com.

The Day Age Theory or Progressive Creationism (Old Earth)

Gribbin, John. Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique.

Hill, Carol, Gregg Davidson, Tim Helble, and Wayne Ranney, editors. The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon?

Rana, Fazale. Creating Life In The Lab.

Rana, Fazale. The Cell’s Design.

Rana, Fazale & Hugh Ross. Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off.

Rana, Fazale & Hugh Ross. Who Was Adam? A Creation Model Approach To The Origin of Humanity.

Rana, Fazale R. & Kenneth R. Samples. Humans 2.0: Scientific, Philosophical and Theological Perspectives on Transhumanism.

Ross, Hugh. A Matter of Days.

Ross, Hugh. Beyond The Cosmos.

Ross, Hugh. Creator and The Cosmos.

Ross, Hugh. Improbable Planet.

Ross, Hugh. More Than A Theory.

Ross, Hugh. Navigating Genesis.

Ross, Hugh. The Fingerprint of God.

Ross, Hugh. Why The Universes Is The Way It Is.

Snoke, David. A Biblical Case for an Old Earth.

Young, Davis A. and Ralph F. Stearley. The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth.

Websites Promoting The Day Age Theory: reasons.org ; oldearth.org 

The Gap Theory

Barnhouse, Donald Grey. Genesis.

Chalmers, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Chalmers: Complete In One Volume.

Custance, Arthur C.. Without Form and Void.

DeHaan, M.R. Genesis.

Pember, G.H. Earth’s Earliest Ages.

Pink, A.W. Gleanings in Genesis.

Rimmer, Harry. Modern Science and the Genesis Record.

Schaeffer, Francis. Genesis in Space and Time.

Scofield C.I. Scofield Reference Bible (Notes).

Evolutionary Creationism or Theistic Evolution

A Defense of Theistic Evolution:

Applegate, Kathryn & J.B. Stump. How I Changed My Mind About Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science.

Bishop, Robert C. and Larry L. Funck. Understanding Scientific Theories of Origins: Cosmology, Geology, and Biology in Christian (BioLogos Books on Science and Christianity).

Collins, Francis S. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

Keathley, Kenneth, J.B. Stump, and Joe Aguirre. Old-Earth Or Evolutionary Creation? Discussing Origins with Reasons To Believe and Biologos.

Haarsma, Deborah B. “Evolutionary Creationism”  in Four Views On Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design.

Haarsma, Deborah B. and Loren D. Haarsma. Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Lamoureux, Denis O. I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution 

Lamoureux, Denis O. Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution

Lamoureux, Denis O. “No Historical Adam: Evolutionary Creation View” in Four Views On The Historical Adam.

McGrath, Alister. The Science of God.

Van Till, Howard J. “The Fully Gifted Creation” in Three Views on Creation and Evolution.

Wood, Todd Charles, and Darrel R. Falk. The Fool And The Heretic: How Two Scientists Moved Beyond Labels To A Christian Dialogue About Creation and Evolution.

Websites Promoting Theistic Evolution: biologos.org ; oldearth.org ; faithandevolution.org ; www.theistic-evolution.com

Evolution Critiqued

Berlinski, David. The Deniable Darwin.

Bethell, Tom. Darwin’s House Of Cards: A Journalists Odyssey Through The Darwin Debates.

Carlson, Ron and Ed Decker. “Evolution The Incredible Theory” in Fast Facts on False Teaching.

Denton, Michael. Evolution: A Theory In Crises.

Denton, Michael. Evolution: Still A Theory In Crises.

Gale,  Barry G. Evolution Without Evidence: Charles Darwin and The Origin of the Species.

Gillespie, Neil. Charles Darwin and The Problems of Creation.

Hanegraaf, Hank. The FARCE of Evolution.

Johnson, Phillip E. Darwin on Trial.

Johnson, Phillip E. Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds.

Moreland, J.P., Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger, and Wayne Grudem, eds. Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique.

Nagel, Thomas. Mind And Cosmos: Why The Materialist Noe-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False

Rhodes, Ron. The 10 Things You Should Know About the Creation vs. Evolution Debate.

Richards, Jay, editor. God And Evolution. 

Simmons, M.D. Geoffrey. What Darwin Didn’t Know: A Doctor Dissects the Theory of Evolution.

Woodward, Thomas. Doubts About Darwin.

YouTube Videos On Science, the Bible, and Evolution

“Nothing Left to Chance” (48:15) {R.C. Sproul, Ligonier Ministries}.

“An Interview with Michael J. Denton” (32:47).

“Blind Watchmaker? A Skeptical Look at Darwinism” (1:12:55) {Phillip E. Johnson}.

“God, Science & the Big Questions: Leading Christian Thinkers Respond to the New Atheism” (1:45:15) {Held at Biola University – with William Lane Craig, John Lennox, J.P. Moreland, and Hugh Hewitt}.

“Hugh Ross and Walter Kaiser vs. Ken Ham and Jason Lisle – Genesis Debate” (3:45:06).

“Hugh Ross and John Ankerberg – Genesis and Science” (2:49:36).

“God and Evolution: The Problem with Theistic Evolution” – Stephen C. Meyer (1:02:36).

“The Origin of Life: Evolution vs. Design” [Full Debate between evolutionist, Michael Ruse and Reason to Believe’s – Fazale Rana, (2:28:35)].

“God & Evolution: A Critique of Theistic Evolution” (2:23:44) [with Stephen Meyer].

“Mathematical Challenges to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution with Berlinski, Meyer, and Gelerenter” (57:14).

“For the City: J.P. Moreland on “A Christian View of Science” (1:08:36).

“Hugh Ross talks Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design” (Part 1, 33:21).

“Creation – Evolution Debates – Dawkins vs. Lennox at Cambridge” (1:21:53).

“Intelligent Design Vs. Evolution 2.0 – Perry Marshall debates Stephen Meyer” (1:21:53).

“John Lennox: The Question of Science and God – Part 1 (47:34) {Socrates in the City Interview with Eric Metaxas}; Part 2 (58:28).

“John Lennox: Seven Days That Divide the World” (1:30:07) {Socrates in the City Lecture Introduction and MC’d by Eric Metaxas}.

“Eric Metaxas Interviews Stephen Meyer on Science and Faith” (1:11:42).

“Can Science Explain Everything? An Interview with John Lennox (1:30:09).

“Eric Metaxas: The Miracle of the Universe” (45:06).

“Dr. David Berlinski: The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions” (1:14:57) {Socrates in the City – Introduction by Eric Mataxas}.

“Michael Behe – Lee Strobel – Molecular Machines Disprove Evolution” (8:41).

“Michael Behe: Darwin Devolves” (1:01:24) {Socrates in the City Interview with Eric Metaxas}.

“Irreducible Complexity” (1:42:48) {Michael Behe on the Access Research Network}.

“From the Big Bang to Irreducible Complexity – Michael Behe, PhD” (58:18).

“What Are The Limits of Drwinism? A Presentation by Dr. Micahel Behe at the University of Toronto” (1:25:34).

“Stephen Meyer & Eric Metaxas Discuss Darwin’s Doubt at Socrates in the City” ((1:25:48) {Socrates in the City Interview with Eric Metaxas}.

“Stephen Meyer: The Return of the God Hypothesis” (1:11:55) {Socrates in the City Interview with Eric Metaxas}.

“Ard Louis: Science and Faith” (1:18:45) {Socrates in the City Interview with Eric Metaxas}.

“Has Science Buried God? Oxford Professor, John Lennox, at SMU (1:11:25).

“James Tour: The Mystery of the Origin of Life” (58:02).

“Does Science Make Faith Obsolete? James Tour at Mississippi State University” (1:57:11).

“Dr. Tour On The Origin of Life at Syracuse University Cru” (1:30:29).

“Science Refutes Evolution – Dr. James Tour” (59:29).

“Dr. James Tour speaking about Evolution” (34:05).

“James Tour: The Origin of Life Has Not Been Explained” (22:57).

“The Scientific Case For Intelligent Design – William Dembski, PhD” (45:34).

“Information and the End of Materialism – William Dembski, PhD” (44:09).

“Molecular Machines and the Death of Darwinism – Dembski, Wells, Nelson, Macosko” (43:15).

“Detecting Design in Biology” (1:51:31) {Access Research Network}.

“Hugh Ross – Origin of Life” (1:13:01).

“Hugh Ross – Beyond the Cosmos: How Science Reveals God’s Trans-Dimensional Power” (1:13:11).

“Hugh Ross vs. Ken Ham – TBN Debate” (1:14:18).

“Hugh Ross vs. Kent Hovind How Old Is The Earth” (2:35:43).

“Does Science Prove God’s Glory? Dr. Hugh Ross Regent University (29:27).

“Hugh Ross – The Flood of Noah” (1:09:14).

“Hugh Ross – Hubble Confirms Universe Expanding Faster Than Expected” (1:47:11).

“Inner Life of the Cell (Full Version)” (7:59).

“The Failure of Darwin’s Theory” (28:31) {Stephen Meyer on John Ankerberg}.

“Harmony Between Christianity and Science Michael Guillen” (8:02).

“Francis Collins: How I Became a Christian” (27:53).

“10 Top Christian Scientists on Science and Faith” (6:28).

“Stephen C. Meyer The Ben Shapiro Show Sunday Special Episode 43” (59:38).

“How Darwinists Think Lecture and Q&A Phillip E. Johnson” (1:39:51).

“Phillip E. Johnson on Darwinism” (57:58).

“Darwinism on Trial” (1:40:59) {Phillip E. Johnson}.

“Focus on Darwinism – An Interview with Phillip E. Johnson” (54:08).

“One Nation Under Darwin” (1:32:09) {Phillip E. Johnson}.

“Debate: Darwinism: Science or Naturalistic Philosophy? Phillip Johnson vs William Provine” (1:46:33).

“Darwinism: Science or Philosophy – Phillip E. Johnson” (58:06).

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2019 in Evolution, Science

 

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*REVIVAL KEYS By Ajith Fernando

photo of clouds during golden hour

Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Pexels.com

I was very encouraged when a small group of Christians seeking to pray for revival asked me to speak to them and give them some guidance. This is an expansion of what I shared.

Revival means many things to many people. But what I am talking about is a situation where large numbers of people are fired up to seek God fully, yearn for obedience, confess sin in their life, and experience the joy and freedom of walking with God.

History shows us that there is no exact prescription for revival. It is an act of the sovereign God and we can’t dictate to God what he should do and when he should do it. I have been praying for revival in Sri Lanka since 1975. Only once have I seen something close to revival (at a conference I was part of). But I will not give up praying. In my lifetime or after, may the Lord send his showers of blessing upon our people.

While we cannot dictate to God what he will do, history shows us that there are some things that happen before and when revival comes that are worth noting.

1. There is faithful preaching of the Word before revival comes, as we saw with the ministry of Ezra, and in all the revivals in the history of the church. The Word systematically preached can create a thirst for all that the Word teaches, and the Holy Spirit can ignite the Word with fires of revival when God’s time has come. Often pre-revival preaching is characterised by a call to total commitment to God, to repent and get right with God and an extolling of the beauty of holiness.

2. The great historian of revival J. Edwin Orr has made famous the statement, “No great spiritual awakening has begun anywhere in the world apart from united prayer—Christians persistently praying for revival.” This is what the disciples of Christ did before the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:14). People with a burden recognise others with a similar burden and they join and pray. I can tell you story after story of great revivals that were preceded by such united, persevering prayer by people who recognised that they share a similar burden for revival.

3. Unity is often the trigger for revival and sometimes the result of revival. Once when Ugandan Bishop Festo Kivengere was preaching in South India, his interpreter Samuel Ganesh felt convicted of the need to make peace with a person in the audience. He took leave from the preacher and went to audience and made peace. This triggered a process of person after person making peace with each other. Revival had come; there was no need to complete the sermon. Bishop Festo left room for the Spirit do his work. The Bible speaks of the urgency of believers being united (John 17:31, 23; Eph. 4:1-3). One of the most important callings of leaders is to yearn and pray for unity and do all they can to facilitate it. The Holy Spirit can use a leaders’ yearning to trigger revival. Those who pray for revival should make sure that they have done all to be at peace with others.

4. Another revival key is earnestness (Jonah 3:8). The famous revival prayer, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psa. 85:6) suggests a tone of earnest desire. Revival is preceded by people seeking God with all their heart and wanting to see God’s glory among his people. My favourite example of such praying are the students at Pandita Ramabhai’s school in India who fervently prayed, and God answered by reviving them and many others through them. The young Evan Roberts, whose ministry triggered the Welsh Revival, often prayed, “Bend me, O God.” We are open to whatever it takes for God to be totally in control of our lives!

5. Every genuine revival I know of has been accompanied by the confession of sin (2 Chron. 7:14). Some so-called revivals have been characterised by exotic experiences without much emphasis on repentance. People go to such places like tourists to see what is happening. I wonder whether we could call that revival. After the revival at Asbury College and Seminary in 1971 many students came to the bookstore to return things that they have taken without paying. That is a powerful sign that they had got right with God.

Preaching against sin before the revival often contributes to revival and influences what sins are sins confessed. In the history of the church there were times when some sins were neglected in revival preaching—like sexual impurity, exploitation, race, class and caste prejudice. This has resulted in revived churches perpetuating sins that the revival should have addressed. In other revivals, like the 18th century Wesleyan revival in the UK, revival helped influence social reform and attack injustice.

6. Often revivals are accompanied by spectacular phenomena, especially during the start of the revival. The revivals associated with the Wesleys and Jonathan Edwards had people falling down with somewhat violent reactions under deep conviction of sin. We need to be open to God’s “surprising works” and be careful about stifling such. But we also need to remember that after some time these phenomena could become rituals that have lost their original meaning. Sometimes these phenomena could be taken to extremes that make them unbalanced and unbiblical.

7. Revivals start in different, sometimes surprising, places. In Wales it was a group of young people under a seminary student Evan Roberts, who came home from seminary to seek God sensing that he had lost his fire. Roberts started a prayer group which grew and grew and became a nationwide movement resulting in about 100,000 people being converted and joining the church. In the Hebrides Islands of Scotland, there were two single house-bound ladies in their eighties, Misses Smith, who prayed earnestly for revival. At the same time in another part of their island seven young men met regularly to prevail in prayer until revival broke. In Korea in the early 1900s God spoke to the leaders of the church and revived them first and that led to a national awakening. In an Indian girls school it was the prodding of a devout leader Pandita Ramabhai which fired up students to prevail in prayer and trigger revival. Five university students in the USA gathered at a haystack and prayed for missions and helped give birth to the great missionary movement of that nation.

8. While revivals usually result in the awakening of Christians, they are also accompanied by a powerful witness to those outside the church. Unbelievers see the power of God at work in the revived Christians and these Christians are emboldened to share their faith. The result is that large numbers of people are saved. So effective evangelism generally accompanies genuine revival.

Do not lose heart, dear friends, keep yearning for a great visitation from God. The seven young people in the Hebrides Islands made Isaiah 62:6-7 their watchword as they prayed for revival: “You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.” Let us take no rest and give no rest to God until he sends revival to our people.

*Ajith Fernando is the teaching director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka. He served as the ministry’s national director for 35 years. He is the author of seventeen books, including Discipling in a Multicultural World, and lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka, with his wife. They have two adult children and four grandchildren.

 
 

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*Responding to the Argument from Evil – 3 Approaches for the Theist by Dr. David Wood

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A few weeks ago, my five-year-old son, Lucian, came up with his first argument against the existence of God. He reasoned that, since God can’t be seen, God must not exist. Put formally:

  1. If I can’t see x, x doesn’t exist.
  2. I can’t see God.
  3. Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

The first premise, of course, is false, and it wasn’t difficult to show young Luke that seeing isn’t the only way to know that something exists. We can, for instance, know that something exits because of its effects. Hence, this argument was easily refuted (and I remain undefeated in debates with five-year-olds). Nevertheless, I doubt my son is going to stop formulating arguments. It’s only a matter of time before he presents me with a much stronger case, based on a crucial piece of data that is always before him.

In November of 2007, my son Reid was born. He wasn’t moving or breathing. The only sign of life was his heartbeat. He was placed on a respirator, and he was eventually given a tracheostomy. We had to wait several months for a diagnosis, but we finally learned that Reid has myotubular myopathy, a rare genetic disorder that makes his muscles extremely weak—so weak that he can’t hold his head up, breathe consistently, swallow when he needs to, or make a sound when he cries.

We teach our sons that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and completely good. I’m quite certain that, within the next few years, Luke is going to reason as follows:

  1. God, by definition is all-knowing, all-powerful, and completely good.
  2. If God is all-knowing, he would know how to prevent children from getting myotubular myopathy.
  3. If God is all-powerful, he would have the power to prevent children from getting myotubular myopathy.
  4. If God is completely good, he would want to prevent children from getting myotubular myopathy.
  5. My brother has myotubular myopathy.
  6. Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

This argument isn’t nearly as easily refuted as the previous argument. How are theists (i.e., people who believe that God exists and acts in our world) to respond?

There are three main approaches we can take when we respond to the argument from evil (hereafter AE). We can point out problems with the argument, we can try to explain suffering, and we can offer additional arguments for theism that outweigh any evidence against theism. Let’s take a closer look at these responses.

Problems with the Argument from Evil (AE)

Since AE is an argument, the burden of proof is on the proponent to show that the argument is a good one. Thus, the first approach we can take is to point out problems with the argument itself, for example, inconsistencies, unproven assumptions, or ambiguous terms.

Inconsistencies

When atheists present AE, they’re usually guilty of a number of inconsistencies. Let’s consider one that’s quite common. The most popular version of AE goes something like this:

  1. If God exists, there wouldn’t be any pointless suffering.
  2. Since we can’t think of reasons for allowing certain instances of suffering, some suffering is probably pointless (e.g., an injured deer experiencing pointless pain as it slowly dies in the woods).
  3. Therefore, God probably doesn’t exist.

But notice what the atheist is claiming. Since there’s probably no point to at least some suffering (because we can’t think of one), God probably doesn’t exist. The atheist is claiming, then, that we shouldn’t believe something that seems improbable. But what happens when atheists are confronted by, say, the design argument? The theist argues, “Look, it’s extremely improbable that life formed on its own, or that the universe just happened to be finely tuned for life. So life and the world probably have a designer.” Here the atheist responds, “Yes, these things may be improbable, but I’m going to believe them anyway.” This is a clear inconsistency. When one argument is on the table, we mustn’t go against the probabilities; when a different argument is on the table, it’s suddenly perfectly acceptable to go against the probabilities.

Based on this inconsistency alone, I would say that even if a theist has no explanation for suffering, he or she is no worse than the atheist who has no explanation for the origin of the universe of for the complexity of life. If, however, it can be shown that there are other problems with the argument from evil, and if theists can offer reasons for God to allow suffering, theists are on much better ground than atheists.

Ambiguous Terms

Certain words can mean very different things to different people. For instance, if I say to an atheist, “I have faith in God,” the atheist assumes I mean that my belief in God has nothing to do with evidence. But this isn’t what I mean by faith at all. When I say that I have faith in God, I mean that I place my trust in God based on what I know about him.

Ambiguous terms can cause significant problems when they’re used in arguments. Consider a simple word: good. Theists say that God is wholly good. But what do we mean by this? As I examine AE, I find that atheists are using this term quite differently from the way I use it. If we examine atheistic arguments carefully, we find that a “good” being is one who maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain. Given this definition, we can see why AE seems so persuasive to some:

  1. If Gd existed, he would maximize our pleasure and minimize our pain.
  2. Our pleasure is not maximized, and our pain is not minimized.
  3. Thus, God doesn’t exist.

If the premises of this argument are true, the conclusion follows. But what if we challenge the first premise by rejecting the claim that God’s goodness implies giving lots of pleasure? Theists believe that some things are far more important than pleasure or lack of pain. Becoming good people, developing virtues, learning that we’re not the center of the universe, seeking God with all our hearts—these are all vastly more important than pleasure or lack of pain. Thus, when theists say that God is wholly good, we’re applying the term good within a framework of Christian values, where pleasure simply isn’t at the top of our priorities.

Unproven Assumptions

When we make an argument, we assume various things. For instance, we assume that our minds are functioning properly, that valid logic preserves truth, and so on. Such things are rarely questioned. Nevertheless, when an assumption is crucial to an argument, and there’s no good reason to believe the assumption, the argument is on very shaky ground. Consider the awareness assumption, which is absolutely critical for most versions of AE: If God has reasons for allowing evil, we will be aware of these reasons.

I cannot imagine how a defender of AE could even hope to show that this assumption is true. God’s knowledge and wisdom are infinite, while even the smartest of human beings knows practically nothing by comparison. Yet without this assumption, most versions of AE cannot get off the ground.

Explaining Suffering

Given numerous problems with AE (and we’ve only looked at a few), I don’t think that theists are under any obligation to explain suffering. Yet if we can come up with plausible reasons for God to allow suffering , this would increase the overall plausibility of theism.

Theists can account for suffering in two important ways: we can account for suffering theologically by appealing to Christian doctrines, and we can account for suffering philosophically by appealing towhead philosophers call “theodicies.”

Christian Doctrine

The most important religious claim to consider when faced with AE is that humanity is in a state of rebellion against God. While an atheist will probably reject such a claim, it’s important to keep in mind that AE relies, to a large extent, on how awful humanity is and can become. When atheists offer evidence of suffering, they typically point to the Holocaust, or to the “Rape of Nanking,” or to children being horribly victimized. But such events fit quite well with the idea that humanity has turned away from God. To put it differently, the more examples of moral evil an atheist presents in support of his argument, the more evidence he’s given that human beings are extremely sinful. And it makes little sense to say, “Human beings are incredibly sinful and are at war with God, but God should give us a world of total pleasure and should rush to our aid whenever something goes wrong.”

Theodicies

A theodicy is an attempt to answer the question, What morally sufficient reason could there be for God to allow evil? Let’s look at two of the most important types of theodicy.

First, there are free will theodicies, which are based on two central ideas:

  1. A world containing free beings is better than a world without free beings, since only free beings can choose the good or genuinely love or be moral in any meaningful sense.
  2. True freedom entails that we are also free to choose the bad or not to love or to disobey the moral law.

On this view, moral evil is a misuse of moral freedom. Freedom itself, however, is a wonderful gift.

Second, there are soul-building theodicies. As we noted earlier, it’s quite common for people to think that, of God exists, his primary goal should be to maximize our pleasure. Such a view doesn’t fit well within a Christian framework, for it turns God into a “cosmic thermostat,” whose job is to keep the universe just the way we like it. Proponents of soul-building theodicies maintain that God has more important things in mind than pleasure or lack of pain. While it’s wonderful to go through times when life is comfortable, it’s a simple fact of human experience that we don’t grow much during those times. So if becoming mature human beings (or mature Christians) is important, then a world with pain is better than a world without pain. 

I don’t believe that such theodicies account for all of the evil in our world. nevertheless, as a theist, I don’t believe that our minds are capable of God’s reasons for allowing suffering. The fact that we can come up with some plausible explanations for suffering (despite our limited knowledge) is itself a serious blow to AE.

Outweighing the Argument from Evil

Since the argument from evil only claims to provide a certain amount of evidence against theism, we must note that, even if we think AE is a good argument, the evidence drawn from it can potentially be outweighed by other evidence. Theists can therefore muster a number of arguments in favor of their position. If these arguments, taken as a whole, provide a stronger case than AE, we must conclude, once again, that AE is not a serious threat to theism. While there are dozens of arguments for the existence of God, we will briefly consider three.

Design Arguments

There are two main versions of the design argument: (1) the argument from fine-tuning, and (2) the argument from biological complexity. Physicists are aware of the fact that the fundamental constants of our universe seem to be finely-tuned for life. If the gravitational force, the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, and the electromagnetic force were altered even slightly, human beings could not exist. Since there’s no naturalistic explanation for why these values should be just right for life, the fine-tuning of the cosmos provides strong evidence of a designing intelligence.

A cosmos finely tuned for life, however, doesn’t give us life. Additional steps are required to reach living cells, multicellular organisms, complete ecosystems, and especially conscious, self-reflective beings. The complexity of even the most basic living organism (let alone the complexity of more advanced life) is further evidence of a designing intelligence.

Cosmological Arguments

Many arguments for theism attempt to show that the universe must have a cause, or a certain type of cause. One such argument begins as follows:

  1. Whatever begins to exist must have a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe must have  cause.

The first premise is self-evident; the second premise can be known scientifically; thus, the conclusion follows. But we can go even further by examining the nature of the cause of the universe. Since the scientific evidence shows that matter and time began to exist, the first cause must be immaterial and timeless (both of which are attributes of God). The first cause must also be extraordinarily powerful and free to create. These attributes fit in perfectly with theism; they make no sense in atheism.

The Argument from Morality

Third, consider the following argument.

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

The first premise is certainly true. When we say that there are objective moral values, we’re saying that there are moral claims that are true whether or not human beings agree with them. Thus, the claim “rape is immoral” would still be true even if every human being on the planet decided otherwise. But if human beings cannot serve as the ground for objective morality, what can? Only a being that completely transcends humans.

What about the second premise? Interestingly enough, proponents of AE often grant this premise in the course of their argument. By declaring that suffering is evil, atheists have admitted that there is an objective moral standard by which we distinguish good and evil. Amazingly, then, even as atheists make their case against the existence of God, they actually help us prove that God exists!

Assessment 

We’ve looked at three approaches theists can take when we respond to the AE. We must be careful to use such responses at the appropriate time, however. Remember that Job had the best friends in the world, so long as they kept their mouths shut. Job’s time of intense suffering was not the appropriate occasion for a deep philosophical and theological analysis of human pain.

Similarly, when my son Luke comes up to me and says (as I know he eventually will), “Why did God allow Reid to get sick?” the appropriate response is not to charge in and say, “Well, let me explain the soul-building theodicy to you.” To give specific and confident answers is to pretend that we have certainty of God’s reasons for things when we often don’t. Human anguish is powerful, sometimes far more powerful than words.

Nevertheless, at appropriate times, we must respond to AE. Atheists claim that their arguments refute theism. Yet they-re inconsistent in the application of their principles, and they’re smuggling in unproven assumptions and a distorted hierarchy of values. When we combine these problems with the fact that theists can explain a fair amount of suffering (which is all that can be reasonably expected of limited beings) and that we have strong evidence that supports belief in God, it’s clear that the only significant argument for atheism fails on multiple levels.

*The article above is adapted from chapter 6 in the excellent book edited by  Michael A. Dembski and Michael R. Licona entitled: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science. Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Books, 2010.

About David Wood: He is the teaching fellow in philosophy at Fordham University, where his doctoral work focused on the problem of evil. A former atheist, he became a Christian after investigating the historical evidence for Jesus’s resurrection. He is co-director of Acts 17 Apologetics Ministries, has been in more than two dozen pubic debates with Muslims and atheists, and is a member of the Society of Christian Philosophers. David lives in the Bronx, New York, with his wife, Marie, and their sons, Lucian, Blaise, and Reid. You can watch a short testimony of David Wood on YouTube entitled “Why I am A Christian” (34:06); or a longer version: “Dr. David Wood shares his Testimony @ IPC Hebron, Houston” (1:04:03). Both of these videos are highly recommended and will encourage you and motivate you toward using apologetics in your sharing the gospel with those you may think are difficult to reach.

 

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*Reading The Bible For Personal Application by David Powlison

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It is a marvel how personally the Bible applies. The words pointedly address the concerns of long-ago people in faraway places, facing specific problems, many of which no longer exist. They had no difficulty seeing the application. Much of what they read was personal application to actual situations they were facing. But nothing in the Bible was written directly to you or specifically about what you face. We are reading someone else’s mail. Yet the Bible repeatedly affirms that these words are also written for us: “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4; cf. Deut. 29:29; 1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim . 3:15 –17). Application today discovers ways in which the Spirit reapplies Scripture in a timely fashion.

Furthermore, the Bible is primarily about God, not you. The essential subject matter is the triune Redeemer Lord, culminating in Jesus Christ. When Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45), he showed how everything written—creation, promises, commands, history, sacrificial system, psalms, proverbs— reveals him. We are reading someone else’s biography. Yet that very story demonstrates how he includes us within his story. Jesus is the Word of God applied, all-wisdom embodied. As his disciples, we learn to similarly apply the Bible, growing up into his image. Application today experiences how the Spirit “rescripts” our lives by teaching us who God is and what he is doing.

“Personal application” proves wise when you reckon with these marvels. The Bible was written to others—but speaks to you. The Bible is about God—but draws you in. Your challenge is always to reapply Scripture afresh, because God’s purpose is always to rescript your life. How can you expand your wisdom in personal application? The following four ways are suggested.

1. Consolidate What You Have Already Learned

Assuming that you have listened well to some parts of the Bible, consider these personal questions. What chunk of Scripture has made the most difference in your life? What verse or passage have you turned to most frequently? What makes these exact words frequently and immediately relevant? Your answer will likely embody four foundational truths about how to read the Bible for wise application.

First, this passage becomes your own because you listen. You remember what God says. He is saying this to you. You need these words. This promise, revelation, or command must be true. You must act on this call to faith and love. When you forget, you drift, stray, and flounder. When you remember and put it to work, bright truth rearranges your life. The foundation of application is always attentive listening to what God says.

Second, the passage and your life become fused. It is not simply a passage in the Bible. A specific word from God connects to some pointed struggle inside you and around you. These inner and outer troubles express your experience of the dual evil that plagues every human heart: sin and confusion from within; trouble and beguilement from without (1 Kings 8:37–39; Eccles. 9:3). But something God says invades your darkness with his light. He meets your actual need with his actual mercies. Your life and God’s words meet. Application depends on honesty about where you need help. Your kind of trouble is everywhere in the Bible.

Third, your appropriation of this passage reveals how God himself does the applying. He meets you before you meet him. The passage arrested you. God arranged your struggle with sin and suffering so that you would need this exact help. Without God’s initiative (“I will write it on their hearts,” Jer. 31:33) you would never make the connection. The Spirit chose to rewrite your inner script, pouring God’s love into your heart, inviting you to live in a new reality. He awakens your sense of need, gives you ears to hear, and freely gives necessary wisdom. Application is a gift, because wisdom is a gift.

Fourth, the application of beloved passages is usually quite straightforward. God states something in general terms. You insert your relevant particulars. For example:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4). What troubles are you facing? Who is with you?

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned— every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). What is your particular way of straying? How does the Lamb of God connect with your situation?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). With what are you obsessed? What promises anchor your plea for help (Phil. 4:5, 7–9)?

Such words speak to common human experiences. A passage becomes personal when your details participate in what is said. The gap across centuries and between cultures seems almost to disappear. Your God is a very present help in trouble—this trouble. Application occurs in specifics.

2. Look for the Directly Applicable Passages

How do you widen your scope of application? Keep your eye out for straightforward passages. Typically they generalize or summarize in some manner, inviting personal appropriation. Consider the core promises of God, the joys and sorrows of many psalms, the moral divide in many proverbs, the call of many commands, the summary comment that interprets a story. As examples of the first, Exodus 34:6–7; Numbers 6:24–26; and Deuteronomy 31:6 state foundational promises that are repeatedly and variously applied throughout the rest of Scripture. Pay attention to how subsequent scriptures specifically reapply these statements, and to how the entire Bible illustrates them. Make such promises part of your repertoire of well pondered truth. They are important for a reason. Get a feel for how these words come to a point in Jesus Christ and can rescript every life, including yours.

Consider how generalization occurs. In narratives, details make the story come to life. But psalms and proverbs adopt the opposite strategy. They intentionally flatten out 

specific references, so anyone can identify. David was troubled when he wrote Psalm 25—his emotions are clearly felt. But he left his own story at the door: “For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. . . . Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins” (Ps. 25:11, 18). He gives no details. We are given a template flexible enough to embrace any one of us. As you reapply, your sins and sufferings make Psalm 25 come to life as it leads you to mercy.

In matters of obedience, the Bible often proclaims a general truth without mentioning any of the multitude of possible applications. When Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:13), he leaves you to puzzle out the forms of money-worship particular to your personality and your culture. In such cases, the Bible speaks in large categories, addressing many different experiences, circumstances, and actions. Sorting out what it specifically means is far from being mechanical and automatic, but the application process follows a rather direct line.

If you have a favorite Bible passage, it is likely one of these parts of Scripture whose application is relatively direct. But our experience of immediate relevance can skew our expectations for how the rest of God’s revelation applies to our lives.

3. Recognize the Sorts of Passages where Personal Application Is Less Direct

Here is the core dilemma. Most of the Bible does not speak directly and personally to you. How do you “apply” the stories in Genesis? What about genealogies and census data? Leviticus? The life stories of Esther, Job, Samson, or Paul? The distribution of land and villages in Joshua? The history of Israel’s decline detailed through 1 and 2 Kings? The prophetic woes scorching Moab, Philistia, Egypt, and Babylon, fulfilled so long ago? The ruminations of Ecclesiastes? The Gospel stories showing Jesus in action? The New Testament’s frequent preoccupation with Jew-Gentile relations? The apocalyptic images in the Revelation?

The Bible’s stories, histories, and prophecies—even many of the commands, teachings, promises, and prayers—take thoughtful work in order to reapply with current relevance. If you receive them directly—as if they speak directly to you, about you, with your issues in view—you will misunderstand and misapply Scripture. For example, the angel’s command to Joseph, “take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt” (Matt. 2:13), is not a command to anyone today to buy a ticket to Egypt! Those who attempt to take the entire Bible as if it directly applies today end up distorting the Bible. It becomes an omni-relevant magic book teeming with private messages and meanings. God does not intend that his words function that way.

These passages do apply. But most of the Bible applies differently from the passages tilted toward immediate relevance. What you read applies by extension and analogy, not directly. Less sizzle, but quietly significant. In one sense, such passages apply exactly because they are not about you. Understood rightly, such passages give a changed perspective. They locate you on a bigger stage. They teach you to notice God and other people in their own right. They call you to understand yourself within a story—many stories—bigger than your personal his- tory and immediate concerns. They locate you within a community far wider than your immediate network of relationships. And they remind you that you are always in God’s presence, under his eye, and part of his program.

4. Tackle the Application of Less-direct Passages

Application is a lifelong process, seeking to expand and deepen wisdom. At the simplest level, simply read through the Bible in its larger chunks. The cumulative acquisition of wisdom is hard to quantify. A sense of what truth means and how truth works is overheard as well as heard. But also wrestle to work out the implications of specific passages.

Consider two examples. The first presents an extreme challenge to personal application: a genealogy or census. These are directly irrelevant to your life. Your name is not on the list. The reasons for the list disappeared long ago. You gain nothing by knowing that “Koz fathered Anub, Zobebah, and the clans of Aharhel” (1 Chron. 4:8). But when you learn to listen rightly, such lists intend many good things—and each list has a somewhat different purpose. Among the things taught are these:

  • The Lord writes down names in his book of life.
  • Families and communities matter to him.
  • God is faithful to his promises through long history.
  • He enlists his people as troops in the redemptive reconquest of a world gone bad.
  • All the promises of God find their “Yes” in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).

You “apply” a list of ancient names and numbers by extension, not directly. Your love for God grows surer and more intelligent when you ponder the kind of thing this is, rather than getting lost in the blizzard of names or numbers.

The second example presents a mid-level challenge. Psalms are often among the most directly relevant parts of Scripture. But what do you do when Psalm 21:1 says, “O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices”? The psalm is not talking about you, and it is not you talking—not directly. A train of connected truths apply this psalm to you, leading you out of yourself.

First, David lived and wrote these words, but Jesus Christ most fully lived—is now living, and will finally fulfill—this entire psalm. He is the greatest human king singing this song of deliverance; and he is also the divine Lord whose power delivers. We know from the perspective of NT fulfillment that this psalm is overtly by and about Jesus, not about any particular individual.

Second, you participate in the triumph of your King. You are caught up in all that the psalm describes, because you are in this Christ. So pay attention to his experience, because he includes you.

Third, your participation arises not as a solo individual but in company with countless brothers and sisters. You most directly apply this psalm by joining with fellow believers in a chorus of heartfelt gladness: “O Lord, we will sing and praise your power” (Ps. 21:13). The king’s opening joy in God’s power has become his people’s closing joy.

Finally, figuratively, you are also kingly in Christ. In this sense, Jesus’ experience of deliverance (the entire psalm) does apply to your life. Having walked through the psalm as an expression of the exultant triumph of Christ Jesus himself, you may now make it your experience too. You could even adapt Psalm 21 into the first person, insert- ing “I/me/my” in place of “the king” and “he/him/his.” It would be blasphemous to do that at first. It is fully proper and your exceeding joy to do this in the end. This is a song in which all heaven will join. As you grasp that your brothers and sisters share this same goal, you will love them and serve their joy more consistently.

God reveals himself and his purposes throughout Scripture. Wise application always starts there.

Conclusion

You started by identifying one passage that speaks persistently, directly, and relevantly into your life. You have seen how both the direct and the indirect passages intend to change you. Learning to wisely apply the harder, less relevant passages has a surprising benefit. Your whole Bible “applies personally.” This Lord is your God; this history is your history; these people are your people; this Savior has brought you in to participate in who he is and what he does. Venture out into the remotest regions of Scripture, seeking to know and love your God better.

Hopefully, you better understand why your most reliable passage so changed your life. Ponder those familiar words once more. You will notice that they also lift you out of self-preoccupation, out of the double evil of sin and misery. God brought his gracious care to you through that passage, and rearranged your life. You love him who first loved you, so you love his other children. And that is how the whole Bible, and each of its parts, applies personally.

*Article above by David Powlison. Source of original article is the ESV Study Bible.

iMonk interviews David Powlison on “Reading the Bible For Personal Application.”

Michael Spencer, who blogs at Internet Monk, has interviewed Dr. David Powlison about his contribution to the ESV Study Bible. Dr. Powlison contributed the article “Reading the Bible for Personal Application,” which is included in this pdf. I have posted Spencer’s introduction to Powlison and interview below:

David Powlison, M.Div., Ph.D. was a counselor and faculty member at CCEF and is the editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling. He held a Ph.D. in History and Science of Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary (He recently passed away in May, 2019)

Dr. Powlison counseled for over thirty years. He wrote many books and articles on biblical counseling and the relationship between faith and psychology. Dr. Powlison was an adjunct professor at Westminster Theological Seminary and has taught across the world.

I want to thank Dr. Powlison for answering a few questions about his outstanding essay in the ESV Study Bible, “Reading the Bible for Personal Application.”

(1) You say “But nothing in the Bible was written directly to you or specifically about what you face…..Yet the Bible repeatedly affirms that these words are written for us…” Explain this important foundational irony about proper Biblical interpretation and application.

One marvelous characteristic of Scripture is that for the first recipients, these words were “immediately applicable personal and corporate application”. Scripture IS application to life, not an abstract treatise on topics. Sometimes actual names, circumstances, and locations appear in the body of what was written – even local weather, or what someone was wearing. At the same time, Scripture applies to us. Paul can reference the Exodus-Numbers stories about grumbling, and then leap over 1000 miles, more than a millennium, and vast cultural differences to tell believers in first-century Corinth that these words “were written down for our instruction” (1 Cor. 10:11). You and I are even further away in time, place, and culture, but we find that principle continues to bear fruit. Both the Exodus-Numbers stories and the 1 Corinthians exhortations speak to our temptations to grumble and complain.

There is a difference between “mere exposition” and sound interpretation of this Word. Scripture intends to “discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12), and is “able to make you wise for salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15). Application is a necessary part of true understanding. You always reckon with two things: the distance between your situation and the original, and the fusion of those “two horizons.”

In fact, wise application often reckons with multiple intervening horizons. For example, Exodus-Numbers on grumbling applies to you. But wisdom in rightly applying is influenced by numerous intermediate horizons, by numerous places where previous interpreters made their own timely application: e.g., Deuteronomy… Psalms 95 and 105… Jesus in 1 Corinthians 10Hebrews 3-4… Augustine… the reformers… and the person who first taught you the Bible. This paragraph capture the feel for how Protestants have highly valued “tradition” and the wisdom of our forebears in faith, while not making church history traditions normative.

2. How would you explain the relationship between Jesus as the Word and the Word of God as scripture?

You ask a vast question, and I’ll give only the seed of an answer. The Word written is about the Word incarnate. The Word incarnate lives the Word written. He walks out the promises: of course, the overtly messianic prophecies, but also the forgiveness by blood in the sacrifices, the promise of blessing in Numbers 6:24-26, the hope that the Lord will come himself to save his people in the Psalms, the dwelling of the Lord in his tabernacle, etc., etc. He walks out the commands: e.g., Jesus loves God and neighbor; Jesus lives the wisdom of the Proverbs and so gains life and blessing. We can rightly say, no Scripture, no Jesus, and no Jesus, no Scripture. It is a serious misstep to separate Jesus (and the Spirit) from the Word, as if he were some sort of lively wildcard factor, while the written words are stodgy, stultifying and a-relational. It is an equally serious misstep to separate the Word from Jesus (and the Spirit), as if the written words are all that remains after he vacated the scene. Wildfire spiritualities and tied-up-with-a-bow religiosities both lose the living connection.

(3) All of us know what it is like to encounter someone who develops some unique or unusual personal application of scripture because of mystical insight into the meaning of a verse. What are the safeguards for insuring good personal application?

I know a man who moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, because he flipped open his Bible to the words, “He sent them to Bethlehem” (Luke 2:6). His Bible served as a magic book, a sanctified set of Tarot cards for divining God’s will in the minutiae of life. The safeguards against such things? Always read a text in context. One truth that will take you far in avoiding nutty uses of the Bible is to learn the difference between God’s will of command (to be known from Scripture, and obeyed) and his will of control (applying to all of life, only known in retrospect, and simply to be trusted, neither figured out nor obeyed).

But there’s no magic answer to protect us from magical, over-personalized uses of Scripture. Hang out with wise friends and teachers. There’s no substitute for being in a community that pursues wisdom. He who walks with the wise becomes wise. That community will be in part literary – there are many wise, balanced, penetrating Christian books, and many foolish semi-Christian books. Seek wisdom from God – he gives it to us when we lack. Again I’ll say, always read texts in context. And remember that God is interested in raising grownups – kings and queens – not puppets. Grownups have to make hard decisions in difficult, ambiguous circumstances; they have to make judgment calls; they don’t read tea leaves.

(4) How can Protestants balance the role of unified doctrine in the church and the role of the Holy Spirit as revealer of truth to the individual?

This question is equally penetrating when inverted: How can we balance the role of the Holy Spirit as revealer of truth in the church and the role of unified doctrine to the individual? Either way we ask it, we must hold in fruitful balance Truth-and-Spirit and individual-and-community. Tilt too far either way, and you lose something essential.

The Holy Spirit does not reveal “truths” that are not the teachings of Scripture, the revelation he inspired. And the teachings of Scripture include illumination on the person, role, and character of the Spirit.

I like your term “unified doctrine.” I assume you mean by it the attempt to grasp the relationship between truths, rather than simply collecting a grab bag of truths. My New Testament teacher, Dick Gaffin, used to say that “the greater part of wisdom consists in understanding the relationships between complementary truths.” The teaching of the Bible coheres, because God is coherent. He is always consistent with himself, in all that he does and says. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t done and said different things in different times, places and circumstances. Nehemiah broke up marriages between Jews and Gentiles; 1 Corinthians and 1 Peter encouraged those in mixed marriages to love well in hopes of sustaining marital union.

The coherence in teaching comes in understanding different historical contexts and the ways in which the relative prominence of complementary truths will vary in applications from situation to situation. The coherence of biblical teaching is not always additive (e.g., Truth A + Truth B = a bigger pile of truths). It is usually dynamic (Truth A vis-à-vis Truth B = a wiser way of understanding the ways of God with his creatures).

(5) How does the Bible speak to universal human experiences in a way that we can say scripture is speaking specifically to our own situation?

I’ll give several examples from countless ones that could be given. For example, James speaks about your response to “various trials.” That’s a wildcard, inviting you to fill in your own particulars. Throughout the letter he then gives several examples of trials to key your thinking: wealth and poverty, power and powerlessness, physical illness, interpersonal conflict and destructive speech. Those are such universal experiences that you may well find your “trial” described generically in his examples. But if you face a different trial, James will still apply.

Here’s another example. The psalms intentionally flatten out the individual particulars of the author, but retain the experience of seeking and finding God’s grace. Because we usually don’t know the exact sufferings or sins in view, we are actually encouraged to import our own particulars, and to walk out our response to both God and our need along the pathway the psalmist walked.

(6) You warn about the tendency to make the Bible an “…omni-relevant magic book teeming with private messages and meanings.” What is lost in this all-too-common approach?

We lose many good things – including common sense! But more significantly, we lose our sense that the Bible is about God more than it is about me, and that one of God’s primary purposes in me is to free me from my all-consuming self-absorption. It is part of our redemption to read about God as God, and to read about long-ago brothers and sisters and enemies for who they actually were. You are enriched by being weaned off of yourself.

(7) Can a verse taken completely out of context still yield a Spirit-revealed application?

Just read the sermons of Charles Spurgeon! His applications were often wise and biblical because he had such a refined sense for the unified teaching of Scripture and Spirit. But he rarely communicates what any passage means in context, and I think that is a liability as a role model. Readers and preachers less grounded than Spurgeon will have fewer checks on the temptation to make odd applications.

I’d probably pose your question in a slightly different way, saying “yield a wise application” rather than “yield a Spirit-revealed application.” The Spirit is the source of all wisdom, for believers and unbelievers alike. If a secular psychotherapist says to an angry, entitled, manipulative husband, “You are angry, entitled, and manipulative, and you need to learn how to love your wife and not be so self-centered,” I’d rather say that those words are wise, cohere with Scripture, and express a common grace goodness of the Spirit, instead of saying they were Spirit-revealed. That counselor is missing the saving grace of Christ that is Spirit-revealed in the Word, and that ought to find expression in counseling.

(8) What would be your answer to someone who said that passages like the Old Testament histories or specific prophetic oracles have no application to the lives of believers today?

You don’t understand how the Old Testament works, though you do grasp a partial truth. You rightly see, for example, that Obadiah is fulfilled. Edom bit the dust. Case closed. But Obadiah was timely in the 580s B.C. exactly because he brought wide and deep truths to bear in his historical moment. God, whose words and actions Obadiah proclaims, speaks and acts in continuity to all that precedes this prophet and all that follows. The great reversals of God’s redemptions and judgments find expression throughout Scripture. Obadiah, like the rest of the Old Testament, points to and reveals Christ in the character, promises, and real-time workings of the Lord. The New Testament explicitly says that the Old makes us wise unto salvation, is given for our encouragement, reveals Jesus.

Obadiah is never going to be as significant as Romans or Luke for our doctrine, life, and ministry… but it’s no waste of time to read it once a year and to ponder what the Lord here reveals of himself and his ways. In fact, the seeds of Romans and Luke can be seen in Obadiah (e.g., mercy, judgment on evil, deliverance from enemies, the great reversal, the kingdom of God…). In the course of a long preaching ministry, you will benefit your hearers if you preach a time or two from Obadiah. It will help them to understand such connections, and will help their Bible come to life. Seeing such things actually brightens our understanding of Romans and Luke, and sharpens our love for God.

(9) Thank you, Dr. Powlison, for your time. We all appreciate your answers to these questions. In closing, would you share the importance of scriptural application in teaching and preaching scripture?

The application of Scripture is what teaching, preaching, worship, missions, mercy ministry, counseling and all other ministry are about. That application is both spoken and lived. This doesn’t mean, by the way, that every third word is “Jesus,” or that ministry involves assembling a pastiche of Bible quotations. I like the example shown in Paul’s sermons and speeches throughout Acts. In Acts 13, Paul weaves together one Scripture after another. But in Acts 14, he talks about weather and crops. Then in Acts 17 he quotes several contemporary Greek poets and philosophers. But all three talks are biblical, and all three proclaim Christ, and all three have life-changing implications, precisely because all three apply Scripture to these particular hearers in language and examples they can understand.

*iMonk interviews David Powlison on “Reading the Bible For Personal Application” above was posted on the Gospel Coalition Website: thegospelcoalition.org on August 18, 2008 by Justin Taylor and posted by James Grant.

About The Author: David Powlison (1949–2019) served as the executive director of the CCEF, senior editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling, and as a Council member of The Gospel Coalition (2010-2019). David wrote extensively on biblical counseling and on the relationship between faith and psychology and his books include Seeing with New EyesSpeaking Truth in Love, The Biblical Counseling Movement: History and Context, and Good and AngryHe earned degrees at the University of Pennsylvania (PhD) and at Westminster Theological Seminary (MDiv). David and his wife, Nan, have three children.

 

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Prayer: The Prelude To Revival by Dr. Roger Nicole

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It is in keeping with Reformed thought that revival should be grounded in prayer, because in prayer we acknowledge God’s sovereignty. God alone is the One who can dispense revival. So, revival is not something that is within the reach of human beings; it is something God alone can provide.

Sometimes people have expressed the attitude they think we ought to have in a motto which goes like this: “You ought to pray like a Calvinist and preach like an Arminian.” That is, pray as if everything depended upon God and preach as if everything depended on you. I would like to suggest a change in this formula which will improve it by fifty percent: “You ought to pray like a Calvinist and preach like a Calvinist.” Do not pray as if everything depends on God. (There is no good reason to have an “as if” in that motto, because things do depend on God. He is the One who sovereignly ordains and blesses.) Then preach like a Calvinist, because there, too, the results depend on God. Do not imagine that either prayer or preaching are activities in which we suddenly take leave of the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.

What Does Prayer Change?

When we consider prayer, there are questions which often are disturbing to the minds of some people. The first question is: “Do you think that you can really change the mind of God? That is, can prayer make God modify His sovereign plan?” There are people who feel that unless you are prepared to say this, there is no great value in prayer. I do not know what the reader’s particular idea on this subject may be, but I would like to say that if you believe you can change the mind of God through prayer, I hope you are using some discretion. If that is the power you have, it is certainly a most dangerous thing. Surely God does not need our counsel in order to set up what is desirable. Surely God, whose knowledge penetrates all minds and hearts, does not need to have us intervene to tell Him what He ought to do. The thought that we are changing the mind of God by our prayers is a terrifying concept.

I will be frank to confess that if I really thought I could change the mind of God by praying, I would abstain. I would have to say, “How can I presume, with the limitations of my own mind and the corruptions of my own heart-how can I presume to interfere in the counsels of the Almighty?” It is almost as if you were to introduce somebody who is utterly ignorant of electronics to a weapons plant in which, by pushing certain buttons, one might precipitate an explosion. You say, “Go ahead and push buttons. Never mind what happens.” Oh, no! There is comfort for the child of God in being assured that our prayers will not change God’s mind. This is not what is involved in prayer, and we are not in danger of precipitating explosions by some rash desire on our part.

But then people say, “If you cannot change God’s mind, what is the point of praying? If prayer does not change things, prayer is worthless.”

Here you have perhaps noticed that I have changed the formula. I did not say,”change the mind of God,” but “change things.” I never said that prayer does not change things. Prayer does change things, but it does not change the mind of God. The reason prayer changes things but does not change God is that He has appointed prayer as an effectual means for accomplishing His own purpose. This effectual means is essential for this accomplishment. When we have a right understanding of the sovereignty of God, we recognize that God has established a plan in which not only the effects but also the causes are ordained. We cannot disconnect the causes from the effects or the effects from the causes.

For example, I lift a book in your sight. Because the book has risen into the air, I am in a position to say, “God has ordained that it should get to this particular place.” He must have ordained it because that is where the book is. But notice, God did not ordain for the book to rise all by itself. He ordained that it should rise at the end of my hand. He ordained that I should have strength in my arm to lift it. He ordained that I should choose this particular book in order to illustrate this particular point. There is a connection between the book’s rising and the subject I wish to develop. All these things are tied up together. If there were no lecture, there would be no point of illustrating the power of second causes. If there were no desire to illustrate the power of second causes, my hand would have remained at my side. If my hand had remained at my side, the book would not have risen. I think we can argue in this way.

God, however, ordained that there should be this lecture, that there should be a desire to show the correlation of causes and effects in His sovereign plan, that this particular illustration should come to my mind, and that I should implement it by the strength that He has given me. One cannot say, “If you hadn’t touched it, it would have risen anyway,” because God did not ordain that it should rise anyway. He ordained that it should rise through my hand.

That is exactly the case with prayer. Prayer is an effectual secondary cause that God has related to the effects involved. Just as the activity of human beings on earth is related to the effects that are produced, just as the book rising is related to the hand lifting, so are the effects of prayer related to the prayer that is offered. So although prayer does not change the mind of God, it does change things. God has appointed change through prayer, even though the way in which the cause is related to the effect is not perfectly clear to us.

The fact that the way this happens is not clear does not give us grounds for denying the relationship. We pray for healing. If God provides healing, we cannot say, “There would have been healing whether I prayed or not; I would have gotten well anyway.” God provided healing in relation to prayer.

We pray for an increase in the knowledge of God and earnestness in His service. If God is pleased to bless our lives in this way, we cannot say, “This would have happened whether I prayed or not.” God provides His blessing in relation to the prayer.

We pray for the salvation of someone we love, someone God placed on our hearts to intercede and plead for. That person is born again by the work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot say, “This would have happened whether I prayed or not.” It is related to our prayers. God, who has appointed the salvation, has also appointed prayer as the means to that salvation. We cannot omit any link in that chain and say that the chain will exist whether the link is there or not.

A final question is: “How can I pray if I do not see how prayer works?” That is not a wise way of handling the matter, since it is God who tells us that prayer is part of His plan for us. It is not necessary that we have an understanding of the ways in which God’s purposes are implemented. God has put this means at our disposal. He encourages us to pray. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 He says, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” To insist that we must have an understanding of how this works is a very unreasonable attitude.

Even in affairs of daily life we do not have this attitude. I am sure you have used a touch-system telephone. Do you understand how it works? Do you have that consummate knowledge of communications to know exactly what goes on when you press those little buttons? Do you know how those numbers are changed into binary code and used to track down the particular telephone you wish to call? Experts may understand this. But I must say, as far as I am concerned, when I am calling, I do not think of any of those things. I just pick up the phone and touch the buttons. I do not worry about how this happens. I am interested only in whom I am going to reach and what I will say.

It is the same with prayer. We do not have to know how it works. It is enough to know that it does work. Prayer is part of God’s sovereign plan and is an effectual means by which we can share with God in the fulfillment of that plan. When we pray, we are cooperating; we are working together with God in the work to which, in His own mercy, He has been pleased to call us.

Since prayer is part of God’s plan, we are not forcing God’s hand at any time by praying. We are not intruding our own will in a way that is disagreeable or uncomfortable to God. We do not need to fear that we are finagling with buttons about which we know nothing, which might bring disaster on ourselves and others. We are praying in line with the great purposes of God. Without prayer there are many things that would be different. It is by virtue of prayer that they are what God has planned them to be.

In Scripture, prayer is presented as a prerequisite for revival. It is a prelude. If you study the history of revivals, you will find that they are best documented not only in their effects but also in their preparatory prayer periods. This was true of the revival in New England under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards. It was true in the revival in Wales under Evan Roberts. It was true of the revivals attending the ministry of Charles Grandison Finney in the United States. Revival that is worthwhile is bathed in prayer. When He wants a revival, God is pleased to lead His people· to pray that revival might be forthcoming.

(1) The prayer that leads to revival must be believing prayer. This is the point the apostle James makes in his Epistle (James 1:5-7, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord”). When we come to the Lord we must come with the expectation that He is able and will do great things. If we come vacillating, wondering whether God is able to accomplish anything, whether the situation is really so desperate that even God cannot touch it, then obviously our prayer is lacking in fervency. We are just going through the motions, as it were. We are not really praying.

God wants us to come to Him in faith. Indeed, prayer is an exercise of faith in which we are steeped in the supreme greatness and ability of God, and have our eyes fixed on the majesty of His purpose and the superlative quality of His resources. Nothing is impossible for our God. Our God is able to move mountains. He is able to transform hearts, break resistances, reach out even underneath the conscious lives of people to transform them. So we should never say, “Here is somebody beyond God’s reach. The hardness of heart is so great, the wickedness of life is so manifest, that this cannot possibly be a candidate for acceptance into the kingdom of God. We might as well give up on this person.”

In spite of the fact that the early church had seen God do many great things, it undoubtedly thought this way about Paul. The early Christians thought. “This one is lost. There is no way God will bring Paul into the kingdom. He is a persecutor, an enemy, an opponent. There is no hope for him.” When Paul tried to join the church, they gave him the cold shoulder (Acts 9:26). They said, “We can’t trust this man. He will be spying on us and then use his knowledge to annihilate the church.” It took Barnabas to reason, “God saved me; maybe He can save Paul, too.” He went close to Paul and befriended him at great danger to himself. He made sure that Paul truly was a child of God. Then he brought him to the apostles (Acts 9:27). We, too, might think, “What less likely a candidate for election than Paul?” Yet God was pleased to reach him and change him. God made him the great apostle of the Gentiles, the benefit of whose ministry is still with us to this day. We need believing prayer, prayer that does not concentrate on the obstacles. We must not say, “He is hopeless,” or “Our country has gone to the dogs,” or “Our church has gone liberal.” Prayer must recognize that God is all-powerful and can do wonders. If anyone prays and does not believe, that one is unstable (James 1:6-7). He cannot expect anything. But if we come with faith, accepting the reality of the power of God, we will experience that effective prayer which changes things in keeping with God’s purpose.

(2) The second characteristic of the prayer that brings revival is submission. It must be submissive prayer. That is, we must be prepared to submit our own ideas, aims, and ambitions to the sovereign God. We must not intrude with our outlook, pressing it on God, as it were. Rather, we must come with a desire to understand God’s outlook and subordinate our desires to what He has ordained.

Some people say, ”That kind of prayer is not really effective. If you start by saying, ‘If it be Your will … ‘you are attempting to give God an out in case He is not going to do it. You are not believing.” That is not the point at all. We do not need to give God an out. God does not need an out. What we are doing when we say, “If it is Your will … ” is articulating the principle that we are not telling God what should be done but are actually identifying with His purpose and asking to work together with Him in fulfillment of that purpose.

We have a moving example of this kind of prayer on the lips of our Lord Himself. In Gethsemane He said, “If it is possible . . . Yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39). This is mysterious to us, for it indicates that at that point of His human consciousness, our Lord was left in suspense as to what the will of God was. “Not as I will, but as You will.” That is the condition of effective prayer-that we should be willing to accept what God has ordained in order that His purpose might be accomplished.

Sometimes it is hard for us to pray that way, because our will is so strong, and our understanding of what God should want is so clear that we do not even feel like saying, “Your will be done.” When we pray for revival, especially, we say, “We do not need to introduce conditional clauses. The very fact that God leads us to pray is an indication that He wills that some form of revival should come.” Still, the very essence of a consecrated prayer is that it should be in keeping with the will of God.

This is what is meant by praying in the name of Jesus. To pray in the name of Christ is not simply to have a little addition to your prayer, in which you use those words almost as a magical formula to insure success. To pray in the name of Christ is to identify yourself with Christ, with His aims, His purposes, His ministry. It is to say, “I am with Jesus, I am for Him and His purposes.” The one who prays in the name of Jesus does not need to fear disappointments, because unity with the purpose of God protects him from that. There is a submission to God which acknowledges with gratitude the way in which God is pleased to answer.

This prayer must be God-centered. It must relate itself to God’s glory rather than to our private desires. Of course, God permits us to present our private desires as well. There is nothing wrong in asking God to give us good weather for mountain climbing if good weather is important for it. But here again, it would be wise to say, “If it be Your will,” because there are also people, such as farmers, who need rain. Since the desire of the mountaineer may conflict with the desire of the farmer, it would be good for both of them to be submitted to whatever God is pleased to send. God permits us to present our desires, but we must have a supreme desire, especially in the prayer for revival, to see the glory of God manifested.

Some of the most effective prayers in Scripture do this. They are even argumentative at this point.Think of the prayer of Abraham when he prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah. He even argued with God, saying, “Is it right for You to destroy those cities if fifty … forty-five … forty: .. thirty… twenty… ten righteous people live there?” (Gen. 18:24-33). God blessed that prayer. So we can say that if Lot and his family were saved, it was because of the faithful intercession of Abraham, who did not relent, even though, in the end, the number he cited was not sufficiently small to warrant ID salvation of the wicked cities.

Think of the prayer of Moses who argued, “If You destroy Your people, what will happen to Your name? Your glory is at stake. Don’t do it” (Ex.32:11-13).God blessed that glorious intercessory prayer of Moses, who disregarded his personal ambitions in order to identify with the purposes of God.

A prayer for revival should be centered, not in the desire that we should have more money for our church (because there will be more people coming), not that there should be a new Vitality in our denomination (as compared with other denominations), nor that any other of our human desires and ambitions should be satisfied, but rather that the glory of God might be manifested. We should pray that His name might be exalted, that His kingdom might be made evident, that His glorious reign might be established even more widely in the hearts of men and women.

(3) Our prayer must be persistent. The Scripture emphasizes that we ought not easily be discouraged in prayer (Luke 18:1). If we do not receive at once the answer we are looking for, we ought not to reason, “Well, God just doesn’t want me to have that; I guess I’ll give up.” There are people who have been wonderfully persistent in prayer-for husbands or wives, children or parents-and God has blessed their persistence. Do not give up too soon. Do not conclude too rapidly that God is uninterested. So long as you have a burden on your heart, keep praying.

In the church in which I am a member there is a man who has moved me profoundly in this respect. It is a wonderful church now. We have a preacher who is a wonderful expositor of the Word of God. I never attend a service there at which my soul is not blessed. But some 40 years ago this church was exceedingly small-there were about 10 or 12 people on a Sunday morning-and it was passing through a veritable desert from the point of view of biblical ministry. I understand that at one time one of the pastors was actually a practicing Christian Scientist.

Throughout this bleak period this man, Deacon George Day, was praying. He did not say, “This church gives me nothing. There is nothing to be expected here, nothing to be hoped. I am going to find another fellowship that will be more fruitful for me.” No! This man said, “This is my church. I am not going to give up. Since I do not get any spiritual nurture from the sermons, I will get it from the Bible directly. I will attend some other meetings in other places, but I am still going to be in my own church on Sunday morning, and I am going to pray for this ministry.” Deacon Day kept praying for that church for years. Now he is an old man, more than 80. There is hardly any strength left in his body. When he can come to church he uses an earphone, because he is very deaf. But there is joy in his heart which moves one to tears. Whenever I see Deacon Day, I see the power of God to answer persistent prayer. I see a warrior who did not allow himself to be defeated, but who stayed at his post, pleading for his church and asking God’s blessing upon it.

(4) Finally, the prayer that leads to revival must be consistent prayer, in which we are prepared also to do what we can to achieve what we are asking. If we pray for the conversion of our loved ones, somehow we must give out witness, too. We must witness by life and words, when they can be effectually presented. If we pray for revival, we must be prepared to open our hearts so that God may revive them. We ought never to take prayer as a means of avoiding the actions God challenges us to.

My father had an experience which I would like to relate to illustrate this point. As a young minister he had been an assistant in a large church which had only two pastors in 50 years, one ministry of 25 years, followed by another of 25 years. After having been in that church, my father became pastor of a very small church in a little village in southern France. Prayer meeting was on Wednesday evening, and there was usually a very limited attendance. One Wednesday there was a frightful storm. The wind was blowing. Rain was falling in buckets. My father thought, “There is not going to be anybody at the prayer meeting tonight. If I go, I will only drench myself. I might as well stay home.” My father was very interested in Hebrew and was studying the song of Deborah in the book of Judges. The temptation was great to stay in his cozy home and deal with that.

As my father was wrestling with this, there came to his memory a sermon given at the time of his ordination. It was on the passage which says, “Go out and make them come in” (Luke 14:23). Most of the time we think about the expression “make them come in.” But on this occasion, the preacher had focused on the phrase, “Go out.” He had said, ” ‘Go out’ means to reach out for people; it means, do not stay in the coziness of your study. You must go out and reach out.” While the gales were blowing and the wind was hitting the windows, my father remembered that and concluded, “Well, I guess God wants me to go out. I do not expect many people. I do not expect very much of anything at this prayer meeting. But if God has told me to go out, I will go out and speak at the prayer meeting;” This was the meeting in which revival started in his church!

Prayer is the prelude to revival. Do you want revival? Then be prepared to pray. “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray . . . then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.”

*This article was originally an address given at the 1982 Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, Philadelphia, PA. and is adapted from Dr. Roger R. Nicole, “Prayer: The Prelude to Revival” in Reformation and Revival, A Quarterly Journal for Church Leadership (Volume 1, No. 3, Summer, 1992).

About the Author: Dr. Roger R. Nicole (1915-2010) was a native Swiss Reformed Baptist theologian and taught for many years at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary as well as the founder of the Evangelical Theological Society.

 

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Book Review on David S. Steele’s “A Godward Gaze: The Holy Pursuit of John Calvin”

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An Exhortation to God-Centered Living

By David P. Craig

It was such a joy and delight to read this new offering from my good friend David S. Steele. I highly recommend this book four five primary reasons:

  1. It’s brevity. It’s only 68 pages long. However, upon starting and completing the book in about an hour and a half – I was refreshed, renewed and rejuvenated in my passion for our Awesome God.
  2. It’s content. It’s a tour de force theologically. In it Steele brilliantly weaves the authority of the Scriptures, the gospel, and personal sanctification in a way that my heart, mind, and affections were stirred to continue to be faithful in my calling as a Christian Pastor.
  3. It’s snapshot of John Calvin. John Calvin – may be one of the least understood theologians in Church History; and yet perhaps the one theologian-pastor that should be most admired, studied, and emulated. Steele’s brief snippets from the life and pen of Calvin – will spur on the desire of those who read this book to go to the primary sources for more of Calvin – and that’s a good thing!
  4. It’s biblically saturated. Steele bleeds bibline. Every page “oosiates” Scripture. There is an authoritative ring of truth throughout the book. Therefore, one senses the presence of and the counsel of the Holy Spirit throughout the book.
  5. It’s convicting. The subject of the entire book is based on Isaiah 66:1-2. The themes of repentance, contrition, humility, and a love for God and His Word are hammered home throughout. As convicting as I was by the Spirit, I was also exhorted by the same Holy Spirit to be renewed in my joy in Christ and His gospel through repentance and faith in following the practical steps articulated in this excellent book to help me get back on track in my God-centered gaze.
 

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