Every Christian is a Theologian

“Theology” simply means “the study of God.”

That means all believers are theologians – or, at least, should be.  To be clear – and fair – this does not mean that everyone is an academic or scholar i.e. someone who has made a career out of studying the Bible.  But, nonetheless, we’re all biblically commanded to be theologians: a person who studies the Word of God.

I ran across a wonderful article on this topic this past week.  You can access the article here.

From the article:

“Laypeople have no biblical warrant (argument) to leave the duty of doctrine (a set of beliefs) up to pastors and professors alone.”

Besides, pastors being human and flawed, it is completely possible for a Bible teacher to actually misinterpret something and get it flat wrong.    Paul would end up writing a third of the New Testament.  But that hadn’t happened yet.  And the Bereans took no chances:

“…they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

Finally, it’s simply what we’re commanded to do:

Study and do your best to present yourself to God…accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth.”

By the way, it’s vital for us all to remember that Paul’s instruction to Timothy above was a command, not a suggestion. 🙂

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

A Psalm of Nick Watts

Reading through the Psalms you commonly see the following subheadings: a psalm of David, or a psalm of Asaph,…

I’ll never forget what I once heard one of my professors say:

“A psalm is simply a person’s response to God’s activity in their life.”

That’s why, in the Psalms, we see the full gamut of human emotion – everything from rage and despair to joy and praise. And everything in between. It’s my favorite book in the Bible.

So today, on this May 13th, I offer this psalm…

O Lord, please hear my cry.

I was once told that the loss of a child will change a parent forever.  And, having discovered my 19 year old son’s body five years ago today, I am finding that to be quite true.

I’ve read the loss of a child being compared to an amputation. For a man who’s lost an arm feels as though his arm is still there. But it isn’t. And he’s reminded of that fact every single day.

The memory of that hellish moment when I found my son is burnt indelibly into my brain.  The memory of what happened in the next few seconds is, at the same time, a blur and crystal clear.

O God, help me; a part of me has never recovered.

You know, Lord, the stubborn darkness with which I wrestle. And having become, myself, suicidal in the summer of 2015, I spent 10 days in the Psychiatric Ward at Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock. (Michelle still has one of my art projects I had made on “craft day.” 🙂) We laugh about it now.)  God, I thank you for those physicians and nurses.  They were kind and compassionate.

But, O Lord, I still suffer nightmarish, high-definition flashbacks.  Unexpected television scenes of hangings have plunged me into immediate madness.

Your word comforts me.  And helps restore and renew my mind.

Often, O God, when I walk through Jordan’s bedroom, I quote Jesus’ laser-like, compassionate words to a grieving Martha:

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, even though he dies, yet shall he live.”

I am reminded, Lord, of the lyrics you gave to the song-writer:

“When you’re up against a struggle that shatters all your dreams,
And your hopes have been cruelly crushed by Satan’s manifested schemes,
And you feel the urge within you to submit to earthly fears,
Don’t let the faith you’re standing in seem to disappear,

Praise the Lord, He can work through those who praise Him,
Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise,
Praise the Lord, for the chains that seems to bind you
Serve only to remind you that they drop powerless behind you
When you praise Him.”

Lord, I don’t praise you for my pain today. But I do praise you in it.

You know, Lord, I found Jordan in the corner of his bedroom that afternoon.

During months of counseling, you prompted my counselor to suggest I place crosses in that corner. Through that counselor, you – our Wonderful Counselor -lovingly said, “The mighty cross of Christ, even in your worst conceivable pain, will provide for you hope and peace by helping remind you of what is true.”

You are wise, O Lord. For it has been true: those crosses remind me that Jordan’s pain is gone, he’s more alive and joyful than he’s ever been – and that a reunion is coming.

Father, you prompted me to snap this photo (below) last night to post with this note. Before I took the photo i thought to myself, “The light from that lamp is going ruin the photo.” But when I looked at it my heart constricted and leapt. I couldn’t help but imagine the light from the lamp representing the angel you dispatched to Jordan’s bedroom to embrace him and carry him into Paradise. Where he is now safely in your arms.

O Lord, i don’t understand fully how prayer works. But would you please tell my son today how much I love him? And that his mom, sisters and I are making it? Please, O Prince of Peace, fill my family’s minds with your peace today? And would you help us to help others who are hurting to rediscover hope and truth again?

I humbly ask this in the mighty name of Christ, and on the authority of his shed blood. Amen

I love you, Jordan.

I love you all, Nick

For Narnia

When Jesus Worked at McDonald’s

This past week, on a Tuesday morning, I swung through the drive-though at a local McDonald’s for a warm, robust beverage on my way to work.

After placing my order I promptly pulled up to the first window to pay for said beverage where I was warmly greeted by a woman at the window who said, “Hello darlin’.”

I almost began weeping (while, at the same time, strangely thinking of Roy Orbison).

A little context…

My family is hurting deeply. The weight of the approaching anniversary of when I walked into my son’s room and temporarily went insane is, at times, so heavy we simply can’t bear it.

My daughter, Kelsie, flew in the previous weekend to go with us to watch our youngest daughter, Macy, in “9 to 5” where she attends college. It is always awesome when we’re all together.

But that joy is always closely accompanied by a dark, suffocating shadow. For it’s when we’re all together that we’re all acutely aware of who’s missing – the gaping, painful hole left by Jordan’s  death on May 13, 2013.

After Macy’s performance we all embraced and wept.

The Monday before my visit to McDonald’s I was numb. I couldn ‘t focus or concentrate. I felt nothing. I had nothing to say. I was empty and bone-dry.

Back to Tuesday morning at McDonald’s…

I was in such a fragile state emotionally, the McDonald’s employee’s kindness caught me off guard. I could hear the sound of a key unlocking my psychological prison door. I could, all of a sudden, hear Jesus whispering to me, “I’ve got this. I’ve got Jordan. Trust me.”

I came very close to asking her seriously, “Are you an angel?”

But the story doesn’t end there.

Then came today (Wednesday)…

I again found myself in the very same McDonald’s drive-through to grab a sandwich for lunch (clearly, I have no concern for my health )

Guess who was at the same window? She looked at me, recognizing me from the day before, and said, “Hello sweetheart!”

This time, I did something I’ve never done in my entire life.

I asked this angelic stranger, “Ma’am, do you pray?”

She looked back at me intently, smiled, and said softly, “Every day.”

I said, “Almost 5 years ago my 19 year old son took his life. My family is suffering. Would you pray for us?”

She said, “I will pray for you every day.”

I began to tear up and said, “My name is Nick.”

I paid her for my sandwich and began to drive to the second pick-up window when I heard her say, “I will pray for you, Nick!”

The New Testament records that Jesus prayed for people often. I know he’s interceding for the Watts family.

He told me so today at McDonald’s.

Nick

Hell Under Fire

In their 2004 book, Hell Under Fire, general editors, Christopher Moran and Robert Peterson write,

A business was opening a new store, and a friend of the owner sent flowers for the occasion. The flowers arrived at the new business site, and the owner read the card, inscribed “Rest in Peace.” The angry owner called the florist to complain. After he told the florist of the obvious mistake and how angry he was, the florist said, “Sir, I’m really sorry for the mistake, but rather than getting angry, you should imagine this: Somewhere there is a funeral taking place today, and they have flowers with a note that reads, “Congratulations on your new location.”

They then add,

Hell is under fire. In one sense that is nothing new. It has been the case ever since the Enlightenment, but the past fifty years have seen a noteworthy turn of affairs. Attacks on the historic doctrine of hell that used to come from without the church are now coming from within.

If we believe the message sent by the contemporary media, the “new location” of everyone who dies is heaven. At first glance, popular polls seem to disagree with that conclusion, for they reveal that a large majority of Americans believe in the existence of hell. However, the same polls show that almost no one thinks that he or she is going there. Everyone hopes for heaven.

Most remember how celebrity preacher, Joel Osteen, side-stepped Larry King’s straight-forward question:  “What if you’re Jew or Muslim and you don’t accept Christ at all?”  (Begin watching at 1:16)

Like Osteen, I do not enjoy talking about what the Bible calls hell.  I wish it wasn’t in there.

But it is.

Further, it’s not my call to address a clear teaching of the Bible based on how I feel about it.  To quote Luther – “I am bound by the Scriptures…and my conscience is captive to the Word of God.”

Finally, and most importantly, there’s the testimony and example of Jesus, himself, who not only talked about hell,  he talked about it a lot.  (cf. Matthew  23:33; 25:41; Mark 9:48; Luke 12:5)  Search the gospels and you’ll discover Christ talked about hell more often than heavenno doubt as a dire warning to those who would reject him.

If Jesus fails to get our attention in the gospels, the last book of the Bible, Revelation, clearly describes the final destination of those who choose to reject Christ as the lake of fire.

Based on the clear testimony of scripture itself, even a cursory reading of the New Testament presents the existence of hell as fact in crystal clear fashion.

There is simply no getting around it.

Certainly, one may try to explain it away or ignore it.  But choosing to twist a clear, biblical doctrine into something that better suits our mere human logic, reason and intellect doesn’t remove  or lessen what Jesus says about it.

Recently, I ran across an article written as a warning to church leaders titled, Question the doctrine of hell at your peril. It could tear your church apart.

The author, Sam Hailes, cites the demise of celebrity pastors, Carlton Pearson, Steve Chalke and Rob Bell, as well as alleged recent statements by the Pope.  He rightly asserts,

For many Christians, questioning the existence (or nature) of hell is tantamount to denying the gospel. “If everyone goes to heaven, then what was the point of Jesus dying on the cross?”

I will confess to you: there are things in the Bible I do not understand and, as such, I wish were not in there.  But, I’m not God.  My logic is fallen and corrupt while he is perfect, holy and righteous.

Hailes also does a wonderful job of helping the reader to have compassion on, and pray for, those who would attempt to rewrite scripture – including church leaders.  No one in their right mind loves the biblical doctrine of hell.  Nonetheless, as Hailes bluntly writes,

Some things are true whether we like them or not.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Pause – And Think About That…

The Hebrew word, “selah,” found repeatedly in the Psalms is thought by scholars to be an ancient musical term used in the Hebrew psalter meaning, in essence, “pause and think about that.”

The following is worth  pausing and thinking about.

In the first century, the church had no spot-lights, smoke machines, electric instruments or sound systems. Not once is it remotely suggested the leaders were concerned with fashion or creating an “atmosphere of worship” by dimming the lights. I could go on.

But, somehow – void of all modern-day trappings of Christian worship – and under horrifically intense persecution – the church exploded in growth and influence.

No soapbox here. Just an observation. nw

God or the Multiverse?

God or the Multiverse?  Which one requires more faith?

To all students having the multiverse presented to you as truth (or as the best option for the origination of life) I encourage you to watch this brief, 5 minute presentation by Brian Keating, Professor of Physics at the University of California, San Diego.

He poignantly quotes the sharp-witted, British apologist, G.K. Chesterton, who once quipped,

“When men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything.

Mankind will go to extraordinary leaps of faith to embrace philosophical and/or scientific alternatives just to avoid the possibility of the Bible being true.

Former atheist, Lee Strobel, stated in a tweet:

Watch Dr. Keating’s presentation below.  Think deeply, Nick

 

The Exorcists – A Word about Demonic Possession

I remember the first time I saw young Linda Blair’s head spin around in the 1973 monster-hit (pun intended), The Exorcist. It scared the you-know-what out of me.

I’ve professed my faith in Christ since then. And that, according to the Bible, changes everything. Powerfully.

The Daily Beast recently published a story on the Vatican’s Exorcist Convention.  You can read the story here.  The article  interests me since the conference has “grown ten fold” since the annual event began in 2004.

Whenever demonic possession is a topic of discussion, almost always what people believe is based not on scripture, but on Hollywood films and/or someone’s creepy story.

Sadly, this applies to many professing Christians as well.

In short, the “father of lies”, as Jesus called him, perpetuates “fake news” wherever demonology is concerned.

Years ago, I was listening to one of my favorite Bible teachers, Chuck Smith.  He wisely said,

We cannot allow experience to become the criteria for truthTruth comes from the Word of God.  Allowing the Word of God to be our final authority frees us from being forced to judge which conflicting human experience is true and which one is false.  So we rest our case on the Word of God.

So, to the Word of God we go….

According to the Bible:

1. Satan is real, making his biblical debut in Genesis, chapter 3, in the form of a serpent. By the way, he makes his exit in Revelation 20:10.

2. Demonic possession is real.  Demons are not the invention of Dante – they are real, sometimes called “wicked…unclean spirits,”   There are a seven passages in the gospels recording specific scenes of Jesus casting out demons.  Most of these scenes are commonly recorded by Matthew, Mark & Luke.  (Interestingly, only the first three gospels mention Jesus exorcising demons.)  Then, there are numerous passages describing, indirectly, Jesus’ authority over demons – as in having “cast seven demons out of Mary Magdelene,” “he also drove out many demons,” etc.  “Professional exorcists” describe dramatic events during exorcising. Are these events possible? Sure – almost anything’s possible. (And Satan, a consummate narcissist, loves the attention.) But, we must always be careful to make scripture – not contemporary stories or Hollywood – our primary authority on this topic.  Although the Bible clearly records the demon-possessed, at times, convulsing,  possessing supernatural strength and even speaking from the possessed individual, not once does it record anyone’s head spinning around. 🙂 Although the origination of demons is ambiguous scripturally, their destiny, according to Jesus, is clear.

3. The Bible never once gives us permission – or even encourage us – to seek Satan out. The old saying, “If you go looking for trouble, chances are you’ll find it,” applies. It is a fool who seeks to pick a fight with our ancient foe, who is a brilliant strategist, master manipulator, and is keenly aware of our many flaws and weaknesses.  Believers tend to forget that Adam and Eve enjoyed a level of intimacy with God that is beyond our comprehension and, yet, were still fooled by the deceptive expertise of the serpent.  Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, records that even the archangel, Michael, chose not to pick a fight with Satan (apart from the Lord’s authority to do so) but rather rebuked him in the name of Jesus Christ.

4. Lastly, no church or denomination need “authorize you” to cast out a demon should that moment ever present itself.  With humble respect to my Catholic friends, attending a conference is not necessary to be equipped to face Satan.  Further, should that encounter ever arise, it will not be necessary to call a Catholic priest – since the Bible clearly states all believers are priests. Believers were “authorized” the very nano-second Christ took up residence inside of you. We’re told not only that Jesus cast out demons, but that he gave authority to his followers to do the same. Just as his followers were given authority over Satan, so are we today. James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote that “demons tremble” at the mere thought of Jesus. And it’s on Christ’s authority – and his authority alone – we are able to command evil spirits. (Luke records an unsettling, if not comical, story in Acts 19:13-16 of those foolish enough to face Satan without Christ’s authority.) Additionally, contrary to how it’s portrayed in movies, note that every single time Jesus cast out a demon there was no lengthy “street fight between good and evil” – not even with the “legion” of demons.  Jesus commanded. And the terrified demons immediately obeyed (sometimes pleading for their lives). As I mentioned above, never go looking for a fight with the devil. But, bought with Christ’s blood and filled with the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to run away from one either.

I’ve been asked, “Can a Christian be possessed?” I usually smile and reply, “Oh, but Christians are possessed.”  I continue, “The Bible tells us we’re possessed – by the Holy Spirit, which is God, himself. We’ve been purchased – ‘bought with a price’, Paul wrote. And that price is the precious blood of Jesus Christ. We can’t be ‘re-possessed.’ We’re ‘off the market.’ Besides, no demon would ever even attempt to possess us – they’re terrified of Who lives and reigns in us.”

Jesus said, “Satan has no hold on me.” Neither does he have a hold on us – God’s children.

I once visited with a former satanic high priest who had finally professed his faith in Christ. He told me,

“Nick, I saw evil on a very powerful scale while I served Satan in the priesthood. But I must confess: never – I mean, never – did I behold real power – terrifying power – until I met the almighty Christ.”

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick