Granite Mountain Hotshot Wade Parker Placed God First

This weekend, Only the Brave*, a movie about the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who perished in the Yarnell Hills Fire in June 2013, debuts in theaters. In September of 2013, AG News (now PE News) shared a story about Wade Parker, one of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who died fighting the fire. He attended Chino Valley Word of Life (Assembly of God). Here is his story.



Sweat-stained and coated in a layer of black powdery dirt from their exertions, Wade Parker, 22, and his friends Clayton and Brendan and several other elite firefighters sat talking on the side of a New Mexico mountain, looking across miles and miles of sun-baked land. As often was the case, they were talking about God. As the discussion closed, Wade and Clayton led Brendan to Christ . . . .

From the time Wade Parker was a young boy, his role model, hero, and father, Danny, would tell him, “Wade, not everyone has the opportunity to change the world, but everyone gets the opportunity to change their world (the people around them).”

Being young and energetic, young Wade was all about giving 110 percent. Gifted athletically, his desire and effort on the playing field was never questioned. He led by example and as many have said about him, he didn’t demand respect, he earned it.

A four-year letterman in baseball, Parker led his Chino Valley (Arizona) High School baseball team to state his final two years of high school. He then was given a scholarship to play baseball at Lamar (Colorado) Community College (LCC), a school known for producing quality players.

“Wade was an intense guy who worked hard and gave everything he had every day,” says LCC Head Baseball Coach Scott Crampton, “He was a young man coaches like to be around.”

But as much as he gave of himself physically to sports, when it came to worshipping God and doing his best to live for Him, he was just as committed.

“Even as a very young boy, Wade would close his eyes and lift his hands, worshipping God, singing at the top of his lungs,” Danny recalls.

An admitted “momma’s boy” who loved hugging his mother, Michelle, and was proud of it, Wade was unusual. He not only openly expressed his love for his family, he possessed a constant and infectious smile, and he noticed those experiencing problems around him — and did something about it.

He stepped in when a younger boy was being bullied on the school bus, putting an end to the bullying and walking the boy home from his bus stop. He took all his birthday money and spent it on a classmate whose clothes were ragged and shoes were worn out. Danny and Michelle also sent Wade four Bibles during his year at LCC as he kept giving his away to teammates.

Chuckling, Danny adds that Wade also invited friends home — not just for supper, but to live!

“There were those kids whose parents were going through a separation or divorce and having a really rough time,” Danny says. “Wade would talk to us and over the years we had several kids live with us for months at a time — they became a part of our family.”

Chris Hunter, a former high school teacher of Wade’s, says she recalls how Wade, as a senior, had come to her and told her how he wanted to pray that all his friends would come to know God.

“I told him, you’re thinking too small, Wade,” Hunter says. Wade said he would pray the whole class of 2009 and even all of Chino Valley High School would believe in the Lord. Hunter’s response: “That’s really nice, Wade, you should be doing that. But for who you are, Wade Parker, that’s just too small.”

Hunter remembers the moment the light came on in Wade’s eyes as he realized the truth of her prophetic words. “He said, ‘Okay, this is what I pray, that I have an impact on the world with the message of Jesus Christ.'”

After playing college ball for a year, Wade chose to follow his real passion — to become a firefighter like his dad. Not settling for the ordinary, Wade worked hard to be selected to an elite firefighting team. He made the team, and in 2012 he was named rookie of the year.

For over a year, Wade had been sharing Christ with his friends on his Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighting crew as they traveled across the West working the frontlines in fighting some of the fiercest and mostly uncontained fires. Some of the team had already made decisions for Christ — including his friend Brendan “Donut” McDonough on the side of that mountain in New Mexico — others, Wade had confided in his pastor, Todd League of Chino Valley Word of Life (Assembly of God), were just so close to accepting Christ.

But now, there was no more time. While working the Yarnell (Arizona) Hill Fire, a sudden shift in the wind had sent the uncontrolled fire raging in a new and unexpected direction, quickly blocking the crew’s escape route. Wade and the rest of his Hotshots crew were trapped, with no way out.

It was eerie. Desolate. Quiet except for the determined crunching of booted feet walking across the scarred, burned hills southwest of Yarnell, Arizona. Danny Parker was here to get his son.

A 20-year veteran and captain paramedic in the Chino Valley Fire District, Danny received a call at the station that fateful 30th of June. A friend from the Prescott (Arizona) Fire Department, where the Granite Mountain Hotshots were based out of, was calling to let him know that they had lost radio contact with Wade’s Hotshots team.

“I had heard what was going on down there as it was happening, and I had a check in my spirit that it was going to be a bad outcome,” Danny says. “My friend called me and told me not to panic, but they had lost radio contact with the team . . . ,” Danny pauses, his voice thickening with emotion, “every muscle went weak and I went straight to the floor.”

As he lay on the floor, Danny prayed earnestly for the boys and that God would surround the families with comfort and peace, but that through it all, God’s will would be done.

Now, as a member of the recovery team, Danny made his way across the desolate hills to reach his son and the other 18 flagged-draped bodies. When he arrived, he found the emergency shelters the team had deployed to protect themselves from the fire — individual cocoons made of layers of aluminum, Kevlar, and insulation — were all totally incinerated.

Yet, being well versed in fires and how fear and flames can cause weak minds to break, he noted how tightly the 19 bodies were positioned next to each other. None of them had attempted to flee in an “every-man-for-himself” escape from the flames, which has occurred in other life-taking fires.

“It doesn’t take the hurt or the loss away, but these men died for the man on their left and the man on their right. Each one gave their lives for each other and that speaks volumes to what kind of crew they were,” says Danny, who is also doing his best to keep in touch with Brendan McDonough, who was the Hotshots team lookout and lone survivor that tragic day.

Pastor League says he had just finished pre-marital counseling with Wade and his fiancé, Alicia, the week before Wade left to fight the Yarnell Hill Fire. He says Wade desperately wanted to be a good husband, but he also took time to talk about reaching his Hotshots team members for Christ.

“Wade told me in our last session that there were several guys that were close to accepting the Lord,” Leagues says, “and I truly believe God allowed Wade to be there in those last moments for those boys!”

League says that he estimates more than 1,000 people attended Wade’s funeral and several of Wade’s friends have either made first-time commitments or rededicated their lives to Christ directly because of Wade’s death. Still fighting tears when talking about Wade, League says that now, no matter where he goes in town, people know him as Wade’s pastor.

“Countless conversations have been opened up with people I don’t even know,” League says. “In that way, Wade’s legacy lives on.”

In Lamar, Coach Crampton says when the community learned of Wade’s death, they were shocked. In his relatively short time there, Wade had made an impact upon the community and college. To honor him and the sacrifice he made, they created and named a baseball scholarship after him.

“Wade’s character, on and off the field, was just off the chart,” Crampton states. “He was a strong Christian, and that came across every day. I know he influenced several other baseball players with their decision of faith. Just overall, he was an outstanding young man.”

For Danny and Michelle, their three remaining children — Amber (31), Carrie (30) and DJ (18) — and Wade’s fiancé, Alicia, the pain of loss is still fresh. Tears are not uncommon. But Danny says that early on, he couldn’t understand that even though there was pain, he felt a peace and comfort that made no sense.

“Then the Lord reminded me of my prayer — that the families would be surrounded with peace and comfort,” Danny says. “And He did surround us. We’ve felt so cradled in the arms of the Lord since this happened. It’s indescribable. It doesn’t mean we’re not hurting,” he adds, voice cracking, “but He is with us in that hurt.”

Yet, even though the death of the Hotshots team made world news, the question remains: Was Wade’s desire to impact the world with the message of Jesus Christ to be fulfilled?

While in college, Wade, who was teaching himself guitar so he could one day be a worship leader, sent home a poem he felt the Lord had given him that he wanted to turn into a song. Two lines of the poem seem particularly poignant:

“…Till the end of my days I will speak your name into the world. So I lay my life down at your feet, the everlasting King.”

At his funeral, two of Wade’s cousins put his poem to music and performed the song. The poem was also read at the crew’s memorial service held in Prescott. Their memorial was attended by thousands of firefighters and dignitaries, including speakers Vice President Joe Biden and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

And then, of course, there is Danny.

“I don’t mind talking about my son,” he says with conviction. “I will tell the world about my son and God in his life, and I will never turn down the opportunity to tell the world about Wade and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

So perhaps, Wade’s true desire is already on its way to being fulfilled after all.

“The times I feel Wade’s presence the most is when I’m worshipping the Lord,” Danny says, his eyes closing as tears form again, “because Wade loved to worship. And the most awesome thing about that is getting to be in the presence of the Lord and feel my son too.”


*Editor’s note: No endorsement of the movie is implied or intended.

Source: AG News

More Than Blind Faith

Brandon Sims of Crystal Hill Assembly of God in Little Rock, Arkansas, is fulfilling his mission to inspire others in their faith wherever he goes. At just 18 years old, Brandon’s boldness of faith has impacted a wide swath of people.

In 2003, Brandon began attending the Arkansas School for the Blind in Little Rock. As his studies at the school drew to a close, Sims felt compelled to do something that would leave a Christian legacy after his graduation.

In 2016, Sims began meeting with teachers, the principal, and even the superintendent in an effort to organize the school’s first See You at the Pole (SYATP) event.

As organizer of the gathering, Sims needed to take a stand among his peers and present his idea to the entire student body. Risking ridicule and opposition, Sims made his pitch, and received permission to hold the first event of this kind at the school.

Last year, Sims, then a senior in high school, joined five other students at his school’s flagpole and prayed for teachers, staff members, and peers. Despite graduating in May this year, Sims, now a freshman at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, returned to the Arkansas School for the Blind and joined fellow students at the Sept. 27 SYATP event. More students showed up than last year.

Shane Walters, Crystal Hill youth pastor, says Sims has influenced the school in other ways. At the age of 11, Sims spurred school officials to find more adequate playground equipment for children.

“Brandon partnered with the Lions Club and got new playground equipment donated to the school,” says Walters. “Brandon is nothing short of inspiring.” To this day, the area is known as Brandon’s Playground.  

Sims says his faith is a result of watching his family’s commitment at Crystal Hills AG. Since childhood, he has been volunteering as a puppet master in the children’s area of the church. He continues to serve diligently in this role every week.

Sims credits Crystal Hills Pastor Terry W. Newman and mentor Randall Whitehurst for nurturing his faith.

Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — October 20, 1957<br />

Thomas Ball Barratt (1862-1940), born to a Methodist family in England, became the most prominent Pentecostal pioneer in Norway. Barratt was recognized at a young age for being a gifted writer, artist, and composer of music. He could have succeeded in numerous professions. But following a life-changing encounter with God, the young Barratt dedicated his life to sharing the gospel.

When Barratt was four years old, his parents immigrated to Norway, where his father worked as a miner. At age 11, Barratt’s parents sent him back to England to attend a Methodist school, where he committed his life to God during a revival. After he moved back to Norway at age 16, he became a member of Stavanger Temperance Society and became a joyful advocate of heartfelt faith and godly living.

When Barratt returned to Norway, he initially began working as his father’s assistant. However, Barratt’s artistic abilities opened other doors. He studied under Norway’s greatest composer, Edvard Grieg, and under noted artist Olaf Dahl. By age 17, he began preaching in Methodist churches. He became an ordained Methodist deacon (1889) and elder (1891) and pastored several churches.

With a deep interest in spiritual things, Barratt became a prominent proponent of revival in Norway. Through the Oslo City Mission, which he founded in 1902, and its periodical, Byposten, Barratt encouraged people to draw close to God.

In 1906, Barratt traveled to America to raise funds for the Oslo City Mission. Although he failed to raise much money, he returned to Norway with something else that would change the trajectory of his ministry. Barratt had heard testimonies about the emerging Pentecostal revival at the interracial Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, and he traveled there to see it for himself. His heart grew hungry for a deeper experience of God. Just before going back to Norway, he stopped at the Holiness Mission in New York City, where some of the gospel workers had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. These newly-baptized Pentecostals, Robert A. Brown and Marie Burgess, prayed with Barratt. He spent an extended period of time seeking God at the altar. After he “emptied” his soul of self, he received the Pentecostal experience with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

Upon his return to Norway, Barratt began promoting the Pentecostal message. He endured criticism by those who mocked the reported emotionalism of the Azusa Street Mission. The Methodist Church revoked his ministerial credentials, and his mission and newspaper were given to his assistant. Barratt had to start over, building up his ministry from scratch. Despite these impediments, Barratt kept his focus on the gospel and not on his critics. Crowds thronged to hear Barratt wherever he went. He founded the Filadelfia Church in Oslo, which grew to about 2,000 members. Pentecostal churches were soon organized across the nation. Under the leadership of Barratt, the Pentecostal movement in Norway became the second largest Protestant church in Norway, second only to the Lutheran church. Barratt’s influence also spread to North America, where he traveled on occasion and preached in English to American and Canadian audiences.

The story of T. B. Barratt is a reminder of the global scope of the Pentecostal movement. Barratt, an Englishman raised in Norway, identified with the Pentecostal revival during a visit to the United States. Barratt’s testimony also demonstrates that early Pentecostals prioritized the spiritual life. Barratt modeled heartful, joyful faith, which he lived out in a godly lifestyle. From his earliest days of ministry as a Methodist to his latter years as a Pentecostal statesman, he consistently emphasized the importance of deep faith. Barratt was willing to take risks to follow God’s will. And because he did, the religious landscape in Norway has never been the same.

The Pentecostal Evangel featured the story of Thomas Ball Barratt in 1957, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Pentecostalism in Norway. Read the article, “Norway’s Pentecostal Jubilee,” on page 20 of the Oct. 20, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “A Thirst for God,” by A. M. Alber

* “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” by James A. Stewart

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Source: AG News

Casting Bread Upon the Water

Nathan and Cindy Timmerman are looking forward to spending some time with family and friends, now that they’ve returned home after three months sailing the fjords of Alaska.

The U.S. missionary chaplains are back home in Seagoville, Texas, after 12 weeks working as volunteer naturalists on a trio of cruise ships. In those roles, the Timmermans gave talks to passengers on how to spot marine and wildlife, such as humpback whales, sea lions, orcas, bears, and dolphins. They also pointed out unique characteristics such as eagles mating for life, and went on deck at times to guide such sightings.

But the couple, married for 38 years, likewise seized upon myriad opportunities to minister as volunteer chaplains. For instance, they shared the gospel with a woman spreading the ashes of her recently deceased daughter, and prayed for another woman struggling with anxiety and insomnia.

In their chaplain capacities, the Timmermans also provide spiritual strength during medical emergencies, as well as solace to grieving staff members notified about the death of a loved one (often employees can’t leave the ship for a funeral without losing their jobs).

Their naturalist responsibilities create a platform for “the silent gospel,” according to Nathan, 61.

“People are intrigued by nature and marine life,” he says. “It makes a great segue to share the gospel.”

The Timmermans spent three months cruising the Alaska shores on three different ships. Every week, a new group of 2,100 passengers boarded. The chaplains also ministered to some of the 900 crew members, who represented around 40 nationalities.

Nathan estimates 80 percent of the vacationers hadn’t been to Alaska before, and for many of them, the fun and adventure excursion is a temporary escape.

“Just because people come on a cruise doesn’t cancel their life’s struggles,” Nathan says. “Below the surface are broken lives, wounded hearts, and the shame and guilt from poor life choices.”

Mealtimes around tables present prime opportunities for the Timmermans to identify themselves as chaplains, and to become acquainted with strangers, many of them internationals.

The chaplains especially enjoy connecting foreign crew members — who typically work 12-hour shifts every day — with other Christian workers. As volunteer chaplains, the Timmermans hosted Bible studies and church services, which typically draw between 30 to 50 people, but sometimes as many as 160.

The chaplains recall sharing dinner with a retired chief financial officer — on his first cruise since his wife’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease — breaking down in tears. The man began attending Bible studies, and found comfort.

“It all began by having a meal with him, and sharing ‘Ole and Sven’ jokes,” Nathan says.

A newly retired oncologist who attended Bible studies left the cruise with a new purpose: ministering to oncology patients.

“It’s so rewarding that God gives divine appointments,” says Cindy, who notes that a prayer team supporting their ministry prays specifically for such encounters.

“Every week is a new adventure, with new challenges and new opportunities,” Nathan says. One of his favorite Bible passages about Jesus is Luke 5:3: “Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat.”

Of course, seeking the Lord isn’t a priority for most tourists. The ships offer patrons plenty of opportunities to gamble, drink alcohol, and watch bawdy shows.  

The Timmermans also take groups of chaplaincy interns on cruise ministry opportunities. They do one-on-one training, and emphasize prayer walking the entire ship, including theaters, bars, and casinos, asking God to shift the spiritual climate.

While not on the water, the Timmermans have focused their ministry efforts the past 15 years on training more than 500 community chaplains, which initially involves 30 hours of classroom training. While interning, the community chaplain must spend at least 12 hours engaged in a specialized ministry focus and serve a minimum of 50 hours under the direct supervision of a professional chaplain. Subsequently, the trainee is classified as a lead community chaplain.

Kim Vastine, an ordained minister and a real estate agent in Southlake, Texas, wrapped up her community chaplain training on a one-week cruise with the Timmermans.

“Nathan and Cindy provide top-notch training, both in the classroom as well as working side by side on the cruise line,” Vastine says. “They are a stellar couple who gave practical skills and wise counsel about the nuances of personal interaction.”

Since becoming certified community chaplains, Vastine and her salesman husband, Wade, have gone on another cruise and implemented the training they received.

“We had God encounters with people on a daily basis,” says Vastine, 56. “It’s amazing how many opportunities there are to pray for people and reach out with compassion.”

Source: AG News

A Providential Calling

Maggie Dunn was a licensed therapist in southeast Michigan in 2001, working in the juvenile justice system with difficult, hard-core offenders when she began to understand more clearly a vision she and her husband, Jason, had received.

Dunn was raised as the second of 14 children in Oakland Township, Michigan. Her parents, Jim and Michele Smither, were passionate about making faith real in the lives of their children — eight of them adopted. Because of her parents’ example, Dunn knew as a teenager that she wanted to make an impact in the lives of others.

After the Dunns wed in 1995, they spent 18 years in pastoral ministry, first as children’s and youth pastors in Troy Assembly of God in Michigan, and later as lead pastors at The Well in Mt. Clemens.

The couple raised two biological children, Nathanyel and Grace, now 19 and 18. The couple also became foster parents, and adopted six of those foster children: Jessica, now 27, Grant, 15, Christian,14, Dominique, 10, Layla, 4, and Myles, 3.

The Dunns witnessed the plight of unwanted youth in the foster care system. Jason, a licensed Assemblies of God minister, and Maggie both sensed a mission to kids who flailed, suffered, and sometimes even died in Michigan’s foster care system. As Maggie worked as a therapist in the system, the couple understood their calling more clearly.

“The Lord is not here to give us assignments that make sense,” she says. “What are a few sleepless nights in light of the destinies of these kids?”

Even though raising eight children sounds daunting to most people, Maggie and Jason, who have been married 22 years, felt called to do more.

In 2012, the Dunns quit their career jobs, and stepped out in faith to establish House of Providence, a residential foster care facility, to fulfill the vision God had given them when they started working with the foster care system.

As God continued to direct them, miracles began.

Jason, now 44, and Maggie, 43, received a call from the director of Life Challenge Ministries. The Adult & Teen Challenge affiliate offered the gift of a sprawling but ramshackle campus in Detroit, with a bank account of $10,000 included. Over the next eight months, renovations took place and unsolicited large financial gifts poured in.

“God wasn’t providing for us,” Maggie says. “He was responding to the prayers of those abandoned children who cried themselves to sleep every night.”

House of Providence began accepting girls ages 11-17 who had suffered physical and sexual abuse. The girls sometimes had been trafficked by parents looking for a drug fix. Dunn maintained a low staff to resident ratio, and immediately established 24-hour on-site therapeutic services. Girls who come to House of Providence learn that God cares about them, yearns for them to be whole, and that they have worth in His sight.

In 2015, at the Assemblies of God General Council in Orlando, Florida, Dunn received recognition from Her Green Room for her work with foster children.

Mary Beth Bradshaw, leader of the Church Multiplication Network Wives blog, nominated Dunn for the honor.

“The Dunns expanded their own family by adoption, bringing life, hope, and a future for these kids who were written off by society,” Bradshaw says. “They not only love those kids, but are also teaching them life skills, emotional stability, and how to be a family.” 

In 2016, House of Providence miraculously purchased 118 acres in a bucolic setting in Oxford, Michigan, a suburb northwest of the Motor City. The ministry is in the process of getting settled in its new location. In June, House of Providence commemorated 50 girls who have been removed from the foster care system and placed into permanent families.

What society offers foster care children isn’t working, Dunn maintains.

“Children who age out of the system at 18 without being adopted are given a stipend and sent on their way,” she says. “Eighty percent of those girls will end up in a role in the sex industry as modern-day slaves. But the Lord has given us a model to rescue children that is working.”

Spiritual growth and emotional healing are emphasized at House of Providence. Children experience safety, stability, a high-quality individualized education, and future-focused mentoring in a loving, caring environment. The ministry now reaches both girls and boys, ages 7-19.

“The state of Michigan is asking us to expand,” Dunn says. “The Lord is hearing our cry. No one should be alone on the planet.”

Photo Credit – Kate Panza Photography

Source: AG News

CHLS Offers Opportunities to Participate in Dig at el-Araj<br />

Following several discoveries and international news coverage garnered by the el-Araj archeological excavation, sponsored in part by Center for Holy Lands (CHLS), CHLS Director Amy Turnage has announced that Evangel University theological professor and archeologist, Dr. Mark Jenkins, will be the CHLS field archeologist, partnering with lead archaeologist Dr. Mordechai Aviam of Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology and Dr. Steve Notley of Nyack College, on an archeological excavation at el-Araj in 2018.

Turnage says that Jenkins brings years of archeological experience to the CHLS team. He spent the past seven dig seasons assisting in the excavation of Tell es-Safi, biblical Gath, the home city of Goliath. He is also an experienced team leader, leading students in well-rounded excavation experiences over the last several years.

In 2018, the Center for Holy Lands Studies is offering the opportunity for a very limited number of individuals to join Jenkins and other partner groups in the continuing excavation of el-Araj. Recent digs at el-Araj have produced evidence that has caught the attention of many experts who now believe el-Araj may actually be the true location of the biblical city of Bethsaida. However, further excavation and findings are needed to establish this belief as fact.

The 16-day el-Araj archeological digs, which are open to the public, are offered in two sessions. Session 1, June 15-29, is the designated CHLS session with Jenkins; Session 2 is slated for June 29-July 13. The effort will include 10 days of excavation; pottery washing and pottery reading; swimming in the Jordan; field trips (which vary from Session 1 to Session 2) that may include Gamla, Yodefat, Midgal, Kursi, Banyas, Omrit, Sepphoris, and several trips to Tiberius; a visit to Ginosar Museum; a Sea of Galilee swim; a Jeep tour of the region; guest lectures; and more.

“Archeology is typically not very glamorous — it’s a lot of hard work,” Jenkins says. “But our experience will not be limited to digging. In addition to enjoying several field trips, those who choose to be a part of this experience will find it highly educational as we discuss the significance of biblical sites, what we discover in the dig, and what we see and find in light of Scripture.”

Turnage believes that Christians will find few other experiences can compare to being a part of an archeological excavation in the Holy Lands at a site as promising and potentially historically significant as el-Araj. “You’ll not only learn about archeology, the significance of what you unearth, and how culture shaped history,” Turnage explains, “but you could very well be a personal part of revealing history.”

In addition to the excavation sessions, there are optional 3-day tour opportunities following each session, which include a tour of Jerusalem and a visit to Masada, Qumran, and an opportunity to swim in the Dead Sea. College and university students are encouraged to work with their institutions to earn credit for their participation.

To learn more about being a part of the 2018 CHLS excavation of el-Araj, which is being done in partnership with other academic institutions, see the CHLS el-Araj web page.

Source: AG News

Did God Abandon Jesus on the Cross?<br />

The Assemblies of God Center for Holy Lands Studies (CHLS) provides a regular column to PE News that offers deep and sometimes surprising insight into the Word of God through close examination of the culture of the day, biblical sites, and archaeological records. In this article, Wave Nunnally, Ph.D., professor of Early Judaism and Christian Origins at Evangel University and a regular instructor in Israel for CHLS, examines the common misconception that God turned His back on Christ during His crucifixion.

At some point, most of us have heard the teaching that when Jesus took upon himself the sins of the whole world God had to turn His back on Him. This comes not only from local church pulpits, but also from well-known scholars and leaders.

But that’s not what happened.

The teaching is based on a combination of three passages of Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:21, Habakkuk 1:13, and Matthew 27:46. In 2 Corinthians 5, however, Paul’s point is not that Jesus assumed a sin nature, as is claimed by so many. Had He done so, He would no longer be the perfect sacrifice required by the sacrificial system (Exodus 12:5) and described by writers of the New Testament (1 Peter 1:18-19). It also does not explain why just two verses earlier, Paul was declaring that quite the opposite of abandoning Jesus during the Crucifixion, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself” (v. 19)! Further, both Old Testament (Exodus 29:14; 30:10. Leviticus 4:32; 5:6, etc.) and New Testament usage including Paul himself (Romans 8:3) employ the word “sin” in these contexts as a shorthand way of referring to the “sin offering” rather than to an act of disobedience to God.

This kind of biblical “shorthand” is in no way different from other technical terms used in reference to aspects of the sacrificial system, such as “the Passover lamb” which is more often shortened to “the Passover” (compare “Passover sacrifice” in Exodus 21:21 to “the Passover” in Exodus 12:21, 43; Numbers 9:10-12, Deuteronomy 16:2, 5, and 6, and this technical “shorthand is also seen in New Testament texts like Luke 22:11, 15, etc.). For Paul, then, Jesus did not become “sin”; rather He became a “sin offering” — a perfect sacrifice for our sins!

Habakkuk 1:13 suffers from similar de-contextualization: this text is not a declaration by God, but a complaint voiced by the prophet. Habakkuk is here arguing with God that He should not be using the more sinful nation of Babylon to judge the less sinful southern kingdom of Judah. The prophet’s argument that the more sinful nation should not be an instrument of God’s justice against a less sinful nation is rejected by God, Who simply declares that Babylon will eventually have to bear an even worse fate.

Much more important than Habakkuk’s rhetorical question is “How does God really respond to sin?” In the Garden, when mankind sinned, they hid and covered themselves (Genesis 3:7, 8), and it was God Who pursued them (Genesis 3:8; the Hebrew actually reads, “They heard the sound of Yahweh God pacing back and forth in the Garden,” concerned and nervous about being alienated from His creatures)! If God cannot look on sin or sinners, why did He spend chapter after chapter in the Law describing in detail how to offer sacrifices to atone for sin? Why did He send Jesus to die as a sacrifice for sin if the best He could do is turn His back in rejection of this final sacrifice?

The reality is that Scripture informs us that God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus (see Colossians 2:13-14) as a “sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2 — and note that again, the one correcting the record here is none other than Paul, the author of 2 Corinthians 5:21)! In no place in Scripture does God ever turn His back on an appropriate sacrifice offered with a repentant attitude. Thank God for this, because if He did, no one would stand a chance of receiving forgiveness and reconciliation back to Him.

So if Jesus did not “become sin” and God did not have to “turn His back on Him,” why then does Jesus ask, “Why have you forsaken me?” Note that Jesus is quoting His forefather David (Matthew 27:46=Psalm 22:1), and that this is in response to the claim made by the chief priests. Quoting Psalm 22:8, they assert that because God had not delivered Jesus from the cross, this proved that God did not approve of Him or His message (Matthew 27:1-43). Since both parties in the argument are quoting Psalm 22, it’s important for us to look there to understand their points of reference.

Much like us, David’s first reaction to difficulty is to conclude that God has abandoned him and is not hearing his cries for deliverance (v. 1). His enemies agree, concluding that God has indeed abandoned him (v. 8, quoted by the chief priests to taunt Jesus). After reflecting on Scripture (God’s past track-record) and the trustworthiness of God in his own life (vv. 3-5, 9-10), however, the Psalmist’s conclusion has already changed, “Don’t be far from me[, because I may need You]!” (vv. 11 and 19). He is undeterred by the jeers of his enemies, as is Jesus, since He continues to pray to His Father to the end of His life (Luke 23:46)! Is David or are his enemies right? Is Jesus right, or are His enemies right? In verse 21 David declares, “From the horns of the wild oxen, You have answered [past tense in the original Hebrew] me!”  

In Jesus’ world, to quote a verse from a passage typically hearkened an audience back to the context of the entire passage. Jesus argument can be summarized like this: “Be careful about proof-texting, O Sadducees! The enemies of My forefather David thought the same thing and they were proven wrong. You think because My vindication hasn’t come immediately that My Father has abandoned Me? David thought that too, but he was proven wrong. In fact, he was eventually able to confess, ‘[God] has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard!’ (Psalm 22:24).”

Who do those interpreters sound like who declare that Jesus was abandoned by God — David and His Son, or those who opposed and reviled them? Thank God He didn’t abandon David or Jesus — had He done so, what chance would we have when we sin? His presence is guaranteed, not by our performance, but by His promise! And His promises are sure: He is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4) and He is a very present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1). He does not waver: He will be with us even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20)! Next time we’re in crisis mode, let’s remember that as we walk through our own “valley of the shadow of death,” “Yet You are with me” (Psalm 23:4). Our feelings may fluctuate, but His unchanging Word declares, “I will never leave you or forsake you!” (Hebrews 13:5).

Source: AG News

Even Chicken Hatchery Needs a Chaplain

U.S. Missions Chaplain Virginia “Jenny” Young received her call into the ministry as a young girl. She didn’t expect that would lead her to a chicken hatchery. After spending years in more traditional ministry roles, such as youth pastor and church support staff, Young connected with Marketplace Chaplains .

Marketplace Chaplains is a nondenominational organization that matches licensed chaplains across all faiths to large companies that wish to provide religious support to their employees. Young, an ordained Assemblies of God minister and endorsed chaplain, received her first assignment with Marketplace Chaplains in a chicken hatchery of all places. Young literally walked alongside employees, counseling and praying with them, as they worked their jobs.

“I learned pretty quickly you don’t wear a suit to a hatchery,” she says, laughing.

Young, 59, considers her main goal as she goes to work each day is to be a refuge for those in need. However, while many traditional chaplains work in hospitals or the military, Young has been able to aid individuals in a variety of industries. Beyond the chicken hatchery, some of Young’s most notable assignments have been in hotels, airports, a large car dealership, and even a construction crane distributor.

Young, who lives in Decatur, Alabama, has been working as a chaplain for 11 years. She’s taken on assignments all over the state and in the Tennessee Valley. Of all of Young’s duties, hotel chaplaincy in particular has opened doors for her to minister to myriad people. She has counseled individuals in financial crisis and unable to pay for their night’s stay. While many assignments lend to working with a business’s regular employees, the hotel gig gives Young the opportunity to minister to a more transient population.

“It’s really fun because most of these employers want their employees to have a salvation experience and they encourage us to share the gospel,” Young says. “Of course, you have to be sensitive with that.” She says, depending on the situation, she shares appropriate Scripture and relevant advice.

Young says a hotel maintenance worker with unbelievable health issues felt frustrated because he couldn’t attend church and grow as a Christian because he always worked on Sundays. Young ministered to the man repeatedly, and one day he surprised her by calling her his pastor — because contact with her amounted to the only fellowship he experienced during the week.

Along with her role as a chaplain, Young leads a busy life at home, with eight children — seven of whom she has adopted. Most of Young’s children are now grown and out of the home, but she and her husband still care for one severely disabled child.

“Jenny is great at what she does, both as a chaplain and as a parent,” says Ken Phillips, Young’s supervisor with Marketplace Ministries. “Most anything she puts her mind to will be accomplished.”

“This has been the most exciting time I’ve spent in ministry in a long time,” Young says. “I’ve found my niche.”

The Assemblies of God has other corporate chaplains such as Rebecca Vargas connected with Marketplace Ministries.

Source: AG News

New Discipleship Resources for Men Offered for Free

At the 57th General Council in Anaheim, California, in August, Assemblies of God Men’s Ministries unveiled a new logo, a new website, and a new collection of quality resources that can be downloaded for free.

In addition to a free daily devotional that can be accessed on the Men’s Ministries website or sent directly to an email address, the new Men’s Ministries’ site offers small group studies, that can also be used by individuals, created from the sermon series of leading Assemblies of God pastors.

According to Rick Allen, national director of Men’s Ministries, the studies are geared specifically for men and are divided into four key dimensions of manhood: Identity, Relationships, Purpose, and Vision.

Within each study, there are three spiritual growth tracks that allow for flexibility for leaders or personal study. The growth tracks include Courage — designed for men just starting out on their spiritual journey with Christ; Strength — directed toward men looking to strengthen and grow their relationship with Christ; and Endurance — for those men in key leadership positions and desiring a deeper sense of their spiritual purpose in ministry.

“The ultimate desire of Men’s Ministries is to assist men to discover and/or develop their God-ordained place in their home, church, and marketplace,” Allen says. “I believe we are beginning a new chapter in Men’s Ministries that will contribute to a future of spirit-empowered men, fathers, servant-leaders, and pastors.”

There are currently 41 small group studies (over 150 lessons) on the Men’s Ministries website for free download with two of them already translated into Spanish. The series vary in length from three to 12 lessons, with new lessons being added monthly in both English and Spanish. 

“I’ve been involved in Men’s Ministries for over 25 years and have never been more excited about the future of Men’s Ministries in the Assemblies of God,” states Dale Gray, Arizona Ministry Network Men’s Ministries director. “We recently had our men’s conference and one pastor said, ‘In my lifetime, I have never seen a website with so many resources that make sense for men.’”

Since the launch of the new discipleship resources at General Council, Men’s Ministries reports that they have had over 2,000 downloads of the new materials.

Source: AG News

A Heart for Harlem

The get-acquainted gathering could have been a downer for church planters in the borough of Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood. Just eight people sat in a circle on folding chairs next to the New York bar in the former Zip Code nightclub, previously owned by world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. By February 2015, the notoriously violent club had fallen into disrepair.  

The new plant, Trinity Church Harlem (TCH), is actually a relaunch and new name for Glad Tidings Tabernacle, once a flagship Assemblies of God church in midtown that met with tough times and sold to make room for a hotel.

Taylor and Kristen Wilkerson, signed on as lead pastors of TCH, with Taylor still a student at Princeton Theological Seminary in 2014. He graduated in 2016.  

At the 2015 get-acquainted gathering, the Wilkersons shared their vision for Harlem with six former members of Glad Tidings.

“We told the folks that our goal was to be faithful to honor the legacy of Glad Tidings, and to stand on their shoulders to reap a harvest of souls not seen for decades,” Taylor Wilkerson says. “We asked them to stay with us on our journey as we grow.”

Gaining support from the Glad Tiding’s members, Wilkerson steered a social media blitz seeking help to launch the new church.

Wilkerson stressed TCH’s strategic location across from St. Nicholas Houses, one of Manhattan’s largest public housing projects. It covers 13 buildings that are 14 stories tall, encompassing 1,523 apartments representing 36,000 residents.

The next month, 40 strangers jammed the Wilkersons’ apartment, followed by regular monthly meetings to build a launch team that eventually doubled.

“God spoke to so many people to step into the role of servant leaders,” says the 27-year-old first-time pastor. “And most people on the team never played a significant role in another church.”

Monthly worship gatherings and novel outreaches took place before the official opening in April 2016 when 380 people attended.

TCH stresses forging relationships in the community. The church gives boxes of food to St. Nicholas Houses and sponsors block parties, where small appliances such as microwave ovens are distributed. Last year, needy families received 500 turkeys for Thanksgiving. On Christmas, the church celebrated with five online services.

Harlem has experienced a renaissance of new buildings and gentrification, yet almost 30 percent of its residents live below the poverty line.

Twice annually the church invests in 21 days of prayer at 7 a.m. The results include healing from cancer, new jobs, and restored marriages.

TCH echoes Harlem’s rich multiethnic community. African-Americans represent two-thirds of Harlem’s population, Hispanics 17 percent, Caucasians 15 percent, and Asians 3 percent. A year and a half after launching, Sunday services now attract upward of 400 worshippers from various ethnic backgrounds, Wall Street bankers, techies, actors, and blue-collar workers.  

Digging into Harlem’s demographics, Wilkerson discovered one of the highest abortion rates in the U.S. Troubled by this statistic, he helped secure a $1.4 million three-year grant from the Administration for Children and Families in 2016 for a sexual risk avoidance education program in Harlem high schools. The program is taught by six full-time educators — who all attend TCH.

In the AG’s New York Ministry Network, TCH is a parent-affiliated church of Trinity Church Miami. That Florida congregation is co-pastored by Wilkerson’s parents, Rich and Robyn Wilkerson. Rich also serves as senior pastor of Trinity Harlem.

Rich Wilkerson is a member of the Church Multiplication Network lead team. Taylor and Kristen Wilkerson received the CMN urban church planting award at General Council 2017 in August.

Source: AG News