My friend heard God speak to him this week

Richard and Mary Bailey
Mary in 2002, with Richard in the background

Mary died on Tuesday. She was 73. She and Richard would have been married for 28 years at the end of May. Richard had a very difficult childhood and was taken away from his father to work on a farm. Both of them had hard lives and struggled in many ways but came to know the Lord with a simple faith.

Mary has been in a nursing home for several years and towards the end was suffering terribly. Richard had been praying that God would take her home.

Things came to a head on Tuesday evening and it was so distressing for Richard that the nurses suggested he left the room, so he went to get a cup of coffee. Half way across the street God spoke to Richard. He just said, “Don’t worry. I have answered your prayer! I have taken Mary home.”

Richard immediately turned around and went back to the building. A nurse met him and said, “They want you up on the third floor right now!”. Mary had indeed been “taken home”.

He keeps talking about the look on Mary’s face. Her eyes were fixed wide open in awe and amazement and she was smiling. Moments before she died she must have had a glimpse of the one she was going to be with. But what he talks about most was that a light was actually shining from her face and body as if it were lit up from the inside.

(I asked Richard if he minded me sharing these facts and he said, “Oh no! It’s a testimony!”)

I was wondering what a cessationist would make of these events.

Mary cooking turkey
Mary about to serve turkey

Here are some thoughts:

  • Cessationists put all spoken revelation from God on the same level, and since the Bible is complete God must have stopped speaking. If the words were truly from God, we would have to add them on the end of the Bible. (The obvious error here is failing to differentiate between the universally authoritative and objective nature of the Scriptures and the subjective and specific nature of a personal prophetic word.)
  • The only alternative is to try to “explain away” the events in the same way that liberals explain away the miracles of Jesus. Maybe it was a co-incidence...?
  • The revelation from God that Mary is now in heaven has totally transformed Richard’s thinking about her death. Of course he “knew” she was a believer, but it is a wholly different thing to actually hear God say that she is with him. Richard is grieving of course, but his whole being is filled with joy at his certainty of Mary’s bliss.
    • This is precisely the main purpose of N.T. prophecy, e.g. in Act 15:32 the believers were “encouraged and strengthened” by prophecy.
  • Richard sees this final events in Mary’s life as a “testimony” that should be told.
  • It answers the problem of her suffering—how could a God who loves Mary allow her to have a painful death? We know without any doubt that her pain was nothing compared to the joy that surprised and overwhelmed her.

As a footnote, this is not the first time that Richard and Mary have experienced the supernatural. Around ten years ago, when Mary was living at home, our Bible-study group decided to have a turkey thanksgiving dinner together. Everyone was responsible for part of the meal and Mary insisted in providing the turkey.

Another example of her hospitality (Richard and Mary on the left)
Another example of her hospitality (Richard and Mary on the left)

Dear Mary had been given a tiny turkey big enough to feed the two of them and was generously willing to share it with 25 hungry people. She was just overjoyed at being able to show love to everyone by cooking for them.

But when it came to the meal we couldn’t believe what happened. Everyone had a big plateful of meat and there was lots left over. God had honoured her simple love and faith and not allowed her to be ashamed.

Wonderful blog post, Andrew.

Wonderful blog post, Andrew. With Kathy & I knowing Richard & Mary, it was so nice to read this testimony.

You may have even been there...

...at the thanksgiving meal in question? (It was around the time you were at TBS.)
Thanks Jon!

It's really an amazing story

I love it. It makes me happy.

I also love the turkey story...I didn't really remember that one. Don't think I was there for that meal.

Question For You

Hello my name is Harrison Wilkerson, I'm 13 years old, and my dad is also a church planter like you. I see that your church is a part of New Frontiers in Canada. We just had a group of apostolic leaders from New Frontiers come down to our church and stay with my family this past weekend. Also my dad and Mr. Warnock are good buddies too.

Anyway, my dad grabbed me and wanted me to read your post and I had a question for him, and he thought I should ask you instead (since i have a hard time listening to dad's answers sometimes).

- I am always asking God for a miraculous sign to show that he loves me. Because, we live in the hood to minister and alot of people hate us because we're white. And I just wanted to tell you that I am very shocked by this miracle. But... I'm very empty feeling inside because of the drugs, prostotution, and behavior of this 'hood'. Why has God put me in this situation? I am consistently asking God for miraculous signs but I feel like it's just my luck that all the other church members have God-like expiriences. Please reply to my personal e-mail as applied in this comment.

Thanx a bunch.
-Harrison
Wilkerson

re Question For You

Hi Harrison, will get back to you by email.

a polite cessationist response... or a sincere attempt at one.

First let me say though we all all rejoice that a saint has been brought safely home by our kind and faithful Saviour Jesus Christ we mourn with those who knew her and those whom she left behind here on earth. That's the mystery of the Christian death... we mourn yet not as those with no hope. And our hope is in the resserection of Jesus Christ for His was first of many to come.

Secondly you asked how would a cessationist respond. And as one I shall to the best of my ability in such a way that respects the views that are not accord with my own.

1. How do you know this voice was from God? Is there not a philosophical-statistical possibility that this is from Satan or a demon that is trying to get this man's thoughts away from Christ and his promises in the Word by glorying not in the person and work of Jesus Christ but rather in a subjective supernatural experience ? Surely you must logically see that there is somewhat of a chance philosophically speaking.

2. Were there other person's in the room who heard it? If it was truly an audible voice from God my question is how can this be from God the Father Himself or the Holy Spirit when we know from the Scriptures that God is a spirit. Thus to be PRECISE every time the Bible talks about the voice of the Lord is it not actually the voice of the Lord rather an Angel who is sent on God's behalf to speak for HIm. Also this is why in the Exodus account of the burning bush the LORD and Angel are both named. If God is not a physical being then it follows he does not have vocal cords that can vibrate in order to produce a disctinct sound that can bounce against atoms in the air to eventually hit the ear drum where voice is then made. Sound by deffinition doesn't come FROM us rather it is something that happens to us. We merely produce the potential for sound by speaking. Thus you can never say God Himself spoke (unless you are refering to Jesus in the incarnation) unless you're a mormon. And if it was an audible voice then by deffinition of sounds one could record it via tape or digital recorder. I ask this hypothetical question... if you can your macbook running all the time would it's microphone be able to pick up the sound and be able to play the voice back? I truely doubt God would permit his creation to be able to do that with him. Also same reason why I am against icons fyi.

3. If this was a true revelation from God then of what use is it to the church. How does it benefit the global church? How does this make one more holy? How can it help you make other's Holy? It sounds alike an attempt of Satan to create spiritual pride... which is what the Apostle warns about in the usage of spiritual gifts in 1 cor. 12-14.

4. Blogging about a miracles or new revelation seems so anti-Pauline. At several points in Paul's epistles he mentions that he knows things that are unlaw to speak about. I think telling everyabout it even if it was true goes against the Apostle's example. When Peter had his vision concerning inpure foods he doesn't rush out and tell everyone rather he calls an apostalic council.

5. Know one knows what a ''word of knowledge'' is when its used in the New Testament. It was given its current understanding due to charismatics and pentecostals.

6. The New testament puts the emphesis on the fruit of the spirit more so than the gifts of the spirit. And while I cannot exegetically defend cessationism (arguing it from a systematic or biblical theological approach is another story), I can defend the emphesis of the New Testament is not to expect or wait around for a miracle but rather grattitude for what God has given us and how we are to use what he has already given us the best for His glory.

7. As noted by another post bragging about the supernatural creates a sense of division in the body of Christ. Those who are ''spirit-filled'' and just ''regular-christians''. As a young christian I criend nights because I never received the baptism of the Holy Spirit as defined by friends. I felt so guilty. I felt ashamed. And two years into my conversion praying every night I had a seizure and you know what happened... the church let me stay on the floor unconscious because they thought it was something the Holy Spirit was doing. Is that really what the Holy Spirit would demand? Is that what love demands?

8. Even the cessationist patron saint B.B. Warfield would say that these events are NOT impossible rather they are improbable and we are not to focus on them. Do I ultimately know whether that turkey store and the voice is true or not? no. But its not important. What cessationism says is that: 1. miracles exist to affirm doctrinal teaching primarly. 2. The Apostles and those Christians before the canon of scripture had special gifts for their time because they were not as blessed as to have the Completed put together Canon. It was necessary for the early church to have apostles for sake of doctrine. The apostles and the Word of God were the final authority till the canon was complete. When the last letter was written there was no more apostalic revelation (in the permanent sense) and when the last apostle died that foundation of the Church was finally built and it was time to build on it by the same doctrine given to us by God in the scripture. Do we believe God still may do a miracle? yes. Is it possible that he may even speak from heaven (through an angel)? I don't see why not. But the emphesis the New Testament places is on scripture and Jesus in the incarnation as the highest revelation.

9. God already said that to him in the Bible. If you read your Bible and put together a rather basic systematic theology knowing that her death was near and that when she died it was God's time... that's theology 101. There was no real new revelation. And perhaps because the man knew enough basic bible his brain made him think that because he knew that was the truth and her time was near. People here voices all the time who are not christians. They usually get put on medicine or locked up. In the US state of IL a couple years back a guy drowned his children because he heard a voice. I metk the guy years before this and he was a normal, rational guy.

10. How would you respond to the same guy if he told you God said that to him that AND that the Lord Jesus Christ would come back tomorrow? Would you give it credibility? I hope not. Church history is full of things like that. And you cannot say half is from God but the other part is not... its one message. It's hypothetical but I have heard that and things like that before.

There are more things that I could say but I have taken up enough of your time. Once again I rejoice in the Holy Spirit work of safely bringing another one of the Father's children home and I offer my sincere prayers of thankfulness of the life of this christian woman. I am sure God used her greatly in the lives of those around her. To her family and husband I say to them what the Lord told (outside scripture mind you) the mighty apostle Paul ''His grace is sufficient for you''. However at the end of the day I do believe there are no more apostles and their unique ministry is over. And all of christianity untill the radical reformation held to a form of cessationism. Roman Catholics made a small exception with the Pople and even that was limited. The Orthodox church holds the same posistion. And the kinda stuff you're talking about would have freaked out even Meno Simmons. It cannot be found until the modern Pentecostal &Charismatic movements out side of some random roman catholic mystics here and there. The kind so thing you advocate has more incommon with mormonism than historic protestantism... actually its the exact same argument and reasoning why my mormon friend abbandoned Christianity to mormonism... God told Him to.

Soli Deo Gloria,

JPG2

Irenaeus on the gifts of the Spirit

Jgrig2 wrote: "all of christianity untill the radical reformation held to a form of cessationism [...] the kinda stuff you're talking about would have freaked out even Meno Simmons. It cannot be found until the modern Pentecostal &Charismatic movements out side of some random roman catholic mystics here and there."

I don't think Irenaeus would agree with you there Jgrig2. Read what he wrote at the end of the 2nd century:

‘So it is that in His name those who truly are His disciples, having received grace from Him, put it to effectual use for the benefit of their fellow-men, in proportion to the gift each one has received from Him.

Some drive out demons really and truly, so that often those cleansed from evil spirits believe and become members of the church; some have foreknowledge of the future, visions, and prophetic utterances;others, by the laying on of hands, heal the sick and restore them to health; and before now, as I said, dead men have actually been raised and have remained with us for many years.

In fact, it is impossible to enumerate the gifts which throughout the world the church has received from God and in the name of Jesus Christ crucified under Pontius Pilate, and every day puts to effectual use for the benefit of the heathen, deceiving no one and making profit out of no-one: freely she received from God, and freely she ministers…

Similarly, we hear of many members of the church who have prophetic gifts and by the Spirit speak with all kinds of tongues, and bring men’s secret thoughts to light for their own good, and expound the mysteries of God,’ (Quoted in Eusebius, History of the Church, Penguin Classics [UK Edition] p209-210)

Several people have asked me

Several people have asked me how they can hear God's voice. Here are some suggestions for where to start:

  1. Be hungry for more of him. That means making good use of all the means he has already given us for getting closer to him, such as spending time in prayer, reading the Scriptures, enjoying his presence, etc.
  2. Be humble and willing to learn from others. God is not going to bolster our pride with an experience we can boast about.
  3. Focus on the love he has already shown us, and meditate and give thanks to him for it. Thankfulness is a good place to start.

I have just preached a short series of two sermons on Delighting in God and in the second I give some practical steps we can go through to help us experience God's love.
I have just posted the first: Looking for Pleasure in All the Right Places

response to jgrig2

I know my initial response will go directly against your whole view of the scripture, but I will share my initial "feelings" and then some food for thought from scripture.

1. My heart breaks to hear that you see the bible as all that we need and not the Holy Spirit as the living personal God that seals and reveals in our heart each day we walk with Christ. The bible says we can not even understand the word without the Holy Spirit. What a dry and harsh faith it sounds to me.

2. Food for thought:
a) The testimony is of the personal Triune God who not only spoke His Word, but lives and leads his people.
Note: As for holiness I am motivated by the realness of God and not just what the bible says about Him)
b) I think the bible describes God as the God of comfort in places, so maybe he was comforting Richard. Again that would make Him very real and personal and thus uncomfortable to many.
c) The bible tells us to "discern" spirits, so this to me implies not only are there false spirits, but we must be seeking to discern the true spirit.
d) Jonathan Edwards in writing about the true outpouring of the Spirit of God says that there will also be false signs and wonders, but this is to be expected (happened in the bible) and does not mean there is no signs from God.
e) There are those in the bible who are not considered apostles that experience supernatural events or signs, such as Philip,

Lastly I can share that I came to Christ and started learning in a Pentecostal denomination, but over the last 5 years have been learning in a strong reformation based church/university. I agree that the charismatic/Pentecostal side of the church tend to strongly avoid good solid theology/doctrine, but I can also tell you that the reformed side focuses so much on the theology/doctrine side that the heart is left to be neglected. I can not look at the bible from a systematic view and not see it as a book of "AND", such as we are to Love the Lord our God with our minds and hearts and not be dominated by both. I think we as people tend to move to what we are more comfortable with, such as your bad experience on the charismatic side would naturally push you to the strong reformed/cessionist side of the church. I would pray and ask that you Love God with both your mind and your heart and see what He says to you in what ever way He sees fit.

Oh with a desire to see God's Bride have the fullness of God, Christ and the Holy spirit in every aspect of our lives and churches.

Response to "the polite cessationist"

I thought that JPG2 deserved a fuller response, so I have posted it as a new blog entry: Response to "the polite cessationist".

R and M

Hi Andrew,
Great Blog! I am sorry to hear of Richard's loss. Richard and Mary are both very dear to Marlene and I. We remember them, and our time in Toronto, with great affection. Marlene used to love for them to visit her in the JSBC office, especially when they brought their little dog Patrick; who would bark (loudly)with great delight!

I will pass that on

Hi Rogers,
I will pass that on to Richard. I am sure that he will remember you and Marlene with great affection as well. (Who can forget little Patrick!)
Richard has come a couple of times to our Tuesday home group and seems to be doing well, all things considered, and is constantly praising God.

Richard and Mary

Dr. Fountain,

Thank you for your posting on Mary's passing. I hadn't realized what she was going through in her last days nor that the Lord had taken her home, until I read your blog today. As you know, I had the privilege of getting acquainted with Richard and Mary while I was down at seminary; they took part in my small group Bible Study. I was often struck by the profundity of their simple, child-like faith. Mary was a real example of faithfulness, dedication, and service. (And, yes, who could forget yipping Patrick!) I will really miss Mary.

I have no doubt at all that the Lord spoke to Richard's heart, or that He gave him that wonderful assurance of Mary's glorious homecoming. It would be entirely fitting. "The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart...Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

It's wonderful how the Lord breaks through the darkness and despair all around us to reveal His presence and glory to those He has chosen from the foundation of the world. It may not always be in such an obvious and open way, as in Richard's case; it may be (and often is) more subtle and "spiritual" in nature. God knows best what we need and what will redound to His greatest glory. We look forward to that day when, with Mary, we will no longer "see" things dimly and partially, but fully and face-to-face in the presence of our Lord!

God Bless.
David

simple, child-like faith

Hi David,
The last of the pictures above is actually taken at your small group (and you are in the picture on the right!). You are right about how wonderful was the simplicity of Mary's faith.
Richard drops in on our Tuesday night home-group from time to time. He is beaming with delight right now because someone has given him another little dog to replace Patrick!

R and M & WCF

Great news about Richard and though I don't want to get into the (above) debate lots of "Reformed types" are unaware that the Westminster does not hold to a strict cessationist position. For example as early as I.V knowledge of the canon is said to be the result of "The inward witness of The Spirit".
Pax Cristi

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