Erica Wiggenhorn writes Bible studies and teachers biblical principles for life change. She's passionate about God's Word and its ability to transform us personally, along with our relationships. Her latest release by Moody Publishers, THE UNEXPLAINABLE CHURCH: Reigniting the Mission of the Early Believers, delves into Acts 13-28 and the explosive growth of the early church emphasizing the transformative power of community in the lives of believers.
Her previous book, THE UNEXPLAINABLE LIFE: Recovering the Wonder and Devotion of the Early Church, takes the reader verse by verse through the first twelve chapters of the book of Acts, exploring the incredible life transformation that occurred in the earliest believers. With a personable and practical style, Erica teaches these studies and other biblical, life-related topics to groups in the US and overseas.
A DVD series to accompany both THE UNEXPLAINABLE LIFE and THE UNEXPLAINABLE CHURCH will be released summer of 2018. These DVDs can be used for both individual and group studies.
Q: Thanks Erica for doing this interview with us. Why do you think Biblical literacy is important for the church and our walk with God?
To have a relationship with someone is to know them- what's important to them, what delights them, what hurts them, their deepest desires. God shares all of these things about Himself in His Word- if we truly want to know Who God Is and what He is like- if we truly desire relationship with Him- that means knowing Him through His Word
When we understand Who God Is, then and only then, can we truly understand ourselves- our purpose, our passions, our reason for being on this planet in this time and corner of the world. And as we know God, we also understand that we are not called to live out our purpose in our own power- but that through our knowledge of Him and relationship with Him, we have the power to live unexplainable lives!
My kids will often try a tactic my husband and I refer to as "playing the middle"- They will come and ask me about something- usually it's a request for permission to have or do something- and my first answer always is, "What did your dad say?". Sometimes, they will try and twist what he said to make it sound like the decision is really up to me and he is ambivalent about it. But I know their dad well. I know when the topic at hand is something he will definitely have an opinion about and I'm not getting the full truth.
This is exactly what the enemy does with us. He plays the middle. He started it all the way back in Genesis 3- he banks on us not really knowing our Heavenly Daddy and says, "He doesn't really have an opinion. This isn't a big deal. It's your decision to make- you don't need His input" and when we don't know our Daddy well enough to discern what's important to Him and what He has already told us in His Word, we fall right into the enemy's deceiving tactics.
Q: You have a great concern for your readers to know God and not just about God. What's the difference? And how can we know God?
One of Jesus' statements that shake me to the core is in John 5:39 when He is talking to the religious leaders of His day. He says, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,". These religious leaders studied the Scriptures and yet they missed Jesus- they knew all about God but yet when He stood right in front of them, they didn't recognize Him! Yikes!
They knew about God, but they didn't understand His heart. They had put Him in a box insisting that He must be who they wanted Him to be- they tried to shrink Him down to a manageable size they could manipulate and predict. But God is WAY too big for that- and when we approach Scripture a prayer we ought to frequently ask of Him is, "Show me your heart in this, Lord! What do you want me to know about YOU? Your character, your desires, your hopes, plans, purposes?". Oftentimes when we approach God it is because we are wanting something from Him, not just connecting with Him because we believe He loves us and made us- so we may receive what we have asked, but we've failed to receive Him. And He is the greatest gift- greater than any answer to any prayer.
Q: Your writings are unique in the sense that you want us to know the Bible verse by verse in its context. What do you mean by context?
There are two ways a teacher can approach Scripture. They can have a point they want to make and then utilize portions of Scripture to prop up their point OR they can take a portion of Scripture and then extract points of understanding and application from them. In the first example, the teacher creates the context. In the second example, the Scriptures themselves are the context. In the first example, we walk away with knowledge of the teacher's point, in the second example, we walk away with knowledge of the Scriptures.
In the first century, when Jesus taught, and when Paul taught the Jews- they knew the Scriptures. They immediately recognized when they were alluding the Scriptural references in their teaching- explaining what they meant in everyday life. Often, they would string together several references at once, to demonstrate the continuity of Scripture in a Rabbinic teaching method called, "The stringing together of pearls". Sadly, we don't know the Scriptures the way that first century audience did. We see Paul's commitment to teaching the Gentile Ephesian believers the Scriptures, by teaching several hours a day in the hall of Tyrranus, so those unfamiliar with the Scriptures would be adequately taught.
My hope is that when people go through the studies I have written, they will know the Book of Acts. They will know what the Scriptures said. They will understand what was happening historically in the character's lives, they will be able to hear what they heard and understood when Stephen preached his sermon to the Sanhedrin and Paul in the temple courts. They will have had the opportunity to grapple with the Scriptures and allow the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth as Jesus promised He would do when He came.
Q: Why is context important?
Imagine someone shared their photo album with you. As you flipped through the 15 pages of snapshots and saw all of the people they posed alongside in the photos and the places they chose to go, it may or may not be interesting to you. Now imagine they told you that photo album represented the last year of their life because they only had one year left to live- how would that change the significance of with whom and where those photos were taken? Suddenly those people hold great importance and the places special significance.
Until we can really step into the sandals of the people in the stories, understand how they lived and what they faced on a daily basis, what their religious and cultural biases were, their political feelings, their understanding of God and humankind, we cannot fully grasp the snapshots presented to us in Scripture. When we read about Paul and Barnabas' first missionary journey, we are only told of 3 events that happened. And yet we know they were gone for over a year and when they returned they shared countless stories with their brothers and sisters in the church at Antioch. But we only get 3 snapshots in the photo album. Why those 3? What's so important about them? Why are they so significant? Their context gives us the reason why- this is what we discover in An Unexplainable Life.
Q: How do your books help us to study the Bible in context?
Truthfully, if we just casually pick up our Bibles and read them, we probably won't fully grasp the context. That's why Bible study is so valuable. Someone else has provided the context for you. They've researched the history, put the events together chronologically, studied the various religious backgrounds of the first century. So all of this extra study takes the structure of Scripture and adds color to the walls, enriching our view and understanding. Hopefully, like a fully decorated home, rather than a vacant structure, it also makes it more interesting to walk through...
Q: Your first two books are on the book of Acts. Why Acts?
I wanted to go back to the beginning. What did "church" look like then- how did these early believers "do church". It seems like so many believers today struggle with vibrancy in their Christian faith- their faith seems compartmentalized and doesn't impact their daily lives out in the "real world" with all of its requirements and responsibilities. Yet, in Acts, it tells us these early believers ignited awe and wonder in the lives of those who witnessed them- their lives became unexplainable after they encountered Jesus- I wanted to study that and see what I could learn- I was so filled with awe and wonder over the grace and goodness of God, I wanted to share what I learned with others.
Q: You have a DVD coming out. What's the DVD about?
We I taught The Unexplainable Church study live at my home church in Arizona, the lessons were filmed. This study covers Acts 13-28 and the explosive growth of the church as missionaries went out all over the known world at the time planting churches. The DVD series covers the issues, concerns, misunderstandings and struggles of these early churches as relayed through Paul's letters to them. There are countless applications for us as believers today such as the age old question of Where is God in our difficult circumstances?
Q: Can you give us an example from your own life where God has used the Bible to help you find help and hope in Him?
My journey to truly know God began during our season of infertility. I knew a lot of Scripture at this point in my life, I knew the basic tenets of the Christian faith, but I certainly could not wrap my mind around why God was having us go through this. I knew a lot about God, but I realized I didn't really know Him. I began to diligently search the Scripture to try and understand Him. God promises that when we seek Him, when we knock, He will answer, and fellowship with us, His children. I remember weeping face down on the floor next to my bed one morning pleading with Him, "God, this hurts so much. I feel so alone. Please promise me you won't waste this. I can endure if you promise me that somehow, in some way, you will turn this pain into purpose,". I distinctively remember sensing the Lord speaking to me in the quietness of my heart, not audibly, but clearly, "When you know me, you will begin to understand my ways. My ways are not your ways- my ways are higher. This is your invitation to know me- to be mine- to live a life of purpose far beyond what you would ever choose for yourself." And my journey to really seek Him in His Word began.