5
Jun
2017
0

The Master’s Master Principle

“Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all” – Mark 10:43-44

The teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ stands in stark contrast to the principles of the world. Indeed, that which the world holds in high esteem is usually regarded of little value by our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord’s teaching was considered revolutionary. Consider just a few of His principles: Concerning our fellowmen He says, “Love your enemies”; concerning taxation He said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”; and regarding persecution, “Bless those that curse you and despitefully use you.” However, the greatest of our Lord’s teachings may be found in the area of leadership: “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44). Most people have no objection to being a “boss,” but servant-leadership holds little attraction. In the modern world, the term “servant” has a very lowly connotation, but not so with the Lord.

Throughout the Bible we find this same principle. For instance, we do not read, “Moses, My leader,” but “Moses, My servant.” Many of the Bible’s greatest leaders were called servants: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and David among others. In fact, the word “leader” occurs only six times in the Bible—three times in the singular and three times in the plural. In contrast, the noun “servant” is used over 800 times, and the verb “to serve” is used over 300 times. More than fifty times in the Old Testament, King David is called a “servant of the Lord”, and Moses is called a “servant” over forty times. Although the term “servant” has a connotation of lowliness and insignificance in our contemporary world, our Lord raised it to an essential principle of spiritual leadership.

Our Lord viewed the church as a body of believers who would serve one another. The apostle Paul expressed the same idea: “Through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). And of course, our loving service is to stretch out beyond the walls of the church to the needy world around us. But unfortunately, it is usually the few who serve the many. Our Lord knew that such a principle would not be welcomed in the world; however, nothing less would be required of those who desired to rise to New Testament leadership. Sadly, jealously, envy, and criticism are often more common. A former professor of theology at Wheaton College, Dr. Merrill Tenney (1904-1985) writes,

“…the disciples’ minds were preoccupied with dreams of elevation to office in the coming kingdom.  They were jealous lest one of their fellows should claim the best place.  Consequently, no one of them was likely to abase himself by volunteering to wash the feet of the others. They were ready to fight for a throne, but not for a towel!”

Servant leadership in the New Testament church comes at great cost. To esteem others as “better” than ourselves, and to look not every man to his own things, but every man on the things of others (Philippians 2:3-4) doesn’t come easily to us. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ only said once that He was “leaving an example” and that was the example of washing the feet of the disciples (John 13:15)—an example of servanthood. No theological school or leadership course will confer this kind spiritual leadership to his people.

Finally, the best and most effective leadership is humble servant-leadership. Have you ever noticed that nearly all the leaders (or servants) God raised up were men or women who didn’t seek after the position? There is hardly a single effective leader who was not thrust into the position by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the need of the situation at hand. Such were Moses, David, Samuel, the prophets, and the apostle Paul in the New Testament. There is hardly a single godly, effective leader from the time of the apostle Paul to the present day who promoted himself or selected himself for leadership.

No, rather, I believe that it is just the other way around. The man who is overly ambitious and self-assured, is surely disqualified as a biblical leader. The true leader will have no desire to lord it over Christ’s people, but will be humble, gentle, and self-sacrificing. He will be as ready to follow as to lead. Yet when the Spirit of God makes it clear that he is to take greater leadership, he is ready to serve with all that is in him. This is the kind of leader God seeks and this is the kind of leader we need.

5
Jun
2017
0

True Greatness

“Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your servant; and whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—” (Matthew 20:26-27NKJV).

What is true greatness? In the kingdom of this world, the great man is the one who has risen to a place of wealth and power. He has a retinue of aides and assistants, conditioned to follow his orders. He is accorded V. I. P. treatment and receives special favors wherever he goes. People regard him with respect and awe because of his rank. He never has to stoop to anything menial; there are always others to do that for him.

But in the Kingdom of our Lord, things are quite different. Here greatness is measured by the extent to which we serve rather than the extent to which we are served. The great man is the one who stoops to become a slave for others. No service is too menial. He does not expect any special treatment or thanks. When one of George Washington’s men saw him performing a menial service, he objected, saying “General, you are too big a man to be doing that.” Washington replied, “Oh, no, I’m just the right size.”

Commenting on Luke 17:7-10, respected author Roy Hession reminds us that “there are five marks of the bond-slave: (1) He must be willing to have one thing on top of another put upon him, without any consideration being given to him. (2) In doing this, he must be willing not to be thanked for it. (3) Having done all this, he must not charge the master with selfishness. (4) He must confess that he is an unprofitable servant. (5) He must admit that doing and bearing what he has in the way of meekness and humility, he has not done on stitch more than it was his duty to do.”

When our Lord left the heights of glory to become a Man on this planet, He “took upon him the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7). He was among us as One who serves (Luke 22:27). He said, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). He girded Himself with a towel, the apron of a slave, and washed his disciple’s feet (John 13:1-17).

“The servant is not greater than his lord” (John 13:16). If He stooped so low to serve us, why should we think it is beneath our dignity to serve others.”

5
Jun
2017
1

Examination: The Shack Movie

In 2007, the novel The Shack1 took the Christian community by storm. At that time, this self-published work sold well over one million copies in a single year. The Shack stood at the number one position for paperback fiction on the New York Times’ bestsellers list for a number of months. Many Christian leaders have lauded the book. Eugene Peterson of Regent College, Vancouver, B. C., wrote, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!”2 In 2017, ten years later, a full-length feature film was released by Lionsgate Media with a rating of PG-13. During the first weekend the film was viewed in 2,888 theaters and grossed over 16 million dollars according to the Rotten Tomatoes movie review site. The movie promises to be popular with a wide viewership.

The Shack: The Background

Ironically, The Shack is remarkable and yet, at the same time, disappointing. It is remarkable because of the unanticipated popularity of both the book and movie. It is remarkable because the story is engaging, creative, and at times profound. Yet, it is also disappointing. It is disappointing because of the unorthodox theological perspective to which the author returns repeatedly. Although this book/film is a fictional novel about the spiritual and emotional journey of the main character Mackenzie Allen Phillips, the author also intends it to be a theological work, dealing with the nature of God, the Trinity, salvation, faith, and other biblical doctrines. It is this theological perspective of The Shack that we will seek to explore.

When interviewed, author William Young makes it known that although he is a Christian, he does not attend any church and has little interest in the current institutional churches. Nevertheless, the author has a strong Christian background. He was raised in a Christian home, the son of an evangelical church pastor. He spent part of his childhood among the Dani tribe in West Papua, where his parents were missionaries. Later he attended and graduated summa cum laude from Warner Pacific College, a Church of God (Indiana) four-year liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon. As one reads this novel, it causes one to wonder how a writer with such a strong Christian background could get so much wrong about fundamental Christian doctrine.

Theological Foundation of The Shack

Some have called “The Shack” edgy; others say it is “unorthodox”; and still others call it “unbiblical.” In interviews with Young, when asked about some of the unorthodox theological content, he immediately seems to bristle and become defensive. In his interview in World he says: “It’s a work of fiction that’s really focused on the journey of a human being to deal with the junk in his life that includes his misunderstanding of the character of God and nature of God.”3

Initially, The Shack appears to be just another novel, but as one reads further, the theological precepts and teaching of the Emerging Church movement become more and more evident. On the acknowledgment page of The Shack, the author mentions those who have influenced his thinking, including Anne LaMott, a popular writer among Emerging Church leaders and Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, and a national progressive evangelical leader.

1. A Quasi-Universalistic View of Salvation

William Young endorses a universalistic model of salvation. Little is ever said about repentance, faith, or conversion to Christ. On the other hand, Young repeatedly states that sin is not punished, all individuals are forgiven of their sins, and all that God now seeks is a relationship with man. He has God say: “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it” (p. 120)4. In another place: “…you asked me what Jesus accomplished on the cross; so now listen to me carefully: through his death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world” (p. 192). Also, “In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some have chosen relationship” (p. 225).

2. A Lack of Proper Appreciation for Biblical Authority

The Shack repeatedly sends the message that personal experience with God trumps the biblical authority of Scripture. Moreover, the commands and precepts of Scripture are not to be taken too seriously, for God does not have high expectations for His people (p. 206). Concerning Scripture, Young writes: “…God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects… Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges?” (p. 66) (italics mine) Mack, the main character, asks God where people will find Him: “You might see me in a piece of art, or music, or silence, or through people, or in creation, or in your joy or sorrow… you will see me in the Bible but just don’t look for rules or principles…” (p. 198).

3. Openly Questioning the Relevance of Key Historical Biblical Doctrines

Of course, the doctrine of the Trinity is at the very heart of The Shack. But the Trinity is reinterpreted in a way which theologians throughout church history would never have imagined. God the Father is portrayed as “…a large beaming African-American woman named… Elouisa… or… Papa…” (pp. 82-87). God the Father, bears nail print wounds in his hands just as Jesus does (p. 107).

Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, is described as “…a Middle Eastern man dressed as a laborer… Jesus…” (pp. 82-87). Although fully divine, this Jesus is portrayed as more human than divine. Yet, Scripture depicts the very opposite. The Bible shows Christ’s human nature to be subject to His divine nature. In the novel, Mack asks Jesus: “You created the world…?” ”I created it as the Word, before the Word became flesh. So even though I created this, I see it now as a human” (p. 109). “Although He is fully God, he has never drawn on His nature as God to do anything…,” Papa explains (p. 99). “So when he healed the blind?” (questions Mack…) “He did so as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone”, replies Papa (p.100).

The third Person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit, is depicted as “…a small, distinctively Asian woman… ‘I am Sarayu… keeper of the gardens among other things…’ ” (pp. 82-87). Young teaches that the Holy Spirit was a created being. Mack says, “Sarayu, I know you are the Creator…” Sarayu replies, “A created being can only take what already exists and from it fashion something different” (p. 131). Evangelical theologians have always insisted that the Holy Spirit as a Person of the Godhead was not a created being. (Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the Holy Spirit was a created being.) At another point in Young’s book, Mack queries, “Speaking of Sarayu, is she the Holy Spirit?” “Yes.” Replies Jesus, “She is Creativity; she is Action; she is the Breathing of Life; she is much more. She is my Spirit” (p. 110).

4. Little or No Talk of Evangelism or Saving Lost Souls

Unlike the New Testament, The Shack never speaks of people who are outside of Christ on their way to a lost eternity. It never speaks of the need for Christians to bring a message of salvation to those who are unsaved. Young teaches that all people are reconciled, redeemed, and forgiven. The problem is simply that some have not come into a relationship with God. We read: “So how do I become part of that church?” “It’s simple, Mack,” Jesus replies. “It’s all about relationships and simply sharing life… being open and available to others around us. My church is all about people and life is about relationships” (p. 178).

5. Highly Ambiguous Handling of Truth

Unfortunately, when Young begins to deal with biblical themes, he either deviates, evades, or misrepresents important doctrines of Scripture. For example, God the Father says, “I don’t do humiliation, or guilt, or condemnation. They don’t produce one speck of wholeness or righteousness, and that is why they were nailed into Jesus on the cross” (p. 223). Needless to say, Scripture never speaks in these terms; this is a viewpoint in the mind of the author that he wishes was true.

6. An Unbridled Cynicism Towards Conservative Evangelicalism

At times William Young displays bitterness and cynicism toward fundamental and evangelical churches. He often has Mack exhibit a bitter disdain of evangelical churches. He dislikes their zeal, their love for country, their “agenda”, their preaching, and rules, etc. (p. 181). Early in the book, Mack realizes that: “Sunday prayers and hymns weren’t cutting it anymore, if they ever had… He was sick of God and God’s religion, sick of all the little religious social clubs that didn’t seem to make any real difference or affect any real changes” (p. 66).

Conclusion

The message of The Shack has the potential to strengthen and encourage Christians who have experienced great tragedy or personal loss. It is unfortunate that such a moving story is set in a backdrop of so much wrong biblical teaching and imagery. Sadly, this is a book or DVD that many might want to give to a hurting friend but cannot do so because of its doctrinal content. The Shack is rife with theological liberalism, Emerging Church ideology, and disturbing irreverence. Those Christians who are interested in reading The Shack should be strongly warned about the errors contained in it.

Endnotes

1. The Shack by William P. Young, published by Windblown Media, Los Angeles, CA, 2007, 248 pages

2. The Shack – endorsement page

3. Susan Olasky, “Commuter-Driven Bestseller”, World, June 28, 2008, 50

4. All page numbers are taken from The Shack (2007) mass market edition

5
Jun
2017
0

Hymn Stories: Blessed Assurance

If America ever had lords and ladies, surely Phoebe P. Knapp would have belonged among the ladies. She was the daughter of two notable Christian leaders, Walter and Phoebe Palmer. To this day Phoebe Palmer is hailed as one of the most prominent religious women of the 1800s, author of the classic The Way of Holiness and the founder of the Holiness movement.

Although this couple had four children, only one lived past infancy—Phoebe, who showed musical talent at a young age. At sixteen, she married Joseph Knapp, president of the Metropolitan Insurance Company. Living in a mansion in Brooklyn, where Phoebe became a popular hostess, the Knapps belonged to the John Street Methodist Church. Another member of that church was the prolific blind wordsmith, Fanny Crosby.

The two women became friends in 1868, but they were sort of an odd couple. Fanny was beginning to gain fame for her hymn writing, but she was simple and self-effacing. Phoebe, on the other hand, loved the lavish life her position afforded her. Meanwhile, Fanny was living in a small flat, donating most of her royalties to rescue missions.

Phoebe Knapp’s mother, the great Phoebe Palmer, struggled with the question of eternal security. Through the 1800s, many revivalists harped on that question, pushing their listeners to keep trying for an experience that would give them absolute assurance of their salvation. This was a part of Phoebe Knapp’s spiritual heritage.

Phoebe often invited Fanny to her home and it was on one such occasion in 1873 that hymn history was made. Phoebe had just written a new tune, and she wondered if Fanny might write some words for it. She wondered, what does this tune say? As Phoebe played it, she saw her friend kneeling in prayer. After a second run through, Fanny Crosby got up and remarked, “It says, ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.’”

Eternal security was a hot-button issue for many Christians of the time. And Fanny Crosby wisely tapped into it. Her words—sung to Phoebe’s tune—convey the deep satisfaction of one who has submitted fully to Christ and now is “at rest.” Thus, these two women, one who struggled with the doctrine of eternal security and the other who rested in it, together composed one of the most important hymns on the assurance of the believer.

– Randy Peterson, Be Still My Soul,

(Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2014), p. 44

5
Jun
2017
0

Report: The Discipleship Intern Training Program

By James McCarthy

The greatest prayer request of churches around the world is for more and better leaders. In 1972, three Bible teachers—William MacDonald, O. Jean Gibson, and Jack Davies—sought the Lord’s guidance as to how they could address the problem. They saw in the Scriptures that Jesus taught the multitudes, but focused His attention on the training of a small group of men who came to be called the Twelve. At times, Jesus narrowed His ministry further to three men: Peter, James, and John (Matthew 17:1; Mark 5:37; 13:3; 14:33). Jesus taught these men primarily through life-transference. He welcomed them into His life and shared His day-to-day experiences with them, modeling that which He wanted them to learn. They prayed together, preached the gospel, faced the threats of the Pharisees, and confronted evil. Mark summarizes Jesus’ discipleship ministry, writing, “He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). Jesus commanded His disciples to do likewise, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

The History of DIPT

With these Scriptures in mind, the three teachers founded the Discipleship Intern Training Program (DITP). They structured it as a nine-month course of intensive training, in which a small group of men, eight to ten, would be offered internships at Fairhaven Bible Chapel in San Leandro, California. Jean Gibson and Jack Davies were elders at Fairhaven. Bill MacDonald fellowshipped at an assembly nearby. The first session of the DITP began on September 3, 1973, with ten interns. Each morning, teachers and students met for 30 minutes of devotional time in the Word and prayer. This was followed by three hours of Bible study. In the afternoon, the interns studied. During the evenings, instructors took the interns out on pastoral visits to the homes of the saints, or the interns were involved in home fellowship groups, programs for children, or evangelistic studies. On weekends, the instructors included the interns in their preaching ministry, taking two or three men along with them as they spoke at neighboring churches. If an instructor was traveling for ministry overseas, he always took one or two interns along with him. In this manner, the interns learned the Bible and how to serve Christ, working shoulder to shoulder with their mentors, and applying what they learned within the context of the church. The interns learned to preach, teach, pastor, evangelize, and deal with real-life problems. The following September, the instructors offered another ten men internships, and the cycle repeated in almost unbroken succession to this present day.

The Leadership of DIPT

The original teachers of the DITP are now all with the Lord, but the training continues. Today, seven men share the teaching load so that interns might benefit from a broader spectrum of gifts and experience. The current instructors, almost all graduates of the DITP, are: Steve Caldwell (Hillivew Bible Chapel, Cupertino, California, DITP 2001), Brady Collier (FreeWay Bible Chapel, Lubbock, Texas, DITP 2010), Grant Ferrer (Fairhaven Bible Chapel, San Leandro, California, DITP 1980), Jim Haesemeyer (FreeWay Bible Chapel, Lubbock, Texas, DITP 1988), Jim McCarthy (Grace Bible Chapel, San Jose, California, DITP 1981), Steve Price (The Bible Chapel of Shawnee, Shawnee, Kansas), and David Reeve (Fairhaven Bible Chapel, San Leandro, DITP 1990).

The home churches of these instructors reflects the history of the DITP. It began at Fairhaven Bible Chapel, in San Leandro, California. In 2000, Brother Davies being with the Lord and Brothers MacDonald and Gibson elderly, the training moved to San Jose, California, where it was hosted by Grace Bible Chapel, San Jose, and Hillview Bible Chapel, Cupertino, California. In September, 2016, the DITP moved to Lubbock, Texas, where it is currently being hosted by FreeWay Bible Chapel, the move necessitated by the high cost of housing for interns in the San Francisco Bay Area and the desire to see the program entrusted to younger men, that the training might continue into the future.

Current Ministry

Currently seven men are undergoing training. Three of the interns are Americans, two from California and one from Texas. Four are from overseas, one each from India, Italy, Jordan, and Spain. The curriculum includes instruction in Bible study methodology, New Testament Greek, exegetical preaching, teaching, discussion group leading, pastoral care, principles of the New Testament church, world missions, and family and marriage. Instructors take the interns through a study of each of the books of the New Testament and many of the books of the Old Testament. Once a week, interns participate in evangelism on the campus of Texas Tech University. A ten-day mission trip is also part of the training. This year two instructors will travel with the interns to Central America to teach among the assemblies in Nicaragua and Honduras. They will also travel by dugout canoe to backcountry villages where missionary work has been in progress for about five years.

This is the kind of training we see in the Book of Acts. Paul, following the Lord’s example, shared his life with Silas, Timothy, Titus, and others. These men served alongside Paul and learned from him, gaining experience each day. Even when apart, Paul kept in touch with his disciples, encouraging and instructing them through his letters. He instructed his disciples to train others, writing, “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul outlines the purpose of this kind of training in his letter to the church in Ephesus. He writes:

[The risen Lord] “gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)

These verses have served as the mission statement of the DITP since its inception. To date, 263 men have been trained. Many are serving today in assemblies across the United States, Canada, Europe, and around the world. Graduates have also started two similar programs. In 1995, DITP graduates started Training fuer Mitarbeiter im Gemeindebau (Training for Workers in the Church) in Salzburg, Austria. There they have trained 185 men. In 1999, other graduates, all missionaries in Central America, started Modulos Biblicos (Bible Modules) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. There they have trained just over 100 men. In 2013, graduates in the U.S. started a three-week version of the DITP called the Galilee Program. Southside Bible Chapel in Lafayette, Louisiana, hosts this training program each summer. More than 130 men and women, ages 20 to 35, have been trained so far in Bible study methodology, evangelism, and personal discipleship.

If you would like to learn more about the Discipleship Intern Training Program please visit the program’s website at www.theditp.com. For more information about the Galilee Program, visit www.galileeprogram.com.

5
Jun
2017
0

Report: Country Bible Church

Country Bible Church is located in northeastern Wisconsin, between Casco and Luxemburg, about 20 miles east of Green Bay at the southern terminus of the Door Peninsula. Much of the populace of this area consists of descendants of the original immigrants from Belgium, Ireland, Germany, and Czechoslovakia—meaning that the Roman Catholic and Lutheran religions are predominant. Our assembly’s goal is to beam forth the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ in this spiritually dark area and disciple those who come to faith in Him. A survey of the believers in fellowship at the assembly would reveal that well over half of them were saved out of the religions mentioned above or their parents were.

Early History—Forerunner

In 1948 a number of believers began meeting in homes several miles north of our present location. In 1949 they were able to meet in a Methodist church that was used only part time—it was located in Forestville, WI. The next year the steeple of the building was removed and the building was moved near the village of Lincoln, and set down in a farm field on property donated by one of the families in fellowship. The little assembly was called Lincoln Gospel Chapel. The building and the location proved adequate for many years. However, in the late 70’s and early 80’s a number of individuals and families came to faith in Jesus Christ. Some of the families were young and had many children. In addition, the building had no running water or conventional restroom facilities—only the “dragon” in the basement. In 1983 a committee was formed to study the situation and make recommendations. The committee received input from an architect and contact was made with Denis Bentz of Stewards Foundation regarding finances. Eventually the decision presented to the elders was to relocate and build new. Stewards Foundation was agreeable to providing the necessary financing and the architect who had been advising the committee provided the plans for the new building.

Making the Move

The land where our new building was constructed (1.7 acres) was donated by another family in fellowship at our assembly. It is adjacent to State highway 54 which gave the assembly greater visibility to the community and easier access. Construction began in May of 1985 and the first meetings in the new building were held in December of that year. The pews were not installed at that time and there was finish work yet to be completed in the interior of the building. The original organ came from an anonymous donor; the grand piano was a gift from an assembly in Wheaton, IL. One of the ladies in the assembly was redecorating her home, so her old kitchen cabinets were installed in our kitchen. Some of the construction work, especially cement work, was done by some in assembly fellowship.

The new building featured an auditorium with pews that can seat nearly 200 people. There is an adjoining nursery, as well as an office and library, restrooms, 2 Sunday School rooms, a kitchen, and a fellowship hall. Several years ago a detached garage was added to provide storage for our lawn mower, tables and chairs, etc.

The Assembly Now

Today there are about 95 believers in fellowship at Country Bible Church. We currently have two elders providing oversight of the assembly and there are two deacons as well. We Break Bread each Lord’s Day at 9:00AM and Family Bible Hour follows at 10:30AM. Several of the men in the assembly who have the gift of teaching share that responsibility during Family Bible Hour. There is also a mid-week prayer meeting and Bible Study on Wednesday Evening. Occasionally we invite outside speakers to provide the assembly with teaching on specific issues. For example, in August David Dunlap was the teacher for our “Calvinism Examined” weekend.

A physical improvement that we were able to make this year was the addition of air conditioning in the auditorium. It’s an improvement that was much appreciated during events such as VBS in July.

Country Bible Church is involved in several ministries that are repeated each year. Usually in early spring a Women’s Conference is held with excellent attendance. In 2016 the speaker was Kim Delain of Ramsay, MN. Kim and her husband Bob were formerly on the mission field in Mexico and at that time were commended by our assembly. The first full week in July is the traditional date for our Vacation Bible School. For several years we have been using VBS material from Answers in Genesis—this year’s theme was “Ocean Commotion,” focusing on the flood of Noah’s day. We have a dedicated group of people in the assembly who do an excellent job in organizing the program, decorating, acting in the skit, teaching, and various supporting roles that help make VBS successful every year. This year 41 children attended—probably about half of them from outside our fellowship. Several children asked for and were given Bibles during the week. There is no fee for VBS, but the children are encouraged to bring in coins (some bring currency as well) to provide funds for the VBS project. This year’s project was to provide funds for playground equipment for Immanuel Mission in Arizona. Kevin and Brie Bielecki, who are part of that ministry, visited us in June and made us aware of that need. Fifteen hundred dollars were raised and sent to Immanuel Mission.

Immediately following VBS the Kewaunee County Fair takes place. For many years Country Bible Church has had a booth at the Fair in order to pass out Gospel literature and to talk about personal salvation to anyone willing to listen. One thousand to fifteen hundred tracts are usually distributed.

Two of the ladies in the assembly lead Bible studies throughout the course of the year. There is also a Men’s Bible study that meets from October through May that is led by one of the elders. Country Bible Church also has two commended workers. One is a home worker who is also a certified biblical counselor (ACBC); therefore, biblical counseling is a ministry that the assembly offers. The other commended worker is involved in translating the Bible into the language of a people group in a sensitive part of the world. He and his family are currently in fellowship with Bethany Chapel in Wheaton, IL.

Our prayer is that Jesus Christ might say of our assembly, “You have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”

Contact Information

The postal address for the assembly is E2179 Hwy. 54, Casco, WI 54205. The contact person is Mark Dhuey at 920.845.5656. Our website address is www.countrybiblechurch.com.

5
Jun
2017
0

Report: “In Tents” Young Woman’s Discipleship Ministry

Several years ago, Ann Bjorlie was burdened to start the “InTents” discipleship program for young women. Her vision was to inspire and prepare them to serve God where He has placed them, with the gifts He has given them. Since 2010, Ann has welcomed many young women into her life and home, exposing them to the example and wisdom of godly women in all stages of life.

The Vision for In Tents

The name “In Tents” comes from two women in the Bible who served God “in the tent.” Sarah and Jael were faithful women whom God used. Both women were asked to act outside of their “comfort zone.” Jael helped win a great military victory that gave peace to Israel for 40 years. Sarah is an example for us to follow. She showed respect for the leadership in her life and became the mother of God’s chosen people. Women today can strike victories in the Kingdom of God.

The program runs for two weeks, beginning with ice-breaker games and a light supper on the first Sunday, and concluding with a debrief brunch on the final Saturday. The program is nonstop learning and hands on application of many spiritual and practical skills. The first week starts out with two long days learning how to study the Bible. Kathy Morell leads these sessions, alternating lectures with practice study sessions, emphasizing the online resource, eSword. Kathy’s session is then built upon by Bernadette Veenstra, as she teaches how to share what you’ve learned studying the Bible, by teaching children’s Bible clubs. Kathy Holiday teaches a session on the ministry and practice of hospitality and cooking for crowds. Days are spent cooking, and then hosting a community supper.

What is “In Tents”?

Testimonies and life stories are shared, by older and younger, married and single women. A five-Day Bible club is led by the attendees. We pray together and sing together and laugh together. One young woman teaches how to share the gospel, using paint board techniques. An older woman shares her life story of being a missionary and also tips for visiting nursing homes. A variety of gifts and callings are modeled, skills are taught and practiced. Discipleship happens in the Bjorlie home, alongside the normal every day tasks of housekeeping, child rearing and cooking. Two weeks seems hardly enough time to impart all the info or to take it all in!

Many young women have been through the program, and we are praying about the young women who will attend this year. We are praying for cleared schedules and prepared hearts. Discipleship and following the Lord always incur sacrifice. That is no less true when attending the In Tents Discipleship Program. But, following the Lord and discipleship is also very rewarding. No one will leave “In Tents” unchanged. Skills will be learned, life long friendships will be made.

The dates for “In Tents 2017” are Sunday, June 18 through Saturday, July 1. We are very excited about what God will do in our lives and in the lives of every woman involved. Please prayerfully consider joining us yourself or encouraging a young woman to attend. This is a faith ministry and our attitude has always been, “freely you have received, freely give.” We do accept gifts, but we do not charge the young women for their training. The In Tents program is held at 3736 Knaap Street NE, Grand Rapids, Michigan,49525. For more information, details, cost, please contact contact Ann Bjorlie or Bernadette Veenstra.

28
Feb
2017
0

Fullness of the Holy Spirit by David Dunlap

The year of 1871 was a critical one for D. L. Moody. He had been greatly used of God, but felt that something was lacking. He realized more and more how little he was fitted with personal talents for his work and how much he needed the Holy Spirit’s power. He continued to hunger for a deepening of his own spiritual life. This realization was heightened by conversations he had with two ladies, Mrs. Snow and Mrs. Cooke, both of whom sat on the front pew in his church. He could see by the expression on their faces that they were praying. At the close of the service the women said to him, “We have been praying for you, because you need the power of the Spirit.” Moody said, “Their earnest talk about the fullness of the Holy Spirit set me thinking. There came a great hunger into my soul. I began to cry out as I never did before.”

Mr. Moody went to New York City to collect funds for victims of the great Chicago fire. In his biography, Bush Aglow, the author related Moody’s experience, “Well, one day— oh, what a day! — I cannot describe it, it is almost too sacred an experience to put in words. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me.” Moody continued with his work. The sermons were not different; he did not present any new truths; yet hundreds were converted.  His soul was set on fire in such a way that now his work began to touch lives worldwide. From that time God began to use the life of D. L. Moody as never before.

There is a great need for Christians who are filled with the Spirit.  Anything other than a Spirit-filled life is less than God’s plan for each believer. What does the Bible mean when it speaks of the fullness of the Holy Spirit? To be Spirit-filled is to be controlled or dominated by the Spirit’s presence and power. In Ephesians 5:18, Paul says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.” Here he draws a contrast between two things: alcohol and the Holy Spirit. An intoxicated person is controlled or dominated by alcohol. Alcohol’s presence and power have overwhelmed his normal abilities and actions. The same principle applies to the Spirit of God.  Instead of serving the Lord with with our own strength or ability, the Holy Spirit empowers us. Instead of being guided by our own ideas and perspective, the Holy Spirit guides us. Unfortunately, many believers do not enjoy the unlimited spiritual wealth at their disposal because they are not filled with the Holy Spirit.

The lives of many Christians reflect the ambitions, standards, and desires of the world. True, they have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, they are forgiven of their sins, and they are on their way to heaven. However, they are missing so much of what God desires for their lives. They seem to be more interested in following their own desires than following Christ. They have little concern for evangelizing the spiritually needy in their own community, their spiritual gifts are rarely used, and spiritual fruit is nearly absent from their lives.  Such a Christian’s zeal to walk in obedience to Christ is lukewarm. Their devotional life is uneven, if not largely neglected, and they would rather read a popular book than the inspired Word of God. If they pray, it is a cheerless duty and a tedious task rather than a joy.  As with Lot in Sodom, sin for them has lost some of its sinfulness. Their sensitivity to sin has been blunted, and they rarely confess known sins in their lives.

Today, Christians have more equipment, technology, training, and information for evangelizing the world than ever before. Yet one of the great tragedies of the present hour is that far too many Christians lack the fullness of the Spirit and the true dependence on God’s power which accompanies the spirit-filled life. Such tragedy was not the case in the early church described in the book of Acts.  In Acts 17:6 the believers in one city were described as, “Men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” It is true that isolated instances of the Holy Spirit’s power exist today, but the great need today is for Christian men and women to live and serve the Lord in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

28
Feb
2017
0

The Sword of the Spirit by Carl Knott

Some people like knives; others like guns; others like bows and arrows. I have a favorite weapon that is extremely effective at close and long range, day or night, in all weather. It can get through any metal detector or x-ray machine. I know! I have taken it with me on all kinds of public transportation. And what will you think of me when I tell you that I keep this weapon in plain sight and within reach of all my children and grandchildren, and even let them handle it?

Let me tell you about it. My all-time favorite weapon is the Bible, the Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). It is listed as a vital part of the Christian’s armor, and we should note that it is the only offensive weapon he is given. Like it or not, we are in a spiritual war with powerful, astute, and veteran enemies arrayed against us in relentless conflict. Scripture exhorts us to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). To go forth without armor or weapon is not faith but insanity.

A Unique Weapon

And what a unique, impressive, and effective weapon it is! In 1 Samuel 21:9, when David sought a weapon as he fled from Saul, the priest told him the only weapon available was “the sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom thou slewest in the valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod.” David replied, “There is none like that; give it me.” Now Goliath’s sword was unique, but it doesn’t even begin to compare to the Bible! Hebrews 4:12 gives the specifications of this weapon: “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It’s alive, and powerful; it’s the sharpest weapon in existence. A surgeon’s scalpel is dull in comparison. This sword doesn’t draw blood, but it does get into the soul and spirit of a person. It does inside work! Sometimes I hear people say, “You can’t know what’s in another person’s heart.” My reply is, “I have something that penetrates and discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart.” God knows all about what is in the human heart, and has written a book about it!

A Powerful Weapon

That’s why the devil hates the Scriptures and tries to distract and discourage Christians from using them. He knows the damage that the sword of the Spirit can do. He knows that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4). The devil knows what we hold in our hands, but do we? The Bible can expose sin and bring about conviction. It can reprove and rebuke. It can pronounce judgment. It can illuminate the darkness, break the chains of spiritual bondage, and bring a person into the light of salvation. It is a key instrument in the new birth (1 Pet. 1:23). The story is told of a Buddhist monk who sat on the ground to rest and picked up a scrap of paper near him. It had been torn from a New Testament. There were only a few words on that little scrap of paper: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The sword went to work and pierced his conscience. He said, “If that is true, then I will never see God, for my heart is not pure.” And that led to a search for the book from which that scrap had come, which led to the gospel and salvation. Such is the power of the sword of the Spirit. God blesses and uses His Word, not our clever arguments or tear-jerker stories. Preach the Word! That’s why when Spurgeon was asked to participate in a debate on the validity of the Bible, he said he would come but not present any defense of the Bible. He would preach the gospel. He said, “The Bible is a lion. You don’t defend a lion, you turn it loose!” It’s the same with the sword. A sword doesn’t need to be defended, but used. If the other person says he doesn’t believe in your sword of the Spirit, don’t put it down. That’s what the devil wants you to do. Quote the Scriptures; read them; cite them; obey them. Let your adversary feel the point of the sword. He won’t like it, but he will certainly know it’s real!

Sword Training

Now here’s the catch. We need to train if we desire to wield the sword properly. In order for us to effectively use the sword of the Spirit, we need to be guided by the Spirit and be spiritually-minded, not worldly-minded. We need to be familiar with our weapon and with its intended use. How can we as Christians be effective in using the Scriptures if we spend more time surfing the internet, sending text messages, watching TV and movies, and listening to the Top 40 than we spend in the Bible? If our home, study, and business responsibilities consume our lives, and we spend mere minutes in the Bible on a weekly basis, then how can we hope to skillfully use the great sword of the Spirit? When temptation or trouble arises, or an opportunity to witness presents itself, if we haven’t been practicing with the sword, we aren’t going to know what to do with it. It never ceases to amaze me that people can be in churches for years—even decades—and never read through the Bible even once. The remedy for that dangerous deficiency is to start reading right now and to do so every day until you finish the whole book. That’s basic orientation, step one. Continue your “weapon training” with Bible study (2 Tim. 2:15), Bible meditation (Ps. 1:2), and Bible memorization (Ps. 119:9, 11). When in meetings and Bible studies, pay attention and take notes. Taking notes is a proven aid to study and memory. Get to know the sword of the Spirit, and become adept at using it. There is none like it. Spurgeon wrote, “You know the old proverb ‘Beware of the man of one book.’ He is a terrible antagonist. A man who has the Bible at his fingers’ ends and in his heart’s core, is a champion in our Israel; you cannot compete with him: you may have an armory of weapons, but his Scriptural knowledge will overcome you, for it is a sword like that of Goliath, of which David said, ‘There is none like it.’”1

Endnote

1 Charles Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979), p. 180

Originally appeared in Uplook 2009