30
Mar
2018
0

Mar/Apr 2018 Editorial

By: Mark Kolchin

Shields & Shishaks

“I press for the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

Coming through another winter Olympic season, we have all undoubtedly heard the oft-repeated phrase in commercials and elsewhere to “Go for the Gold!”. It is a verbal and vivid reminder to anyone engaged in competitive sport (or any other arena for that matter) – to excel and be the best in their particular discipline. To this day, I have never heard anyone say to a fellow colleague: “Go for the silver” or “Go for the bronze!”. The fact that there are runners up that finish in second and third place is fundamental, but the ambition of all the participants from the outset is to do well and to win.

When applying this principle to our spiritual life in Christ, we should have the same standard of excellence for the best of Masters. In writing to the Philippian believers, Paul exhorted the saints there to “approve the things that are excellent” (Phil. 1:10). He did not encourage them to lower the bar or change the standard from the previous generation with the claim that “times have changed”. Not at all. Paul would later challenge the saints at Philippi by example when he stated in clarion tones, “I press for the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). It is that indeed – a high and holy calling, issued from the One who said “Be ye holy, for I am holy…” (1 Pet. 1:15). It was his standard of excellence and one that he desired for them also, requiring dedication, diligence, and a steadfast pressing on with a high standard to attain to and hold.

When Shishak, King of Egypt invaded Jerusalem during Rehoboam’s reign, (1 Ki. 14:25-28), he took away the gold shields in the temple that Solomon had built. Over five hundred shields of hammered gold occupied that temple (1 Ki. 10:16-17), a plethora of precious items that characterized the glorious kingdom of Solomon and the house of the Lord. But because of rank failure among the Lord’s people (1 Ki. 14:23-24), these shields were taken away by the Egyptians and God’s protection of the nation was removed as well. These Egyptian intruders entered the land and took away the heritage of God’s people and the things that were counted dear to the nation. But rather than repenting, Rehoboam replaced the gold shields with bronze ones, shields which looked the same but were in actuality, a cheap substitute. They were still handled with pomp and ceremony and also treated with care (v. 28), but certainly did not possess the value of the shields that were taken away.

I have often pondered this incident from the Scriptures and have wondered if it does not have a parallel for us today. Are there precious truths once held dear to a previous generation that somehow have been taken away from us? Have we lost our grip on them and have allowed the world to snatch them away because of the intrusion of modern-day Shishaks? I have sensed it in my own life and ask if it is true of others also? What has happened to those gold shields – the discipline of personal prayer and devotional time, the regular reading of the Scriptures, the faithful attendance to the meetings of the church, and the extended fellowship with the Lord’s people? All precious protective shields, for sure in our walk with Christ. It does not stop there – perhaps it has an application to the local church as well. What characterizes the church? Is there a lack of fellowship, an abbreviated schedule of meetings, an overemphasis of music over sound biblical teaching and worship? Maybe not, but maybe so. It is easy for us to ignore the biblical injunction to take heed to the things that we have heard lest at any time we should let them slip from our grasp (Heb. 2:1). Worse is the temptation to replace them with those things, which have a resemblance but are cheap look-alikes – casual attendance, token prayer time, cursory devotions and the like. We can all fill in the blank as to what those substitutes are in our experience.

Paul told Timothy to “lay hold of eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12). Solomon urged, “Buy the truth and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23) and to “remove not the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set” (Prov. 22:28). Whatever the cost, we are not to allow Shishak to take away the gold that is the standard of the house of the Lord. Whether it is Shishak or Amalek who stole David’s possessions (1 Sam. 30:2), or the Philistines who choked up Abraham’s wells with dirt (Gen. 26:18), every generation needs to discover, uncover, or recover the words of truth and like Israel, possess their possessions (Obad. 17).

In this issue, Jim Comte forcibly reminds us of that need – keeping in the forefront of our minds the certainty of the Lord’s return. Nate Bramsen challenges us to make sure that our focus is always on the Cross. Ning Tan walks us through her personal journey of faith, reminding us that the fruit that remains often comes about as we go through the land of our affliction (Gen. 41:52). George Ferrier reassures us that our security in Christ is doubly sure in Christ and our thanks to Ted Gliske who provided the poem by James Deck, which helps to keep our destination of Heaven in view. Precious truths indeed and the heritage of the house of the Lord!

30
Mar
2018
0

The Certainty of His Coming

By: Jim Comte

“Things surely believed among us…” Acts 1:1

I am reminded of the old lady, who before retiring at night would look heavenward and say, “Perhaps tonight Lord?” In the morning, she would again look up and say, “Perhaps today Lord?” She lived with anticipation, expectation, and certainty of the imminent return of her Saviour. Is this true of you and me?

The scoffers in Peter’s day mocked saying, “…Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Pet. 3:4). The same cry is heard chanting above the turmoil of this godless age, “Where is the promise of His coming?” With political upheaval, moral decadence, catastrophic storms, and the threat of nuclear holocaust unnerving many, our hearts cry out, “perhaps today, Lord?”

In these last days, we must focus our attention on the promise of the Saviour who assures us, “I will come again.” (Jn. 14:3). This promise is distinctly given by the Lord, clearly taught in the epistles, and powerfully enunciated in the book of Revelation. All through scripture, the Holy Spirit continually reminds us that Jesus is coming!

In dealing with the return of the Lord Jesus for the believer, there is no one portion of Scripture where it is completely taught. The Bible is different from college textbooks or systematic theology, in which the subject is taught in a systematic order. In Scripture, the reason for a subject being introduced is what Bible scholars call the “textual reason.” The subject of the Lord’s coming for the believer is introduced in a variety of places throughout the New Testament, because at various times the situation dictated it. Consider five portions of Scripture to grasp the reason this subject is taught.

In John 14, the disciples were distressed after the events of chapter 13, where the Lord demonstrated His humility, washing His disciples’ feet. There He also told them of His soon departure, revealed Judas as His betrayer, and prophesied Peter’s denial. Fear and trepidation gripped their hearts. No wonder the Lord commenced chapter 14 with “Let not your hearts be troubled…” With all that transpired in chapter 13, chapter 14 opens with the certain hope that He would one day come again for them. Their hearts were troubled over the events of chapter 13, and it was at this juncture, that Jesus introduced the assuring promise, “I will come again!” He would leave them, but one day He would return for them! A little boy, whose Dad had been away for a long while, kept asking his Mum, “When is Daddy coming home?” His mother wisely said, “When you see the leaves falling from the trees, you’ll know Daddy will be returning.” She gave her son no definite date for Daddy’s return, but she gave him the season when his daddy would return.

The Lord gave the disciples the assurance of His return, but He didn’t set the date. But not only that, He introduced another wonderful promise. During the interval between His going back to heaven and His return for them, He would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who would indwell them during His absence. What an assurance for them! (Jn. 14:16-18). Their troubled hearts were calmed. This is the textual reason for the promise of the rapture. (Although, rapture is not found in the Bible, the Greek word ‘harpázō’ means to ‘snatch away’, as a swooping eagle does).

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul deals with the confusion that some Corinthian believers had as to the resurrection of the Lord and of the believer’s future resurrection. Paul gives an outstanding defense of the resurrection and then sums it all up by giving these believers an assuring hope that their Lord would return, “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…” (vv. 51, 52). The textual reason for mentioning the Saviour’s return is that some were in denial of the resurrection. He assures them that “death is swallowed up in victory.” (v.54). Could these believers now rest confidently in the One who said, “I am the resurrection and the life…?” (Jn. 11:25-26).

In 1 Thessalonians 4, the believers were filled with doubt and fear as to what happens at the death of their loved ones. The textual reason for this portion is to remove their doubts, eradicate their fears, and to comfort them. Have you ever stood at a loved one’s grave and wondered if you would see them again? Paul gives them assurance and hope and in verse 14, he encourages them, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” We will meet again! It is estimated that three million Christians are buried in the catacombs – they will rise. There are numberless saints in watery and unmarked, forgotten graves who will rise. The promise remains, “the dead in Christ shall rise first!” (v. 16). No wonder Paul closes with the words, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (v. 18).

In Hebrews 10:35-37, the writer reminds us that these Hebrew believers had endured much, and had intentionally been made a gazingstock, or “publicly exposed to insults and afflictions” (Berkley Translation). They were at their wits end. They had suffered insults, rejections, scorn and hatred, just because they belonged to Christ. How many of you have suffered insults, rejections, scorn and hatred because of your faith in Christ? “In the world you shall have tribulation…” (Jn. 16:33). Remember the old hymn “it will be worth it all when we see Jesus.”

The writer encourages them to patiently endure, while they await the Lord’s return. This is the textual reason for introducing the rapture to these weary believers. It is only for “a little while”- literally, “for a very little while” and He promises, “He will tarry not.” (v. 37). This is emphatic, “He shall not wait!” It is impossible for our Lord to tarry, for tarrying is a human weakness. He encourages the believers not to cast away their confidence (v. 35), to patiently endure (v. 36), and reminds them that it is only for a little while (v. 37). What an encouragement for you and me!

In the closing few verses of Revelation, John wonderfully reminds us of the three-fold certainty of the Lord’s coming, thus giving them the textual reason for it (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20). In verse 7, He speaks of the blessing at His coming. In verse 12, He reminds us of the reward at His coming. In verse 20, He assures them of His coming, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely, I am coming quickly.’” May our hearts respond, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Perhaps today, Lord?

30
Mar
2018
0

Are You Cross Eyed?

By: Nate Bramsen

Most likely we all heard as children, “If you cross your eyes, they’ll stick!”

Though this perception is false, the medical condition of being cross-eyed is called Strabismus. It occurs when the eyes are unable to focus on the same object and maintain proper alignment. While this is not a desired condition in the physical world, allow the suggestion that all Christians ought to be cross-eyed…in another realm.

When we look at the world with its political confusion, persistent chaos, and life’s painful chapters, it’s easy for our vision to suffer and lose the alignment Scripture teaches. When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, he quickly told them, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:2 ESV)

The verse reminds us that Paul had decided “to know.” The word used is eido. This is not referring to mere intellectual logic. Instead it is a choice to discover by the senses, to perceive by the eyes, or to notice something. But look at the implications.

Referring to Christ and His work, Paul made the decision that all his relationships would be seen through the light of the cross. But what are the practical implications of such a choice?

First, the choice is made individually (“I decided…”). If you allow the media, your emotions, or the majority to be your deciding factor, you won’t come to the position of seeing individual souls as God sees them. Furthermore, there is an intentionality (“I decided to know…”). The daily perspective of seeing life and lives through the lens of the cross does not merely happen by chance. There is a conscientious choice. Have you ever determined to know something? This reminds us that there is an investment. Like any earthly discipline, Paul’s decision to see Christ and His cross in each life required the investment of time, focus, and energy. Accompanying this choice was the repercussion of choosing to be deemed ignorant in the eyes of the world. When you choose to see souls through “cross-eyes,” you are choosing to refuse to see souls through the logic and bias of this age. Where might you be forced to be deemed ignorant in order to see as our Saviour did? 2 Corinthians 4:18 reminds us, “As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (ESV)

Though the choice of having such a perspective is personal, there is an obvious interaction taking place (“among you…”). This is not a mere theological principle. Rather, it is highly practical and daily applied. Finally, when one decides “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” there is an importance communicated. I love to highlight the books I read, but if I highlight every phrase, it brings a lack of importance to the highlighting. On the contrary, if I highlighted but one or two phrases, they would stand out as paramount. Many are known for their sports team, a certain hobby, their occupation, or perhaps a relationship in life but when one chooses “to know nothing among you except…” there is an importance clearly conveyed.

But how can we practically live as “cross-eyed” Christians? What is the lens through which a “cross-eyed” believer must view each life? Allow a suggestion. Picture the one you love the least, for in the one you love the least, your love for God most often is reflected. As you do, consider three truths that ought to resonate in our minds for every soul we see.

The first truth involves the details of God’s love. God made no mistake in making any human being. The Psalmist recounts, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14a ESV). When you were inside your mother, floating in amniotic fluid, God knit you together perfectly. My grandmother kindly knits for me the most amazing beanies. In watching her knit, I learned something. When she makes a mistake, she pulls out the yarn to the point where the error occurred, and resumes knitting from that spot. The end-result is a beanie with no loose strands or threads. If that is true of my eighty-plus year-old grandmother, imagine God’s precision. He is the Master Artist, Craftsman, and Designer — and in making you, He made no mistake. It is true that we are born in sin because of Adam’s choice. In addition, it is true that we are in desperate need of a Saviour. But it is also true that God did not err as He formed you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and so are all the people you meet.

Secondly, consider the length of God’s love. King David exclaimed, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps. 8:4 ESV) The Lord Jesus said, “God so loved the world” (Jn. 3:16). God loves people. Regardless of my thoughts toward someone, I can know what God thinks about them. In Jeremiah 31:3, God reminded His people, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Consider this: When did God start loving you or someone else? He didn’t. Eternally, He loves. When will His love cease? It won’t. It’s eternal.

But don’t misunderstand the reality.

God doesn’t impose on us the acceptance of His infinite, pure, and passionate love. He leaves us free to accept or reject Him. A relationship of love flows from choice, not compulsion. The catalyst for our heart’s transformation is that “we love because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).

The third truth pertains to the depth of God’s love. Jesus told His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13 ESV). By His death on a cross, He revealed the degree of God’s love for all people. He gave His Son to suffer and die for my sins and theirs. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2 ESV).

Thus, the cross-eyed Christian will see every soul created exactly as God intended, see every soul loved eternally by God, and see every soul so valued in the eyes of God that He gave His Son to take their eternal condemnation.

How can such knowledge not alter my view of people? What prevents me from seeing a soul through God’s eyes? Are you “cross-eyed?”

30
Mar
2018
0

My Grace is Sufficient: My Personal Journey In Understanding The Grace of God

by Ann T. Ning Tan

“Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me”

I suffered an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) rupture and massive stroke in April 2011.  I had just come home from Burundi with the intention of accepting an invitation from African believers to become a missionary.  I was thrilled with the prospect of joining the King’s service overseas with Jesse and Joy Johnson.  I had finished my MBA, moved across the country, and was enjoying a new life. I finally had something to give up.

My prayer journals document the process of thinking I was crazy, begging God to show me if I was wrong, discerning the Shepherd’s voice, and stepping out in faith.  After I visited Burundi, my parents gave me their blessing.  I met with the elders in Maryland and scheduled a meeting with my Oregon elders to ask them to send me out to the field.

Four days prior to that meeting, something exploded in my brain and left me for dead. I was at my place of employment at the time and because I was found immediately, help came right away.  I received a craniotomy that saved my life.

An AVM is a cluster of malfunctioning blood vessels that can be found anywhere in your body, often in the brain.  It’s a congenital defect affecting less than 1% of the population.  Mine was asymptomatic because if they had known I had something growing in my brain, my parents would have never let me out of the house.  As it was, no one knew, so I got my education, saw the world, enjoyed the privilege of earning a living and learned the thrill of trusting God.

Relocating to Oregon was a highly calculated move, signaling my availability.  “If I won’t go to Oregon,” I reasoned, “How could the Lord send me anywhere else?”  My prayer journals depict hardcore devotion to becoming “the kind of person the Lord could use.”  I was extremely goal-oriented and relentlessly pursued the life I wanted.  However, I was not driven by any lofty spiritual ambition – it was sheer desperation.  I was constantly cowering, waiting for the harsh correction of the fictional Divine Being I had in my head, whereas I knew the scriptures promised me that His yoke is easy, and His burden light. I was desperate to feel the good of His promises – not just to know the truth theoretically.

This habit of anticipating the worst, of constantly flinching, were evidences of my personality type.  I am a “worker bee” and a perfectionist. But I had always longed to have my occupation overtly aligned with Kingdom goals. As I prayed about going to Africa, I asked the Lord for “a life’s work.” I devoted myself to building strong spiritual practices in prayer, reading, and fasting.  It was very basic stuff, but brought me to a spiritual, physical, and emotional peak right before my stroke.

The Lord was not preparing me for Africa, He was preparing me for this disabled life.  I was asleep for over a month after surgery.  As I regained lucidity I refused to believe that this had happened to me.  If it were true that God put me in a wheelchair instead of sending me to the mission field, I knew it had VERY serious implications for everything I believe in.

It was God’s grace that initially made me so acutely disabled that I could take no meaningful action from my grief.  I wandered for over a month in the valley of the shadow. When I woke there was a time when I could not communicate, I could only watch as things happened to me that I didn’t understand.  I found out the hard way that I couldn’t walk.

I went to work one day and never saw my home again. My independence, my financial security, and my future plans evaporated. I was white-hot angry but cognitively intact.  I evaluated the claims of Christ through the lens of cataclysmic illness and fully intended to discard my beliefs if they did not prove sound.

It took a few months, but I decided the gospel was true on “Decision Day” in July 2011 (shreddedgrace.com/decision-day).  There was zero special knowledge communicated to me in the valley – I am asking no one to take my word for what I saw.  I know that Jesus Christ is King because of publicly available information I knew about before I got sick.  It took no extra revelation to convince me of the truth – truth is truth even though I don’t understand everything.  Jesus Christ met the need of my heart and it was a deep need.

Now I write and speak about survivorship and recovery.  I built an online presence so people can choose their own level of engagement and I can go dark at any time when my symptoms flare. I am extremely verbal about my faith (ShreddedGrace.com) but it is one of my greatest joys that God gave me post-AVM friends who are immensely different than I am but chose to stick around anyway.  The content I produce is an easy, non-threatening way to introduce people to Jesus Christ, and encourage believers.

I have spent the last four years training physically to meet the demands of life at home and in public.  I am also learning how to live with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I am often approached by people who have high levels of trauma and I would appreciate your prayers as I navigate these deep waters, carrying only the name of Christ, because everything else is so wholly inadequate to meet these needs.

The Lord gave me a team of gifted professionals who help me heal. In particular, David got me kicked out of physical therapy, and Randy taught me to run (I use an AlterG).  They are the stars of my two latest books: “Learning How to Live” and “Learning How to Run”. All of my writing is non-profit and is available at Amazon.com.

The people God gave me after my injury, some who know Him, and others who don’t yet know Him, are proof of His care and provision for me. Something bad happened, but He has emphasized repeatedly through these people that He is for me. He orchestrated the intersection of our lives with divine artistry that has shown me what grace feels like.

Now it is my honor to shine the light of Jesus Christ in places where His claims would otherwise not be considered.  Although I was surprised and horrified that this happened to me, I cannot claim that I was unprepared.  Because I wasn’t – I was 100% prepared for this, the role of my life.  He saw to that.

At the same time, I know that no one is strictly necessary for God’s plan. But sometimes He gives us an opportunity to participate in a miracle.  That’s what He did for me.

30
Mar
2018
0

Habakkuk Part II: Seeking Understanding and Correction

Habakkuk 1:9 – 2:1

By: Warren Henderson

In this second installment of a three part series, Warren Henderson takes us through the personal struggles that the prophet Habakkuk experienced in the life of faith – valuable lessons for believers in any age as they work through the problem of evil.

The book commenced with the prophet lifting up his burdens to the Lord: Why was wickedness going unchecked? Why was God not punishing evil doers and upholding the righteous? The Lord responded by telling Habakkuk that He was aware of His people’s sin and was about to severely punish them through a Babylonian invasion. The Lord then describes the coming sorrowful conquest.

Babylon is Coming (1:9-11)

The Babylonian army, bent on violence, would advance unhindered, like the hot desert wind from the east and they would take many captives (1:9). They would be afraid of no one; but rather scoff at kings, and ridicule their fortifications (1:10). The proud Chaldeans would be high on themselves and since no nation could impede their progress, they would assume that they were being empowered by their pagan deities (1:11).

However, their ignorant boasting was an offense against God, the One who had lifted them up as an instrument in His hand. Puffed up in their successes, Jehovah would punish the entire nation for their vanity and brutality in a future day. But for the present, He would use Babylon to chasten and refine His covenant people and also to punish surrounding nations for their wickedness.

A Perplexed Prophet Responds (1:12-17)

Although delighted to know that God was not disinterested in Israel’s doings, God’s answer perplexed Habakkuk. To Habakkuk it seemed wrong for a Holy God with pure eyes to permit the wicked to prosper at the expense of those more righteous (speaking of Judah; 1:12-13). The prophet responds with a mixture of confidence and bewilderment.

Habakkuk had reasoned that even in their backsliding, the Jewish people were more righteous than the Babylonians. However, the prophet was wrong in his assessment. True, the Babylonians were more wicked than Judah, but God’s people had much more revelation and were under a covenant to be a holy people. To have been given more light and then choose to walk in darkness is more offensive to God than having limited light and still being ensnared by darkness. More revelation means more divine accountability – unto whom much is given, much is required (Lk.12:48). The Jews had ignored Jehovah’s Law and He was rightfully angry with His wayward people.

The prophet realized that the Jewish nation would be on their own before their invaders. They would be like a school of fish erratically darting here and there in the sea without sound leadership to guide or protect them (1:14). Yet, God would limit the severity of His judgment through the Babylonians in such a way to manifest His justice, but also display His mercy. God would not permit the end of the Jewish nation – “We shall not die” (v. 12). The prophet understood Jehovah’s intentions were to refine His people, yet, why would God use such a distasteful foul rod of correction to accomplish this objective?

On this point, Habakkuk offers two objections. First, the Babylonians had no regard for the welfare of the nations (1:15). Second, they would exalt their own gods for the successes they had in despoiling the nations and enslaving those they conquered (1:16). The Babylonian fishermen were relentlessly depleting the nations of resources and life; thus, the prophet cries out to the Lord, “Shall they therefore empty their net, and continue to slay nations without pity?” (v. 17). Indeed, Babylon would go too far, and God would both limit their exploits and punish their ruthlessness.

Waiting for God’s Answer (2:1)

Understanding God’s response to Habakkuk’s questions in chapter 2 (i.e., “the just shall live by faith”) is foundational in comprehending how God works to accomplish His purposes and better His people. It suffices here to say that trusting in God and His Word results in life and that pride and rebellion lead to death.

Habakkuk did not have the answers, but knew that One who did. Like Habakkuk, we too must get alone with God to learn His mind and His ways. The Lord Jesus emphasized to His disciples the vital importance of watching and praying to accomplish the same outcome (Lk. 21:36). Watching does not mean focusing on what men are doing or will do, but rather how God will answer and direct our steps by faith. Waiting for answers is not wasted time; rather, intentional stillness before God leads us into deeper serenity and an understanding of God Himself (Ps. 46:10).

The prophet’s questions indicate an acknowledgement of ignorance, a strong desire to be taught, a willingness to wait for God’s correction, and a great confidence in God’s character. Habakkuk had issued inquiries to the high court of heaven and now He eagerly waited for a response. He was like a sentinel perched in a watchtower observing the far horizon for the first hint of an invading army.

Lord Correct Me (2:1)

In the stillness and with alertness Habakkuk prepared his heart to receive God’s word. While he waited anxiously for God’s answer he also thought about what his response might be, that is, “what I will answer when I am corrected” (2:1). This statement indicates that although the prophet fully trusted the Lord, he was still wrestling with comprehending His ways. He longed for an answer that he knew would both correct his flawed human reasoning and enhance his appreciation for God. To pray, “Lord correct me when I am wrong and teach me what is lacking” indicates a faith that is settled in God’s sovereignty.

Believers in love with the Lord Jesus do not want to err from God’s best for them. Telling God that though we do not understand what He is doing, but that we trust Him anyway because He is just, holy, and true is the essence of faith. If we ask the Lord to reveal the reasons for what He is doing, He may do so, but often the fullness of divine elegance is revealed in time, so that we will have a greater wonder and appreciation for God’s accomplishments. Life’s best lessons are learned in the journey with God, rather than knowing how He has plotted our course in time.

The prophet had questioned God’s method of chastening Israel, so he expected to be corrected by the Lord. Although nervous about God’s response, Habakkuk was willing to receive God’s reproof to better understand His mind. God honors such an attitude. Though waiting for God’s response can be mentally fatiguing we can have confidence that God will not leave His servants without instruction where there is an eager heart, willing mind, and an exercised conscience (Lk. 11:9). However, neither should we be surprised if His answers are not what we expect and not as complete as we would like, this just means God wants us to more fully experience Him through faith!

30
Mar
2018
0

Double-Knotted Security

Sometimes runners will double-knot their laces. Doing so gives them confidence that their shoes will be secured to the end of the race. The Greek word ou mē (G3364) is a composite of two negative words: ou (G3756) meaning not, and mē (G3361) also meaning not. This compounded word significantly drives home the negative meaning, and God has given the believer several double “nots” highlighting that our eternal security is His responsibility.

Double-Knotted Life

First, Christ has given us eternal life and we shall never (ou mē) perish (Jn. 10:28). This means that there is a vital connection between our security and the gift of His life. When one receives a gift, that gift belongs to them. Wages are neither required to receive it or to keep it. Eternal life is a present possession for the believer and the word eternal by its very definition signifies without end. Given by His grace, God does not take back His gifts (Rom. 11:29), including eternal life which He has freely bestowed upon us (Rom. 6:23). Having a relationship with the eternal Christ (Heb. 13:5), we belong to the One Who is the source of eternal life (Jn. 14:6; 1 Jn. 1:2; 5:11-12), and Who also has the power to give that life to others (Jn. 17:2). He also keeps us by His power (1 Pet. 1:5). No one can snatch us out of His loving grasp (Jn. 10:28). The word snatch or pluck (harpázō G726) speaks of forceful, open plunder and the same Greek word is used for the rapture when we will be “caught up.” Nothing in creation has that kind of power, the kind necessary to remove us from His powerful grip.

Double-Knotted Accounting

Secondly, God will not (ou mē) impute sin to our account (Rom. 4:8; Ps. 32:1-2). In His forbearance, God saved the Old Testament saints on credit, but demonstrating His righteousness at Calvary, He judged the Holy One for their sins and ours. He showed that sin’s debt must be paid (Rom. 3:24-25). Now fully paid, He demonstrates His righteousness by forgiving all who place their trust in Christ (Rom. 3:26). Impute means to reckon or take into account. An honest accountant will enter numbers into a ledger that accurately reflect his client’s position. God will never debit our account with sin and ask us to answer for it because Christ has already paid for it. Whether a new believer or a mature one, we stand perfect in Christ (Heb. 10:14) because God has credited Christ’s righteousness to our account (Gal. 3:5-9). Sometimes believers struggle with assurance thinking that their sins prior to salvation are forgiven, but that any committed afterwards will cause them to fall from grace. Yet one must remember that Christ died for all our sins and at Calvary all our sins were still future.

Double-Knotted Forgiveness

God also chooses to remember our sins no more (ou mē). In Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17 the writer quotes from Jeremiah 31:34, which looks ahead to Israel’s future restoration (Zech. 12:10-14) when they will enter into the benefits of the New Covenant. At that time, God will remember their sins no more. The Old Testament sacrifices, repeated year after year, could only cover sin. They could never remove it. Therefore, there was an annual reminder of sins (Heb. 10:3). In contrast, the New Covenant is grounded upon Christ’s finished work. Suffering once for sin, His infinite sacrifice need never be repeated. In this present church age, individual Jewish and Gentile believers are experiencing the benefits of the New Covenant, its blessings acquired through Christ (Heb. 9:15).

In the Old Testament Christ is pictured in the two goats on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). After sprinkling the slain goat’s blood on the mercy seat, the High Priest confessed the people’s sins over the scapegoat that would then be discharged into the wilderness. Forsaken, the goat would never return. Similarly, Christ alone bore our sins, and shedding His blood He paid our debt. Forgiven by God, the believer’s sins have been dispatched forever, and God chooses to remember them no more.

Double-Knotted Presence

God encouraged Joshua that His presence would never leave him (Josh. 1:5). Similarly, the Lord promises us that He will never (ou mē) leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). This promise entails more than just a passive presence. For example, two people can live in the same house but disregard one another, having little interest in each other. Conversely, Christ not only indwells us but He is also actively involved in our lives, sustaining and upholding us. He cares about us; He helps us; and He cheers us on to the finish line. His interest in our lives will never abate for He has too much invested in us – His very life. The word “forsake” means to abandon or leave down. Like the military motto that says “no soldier left behind,” Christ will not forsake us when we find ourselves helpless, defeated, or in spiritually dire straits. He will go and get that sheep that has gone astray. The Shepherd and Overseer of our souls (1 Pet. 2:25), He watches over us and will lose none that truly belong to Him (Jn. 17:12). Never getting discouraged (Isa. 42:4), He will not give up on us. Never failing, He will finish the good work that He has begun (Phil. 1:6).

Double-Knotted Foundation

Finally, Peter says the believer will not (ou mē) be put to shame (1 Pet. 2:6). Being a spiritual house, the church has a solid foundation. God has given Christ to the church: His Person, work, and doctrine. He is the Cornerstone that unites believing Jews and Gentiles into one spiritual home (Eph. 2:13-14). Received from Christ by direct revelation, the apostles laid a completed foundation (1 Cor. 3:10-11). We don’t require new revelations, for we already have Christ – God’s final one. With great care, we must be true to the faith that was once for all delivered to us. For God has entrusted us with this magnificent treasure (1 Thess. 2:4; 1 Tim. 6:20).

Christ is a trustworthy foundation; we are not deceived in placing our faith in Him. Instead our confidence in Him is well-founded. Christ is an eternal foundation; we will never be dishonored waiting on Him, for He will never disappoint us, now or in eternity. God’s church is being built upon Christ our Rock and nothing can prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). We are victors and overcomers in Christ because we do not fight for victory but from His victory (Jn. 16:33; Rom. 8:37; 1 Jn. 5:4). He will lead us on in triumph (2 Cor. 2:14), right to the finish line, where we will be presented faultless before His presence with great joy (Jude 24).

30
Mar
2018
0

Good News From A Far Country: Proverbs 25:25

Reaching an Unreached People Group Highlights from the Moi Story: Part 2

By: Rich Brown

When our team went to live among this small UUPG (Unengaged Unreached People Group) in the year 2000, we went with the intent of working ourselves out of a job (2 Tim. 2:2). We wanted to go in believing that Jesus would build His church and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it; that capable men and women that God raised up who would skillfully handle the Sword of the Spirit wearing the whole armor of God (Eph. 6). They in turn would be able to equip others to do the same (Eph. 4).

In January of 2006, the first eight Moi understood and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ. This was an exciting beginning, but our team had our work cut out for us. We had the responsibility of multiplying ourselves in them, helping them to grow from spiritual infancy to mature manhood (Eph. 4:13). Over the next two years, we took them through the book of Acts and Romans.

Unfortunately, during this time our missionary team had a couple of major blows. Our Indonesian coworkers had to leave the work because of a combination of sickness and the door closing to further educating their children in the tribe. Our family also had to leave for 10 months due to Karen coming down with a mysterious illness, which was later attributed to having pathogens in her GI tract. We were able to return, but our Indonesian coworkers could not. This reduced our team to two families.

Despite these seeming setbacks, the Lord was faithfully growing the small handful of Moi believers. They were boldly sharing about their faith in Jesus and were no longer ruled by fear of evil spirits. Their relatives and friends could not figure out what was going on. All they knew was that they had heard “The Creator’s Talk” and afterwards they were completely changed. What kind of talk does that to people?

Our coworker Steve, was making good progress on the Moi Bible translation and preparations were being made for the next outreach. By early 2008 many more of the Moi wanted to hear “The Creator’s Talk.” In mid-2008, about 70 Moi gathered for the seven weeks of teaching from creation to Christ. At the end of that time another 30 to 40 believers were added to the church.

Now things were starting to pick up.

By early 2009 the believers were coming to us saying that many more of their relatives and friends wanted to hear “The Creator’s Talk.” We were faced with a major dilemma. It would be easy enough to gather people from all across the Moi land to come hear us teach, and undoubtedly more would get saved. Yet we knew that at any time we might have to leave. There were no guarantees on our future health, or permissions to live and serve in Indonesia. If we had to leave at that time, there would be no one capable of continuing on the work that we had started. In essence, we would have not yet truly multiplied ourselves, nor passed on the proverbial baton. After much prayer, our two families decided we would hold off on another outreach, in order that we could give our full attention to equipping the 14 or so faithful young men on how to study and teach God’s Word. Amazingly, during the year and a half of focused discipleship, not one Moi person who wanted to hear “The Creator’s Talk” had died.

“It Shall Not Return Unto Me Void”: The Power of God’s Word

It was amazing to see how God’s Word was radically transforming the Moi believers. The more they were willing to hear, the more they were changed. Let me share one clear example of this.

The Moi did not believe that babies were really fully human until they started showing some personality and were old enough to be named.

Two of the first eight Moi believers were a young Moi couple, Edapiya and Iyotabo. They had their first child and promptly named him Isaac. He was the first Moi child to get a Christian name.

Two years later, in 2009, Iyotabo was expecting their second child. This time though, instead of an air of excitement, there was dread. Edapiya did not believe the baby was his. The Moi believed that pregnancies only lasted about five months, based on when the initial outward signs could be seen. Edapiya went on a long journey and returned to notice that Iyotabo was clearly pregnant. The child was his own, but he did not believe it.

One afternoon, while the rest of the family and some visitors from the States were over at our coworkers’ house, a Moi couple came to our porch and said that Edapiya and Iyotabo were killing their newborn baby. I could not believe it. I ran up to their house nearby. “Where’s your baby?”, I asked. Edapiya pointed to the string net bag hanging on the wall. I immediately went over and looked inside. There with umbilical cord attached and still wrapped in leaves covered with blood was their newborn baby girl with small vines wrapped around her little neck… slowly strangling her. “It’s not my child,” was the only response to my desperate pleas to take them off. Out of options, I ran out of the house carrying the baby in the net bag. Halfway down the trail to our coworkers house I began yelling for someone to bring up some scissors. Steve hurriedly arrived with scissors in hand and we began snipping off the vines. We then took her over and got her cleaned up. The next day our visitors gave her the name Emma Grace.

A couple of days later Edapiya showed up wanting to have his baby back. We said, “No”. There was no way we were willing to give her back only to be killed. He came back the next day and asked again. After much prayer we decided to have a meeting with him on the airstrip along with a number of Moi leaders.

The next morning, with about fifteen of us sitting around in a large circle, Edapiya began to state his reasons to prove that he would no longer try to harm his child. He started by saying, “I’ve been reading from the book of Exodus.” I thought, “What are you going to share from the book of Exodus that’ll convince us that you’re not going to kill your daughter?” He proceeded to explain that he was struck by the story of the Hebrew midwives and how they were willing to risk their own lives for the sake of the Hebrew babies. It was then that he understood that God loves babies too and it was wrong to kill them.

We were blown away. God had used a seemingly random passage from what little at that time had been completed of the Moi Bible, to convince him of his sin and the value God places on human life, more specifically the life of babies. So it was stories like these that reinforced the fact in our minds that the medium for transformation of hearts was through God’s Word alone. His Word was the tool by which the Holy Spirit could then convict and convince.

Passing the Baton

By 2010 eight of the young Moi men had become capable Bible teachers. They were now ready to pass on the truth they had learned through study and experience. Teaching a group of 120 people for seven weeks, we shared the teaching load equally. It was a very intense time, but the Lord blessed in two incredible ways. First off, close to 80 Moi came to Christ, more than doubling the total amount of believers. Secondly, and equally exciting, true discipleship multiplication was happening. The Moi church was learning to do “the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).

Since that time, our team has increasingly moved to more of a facilitative role. The medical clinic, literacy program, and the majority of the Bible teaching responsibility has passed on to the Moi believers. Finally, on September of 2015, the first three Moi elders were officially recognized before the entire Moi church. Now the responsibility of care for more than 200 believers is in their hands.

Since then, our family has taken an off-site itinerant role with the Moi, while our coworkers Steve and Carolyn remain on location, in order to finish the remaining 20% of the Bible translation project (NT and OT portions).

More than ever we’re understanding what it says in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” When God’s Word engages hearts they are forever changed.

30
Mar
2018
0

Salvation Stories: John Moore

By: John Moore

The Value of A Godly Heritage

“God setteth the solitary in families…” Psalm 68:6

My name is John Moore, and I was born on September 6, 1956. Six days later I was adopted. I never knew my birth parents, but my adoptive parents handled that with wisdom, and from an early age I remember my parents telling me that I was adopted by them and that they had specifically chosen me to be their son. That satisfied me and I never felt a need to discover my birth parents.

My earliest spiritual memories were my dad and mom and me at bedtime gathering around and having family devotional and praying together. What was amazing at the time is that none of us were saved! My dad was reared by a godly father who greatly influenced his life in spiritual matters, so he grew up knowing right from wrong and with a respect for God, the Bible, and church. This was also influenced by the common morality of America in the 1930s and 40s.

From my earliest days, my dad and I went to church. My mother had very severe rheumatoid arthritis, and usually could not attend with us due to her pain and disability, but she made sure that we went. Dad went to a men’s class and I attended Sunday School, and then both of us went to the 11 o’clock worship service.

As I went through elementary school and on to high school, I faced all the temptations available at that time. However, I was very close to my parents and did not want to disappoint them, so I never fell into sin like a lot of my classmates. My dad prepared me for high school and forewarned me about all the temptations I would face and exhorted me to follow the right path and not yield to sin. Although I received a lot of criticism from my peers, I did not waiver or give in.

Between my junior and senior year, I had the opportunity to take classes at a local college, where I also lived for the summer. While I was there, I heard about a Bible study on campus and since I had a habit of attending religious services, I went. That night, for the first time in my life, I heard a clear presentation of the gospel. I immediately became convicted of my sin and my heart was deeply touched by the love of the Saviour who willingly gave Himself for me. I went back to my room that night and trusted the Lord Jesus. Although I had attended church all my life, for the first time I knew I was saved.

When I finished my classes and came home, I immediately shared the gospel with my mom, and she too was saved upon hearing the Good News. When I witnessed to my dad, he was cautious and wondered about the words I shared with him. However, over time, as my mom and I talked openly about the Lord Jesus, he would ask us questions. I also gave him a book to read entitled “The Making of a Man of God” by Alan Redpath which he read. Soon, he trusted the Lord Jesus as his Saviour too.

Now when we went to church, even the hymns we sang had new meaning. Dad became involved with the Gideons and he witnessed to the men in his Sunday School class.

Today, I thank my God for the adoptive parents that I had and for the great influence they had in my life, leading me in a good path until I came to know the Lord Jesus as my Saviour.

Since that time, when I was saved at age 16, I have walked with the Lord in daily fellowship in His Word and prayer. The Lord later provided me with a wonderful godly wife. Over time, we had four children and today have 5 grandchildren. Also, I serve as an elder at Three Oaks Bible Chapel in Macon, GA and enjoy preaching the Word and serving the Lord’s people.

30
Mar
2018
0

What does the Bible say about fasting?

Fasting denotes abstaining from food for a period of time. The only time God commanded fasting was during the annual Day of Atonement when Israel was told to afflict their souls, neither eating nor working (Lev. 16:29-31; 23:26-32; Num. 29:7). It was a time of solemn reflection and repentance. In Acts 27:9, this Feast of Jehovah is referred to as “the Fast.”

During their seventy-year captivity Judah instituted fasts to mourn four calamitous events: the siege of Jerusalem on the 10th day of the 10th month (2 Ki. 25:1; Jer. 52:4), the capture of Jerusalem on the 17th day of the 4th month (Jer. 52:6-7; 2 Ki. 25:3), the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple on the 9th day of the 5th month (2 Ki. 25:8-10), and Governor Gedaliah’s assassination at Mizpah on the 3rd day of the 7th month (Jer. 41:4; 2 Ki. 25:25) 1.

After Judah’s return from captivity, men from Bethel (Zech. 7:2) came inquiring whether these fasts should continue. God responded by asking whether these fasts were for Him or for themselves (Zech. 7:4-5). Indifferent to ritualistic fasting, the Lord desired their obedience, mercy towards others, and righteous living (Zech. 7:7-14; 8:16-19).

In the Gospels, the Pharisees fasted every Monday and Thursday2 (Mt. 9:14-15, Lk. 18:12). Questioning their motives, the Lord criticized them for drawing attention to themselves (Mt. 6:16-18). Conversely, the widow Anna continually served God with fasting and prayer, watching for the coming Messiah (Lk. 2:36-38).

A spiritual discipline, fasting should always be combined with prayer (Ezra 8:23; Acts 9:9-11; 14:23), a heartfelt exercise of individuals or small gatherings (Acts 13:1-2). Fasting should never be imposed, as formalized fasts have the potential for self-deception, disguising one’s true spiritual condition.

We should never fast in an effort to gain God’s approval (Isa. 58:1-7). Nor should one employ it in rebellion, attempting to avoid or resist His chastening (Jer. 14:12; Heb. 12:5-11). Nor yet should we practice fasting to punish ourselves as penance is never taught in scripture.

The motivation behind fasting must always be closer fellowship with Christ, seeking His direction for specific or general matters. Genuine fasting helps one focus upon Him, sharpening our spiritual acuity (2 Chron. 20:3-12; Acts 13:2). It blocks out distractions, helping one engage in fervent, concentrated and unhindered prayer.

God does not command us to fast. A personal choice, some believers choose to, while many do not. Ultimately, fasting serves its purpose only if it leads to greater intimacy with Christ because God wants us to “rend our hearts, and not our garments” (Joel 2:12-13).

Endnotes:
1. Merrill F. Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1988), p. 401
2. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1993), p. 676