18
Jan
2019
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EDITORIAL: Entering Our Inheritance

Settling down in the easy chair one night, I looked forward to an interesting-looking episode from the documentary, “America in Color.” It is not that I often find time to do this, nor can even afford the time to do this. But on this occasion, I did – my version of coming aside to rest awhile. One of the segments of the program highlighted the Osage native American tribe during the early twentieth century. Through a strange twist of events, the Osages, who had been granted property by the US government came into a vast amount of wealth. At first, the decision by the US to give them land seemed like a strategy to marginalize this needy and poverty-stricken people group. But what appeared to have dubious intentions, actually turned out to be for them an immense blessing in disguise when it was discovered that the land they resided on was situated on top of an abundant supply of subterranean oil. Because the Osages now owned the land, the government was obligated to make good on the rich supply that lay beneath their feet, paying the tribe handsome financial dividends beyond anything they could have ever imagined. It was reported at the time, that they were the wealthiest people in all the world per capita. It was truly a story of going from “rags to riches.”

Our Story

Certainly there is a spiritual lesson in all this. Every Christian has also been brought into a vast supply of spiritual blessings, undetected by the human eye. According to Ephesians 1:3, we have been drenched with every spiritual blessing in Christ. These blessings came to us when we came to Christ since Ephesians 1:11 reminds us that we have already obtained an inheritance (past tense). They are our present possessions by nature of our identity with Christ; crucified, raised up and made to sit together with Him. It is not based on any merit of our own, through any works of our own, or our social, economic or educational standing or even our parentage. No, nothing of the kind. Instead, it is because of a strange but wonderful twist of events – when needy people (like us) and perhaps marginalized, came into untold spiritual wealth, whose curse was turned into a blessing. When we were spiritually sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed, waiting for the “moving of the water” (Jn. 5), Someone came to our aid when no one else did. As a result, we are now sons and heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. Amazing grace! To top it off, to be given an assurance that these blessings – our inheritance – will never disappear or be taken away and is reserved in heaven for us is even more astounding.

Our Spiritual Portfolio

So what makes up this inheritance that Scripture speaks about? For starters, it involves our salvation, which will never be corrupted, defiled or ever fade away. Another? The Holy Spirit – He will always be the same and He will never be corrupted, or defiled or ever fade away. Another? The Word of God – that will always be the same and will never pass away, (Mt. 24:35). On and on we can go: assurance; understanding (1 Jn. 5:20); sonship; spiritual gifts and abilities…the list is endless. As the hymn states, “blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.” How great is our God!

Entering In?

Yet, I wonder if some of us have not really entered into our inheritance as much as we could. Let’s face it, we all at times can be like those 2 ½ tribes (Josh. 1), unwilling to venture into the interior because we enjoy our current, comfortable situation far too much. We forfeit the better fruit of the land by our complacency. It is not that we don’t have the rights to a better experience or even possess the resources to get there. But the question is: “Are we living in the good of it?” Have we crossed over the Jordan (Josh. 3), are we following behind the Ark (Josh. 3, 4), have we applied the sharp knife of the Word in self-judgment (Josh. 5), and have we overcome in the strength of the Lord (Josh. 6)? If we have not, we can hardly say that we have entered in the full apprehension and appreciation of all that is ours in Christ. Comparing it with the example of the Osages but in reverse, I have heard of cases of landowners who never realized they lived atop oil fields and despite having the rights to the land, never tapped into the wealth that was theirs and consequently never entered into the benefit of that which they actually possessed.

Joshua was a person who never departed out of the Tabernacle (Ex. 33:11), but as fearless and successful as he was in the battles of the Lord, there was still more land he needed to possess. God said so (Josh. 13:1), even though he was old. God says the same to us. How about you, how about me? Can it be said of us that there remains very much land to be possessed?

18
Jan
2019
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The Great Divide: The Difference Between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology

For the typical believer and especially those younger in the faith, the terms Covenant theology and Dispensationalism can be very confusing. Even mature saints find it difficult to get a handle on these two main approaches to biblical interpretation. Combined with other theological terms such as premillennialism, amillennialism, preterism, Christian reconstructionism and progressive dispensationalism, the average believer in any congregation can be easily intimidated by the polysyllabic terminology. However, the serious student of the Word will want to investigate these concepts in the light of Scripture in order to obtain a clearer understanding of the differences between them. Because of the continuing interest in Covenant theology, it is important to understand what it is and how it contrasts with dispensationalism.

What is Covenant Theology and when did it begin?

Covenant theology or covenantism is a means of interpreting the Bible through the lens of two or three covenants in Scripture. Those who subscribe to this perspective refer to two of these covenants as the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. Many in this camp see a third covenant called a covenant of redemption. Based on Hebrews 13:20, they claim that this was established between the Father and the Son in eternity past. Though these terms are not found in Scripture, adherents nevertheless claim that the principles are represented there.

As a system of thought, Covenant theology first appeared during the mid-1500’s at the time of the Reformation. According to Louis Berkoff a prominent covenant theologian, Kaspar Olevaanus was the first to develop this line of thought. Later in the mid-1600’s, Johannes Cocceius further developed this approach to this interpretation of scripture, which at the time was becoming quickly established in many of the churches in Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland and England. The Puritans were primarily responsible for bringing this teaching to America. Currently, it is the predominant theological persuasion in Protestantism and finds its center in churches following Reformed traditions and those who also favor a Calvinistic persuasion.

Simply put, Covenant theology purports that the whole of Scripture revolves around two or perhaps three main covenants, hence the name. In short, those in the covenant school hold that before time began, a covenant was established among the Godhead that the Son would be the Head and Redeemer of the elect, a select group of individuals predetermined to receive eternal life. This was done knowing in advance of Adam’s failure in the Garden. In return, the Son would be raised to life after His atoning work at Calvary, glorified by the Father and given power and great glory. This is called the covenant of redemption. After Adam was created, the triune God established a covenant with Adam in which he was promised eternal life for perfect obedience and warned of physical and spiritual death if he failed, which he did. This all occurred under the covenant of works. Because of Adam’s failure, a covenant of grace was then graciously established to provide forgiveness for the offending, elect descendants of Adam, whom he represented. This forgiveness was made possible by the covenant of redemption which predated it in eternity. Consequently, the elect sinner after being regenerated and given the gift of faith is then forgiven and then promises to live a life well-pleasing to God in obedience to the Lord. These are some of the main tenets of Covenant theology.

The Problems with Covenant Theology

Adherents of covenantism have a high regard for Scripture and seek to emphasize the great doctrines of the faith such as the centrality of Jesus Christ in history and justification by grace through faith alone. These are all commendable pursuits, many of which issued out of the Reformation, a significant turning point in church history. But there are also many things that are lacking in this school of thought. For one, it emphasizes God’s work in the salvation of the elect to the exclusion of a number of other important truths in the Bible. That God has a plan to save His people and the importance of that salvation is not the question. But God has other things that He will accomplish that will also ultimately redound to His glory. He has a distinct plan for Israel as well for the other nations, something that is not sufficiently addressed within the framework of Covenant theology. Scripture also cites a series of judgments yet to come: The Judgment Seat of Christ; the Sheep and the Goats (Mt. 25); the beast and false prophet; Satan and the unsaved dead at the Great White Throne (Rev. 20). All of these are clearly differentiated in Scripture and could hardly be grouped into one general judgment which Covenant theology maintains.

The difference between Israel and the Church is perhaps one of the most obvious differences between Covenant theology and Dispensationalism. To a covenantalist, the Church and Israel are essentially the same, the one simply a continuation of the other. They see Stephen’s reference to the “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38) as proof positive that the church existed in the Old Testament despite the fact that the Lord referred to it in the future tense in Matthew 16:18, when He said “I will build my church.” To them, the church always was present in the Old Testament, instead of being inaugurated at Pentecost (Acts 2).

In contrast to covenantism, Dispensationalism presents scripture as the unfolding, progressive revelation of God. Through a series of dispensations or time periods, God dispenses His truth for man to obey. Failure to obey this stewardship of truth has resulted in God’s judgment on man throughout history and consequently results in a further revelation of God’s truth which then becomes the standard for the following time period. Therefore, a key component of dispensational thought is that it recognizes these distinctions in Scripture. Further, because covenantalists do not observe critical distinctions in Scripture, it leads to a convoluted interpretation of prophetic portions of the Bible. Because it does not distinguish between Israel and the Church, the promises made to Israel in the Old Testament are erroneously applied to the Church, since it sees the Church and Israel as the same. When it comes to unfulfilled prophecy, Covenant theology also lends itself to the employment of a double hermeneutic, meaning two ways of interpreting scripture. This means applying a literal interpretation of the Bible on one hand and a symbolic or allegorical interpretation on the other. In other words, in matters dealing with the past fulfillment of scripture, a literal method is utilized. But when it comes to unfulfilled prophecy, instead of maintaining a consistency in Bible interpretation, a symbolic hermeneutic is employed. This results in some very interesting prophetic predictions, evidenced recently when a well-known radio Bible teacher schooled in Covenant theology, foolishly declared May 21, 2011 to be the end of the world. It was the sad result of the allegorizing of Scripture and failing to observe biblical distinctions.

Finally, because of the emphasis on God’s redemptive work of the elect, some view Covenant theology as having a deadening effect on evangelistic fervor. “Why evangelize if God is going to save the elect anyway?” is the retort by dispensationalists when analyzing the ramifications of this theological approach.

What makes Covenant Theology so popular?

The question naturally arises, “Why then, is Covenant theology so popular?” There may be a number of reasons. One is that it is historically tied to the Reformation. That has an appeal to some people because of the tremendous contribution made by the Reformers and the place it had both in church and world history. Something in the past always seems better. As someone has said “Distance lends enchantment to the view”. Another reason may deal with the academic nature of this topic. Detailed, intricate reasoning can appeal to the intellect and that discipline in itself is attractive to some people because it separates the “haves” from the “have-nots”, meaning those who have not grasped the concepts. Still another reason may be that historically, Dispensationalism as a theological explanation of God’s truth came after Covenant theology. Though evident in writings throughout the Church’s existence, it was significantly expounded and promulgated through the pen of J.N. Darby during the 1800’s. His voluminous writings and emphasis on the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ fueled the modern missionary movement and dramatically transformed the evangelical landscape. However, the fact that it came afterwards causes some people to favor covenantism, which appeared in church history much earlier. But timing in itself does not legitimize any school of thought. Look at the dangerous heresy of Gnosticism which appeared at the end of the first century – certainly not a valid school of thought!

Yes, there are many differences between Covenant theology and Dispensationalism, differences that can easily divide. But despite these differences, those who hold to another view of scripture should never be viewed as the enemy. “He that is not against us is for us” (L 9:50). Our attitude should be as Paul stated to the Philippians, “…if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Phil. 3:15). May that be our sentiment as we strive to rightly divide the word of truth.

18
Jan
2019
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Mentoring Leadership: Building Generations for Christ

A mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser: a guide, counselor, and consultant. A mentor shares what they have learned and is assumed to have greater wisdom, experience and maturity. A mentor is also a caregiver. Leadership gurus today uses the term “People Engineering” to denote the concept of a mentoring relationship. In the church, mentoring involves intentional shepherding; it is part of the discipleship process God uses to shape, equip, and prepare us for effective ministry.

Christ’s equipping of the twelve is a superb model in mentoring. At the very outset of His public ministry, He chose men who were willing to be mentored. He called, prepared and equipped them for their ministry assignments. This training by the Master was indispensable for their ministry. Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Timothy are some of the other noteworthy examples of mentoring relationships in the Bible.

Today vision for mentoring leadership is lacking. Even in assemblies where able men have ministered and shepherded for many years, a future generation of leaders is not in view. It is evident that somewhere something went wrong. Therefore, it’s vital that we again pay close attention to this biblical leadership principle.

Passing on the Baton (2 Tim. 2:1-2)

Paul and Timothy present an outstanding model of a mentoring relationship. Paul recognized the importance of equipping successors to carry on the gospel after his life and ministry was over. His approach included carefully selecting the right persons, equipping them for ministry, and encouraging them in life’s challenges. In its historical context, Paul wrote his letters to Timothy to equip him for the task of leadership in the local church. Today it is equally vital to prepare the next generation of servant-leaders to be strong in Word, doctrine, wisdom, and shepherding skills.

It is easy for many of us in leadership to forget our vital responsibility to disciple those behind us. This is the only way godly and spiritual leadership will continue in a multigenerational setting described in 2 Timothy 2:1-2, “You therefore my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 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” (NASB).

The central proposition of the text revolves around two responsibilities – to grow strong in grace and to teach others (the principle of growing in grace and knowledge, 2 Peter 3:18). Though others falter and fail, more is expected of Timothy (“You” is in the emphatic position). Timothy is to be different from the defectors (2 Tim. 3:10, 14; 4:5). Timothy has to “be strong.” Since it is in the present tense, the command is best translated, “keep on being empowered.” He is to responsibly draw upon a divinely-provided resource. God does the empowering; we just submit and receive His power. The preposition “in” may best be taken as by means of. Christ is the source of that power and grace is the means. It has to be continual and uninterrupted. If the flow of power stops, nothing works (like electricity). What a solemn reminder that only God’s grace will enable us to fulfill our ministry.

Growing strong in grace is for a definite purpose, to faithfully pass on to the next generation what Timothy had learned through years of tutelage. It is a ministry of spiritual reproduction. The emphasis is on the transmission of truth more than its preservation. It is preserved through transmission. Today many of us are zealous in guarding and defending the truth, but seldom think about its faithful transmission to the next generation. It is to be a succession of apostolic doctrine found in the New Testament. Spiritual leaders, empowered by God’s grace are to equip men to carry on the ministry in the next generation. What an awesome leadership responsibility!

“What you have heard from me” implies years of close association, discipleship and mentoring which was intentional and goal-oriented. Timothy was Paul’s “son” (literally child, which implies a very endearing relationship which is crucial to mentoring). “Entrust” carries the idea of placing something valuable in another’s trust for safekeeping. The treasure with which Timothy had been entrusted was to be entrusted by him to others. It was not simply sharing the truth or giving the truth, but it was to commit the truth to deposit for safe-keeping. Timothy was to be fully aware that the truth entrusted to him was important. As a steward he was to be faithful, responsible, and accountable (1 Cor. 4:1-2). The truth was also attested and confirmed by “many witnesses.” Paul’s teaching was supported by the confirming testimony of other reliable teachers of sound doctrine (“supported by many witnesses,” A.T. Robertson). This may also be a reference to the public and open nature of Paul’s instruction, in contrast to the false teachers’ secret and esoteric teachings of his day.

“Faithful” implies trustworthiness. Men whose character reflects the faithfulness of God’s own Word which they are going to teach. “Able” means that which is sufficient, qualified, or capable. It may be translated as “competent” (NET Bible). Paul was directing Timothy to identify a specific group of men who were spiritually devout and faithful, also gifted in teaching (1 Tim.3:2; Titus 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:24), spiritual leaders with “integrity of heart and skillfulness of hands” (Psa.78:72). Not all faithful men are gifted or able to teach. Timothy was to keep an eye on such people, teach and equip them to be able to pass this message of truth to others. These men must be prequalified by proven spiritual character and ability. For the health of our assemblies we cannot minimize the importance of this vital truth in relation to equipping leaders.

In a wider sense, every believer has a discipleship responsibility. Equipping believers to transfer the faith to others is an integral part of that discipleship. However, it has general and specific dimensions. Though teachers are to teach, not all teaching is to equip other teachers or leaders. Here Paul is not suggesting a general training program for all. Instead it is the specific dimension that is emphasized here and the teaching ministry in this context is very selective. Paul is talking about the careful, responsible, systematic equipping of shepherding leaders who will teach and disciple others in the fullness of God’s Word for spiritual leadership. Paul’s vision is for equipped leaders who are to be spiritual reproducers of faithful and able men equipped to teach others. The thrust of Paul’s instruction here is on intensified equipping of church leaders. If the church is to be strong, its leaders must be strong.

Paul envisions generations of godly leaders throughout church history, the transmission of truth taking place in each generation – Paul, Timothy, faithful men, others, and so on.

Points to Ponder

Teachers and shepherds have a special responsibility to faithfully teach the truth to competent people who can faithfully teach and lead in their generation. Let us passionately follow this biblical vision for leadership development.

The Lord’s will and instruction to ensure a succession of competent teachers in the church is emphatically presented by Paul. Let us not totally out-source the equipping program to institutions. While these institutions may serve a purpose on a broader level, the New Testament teaches that it must be fulfilled by local churches and its leaders.

The instruction and guidelines here presuppose competency, giftedness and quality as far as the teaching ministry of the church is concerned. This is what our assemblies need today. Let us not make compromises on this. This is an urgent need of the hour. May the Holy Spirit guide us toward this goal.

18
Jan
2019
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Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Saved to the Uttermost: An Interview with Ralph Monahan

Recently, I sat down with Ralph Monahan who in August, 2018 celebrated his 98th birthday. He is one of the remaining number of veterans quickly vanishing from the scene who faithfully served their country in the Armed Forces during World War II. This is the sum and substance of my interview with him as he described the hand of the Lord in his life and God’s faithfulness to Him during that time and afterwards.
– Mark Kolchin

Q. Ralph, tell me a little of your background – where you grew up and how you came to know the Lord?
A. I grew up in Jersey City, NJ and attended the Dwight Street meeting where I came to know the Lord at the early age of ten through a dedicated Sunday School teacher.

Q. You told me after your childhood years you served in the military. What age were you when you went into the Armed Services and in what branch did you serve?
A. I went into the service around age 20 and decided to serve in the Air Force. I had just been married and was working at the time for Pan American Airways when I was drafted almost immediately after the draft began.

Q. What were your duties in the service?
A. I served as a tail gunner. That is the person who fires the gun through an opening in the back of the plane.

Q. During your time of Air Force, did you ever sense the presence of the Lord in your life in a special way?
A. Yes, I sensed the Lord working in my life many times. The local chaplain was a spiritual help to me and some of my fellow soldiers were believers and we would encourage each other. It is always good for fellow believers to help each other in the Lord, especially in the military.

Q. What is the most memorable event during your time in the Armed Forces?
A. It came not long after I went in. During a training flight in a B-27, one of the engines caught fire at 10,000 feet. Our pilot told us to “stay with it,” meaning not to parachute and that he was going to land the plane.

Q. That must have been frightening at the time. What happened next?
A. The pilot did quickly bring the plane down, but when he landed, one of the engines dropped off when it made contact with the ground, immediately jerking the plane to one side. The window was sucked out and I went with it, causing me to come tumbling down the tarmac at 120 mph.

Q. Do you remember any of that?
A. No, I don’t. My fellow service men who witnessed the event, at first thought they saw the engine going down the pavement, but quickly realized that it was me!

Q. So, you would say that the most memorable event, you cannot remember! What do you remember after this?
A. I was told later that I was in a coma for more than three weeks. When I came out of it, I remained in the hospital for almost three months. As I got stronger, I served as a volunteer in the hospital until I was released.

Q. What happened when you returned to reunite with your fellow servicemen?
A. I didn’t. While I was in the hospital my unit went out on a bombing mission – and never returned. Because I was medically-restricted, I could not be released, otherwise I would have been with them and might not have returned either. The Lord spared my life again.

Q. Wow, that is a very clear testimony of the Lord’s hand in your life. What happened after your discharge from the service?
A. Afterwards, I returned to civilian life and went back to my job as a mechanic with Pan American Airways. Funny, I actually worked on the same type of aircraft that I trained on. My wife Marie and I moved to East Meadows, NY where we raised our family of four. We attended and were actively involved with the assembly at Freeport, NY on Long Island. After many years there, we then moved to the senior living community where I have now lived for almost 23 years. Marie went to be with the Lord about seventeen years ago. Through it all I can truly say that the Lord has been faithful to me.

Even though health-restrictions now prevent him from attending his fellowship, Ralph is still active in his senior living community. He is a shining example of the company of the faithful – the “greatest generation”, a willing servant in the house of the Lord, working for His Saviour wherever and whenever he has the opportunity.

“…for those who honor Me, I will honor” 1 Sam. 2:30

18
Jan
2019
0

Foundations of the Faith: The Lord’s Supper

Its Importance

The importance of the Lord’s Supper is established by the very fact that it was instituted by the Lord Himself. It was His personal request that we remember Him in this way. It is also the only New Testament church ordinance reaffirmed in Scripture by a glorified Lord (1 Cor. 11:23). Paul told the Corinthian saints that he received revelation from the Lord concerning the Lord’s Supper, and that he had delivered it unto them. This was not just a tradition of the early church. It was taught by the apostle and is now part of inspired Scripture. Sadly, down through the years these simple instructions have not been carried out, or have been perverted in some way.

Its Purpose

The Lord’s Supper is to be a time of “remembering the Lord,” and as such it is a time of worship. While certain spiritual activities are appropriate at other times, they are not fitting as we gather to remember the Lord. We do not gather to hear one teach or preach the Word. Neither is it a time to evangelize the lost, although any present who may be lost may never hear a better gospel message than that declared by the redeemed in their worship. Lastly, we do not gather to perform or to be entertained.

All that is done is to focus our attention upon the Lord and to exalt Him. He is to have the preeminent place in the gathering (Col. 1:18). If a portion of Scripture is read, it is to direct our hearts and minds towards the Person and work of Christ. Hymns and audible worship should likewise exalt the Lord. While the men are to lead in public worship, all believers, men and women alike, are spiritual priests and should be worshipping (1 Pet. 2:5). Each heart is to be occupied with Christ and, when this is so, much worship will ascend to Him.

In his book, “Worship—The Christian’s Highest Occupation,” brother A.P. Gibbs makes an important distinction between prayer, thanksgiving, and worship. It is worth repeating for our consideration. Prayer is our occupation with our needs. Thanksgiving is our occupation with our blessings. Worship is our occupation with the Lord Himself.

Perhaps it would help if we considered the question asked in the Song of Solomon of the bride who was seeking her beloved. “What is thy beloved more than another beloved?” (Song. 5:10). She did not respond with a list of her needs, or even thanksgiving for her blessings, but described all the qualities that made him different from others. This should be our objective as we gather to remember the Lord. We too should express the matchless glories and beauties of our Lord which set Him apart from all others. That is not to say we are not thankful. Thankfulness is a proper expression.

Its Participants

The word “remember” speaks of a fond remembrance. One must obviously know the Lord if he is to have a fond remembrance of Him. It has been well said, “As a Jew, Judas had a right to celebrate the Passover, but not being a saint, he had no such right to participate in the Lord’s supper.” Peter said, “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious.” (1 Pet. 2:7). While no Christian who is walking properly is to be denied the privilege of remembering the Lord, the Lord’s Supper is not a public gathering to which all are invited. As on the night on which it was instituted, it is those who know Him personally as Saviour who are to gather and unite their hearts in worship.

Its Solemnity

The teaching on the Lord’s Supper found in 1 Corinthians 11 is in the midst of a passage in which Paul is rebuking them for their conduct and reminding them of the seriousness of participating in this remembrance feast. Their conduct was so shameful that they came under governmental judgment (1 Cor. 11:30). If there is one thing we should come away with from this portion of Scripture, it is that participating in the Lord’s Supper is a privilege which carries with it a great responsibility. The error in Corinth was that they had no real recognition of the spiritual significance of this divinely instituted ordinance. They took it lightly and were very casual about it. Sadly, many today do very much the same thing.

Its Simplicity

When the Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper He used simple emblems, bread and the fruit of the vine, as reminders of Himself and His sacrificial work on the cross. There was a simplicity about this remembrance feast which many today have replaced with ornate religious ceremony. Sadly, some have gone to the point of programming the Lord’s Supper. Due to the lack of response from cold hearts, they predetermine the order of the gathering. Who will pray and what hymns will be sung are determined beforehand. This of course removes the opportunity for spontaneous worship of hearts occupied with Christ. The simplicity of the gathering and the leading of the Holy Spirit have been replaced with the complexity and order of man.

A Living Lord

While the emblems remind us of a dying Saviour, we must keep in mind that we worship a living Lord. This is seen by the fact that as we partake of the bread and cup we proclaim the Lord’s death “till He come” (1 Cor. 11:26).

Its Fruit

Service is to worship what works are to faith. The Lord wants our hearts first (2 Cor. 8:5; Rev. 2:4). When the Lord has the chief place in our hearts, we are prepared to yield ourselves to Him as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). May we be found to be faithful worshipers, and may our worship lead to faithful service for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. “This do in remembrance of ME.”

Excerpted from “Brief thoughts on the Lord’s Supper” which is available free of charge from Spread the Word, 3237 Faire Wynd Place, Dover, PA 17315

18
Jan
2019
0

Data Explosion: And A 2,500 Year Old Prophecy

On October 15th of this past year, Paul Allen1 finally succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As co-founder of Microsoft, Allen was a visionary. Much of the technological world around us bears his imprint.

“Mr. Allen was a force at Microsoft, along with its co-founder, Bill Gates, as the personal computer was moving from a hobbyist curiosity to a mainstream technology, used by both businesses and consumers.”2

Men like Paul Allen, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are the latest in a series of innovators who impacted the world. Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”3 The same could be said of Allen. His success would not have been possible without the work of people like John Atanasoff, who invented the world’s first electronic digital computer in 19394, or Charles Babbage, who first conceptualized mechanical computer programming in 1812.5

There’s no doubt computers have dramatically altered our lives. You name any field of human endeavor, and you’ll find computers are helping drive advancement. It’s amazing how recently this impact has occurred.

Gordon Moore, a legendary innovator in his own right, anticipated a rapid development and explosion of knowledge. As co-founder of Intel, it was his company that invented the world’s first microprocessor.6 He saw as far back as 1965, a world dominated by mobile phones, personal computers in every home, and cars that would eventually drive themselves.7 He is also famous for coming up with the maxim that now bears his name: “The number of transistors on a chip will double approximately every two years.”8

So, what’s the big deal? Unless you’re a computer geek, the ramification may not be readily apparent. In short, Moore was saying mankind’s ability to produce data would double every 24 months for the foreseeable future. To futurists, those who try to anticipate where technology is heading, this development would fuel progress. Buckminster Fuller, a famed inventor in the last century, put forth the idea the world’s knowledge would eventually grow exponentially.9 The computer age is bringing this about. Today, the world’s collective knowledge doubles in a matter of mere months, not centuries.10

The last several decades have demonstrated this! Here is a brief timeline11 of some major advances in computer processing history:

1943 – British Intelligence commissions builds “Colossus.” This computer’s purpose is to break the Enigma ciphers used by the German Navy during WWII. It performs 5,000 calculations/second.
1964 – Seymour Cray engineers arguably the world’s first supercomputer. It performs 3 million calculations/second.
1976 – The Cray I Supercomputer goes online at Los Alamos National Laboratory. At 160 million calculations/second, it breaks all records.
1990 – Supercomputers cross the billion calculation/second threshold.
1997 – IBM develops “Deep Blue.” It famously plays the world’s reigning chess champion, Gary Kasparov, in a series of matches. Eventually, the computer beats him.12 Deep Blue could perform 1 teraflop (i.e., 1 trillion calculations/second).
2004 – Named in honor of the Space Shuttle Crew that had been lost the previous year, NASA rolls out “Columbia.” This supercomputer performs 50 teraflops (i.e., 50 trillion calculations/second).13
2009 – A Japanese firm named Riken rolls out a machine called the MD Grape-3. This is the first machine known to have crossed the quadrillion calculations/second threshold. If you’ll bear with me for one more computer term, they call that a petaflop. This computer was particularly engineered to help with medical and biological research.14

We could go on and on with this list. Do a Google search on the world’s fastest supercomputers today. You’ll find a whole slew of quicker machines have been deployed that dwarf the speed of any computers on the above list.15

What does all of this have to do with Bible prophecy? Let’s take in the last chapter of Daniel. This was written more than 2,500 years ago:

“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12:4)

The period of time described has to do with the end of the age – namely, what Scripture calls the Great Tribulation.

Associated with the “time of the end” are two very interesting expressions:

(1) “many shall run to and fro”
(2) “knowledge shall increase.”

The Hebrew words at play here are fascinating:

The “time of the end” comes from the Hebrew word “qets” or קֵץ and means the “end of time” or even “end of space.” This is a reference to the end of the age.

The expression “shall run to and fro” comes from the Hebrew “shuwt” or שׁוּט. This means “to go and rove about, and to do so quickly or eagerly.”

The Hebrew word used for “knowledge” is “da’ath” or דַּעַת. It means “knowledge, skill, discernment, or understanding.”

Finally, and perhaps most interesting of all, the Hebrew word for “increase” is “rabah” or רָבָה. It means to “become many, to multiply, to greatly increase.”

“Rabah” shows up in Genesis 7:17 describing the rise in floodwaters covering earth. Earlier in Genesis 1:22 is another enticing use of “rabah”. On the 5th Day of Creation Week, after making the birds and sea creatures, God blessed them saying, “Be fruitful and multiply (i.e., rabah or increase).” In both passages, “rabah” is describing exponential growth!

In light of this, there is tremendous conjecture as to what this verse really predicts. Two schools of thought have arisen:

View 1 – Searching the Scriptures and grasping their meaning:

Some believe at the end time there will be a search as never before to understand Bible prophecy. People will go “to and fro” examining the Scriptures in an effort to “increase knowledge” about future things. As a result, a grasp of eschatology (i.e., understanding end times), will be had like never before.

Others take this approach further. What’s in view is not just a better understanding of prophecy, but of Scripture on the whole. As we draw closer to the Lord’s return, the Church would better understand the entirety of God’s Word.

View 2 – Exponential increase in knowledge and a tremendous upswing in modes and speed of transportation:

Some believe these verses may also hint at the technological explosion we now see taking place in the world. It’s not just an understanding of the Bible or prophecy – but all the sciences and world’s knowledge would grow. And it would do so exponentially.

Coupled with this would be an incredible advancement in world transportation. The “going to and fro” could be referring to rapid expansion in transportation capabilities.

This brings us full circle back to Allen, Atanasoff, Babbage, and Moore. The last hundred years has seen exponential increase in knowledge. None of this was possible prior to the computer age. And we all know what has happened in the transportation industry over the past century. The Wright Brothers flight was little over 115 years ago – yet, look where we are today!

A final thought to leave you with…

Do you realize just how many prophecies in the Bible have a technological component to them? There are many that could not have seen their fulfillment prior to this generation and the existence of technology we only now see resident in the world.

Endnotes:
1. www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/obituaries/paul-allen-dead.html
2. ibid
3. www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/movingwords/shortlist/newton.shtml
4. www.britannica.com/biography/John-V-Atanasoff
5. www.charlesbabbage.net
6. inventors.about.com/od/mstartinventions/a/microprocessor.htm
7. news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7080646.stm
8. www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/silicon-innovations/moores-law-embedded-technology.html
9. www.industrytap.com/knowledge-doubling-every-12-months-soon-to-be-every-12-hours/3950
10. ibid
11. For a more thorough timeline, see www.computerhistory.org/timeline/?category=cmptr
12. www.pcworld.com/article/219577/ibm_watsons_ancestors_a_look_at_supercomputers_of_the_past.html
13. ibid
14. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0927545204800832
15. www.top500.org/lists/2018/11/
16. www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H7093&t=NKJV
17. www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H7751&t=NKJV
18. www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H1847&t=NKJV
19. www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H7235&t=NKJV
20. Walvoord, John F. Daniel – The Key to Prophetic Revelation; Moody Press, Chicago, 1971 – pages 291 – 292
21. www.nps.gov/wrbr/index.htm

18
Jan
2019
0

Report: 2018 Workers & Elders Conference

“What Difference Does the Fear of the Lord Make?”

“The fear of the Lord” is a truth which is often missing in action today. In our local churches, we are often characterized by independence from God rather than dependence upon Him. In short, we notice this both individually and corporately.

This explains the rationale for October’s Worker’s and Elders Conference, titled: “What difference does the fear of the Lord make?” Each day, George Farber began with a Bible study from the life of Job as we considered, “Growing trust in the fear of the Lord.” It was a tremendous way to start each day learning the definition, benefits and hindrances to the fear of the Lord from this patriarch’s footprints.

Seven additional messages unfolded throughout the week as we continued to unpack the topic by examining Old Testament saints. Scott DeGroff brought us Abraham, as we observed a radical faith that resulted in a radical sacrifice, exemplifying the path of one who fears the Lord. Next, Bob Brown examined how the fear of the Lord kept Moses’ feet to the fire of leadership when tested by Israel’s sheep-like waywardness. His godly character had been forged on the anvil of God-fearing midwives. Examples like these cultivated impeccable godly character in him which brought forth courageous godly decisions absent of excuses to quit.

Our attentions then shifted to the father son duo of Jacob and Joseph. Jacob illuminated a fear of the Lord in grace and holiness. Grace in the tender protection the Lord afforded him until the fateful wrestling match alone with God. John Heller showed how the Lord was willing to endlessly wrestle in order to extract from Jacob his ownership of his true character. It is here, then, that the path to holiness may begin. Rob Brennan then highlighted Joseph, by showing how God provided for a man who clung to the fear of the Lord throughout his entire life. No matter the cruel hatred, the false accusations, or the opportunity for self-promotion or revenge, his fear of God governed his vision and understanding of God’s plan.

Next was an exploration into the life of Hannah. Her demeanor, as Bob Upton portrayed, unveiled how holy reverence and prayer are fitting by-products of the fear of the Lord. She exhibited unique prayer initiated from problems which lead to God’s provision and Hannah’s subsequent praise. This was followed by Bob Spender’s examination of King David who wrote prolifically on the fear of the Lord. Our study revealed his joyful triumph in the midst of terrifying circumstances. Victorious was his foundational faith which was attached to accountability and hope in God. Finally, we finished the plenary sessions with Oli Jacobsen’s scrutiny of Nehemiah’s fear of the Lord and his resultant perseverance in the face of his physical, social and spiritual challenges.

Seminars provided forums for practical interchange on such topics as challenges for small assemblies (Ed Anthony), hospitality and visitation (Joe Hawkinson), teaching the whole council of God (Phil Boom), and deacon ministry (Dennis Anderson). Other seminars focused on thinking outside of our proverbial boxes with subjects such as a love that steps out of its comfort zone (Maria Forcucci, ladies only) and a love that serves people of Romans chapter one (Mike Thomas). These seminars were constructed to foster discussion, thus allowing for healthy classroom dialogue. It was enlightening to hear the stories of veteran servants.

The fellowship is perhaps the most vivid portrait of the conference. Saints who could not remember the last time they had seen each other were able to share memories over a meal. Elders who needed encouragement were able to find such support. Shepherds-in-training likewise gleaned insight and example from those who have gone before. Sisters were awarded time with other sisters laboring in similar fields as their own. Additionally, during the evening sessions, spontaneous reports were given on the work the Lord is doing in other places. Lastly, we had an assortment of displays that featured ministries the Lord is using in our midst.

In the end, we felt as if we understood more precisely the meaning of the “fear of the Lord.” We saw in the mirror that which needed adjustment or downright change. The only matter remaining now is to practically live out what the Spirit of God has begun in us.

Brothers and sisters found their mutual fellowship sweeter than honey. Indeed, if this is what you desire, might I suggest planning now to visit next year’s Workers and Elders Conference (www.workerselders.org) from October 15-17, 2019. You do not have to be a traditional full-time worker or elder to attend. If you are serious about God’s work, then you are very much welcome. Please also bring with you those of like-minded heart. It is also a great opportunity for your sober-minded young people to interact with those saints who wear well the tethered robe of experience. Hope to see you at Waterbury Christian Fellowship (Waterbury, CT) next year!

18
Jan
2019
0

Issues & Answers: What is meant by the phrase “Christ emptied Himself” in Philippians 2:7?

This Christmas we have contemplated again the eternal Son’s incarnation. But what did it mean for the transcendent One to draw near? In Philippians 2:7 we read that He “made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant.” The word translated “no reputation” literally means “to empty or abase.”1 In becoming a servant, the Son humbled Himself.

Clearly this does not mean that He stripped Himself of His divine attributes. In the previous verse we read, “who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” The word “being” indicates that He continued to be fully God in time as He always was in eternity. For God’s attributes include His immutability: “For I am the LORD, I change not.”2 The word “form” means to outwardly express one’s inward nature.3 Therefore giving expression to the essence of Deity implies the possession of Deity.4 His incarnation was not a subtraction but rather the adding of a human body with a human nature. A song writer once wrote, “a sign shall be given, a virgin will conceive, a human baby bearing undiminished deity.” On earth Christ continued to fully possess and communicate His divine nature. In the gospels we see Him demonstrating His omniscience5 and omnipotence.6 On numerous occasions He would even override the properties of His Own creation.7 Even while on earth He continued to be the omnipresent God.8

Instead, Christ’s emptying is illustrated in the Old Testament drink offering which was to be entirely poured out to God. The word translated “robbery” can mean either to unlawfully grab something, or to hold onto an already held possession at all costs.9 Considering the context of humility and submission in Philippians 2, it is best to understand it in the latter sense10 – that Christ did not consider His “positional equality” with God something to tightly grasp. It was not a treasure to be held fast (Gifford). As to His person He remained equal to God. As to His position He descended to a lower place. He was willing to temporarily relinquish His position by becoming a servant. God’s faithful Servant emptied Himself of self.11 Focusing solely on doing God’s will, He completely poured out His life to Him.12

Just as He temporarily laid aside His outer garments to take a towel and wash His disciples’ feet13, so in His incarnation He temporarily took the form of a bondservant. Waiving His right to manifest His majesty, He veiled it in human flesh, temporarily laying aside His outer glory. He lovingly relinquished the “legitimate and natural desire for deity to be glorified.” An incalculable gulf existed between heaven’s glory and His earthly sojourn. Though still possessing the prerogatives of deity, He restrained Himself, only exercising His divine power when it was His Father’s will. He utilized it only to serve others, never for His own comfort. He temporarily gave up heavenly joys for normal human conditions like hunger and fatigue. He temporarily gave up the renown of heaven for the shame of the cross. Truly He made Himself of no reputation.

However, after His death, resurrection and ascension, the Father returned Him His glory.14 He also seated Him at His right hand, giving Him the name above all names.15 Someday Christ will return to earth – this time to rule. At that time His name will be known and honored over the whole earth.

Endnotes:
1. Strong’s Comprehensive Concordance of the Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1986)
2. Malachi 3:6
3. Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), vol. II, p. 62
4. Ibid., vol. II, p. 63
5. Matthew 12:25; 22:18; John. 1:48; 2:4; 13:1, 11
6. Matthew. 4:23-24; Mark. 5:25-34; Luke. 4:30; John. 18:6
7. Matthew. 17:27; Mark. 4:39; John. 6:11-13, 19
8. John 3:13
9. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. Publishers, 1985)
10. Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), vol. II, p. 64
11. Isaiah 42:1; Luke 22:42
12. Isaiah 53:12; Heb. 10:7
13. John 13:3-12
14. Luke 24:46; John 17:5
15. Psalms 110:1; Ephesians 1:20-22; Philippians 2:9-11

If you have a question for this column please submit it to gferrier@cornerstonemagazine.org.

27
Nov
2018
0

EDITORIAL: Thanksgiving – Thanks Living

There is no question in my thinking that our pilgrim forefathers had Deut. 26 in mind when they established the first Thanksgiving in our country centuries ago. The law of the offering of the first fruits was God’s instruction to Israel to acknowledge His abundant provision once they entered Canaan, the Land of Promise. It was also designed to highlight His grace and mercy in delivering them from their bondage in Egypt and leading them to that place that flowed with milk and honey. It was the chronicle of God’s mighty power toward them as a nation and His continual goodness and grace upon them afterwards. Similarly, despite the initial hardship the pilgrims experienced in coming to the New World and their arduous first year here, they also declared that same goodness of God on their behalf in more ways than one – just as Israel did in the past and as we should do today.

The details of this law were simple. Upon entering the land, the grateful offerer was to take the first fruits of their produce and place them in a basket, setting it before the priest as an act of worship, v. 2. What followed was a firm declaration that God had indeed kept His word and brought the nation into their inheritance, v. 3. The priest would then take the basket from his hand and offer it to the LORD, v. 4. The testimony was that as a nation they were ready to perish (v. 5), describing the way they were mistreated in the world and afflicted and how in the midst of this horrible misery, the cry went up to the Lord who heard their plea. With a mighty hand and outstretched arm, He greatly delivered them from their bondage in Egypt, as recorded in Exodus 2.

As believers, we too were on the brink of perishing, but were delivered from “so great a death” (2 Cor. 1:10). But God in mercy, raised us up and made us to sit together in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). We too, have obtained an inheritance (Eph. 1:11) as they did. Like Mephibosheth, we have been made to sit at the king’s table, despite our weakness and past infirmities (2 Sam. 9). Indeed, God has kept His Word and as a certain songwriter has penned it: “My Redeemer is faithful and true, everything that He said, He will do; every morning His mercies are new; my Redeemer is faithful and true”. Like that one leper who came back to the Lord, falling on his face and giving Him thanks, Luke 17:16, we too need to come back to the Lord regularly and give Him thanks for what He has done when we were helpless and hopeless. We declare with the same conviction as David in Psalm 40:1-3: “He heard my cry and brought me out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay and set my feet upon a Rock and established my goings. He put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God”. It is our privilege to express with grateful hearts, the work of redemption in our hearts each Lord’s Day as we thus remember Him. We are to bring our “baskets” full – whatever size they be – to our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus, who offers it up and adds “His sweet perfume” before our Father in Heaven. As this is done, we are to give thanks to the Father who has “made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light because He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:12-13). Praise His name.

But it does not stop there. As with Israel long ago, our thankfulness for our spiritual and temporal provision should not be confined to ourselves, but shared with others in practical ways. Rejoicing in every good thing that the Lord, the grateful offerer was to share what he possessed with others, the “stranger, the fatherless, the widow… they they may eat within your gates and be filled” (v. 12). The essence of true thankfulness is sharing with others what we have received and enjoy. The four lepers in 2 Kings 7 were smitten in their hearts when they realized that what they possessed, they were actually keeping to themselves. They acknowledged their wrong and determined among themselves that they needed to go and tell the king’s household and share with others what they had. We should do this with the Gospel, telling others of the Gospel of God’s free grace in Christ, whenever we have the opportunity to share the hope that lies within us, (1 Peter 3:15). We should also share of our material possessions as a tangible means to back up our words and give them weight.

At this time of year, let’s look for opportunities to share with others, both in word and deed how the Lord has blessed us and provided for our all our needs in Christ.

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Heb. 13:15–16)