20
Sep
2018
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EDITORIAL: Starting Well, Finishing Well

“And behold I am coming quickly, and my reward is with Me to give to every one according to his work.”
Revelations 20:11

I remember as a young boy, the thrill I had every September as I looked forward to the approaching school year. It was not that I despised the summer, it was my favorite time of the year and still is. But knowing that it was coming to an end, my focus shifted from fun and games to an inevitable reality – school. It was exciting indeed; there were new clothes to buy, new shoes and sneakers to get. There were also new school supplies that I just had to have, thanks to the skillful marketing ploys of cunning merchandizers. Even more was the anticipation of the personal letter that would arrive in the mail at the end of August, informing me of where I was to report on the first day of class. Yes, there was real excitement in the air as I geared up for a new school year! I was “raring to go” and determined to get off to a great start.

But it was not too long however before all of that disappeared, along with my enthusiasm. The regular discipline of waking up early each day to catch the bus, the long days of classroom teaching and not quite understanding what my teacher was saying, made my experience laborious to say the least, not to mention the homework (though I will!). Yes, the homework – oh, the homework. The things we had to put aside… because of homework, every student’s nightmare! Still, I knew deep down that if I applied myself, it would eventually pay off.

Lessons for Us

Thinking this through, I wonder if there are not some lessons in this in our walk with Christ. When Paul wrote to the Galatians he reminded them that at the beginning of their Christian lives they ran well, commenting, “who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth” (Gal. 5:7). Apparently, at the start they were passionate in their pursuit to do well, like I was at the beginning of each school year. The “fun and games” were over (1 Pet. 4:3) and now they had to buckle down to begin learning certain disciplines in the school of God. They had indeed run well but somewhere along the line they veered off course and were persuaded to go down a different path. They came under the influence of false teachers who cooled their godly ambition and zeal, and affected their first love. It is can happen to any of us, even as it did for the assembly at Ephesus (Rev. 2:4). The Scriptures identify a number of those who ran well in the beginning of the Christian race (Heb. 12:1), but for one reason or another turned off the path of devotion for Christ, and either slowed down or stopped in their forward progress for Him. Demas is a prime example (2 Tim. 4:10) as were Hymenaeus and Philetus who obviously did not understand what the Teacher was saying (2 Tim. 2:18).

Divine Strategy for Diligent Service

To counter the tendency in our hearts to coast in our spiritual lives, God has provided tremendous examples of diligence and dedication for our consideration. Foremost was the Lord Jesus, who “for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross, despised the shame and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12: 1-2). He knew the value of the eternal work He came to do, which was the reason for His cry in Gethsemane, “not my will, but thine be done” (Lk. 22:42). It was perseverance in the purest form. As the hymn says, “My Example is He!”. But there are others also who applied themselves because they knew and looked for the great recompense of reward. There was Caleb who cried out “Give me this mountain” (Josh. 14:12); Othniel, who took the city of Kirjath-Sepher and won Caleb’s daughter in marriage. And then there were David’s mighty men, a collection of would be losers who started out distressed, in debt and discontented (1 Sam. 22:1), but later became devoted to their leader, David. Their grand achievements have been recorded for us in God’s Holy Word as a testimony of their love and loyalty to the one who became captain over them (1 Sam. 22:2; 2 Sam. 23). It should inspire us to be devoted to our Leader and the Captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10). Time would fail us as it did for the writer of Hebrews to enumerate all that was accomplished by the great heroes of the faith whose names and deeds are forever listed in God’s hall of fame chapter. They embraced the promises and looked ahead to the prize that awaited them with a single focus of starting and finishing well, diligent in learning, and doing their homework in the school of God.

Crowns for the Christian

In Nehemiah 3, one of the last gates to be repaired was the Ham Miphkad gate (v. 31). It was the gate through which those returning from battle were reviewed and rewarded for achievements on the battlefield. They went out through this gate to head into battle and came back to be rewarded. What a picture that is for us! Going out as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, to earnestly contend for the faith and then to come back to our reward. It is just as the Lord Jesus said, “Behold, I come quickly and my reward is with Me” (Rev. 22:11), and also alluded to in Isaiah 40:10. What shape do those rewards come to us if we earn them? Among other things, they come in the form of crowns. These crowns are: the incorruptible crown for a disciplined life (1 Cor. 9:24-27); the crown of life for enduring under trial and for martyrdom (Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10); the crown of rejoicing for winning souls (1 Thess. 2:19-20); the crown of righteousness for godly living in the light of the Lord’s imminent return (2 Tim. 4:8); and the crown of glory for helping others live a fruitful life (1 Pet. 5:4). These are divine incentives to press on to the prize set before us and to persevere until our graduation or the Lord’s return, when honors are bestowed at the judgment seat of Christ.

Like it is for many students, starting well is great. But doing well and finishing well is just as important. Don’t forget to keep your eyes on the prize (Phil. 3:14)!

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” 1 Corinthians 15:58

20
Sep
2018
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Will The Real Missionary Please Stand Up?

At the start of a regional Missionary Study Class, I asked for all missionaries present to show their hands. There were a few who did. I chose to begin with this exercise to set the stage for re-defining the term “missionary” from a biblical perspective.

What is a Missionary?

Like other theological terms, the word “missionary” is not found in the Bible (AV). However, the work is well defined. There are four references using four different Greek words that give us the origin of this word. First, early New Testament missionaries were sent forth (apostello), meaning set apart to be sent away on a mission (Mt. 10:5, 16). Second, Christ’s apostles (apostolos) were messengers sent forth as a delegate, or ambassador of the Gospel (Acts 1:2). Third, those sent out from Antioch to the Gentile world, were sent away (apoluo) meaning to fully free or release for the work (Acts 13:3). Finally, these were witnesses (martus), from which we receive the English word “martyr.” (Acts 1:8)

A missionary then is a delegated ambassador, who is released, set free, and empowered and directed by the Holy Spirit to carry Christ’s gospel to various locations, willing even to face martyrdom as a witness for the Lord.

Two Misconceptions about Missionaries

We often restrict the term to one who leaves their native land to serve as Christ’s witness on a foreign field. It should be noted that Christ identified our field of service in Acts 1:8 as Jerusalem (our home town or city), Judaea (our own state, region or district), Samaria (our own country), and finally, unto the uttermost part of the earth. Thus, three quarters of this strategic commission is within our own country.

We also tend to define a missionary as one who leaves secular employment and lives totally by faith, dependent upon the Lord for one’s financial needs. However, in the New Testament God’s servants from time to time worked in secular jobs, so as to not be an added burden on new believers. This was true of the apostle Paul (I Thess. 2:9) and Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:1-4), who were tentmakers. From these references we use the term “tentmaking” to describe those who serve the Lord while continuing in secular work.

Who Then are Missionaries?

Biblically, all believers should be missionaries for our Lord Jesus Christ. We have missionaries on the “homeland” and on the “foreign field.” We have missionaries whose support is provided by the free will offerings of the Lord’s people, and we have missionaries who are self-supported on either a full or part time basis. In each case, there must be a complete dependence on the Lord to meet their financial needs, be it from an employer or the saints. Ultimately, all of our resources come from God, to be used for His eternal glory. We should all be witnesses, ambassadors, and commended servants of the Lord, to bring the gospel to the lost regardless of our field of service or capacity of work.

An Old Testament Analogy

David, anointed by the Lord to take the throne of Israel, established a principle which can shed some light on distinctions of service (1 Sam. 25:13; 30:21-25). Of the 600 men that made up David’s militia, some went to the front lines of the battlefield, while others “abode with the stuff.” The fighting soldiers viewed themselves as more important than those who stayed behind in a supportive role and sought to deny their part in the spoils of war. David said, “Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD has given us…as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike.” This principle was then adopted as an ordinance for Israel.

Responsibilities of the Supportive Missionary

Not everyone is led to go to the foreign field. But the believers who stay home “with the stuff” have a vital role as a support missionary. What are the responsibilities of those who serve in Jerusalem, Judaea and Samaria to those who are serving in the uttermost part of the earth? They can pray (Acts 12:5, 11-12), give financially (Phil. 4:15-19), and provide practical support (2 Tim. 4:13). They can also stay informed (Acts 14:26-28), visit the field (2 Tim. 4:9-11), challenge others (Acts 11:20-26), and promote missions (Acts 13:2-3; 14:26-28; 15:40-41).

So, we could say some hear the call of God to go and serve, while others hear the call of God to stay and serve. The sending church and those sent would do well to give full attention to the pattern found in the Antioch model (Acts 13-14).

Practical Steps to Prepare for Missionary Service

Some years ago, CMML (Christian Missions in Many Lands) presented a workshop suggesting practical steps to prepare for missionary work: ground yourself in the Scriptures (Col. 2:7-8); be able to make a clear presentation of the gospel, such as the Roman’s Road (Rom. 10:8-15); recognize and demonstrate your spiritual gifts (I Tim. 4:12-16); gain practical skills in secular employment (ex. time management, people skills, managing money); be in reasonably good physical and emotional health; develop hands-on skills useful within the third world; and develop a good foreign language aptitude.

One should also consider: praying over a world map; corresponding with missionaries; speaking with missionaries home on furlough; reading missionary biographies; discussing your burden with local church elders; attending the MOP (Missionary Orientation Program) by CMML; and visiting a foreign country on a short-term mission trip.

Closing Challenge

On March 10, 2003, Mr. R.E. Harlow, a week short of his 95th birthday, entered the glories of His Lord and Saviour, a missionary statesman of our generation. I had the privilege of visiting Mr. Harlow and his wife, Gertrude, six weeks before he died. Having spent many years in central Africa, the fruit of their service is still abundant. I have visited many book stores in Nairobi, Kenya and can report that the shelves are still well supplied with their helpful Swahili Christian literature. Their shoes are empty. Many other veterans of the mission field could be mentioned in similar terms. However, many veteran foreign missionaries are called of God to go beyond their home land. They have obeyed His call and God has blessed.  Space would not permit to list the names of God’s veteran “homeland” missionaries, called by Him to serve as it were in “Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.”  In their own towns, states and county, mighty powerful works for the Lord have been accomplished by those who “stayed with the stuff.” No matter where we serve, called by the Lord, at home or abroad, we are fulfilling the great commission.  Let us all embrace the role of a missionary where God has placed us and get busy in “His vineyard for His eternal glory.”

20
Sep
2018
0

Christ Our Forerunner

C.H. Macintosh said “There are two grand facts which characterize Christianity, and mark it off from all that had gone before; and these are, first, man glorified in heaven; and secondly, God dwelling in man on the earth.”

One result of Christ Glorified is the truth of the forerunner, a word found only once in scripture, and attributed to our Lord Jesus after His ascension:

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 6:19-20).

Ascending to heaven (Lk. 24:51; Acts. 1:9) He entered as our Forerunner. Doing so He prepared our way, awaits to welcome us, and asks that we bear witness to His glory.

The Way of the Glorified Man

The word translated “forerunner” was a military term used to describe a soldier, scout or spy who ran ahead before the regular forces followed. At the same time it was also used to describe a small boat that went ahead with an anchor when the ship could not get past the sand bar at low tide. Rowing past the sand bar, this small vessel would drop the anchor, securing the ship until the tide arose allowing the ship to follow. Christ, our Forerunner has carried our anchor – hope – and fastened it behind the veil. He is our certainty that we will someday follow Him.

Considering our Forerunner we see a significant difference between Him and the Old Testament priesthood. The O.T. High Priest could only represent the Israelites. On the Day of Atonement none could follow him behind the veil. Our great High Priest sits in heaven not only representing believers from all nations, but is also our Pioneer having blazed a trail for us. Today we follow by faith (Heb. 4:16), but someday we will follow Him into God’s presence.

The Lord told Peter “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” (Jn. 13:36). These words carried a double significance. Peter could not follow the Lord to the cross because the Lord alone must bear the world’s sins. But after the Lord’s ascension Peter would not only take up his cross in service to his Master (Mt. 16:24; Lk. 22:31-32) but would also glorify God on a cross, dying a martyr’s death (Jn. 21:18-19). Dying to self, we also have the wonderful privilege of daily taking up our cross and following Him (Lk. 9:23; Gal. 2:20).

However the deeper and fuller significance is found in the fact that He has now prepared the way for us to follow Him to heaven (Jn. 14:1-6). When the Lord told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them (Jn. 14:3), it was still future. This preparation began at Calvary and was completed forty days after His resurrection when He ascended to His Father. He has fully prepared the way by His presence before the throne of God. Being the first man to enter heaven, He is our Pioneer.

Upon death, the Old Testament saints’ spirits were transported to a place called Abraham’s Bosom (Lk. 16:22) or paradise (Lk. 23:43). But when Christ ascended to heaven in His glorified body He emptied paradise of these saints (Eph. 4:8) and their spirits followed Him into glory. Since that day, when each believer dies, their body is placed in the ground but their spirit enters the very presence of God (2 Cor. 5:8). Further at the rapture all believers will be glorified (1 Cor. 15:51-57; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 5:23; 1 Jn. 3:2).

By returning to His Father, Christ said that the Spirit would convict the world of righteousness (Jn. 16:8, 10). God used this event to powerfully demonstrate Christ’s unchanged intrinsic righteousness. The Lord touched a leper without becoming ceremonially unclean (Mt. 8:3) and on the cross our Substitute bore our sins without becoming sinful. He became a holy sin offering yet remained untouched by iniquity. He suffered the law’s curse without defiling Himself. He took away our sin yet there is still no sin in Him (1 Jn. 3:5). From eternity to the cross and back to heaven He is “Jesus Christ the Righteous” (1 Jn. 2:1).

Showing satisfaction in His perfect work the Father raised the Righteous One from the dead, and welcomed Him back into His presence, not only as the eternal Son but now also as the glorified Man.

The Welcome of the Glorified Man

What a day that must have been when heaven received our Lord Jesus (Acts. 3:21). We have sometimes sat transfixed or even participated in standing ovations for heroic people who have performed courageous feats. However we cannot even begin to imagine the loving reception Christ received from His Father (Ps. 110:1). This joyful occasion must have also included poignant worship from heaven’s hosts and would have been thrilling to witness and partake. Now we worship by faith but someday we will see Him and worship with the angels.

Welcomed back to heaven, our Forerunner is waiting to welcome us. Shortly before Calvary Christ prayed to His Father, desiring that we be with Him (Jn. 17:24). We find it both touching and comforting that Christ is looking forward to our arrival. A time of great joy awaits us, a time of great joy awaits Him (Jude 24). He expects and anticipates us. We expect and anticipate Him. Let us serve Him wholeheartedly so that day will not be tempered by the sadness of our infidelity and disobedience.

We get a glimpse of this in the life of Stephen. Just before the authorities stoned him, heaven’s curtains opened so he could see Christ standing at the right hand of God (Acts. 7:55) – approving his testimony, sympathizing with his pain, and eagerly awaiting his arrival.

There may have been times when you have not felt very welcome, sadly maybe even ostracized by other believers. Beloved, let us show impartiality (Jas. 2:1-9), forbearance (Eph. 4:2), and forgiveness (Eph. 4:32) toward one another. For after all Christ does. Let us esteem our brothers and sisters highly (Phil. 2:3-5), for after all Christ does. Rest assured that the day you pass into glory Christ will welcome you with the most heartfelt, genuine, and loving reception you have ever received.

In His prayer to the Father Christ asked that we see His glory (Jn. 17:24). Someday we will (1 Jn. 3:2) but now by faith we have the privilege to testify to it.

The Witness to the Glorified Man

The underlying theme of Stephen’s sermon after his arrest was God’s glory. The Jewish people still revered the temple (Acts. 6:13-14) but God’s glory had left it long ago (Ezek. 10:4, 18-19; 11:23; Acts. 7:48). He described individuals such as Abraham and Moses who witnessed God’s glory. The Israelites witnessed the Shekinah (dwelling place) glory hovering over the ark and later filling the temple. Stephen explained that God does not dwell in things made with hands but in both his word and character he showed that God now dwells in individual believers (Acts. 7:48-49; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). Initially rejecting their saviours (Joseph, Moses), always persecuting the prophets, this privileged nation (Rom. 9:4-5) had ultimately rejected and crucified the Lord of glory (Acts. 7:52; 1 Cor. 2:8).

As he was speaking his face shone (Acts. 6:15) and learned witnesses such as Saul must have recalled reading how Moses’ face shone after being in God’s presence (Ex. 34:29-35; 2 Cor. 3:12-18). For the Christian, the Spirit’s ministry increasingly radiates out from within, manifesting the reality that we have spent time in Christ’s presence. As we commune with Him in His word and in prayer, we are gradually changed into His image. This transformation is greater than Moses’ temporary, reflecting glory (2 Cor. 3:6-11) and is a powerful witness to Christ.

Seeing Christ in us provides an unveiling ministry to a lost world that the god of this age has blinded – it helps take away the veil that hides the good news about Christ’s glory (2 Cor. 4:3-4, 6).

The gospel primarily concerns Christ’s glory. In eternity He shared the Godhead’s glory with the Father but stepping into time He veiled it: clothing Himself in human flesh, serving His God, dying for the sins of the world. Anticipating victory the Son asked the Father to fully return Him to His previous state of manifested glory (Jn. 17:5), now also in a glorified Man. We confidently preach salvation in Christ, His presence in glory affirming both that God has accepted His work and answered His prayer.

Our testimony for Christ in not only about a Saviour who died for our sins, but also about a Lord who is risen for our justification (Rom. 4:25), glorified in heaven with all things put under Him (Eph. 1:20-22). The gospel glorifies Christ who opened the way, awaits our arrival, and whom we unveil to a lost world.

Reprinted from the Fall, 2015 issue of Counsel Magazine

20
Sep
2018
0

Choice Gleanings’ Enduring Appeal

Choice Gleanings will enter its 79th year when it brings out its 2019 edition this fall. Inspired by his parents’ calendar from the Netherlands, William Pell’s desire to produce a daily devotional calendar was initially met with skepticism and discouragement. But he went ahead with it anyways and launched “Remembrancer” 1 in 1940 with an initial production of 800 copies.

He later changed the name to “Choice Gleanings” which appropriately suggested a careful, quality selection. Choice Gleanings immediately served a felt need and the rest is history. Within a few years the annual production soared to several thousand copies and literally dominated the small operational Pell family crew of Gospel Folio Press (GFP) which had begun about 20 years before. 2 The history of Choice Gleanings and GFP have been intertwined ever since. Today, about 35,000 copies 3 are produced each year and Choice Gleanings is a sustaining economic force of GFP.

What is it that appeals? It has convenient and concise content. Each day’s reading is a short paragraph, consisting of three simple parts. First, the key verse or verses which are printed in slightly bolder print. The Scripture jumps out at you. Then follows the meditation which tends to vary in content and therefore has a wide appeal and application to readers. 4 Finally, there is an appropriate hymn quote which brings out the beauty of the meditation with the emotions and swelling of a song.

These are the key ingredients of each day’s serving. Like humble, obedient Ruth who was allowed by Boaz to “glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not,” 5 the calendar’s formula has worked over the decades and endeared the gleanings to many. One cannot ignore the intriguing idea that this was the inspiration behind William Pell’s decision to rename the calendar “Choice Gleanings.”

So, what does the reader get out of each day’s Choice Gleanings? They receive spiritual encouragement, refreshment, instruction in righteousness, and a stimulus to meet with the Lord of life Himself. 6 In today’s fast paced and pressured world, what is served up in a page of 5 inches by 4 inches, is a quick, potent spiritual meal. One doubts that the idea of convenient fast food was ever the intent of William Pell. If it bears some resemblance, it is in appearance only. It is not meant to be a substitute for spending time with the Lord, in prayer and the study of His Word. Instead it is meant to be an aid, supplement, and reminder. Even those who have spent much time with the Lord and are “satisfied” 7, often find gems in Choice Gleanings when they glance at it on the kitchen table, bedside or desk, and receive it as a timely message from the Lord. 8

Above the day’s meditation, there are “Daily Readings” which consists of three passages taken from the Old and New Testaments. The year begins with passages from Genesis 1, Job 1, and Matthew 1 on January 1. If followed faithfully, it is designed to carry a reader through the entire Bible in a year. This portion of Choice Gleanings does not change and it is a standard template for every calendar year. Sunday school teachers and spiritual mentors have used this as a tool to help younger believers with a systematic method of getting through the Bible in one year. 9 The readings can be spaced out during the day, with one passage in the morning, afternoon, and evening.

Four versions are printed each year: Desk, Wall, Devotional Journal, and Devotional Pocket/Purse Planner. By far, the desk or table version is the most popular. Choice Gleanings is not expensive to purchase and give away. Many have used it as a gift to others, who are often impressed by the quality of the contents.10 The desk version may also serve as a tool for witnessing. Sitting on desk or coffee or kitchen, it is a versatile conversation piece when questions are asked about it. 11 An App is not yet available but the devotions are also easily accessible at www.choicegleanings.com.

Initially, William Pell gleaned for materials from books but over time he began to invite contributions from others. 12 Thus over time the meditations became original writings rather than excerpts from books. Today, contributions from various writers, preachers and other lay persons 13 are sent from all over the globe to publisher Gospel Folio Press. They then have the task of selecting, editing 14, and organizing the contributions into a daily devotional calendar. It is then sent for printing which was outsourced to China in 2005 to reduce costs. Choice Gleanings is typically received back from the printer and ready for sale and distribution by September.

At this time, the only other language it is published in is Japanese. 15 Besides the United States and Canada, Choice Gleanings is distributed to the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Cyprus, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, and various other African countries. Since Choice Gleanings is printed in China, there was earlier speculation that it would be translated into Mandarin but that has yet to occur. 16

As Gospel Folio Press states on their website, “Every morning as believers around the globe lift up their hearts to God to begin their day, a familiar component of that routine will be the Choice Gleanings calendar.” 17 Perhaps you will consider it in 2019 for yourself or as a gift for others.

Endnotes:
1. Gospel Folio Press, Archives; Keith Clayton, Choice Gleanings – A Calendar with a Difference, Precious Seed, 2004, Vol 59, Issue 4
2. William Pell began Gospel Folio Press by printing on a hand press in his mother’s parlor in 1920. Proof reading at GFP was done primarily by Pell’s sisters amusingly known as “MissPells”. GFP Archives, op cit.
3. Sam Cairns, Gospel Folio Press interview, August 2017.
4. As in the case of each Sunday’s sermon.
5. Ruth 2:15.
6. Much like Scripture itself: 2 Timothy 3:16
7. Ruth 2:14 & 18
8. Miscellaneous interviews, July/August 2017.
9. Miscellaneous interviews, op. cit.
10. Miscellaneous interviews, op. cit. Many recipients keep their copy of Choice Gleanings even after the year is past. The contents do not fall obsolete though the calendar year may be past.
11. Miscellaneous interviews, op. cit.
12. GFP Archives and Keith Clayton, op. cit.
13. About 40-50 contributors, men and women, around the world. Sam Cairns interview, op. cit.
14. Sandy McEachern serves as the current Editor. William Pell was editor until 1970. His sister Grace Pell was editor for a decade, succeeded by Jabe Nicholson who served through the 1980’s. Sam Cairns interview, op. cit. and Keith Clayton, op. cit.
15. The Japanese version appears a year later since it is a translation from the English.
16. See Keith Clayton, op. cit.
17. https://gospelfolio.com/product-category/2019-calendars/choice-gleanings-2019/

20
Sep
2018
0

In The School of God

Every phase of life is a new beginning and a learning step in God’s School. These include our school days, our career, and choosing a life partner. The last phase is death.

As we begin our physical lives as a baby, we also begin our spiritual lives as babes the day we accept Christ as our personal Saviour and Lord (Jn. 3:16). The next phase of life is very important. It is our learning years. It is during these years, that we react to the circumstances that come into our lives and form the person that we become.

God has given his children a text book. It is the Bible, God’s Word. God has sent the Holy Spirit to live within us to help us understand what is being read. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in My name He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (Jn. 16:26)

God wants us to ask questions: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…” (Jas. 1:5). A wise student will learn all that is obtainable to advance their career. They will study text books with interest and determination, knowing that the more they learn, the further they can progress in their vocation. As God’s child, we need to go through God’s school with interest and determination, to grow closer to the Lord and be more like Him in our attitude and actions. It is necessary to learn God’s Word to know what pleases and displeases Him. There we also learn both God’s conditional and unconditional promises. A smart student will ask the teacher questions until what is being taught is understood. When studying God’s Word, we need to ask, “What does it mean?” and “How can I apply it to my life?”

The Book of James is a very practical for the Christian life. James gives instructions on responding to trials and temptations, hearing and obeying God’s Word, and how faith and good works go together. He also instructs on controlling our tongues, making proper judgments, and being patient. The more a person reads and studies God’s Word the easier it gets to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). As we meditate on it, we will grow spiritually (2 Pet. 1:5).

God also tests our faith through delayed answer to prayer. A boy named Will was visiting his grandmother. For five days he heard the train whistle and rushed to the tracks but was always late. On the sixth day he read Ephesians 3:20, “Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” This time when the train’s whistle sounded further away, Will said, “God is calling us to see the train.” After the train passed, he exclaimed, “God gave more than abundantly. He gave me a two hundred car freight train to watch.”

Realizing God’s answer was more than he expected, he thanked God and told other people about his experience. Let’s be like Will when God delays answering our prayers. He always has a reason. It might not be the right time or He has something better for us. He also teaches through circumstances. Some we like but many we do not. However, there is always a perfect purpose for them.

May we learn the lessons God wants to teach us as we “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18). Let us strive with determination to be more like our Lord Jesus Christ in all we do.

20
Sep
2018
0

Stewards: Filial, Faithful, & Fruitful Servants

As a young boy, my family attended a local church where they would annually have a “stewardship Sunday” – where stewardship meant how much money you would give to God for the coming year. It seems they missed the point. God has already given all that we have (not just money) and we are to manage it as good servants and stewards. Thus, the Master can legitimately ask us, “have you been faithful with what has been given to you?” What return do you have for the Lord?

The Right Master for Servants and Stewards

In 1 Corinthians 4:2 Paul states “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” Why does he put this here? The context is important. The Corinthians were devoting themselves to certain men. But they, too, had confused things. They already had a Master. They were now seeking to devote themselves to specific men in the ministry when they had already devoted themselves to their Lord, Jesus Christ. Were Apollos, Cephas, or Paul their lords? No, we cannot boast in them as if they own us but we can boast in the Lord who does own us. There may well be spiritual fathers to which there may be faithful children (1 Cor. 4:14-17). The view, though, of a steward and child is different and in some ways the Corinthians were confusing the two. Yet, both are characterized by faithfulness. Paul then corrects the Corinthians so that they would view Paul and the others as servants and stewards.

But then Paul continues and notes that the One we boast in – the Master – gives us something to manage as stewards. The key is that both servants and stewards are expected to be faithful. Notice, then, that stewardship is more about what one is given than what one gives.
The Right Motivation – Faithfulness

So then, what is the believer to do concerning giving to the Master’s work? Well, the key seems to be the master’s expectations – what does He see as faithfulness? The various parables concerning servants and resources (Mt. 25:14-30; Lk. 12:42-48; 16:1-13; 19:11-27) give the sense that faithfulness involves furthering the master’s domain. So then, believers ought to be using all of their resources to further the Lord’s kingdom.

Before seeing how this might practically be done let’s look at how God views faithfulness. Consider the long portion in Numbers 5:5-31 about the law of jealousies. Doesn’t it seem somewhat strange on initial reading? To fully glean the context would require us to outline the book, but here we will just note that the Israelites had been delivered from Egyptian bondage and were now at Sinai. Having now received the law and tabernacle, they were no longer ignorant of God’s expectations. They had agreed that “all the Lord has said we will do” (Ex. 19:8). Now in preparation to continue their journey to the promised land, the law of jealousies is introduced.

With that context in mind God uses the law of jealousies to demonstrate the connection between Himself and Israel. Israel has agreed to serve and follow the Lord. The key is that Israel must remain faithful. So, the Lord provides this long section on the importance of a wife being faithful to her husband. There is a corresponding example brought out in Numbers 25:1-18. Many in Israel were unfaithful to Jehovah in fornicating with the Midianites. As a result, God’s wrath breaks out on Israel. Yet there is one who is jealous with God’s jealousy – Phinehas, an example of faithfulness to God.

These thoughts from the book of Numbers should give us a sense of God’s perspective on faithfulness. God expects faithful stewards to show devotion to the Master, to present to Him that which belongs to the Master, and to be fruitful for the Master.

So then, as stewards we are administrators (servants) of what God owns and has entrusted to us so that we can further His kingdom. We should look forward to giving an account of our stewardship.

The Right Map – Characteristics of Stewards

Servanthood is characterized by devotion (love of the Master and what is His) and stewardship (managing and using what the Master has given to us).

How are we to use what He has given us? How do we further His kingdom? We are of course limited to what He gives us. Our actions relate directly to how we view our relationship to Christ in our role as household stewards. Does Christ have the preeminence? Are our decisions based on how it furthers His glory? We are devoted to that which is important to us. So how important is the Lord’s work to us? His people? His workers? The local assembly testimony? If others were to look at how we used the Master’s resources individually, or collectively as a local assembly, what would they conclude?

First, a good servant is a filial steward (Num. 12:7; Acts 16:15; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2), devoted to the Master and the household of faith. They use their resources to support and build up the household. Thus, a significant investment is made in supporting the whole body of Christ as well as the local church.

Second, a good servant is a faithful steward (Mt. 24:25; Lk. 12:42). They use wisdom in utilizing resources and faithfully focus on the protection and maintenance of the Master’s family and resources. Resources are used wisely and tracked so that they will be able to give an account.

Third, a good servant is a fruitful steward (Mt. 25:21, 23; Lk. 16:10; 19:17). They are committed to finding ways to effectively and efficiently bring the greatest return for the Master from the resources that have been entrusted to them. They look forward to giving an account and will receive a blessing from the Master on completion of their earthly stewardship.

The Right Means – Stewards Found Faithful in Action

Are we looking forward to the day when we will account for the resources He has entrusted to us? Will our efforts as stewards stand the test of fire (1 Cor. 3:11-15)? May I exhort you to consider the importance of being filial, faithful, and fruitful servants.

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful – John Mohr

20
Sep
2018
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Daniel’s Story

The declaration, “Your son won’t live through the night” stung like an arrow piercing our very souls. I had a healthy pregnancy – or so I thought. No one detected a heart murmur and definitely not a fatal one. How could this be? As Jay and I listened to the Emergency Room doctor’s excruciatingly painful report, we knew what we had to do.

We walked out that door, tears streaming down our faces, straight to the telephone booth where we would soon make phone calls no parents ever want to make—calls to loved ones who would plead for our son, and for us. Through our tears we breathed words to the Lord we never dreamed we would utter only five days after Daniel’s birth. “Lord, he is your child. We love him dearly, but he’s really yours. We give him back to You now. If you want him, You can have him.”

Around midnight on October 22, 1984, our precious Daniel underwent the first of three open-heart surgeries to repair his congenital bicuspid aortic valve defect, known as Severe Aortic Stenosis. And while that initial surgery went well, even though they only gave him a 20% chance of surviving it, he then had to have two more intricate, open-heart surgeries when he was eight and eleven years old. Although he had a few complications during his hospitalizations, he soon was doing what he loved—playing baseball, basketball and soccer. Looking back, we realize our gracious Lord was using these events to affirm His love to us, to teach us the meaning of trust, and to prepare us for a monumental trial still to come.

When Daniel was eleven, six months after his third open heart surgery, we discovered an inguinal hernia which we scheduled to have repaired at the end of July 1996 at a small hospital near our home. However, at the advice of Daniel’s cardiologist, we rescheduled the surgery at the same hospital where he had had the previous three open heart surgeries. We figured he would be safe there; if anything went wrong, they could easily treat him because the heart team knew him and his heart so well.

On July 5, Daniel tried out for and made an elite soccer team and on the recommendation of his new soccer coach, we moved the date up to July 10 so he wouldn’t miss the upcoming season. This surgery, we were told, would be a “piece of cake” after three open-heart surgeries. I promised Daniel no tubes, no catheter, no ventilator, no ICU. He would be in and out in a matter of hours, and we would soon be on our way to Steak ’n Shake for lunch – Daniel’s favorite place. Soccer games would again be in his not-too-distant future. Well, that was not to be.

Because of several mistakes made by the anesthesiologist, our precious, energetic, active little boy was given back to us severely brain injured and fighting for his life. To sum up what we were told four weeks later, the anesthesiologist set the anesthetic administration too high for too long; she put a blood pressure cuff on his arm but never set the machine to read it, and then she left the room, leaving an observing nurse anesthetist student in charge. Several minutes into the surgery, because he was not being properly monitored, Daniel’s heart stopped, and the “Code” was called out. The medical team revived him using Epinephrine and chest compressions, but the damage was done— nearly eleven minutes without oxygen to his brain.

We were totally devastated! Our little boy could no longer breathe on his own and nothing worked except for his beating heart and hearing. A month after “living” in the Intensive Care Unit and finally breathing on his own, Daniel was moved to a room where he would spend the next three months. At that time the doctors informed us that Daniel would survive, but according to their prognosis would live in a vegetative state—never able to walk, talk, eat, see, go to the bathroom on his own, or take care of his own needs.

We were shattered! How could this be? Why would the Lord allow him to survive three very serious open-heart surgeries just to leave him in a vegetative state for the rest of his life? None of this made sense and we wondered at times where God was. This event rocked our world in every way. While our brains knew that God was in control, that He still had a plan for Daniel’s life and ours, that He was a good and loving God who always did all things well, we had moments when we completely lost sight of that. Like Peter, we began to drown. I became angry at God, blaming Him for allowing this to happen, accusing Him of not caring, of not loving us at all. “Where were You?” I remember asking Him. “Why didn’t You stop this from happening?” I am not proud of the way I addressed the Lord God during those moments, yet He always tenderly, lovingly, faithfully wooed me back to Himself, showing me how much He loved me and how much He loved and cared for Daniel.

One of those times, about two months into Daniel’s hospital stay, as I walked around the huge hospital complex, I cried out in anger and frustration to God. All of a sudden, on a sidewalk I had passed dozens of times as I ranted and raved, lay a little sparrow—dead— right at my feet. That little bird immediately stopped me in my tracks—literally! It was as if God said to me, “Don’t you know that if I see every sparrow that falls to the ground, that I will love and care for you and for Daniel even more? Don’t you know how much I love you, how much I love your son? All I’m asking you to do is trust Me. I am in charge, and I have everything under control. This will be okay; just trust Me” (Mt. 10:29-31).

By God’s grace, Daniel has made significant progress. He now walks with assistance, goes to the bathroom, and eats with enthusiasm. He talks, although unintelligibly for the average listener, and he graduated from Emmaus Bible College in 2011, after seven long, difficult years of intense study. Sadly, he does not see, having lost most of his vision during the anoxic episode, and he does require 24-hour care. But we are grateful to our wonderful God for what He has done for Daniel and our family, and grateful for so many who came alongside to help and to care. “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” (I Sam. 7:12)

20
Sep
2018
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Bringing Faith & Science Together

As a scientist and convinced Christian, I frequently encounter people who presuppose that everything can be explained by natural causes. This naturalistic view is especially common among my scientific colleagues. From this a whole set of conclusions follow, which are often assumed without checking the evidence. So, the objectivity which many scientists claim is not as common as is generally believed. For example, many of my colleagues see humans as only independent, biological, creatures. Christians, who see truth revealed by God’s Word as well as by His works, see humans as accountable, spiritual beings, made for a purpose.

What should bring scientists and Christians together is that we are both committed to a belief in the rationality of the universe and we are both engaged in seeking truth based on evidence. One problem that often keeps us apart is that scientists and Christians focus on different questions. For example, when it comes to discussing the resurrection of Christ the question we should ask is “did it happen?”. The scientist, who presupposes that such a thing cannot happen, does not make the effort to examine the solid evidence that it did happen.

So, while my colleagues in science are generally more concerned with mechanisms and the question “how?”, I am also concerned with the “why am I here?” It is a question that physical observation and laboratory experiments cannot answer.

Science like the Christian faith, must rest on evidence because neither the scientist or Christian think that truth is a matter of opinion or consensus. Claims must be tested out by evidence. Truth must be discovered and responded to. It is there like a buried rock that needs to be uncovered. Remember that the “laws of science” do not cause things, they describe them. Deciding what is a sufficient cause for life and the universe still boils down to a choice which we must make based on all the evidence. Accident or design remains the basic choices, and we must make it based on evidence, not presupposition. Scripture is clear that evidence for God’s action in creation is important. Romans 1:20 reminds us “for the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”

Two examples of many evidences that life was designed by an intelligent creator are the way the whole universe is “fine-tuned” for life, and the vast amount of information found in the key molecule of life, DNA.

As a chemist, I am fascinated by the way in which the key molecules of life – like its basic building block carbon, and simple molecules like life sustaining water, have unique properties that make them just right for life. All living organisms are tied together by their dependence on the properties of carbon, so that the big molecules of life, like DNA and proteins, all require its uniqueness. It is the big molecules of life, like DNA, that give the clearest evidence that an intelligent mind and a purposeful creator is involved.

When you see the four faces of former US Presidents carved in the granite at Mount Rushmore you do not think it was caused by chance through rock erosion. You would never say “it is amazing what wind and rain can do!” Instead, you say “who did this?” You recognize that there is an order that needs more than natural causes, and is best explained by invoking an intelligent mind and a purposeful creator. DNA turns out to be in this category. Life requires the kind of order that must be produced by an intelligent cause. The use of DNA as a genetic carrier of our characteristics is a compelling molecular analogue of the four faces on Mount Rushmore.

All of us began as a tiny ball, smaller than a pin head, which contained our DNA, — the molecule that spelled out all our physical characteristics, such as height, eye color, nose, etc. We can best understand the functioning of DNA as being like a language. Our genes are like paragraphs in DNA language giving instructions for making over 259,000 parts that make us all unique. The genetic code is a molecular communication system, using a sequence of chemical letters to transmit information to each living cell. The molecular sequences in DNA spell out in coded form instructions to a cell. It works just as letters in the alphabet do in conveying information in sentences. In the case of meaningful messages, we know from experience that they always have an intelligent mind behind them. Information doesn’t come by chance. Your alphabet soup never floats to the surface with a meaningful message! So, DNA is a meaningful message. On the basis of analogy, we have to conclude the remarkable information sequences in DNA also had an intelligent source.

For many years, I have followed the efforts of biochemists, working hard to create some of the simplest forms of life, without success. Because of their presupposition that there is no God, many “origin of life” scientists end up claiming that it is credible to believe that chance was able to do what the combined efforts of the best brains in science have been unable to do. They continue to insist that intelligent brains evolved without any intelligence behind the process – just blind natural forces and chance.

What is the most credible explanation for the way the whole universe, which contains some 100 billion galaxies, each with billions of stars like our sun, is fine-tuned to make life possible? Why is our warm wet niche called Earth placed perfectly in relation to the sun and moon, so that we can enjoy life comfortably on this life sustaining and beautiful planet?

Given all I observe as a scientist, I have to conclude that God is the only sufficient cause for the universe and intelligent life. There is more evidence for this than for the claims of naturalism: that nothing produces everything; non-life produces life; randomness produces fine-tuning; chaos produces information; unconsciousness produces consciousness; and non-reason produces reason.

My response is to praise the Lord as I respond to scriptures like Isaiah 40:26, “Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing.” (NKJV)

In the end being a Christian is not so much a matter of scientific evidence and argument, but of faith and conversion. There are no reasons to which we can appeal, to evade the burden of decision. The perceived conflict between science and Christianity is not just about evidence, but about our willingness to respond to the invitation to experience the hope and joy Christ brings to our lives, as we, in the words of Psalms 34:8, “taste and see that the Lord is good…”

20
Sep
2018
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REPORT: Downtown Outreach Bible Chapel in Ottawa, Ontario Canada

In 2013, I had the opportunity to visit Downtown Outreach Bible Chapel (DOBC); an assembly established in 2010 by evangelist, Layton Kerr. Layton is part of Open Air Campaigners, a non-denominational gospel-centered ministry whose motto is “Preaching Christ by all Means Everywhere.”

One Friday in June, several of us met for prayer in a homeless shelter in downtown Ottawa. Layton led us in a devotion, followed by a round of prayer. We then walked through the teeming nightlife of the city’s bar district to a spot in front of the Rideau Centre, an expansive downtown shopping mall. Crowds gushed by as we set up an easel and an amplifier. Layton and a group of us young guys had spent the morning preparing our outlines. These weren’t regular sermon notes. They were illustrations painted on big sheets of paper, not exactly works of art. Layton rolled one out on his sketch board, got out his paintbrushes, and after attaching a portable microphone, began his message. The rest of our group stood around listening as a multitude of souls circled our crew. After the five-minute message, we began talking to those that had flowed from the river of humanity. Some listeners engaged in conversation, while others took a tract and continued on their way.

This was a typical Friday night for Layton and other workers, some who fellowship at DOBC, and others who attend other meetings. They follow up their street outreach with a Monday night Bible study at the food court in the Rideau Centre. These outreaches have been greatly used of the Lord. Layton writes, “One woman in our assembly was saved on the street five years ago, was baptized, and came into fellowship shortly after. She was contemplating suicide when we met her. She met her husband at the food court Bible study, and we married them a year later. They now have a one year old son together.”

DOBC currently has about 30 adults in fellowship, 16 of which were baptized at the assembly. Most of these were reached through door to door evangelism, street work, or the food court Bible study.

Getting Started

The assembly began when a group of Christians doing street evangelism in Ottawa saw the need for an assembly in the downtown district. There are two other assemblies in Ottawa but it was difficult to transport people who lived in the downtown area out to these meetings. In January of 2010, a few years after starting the food court Bible study, DOBC was founded. It began as Sunday afternoon meetings in an upper room at a community center. Sound familiar? Their meetings included the breaking of bread and Bible teaching on Sundays, and prayer on Wednesdays. In December of 2015 they were able to move to another location, which had better accommodations for families, including classrooms and a kitchen.

Lives are being radically transformed by the gospel at DOBC. Layton writes, “After our first door to door campaign as an assembly, we were asked to do a home visit. We met a couple living together. It seemed the lady was saved, but when we asked the man if he knew what the gospel was, he said he didn’t but wanted to know. We met with him later and he trusted the Lord. We baptized both of them, and married them soon after. They then came into fellowship with us.”

Prayer Requests

• That the name of Christ would be honored and lifted up in downtown Ottawa, Ontario.
• For the outreaches of DOBC, which include: a bi-weekly women’s Bible study, weekly food court Bible study in French and English in conjunction with Open Air Campaigners, men’s breakfasts, movie nights, street evangelism, door to door work, and Sunday school.
• For the Lord’s continued blessing, provision, and guidance.
• Co-laborers, a family or two that could share in the responsibilities.

…The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few…” (Matt. 9:37)