5
Sep
2019
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Issues & Answers

Question: Is Sunday the Christian Sabbath?

In reply we must answer the following questions: who was given the Sabbath, what was its purpose, and is it necessary in the church age? The first mention of the Sabbath occurred in the wilderness when the Lord gave Israel manna from heaven (Ex. 16:23). He instructed them to gather daily and on the sixth day to gather twice as much because no bread would be provided the following day. He commanded them to remain home and rest on the seventh day.

Soon after God enshrined the Sabbath in the written Mosaic Law, commanding that it be kept holy, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8). The word holy means separate, consecrated, or dedicated. To treat something as holy is to sanctify it and set it apart which is the opposite of common. God is holy, entirely separate from His creation. His character and all His attributes proclaim “who is like the Lord.” Israel was to reverence Him and everything He designated as holy. Being part of the Mosaic Law, the Sabbath was only for Israel.

God commanded them to follow His example in creation when He rested the seventh day. He did not need to rest but chose to set aside the seventh day as separate (holy) from the other six, testifying to the excellence of His creative work (Gen. 2:2-3). Israel was to be a holy or set apart nation from the rest of the world dedicated to worshipping and serving Jehovah, the true God (Ex. 19:6). They were to distinguish themselves from the nations, who worshipped many gods. The Sabbath was a sign of God’s covenant with them and their acknowledgement that He was the Creator God (Ex. 31:17).

The Sabbath was not only a command but also a gift. It brought to remembrance the redeeming God who delivered them out of Egypt (Deut. 5:12-15). In Egypt there was no rest but only hard toil with no break. The Sabbath was a gift of refreshment for the people (Mk. 2:27). With this gift God testified to the unique position this nation held with Him as a redeemed people.

The nature of the two days differs. For example, the Sabbath was a day of rest, while the Lord’s Day is a day of service when we gather together to worship and serve Him. The Sabbath was a holy day set apart from other days. Conversely, the believer should equally commit every day to the Lord. While it is needful to have times of rest, Scripture does not mandate the first day as a day of rest for believers.

God’s Word exhorts believers to gather together for mutual encouragement (Heb. 10:24-25). Since Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week, it became the custom of the early church to meet then (Acts 20:7). Though there is liberty for a local church to meet any day, and more than once a week should they choose, the first day or the “Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10) has been the traditional time for worshipping God, remembering Christ, and encouraging one another. Yet it is not a replacement for the Sabbath which was part of the Mosaic Law. Christ fulfilled the Law by both upholding it and bearing its penalty (Mt. 5:17-18; Gal. 3:13). As a result, the coming of Christ has entirely rescinded the Law as a rule of life in the church age (Acts 15:1-35; Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:24). Therefore, the Sabbath was annulled and not replaced with another day.1 Instead we find our rest in Christ.

We are not compelled today to observe religious calendars or holy days (Gal. 4:9-10; Col. 2:16-17). It is not our adherence of days that sets us apart from the rest of the world. The righteousness of God’s eternal moral law is fulfilled in us as we walk in the Spirit by the power of the risen Lord (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 2:20; 5:16). It is the indwelling Holy Spirit and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that sets the church apart as a holy people that recognizes Christ as both our Creator and our Redeemer (Rom. 8:2).  •

Endnotes

1. The topic of feasts and observances under Millennial Law are beyond the scope of this question.

If you have a question for this column please submit it to [email protected]

5
Sep
2019
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Report: Boulter Gospel Chapel (Ontario, Canada)

The history of Boulter Gospel Chapel, located about three and a half hours from Toronto, is a very interesting and unique one. It still meets on its original site and must be among only a few chapels with a cemetery on its property. Many of the early attenders’ bodies are interred there, awaiting their resurrection from its confines.

It all began back in the late 1800’s when itinerant brethren preachers travelled through North Hastings County by foot, on horseback, by train, by horse and buggy, or whatever means was available. For years, these preachers would arrive without invitation or even announcing their intentions with respect to meetings and accommodations. During this time there was a flurry of assembly church building.

Meetings were held in homes, schools, lumber camps, and tents in the summer, and at other times of the year in the Presbyterian church building in nearby Carlow, built in 1875. After a split occurred there, meetings were held in the Boulter Orange Hall. The early Boulter congregations were small but dedicated.

In 1902 construction of the Boulter Gospel Hall began. Land for the building and adjacent cemetery was provided by William Demerall on Lot 23; Conc. 7 in Carlow Township.

People as far away as Little Ireland travelled across the old bridge at Loney’s Chute on the Mississippi River (a tributary of the Ottawa River in Eastern Ontario) to attend meetings at Boulter. Some would travel over 10 miles by horse and buggy. The gospel hall was built with an adjoining horse shed where the horses could rest while their owners and families went to the meeting. In 1985, the horse shed was converted over to Sunday School rooms, a lounge, kitchen, and washrooms. The rings with which to tie up the horses were still there. There were slat benches along the wall where the children would sleep. An early attendee’s recollection of going to meeting in 1927 at three years of age said, “I clearly remember my father sat me down on the old slat seats at the back while the Breaking of Bread service was going on with the warning to behave and to make no noise or suffer the consequences.”

In 1931, a bit of a revival took place that lasted until after 1932. The meeting closed sometime between 1933-1939 because there simply weren’t enough people to maintain a congregation. During this period, the building was used only for special meetings. Things picked up again in the mid to late 1940’s as the chapel re-opened to host Sunday morning meetings and later a Sunday School, evening meeting, and a mid-week prayer meeting. In the early 1950’s speakers came in the summer from Joy Bible Camp as well as from Peterborough and Arnprior.

Our chapel over the years has experienced many cycles of ups and downs. Sunday School enrollment at one time was very high. A good youth group operated for a time but ceases to exist because of the lack of children and young people. Our adult group once large is now small as many have moved on to larger assemblies.

Over the years, things have changed. People have come and gone but God’s Word still prevails. Nahum 1:7 states, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knoweth them that trust in Him.” God is still at work in Boulter and those of us who remain are there to carry on the work which our forefathers started so many years ago.

5
Sep
2019
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Foundations of the Faith: Stirring Up Our Spiritual Gifts: Part 2

Speaking Gifts

In the last issue we considered the temporary sign or foundational gifts. Let us now consider the speaking gifts beginning with prophecy (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10, 28; Eph. 4:11). In the early church some received direct revelation through the Spirit and conveyed it to other believers (Acts 11:27-28; 21:11). On some of these occasions it was church truth which God intended to be part of His completed written Word (i.e. 1 Cor. 11:23; 1 Thess. 4:15). Also known as the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42) it is foundational and concerns Christ in His Person, Work, and instruction for His Church (Eph. 2:20). Others in the early church had another form of this gift where the prophet was the one repeating and proclaiming truth already received. Only this latter form of the prophetic gift exists today because the foundation has been laid, God’s written Word having been completed (1 Cor. 3:11). The prophet today authoritatively proclaims God’s Word to edify, exhort, and comfort the saints (1 Cor. 14:3).

Second, either in private or public settings some today have a teaching gift with the ability to clearly teach the meaning of Biblical passages in understandable ways that reach believers’ hearts (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). Yet anointed teaching and preaching requires more than gift. One must also be in unbroken fellowship with Christ, without any knowledge of unconfessed sin. As well one must study, learn, and communicate God’s Word in dependence upon Christ, recognizing their own weakness while at the same time experiencing God’s power through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:3-5).

Third is the gift of exhortation which can also be utilized in both public and private venues (Rom. 12:8). The one with this gift stirs up believers to greater devotion, holiness, and service. They have the Spirit-led words to help believers continue on the Christian path, exhorting them to obedience. Barnabas whose name means “son of exhortation” is a good example. He encouraged the apostles with his resources (Acts 4:36-37). He encouraged Saul, while still a new convert, and helped him gain acceptance with the Jerusalem disciples (Acts 9:26-27). Later, he inspired him to use his gift by bringing him to Antioch, so that they could teach the church gathered there (Acts 11:25-26).

Fourth, is the gift of discernment (1 Cor. 12:10). A person with this gift can detect truth from subtle error (Acts 8:20-23). Paul warned Timothy that the last days would be characterized by a form of godliness with no evidence of spiritual power. One with discernment sees through false teachers who deny the truth by their greed, pride, and lust for power (2 Tim 3:5). This gift is given to help protect believers from “angels of lights” (2 Cor. 11:14).

Fifth, is the gift of evangelism (Eph. 4:11). The evangelist has a love and passion for the lost. Though they will preach the gospel in local churches, their primary calling is to go out into the world and proclaim Christ. They exhort the lost to turn to Christ from their sins, powerfully answering their doubts and objections from God’s Word. We are all called to be witnesses but not all have the gift of evangelism.

Sixth, is the gift of knowledge (1 Cor. 12:8). Initially in the apostolic age, some received new truth from Christ. Today this gift exhibits itself in those living in close fellowship with Christ who are able to present the unchanging truth of God’s Word in their own unique way (Ps. 25:14; Jn. 14:21-23). They love to share special insights they have gleaned from Christ through His Word. Having delighted their own hearts, they now want them to benefit others as well.

Last, is the gift of wisdom (1 Cor. 12:8). The one with this gift can tactfully solve problems, give others wise, practical guidance to navigate thorny and controversial issues, and can help mediate and resolve conflicts. Their wisdom is evident to all as they practically apply biblical truth to any given situation (Acts 6:10).

Serving Gifts

The final category is the serving gifts. Consider first the gift of ministry or helps (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28). These have the desire, love, and will to serve others, usually in a behind the scenes way. They will notice things that need to be done in the assembly and just do them without being asked. They will notice someone who needs assistance and will genuinely extend a helping hand. Epaphroditus is a good example (Phil. 2:25).

Second, those with the gift of mercy have a spiritual impetus to help the suffering, lonely, and sorrowful (Rom. 12:8). They notice the hurting, and have the desire, means, and will to act. It is evidenced for example, in visiting prisons and hospitals, comforting the bereaved, and helping the poor.

Third, is the gift of giving (Rom. 12:8). These sacrificially give of their time and resources. They do so without hidden motives of pride, desire for recognition, or gaining some advantage. We are all to give our firstfruits to the Lord but these have a divine ability and desire to generously meet needs once they are aware of them. Many believers in Macedonia exhibited this gift (2 Cor. 8:1-5).

Fourth, is the gift of faith (1 Cor. 12:9). This is the ability to trust God to remove mountains of problems, obstacles, and seemingly impossible situations to accomplish His will (Mt. 17:20; 1 Cor. 13:2). In the 19th century George Mueller epitomized this, trusting God to provide for the orphanages he managed. While all believers are to live by faith, there are some who have the divine enabling to do so in an exceptional way.

Fifth, is the gift of shepherding or leading (Rom. 12:8; Eph 4:11). Elders in an assembly normally have this gift which enables them to lead by example from among the sheep. They know, guide, and protect the flock, ensuring they are spiritually fed. The New Testament ideal is for a plurality of elders in a local church which allows for strengths and weaknesses of each man to complement one another (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet 5:1-2). Though shepherding is a spiritual gift, to serve as an elder one must be qualified and have a spiritual desire to serve in this capacity (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).

Finally, is the gift of administration (1 Cor. 12:28). One with this gift is a visionary and leader, able to prioritize tasks, to discern strengths and weaknesses in others, and to delegate responsibilities to them. They are able to motivate others to take part in their vision. It is helpful if some of the elders and deacons in an assembly have this gift.

Identifying our Spiritual Gift(s)

Whatever our gifts we must remember to humbly serve for the glory of Christ (1 Pet 4:11) motivated also by a love for one another (1 Pet 4:10; Eph 4:15-16). We must serve in dependence upon Christ (Eph 6:10; 1 Pet 4:11) with the goal of building up His body (1 Cor. 12:7).

Why are so many believers not using their gifts today? First, some are unaware that there are spiritual gifts that empowers them to serve Christ (1 Cor. 12:1). Others may understand the truth but have not yet discovered what gift(s) God has given them. Still others may know their gifts, but not know how or do not have the opportunity to develop them in their current situation. Lastly, some are trying to exercise a gift they do not possess while ignoring one they do. 

How may one identify their spiritual gifts and set them ablaze? First, study the relevant passages, gaining a better understanding of them and how they relate to us. Second, ask the Lord to reveal our spiritual gifts, believing He will answer our prayer. Third, serve at every available opportunity. We will soon realize what comes easy and is enjoyable. Though seemingly contradictory, utilizing our gifts can be both hard work and effortless when yoked dependently to Christ (Mt. 11:29-30). Fourth, seek advice from our elders and other godly believers. Finally, fire up the embers, and keep it aflame by developing our gifts (2 Tim. 1:6).

Christ has gifted us the enabling spark. Do we have the zeal and commitment to fan it into flame? Will we now devote ourselves to Christ and His magnificent work?

5
Sep
2019
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Report: Shining Lights Youth Retreat (Grace Gospel Chapel, Allentown, PA)

“That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Phil. 2:15-16, NKJV) 

As we sat in the comfortable living room, sipping our hot apple cider out of mismatched mugs, these words from Philippians 2:15-16 ran through our minds. It was fall, and time yet again for our small young adult group to come together and plan what would become the 4th annual Shining Lights Youth Retreat. This had become tradition for us, to gather at the Brews’ house for dinner, Bible study, and ministry preparation. Over the years, the people had changed but the mission had not. We were there to learn how to become godly men and women and to explore ways in which we might better serve where we are. We had chosen this verse as a guide to help us do that. 

In past years, our chapel had hosted youth rallies, day-long events where young believers from surrounding churches would come to sing, hear the Word, and fellowship with one another. I myself was very young when we had those youth rallies. I don’t remember much, but I remember that it was evident that these were good times for the older kids and an encouragement for them to see the people of the church come together. Thus, we were all a little bit sad when the couple that had organized these rallies was called elsewhere and the meetings stopped happening. We missed the opportunity the event had provided us to not only learn about God but to see fellow believers working together towards a common goal. Thus, the idea was born for a new era of youth gatherings—but this time led by the youth ourselves. 

I remember the very first planning meeting, how many people were there and how quickly the ideas came. Many in our young adult group frequently attend camps, retreats, and conferences elsewhere. We borrowed ideas from these experiences and extended the event to be an entire weekend. This would require extra planning in the way of food and housing, but we decided that the effort would be well worth it in the end. We added a variety of group games, smaller breakout sessions, and prayer times to the new schedule, and with hopes set high, hosted the very first Shining Lights Youth Retreat in 2016. Our mission statement was (and still is), “For all to witness the marvelous light of the Lord Jesus Christ in a new and profound way, and to encourage attendees to shine brightly for the Lord in a world that is becoming darker and darker” (Phil. 2:15). 

Four years later, we’ve all learned a lot. First, it was the technical stuff: which activities work best, how many meetings can fit well, how to organize all the myriad tiny details and a hundred other things we had not thought of when we first started out. Then, as time went on, we started to discover deeper lessons. I would say that the biggest one has been about how amazingly the Lord Jesus Christ can use the church to accomplish His will. This past fall, our young adult Bible studies have focused on the topic of spiritual gifts. We talked a lot about which ones we ourselves might have, and how they can be used in a practical, everyday setting. We learned that there is no gift too unimportant to be helpful, no gift-bearer too young or old to be useful, and no better blessing than to see these gifts working together to bring glory to God. 

We were so glad to see these lessons come to life this past year. Our main speaker was Richie Benitez, who came with his family to speak on “Life-Changing Lights of Fire.” He used the lives of Moses, Gideon, and Paul to discuss the ways in which young people today can be true testimonies of the love of Jesus in their everyday lives. On Sunday, he talked about how Jesus was the truest light of all and how we should ultimately look to Him as the best example of how to be shining lights in our world. In our breakout sessions, leaders had the chance to more deeply discuss issues and practical solutions with the youth. I went to the women’s session, titled “The Beauty of Holiness.” I found it especially encouraging as I realized how awesome it is that God in all His holiness loves me, individually and specifically. As in past years, there was also a Q&A session, and for the first time a testimony sharing. It was so encouraging to hear how God has been able to work in the lives of those who shared, and how He is continuing to do so even today. The variety of speakers throughout the retreat allowed for so many different perspectives and lessons to be given. In addition to the thought-provoking messages, retreat attendees also got to participate in a number of games and other fun activities. Saturday morning, we planned some awesome team games for everyone to get to know each other. In the afternoon, everyone got to be shining “movie” stars, and record a skit they prepared in front of a green screen. At that night’s Starlight Café (a favorite youth retreat tradition), we all got to watch the videos they created together, and judges chose a winning team who was rewarded with a Dunkin’ Donuts party. We had a lot of fun throughout, whether singing or playing games or listening to the speaking. 

However, the most encouraging thing was ultimately seeing how it all came together in the end. I haven’t yet mentioned the food that needed to be prepared, or the beds that needed to be made, or the floors that needed to be swept. We tend to think of these details as “little” things, and when giving a report focus on the speakers and the activity planners. But without all the people willing to use their gifts in less “glamorous” ways, we wouldn’t be able to have the retreat. These roles are just as important, and just as blessed by God. It has truly been a lesson to us young adults to see the way in which our church works together to make something like this retreat happen. Christ wants His people to work together, show love to others, and proclaim the truth and glory of God to all peoples. 

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to not only help plan the retreat but to observe others helping as well. Like the end of our key verse says, “I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain” because of those who are laboring alongside me, and because of the blessing these individuals have become.

5
Sep
2019
1

Shepherding the People of God

As one looks across the face of assembly life today there are some real concerns from many of God’s dear children. One of the major concerns is a lack of true spiritual leadership. Often there are men who are burdened for the saints but somehow don’t know where to start. Perhaps this article might be a help to elders and inspire younger men to be led of the Lord to consider this enormous responsibility. 

Being an elder or shepherd is not like an owner or trustee of a business.  Board members arrive at decisions and give orders. Elders, by contrast, serve among the people in pastoral ministry and care. I see four simple concepts as I meditate upon the Scriptures. They consist of knowing, feeding, guiding, and ruling. May you consider these responsibilities and value their effectiveness in the light of Scripture.

Knowing The Flock

The beautiful passage in John dealing with the Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd sets before us some delightful features of a true shepherd. The Lord says, “I am the Good Shepherd and know my sheep and am known of my own” (Jn. 10:14, NKJV). 

Is each believer in your assembly known to you? Not just a handshake on Sundays but through visitation and sharing in their experiences of life. Do you enter into their joys and sorrows? Do you help carry some of their burdens? Are you known by them?  

When something goes wrong do you seek in a helpful way to apply a ministry of Christ to them? Many backsliders in the world may not be there today had elders been aware of the steps that caused their downfall. What about the one that strayed away from the fold? The Shepherd’s joy did not come until the lost was sought, found, and restored (Lk. 15:4-6). 

Feeding The Flock

Peter writing in his first epistle, instructs his fellow elders to, “feed the flock of God which is among you” (1 Pet. 5:2). This particular task fulfilled by Peter himself was motivated by his love for the Lord Jesus. Every act of service can only be accomplished by the driving force of that love. 

The apostle Paul speaking to the elders at Ephesus says, “feed the church of God which He (Jesus) purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Every Shepherd should know the health and condition of the sheep. It is in this area wisdom is needed in what is taught for the well-being of the flock.  

God’s condemnation of the shepherds of Israel was that they fed themselves and not the flock (Eze. 34:2-3). With such neglect, the sheep became a prey for every wild beast. The wild beasts are false teachers bringing destructive heresies, using cunning craftiness, and flattering words to deceive (2 Pet. 2:1-3). They use friendly persuasion, disguised as wolves in sheep’s clothing, drawing away disciples after themselves (Acts 20:29-30).

Is there a real concern about it? May the whole counsel of God’s Word be taught by life and word in such a way that every believer in the church will be led to green pastures and will lie down in safety (Ps. 23:2).

Guiding The Flock 

The Good Shepherd in John 10:3-4, “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. He goes before them and the sheep follow him, for they know His voice.” The deep longings of one who is seeking her beloved asks the question, “Tell me, O you whom I love, where you feed your flock?” The answer given, “Follow the footsteps of the flock, and feed your little goats beside the shepherds tents” (Song. 1:7, 8). 

Are the members of the assembly following you to places where you feed? Are they following closely because they know and hear your voice?  When Peter said, “I go fishing”, others said, “we will go with you” (Jn. 21:3). Remember if they are following your steps, it is necessary you walk in paths for their good and not harm. May it be said about you, “…whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:7-8). 

Ruling The Flock

When God had a man in mind to rule the people of God, He chose a lad with a shepherd’s heart (1 Sam. 16:11-13). Peter exhorts elders not to be “lords over God’s heritage but examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:3). Be careful not to be a dictator, wanting everyone to bow to your every command. Instead, you should allow the scriptures to mold your life in a way the saints will want to emulate you. Sometimes the effort put in by elders isn’t appreciated as it ought to be. Often it is a thankless task. Many weary hours recorded for the Judgment Seat of Christ is unknown to the rest of the church. Many times, godly elders have suffered slanderous attacks by some who do all the talking but none of the work. I trust, in consideration of them, we will know, love, honor, and esteem them very highly for their work’s sake (1 Thess. 5:13).

An Example To The Flock 

In Ezekiel 34:11-16 we have an example from the Good Shepherd Himself to the Shepherds of Israel. He says He will seek out the scattered sheep and deliver them from all the places they have been scattered. He will feed them in good pastures. He will seek the lost and bring back those who have been driven away. He will bind up the broken and strengthen the weak. 

Through various circumstances many of the Lord’s people have been discouraged and ended up leaving the assembly. Sadly, comments have been made that no elder cared, visited, or even gave a phone call to see if they needed help or to ask why they had left. Thankfully there are godly elders who do care and are tremendous visitors to those in need. Many have been reached and brought back to the fold by elders who went out of the way to help. 

Paul in Romans 14:1 says, ​ “Receive one who is weak in the faith” and in 15:1, “We who are strong (elders should be strong) ought to bear the frailties of the weak and not to please ourselves.” There are various ways (a phone call, a visit, a Bible study, or a coffee together, etc.) the weak can be supported so that they may become strong. There are many whose hearts and lives have been broken by the pressures of life. They need someone to draw alongside and minister to them in a supportive way, helping to restore them back to spiritual health and wholeness. What a beautiful example is found by the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37! Finally, to reach the lost is best referred to in Luke 15:1-7. In this parable of the lost sheep we see what it meant for the Shepherd to leave and go after the one lost sheep until He found it. The Lord is the greatest example for all to follow. 

This is by no means an exhaustive look at the subject but a few helpful suggestions along the way. There are many other scripture references, situations, and experiences to guide the elders in the fulfilment of their ministry. ​We should all “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

5
Sep
2019
0

Great is Thy Faithfulness

How God Saved My Lift: The Testimony of James Lipke. As told to the Editor.

I was born on September 17, 1947 in Lakewood, Ohio and born again ten years later on Sunday night July 9, 1958. It was through the preaching of the gospel by my father, James D. Lipke at West Side Gospel Hall in Cleveland, Ohio that I came to know the Lord. Asking my sister Lynn, the question, “How do you know you are saved,” she responded “You will know.” That night around 9:00 PM I was saved from my sin and I knew it without a doubt through the testimony of God’s Word. I was saved spiritually, but little did I realize, that God’s protecting hand would also save me from physical death many times afterwards.   

As a young adult, I enlisted in the Navy attempting to enter the electronics field. Instead, I was made a hospital corpsman. We were given vaccines for tetanus, typhoid, typhus, yellow fever, cholera, smallpox, Hong Kong flu, and Gamma globulin. After graduating from Hospital Corps School, a year later in October, 1966, I became an Orthopedic Technician. Along with some other colleagues, we volunteered for Viet Nam and were sent to the FMF Fleet Marine Force at Camp Pendleton in February, 1969. That same month, I was permanently attached to the Marine Corps and upon graduation flew to the combat zone in Viet Nam. Little did I realize what would lie ahead. 

While on a mission on February 24, 1969, we landed our helicopter on the top of a mountain. While attempting to walk on the landing ramp of the copter, I slipped on one of the ball bearings. My feet flew up and had it not been for the quick actions of the gunnery sergeant who grabbed me by my flak jacket behind my neck, I would have surely plummeted to my death over the edge of a 1000 ft. cliff. God saved my life through that gunnery sergeant. 

On another occasion, we had been tasked with digging our own personal foxhole in a time of combat. It was six feet long by three feet wide, by five feet deep. As I was watching mortars falling from the sky, the gunnery sergeant yelled out “incoming” and grabbing me, pushed me down into my hole, saving my life from flying shrapnel. The Lord had again preserved my life.

One night, while searching in the blackness of night for a latrine, a nearby marine called out “halt, who goes there?” When I responded that I was looking for a latrine, he answered, “Turn around, 180 degrees. You are about to walk over a 1000-foot cliff!” God had saved my life yet again.  

Once when on patrol, I hit an enemy trip wire that ran across the trail that we were walking on. I had purchased boots with three-inch treads to prevent sharpened punji sticks from piercing our boots. These punji sticks could cause very serious injury to a soldier’s foot if stepped on. Because my boot treads were so thick, they collected heavy mud. Due to the thick mud on top of these treads, I snapped the trip wire of a booby trap that I thought I had stepped over. This explosive device was constructed of a grenade inside of a soup can, nailed to a tree. When I hit the wire, the grenade flew right past my head, landing next to me. I expected the grenade to explode but it didn’t. Seconds passed but nothing. When it did not explode, the sergeant yelled out, “the grenade is a dud!” God had saved my life again. 

There were other times that God preserved me in battle. When we thought we would die of thirst, the clouds that had prevented the copters from landing, miraculously opened up to allow them to drop water supplies to us. 

Later in a major firefight, I helped to carry wounded soldiers aboard a helicopter, but it suddenly took off, forcing me to jump to the ground amidst sand boiling with bullets from Viet Cong gunfire, yet none of the bullets hit me. I was spared again by the hand of the Lord.

However, I was later injured from flying shrapnel when I was hit on my left shoulder and right left leg, when enemy troops ambushed our patrol in the A-Shau valley under a triple canopy jungle. I was medivacked to a hospital where I was treated for my wounds. Later, I was flown to Quang Tri where I became very sick with Plasmodium Falciparum Malaria. I was then flown to the USS Repose and then later that month to Japan. I recovered and was awarded the Purple Heart in August of 1969. When I was diagnosed with a rare disease (G6PD), I was prevented from returning to combat. 

After military service I studied Biology at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), studied creation science at the Institute of Creation Research (ICR), and worked for the city of San Diego first as a tech in the chemistry department, then later as an Information Systems Analyst in the City Clerk’s office.

I was saved once when I was born-again, but saved many times from death (at least ten times) through the Lord’s gracious protection. Not only is He my Savior and Defender, but He is also my Provider – past, present, and future – and is now preparing a place for me in the New Jerusalem. 

God saved Jim’s life many times, but the greatest salvation that happened is when he was delivered from so great a death (2 Cor. 1:10) with a so great salvation (Heb. 2:3). Maybe God has preserved your life physically so that you can come to Christ today, and find new life – spiritual life – in Him (Jn. 10:10).

5
Sep
2019
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Why I Can’t Be An Atheist!

We are living is strange times where there seems to be a powerful drive among some intellectuals in the Western world to destroy belief in God. We have seen the likes of Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, Peter Atkins, and others propound what is known as “The New Atheism” (atheism is the denial of the existence of God). This is unlike the old atheism, which was live and let live. If you believed in God that was up to you and if I didn’t then that was up to me. In contrast the new atheism is aggressive, assertive, and politicized. It wants to stop Christians from studying science, wants to drive them out of educational positions, wants to remove all forms of religion from society and any ability by Christianity to shape the community around a belief in God. 

Yet to rule out belief in God means that nothing makes sense and the outlook is utterly bleak and demoralizing both for us as individuals and for humanity as a whole. It also leads to confusion and provides no answers to the deepest questions of life. Even many atheists have come to such conclusions as the following quotations make clear:

“The world is simply there and we have no explanation.” (Bertrand Russell)

“We are just a bit of slime on a planet.” (Peter Atkins)

“We are alone in the unfeeling vastness of the universe.” (Jacque Monod)

“Atheism is a cruel long-term business…everything in me calls for God and that I cannot forget.” (Jean Paul Sartre)

Sartre recognized a yearning for God – a deep desire in the human heart for the God of creation. This is reflected in the words of Douglas Copeland, “My secret is I need God.” (he was the author of Generation X and rejected idealism and religion). Where do they think that yearning came from? Could it not be that created in the image of God we yearn to be like our Creator?

Atheism is described in the Bible as foolishness and sadly robs life of meaning, purpose, and significance.  Because if we are just the result of the chance encounter of impersonal atoms coming from nothing and going to nothing. We exist in a sea of nothingness. What a hopeless outlook. However, if there is a God then everything changes and we can know Him and enjoy Him forever.

God’s Existence is Taken for Granted by the Biblical Writers

It does not seem to have occurred to any of the writers of either the Old or New Testaments to attempt to prove or to argue for the existence of God. Everywhere and at all times it is a fact taken for granted. He is the self-existent One and the source of all life. The sublime opening of the Scriptures announces the fact of God and His existence: “In the beginning God…” (Gen. 1.1).  The Bible further announces the fact that only a fool would deny the existence of God (Ps. 14.1).  “The Bible everywhere assumes that God exists.” (Grudem)

God’s Existence is Taken for Granted by All People the World Over

Every culture, tribe and people have believed in a Supreme Being. This is clearly demonstrated in anthropologist Don Richardson’s book, “Eternity in their Hearts.” He powerfully lays out the evidence for even the most primitive and isolated tribes having this awareness of God (one Supreme Being). They could not have learned this truth from outside sources, from reason or argument, from Scripture or tradition. “All the evidence points to the conclusive fact that this universal faith in the existence of God is innate in man, and comes from rational intuition.” (Evans)

God Through the Bible Gives Us Certainty, Atheism Gives Us Uncertainty

Professor Anthony Flew was a life-long atheist and wrote a number of books in support of his opinion but in 2007 (to the fury of fellow atheists) he wrote a book entitled, “There is A God.” It was subtitled, “How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind.” He wrote, “I have followed the argument where it has led me. And it has led me to accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent and omniscient Being.” That is a clear description of the God of the Bible and he called the process “a pilgrimage of reason.”

In a British radio program involving atheist professor Stephen Jones and presenter Richard Bacon many people phoned in with their views and questions. However, someone asked the following three questions which left Professor Jones floundering:  

1. “You say you believe in the ‘big bang’. What went bang?”

2. “How did life come from non-life?”

3. “You weren’t there when the world came about so how do you know what happened?”

He could not bring himself to say the absurd words of Richard Dawkins about atheistic evolution, “We don’t need evidence. We know it to be true.” (Washington University in St. Louis USA). Dawkins’ approach is utterly unscientific and he has urged his followers not to answer questions but simply laugh at Christians, and mock them. No wonder Roger Carswell calls his booklet “The Dishonesty of Atheism.”

God formed everything by the word of command. He spoke and things came into being and so was the source of all life and all being. It is interesting that science has now come around to accepting (in the twentieth century) that the cosmos had a beginning. Prior to that it was assumed that the universe was eternal and had no beginning. If only scientists had looked at the Bible which talks of a beginning and also of information. Blind chance does not produce information but an eternal God who speaks the word is the ultimate source of intelligent, rational, reasoning ability to discern information and act upon it.

A clear and unbiased view of creation should be enough to make people understand the reality of God. The natural world is a book of information which gives people no excuse for avoiding the truth that there is a God. However, the greatest proof is a personal relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus. To know that by His grace God sent His only Son to die for our sins and by His power raised Him to life the third day is the ultimate proof and blessing of the reality of God.

5
Sep
2019
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Run the Race Well

I really enjoy watching the Olympics. I am amazed at the intense skill and competition between the athletes. Sadly, some athletes are disqualified because of cheating or a negative drug test, crushing their hopes of a medal.

The Corinthian believers were familiar with the Greek Olympic Games, as well as their own Isthmian Games and so Paul uses a great metaphor in 1 Corinthians 9: 24 – 27, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain (win) it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate (or exercises self-control) in all things. Now they train to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body & bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” We too are in a race, not for a perishable reward, but for an eternal and imperishable one. There is much confusion as to when the Judgment Seat of Christ takes place, who will be judged, and what they will be judged for.

It is important to remember that the Bible is different from university textbooks or systematic theology, where things are taught in a logical and consecutive manner. When we study the Bible we see, what is called the “textual reason;” that is the text reveals the reason why a subject is introduced. Therefore, it is important to see the sequence of events, and why they are introduced in a certain portion of Scripture.

When Will the Judgment Seat of Christ Take Place?

Paul gives the textual reason for introducing this subject. The believers in Corinth were feeling discouraged and afflicted (2 Cor. 4:16-18; 5:1–11). Paul assures them that although their “earthly house, this tent is destroyed, we have a building from God…eternal in the heavens.” What a glorious hope and home awaited them! Please take a moment to review these precious verses. In verse 7, “For we walk by faith and not by sight,” and then in verse 8, Paul assures them “We are confident, yes well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Paul seeks to motivate them in verse 10, “For we must all appear (be manifested, J. N. Darby Translation) before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done whether good or bad.” This is the great motivator for godly living in difficult days.

The Judgment Seat of Christ will take place immediately after the Lord Jesus comes to rapture His believing church from this world. The word “rapture” is from the Latin meaning “to seize” and refers to believers being “caught up to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thess. 4: 14 – 17). Consider also 1 Timothy 4:8, 1 Corinthians 4: 5, and Luke 14: 7 – 14. It will occur before the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, since reference is made to our apparel, “for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev. 19: 7 – 9). What is the Meaning of the Judgment Seat?

The Greek word is ‘bema’, literally meaning a stone, a raised platform. Thayer describes it as, “A raised place mounted by steps, a platform used of the official seat of the judge, from which he used to view the games & make speeches.” It was the place where the rewards were handed out.

Three times in Revelation 22, we are reminded that the Lord Jesus is coming quickly. In verse 7 we are told there is a blessing attached to His coming; then in verse 12, there is the promise of reward; finally verse 20 reminds us of the Person who is coming! It is the second promise that assures us when the Judgment Seat will take place, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to every one according to his work.” The Judgment Seat of Christ has everything to do with reward, rather than any idea of judgment. Paul vividly reminds us of this concept in the opening verses quoted in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. In 2 Corinthians 5:9–11 he is dealing with the assessment of our conduct. This should instill in us a holy reverence and fervency for service. Dr. Fredrick Tatford wrote, “What we are now determines what we shall be in eternity.” However, we will not be judged for our sins. Our sins were all dealt with at the cross: past, present, and future. Hebrews 10:17 tell us, “Their sins and their lawless deed I will remember no more.” John also assures us of this truth in 1 John 2:1-2.

The picture that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 is a graphic illustration of the believer’s life and reminds us, “For we are God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor. 3:9). The foundation was laid by the Lord Jesus Christ, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). This is our only foundation, but the question is, what materials are we building with for this great foundation? In these verses, we are reminded of “The Work of the Workman,” and then Paul challenges us as to the kind of building materials we could be using (v. 12). Three are imperishable, while three are perishable. As well, there is a difference in cost, quality, and construction. The gold, silver, and precious stones (i.e. marble) are very valuable, permanent, and beautiful. They are materials that are hard to come by, and require great sacrifice to obtain, as they are only found in the deep veins of hard rock.

In contrast, wood, hay, and stumble are easily acquired, and are combustible, perishable, and inconsequential. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, every man’s work will be under the scorching fire of divine holiness. This is the testing of our character, and the motive of our service for the Lord. The challenge is what about my life? Is it pleasing to the Lord?

Am I investing my time and my gifts for His glory? Am I living fully for the Lord or for self-glory? In verse 13, we are challenged as to our commitment and service to the Lord, “Each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work of what sort (quality, NASV) it is.” Finally, Peter challenges us in light of eternal things, “What manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct & godliness?” (2 Pet. 3: 11). Remember, many who start well, don’t finish well!

Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
C. T. Studd

5
Sep
2019
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Standing on the Promises of God: Editorial

When dealing with the Corinthian assembly, Paul had to defend his apostleship on a few occasions to this group of gifted believers. It is an amazing aspect of Christian ministry that someone like Paul had the tables turned on him after establishing them in the faith. But such are the vacillations of the work of the Lord that we can be abounding one moment and suffering the next, sometimes in the same week. Ironically, those who should have gratefully acknowledged their indebtedness to Paul actually turned against him through the influence of false teachers who exhibited little care for their spiritual welfare. When Paul’s plans changed through the providence of God, they seized on this fact and twisted it to make it seem that he was fickle in his commitment to them (v. 17). Guided by the Spirit, Paul reminded them that God is faithful and that though our plans may change, He does not, nor does His promises to His people.

The Precious Promises of God

In 2 Peter 1:3-4, Peter refers to the promises of God as exceedingly great and precious, one of a number of precious things that he highlights in his two epistles. It is through these promises that we have the desire and capacity to live a godly life and to escape the corruption that is the world through lust. First, He promises salvation (“life”) to those who turn to His Son, and then promises that through this life we also have everything that pertains to godliness – that’s sanctification. Salvation and sanctification, the two parts of the Christian life available to those who exercise faith and belief in the Word of God. May every reader take these words to heart! If salvation in Christ has not been your experience yet, you can have it today by acknowledging your need of Christ and confessing Him as your Savior. It is that simple. He promised before time began that eternal life comes this way (Titus 1:2). Don’t delay, do it today.

However, I am also addressing another part of the Christian life to those who have taken that wonderful step of faith. We are encouraged in Colossians 2:6 that just as we have received the Lord Jesus, so we are to walk in Him. This same principle of faith should be at work in our lives all the time just as it was when we first trusted Him. However, it has been my experience to see many who have entered into the first part of this verse to the glory of God, have only taken baby steps in regard to the second part of that verse. Just as it would be strange to see a grown adult sitting at a desk in a room full of second graders, so too, it seems strange that someone who has been on the path of faith for many years is not advancing in the school of God but still grappling with the basics (Heb. 6:1-2). It was David who penned the words of Psalm 103:7 when he said that God “made known His ways to Moses and His acts to the children of Israel.” At first glance, it would seem these words are a statement of praise. But actually it was a rebuke to the nation of Israel. God had made His ways known to Moses because he was faithful in all God’s house (Num. 12:6-8). He understood the reasons why God moved as He did. All that Israel could do however was to discern only the overt acts of His powerful manifestations among them and not the reasons behind them. As His Word reminds us: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him” (Ps. 25:14).

What Makes the Difference?

So what makes the difference in the lives of those Christians who are making great strides in their walk with the Lord and those who are not? I believe the answer is when we tap into these promises through the diligent reading of God’s Word and fully comprehend their import in our lives. When Paul said to Timothy, “lay hold of eternal life,” he was not encouraging him to come to Christ. He already had done that. Instead, he was challenging him to grasp the reality of eternal truths and to appropriate them in his life, something that we need to do every day.

As a child of God, all Christians are encouraged to do what many heroes of the faith did with the promises of God – to be persuaded of them, embrace them, and confess that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Heb. 11:13). These promises are part of the spiritual inheritance and blessings that we have in Christ. Ephesians 1 identifies a number of them that we receive the moment we believe. 1 Peter 1 reminds us that these blessings are reserved for us in heaven (v.4). 1 Kings 8:56 reminds us that none of God’s promises which He has promised has ever fallen to the ground. What do we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?! We can certainly say with the hymn writer, “Blessings all mine and then thousand beside!” Further, the spiritual picture in Joshua 1 reminds the NT believer of the prerequisites of entering the land, just as the children of Israel needed to enter into their inheritance. Like Israel, we need to realize that there is indeed: a “land” to possess (vv. 1-5); a word to obey – the Bible (vv. 6-9); a lesson to learn – the danger of border-line living (vv. 10-15); and a Leader to follow – the Lord, the Captain of our salvation (vv.16-18). Like Samuel, we need to make sure that we don’t let any of God promises fall to the ground (1 Sam. 3:19), but incorporate them in our daily walk with the Lord.

Every promise in the Book is mine,
every chapter every verse, every line,
All are blessings of His love divine,
every promise in the Book is mine!