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Doubtful Things: Conclusion

In part one,1 we looked at two key principles (Rom. 14:1-12) for dealing with inconsequential things,2 recognizing that believers may hold differing opinions on these non-essentials.

A third principle exhorts mature Christians to recognize their responsibility for weaker believers (Rom. 14:13-17). The strong should clear the immature’s path, not stumble them (v. 13), they should love them not grieve them (v. 15).

Here Paul speaks of food but we can also apply these principles to other gray areas. He numbered himself with the strong (15:1) and authoritatively said by the Lord Jesus that all foods were clean and good to eat (v. 14). However, he also recognized that others could not eat particular foods without violating their consciences (v. 14), and could be grieved by those who do (v. 15). Therefore, he exhorts those like himself to relinquish partaking of these things, both out of love for the weaker believer (v. 15, 15:1) and also to keep their testimony (v. 16). As citizens of God’s kingdom our primary concern is spiritual fruit (righteousness, peace and joy), not earthly food, days, and activities (v. 17).

We are to be builders not demolition experts (vv. 15, 18-20). God is doing a work in every believer (v. 20) and we can either promote that work or hinder it. Though a certain food, drink, or activity is harmless to us, we should abstain if we know it will offend another believer, possibly impeding their spiritual growth (v. 20). Though the activity itself is pure, the partaking of it is evil if it knowingly offends (v. 20). Sacrificing our rights for the sake of others is an act of service to Christ and follows His example which is well-pleasing to God (v. 18).

Fourth, all believers have a responsibility to pursue things that promote peace and edifies others (v. 19). The word “pursue” (NKJV) means to “press hard after, to pursue with earnestness and diligence in order to obtain.”3 We are to have an action producing desire to preserve unity and promote the spiritual growth of other believers. This means that those whose conscience prevents them from partaking in something should not try to control others by insisting everyone else follow suit. By the same token the mature believer is not to flaunt their liberty before others but instead be willing at times to restrict their participation for the sake of unity.

Paul sums it all up in the final three verses. The mature believer who has the faith to partake of certain foods, drinks, or activities is free to do so in good conscience before God (v. 22). However, if it will cause another believer to stumble it is a noble or commendable thing to prioritize that believer over the exercise of that freedom (v. 21). One does not lose their liberty by choosing not to exercise it at a particular time or place. Still, there is nothing wrong for a believer to enjoy their spiritual freedom privately before God, out of the view of the one who may be offended (v. 22).

On the other hand, the weak believer, hesitant and unsure of a particular activity, should stick to their convictions (v. 23). Perhaps envying another’s liberty, they might be tempted to go against their conscience. However, to participate is sin because it is not from faith, resulting in both the condemnation of their conscience, and of God.

While God’s Word does not specifically address every gray area today, it does contain the necessary guidance for the Spirit-led believer to wisely apply its truth to any given situation. For God has given us all the resources we need to live a godly life (2 Pet. 1:3). •

Endnotes
1 See Cornerstone Magazine March/April 2019
2 Disputable things that are not sinful but of which believers hold varying opinions
3 Complete Word Study Dictionary (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2013)

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

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Woman to Woman: One Thing Is Needful

Luke 10:38-42 “Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, ‘Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.’ And Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’ ”

We women are often busy with the responsibilities of life and neglect the one thing that we really need, the devotional time with the Lord.
Sixteen times in scripture we have the phrase “one thing” mentioned. Four in OT and twelve in the NT. Some times relating God’s characteristics and some times relating to human responses.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO RECOGNIZE THAT “ONE THING?”

  1. God’s goodness never fails: Joshua 23:14
  2. God treats all humans the same: Job 9:22
  3. God controls our life and death: Ecc.3:19
  4. The Lord Jesus (God) has the authority and ability to do all things: Matt. 21:24
  5. The Lord Jesus has the ability to save and destroy anytime: Luke 6:9
  6. The Lord Jesus is the only source of wisdom in responding to the world’s confusion: Luke 20:3-4
  7. The Lord Jesus is coming again to judge: 2 Pet.3:7-8

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE RESPONSES?

  1. Give lip service but lack devotion and be occupied by worldly things: Mar 10:21, Luke 18:22
  2. Be confused about what is really important: Acts 19:32, Act 21:34
  3. As the blind man recognize him as the one who opened his eyes: John 9:25
  4. Like Mary be thirsty (needy) for His word and spend time in prayer and bible study at His feet: Luke 10:42
  5. Like Paul chose to forget the past/present and look forward to better things/His return/Heaven: Philippians 3:13
  6. Like David, seek after the Lord: Ps 27:4

BEHOLDING HIM

2 Co. 3:18, Num. 24:17

TO BEHOLD THE BEAUTY OF THE LORD

The reference here is to the beauty or loveliness of the divine character as it was particularly manifested in the public worship of God, or by those symbols, which in the ancient worship were designed to make that character known. In the tabernacle and in the temple there was a manifestation of the character of God not seen elsewhere. The whole worship was adapted to set forth His greatness, glory and His grace. Great truths were brought before the mind, fitted to elevate, to comfort, and to sanctify the soul; and it was in the contemplation of those truths that the psalmist sought to elevate and purify his own mind, and to sustain himself in troubles and perplexities of life.

CHALLENGE FOR YOU AND ME IS:

  1. Dwell in His presence
  2. Discover His will
  3. Delight in His character “behold his beauty”

HOW?

  1. Seek: 1Ch. 16:11, Isa. 55:6
  2. Abide: Psa. 11:7
  3. Pray: Psa. 31:16
  4. Look: Jud. 1:21
  5. Obey: Psa. 89:15, Psa. 119:10

CONCLUSION:

The “one thing” that is needed is to seek the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation for the sinner and personal growth for the believer with all our hearts minds and souls, by meditating and obeying His word and keeping in close fellowship with Him.

The Lord grant that we diligently and continually seek Him in our daily lives, and make Him the centre and desire of our hearts not only in times of trouble but as a daily exercise of our lives as we await His soon return.

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Report: The Ministry of FBH International “Your Voice to the World”

Assembly Christians have traditionally had a great interest in international missions. Though a small movement, we have made an extraordinarily large impact. One of the ways this is continuing today is through internet-based media ministry. Beginning as a radio program in the 1950s, “Family Bible Hour” has expanded over the years to a number of languages. Now, along with radio, there is an emphasis on internet outreach in strategic languages, with “FBH International” taking your voice to the world to proclaim the gospel.

In the last year, FBH International has seen some very positive developments. In July, Stephen March joined Deborah Piggott and Ron Hughes in the St. Catharines, Ontario office to head up our English ministry: HopeStreamRadio. We are currently streaming 41 programs weekly, making up two hours of fresh programming each weekday. Besides our English-language ministry, FBH reaches out in four other languages: Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic, and Spanish.

Your Voice To Ukrainian-Speakers

Alex and Nadia produce our Ukrainian language program in Chernivtsi, Western Ukraine. They are a husband and wife team who are particularly effective at reaching people of their own generation. They take content originally created for HopeStreamRadio by Ron Hughes and adapt it to be understood by Ukrainians, both linguistically and culturally. This is important because, though people often think that ideas transfer directly from one culture to another, it’s not enough to just translate the language, there’s more to it than that. Cultures are significantly different in how they understand things. Therefore, it’s necessary for us to have effective ministry partners, born in these communities, who can take the biblical ideas contained in our English language programs and express them in words and ways that Ukrainians can understand. Alex and Nadia do a good job of this and we seek to encourage them in their work.

Your Voice To Russian-Speakers

We could say much the same for our partners in Moscow. Igor and Andrey have been working together for over a year producing our Russian program, (roughly translated as “Plan B”). For most humans, “Plan A” is their attempt at navigating through life in their own way. When that fails, they moved to “Plan B.” Through our programming we show them that the “Plan B” they are looking for is the plan God has outlined in the Bible. Its perspective allows them to see life clearly and to understand its meaning and purpose. Igor is the father of a special needs daughter and that has contributed to his compassionate, empathetic way of relating to and communicating with listeners who are frustrated with the challenges of life. In Russia there are many challenges. Drug and alcohol abuse are common, abortion is rampant, depression and anxiety are widespread, and the country’s suicide rate is #3 in the world. So, Igor and Andrey are developing programs which reach out to Russians living in turmoil and despair. We are thankful for their abilities to communicate the gospel clearly and effectively.

Your Voice To Spanish-Speakers

Nathan, our partner in Latin America lives and works in Mexico City. 2018 was a difficult year for him as his family experienced two break-ins and the death of both of his parents. Nathan has a particular vision of strengthening the Latin American church which is being negatively affected by proponents of the prosperity gospel movement. Much of his work is biblical exposition and most of the responses to the program are from Christians expressing their gratitude for his solid biblical teaching and the foundation he provides for their faith as he opens the Word of God on his programs. Nathan’s voice is heard on over 100 radio stations throughout Latin America, Europe and the south-western United States. Along with this, he also has significant influence through social media and the podcast through which thousands of listeners who are beyond the reach of traditional radio stations freely access his program.

Your Voice To Arabic-Speakers

Perhaps the most exciting advances have been made in the Arab world. In January this year, Ron completed negotiations with our Arab world partner to support three national workers in Cairo, Egypt. Adel, Mira, and Nada are front-line people who are well-equipped and experienced to share the gospel with the Muslim seekers who contact them through the website and social media. Besides having to deal with abusive calls from irate Muslims, they also have to be able to handle genuine seekers who are often in distress. Recently, we heard of a woman in Iraq whom the Holy Spirit guided to the Arab World Media website FBH is associated with. There she began to read about Jesus and at the bottom of a page saw an offer to have a conversation with a Christian. Adel took her call.

When she was only 15, Miriam’s father married her off to an older Iraqi man. She had two children early in their marriage and then discovered that he was a serial adulterer. She felt totally trapped. In her desperation, she decided the only way to be done with the horrors of her life was to end it. She told Adel that she had gone online to search for a way to kill herself. Adel spoke to her gently and compassionately in the name of Jesus. Eventually, through their conversations, the Holy Spirit stirred up faith in her to believe in the Lord Jesus. She still lives in difficult, discouraging circumstances, but now she has the Lord to give her hope, purpose, and strength to live her life day by day.

Your Voice To The World

We invite you to pray for FBH International in general, but also for the people that have been mentioned by name in this article. We strongly encourage you to take a deeper look at the ministry through our websites: “FBHinternational.com” and “HopeStreamRadio.com.” We would be particularly pleased if you would listen to HopeStreamRadio. You can do so either on your computer or by downloading an app for your Android or Apple device. God is at work in the world and we are grateful to have a part in what He is doing.

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Old Testament Portraits of Christ: Boaz, the Kinsman – Redeemer

A godly man is strong to bless others, as he brings the Lord into situations, inspiring confidence through his excellent character. In scene one of God’s record of Ruth, Naomi is empty and bitter with the Lord. Enter Boaz and a radical change occurs. By the end of scene two, the one who was bitter with the Lord is instead blessing the Lord for His kindness, a kindness that had flowed through a godly man.

We meet Boaz as a “man of wealth” (Ruth 2:1), and this wealth is not merely in physical possessions but also in character. As he communicated with others, he brought the LORD into the picture (2:4). What an excellent way of speaking! He noticed a young woman in need, and grasping her need he showed her kindness (2:8-16). What a challenge it is to be considerate, starting with noticing another’s situation. Boaz was indeed strong, but he was not strong for himself. He was not “macho.” Rather he was strong to bless. God’s wealth flowed through him to bring blessing that lifted up hearts to bless God in response (2:20). What an example!

The young woman was a woman of worth (3:11; Prov. 31), and Boaz noted her character observing how she was a blessing to an older woman (2:11; 3:11). How important that a godly man observes excellence of character in a woman rather than mere outward glamour. She has come to seek refuge under the Lord’s “wing” (2:12) but the wing provided for her by the Lord is Boaz’s wing (3:9) What a privilege as godly men to be a means of God’s protection and provision for others!

Boaz knew of an obstacle that Naomi and Ruth were unaware of – a closer relative (3:12). He did not ignore this concern or try to sneak around it. Rather he addressed it directly. Naomi had such confidence in his character that she told Ruth that she can rest because the man will not rest (3:18). What an excellent character that inspires such confidence! He will not rest until he has “concluded the matter this day.” She knew he would see it through completely to the end, and would do so with diligence and timeliness. Beautiful example!

The confidence in a godly man is not ill-founded, for he addresses matters righteously, diligently, and completely (4:1-12). He is not willing to take a short cut. The matter will be handled in the right manner, even if there is potential that it will not work out the way he would hope. He is a man of integrity. The righteous way is the only option. So, he came before the elders and clearly explained the matter, facing the risks and sealing the deal publicly. He was not afraid to stand up when faced by a challenge. He faced legal concerns, respected authority, and acknowledged the rights of others. He had backbone.

The result is complete restoration. Nothing was left unresolved. No concern that would prevent his bride from having rest.

How like the Lord Jesus! How glad we are for His entering our situation, spreading over us His wing, righteously redeeming us, addressing every concern diligently, inspiring such confidence that we rest completely in the One who is strong to bless! What a Redeemer!

We are called to imitate this example as godly men. When I enter a situation, is the LORD honored as a result? Does my entering the situation bring blessing to others? Is there a positive effect in their thoughts of God? Am I considerate and kind? Do I find that the Lord chooses to provide for others through me? Are others able to rest in my ways, my solid character? Do I act with integrity and diligence? Do I finish the job?

Does my strength and resources only benefit me, or am I strong in order to bless others? Does my presence have a degrading or enriching effect on situations and on others’ thoughts? Would it be good for a virtuous woman to enter into a relationship with me? Am I a man who has worth in God’s assessment? Would an older godly woman look at me with confidence that I will righteously address matters, doing whatever it takes to see it through in a timely manner? Do I step up to challenges as a means of helping others?

Oh Lord Jesus Christ, how we need Your help so that we are more like You in our lives! Fix our eyes on You so that by Your Spirit within us we are transformed to display more and more of your excellence of character! (2 Cor. 3:18) May the Holy Spirit raise up godly men today – men who honor God, bless others, and inspire confidence.

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Foundations of the Faith: The Person & Work of the Holy Spirit Part 2

The Work of the Holy Spirit Today
He Gives the Believer Gifts (1 Cor. 12:7-11; Rom. 12:3-8; Eph. 4:3-13; 1 Pet. 4:7-11)

The Holy Spirit gives every believer something to do. He distributes spiritual gifts so each believer can be involved in building up, binding up, and beautifying the body of Christ. Some gifts were only for the apostolic era and ceased at the end of that period. Others remain and today are distributed by the Holy Spirit to believers upon their conversion. No one possesses all the gifts. This is why believers need one another. The gifts are distributed so the body of Christ will learn to work and function together under the headship of Christ.

He Fills the Believer With Christ (Eph. 5:18)

To help the believer grow, the Holy Spirit desires to fill the believer’s life, because God wishes to govern their lives. Before salvation sin was in control. The will of sinful man was in rebellion against God and self was on the throne. The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life filled our lives and the world was our source of satisfaction.
Believers desire to be saved from sin. God can change us so that the desire for sin and love for this world is replaced with a desire for holiness and a love for Christ. The Holy Spirit has a role in this change. And one of His roles is to fill the believer with Christ, so instead of being saturated with the world and characterized by sin, the believer is saturated with Christ and characterized by Christ-likeness. This is one of the themes of the letter to the Ephesians. Christ is to fill the church (Eph. 1:22-23). Christ is to fill the believer’s life (Eph. 3:18-19). Christ is to fill all things (Eph. 4:10). In Ephesians 5, Paul tells us to live wisely. It is not wise to be sinful, to walk in darkness, to live deceptively, or to be drunk on the things of the world. But it is wise to allow the Holy Spirit to fill you so much with Christ, that others will see the power of holy living that flows from Christ-likeness.

He Teaches (Neh. 9:20; Jn. 14:26; 15:26)

After the resurrection, the Lord met two disciples on the road to Emmaus and opened their understanding of the Scriptures (Lk. 24:27,32). The Lord earlier promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would do the same (Jn. 16:12-15). He reveals the things of God (Isa. 40:13,14; 1 Cor. 2:9-16; Eph. 3:5; Heb. 9:8). He will make it clear when something is false (1 Jn. 2:27; 4:1-6). He will make clear what needs to be said at the right moment (Lk. 12:12).

He Speaks (Isa. 30:21; Rev. 2:7)

Our Shepherd goes on ahead and the believer follows Him, because they recognize His voice (Jn. 10:4). He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit as we read the living Word of God. He spoke to believers like Philip (Acts 8:29) and Peter (Acts 10:19). Concerning the Holy Spirit, Isaiah writes, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it’” (Isa. 30:21). He speaks through believers as well (Mt. 10:20; Acts 21:11) and also speaks through the Word of God (Heb. 3:7; 1 Pet. 1:11-12; Rev. 2:7).

He Testifies that Jesus is the Christ (Jn. 15:26)

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit bore witness of what Christ would do when He came (Heb. 10:15). During the earthly life of Christ, the Holy Spirit testified that Jesus was the Christ (Jn. 1:32-34). Since the resurrection the Holy Spirit continues to bear witness that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 5:32; Heb. 10:14-17; 1 Jn. 4:2). The Holy Spirit also bears witness that we are the children of God through Christ (Rom. 8:16,17; 1 Jn. 3:24; 4:13).

He Leads, Guides, and Directs Believers (Mt. 4:1; Jn. 16:13; Rom. 8:14)

He guides the believer into all truth (Jn 16:13; Acts 8:29,39). He will never lead in a way that goes against the Word of God. He will also direct their steps (Acts 10:19-20; 11:12; 16:6-7). He also raises up Christian leaders (Acts 13:2,4; 20:28). One of the characteristics of a genuine believer is that they are led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18).

He Comforts (Jn. 14:16-17, 26; Acts 9:31)

In times of deep distress, the Holy Spirit knows how to comfort those that belong to Christ. He comforts the weary, the lonely, the sorrowful, and the sick.

He Empowers God’s Servants (Acts 1:8)

This was the promise of the Lord Jesus, and when the Holy Spirit came, the power of God was seen in ordinary lives (Acts 1:8; 4:31, 33). He emboldened the disciples to preach the resurrection of Jesus, whom God had made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). He gives strength to the believer (Rom. 15:19; Eph 3:16) empowering them to proclaim God’s truth (1 Cor. 2:4; 1 Thess. 1:5; 1 Pet 1:12). His power in believers’ lives manifests itself in those living a holy life, walking as a believer ought to walk (Eph. 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15; 6:1-20).

He Prays (Rom. 8:26-27)

Just as Christ prays for believers (Rom. 8:34), so also does the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:26). He will support the believer in prayer. And when moments of life bring great distress, causing the believer to not even know what to pray, the Spirit of God knows what to say.

He Sanctifies (Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2)

Christ is involved in sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 5:25-26). The Father is involved in sanctification (Jn. 15:1-2; Heb. 12:3-11). The Word of God is involved in sanctification (Jn. 17:17, 19; Ps. 119:11). The Holy Spirit is also involved in sanctification (Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:11). He is the power that is working in the believer to produce Christ-likeness.

He Produces Fruit in the Believer’s life (Gal. 5:22-23)

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” This is the character of Christ. This is the result of God working in the believer’s life. Instead of a life filled with hatred, sadness, restlessness, impatience, meanness, deception, unfaithfulness, roughness in character and an out of control life, the Spirit of God works to see the transformation of the sinner into a precious jewel.

He Abides with the Believer Forever (Jn. 14:16; 1 Jn. 3:24)

The Holy Spirit, given to the believer on the day of salvation, is a gift that the believer will enjoy forever. For all eternity, the believer will bring joy to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will be joy to the believer. The purpose of God in saving people is to enjoy a wondrous fellowship with men, a fellowship that will be full of joy, and never end.

Summary

These twenty things that the Holy Spirit is doing today remind us of the great care God has for His own as well as the great love God has for this world.  God has not left his people alone.  The work He began in us on the day that He saved us, will one day be complete. And similarly, God has not ceased His work in this world. He is still striving with men, bringing conviction of sin and pointing sinners to the Savior. He is as active today as He was on the day of Pentecost.  And He is still seeing and enjoying fruit from His labor.

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Great is Thy Faithfulness

The Altar Boy Whose Life Was Altered:
The Testimony of Stephen March

I can thankfully say that most of my life can easily be described as average. I grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, in a middle-class family, enjoyed the love and support of both my parents, and had a healthy, if sometimes heated rivalry with my older sister. We were a typical Catholic family. I went to the Catholic school and we attended Mass on Sundays. But that was the extent of our investment into anything spiritual. Most of my life, like a good stereotypical Canadian, revolved around hockey, playing it, watching it, and talking about it.

When I turned 12, I was eligible to serve as an altar boy at our parish, which I did knowing that if you “worked” weddings it came with financial remuneration above and beyond the normal income for a twelve-year old boy. It was then that I started to get serious about my faith, and pay more attention to what the church was teaching. Fast-forward to high-school religion class. I had a question about the creation account in Genesis, specifically about the Garden of Eden. To a sixteen-year old, the things taught there seemed impossible in my understanding of how the world worked. The answer I received from the nun who taught the class, which I remember to this day, was “Stephen, sometimes we have to understand that things spoken of in the Bible are religious truths, not historical truths.” It was the crushing blow to my young faith. My natural reaction was then to ask myself how much of the Bible was religious truth? Was Jesus real? What about the resurrection? Perhaps it was an example of the rash decisions made by youth, but that was when I completely abandoned faith. By this time, my sister and I had been told that our attendance at Mass was a choice and not an obligation, so I found better things to do with my Sunday morning, and within a few months, no one in the family was attending church anymore.

I left for college at 18, for a three-year program in broadcasting, which covered radio, television and film. During those years I hovered mainly between being an atheist and an agnostic, with a short foray into Eastern Buddhism which was more about my image as an artist than it was any real personal belief. After graduation, I was fortunate to work for a television post production company in St. Catharines Ontario. The pay was terrible but I liked the work. This is where things started to change.

Outside of work, I still wanted to play hockey. There weren’t a lot of adult hockey leagues in the city at the time, so my dad found one in Hamilton, about 40 min from where I was living. I registered for it without question because I needed a place to play. The name of the organization running it was “Reach Forth Sports”, and I quickly discovered that every game I played came complete with a five-minute talk about Jesus. I treated these talks as the price I would have to pay in order to enjoy the game. As for my job, my responsibility with the studio was to work on fishing shows for cable TV, but the studio was also responsible for putting trailers and special features together for a local Christian movie producer. I can remember laughing at how lame I thought these movies were and gave them no attention beyond that.

A couple years into my job, our studio caught a break and got the chance to edit an entire movie. I was able to work as the assistant editor on the movie, but more importantly I got the chance to write the script for the behind the scenes feature for the DVD. But there was a problem. It was Christian movie about overseas adoption and I knew nothing about either subject.

I began to research both, and the first website I found had a banner on the top that read “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). It was a dagger to my soul. I haven’t said much of my personal life in this article, but simply put, I was lonely. I didn’t really have any friends and my work consumed my life. I was also scared. I couldn’t support myself with this job, debt was mounting, and I didn’t know how to do anything else. My desire to live had faded to almost nothing. This banner spoke of two things I didn’t have, a future and a hope, and I realized I wanted them so badly for such a long time. Two weeks later, I woke up on a Sunday morning with just one thought going through my head, “I have to go to church today.”

I went out and I found a place that had a meeting starting in 15 minutes. So, I pulled into Scottlea Gospel Chapel. I knew nothing about it and I didn’t know anyone who went there. I heard the gospel again, and this time I listened. It was that day, Sunday, January 11, 2004 that I believed in my heart that Jesus was Lord. After attending the midweek prayer meeting the following Tuesday, I was ready to start telling people about the decision I had made.

In the next few months, God moved me out of the broadcasting business and into a sales position for a company that designed and built water treatment equipment. A few years later, He introduced me to my wife, Corinne, which in itself is a story of God’s great provision and answer to prayer. We still live in St. Catharines, with our three children (soon to be four), and remain in fellowship at Scottlea Gospel Chapel. The Lord has blessed us in so many ways, which is amazing as I realize that as good as He has been to me, and to my family, it still isn’t the future and the hope He has in store for all believers. That day is still coming. And, for the icing on the cake, last year God opened the door for me to join in full time radio ministry. In July of 2018, I began serving my Lord through HopeStreamRadio, a ministry of FBH International. When I left the television studio I told myself I was done forever with broadcasting, and felt my college plans had been a waste of time. In the end, I see that they weren’t really my plans after all, and most certainly were not wasted.

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Practicing the Priesthood of All Believers

We consider the priesthood of all believers as one of the distinctives of our faith and endeavor to faithfully apply the doctrine in our assembly gatherings. Our open worship and remembrance meeting, the freedom in ministry, and the liberty to exercise one’s spiritual gifts are indeed a splendid demonstration of the grandeur of this precious truth. We have a greater claim to this doctrine than any other Christian group.

It is high time that we scripturally ponder over this doctrine and be willing to fine-tune its application for the glory of God and for the blessing of His people. We may need more study and discussion of this truth in our assemblies so that we can weed out the thorns and plant the good scriptural seeds that will become fruitful in the coming days. This vital doctrine can be under-used, misused or even abused, as a result of ignorance, lack of clear understanding, or selfishness. Many believers know this doctrine only in terms of its privileges without any regard to its responsibilities.

Does this doctrine mean each one of us can interpret Scripture in any way we like, without any regard to sound hermeneutical principles? Does this mean that one can obstinately push his ideas or opinions with little regard to the needs of others or the well-being of the assembly? Does this doctrine sanction carelessness, irreverence, casualness, irresponsible freedom of speech, and lack of sensitivity to the opportunity of others in our worship meeting? In the name of the priesthood of all believers, can we disregard the unique place and contribution of equipping leaders in the church (Eph.4:11-12), and take a very casual attitude towards local assembly leadership? Have we wrongly interpreted the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers as the “preacherhood of all believers” so that everyone can preach or teach the way they like without any regard to the edification of the assembly? These are vital issues that need to be addressed by every local assembly. The Lord should not find us guilty of the malpractice of a precious truth.

Priesthood & Spiritual Gifts

Part of the problem may be the failure to distinguish between priesthood and spiritual gifts. Equality in priesthood does not imply equality in spiritual gifts. In the enumeration of spiritual gifts in the New Testament (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4; 1 Pet. 4) priesthood is not mentioned. Priesthood is a privileged position or office of every believer, while spiritual gift is a divine enablement for spiritual service. The gifts never carry the idea of priesthood. All believers are priests and all believers are given spiritual gifts, but not all have the same gifts. The gift for service differs among Christians. The purpose of the priesthood is to offer spiritual sacrifices, while the purpose of spiritual gifts is to edify the body of Christ. This is a very vital truth that needs to be clearly comprehended in proper perspective and carefully implemented in our gatherings.

The idea of the priesthood of believers is one of the most precious and powerful images of Scripture. We may be tempted to trivialize sacred services in the church of God, if we do not properly understand and apply this doctrine. Some of us in NT assemblies may have a false notion that since we believe in the priesthood of believers, all can or should preach and teach. There are meetings where all men take their turns in ministering the Word. Sometimes we proudly say, “We don’t have a one-man pastor, and anybody can speak in our meeting.” Doing so, we fail to make the distinction between priesthood and the ministry of the Word which is to be done by gifted men in the assembly for the edification of all when the whole assembly gathers (1 Cor. 14: 4, 5, 12, 26, 40). The gifted men also should be empowered by the Holy Spirit. There should be spiritual power for the fruitful exercise of the spiritual gifts. Other less formal occasions may be utilized to encourage and train others in the sharing and communication of the Word. We should not despise the spiritual contribution which everyone can make. But that should not be the norm for the ministry of the Word.

Sometimes we tend to generously open our pulpit too wide to accommodate any and everyone without due consideration of their abilities, all in the name of the doctrine of the priesthood of believers. When we do this, we are doing a disservice to the people of God. It is high time that we fence our pulpit with scriptural guidelines. Ministry of the word should be by different men, but at the same time by gifted men. Ministry of the Word is the truth of God which comes from God to man, expounded doctrinally and practically by gifted men in the assembly in the power of the Holy Spirit for the edification of the body of Christ. Our freedom in this area should be exercised with responsibility and accountability.

Priesthood & Worship

Ministry and worship are different. They are precisely opposite. Worship is from men to God and ministry (service) is toward one another. We all have the privilege and responsibility in worshipping God: in praise, thanksgiving, adoration, and prayers. It is sad that many of us fail to exercise our priestly privileges at the Lord’s Supper. This is our priestly birthright. This is where our priestly responsibility is mostly exercised. In many assemblies, only a small number of men are willing to participate in the remembrance meeting from week to week and often the same men every week. Many young men remain silent during the Lord’s Supper though they may be very active in other areas of ministry.

Prior preparation will definitely help us in a meaningful participation in the Lord’s Supper. There is always a possibility that some new and young believers may not realize the importance of prior preparation. This needs to be taught and reminded periodically. Periods of silence may be a good opportunity for individual silent meditation and worship. But silence also can be indicative of lack of preparation and spiritual desire. The Breaking of Bread meeting is the most cherished of the brethren assemblies. Let us all commit ourselves to rediscover the power, grandeur, and blessing of real worship. This is one of the most important occasions for the practical demonstration of the priesthood of all believers. The appreciation and application of this vital doctrine will definitely take away any dryness from our remembrance meeting.

Since this doctrine is the barometer of our life together in the body of Christ and our testimony in the world, we need more in-depth teaching of it in the assemblies. Let us not trivialize its meaning with individualism, wrong practices, and traditions. Let us uphold the glorious doctrine of the priesthood of believers and practice it in integrity.

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May
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The Three Appearings of Christ

There are some people, and many corporations, that have an attorney on a retainer in case a need arises. This means that that in a time of need a lawyer is available to represent their client whether in court or in business dealings. This is what Job wished for in Job 9:33, “Nor is there any mediator between us”. For believers there is a Mediator between God and man, as Paul states, “the Man Christ Jesus”. He appears at the right hand of the throne in heaven for us. What a blessing, at no cost to us, the price paid in blood for One who “always lives to make intercession” for us.
Hebrews 9:23-28 identifies three distinct manifestations of Christ. He now appears in heaven for us, He did appear to put away sin, and He will appear a second time. These three verbs (translated as “appear”) are three different Greek words.

The Past: He appeared to redeem us (Heb. 9:26)

The word here has the thought of “to be manifested” which contains the idea of revelation. It is beyond just viewing and goes to full exposure. Therefore, in His incarnation, the Lord Jesus, revealed the invisible God. This is the thought in Hebrews 1:2 that the Son was not just the messenger, but as the “express image of His person”, He was also the message. There is a different verb in Titus 2:11 and 3:4 from the Greek word for “epiphany.” These verses illustrate the above truth. The grace of God, His kindness and love are personified in the person of the Christ. Paul says that those who saw the Lord Jesus saw in Him the manifestation of the grace. A more literal reading may be, “The grace of God that brings salvation to all men, has appeared.” The Psalmist could say of Him, “grace is poured upon your lips,” (Ps. 45:2). Those who heard Him, “bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.” (Lk. 4:22). Grace was made visible in human flesh.

The Lord Jesus came to earth in “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4 – or, in the NIV “when the time had fully come”). In Hebrews 9:26 it was at the climax of the ages .“He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Note, the word “sin” is singular. It is true He “bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Pet. 3:24), and in Heb. 9:28 it was “to bear the sins of many.” In verse 26, He annulled or destroyed sin’s power by the sacrifice of Himself. The O.T. sacrifices dealt with sins but they could never deal with the principle and power of sin. William MacDonald has a wonderful outline for this verse: Positive finality – He has appeared once for all; A propitious time – at the end of the ages; A perfect work – to put away sin; A personal sacrifice – by the sacrifice of Himself (Believer’s Bible Commentary).

The Present: He does appear to represent us (Heb. 9:24)

It is true that the penalty for sin and the work of redemption found completion at Calvary as indicated by Christ’s cry, “it is finished.” In His ascension, He sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high, seated because the work is complete. The immediate context suggests the finality of the work in that He is in heaven as opposed to the copies of the true. The word “appear” here means, “to shine” and is found in Matthew 27:53 when those resurrected individuals appeared to many. There is however, the unfinished ministry or ongoing work of Christ. He now appears in the presence of God for us. He is our Great High Priest, the Mediator of a better covenant, and our Advocate before the Father.

As Mediator He is the guarantor of the New Covenant and He ever lives to intercedes for us. His intercession is not a reference to activity but to His very presence in heaven. The thought here is that there is no need for Him to plead for us because our salvation is complete in Him. His presence in heaven is the guarantee of this fact. As our High Priest He is merciful and sympathetic in that He lived here on earth and experienced what we now experience. He is able to come to our aid and to dispense mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. He is also our Advocate on high. Job’s desire was that there would be a “daysman” or “umpire” to stand between him and God, one who might bring the two parties together. Here the thought is that He does indeed stand for us, He confesses our guilt and then enters a plea to say that He has paid the price for our sin.

The Prospect: He will appear to Rapture us – Heb. 9:28

The third time the word “appear” occurs is in verse 28; here the Greek word means, “to see” or “to be seen” with the eye. The Lord Jesus will be visible to us at the rapture of the church. For believers, this gives the assurance that our salvation will be complete at the return of Christ. The words “salvation,” and “redemption” apply at times to the day we were saved from the penalty of sin, as well as looking to the day we will be saved from the presence of sin. This is true in Ephesians1:14 where we are sealed against the day of redemption and 1 Peter 1:9, “receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your soul.” This is true also in Hebrews 9:28, which speaks of the second coming of Christ and our salvation. The writer states that Christ will come again, not to deal with the sin issue, accomplished when “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.” He will come a second time for us “who eagerly wait for Him” for the completion of our salvation. This is not teaching a partial rapture; the N.T. pictures all believers as living in expectancy of His return. This verse refers to His return for the Church at the Rapture. This will be a further appearance of the Lord Jesus.
The word “appearing” occurs in Titus 2:13 as a noun. This is from the Greek word for “epiphany,” meaning “shining forth.” In Titus 2:13 we learn that glory is personified in the Person of Christ. In His first coming, He personified “grace” and at His second coming, He will personify “glory”, as the NASB says, “the appearing of the glory.” The same word occurs in the Greek text of 2 Thessalonians 2:8, “And then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness (appearing = epiphany) of His coming.”

Conclusion

These appearances are visible in other aspects of the person and work of Christ. The Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep. In heaven, He is the Great Shepherd and will return one day as the Chief Shepherd. He came to earth to reveal the invisible God thus in the role of a Prophet, He now functions as our Great High Priest above, and one day will come to earth as King.

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May
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Editorial: Gone But Not Forgotten

“Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God…” Nehemiah 13:14

This year on May 27th, Americans all across the land will be celebrating Memorial Day, an event that has been officially observed in the US since 1868, a few years after the conclusion of the American Civil War. It marks the time on the nation’s calendar which commemorates those who paid the ultimate price by giving their lives in the service of their country. It differs from Veteran’s Day observed every November 11th, which broadly acknowledges those who served in the nation’s military. Both holidays are special in their own respect and give due reward for time spent on the battlefield and the personal sacrifice made – some more than others, but each to some extent. It is an appropriate holiday, and we are grateful that it has a place in the tapestry of our nation.

Precious Memories

For many years in our local fellowship, there was a bulletin board in the hallway with the caption which read: “Gone But Not Forgotten.” Underneath, were pictures of various believers in our assembly, now with the Lord, who faithfully served the Savior in our little chapel. Some quietly served behind the scenes, others due to the public gifts and abilities given from the Lord, were more obvious. There was no specific designation other than their names, but each was duly acknowledged, having served in some capacity while they walked the pilgrim pathway to glory. Thinking about them, the line of a song comes to mind: “Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul…” Those that knew them, recall who they were, what they were like, and what they did that made them such a precious memory to many.

It is much that same way in things eternal. One day, we will all be enjoying the land of “no more” where there is no more death, sorrow, crying, and pain…for the former things will have passed away. (Rev. 21:1-5). What will remain at the judgment seat of Christ will be the things that were of gold, silver and precious stones – deeds done for the Savior with the right motive and the right method. The rewards given, mainly crowns – gained because our hands either stuck to the sword (2 Sam. 23:10) or stayed by the stuff (1 Sam. 30:24).

Powerful Service

An example of the former is seen in the life of one of David’s mighty men whose exploits and achievements are recorded in God’s Word. His name was Eleazar, the Ahohite who singlehandedly fought against the Philistines and won a great victory for his captain. It says that after the people fled that he arose and attacked the enemy until he was weary. Despite being alone and greatly outnumbered, his hand held fast to the sword until he won the battle (2 Sam. 23:10). It was only after that happened that the people of God showed up to reap the benefit. The whole chapter chronicles the deeds of many of David’s mighty men, a ragtag group (1 Sam. 22) that he inspired to rise up and do great things beyond what they would have accomplished ordinarily (just read the outstanding and interesting list of exploits that many did in 2 Samuel 23!). These mighty men of David, rising out of relative obscurity became a mighty force, and much like the disciples of the Lord who hazarded their lives in love for their King (Acts 15:26), turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). Daniel 11:32 reminds us well, “the people who know their God shall be strong and do great exploits.”

Personal Reward

It reminds me of many of God’s people, who are indeed gone, but certainly not forgotten, who were faithful to the core and faithful to their King, the Captain of their salvation. Their deeds may not have measured up to those of David’s mighty men, but they gladly spent and were spent in the service of the greatest of Masters, who will acknowledge everything done for Him at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3). In Nehemiah 3, one of the gates that was repaired by Nehemiah and those who helped him was the Miphkad gate (v. 31). It was the gate next to the Horse gate, the gate through which warriors would go out into battle. Upon returning from the field of service, they came through the Miphkad gate and were rewarded for deeds done on the battlefield. We celebrate that type of thing in our country every fourth Monday in May and it is those types of things – whether big or small – that will be celebrated when the Lord appears again for His people.