5
May
2020
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Editorial: Problems and Promises

The scene is a poignant one from the Dicken’s classic novel, A Christmas Carol. Gathered around the glowing fireplace, the Cratchit family listens attentively as verses from Psalm 91 are read by the oldest son: “Neither shall any plague come near thy dwelling…Because he has set His love upon me, therefore will I deliver him and honor him, with long life I shall satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Musing as the Scriptures are read, the mother wells up with tears. Obviously, something is wrong. Just then, Bob Cratchit enters from outside having just returned from a visit to the grave of his son tiny Tim. Within minutes, he breaks down and bemoans the loss of his cherished child. Somehow the words of Scripture did not seem to apply to that situation. 

The Problems of this World 

I must admit that these verses came to mind as I viewed with millions of others the news concerning the recent coronavirus outbreak. “No evil shall befall you and neither shall any plague come near thy dwelling.” It is a great promise of Scripture that the Lord’s people have claimed throughout the centuries. Truth be told, many of us were praying that the “perilous pestilence” would not come near our dwelling either. For some it did, for others it did not. 

Naturally, it begs the question—“How far do we go in claiming the promises of Scripture?” I love singing the catchy tune, “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.” It sounds great and makes me feel good, but is it true? Is every promise of the Book mine? Are there not promises in Scripture that have a certain application to certain people in a certain situation? It would seem so. It underscores the fact that Scripture needs to be applied in context, demanding that we rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Regardless of the context, we can rejoice when we see God’s faithfulness in every situation. 

The Promises of His Word

But before we dismiss a very large portion of the Bible as inapplicable to believers today, relegating it to another time and another place, it is important to keep in mind the whole counsel of God. We need to remember that we belong to the One who fully loves His own (John 13:1) and that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:35). We need to remember that our God is changeless (Mal. 3:6) and that we have a ready access to boldly approach His throne by faith in order to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). These are the spiritual promises of those who have a heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:20) and a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1), who belong to a heavenly country (Heb. 11:16), who serve heavenly things (Heb. 8:5) because they have come to a heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22). These are the promises that will always apply to the children of God, despite the problems of this world. Regardless of the harmful effects of a virus that “walks in darkness” and “lays waste at noonday” (Ps. 91:6), the promises of God remain true. Scripture cannot be broken.  

Lessons Learned and Re-Learned

During this recent pandemic, I have been reminded again of a few interesting facts about people in general but also some fundamental truths about God’s Word. I have seen how easily it is for this world to be united, especially through the phenomenon of social media. How this sobering fact will play out in the prophetic framework is obvious—and frightening (Ps. 2). We have seen the speed and devastating effects of an earth-born illness, a sobering picture of sin, which spreads quickly and is devastating in its spiritual consequences upon a global population. It affects every segment of society, both small and great regardless of economic or educational differences. Sadly too, we have seen the evidences of the selfish “me first” mentality, people on the edge of panic, who resort to hoarding the necessities of life. It is easy even for believers to get caught up in the wave of worry and forget the assurances of Hebrews 13:5-6 that “The Lord is my helper.”

Conversely, we have also witnessed some good things highlighted in the news, deeds of unselfish kindness referred to in some theological circles as the “common grace of God.” Common or not, it manifests itself by a special care for those in need, whether by the Church or by the community. Those deeds may or may not have been seen by most, but they don’t miss the eye of Him who sees everything done in His Name. 

Until the effects of the COVID-19 virus subsides, we will still need to rigorously observe the CDC guidelines for social distancing, group gatherings, and healthy hygiene—things like washing our hands frequently and covering our coughs and doing everything else to stem the advance of this invisible enemy, a spiritual lesson in itself. But as we practice these precautions, we also need to look up—beyond the hills to the One who made heaven and earth (Ps. 121), Who remains true to His Word. Let us then seek the opportunity to share the gospel with our neighbor and provide words of encouragement to the household of faith to the glory of God—all the time but especially now.  

4
May
2020
0

Issues and Answers

Question: Did God make a New Covenant with the Church and a second one with Israel (Part 2)

In Part 1, we noticed God makes one New Covenant solely with Israel. Now let us consider four spiritual blessings the Church receives and relate them to God’s future enactment of the New Covenant with Israel. First, every believer in Christ has been born from above, imparted with a new nature in Christ. Born spiritually dead at our physical birth, we have been regenerated (born again) and made spiritually alive in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:1). The Holy Spirit has imparted new life to us and this life of Christ remains in us forever (1 John 3:9). Second, paying in full the penalty for our sins, Christ has also redeemed the believer from the guilt and power of sin. God permanently forgives us, choosing to remember our sins no longer (Heb. 8:8-13; 10:15-18). Third, the Holy Spirit permanently indwells the believer from the moment of their regeneration. Fourth, this indwelling is the guarantee that our body will be redeemed and glorified at the rapture.

God enacts the New Covenant with the believing remnant of Israel when they are physically saved by Christ’s coming to earth at the end of Daniel’s 70th week (tribulation period). At that time, God will forgive their national and personal sins, regenerating them, and permanently indwelling them by the Holy Spirit (Isa. 59:20-21; Jer. 31:34; Eze. 36:24-29; Zech. 12-14; Rom. 11:26-27). They will enter the Millennial Kingdom in their natural bodies as restored Israel. The Old Testament saints and the martyred tribulation believers will be resurrected and along with the Church reign with Christ for a thousand years (Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2; Rev. 20:4, 6).

It is also part of God’s eternal purposes for the Gentiles to share in the New Covenant blessings (Gen. 12:3; Isa. 11:10; 42:1, 6; 49:6). Which individuals and nations enter the kingdom will be determined by Christ at the sheep and goats’ judgment before the inauguration of Christ’s 1000-year reign (Matt. 25:31-46). Though Scripture is silent on this matter,  it is likely that living Gentile believers (sheep) are regenerated since one must be born again to enter the kingdom of God (Joel 2:28; John 3).1 However, both Jewish and Gentile unbelievers (goats) will not enter the kingdom and face eternal punishment. Many people will be born during the Millennial Kingdom, some being saved and regenerated but many will not, rebelling at the end of Christ’s 1000-year reign (Rev. 20:7-9).

There are two categories of resurrection, one unto life and the other unto eternal judgment (John 5:28-29; Rev. 20:4-6). The first resurrection to life is for believers. This includes the Church before Daniel’s 70th week and Old Testament saints and martyred tribulation believers at the close it. The resurrection to eternal judgment occurs soon after the close of the Millennial Kingdom. Unbelievers from every age will be resurrected to face their judgment at the Great White Throne Judgment and will be cast into the lake of fire, excluded from New Covenant blessings (Rev. 20:11-15).

Scripture does not teach resurrection for those who enter the Millennial Kingdom in their natural bodies as well as for their believing descendants. Since all inhabitants will be sinless in the eternal state, possibly only unbelievers die during the Millennial Kingdom and believers are glorified prior to the New Heaven and Earth. Another possibility is that their sinlessness is connected to the tree of life and river of life (Rev. 22:1-2, 14).

Endnotes: 1. The Lord gently chastised Nicodemus for not knowing the prophets’ teaching on this.

4
May
2020
0

Why Do People Leave Church

I have often been asked: “Why do people leave a church?” or more specifically our church. The answer could win one the Christian Nobel Peace Prize, if there were such a thing. Yet, the question is quite valid. I would like to make a few suggestions.

First, our sub-culture. Now it is quite fashionable to find fault with our culture as it feels stylish to level an indictment against something so ill-defined. However, in this case the culture has had a persuasive effect. It sets the consumer up as the ultimate determinate of quality, success, and viability. It is the patron who writes the review as to the superiority of service, whether wants were anticipated, or how well needs were met. Businesses have instructional classes for their employees on how to bolster consumer score cards. The buyer has the power and is thus the “god” of all transactions. Unfortunately, business dogma can easily become church dogma— “Just remember, the customer is always right.”

To our decline, this mentality has become the adopted criteria for ranking churches. “What programs do they have for my family or my children?” What policies are in place for the destitute? What are the protocols for child safety? What are you doing for me?” Contrary to the tenor of Scripture, the threesome of “me, myself and I” has become an unholy trinity that demands all others bow to our whims and whistles. The God of heaven says differently for Christ emptied Himself of all claims for homage and took the human station which ranks at the lowest rung of society (Phil. 2:6-7). 

Yet, a church is held to the same philosophical standards as a restaurant, hospital, or hotel. The Christian today either wittingly or unwittingly demands a local church to impress them or they will vote with their feet and leave. As the dominos fall, church leadership acquiesces to compete for each other’s audiences by ever expanding, installing super impressive sound and lights venues, building hipster lobby coffee bars, or giving mesmerizing sermon exhibitions. When the church business plan has run its course, all that is left is an empty shell of a burned-out business model, but few Spirit-filled believers. This is hardly the church as depicted in the New Testament. Christian consumers set themselves up as a moving target that cannot be satisfied. Churches simply cannot keep up with the hype. 

A second suggestion is rooted in the first—one’s expectations. The church-goer is searching for an organization that provides gala events and the latest and greatest Christian gadgetry. They are looking for the best cut of steak every time. Failure means that you really are not a five-star church. You are only a three-star establishment and one will not spend their money on what is not the best. 

However, the wisdom of only eating highly rated cuisine is not only unsustainable, it is simply not reality. These expectations utilize the wrong barometer. Church life is really a family. The Bible often uses familial terms such as father or mother, or brother or sister. Real families come with problems and differing levels of development. Kids do spill milk and babies have diapers that need changing. This is true for a family on Elm Street and equally true for the church family on “Saint Street.” Parents gladly listen to the struggling dissonant sounds of their child at a school recital yet we in the pew have no patience for the Christian kindergartner making discordant tones while playing their gifted instrument of service. 

We have lost the sense of worth and attraction of what it means to be a family, cheering each other on as we watch each other learn to crawl, walk, run, ride a bike, progressing to running the race like an athlete of God. This is a process that takes time, has many twists and turns, and is full of tear laden failures. Yet its advantage is that it links believers together with inseparable bonds of love. Our souls become welded as one. Is this not the end goal of Christ’s prayer, “That they may be one as we are one?” (John 17:22). Is this not the intimacy that the current day Christian is craving? The church family unit was designed to cultivate such loving harmony.

The third contributor to church going departures is a fatal assumption. The Christian today thinks that newer is better. “Tradition,” thus by definition is obsolete and unable to keep pace with the ever-improving lifestyle that the present-day Christian sports. As a result, “what we have always done” becomes a stench to the nostrils of the young and the restless. Such a presumption has all the wrappings of progressive theory but has the stress fractures of short-sidedness and immaturity. I have rarely heard this philosophy ask the next logical question, “Why did this tradition come about anyway?” If causal church goers would force themselves to look beyond the superficial and ask this question, then they might find the greener grass is not so green. The truth is that most long-term practices began as wise reactions to ancient problems which share the same roots as problems of today. The chances are that a tradition identified as archaic may be the kernel that breeds an alternative tradition for the upcoming generation. After all, there is a high probability that what you see as tradition started for very good reasons. Just because one challenges these traditions does not make it wiser.

The consequences of the above leads the average church goer to hold the opinion that it is better to be served than to serve. This philosophy is the precise opposite of Christ who said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45). We end up with more spectators than we do participants. The spectators sincerely believe they are doing their part by spectating and the participants are overwhelmed at the scope of family care. We falsely believe that the way to growth is increasing the percentage of spectators. The Word of God brings a lightening jolt to this belief. It is only when each believer does their active share that true growth will come from God (Eph. 4:16). Bonafide God-driven growth is not via a stealth program to increase people or contributions. Instead, who will be the adults that will roll up their sleeves, get their elbows dirty, and become spiritual caregivers as opposed to a fleshly care-observers? If the missing link is discovered by your eye, then why are you not looking to resolve the deficiency rather than telling the leadership to fix it?

May I ask you to begin a careful analysis of yourself through the mirror of God’s Word. Does the sub-culture of making consumer reviews dominate your estimate of a church? Do undo expectations trample the motif of a growing and evolving family? Has the assumption that a tradition is archaic blinded you to its intrinsic worth? Finally, have you slipped from participating to spectating while waiting to be served?

This type of scrutiny will yield far richer results than simply looking for other church lawns that have a prettier shade of green. This is time for conscientious questioning by each one of us about our heart condition in the presence of the Great Physician’s in His private exam room. Have you lately asked Him His opinion about your version of “doing church?” Possibly, you are afraid to ask the question and hear His diagnosis. 

4
May
2020
0

Foundations of the Faith – The Bible: God’s Inspired Word

In numerous verses, the Bible declares or assumes itself to be the Word of God. The fact that this Book claims to be the inspired Word of God cannot be denied. It is the constant claim of the New Testament and Old Testament writers, and of Christ Himself. Now, why is this an important subject? There are two critical questions when it comes to our faith as believers in Christ. First, is the Bible the Word of God, and second is Jesus Christ whom He said He is? These are absolutely crucial to our faith. If one falls the other one does as well.

One of the great substantiations we have for the Scriptures is the fact that Christ Himself claimed it to be the Word of God. If we deny the Bible as being the Word of God, we put ourselves in opposition against Jesus Christ, who Himself referred to it as the Word of God. John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.” Again, in John 10:35, “the Scripture cannot be broken.”

Later Peter said, “we have also a more sure word of prophecy…no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost…” (2 Pet. 1:19-21).

Verse 21 takes us back to an experience that Peter had when he was with the Lord in what he calls the holy mount or the Mount of Transfiguration. What an experience you say! But Peter says, we have a more sure word of prophecy, which was spoken not by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 

The scriptures themselves claim to be a revelation from God and this is our foundation. It is not my opinion. It is what the Scriptures say and there are many evidences that substantiate that claim. This collection of books that we call the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, claims to be a unique revelation from God, different from other so-called revelations from various gods, and different from other religious books.

This claim is made in numerous places throughout the Word of God. In many verses you will find over and over, “now the Lord spoke” or “the Lord said.” Over 3800 times in the Old Testament there are statements such as, “Thus says the Lord,” “the LORD spake,” or “the Lord said.” Repeatedly we find places where Moses was commanded to write what God had told him. The prophets often used the phrase “the Lord speaks.”  Isaiah says, “Hear O heavens and give ear O earth for the Lord hath spoken…” (Isa. 1:2) and “…then said the Lord unto Isaiah…” (Isa. 7:3).

At this point, all we are doing is showing what the Bible says about itself, to show how it declares that this is the Lord speaking, that this is a revelation from God. Remember it wasn’t just the writer saying this. It was the Lord saying this through the prophet and the prophet repeating, “this is what God says.” It is vital to understand that in the Bible God has spoken. 

And God has spoken to the degree that if God were to speak from heaven today, He would not say anything that He has not already said in the Scriptures. You want to know the mind of God? You want to know what the Almighty has revealed? He has given it to you in a Book that you can read and with His enabling you can understand. 

“Thus says the Lord,” says Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a human vehicle conveying a message. But the message that Jeremiah conveyed was the message that the Lord had given to him. Or again with Ezekiel, “The word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel.” The Old Testament prophets made their claims that this indeed was the Word of God. 

Likewise, the New Testament writers also claimed that they declared the message of God. In 1 Corinthians 14:37 Paul the apostle says, “If any man thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” This is Paul’s clear, unmistakable claim that the things that he was saying, are the commandments of the Lord and he taught them everywhere in every church (1 Cor. 4:17). They were not exclusively for the Corinthians; he taught them in every church. 

In another example Paul told the Thessalonians, “for this cause, also, thank we God without ceasing because when you received the Word of God, which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God…” (1 Thess. 2:13). What Paul gave them was the Word of God and they received it as God’s Word. They didn’t receive it as the word of men. They didn’t say that’s just some man speaking. Instead, they believed it to be the Word of God. These are two examples in the New Testament where the writers declared that what they spoke was the message of God. 

Paul also taught that salvation depended upon faith in the doctrines that he taught. If anybody taught any other doctrine, they taught contrary to God’s truth and were worthy of condemnation (Gal. 1). John declares in 1 John 5:10 that his testimony was indeed God’s testimony. Peter says, “That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (2 Pet. 3:2). So, we find in the New Testament the claim that its writings were indeed the Word of God.

In summary, the Bible clearly and repeatedly declares itself to be the Word of God. To reject its claim is to reject the Bible. 

4
May
2020
0

Report: Gospel Folio Press

The Pell family began the ministry of Gospel Folio Press (GFP) in 1923 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. William (Bill) Pell and his sister Grace had the exercise to open a print shop to print gospel tracts for outreach, and Sunday School material to assist those involved with children’s work. They wanted to encourage gospel outreach and support Sunday School teachers and children’s workers by providing lessons. It began with a Teacher’s Manual provided monthly and a take home paper called Childhood Days. The stories in Childhood Days were provided by Lois Pell and Sunday School teachers from different areas. Shortly after the start of the print shop the whole Pell family was involved in the ministry.

They later expanded to print a monthly magazine called Assembly Annals (later re-named Uplook Magazine) which included ministry articles and reports from full time workers and missionaries. As well they began printing booklets on different topics and subjects, then expanded to printing and publishing books from selected writers including Peter Pell, Leonard Sheldrake, August Van Ryn, and others. 

Mr. Pell thought a daily devotional calendar would encourage believers to start each day with a quiet time of devotion. Consequently, he began Choice Gleanings Calendar which included a Scripture verse, meditation, and poem. He also included a Scripture reading guide to read through the Bible each year. This was prayerfully started in 1940 when 800 copies of the first calendar was printed and distributed. Believed to be the first daily devotional calendar available at that time, Choice Gleanings has over the years increased its print quantity to over 48,000 copies.

In time, several family members were promoted home to
glory, leaving the work load to three sisters who were getting older and finding it impossible to continue the responsibilities of the ministry. In 1990 J. B. (Jabe) Nicholson relocated from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada to Grand Rapids, Michigan to assume the work at Gospel Folio Press. A board of directors was formed with Jabe Nicholson assuming the role of president. Under his guidance and direction, the ministry expanded and grew to include books from other Christian publishers. He expanded and revamped the Modular Bible Lesson Program to include Adult Bible Studies and all ages for Sunday School. This program includes a Teacher’s Manual, Student’s Manual, and a take home paper, covering lessons from the entire Old Testament, the Gospels, and book of Acts. This is a wonderful addition for children’s work, to support the teachers in presenting their weekly lessons. Also, at this time Uplook Magazine was improved, expanded, and updated to be distributed monthly to a large subscription mailing list throughout North America and other countries.

In the year 2000 it was decided by the Board of Directors that Uplook Ministries and Gospel Folio Press should operate separately. The decision was made that Gospel Folio Press should relocate to Canada and Uplook Ministries remain in Grand Rapids. The location was determined when the Lord provided the required warehouse space in Port Colborne, Ontario but a lot of renovation work was necessary to get the space suitable for our requirements. Consequently, the landlord started work on leasehold improvements and we ended up with a beautiful facility all on one level. Gospel Folio Press relocated from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Port Colborne, Ontario in August, 2001 where it continues to operate today. The inventory of Christian books, booklets and Bibles, gospel tracts, and Modular Bible Lessons continued to expand to include approximately 6800 titles. 

The Choice Gleanings Calendar continues to be published, printed, and distributed from our warehouse to many different locations of the world; it is also being translated into several different languages. The meditations for the Choice Gleanings Calendar are provided by a dedicated group of approximately 45 faithful contributors from many countries.

With our website we now receive orders for Christian books, Bibles, Sunday School materials, and Choice Gleanings Calendars from around the world. It is also very encouraging to watch the Lord provide for the ministry of Gospel Folio Press Trust, which is a non-profit and registered charity. We have a Gospel Folio Charitable Donation Fund which is used to support missionaries and outreach work in different areas.

Please pray for the continued protection, preservation, and provision for the ministry of Gospel Folio Press Trust. Also, please pray that the Lord will provide a replacement for the Operations Manager to assume the responsibilities of this important ministry.

For additional information check our website: www.gospelfolio.com. You can also contact us by phone 1-800-952-2382 or by e-mail: [email protected] 

Sam Cairns on behalf of the Trustees

4
May
2020
0

Out of the Darkness: The Testimony of Eleanor Isaacson

My parents came to the United States at the age of 18 having been invited by my great aunt, and they worked hard to adapt to the culture and language. Seven years later I came along, adding to the struggles of their lives. My mother, not being very motherly, decided to pack me up and ship me to Germany at age two.

When we arrived in Germany, she had asked several people if they wanted a little girl, including her mother. Her mother got angry and told her to leave the house and never come back. Eventually, her sister, Lisbeth, and her husband, Walter took me in and my mother returned to the United States. I grew up never knowing my parents and my aunt never explained it to me.  

Going to school under the Nazi Regime was very much a daily frightening military experience. At the age of six, when a Nazi teacher entered the room, we had to stand at attention, raise our right hand with “Heil Hitler.” If you did it incorrectly, the teacher would crack the whip across your fingertips. No one dared cry. If you did, you were hit harder.

The first bomb attack came on September 9, l944 at 1:00 pm. I was nine years old. We all ran into the basement in panic and when I reach the bottom of the steps, I felt I had aged about 50 years. My first thought was…why did the bomb fall in another part of the city and not where I was? There must be somebody watching me. Never having heard anything about God. (Hitler considered God to be competition), I started talking to this Invisible Presence: “Who are you; how can I know you?” If you let me grow up and be a woman, I will find You and we will be good friends!” That thought got me through the whole war!

My aunt and I lived near a cave in the center of the city. With every bomb attack we ran into it and felt safe. There were two entrances, but we always went to the one closest to our house, Der Mauer Keller. On Christmas Eve of 1944, an event happened that strengthened my trust in this Mr. Wonderful, my Invisible Friend. At 2:00am as we ran in panic down the icy hill, I said to my aunt, “we can’t go in there tonight, let’s run to the other one around the block.” She said “are you ready to die?” I said “no, let’s run.” We got there in time and as he shut the door, the ground started moving, as if an earthquake had happened. Obviously, bombs were falling all around us.  

He opened the door, the city was in flames. We began climbing over all the debris and when we reached the entrance of the Mauer Keller, it was bombed sideways and close to 300 people were smothered to death.

My aunt said, “Well Eleanor, God didn’t want us to die tonight!” “Oh, so that is Your Name…God…Der Liebe Gott” I said.  “Who are you; why are you keeping me alive through all this?” I was now 10 but going on 65. When a child goes through a war, there is no such thing as a childhood.

I never heard of God in any way, but at the first bomb attack I connected with Him, never having heard of the Lord Jesus Christ, seen a Bible or been in church.  I had such a beautiful secret friendship with Him, knowing that He must have a very special life for me to go through all that trouble to keep me alive.

“I will find You if You let me grow up…I will be your special woman…promise!”

Bombs continued falling until April 10, 1945 when the American invasion took place. A great starvation period followed. I remember eating grass and leaves off trees. We all had goiters, swollen abdomens and worms crawling out of us, but no one cared. We all had them. Most people lost their homes. We were all living in whatever buildings happened to be open. The only thing that really mattered was staying alive. 

In October of that year, it was decided that part of Germany should be occupied by the Russians. So late October the American troops pulled out and the Russian tanks came in. We were again under a dictator—Stalin. All dictators are the same. We were all victims. Before Hitler did anything, he pushed “gun control.” No one had any weapons to defend themselves.

My aunt remarried a border guard policeman and we moved to Bad Elster because her husband died in Russia. We lived right on the Czech border. German people tried to escape but not too many people made it. They were shot. One day my uncle said “Eleanor, we’re hungry and I will send you across the border to get food.” I quickly talked to my Heavenly Invisible Friend, “Now let’s talk, God. You kept the heavy bombs from falling on me, You can certainly keep a little bullet away from me. That is nothing to You.”

So at 2:15am one morning, I ran across the open field. Uncle Hans said, “Tomorrow at 2:30am I will send up a match and you run back. If there is no match, don’t run back.” I was proud of myself, doing this at age 11. He had an 18-year old daughter, but he sent me. Had I been shot—no great loss. I was a foster child anyway. 

Later, I came to America alone at age 13 and began thinking of writing my memoirs. My promise and search for God became a quest in my teens. I tried many religions trying to find God, but nothing worked. I remember going to Atlantic City one Saturday to find God by watching the ebb and flow of the ocean…that’s not where God was!  Walking back to the bus on the boardwalk, I saw a statue of Jesus in one of the junk shops, I bought it and thought, this will get me close to God. I brought it home put it on my dresser and bowed down to it. When I turned it over, it said “made in Japan.” God, this can’t be You!  

Okay God, the war is over. You are smart, You have to find me! Someone in school said, “Do you know God loves you? He sent Jesus Christ to die for you. John 3:16 has been in the Bible over 2,000 years, but it doesn’t do anybody any good unless you put your name in the ‘whosoever’.”

Thursday February 25, 1954 at 8:45am, I opened my heart to the Lord Jesus. I gave Him the baton to my difficult past, and He made it all a glorious symphony.  To date, the music is still playing!

My book “Dancing from Darkness,” won a national award in 2018 and to date has sold 4,200 copies and is available on Amazon. I now serve the Lord by speaking to women’s groups, clubs and schools. I teach Bible studies, mentor lots of young people and enjoy the Lord.  

4
May
2020
1

He Humbled Himself

The Lord Jesus has been revealed as the elect and beloved Servant,  “Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased” (Matt. 12:18). In John 13, the feet-washing is a living parable on the self-humbling of Christ as outlined in Philippians chapter 2. It teaches us something of what it meant for Him to take that form of a servant. Thus, He gave an example for all acceptable service (John 13:15).

It Involved a Decision

“He riseth” (v. 4). Here is a picture of the great decision in eternity, to serve on behalf of fallen man at infinite cost. By this the Lord teaches His disciples that, in all spiritual service, there must be a determination to do it, a sincerity in doing it, and the actual doing of it.  “As the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph. 6:6). James speaks of the  “doers” of the word and the  “not-doers.’” The  “doers” are characterized by their uncompromising walk, continuing in the perfect law of liberty, and are blessed in their doing. The “not-doers” are characterized by their unbridled talk, contemptuous of the perfect law of liberty, and are self-deceived in their heart (Jas. 1:22-26).

It Involved a Renunciation

“He…laid aside His garments” (v. 4). This answers to Philippians 2:7,  “He made Himself of no reputation.” The Lord did not empty Himself of anything. It was Himself that was emptied out, into the vessel of perfect sinless humanity, yet never ceasing to be God. He did not lay aside His divine nature, but took to Himself a human nature, so that He might die. He did not become another person, but partook of  “the seed of Abraham.” Thus, having two natures in one glorious Person, He was  “God…manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).

He laid aside the garment of His visible glory for the swaddling bands of lowly birth; His Heavenly comfort for the garment of dew on the lonely mountains. He laid aside for a time, the diadems of glory for the crown of thorns; the glory of the Father, for the reed, the spittle and the nail; the throne of glory high and lifted up, for a felon’s cross. Thus, we learn that all true spiritual service involves a renunciation or anything that would impede the fulfilling of it.

It Involved Humiliation

“He…took a [servant’s] towel” (v. 4). This answers to Philippians 2:7.  “[He] took upon Him the form of a servant”. The Lord thus taught the disciples that true, acceptable, spiritual service will involve taking the place of submission. As sinful beings, we cannot imagine what it must have meant for the Lord to become a man. Human existence is all that we have ever known, but not He, the eternal Son of God. We began in humanity. He became a man.

It Involved a Voluntary Restriction

“He…girded Himself” (v. 4). The Lord was never restricted in Himself. He is God. He did however, restrict the expressions of His greatness on occasions. Relative to time, He came from the infinite extensions of eternal days to the realm of sunrise and sunset. Yet ever He possessed His attribute of eternity. Relative to space, the One of whom the poet wrote,  “Who art Thyself Thine own vast dwelling place,” came to dwell on this insignificant speck of stellar dust. Yet He ever possessed the attribute of immensity. Relative to power, He came from the infinite expressions of absolute authority and might, to learn obedience by the things which He suffered and to be touched with the feelings of our weaknesses. Yet He ever possessed the attribute of omnipotence.

The disciples could learn by His example, that if their service was to be after the character of their Lord’s, it will be very costly relative to their own persons, their own time, their own movements, and their own energies. They will  “not go out free” (Ex. 21:5). As to our time, it is irretrievable and  “cannot be gathered up again” (2 Sam. 14:14). As to our movements, we are accountable, and we shall meet them again at the Bema. As to our energy, it is expendable and soon, so soon, our strength diminishes and the good that we would, we cannot.

It Involved a Special Provision

 “He…poureth water into a basin” (vv. 4-5) The water was there, but it had to be taken up, and it had to be poured out. We read of  “the water of the word.” At great cost to God and to many of His servants, even martyrs, we have the word in our mother tongue. It is there, readily available, in Western lands at least. But it is not enough that it has been provided. It must be appropriated. By daily discipline, it must be personally taken up.

The Lord did not pour the water into the cup, that would have been useless. He did not pour it on their heads, that would have been thoughtless, it was their feet that needed the water. He did not pour it on the floor, that would have been waste. The water was applied where it was needed. The disciples could learn by this, that the application of the word must be relevant to the need, thoughtful, and profitable to the blessing of those ministered to.

It Involved Completion

Having washed the disciple’s feet, He took a towel and wiped their feet dry. Their cleanliness and comfort were restored. He did it completely, for behind the task was His own character. He did it tenderly, for behind the towel was His own blessed hand. He did it perfectly, for behind the act was His own purpose, divine instruction. Paul followed His Lord in this, he  “finished [the] course” (2 Tim. 4:7). Spiritual service must be done in the right way, for the right reasons and at the right time and we are not to leave our allotted task undone for someone else to fulfil.

The Lord has given the example that  “Ye should do as I have done to you” (v. 15). May we all be followers of the Perfect Servant.

Republished from Precious Seed, March-April, 1989          

4
May
2020
0

The Anatomy of A Conversion

The book of Daniel introduces us to a maniacal despot named Nebuchadnezzar who threatens to cut his opposers into pieces and burn their houses down. But by chapter four we find him declaring the praises of the Most High God. What happened in between? 

Phase One: Daniel Lives Out His Convictions 

When required to eat the “king’s delicacies” and participate in the culture around him, Daniel and his friends refused to follow the king’s orders. Instead Daniel “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank” (Dan. 1:8). Despite the pleadings of the people around him, Daniel stood firm in his convictions while the “world” watched. 

At first, Daniel’s decision aroused the suspicion and anger of the king. Not only would Daniel’s life be in danger if he disobeyed the king, but the life of his friend Ashpenaz, the chief of the eunuchs, also hung in the balance. The chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel “I fear my lord the king who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age. Then you would endanger my head before the king” (Dan. 1:10). 

But when the king interviewed and examined Daniel and his friends, after they had eaten nothing but vegetables for ten days, he found their faces fatter and fresher than all of the other captives. In turn, this gave them the opportunity to display their wisdom and understanding in the audience of the king, who found them “ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in his realm” (Dan. 1:20).

Phase Two: Helping People In Their Time of Need 

Phase two came in response to the king feeling “troubled” about his dream. Since none of his magicians, astrologers and sorcerers could interpret the dream, Nebuchadnezzar became “very furious” and “gave the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So, the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men, and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them” (Dan. 2:12-13).

It is then that Daniel reveals and interprets the dream to the king. As a result, not only did God deliver Daniel and his friends from destruction, which in turn led to job promotions, but more importantly their actions once again showcased the Most High God to the king. In turn, this caused the king to exclaim, “Truly your God is the god of gods, the Lord of kings, and the revealer of secrets since you could reveal this secret” (Dan. 2:47).

Thanks to Daniel’s convictions and prayerful action, the king was now moving closer to conversion. The application? While you may not be able to interpret people’s dreams for them, you can certainly give them advice and support when they feel “troubled.” In addition, when all other cultural experts and counselors fail, you may be the only one able to share insights from the Word of God with them. 

Phase Three: Miraculous Intervention 

Phase three is rare, maybe once or twice in a lifetime, but it does happen. God may orchestrate or engineer events in our lives to show forth His power and glory. At first, this may be unpleasant as it was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. The king demanded that everyone worship the golden image he had set up on the plains of Duma. Those who refused to bow when the music played would be burned alive in a fiery furnace. 

Once again, the followers of God had a decision to make. Would they stand up for their convictions or bow down to what a threatening ruler wanted them to do? Quite literally, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego chose to stand and not to bow down to the golden image. As a result, the king was furious. Forgetting all about his former praise of the Most High God, he demanded these men to be thrown into the furnace immediately. 

Then the miraculous happened. The king (note, it was the king) saw four men in the furnace and one looked like the Son of God (Dan. 3:25). Immediately he called for the men to come out. Their hair was not singed, their garments were not burned and not even the smell of smoke could be detected upon them. God had totally, miraculously, undeniably, intervened. 

This caused Nebuchadnezzar to proclaim: 

“Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God’!” (Dan. 3:28).

The king moved yet another step closer to conversion. You and I may find ourselves in a similar situation. We may fall victim to a debilitating disease or experience some sort of natural disaster. Likewise, we may undergo a serious financial disaster or suffer the tragic loss of a loved one. How we respond in these trials is pivotal and may help move someone closer to believing the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. The watching world is always looking for a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15).

Phase Four: Personal Trauma or Loss 

The king had another dream, and this time the interpretation was not good. Daniel delivered the news: you will be cut down like a great tree and crawl about like an animal for seven years (Dan. 3:14-16). One year later, while Nebuchadnezzar was revelling in his great power, a voice fell from heaven and announced his demise. For the next seven years Nebuchadnezzar appears to have lost his mind, crawling around on the ground like an animal, living in the wild, letting his hair grow like eagle’s feathers and nails grow as long as claws. All this to learn that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Dan. 3:32).

After seven years, the king-turned-beast got the point. In the words of Nebuchadnezzar himself: 

“And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: At the same time my reason returned to me…Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down” (Dan. 4:34-37).

Dare To Be A Daniel

In real time, these four phases may happen concurrently or even in a different order. But to view them in four phases helps us see how God is at work in even the hardest of hearts. So, like Daniel, live out your convictions before others, even when it is counter-cultural to do so. There are those who are watching you and they will see that your face, or attitude, is far fresher and healthier than others. Like Daniel, come to the aid of those who feel “troubled.” Nebuchadnezzar was troubled by his night visions and Daniel was there to stand in the gap when things started to go sideways. The king took note that it was Daniel’s God who had revealed the secret of his dream. I wonder how many more acknowledged that it was Daniel’s God that had saved them too.

Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego have the courage to stand up for your convictions, and the resolve to not bow down to what our present sinful culture dictates. Determine to say with these three men: “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Dan. 3:17). 

The conversion of Nebuchadnezzar can teach us a lot about how to conduct ourselves while underneath the microscope of a watching world. Let us therefore put these things into practice, starting now. The Most High God will take care of the rest.

3
Mar
2020
1

Issues and Answers

Question: Did God make a New Covenant with the Church and a second one with Israel? (Part 1)

Romans 9:4-5 lists the unique privileges that Israel enjoyed as a nation. Among these were the covenants. Therefore, the covenants “pertain” or belong to Israel, not the Church. Prophesying of the New Covenant Jeremiah 31:31 says, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”1 Someday the Lord will enact a New Covenant with the twelve tribes of Israel (Eze. 37:19). Like the Abrahamic, Land, and Davidic covenants, God’s New Covenant with Israel will be unilateral and unconditional. It is guaranteed, resting upon the character of a God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

Some see the ultimate fulfillment of the New Covenant suggested in the blessing clause of the Abrahamic Covenant. Genesis 12:1-3 says, “Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” Though presently scattered in unbelief, the Lord will someday gather together, restore, and bless Israel, the nation. Romans 11:16 says, “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” In Paul’s argument both the firsfruits and the root represent Abraham and God’s promises to him. The lump and the branches represent Israel the nation. Since Abraham was eternally set apart to God, so are his descendants—the nation Israel—guaranteeing their restoration. 

In Luke 22:15-18, after keeping His last Passover until the future Millennial Kingdom (Eze. 45:21; Luke 22:18), Christ initiated the Lord’s Supper (vv. 19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26). The symbols of bread and wine speak of Calvary whereby His death and resurrection, He would provide the foundation for the future implementation of the New Covenant. Hebrews 9:15-22 explains by comparing it to a last will and testament. A testator writes a will leaving behind in writing how their inheritance is to be dispersed. It is ratified by the testator’s signature and an executor ensures that the terms of the testament are carried out after the testator’s death. The Lord Jesus ratified the New Covenant by His blood, fully paying the penalty for sins. However, since He is risen from the dead, He is also the mediator or executor who will ensure that the New Covenant is fully implemented. 

The full implementation of the New Covenant awaits a future day. After the completion and rapture of the church referred to as the “fullness of the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:25), the Lord will begin the process of removing Israel’s temporary judicial blindness resulting from their rejection of Christ at His first coming (Rom. 11:8-11, 25). A surviving remnant of Israel will be purged of unbelievers and refined during the Great Tribulation, the second half of Daniel’s 70th week. They will call on the Lord by faith and recognize Christ as their Messiah (Zech. 12:10-14; 13:1, 8-9). The New Covenant’s blessings will be fully enacted at the end of the Tribulation and put on display throughout the Millennial Kingdom age. 

Though there is only one New Covenant between God and Israel, the nations will be blessed by its full implementation and the Church has already begun to partake of some of its spiritual blessings. It is through Christ that Israel, the nations, and the Church are to be blessed (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16).

Next, we will consider the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant and how they relate to Israel, the nations, and the Church. 

Endnotes: 

1. All references are in the NKJV

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