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Month: April 2009

Who Killed The Bible Reading?

Believers that seek to meet according to the New Testament pattern for assembly gathering have been blessed with a long succession of gifted teachers over the past one hundred and eighty years. Men like John Nelson Darby, William Kelly, C.A. Coates, Henry Soltau, Edward Dennett, John Gifford Bellett, Frederick W. Grant, and Charles Henry Mackintosh helped their own generation, as well as subsequent generations through their spiritually sound writings. Many of their works originated in public “conversational Bible readings” that were held throughout the English-speaking world. These meetings consisted of a gifted brother leading the study, coupled with the contributions of other exercised brethren. The study leader would typically introduce the passage to be studied, and then allow time for questions and comments by other Christians. While there are many other viable formats for corporate Bible studies, this method allows for different believers to exercise their gifts (in keeping with the spirit of passages like 1 Cor.14:26-35.) Furthermore, it generates interesting and edifying discussion, bringing out the many faceted depth of the scriptures. Bible readings were once a fixture in the meetings of God’s assemblies throughout North America. In recent times, however, many assemblies have abandoned them in favor of regular preaching services. While these preaching meetings are biblical and valuable, it is the author’s firm conviction that there is still a valid place for the Bible reading in our gatherings.

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Lessons From The Upper Room

Throughout the Lord’s Upper Room discourse, He demonstrates His deity. Perfect knowledge and perfect love are two of the most frequently displayed divine attributes in this section of God’s Word. As one reads His final teaching to the disciples before the Cross, one realizes that He is in total control of the circumstances, and is working all things together for their (and our) good. Christ’s all-encompassing knowledge and unlimited love provides the assurance of the Almighty’s ability to channel all events for the accomplishment of His will and the believer’s eternal blessing.

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The True Identity of Christ

The Lord Jesus Christ has impacted world history more than any other great historical figure. Like other famous individuals, Christ’s real identity is the subject of great debate among scholars & ordinary people alike. Such disagreement is neither surprising, nor new. During His own time, many questions swirled around the person of the famed preacher from Nazareth. When He asked His disciples: “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?”, they responded by linking Him with great religious men of the past. Jesus led them into this line of conversation during a visit to Caesarea Philippi, a city whose name was synonomous with idolatry.

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The Rise of Joshua

“We never hear of great men until the time when all other men are small,” wrote the late nineteenth century British author Gilbert Keith Chesterton. Momentous times produce leaders of renown. Joshua came on the scene when Israel desperately needed spiritual, courageous leadership. Moses, Aaron, & the rest of the old guard (except the venerable Caleb) had passed on, and the nation was on the verge of a major military campaign to occupy the promised land. The Son of Nun had been the heir-apparent to Moses’ leadership position for sometime; now God brought him to the forefront of national affairs. Numbers 27:18-21 indicates this change in power: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honor upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.”

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The Origin Of Despotism

The international scene is littered with conflicts, stemming from the desires of competing power blocs who struggle for hegemony on the world stage. Great despots like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Attila the Hun, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Adolf Hitler – to name a few – have all shared a desire to obtain power and enjoy the conquest of large swathes of territory. The Lord Jesus noted this propensity of the Gentiles for power mongering, telling His disciples that the Kingdom of God operates on entirely different principles (Mat. 20:25-26.) Man’s struggle for tyrannical power goes back to ancient times. God commissioned Adam and his descendants to have dominion over the earth. Nevertheless, since the Fall the God-given impulse to rule over the planet has been corrupted by sin. Man now wants to oppress his fellow man. By investigating the ancient records of the birth of empires, one may glean instruction for both the current and future situation.
Genesis 10:8-11 introduces us to the first emperor, a fearsome ruler ominously named Nimrod (“Rebellion/Valiant” Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon.) His chief credential as a leader was his martial skill, described as “a valiant warrior” and “a mighty hunter before the Lord” (v.8, NET.) The margin of The New English Translation notes that the phrase “before the Lord” can be used “…as a means of expressing the superlative degree.” In other words, it is a Semitic way of saying that he was the greatest hunter – one who had no equal in combat. Interestingly, words from the same Hebrew root are used in the Old Testament to describe hunting for men (e.g. Jer. 16:16.) Nimrod was indeed a hunter, but his quarry was not deer or lions – it was his fellow man!

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The Indispensable Widows

If one were asked to make up a list of the most important people in our world today, the names would probably be culled from the ranks of the famous statesmen and policy makers in the various regimes of the globe. Doubtless, numerous brilliant scientists and scholars would be listed among the ranks of the great; other people would include immensely talented artists, writers, and musicians. Still others would discuss great business leaders, who help shape the economies of the world. On such a list of the ‘Who’s who’, would we find people who are commonly called widows? Striking a bit closer to home, would we choose to build a new assembly around a core group of widows? Most church planters would probably prefer to begin a new local testimony with young individuals or couples, and there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such a desire. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the assembly has a desperately needed role for the widows to play. They are especially useful to God, and need to exercise their ministry among His people.

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The Hatred of God

In modern colloquial English the word “hate” is commonly used to mean something far weaker than its dictionary definition. People often say “I hate traffic jams”, or “I hate the Dallas Cowboys.” What they usually mean by such statements is that they dislike such phenomena or people. When God uses the word, however, it carries a far weightier meaning. The Scriptural use of the term in connection with the Almighty indicates absolute loathing and detestation. In light of this, what then does God hate? Proverbs 6:16-19 list seven things that the Lord abhors.

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The Agony & The Ecstasy

Why do bad things happen to good people? Or more specifically, why do Christians suffer? Humans live in a world of suffering, plagued by disease, loneliness, and pain of every imaginable sort. The question, “Why is there suffering?” is not limited to philosophers and ethicists—every thinking person ponders it! Even if one arrives at the answer “Because there is sin in the world,” that only leads to a further line of questioning. For instance, one might ask: “How did this evil come to exist in the Universe? Did God fashion it this way?” The Bible leaves no doubt that the cosmos was not always as we see it now. Upon completing the Creation, God pronounced it “good.” (“Very good” described His assessment of His handiwork after the formation of Man.) Sin, which at root is rebellion against God, began in the Heavenlies. It did not emanate from God, but rather from Lucifer and numerous angelic beings. A thoughtful person might then pose the question: “If evil originated in heavenly places, how was it transferred to this planet?” Once more the Bible provides the answer: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and thus death passed upon all men, because all have sinned.”(Rom.5:12) Generally speaking, we may thereby explain the existence of evil in the world. While this explanation is helpful regarding the general aspects of sin, it still does not answer our first interrogative.
It is impossible for any finite being to accurately account for every single bad situation that occurs in someone’s life. That is to say, I cannot necessarily tell you specifically why God has allowed something bad to happen to you at a given point in time. Some things one will not know on this side of Eternity. Armed with the Scriptures, however, one may draw some conclusions about God and His dealings with His Creation that can help account for the calamities that befall His children.
To read the entire article, click on the title.

The Agony & The Ecstasy

Why do bad things happen to good people? Or more specifically, why do Christians suffer? Humans live in a world of suffering, plagued by disease, loneliness, and pain of every imaginable sort. The question, “Why is there suffering?” is not limited to philosophers and ethicists—every thinking person ponders it! Even if one arrives at the answer “Because there is sin in the world,” that only leads to a further line of questioning. For instance, one might ask: “How did this evil come to exist in the Universe? Did God fashion it this way?” The Bible leaves no doubt that the cosmos was not always as we see it now. Upon completing the Creation, God pronounced it “good.” (“Very good” described His assessment of His handiwork after the formation of Man.) Sin, which at root is rebellion against God, began in the Heavenlies. It did not emanate from God, but rather from Lucifer and numerous angelic beings. A thoughtful person might then pose the question: “If evil originated in heavenly places, how was it transferred to this planet?” Once more the Bible provides the answer: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and thus death passed upon all men, because all have sinned.”(Rom.5:12) Generally speaking, we may thereby explain the existence of evil in the world. While this explanation is helpful regarding the general aspects of sin, it still does not answer our first interrogative.
It is impossible for any finite being to accurately account for every single bad situation that occurs in someone’s life. That is to say, I cannot necessarily tell you specifically why God has allowed something bad to happen to you at a given point in time. Some things one will not know on this side of Eternity. Armed with the Scriptures, however, one may draw some conclusions about God and His dealings with His Creation that can help account for the calamities that befall His children.

To read the entire article, click on the title.

Special Ops

The recent fighting in Afghanistan has cast the spotlight on extraordinary soldiers, referred to as Special Operations or Special Forces. All major armies have their elite troops, who are reserved for difficult missions, requiring bravery and skill in superlative degree. The Israeli Defense Force has its celebrated paratroopers. The British have the Special Air Service (SAS) and the Royal Marines. While the United States military has numerous different Special Operations units (e.g. The Navy Seals; Marine Recon teams & Scout-Snipers; & the Army Rangers, Green Berets, & Delta Force.) In Biblical times, there were also valiant warriors, who possessed courage, loyalty, & faith. Champions like Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson performed great martial exploits in delivering Israel from their enemies. Perhaps no other group of men in the Scriptures deserve the title of Special Forces more than David’s Mighty Men.

To read the entire article, click on the title.

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