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GPS – Walking as Strangers and Pilgrims

GPS – Walking as Strangers and Pilgrims

by Rick Shrader

The apostle Peter wrote to the “pilgrims of the Dispersion [diaspora] in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). James also addressed his readers as “the twelve tribes scattered abroad” (literally, “of the diaspora”). Peter especially designates these Jews as Christian believers or “elect” (vs 2). Diaspora means a scattering of the “spora” or seed. These believers had been sown among these provinces throughout Asia Minor.

In 2:11 Peter calls them both “sojourners and pilgrims.” Sojourner (para+oikos) means “without a house.” Pilgrim (para+dēmos) means “without a people.” These terms in the New Testament are used to describe the Jews who have been scattered throughout their history and also of the Christians of the first century. Paul says to the Ephesian believers, “You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19). D. Edmond Hiebert described them as “sojourners in an alien land, dispersed and far removed from their homeland. However, they were assured of their future in-gathering to their heavenly home.”

The Jewish people have always felt this estrangement as a people on the earth. Unfortunately, we are seeing that age-old antipathy toward them expressed in hateful racism today. But we as Christian believers in Jesus Christ will also experience a similar thing, as John wrote, “In the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ . . . for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:9). Christians are people with a foot in two worlds. Yes, we have to live here for now as the old song said, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through,” but our real citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20). We do not have a home in this world nor a people. Our spiritual family are all strangers and pilgrims as well. “For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland . . . that is, a heavenly country” (Heb 11:14, 16).

In an epistle to Diognetus, early in the second century AD, a believer named Mathetes wrote about Christians, “Every foreign land is their home, and every home a foreign land. . . They find themselves in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their days on earth, but hold a citizenship in heaven.” Is this the way twenty-first century Christians live today, or have we lost that perspective of our true citizenship? Jesus said, where our treasure is, that is where our heart will be also (Matt 6:21).

In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian and Faithful are passing through the town of Vanity Fair, so named because the vanity was non-stop, 24 hours a day. There they found themselves in a strange environment and odd-looking to the residents. “They wondered at their apparel, so they did likewise at their speech, for few could understand what they said. They naturally spoke the language of Canaan, but they that kept the fair were the men of this world. So they seemed barbarians each to the other.” Christian and Faithful were beaten and jailed but the townspeople still created a riot over their presence which was blamed upon the two themselves, and they were run out of town.

It is easy to be more concerned with what the world thinks of us than what our Savior thinks. James wrote, “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (Jas 4:4). This should concern us greatly in the day in which we live and walk with the Lord. John wrote about false prophets, “They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us” (1 John 4:5-6). You really don’t have to work at displeasing the world. All you have to do is work hard at pleasing the Lord and the world will by itself be displeased. A lost and dying world needs the godly believer, if for nothing else than a convicting testimony of God’s grace.

 

Further Thoughts on Strangers and   Pilgrims from Hebrews 10:25

“Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb 10:24-25).

Strangers and pilgrims (Christians) gather together in church. This has been the pattern since the Sunday night of resurrection and has continued for over two thousand years. Unbelievers have always been welcomed, sought in fact, to come and observe what Christians do in this strange gathering. However, the local gathering is designed for those who are basically strangers and pilgrims to the rest of the world. This great verse contains four actions that motivate these believers to gather together.

Forsaking. This first action is put in the negative as a warning and a contrast to the previous verse. How can we stir one another up to love and good works if we forsake the gathering? One of the major reasons for being in church is to communicate verbally with others who need encouragement. This word is used in very serious ways in the New Testament. Jesus cried to the Father on the cross, “Why have you forsaken me.” Paul mourned that Demas had forsaken him, “having loved this present world.” In the warnings that follow verse 25, those who are not part of the assembly “willfully” do not receive these truths. But the writer notes that we should not be surprised because this is the “manner” of some. The word ethos (ēthōs, as we say it) refers to the culture of the world of which church attendance is usually not a part.

Assembling. The assembly of the local church is a familiar word to believers. Usually the word would be “ekklesia,” but here is one of the few uses of the word “sunagogē,” usually translated as synagogue. We have it also in Jas 2:1 referring to the congregation of believers. 2 Thes 2:1 uses it referring to the raptured saints who will be “gathered together” in the clouds with the Lord. So whether we say “assembly” or “congregation,” we know what it means.

The Christian church is not a synagogue nor is Sunday a Sabbath day. In America we have always been glad that Saturday and Sunday have been the weekend, when one can choose to worship on either day without work obligations. Christians gather on Sunday because that is the day churches in the New Testament gathered. “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7). John gave it the title, “the Lord’s Day” (Rev 1:10). Sunday, of course, is the day of the Lord’s resurrection and we are believers in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. We do the business of the church on this day. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). We could rightly add to that singing, receiving offerings, and even eating common meals.

Exhorting. Parakaleō is a familiar Greek word meaning to come or call beside. It can mean to comfort or to encourage. It is difficult to come along beside someone from an invisible distance. In verse 24 we read the words “stir up” or “provoke.” We get our English word paroxysm from the Greek word. A connotation would be a convulsion or seizure. Stirring up and exhorting results in a person being moved to right action. This is often done by the preaching of the Word but could happen in other ways in the assembly. An encouraging word or an explanation of a truth may be just the thing a struggling believer needs at that moment. In verses 22, 23, and 24 the writer used a soft command, “let us,” to strengthen individuals, encourage better witnessing, and to consider one another’s needs.

Approaching. The local church is essential because the “Day” is approaching. That is the second coming of Jesus Christ, and to believers that means the rapture of the church. “Approaching” (engizō) is variously translated in verses that describe the imminent coming of Christ. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand” (Rom 13:12); “The coming of the Lord draws near” (Jas 5:8); “The end of all things is at hand” (1 Pet 4:7). Therefore we should assemble “so much more.”

Statistics abound that show American church attendance going down each year. I think that church attendance among conservative Baptists may also have gone down over the last few years. Was it just covid? Was it just the ease of sitting at home and watching online services? The biblical admonition as we see the apostasy of the age is not to run from the assembly but to run to it even more. We don’t need fewer services during the week, we need more, or at least we should not do away with the ones we have. Assembling together is not a mere legalism, and it is more than just the command. It is a dire necessity for believers as we approach the end of the age.

 

 

GPS – Walking as Mere Men

GPS – Walking as Mere Men

by Admin

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The apostle Paul described the Corinthian believers as those who were “behaving like mere men” (1 Cor. 3:3).  We have been thinking about the Christian walk and the word “behaving” is the normal word for “walking” (peripateo means “to walk around”_.  How was it that they walked as “mere” men?  We are told that they walked carnally.  Four times in four verses (3:1-4_ Paul described the Corinthian believers with the word “carnal.”  It becomes immediately obvious that true believers in Jesus Christ, though being spiritual and having the Holy Spirit, can also behave carnally.  Carnal is the English word for “flesh.”  That word appears over 150 times in the New Testament referring to the physical body, human works, the old nature, the works of our hands, and things we do when we give in to our old nature.  When referring to this last usage, “flesh” is translated “fleshly” or “carnal” in five specific passages in five ways.

Sold under sin (Rom 7:14, “I am carnal, sold under sin”). Paul had come to realize the devastating nature of sin that remains in the believer. Though that nature has been rendered powerless by justification (6:6), it still roams the halls of our hearts barking out orders. In order to be successful in the Christian walk the believer must know the difference between the voice of the new nature and that of the old. The remainder of Romans 7 is a unique description of how the new and old natures fight within the believer.

Fed with milk (1 Cor 3:1-4, “I fed you with milk and not with solid food”). Though Paul desired to feed the believers with the meat of the Word, their carnality only allowed them to take milk. Even Bible study is severely limited in its effects when the mind is set on carnality (see Heb 5:12-14). In a carnal condition the believer hears good words, even the meat of the Word, but makes bad decisions. Peter will say, “add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge” (2 Pet 1:5). Virtue, or spirituality, must always be the priority in a believer’s walk.

Fleshly wisdom (2 Cor 1:12, “not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God”). There is much fleshly wisdom in the world but it is a wisdom that does not know God (1 Cor 1:21). Worldly wisdom may make one famous, or rich, or popular, and even religious. The believer has wisdom available that comes through the grace of God. James says the wisdom from above is pure and peaceable and is sown in peace of them that make peace (Jas 3:17-18).

Fleshly mind (Col 2:18, “vainly puffed up in his fleshly mind”). Similar to fleshly wisdom, a fleshly mind wanders away after false humility, even into a worshiping of angels and other pseudo-religious things and is “vainly” puffed up, that is, empty-headed though it appears to be full. The old nature puffs us up but the new nature builds others up (1 Cor 8:1).

Fleshly lusts (1 Pet 2:11, “fleshly lusts which war against the soul”). Many naïve Christians have thought they could safely play with temptation of the flesh only to find destruction of the flesh. We must see the fleshly temptation of the world as a war waged for our destruction. We have “weapons of warfare” (2 Cor 10:4-6) that can make us victorious in the battle if we will only use them. The “members” of our bodies are either weapons that enslave us or that give us victory (Rom 6:13).

Richard Baxter: “A heart in heaven is the highest excellence of Christian temper. As the noblest of creatures, so the noblest of Christians are they whose faces are set most direct for heaven.”

~ The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, p. 259.

Further Thoughts on Carnality from 1 Corinthians Chapter 3

Paul continued his discourse on carnality (1 Cor 3:1-4) through the remainder of chapter 3. This chapter is best known for the description of the Bema Seat of Christ, especially verses 12-15. The Bema Seat (“Judgment Seat”) of Christ will take place immediately after the church is raptured, just before the tribulation period begins (see Rev 4:4, 10 for the rewards already given and the casting of the crowns before the throne).
Reference to the Bema Seat is important because our spirituality or carnality now will determine our reward or loss of reward then. Of interest in chapter 3 is the reference to believers as “every man,” “no man,” and “any man.” These descriptives show how the believer’s walk will affect the rewards which he will receive at the Bema Seat.

Note: I’m using the KJV for English consistency which translates ekastos (“each one separately”) as “every man;” oudeis & mēdeis (“none, no one”) as “no man;” and ei tis (“anyone, whoever”) as “any man.”

Every man (i.e., every believer will experience this: 5, 8, 10, 13). God gave the gospel to every believer (5). Every believer will receive the result of his own work and not for anyone else’s work (8). The believer’s work must be based on the foundation of Christ for it to have eternal value (10). Every believer’s work, spiritual or carnal, will be evaluated at the Bema Seat of what sort it is (13).

No man (i.e., no believer should do this: 11, 18, 21). Many have tried to please God by building on a foundation other than Christ but there is no other such foundation (11). We deceive ourselves when we seek to be wise in the worldly sense. It is better to be a fool in the world’s eyes and truly wise in God’s eyes (18). Therefore, Paul says, no man should glory in men because God has given believers everything (21).

Any man (i.e., all believers may do this: 12, 14, 15, 17, 18). The reference to “any man” is a reference to the ability of a believer to choose the good or bad. A believer can chose to build his Christian life with gold, silver, and precious stones, or he can chose wood, hay, and stubble. These represent good works or carnal works (12). The fire of God’s Bema Seat will try our works. If any man’s work abides the fire, he shall receive a reward (14). By the same token, if any man’s work is burned up by the fire, he will suffer a loss of reward (15). Paul calls our body the temple of the Holy Spirit. Any man who defiles this temple will be destroyed. “Defile” and “destroy” are the same Greek words meaning “to ruin” (17). In light of this, any believer has freedom to choose to be a fool or to be wise. Paul encourages the believer to be a fool in this world that he may be wise before God (18).

The subject of spirituality and carnality, rewards and loss of rewards, must also include a final factor. The subjects in these include all believers. Paul is not talking about lost and saved but about Christians who can choose to be spiritual or carnal. This truth is brought home in four verses.

Saved so as by fire (15). The man who loses reward due to carnality will not lose his salvation. This is similar to the carnal man in chapter 5 whose carnality caused the destruction of his flesh but his spirit was saved (5:5).

The temple of the Holy Spirit (16). The Holy Spirit lives within every believer whether he is living as carnal or spiritual. Sadly, the carnal believer appears to be the same as a lost person though he is not. The Holy Spirit will never leave the believer.

All things are yours (21, 22). All believers will inherit all things in the kingdom of God. Yes, a loss of reward will mean a loss in places of leadership, but not a loss of salvation, eternal life, or presiding as the bride of Christ in His kingdom.

You are Christ’s and Christ is God’s (23). Paul said we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God (Col 3:3). Nothing can be more secure than to have the Holy Spirit in you, while you are in Christ, and while Christ is in God. “No man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one” (John 10:29-30).

Not Now—Momentarily!

There is a contemporary view which says that believers are reigning “already—not yet” in the kingdom of God i.e., the kingdom of God is already here in a spiritual way but it will come in a physical way later. Rather, in 1 Corinthians 4, Paul was scolding the Corinthians when he wrote, “You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!” (1 Cor 4:8). Then we will judge angels (6:3). So, if Christ is “not now” reigning, when will He reign? Paul says, “Momentarily!” “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (15:52).

 

GPS – Providence and Decision Making

GPS – Providence and Decision Making

by Rick Shrader

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When we are walking on life’s road and navigating the junctions and choices in life, we need to remember that we are not alone. Though we have many companions and counselors helping us make the right turns, as believers we have a Friend Who never leaves us nor forsakes us. Our Lord Jesus Christ is now both human and divine, One Who knows our human sorrows and Who also sees with divine omniscience. Here is a child of Adam walking with the Son of God! This is a great partnership.

God’s Providence

As God, our Lord has all the attributes necessary to guide us. His sovereignty will work all things together for our good (Rom 8:28). His omniscience sees the whole path we walk, not just the next bend in the road. His omnipotence gives Him the power to create, adjust, and change any circumstances to conform to His will.

The Lord also uniquely uses the means necessary to carry out His will for us. “He who calls you is faithful who also will do it” (1 Thes 5:24). In this age He does not need nor use miraculous means to direct our paths. We don’t get hand-writing on the wall, audible voices thundering from heaven, nor inspired prophets to deliver the voice of God to us. His Word and Spirit are gifts enough. But the Lord does manipulate the circumstances behind the scenes in ways unknown to the human eye. “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:36).

We can also trust that the Lord’s purposes are for our good. That does not mean that all of the circumstances along our road are easy or comfortable. In fact, for many they have been very difficult and often have ended in persecution and death. Sometimes they are sickness, brokenness, and trial and we are tempted to complain and ask God why. Finally, however, we humble ourselves under His mighty hand and cast our cares upon Him because we know He cares for us (1 Pet 5:6-7). With such a Companion, we can finish our race with joy.

Our Responsibility

As a toddler hanging tightly to a father’s hand, we hold and follow God’s leading. This requires a life of learning but it starts with learning about Him. The Lord has given us all things that are needed for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). We grow and mature in these things as we learn His Word (2 Tim 3:16-17). The more we understand the Word of God the more we know how to be abased or to abound and endure all the twists and turns in life through Him Who strengthens us (Phil 4:12-13).

Purity is the first thing we learn (2 Pet 1:5). As the Word of God converts us and changes us into the person He wants us to be, we are more and more attuned to His will. To live a peaceable life is first to be pure and then gentleness follows (Jas 3:17).

Prayer is the key that causes us to be partners with the Lord as we hold His hand and follow along. Our prayers, when effectual and fervent, avail with God (Jas 5:16), i.e., they make a difference. They don’t of themselves change things, but they petition God Who changes things. Prayer is our great asset in navigating life’s road and following where God leads.

John Flavel: “Prayer honors providence, and providence honors prayer . . . Providences have borne the very signatures of your prayer upon them.” Allen & Chester, The Glory of Grace: an introduction to the Puritans, p. 145.

 

Covenantal and Dispensational Theologies, Four Views

Brent Parker & Richard Lucas, editors

This is another “Views” books which gives the reader four different views on a subject.  This is also the second of such books I have reviewed this year. This volume covers the same topics as last month’s book but by different well-known authors.

Covenant Theology, by Michael S. Horton, the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary. Horton is an obvious choice to write on covenant theology. His large volume on systematic theology, The Christian Faith (2011), has become a standard text for that point of view. Horton basically presents and explains the three “theological covenants” of covenant theology: the Covenant of Works, the Covenant of Grace, and the Covenant of Redemption. These are primarily defended from the Westminster Confession of Faith and other similar confessions (since they are not mentioned by name in the Bible). Horton goes on to link circumcision to infant baptism and Passover to communion in what he describes as a “Vista from the grand balcony of this covenantal house” (p. 60), though I think a view from the ground floor would have been more profitable.

Progressive Covenantalism, by Stephen J. Wellum, professor of Christian Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Wellum has been the major voice for this more recent variation of covenant theology. He writes, “Progressive covenantalism argues that the Bible presents a plurality of covenants that progressively reveal our triune God’s one redemptive plan for his one people, which reach their fulfillment, telos, and terminus in Christ and the new covenant” (p. 75). There are two views among PC advocates that this section helps make clear. The first is Wellum’s “three horizons” of biblical interpretation: textual, epochal, and canonical. Textual is the immediate context; epochal is God’s unfolding plan; and canonical means considering a text with regard to what comes before and after. A second helpful explanation in this section is his extended discussion of typology. PC is heavy into type and antitype. “However, ultimately the types reach their antitypical fulfillment first in Christ and then his people” (p. 83).

Progressive Dispensationalism, by Darrell L. Bock, Senior Research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary. Darrell Bock, along with Craig Blaising, also of Dallas Seminary, have become the leading voices in the PD movement. Bock describes  his view by comparing it to traditional dispensationalism, especially each version’s view on Israel and the church. He writes, “The difference within dispensationalism is, whereas traditional dispensationalism kept the two tracks completely distinct, progressive dispensationalism brings them together so one people of God emerge among distinct structures of Israel, church, and then consummated kingdom” (p. 127-128). PD sees the kingdom existing today as an “already-not yet” kingdom (inaugurated eschatology). Among Bock’s many contributions to this view, one that clarified it was his view that in the millennial kingdom, the “one people of God” also means that even Israel will not have a more prominent place than the other nations. “Again, this is not Israel over the nations, but Israel with the nations” (p. 139).

Dispensationalism, by Mark Snoeberger, professor of systematic theology and apologetics, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. Since this traditional dispensational view is what I believe, I enjoyed this section the most. In fact, I thought it was one of the best defenses and explanations recently given. Among the topics covered, I thought Snoeberger’s description of literal interpretation as “originalist” was unique, in keeping with current understanding of constitutional issues. Also, his explanation of how the OT is used in the NT was very helpful, including his criticism of typological methods. Perhaps the best contribution was his explanation of how the biblical covenants and biblical dispensations fit and work together including a unique chart (p. 166). Snoeberger lists the “formal” covenants: Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, New, and includes the Palestinian in some places. Other so-called covenants (such as Edenic, Protoevangelium, and Eternity) he labels as “arrangements” which contain no redemptive element and were not made with Israel specifically. The dispensations, then, are God’s way of administrating His plan for the earth. Snoeberger also emphasizes that God’s glory in the millennial kingdom will be the culmination and the doxological (rather than redemptive) center, or “mitte” in God’s purposes. “The rule of God” is “God’s primary plan for achieving his own glory” (p. 164).

 

GPS – At the Junctions in the Road

GPS – At the Junctions in the Road

by Rick Shrader

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Learning to walk involves many necessary actions: balance, falling, turning, and direction. The Christian walk also involves many actions including turning, eating, talking, learning, and many more. I believe one of the neglected areas of our walk involves the junctions (turnings) in the road. A fork in the road with various options still allows you to go only one way. You have to make a choice, and that choice will change your whole life.

Biblical Examples. Abraham and Lot came to a junction in their lives where Abraham gave Lot a choice of which way to go. Lot’s choice of Sodom changed his life and Abraham’s. John Mark, in Acts 13, returned home rather than going on with Paul and Barnabas, a choice that changed his life and many others. Paul, in Acts 16 wanted to go to Ephesus and Bithynia but the Holy Spirit sent him on to Troas where he received the Macedonian call, junctions that changed his life and the gospel ministry. We all face similar junctions in our own lives many times.

Unforeseen Junctions. There are many junctions in life’s road before we ever realize how important they were. Our parents were making decisions for us (job location, school choices) that changed our lives. The high school (or church!) we attended had a big effect on where we went to college. The college we attended had a big effect on whom we married. The person we married had an effect on the rest of our lives and many others.

Huge Junctions. Some junctions are life-changers. The first and most important is our decision to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. Every Christian would admit that their salvation decision changed their life. In fact, the Bible says it must! The second and third most important decisions go together: marriage and God’s will. True, they don’t always go together but they should. In fact, they usually happen around the same time in a person’s life. What are you going to do in life? Have you asked God? Whom should you marry? Have you asked God? The wrong decision at either of these junctions will (can, and usually does) ruin the other decision because both decisions are for life. God has a reason for you to be married to a good mate, and He has a will for your lives together.

Ongoing Junctions. Will you and your spouse build a Christian home together? This will affect both of you, your children, your parents, your grandchildren, and everyone with whom they associate. The church you chose to attend, whether you think so or not, will change your life and your family’s lives. If the New Testament says anything, it says how important the local church is to a believer’s life. Then, for the rest of your life, you will constantly be making personal decisions. Will you have a devotional life? Will you serve in your church? Will you pick up bad habits that destroy your health and testimony and affect your children? Will you work at your marriage?

Re-Thinking Junctions. There are a few junctions that can be reversed—the one, for example, you made a few minutes ago. Stop! Go back to the junction and go the other way. Also, Repent! God forgives sin and restores lives. True, scars and results usually have to be carried the rest of your life, but you can do it with God’s help. And, Learn! You may not come to the same junction twice, but you will come to the same kind of junction many times. Experience is the best teacher. Walk with the Lord, but choose wisely.

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, This is the way, walk in it, whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” (Isa 30:21)

 

Perspectives on Israel and the Church, Four Views

Chad Brand, editor

This is one of many “Views” books which give the reader four different views on a subject.  This volume (2015) concerns the views on covenant theology and dispensational theology with a newer variation of each.

The Traditional Covenantal View, by Robert L. Reymond, professor of Theology emeritus at Knox Theological Seminary. Covenant Theology has been around since the Reformation. It gets its name from its belief in three “theological” covenants: the covenant of works (with Adam in the garden); the covenant of grace (in effect since the fall of Adam into sin); and the covenant of redemption (made between the Father and the Son in eternity past). They do not deny the biblical covenants but see that God is working out His will by electing those whom the Father previously gave to the Son, and saving them all during the covenant of grace from the fall until the end of the world. This is a basic amillennial view and a “replacement theology” whereby the church (i.e., the elect) replaces Israel as God’s promised people.

The Traditional Dispensational View, by Robert L. Thomas, Professor of New Testament emeritus at The Master’s Seminary. Thomas deals with Israel in the OT and the NT. In the OT Thomas shows that the land promise has never been fulfilled literally to Israel. He says, “A literal approach interprets the words as God intended  them and as Abram understood them. No typology. No spiritualizing. No symbolism. No preunderstanding of how the words must fit into a system of theology.” In the NT he shows how “Jesus might have canceled God’s promises to Abraham but did not.” Here Thomas reviews 10 times in the life of Christ where this could have been done if that is what Christ intended. Obviously He did not. Then Thomas reviews 6 ways in which the “Apostles might have canceled God’s promises to Abraham but did not.” After reviewing the biblical covenants showing the literal promises to Israel, Thomas reviews the book of Revelation (about which he is well-known for his large 2-volume commentary) and writes, “The book of Revelation is full of references to God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promises to national Israel.”

The Progressive Dispensational View, by Robert L. Saucy, distinguished professor of Systematic Theology at Talbot School of Theology. In the early 1990s Saucy of Talbot along with Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock of Dallas Seminary, and many others since, introduced significant changes to traditional dispensationalism. These include hermeneutical and ecclesiastical changes, prophetic and covenantal changes. Saucy includes three in this volume. 1) Israel is still God’s special people with promises of a millennial future. 2) The church participates with Israel in the new covenant as one combined people of God, not as a uniquely separate entity. 3) The kingdom of God exists now in an inaugurated form called “already-not yet.” It is here already in an inaugurated, or spiritual, form but will also come later in a material form. Prominent in Saucy’s presentation is the view that the church is establishing the kingdom by its evangelism to the Gentile world. Saved Jews and Gentiles will eventually inhabit the millennial kingdom as a united people of God. The eternal state is often included as a renewed earth and an eternal earthly kingdom. It should be noted also that the description of “progressive” does not mean culturally contemporary, but rather as a more biblical theological, i.e., progressive revelatory view. The view also necessarily includes much more typical and allegorical hermeneutics than its predecessors.

The Progressive Covenantal View, by Chad O. Brand, speaker and lecturer and Tom Pratt Jr., president of Eagle Rock Ministries. This newer version of covenant theology has emerged in that last 15-20 years. Its voice has mainly come from Stephen J. Wellum, Brent E. Parker, and Peter Gentry of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It is a more mixed view on eschatology than its forefather, covenant theology, with some a, post, and pre-millennial views. Its primary thesis is that all Old Testament covenants and promises are fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. His followers are one people of God who fulfill the promises as a kingdom—some even propose they are the promised “land” (obviously in a spiritual way) of the kingdom. Progressive Covenantalism is constantly developing.

As a traditional dispensationalist, I am concerned with the two “progressive” developments to the historical views of Israel, church, and the kingdom including the complementary hermeneutic, supersessionism, and expanding views of the new covenant.

 

GPS – Learning to Walk

GPS – Learning to Walk

by Rick Shrader

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The most common description of the believer’s life in the New Testament is the word “walk.” The word appears, in relation to the believer, almost 200 times. It is used in negative connotations such as, “when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3); in descriptions of the enemies of Christ such as, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil 3:18); and in discussing carnality, “For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies” (2 Thes 3:11). But the great majority of the time the word “walk” describes the various positive ways a believer lives his life.

In physical life, learning to walk is one of the first challenges for a child. It doesn’t happen all at once (at least not with most kids) but takes small movements until that first step is taken. We all remember watching our children roll over, crawl, and then pull themselves up to a low table. Then it takes a while as the child holds an adult hand and wobbles alongside for short distances. Finally, however, the child must venture on his own and off he goes! For the rest of his life, walking is like breathing. We all do it without thinking. We may have to think about riding a bike, swimming, or jumping a rope, but we walk automatically.

I think God uses the analogy of walking to describe the Christian life because it is something that a believer ought to do automatically. It should not involve ongoing decisions about balance, which foot goes first, or how long each step should be. When we walk, those decisions are done almost without thinking. Such also is the Christian walk.

Walking with God in our Christian life has many admonitions for different circumstances. Just as you walk barefoot or with shoes, fast or slow, casually or purposefully, our believing walk also has many variations. Consider the following: “Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us” (Eph 5:2); “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside” (Col 5:2); “Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Eph 4:1); “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” (Eph 5:15); “As Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4); “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal 5:16); “Let us walk properly, as in the day” (Rom 13:13); “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Col 2:6); “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8); “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10); “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it” (2 John 6). The list could go on and on.

To the new Christian these things may seem like huge challenges, just as taking that first step was a major undertaking to a toddler. But after doing it for a while, even mom can’t keep up with where that little one intends to go! So it should be with those who have walked with the Lord for any length of time. Sure, there are those accidents or foolish experiments that impede the walking for a while, but the one with life in his limbs will not be down for long. “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11).

 

Dispensationalism Revisited

Kevin Bauder, Bruce Compton, editors

This 2023 publication from Central Seminary Press is the best review and defense of dispensationalism in the last few years. After reading so many opinions and critiques of the subject, this book felt like meeting with an old friend and walking for a while. Yet at the same time it brought new and up-to-date clarification on a number of important and contemporary issues. At various points, the book speaks to the issues of progressive dispensationalism, covenantalism, and progressive covenantalism. Roy Beacham writes, “All three of these methodologies . . . Embrace the preunderstanding that predictive prophecy can be, has been, and is being fulfilled in some other way than literally. In fact, this hermeneutic is intrinsic to each of these systems since none of their theological constructs could exist apart from the idea of partial nonliteral fulfillment” (35).

Ten dispensationalists contributed to the book, seven from five well-known seminaries, one from the University of Minnesota, and two Baptist pastors. The topics were these: 1) The Glory of God and Dispensationalism: Revisiting the Sine Qua Nons of Dispensationalism, by Douglas Brown, Faith Baptist Theological Seminary. Doug Brown emphasizes the third Sine Qua Non of dispensationalism, the glory of God. “In this author’s view dispensationalists have not always given adequate attention to the glory of God in their teaching on dispensationalism” (17).

2) Literalism and the Prophets: The Case for a Unified Hermeneutic, by Roy Beacham, Central Baptist Theological Seminary. “Dispensationalists embrace the idea that God intended all prophetic foretelling in Scripture to be understood literally and only literally” (32).

3) Israel and the Church: Is There Really a Difference? by Kevin Bauder, Central Baptist Theological Seminary. “This chapter will offer an understanding of this expression [people of God], which, while often used, is seldom defined” (72).

4) Biblical Covenants and Their Fulfillment, by William Berrick, The Master’s Seminary. “This study purposes to illumine the believer’s mind regarding the fulfillment of the covenants within the scope of their interrelationship with biblical dispensations” (102).

5) The “Kingdom of Heaven/God” and the Church: A Case Study in Hermeneutics and Theology, by R. Bruce Compton, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. “The expressions kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God refer essentially to Christ’s future earthly rule in the millennial kingdom” (121).

6) Israel in the Church Fathers, by Larry Pettegrew, Shepherd’s Seminary. “The eschatological system held by these early church Fathers, according to Hauser, was therefore premillennialism but not necessarily the kind of premillennialism that goes hand in hand with pretribulationalism” (139). Pettegrew will further explain, “Moreover, almost all the Fathers, including the early Fathers who were premillennialists, were inconsistent in their hermeneutics, engaging in some doubtful typological interpretations” (145).

7) Acts, the Church, and the Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, by Andrew Hudson, pastor, Westside Baptist Church, Janesville, WI. “This essay presupposes that, even though Acts is a unique book, it should be interpreted according to a literal or normal historical-grammatical hermeneutic” (168).

8) The Church, Israel, and Supersessionism, by Ryan Martin, pastor, Columbiaville Baptist Church, Columbiaville, MI. “I intend to present an exegetical argument from Romans 9-11 that ethnic Israel has a distinct future in God’s plan” (196).

9) Will Jesus Come Before the Millennium? A New Testament Answer from Revelation 20, by W. Edward Glenny, University of Minnesota. “The goal of this essay is to defend and show the support for a premillennial return of Christ in Revelation 20” (234).

10) The Case for the Pretribulational Rapture, by Jonathan Pratt, Central Baptist Theological Seminary. “My goal is to provide both exegetical and theological arguments in defense of the pretribulational rapture” (250)

It should be noted also that this volume was a tribute to Dr. Charles Hauser, Jr., registrar and dean of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, MN, from 1986 until his retirement in 2006. I sat under Dr. Hauser when he was professor and Academic Vice President at Denver Baptist Theological Seminary where I received a ThM degree. I also knew Dr. Hauser during his years at Central. He and his wife Ann were great people. May God increase their tribe.

 

 

GPS – The Stewardship of Dying

GPS – The Stewardship of Dying

by Rick Shrader

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December marks the end of the year. It is the dying of the seasons, the lengthening of the night, the shortening of the days. Just as God has made His world “for signs and seasons, for days and years,” He has made human beings to live and to die. Life came by the creative hand of God, death came by the sin of mankind. By God’s grace, however, “death is swallowed up in victory” by faith in Jesus Christ. I want to end this twelve-month series speaking of death for the believer. That may sound odd for a December article but it is fitting for the end of the life cycle about which I have been writing.

Just as winter brings an expected end to the seasons, spring always follows with new life. The death of the believer brings an end to earthly life, but it brings the beginning of eternal life with God. I believe Christians ought to look forward to this transition we call death. This is not to say that death itself is enjoyable or easy, but it is to say that we are “earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven.” Given a choice between the two, I would choose “having a desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better.” The Puritan William Bridge said, “Death is terrible. It is called the king of terrors. But to sweeten this, it is called sleep.” So let me give a few biblical facts that sweeten this thing we call death.

Facts about death. First, we should understand that death is not a punishment for the believer, it is just the last debt we owe to our human existence. Jesus has “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light” for the believer even though “it is appointed unto man once to die.” Thomas Wentworth, at his death sentence said, “I come to pay the last debt I owe unto sin, which is death, and by the blessing of God, to rise again through the merits of Christ Jesus to eternal glory.” Second, death does not separate us from our union with Christ. “The dead in Christ will rise,” and “so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Third, dying is the culmination of our progressive sanctification. This is perhaps the greatest opportunity for Christian testimony in our life. The words of great saints become more pointed and effective as they approach death, and their memorial brings many tears to doubting eyes. “The way of life winds upward for the wise, that he may turn away from hell below” (Prov. 15:24).

Analogies about death. There are well over twenty analogies of the process of dying. The more common ones are: going to sleep and waking (1 Thes. 4:13; Psa. 17:15); folding a tent and putting it away (2 Cor. 5:1; 2 Pet. 1:14); sowing a seed that produces a new form (Jn. 12:24; 1 Cor. 15:38); a ship departing from its moorings (2 Tim. 4:6; Phil. 1:23); flying away (Psa. 90:10).

Testimonies about death. Believers have always been encouraged by the testimonies from great saints as they were entering the valley of the shadow of death.  Philip Doddridge influenced great men such as Isaac Watts and C.H. Spurgeon who referred to his book as “That holy book.” Doddridge wrote, “I acknowledge, O Lord, the justice of that sentence by which I am expiring; and own thy wisdom and goodness in appointing my journey through this gloomy vale which is now before me.  Help me to turn it into the happy occasion of honoring thee and adorning my profession!  And I will bless the pangs by which thou art glorified, and this mortal and sinful part of my nature dissolved. . . let me close the scene nobly.” The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, p. 319.

Other observations on Dying

Richard Baxter: “The thing to be considered is our unreasonable unwillingness to die, that we may possess the saints’ rest.  We linger, like Lot in Sodom, till ‘the Lord being merciful unto us,’ doth pluck us away against our will.  I confess that death, of itself, is not desirable; but the soul’s rest with God is, to which death is the common passage.”   The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, p. 241.

C.H. Spurgeon: “O Lord, let them not die without hope, and may thy believing people learn to pass away without even tasting the bitterness of death.  May they enter into rest, each one walking in his own uprightness.”  Spurgeon’s Prayers, p. 114.

Matthew Henry: “If it be the will of God that I should finish my course this year, let me be found of Christ in peace, and by the grace of God death shall be welcome to me.”  Biography of Matthew Henry, p. 112.

Gregory Spencer: “The Black Plague.  Brutal war.  High infant mortality.  No antibiotics.  Perhaps because death seemed to walk constantly with those in the Middle Ages, the church thought that believers needed to prepare to meet their Savior, to learn to ‘let go’ of this life and die with grace.  They called this practice ars morendi, Latin for ‘the art of dying well.’”  Awakening the Quieter Virtues, p. 150.

J.C. Ryle: “Most men hope to go to heaven when they die; but few, it may be feared, take the trouble to consider whether they would enjoy heaven if they got there.  Heaven is essentially a holy place; its inhabitants are all holy; its occupations are all holy.  To be really happy in heaven, it is clear and plain that we must be somewhat trained and made ready for heaven while we are on earth.” Holiness, p. 58-59.

A.W. Tozer: “I thank God that heaven is the world of God’s obedient children.  Whatever else we may say of its pearly gates, golden streets and jasper walls, heaven is heaven because children of the Most High God find they are in their normal sphere as obedient moral beings.”   Mornings With Tozer,

Robert Freeman: “When I go down to the sea by ship, and death unfurls her sail, weep not for me, for there shall be, a living host on another coast, to beckon and cry, All hail.” WWII Memorial, Alaska.

A Dialogue—Anthem, By George Herbert (1593-1633)

Alas, poor Death! Where is thy glory?
Where is thy famous force, thy ancient sting?

Alas, poor mortal, void of story!
Go spell and read how I have killed thy King.

Poor Death! And who was hurt thereby?
Thy curse being laid on Him makes thee accurst.

Let losers talk, yet thou shalt die;
These arms shall crush thee.

Spare not, do thy worst.
I shall be one day better than before;
Thou so much worse, that thou shalt be no more.

From The Temple, 1633, by George Herbert.                        https://www.ccel.org/h/herbert/temple/Dialogue.html

The Great Concern, Edward Pearce (1633-1673)

“Truly, this is the posture which some (though but a few) are found in; they make conscience to discharge the duty that is incumbent upon them; they say with their Lord, ‘I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work’ (John 9:4). They see night coming, death coming, judgment coming, eternity coming, and accordingly they desire to lay out their whole souls in the work of God, to live up to the laws of Christ in every relation, and they look upon that day as lost wherein they have not done somewhat for God and their own souls. And how comfortably may such look death in the face when it comes! I have read the life of a holy minister who was seized upon by sickness, which was unto death, while he was preaching the everlasting gospel, and lying sick a few days sick before he died, a fellow laborer of his, another holy minister, coming to visit him, and seeing death in his face, cried out in some passion, ‘O dear sir, are you going to heaven from us?’ To whom he replied, ‘Yes, I bless God, that my Master found me in his work.’ Truly, might a man have his choice and option, he would have death to find him while he is engaged in the work of God.” The Great Concern: Preparation for Death, p. 102.

 

GPS – The Challenge of Older Age

GPS – The Challenge of Older Age

by Rick Shrader

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Being a septuagenarian myself, I know many of the challenges of older age. Solomon called it the “difficult” days (Ecc. 12:1) but he also said, “the splendor of old men is their gray head” (Prov. 20:29). Moses encouraged us to “number our days so that we can gain a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:12). David said we should “bear fruit in old age” (Psa. 92:14) and Job said “wisdom is with aged men” (Job 12:12). Here are a few responsibilities we have in older age.

To God. Our first responsibility is always to our Creator and our Savior. David prayed, “O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come” (Psa. 71:17-18).

To Society. The unsaved world may despise mortality  and try every way possible to prevent it, but 100% of humans have died and that percentage won’t change. Growing old gracefully is a blessing to the world around us. The date-palm tree in Israel averages 200 years and grows 100 lbs. of figs every year until it dies. Psalm 92 says we should be like the date-palm “to bear fruit in old age” and “to declare that the Lord is upright” (Psa. 92:14-15).

To our Family. The family is the oldest and most important institution on earth. Through it we carry on God’s image, God’s mandate, and most importantly, God’s gospel salvation. Where would the world be now if every believing family had won all of their children to the Lord? The faith should be passed on to generations to come. “For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children” (Psa. 78:5-6).

To the Church. The language of family becomes the relationship we have to the “household of God,” to all of our “brothers and sisters” in “the family of God.” For many who don’t come from a believing family, water (of baptism) becomes thicker than blood. Jesus asked, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”  His answer was, “Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:48, 50). Paul specifically instructed Titus to instruct the “older men” and the “older women” be a “pattern of good works” and to admonish “young men” and “young women” to “speak things that are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1-6).

To Yourself. “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness” (Prov. 16:31). There are too many excuses to use in your older years to keep yourself from walking with God. Paul wanted to “finish my course with joy” (Acts 20:24).

William Law spoke of our older age, “Delight in its service and beg of God to adorn it with every grace and perfection.  Nourish it with good works, give it peace in solitude, get it strength in prayer, make it wise with reading, enlighten it by meditation, make it tender with love, sweeten it with humility, humble it with penance, enliven it with psalms and hymns, and comfort it with frequent reflections upon future glory.”  A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 1729.

Other observations on Older Age

Woodrow Kroll: “There was just something about those ‘old time’ missionaries, the ones who had stuck it out for thirty or forty years on the field without complaint. They had something down deep inside that I didn’t see in many of my twentieth-century students.” The Vanishing Ministry in the 21st Century, p. 9.

A.W. Tozer: “O God, let me die rather than to go on day by day living wrong.  I do not want to become a careless, fleshly old man.  I want to be right so that I can die right!  Lord, I do not want my life to be extended if it would mean that I should cease to live right and fail in my mission to glorify You all of my days!”  Mornings With Tozer, May 31.

Spurgeon: “It usually happens that, when we listen to a venerable patriarch, such as he then was, there is all the greater weight in his words because of his age.  I fancy that, if I had heard the same sermon preached by a young man, I should not have thought much of it; but there appeared all the greater depth in it because it came from an old man standing almost on the borders of the grave.” Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Vol. I, p. 208.

D.L. Moody:  “The longer I live, the more I am convinced that godly men and women are not appreciated in our day.  But their work will live after them, and there will be a greater work done after they are gone, by the influence of their lives, than when they were living.”  Spiritual Power, p. 107.

Francis Schaeffer: “Much of the younger generation surely is like this:  they know nothing of saying ‘no’ to themselves or anything else.  But this is only half true, because the older ones are also like this.” True Spirituality, p. 20.

Thomas a’ Kempis: “Vanity it is, to wish to live long, and to be careless to live well.” The Imitation of Christ, p. 24.

John MacArthur: “At the age of 83—after having traveled some 250,000 miles on horseback, preached more than 40,000 sermons, and produced some 200 books and pamphlets—John Wesley regretted that he was unable to read and write for more than 15 hours a day without his eyes becoming too tired to work. After his 86th birthday, he admitted to an increasing tendency to lie in bed until 5:30 in the morning!”  Titus, 72.

An Old Disciple

There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge(Acts 21:16).

“Such a great concourse of people there was to the feast that it was a hard matter to get lodgings; the public houses would be taken up by those of the better sort, and it was looked upon as a scandalous thing for those that had private houses to let their rooms out at those times, but they must freely accommodate strangers with them. Every one then would choose his friends to be his guests, and Mnason took Paul and his company to be his lodgers; though he had heard what trouble Paul was likely to come into, which might bring those that entertained him into trouble too, yet he shall be welcome to him, whatever comes of it.

“This Mnason is called an old disciple – a disciple from the beginning; some think, one of the seventy disciples of Christ, or one of the first converts after the pouring out of the Spirit, or one of the first that was converted by the preaching of the gospel in Cyprus, Acts 13:4. However it was, it seems he had been long a Christian, and was now in years. Note, It is an honourable thing to be an old disciple of Jesus Christ, to have been enabled by the grace of God to continue long in a course of duty, stedfast in the faith, and growing more and more prudent and experienced to a good old age. And with these old disciples one would choose to lodge; for the multitude of their years will teach wisdom”  (Matthew Henry).

Barna Reports

“When asked about the most influential people in their spiritual journey, most U.S. adults name family and friends. Generally, mothers (57%), fathers (33%), grandmothers (24%) and friends (20%) rank highest on the list. For older adults, though, the influence of a pastor is also prevalent. More than one in four Elders (27%) and one in five Boomers (21%) say a pastor has been the most influential to their spiritual journey. This finding points to the critical role pastors play in the lives of seniors. Amid the Church’s rally cry to reach younger generations, pastors are still most trusted by older adults.” Faith-Generations, Oct. 18, 2023.

 

GPS – The Junctions in the Road

GPS – The Junctions in the Road

by Rick Shrader

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One of the things that is often overlooked in literature on the family is the wisdom we need when we make big decisions in life. I call these junctions in the road. When we come to an intersection that only has two alternatives, we can only take one of them. That decision will change everything in our lives. Job responded to Zophar, “Have you not asked those who travel the road? And do you not know their signs?” (Job 21:29).

Birth. We came into the world by someone else’s decision. It is a junction for which we had no choice. This junction results in many circumstances that we will live with for the rest of our lives: our parents, our looks, our country of origin, the inflection of our voice, our ancestors.

Salvation. The first big junction in the road we all come to is the decision to ask Jesus to be our Savior. Even to refuse Him is to take a different road in life. Where would you be now if you hadn’t taken the “right” turn? For those who consequently have sought to know God’s will, almost everything has changed. “All things have become new.”

Marriage. Next to salvation, the decision to marry is the next largest decision you will make in your life. If you are faithful to your wedding covenant, you will live with this person for the rest of your life. Her family is your family. Her inherited problems are your problems and her inherited blessings are your blessings. The children you produce will be a unique blend between the two of you which no other two people could possibly produce. The wedding vows promise that you will go down this path together until death parts you.

Children. Children are produced by a sexual union whether in marriage or out of marriage. The child that is produced by that action (junction) is your responsibility for the rest of your life and theirs. In proper marriage, the decision to have children is a momentary junction with life-long responsibility. You will work the rest of your life to support, clothe and feed, teach, counsel, and bandage this person all your days. A husband and wife team is the God-ordained way to do this. A father and mother is the ordained means to produce godly children that worship God and eventually choose this same junction in their lives.

Daily decisions. Life is a list of daily decisions, common junctions in the road. There are wrong and sinful turns. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov 16:25). There are decisions that are neither moral nor immoral but change one’s life. “For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh” (Prov 4:22). There are those decisions that keep you in the will of God. “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psa 23:3). “He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Death. The last junction in the road is to depart from this life. God should be the one to make this turn at His own time. Some usurp God’s will and exit this life prematurely and sinfully by suicide or assisted death. Jesus met with Moses and Elijah on the mount of Transfiguration and “spoke of His decease [Gr. “exodus”] which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Lk 9:31). It was as though Jesus was planning for the exit. Peter, one of the witnesses of this event, therefore said, “Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover, I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease [exodus]” (2 Pet. 1:14-15).

Observations on Junctions in the Road

Louis L’Amour: “How often it is that a whim may alter the course of our existences! How often the simple decision whether to go right or left when one leaves a doorway can change so much! A man may turn to the right and walk straightaway into all manner of evil, and to the left, all manner of good.” Fair Blows the Wind, 235.

C.S. Lewis: “But in friendship, being free of all that, we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, Who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen me but, I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’” The Four Loves, p. 126.

Robert Alden: “The precepts of Proverbs are like signposts at critical junctions in life where we might stray from the road. Carefully mapping out our journey, making intersections which might be confusing, and noting dangers to be avoided along the way are the best ways to guarantee a safe trip.”  Proverbs, p. 48.

Ken Mondschein: [on Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”] “Frost uses the metaphor of a traveler journeying through a forest to represent the journey of life. The traveler comes upon a fork in the road and must decide which path to take. The two paths represent the different choices we make in life, and the traveler’s decision to take the less traveled path symbolizes the choice to take a risk and follow one’s own unique path.” A Collection of Poems by Robert Frost, Introduction.

Jeremiah Burroughs: “A contented heart looks to God’s disposal. That is, he sees the wisdom of God in everything. . . The Lord knows how to order things better than I. The Lord sees further ahead than I do. I see only the present but the Lord sees a great while from now.” Quoted by Jim Newheiser, The Journal of Modern Ministry, Fall, 2004, p. 72.

The decision to leave church

The decision to leave or continue going to church is one of the most life-changing junctions in the road. In the book, The Disciple-Making Parent, 2016, Chap Bettis relates statistics that show the road marked “Leaving” is a broad road.

“In twenty-five separate surveys of more than 22,000 adults and 2,000 teenagers, George Barna found that only 20 percent of the respondents had maintained a level of spiritual activity consistent with their high school experience. In another study, he found that 58 percent of young adults who attended church every week when they were teens did not attend church at all by the time they were 29. Dr. Kara Powell of the Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Seminary took a more conservative approach and only counted those who were a part of a church or youth group when they graduated from high school. Her estimate, based on multiple surveys, was that up to 50 percent of young people did not stick with their faith once they were in college.

“Britt Beemer of the America’s Research Group studied only those who said they attended church every week when they were growing up but never or seldom attend today. After more than 20,000 phone calls, he came to a shocking revelation: Of those who reported they no longer believed the Bible true, 40 percent first had doubts in middle school, 44 percent first had their doubts in high school, and about 11 percent had their first doubts in college. In other words, we are losing many of the hearts of our children in junior high, even though we don’t lose their bodies until later.” pp. 9-10

Justice Clarence Thomas remembers the junction that changed his life. Clarence and his brother were raised by their grandparents when his mother could no longer raise them. Of his swearing in on October 23, 1991, he wrote,

“I thought back to another sunny day in 1955, the day my brother and I had walked to the white house at 542 E. 32nd St. to live with our grandparents, all of our belongings stuffed into a pair of grocery bags. So began the journey that had led me at last to these steps. It was there Daddy and Aunt Tina [his names for his grandparents] taught me all they knew and gave me all they had.” My Grandfather’s Son, p. 289.

 

GPS – The Adorning of the Body

GPS – The Adorning of the Body

by Rick Shrader

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Since the fall into sin God has commanded that the body be properly covered in a modest and proper way. I Corinthians 11 teaches us that proper adorning of the body involves more than hats and hair. It is a matter of headship (3-5), a matter of modesty (5-6), and a matter of gender recognition (13-15).

A matter of headship (1 Cor. 11:3-5)

There is both equality and inequality within headship. The Father and the Son are equal in deity yet for purposes of incarnation the Son submits to the Father. The husband and the wife are equal as souls before God but for purposes of marriage the wife submits to her husband. The inequality is shown among lesser heads and greater heads. The man is not equal to the Son but submits because to do so is to submit to God. The wife submits to the husband because to do so is to submit to Jesus Christ her higher Head. Improper adorning (a “symbol,” vs. 10) for anyone under a higher or lower head “dishonors” that head. Jesus was always submissive to the Father but men and women, husbands and wives fail too often.

A matter of modesty (1 Cor. 11:5-6, 14)

Paul says that it is “shameful” for a woman to be shaven like a man (also because she would appear to be a harlot). He also says it is shameful for a man to wear hair like a woman. Modesty in appearance is a symbol of submission to one’s head which is ultimately to God Himself. Uncovering oneself in an immodest way is always a sin. The Holiness Code of Leviticus 18 calls sexual immorality a discovery of someone’s nakedness. Nakedness and immodesty are described as a “shame” in Scripture (Isa. 47:3; Jer. 13:26; Rev. 3:18; 16:15). Immodesty or nakedness (even for parts of the body) is to misuse one’s gender identification and thereby dishonor one’s head. For the same reason cross-dressing is a sin. Men and women are not to adorn themselves as the opposite sex (Deut. 22:5). In the home, the father and the sons are to look like males, and the mother and daughters are to look like females. This honors the relationships related to headship and submission.

A matter of Gender (1 Cor. 11:13-15)

Keeping gender-specific appearance is pleasing to God. Paul uses gender as an indication of proper headship and submission. There are not specific descriptions about dress for males and females (though Peter comes close in 1 Pet. 3:4), but two things direct us properly. Nature teaches gender while culture shows gender. Paul says “nature itself teaches” (11:14). In Romans 1, Paul said that sexual perversion is “against nature” (Rom. 1:26). “Nature” (Gr. phusis, in Cor. and Rom.) means “the nature of things.” God created only two genders, male and female (Gen. 1:27; Matt. 19:4), and His creation vividly shows distinction between the two. However, culture shows gender. That is, different cultures may have different forms of dress, but every culture has its distinctive styles for male and female. You know what these are in your own culture. Cross-dressing is cross-dressing because it’s an obvious contradiction in that culture. Violations of nature or culture dishonor your Head, that is, God your Creator.

How we adorn our bodies says much about our faith. “Such symbols can be easily discerned. We can often determine by a woman’s appearance if she is rebelling against everything womanhood stands for or if a man is effeminate and denying recognized symbols of masculinity.” MacArthur, Successful Parenting, 56.

 

Further reading on Adornment

Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger: “Like the foot washing, woman’s wearing of head coverings is clearly a cultural practice that only communicates the under-lying principle it’s seeking to convey—the proper submission to authority—in cultures where women wear head coverings to indicate their submissive stance.” God’s Design for Man and Woman, p. 173

Kevin DeYoung: “Nature doesn’t teach us how long our hair should be. Culture teaches us the acceptable hair lengths for men and women. Nature, though, teaches us that men ought to adorn themselves like men and women like women. The natural God-given inclination of men and women is to be ashamed of that which confuses their sexual difference. Culture gives us the symbols of masculinity and femininity, while nature dictates that men should embrace their manhood and women embrace their womanhood.” Men and Women in the Church, p. 56

Josh Mulvihill: “Explain to your child that to be modest is to dress respectfully and in an ordered fashion. We are modest when we cover our body with clothes, but, more specifically, we are modest when we wear clothes that we would want others to wear if they were around us. Modesty is a way to love our neighbors.”  Preparing Children for Marriage, p. 182

Thomas Schreiner: “Paul rightly saw, as he shows in this text, that there is a direct link between women appropriating leadership and the loss of femininity. It is no accident that Paul addresses the issues of feminine adornment and submission to male leadership in the same passage.” “Head Coverings, Prophecies, and the Trinity,” Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, p. 176-77

Elisabeth Elliot: “Nudity [our culture says] is not supposed to move us. We are asked to behold without shock, without even surprise, the nearly total exposure of every conceivable shape and size of physique. But I don’t want to look at nudity without emotion. I want it reserved to enhance, not exhibited to destroy, the depth of individual experience. I feel I am being robbed of the incalculably valuable treasures of delicacy, mystery, and sophistication. Modesty was a system of protection. But the alarms have all been disconnected. The house is wide open to plunder.”  Let Me be a Woman, p. 158

The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom (1987). Being a Baby Boomer in the 1960s, Bloom’s critique of the university’s decline hit a special note with me and I devoured the book. He wrote of the decline of morality and modesty in the time of a more progressive culture. Here is a section I had marked.

“The criticism of the old is of no value if there is no prospect of the new. It is a way of removing the impediments to vice presented by decaying virtue. In the sixties the professors were just hastening to fold up their tents so as to be off the grounds before the stampede trampled them. The openness was to ‘doing your own thing.’ It was, and I suppose still is, a sure sign of an authoritarian personality to believe that the university should try to have a vision of what an educated person is. ‘Growth’ or ‘individual development’ was all that was to be permitted, which in America meant only that the vulgarities present in society at large would overwhelm the delicate little plants kept in the university greenhouse for those who need other kinds of nourishment.” (p. 321)

The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis (1947).

Lewis called modern men of his generation “Men without Chests.” They were cerebral with large minds, and visceral with much desire, but they had no chests, the morality to judge between the two. No wonder we have little morality or modesty almost a century later.

“The head rules the belly through the chest—the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The chest—Magnanimity—sentiment—these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and the visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal. The operation of The Green Book and its kind is to produce what may be called Men without Chests. It is an outrage that they should be commonly spoken of as Intellectuals.” (p. 34)

 

 

 

GPS – The Gift of Singleness

GPS – The Gift of Singleness

by Rick Shrader

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Singleness is a unique time in life that we all experience at least once. We all start out single until we decide to get married. But even married people may end their life single if their spouse dies first. There are other situations where a person may be single also. The Bible is not silent on this unique time of life.

The Biblical Picture

Though the Old Testament gives a more negative view of singleness, the New Testament gives a far more acceptable view. Uniquely, Jesus, John the Baptist, and Paul were single (Paul’s marital background is less known) whereas some apostles were married as well as the Lord’s brothers (1 Cor 9:5). Jesus referred to some men who “made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of God’s sake” (Matt 11:11-12). Many consider this to be a “self-imposed renunciation of marriage.” The apostle Paul mentions a “gift” of singleness given to some by God (1 Cor 7:7).

Single as Youth

We enter our teen years single having become aware of our God-given sexuality as male or female in His image (Gen 1:27). Good and godly instruction during these years teaches us that purity is God’s will while we are single and a precious gift to give to a spouse if we get married. Even if we do eventually marry (as most do), these single years present a number of admonitions. 1) We shouldn’t seek only to be married, nor “take any plane that is leaving the airport.” 2) Being the right person allows us to find the right person. 3) Learning to resist temptations of the flesh and worldly allurements is good for singleness and marriage. 4) Finding accountability in family, good friends, church, and Scripture is at the core of our faith.

Single by Choice

Both the decision to remain single and the decision to marry should be made confidently in God’s will. The decision to remain single may be made for a few reasons. 1) Paul says one may remain single during times of distress (1 Cor 7:26) or simply because it is good “for a man not to touch a woman” i.e., not to have sexual relations (7:1) during this time of life. 2) Even if one is waiting for a mate, self-control is a biblical imperative (7:8-9). 3) Singleness may be God’s gift, “For I wish that all men were even as I myself, but each one has his own gift from God” (7:7). This is a specific giftedness God gives a man or a woman to remain single for life in order to serve God in a greater way than if married. Just as newlyweds surrender their virginity to one another, a single person surrenders his/her virginity to the Lord for service. It is a unique gift.

Single not by Choice

Churches are full of people who have found themselves single but not by their specific choice. 1) As we have mentioned, all young people are single until they get married. We are usually busy instructing and mentoring them for later life. 2) There are many more divorced people in our churches than ever before. There are biblical places for them to serve. It is a good probability that if this person has remained faithful to church, divorce was probably not his/her desire. 3) We always have widows and widowers in church. We have great examples in Scripture of widows (Anna in Luke 2, a widow for 84 years) and a whole chapter given to their ministry and care (1 Tim 5).

Serving God in any capacity is the greatest gift of all. “And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).

 

The Shrinking Ministry

This is the third part (of three) of an article I wrote last year and didn’t print. Many good reasons for this problem have been offered and a number of good solutions suggested. In previous sections of this article I had mentioned various sources. Here I add my own suggested solutions to the list. Here is part three.

Are there solutions? Taking the four sources I’ve mentioned, there are some 19-20 “reasons” (many overlapped) given for the decline. Also, from these sources there are some 17-18 “solutions” offered. Space does not allow me to list them but they are easily accessible. I will add a few of my own. 1) I concur with the need often mentioned for better mentoring of young men and more intentional presenting of the “call” of God to ministry and the “surrender” of a man to God’s call. Kroll added the “burning of the bridge” behind a man who answers God’s call. This is a proper emphasis for youth camps and mission trips, but why not for our pulpits and classrooms as well? 2) Here is a suggestion that always has many opinions: With so many churches on the verge of closing or giving up, I believe we need to be more open to accepting men of varying educational backgrounds for varying levels of ministry opportunities, even godly and intelligent laymen. There are many churches and ministries where a seminary education is necessary, but there are many ministries where college level or institute level preparation would be welcomed. After all, most of our theological schools started as Bible institutes (including Spurgeon’s and Moody’s) when other schools could not supply the need and then grew into their current status. Today, a young man accepting a position in a needy church can easily further his education online while gaining valuable experience. 3) We have many good and qualified men serving in associate roles who could and should move on to leadership roles. I realize there are many obstacles for such a man and his family including finances and location, but the churches have needs and these men are able to fill those needs. I know of single men and women who have moved to far-off locations just to find a church to which they could be of some help—and they are warmly welcomed. 4) There are many small rural churches that are being ignored by young men due to various reasons. Perhaps it would require a by-vocational situation for a while (not always) and would bring little or no personal recognition. Perhaps a man would have to be more traditional than he would like. I believe these churches afford a great place to learn to preach, administrate, love people, marry them and bury them. After all, isn’t that ministry? In addition, these situations allow a man to study, grow, even continue his education and these churches would love to have them. 5) It has been observed by others that we are already seeing older pastors staying longer in their ministry than they had planned. Some are also coming back into ministry or taking a part-time ministry role to help a church. Some are serving as the interim pastor to help a church until they find a permanent pastor. 6) I have read of two or three rural churches sharing a “circuit-riding” pastor. A man may be able to preach at one church in the morning and another in the afternoon or evening. This isn’t best but it may keep a church going until a more permanent person can be found. Some state representatives have done this already from time to time. 7) All local churches should, and I believe want to, raise up their own young men to eventually come into a pastoral position. Circumstances, however, become the overriding factor in the ability to do this, even if the desire is there. Yet, strong Christian families should be  purposeful in raising their children so that God may work His will and calling in their lives.

In Addition:

All of our fundamental and conservative churches and ministries need to re-evaluate where we came from and why we are here. The church at Ephesus was scolded by Jesus for leaving her first love. The solution was to remember, repent, redo, or else be removed (Rev 2:5). There was no more strategic church in the first century than Ephesus. However, in 30 years, with such leadership as Paul, Timothy, and John, it had lost its way and needed to go back to the basics. The pull from culture today is worse than it was then. Churches and movements often lose their way in a generation or two. Perhaps it is time for us to remember where we came from, repent of where we are headed, and redo our purpose before we are removed due to ineffectiveness. Some churches may need to change from some older ways, and other churches need to return back from newer ways that have hurt more than they have helped. One thing is for sure, the local church of the New Testament is God’s method. There are good reasons why the basic format has been blessed by God for hundreds of years.