Jan - Mar, Winter E d i t i o n , V o l u m e 61, Issue 4
Endeavoring to set forth God’s purpose and grace according to 2 Timothy 1:8-11
Inside This Issue
Feature Article: Pastor Donald Elifson’s appeal for the Bible’s place in education.
PUBLISHER: Frosty Hansen EDITOR: Philip Cereghino COLUMNISTS: Dr. Sam Vinton, Jr. Kenneth B. Kemper, Scott Myers, Ed Jeude, Frosty Hansen
Also Refreshment for a Dry Soul by Frosty Hansen
THEOLOGICAL CONSULTANT: Dr. Sam Vinton, Jr.
FEATURED CARTOONIST: Bill Connolly The publishing of TRUTH, a quarterly magazine emphasizing the doctrines of the dispensation of grace, is to provide individuals and churches with Bible studies, articles of Christian concern and devotion, and news about Grace Gospel Fellowship (GGF), Grace Bible College, Grace Ministries International, Grace Publications, and other Grace organizations and activities. The views and opinions expressed in the ads and articles are those of the authors and organizations. They do not necessarily reflect the view of GGF and/or the editorial staff of TRUTH. PUBLISHED by Grace Gospel Fellowship, a nonprofit religious corporation, incorporated in the State of Michigan. Mailing Address: P.O. Box 9432, Grand Rapids, MI 49509 phone: 616-245-0100 email: firstname.lastname@example.org web site: www.ggfusa.org
Mephibosheth: Radical Grace in Action by Kenneth B. Kemper
The Necessity of the Word by Pastor Jeff Seekins
Journey into Mystery-Mysticism by Dr. G. Edward Wishart
Pastor Scott Myers’ Rebel with a Cause
Ed Jeude’s Ed Says
Bill Connolly’s Leah from Berea
Cover photo credit: Property of Design Pics Inc., reproduced here by license agreement with the GGF, for their end use only. TRUTH Magazine is the quarterly membership periodical of the GGF. Gift subscriptions can be purchased through the national office.
by Frosty Hansen, President of Grace Gospel Fellowship
“He spoke of men and women who drew near to God through His Word and prayer.... As I listened, my soul was thirsting for that same kind of intimacy with God.” “Can I help you?” The words startled me. The man I had been following whirled around and was looking directly at me. Actually, I wasn’t sure if anyone had answers for the struggles weighing me down, which had brought me to a “crossroads” in my third year of ministry. I wasn’t even totally sure why I had followed him into the hotel parking lot from the workshop he had just given. Although I didn’t know it at the time, the next ten minutes would light a flame that would forever change my life. The spring of 1982 had been a “dry season” in my life. Long Creek, OR, had gone through a winter of funerals, which took a toll on the pastor in a town of 210 people. Weekly services at Long Creek Community Church were well attended and pleasant comments were heard following the sermons, yet my soul was feeling parched. I was wondering if it was time to leave the ministry. My condition was the same described by John of the Cross, a 16th Century Christian who observed, “My soul has become dry because it forgets to feed on You.” It was while experiencing that dry spiritual desert condition that I traveled to Portland with men from our church for a daylong men’s conference sponsored by Multnomah School of the Bible. We attended a number of workshops together. Their excitement was rubbing up against my spiritual melancholy, so I decided to escape to an innocuous session that would round out my afternoon, “The History of Revival in America.” To my surprise, the workshop was more than a history lesson. Bruce Wilkinson, founder and then-President of Walk Thru the Bible, went beyond the historical to the spiritual elements of revival. My heart began to stir as he spoke less about mass revival movements and more about spiritual renewal of individuals. He spoke of men and women who drew near to God through His Word and prayer, and how their passions for Christ contagiously touched the lives of others. As I listened, my soul was thirsting for that same kind of intimacy with God. The workshop ended, Bruce packed up his books and headed out the door as I followed at a safe distance into the parking lot, where he confronted his “stalker.” After patiently listening while I unburdened my heart, Bruce challenged me to a 90-day commitment before making any decisions about my future in the ministry. During those 90 days I was to spend one hour daily, alone on my face before the Lord, with nothing but the Psalms, a pad of paper and a pencil. He also encouraged me to read A.W. Tozer’s classic, The Pursuit of God. Bruce prayed for me, and we parted ways. Continued on page 2 Page 1
Continued from page 1
As I look back today, the three months that followed were a defining moment in my life. Tozer challenged me to develop a constant longing for deeper intimacy with Christ. “God wills,” he writes, “that we should push on into His presence and live our whole life there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is more than a doctrine to be held; it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day” (Tozer, The Pursuit of God, pp 36-37, Christian Publications, Inc., 1982). This little book continues to speak volumes, reminding me that God has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. But it was the daily hour with the open Word that had the greatest immediate and long-term impact on my life. Though I was already studying the Bible every day in preparation for sermons, Bible studies and to answer questions from skeptics, I don’t remember ever spending three straight months in which I invited the Spirit of God to speak to my heart through the open Word. As I read and meditated on His timeless Truth, the Lord renewed my passion and transformed my life.
Five Principles Learned The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). I often use this verse when presenting credentials to a newly licensed or ordained man of God, or when installing a new pastor at a church. When I do so, I cannot help but think of that early time in my ministry when I went through a spiritual wasteland, attempting to serve God without daily drawing away to be alone with Christ. Thank God for His grace that reminds us of our need for dependency on Him! I experienced the Lord’s goodness during those next three months back in 1982, and I have learned five essential principles that have made my daily time in the Word more meaningful: 1. My time with the Lord needs to be the priority of my day. Notice that I didn’t say a priority; my daily fellowship with the Lord must be the most important activity of my day. In order to fulfill Bruce Wilkinson’s challenge, it was necessary that I carve out a full hour each morning to escape to the solitude of my study or to the church. Instead of squeezing time with the Lord into my busy schedule, it was necessary to plan my day around time in the Word. What a great way to show that I truly value Christ! But is a daily time absolutely necessary? No. God in His grace accepts us completely in Christ, not judging us by works. Besides, if our goal is a hurried, superficial reading of a few verses in order to complete an assignment, we would gain nothing from our time in the Word. In a practical and spiritual sense, however, our walk with Him does depend on daily feeding on His Word. Evangelist D.L.
“But it was the daily hour with the open Word that had the greatest immediate and long-term impact on my life. ...As I read and meditated on His timeless Truth, the Lord renewed my passion and transformed my life.”
Moody put it well when he said, “A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God’s boundless store of grace from day to day as we need it.” Have you prioritized your time in God’s Word? For my wife Cathy it is easier now as an empty nester than as a stay-at-home mom with preschoolers, but I admire the fact that she has always creatively found a time to read her Bible and pray. If a prolonged time isn’t possible in your current situation, read and meditate on a smaller portion of Scripture. What is needful is to have the heart of Job who said, “I have treasured the word of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Jb 23:12). 2. My desire is to know God through His Word. This hasn’t always been the case in my life. There have been many times actually that I have approached the Bible as my textbook or tool for sermon preparation. I was like a strip miner pulling all of the resources I could from the surface, hoping to then impart some nuggets to my congregation. The problem wasn’t in my preaching–the congregation was growing in its understanding of the Word theologically, dispensationally and practically; the problem was that I was, as someone has said, “doing devotions without devotion.” Andrew Murray, a South African pastor and writer, observed that “…the low state of the spiritual life of Christians is due to the fact that they do not realize that the aim and object of conversion is to bring the soul even here on earth to a daily fellowship with the Father in heaven” (Murray, The Secret of Fellowship, intro., Christian Literature Crusade, 1981). As important as it is to grow in our knowledge of the Bible, God did not save us to be walking Bible commentaries. We are indwelt with the Holy Spirit so that we can walk with the Father in a vital, loving relationship. Today I strive to make my devotions more about devotion. There are plenty of opportunities to do more in-depth doctrinal and theological studies. What my soul longs for is time alone
with Christ, getting to know Him in a deep and personal way through the written Word. I want to have the same heartfelt passion as David –“Earnestly I seek You, my soul thirsts for You” (Ps 63:1); and Moses –“Teach me Your ways so I may know You” (Ex 33:13); and Paul – “I want to know Christ” (Phil 3:10). Like them, I am finding that “He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6). 3. God’s Word needs to be read with a listening heart. The challenge from Bruce Wilkinson was to spend one hour daily alone on my face before the Lord with nothing but the Psalms, a pad of paper and a pencil. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, the legal pad and pencil were about to become valuable tools and my first feeble steps in the world of journaling. Jotting down observations slowed down my reading, which was a good thing, and caused me to meditate more on what God was saying through His Word, which was even better. As I began to write my observations of the Psalms that I was reading, my heart became more attentive to the Spirit of God speaking through the Word. New insights emerged from portions of Scripture I had read before, followed by applications and challenges for my life. Over time I was able to look back at what I had written and saw progress in my journey. It was exciting to have a written record of where the Lord was taking me! 4. God will use His Word to convict my heart. A consistent intake of Scripture will never leave us the same. When I approach my open Bible with an open heart, God’s Word will instruct me, confront wrong thinking and behavior, correct and redirect me when I stray, and equip me for service (2 Tm 3:16-17). During my 90-day journey, I discovered that it was impossible to interact on a personal level with God through His Word and maintain a deaf ear to the Spirit’s voice. While reading Psalm 139, the final two verses of the chapter jumped out at me: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (139:23-24). My first
reaction was that it was a good prayer by David, especially in light of verse one which says, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me.” The Psalmist is inviting God to know him more deeply. In the days that followed, the Spirit impressed upon my heart that I needed to be as transparent with Him as David was. If I really desired to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18), it was necessary to “walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). As I opened my heart before the Lord, He began to show me areas in my life that were not fully surrendered to Him, relationships that needed to be restored and people who needed to be asked for forgiveness. The Lord was working through His Word to bring humility and mold me into a man of God. 5. God’s Word must be applied to my life. The Spirit of God began to convict my heart and I had a decision to make: Would I act on that conviction, or would I ignore Him? As is often the case, I could very easily have rationalized away some of what had been impressed upon my heart. Looking at one particular situation, I began to think, It was only a little lie that I told to the school bus driver, and I don’t have much contact with him anyway. Maybe I can just ignore it. Thank God, His Word is living and active, cutting like a twoedged sword to discern the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Heb 4:12). I can still recall Psalm 119:9 coming to heart as I wrestled with what to do: “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your Word.” So often we struggle with guidance from the Lord when the answer is right before us–obey the Word. My difficult conversation with the bus driver led to a time of forgiveness and friendship. But, most importantly, I once again had a clean heart before my God. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Nothing can be more healthful to the soul of the believer than feeding upon the Word, and digesting it by frequent meditation.” I trust that you are finding that true in your own life as I have in mine. God has given us a precious treasure in the timeless Word of Truth. Read it. Know it. Live it.
“As I opened my heart before the Lord, He began to show me areas in my life that were not fully surrendered to Him, relationships that needed to be restored and people who needed to be asked for forgiveness. The Lord was working through His Word to bring humility and mold me into a man of God.”
by Kenneth B. Kemper, President of Grace Bible College
ephibosheth sat in the courtyard of the humble home of one generous Makir in the town of Lo-debar, where he had lived for about seventeen years. Mephibosheth was of royal lineage. He landed in Lo-debar after he fled–or more accurately–was carried away as a five-year-old fugitive. Upon news of the deaths at the hands of the Philistines of his father, Jonathan, and grandfather, Saul (King of Israel), his caregiver had rushed him to safety in Lo-debar. He had good reason to stay in Lo-debar in the territory of Gad on the east of the Jordan River and live in relative obscurity. David had become King, just as the prophet Samuel had promised, and just as Mephibosheth had been told he would by his own father, Jonathan.
For more than fifteen years Mephibosheth had weathered the conflict between his uncles (of the house of King Saul) and the new regime of King David, until David’s throne had been firmly established and most of Saul’s household destroyed because they persisted in their claims to the throne. Meanwhile, Mephibosheth was content with living in relative anonymity–accepting his fate, and adapting to the new “normalcy” since his own tragic accident at age five. In their rush to escape he was snatched up (for his own safety) and amidst the urgency of the moment, he was dropped and his legs severely injured, leaving him crippled–unable to walk on his own. It did not help matters that no one dared draw attention to the boy’s condition by stopping for help and risk giving more people information as to who he was and to where he might be going. All that was important at that time was getting the “heir” of the King safely hidden away, so as not to be harmed by the new ruler or viewed as a threat to his throne.
An Epic Interruption In spite of all the difficulties Mephibosheth resolved to make the best of his situation. He remained in Lo-debar, settled there, married and had a son named, Mica. He appreciated the truly important things in life–like daily bread, the continued generous hospitality of Makir, as well as the blessing of his own wife and son. He did not have contact with his father’s extended family, and he rarely
thought about who he was or from where he had come...until the obviously worried sounding voice of his wife called for him from inside the house. “Mephibosheth, where are you?” “Out here,” he answered, “in the courtyard getting a little sun. What is it?” She rushed outside, looking quite distraught, came straight up to him and spoke in a quiet voice, “There are three servants from Jerusalem–from King David’s court– here to see YOU! How did they find you? What are they going to do to you? Should I get Mica and run into the village? Oh, Mephibosheth, I’m so frightened, we thought the danger was over!” “Calm down, my wife,” he said. “You get Mica ready to run and I shall speak to the visitors. Did you tell them you were my wife? They won’t hurt you if they don’t know. Pull yourself together and guide the ‘guests’ around the house to meet me. Pretend you are a servant girl here to help them, and perhaps you can hear our conversation from nearby and understand why they have searched me out after all these years.” They always knew this could happen one day, but hoped it would not! “Fear not my bride, and bring them here.” The three messengers were led around the house. They questioned Mephibosheth as to his identity. They said King David had spoken to Ziba, a servant of King Saul who still served in Jerusalem. He sent them here to Makir’s home to retrieve Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth. Their orders were to come and retrieve Mephibosheth and his family members, and bring them to King David who wanted to “show kindness to them for Jonathan’s sake.” Mephibosheth heard the words out of their mouths, and yet after living as a fugitive for all these years, he scarcely believed “showing kindness” was anything but an excuse to bring him before the King to do away with him.
“The three servants picked up Mephibosheth again and carried him with his limp, atrophied legs dragging behind him. He never looked up, but halfway across the room he was set down. He buried his face in the cold stone floor in homage and respect to the King, with his arms stretched out before him.”
With a resolute face to give his wife courage and a trembling voice he stated, “I am Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, son of King Saul, the Benjamite whom you seek. Did Ziba also tell you that I have been crippled since childhood and cannot walk but need to be carried everywhere and aided in many ways? Does the King really desire the presence of one as deformed as I am in his royal court? If it is my life you seek, why not shorten your journey and burden to carry me–a full grown invalid–and simply carry out my sentence here where I may receive a proper burial? Then you can simply return with testimony of accomplishing your task? For by the testimony of two or three witnesses it will be credible.”
be possible?” “It would be wonderful,” Mephibosheth mused, “but I cannot let my mind believe it. I know we spoke of this so many times, even as I arranged with your parents to take you in marriage, I truly believed that any threat to me had long passed. I am sorry for you, my beloved, and wish you had stayed behind with Mica to care for him.” “Whatever becomes of you, I will accept and suffer the same,” she replied. “My parents will care for Mica, regardless. And, if we find you are indeed ‘honored,’ we will send for him at once. I am so weary of praying and my tears of anxiety and sorrow are all used up. I desire to be done with this and know our fate; the furlongs pass so slowly and the steps up to Jerusalem seem so labored and tedious.”
The men responded, “Our directives are clear. We must follow them out. We were told of your infirmity, and we will leave at once and present you to the King. Is this woman who called you your wife?” Before Mephibosheth could speak and say otherwise, the woman stepped forward, with anguish in her face and spoke, “I am his wife, and I will prepare at once to aid my husband on the journey.” She moved with determination to begin preparation and never mentioned the child who had already been shuttled off to her parents’ home elsewhere in Lo-debar.
A Desperate Humility in the Royal Palace
An Excruciating Journey The journey was long and difficult. The King’s servants were well equipped and ready to transport the crippled Mephibosheth, but the sheer distance up to Jerusalem took more than a day’s journey by foot and in the cart pulled by a donkey. More difficult than the distance was the waking hours left to contemplate their fate. They reflected upon the many years they had lived away from recognition and any repercussion from his earlier life and lineage–and now here they were–taking step after step, enduring bump after bump, heading toward a very tenuous future. Mephibosheth and his wife talked in hushed tones when able and rehearsed over and over how he should act and speak in the presence of the King (if he actually got that far). They had heard of the kindness of King David, and Mephibosheth consoled himself with the stories his father had told to him as a little boy about his friend David, and he prayed that perhaps he might find favor in David’s sight. “Maybe,” his wife began, “he really does want to honor you, Mephibosheth! That’s what the men said. So many have spoken of the strong friendship of David and your father Jonathan…couldn’t it
There was no time to prepare. The messengers only warned them of their imminent arrival when they were within view of the palace. They were overwhelmed by its grandeur. Doors swung open, attendants of all types stood to attention while servants picked up Mephibosheth by his shoulders and carried him down a passageway to the throne room. The doorman told them, “Wait here for an audience with the King.” Mephibosheth braced himself as best he could. His wife followed about five steps behind, praying for the best, and with every step anticipating the worst. “Enter now,” said the doorman as the large doors moved inward. The three servants picked up Mephibosheth again and carried him with his limp, atrophied legs dragging behind him. He never looked up, halfway across the room he was set down. He buried his face in the cold stone floor in homage and respect to the King, with his arms stretched out before him. “Mephibosheth!” was spoken from somewhere in front of him, but he scarce wanted to raise his head to see who spoke. “Your servant,” Mephibosheth replied in abject humility, too frightened to raise his head, bracing himself for the blow of a club or the cool edge of a sharp sword wielded to remove his head. As the steps of the King approached, he heard unbelievable words: “Do not be afraid. I sought you out so that I might show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan–who I loved more than any man and promised to show kindness to his family forever on account of our covenant together. That was at about the time of your birth, Mephibosheth, and now as I see you, it seems like yesterday. I will restore to you the lands of your father and
Continued on page 14 Page 5
by Pastor Jeff Seekins, Community Bible Church, Tipp City, OH
The Seekins, daughter Brook, Jeff and Barb. 1011 Aldon St. SW, P.O. Box 9405, Grand Rapids, MI 49509; Phone: 616-241-5666, Fax: 616-538-0599; E-mail: email@example.com
Introduction by Dr. Sam Vinton, Jr., Executive Director of Grace Ministries International (GMI): Grace Ministries International is not only committed to evangelism and church planting, but also to the training of church leaders who are grounded in the Word of God. GMI’s commitment to the importance and necessity of the Word of God has resulted in having over twenty schools where the Word of God is taught to those who will be serving as leaders and teachers in churches. Along with these schools many seminars are conducted regularly for church leaders by our missionaries, as well as visiting pastors from the United States. The article that follows, written by Jeff Seekins, pastor of Community Bible Church of Tipp City, Ohio, is in regard to his experience of teaching Tanzanian pastors and their wives.
ot a one raised his hand! The scene wasn’t a crowd at an evangelistic meeting where none responded to an invitation of salvation. It was 64 Tanzanian Grace pastors unable to raise their hands to affirm, that as preachers of the gospel, they could live off the gospel as Paul had written they should (1 Cor 9:14). In fact, three of those brethren–so impoverished–had traveled several days without food just to get to the conference. The sacrifice and dedication of fellow Grace pastors touched my heart. I was enthused to be in their presence having travelled from the United States to share with them. But the hours of preparation, long flights, efforts in making a booklet for them
to take home, revising illustrations, adjusting to the sights and smells of another culture, shots, funding and all the other details that go with a mission trip; all of it paled, compared to their sacrifice. The beauty of the countryside, animals I’d only seen in a zoo before, hundreds of vibrant tropical fish right in front of my mask, unique fresh fruits and friendly people made for exciting and memorable experiences. But nothing topped the thrill and fulfillment of sharing the Word with those pastors. Some have thought our trip (my wife, Barb, accompanied me) to Tanzania to see our daughter, Brook (a missionary there with GMI), and her ministry was long overdue. But we were always confident we’d go, and the spring of 2011 was the time. With all our plans made, shots endured and funds raised, we got to the airport about 5:00 AM, to find my ticket had been “voided.” Long story short, Barb had an empty seat beside her all the way to Tanzania and I got there a day and a half later. We were soon involved in projects, seeing other missionaries and their work, preaching in local churches and preparing for the conference. Preparation for the first church service involved going over my message with my translator, Simwanza (Albert). We spent two hours together and I grew to love, respect and appreciate him for his heart for the Lord and His Word. Being able to drive to the conference in Sumbawanga each day, about 45 minutes each way, allowed us to stay at the mission compound and review for the next day.
The conference theme, “Sound Doctrine for Sound Minds,” was taken from Titus 2. Pastor Mark Wright from New Jersey assisted with specific messages for the men, while Barb had a study with the pastors’ wives. A dispensational review and question and answer times rounded out the four full days of conference. We sensed the power of prayer throughout the conference. The Lord gave us understanding of their questions with cultural nuances. He brought verses to mind to be able to give answers from Scripture and supplied strength for the long days. We were overwhelmed with their joy of giving as they tried to help the brethren who were short of food and as they gave us a parting gift. When asked about the trip, I still say I’m full. I’m full with the thrill of sharing the Word with those brethren, my newfound colleagues in ministry. I’m full with the encouragement from them, their hunger for the Word and sacrifice for the Lord. I’m full from being used of the Lord in a small way in what He is doing across the globe. While such a trip is really indescribable, out of fullness I say the common words of the Tanzanian churches: Bwana Asifiwe–Praise the Lord!
Photos, top to bottom: A group photo in Sumbawanga of all the attending pastors’ wives. One of the pastors and his wife.
“In Thy Word” from Ps 119:127
Father of mercies in Thy Word What endless glory shines! Forever by Thy name adored For these celestial lines. Here the Saviour’s welcome voice Spreads Heavenly peace around; And life and everlasting joys, Attend the blissful sound. Here springs of consolation rise To cheer the fainting mind, And thirsting souls receive supplies And sweet refreshment find. O! may these Heavenly pages be My ever dear delight; And still new beauties may I see, And still increasing light! Divine Instructor, gracious Lord, Be Thou forever near; Teach me to love Thy sacred Word, And view my Saviour here. by Anne Steele, 1716-1778
“Experience God–not merely know the truths about Him, but with unmistakable clarity sense His presence, hear His voice, rest in His love–even in the middle of unbearable struggles and deep emotional wounds.”
by Dr. G. Edward Wishart
few years ago I wrote an article for Truth Magazine entitled, “A Dispensationalist’s Journey into the Divine Depths of God’s Intimate Presence.” The article opened by stating the title to Calvin Miller’s book, Into the Depths of God: “Where Eyes See the Invisible, Ears Hear the Inaudible, and Minds Conceive the Inconceivable”–which encapsulated the essence of what I wanted to convey. I begin this article (the first of several) in similar fashion, but with more lengthy quotations: Today a mighty river of the Spirit is bursting forth from the hearts of women and men, boys and girls. It is a deep river of divine intimacy, a powerful river of holy living, a dancing river of jubilation in the Spirit, and a broad river of unconditional love for all peoples. (Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water, Harper Collins, 1998.) A new wind is blowing. For now it’s only a gentle breeze, a whisper quietly stirring a growing company of people to think they could actually experience God. Experience God–not merely know the truths about Him, but with unmistakable clarity sense His presence, hear His voice, rest in His love–even in the middle of unbearable struggles and deep emotional wounds. By God’s mercy, I am among that company of Christians whose hunger has been sharpened by suffering, that company of long-term Christians who have somehow been graced with just enough humility to admit we don’t know God as deeply as He longs to be known–and can be known before we get to heaven. I’m among the growing number of people who have no choice but to realize that the path we’ve walked for a long time isn’t leading to the depths of intimacy we yearn to share with God. (Larry Crabb, from the foreword for Sandra D. Wilson’s, Into Abba’s Arms, Tyndale House, 1998.)
Background Material The words of Foster, Miller and Crabb are also words that I not only subscribe to, I have lived the reality of them and I am of that company whose hunger has been sharpened by suffering. This article is foundational to those which will be forthcoming. Since my first Truth article, I have had a transformation. I am still a member of the suffering and broken, but have now become a member of the long-historical lineage of the “wounded healers.” I have also grown deeper into “the deepening-embracing-presence” with the Eternal Community. Since that article, I have experienced a cancerous tumor in my tongue. I lost one-sixth of it to surgery and went through thirty radiation treatments, sending me into deepening fear and the further experience of “the deepening-embracing-presence” with Father God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of the Living God. I have called that season of my life, “The Crucifixion of the Mask: A Personal Journey of Traumatic Encounters.” I have written a book by that title. It is sitting with a publisher as I write. Since that article, I have grown deeper into “Mystery-Mysticism.” One of the best compliments ever given to me was, “You know, Ed, nobody knows what to do with a Dispensational Mystic.” And with this article and others to follow, I want to explain “Mystery-Mysticism” from a dispensational perspective. Before anyone thinks I have gone off the deep end, allow me to offer my position, stated briefly in five ground rules: •
I believe the Bible to be verbally inspired. The written Word of God is the out-breathing of God. The Bible came into being under the Divine superintendency of God.
I believe the Bible to be of plenary authority. Inspiration extends to all parts of the Bible. I believe the Bible to be infallible and inerrant in all its parts. God is absolute truth! God has revealed absolute truth in our charter document, the Bible. I believe the Bible to be progressive in revelation. I acknowledge that God has dispensed His revealed Word according to His plan and purpose for the progress of history (His Story). I believe the Bible must be interpreted literally. This is the ground rule par excellence! “God meant what He said, and said what He meant.”
Allow me to also affirm: • •
I am a mid-Acts dispensationalist. I accept Charles Baker’s definition that, “The Church, the Body of Christ, began after Paul’s salvation, and before he wrote his first epistle.” I believe prayer is critical to the believer’s journey. Personally, I couldn’t survive without prayer. It is in prayer, the Word, and our experiential reality with the Eternal Community (the Trinity) that Mystery-Mysticism comes alive.
Here are my Mystery and Mysticism related definitions: • •
• • •
Mystery–A religious truth that one can know only by revelation and cannot fully understand. Mysterious–Stirred by or attracted to the inexplicable (hard to explain–the Trinity). We live from our depths, most of which we do not understand. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life” (Prv 4:23). The mysterious is that place within us from which come outlook, choices and actions, formed by a world away from God. Now, it must be formed (Gal 4:19), transformed (2 Cor 3:18), and conformed (Rom 8:29), by the Holy Spirit and prayer. Mystic–Inducing a feeling of awe or wonder. Mystical–Involving or having the nature of an individual’s direct subjective communion with God. Mysticism–The experience of mystical union or direct communion with God (safe place). A person’s apprehension of the transcendent and ultimate Being. The experience of the presence of God who transforms and gives meaning to the created order.
My Brother Paul Is into Mystery-Mysticism In Galatians 3:2-5 the apostle Paul writes that the Holy Spirit is the primary experienced reality of the Christian life. Paul’s urging of us is an appeal to “go on walking by the very same Spirit by which we came to faith and with whom God still readily supplies us” (Gordan Fee, emphasis mine). Therein is the powerful and experiential–ultra-
sensory, if you will–presuppositional base (our salvation experience) supporting and legitimizing Paul’s straightforward and continuative imperative, “walk by the Spirit.” All believers have a Mystical connection with God–whether they admit it or not. My admonition to believers is the same one they receive from the apostle Paul, continue walking, take a journey to some place. In future articles, we will discover that Paul writes about what I call, Dispensational-Mysticism. The apostle of the gospel of the grace of God reveals that Spiritual Formation and Mysticism happen in us by his using terms like formation, transformation, conformation; like Holy Spirit and know; and the concept of kairotic time (from the Greek, meaning the right or opportune moment, the supreme moment); also by his use of in and prayer. Observe and contemplate Paul’s personal journey in Mysticism from this passage: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows–was caught up into Paradise, and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. (2 Cor 12:2-4, NASB)
The Journey’s First Step Now ask yourself (in preparation for your journey), When does Mystery-Mysticism begin for a dispensationalist? Our next article will strive to answer that question by looking at the moment of salvation, the difference between emotionalism and experiential reality and the basic role of the Holy Spirit, who is mystery and mystical. In my journey, I have discovered that I do not have to be afraid of the Holy Spirit’s leading! And, I am not! Why? If our Grace-Dispensational Theology is the correct theology for this dispensation of God, He cannot lead me into anything that is outside of the will of God for the Church, the Body of Christ, in the current dispensation–or any future one. Thus, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is key to understanding Mystery-Mysticism, which is a part of more of the Lifetransformational journey of the believer. Please stay tuned.
Dr. G. Edward Wishart pastors Grace Community Church of Grafton, OH. He is married and has three grown children. He has designed a model of church health for Pauline churches, based on the writings of Paul, and is available to teach this model to all churches. He also leads a ministry known as, The Ancient Pathways, a mentoring ministry.
by Pastor Donald C. Elifson
From the Editor: I’ve elected to run Pastor Donald C. Elifson’s Truth Magazine article, “The Place of the Bible in Education,” because of its emphasis upon biblical education in preparation for living (Christian or just moral), which ties in perfectly with GGF’s theme for 2012 (Read. Know.Live... the timeless Word of God). To the best of my knowledge this will be its third printing, having first appeared in January of 1970, again in April of 1982 and now. It has the potential, then, to have been read by three generations of believers touched by the GGF and its associated ministries. I write that not without realizing the insignificance of its reach compared to that of the timeless Word of God. And yet, to what degree do any of us recognize–let alone acknowledge– the place of God’s Word in our daily lives and world affairs? Although written as a justification for college level Christian education, its scope is much more expansive. Elifson is defending Bible education as a life long pursuit by Christians in personal, cultural and national transformation, all grounded in the knowledge of the Word of God. “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth” (Ps 86:11). Elifson was pastor of Norwood Bible Church of Chicago, IL, from 1946 until his death in 1981. He was a visiting professor at Grace Bible College for 27 years and faithfully shared with many
students his love for and knowledge of the Word of God. The Bible remains today at the core of GBC education.
here are different views as to the place of the Bible in education. Some educators want to dispense with the Bible altogether; others believe the Bible should play a minor role in education.
Grace Bible College believes the Bible should be the chief textbook because the Scriptures are the infallible Word of God. The Bible is not to be tested by other books, but the Bible is the standard by which all other books, ideas, and philosophies are to be tested. This is the criterion which the apostle Paul used in the book of Romans concerning Abraham’s standing before God. Some of the Jewish rabbis taught that Abraham was justified by works. Paul’s reply was, “What saith the Scripture?” The Scripture said, “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness” (Rom 4:3). Our Lord Jesus Christ continually asked, “Have you never read in the Scriptures?” Every belief and practice is to be tested by the Scriptures. Any cult or
“The early colleges and universities of this country were founded by men who believed that Christ is the transformer of culture. This principle has been abandoned and even opposed by many of the institutions founded on the Bible.” denomination that asserts that without their textbooks the Scriptures cannot be understood, has a false foundation.
the believer’s eternal destiny cannot be computed; they are without number. The benefits of the Word of God in this life are also beyond measure. The Word of God can solve the identity crisis that faces many people. When the spiritual believer asks, Who am I? the answer is, I am a son of God; I am part of the body of Christ and a member in particular.
History and experience corroborate the teachings of the Bible. God announced judgment on Israel for rejecting Christ; history and experience prove the Scriptures to be true. The Bible says, “Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prv 14:34). History and experience confirm this statement. God says, “Believe on People are seeking happiness, but most people are not happy. the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Millions The Thirty-second Psalm describes the blessed man in these words: can say that they have experienced the reality of salvation. The apostle “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity” Paul says, “...godliness is profitable unto all things having the promise (Ps 32:2). The apostle Paul quotes this great text in Romans 4:7 to of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1Tm 4:8). This prove the great blessing that comes to the person who is justified principle has been demonstrated by history and experience; thereby faith. The Psalmist continues in the text to show that sin brings fore, the Bible should be the book to study since the Word of God misery into one’s life. The psuedo-education many young people are produces such great results. getting today teaches that sin does not bring misery, but produces happiness. Many young people have found out by bitter experience In the early years of this country, the Bible was the chief that, “the way of transgressors is hard” (Prv 13:15). Our Lord Jesus textbook in our public schools. At that stage of our history there Christ says, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt 11:30). was little crime in this country. Today the Bible has no place in our Our Lord Jesus Christ also says that believers will have tribulations educational system and crime abounds. There is a direct relationship and persecutions, but compared to the guilt and misery of sin, His between Bible teaching and morality. If the Bible was once the chief yoke is easy and His burden is light. textbook in our public schools and now it is not, how did this happen? The blame is to be placed above all on the wrong philosophy of The Thirty-third Psalm describes the blessed nation as one many Christians. Many Christians refused to serve on school boards whose God is the Lord. The blessed nation acknowledges God as the and allowed Romanists, Atheists, and Communists to take control of Creator and Preserver of the Universe; the source of wisdom and the the school boards; in many cases they passed laws against the study One in whose mercy man should trust. and reading of the Bible in our schools. Many Christians are now lamenting the situation, but cannot see, or will not see, that their The above principles are being undermined on every side. The very philosophy of Christ against culture has robbed their children Psalmist said, “If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous of the Bible in the public schools. Some Christians believe that do?” (Ps 11:3). A Grace Bible College education presents the true founChrist is against culture; others say He is so far above that He is not dation for an individual and for a nation. The apostle Paul declares, interested in culture; others believe that Christ is the transformer of “Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is culture. Paul believed the latter for he says, the grace of God teaches Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 3:11). us “...that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world” (Ti 2:12). The Pilgrims God asserts through the prophet Hosea, “My people are believed that Christ is the transformer of culture. They came to this destroyed for lack of knowledge; because thou hast rejected knowledge, country for freedom of worship. The early colleges and universities I will also reject thee”(Hos 4:6). There can be no faith without knowlof this country were founded by men who believed that Christ is edge. The apostle Paul declares that the Romans had “...obeyed the transformer of culture. This principle has been abandoned and from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to them” even opposed by many of the institutions founded on the Bible. The (Rom 6:17). The Lord Jesus Christ said in His high priestly prayer in Communists believe that Karl Marx is the transformer of culture and John 17:3, “This is life eternal to know thee the only true God, and he has certainly changed the culture of many countries including the Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” U.S.A. Karl Marx transforms freedom into bondage; Christ transforms bondage into freedom, spiritually and politically (Jn 8:36). “I do not want you to be ignorant” is the constant saying of the apostle Paul. Since believers are to follow Paul, as he followed Christ, In light of the above facts, the Bible is essential in education. Grace Bible College does not want young people to be ignorant of the The Word of God makes one wise unto salvation and wise concerning Word of God which is the only standard of faith and practice. living the Christian life. The benefits the Bible promises concerning Page 11
by Pastor Scott Myers
or the past thirteen-plus years it has been my honor and privilege to be the Pastor of Northwest Bible Church in Enumclaw Washington. Each Sunday it is my responsibility to stand before God’s people, open God’s Word and declare God’s Truth. The congregation I serve is not made up of my people; I certainly do not share my word or declare my truth. That may seem obvious, but how does my congregation know I’m not interjecting too much of the world according to Scott? It helps to read the Word. Each Sunday morning thousands of pastors across our nation, maybe tens of thousands throughout the world, stand before an assembled audience of people who need to hear from God’s Word. The goal of all preachers should be an unvarnished communication of the Scriptures; to help their audiences–however large or small–understand the meaning of the text, to help them interpret it and then to understand the implications of it. Such communication is dependent
upon the power of God’s Word rooted in the Truth alone. And how do we affirm for ourselves with the Spirit’s guiding that what we have heard from the pulpit or in a Christian education setting or from another Christian is God’s Truth? In President Reagan’s
dealings with the old Soviet Union in formulating the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), his success came down to a simple policy: Trust but verify. It helps to know the Word. Just another thought: What about the effect upon our lives from having received God’s Word? Although that may again seem obvious to the reader, is it obvious to the masses of people watching and listening to Christians living and speaking all during the week? Does a dose of God’s Word on Sunday have a residual afterglow that lasts until next Sunday? Can hearing the Word once a week take hold of our minds and be transformational (Rom 12:2)? It helps to live the Word. The chosen theme for 2012 by the leadership of the Grace Gospel Fellowship is “Read.Know.Live… the timeless Word of God.” Could there be a more needed emphasis for this year?
Observe (Read) When anybody comes to God’s Word, including pastors, they must begin by first receiving it with an open mind and then, just as importantly, open eyes. We cannot know for sure what God has communicated until we read it for ourselves! Again, that may seem
“One man has suggested that the way to read God’s Word is to ‘read hungry and thirsty, looking for the surprises.’”
obvious, but do we? read it? on our own? The Bereans heard Paul argue from the Scriptures, but then they went to the sacred text to see for themselves that what he said was so (Acts 17:11). Once into the Word, do we spend a significant amount of time in the Word? Maybe one of our problems is that we skim-read because we might think we are familiar with a certain passage, that we have already gleaned the Truth from it. As a result of this kind of laziness with the text, we miss fresh insights that the Spirit of God would impart to us. The Old Testament prophet, Amos, foretold that God would send a famine in the land, and although he was not speaking of our day, the case could be made that our day is very similar, in essence the message is as true today as it was then: ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘when I will send a famine through the land–not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.’ Amos 8:11-12, NIV One man has suggested that the way to read God’s Word is to “read hungry and thirsty, looking for the surprises.” What is there in a passage that would cause me to ask, why? Why does the author say that? why in those words? why here? Is there something I’m missing? Like a lens that refines our focus, careful observation while we read enables us to see more clearly what lies beneath the immediate surface.
Understand (Know) An obstacle to our accurately understanding the Word is presuppositions or assumptions that we bring to a text. While it is inevitable that all of us bring to the table our previous experiences, past learning, prejudices, etc., we must continue to challenge ourselves to look at each passage critically, searching for fresh perspectives. While it is difficult to “check our presuppositions at the door,” if we do not discipline ourselves to do the hard work of original discovery (Who said this? who did they say this to? Why would they say that, and how would the recipient have understood it? Are there factors in their culture that would have caused the writer to say what he said?) we will
only know at a surface level, and that will not be sufficient for knowing as we should know. Reading through the Gospels and Paul’s epistles, we will regularly come across accusations like, do you not know? or, you do not know. What strikes me as odd is that both the Jewish and Greek cultures prided themselves on their understanding, and yet the testimony of the Scriptures is that they didn’t! Do we? Do we, who have a complete canon of the Holy Scriptures, invest our time and energies into a pursuit of the Truth as though our very survival depended upon it? We must be engaged and actively observe (read) so that we can accurately understand (know) the timeless Word of God.
Apply (Live) This is the purpose behind all the hard work of the previous two (read and know). Working out the meaning and purpose of a specific text is application. Sound Bible teaching deals with an unchanging text that can be contextualized to an ever changing world. The Truth of God’s Word never changes, and must never be altered for the sake of contextualization, but we must let the Bible text ask the pointed questions that speak profoundly to current culture. We must make sure that the unchanging Word is truly heard in the modern world. The easy way to conjure up application is to just throw in a few “you ought to…” and “are you doing...?” statements. Yet that will lead to legalism and a sense of obligation and duty rather than Truth centered, Grace oriented, Christ driven transformation of minds. Life-changing application is launched through knowledge of the text into each heart–occurring when the “light” goes off in the mind: So that’s what it means! The mind is persuaded of the Truth and then the heart is softened to receive it and put it into practice. It is here that the will is energized by the Spirit to be obedient to the Word, the very Spirit who communicates unceasingly to us through the Word. So this year, may we discipline ourselves to observe (read), so that we might understand (know), in order that we may apply His Truth in our unique context (live). For it is in doing so we will demonstrate to our world–that has certainly lost its way–that the Truth is the transforming power of God in the lives of those who treasure “the timeless Word of God.”
“Many other distinguished guests–such as the Queen of Sheba, and Hiram, King of Tyre–would also dine at the King’s table. All of these were welcomed to the table by virtue of their prominence and high position. But one guest was physically carried in by attendants for every meal.”
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grandfather King Saul, and you will–the child of Jonathan–eat at my table from now on!” Mephibosheth, still too stunned and afraid to look up, asked, “What is your servant that you would even consider or notice me? I am like a dead dog in your sight to be avoided and done away with as disgusting.” At that moment, Mephibosheth felt a hand on his head–the kind and gentle hand of the King. David raised up Mephibosheth’s head, looked into his face with grace and kindness, and spoke with tenderness, “I see your father in your face, Mephibosheth. I am so happy to see you. I will arrange for your care, my friend.” “My Lord?” implored the King’s servants. “Speak,” replied the King. “The woman at the door is his wife, should we arrange for her as well?” they asked. “Yes,” answered David, “see to it that all of their belongings are brought to Jerusalem, and that they are well taken care of for the sake of my dear friend Jonathan. See to it at once, and call Ziba immediately.” The King turned to leave. As the servants of the royal palace lifted Mephibosheth to carry him out, he was met by his wife who threw her arms around him as they uncontrollably cried for joy and relief. The King had spoken. The wealthy servant Ziba who had served King Saul was given orders to care for all of the land given to Mephibosheth. This included land which David himself had inherited as the new King, and some which Ziba had deviously embezzled for himself during the transfer of power long ago. In fear of the King, he moved swiftly to put his sons and servants to work carrying out the King’s orders. Ziba’s twenty servants now cared for the needs of Mephibosheth’s family as well as the fields to supply a sustainable source of income.
A Daily Reminder of Grace at the Table Sumptuous meals were prepared for the King, the royal family, and special guests who dined at his table. Always present at the table, besides the King, were his sons. Solomon showed incredible intelligence and wisdom and loved to engage in stimulating conversations. Next to him was Absalom, the handsome and charming young man with long hair. There was Adonijah, the son who aspired to leadership, and his brother, Ammon. Joab, the Commander of the Armies of Israel, was welcomed to the table when he returned from the battlefield. He shared
stories of incredible conflicts and victories. Nathan the prophet would sit at the table at times, as did Ahithopel and Hushai, the court advisors. Shammah, Josheb, and Eleazor, the three leaders of David’s mighty men who performed incredible feats of courage for David, would join in when they were in Jerusalem to report to David. Many other distinguished guests–such as the Queen of Sheba, and Hiram, King of Tyre–would also dine at the King’s table. All of these were welcomed to the table by virtue of their prominence and high position. But one guest was physically carried in by attendants for every meal. He was not dignified, nor one deserving to be there: he was simply, Mephibosheth. Daily, he ate at the table because of the radical grace of the King of Israel. The opulence and majesty of his setting was a daily reminder of the King’s greatness, which was lavished upon him and yet he knew he did not deserve to be there. That was a poignant lesson of grace to all present. It was not a single action of goodwill; rather it was boundless, day after day given as a commitment to grace. It was given by the King to an unworthy crippled man. The story of Mephibosheth is my story and your story! We are the most unworthy invalids because of our trespasses and sins, and yet God by His grace welcomes us to His table! He has paid the price for my sin and yours! He takes those who, due to our iniquity and sinful nature, would be His enemies and He welcomes us, as spiritually handicapped as we are, to come and feast in His abundance and blessings (Eph 1:3), both now and forever. Consider the radical grace of God practiced daily on our behalf. Praise Him for His incredible grace!
The Mephibosheth narrative is found in 2 Samuel 9. Further references are in 2 Samuel 4:4; 19:24-31; and 21:7; and David and Jonathan’s covenant is in 1 Samuel 20. 616-538-2330 1011 ALDON ST SW, GRAND RAPIDS, MI 49509 www.gbcol.edu
by Ed Jeude
he Jeude family loves to work jigsaw puzzles and then pass them along among our friends. Most puzzles have a picture of the finished product on the box cover for guidance. Some aficionados think looking at the cover while working the puzzle is cheating; not meaning to offend, but how ludicrously absurd and prideful that is! The whole picture imparts wisdom about the puzzle in parts.
There’s a tried and true methodology in our approach to puzzle solving. We start by separating all the pieces, finding and assembling the edges and corners, then proceeding by colors and shading, and finally the shapes. Occasionally, a piece that “seems to fit” gets tentatively placed until enough of the puzzle is completed and it becomes obvious the piece was indeed “misplaced.” Although it may have appeared to be the right piece in the right location based upon our best assumptions (it did look good), the discovery of other pieces and placing them where they properly belong revealed our assumptions to have been in error. The puzzle cannot be completed and the beauty of the finished picture revealed and fully enjoyed if we disregard the facts and stick with our initial assumptions. We just finished putting away all the Christmas decorations, but the recent Christmas Season gives us a great example of “misplaced pieces” in the Christmas Story puzzle. Many people are very comfortable with the idea of the Three Wise Men traveling from afar–Damascus perhaps, which at 135 statute miles could be a couple days away by camel–to pay homage to the baby Jesus in a manger at Bethlehem on a cold December evening. Passages from the Scriptures, however, make three wise men from Damascus showing up at a stable in Bethlehem, in December or any other month, a whole bunch of misplaced pieces. As pretty as that picture might be, it’s not nearly as exquisite, complex and rich as the picture God has waiting for us to piece together... if we only take the time to read and know the timeless Word of God. Let’s go ahead and place the pieces where Scripture has them going.
The picture’s corners and edges are anchored in Genesis 3:15, then subsequently in Job, the Psalms and the Prophets–in God’s promise of a Redeemer for fallen man, whose lineage would be linked to the house of King David, a Jew. God also placed a message in the stars, which the prophet Daniel communicated to God’s people carried away by Nebuchadnezzar II (c 634 – 562 BC) in the Babylonian captivity (605 BC). Much about the role of the visible stars (and planets) with respect to communication (indicating or marking) of God’s promises through them is part of the biblical record (Jb 9:7-9, 38:31-32; Is 40:26; Ps 19:1-4). Not only would Daniel keep alive for the Jews in captivity the promise of a great future Redeemer King but, as lead seer of all Nebuchadnezzar’s soothsayers and magicians, his information would become part of the Babylonian knowledge bank and be the inspiration for a group of magi (possibly of Jewish descent) that would at a future time observe a celestial event and seek out a newborn king. (In all likelihood the magi were men from a region of Persia or modern day Iraq in the vicinity of Baghdad, Iraq–a little to its south.) Upon release from their captivity in the first year of the reign of King Cyrus (537 BC) many Jews did not return to their Promised Land (Daniel never returned) and they would also keep alive the promise of a future Redeemer King and be looking for His star (much of this can be pieced together from accounts in 2 Kgs 24:12-16; 2 Kgs 24:17; Jer 29:10; 2 Chr 36:10, 22-23; Ezr 1:1-4). Centuries passed. “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His son, born of a woman…” (Gal 4:4). And as foretold, “His star” in (or among) the heavens announced His birth (and even more profoundly, perhaps His very moment of conception, in addition the date of His birth and where to find Him on an exact date). Let’s start filling in the puzzle. Upon observing His star, Wise Men in the East, a reference or description Matthew thought important enough to include in the biblical record (a school of noble Babylonian seers of great wisdom according to ancient Jewish scholar, Philo; 20 BC–40 AD), began their arrangements for a trip to find Him. Preparations would take a reasonable amount of time. The way from Babylon to Jerusalem that they most likely traveled was a well-known caravan route of nearly 1000 miles–more time. It was not something undertaken without governmental support and protection, considering the status of those in the procession, the value of their cargo and the nature of the route they had to cover, which would leave them vulnerable to bands of marauders. All would take time, at least weeks and maybe months to coordinate and execute. Perhaps the beginning of the celestial event the magi first observed in Babylon corresponded with the Annunciation and virgin Mary’s conception (that indeed was the miracle, not the birth itself ). They could prepare, travel and arrive closer to the actual time of birth if that were so. The magi–plural for magus (a Persian seer)–would have numbered more than one, probably at least three (since that is the number of gifts identified in the Bible), but possibly many more than three, the biblical record does not enumerate how many. Before setting out
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on their journey they would have determined– because of Daniel’s influence–that their destination was Jerusalem, the most likely place to find the newborn King of the Jews. Arriving in Jerusalem, their stature as Babylonian seers and emissaries would have garnered them an audience with Herod. “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the East and have come to worship Him. When Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Mt 2:2, 3; emphasis mine).
months but having an exact start time. Even so, more time has passed; enough for at least two audiences with Herod; enough for Herod and his council to deliberate and devise a plot.
Here are a few more pieces as our Christmas Story puzzle is taking shape: “And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the East went on before them and stood over where the Child was… and they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother… and… presented to Him gifts of The verb tenses in the verses support gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Mt 2: 9,11; that the celestial event had moved or ceased emphasis mine). First, only one class of heav(moved or progressed in the skies is the best enly bodies–following the established God conclusion). And of great significance is ordained properties of physics–will appear Matthew’s statement that the birth had alto move from east to west and at times stand ready taken place. The passage also reveals a still (even reverse their trek) in the sky. They palpable uneasiness in the Jewish seat of power, are called planets (from the Greek, meanJerusalem. Already a tinderbox, but to have ing wandering star). So, quite feasibly, the foreign dignitaries show up in Jerusalem and magi over the course of several months were question Herod’s sovereignty would be unwatching “unusual” and “extremely rare” nerving to the political and priestly power perturbations of a planet (which they were balance in place. accustomed to doing) in relationship to other “fixed” stars, planets and constellations. In addition, from Jerusalem at a certain time One final observation before placing of year the planets appear to travel east to this puzzle piece in its proper alignment. west in a southern arc as though passing over The event was provocative to the magi but Bethlehem. had gone unnoticed by the priests, the scribes and all of Jerusalem. The significance After leaving Herod, the magi find the of what was unfolding in the skies had to be child in a house. The Greek word for child explained to the leaders of Israel before they in the passage is “paidion,” a child older than understood the magi’s perspective of the a newborn baby but still under 2 years old. event and began their plotting to counter it. Enough time would have elapsed for Joseph Corroborating the rather unremarkable apto arrange housing in Bethlehem and move pearance of the evening skies over Bethlehem (and Jerusalem) would be the sign the angel his exhausted wife and newborn into the gave the shepherds in order to identify the secure confines of a more suitable dwelling. Joseph would have at least chosen to stay in baby. The angel didn’t say look for the inBethlehem until Mary recovered from the credibly brilliant and dazzling star over the stable. He said they would find a baby lying rigors of their trip and the birth itself. The in, of all places, a manger in a stable (Lk 2:12). events of Luke 2:22 would have occurred. Did the young family stay longer? Joseph may have wanted, as well, to give the baby a “Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star chance to thrive before undertaking longer travel. There may have been other considerappeared” (Mt 2:7; emphasis mine). This again supports that Herod had not observed ations for prolonging their stay like avoiding stinging accusations back home from neighanything extraordinary in the heavens and was not wanting to draw all of Jerusalem’s bors and family about the young mother’s claims. Joseph was a carpenter; it would have attention to the magi’s message. We can conbeen easy enough for him to establish himclude the event in the heavens was ongoing self in and around Bethlehem for a couple and evolving–occurring over many weeks or
weeks, a couple months, even a year or more. Looking ahead, how much easier to slip into Egypt from Bethlehem than from Galilee! God warned the magi not to return to Herod so they went home another way. An angel warned Joseph to take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt because Herod was going to try to destroy the Child. “Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he… sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi” (Mt 2:16; emphasis mine). Here we have miraculous intervention by angels to preserve the Holy Child. We witness a treachery of heinous proportion, the wholesale slaughter of male babies and toddlers in an attempt to kill the rightful heir and secure a pretender’s grasp on power. Even with a very precise explanation from the magi as to the time (more accurately, the exact time), Herod expands the net he casts out to two years into the past. He has no need to expand into the future to include the as yet unborn (he does accept the magi’s claims). The desperate act of a hate filled, power hungry tyrant? Yes, and one who viewed any male child in the vicinity of Bethlehem a potential threat to himself and his family bloodline. “And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed (eight days), they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord” (Lk 2:22). “And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth” (Lk 2:39; emphasis mine). At this point we appear to have another puzzle piece that does not fit, in that a discrepancy seems to exist between Matthew and Luke’s accounts for what happens just after the birth. Matthew has them fleeing to Egypt and Luke has them returning to Galilee after just eight days. A closer study would support that Luke omits the exile in Egypt and picks up the story with Jesus as a youth returning (from somewhere) to Galilee. The term, the law of the Lord, could be a reference to any directive Continued top of page 19
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received from the Lord, as in instructions from angels. It does not necessarily refer to the Law of Moses. In summary, God has given us a beautiful picture of the first advent of the Christ Child. Working with several pieces from the Scriptures placed where they belong, we see wise men in the East reacting to signs in the sky they were looking for because of Daniel’s visions and teachings in the Babylonian palace from centuries earlier. We have uncovered a probable time line of a “star’s” appearance or action that might have marked the moment of Mary’s visitation from the angel Gabriel, revealing that a great King in Israel had been conceived. At the very least, an event in the sky marked the date of His birth, which prompted them to prepare and travel the 1000 miles to Jerusalem in search of Him, born King of the Jews. We know without too much doubt, that the wise men were at least three in number. They were able to confirm information received from Herod (look in Bethlehem) was in agreement with the star’s position in the sky and they found the new King in the City of David, not a baby lying in a manger, but a child in a house. The Christmas Story we see depicted in the timeless Word of God has messages written in the stars, promises from Genesis and the prophets, fulfillment in a stable. It reveals the darkness of men’s hearts in the deceit and infanticide perpetrated by Herod. It contains intervention by angels. It has wise men from the East who understood celestial events “seen through the eyes” of an ancient godly Jew in Babylonian captivity. They knew a king had been born in Israel, worthy of worship. They came and they worshipped Him. They knew Israel’s King had been born and came to Him with gifts that not only represented His offices of King, Prophet, and Priest, but funded the flight of a very poor family to Egypt. Just a suggestion: For additional information follow this link, www.youtube.com/watch?v =kqhi772VpZE&feature=related and watch Larson’s theory of the Star of Bethlehem..
Region I: Pacific Northwest Scott Myers
Region II: Southwest Rob Warmouth & Chuck Williams
Region III: West Steve Blackwell
Region IV: Upper Midwest Mark Matychuk & Les Takkinen Pastor Les Takkinen writing from Grace Bible Church of West Allis, WI: The Grace Gospel Fellowship has set as a theme for 2012 that the timeless Word of God would be read, known and lived out daily. What a needful theme as we face a world of uncertainty, a busy lifestyle for all ages and a sinful world that is pulling many Christians away from their Savior and
Lord. It is truly time to have the local church focus upon the Word of God each day and be revived in our hearts to live for our Almighty God. On January 1, 2012 we kicked off our “One Book/One Body” 2012 program, a Bible reading program that each person (even children) are being encouraged to join as the congregation will aim to be in the Scriptures on a daily basis for the entire year (and beyond). We have incorporated both the GGF reading through the entire Bible chronologically in 2012 and the “One Book/One Body” (O’BOB) concept started in the Byron Center, MI area years ago. The O’BOB program is reading through 366 chapters in the Bible during the year with one question to be answered each day. Our goal is 80% of the congregation reading God’s Word on a daily basis for all of 2012. Each Sunday Pastor Randy or myself will preach from one of the chapters read during the previous week. It is our prayer and hope that God will stir our hearts to walk worthy of our Savior and to obey Him fully in all that we do (Col 1:9-10). May God stir our GGF churches, our nation and the entire Body of Christ in 2012 as we seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Region V: Lower Midwest Ed Jeude
St. Louis Bible Fellowship continues to praise God for His blessings! Our radio program is increasing. “The Message of Grace,” is now heard on radio stations in Mobile, AL; Alexandria, LA; York, PA; and Omaha, NE. The work that Dr. Tony Sistelos is doing with the Seminary is exciting and our Elder Continued top of page 20
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Board and Regents are certain his appointment was of God. We once again combined our Christmas Cantata with Parker Road Baptist Church. What a blessing the combined voices were! The congregation of Bible Fellowship are expecting great and wonderful things from our Heavenly Father as we look to 2012. Neil Schnaath, at Victory Lane Grace Bible Church writes: We have battened down, winterized, and drained the water systems in preparation for the winter weather to come. Our time is well spent cleaning up the grounds and repairing equipment. We are grateful for the support in finances and prayer we have received for this ministry, please continue to pray for us. A special request is for wisdom and opportunity to share the amazing gospel of grace in a gracious manner. “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; To God be the Glory” (Phil 1:9).
Trent Boedicker Region VIII: Ohio Pastor Trent Boedicker of Grace Gospel Church in Ada, OH reporting:
the Bible in a year with a program we call, “KAPOW,” We have added a Family Sunday School in the Gym, our camp ministry for kids celebrated 35 years of consecutive ministry and we just completed our 18th anniversary of “A Night in Bethlehem.” More than 1800 visitors came through our indoor tour of 1st Century Bethlehem. Each visitor heard the gospel of grace after seeing a live manger scene, so that they know the Christmas story is alive today because Christ is alive! Check out our website at www.massilloncalvarychapel.com.
It is difficult to believe that we are already into the new year! Where does the time go? One mother thanked me with tears in her The Christmas Season was a special time at the eyes after her 2011 Bethlehem tour as she inchurch as we rejoiced in the love that brought troduced me to her daughter who had accepted God’s Son from heaven to earth to become our the Lord at our 2010 Bethlehem presentation. Savior. The congregation was able to share that Every visiting family received a 30 minute love with others in our community in several “Night in Bethlehem” CD that shares the story ways. The Ladies Missionary Group put together of Christ’s birth according to the Scriptures. All gift bags with goodies, hats, and gloves to share visiting kids received an invitation gift to our at the local rescue mission. The Coached by Camp Berean Way. Christ club collected canned goods for the food pantry. And our congregation partnered with area churches and ministries to distribute gift baskets to over fifty families in need. These were wonderful opportunities to meet new people, build relationships with those around us, and to share the gospel. On Christmas morning the choir ministered to the congregation in song Region IX: Western Michigan and the children shared the true meaning of the Kathy Molenkamp season. We are looking forward to what the Lord has in store for us in 2012.
Region VI: Southeast Phil Cereghino
We are planning to adopt “Read, Know, Live…The Timeless Word of God” as our emphasis for the year. A sermon series will help direct our focus and we will encourage each member to spend time in the Scriptures daily using the reading plans provided by the GGF. We will also use this opportunity to try to breathe new life into our Sunday School program by equipping new teachers, inviting children in CBC and reminding families of the importance of being grounded in God’s Word. Pastor Greg Becker, of Calvary Chapel in Massilon, OH writes:
Region VII: East Cal Lowder
God continues to abundantly bless our grace fellowship here in Massillon. We have a special place in our heart for GGF’s president, Frosty Hansen, who counseled and encouraged Debbie and me to accept the pastorate here. Throughout the three years since, we have remained steadfast in preaching the gospel of grace in an expository manner. We have bathed our ministry in prayer, remained faithful in our reading through
Region X: Central Michigan John Lowder Greetings to you all from Region 10 in Michigan.
LifeTrak Community Church in Kentwood sponsored a “Friend and Family Day” in October. We offered a free lunch after the service. We had a few new people visit and return subsequently. Pastor Clint Abbott shared an 8-part series of messages, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.” The messages were well received. LifeTrak uses the social media Facebook along with it’s own Continue on page 21
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website as a strategic way to inform attendees and their friends of our events and messages. Sermons are posted on Facebook, the LifeTrak website and through iTunes (via podomatic. com), and receives a nice online following.
Frontline Bible Church and Rush Creek Bible Church continue to partner together to build a home for a widow and her family. The project is far from completed, but it has been great to see volunteers from each church working together to accomplish something bigger than each one of us. We hope to have the family in their “new” home by the spring. At Frontline, we are planning on emphasizing the GGF’s Read.Know.Live. campaign in 2012. This past year we participated in a
community-wide Bible reading program entitled, “One Book/One Body,” and we saw a lot more of our people reading their Bibles because of it. We will be encouraging our people to do one of the reading plans as well as preaching at various times from it. Frontline has been very blessed to have Randy Campbell take responsibility for our website. He puts his talent and his heart into the site, and it shows. Check it out at www. frontlinebible.com. If you see something on the site that you might like on yours, please email him through the site. He loves to help out in any way he can. At Grace Community Church in Belmont, Pastor Tim Hall writes we are pleased to greet you in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrated at Christmas. How
precious to have a Savior that we can praise and honor for His sacrifice for our sin and His mediation for us before God’s throne in Heaven. We enjoyed having Shaun and Lindsey Winters with their two children, Harmony and Elijah, during the past six months. Shaun has completed his internship with us and returned to Grace Bible College for his last semester and graduation. Shaun is in the process of taking exams for his license into the ministry with the GGF. We pray that he will be led to the congregation God has in mind for him. May the emphasis upon the Word of God be in your heart as we enter into another year of serving the Lord Jesus Christ. It is our prayer that the written Word may become the living Word through our lives in 2012.
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