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TheSower Volume 14 Issue 1 | 1st Quarter 2012

The quarterly magazine of Spirit & Truth Fellowship International®

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Fully Devoted P4

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Opening Letter

Jan/Feb/Mar 2012

Fully Devoted If a person wants to be devoted to God in his heart, then he should put his “treasure,” his thoughts and deeds, into “God things,” and eventually his heart will follow.

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he theme that Spirit & Truth Fellowship International has chosen for 2012 is “Fully Devoted.” True devotion to God comes from the heart of a person; it is not just something in the mind. People are devoted to all sorts of different things: jobs, sports, hobbies, music, and the list goes on and on. Interestingly, in the world we see around us, there does not seem to be a logical reason for who becomes devoted to what. Some people from big sports families do not care about sports, some people who grow up in families devoted to a hobby do not like that hobby at all. It seems easy for someone to be devoted to something if he is “into it,” if he naturally really likes it. But God has asked us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; in other words, we are to be devoted to Him. That may be easy for “religious people,” but what about the people who are not naturally “into God”? What are they supposed to do? How does a person become devoted to something that he is not naturally interested in? I think we find the answer to that question in something Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). Jesus had been telling people not to store up treasure on earth because earthly treasure does not last, but rather to store up treasure

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in heaven. Of course, the only way to store treasure in heaven is to do godly things on earth, and then God, who sees all, will record our deeds and amply reward us in the future. The crowd Jesus was speaking to was huge, no doubt thousands of people. Surely some of them were in the “not really into God” category. So Jesus’ teaching that a person’s heart would follow where he put his treasure was wise instruction to everyone, certainly, but especially important for those people who were not particularly devoted to God. In simple terms, what Jesus said was that if you want your heart to be in a certain place, put your treasure there, and your heart will follow. If a person wants to be devoted to God in his heart, then he should put his “treasure,” his thoughts and deeds, into “God things,” and eventually his heart will follow. Becoming devoted to God is simple, but not easy. We must begin to obey God and do what He says to do. If we will do that, eventually our hearts will follow our actions. It is not hypocrisy for someone to act devoted to God in hopes that some day he will feel devoted to God; it is trusting the words of Jesus. Working daily to become more devoted,

John W. Schoenheit


8 Mobile BU 14 Website Updates

Contents

Credits Publisher Spirit & Truth Fellowship International

®

15 New Teaching of the Month 21 Calendar of Events

Volume 14 - Issue 1 - Jan/Feb/Mar 2012

26 Dear Sower 27 REV Commentary

Executive Editors John W. Schoenheit Dan Gallagher Editors Rachel Darr Renee Speakes

23 September Trip to South America

28 Our YouTube Videos on DVD

Lead Article

The Contender

Partner Profile

Fully Devoted

The Bride of Christ

Franklin & Linda Smith

Page 4 Jesus’ followers knew they were to love one another, and it would be evidenced by their devotion to each other.

by John W. Schoenheit

by Franklin & Linda Smith

Page 12 The term “bride” is one of the figures of speech God uses in His Word to bring specific meaning and emotion into the text.

Page 18 Franklin & Linda Smith explain why they are partners with Spirit & Truth Fellowship.

The ABC’s of God

Fuel for the Fire

The Vine

Faithful as a Shadow

Our Heavenly Father Provides

Welcome to the Heartland!

by Cara Hanson

by Rachel Darr

by Dan Gallagher

Page 20 God always has a purpose behind everything, and He undoubtedly crammed some life lessons into the design of shadows.

Page 22 Our heavenly Father is devoted to us, which is why He completely provides for us, just as our earthly fathers should do.

Magazine Designer Ryan Maher Staff Writers John W. Schoenheit Dan Gallagher Production Coordinator Dustin Williams

Research Websites TruthOrTradition.com Over one thousand articles pertaining to many biblical issues. BiblicalUnitarian.com Explore an entire website dedicated to the truth of One God & One Lord.

by Dan Gallagher

Home Office 180 Robert Curry Drive Martinsville, IN 46151 888.255.6189 or 765.349.2330 M-F 9 to 5 (ET) Fax: 765.342.8430 STF@STFonline.org STFonline.org You may view the electronic version of this magazine at STFonline.org/sower View back issues at STFonline.org/backissues All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. References taken from other translations or versions will be noted, e.g., King James Version=(KJV). In verses or quotations from other authors, the author has emphasized words by placing them in bold print. Words inside [brackets] have been added by the author. Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Page 24 I have now lived in the Midwest for seven years and the Heartland has won my heart.

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Lead Article

FEATURE

Acts 2 :4 2 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

“The twelve Apostles were a true band of brothers. They had forged incredible bonds as they watched and imitated Christ.” 4 The Sower Jan/Feb/Mar 2012


FEATURE

Lead Article

Fully Devoted by Dan Gallagher

Growing into full spiritual maturity and helping others to do the same.

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t’s a lot of fun to be around people who are filled with enthusiasm, especially when they are excited about the same things you are. I always feel a great energizing in my soul when I am with others who are likeminded and full of fervor about something. There is often a lot of hype surrounding the launching of a new product, business, or even a personal venture. As much fun as it is to be involved with those types of fresh adventures, being involved in a new move of ministry can be absolutely exhilarating. Times like this not only create deep bonds between people, it can also feel as if there is a common energy flowing, somewhat like a static electrical charge, the kind that makes you tingle all over and causes your hair to stand on end. Two thousand years ago a small band of faithful followers of Christ experienced a hair-raising event just like that. The day the promise came The day began like most others, with people going about their usual activities in Jerusalem. Jesus’ Apostles and disciples, a close-knit band of true

believers, were being obedient to his instructions to stay in town until they received power from him.1 They had been waiting with great expectation when it happened. It began with the sound of a powerful wind overhead, followed by what seemed like fire from heaven, and then the gift of holy spirit settled upon them. The outpouring of this divine gift of grace was like a spiritual earthquake, and its effects are still being registered on the Devil’s Richter scale even to this present day. The twelve Apostles were a true band of brothers. They had forged incredible bonds as they watched and imitated Christ. They had not only experienced the thrill of seeing the sick healed and demons cast out of people, they had even done it themselves. Their time together had thrust them into the furnace of ministry, and one of the results was they had forged a bond between them that rivaled anything they had ever known before. And now they were yoked together by a spiritual cord that could not be broken. What do we do now? As the news of what had happened spread from the Jan/Feb/Mar 2012 The Sower 5


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Jesus’ followers knew they were to love one another, and it would be evidenced by their devotion to each other. Temple area to the rest of Jerusalem, people came and pressed in on them to see and hear for themselves. Everyone wondered what these things meant. Why were these men speaking in foreign languages? Some speculated that they were drunk, and others mocked, but there were some who genuinely wanted to know what all of this was about as they heard the men speak of the magnificent works of God. It must have been electrifying for them. Many who heard Peter’s speech about Jesus being the Christ were pricked in their hearts, and thousands accepted his message (Acts 2:41). Although the text does not specifically say so, it seems logical that many of those who believed Peter’s words spoke in tongues just as the Apostles had done. We say that because Peter quoted Joel about the holy spirit coming with power and everyone, even the servants, having the power to manifest the gift of holy spirit. (Acts 2:18). The question many must have asked is, “What do we do now?” Fully Devoted Jesus’ followers had learned well at the feet of their master. He

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had left them a clear message about what it meant to be his disciples. The instruction was to love just like Jesus had loved. John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jesus’ twelve Apostles, and many of his other followers, had been with him in the crucible of ministry. They knew what it meant to minister to the needs of people despite their own weariness, hunger and discomfort. They had seen what it meant to serve and not be served. And they had seen Christ die, so his words instructing them to “love as I have loved you” rang loudly in their ears. This type of love was not something they would confuse with sentimentality or emotional feelings. No, this love went well beyond that. It was a love the flowed from a sense of deep and profound devotion and manifested itself as obedience, duty and honor. Jesus’ followers knew they were to love one another, and it

would be evidenced by their devotion to each other. Acting with one heart and mind The devotion the followers of Christ had for each other was supposed to run deeper than what they even felt for their parents, siblings, or other family members (Matt. 10:37; Luke 14:26). This devotion was demonstrated by their obedience to Christ’s instructions and their care for one another. It is why they were “joined together constantly” as they waited for the gift of holy spirit. Acts 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. The English phrase translated as “all joined together constantly” is the Greek word, “homothumadon.” This word carries a much richer meaning than what comes through in the English translation. Although the word is derived from two root words that mean to have “one passion,” it can be best understood with a musical metaphor. It is as if “a number of musical notes


FEATURE

are sounded, which while different, harmonize in pitch and tone. As a variety of musical instruments under the direction of a concertmaster…”2 Like the wide variety of musical instruments in an orchestra, Christ’s followers, each separate and distinctly different, all acted in harmony with one another. They were all unified because they were all in tune with a common note, that note being Christ. And when all of them were in tune with him, it meant that they would all be in tune with each other. They were one in heart and mind. Acts 4:32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. The outpouring of holy spirit on the Day of Pentecost set in motion a spiritual movement that rolled forward like a tidal wave, a divine tsunami that would eventually sweep around the world, even reaching forward into future generations. Help! What do we do with these new converts? “Yikes, what do we do now?” I

Lead Article

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can’t imagine Peter and the others not having that question rumble through their heads as they looked at the faces of three thousand new converts. I know how it is in our home fellowship when we learn that a few new people are coming. Lori and I usually scramble about making sure things are in order. “Kids’ toys picked up—check; coats and jackets hung up—check; music picked out—check; food and snacks—check; teaching and sharing—uh oh…” The crowd’s response to Peter’s message was an evangelist’s dream, but it was quickly followed by an

administrator’s nightmare as they would have thought, “How are we going to take care of all these people?” Although they may have been momentarily perplexed, God had the answer. The Lord had already laid the groundwork when he told them to “love one another.” And their love would be known by what they devoted themselves to. Devoted to the Apostles’ teachings, Fellowship, Breaking Bread, and Prayer It is no accident that the Word of God tells us that these new saints were devoted to four key things: the

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Apostles’ teachings, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer. Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Recent sociological Christian research is confirming that there is a very clear and definable path to spiritual maturity.3 Recently released survey results gathered from over 1,200 churches, representing more than 280,000 individual Christians, have identified four stages of spiritual growth and the key practices involved. Although spiritual growth is an individualized process that happens at a different pace for each person, there is a general pattern that has emerged and common practices that are required. I am absolutely amazed that 2,000 years ago these new converts devoted themselves to doing the exact things that we now know lead to spiritual growth. Devoted to the Apostles’ Teachings The first thing that the Bible tells us they were “devoted to” was the Apostles’ teachings. Research clearly indicates that the first and most impacting practice for spiritual growth is becoming grounded in the Scriptures. This goes beyond merely knowing doctrines. God’s Word, His ways and His thoughts must become a foundation in the lives of those who wish to grow with God. It begins with instruction but eventually transcends into how they think and thus, how they live. For many years when I read that the people were “devoted to the Apostles’ teachings” (King James version—“Apostles’ doctrine”), I thought this referred to the doctrine of the church we know from the Church Epistles.4 And even if it didn’t, I thought it certainly would have been the “Seven Ones of Ephesians.”5 But this could not be what the Apostles taught because many of these truth were not known, much less understood, until

years and in some cases decades later. What were the teachings that these saints would have devoted themselves to? Many of them had not had the benefit of sitting at Christ’s feet as he taught, so they did not really know him or his message intimately. They looked to the Apostles to open their eyes to the passages of Scripture that revealed the Messiah. They would have known the Torah, Psalms, Proverbs, and the writings of the Prophets, so the Apostles would have shown them how Jesus was the subject, and how he had fulfilled many of these passages. Like the two on the road to Emmaus, the peoples’ hearts would have burned as they had the eyes of their understanding opened (Luke 24:32). The Apostles would have taught the new converts that God was their Father and that He loved them, and would have instructed them on how to live a life of love toward God and their neighbors. They also would have reminded the people that God desired mercy, not sacrifice (Matt. 9:13; 12:7), and to beware of the leaven (teachings) of the Pharisees (Matt. 16:6, 11, 12). The Apostles knew that correct practice requires correct teaching, and Jesus had made it very clear that the common teaching of the rabbis was full of error (Matt. 22:29). The people were devoted to these teachings about Christ and they wanted to learn everything they could. Being embedded in the Scriptures is common to every stage of spiritual growth, and these new converts were becoming that way by virtue of their being devoted to the Apostles’ teachings. Devoted to Fellowship The result of the people being devoted to the Apostles’ teachings was that they began to live a life of love for one another. They began to devote themselves to each other by being together. They would have shared stories of personal spiritual victory, listened to inspirational readings, asked questions, and shared meals (breaking of bread).

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Being devoted to fellowship does not mean they were dedicated to “meetings.” Unfortunately, in many Christian circles the word “fellowship” has become synonymous with a structured church gathering. “Fellowship” is the English translation of the Greek word koinonia, which means to “share fully.” However, a more complete explanation of the essence of this word is that fellowship is supposed to be a time of intimate joint participation.6 This is a time when spiritual relationships are forged, where encouragement, care and discipleship happen. These new converts were excited about the Gospel and they wanted to be together, sharing that joy and enthusiasm. The book of Hebrews reminds us that we should “not give up meeting together.” The warning is not to have “meetings,” but to make sure we stay connected by getting together (Heb. 10:25). It is not coincidental that the recent studies also indicate that another essential requirement for spiritual growth is to have close personal spiritual friendships. It is through spiritual relationships that we are often mentored and helped through the various challenges of life. When we share our lives with others, we learn that we are not alone in our personal struggles with sin. We are also helped by seeing what it means to forgive, love, chalJan/Feb/Mar 2012 The Sower 9


Lead Article

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lenge, and confront in a godly way. By being together we are also able to develop our personal ministries, or personal ways of serving. Devoted to Breaking Bread Breaking of bread is an Eastern idiom that means they shared meals together. I have been participating in home churches now for over four decades, and I have seen that one of the most bonding times has been when we share a meal. It is an intimate time when we can talk about life in general, and share concerns and new insights as conversation flows. Another aspect of the early Christians being devoted to the breaking of bread is the inference that they shared a time of communion. This would have been when they reminded one another of Christ, his broken body and shed blood, and the Great Exchange that it represents. The essence of the Exchanged Life is summed up this way: his life for mine, now my life for his. As they embraced the wonderful reality of the Great Exchange, they began to live life in a way that had real spiritual power. Fully Devoted to Prayer The fourth thing that God says the early Christians were devoted to is prayer. We know from the book of Acts and the Epistles that prayer was an integral part of their lives. Their prayers included praise and worship to God, which even began on the first day of the birth of the Church on Pentecost (Acts 2:11). Prayer also included intercession for others and for their own personal needs (1 Tim. 2:1). Their devotion to one another was clearly evidenced by their prayer lives. And once again what they were doing is exactly what research confirms is necessary for spiritual growth. In addition to being embedded in the Scriptures and developing personal spiritual relationships, people must develop personal spiritual practices. It makes sense that one of the most

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fundamental of the various practices of discipleship would be prayer, and specifically prayer that involved the praise and worship of God. We know that people were also telling others of their faith because the Word of God says that people were being added to the church daily (Acts 2:47). Prayer is a serious spiritual weapon and these saints were devoted to wielding it. A power that can’t be stopped One powerful lesson that can be learned from the devotion of the believers is that people who are unified by a common cause and are willing to dedicate all they have to that vision are a force that is hard to stop. History is full of examples showing that people who are connected by a common purpose can be a very powerful force. The successful separation of the American colonists from the King of England in the Revolutionary War is a classic example. At that time England was the most powerful country in the world, and yet a relatively small band of patriots, ill equipped and short on means, not only challenged the King but also stood their ground against him and won. The Old Testament gives us records like Nehemiah, one man who inspired the remnant of the Jews with a vision of rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem against great opposition. Moses confronted one of the most powerful rulers of his world when he approached Pharaoh and demanded the release of his people. Even the record of Christ can be seen as a single man from a relatively unimportant village who turned the world upside down by a message of truth, hope, and spiritual restoration. A big part of the key to their success was that they were of one heart and mind. They had a common passion and conviction to carry out their vision. They were Fully Devoted! Christ charged his followers to “go make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). The world is full of

distractions, temptations, and all sorts of things that seek our devotion. The saints of the first-century faced obstacles and tremendous opposition too. What caused them to be successful was that they were fully devoted to the Apostles’ teachings (the truth about who Christ was and who they were in him); to the breaking of bread and to fellowship (the cultivating of strong spiritual relationships); and to prayer (personal spiritual practices). The key to our success lies in us as Christians doing the same. The lost people of the world will never be reached for the cause of Christ by half- baked and lukewarm attempts on our part. If we are ever to grow into full spiritual maturity and help others to do the same, then we too must be Fully Devoted! Endnotes: 1. Luke 24:49 “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 2. See Bibleworks 8, “one accord” (KJV), GK. “homothumadon” 3. For further information on this topic see the REVEAL Survey results conducted by the Willow Creek Association, Barrington, IL. 4. At Spirit & Truth Fellowship International we consider the Church Epistles to be the books of Romans through 2 Thessalonians. 5. It is the position of Spirit & Truth Fellowship that the non-negotiable doctrines of our times are the seven ones listed in Ephesians 4:4; One God, One Lord, One Faith, One Hope, One Baptism, One Body, and One Spirit 6. Fellowship, Gk. koinonia, was never intended to refer to a “meeting” as some commonly do today. It is more properly understood as “intimate joint participation.” Consider 1 Cor. 1:9. “God has called you into fellowship (“intimate joint participation”) with his son Jesus Christ our Lord…” (See also 1 Cor. 5:2; 2 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 13:14; Phil. 2:1; 3:10; 1 John 1:3; 6 and 7).


IN MEMORIAM

Katherine Brumm July 15, 1958 - November 28, 2011

The STF community celebrates the life of Katherine Brumm. Katherine epitomized Jesus’ heart of nurturing marriage and family. She was a frequent volunteer at Teen Camp, Family Camp and Women’s Conferences. Katherine loved to help in the kitchen with food preparation. While quiet and reserved, she was also known to spontaneously break out in dance and had a wonderful sense of humor. An avid gardener, Katherine beautified her environment wherever she went. Many benefitted from her godly wisdom and she could often be found quietly encouraging others who were experiencing marriage or family problems. She loved the Lord and was known for encouraging others with God’s Word. Our prayers remain with Jeff and their children, Melody, Nathan, Allen and Michelle, and grandchildren, Ellie and Gabriel. Katherine understood the hope of Christ’s return. She will be missed, but her example of service and love of family will continue to inspire us.

Poem by Theresa Roby 2011

Unencumbered In the heart of every person there lies a dream or two Of just what they would like to be and things they want to do. Some would love to sail a ship or ride in a balloon; Others want to see the world or travel to the moon. The taste for an adventure and the need to have some fun, Dwells deep within the very soul of each and every one. Things that seem impossible or just too hard to do, Dreams that are way out of reach or too good to be true, Are given by the hand of God for Whom no thing’s too hard. His goodness stretches to the stars; His grasp no sin can mar.

God wants his kids unfettered by the cares that would hold them down. The Father wants to loose the chains that someone else has bound. The blessings that await the child whom God Himself set free, are the dreams that are worth having and what others long to see. So do not put those dreams away and think they should not be; Lift up your head, reach for the stars and you will truly see More blessings raining down on you than you could ever know. For God is good and right and true and His Word told you so. ~ Theresa Roby 2011

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THE CONTENDER

“...I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3)

THE BRIDE OF CHRIST by John W. Schoenheit

Devoted to God and Christ

God has always been devoted to His people, and He wants His people to be devoted to Him. One of the ways God expresses the love and devotion people should show Him is by referring to them as His “daughter,” “wife,” “bride,” or other similar terms. However, these terms have been the source of a lot of confusion. What we will discover in this study is that there is no group of people such as Israel or the Church who are “literally” the bride of God or the bride of Christ. The term “bride” is one of the figures of speech God uses in His Word to bring specific meaning and emotion into the text. The two primary reasons for the confusion on the subject of the bride are failure to carefully read what the Bible actually says and failure to identify and understand important figures of speech God uses in the Bible. We will never be able to understand why Israel is called a “virgin,” a “daughter,” “bride,” or “wife” unless we understand the figures of speech of comparison, so that is where our study must begin.

Simile, Metaphor, and Hypocatastasis

Three common and important figures that import meaning into the text by way of comparison are simile, metaphor, and hypocatastasis. A simile is a comparison by resemblance, usually using “like” or “as.” “You eat like a pig,” is a simile. Psalm 1:3 uses a simile when it says a righteous person is like a tree planted by the water. A metaphor is a comparison by representation. In a metaphor, one noun represents another,

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usually by using the verbs “is” or “are.” “You are a pig,” is a metaphor. Jesus used a metaphor when he said to his disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches…” (John 15:5 NIV). The danger with the figure of speech metaphor is that readers can mistake the metaphor for a literal statement. A hypocatastasis (pronounced: hī-poe-cä-täs’-tä-sis) is a comparison by implication. If we turn the pig example into a hypocatastasis, someone would simply speak to another person and say, “Pig!” Hypocatastasis can bring a wide range of possible meanings to the text from just one comparison, and thus it invites us into prayer, thought, and study. However, it can be more confusing than a metaphor for three major reasons. First, since the comparison is implied, it may not be clear who the subject of the comparison is. For example, in Ezekiel 19:5 a king of Judah is being called a “lion,” but which king is it referring to? The scholars are not sure. The second reason hypocatastasis can be confusing is that sometimes it is not clear what meaning is being implied. For example, what did Jesus mean in Luke 13:32 when he called Herod a “fox?” It takes some study to be sure. If a woman today is called a “fox,” it means she is attractive. A generation ago, a man who was a “fox” was sneaky and sly. In the biblical culture a fox was a destructive nuisance. The third reason hypocatastasis can be confusing is that people may think the hypocatastasis is literal. For example, Jesus told his apostles to beware of the “leaven” (yeast) of the Pharisees, but they did not recognize the hypocatastasis and thought he was speaking of actual bread. So, he had to correct their misunderstanding (Matt. 16:6-12 KJV).


The term “bride” is one of the figures of speech God uses in His Word to bring specific meaning and emotion into the text.

The Bible has many examples of hypocatastasis. Destructive people are called “wolves” (Acts 20:29); strong enemies of God are called “bulls” (Ps. 22:12); vicious and unclean people are called “dogs” (Ps. 22:16; Matt. 7:6) and also “pigs” (Matt. 7:6); the people of God are “sheep,” while unbelievers are called “goats” (Matt. 25:33). People are sometimes called “trees” or “plants” (Jer. 11:19; Matt. 15:13). The Devil is called a “serpent” and “dragon” (Rev. 20:2). Each of these terms imports a meaning into the text that is important for us to understand. Sometimes very different people are compared to the same thing, as long as the comparison is valid. A lion usually typified irresistible power and destructive strength, and so many things were compared to a lion. These include God (Job 10:16; Isa. 38:13; Jer. 49:19); Jesus (Rev. 5:5); Israel (Num. 23:24; 24:9); the tribe of Gad (Deut. 33:20); wicked people (Ps. 17:12; 22:13); false prophets (Ezek. 22:25); Jehoahaz, king of Judah (Ezek. 19:3); the officials in Jerusalem (Zeph. 3:3); Babylon (Jer. 4:7); Egypt (Ezek. 32:2); the enemies of Israel (Jer. 2:15); and the Devil (1 Pet. 5:8).

Personification: Things Represented as People

“Personification” occurs when something that is not a person is described as a person. For example, wisdom and Ethiopia, as well as Israel, are portrayed as a woman (Prov. 8:1; Ps. 68:31; KJV, ESV; Ethiopia is “Cush” in some versions). The land of Israel is portrayed as a person mourning because of its ruin (Joel 1:10; KJV; ESV; NASB). The blood of

Abel is portrayed as a person because it is crying out from the ground (Gen. 4:10). The figures of comparison and personification communicate information and emotion very well. For example, saying the people of Israel broke their covenant with God gives us information but does not communicate much emotion. In contrast, referring to Israel as a woman and saying she committed adultery with her pagan lovers brings up a host of emotions. In the Bible, Israel is personified as a woman, and then that personification is intertwined with the figures of comparison we have been studying, when “she” is called a virgin, daughter, wife, etc. When it comes to the subject of the “Bride of Christ,” people miss the figures of comparison and personification and think Israel or the Church is in some way a literal bride. We say, “In some way,” because although Bible teachers know Israel is not a woman, they are confused about the words “bride” or “wife” and invest more literal meaning into those terms than they are meant to communicate. Furthermore, because they do not understand that “bride” is simply a comparison, they try to figure out who is the bride and when the marriage occurs. We do not get confused when Israel or Judah is called a “lioness” (Ezek. 19:2), a “vine” (Jer. 2:21), a “camel” (Jer. 2:23), or a “wild donkey” (Jer. 2:24). In a similar way, we should not get confused when God calls His people a “daughter,” “virgin,” “bride,” or “wife.” When God calls Israel a lion, camel, or vine, we instinctively

Simile, Metaphor, & Hypocatastasis Three common and important figures that import meaning into the text by way of comparison are simile, metaphor, and hypocatastasis. SIMILE is a comparison by resemblance, usually using “like” or “as.” “You eat like a pig,” is a simile. METAPHOR is a comparison by representation. In a metaphor, one noun represents another, usually by using the verbs “is” or “are.” HYPOCATASTASIS is a comparison by implication. If we turn the pig example into a hypocatastasis, someone would simply speak to another person and say, “Pig!”

The full version of this article will be available online at: TruthOrTradition.com/bride

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THE CONTENDER

“...I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3)

understand that God is using those terms to import a meaning into the text. He is comparing Israel to those things to help us understand how Israel is behaving or what He expects of her. Of course, Israel is not an animal or plant, but neither is it a person. God did not literally give birth to her, get engaged to her, or marry her. However, there are so many spoken and unspoken emotions, expectations, and commitments between a man and a woman that it is more succinct and powerful for God to occasionally refer to His people as a “daughter,” “virgin,” or “wife” than to try to describe the relationship in paragraph form.

God’s People Figuratively Described as a Woman

use of these terms. If they were meant literally in some way, Israel would start as a daughter, a virgin, and then become espoused (engaged), then get married, then be a mother. But the chronology of Israel goes from “her” being wife, to a virgin, to a daughter, back to a wife, etc., and note how especially confusing it would be in books such as Jeremiah, if the terms were literal. 1450 BC. Israel becomes God’s wife after she leaves Egypt. (Ezekiel 16:8 portrays the covenant made between God and Israel at Mt. Sinai as a marriage covenant). Late 700’s BC. Israel is a virgin (Amos 5:2). About 700 BC. “Jerusalem” (also called “Zion”) is a daughter (Micah 4:8).3 About 700 BC. The prophet Hosea shows Israel as acknowledging having once been God’s wife (Hos. 2:7). There is a future time coming when Israel will again be a faithful wife (Hos. 2:16). Hosea also portrays Israel as a mother (Hos. 2:2).

The female figurative terms that God uses to describe His people include “daughter” (Micah 4:8), “virgin daughter” (Jer. 14:17),1 “virgin” (Jer. 18:13; 31:4, 21; Amos 5:2), “sister” (Ezek. 16:45, 52; 23:11), “espoused” or “bride” (Jer. 2:2),2 “wife” (Ezek. 16:8, 32; 23:4, Isa. 54:6; cp. Jer. 3:1-14; Hosea 2:7), and “mother” (Ezek. 16:20, 36; 23:4; Hos. 2:2). There are many ways we can tell that the female terms God uses to describe His people are figures of speech. One way is by comparing the terms themselves. It is not possible for Israel to literally be a virgin daughter and also God’s wife at the You may notice that our Audio teaching of the Month looks a same time. Furthermore, in the Old Testament bit different now. We are producing all of our DVDs & Audio God married Israel and Judah, and although He CDs in-house which will save us thousands of dollars & give divorced Israel, He is going to be married to her us the ability to produce on demand. again in the future under the New Covenant (Hos. 2:16-25). But in the Four Gospels and the book of Revelation, Jesus Christ is the bridegroom (Matt. In the January 2012 teaching of the month, Dan Gallagher 9:15; John 3:29; Rev. 21:9). This should catch our solidly demonstrates how we can ”know Christ” through three attention, because in the Law of Moses a person unmistakable ways: the Word of God, the Body of Christ, and could not have sexual relations with his father’s through personal spiritual practices. Knowing Jesus is the key wife, so legally Jesus cannot marry his Father’s wife and be the “bridegroom” (Lev. 18:8, 15; 20:11, 12). to growing in devotion to him and to the Father. These “marriages” are figurative, and describe in a figurative way the intimate relationship that both We believe this teaching will God and Christ will have with the people. greatly enhance your spiritual Further evidence that the female terms God uses growth by helping you on of Israel are figurative is that Israel and Judah are “sisters,” but God marries them both and even has your journey of growing children by them both (Ezek. 23:4). Yet the Law of closer to Christ. Moses forbids a man from marrying two sisters (Lev. 18:18). Furthermore, the Law says a person could not marry his daughter or granddaughter (Lev. 18:6, 10). Listen to this audio However, Israel is called God’s virgin daughter and yet He married her, which again would be breaking teaching for free at His own law. STFonline.org/podcast or More evidence that the female terms that God TruthOrTradition.com/audio uses to describe Israel are figurative is that there is no orderly chronological progression in the

Audio Teaching of the Month

Jan/Feb/Mar 2012 The Sower 15


THE CONTENDER

“...I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3)

About 700 BC. Israel is a wife (Isa. 54:6).4 About 600 BC. Jeremiah shows God’s people as engaged or “espoused” to Him (Jer. 2:2); a wife (Jer. 3:14),5 a “virgin daughter” (Jer. 14:17), and a “virgin” (Jer. 18:13; 31:4; 21). About 595-570 BC. Ezekiel portrays Israel through her history from Sinai as an adulterous wife (Ezek. 16:32; 23:4). More evidence that the female terms used of Israel are figurative comes from the fact that Israel is sometimes not called a woman, but a man. Israel is called God’s “son” (Jer. 31:9; Hos. 11:1; 13:13). Hosea 7:9 refers to Israel as a man with gray hair, and 12:7 and 8 refers to Israel as a merchant man

When He calls Israel a “wife,” He is emphasizing things such as fidelity, commitment, love, and respect. who has become rich by dishonesty. In Malachi 2:11 Judah is portrayed as a husband who has married the daughter of a foreign god. Isaiah 61:10 uses the figure simile to compare Israel to both a bride and bridegroom in the same verse! Obviously, Israel is not both a man and a woman, or a bride and bridegroom, in any literal way.

The key to recognizing the seemingly confusing references to Israel as a man or woman is realizing that each figure of speech stands on its own. In each case God is using a specific illustration to make a point, just as He does when He calls His people a “vine,” “sheep,” or “camel.” When God compares Israel to an animal or plant, we do not try to build a chronology, as if Israel could evolve from one thing to another. Similarly, we should not try to build a chronology when God calls Israel a virgin or wife. Each term imports a picture and a meaning that is important to the point God is trying to make in that specific context, and each term stands on its own. When God calls Israel a “virgin,” or “daughter,” He is placing the emphasis on attitudes and behaviors that were important to young women in that culture, such as purity, chastity, modesty, and obedience. When He calls Israel a “wife,” He is emphasizing things such as fidelity, commitment, love, and respect. When God calls Israel a “son,” He is emphasizing the intimacy of the relationship, family love and pride, and obligations and privileges of the family. When God portrays Israel as a man with gray hair, He is pointing out that through bad decisions Israel has become old and weak. When God portrays His people as a husband who has married a foreign woman, He is lamenting the covenants that His people have made with idols. When God calls Himself a husband, He is emphasizing His love for Israel, His commitment to her, His expectations, and His disappointments at her behavior. When the Bible refers to Jesus the “bridegroom,” it is highlighting the intimate relationship between Jesus and his people, their obligations to each other, and what they can expect from each other. The Bible says that both God and Christ marry Israel, not as a contradiction, but because both God and Christ have a relationship with Israel and desire and deserve the love from the people that a husband should have from his wife.

God as Israel’s Husband

The most dominant comparison in the Old Testament that is used of God’s people is the figurative portrayal of Israel as God’s wife. This figurative imagery is deeply embedded in the text and it is expressed in many different When God calls ways: sometimes by calling God a “husband” and Israel a “wife,” sometimes by referring to Himself a husband, the “marriage,” sometimes by calling Israel a He is emphasizing “whore” for her unfaithfulness and referring to it as “adultery,” sometimes by saying the His love for Israel, His couple got a divorce, and so forth. commitment to her, God’s “marriage” to Israel occurred on Mount Sinai after God gave some of the Law His expectations, and to Israel and the people made a covenant to His disappointments obey Him. Ezekiel describes this in figurative terms: at her behavior. Ezekiel 16:8 “‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at

16 The Sower Jan/Feb/Mar 2012


10-minute Video Teachings now available on iTunes® for free. We believe that everyone has time for a 10-minute Bible teaching, no matter how busy life gets. These videos are great for early morning quiet times to start the day off right.

TruthOrTradition.com/itunes you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine. When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He made a blood covenant with her (Exod. 24:3-8). We commonly refer to that blood covenant as “the Old Covenant” (or “Old Testament”), but God figuratively refers to it in Ezekiel 16:8 as His marriage covenant with Israel. After that covenant, when the Israelites sinned against God, He often referred to their behavior as “adultery.”6 God tolerated Israel’s spiritual adultery only so long, and then He “divorced” her, abandoning her to her enemies (Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:8). Nevertheless, God promised to remarry Israel in the last days and never be separated from her again (Hos. 2:16-23; esp. 19, 20). For her part, Israel will repent of her wickedness and return to God, her husband, saying, “I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now” (Hos. 2:7). God will be glad, saying, “In that day...you will call me ‘my husband’” (Hos. 2:16). This “marriage” is still future, and represents the time, after the Second Coming of Christ, when God’s people will be faithful to Him.

The Christian Church as the Wife

The figurative use of “bride” not only fits Israel, it fits the Christian Church. This makes sense because what God and Christ want from people is typified well by a wife: love, devotion, and fidelity. Thus, the Church is clearly compared to a bride or wife. 2 Corinthians 11:2 (NASB) For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. In this verse the husband is Christ and the engaged virgin is the Church. The point of the verse is that the Church is

to be a “pure virgin” for “one husband,” who is Christ. In the Old Testament, Israel was to give herself only to God. In the New Testament the figure of the virgin bride is again used to effectively communicate how Christians are to be devoted to Christ and not be led astray to another lord or another Gospel. The personification of the Church as a wife helps us relate to what Jesus did for “her” and what we are to do for him, as well as instructing Christian husbands and wives on how to relate to each other in a godly way. Ephesians 5:25-27 (25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (26) to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, (27) and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and

The personification of the Church as a wife helps us relate to what Jesus did for “her” and what we are to do for him. Jan/Feb/Mar 2012 The Sower 17


Partner Profile Franklin & Linda Smith

“Spirit and Truth is such an exciting ministry to support because of the overriding commitment to love God’s people by proclaiming His word in a way that is clear, understandable, and applicable.”

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hat a great day in which to be alive. God is moving, and you and I have the privilege to be a significant part of what He is doing. Spirit and Truth is such an exciting ministry to support because of the overriding commitment to love God’s people by proclaiming His word in a way that is clear, understandable, and applicable. The reason that Linda and I are so excited about supporting this work is that we can see the awesome value of clearly understanding the truth and how the practical application of truth impacts our world view. Being a Christian is simply not enough. We want be able to impact the world for Christ. We want to move beyond simply being a Christian to living a world view that matches the truth. We must be willing to make decisions based on that world view. Ignorance about the Scriptures can and does lead to faulty actions on the part of God’s people that hinders bringing the truth of God into the marketplace. I love being an overt and not a covert Christian. When I am armed with the knowledge and the understanding and the love of God, I can walk into whatever my day brings knowing that He can bring about His desires when we act on His truth. We must be bold enough to know that God can handle the fallout, which is usually temporary, and produce the lasting fruit that He wants as we are faithful to live our Christian faith out loud and in front of people. We are also thrilled with the impact that is being felt across the world by the YouTube videos and podcasts that are being produced by Spirit & Truth Fellowship. If you have not subscribed to these free podcasts, we strongly recommend

PARTNER Sign up online at STFonline.org/partnership Go to STFonline.org/partnership or call 888.255.6189 M-F 9 to 5 (ET). 18 The Sower Jan/Feb/Mar 2012

that you do so. Then these teachings can be on your computer or other electronic gadget, and you will have them regardless of where you are or the strength of your internet connection. So much is packed into the ten minute videos that they warrant being watched many more times than once, as well as paused so that you can cement the principles and references into your life for action that day or at some unexpected moment. 1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, Linda and I especially love to watch a ten-minute video podcast to set the day or to end the day with some of God’s truth. We love freedom. John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Perhaps the main reason why we are involved with Spirit and Truth Fellowship is to help us really walk into a vibrant relationship with our Heavenly Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Hearing from God and Jesus every day is the most thrilling thing that happens to us. I pray that you will hear from Him today. He is speaking. Follow His voice and live for the King.

with Spirit & Truth Fellowship International


THE CONTENDER

“...I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3)

blameless. The figure personification helps us understand how Christ gave himself for the Church, and effectively communicates the actions, commitments, and expectations of Christ with minimum words but maximum impact.

The Bride in the Future

In the book of Revelation, the bride of Christ is the New Jerusalem. Revelation 21:9, 10 (9) One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (10) And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. The text refers to the New Jerusalem as both the “bride” and “wife” of Christ. Of course, the wife of Christ is not the city, but all the people who live there. Thus, in the book of Revelation the wife of Christ is neither Israel nor the Christian Church, but rather is every saved person, who will live forever in the New Jerusalem.

Conclusion

We have seen that in the Old Testament God referred to His people in many ways, as plants, animals, a son, a man, a virgin, a daughter, a sister, a bride, a wife, and a mother. In each context, the term He used imported a meaning into the text that included actions and/or expectations. We are rightly thinking about the comparison when we focus on the meaning it is importing into the text and ask ourselves why God is using the illustration and what lesson He wants us to learn from it. God loved Israel and married her. He was frustrated when she was selfish and stubborn, and angry when she deserted Him for other gods. Eventually He divorced her. In spite of their marital difficulties, He promised to give her a new heart, marry her again and give her a bright and eternal future. God’s Son Jesus also did much for his people and expected much from them. Thus it makes sense that in the Four Gospels Jesus is referred to as the bridegroom of Israel, then in the Church Epistles the Christian Church is his bride, and in the book of Revelation every saved person becomes his bride and wife. As God’s sons, let us take our family pride and our responsibility to love, provide for, and protect our own fellow family members seriously.7 As husbands, let us keep our covenants pure and not develop relationships with God’s rivals and enemies. As virgins, let us diligently keep ourselves pure and unspotted from things that ruin our, or our Father’s, reputation. As daughters let us be diligent in our work to better

ourselves and our family. As brides and wives, let us be loving and devoted to God and Christ, and show them true fidelity, making sure they are the most important things in our lives. Let us not be “goats,” ignoring the things of God, or “wolves” tearing His flock, but be “sheep” willingly following the Shepherd, and “lions” fighting for God’s kingdom. Notes: 1. Although most versions translate Jer. 14:17 as “the virgin daughter of my people,” that very literal translation brings the grammar, but not the proper sense, of the Hebrew into English. The NIV correctly gets the sense of the passage: “…my virgin daughter—my people...” 2. Reading Jeremiah 2:2 in different versions shows that some versions use the word “bride” and some do not. The problem is in part caused by the original languages, because the word for a newly married woman in Hebrew and Greek also had other meanings. The Hebrew word kallah (Strong’s #3618, ‫ )הָּלַּכ‬meant a daughter-in-law, a bride, or a wife (recently married or married long before). The Greek word numphē (Strong’s #3565, νuμφη) referred to an engaged woman, a recently married woman, a young wife, or a daughter-in-law. Thus, whether or not the verse in question should be translated “bride,” “wife,” or “daughter-in-law” has to be determined by context. 3. Micah likely prophesied from about 750 to 690 BC. Some versions say “daughter of Zion” and “daughter of Jerusalem” rather than “daughter Zion” and “daughter Jerusalem.” Most commentators agree that “daughter Zion” is meant, so even if the genitive is used, it should be understood as appositional, thus being, “daughter, that is, Zion.” 4. Some versions have “master” in Isaiah 54:5, but see footnote #5. Isaiah 1:21 also portrays Israel as a wife, but by referring to her as going from “faithful” to a “harlot.” 5. Some versions, such as the NIV, say “husband.” Other versions, such as the ESV, say “master.” The confusion is caused by the Hebrew verb ba`al (Strong’s # 1166, ‫ )לעּב‬which basically refers to someone who has rule over you, and thus was used by the Jews for both “master” and “husband.” Translating ba`al as “master” in this context places more emphasis on Israel’s obligation to obey, but seems to miss the point of the context, which is the obligation Israel has because of her marriage covenant, so “husband” seems the better translation for the context. 6. When versions such as the NIV say “prostitution,” usually the Hebrew word can refer to prostitution or adultery. Since God was married to Israel, “adultery,” is usually a better description than “prostitution.” 7. These concluding illustrations of sons, husbands, virgins, daughters, and brides/wives, should be understood in terms of the biblical culture. Gender role models are often significantly different today, but it is important for us to understand the meaning of figures as God intended them to be understood.

The full version of this article will be available online at: TruthOrTradition.com/bride

Jan/Feb/Mar 2012 The Sower 19


Featured Article

TruthOrTradition.com/abc

The ABC’s of God Lessons from my children

Faithful as a Shadow by Cara Hanson

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hadows are God’s way of providing entertainment with no batteries required, no potential missing game pieces, and no rules to argue over. Just a game between you and the sun. Shadows are free, and you can take them wherever you go without even having to check them in with your luggage. But I suppose if they could, the airlines would charge an extra fee for them. Long before Mattel and Disney existed, shadows were a source of entertainment. Adam and Eve must have been fascinated by these large black things that followed them everywhere. The first time Adam saw his shadow, did he jump out of his skin? Did he attack it with a stick or jump up and down on it? Since he and Eve did not have cable TV, maybe they were the first to amuse themselves with shadow puppets. How else would Noah and his family have entertained themselves on the ark? One of Noah’s sons was named Ham, so he had to have been the ship’s cruise director. HAM: Okay, time for Shadow Puppets! Now put two fingers up; that’s a bunny. SHEM: But yesterday that was how you said to do a dog. JAPHETH: That’s how you’ve said to do every animal. They all look the same. HAM: Um, well…time for lunch! The average person can only do one or two animals for a shadow puppet. My advice is to choose an unfamiliar

20 The Sower Jan/Feb/Mar 2012

God always has a purpose behind everything, and He undoubtedly crammed some life lessons into the design of shadows. I think we are supposed to be God’s shadows by staying near His light. animal, and people will never know the difference. This is a rare species of emu. If you can give a Latin name, all the better. I have four shadows. Three of them are much smaller than the other, and they seem to follow me wherever I go: they are my kids. Consequently, whenever I’m cooking, I elbow someone in the face. Whenever I back up, I step on someone. I have even sat on them. My kids are living up to the words of Ruth, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth was esteemed as a woman of noble character for staying by her mother-inlaw’s side. I believe that my children are doing the noble and right thing by being my shadows. They are exactly where they need to be. Yes, my children are frequently in my way, but one day they

will move on and I will yearn for the time when they were right under my feet. Without shadows, how else would we understand God’s faithfulness? He describes Himself as the Father “who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). God always has a purpose behind everything, and He undoubtedly crammed some life lessons into the design of shadows. I think we are supposed to be God’s shadows by staying near His light. Without the light of the sun, there is no shadow. Without the light of His Son, we would be swallowed by darkness. If we are truly being God’s shadows, we follow wherever He goes. We stay where He stays. And we always move with the Light, as faithful as a shadow.


by Gene Speakes

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hroughout history there has been a struggle between light and darkness. We have all faced dark times in our lives and many of us are struggling today with lost jobs, lost retirement income, lost health insurance and poor health, etc. We look at all of the negatives and it seems as though there is no hope and we can’t see our way clear because of the darkness around us. But, God understood that we would face times like these. Therefore, He sent His Word and His Son to be light in the darkness so we could find our way out, not only out of the darkness of this world, but ultimately out of the darkness of eternal death( Psalms 119:105, John 8:12). Two verses of scripture declare God’s formula for salvation: Romans 10:9 and 10 (ESV) because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” God made it as easy as possible for us to overcome the darkness: 2 Corinthians 4:6 For God who said, Let light shine out of darkness”, has shone in our hearts the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” God has graciously provided a way out of the darkness for all who are willing to accept it. Why continue to sit in darkness any longer? Step into the glorious light and freedom of salvation and be a beacon to others who are still in darkness.

Video: Becoming a Christian Watch a quick 10-minute video on how and why to get saved. This video goes in-depth to answer common questions. TruthOrTradition.com/becoming

2012 events Fellowship in Scranton, PA (John & Dan Teaching) February 17 - 19 Scranton, PA Fellowship in Boston, MA (John & Dan Teaching) March 2 - 4 Boston, MA Oregon Trip (John & Dan Teaching) March 29 - April 2 TBA STF Missions Project March 30 - April 3 TBA Resurrection Sunday April 8 Camp Vision, Bloomington, IN Israel Bible Lands Tour May 12 - 25 Israel Camp Counselor Training July 7 Camp Vision, Bloomington, IN Teens & 20s Camp July 8 - 14 Camp Vision, Bloomington, IN Silent Retreat October 24 - 28 Camp Vision, Bloomington, IN

Register online at STFonline.org/register

Jan/Feb/Mar 2012 The Sower 21


Fuel for the Fire is written by the Teens and Twenties of Spirit & Truth Fellowship International.

Our Heavenly Father Provides by Rachel Darr

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n a recent morning I was on my way to work after dropping my daughter off at daycare, and I happened to pass my dad on the quiet country road. He was driving his red extended-cab truck, pulling his big white box trailer loaded with various tools, complete with his construction logo on the side. We waved to one another and flashed smiles. It took me by surprise, but I got a bit choked up as we passed each other. My dad is a carpenter, and has been self-employed in his own construction business since before I was born. As far back as my early childhood, I can remember the many difficult times my dad worked in order to care for his family. He endured all weather conditions: long, hard hours; many different client personalities; frustrating projects; and sometimes even an injury or two, just to provide for us. Sometimes there was plenty of work lined up and he worked longer and harder; other times the jobs just weren’t coming but he was continuously able to provide. Looking back, I don’t remember even once having heard him complain. As children, my brothers and I never experienced living without our needs being met. We always had a warm, loving home, full bellies, beds to sleep in, all the love any child could want, and plenty of biblical instruction. There were times we had to do without what we wanted (movies with friends, restaurant dinners with extended family, etc.) and my parents had to tell us “No.” But all of our needs were fully met, because my father was devoted to providing for his family.1 We are all children of God, and God 22 The Sower Jan/Feb/Mar 2012

Our heavenly Father is devoted to us, which is why He completely provides for us, just as our earthly fathers should do. loves us immensely. 1 John 3:1a How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! God’s heart is passionately devoted to His children and He is the ultimate example of the love fathers should have for their children. Our heavenly Father is devoted to us, which is why He completely provides for us, just as our earthly fathers should do. God’s Word has many examples that demonstrate God providing for His children. In Mark 6:30-44, Jesus and his disciples were traveling and teaching, and they had a large crowd following them. They came to a remote place and there wasn’t enough food for the crowd of five thousand men, not to mention the women and children. The disciples

gathered what they had, which was five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus blessed the food, and they spread it around. The food fed the five thousand, and at the end there were twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish left over. In another account, Mark 8:1-9, again there was a large crowd following Jesus and his disciples. All they had was seven loaves of bread and a few fish for a crowd of four thousand. Jesus gave thanks and gave the food to the crowd. After everyone had eaten, the disciples gathered seven basketfuls of leftover food. God loved the yearning in the hearts of these crowds to follow His Son, and He provided for them so they could continue to follow Jesus and learn. In Exodus, Moses was following God’s revelation2 to lead the Israelites out of slavery and into the land God had promised them. They faced many


struggles on this journey, but God provided everything they needed along every step of the way. In Exodus 16, we are told how God provided the Israelites with manna and quail because they were very hungry while traveling across the desert. In Exodus 17 and Numbers 20, God twice provided water from a rock for the thirsty Israelites while they were still traveling across the desert. In the record of Joseph in Genesis 41, Pharaoh had several dreams that left him baffled. He sought understanding from the dreams, and finally sent for Joseph. Joseph, by revelation from God, was able to give Pharaoh the interpretations to his dreams. It was through God’s provision of those interpretations that Joseph was able to foresee the coming famine. Because of this foreknowledge from God, Joseph and Pharaoh were able to prepare for the famine by storing away food. God was faithful and fully provided for His people. The most profound way God provided for his children was by sending His own Son as a living sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9 and 10 (9) This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (10) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and send his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

As a parent, I have been learning more and more about providing for our children, and about putting their needs before my own. This has brought me closer to my Father, as I know that my love for my children is supposed to parallel God’s love for all of us as His children. It is a high priority for God to provide for and care for His children. His constant love and provision has blessed my life beyond measure, and I strive to do the same for my own children, until the time that they can fully choose to follow God and allow His provision and love into their lives. There have been so many times in my life when I can recall I didn’t even know I needed something until I needed it and needed it immediately. I can remember that in my first year of college I ended up needing many more books than I thought I would need. College books are extremely expensive, and as a freshman I didn’t have the more than $500 that I needed to purchase all of my books. This really concerned me, but a couple of days later a check showed up in the mail, in the amount I needed to purchase my first study books for that year. God’s provision was on its way to me, even before the need came to my attention. Matthew 6:8 Do not be like them [pagans], for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. God’s provision is constant and faithful.

Matthew 7:7 and 8 (7) “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (8) For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. As His children, we must diligently seek God, knock on His door, and ask. He will hear us, and although He may not always provide in the way we think is best for us, He will always provide, no matter what. As a Father, God is always fully devoted to His children. Notes: 1. I should add that my mom was also a provider for us financially, but I wrote this piece specifically with my heart about my dad. 2. It is important to note here that God’s plan would have been for Moses and the Israelites to leave 40 years earlier, but the Israelites would not follow Moses at that time. Further, even that was not God’s real “plan.” It would have been better if Jacob had left Egypt after the famine and never gotten his family into slavery in the first place. It is important to understand that God gives all of us wisdom, and that wisdom must be used in conjunction with God’s provision. Without doing so, one can easily fall into the trap of believing they do not have what they need because they do not have enough faith, etc. The Bible says, “Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:6,7).

September Trip to South America In September John and Dan had the tremendous privilege and blessing of returning to Argentina where they met with about 400 believers over the course of two weeks. The theme of this year’s trip was on “equipping the saints,” which they did by conducting daily workshops, teaching venues that focused on both doctrinal and practical matters, much fellowshipping, and many hours spent ministering to the needs of numerous people. As in previous trips, they based their work from Buenos Aires from the home of Alex Oliver and his wife Lilian, the head of our Spanish translations. Evening workshops were conducted at the church pastored by Marcello and Marcela Duarte. In addition to numerous meetings with various fellowships in Buenos Aires, they also traveled to the city of San Juan near the border of Chile, where they conducted a weekend of meetings with close to 200 saints, all of whom are under the care of German’ and Margarita Icard.

Jan/Feb/Mar 2012 The Sower 23


The Vine

The Fellowship Network STFonline.org/network

Welcome to the Heartland! BY DAN GALLAGHER

W

e all develop a particular way in which we see ourselves, a type of personal identity picture. This picture of “self” is influenced by many factors, such as our family, gender, race, education, career, and religious background. Another color or hue of the image of what makes me, “me”, is geography. The places where we grow up, or where we sink our roots as adults, can have a profound effect on our individual perspectives and attitudes. I was born on the great plains of North Dakota, a windswept place where the residents are greatly impacted by their geography. These rural inhabitants tend to be a hardy breed, much like the Native Americans that lived there or the buffalo that once grazed on endless fields of wild grasses, and they have learned to eke out an existence in a land of great weather extremes. After spending my first nine years there, while I was in early grade school my father pulled up our family tepee and transplanted us to the very different Pacific coast. Unlike the plains states, this new land was filled with steep mountain peaks, deep shadowed valleys, and a new type of people. Here the citizens were affected very little by seasonal changes, and that had a great influence on their more carefree attitudes and relaxed dispositions. After spending the vast majority of my life on the “left” coast, in the summer of 2004 my wife Lori and I hitched up our wagon and headed over the Great Rocky Mountains to the Midwest. The Midwest is often referred to as the “Heartland” of America for a number of reasons. Like a human heart in the center of our chest, it is symbolically in the center of

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I have now lived in the Midwest for seven years and the Heartland has won my heart. our country. Most of its residents tend to be conservative in their politics, their religious beliefs, and their general outlook on life. This is a place where most visitors find that people place a high emphasis on family values, hearty home cooking abounds, and people who are thought well of are considered “good ol’ folks.” It is easy to see why the plants and the people’s roots easily sink into this land of rich soil. I have now lived in the Midwest for seven years and the Heartland has won my heart. The Heartland is a notion that we can apply directly to God’s arena, the spiritual realm. Unlike us, God does not look on the external appearances. Rather, the field God plows and tends to, as a Master Gardener, is the land of the heart. Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my

heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. God’s heartland is found in the pages of His Word and in the example of His son, Jesus Christ. Here we can see the heart of our Father and clearly understand His ways. People often fail to understand Him because they fail to take a journey through this land of truth. To know God’s heart we must know His Word and His son. When we traverse through this heartland we are cautioned to guard our hearts with all diligence, and to be tender hearted, open hearted, and good hearted. He also warns us not to be hardhearted, wicked or evil hearted, or to have unbelieving hearts. The harvest of our hearts is the direct result of what we sow and fertilize in its soil. Then as a Master Gardener, He gently prunes us to shape so our hearts can produce a bountiful crop of holiness,


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To know God’s heart we must know His Word and His son. much like a healthy plant that produces delicious fruit. God’s pruning may hurt but it is never harmful. It is always done with the intent of making us better.

2 Chronicles 6:30 …forgive, and deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of men)…

John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so it will be even more fruitful. Like a surgeon with his skillful scalpel who works to remove a malignant growth, God seeks to remove the cause of our sickness, not merely treat our symptoms. Although our actions may be sinful, God’s real focus is not so much on “what” we do but “why” we do it; our Father sees the real motives driving us. With few exceptions, our motives are a jumble of intent that we may not even be clear about. We need God’s help to navigate the way through the dark chambers of our hearts. 1 Chronicles 28:9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts…”

In God’s land of the heart we should also discover a wonderful spiritual family. This is the place where we should experience His love, kindness, compassion, mercy and grace. Recent research indicates that in addition to being embedded in the Bible, having strong spiritual friendships is one of the most important factors in a person’s spiritual development. Our gatherings should serve as a type of heartland by being places where we display authenticity and genuine devotion to one another like the Apostle Paul instructed the Romans to do. Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. This is one of the many functions that our churches and gatherings should be providing for us. When people find that our meetings are places of real love and acceptance nothing will be able to prevent them from coming. As we meet in our churches and fellowships, let’s make sure that they are places that set an example of God’s Heartland.

December 2011 Audio Teaching by Dan Gallagher

No “Ordinary” Child The Word of God tells us that when Moses was born “he was no ordinary child.” While this is certainly true of Moses, from God’s perspective it is also true that no one ever born is considered ordinary. Sadly, despite such potential for being “extraordinary,” far too many people die as “ordinary.” What happens to cause people to be turned from “extraordinary” into the plain, the mundane, and the ordinary? In this teaching Dan Gallagher exposes the diabolical methods Satan uses to attack men and women through the seven basic desires of the heart. This teaching has the potential of providing you personal insights and encouragement in your walk with Christ. Listen to this audio teaching for free at STFonline.org/podcast or TruthOrTradition.com/audio

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Dear Sower Website Feedback I found TruthOrTradition.com a real blessing, God is great! Melissa M. Via our Facebook page Editor’s Note: Check out our Facebook page at TruthOrTradition.com/facebook

Christmas Video Feedback

Love the Videos I love the videos you guys make I find them very inspirational and make me want to go out and love more and more everyday thank you so much. YouTube Subscriber (bsdagf ) Editor’s Note: Check out our YouTube Channel, visit YouTube.com/truthortradition

October Audio Teaching The Wise, The Fool & The Wicked” is an important message. Thank you for the inspiration. May God bless you as you present the truth of His word without distortion. With sisterly love, Evy, Canada

YouTube Channel Love your youtube channel! Thanks for providing lessons for free! They have really helped me. Keep up the good work. Kevin W. Via our Facebook page

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Thank you so much! The lonely image of mary and joseph with the birth of the saviour as portrayed can now be replaced with the realistic image of people involved responding to this event of Christ’s birth with love and excitement! God bless! Yoly D. Via our Facebook page

YouTube Teachings Someone linked me to a couple of your videos wherein you discuss the social world of the Bible. I was blown away. VERY RARELY have I come across a Christian that even so much as seems aware of cultural differences and furthermore, is fluent in discussing it. I hardly would have believed that such an informed Christian could be found on YouTube, the cesspit of stupid Christians and atheists alike. Keep up the good work! YouTube Subscriber (EarendilTheBright)

Last Issue Feedback Hello, and God bless everyone who participated in The Sower magazine. I always enjoy reading The Sower but this Oct/Nov/Dec 2011 Created Unto Good Works is outstanding!

Every article is inspiring me! Especially “Get In The Game” by David Hanson and “Created for Good Works” by John W. Schoenheit. Also, the poem by Shelby Hoffman, I will definitely keep this one in my poem collection folder! I thank all of you for faithfully doing a great work of God to equip me to do good work where I live. With much love, Mina H. Valatie, New York

YouTube Teachings Thank you for the wonderful year of powerful teachings! I always look forward to hearing the teaching of the month. It always blesses me. I also got so much wisdom from your article on “Reflecting God’s Light.” It was fascinating, enlightening and a great study! So happy to be in Christ, Shawnnah & Scott G. Kansas

Send us your Feedback Do you have questions about the Bible? Comments about our articles, audio teachings & videos? We would love to hear from you! Email us at STF@STFonline.org


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