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TheSower Volume 14 Issue 2 | 2nd Quarter 2012
The quarterly magazine of Spirit & Truth Fellowship International®
Israel Tour 2000 - Lost Videos
Summer Fest! July 12 -14 - Fun in the Son
Following Jesus Many Christians today, growing increasingly dissatisfied with the more traditional ways of the mainstream Church, have begun to feel a need to get back to the basics of the faith.
ooking back over the past two thousand years since Christ’s ascension, we can see a number of times when significant shifts have occurred in the Christian Faith. Many of these movements have had such a powerful impact that they even changed the face of Christianity thereafter. Times such as the Protestant Reformation, the rise in Unitarianism (belief in One God), and the start of the Pentecostal Movement are certainly all such times. Recently a new churning or tremor underfoot has been felt by large numbers of believers. Many Christians today, growing increasingly dissatisfied with the more traditional ways of the mainstream Church, have begun to feel a need to get back to the basics of the faith. These folks are no longer satisfied with a faith that relies on affirming liturgies or consistent Sunday church attendance. For them, the traditional church is about as satisfying as eating soup with a fork. These new or newly awakened believers seek a faith that is more tangible and real. It is no longer enough for them to simply believe in Christ. No, they want to cultivate a faith that is palpable, a faith that “has skin,” so to speak. For them, Jesus
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cannot be confined to the walls of a traditional church. This is a type of Christianity that is free to walk with him on the streets, a faith made real in connection with others. A faith lived like Jesus lived. The simple phrase, “Follow Jesus” seems to best capture the essence of this new movement, which is why we have devoted this issue of The Sower to “Following Jesus”. Spirit & Truth Fellowship has rightfully earned a reputation for being a very doctrinally-oriented ministry. But the central reason we research, teach, and promote fellowship is because we are trying to help others to see Jesus more clearly so that they can follow him more closely. It is only by having a relationship with the Son that we can have one with the Father. It is significant that some of Jesus’ first and last words to Peter and others were, “Follow me!” His call to all of us is the same. We hope this issue helps you to follow in his footsteps. Walking with you!
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12 The Lost Israel Tour Videos
Volume 14 - Issue 2 - Apr/May/Jun 2012
26 REV Commentary
Production Coordinator Dustin Williams
by Dan Gallagher
Ed & Amy Coughlin
TruthOrTradition.com Over one thousand articles pertaining to many biblical issues.
Page 4 Jesus blazed a clear trail for anyone who wants to walk it, leading everyone directly back into a relationship with God.
We cannot follow two masters
Credits Publisher Spirit & Truth Fellowship International
Executive Editors John W. Schoenheit Dan Gallagher Editors Rachel Darr Renee Speakes
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Magazine Designer Ryan Maher Staff Writers John W. Schoenheit Dan Gallagher
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by John W. Schoenheit Page 10 Many people want to know the Bible better, or have more time to serve God’s people, and just never seem to have the time to do it.
by Ed & Amy Coughlin Page 17 Ed & Amy Coughlin explain why they are partners with Spirit & Truth Fellowship.
The ABC’s of God
Manners & Customs
Fuel For the Fire
Non-Profit Caterpillars & the No. 2 Pencil
The Pearl of Great Price
The Pursuit of Happiness
by John W. Schoenheit
by Kenny Willenburg
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.
by Cara Hanson Page 18 With each passing year, my New Year’s Resolutions become less lofty. When I was six, my goal was to change the world. Now that I’m forty, I’m happy if I can change the sheets.
Page 20 Learning biblical customs has many advantages. It makes reading the Bible more enjoyable when we know about the people and how they lived.
Page 22 When we do the loving thing, we do what is best for everyone involved; however, when we do the selfish thing, we do only what we feel is best for ourselves regardless of how it affects other people.
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Follow by Dan Gallagher
Jesus blazed a clear trail for anyone who wants to walk it, leading everyone directly back into a relationship with God. Anyone who wants to enjoy the benefits of Jesus’ work can do so by merely following his footsteps.
ooking at a field covered by a thick blanket of snow always evokes for me a sense of wonder and awe. Snow has a magical way of transforming the landscape into a scene of majesty. Recently, while I stood in my breakfast room, warm and secure with a fresh cup of coffee in hand, the beauty of the fresh snow that had fallen during the night captivated me. Rays of sunlight glistened and sparkled off the ice crystals as the sun began its slow rise to start a new day. In the morning silence I rolled through my mind a list of the many chores that I needed to accomplish that day. My first task required that I go to my barn, which, although it is only a mere seventy-five yards away from my house, had become significantly more difficult now that I needed to forge a path across the new barrier of snow. It is not as if I needed to traverse a frozen tundra, but nevertheless, the difficulty of getting to the barn greatly increased. What was going to be a simple walk had now become a frosty trek. Later in the day, after making my way to the barn, I looked back at the trail my footsteps had left in the snow. It occurred to me that the first person who forges a path has the most difficulty, and everyone who follows later gets to enjoy the benefits of his labor. This principle also holds true for those of us who follow Jesus. He blazed a clear trail
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for anyone who wants to walk it, leading everyone directly back into a relationship with God. Anyone who wants to enjoy the benefits of Jesus’ work can do so by merely following his footsteps.
We are all on a journey
Picturing your life as a journey on a path provides a great perspective that can be very beneficial. Like a meandering trail, our lives can go in many different directions, take many unforeseen turns, and even lead us to places we never suspected. Sometimes the journey is easy and pleasurable, and then there are times when the voyage is tough and difficult. Life is also filled with many intersections, where we make a decision on which way we are going to go. Many crossroads are insignificant, but there are also times when the choices we make can be lifealtering. On the pilgrimage of life, one of the most significant choices we have to make is whether to forge our own trail or follow the path God wants us to take. Sadly, few understand that the path to life and righteousness is narrow, whereas the road to destruction is wide (Matt. 7:13). God wants everyone to choose the “path of life” and to stay away from the “path of the wicked,” but He leaves the choice to us (Ps. 16:11; Prov. 4:14 and 15; 12:28).
It occurred to me that the first person who forges a path has the most difficulty, and everyone who follows later gets to enjoy the benefits of his labor.
NEWS! Although no one knew of God’s plan to delay things by inserting an Age of Grace, the “good news” became that Jesus’ death was the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all who accept him as their Lord. In other words, today Jesus is the Good News! Acts 5:42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. Acts 8:35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
Jesus made it very clear that when it comes to the Kingdom of God and everlasting life, he is the one and only path mankind can take to the Father. John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Some find it disturbing that there is only one way to the Father, and many desire to do it “their way,” but Christ’s message was clear. He is the sure path to get back to God.
What is the Gospel?
Like most people, my first experience of the word “gospel” was when referring to the four New Testament books of the Bible1 that depict the things Jesus did and said when alive on earth. I was often amazed, even almost dumfounded,
as I read stories about the many miraculous healings and supernatural events that took place during his ministry years. His words pierced people’s hearts, revealed hidden motives, including my own on many occasions, and even left some of his harshest critics speechless. I was taught that the word “gospel” meant “good news,” and these four books describing him were every bit of that!2 Jesus brought the “good news” that the time for the Kingdom of God was near, a future time when the earth will be restored to its Paradise condition. This will be a time without famine, sickness, and war. It will also be a time when he rules the earth for 1,000 years and Satan, God’s archenemy, will be locked away. God’s people had been anxiously waiting for the fulfillment of the promise of a redeemer3, and now the Good News was that he was here. This was not only good news, it was GREAT
Acts 11:20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. Acts 17:18 …Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.
Losing sight of the Gospel
When I first accepted Christ I would read the Gospels for hours on end. I admit that I was even a little jealous of the first-century saints who were there with him, seeing and hearing him firsthand. As I continued on my walk of faith I was taught to focus on the New Testament writings, especially those of Paul because these, according to Dispensational theology4, were the Words of God written Apr/May/Jun 2012 The Sower 5
directly “to me.” This is absolutely true, but with so much emphasis placed on the Epistles of Paul, one of the unintended consequences for me was that I began to neglect reading the Gospel stories of Christ. Eventually, without even realizing it, I began to replace the Good News of Jesus Christ with the Good News of my doctrine. My doctrine is the body of my beliefs and theology, such as my Biblical Unitarian position that Jesus was not God but His son, that the dead were really dead, and that the holy spirit was a gift (always making sure never to capitalize the “h” or the “s” since doing so would make it God). The elevation of my doctrine in my mind caused me to lose sight of the simplicity that Jesus “is” the Gospel, he is the Good News. In his book, Speaking of Jesus, author Carl Medearis succinctly states it this way: “I want to strip away the thousands of years of graffiti painted onto the gospel, turning it into a reasonable code of doctrines. The gospel is not a ‘How.’ It is not a
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‘What.’ It is a ‘Who,’ and his name is Jesus. Jesus is The Gospel—the GOOD NEWS!”5
Seeing doctrine as my compass, not the destination
If my goal is to get to the North Pole, then the compass in the palm of my hand is a tool useful for pointing me in the right direction. The more accurate the compass, the more I can trust that it will guide me on the right path to the destination. When Christians begin to see their beliefs as the goal, they are mistaking the compass for the destination. Doctrine, like a compass, is a tool, but its purpose is to show me to the destination. In the case of Christians, the destination is having the relationship with God the Father that He desires. Everyone is heading somewhere, but sadly, not everyone has a good compass. Unknowingly I labored under the burden that being a Christian required me to know, understand, and be ready to explain the Bible—all of
it—to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Like many others I know, I also struggled under the false premise that sharing the Gospel meant I needed to convince others of all of my doctrine. I was freed from this load when I began to once again see Jesus as the Good News. It is not my job to get people to believe; that is their responsibility. My job and responsibility is to point others to him.
There is something wrong with this picture
A few weeks ago I was in a Starbucks coffeehouse getting an afternoon cup of liquid energy. Since no one else was around, I asked the barista, “What do you think of Christians?” I could tell she was a little hesitant, probably politely not wanting to insult a customer, so I said, “No, really—what do you really think?” Feeling that it was safe to be honest with me, she indicated she was raised as a Christian and really loved church as a child but then her family had to endure a series of very hurtful church splits. She became really disheartened when she went to a Christian college
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I love the simplicity of Jesus’ words when he called various disciples into ministry. In the case of Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, Jesus said “Come, follow me…”
where she was treated very poorly by the faculty and many students. It was as if a dam burst and floodwaters poured out of her as she told me about how hurt and disillusioned she had been, ultimately even leaving Christianity behind. Clearly I was not responsible for any of that, but still I felt the need to apologize to her—maybe it was Christ’s broken heart for her that came up from deep inside me. Then I asked her, “Do you think there is a difference between Christianity and Jesus?” Instantly she became animated about Jesus and how he always loved people. A co-worker who overheard us joined the lively conversation, and all three of us shared stories of Jesus. As I walked away I couldn’t help but think, “There is something really wrong with this picture, when people are so ‘thumbs down’ on Christianity, but so ‘thumbs up’ on Jesus.” I wish my experience in Starbucks were an aberration, but it is not; it has been the norm as I have continued to ask other people similar questions.
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Clearly, somewhere along the way Christians have gotten off “the path” of following Jesus when people see such a contrasting difference between Jesus and those who claim to be walking in his footsteps.
Follow me - my yoke is easy
I love the simplicity of Jesus’ words when he called various disciples into ministry. In the case of Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, Jesus said “Come, follow me…” (Matt. 4:19), and he said the same to Matthew (Matt. 9:9). He made it clear that being one of his disciples meant putting him first and “following him” (Matt. 8:22; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21). Jesus also made it clear that following him was not burdensome. The Priests and Pharisees had laid heavy legalistic burdens on the backs of the people. Luke 11:46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you,
because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. In contrast to the teachings of the rabbis, Jesus’ teachings are easy in the sense that they do not lay excessive burdens on a person. They do, however, require effort. Doing what Christ said to do instead of what we want to do can take a lot of effort and determination, but following him results in our finding rest for our souls. Matthew 11:29 and 30 (29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” To “take on his yoke” is to follow his teachings and the path he marked out for us.
Getting back on the path
I have no doubt that Christians of all denominations, brands, or flavors, love the Lord, the majority having the best of intentions. Regrettably, their faith has become a religion, a “system of do’s and don’ts” that seeks to perfect the flesh. This is the common downfall of all “religions.” Jesus never intended to start a new “religion.” He came to blaze a trail that led all mankind straight back to the Father for anyone who chooses to walk it. Religion causes people to measure themselves against others, whereas following Jesus sets us free from that type of “yardstick.” How fantastic it is to be free from having to measure myself against others. In Christ I have nothing to prove and I have no need to impress anyone. That is truly a path of freedom. We must never forget that Jesus himself is the Good News. The message is not “church,” or the religion of Christianity, Calvin, or Luther. Following him is not about capitalism, democracy, or being conservative or liberal. The Good News is Jesus, and it must be him we follow.
Do not waste energy over regretting the past, except to learn from your mistakes. Do not even spend much time being disappointed about the way things are now. Use the disappointment to ignite a fire to make a change, and that change can start right now as you walk forward on his path. When you decide to walk on the high road, it does not mean there will never be any valleys on the way. Enjoy the journey and follow “his” footsteps, no matter where they lead you. Jesus trudged across the snowy field and made a way that is clear to follow. Endnotes: 1. Traditionally the New Testament Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are called the four Gospels. 2. The word, “gospel” is derived from the Old English gōd-spell, meaning “good news” or “glad tidings.” According to Wikipedia, It is a calque (word-for-word translation) of the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, euangelion (eu“good”, -angelion “message”). 3. Shortly after Adam’s disobedi-
ence in the Garden of Eden, God had promised that He would send a Redeemer. See Gen. 3:15. 4. Dispensationalism is a systematic theology that recognizes distinct “economies” in the outworking of God’s purposes on earth. That is, it recognizes that God relates to mankind in different ways at different times. This understanding is in part based upon the Greek word oikonomia, which is often translated “dispensation” in the KJV. Oikonomia means “managing or administering the affairs of a household.” God, therefore, is the householder, and entrusts stewardship or administrational responsibilities to men throughout the various “ages.” 5. When we say that Jesus is the Gospel, we mean that he and all that he accomplished is the good news. Belief in him brings the gift of salvation, the forgiveness of sins, the way to a restored relationship with the Father, and life everlasting.
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We Cannot Follow
Two Masters by John W. Schoenheit
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. - Matthew 6:24 (KJV )
t is a common complaint that people just “cannot find the time” to do the things with God that they want to do. Many people want to know the Bible better, or have more time to serve God’s people, and just never seem to have the time to do it. Sometimes that turns out to be our own fault.
We cannot serve God and “Wealth”
Jesus taught that no one can serve two masters. Matthew 6:24 (KJV) No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. This verse has three difficult phrases, and to properly understand the verse we must understand its vocabulary and customs. Jesus told us plainly what would happen if a person tried to serve two masters. One was that the person would love one master, and thus serve that one well, and “hate” the other, and thus not serve that one as well. It helps us to make sense of the verse when we realize that in
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the Eastern mindset and vocabulary, “hate” does not always mean “hate” as we generally use it today, in the sense of extreme hostility or intense dislike. Especially when used in contrast to “love” in the biblical culture (both Hebrew and Greco-Roman), the word “hate” often means “love less.” A good example of “hate” meaning “love less” is when God said about Jacob and Esau, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Rom. 9:13). First of all, in Malachi 1:2 and 3, which is where Romans 9:13 is quoted from, God is not speaking of the actual people, “Jacob” and “Esau.” He is speaking of the countries of Israel and Edom, which were founded by Jacob and Esau. God did not “hate” Edom, but He showed less grace and special love to the country of Edom than He did to Israel. Using “hate” as “love less,” Jesus was speaking in real and practical terms when he said that if a person tried to serve two masters he would love one more than the other. Each of us only has so much time and energy, and it is nearly impossible to equally divide them between two masters that are making demands on us. The second difficult phrase in the verse, in the typical Eastern fashion of teaching, is an amplification and clarification of the first phrase. Jesus
made sure we understood what he meant by saying that a person trying to serve two masters would “hold to the one, and despise the other.” As in the first phrase about love and hate, we must understand the biblical vocabulary to understand this phrase. The first phrase, translated “hold to” in the KJV, is cleared up for us in most modern versions, which read, “be devoted to” (HCSB, ESV, NET, NIV). However, the use of “despise” in both the KJV and many modern versions is less clear and needs to be properly understood. It is surprising that even the modern versions usually continue to use the word “despise,” even though it gives most readers the wrong impression. The Greek word translated “despise” is kataphroneō (Strong’s #2706 καταφρονέω), and it has a range of meaning that encompasses looking down on someone or something with contempt or aversion; considering something not important and thus disregarding it; and not caring about, or ignoring, someone or something. In defense of the modern version’s use of “despise,” it is true that one of the primary meanings of the English word “despise” is to look down on with contempt or to regard as worthless (this is even the first definition in
“...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)
Jesus was making the simple statement that if a person had two masters, he would often be devoted to one and end up ignoring the other.”
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Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary). However, the much more well-known use of “despise” is one of its other definitions: an intense dislike and even loathing. As students of the Bible, we should be aware that Jesus was not saying a person would be devoted to one master while intensely disliking or loathing the other master. Why would anyone have to hate or despise someone just because he loved or was devoted to someone else? That does not make sense. Jesus was making the simple statement that if a person had two masters, he would often be devoted to one and end up ignoring the other. We all know what it is like to get so busy with certain things that we end up ignoring other things, even if the things we end up ignoring are important or things we enjoy doing. There are other uses of the Greek word kataphroneō that are translated “despise” in many versions, which can give us the wrong impression of what the verse is saying. One is when Paul writes to Timothy and says, “Let no one despise you for your youth…” (1 Tim. 4:12, ESV). No one would hate someone because he was young. The better way to understand the verse is just like Matthew 6:24 about the two masters; Paul told Timothy not to let anyone ignore him just because he was young. Similarly, in many versions Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus endured being crucified, “despising the shame
(ESV).” It was indeed a shameful thing to be crucified, but Jesus did not “hate” it, he ignored it. In doing that he set a wonderful example for us to follow. Many times we will find that if we are to be true followers of Jesus, we will have to ignore the shame and mistreatment we endure.
Mammon—the “god of Possessions”
The third difficult phrase we need to understand in Matthew 6:24 is the concluding sentence. Jesus powerfully concluded the point he was making by saying, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” “Mammon” is an Aramaic term for wealth, property, or anything of value. “Wealth” is a better translation than “money.” There are Greek words that specifically mean “money,” and that would have appeared in the verse if Jesus had meant only “money.” In contrast, “Mammon” refers to total “wealth,” including money, property, and possessions, any or all of which some people serve instead of God. It should catch our attention that the text does not say “wealth,” but rather retains the Aramaic term that is transliterated in the KJV as “Mammon.” The Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible has the right idea when it translates “Mammon” with a capital “M.” Jesus was speaking of “Mammon” as if it were a god. It was much easier to personify “Wealth” in the Greco-Roman world than it is today because the
Greeks and Romans often personified concepts as gods and goddesses. For example, Abundantia was the divine personification of abundance and prosperity, Aequitas (Equity) was the divine personification of fairness, Bonus Eventus was the divine personification of “Good Outcome,” and Mors was the personification of death (the Greek personification of death was Thanatos). Thus, to a person living at the time of Christ, it was clear that Jesus was making a kind of play on words, and saying in a very graphic and clever way, “You cannot serve God and the ‘god of Possessions’” (wealth, things, stuff ). We decide, by what we think about and where we spend our time, energy, and resourses, who we follow in life: the Lord, or our “god of Stuff.”
Jesus’ teaching about serving God or “Stuff” is a lesson that people in affluent countries like the United States need to pay attention to. Too often we let the “stuff” in our lives get in the way of our dedication to God. One verse in the Bible that has good information about the “stuff” in our lives is in Colossians. Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is
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Greed makes us the center of our attention: we spend our money, time, and energy on ourselves, when the Word of God says to seek God and His kingdom first (Matt. 6:33). idolatry. When this verse is translated into English, it is unclear if the word “idolatry” refers to the whole list, or just the last item, “greed.” Thankfully however, the Greek text is clearer, and from it we can see that the word “idolatry” refers only to the last thing on the list, “greed.” Before we begin to discuss greed and idolatry, we should discuss whether or not “greed” is the proper translation. Many versions have “covetousness” (ESV, KJV, RSV, YLT), while many others have “greed” (HCSB, NASB, NET, NIV). In translating the Bible, our intent must be to try to duplicate the meaning of the original language (in this case, Greek), into the receptor language (in this case, English). While that sounds easy, it is actually often exceedingly difficult. This is due to many factors, one being that most Greek words (indeed, most words in every language) do not have a singular meaning, but rather a range of meanings, which is referred to as the “semantic range” of the word. This means that the task of the translator becomes one of finding which English word has a semantic range that most closely matches the semantic range of the Greek word, and that often becomes a judgment call rather than a clear choice. 14 The Sower Apr/May/Jun 2012
Another problem in translating is that English words have different meanings in different regions of the country, or to different age groups, or to people of different levels of education. When we examined “despise” in Matthew 6:24 at the start of this article, we saw that someone who was very educated in the English language would know a primary meaning of “despise” meant what the Greek word meant; to look down upon, or regard as worthless. Most people, however, do not use “despise” that way. It is incumbent upon the translator to decide who his target audience is and translate to that audience, while letting another version of the Bible reach another audience. In this case, the Greek word that is translated “greed” or “covetousness” is pleonexia (Strong’s #4124 πλεονεξία), and it refers to a person desiring to have more than he needs, or more than his share. The English word “greed” is a selfish and excessive desire to have more than one needs. The English word “covetousness” has two primary definitions. The first is simply to have a strong desire for something, apart from any reference to need, or to the abundance one already has, as in “I greatly covet winning the blue ribbon.” This definition of covet can be good or evil, depending on the context in which it is used. The second definition
of covet is always evil and refers to wanting something that belongs to someone else, as in, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Exod. 20:17). Having studied both “greed” and “covetousness,” we can see that the English word “greed” is a much better match to pleonexia than “covetousness.” Now we know the Word of God teaches that greed is idolatry. The reason for that is simple: in selfishly taking and/or acquiring more than we need, we are elevating ourselves in an unhealthy way. Greed makes us the center of our attention: we spend our money, time, and energy on ourselves, when the Word of God says to seek God and His kingdom first (Matt. 6:33). There are different reasons for greed, but one of them is certainly not trusting God to take care of us in life. Furthermore, a hurtful aspect of greed is that the greedy person is not sensitive to the needs of those who are less fortunate, and who could use what he is needlessly accumulating.
Greed is a heart issue
God says greed is idolatry, which alerts us to another important aspect of greed: it is a heart issue, not a “things” issue. Having great wealth is not necessarily “greed,” and there are certainly wonderful people in the Bible who were wealthy, including Abraham and David. True greed is an issue of
the heart that is evidenced in the flesh, so we cannot just look at how much a person owns and decide the person is greedy. Idolatry is always an issue of the heart, and sometimes the idol is clearly manifested in the senses world for all to see, and sometimes it is not. One thing about greed is undeniable: people who accumulate more and more stuff have to spend more and more of their time and energy managing it, and when they do, the words of Jesus, that no person can serve two masters, are proven true. Most people who have accumulated large amounts of stuff end up fulfilling the words of Jesus even though they may not intend to: they end up showing more love to their wealth than they do to God, and they spend their time with their stuff, “being devoted to” it and ignoring God. Greedy people who end up with lots of material goods can seem to have confidence or peace from a fleshly perspective, but from God’s perspective, they are really hurting themselves. Ecclesiastes 5:13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner, It is specifically because earthly wealth promises things like power and safety, but in the end does not deliver those things, that the Bible twice mentions “the deceitfulness of wealth” (Matt. 13:22; Mark 4:19). Wealth is deceitful because it promises much but delivers little. The only true safety in life, and the only true fulfillment for the heart, comes from God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of us only has one life in which to serve God, and serving God is not supposed to be an option. As His created beings, it is our duty to serve Him. The closing verses of Ecclesiastes make that clear. Ecclesiastes 12:13 and 14 (13) Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (14) For God will bring every deed
into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. How can we tell if greed has crept into our hearts and is diluting our devotion to God? One way is to get honest about how attached to our material possessions we really are. If it came down to it, could we let go of them in service to the Lord? Many early Christians lost everything in times of persecution. Hebrews 10:32 and 34 (32) Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. (34) You...joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. If, like the early Christians, we can “joyfully accept” losing our property for the sake of the Lord, we know we do not have greed as an idol in our heart. Another way we can see if we might be dealing with the idol of greed is to pay attention to how much time we spend doing the Lord’s work and how much joy we get from following the Lord, versus how much time we spend managing things that we really do not need. Does all our time seem to be soaked up by our stuff, leaving us no time to pray, read the Bible, share our faith, or fellowship with other Christians? If so, we could have a greed problem.
Tearing down the greed idol
If we search our hearts (and our bank accounts, safety deposit boxes, closets, attics, garages and storage buildings), and find we have a problem with greed, what do we do? One thing we must do is realize that no idol, not greed or any other idol can be easily removed from our heart. Pulling down an idol is never a matter of just “Oh, I can do that.” Healing heart issues requires immense effort and diligence, and is a team project. The team is “me” and God and Jesus, and almost always
some fellow members of the Body of Christ. Fellow Christians who have our best interests at heart can almost always see things we ourselves might be blind to and help us deal with the problem. Enlist the help of God and Jesus by much prayer, along with study and meditation on, (thinking over and over about), the Word. Then, get the help of your trusted Christian friends. As to the effort we must exert to root an idol out of our hearts, we can follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, who wrote about the dedication we must have to get rid of idols and truly follow the Lord. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (24) Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. (25) Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (26) Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. (27) No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. Paul said that if we want to follow Jesus, many times it will take dedication just like the dedication of a professional athlete. While it can be difficult to obey God and follow the Lord, it is always worth it in the end. In reference to God’s clear but challenging commands such as “Love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44), Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” We can understand the clear teaching that no one can serve two masters. We can understand that we cannot have the idol of greed without it meaning that we will end up ignoring the Lord Jesus Christ. If we want to follow the Lord Jesus Christ more than anything else in the whole world, we will do the hard work of getting any obstacle out of our lives that hinders us from that goal. Apr/May/Jun 2012 The Sower 15
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Partner Profile Ed & Amy Coughlin
“We have a great respect for the families that are directing and serving in the Spirit and Truth ministry and have been honored these three years to be their partners.”
n the fall of 2005 we left the city—and a thriving job market—and moved to 40 acres outside of Roseburg, Oregon. It should have been a hard decision, especially since we didn’t have a job waiting there. But God had shown his faithfulness and care for us—so much more so than the birds of the air—in the preceding years, so we knew it was time to increase our trust in God and Jesus Christ for our family. What we didn’t expect was the deep dependence on God that we still had yet to develop. By the time we left Portland, we had drifted apart from our Spirit and Truth friends through a combination of circumstances. At the same time, STF’s One God & One Lord convinced us that we couldn’t return to the front pew of a mainstream church. We visited a home fellowship and became very comfortable with the informal setting. However, a few months into our relationship we shared our Biblical Unitarian beliefs, and were told that we would be welcome to continue coming, but only to listen. Frankly, we were hurt to be excluded in this way, but out of this sad occasion we restored our practice of regularly worshipping God and studying the Word in our own home. It was not long before a great helper came along called the iPod and we discovered the Spirit and Truth Fellowship podcasts. It was as if we had been eating those dry rice cookies for months and were finally offered a New York steak! This lasted for two years without having any contact with anyone
from Spirit and Truth. Then on January 13, 2009, we received an email notice that The Sower was available in PDF format. In that issue we read Dan Gallagher’s article that described the decision to move away from their original plans of becoming a “church” or “denomination” and then we went on to read of their adoption of four core values—Truth, Integrity, Courage and Liberty. We quickly wrote to Dan Gallagher to tell him we were so thankful for their bold and courageous decision and of how blessed we had been to have access to STF materials to help give structure and spiritual food to our little family-led fellowship. We immediately became regular financial contributors and not too long afterwards, became financial partners. During these last three years, we have witnessed those four core values in action. One notable act of courage that Spirit and Truth took was the release of all their publications into electronic form for free download. In an instant, they released decades of their life’s work freely to anyone with a thirst for God! God has poured out His love and providence so that our right desire to give back is provided faithfully by Him every month. We have a great respect for the families that are directing and serving in the Spirit and Truth ministry and have been honored these three years to be their partners.
with Spirit & Truth Fellowship International
Sign up online at STFonline.org/partnership Go to STFonline.org/partnership or call 888.255.6189 M-F 9 to 5 (ET). Apr/May/Jun 2012 The Sower 17
The ABC’s of God Lessons from my children
by Cara Hanson
Non-Profit Caterpillars and the No. 2 Pencil
ith each passing year, my New Year’s Resolutions become less lofty. When I was six, my goal was to change the world. Now that I’m forty, I’m happy if I can change the sheets. I don’t just toss last year’s calendar into the trash; I fling it with panache. With a flick of the wrist, I toss any failures and disappointments of the past year right where they belong—in with the toilet paper rolls. Then I place a new calendar on the wall and stare at the blinding possibilities of all those blank white squares. Each January we all cling to the hope that this year will be different. We sharpen our No. 2 pencils and smooth out clean sheets of paper. The intoxicating smell of graphite convinces us that surely this year our resolutions will hold. With a steady hand, we carefully print out our first goal. 1. I WILL ONLY EAT HEALTHFUL FOODS. Without warning, Life unequivocally charges into the room like a toddler on Christmas morning. –Wanna donut? —Sure, thanks. And just like that, we settle back into our comfortable ways, as effortlessly as slipping into our favorite pair of jeans. It’s funny how perspectives change after you live life a little. The hubris of the young deflates into the practicality of the old. Our parents, the ones we were
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With each passing year, my New Year’s Resolutions become less lofty. When I was six, my goal was to change the world. Now that I’m forty, I’m happy if I can change the sheets. embarrassed to have drop us off in a station wagon at the Middle School door, suddenly skyrocket in status once we graduate into the real world. Sometimes we just need wisdom, even if it does come in the form of someone who eats dinner at 4pm in the afternoon. A rich young man seeking wisdom once approached Jesus, fell on his knees, and asked him what he must do to inherit eternal life. I’m assuming that he fell on his own knees, not Jesus’, because the therapy session would have ended abruptly. I fall on my knees a lot, especially since my kids’ toys come with some sort of special GPS to locate the trajectory of my path. But when we fall on our knees before Jesus, we demonstrate a meekness and willingness to do whatever it takes to accomplish a
goal. Jesus saw that this rich young man was earnest in his desire to change. He also recognized that despite the man’s adherence to the Ten Commandments, he was still missing something. Mark 10:21a “One thing you lack,” he (Jesus) said. Knee pads? Mark 10:21b-22a (21b) “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (22a) At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Of course the man was sad. Now he had sore knees, a fallen face, and he had to give up his wealth. But at least Jesus gave a practical answer, something tangible that the man could do right away, if he so desired. Notice that Jesus did not whip out a blank sheet of paper and No. 2 pencil and advise the man to write down his goal and hang it on the refrigerator. 1. GET ETERNAL LIFE. Sometimes kids may have unattainable dreams, such as my son’s desire to become the first astronaut-mailman. It would be fun to deliver mail from a spaceship, and yes, the Sears Christmas catalog would be much lighter to carry in outer space. But has he really considered the challenge of factoring gravity in with the cost of postage? Still, I admire the determination of a child to make dreams come true. God help the poor donkey who ever challenges my daughter Grace to a Battle of the Wills. At the age of seven, she announced that she was going to start her own business. That afternoon. True to her word, later that day she was down by the road, open for business. Those fortunate enough to pass by our house were invited to view her twin black and orange caterpillars, Jacob and Esau. She didn’t make any money, but believed in her heart that she was providing a
great service to our community.
Back Issues of The Sower
When I explained to my little entrepreneur that she was running a non-profit business, she tossed back her golden curls, and yelled to the world:
You can now read back issues of The Sower online in a high quality PDF or in our NEW Flash Version. In the Flash Version, you can actually flip through The Sower like a real magazine. We think it’s pretty cool!
“Non-profit caterpillars! Come see my non-profit caterpillars!”
Check it out at STFonline.org/backissues
Several hours later, Grace made a difficult but sage decision for the good of her company. “I think I have to close my business,” she explained. “Not enough interest.” Last week Grace announced that she was going to become an author. That afternoon. Her plan was to write her own books and sell them at the bottom of the driveway. Before I could even respond, she was writing furiously, as though the fate of the world depended on her pencil. Her No. 2 pencil. As I stared at the pencil, I realized that Grace was not using it to write down her dreams, but rather to turn her dreams into reality. And if that didn’t work, she would move to the next plan. Most likely something down by the side of the road, where her non-profit caterpillars eventually stopped dreaming about being butterflies, and just flew away.
Life is Not a Game: Being Effective for God In this teaching, John Schoenheit lays out the Biblical Warfare and the Wisdom models of belief, and shows how they are particularly important if we are to think correctly about the important roles we play in serving God. John builds on these and discusses three things that are important for success: having a vision for our life, working with good teachers/pastors/leaders, and getting rid of those things that drag us down. Subscribe to our audio podcast in iTunes and listen to this teaching for free at STFonline.org/podcast
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Manners & Customs The Pearl of Great Price Learning biblical customs has many advantages. It makes reading the Bible more enjoyable when we know about the people and how they lived. By John W. Schoenheit
elping people understand and apply the lessons of the Bible is one of the great goals of The Sower Magazine, and in that light we are running a series of short articles on biblical customs. The Bible is written in such a way that it is completely and inextricably interwoven with the cultures and the customs of the times and places in which its events occured. While the cultural references were well known to the people who lived in biblical times, many of them are unfamiliar to us today. Learning biblical customs has many advantages. It makes reading the Bible more enjoyable when we know about the people and how they lived. It clarifies things in the Bible we would otherwise not readily know, or that do not make sense to us at first. It alerts us to mistranslations, or possible mistranslations, in the Bible. Also, it gives us great insight into how to properly apply the Word of God in our lives. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told a wonderful parable about the attitude we should all have about the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven is the Kingdom that Jesus himself will set up on earth in the future. The book of Revelation tells us that Jesus Christ will come down from heaven to earth, fight the Battle of Armageddon and conquer his enemies, and set up a kingdom in which there will be no war, no hunger, no injustice, and even animals such as the lion and lamb will live together peacefully.1 Only people who are righteous in the sight of God (“saved”) will be resurrected into Christ’s kingdom, 20 The Sower Apr/May/Jun 2012
or allowed to enter it at the Sheep and Goat Judgment after the Battle of Armageddon (Ezek. 37: 1-14; Matt. 25:3146). Because of that, it is not wrong to equate the Kingdom of Heaven with salvation in most of the Lord’s teachings. To be worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven was to be saved. Matthew 13:45 and 46 ESV (45) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, (46) who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Anyone reading the parable of the “Pearl of Great Value” can immediately grasp the sense of it—being in the Kingdom of Heaven and getting to live forever is worth more than all our other
possessions combined, and the wise person will spare no effort or expense to be in Christ’s kingdom. As clear as the parable seems to us, it was much clearer to people who lived before the 1900’s. The early 1900’s saw the collapse of the pearl industry and the decline in the value of pearls as a status symbol, because it was then that the Japanese invented a way to grow cultured pearls. Worse, not too long after that, plastics and resins were also used to produce very realistic pearl lookalikes. Then finally, the invention of the scuba diving system made getting the real pearls much easier, safer, and more reliable. The result of all this was that pearls, which for millennia had been a mark of high culture, social standing, and financial wealth, were suddenly seemingly being worn by anyone and everyone. This caused them to be both
devalued as symbols of status and wealth, and less attractive. As their attraction wore off, they were worn by fewer and fewer people, even being ignored by those who could afford the “real” ones. Sure, there are pearls of great value still around, but the desire to own and wear them, and the status they project, are not nearly what they were in years past. That brings us to why “the pearl of great value” in Jesus’ parable is part of the customs and culture of the Bible. In order to really understand the parable, and why Jesus chose a pearl instead of something else, we need to understand the biblical value of pearls. In the biblical world, the pearl was incredibly expensive. The Roman historian, Pliny the Elder (23 AD–79 AD), said this about pearls: “The topmost rank of all things of price is held by pearls.”2 Oysters that produce pearls are found all over the world, in both salt and fresh water, and yet the round, white pearls that have been so prized in history are amazingly rare. Although the translation “pearls” is disputed, Job 28:18 (ESV) certainly shows the value of pearls when it is trying to show the value of wisdom: “the price of wisdom is above pearls.” When pointing out that women should not dress extravagantly, 1 Timothy 2:9 says women should not dress with gold and pearls. Part of the mystique of pearls in the first century was that, even by the time of the early church, people
were not sure where they came from. Expensive pearls that came into the Roman world from the Persian Gulf (still today perhaps the most reliable source of natural pearls) and from India had traveled far, and anyone who deals in vulnerable and expensive items knows that creating an air of mystery and guarding your sources can create value in the item and also protect your source of supply. “Pliny claimed that pearls rose to the sea’s surface and swallowed dew to achieve their luster and beauty, while other authors suggested that lightning hitting an oyster produced the gem.”3 In actuality, although some pearls were discovered in shallow water, most pearls in the ancient world were brought up from the depths of the ocean. In the Persian Gulf region, a fruitful source of pearls in biblical times, they were often found at a depth of about 40 meters (almost 45 yards). To get down to the oyster beds, divers held a weight on a rope to make a quick descent to the beds. The weight was pulled back up to the ship by the rope, while the diver swam back up, having put the oysters he had gathered into a sack he had with him. Until the invention of scuba gear, this diving-with-a-weight method of pearling was the common way of pearling, with only slight improvements over the years, such as hand and foot protection from the sharp oysters, and face masks to enable better vision and
protect the eyes. Needless to say, it was a dangerous way to make a living and a major reason that natural pearls continued to be so expensive until our modern times. When we understand the rarity of a round, white pearl in the biblical world, and understand the mystique that surrounded them as well as the monetary and social value they had, we are in a position to see why Jesus compared gaining the Kingdom of Heaven to finding and buying a pearl of great value. The pearl of great price was valuable, but nothing is more valuable than salvation and everlasting life. And just as no merchant in the ancient world would hesitate to sell everything else he owned to gain a very valuable pearl, no person should hesitate to make every effort to be saved and be assured of everlasting life. Notes: 1. For more on the Millennial Kingdom of Christ, see Schoenheit, John. The Christian’s Hope: The Anchor of the Soul. Christian Educational Services, Inc., 2004. 2. Pliny the Elder is a great source of information about the first century, because he was born before the Day of Pentecost, and lived until after the death of the Apostle Paul. He died in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in Italy that destroyed Pompeii on August 24, 79 AD. 3. Andrew Lawler, “The Pearl Trade” (Archaeology Magazine, Claudia Valentino, editor. March/April 2012), p. 48.
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Fuel for the Fire is written by the Teens and Twenties of Spirit & Truth Fellowship International.
The Pursuit of Happiness by Kenny Willenburg
f you ask most people what they want from life, they will probably answer “happiness.” Many people spend their whole lives seeking happiness, always looking for something or someone to bring them a sense of satisfaction. Regrettably, I have had this mindset far too much in my own life. This attitude of seeking our own happiness is really nothing more than plain old-fashioned selfishness. It is putting our own pleasure as our foremost desire. I am not saying that we should disregard our own happiness; but I am saying we should not be pursuing it in a way that is selfish. As I have been thinking about selfishness, I have come to understand it as the opposite of love. When we do the loving thing, we do what is best for everyone involved; however, when we do the selfish thing, we do only what we feel is best for ourselves regardless of how it affects other people. Ironically, when we are not selfish, but rather are loving, we are actually doing what is best for ourselves! It seems like a paradox but when we are selfish, we are actually doing something that is harmful for ourselves! 1 Corinthians 16:14 (ESV) Let all that you do be done in love. When we do something “in love,” it is the right thing because love always does what is right. In fact, if everyone always acted out of love we would not need any other law. Galatians 5:14 (ESV) “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor
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When we do the loving thing, we do what is best for everyone involved; however, when we do the selfish thing, we do only what we feel is best for ourselves regardless of how it affects other people. as yourself.” When we act out of love, others will be benefitted, and so will we. As the Bible says, “…for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7b, ESV). We will reap the fruit of what we sow, whether good or bad! If we sow selfishness and the pursuit of our pleasure, we will reap the harvest of that: bad things like loneliness, depression, addiction, etc. Often, people who are trying to bring pleasure to their own lives pursue it by using drugs, gambling, participating in impure sexual activity, consuming too much alcohol, and the list goes on. These things can be addictive because they bring a sense of pleasure to the person doing them. However, the feeling is short-lived and soon fades, leaving the person with an appetite for more. This can easily become a vicious
cycle. If someone uses the law of sowing, and sows love, he will reap the harvest of it: good things! So what is the greatest act of love? The answer is in John 15:13 (ESV): “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” That is what Jesus did for us! The next question: Is Jesus worse off because he did the loving thing and laid down his life? Of course not! Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) says: “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Because Jesus obeyed the Father and gave up his own life, he is now seated at God’s right hand! Acts 20:35d (ESV) remember the words of the Lord
Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Happiness cannot be acquired directly; it cannot be found by those who desire and pursue it above all else. This is called the “paradox of hedonism.” Viktor Frankl said in Man’s Search For Meaning, “Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater
1 John 5:3 (ESV) For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. God’s commandments were given to us for our benefit! When we follow God’s commandments, we will be more blessed, not more burdened. Like any loving parent, God gives us commandments to protect us. Just
Happiness will only be found when we stop seeking it and pursuing pleasure and instead seek to serve God and others. than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.” William Bennett said, “Happiness is like a cat, if you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you; it will never come. But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you’ll find it rubbing against your legs and jumping into your lap.” Happiness will only be found when we stop seeking it and pursuing pleasure and instead seek to serve God and others. Often we allow ourselves to be tricked into thinking of God’s commandments as a burden, but that is not true!
as a mother, in order to protect her child, tells him to “stay away from the street,” or “don’t play with fire,” or “eat your vegetables,” so also God tells us to do certain things and to avoid certain things. God gives His commands because He loves us and wants what is best for us! We will always be more blessed by acting out of love and doing what God wants us to do rather than ignoring Him and going our own way. It is only through following God that we will experience the true happiness that God wants us to have!
• Learn how to study the Bible like a scholar • Watch videos • Free Bible study guide • Eliminate apparent contradictions & more! • Tons of articles to help you understand the entire Bible.
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The Fellowship Network STFonline.org/network
What is Spirit & Truth Fellowship - USA (STF-USA)? By Dan Gallagher
or more than a decade, Spirit & Truth Fellowship has looked for ways to help fellowships become more closely connected. The Bible places great value on working closely with others who have the same beliefs and practice. Yet in the world, there is much spiritual abuse at the hands of so called “church leadership.” The challenge has always been, “How can churches come together in ways that safeguard against potential abuse and enhance our ability to fulfill our individual callings in the Body of Christ?” Over the past 18 months we have pondered the idea of a simple “association of churches,” both in the United States and abroad. Each nation could have an association that utilizes governance comprised of its members and separate from the Board of STFInternational. Ideally, each country’s governance association would provide its’ members real input, both through voice and deed, in the affairs of Spirit & Truth Fellowship that directly affected them. It would be the aim of the association to provide its church members connection without control, and cooperation without domination. We are excited about the great potential for improving individuals’ ability to spread the Gospel and make disciples as we begin to develop the first of these associations, STF-USA. In order to help communicate our desire, we have prepared the following FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions). If this resonates in your heart and you would like to join us in the association of STF-USA, or if you have any additional
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Spirit & Truth Fellowship-USA (STF“USA) is an association of independent
and self-governing churches that have united for the purpose of mutual support and growth, and to facilitate the planting of new churches, their nurture, and development.” questions, please contact Dan Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the purpose of STFUSA?
We just can’t think of a clearer way to answer this question than to quote the general purpose given in the Bylaws of the association: “Spirit & Truth Fellowship-USA (STFUSA) is an association of independent and self-governing churches that have united for the purpose of mutual support and growth, and to facilitate the planting of new churches, their nurture, and development. This Association is created with the intention of providing a connected church body within the United States of America that supports the global mission of Spirit & Truth Fellowship International, which is Building an Enduring Work of Truth.” By uniting fellowships across geographic boundaries, we hope that individuals connected to STF-USA
will become better equipped to fulfill Ephesians 4:1-3, “to live a life worthy of our calling and to bear with one another in love and make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”
What does STF-USA hope to accomplish and what types of activities do you see it doing as a collective body?
There are a number of things that we believe the association has the potential to accomplish. One benefit that we see is that with the creation of the association, STF-Int’l will be able to place even more focus on the things that it has traditionally done best, such as research, teaching, publishing, Internet sites, etc. On the other hand, STF-USA will put its focus on things that are directly related to church activities. This will both free up our Home Office staff to do what they are called to do, and also create
more opportunities for others to serve in a variety of ways that are related to church work, such as: • Organizing and running of local and regional events of all kinds • Evangelical missions • Discipleship programs • Worship services • Pastoral activities • Leadership development • Development of individual gifts and callings • Mercy programs • Weddings, funerals and other community related events
Will STF-USA monitor, oversee, or control the activities of its members?
No. STF-USA is a church association and as such it has no authority or responsibility to oversee or direct any of its members. All member churches govern themselves and they alone are responsible for their internal church affairs. STF-USA aims to provide resources that will assist each church in doing what they are called to do in their local area.
How large of a congregation must we have to be an Affiliated Church with STF-USA? Since it is our desire to be as inclusive as possible, we merely require that a “church” consist of at least three people who meet on a regular basis. We do not dictate how often they meet, or what they do while meeting. Since each affiliated church is a voting member, voting on the leadership and other matters, we merely want to ensure that anyone who indicates
they are running a church is actually doing so.
What limitations or control does STF-USA place on doctrine? Any church that joins indicates that they are in agreement with the Statement of Fundamental Faiths and the Statement of Character and Conduct. We do not require that members be in complete agreement with all the doctrinal positions of STF-Int’l, rather just the seven ones of Ephesians 4:4 (One God, One Lord, One faith, One hope, One spirit, One baptism, and One body), which we consider to be essential to guarding the “unity of the spirit.” STF-USA churches support the vision of STF-Int’l, which is to seek the truth without respect to tradition, “orthodoxy,” or popular trends and teachings.
If I become a member of STF-USA, am I limited in my involvement with other ministries or organizations?
No, absolutely not. First, understand that there is no such thing as an “STF Church/Fellowship.” All congregations are independent and self-governing. There is no requirement for allegiance to STF-USA in the sense that you are restricted from participating with any other ministry, group, or association. Churches become members because they want to connect with others who hold common beliefs in their Christianity and they want to work to accomplish common goals. The intent of the association is not to separate, divide, or limit people, but to expand ways for people to serve with their gifts and callings.
The Board Members of STF-USA The following individuals have been elected to serve on the Board of Directors for STF-USA. They are as follows (in alphabetical order by last name): Ed Coughlin, OR Dan Gallagher, IN Dave Hanson, VA Ray Littlefield, IN Charlie Preston, KY Frank Rutkowski, PA Franklin Smith, SC Gary Theisen, MI We are very thankful for their service & are excited about what this association can do for the Body of Christ.
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