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OCTOBER 2003

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Founded in 1927 as Look on the Fields, UPLOOK is published ten times a year by Uplook Ministries, 813 North Ave., N.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Phone: (616) 456-9166 Fax: (616) 456-5522 Website: http://www.uplook.org E-mail: uplook@uplook.org ISSN #1055-2642 Printed in USA. © Copyright 2003 Uplook Ministries

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UPLOOK

UPLOOK magazine is intended to encourage the people of God in fidelity to His Word, fervency in intercessory prayer, labors more abundant, and love to the Lord. Believing in the practical Headship of Christ and the local autonomy of each assembly, this is not intended to be an official organ of any group or federation of local churches. The editor and authors take responsibility for materials published. For any blessing which accrues, to God be the glory. UPLOOK is copyrighted solely for the purpose of maintaining the integrity of the material. It is not intended to limit the proper use of articles contained in the magazine. Please include the words: “UPLOOK magazine, by permission” on photocopies made for personal use. For large quantities or other purposes, contact UPLOOK.

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Postal Information US POSTMASTER: (USPS 620-640) Send address changes to UPLOOK, P. O. Box 2041, Grand Rapids, MI 49501-2041 Periodical postage paid at Grand Rapids, MI.

MISSIONARY GRAVEYARD J. B. N., Jr.

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JAPAN: LAND OF THE RISING SON? Report

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REVERENCE IN THE ASSEMBLY David Dunlap

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BEHOLDING HIS GLORY G. Tersteegen

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GIVING AS WORSHIP Scott DeGroff

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FIRST George Müller

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RECEPTION INTO FELLOWSHIP Mike Attwood

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DO THE NEXT THING

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ADORNING THE DOCTRINE OF GOD Mark Kolchin

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PRE-CONVERSION SIN W. H. Burnett

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ARE WE OVERDOING INFORMALITY? Donald L. Norbie

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THE EARLY CHURCH IN ACTION Crawford Paul

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EDITORIAL FRONT LINES WHAT’S GOING ON? BOOKS: The Serpent in Paradise BOUQUET OF BLESSING: That’s the Truth!

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Submissions Please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope with all unsolicited material. News items must be submitted at least two months in advance of issue requested. Selected news items will be carried for two issues (if time permits). The editor reserves the right to determine those items best suited for the magazine. Editorial decisions are final. Photos accepted. Please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope for photos you wish returned.

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Donation Information: Uplook Ministries is a tax-exempt corporation looking to the Lord to provide for the needs of this ministry. This magazine is sent freely to those who request it, but evidently is not freely produced. Donations may be made by check or money order denominated in US $, Canadian $ or £ sterling. All checks should be made payable to UPLOOK and sent to one of the above addresses. Donations may also be made by VISA, Mastercard/ACCESS or Discover in US dollars, either by mail or at our website: http://www./uplook.org/home/about_us/contributions.html We do not advise sending credit card numbers by e-mail. Please include your card number, expiry date and the amount in US dollars you wish to donate. Receipts are issued for all donations received and are valid for tax purposes in the US and Canada. Making a donation will automatically renew your Uplook subscription.

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DETAILS DO MATTER Sometimes seemingly minor things have major implications.

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When Solomon was set to build the temple, a suitable dwelling place for the all glorious God, he explained the details of his plan: Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God the gold for things to be made of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and the brass for things of brass, the iron for things of iron, and wood for things of wood; onyx stones, and stones to be set, glistering stones, and of divers colors, and all manner of precious stones, and marble stones in abundance (1 Chron. 29:2).

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I think we can draw three obvious applications from this materials list that was to be used for the magnificent home of Jehovah on earth. First, the king had to know the difference between wood things and gold things. It is a recurring tendency in temple building to confuse such things, a tendency not limited to Solomon’s day. In fact Paul, a thousand years later, addressed his own instructions on temple building to “…all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:2). This is what he wrote: According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward (1 Cor. 3:10-14).

Obviously it still matters how we go about building the temple of the Lord today, for, as Paul concludes, “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:15-16). How important it is, then, to do things so that they are pleasing to the gracious Spirit who dwells within. But there is a second application we also would do well to note. Don’t make wood things into gold things. In other words, don’t make more of a thing than God does. How often this tendency has dogged the pathway of Church history. Not everything is of equal value in the sight of God. It is possible to spend so much time debating the timing of the Lord’s coming that we lose the joy of the hope of His coming. It is a danger that we become known merely for our idiosyncrasies. We can make much of the head covering and little of the Lord’s practical Headship; we can be known as those “very particular about breaking bread, but not too particular about breaking hearts.” It is possible to pay careful attention to the essential activities mentioned in Acts 2:42, but forget the activities recorded in the rest of the chapter—loving each other in practical ways, sharing our time and our goods with one another. We can become known for our loyalty to truth but not for our love and kindness, or for our “gladness and singleness of heart” (v. 46). But I would like to quickly add a third application from Solomon’s checklist. The bronze and iron things had their place in the temple as surely as the gold and silver. No, they were not as valuable, or perhaps as attractive to the eye. But they also must have their place if the temple was to be complete. As the Lord said to the Pharisees, “Ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Mt. 23:23). May the Lord help us to “take heed” of such details in our God-given building project.

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MISSIONARY GRAVEYARD Christians can find hope in the strangest places.

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Japan, like other countries resistant to the gospel, has been called a missionary graveyard. It is meant metaphorically now, used to describe a country where missionary dreams of mighty exploits for God often withered, where hope can die an untimely death, and where prayers seem to go unanswered. Of course there have been times in Japanese history when the words “missionary graveyard” were all too literal. Some form of Christianity was thought to have arrived in the Far East, possibly in Japan, by the early 600s. Nestorian* missionaries certainly had established churches in China by that time. However the gospel failed to take root in the hearts of the Japanese. Instead, in the late 6th Century, the Indian philosophy of Buddhism was linked in an unholy union with polytheistic Shintoism to enwrap the minds of the people of Japan in almost unbroken darkness for the next millennium. It seems that it was not until 1549 when any light at all pierced the spiritual darkness in Japan. In that year, the Portuguese Jesuit, Francis Xavier, arrived, bringing the message of the one true God, but with a gospel distorted by Rome’s ritualism. Xavier stayed only for two years, being convinced that if the Japanese people were to be converted, it must be through China. He died in Macau the following year (1552). By the early 1600s perhaps 300,000 Japanese claimed Christianity; it is impossible to know how many were real believers. But the ruling shoguns became alarmed, convinced these missionary efforts were a guise for Western imperialism; they determined to crush this upstart religion. In a chapter little known in Church history, for the next 250 years those professing Christianity were ruthlessly persecuted. Many who claimed Christ were themselves crucified, often with their whole families. Others were burned at the stake, boiled alive, or drowned. Some scholars have claimed

it to be the most sustained and brutal persecution in history. Anti-Christian laws were not repealed until 1873—due to severe international pressure. By 1880, a Japanese New Testament was published, the Old Testament following in 1887. William G. Smith, commended from an assembly in Bath, England, arrived in 1888. Soon others followed. Today there are perhaps 160 assemblies in the country, and the work is growing steadily. But the price has been substantial. Dr. Eitel, wellknown chief of the Changsa Hospital, wrote: “Over Japan, even more than over China, lies the charged weight of demonic influence. Our missionaries there are constantly exposed to this invisible attack. This… presents to the Christian worker a perpetual threat. Without his being aware of it, the missionary’s emotional and mental strength is being exhausted, his faith is being exceedingly taxed. Consequently, there come…nervous breakdowns, and quick fatigue” (quoted in That the World May Know, Vol. 7, p. 368). But there is hope to be found even in a graveyard. Recently, while visiting the resort town of Karuizawa, about 50 miles northwest of Tokyo, I happened on a “Foreigner’s Cemetery.” It was surrounded by a large Japanese graveyard filled with Buddhist shrines to the dead. My path led me on a long arc past hundreds of memorials to the emptiness of pagan worship. Over it all could be written the words: “…without Christ,… having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). So it was with great relief that I came to the little walled section for “Foreigners.” Oh, how different! No shrines; no flowers to appease ancestors; no food for their God. Instead, carved on the tombs of missionary stalwarts, and their children—some only days old—were words like these: “With Christ, which is far better”; “Asleep in Jesus”; “At Home”; “Oh grave, where is thy sting?” and other similar ringing expressions of the triumph of the Saviour. It is such a message of absolute assurance and certainty beyond death that is Japan’s—and the world’s—only hope. 

* Nestorius (d. 451) was embroiled in early debate regarding the person of Christ. He refused to approve the term theotokos (“mother of God”) as applied to Mary. He asserted she bore not the Godhead but “a man who was the organ of the Godhead.” His teaching was rejected for making too sharp a division between Christ’s deity and humanity.

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CONVERT KILLED IN PALESTINE Another martyr—but this time for Christ.

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The body of a believer who converted to Christ from Islam who went missing in mid-July, has been returned to his family. He had been allegedly murdered and his body cut into four pieces by Islamic extremists, according to a report from the Barnabas Fund which monitored the incident. The man left his friends and family almost two weeks ago, heading into a mountainous region of the Palestinian Authority area. He took Christian materials including cassettes, videos and Bibles with him. After approximately ten days, during which his friends and family Photos: Ed Simpson received no word from him, his body was returned to them. His brutal slaying was intended as a warning to others who might consider converting. He leaves behind a wife and two small children. The names and further details of those involved are being withheld by Barnabas Fund for their own safety. Christians in the region have been involved in supporting converts from a Muslim background who suffer persecution from Islamic extremists in the Palestinian Authority areas. Some of them have also been targets of attacks. Last year one such Christian received a phone call telling him that a believer newly saved out of Islam was in serious condition in hospital; in response he immediately set off in his car. On the way his vehicle was deliberately driven off the road by another car. The phone call proved to be a hoax designed to lead him into the trap. Hamas in particular reportedly receives funding from Iran specifically for this purpose. According to shari’a (Islamic law), any Muslim male who leaves Islam automatically faces the death penalty. —Assist News Service

LADIES’ FALL CONFERENCE Horton Haven Christian Camp, Chapel Hill, TN, will host their 7th annual Ladies’ Fall Conference, Nov. 7-8. The speaker is Mrs. Joyce Barinowski (SC), addressing the topics of Materialism, Anger, and Fear. An opportunity for women (age 13 and older) to be refreshed and encouraged while relaxing in the beauty of God’s creation. Info., or to register: Wendy Phelan at 931-364-4675 Fax: 931-364-3039 THE PREACHER & PREACHING A special seminar for those interested in communicating the Scriptures more effectively. Saturday, Nov. 8, 2003 at Terrill Road Bible Chapel (Fanwood, NJ) from 9:30 AM to 1:30 PM. Speakers expected: Robert Billings (NJ), Gerard DeMatteo (NJ), and Rex Trogdon (NC). For all who are interested in learning

principles of accurate exegesis and exposition of the Word. Lunch included, but registration is required for the meal. Contact Mark Kolchin: knowtheword@att.net RAMSEUR, NC, CONFERENCE The saints are invited to join those meeting at Ramseur Gospel Chapel, Ramseur, NC for their conference, Nov. 9-12, 2003 (Sun.–Wed.). Meetings at 10:45 AM Sunday; at 7:30 PM each evening Sunday–Wednesday. Invited speaker is J. B. Nicholson, Jr. (MI). The subject is God’s Great Goodness. Contact: Mike Moody at 336-824-5525 OAKVILLE BIBLE STUDIES The Oakville (ON) Bible study series has begun for the fall 2003 and spring 2004 season. This year the general topic is “Egypt to Canaan.” All studies will be held at Hopedale

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Bible Chapel, 342 Sherin Dr., Oakville, ON. Registration at 8:30 AM. Studies commence promptly at 9:00 AM, and finish at noon. Speakers and topics still to come: Nov. 15, W. Yuille (ON), Egypt; Dec. 13, W. Burnett (ON), Egypt to Sinai; Jan. 17, J. Compte (ON), The Tabernacle; Feb. 21, J. B. Nicholson (MI), Sinai; Mar. 20, R. Amos (NY), Sinai to Kadesh Barnea; Apr. 17, J. Mikhael (ON), Kadesh Barnea to Jordan. The Bible Study Program has been receiving requests for tapes of the studies. Tapes will only be sold in sets for a whole study year (i.e., no individual tapes). Funds should be advanced at the time of ordering ($60 CAN to cover the cost of the tapes, study notes and postage). Copies of the tapes from previous years can be made available immediately upon request, but tapes for the current study year will only be dis2 0 0 3

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patched when the studies close in April 2003. A list of subjects already covered (by study year) can be made available. Send requests (with funds) to: Mr. H.W. Allison 3199 Sovereign Road Burlington, ON L7M 2W1 E-mail: hw.allison@sympatico.ca

for a believer with a servant attitude. This is a salaried position with benefits. Please pray that God will provide wisdom as we seek to fill this position. If you are interested, please contact Dave Dewhurst: 919-542-3151 Fax: 919-542-5919 E-mail: wddew@juno.com

UPSTATE SC CONFERENCE The Piedmont Christian Fellowship (Pendleton, SC) announces a weekend series of special meetings to be held Saturday, Jan. 17 and Sunday, Jan. 18. The invited speaker is Bill Gustafson (SC) who will address the subject of “New Testament Church Truth.” Particular attention will be devoted to the function of a scriptural assembly and to the family. Meetings on Saturday at 11:00 AM, 1:30 PM and 3:00 PM and on Sunday at 11:00 AM. Darryl Jachens at 864-646-9273 djachens@netzero.net

CHANGES Concord, NH Concord Bible Fellowship, formerly listed at 21 Dunklee St., Concord, NH, has moved as of July 1: Concord Bible Fellowship 25 Rockingham St. Concord NH 03301-2644 John and Eleanor Sims John and Eleanor Sims write: “Because of the unavailability of the necessary medication for John’s Parkinsons in Zimbabwe and the material deterioration in health care in the country, we are having to change our location of serving the Lord by moving to the US. We will continue to help in the work of the Lord in Zimbabwe by assisting in the Emmaus Bible correspondence work

SERVICE OPPORTUNITY Pittsboro Christian Village, Pittsboro, NC, has an opening for a Registered Nurse. This person will work with the management of our Assisted Living and Care Unit. We are looking

there, by doing translation work and by keeping in touch with the assemblies there. We will be moving to USA in November. Mail will reach us through our son’s address: c/o Stephen & Becky Sims 4099 Starflower Rd Castle Rock CO 80109 Present email: jsms@mango.zw From November on, our email: usasims@juno.com AT HOME Harold McGregor Harold McGregor, veteran missionary to India, went to be with the Lord Aug. 11 from Tauranga, NZ, after a brief illness. His vision of the Good News being heard by large numbers of India’s millions led Harold to establish Living Waters Broadcast in 1953. Harold and his wife transformed a bedroom in their small flat into a soundproof studio. Time on Radio Ceylon was purchased for four Indian language programs and one in English. The response was immediate. By 1962, 4,000 enquirers had completed an Emmaus Bible course and during that year an estimated

WORLD NEWS ROUNDUP for Mark’s safety and also pray for “K” and his wife “T” who had no idea of her husband’s double life.

PRAY FOR THE BAHAMAS You may be aware of the recent difficulties Mark and Carol Lacey have experienced in relation to “K,” a former member of staff at The Haven. He was actively seeking to take Mark’s life. “K” was duly arrested and placed in police custody but subsequently released on bail after denying all charges. He is now back in the community and poses an obvious threat to Mark’s safety. Please pray

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LOVE THE FRENCH FOR HIM! Jean Paul Burgat reports that the printing factory at Minsk, Belarus is working on a third printing of the William McDonald NT commentary in French (11,000 print run). A number of these will be going to Africa, Germany and Quebec. —Echoes L

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MACEDONIAN OUTREACH The handful of believers were joined by a team from Munich for a literature distribution program from Aug. 25 to Sep. 5. In addition Alois Wagner was to preach the gospel and

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100,000 contacts were made from all over India. Jamil Basha George Khalil writes from Nazareth: “We wanted to let you know that my brother-in-law and fellow elder Jamil Basha was called Home on the morning of July 22. He had been diagnosed with cancer last summer and the Lord continued to give him great strength until last May, when he deteriorated rapidly. “The funeral was attended by about 500 people. Jamil continued to testify to the Lord’s goodness to the end and we thank God for his life and witness. It has been a difficult time for all of us in the family and the assembly and we would appreciate your prayers, especially for his wife, Basmeh, and three children.” Frank Haggerty Some will be aware that Frank Haggerty (who has served the Lord in Bolivia since 1951) has been unwell for some time. He was called into the Lord’s presence on October 4. Please remember his wife Blanquita and the family at this time.

teach the Word of God to the assembly. They hope to make contact with many young people in the area. INDIAN VIOLENCE CONTINUES We have recently been made aware of an e-mail circulated among Hindus in India, calling them to rise up and use armed force against Christians and Muslims in that land. Please pray for the Christians of that needy land. HEADWAY IN KASHMIR Amid endless violence, Kashmir is witnessing a discreet spurt in conversion from Islam to Christianity.

COMMENDATIONS Christy and Lloyd Hipel The believers at Bethel Gospel Chapel in New Liskeard, ON, amend their previous commendation of Christy Hipel (nee Barnes) to include her husband, Lloyd. Lloyd and Christy will be continuing in their service to the Lord in Ecuador where they have been laboring alongside Tim and Lillian Horne, at a school for poor children in Guayaquil. Elizabeth (Clark) Wickham Elizabeth (Clark) Wickham, missionary to Spain, married Anthony Wickham on June 14, 2003. Since the couple has decided to move to England to begin secular employment, Elizabeth has requested that her commendation be terminated. Lake Park Chapel and Slidell Bible Chapel (both in LA) bow to the couples request and withdraw their commendations. Mike and Marie-Eve Enns The assembly in Huntingville, QC, have informed us of the recent commendation of Mike and MarieEve Enns to the grace of God. They

Christian groups are putting the number of new converts at over 10,000. Christianity Today magazine puts the number of Kashmiri Muslims who recently converted to Christianity at thousands. ‘‘Wearied by violence, thousands are interested in the Prince of Peace.…Their number goes into thousands in the rural areas.’’ PRAY FOR JORDAN Jordan, sharing Israel’s longest border, is the church’s most significant base for missions in the Middle East. But it teeters on the brink of disaster because of the unsettling effect

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recognize that God has been preparing them for the specific ministry of overseeing the various camps at Word of Life-Bethel, as well as other responsibilities. Terry and Kerry Lapointe The assembly in Huntingville, QC, also inform us of the recent commendation of Terry and Kerry Lapointe to the grace of God. They will be primarily working in outreach in the area. PRAISE HYMN BOOKS There are approximately 115 PRAISE! Hymnbooks available, compiled by John W. Peterson & Norman Johnson, published by Singspiration. They are free, however postage would be required. Jim Comte at 705-726-1187 HOME FOR SALE A 5-bedroom Cape Cod style house is for sale on the grounds of the Greenwood Hills Bible conference grounds, Fayetteville, PA. For more information, call: 1-800-296-3323, code #3258 website: www.lanethrush.com

of the Iraqi war on Jordan’s Palestinian and Iraqi refugee majority. —Evangelical Alliance GOOD NEWS FOR MALI Islam has been the dominant religion in Mali (NW Africa) for 700 years, but after a 1991 military coup, the junta that drafted Mali’s new constitution restored democracy and religious freedom. Today Christian groups are not only allowed to minister in public, but are welcomed. However converts can suffer at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. 2 0 0 3

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Children’s Bible for the Kurds

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The United Bible Society and the International Bible Society will distribute what they call “the first ever” Children’s Bible in the Kurdish language in N. Iraq despite concern over Muslim extremism. Both organizations expect 20,000 copies of the book “365 Stories” from the Bible to be delivered later this year, said UBS official Nova Hagopian, an Iraqi born again Christian. “This distribution would have been impossible in the past. Under the [Hussein] regime there were a lot of checkpoints between Kurdish controlled areas and the rest of the country,” he told ANS in Baghdad, where the operation is coordinated. “We have also seen that many Kurdish Muslims are asking questions and accepting Christ as their Saviour. That number is expected to increase now that the war is over. So there is a big need for a Children’s Bible,” Hagopian said. Since 1985 his organization was able to import an estimated 1.5 million Bibles into Iraq and over five million New Testaments as well as other Christian publications. They are hoping to increase the flow of Christian literature now, in spite of the dangers. blessing same-sex relationships, a decision made at the denomination’s general convention in early August. The poll mirrored the findings of a July Gallup poll that showed a backlash against homosexual issues. The Post poll, released Aug. 13, found that by a 58-37 percent margin Americans are opposed to legalizing Ver-

CULTURE WAR CASUALTIES Most Americans disagree with the Episcopal Church’s decision to allow the blessing of same-sex unions, according to a new Washington Post poll. The poll of 1,003 Americans found that 60 percent of Americans disagree with the Church’s decision giving its local bishops the option of

LAWSUIT CHALLEN GE New York State Sena along with tor, Ruben a parent re Diaz, Sr., presenting dren, filed her four ch a lawsuit in ilthe Court cha llenging th New York Supreme e nation’s firs t lesbian, g legitimacy of the ay, bisexua der and qu l, tra est school, exp ioning youth (LGBT nsgenQ) public ected to op en in Septe “Despite th m b er. e p itiful statu system an s of the ed d the lack ucation of funds, th 3.2 million e City too dollars aw k ay from m dent schoo inority stu ls and dive rted [it] to that discri fun minates b ased on se d a school ences,” th xual prefe e plaintiff r’s attorney Staver, state , Mathew D d. . —Maranath a

BWE! ZIMBA misR O F es-listed imPRAY o h c E (an in Z Jenkins yer for schools given Bryan a s r a p group h fy the ) seeks sionary local Muslim ti c A s to re babwe. nment 60 day iased school r -b e the gov nt’s Christian n application a e e m il n f r e l order gov it wil r o for an m t lu r u u ic o r teachcur e C Suprem nstitutional the ueste h t in co req We are g as un declarin istian subjects. om to enter hr eed ing of C y that the fr essage would a r m ed to p ith the gospel e. w w schools ined in Zimbab ta be main

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mont-type civil unions that would give homosexual couples some of the legal rights of married couples. Among those who have a religion, 63 percent said they would oppose their church blessing same-sex unions. About half of the respondents—47 percent—said they’d leave their church if so. —Maranatha

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Colin FIinlay, © 1999 Photospin

One benefit of the war?


J A PA N L A N D of t h e R I S I N G S O N ? Here are some facts you may find useful in praying for the land of Japan, a mission field of great need and great possibilities:

of the 2,568 towns (pop. 15-30,000) 1,733 have no church of any kind. • Encouragements: 1. A good core of vibrant assembly believers, including a solid group of serious young people. 2. High literacy, quoted as 100%. 3. Gospel freedom and a new openness among some due to the disasters of the 1990s. These include the Kobe earthquake, economic meltdown, failure and corruption among politicians and businessmen, increasing rebelliousness among youth and the rise of anti-social and violent cults. 4. A growing missionary vision. Some are already serving in other lands, including China, Pakistan, and Nepal. A number are presently preparing for other fields.

GENERAL INFORMATION • Population: 126 million (35 million in Tokyo; 18 million in Osaka; so 40% of pop. in these two cities). • Religion: 85-90% of the people practice a mixture of Buddhism, Shintoism and Confusianism. Perhaps .8% call themselves Christian (of all brands). About half are considered evangelical. • Geography: Four large islands (Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu) and 3,000 smaller ones. From north to south approximately 3,000 km. (1800 miles). Very mountainous; only 13% can be cultivated. • Economy: The world’s most powerful export-oriented economy despite lack of natural resources. • Government: Constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. Until the end of WWII, the emperor was considered a god.

THE CONQUEST OF JAPAN FOR CHRIST 1. Keeping heaven’s perspective: Japan is in close proximity to countries where the strongholds of the enemy have been stormed and broken through, including Korea and China. God can do it in Japan too. 2. Seeking heaven’s help: God-sized prayers need to be prayed for Japan. As Paul explained, we should pray for those in authority because God wants all men to be saved; their salvation would have maximum impact, especially in a culture like Japan’s. 3. Using heaven’s strategy: the gospel is ideal for people who are hurting, vulnerable, questioning. Pray for “divine appointments” between believers and those seeking answers to life.

THE SPIRITUAL SITUATION • Challenges: 1. Christians tend to have a minority complex in a consensus-oriented society. 2. There are few whole Christian families; very few men for church leadership. 3. There seems to be a lack of sound Bible teaching in many areas and of good Bible study materials in the Japanese language. 4. Of the 672 cities, 9 have no church of any kind;

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The Serpent of Paradise Erwin Lutzer examines the arch-fiend.

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According to a recent survey by George Barna, 58 percent of Americans believe that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” Yet over 65% of Americans would claim to be Christians. While the percentage of evangelicals is much smaller (10%), this clearly indicates a victory of deception for the Evil One. It is to address this area of appalling spiritual ignorance that Erwin Lutzer has written this book. There have been many books written about Satan, but this is certainly one of the most readable. Lutzer has a conversational style of writing quite similar to his preaching, which makes for an easy read. However, in the first few chapters this style is, at times, almost flippant (one chapter is entitled “The Star that Bit the Dust”), which hardly seems appropriate for the seriousness of the subject matter under consideration. In the opening chapter, he states that Satan has two main strategies. On the one hand he tries to get people to underestimate his power (by convincing them that he doesn’t really exist) and on the other, he tries to convince them that he is all-powerful so they live in fear. Lutzer brings the Scriptures to bear on this infernal subject, giving us a biblical perspective so that we avoid falling into either error. He emphasizes repeatedly Martin Luther’s statement that the devil is “God’s Devil.” In other words, he is ultimately subject to God’s authority and only has as much power and influence as God permits him. Lutzer describes him as a tool that God uses to accomplish certain of His purposes. Much like a gardener uses a hoe to clear out the weeds in his garden, the Lord allows Satan to afflict the people of God so that by these trials they may be purified. Job, of course, is the classic example. The book is subtitled “The Incredible Story of How Satan’s Rebellion Serves God’s Purposes” and it is with that theme in mind that Lutzer considers his subject and the dark record of Satan’s history. He demonstrates how Satan has repeatedly sought to thwart the plans and purposes of God, but in so doing, he has actually helped to bring about their accomplishment. The profound example of this is the cross of Christ. Satan thought he was demonstrating his ultimate sway over the world of men in leading them to disown their Cre-

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ator when actually he was making possible their redemption. He then considers the work of Satan in trying to destroy the Church, first by persecution, then by corruption and more recently by prosperity and apathy. His section on the Tribulation and the final effort of the Evil One to usurp the worship of men is fascinating reading. He brings in some interesting parallels with Hitler and Nazi Germany that seem to foreshadow the dark days that lie ahead. Lutzer traces his study through to the end as he considers the ultimate doom of the Evil One and his fate in the Lake of Fire. Inevitably Lutzer comes up against some difficult theological issues with respect to the sovereignty of God and the relative freedom He has accorded to man, to spirit beings, and to Satan himself. While he does not gloss over them, I wished he would have delved into these difficulties in more detail. This book is far more than just a theological treatise on Satan. It contains a very practical section on his methods and devices in assailing Christians, and gives guidance on how we can deal with these temptations. The chapter entitled “Closing the Door when Satan Knocks” should be prayerfully studied by every Christian. He outlines seven areas where Satan can gain a stronghold in our lives, doors that we need to keep tightly shut. These include: rebellion/self-will, anger, hatred, guilt, false religions, fear, and sexual immorality. On the positive side, he emphasizes the best protection against Satan’s attacks is a clear understanding of the Person and work of Jesus Christ and our standing through justification in His presence. In his foreword, R.C. Sproul writes: “I can hardly wait to read it again.” I would heartily concur. Publisher: Moody Press, © 1996 ISBN: 080-242-7200 Price: $12.99 Binding: Paper, 194 pages

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Reverence in the Assembly

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realized the need to enter into the presence of God. It was here that God gripped Isaiah with an awesome sense of His presence and holiness. He saw the Lord high and lifted up. He heard the seraphim cry back and forth, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory” (v. 3). He was broken by his own unworthiness. Why was Isaiah so visibly shaken by all that he had seen and heard? He tells us the reason: “...mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5). Likewise, when we are gripped by the holiness of God, our instant and only reaction must be worship and reverence. Without such a revelation or conviction, we cannot truly worship God. Holiness and reverence are the lifeblood of worship. Worship that is marked by a fresh vision of God’s holiness is never casual, flippant, and superficial. True worshippers do not rush into His holy presence unprepared to bow in reverence. Sincere worshippers of God possess deep convictions about the holiness and glory of God. A. P. Gibbs explains,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory...for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord” (Isa. 6:3, 5). Isaiah unfolds to us the holiness of God unlike any other prophet before him. The holiness of God had gripped his heart with unusual power and conviction. He was humbled by Him who is exalted high above all His creatures with infinite greatness. He saw, as never before, that there was a great chasm between the holi-

Spiritual tone is difficult to describe, but is nevertheless very real…There is a sense of the presence of God, of the reality of unseen but eternal verities, and the hush of reverent awe that quiets the spirit and prepares the soul for worship.1

ness of God and the unholiness of man. Their spiritual condition demanded that Israel receive a fresh and powerful manifestation of God’s holiness.

However, just as in Isaiah’s day there was great spiritual apathy, so also is there much spiritual indifference and casualness in the Church today.

Israel’s Spiritual Condition King Uzziah had reigned in Judah for 52 years. Although this king had protected his people from its enemies and brought a measure of economic prosperity and a sense of security, inwardly the nation was morally corrupt, spiritually empty, and superficial in its worship of God. As a result, in Isaiah 5, Isaiah pronounces six judgments of woe on Judah. Many in Judah believed that they were in a proper spiritual condition because of its economic prosperity. But in 740 BC, King Uzziah died of leprosy when God struck him down because of his pride. When Uzziah died, the nation’s sense of security was shattered, and Isaiah w w w . u p l o o k . o r g

The Need for Reverent Worship Many are concerned that today there is too much shallowness in our worship of God. Irreverence in worship is now becoming all too common in modern churches. Unfortunately, those seeking to meet as New Testament assemblies are not immune to this affliction. Increasingly, believers are sashaying into worship meetings 10-15 minutes late without the slightest hint of embarrassment. The retelling of personal anecdotes, the singing of “favorite” hymns, and a certain nonchalance have replaced holy and reverent worship. Psalm 111:9 exhorts, “Holy and reverend is His Name.” •

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Hearts full of Christ have now given way to hearts full of competing interests. Many still attend times of worship, but seemingly have left their first love. The stirring hymns of the faith are still sung, but rarely with passion and conviction. Gripping passages of Scripture about Christ and the cross are still read, but often with little apparent devotion or heartfelt affection. Eloquent prayers of praise and worship seem to ring hollow. True Reverence It was not always this way. In earlier days, assemblies were known for men of God whose passion to worship the Son of God was unrivaled. The believers in the Lord Jesus Christ might have gathered in a grange hall or a refurbished building, but the gathering place was not as important as the gathering Center, the Lord Jesus Christ. The hymns were sung heartily. Worship was mingled with tenderness and devotion by men of God who knew the Word of God. There was a beauty of holiness that attracted all true saints of God. The holiness and reverence that characterized the meeting were evident to all. Concerning the character of those meetings, one writes, I sometimes smile when I hear ministers state the assumption that a new type of building will create a worship atmosphere. In my late adolescence I occasionally worshiped with those known as ‘Plymouth Brethren.’ Meeting in the barest halls, adorned only with signs carrying Scripture verses, they had the most worshipful services that I have ever attended. No organist in whispering conferences, pushing or pulling stops. Greeting, giggling, whispering and coughing were all hushed by the miracle drug: reverence. Children were quieted. People tiptoed to their places in the circle to sit with bowed heads or read their Bibles. The keen anticipation of the movement of the Spirit of God in leading one of the assembled men to announce a hymn, read the Scripture, or to offer prayer was sensed in these moments of deep reverence which sharply contrasts with the hubbub of many Protestant services.2

Reverence is not something we can bring to God or create in ourselves. Rather, it is a spiritual grace we receive when we begin to see God as He truly is. Reverence acknowledges in our hearts the glory of God as presented in the Scriptures, and then yields to God His rightful place in our lives. Reverent worshippers acknowledge their unworthiness and, in godly fear, bow before an awesome and holy God.

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“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before Him, all the earth.” Ps. 96:9

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Concerning this source of holy reverence, the Swiss reformer John Calvin writes, Reverence is that dread and amazement with which holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God...Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.3

Just a sudden glimpse of the holiness of God will change us forever. As Isaiah was thrust into the presence of God and heard the seraphim cry out, “Holy, holy, holy,” the prophet confessed, “Woe is me! For I am undone.” Isaiah, the righteous prophet, in one brief moment, was exposed and broken under the gaze of the of the Almighty. In an instant he found himself measured by the ultimate standard of holiness; he was weighed in the balance and found wanting. The holiness of God had seized his heart, soul, and mind. He could not forget what he had seen. In this way, boredom, casualness and lukewarmness about the things of God are gone forever. “Mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” The Biblical Standard for Reverent Worship All too frequently churchgoers gather to worship God who have never had a fresh vision of God’s holiness. Nice songs are sung, religious thoughts are offered to God, and well-crafted words are uttered, but all this falls far short of true worship. This worship may be more psychological and fleshly than spiritual. It bears no resemblance to the worship that we find in Scripture. The psalmist writes, “He is to be feared above all gods...splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and beauty are in His sanctuary...O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before Him, all the earth” (Ps. 96:4, 5, 6, 9). Godly fear, majesty, the beauty of holiness, and splendor were ready themes in the thoughts of the worshippers of old. There are many who study theology but where are those who are studying to be worshippers of God? Where are the churches today whose primary focus is to worship the Father “in spirit and truth”?

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BEHOLDING HIS GLORY

A. W. Tozer exhorted the Church prior to his death in 1951,

God reveals His presence: Let us now adore Him, And with awe appear before Him. God is in His temple: All within keep silence, Prostrate lie with deepest reverence. Him alone God we own, Him our God and Saviour: Praise His name forever!

Many of our popular songs and choruses in praise of Christ are hollow and unconvincing. Some are even shocking in their amorous endearments, and strike a reverent soul as being a kind of flattery offered to One with whom neither composer nor singer is acquainted. The whole thing is in the mood of a love ditty, the only difference being the substitution of the name of Christ for that of the earthly lover. How different and how utterly wonderful are the emotions aroused by true and Spirit-incited love for Christ. Such love may rise to a degree of adoration almost beyond the power of the heart to endure, yet at the same time it will be serious, elevated, chaste and reverent. Christ can never be known without a sense of awe and fear accompanying the knowledge. He is the fairest among ten thousand, but also the Lord high and mighty. He is the friend of sinners, but also the terror of devils. He is meek and lowly in heart, but He is also the Lord and Christ who will surely come to be the judge of all men. No one who knows Him intimately can ever be flippant in His presence. If Bible Christianity is to survive the present world upheaval, we shall need to recapture the spirit of worship.4

God reveals His presence: Hear the harps resounding; See the crowds the throne surrounding; “Holy, holy, holy!” Hear the hymn ascending, Angels, saints, their voices blending. Bow Thine ear To us here; Hearken, O Lord Jesus, To our meaner praises.

A Call to Reverent Worship Sadly, reverence seems to be strangely absent within the evangelical church. Worship, the Lord’s Supper, and the great doctrines concerning Christ no longer seem to grip us. These do not seem to be popular themes. We are a spiritually carefree generation. Nevertheless, it is happily possible for us to draw near to Him, who in mercy first drew near to us. Let us humbly bow our hearts as worshippers in the presence of the sovereign Head of the Church, the Lord of glory. May our reverent worship to Christ once again shine brightly as the hallmark of our devotion to Christ. 

O Thou Fount of blessing, Purify my spirit, Trusting only in Thy merit: Like the holy angels Who behold Thy glory, May I ceaselessly adore Thee. Let Thy will Ever still Rule Thy Church terrestrial As the hosts celestial. —GERHARD TERSTEEGEN (1697-1769)

Endnotes 1. A. P. Gibbs, Worship, (Kansas City, KS: Walterick Publishers, 1980), p. 216 2 John W. Drakeford, The Awesome Power of a Listening Heart, (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 1985) 3 R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1985) 4. A. W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian: The Art of True Worship, (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1964), p. 125

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THAT’S THE TRUTH! Take it or leave it, the truth stands on its own.

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F. B. Meyer told how at one time in his life he became very discouraged. “Every time I stood up to speak,” he said, “something came between me and God, and I knew it was wrong, and I knew it was sin. The Lord had everything else in my life, but I thought I could keep this to myself and indulge it…I went up to my study and knelt at my desk and said, ‘Lord, You’ve had every key into every part of my life except one. I can’t fight this battle any more.’ But the Lord never took the key: He took the door off, and in place of the door He put a window, and ever since that day the light of the knowledge of the glory of God has shone into my heart in the face of Jesus Christ.”

If you are tempted to reveal A tale by someone told About another, make it pass— Before you speak—three gates of gold. Three narrow gates: first, Is it true? Then, Is it needful? In your mind Give truthful answers. And the next Is last and narrowest—Is it kind? And if to reach your lips at last It passes through these gateways three, Then you may tell the tale, nor fear What the results of speech may be. —HENRY DURBANVILLE

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I fear there are some who preach with the view of amusing men, and as long as people can be gathered in crowds, and their ears can be tickled, and they can retire pleased with what they have heard, the orator is content, and folds his hands, and goes back self-satisfied. But Paul did not lay himself out to please the public and collect the crowd. If he did not save them he felt that it was of no avail to interest them. Unless the truth had pierced their hearts, affected their lives, and made new men of them, Paul would have gone home crying, “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”… Now observe, brethren, if I, or you, or any of us, or all of us, shall have spent our lives merely in amusing men, or educating men, or moralizing men, when we

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The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it; ignorance may deride it; malice may distort it—but, there it is. —WINSTON CHURCHILL shall come to give our account at the last great day we shall be in a very sorry condition, and we shall have but a very sorry record to render. For of what avail will it be to a man to be educated when he comes to be damned? Of what service will it be to him to have been amused when the trumpet sounds, and heaven and earth are shaking, and the pit opens wide her jaws of fire and swallows up the soul unsaved? Of what avail even to have moralized a man if still he is on the left hand of the Judge, and if still, “Depart,…ye cursed,” shall be his portion? “Soul Saving Our One Business,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 25 (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1879), 674-76. O C T O B E R

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Giving as Worship The bread and wine aid our worship…but the offering plate?

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become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Every good gift and every perfect gift in our lives is from above, and in Christ, God will freely give us all things. So, God is the author of giving. He designed it and sets the perfect example for us. It is His gift that saves us from being alone, where the worm never dies, where the fire is never quenched, forever and ever. The appreciation and adoration of our great giving God compels us to be givers, too.

We have no higher calling in the church today than to worship the Lord our God. Our very existence, in large part, is to proclaim the excellencies of Him. This worship manifests itself in our attitude and acts of reverence. The Hebrew word for worship means “to bow down, or prostrate oneself.” Giving of finances is one form of worship. Philippians 4:18 calls the financial gift a “sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” Paul begins this verse with a common phrase to acknowledge their gift, but switches to words associated with the OT sacrifices to show his readers that God views their gift as acceptable worship. When the children of Israel offered sacrifices (thusia), they also gave offerings (prosphora) or gifts to the Lord and in this way worshiped Him. So it is with us today. When we give money to the Lord, by action we bow before Him and He accepts it as worship. Surprisingly, the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross and financial giving are described with the same words. Ephesians 5:2 says, “Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering (prosphora) and a sacrifice (thusia) to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Both our giving and the Lord Jesus’ gift of Himself are said to be a “sacrifice” and a “sweet smelling aroma” before the Father. This comparison is both amazing and humbling. Not only do we have a God who accepts our feeble gifts, but through Christ He takes great pleasure in them.

Give God the First and the Best From Genesis to Revelation the Word calls us to give the Lord first place in our lives. “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3), Jehovah declares. Examining the use of our finances is a great way to test where God is on our list of priorities. I learned this lesson by failure as a younger married man. I wanted to do something nice for my wife so I took her out to a costly dinner. The next Sunday I sat in the Remembrance meeting and struggled to concentrate. With a heavy heart, I sat there knowing I had nothing from that paycheck to give to my Saviour. I had preferred my wife over my God. Please note that I have no objection to dinners with loved ones. God has given us all things to richly enjoy. I have taken my wife to many dinners since and, Lord willing, plan to continue. What I needed to learn was to give to the Lord first, and then give my wife the best I could with what was left. She never would have gone if she had known, but I had chosen to honor her over the Lord. God’s Word speaks about our priorities in financial matters. Malachi 1:6 states, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?” At this point in history, the people of God were offering the Lord their leftovers and scraps. Rather than bringing a pure sacrifice, they brought the blind,

Our God is a Giver He is recorded as giving rain (Lev. 26:4), grass for cattle (Deut. 11:15), life in battle (Jer. 45:5), and much more. Of course by far the offering of the Lord Jesus as our payment for sin is the greatest example of God’s giving. “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might w w w . u p l o o k . o r g

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lame and sick animals to give. An Israelite wouldn’t offer a loved one the leftover scraps from their plates, but that is what they were giving to God. I fear that our giving often tells the Lord the same thing today. Are you giving the first of your income and the best that you have, or do you give to Him if there is enough left over at the end of the month? The Israelites didn’t stop giving; they just moved the Lord down the list of priorities. Under the Mosaic law, obedient Israelites started giving at ten percent and there were many offerings above that. The Law of liberty claims more of us than the Mosaic law ever did. All of our income belongs to the Lord. The NT teaches us that the more we sow (give) the more we will reap (2 Cor. 9:6). “Therefore, as you abound in everything…see that you abound in this grace also” (2 Cor. 8:7). We should focus on giving the way Mary did in John 12. She poured a pound of perfume that cost a year’s salary on the feet of Jesus. She was unmistakably putting the Lord first and giving Him her best. This action earned her high praise. We must ask ourselves how we compare to such examples in God’s Word. What does your giving say about your love for Christ? Is He first, just a part, or no part at all? Give to the Lord Sacrificially Biblical teaching on giving does not stop at giving a tithe off the top of our wealth. God’s Word praises sacrificial giving. David said he would not give to the Lord “that which costs me nothing” (1 Chron. 21:24). Worshipful giving has always been a sacrifice for the giver. Sacrificial giving is a privileged way to show our love for the Lord. John Wanamaker, the Philadelphia Christian businessman, traveled to China to see the fruit of his giving to missionaries. While there, he came across an elderly man guiding a plow. The plow was being pulled by one ox and one young man. The saints in the area had a need they had been praying for, so the young man had gone to his grandfather and suggested they sell one ox and give the proceeds for the need. With the grandfather’s permission, he did so, and had since taken the ox’s place under the yoke. Say what we will about being reasonable, a heart for sacrificial giving like this young man displayed will be noticed in heaven and greatly rewarded. Second Corinthians 8:1-9 tells a story of the giving of the Macedonian churches. Careful examination of

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this passage shows us the occasion, extent, attitude and example of sacrificial giving. THE OCCASION (v. 2). Their gift was given in a time of their own “great trial…and deep poverty.” They had deep personal needs, yet they chose to give. The most natural thing for us to do when we are struggling is to look after ourselves, yet in a great trial and with deep poverty, the Macedonians trusted the Lord with their needs and gave. They knew that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8). THE EXTENT (8:3). They were willing to give according to “their ability…and beyond their ability.” They chose not only tithing but sacrificial giving. We can only guess what they might have given up to send this gift, but whatever it was, they are glad today that they did. We would do well to follow their lead. THEIR ATTITUDE (v. 3). They gave out of hearts that were “freely willing” for God loves a cheerful giver (9:7). Their gift is a joyful response to the grace and love shown them by the Lord. THEIR EXAMPLE (v. 9). The Lord Jesus shows us the way. “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” Is it too much that we sacrifice for the Lord? Should we give things up for Him? He sacrificed and gave everything for us with joy (see Mt. 13:44). He is worth it every time. What gift could be too much? We meet and remember the Lord on a weekly basis and speak a lot about the priority of worship. Our God views proper giving as acceptable worship. We need to examine our giving in light of NT examples and exhortations. We are to give the Lord the first and the best, remembering that every good thing in our lives comes from Him. Sacrificial giving shows the Lord our love and is a great way to model ourselves after the Saviour who gave Himself for us. May the Lord stir our hearts to give. May He take our gifts and use them mightily for His perfect work. May our giving reflect a determined, steadfast and sacrificial love for the One who gives so liberally to us. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15). We lose what on ourselves we spend, We have as treasures without end, Whatever, Lord, to Thee we lend, Who givest all. —Christopher Wordsworth

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First The man of faith gives us one of his secrets.

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It has pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, the benefit of which I have not lost for more than fourteen years. The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or even how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, how my inner man might be nourished. I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, to benefit believers, to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit. Before this time my practice had been—at least for ten years previously—to give myself to prayer after having dressed myself in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed. Thus, by means of the Word of God, while I meditated on it, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord. I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching as it were into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this: after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately—more or less—into prayer. When thus I have been for a while making confession or intercession or supplication or have given w w w . u p l o o k . o r g

thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the Word may lead to it. But still I continually keep before me that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation. The result of this is that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is nourished and strengthened. By breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart. Thus also the Lord is pleased to communicate to me that which—either very soon after or at a later time—I have found to become food for other believers, though it was not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word that I gave myself to meditation, but for the profit of my own inner man. With this mode I have likewise combined being out in the open air for an hour, an hour and a half, or two hours, before breakfast, walking about in the fields. •

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I find it very beneficial to my health to walk thus for meditation before breakfast, and am now so in the habit of using the time for that purpose, that when I get into the open air I generally take out a New Testament of good-sized type, which I carry with me for that purpose. I find that I can profitably spend my time in the open air, which formerly was not the case. I used to consider the time spent in walking a loss, but now I find it very profitable, not only to my body, but also to my soul. The walking out before breakfast is of course not necessarily connected with this matter, and every one has to judge according to his strength and other circumstances. The difference, then, between my former practice and my present one is this: formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time. At all events I almost invariably began with prayer, except when I felt my soul to be more than usually barren, in which case I read the Word of God for food, or for refreshment, or for a revival and renewal of my inner man, before I gave myself to prayer. But what was the result? I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour, on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc. And often, after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then began really to pray. I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. My heart, now being nourished by the truth, being brought into experimental fellowship with God, I speak to my Father and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word. It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this point. In no book did I ever read about it. No public ministry ever brought the matter before me. No private intercourse with a brother stirred me up to this matter. And yet now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is to obtain food for his inner man. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food for that, as every one must allow. Now, what is the food for the inner man? Not prayer,

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An orphan house, Ashley Down, Bristol but the Word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts. When we pray, we speak to God. Now, prayer, in order to be continued for any length of time in any other than a formal manner, requires a measure of strength or godly desire. The season, therefore, when this exercise of the soul can be most effectually performed is after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God, where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us. We may therefore profitably meditate, with God’s blessing, though we are ever so weak spiritually; nay, the weaker we are, the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man. Thus there is far less to be feared from wandering of mind than if we give ourselves to prayer without having had time previously for meditation. I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself, and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow believers to ponder this matter. By the blessing of God, I ascribe to this mode the help and strength which I have had from God to pass in peace through deeper trials, in various ways, than I had ever had before; and after having now above fourteen years tried this way, I can most fully, in the fear of God, commend it. In addition to this I generally read, after family prayer, larger portions of the Word of God, when I still pursue my practice of reading regularly onward in the Holy Scriptures, sometimes in the New Testament and sometimes in the Old, and for more than twenty-six years I have proved the blessedness of it. I take, also, either then or at other parts of the day, time more especially for prayer. How different, when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what it is when, without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day come upon one. —written May 9, 1841

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Reception into Fellowship Rethinking an area that has historically been poorly handled.

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Face the Facts First some introductory facts to ponder concerning assembly fellowship: • There is such a thing as a “within” and a “without” to the local assembly (see 1 Cor. 5:12-13). To put someone away implies that they must have at some time been formerly received to the assembly. • An “open table” (unguarded by the responsible elders) is unbiblical and can be dangerous. The shepherds are to protect the flock. • Reception (except for Christians visiting the assembly) is not to the Lord’s Supper, but to the full privileges and responsibilities of the assembly. • People under discipline from either the local assembly or another assembly ought not to be received (1 Cor. 5:13).* • The unsaved obviously have no place in the fellowship of the assembly (see Acts 2:41, 47). Care was taken in reception by the New Testament assembly (see Acts 9:26-29). Letters of commendation were used, in order to assure assemblies that the person visiting their area was sound in the faith and in good standing in their own local church (see Rom. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 3:1-2; Acts 18:27; Col. 4:10; Philemon 1:12, 17).

In many assemblies today, if you ask the question, “How many do you have in fellowship?” the answer is often vague, to say the least. It might include a listing of average attendance at the various gatherings of the assembly, such as 35 at the Lord’s Supper, 75 at the Family Bible Hour and 15 at the midweek prayer meeting. Alternatively your question might be answered by another question: “What do you mean by the term ‘in fellowship’?” Why do we have such difficulty in answering what ought to be a simple question? The answer is that there has been a breakdown in the area of reception to many assemblies. Perhaps this is a pendulum-swing reaction

against what are often perceived as rigid, legalistic (and often inconsistent) reception policies in some conservative assemblies. Often in reaction to that is such a lax attitude in many assemblies, that if visitors show up for three Family Bible Hours in a row, they are considered in fellowship! * There may be rare occasions when the elders feel a person has been wrongly disciplined by another assembly. After very careful consideration (and contact with the disciplining assembly elders to seek a solution acceptable to all parties) they may proceed with caution. But we must remember the warning “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Prov. 18:13). —ed. w w w . u p l o o k . o r g

Advantages of a Careful Reception Policy As previously stated, many just drift into our assemblies and are assumed to be in fellowship because they attend—on a semi-regular basis—meetings to which the public are invited. Their lack of commitment to the overall life of the assembly has a tendency to be a discouragement to the other saints. Such visitors often have no real convictions concerning Church truth. After someone has visited for a few Lord’s Days, the elders should schedule an appointment to visit them. During this visit the following issues should be discussed: 1. Ascertain if the person is truly saved by asking for their salvation testimony. This could result in opportunities to lead them to Christ, if they are not saved. 2. Have they been baptized as believers? Explain the biblical pattern from Acts 2:41-42—salvation, baptism, reception and continuing stedfastly in the O C T O B E R

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apostle’s doctrine, breaking of bread, fellowship and prayers. An unbaptized believer is unheard of in the New Testament Church age, as a careful study of the book of Acts will bare out. 3. Explain the privileges and responsibilities of assembly fellowship. The word “fellowship” means a “holding together in common” and is translated “partnership” in Luke 5:7. This gives a clue as to its real meaning. Used in the context of a fishing business, it means that they shared in both the labor of the business and the blessings of it. In the context of the local assembly, we share the responsibility for the Lord’s work and we also receive in return the shepherd care of the assembly, the prayers of His people, the faithful ongoing ministry of the Word of God, etc. What is expected of them should be explained in terms of commitment to the gatherings (Heb. 10:25) and activities of the assembly. And they should understand that they will be submitting themselves to the oversight of the elders and the “child training” needed. New Testament principles must be clearly explained here, too. This may require more than one meeting with them. They need to know what we believe and practice, and especially the reason why. Once these matters are explained, the person(s) should be strongly encouraged to enter into the fellowship. If they are in agreement, the assembly should be informed of the possibility and any of those in fellowship should have time to visit with the candidates so all are in agreement with receiving these believers. A time then should be set aside at a public gathering of the assembly to welcome them into the assembly. If they are not ready, it must be made clear to them they are not considered in fellowship, until such time as they ask for, and are received. Then they know where they stand, and the assembly as a whole does also.

INNUMERABLE!

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Conclusion For many assemblies there has been a radical departure from the practice of the NT in this area. It is always easier to start doing things the right way than to admit failure and make the necessary corrections. But unless we do get back to the biblical pattern, we shall continue to be weakened with this “drift in-drift out” mentality. From personal experience I would rather be in an assembly with 25 in fellowship, who know why they are there and are willing to put their hands to the plow than be in an assembly with 200 at the Family Bible Hour who really have little understanding and commitment to the truths of the assembly. There is much more to true Christianity than warming pews!

How the Lord balances our deficits from Psalm 40:5, 12

“Many, O Lord my God, are Thy wonderful works which Thou hast done, and Thy thoughts which are to us-ward…they are more than can be numbered…For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.”

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What Happens When We are Unclear? Failure to practice these things will result in the following disadvantages. First, there is the potential of a “mixed multitude.” This definitely has a weakening effect on the whole testimony, and such a mixed gathering is a common feature in some assemblies. These people who have drifted in and never had the truth presented to them often don’t understand the principles of gathering and have a tendency to want to be like other churches rather than walk in conformity to the Word. There will also be a lack of accountability. The overseers can hardly exhort them to take their responsibilities seriously if they have never acknowledged their desire to be in fellowship or had their privileges and responsibilities explained. How can we truly discipline, or remove from fellowship those who have never been welcomed in? Their association with us will not stop the general public from judging the assembly’s conduct by the lives and testimonies of this mixed gathering who regularly or haphazardly attend our meetings.

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The only match for my innumerable evils are God’s innumerable blessings. How precious His unfailing care, and His thoughts toward us. I can count on Him to bring all my trials to account. I may not be able to measure my troubles, but He is able, and allows nothing but what He gives the strength to bear. —E. VAN RYN

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DO THE NEXT THING What is the need of the hour?

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How fortunate David was to have men in his kingdom “that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chron. 12:32). No wonder that the verse concludes with these words: “and all their brethren were at their commandment.” It is not enough to cling to the four activities mentioned in Acts 2:42 and believe that by this our local church qualifies as a “New Testament assembly.” You cannot have a New Testament assembly without New Testament life. This life will manifest itself in many ways, just as physical life manifests itself. A growing

child will be always learning new things, will have a voracious appetite for good food, and will use the energy from that food in exercising itself. A child has a zest for life and joy in discovery. There should be a development in loving relationships, an increased capacity for work, and a growing awareness for the needs of others. Does that describe your assembly? It certainly describes the churches in Acts. So if this is not the case, is there anything that can be done? The following graph demonstrates the three essential ingredients for spiritual progress, all provided by God.

1. NEEDS

2. ASSETS

An understanding of our spiritual needs is provided by the Lord of the churches who walks in the midst of the lampstands, and assesses each one: “I know thy works.”

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A proper appraisal of our spiritual resources comes through understanding how the Father has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ.”

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3. VISION

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Vision is not natural creativity, but a sight of things as the illuminating Spirit sees the situation (as it really is) and what needs to be done about it. w w w . u p l o o k . o r g

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See what happens when only one or two of the ingredients are understood:

NEEDS without ASSETS or VISION = DESPAIR To see just the problems without understanding the resources we have in God causes believers to lose hope.

ASSETS without

NEEDS or

VISION = PRIDE

To occupy ourselves with our assets yet never see the needs is the Laodicean problem: “rich…in need of nothing.”

VISION without NEEDS

or ASSETS = FRUITLESSNESS

Some want to blaze a trail for God but have no understanding of the needs of God’s people. Much ado about nothing.

NEEDS & ASSETS without

VISION = INACTION

Not understanding what the Spirit is presently doing (or wanting to do) keeps us from co-operating with Him.

ASSETS & VISION without

NEEDS

= WASTEFULNESS

We can understand our resources and want to move forward, but without knowing the needs, we fritter away opportunities.

VISION &

NEEDS

without ASSETS = FRUSTRATION

Some see the church’s needs and want to help but are blind to the amazing equipment God has waiting for them to use.

NEEDS & ASSETS &

VISION = THE NEXT THING TO DO

When the Son—“that Great Shepherd of the sheep”—has shown us the needs of His people, and “the Father of Lights, from whom comes every perfect gift” has unfolded His resources, and the Spirit who is “with you” and “in you” has given us Heaven’s view of the way ahead, it is then our privilege, indeed our bounden duty, to obediently get moving in dependence on the Lord, in co-operation with like-minded believers, and for the glory of God.

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Adorning the Doctrine of God How the outward can reveal the inward.

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“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning…But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Pet. 3:3-4).

as it is now in a day in which the fashion industry pushes relentlessly against the borders of moral decency. In Proverbs 7, King Solomon makes reference to the dress of the strange woman who is characterized as having the “attire of an harlot,” a further reminder that the Lord draws a distinction between right and wrong clothing standards. Believers (both men and women) need to make sure that they do not adopt the world’s standards in dress and appearance, which have become increasingly suggestive, even salacious, in recent years. Revelation 18 cites that one segment of Babylon that will be judged for it’s widespread wickedness is the fashion industry (v. 12), which has profited immensely from it’s anti-Christian influence in the world. This gives a different slant to the words of the Apostle Paul when he said to the Corinthians: “the fashion of this world passeth away” (1 Cor. 7:31). Modesty in dress is not only honoring to the Lord but it affirms that we are changed people who are not interested in being conformed to this world (Rom. 12:2), but to be set apart from it. However older saints, who have through the years learned this important truth, need to be sensitive to younger ones in the meeting who have recently come out of “Egypt” and are just beginning to learn the implications of the believer’s sanctification. Patience and speaking the truth in love are always in order.

“In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works…that [you] may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:7, 10). Although the Scriptures do not give explicit instructions as to a specific dress code for Christians, they do provide us with some basic principles that should be taken into account before we choose the clothes we wear. Well-meaning but often misled believers, attempting to codify these principles into specific dress codes, have run into problems trying to do so, forgetting the span of history and the diversity of cultures that represent Christ across the globe. Whether in the meeting or in the marketplace, our dress just as much as our words and actions can reflect our attitude toward the things of the Lord—and toward others.

Modesty One very clear principle that is upheld in Scripture regarding dress is that of modesty. Dress and clothing styles can differ greatly among communities of believers worldwide, but modesty is an identifiable standard that is understood by all. The Apostle Paul in speaking to the older women in Christ, charged them to instruct the younger women to be “discreet” and “chaste” (Titus 2:5), a concern that must have surely included their outward adorning. No doubt it was an issue then, w w w . u p l o o k . o r g

Inward Beauty Further, Scripture also teaches that over-attention to •

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dress should never characterize the saints. In writing to believing wives married to unsaved husbands (1 Pet. 3), the Apostle Peter urged them to not put undue emphasis on their outward appearance, but on “the hidden man of the heart,” the inward person whose true character is being observed constantly by the Lord (see 1 Sam. 16:7). To become preoccupied with such externals is a misplaced emphasis on the least important issues of life. Rather, cultivating godly character by yielding to the Holy Spirit is the occupation that will bring forth fruit pleasing to God. It is stated to be among the few things that are called great in the sight of the Lord. (1 Pet. 3:4). It is what the husbandman waits for: “the precious fruit of the earth” (Jas. 5:7). In a day in which there is a heavy emphasis on “looks” and far less on character, it is incumbent upon Christians to make sure that Christlike character is the brightest thing we have that shines. In short, more emphasis should be put on radiating Christ than on impressing those around us by our dress.

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Glory, who in a figurative sense “laid aside His garments” (Jn. 13:4) and humbly walked among us, not clothed in brilliant apparel but identifying with the common man. Modest and inexpensive dress will offend far less people and can serve to broaden the scope of our ministry among Christians and non-Christians alike. Balance Many Christians in agreement that we should not follow the world’s fashions can actually err in the opposite direction. Citing the example of Elijah and John the Baptist, who were identified by their rough garb (2 Ki. 1; Mt. 3), they feel that anything else is “flashy” and worldly. But this can easily be countered by the example of the servants of King Solomon (1 Ki. 10). When the Queen of Sheba conducted her expedition to investigate the claims of Solomon, there were a few things that she noted about his kingdom that literally took her

Modest and inexpensive dress will offend far less people and can serve to broaden the scope of our ministry among Christians and non-Christians alike. Archie Naismith recounts the following: “It is said that one of the early Christian fathers, seeing a woman of loose morals arrayed in rich apparel, was moved to tears and confessed that he had never taken such pains to adorn his soul with faith and godliness as she had taken to adorn her body to please the world.” Sensitivity A visiting servant of the Lord felt he was having difficulty reaching the audience to whom he was preaching. When he asked a wise brother who labored in that region what the reason might be, he explained to him that the gold fob that hung from his vest pocket was a hindrance to that group of Christians, many of whom were poverty-stricken. Christians should be sensitive to those around us to “please his neighbor for his good to edification” (Rom. 15:2). The popular view of “dress to impress,” whether in the meeting or in the marketplace, can reveal a problem with our focus—on us, rather than the Lord. To do so can easily foster partiality among believers (see Jas. 2) and serve selfish interests. It is contrary to the attitude which is content to simply have food and raiment. Consider the Lord Jesus, though the Lord of

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breath away. Among them was the “meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel…” (v. 5). Their character and their clothing reflected well on their king and on the great standing and privileges that they possessed. It caused her to proclaim, “Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom” (v. 8). Likewise, our dignified attitude and neat appearance expresses our appreciation for our “high calling” to be linked with the One who is a “greater than Solomon.” In Conclusion Taste in dress among believers can vary greatly. But if we allow these basic principles presented to us in God’s Word to guide our way, most certainly it will bring glory to Him. Whether we come together to worship Him or go out to represent Him in this world, we have the wonderful privilege to show ourselves a pattern of good works and in a tangible way express the change that Christ has wrought in our lives by our dress and demeanor. Isn’t this what Paul has in mind when he wrote: “Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24)?  O C T O B E R

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Pre-Conversion Sin Does it ban you from assembly fellowship?

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the spirit of Christ. However persuasive the arguments for or against, if it fails this test, it must be abandoned.

The world we live in is becoming increasingly godless and sinful, with standards that were once held in honor now being swept aside by the tide of liberalism. In the absence of moral standards, men feel at liberty to do whatever they want to, without restraint. As a result of this deterioration, many who now come to Christ under the preaching of the gospel have already been through the deep trauma of abuse, abandonment by unfaithful spouses, divorce, etc. Their homes have been broken, their hearts have been broken and their marriages have been irreversibly broken. In coming to Christ, they find forgiveness, cleansing, healing and acceptance, and a Friend who will never leave them nor forsake them. Sadly, in many cases, these casualties on the Jericho road, after receiving some “first-aid” in terms of being saved, thereafter—and no doubt to their shock and hurt—find that their benefactors turn from them, draw in their skirts, join the priest and the Levite, and abandon them on the road, because of some discovery about their past. No comforting arms take them to the Inn for nurture and care—nothing but heartless abandonment. Worse still, one has even heard of situations where the casualty has been taken to the Inn, and is well on the way to recovery, only to be cruelly ejected, and left to fend for himself because of discoveries made about his past. The author has no wish to be controversial or disruptive, but one has a deep conviction that this cruel injustice needs to be addressed in our assemblies. One is aware that there have been many arguments and counter-arguments on this issue by equally spiritual and biblically capable brethren. Many have dealt with the subject expositionally and technically, with conflicting conclusions being reached. One has concluded, therefore, that the fundamental answer to this question is not to be found in technical analysis, the cleverness of debate, dogmatic assertion of right, manipulation of verses, or adhering to the popular political trend. In the final analysis, the acid test to be applied is whether this teaching leads to practice that emulates w w w . u p l o o k . o r g

Pre-Conversion Sin It is the clear teaching of the Word of God that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7). Again, the apostle writing to the Romans, said, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…” (Rom. 8:1). Again “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth” (Rom. 8:33). The poet has so beautifully captured the truth of these verses: My sin—O the bliss of this glorious thought, My sin, not in part, but the whole— Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! In light of these clear statements, it is incongruous that pre-conversion divorce should be isolated from all other sins as the one which excludes from fellowship. If we include this sin as being prohibitive to fellowship, we must also include pre-conversion fornication; or people who have lived common-law without marriage, and who may have then separated without divorce. The apostle Paul must surely have faced these same situations time and time again, in the licentious city of Corinth, which had temples dedicated to sexual perversion of every kind. Given the premise that divorce and like sins exclude from fellowship, Paul would have been hard-pressed to establish an assembly in that city. Yet the apostle did so, and writing to those who had been saved from such iniquities and perversions, he addresses them as “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” We conclude that it is not consistent with biblical teaching to isolate any pre-conversion sin, whatever form it might take, and to use this as a basis for denying reception into assembly fellowship. The Principle of Biblical Balance My aged and beloved spiritual mentor in Scotland •

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used to say, “When one truth is exaggerated at the expense of another, that position is wrong.” He would also say, “It is important not only to observe the letter, but the spirit of the Word.” The Pharisees are a prime example that illustrate his warning. They insisted on strict legalistic observance of the Sabbath (a God-given institution under law), but at the expense of compassion that would heal a man on the Sabbath day. They also knew that the law demanded death for the adulteress whom they dragged before the Lord, but He silenced them and said to the woman, “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.” The chart below demonstrates how the spirit of Scripture is violated if pre-conversion sin of any kind (including divorce) is allowed to deny the new convert the fellowship he should enjoy, Of course we all hate divorce as God does, but we cannot isolate this from the realm of absolute forgiveness. If such were to be denied fellowship in assemblies, one would be reluctant to preach the gospel anywhere these days—when divorce and remarriage are so prevalent—in case someone was saved and cleansed by the blood of Christ, only to be cast aside afterwards like a filthy rag. We well remember the story of the healing of the man born blind, and despite the miracle

that had taken place, the Pharisees insisted on bringing up his pre-conversion status: “Thou wast altogether born in sins…and they cast him out.” It was then the Lord met Him, because He also was outside! This is the only spiritual response to the situation, unless of course we really want to side with the Pharisees. In closing, Paul wrote to Timothy, “In the last days perilous times shall come.” The word “perilous” literally means “hard to deal with” [Vine] and of course overseers in assemblies are now facing unspeakable difficulties as the age draws to it close. We wish they never had to deal with such issues. However, they are here and elders have to face them. They need all the compassion and help they can get in dealing with such problems. We share their concerns that the purity and sanctity of the House of God should be maintained in days like these, yet this must not be done at the expense of other equally relevant truths. The important thing is to keep our balance in these disturbing times. There are many casualties in our modern society, and we need to have all the compassion of Christ for them, both before and after conversion, and to embrace them as brothers and sisters in Christ. We can do this without sacrificing anything of truth, or the purity of the assembly, and yet maintain the true spirit of Christ.

The SCRIPTURAL POSITION of the CONVERT

CONSEQUENCES of EXCLUSION from FELLOWSHIP for PRE-CONVERSION SIN

Redeemed from sin’s slave market (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

Placed under penal servitude and bondage for a lifetime.

All sins forgiven, and remembered no more forever (Heb. 8:12; 10:17).

Divorce before salvation is unaffected by the great salvation we have received. Upon being saved, this person receives a life sentence that can never be reversed.

Imparted spiritual life through the new birth (Jn. 3).

Having come to the birth, this person must now be abandoned, and isolated from any nurture, support or developing of that life.

Baptized in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). The Holy Spirit is now indwelling (Rom. 8:9).

Despite the fact that the Spirit has placed this person into the Body and indwells him, he is denied access to the fellowship.

A member of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).

Must be forever denied the opportunity to function as a member in the Body, or to share the comfort and support of fellow members. Amputated at birth.

Has died to the world (Rom. 6; Col. 3).

Neither fitted for the local church nor for the world. A spiritual nomad who must wander without home or help in the wilderness.

Is free from any matter demanding church discipline, since the sin took place before conversion.

Dealt the most severe and irreversible of all church disciplines— excommunication for life.

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Are We Overdoing Informality? Love has good manners.

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we accord him the honor of his office. This is to be true of other officials as well. Scripture encourages respect for age. As people age and the vigor of youth ebbs away, they need to know that they still have value and that their wisdom is appreciated. “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God; I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32). “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness” (Prov. 16:31). Men and women who come to old age with an unsullied reputation have been victorious in the battle against sin. Scripture says, “Honor them.” In a culture which glorifies youth and resists ageing, we need to encourage respect for those older than we are. In my judgement, children should be taught not to call older people by their first names. Call them Mr. or Mrs. In camp work often older workers are called “Uncle” or “Aunt.” This emphasizes the loving relationship of God’s family. In an assembly a man may be called “Brother” or a woman “Sister.” T. B. Gilbert led me to the Lord years ago. His given name was “Bruce” but those of us who were younger always called him “Brother Gilbert.” In the southern U.S., children may use a given name with Mr., such as “Mr. Bill” or “Ms. May.” This adds respect to intimacy, a nice touch. Certainly parents should be treated with respect. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex. 20:12). This honor means obedience while living at home and respect and care throughout life (Eph. 6:1; 1 Tim. 6:16). Many aged and infirm live lonely, neglected lives, quietly awaiting death. Children need to embrace them with love as they grow older. Love will respect every person as made in the image of God, and love should characterize the Christian assembly. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom. 12:10). 

The telephone rings and you answer the phone. “Hi, Bill. This is Tom. I’m with the Yoohoo Telemarketing Company.” He then launches into his sales pitch as you try to get off the phone. But he called you by your first name and you have never even met him. Many people are irked by this feigned intimacy. A first name relationship is for friends, right? But much of society is marked by informality and this can tend to lead to disrespect. Perhaps we are too much an egalitarian society, treating all on the same level. There is a place for respect, for deference and for honor. Above all there should be reverence and respect for God. Some so called contemporary services are marked by hilarious informality. God is treated as a good old Boy up in heaven. People treat Him casually, hardly with a sense of awe. Hear the word of God through Malachi: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? says the Lord of hosts. (Mal. 1:6, NKJV) The Psalmist writes, “Honor and majesty are before Him. Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary” (Ps. 96:6). Perhaps we need more of the experience of Isaiah who had a vision of the glory of God and cried out, “Woe is me for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5). We need to remember, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). There should be respect for civil authorities. Scripture states that they are “God’s ministers” (Rom. 13:6). They are needed to keep law and order and to promote the good of a society. Therefore Paul exhorts: “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Rom. 13:7). We are not to address the President by his first name; he is “Mr. President” and w w w . u p l o o k . o r g

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The Early Church in Action Examining details in the book of Acts

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The Lord’s last word to the disciples was to take the witness of His death and resurrection to the uttermost parts of the earth. This witness is to be dynamic and abundantly evident, shining as floodlights into the darkness of men’s hearts. As we see this brilliant beam from the book of Acts we must ask: Have we in the West become like a flashlight flickering and about to go out? We marvel at verses like Acts 2:41, “and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” What must that have been like to see the Spirit of God moving in their midst with the power of the gospel’s conviction bringing men and women to the foot of the cross? Many answer this challenge by saying that people today are just not interested in God and in hearing the gospel. In the West we blame materialism, the obsession with pleasure, the open acceptance of evil and the general attitude of selfish ambition to lessen the responsibility of the Church to shine as a radiant witness. But let us be true to the Word of God and to ourselves in agreeing that the greater the darkness the greater even a small light should shine. Many of the key characteristics of the early Church (that made their witness so effective) have either been replaced with human invention or completely forgotten altogether. Let us reexamine the example given to us by those first disciples and seek to recapture the gospel offensive. The Spread of the Gospel Message The disciples took the gospel everywhere. Acts 8:4 reads, “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word.” Convinced of their message, the believers went on the attack. Starting with the temple, they took the good news to the synagogues, philosophers’ schools and into the market places. Prison cells, palaces, houses, mountainsides, ocean ports, cities, towns, street corners and bustling shopping centers rang with the declaration that Christ had

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died for sinners but now was alive. This message was meant to be heard where lost souls gathered. There was no confusion about where to have a gospel meeting. As far as these saints were concerned, this message was for those who were perishing and to them it must be told. They went to where the people were. It is the desire of God “that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3:17). The disciples preached the gospel in the main centers of Gentile importance, the provincial capitals, on to Rome, and eventually to the limits of the known world. A Cooperative Effort Notice how Paul took with him others to be involved in evangelism. This is also a needed practice—training others for the work and cooperation among evangelists. There are many examples such as, Peter and John (Acts 3:1; 8:14) who worked together for the spread of the gospel. Paul at various times labored with Silas, Barnabas, Luke, Timothy, Titus, Demas, Epaphroditus and others. There are many such examples. As we consider this pattern for the gospel offensive, how do we measure up? It is true that the preaching of the cross is a Church responsibility. Yet have we overlooked the responsibility of the local assembly to preach the gospel in the world? It is not enough to simply book an evangelist to preach, distribute a well-prepared flyer in the community, and pray that the lost come into the local church building to hear a message they know nothing about. We must go out to where the people are. We must be blazingly evident in the midst of the blackness of this sinful world. Paul writes to the Philippians “that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (2:15). This will mean witnessing to our neighbors and co-workers, handing out tracts at large festivals and events, arranging gospel meetings

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and debates in public buildings, parks and schools, and setting up booths at fairs and anywhere else people congregate. Of course there are many other ways to take the message into the world. Not only is it the local church’s responsibility to preach the gospel to the world, but it is every individual believer’s responsibility as well. In the book of Acts we don’t see only a handful of people who might be considered evangelists spreading the gospel. All of the Christians were involved. Certainly God has equipped some Christians with the gift of evangelism; however, all believers should be ready to give witness to the hope within them. It is easy to convince ourselves that as long as the evangelists are doing their job we can sit back and relax from witnessing. In light of this overwhelming example, may each of us catch the vision of the early Church to see men and women saved. May we all look for ways to be involved in evangelism and, if our local church is ignoring this responsibility, take the initiative to evangelize the lost ourselves. The Lord is our helper. After all, He wills that none should perish. This includes our family, neighbors, coworkers, government officials and even the outspoken resistor to the gospel. May we take heed to Paul’s clear ministry, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 4:3). Willingness to Suffer One of the great proofs of reality in the apostles’ lives was their joy in the Lord through suffering. Acts 5:41 tells us, “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” In prison, Paul and Silas “were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). This powerful testimony had a profound impact. Even under great persecution they were not ashamed to speak of the Lord. We see this in Peter and John (Acts 3:1; 5:29), Stephen (Acts 6:9), the scattered Christians (Acts 8:4) and many more. Boldness led to

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persecution but this, amazingly, led to rejoicing. Are we ashamed to speak of Christ? Are we afraid of persecution? Let us pray for boldness to proclaim His name to all in every place, persecution or not. The Evidence of their Love Gospel preaching was not the only effective way in which the Church in Acts drew men and women to Christ. It was apparent to all that this message that had so gripped these young disciples’ hearts and minds had also affected their actions and way of life. We notice the immediate change in their new purpose and focus. They had found their mission. Numerous times in Acts we read that they had all things in common and had a single heart and mind (Acts 2:44, 46; 4:32). The Lord, while speaking to the disciples, said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35). Taking this seriously, the early Church practiced this love in all that they did. For example, they sold their possessions and gave of the money to those in need so that no one lacked (Acts 4:34). They also made an effort to take care of widows among them (Acts 6:1). Each believer’s home was open to any Christian and this level of fellowship spilled over into other areas of hospitality (Acts 9:43; 10:22-23; 16:40; 18:2-3). The Church at Antioch sent help to the Christians in Judea (Acts 11:27-30). The visible expression of their love for one another was a key instrument the Lord used in the early Church to be a witness to the world. How do we compare? Is there an evident token of love between the saints at your local assembly? Is there an awareness of the needs of each other and a definite effort made to meet those needs? I have been overwhelmed in the last two years by the generosity of my fellow believers in meeting some very definite needs that arose. Their willingness to help whenever possible has also spoken volumes to our neighbors who are watching and inquiring. May we never underestimate the power of Christ’s love through us to each other as a successful means of reaching the lost. The early church was a living body constantly on the offensive. As we reflect on their example, let us strive to recapture that zeal and obedience. 

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A Plea to the Sheep ’Twas a sheep, not a lamb, that strayed away In the parable Jesus told, A grown-up sheep that had gone astray From the ninety and nine in the fold. Out on the hillside, out in the cold, ’Twas a sheep that the Good Shepherd sought; And back to the flock, safe in the fold, ’Twas a sheep the Good Shepherd brought. And why for the sheep should we earnestly long, And as earnestly hope and pray? Because there is danger if they go wrong They will lead the lambs astray. For the lambs will follow the sheep, you know, Wherever the sheep may stray; When the sheep go wrong it will not be long Till the lambs are as wrong as they. And so with the sheep we earnestly plead For the sake of the lambs today; If the lambs are lost, what terrible cost Some sheep will have to pay! —Anon.

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