January 2017

Ministry Update – January, 2017

 

Dear friends in Christ,

One of the phrases that have been in my mind the last few months is “He is Able”.  When I began looking into this, I discovered that there were a few more of these verses than the couple that I was acquainted with in the NT.  God is able to do more than we ask or think (Eph. 3:20), a good thing to keep in mind as we live the life of faith. He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him (2 Tim. 1:12); that is important to keep in mind when we struggle with doubts and fears. He is able to help us when we are tempted (Heb. 2:17-18); good to keep in mind when we are beset with temptation.  He is also able to make all grace abound toward us (2 Cor. 8:9), important to keep in mind when we are strapped for funds but desire to be a blessing to the Lord’s people in practical ways. He is also bale to deliver us from trials like He did with Daniel’s three friends (Dan. 3) and able to humble those who walk in pride as He did with King Nebuchadnezzar who from a while was struck with insanity after proudly strutting around his kingdom in sinful pride. When it comes right down to it, there is nothing that the Lord is not able to do! Let’s keep that in mind as we walk with Him.

 

Speaking Ministry

It was a whirlwind tour from September to December with a number of conferences throughout that time. In September, it was a Labor Day family weekend at Camp Li-Lo-Li in NY state. It was great to be back there again to minister the Word. We also ministered at Keswick’s Families for Christ Weekend, designed for couples who have been impacted by chemical addiction and who are recovering through the ministry of Keswick. We also had our own conference at Harvey Cedars (Bible Conference on the Bay). We finished the month by flying to Houston, Texas, for a conference there – the first time for me in the Lone Star State.  In October, we were involved conferences in Portland Maine, South Branch, NJ and a Father and Son weekend in Camp Iroquoina in NY State.  November was the busiest time with conferences in Wilmington, DE; Slidell, LA, Berkley Heights, NJ and a Young at Heart Conference at America’s Keswick. It was a busy time but the Lord certainly gave strength to help in time of need!  I would appreciate prayer for the next three months as we have conferences in NY and Canada while still speaking on the weekends in the NJ, PA area.

 

Bible Study Ministry

The Whiting Bible study continues to grow. We are working our way through the Book of Acts. The most recent meeting today was the largest that we ever had in the 17 years we have been doing this study and are looking for another place to hold the study. In January, we start up our

Luncheon ministry

 

Cornerstone Magazine

A major milestone was the launching of a new magazine, called Cornerstone Magazine. I serve on a committee of five people and it is going out in faith with the prayer that the Lord will use it to His glory. It was a lot of work to get off the ground and costly, but as I said before we know the Lord is able to do more than we ask or think!

Yours in Christ,

Mark and Cindy Kolchin – Phil. 1:6

2017 Special Events

The purpose of these activities is to strengthen believers in the Lord, encourage fellowship among the Lord’s people and to provide an opportunity to invite unsaved friends and relatives to come under the sound of the Gospel. Call or write if you would like more details for the events listed below.

 

Bible Study

Whiting Area Bible Study – 2nd & 4th Thursdays from 1:30 – 2:30 PM. Crestwood Manor (Whiting)

Midweek Fellowship Luncheons

Meets on designated Wednesday afternoons, 12 noon – 2:30 PM.

  • 18th 2017; $12.50 – America’s Keswick, (Whiting, NJ) – Gerard De Matteo (Rutherford, NJ)
  • March 15th 2017; $17.50 – The Shrimp Box, (Pt Pleasant, NJ) – Jerry Risden (Belmar, NJ)
  • May 17th 2017; $17.50 – The Crab Trap (Somers Point, NJ)- Bob Dadd (President, CMML)
  • Sept. 13th, 2017; $17.50 – Smithville Inn, (Smithville, NJ) – Paul Young (Wales, UK)
  • Nov. 15th, 2017; $17.50 – Tuckahoe Inn, (Tuckahoe, NJ) – Phil Parsons (Belmar, NJ)

Lancaster County Weekend in the Word

“End-time Technology and Political Developments in Light of Bible Prophecy”

Speaker: Rob Sullivan (Yonkers, PA)  Date: May 5-7, 2017  Cost: $235 pp. Location: The Bird-in-Hand Family Inn (Bird-in-hand, PA). Meetings held in conjunction with the Monterey Chapel (Leola, PA). Ample time on Saturday afternoon to see many sites of interest including Sight and Sound and the scale model of the Tabernacle on RT 30. Weekend includes a Saturday night dinner at a local area restaurant.

 

Trips and Tours

 

“Jonah” – Friday, June 2nd at the Sight and Sound – 3:00 PM program. Cost $110 pp, children ages 13-18, $49. 3-12, $39. Leaves Bethany Bible Chapel at 8:45, making pick ups at Keswick Pines in Whiting at 9:15 AM and Mastori’s Diner at 10:15. Lunch at Shady Maple. Returns to Bethany by approximately 9:00 PM.

 

“Creation Museum and Ark Encounter” – Dates: Oct. 25th – 28th, 2017.  Deluxe motor coach departs from Lancaster, Pa and stops at the Flight 93 Memorial Center (Shanksville, PA) before going on to Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in KY. Following day at the life size replica of Noah’s Ark. Return trip includes city tour and river ride in Pittsburgh, PA. Contact us for pricing. Tour arranged by Bob Neff Tours (Lancaster, PA)

 

Bible Conference On the Bay

End the summer on a spiritual high note with this annual favorite. Dates: Sept. 11th – Sept. 15th, 2016 at Harvey Cedars Bible Conference (www.stepsoffaith.org). Speaker: Paul Young (Wales). Cost: $399. Great ministry and fellowship on picturesque Barnegat Bay, a great way to finish the summer. Other activities will be planned to make this an uplifting week at the Jersey Shore including an Estate & Financial Planning Seminar with Ed Anthony (Tennessee). Conference also includes a luncheon at the Smithville Inn, Smithville, NJ – Wed.  9/13 from 12 to 3 PM. Cost $22 pp.

 

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.      Eph. 3:20-21

When Christians Collide

“Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” – Job 5:7

The familiar time-proven quatrain says it well:
To live above with the saints we love,
Oh that will be glory!
But to live below with the saints we know
…that’s another story!

It is true that when we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! The Day will break, the shadows will flee away and we will be face to face with Christ our Savior. Sin and sorrow shall cease and we will dwell forever in the land of “no more”, where there will no more tears, death, sorrow, crying and pain, Rev. 21.4. We will be reunited with loved ones who have gone before us in the Lord, “the spirits of just men, made perfect”, Heb. 12:23.  As the hymnwriter has said; “What a Day, glorious Day that will be”!  But until that time, a lot of patience is required to “live below with the saints we know”. While we are in this life, we will eventually have to deal with the spirits of just men (and women) who are not so perfect!  Saints come in all “shapes and sizes”- from all walks of life and from various backgrounds with a wide range of knowledge and experience (or lack thereof). Despite the fact that believers share a common salvation, they can also be as different as night and day. They may have different ideas and opinions as to how a certain project or event in the local church should be conducted. They may differ on what is the best approach to reach the unsaved, or the best way to conduct youth ministry or what topics should be emphasized from the platform or even what music style in their opinion is the best. There are as many differences as there are faces in the local church. But when “an unstoppable force meets an immovable object”, then watch out!  Sparks will fly upward – you can count on it!

To help deal with this potentiality, God has included an abundance of “one another” commands in the NT that emphasize tolerance, patience and forbearance among believers. Christians are to accept one another, Rom. 15:7; be at peace with one another, Mark 9:50; bear and forgive one another, Col. 3:13; and be of the same mind toward one another, Rom. 12:16. These are reciprocal commands, meaning that what applies to one applies to the other. In other words, it is a shared responsibility and non-compliance by one does not dissolve the obligation of the other. These commands take into account that there will always be differences among believers, yet a sacred duty in upholding the Word of God, in keeping His commandments and in doing those things that are pleasing in His sight, 1 John 3:22.

Why the Differences?

What are the reasons for differences among believers and are they all that bad? One reason for differences actually comes from the Lord. 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us: “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” It is the same Spirit, Lord, and God who sovereignly bestow spiritual gifts, sphere of ministry and level of operation (enablement) among all believers. These differences simply highlight the manifold or multifaceted grace of God, 1 Peter 4:10. In some ways, it is what makes the Christian life so exciting! God calls different people from different walks of life, whose saving grace frames the life of the redeemed as pictured symbolically in Psalm 107. He endows each one with a unique combination of talents and abilities to glorify His Name. We are different and yet one in purpose – to glorify the Lord. It is the reason why Paul prayed that the Ephesian believers “might comprehend with all the saints what is the width, and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ”, Eph. 3:18-19. We need one another to help comprehend the range of God’s amazing grace. Our differences show the wide dimensions of the love of Christ and His power in redeeming us from the hand of the enemy. Thank the Lord for these differences, otherwise we would be all doing the same things, the same way!

But with these differences can come conflict. Some of these differences are due to personality. Some people are more outgoing than others, some are more reserved. One may be bothered when they see a jovial person always smiling; the other can be annoyed by the person who always seems to be down-in-the-mouth and acting as if a cloud perpetually hangs over his head, lacking the joy of the Lord. Despite the fact that there may be legitimate behind-the-scenes reasons for this, nevertheless, these differences can cause issues at times, issues that will eventually need to be resolved with patience and understanding and help from the Lord. 

Another reason for conflict among the saints may result from different levels of spiritual knowledge, understanding and maturity and experience. There may also be educational and social differences and different convictions about certain matters as there was in the Corinthian assembly, 1 Cor. 10-11. There some had opposite views as to days of the week or whether or not believers ought to eat meat that had been offered to idols. Today, the “gray” areas seems to revolve around music styles, whether or not it should be hymns or contemporary music selections. These differences (and many like them) can be very strong and difficult to resolve, causing much conflict in the Church.

Dealing with the Differences

How then are differences to be dealt with? What do you do when the “unstoppable force” and the “immovable object” collide, especially when both claim to know the Lord, and both quote Bible verses to substantiate their claims?  What then? Here is another reason why the Lord has supplied us with the “one another” commands in Scripture. Repeatedly, the NT emphasizes the responsibility that all of us have to work with each other in the common cause of glorifying God in the world, magnifying Christ in our lives and striving together for the faith of the Gospel, Phil. 1:27. We are to demonstrate by our mutual care and concern as members one of another that there be no schism in the body, 1 Cor. 12:25. By this, we are demonstrating in a practical way the fulfillment of our Lord’s prayer in the Upper Room that “we all may be one”, John 17:21. We can have diversity and yet maintain unity. Different, but of the same mind one toward another for the purpose of glorifying Christ, Romans 12:16; 15:5. When there is conflict, we believers are to seek the face of the Lord and the leading of the Spirit and to prayerfully open God’s Word to get light on the subject. Perhaps the problem is not with the other person, maybe it is with you! No one should be beyond the realm of teachability, Phil. 3:15. “Blind spots” are a reality.

Good Christians can and will collide at times. But if they strive to be like Christ in all their ways, seek to be conformed to His image in attitude and action and follow His steps, a lot of unnecessary hurt will be averted.  As we give preference to one another (Romans 12:10) and respond in a spirit of meekness humility, we will demonstrate that it is always good that the heart be established with grace, Heb. 13:9. As we approach our differences in this God-honoring way, we will be dousing the flame that the devil is fuelling to get blood-bought believers warring with one another instead of him.

Tried and True

“… that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” – James 1:3

 

It could hardly be said that any Christian enjoys going through a trial. It is one of those aspects of our faith that we would rather avoid. Depending upon its depth and length, it could shake us to the core, far more than we ever anticipated when we first began traveling down its winding (and perhaps harrowing) path. Yet after coming through it in dependence upon the Lord, we will undoubtedly admit that it had a significant part it had in deepening our faith, sharpening our once nebulous convictions, and conforming us more closely to character of Christ, Romans 8.28-29.

The Scriptures refer often to the purifying and beneficial effect that trials can have in our lives. When Job was going through his great trial of affliction, he could hardly be thankful for the series of calamities that befell him. But through the eye of faith he uttered his deep confession of faith with unshakeable conviction: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold”, Job 23:10.  Job understood well the benefit of the God’s refining process, a process he would have rather sidestepped if he had the option, but nevertheless proved invaluable in deepening his faith. It is not that Job was a blatant sinner—he was anything but that—yet, it could never be said of him that “he feared God for nothing” – that is, for personal benefit thus dismissing the arrogant charge of the devil, Job 1.9. There are a lot of trials that we also would prefer to sidestep, but if we do would likewise forfeit its beneficial effect in our lives. It was a tough road for Job and it may be a tough road for us, but it can and often does turn out to the glory of God and a shining example of how the Lord does indeed bring many sons to glory, Hebrews 2.9.

Sometimes however there are gaps in our lives as Christians that necessitate the disciplining hand of God through trial. Peter stated, if need be ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations (trials)”. There is for many a “need be” from the Lord because of certain sins that have found an open door in our lives and have been permitted to go unjudged. Like Israel who failed to cast out all of the Canaanites in the land, we too can tolerate and fail to cast out the residue of sins of our past life (James 1:21), only to impede our progress in the life of faith. Strangely, we allow some things that are objectionable to God to comfortably coexist with us without realizing the slow erosion that can occur in our walk with the Lord. Trials serve to jar us out of that complacency and to realign our spiritual priorities. Just as Samuel had to hack Agag to pieces, so too we are exhorted to take decisive action and mortify the deeds of our flesh in obedience to the Lord, Colossians 3.5. In short, it helps us to stay on track spiritually. David confessed, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now have I kept thy word, Psalm 119.67. He knew too well the sting of the disciplining hand of God upon his life on more than a few occasions, only to express later the surpassing value of it. Eventually, God would call him “a man after mine own heart”, Acts 13.22. regarding this, Charles Spurgeon the great 19th century preacher once related the account of a rope bridge in his day that collapsed unexpectedly, plunging many to their deaths in a ravine below. Upon investigation, it was determined why the catastrophe occurred: a little seedling had been ignored and taken root between the strands of rope and the wooden planks, thus weakening the bridge. Trials from the Lord help us to do surveillance on our lives in order to motivate us to pull the weeds of sin that could eventually weaken and mar our testimony.      

God wants all believers to reflect the character of Christ in their lives. To accomplish this, God may bring certain trials to soften the hearts, making the believer more compassionate and sensitive to the needs of others.  In so doing, they are able to comfort others with the same comfort that they are comforted of God, 2 Corinthians 1:4.  They become more like Christ. Colossians 1:27 states this principle succinctly: “Christ in you the hope of glory”. Additionally, like Daniel’s friends, the believer going through a trial will sense the Lord’s nearness perhaps more than at any other time in our life as they go through the furnace of affliction. There will be a reality to the words Isaiah 43:2: “when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee”.  Further, in a mysterious way,  the Christian going through a trial will ultimately sense that that they actually are the object of His attention and affection just as Zechariah prophesied to Israel about the Man among the myrtle trees, the Lord Jesus, who reassured them of a future glory when at the time they were at the “bottom”, Zechariah 1.  

This principle is depicted for us in Malachi as God explains what will yet occur with the nation of Israel during the future Tribulation. As the result of His refining work during that time, He will bring about a great spiritual purging within the nation. He is described as sitting like “a refiner and purifier of silver” in order to “purify the sons of Levi and to purge them as silver and gold that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness”, Malachi 3.1-3. The work of any refiner and purifier of silver was to subject precious metal to intense heat in order to remove the impurities from it. The dross which rises to the top is then scooped away. As the refiner sits over the purified metal and looks down upon an even more valuable product, he is able to see an image of himself. And so it is with us: our Father in heaven, subjecting His own special people to the purifying process of trial and affliction, makes us an even more valuable and precious commodity to Him, being conformed to the image of His Son, Romans. 8:28-29.                                 

The great patriarch Joseph also offers us some additional lessons about the trial of our faith. After going through many years of severe personal trial, he also acknowledged the beneficial effect that it produced. Rising to the rank of Prime Minister of Egypt, he was able to look back and acknowledge the hand of God at work in his life. His two sons named Manasseh and Ephraim, outlined his response to trials. The first he named Manasseh saying, “God hath made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house”, Gen. 41.51. The second he named Ephraim, stating ‘…God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of mine affliction”, verse 52. Despite the rejection and hurt caused by his brothers, the slander of Potipher’s wife and being forgotten in prison by the chief butler, he was able to avoid the snare of bitterness and resentment, deliberately “forgetting” the plethora of personal slights against him. By so doing, he was able to attest to the fruitful result from such a course of action—and a great pattern for us to follow; first “forgetting”, then fruitbearing, the inevitable consequence of committing our way to the Lord. In due time, God will honor us as we honor Him.                    

How much more could be said about the positive effect of trials in the life of the believer, if we yield to Him! There is Paul’s request to have his thorn in the flesh removed, only to be denied by the Lord to keep him humbly dependent upon Him and cognizant of His all-sufficient grace, 2 Corinthians 12: 9. There is Jacob’s all-night wrestling episode at Peniel with the Angel of the Lord, ending in a limp but also a changed life and a changed name and a changed purpose and a changed direction, as he crossed back over the river Jabbok to reconcile with his brother Esua, the sun rising upon him, Genesis 32. What a picture! And then there is James’ direct exhortation to adjust our attitude as we enter a trial to see the rounding-out of character that it produces: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing”, James 1:2-4.

The apostle Paul reminds us “for our light affliction which is for a moment “worketh for us a far more and exceeding and eternal weight of glory”, 2 Cor. 4:17.  Only as we look into the mirror of God’s Word, will we begin to understand more clearly the bigger picture and the wisdom of God in passing us through various trials and tribulations that we go through. As we do, we will be able to sing more convincingly the words of the hymn writer: “every joy or trial falleth from above, traced upon our dial by the Son of love. We may trust Him fully all for us to do, they who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true”.  

And is it so? I shall be like Thy Son, Is this the grace which He, for me, has won?
Father of Glory (thought beyond all thought), In glory to His own blest likeness brought.     

Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

Jacob at Peniel

“And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved.”  Gen. 32:30

Jacob – a more colorful character in all of Scripture there could not be! Contending with his brother before he was born, clutching his brother’s heel as he was born; conniving, cheating, and running most of his life. What a history and what a life! And yet, when we come to Hebrews 11:21, we read that Jacob as an old man, “worshipped, leaning upon his staff”.  Like many believers, God had faithfully seen this patriarch through many snares and pitfalls of personal experience. But how did He do it? How does the Lord do it with any of us? The account of Jacob’s experience at Peniel in Genesis 32 provides the clue and the paints the backdrop to answer this all-important question.

A Rough Start

As a twin, Jacob seemed destined for conflict from the start. His rambunctious personality was evident even before he was born. Rebekah his mother sensed the struggle between the two brothers while yet in her womb. Mothers seem to know the tendencies of their children from their earliest days and Rebekah was no exception. Jacob was rightly called a supplanter and it does not take long in the biblical account that this part of his character was clearly manifested as he bargained for the birthright and stole his brother’s blessing, Gen. 25, 27. Advised by his mother to make a run for it to avoid his brother’s wrath (Gen. 27:43-44), Jacob intended to stay with his uncle Laban for only a “few days”, a plan that turned into years. It was while en route that he had a dramatic encounter with God, Gen. 28:10-22. His elementary understanding of the principles of faith was expanded when he had a vivid dream of angels ascending and descending upon a ladder which had been set up on earth and reached to heaven. It would turn out to be the start of a spiritual journey for this man whose hard ways were symbolized by the rock that he put at his head as he lay down to sleep. It is a wonderful picture of the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ who meets people at their point of need and is Himself the “ladder” set up on earth that reaches to heaven. He is the means of divine communication and is the only avenue for sinful man to connect with God, John 1:51. The promises given to Jacob (v. 15) have their spiritual parallel for the NT believer. It highlights the faithfulness of God and the assurance that He will patiently and faithfully keep everyone who belongs to the “house of God”, (Phil. 1:6; 2 Tim. 1:10; Heb. 10:21). What God promised to do He did throughout Jacob’s sojourn even during the low points (Gen. 31:5; 7) right up to the end of his life, (Heb. 21) as He will do with all who know and love Him.

The Plot Thickens

Despite these assurances however, the attitude of Jacob was far from perfect. Looking out for His own interests, he makes a self-motivated vow to “seal the deal” at Bethel. To his credit, he establishes and anoints a pillar, an indication that he apprehended the importance of the spiritual life, though his understanding of its privileges and priorities were incomplete and carnal at best. But God is gracious and had great things in store for this man, as He does for us! Jacob promises to give the Lord a tenth of his money, provided that God would take care of him and bring him back, as if the Almighty needed his money!  How much like us, who so often are looking more to get than to give. It is the slanted perspective of someone young in the faith who has a long way to go in the school of God. That school with all its difficulties and disciplines was something that Jacob had not yet experienced, but would in time. Despite Jacob’s growing family and his success in business (Gen. 29-31), the life of Jacob for the most part was devoid of any vital testimony for the Lord. Like many Christians, he was knowledgeable of only the basics of the faith and had not progressed beyond a certain level spiritually. God had called him back to Bethel, the place of his spiritual beginnings, (Gen. 31:13) but that return (both practically and spiritually) had not yet occurred. Peniel would become the place in which Jacob would “turn around” would become the defining event in spiritual life.

Jacob’s Defining Moment

Nearly twenty years later, Jacob was still the object of his brother’s scorn. The events of previous years undoubtedly festered and garnered resentment in the mind of Esau. When Jacob came near Edom, it was no surprise that Jacob’s mind was already at work to effect a strategy of self-preservation.  God was still present in his life (Gen. 32:1-2), nevertheless Jacob put together a plan followed by a prayer—vintage Jacob running ahead of the Lord and asking Him to bless his self-driven efforts. How hard it is to die to self and to cast ourselves fully upon the Lord! Yet anyone who has been in similar circumstances understands how pride and self are often the last pillars to fall. His own “me first” attitude was further evidenced when he sent his family over the brook Jabbok, where he remained by  himself (vv. 21-24). It was at this juncture that the Lord began to work in a special way in Jacob’s life. God had already been at work in his life for a long time, first at Bethel and in the years that followed. But God had called him back to Bethel where he had first acknowledged the Lord and priorities of the life of faith. But Jacob, whose strength was more in his legs than his faith always ran from one problem to the next—to every place but Bethel.   

It was while Jacob was all alone at Peniel that the Angel of the Lord, an OT appearance of Christ wrestled with him all night. Often the greatest work that the Lord does in a believer’s life when they are all alone under dire circumstances. The condition was bleak: it was night and Jacob was by himself with nowhere to turn. It was a perfect situation for the Lord to work and demonstrate the truth of His promises. It is also intriguing to note that the Angel of the Lord initiated the wrestling match with Jacob. God had desired change in Jacob’s life all along, but to this point it was minimal on Jacob’s part. Now the Lord was taking further action to effect a deeper change in his life. It occurred after a long struggle that lasted all night. It was not until the Angel of the Lord was successful in getting Jacob to cling to Him and begging to be blessed that this transformation took place. What God had wanted in Jacob (and desires for us as well) was now happening. He had gotten him to the point where he was “close” to the Lord and not relying in his own strength. This same Angel of the Lord that slew 185,000 Assyrians in a single night (2 Kings 19:35) was patiently working to gain another type of victory in the heart of this heir of faith. Touching the hollow of his thigh, He aimed at his strength, making him weak but in the process helping him to prevail. And all it took was a “touch”!  It is a key principle in the school of God as 2 Corinthians 12:9 reminds us of the words of the Lord – “My strength is made perfect in weakness”.  How can we not refrain from declaring: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”, Rom. 11:33?

The Ways of God                 

The scene afterwards of Jacob limping as he headed over the brook Jabbok to face up to his brother Esau is a poignant one indeed. Here was a man who had gloried in his ability to keep one step ahead of his problems, but who had been subdued by the hand of the Lord and made to sense his own frailty before God. What a sight it was – a new walk, limping instead of running; a new direction, heading toward his problems and not away from them; a new name, Israel – “prince with God”; and a new purpose, reconciliation with his brother. What a change had taken place in this man’s life! It was all part of the process of Jacob becoming the person that God wanted him to be and one step closer to getting back to Bethel, Gen. 35.

In many ways, the life of Jacob is a composite picture of God’s work in the life of the Christian. It is certainly a portrait in miniature of God’s faithful and patient dealing with the nation of Israel as He will eventually bring them around to the point of submission, Zech. 12:10. Perhaps the biggest lesson however, is that God’s words and promises are true and He works in our lives, especially in our desperation to bring about significant change in our lives. May that be true for us as well.

August, 2016 Ministry Update

Dear friends in Christ,

Wow! What a month it has been. The “heat is on!” as they say. I cannot remember the last time that it has been so hot and so humid for so long. I often wonder how people survive in heat like this. It is a good reminder to pry for those serving the Lord overseas in environments like this as they minister without some of the modern conveniences that we enjoy here in the States.

Ministry

As we often do each year, we have an opportunity each July to get away for a week of conference ministry at Greenwood Hills, near Chambersburg, PA. This year was a little different in that I was asked to share the children’s meetings with another brother. I took the morning sessions and he took the evening sessions. It was fun teaching the kids, something that I have done on other occasions in other places. I took up the theme, “Super Heroes of the Bible”, a theme I felt would resonant with the kids. They were very attentive as they heard lessons of the some of the heroes of the faith and what made them great in God’s eyes.

The rest of the month of July was filled with speaking at various places including an open air meeting at Ocean Grove, NJ. In August, I will be preforming a wedding for a relative and also getting ready for a busy fall of 11 conferences that will take me to NY, Maine, Texas, Louisiana, and Iowa and many places in between. We would appreciate prayer for us as I travel and minister the Word.

Whiting Bible Study

In September, we will be starting up another year of ministry to this seniors group. We will be studying the book of Acts. I really enjoy this study which is now in its 17th year. Many time the people from this study will visit our meeting and sometime attend our luncheons that we hold every other month.

Bible Conference By the Sea

Please be praying for our annual conference we hold at Harvey Cedars. – our Bible Conference by the Sea. We look forward to this annual event which is both refreshing in the Lord and uplifting through the ministry that is offered for the week.

Family

We would also appreciate prayer as a family. Matthew has been working at Keswick this summer and it has been working out very well for him and we are grateful to the Lord.

We hope you enjoy the rest of the summer. It sure does go quickly!

Mark and Cindy Kolchin – Phil. 1:6

The Requests and Bequests of Our Great High Priest

“And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith”  – Heb. 10:21-22

John 13-17 is arguably one of the most sublime passages in the entire NT.  It is that portion of Scripture that contains the Upper Room discourse of the Lord Jesus—a discourse found in no other Gospel account. It is the tender farewell of a loving Savior as He prepares to return to His Father in Heaven. Directed toward His eleven disciples, it reveals a growing intimacy to those He now calls “friends” (15:15) as He unfolds many of the great truths of the Christian faith later developed in the NT epistles. The scene marks the conclusion of His earthly ministry that would eventually culminate the following day when He would lay down His life as a sacrifice for sin, validated by His resurrection three days later. Truly, having loved His own that were in the world He would love them to the fullest extent–unto the end. (13:1)

The Upper Room Discourse

The farewell ministry of the Savior commences in John 13. There He exemplifies the pattern that should characterize all believers when He humbly kneels and washes His disciple’s feet. It is the display before the discourse. Through this symbolic action, our Lord emphasizes not only to His disciples but to us the need for daily cleansing from sin and the self-abasing attitude that should characterize our service to others. What gracious teaching and what a great example! Then in chapter 14, He highlights what He would also do for us—prepare a place (v. 3), answer prayer (v. 14), and send a Paraclete—the Holy Spirit (v. 16) to comfort and guide us during His absence. All these things emphasize what He would do for us.  But in Chapter 15, He underscores what we should do for Him, namely to be a witness in the world and to bear fruit—much fruit—so that the Father is glorified (15:8).  The discourse crescendos in Chapter 16 as the Lord enlarges upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit, in particular His work toward the world (16:7-11) and toward His own (16:12-15). His teaching has become a deepening and widening channel of truth.  But nowhere are the depths of these truths more keenly sensed than with the words contained in chapter 17, commonly known as our Lord’s High Priestly prayer.

The Intercession of Our Great High Priest

Undoubtedly, John 17 is the apogee of the Lord’s personal ministry to His own occurring on the night before His crucifixion. On this unique occasion, they would have the inestimable privilege of hearing Him passionately pray to the Father on their behalf.  Embodied in that prayer are some of the richest themes in the NT; themes such as election, sanctification, and glorification.  Typically, this chapter depicts the final step in the order of approach to God as portrayed in the service of the OT Tabernacle. Having had His death pictured through His anointing in John 12, and having washed His disciple’s feet in John 13, the Lord then instructs them on a number of profound truths in John 14-16. Respectively, these actions represent the altar, the laver, and the Holy Place in the order of their placement in the Tabernacle.  Now in John 17, He takes them figuratively into the Holiest of All, the very presence of God where as our Great High Priest He intercedes exclusively for the heirs of salvation. It is yet another example of the many offices of our wonderful Savior and accentuates the focus and faithful execution of that office in intercessory ministry.

The Requests of Our Great High Priest

As our Intercessor, the Lord presents seven petitions to the Father: two for Himself (vv. 1-5); two for the disciples (vv. 6-19); and three are for those who would afterwards believe on His Name (vv. 20-26).  His initial request is for the Father to glorify Him so that He would consequently glorify the Father (v. 1).  Indeed that is what transpired at Calvary when He went submissively with the Father to the place of sacrifice just as Isaac did with his father in Gen. 22.  To cry out “Forgive them, they know not what they do…” undoubtedly brought glory to the Father and an immediate answer to His first request. The second one, that the Father would restore Him to His pre-incarnate glory (v. 5) was also be answered soon, just over forty days later when He ascended from Mount Olivet. (Acts 1). These two requests–for His glorification at the Cross and for His restoration to His pre-existent glory–were both answered in short order.

The next two requests dealt with the disciple’s preservation (v. 11) and sanctification (v. 17).  Repeatedly, the Lord referred all believers as having being given to Him (vv. 6, 9, 11, 12, 24). Each believer is in fact, a gift from the Father to the Son.  In v. 11, He entreats: “Keep through Thine own Name those whom Thou hast given Me”.  What greater assurance could any of us have in knowing that the security of our salvation does not depend upon our own abilities to “keep the faith”, but rather in being kept as both the object of the Lord’s prayer and the Father’s power (1 Peter 1:5)?  Further, knowing the deceptive and destructive wiles of the devil, the Lord adds to our assurance by including a plea for our spiritual protection from the evil one (v. 15).  In the same way as He prayed for Peter, He prays for us that our faith fail not (Luke 22:32).  Likewise, He also prays for our sanctification. His petition is: “Sanctify them through Thy truth, Thy word is Truth (v. 17).  It is both the substance and source of our walk with Him—separation from the world and direction from the Word. It comes about as we diligently study the Scriptures and apply them practically in our daily lives. Positionally, these two requests will always be answered since every believer is sanctified by God and preserved in Jesus Christ (Jude 1).  Practically, we will sense the reality of these truths as we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word.      

The final set of petitions is recorded in vv. 20-26. Their focus is upon our unification (v. 21), evangelization (v. 22), and consummation (v. 24).  His prayer is that we would be one, just as the Father and the Son are One. Congregations by the scores and individual Christians everywhere need to be reminded of this significant request of our Savior!  Doctrinal integrity is a must, but so is the putting away of petty disagreements and personality differences if unity is to occur. The apostolic Church was known both for their steadfastness in the truth and their love for each other. There was a cohesion then that desperately needs to be exhibited today. When that occurs, we can be sure the difficult task of world evangelization will be helped in some measure. Never mind the assessment of the church growth “gurus”, the Savior’s assessment is that unification among believers has to happen if ever the world is going to respond positively to the truth of the Gospel (vv. 21, 23). The Lord beautifully concludes this masterpiece of prayer by stating His ultimate desire that they would be with Him where He is, so that they would behold His glory—a prayer that is answered every time a believer in Christ leaves this world and called Home to heaven.    

The Bequests of Our Great High Priest

Not only does this chapter contain the requests of our Great High Priest, but it also cites a number of His bequests—those things that He has left us as part of our spiritual inheritance. Eternal life based on the proper understanding of the true God and His Son is the first item identified as the gift of the Savior to us (v. 3). Another is the manifestation of the Father’s name (v. 6, 26).  This is the clear conception of the true God that He transmitted to us through His ministry on earth (2 Cor. 4:6). Just before this He stated to Philip, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).  Further, He has given us the words of the Father (v. 8, 14), conveying eternal truths from the throne room of heaven which contradicted the doctrines of men. And lastly from this passage, He has bequeathed to us His joy (v. 13) and His glory (v. 22); the joy of fellowship with the Father and His glory that radiates through us when we are abiding in Him.         

The High Priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus is a spiritual treasure trove of incalculable worth. To mediate upon these glorious requests of our loving Savior and what He has provided for us through His intercessory work will not only lift our hearts in grateful adoration, but strengthen our resolve to live whole-heartedly for the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.     

The Simplicity That is in Christ

‘But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 11. 3

Simplicity in the gospel

One of the outstanding aspects of the gospel is its simplicity. To understand that salvation is simply a matter of acknowledging our need of Christ and looking to Him through faith alone to remove the penalty of sin and to make us citizens of Heaven is nothing short of amazing. Well can we sing the words of that enduring hymn, ‘Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!’ Indeed it is amazing grace and the heart that is fully occupied with the Lord Jesus and His gracious work toward us will never tire of singing those glorious strains. It truly is ‘love divine, all loves excelling’.  How grateful we are for our salvation and what a debt we owe!  His love has been shed abroad in our hearts so that it can be shed abroad from our hearts. It fills us with praise and adoration making us instant in season to proclaim the gospel to all around so that they too can enter into the same love and appreciation for the Saviour.

We do not rely on our own wisdom or elaborate explanation to win people to Christ, but strive to be like Paul who confessed to the Corinthians. ‘And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God, 1 Cor. 2. 1. False teachers had attempted to corrupt their thinking using strategies of philosophy and dialectics and so we should be on guard lest our thinking and preaching is also corrupted through reliance upon our own wisdom and strength. The gospel does not need to be propped up, nor does it need to rely upon our powers of persuasion or cleverly-packaged programming, but rather on the plain, unadulterated Word of God. We should preach with this in mind and leave the results with God.

Apostolic example

The apostles and other servants of the Lord did so; we should do the same. When the Apostle Paul travelled to Athens and stood on Mars Hill before an antagonistic crowd, Acts 17, he unabashedly presented the Person of the Christ and the exclusivity of the gospel as the only means of salvation. In the midst of rampant idolatry, he boldly proclaimed, ‘Him declare I unto you’, v. 23. It was a simple message that stood in contrast to the various religious and philosophical sophistries that resided atop the Areopagus and nearby vicinity. He did not map out a ‘seeker-sensitive’ strategy before he preached but instead, swung the gospel hammer and broke through stony hearts to the glory of God, Jer. 23. 29. We would do well to do the same.

Simplicity in worship

Not only is it important to emphasize the simplicity of the gospel in our preaching, but we should stress it in our worship as well. We should be like that leper in Luke chapter 17 who being healed of his dread disease, rushed back to thank the Lord for the miraculous work that God had done in his life. We too have been healed of the dreadful disease of sin and should return to give Him thanks regularly. The early disciples worshiped together on a weekly basis according to Acts 20 verse 7 and were occupied with but one Person-the Lord Jesus. Boldness was also a recognized result of being with Jesus and people will recognize that we too have been with Jesus as we witness for Him, Acts 4. 13. Moses face was radiant after being in the presence of the Lord (Ex. 34. 29) and we will be radiant as we spend time in the Lord’s presence.

Worship is not about performing, but rather about prostrating ourselves in the sacrifice of praise. When the Old Testament priests entered the Tabernacle to worship the Lord they saw themselves in the mirrors that made up the base of the brazen altar Exod. 38. 8. When we come to worship we cannot help but ‘see’ ourselves in the light of gospel truth-what we were and what we are now in Christ. Amazingly, we are what we are now despite of what we were then. Without reservation we can say, ‘We love Him, because He first loved us’.

Worship is always Christ centered

Not only do we love Him, but we look to Him because He is our Shepherd and we daily need His help and guidance. We also live for Him because we know that there are others who are watching our lives closely and could ask us at any time about the hope that lies within us, 1 Peter 3. 15. We love Him and look to Him and live for Him and therefore it makes perfect sense that our gatherings should emphasize Him and not allow anything to dilute or distract from that emphasis. There is nothing that thrills our souls more than when we set our affections and focus our attention on the Lord. We are not to be those that are taken up with religious trappings–ceremonies and rituals and traditions of man, but rather we are taken up with Christ. Like Simeon of old who upon entering the temple where the Lord Jesus was being presented as a little child, embraced Him and blessed Him proclaiming, ‘Mine eyes have seen thy salvation’ Luke 2. 25-35. Simeon’s actions underscore the truth that salvation and heart-felt worship is not centered in a place or in performance, but in a Person.

First experiences of Christian simplicity

When I first entered through the doors years ago where a company of Christians were meeting solely in the Lord’s Name and gathered to worship Him, one of the first things that stood out to me was the simplicity of the meeting. There were no stained glass windows, no relics, no icons, no special titles recognized, no priestly vestments worn by those who addressed the audience, no candles, and no religious or cryptic-looking symbols on the wall. In many respects it was a regular looking room. There was a verse on the wall however which read. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His begotten only Son…’ Coming from an unsaved background and not yet a believer, these words were easy to understand and together with the simplicity of the meeting became far less intimidating than I had supposed it would be when I first walked through the doors.

What was also unusual to me was that there were no offerings taken. I kept looking around to try to figure out who was in charge but no one appeared to be dressed differently or the leader above the rest. When the speaker got up to address the audience, he spoke in such a clear and simple way that I understood completely what he was saying, even though I knew nothing about the Bible. It was as though he was talking directly to me. As he spoke of Christ, tears trickled down his cheeks, though he remained calm and dignified. His voice did not quiver nor was there any histrionics in his manner. I had never heard nor seen such a thing in my religious life before and so it made quite an impression on me. No one cornered me as I left; but on the other hand, they did not have to since I was planning to return anyway. Like John Wesley, my heart was also ‘strangely warmed’. One thing was sure; more was ‘said’ by what I saw than by what I heard. That was my first experience of this kind of meeting and its simplicity truly made a difference to me.

As our world becomes more technologically advanced and we are ‘wowed’ at every turn by new and eye-popping innovations, there will always be subtle pressure upon the churches to borrow from worldly sources to make the gospel message more impressive and less offensive. The same pressure will demand to make the Christian life more palatable to them to the unbeliever in order to attract them to it. But what will speak more powerfully to the all around us will be ‘a changed life’ as the result of the simplicity that is in the gospel of Christ. This is what will always need to be protected. It will be demonstrated by a genuine relationship with the Lord Jesus, adorned not by ecclesiastical traditions, but by a transparent life declared in the simplicity of worship and the plain declaration of God’s Word and His great love for the entire world.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9

It is in this verse that the apostle Paul summarizes the salvation work of our Lord Jesus. The One who is pictured elsewhere in Scripture as the nobleman in Luke 19, the great man of wealth in Ruth 2, and referred to as the Heir of all things in Heb 1, is also the One who willingly gave up the blessings of heaven so that we might be “rich” from a spiritual standpoint. As such, He did not count the glories of His position a thing to be clutched to but instead gave them up so that we through His poverty might be “rich”. And rich we are! Because of this wonderful grace which was shed on us abundantly in Jesus Christ (Titus 3:6), we are like Rebekah, who came into a vast wealth by nature of her relationship with Isaac, Gen. 24. In the same way, we too have become rich as heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, Rom. 8:17. We have obtained an inheritance (Eph. 1:10) and likewise are being led across the vast wilderness of this world by the Unnamed Servant who takes no glory for Himself, but glorifies the Master. Eventually, we too will come face to face with the One we love, though we have not seen Him and will at that time enter more fully into our inheritance, 1 Peter 1:4. No wonder it is called “amazing grace”!

Because of this selfless example, Paul goes on to encourage the Corinthians to exhibit the same attitude in their lives in the grace of giving. He calls it a grace because it is bestowed by the Spirit of God who causes this activity to occur for benefit of others. Just as the Macedonian believers demonstrated this grace to the saints in Jerusalem (vv. 1-2), he exhorts the Corinthians to follow the example of the Lord Jesus, the epitome of grace and glory. He urges them to adopt the same attitude and put aside their own comforts and interests to help meet the practical needs of fellow believers. By doing so, they are exhibiting the same type grace that the Lord Jesus demonstrated in His salvation work.

The grace of our Lord Jesus is evident not only in His salvation work but in other ways as well. It characterized His earthly then and is comprises His intercessory ministry from heaven now. In His earthly ministry, it was expressed this grace through words. There must have been something in the tone of His voice that communicated kindness and compassion as well as authority. Certainly, that grace must have been present when He said to the woman taken in adultery, “Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more”, John 8:11. It was there when He read a portion of Isaiah 6 in the synagogue when He dramatically paused mid-sentence, causing the people wonder at the graciousness of the words that proceeded from His lips, Luke 4:22. On another occasion, the officers of the people openly declared “never a man spake like this man”, John 7:46. They had to admit even though they did not believe in Him, His words had weight and an air of authority to them. In this way, Psalm 45:2 was prophetically fulfilled when David declared centuries before: “Grace is poured into thy lips”. It also answers to the voice of the bride to her Bridegroom in Song 5:15-16 when she says that his lips drop sweet-smelling myrrh, whose mouth…(or words) [are]most sweet. It should be a challenge to us to follow the example of our Savior in learning to be gracious in our response to others.

The grace of our Lord Jesus was also evident in His walk and work. Luke 2:40 states: “the Child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him”. The grace or favor of God was always upon the Lord Jesus. Just how that was manifested is not described, but it must have included the manner in which He walked among men. When John, saw Him, he declared, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world”. Acts 10:38 states that He “went about doing good and healing all those who oppressed of the devil”. Not only did that kindness show itself in His attitude but in His actions. He healed the sick, raised the dead and did many other good works to many different people. He even demonstrated this grace toward those who rejected or ignored His message. To the rich young ruler who turned away from His offer to follow Him was this grace shown. Instead of chiding him as we might do when someone spurned our overtures, the Word of God says that “beholding him, He loved him”, Mark 10:21. Now that’s grace! When Malchus, the high priest’s servant came with the entourage to arrest Him in the Garden, the Lord healed Malchus’ ear which had been sliced off by Peter. That’s grace! And to Judas, who came to betray Him, He met with the words, “Friend, why art thou come?” Friend? Now that is grace beyond belief! All this pales in comparison however to the grace that was manifested at Calvary. To the crowd at the Cross that mocked, jeered, ridiculed, plucked, spit upon, scorned and did all manner of evil to Him, He did not revile, nor threaten, or open His mouth in retaliation, but graciously replied: “Father, forgive them they know not what they do”. By doing so, He opened the Life gates of seventh and final City of refuge, that all may go in –to them and to all of humanity whom they represented. It is this grace which brings salvation (Titus 2:11) which the Law of Moses could never do. “The law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). This grace is the grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!

But the grace of our Lord Jesus does not stop there! It continues on in His heavenly ministry to us. “Of His grace have we all received and grace for grace” (literally grace upon grace), John 1:17. It flows freely. We have been forgiven according to the riches of His grace, Eph. 1:7. It has been shed upon us abundantly in Jesus Christ. By it, we have access into the presence of God (Rom. 5:1) being freely justified by it, Rom. 3:24. Consequently, we should never tire of testifying of the Gospel of the grace of God, Acts 20:24. We should sing about it in our hearts to the Lord (Col. 3:16), to the praise of the glory of His grace, Eph. 1: 6. Through it, we are equipped to serve Him and His people, 1 Cor. 3:10. Because it comes from Him (Eph. 3:7-8) according to the measure of the gift of Christ, (Eph. 4:7), we should never glory in our abilities, but should give Him the honor, Rom. 12:3; 1 Cor. 4:7. Through it we are built up and given an inheritance, Acts 20:32. At times, this grace is dispensed freely from His throne of grace as a kindness to us. Other times, we must boldly approach the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, Heb. 4:16. The grace that drives our service and gives us the power and desire to do His will, increases along with peace through the knowledge of Him, 2 Peter 1:3. It is what we are urged to continually grow in as we mature in the faith and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:15. We are to be occupied with grace, not externals of the faith which does not profit, Heb. 13:9. It is what should season our words (Col. 4:6) that it may instill a holy desire in others whom we talk with to serve the Lord more fervently, Eph. 4:30. Grace everywhere! “Grace, Tis a charming sound”!

There are many dimensions to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, both in His earthly ministry and in His heavenly ministry toward us. Will we ever be able to fully plumb its depths? No wonder Paul prayed that the Ephesians would understand what is the breadth, and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge…”, Eph. 3:18-19. Regardless of where we are in our walk with the Lord, surely we can testify with confidence and conviction that “It is grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.”!

The Message and the Messenger

When Paul came to Mar’s Hill in Athens during his second missionary journey, he was completely by himself. Timothy and Silas, his associates in ministry had been left in Berea, while he was sent away by the brethren due to the dangerous and escalating conditions there (Acts 17:13). The unbelieving Jews who had stirred up the crowds in Thessalonica were intent on doing the same in Berea and consequently the apostle had to flee the area for his own safety.

Arriving in Athens, the apostle discovered a culture steeped in pagan idolatry. Surrounding him were the abundant evidences of man’s dark and fallen nature. The scene deeply provoked his spirit as he witnessed firsthand the grip that sin has over the hearts and minds of people, whom God had created in His own image. Not one for standing idle, the former Pharisee made a beeline for the local synagogue reasoning with the Jews and devout Gentiles and daily with those in the marketplace who would meet with him. Others, like the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers adversely encountered him, ridiculing and questioning his new and unique message of Jesus and the resurrection (v. 18). Not backing away and always ready to give an answer, Paul certainly relished the opportunity to clarify his message to these religious curiosity seekers (v. 20), who brought him to Mars Hill, the central meeting place in town. What followed was a concise, yet effective presentation of the Gospel in all its simplicity, demonstrating that is the power of God unto salvation—a message for everyone regardless of their cultural background or personal persuasions. It clearly shows that the Gospel can stand on its own and does not require any props or apologies to ramp up to its audience, no matter how diverse that audience may be. It is also a display case of the qualities and attitudes that are behind any successful Gospel ministry. What were some of the qualities and attitudes that Paul exhibited in this proclamation of the truth, qualities that we need to likewise embrace in our diverse, but depraved culture?

First, Paul demonstrated the quality of boldness. Without spiritual back up, Paul might have been tempted to waffle at the opportunity speak to the crowd assembled on Mars Hill. But standing in their midst, surrounded by an adverse and potentially dangerous audience he boldly proclaimed the truth of the Gospel. The scripture reminds us, “the righteous are as bold as a lion” (Prov. 28.1) and certainly Paul was that as he single-handedly preached the Word to them—“a stranger in a stranger land” with a “strange” message to a really strange audience. Paul was bold in the Lord and we need to be bold in the Lord, too.

Paul also exhibited respect. Even though he knew that he had to speak the truth in love, he also knew that he needed to “adorn the doctrine of God” (Titus 2: 10) and emulate the Savior who brought a message that was both “grace and truth” (John 1: 17). He knew that many, if not all of them were lost in the darkness of sin and were fundamentally opposed to the Gospel of Christ, but still there was no attitude of condescension in his opening remarks. Rather, he acknowledged what they were—not superstitious but religious and devoted to their cause. He commended them for their intensity (albeit misdirected intensity) and by so doing gained a listening ear, at least initially. We also need to be respectful in our presentation of the truth.

Paul was also direct in his message. He was frank about the core issue – ignorance of God and His way of salvation. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you” (v. 23). The altar dedicated and inscribed with the words “to the unknown God” only heralded their misconception of the true God. Paul did not “beat around the bush” or sidestep the issue, but was direct in his words, dealing with the real matter at hand. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand” Paul reminded the believers in Rome (Rom. 13:12) and the time is short for us as well. “Let the redeemed of the Lord, say so!” (Ps. 107:2).

Paul was also logical in his presentation. He was orderly in his argument. The major tenets of his message were: 1) they were religious, but ignorant (vv. 22-23); 2) the God Whom they do not know controls them and not the other way around (vv. 24-27); 3) we are the offspring of a personal God, and therefore should not worship Him with fanciful images and carvings (vv. 28-29); 4) their ignorance in the past God overlooked, but now calls people to repent based on Christ’s resurrection from the dead (vv. 29-31). At first, there was resistance to the message, but that resistance was countered by Paul’s powerful refutation, which was clear, orderly and logical in its development. Our messages should be the same. “The Preacher …set [s] in order many proverbs” (Ecc. 12:9).

As is often the case, whenever the Gospel is preached there is a varied response to the message. In this case, here there was ridicule and indifference (v. 32) but also belief unto the truth (v.34). The fact that there were not more “decisions” for the Lord was not because Paul did not effectively present the truth–it was because wherever the Gospel seed is sown there will always be hard ground that prevents it from taking root as well as indecisive hearts that have not yet been willing to release their grip from the pull of the world.

Paul’s message at Mar’s Hill was brief, but it was long enough to show us some of the essential qualities of the simple Gospel message that we also need to exhibit regularly in our preaching of the Word. May we be bold and respectful, direct and logical as we too bring the Gospel message with us, wherever we go.

Refreshment and Revival

“As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” Prov. 25:25

I will never forget the experience. It was a sizzling hot summer day when a group of men in our fellowship played another team in a softball game. When we started, we were all very energetic and ready to play. But as the game wore on, so did we. Halfway through the arduous event, with our arms and shoulders drooping (and our spirits as well), someone showed up with an ample supply of ice cold water and an array of soft drinks. What a surprise and what a blessing! It did not take long for that source of refreshment to be tapped into and enjoyed. And did we ever appreciate it! The effect it had on me as well as the rest of the team was astounding. There was a new supply of energy and a renewed vigor in my step as I related to one of my teammates at the time. We were all refreshed and revitalized as a team and we were able to complete the task we had set out to do from the very beginning – not just to play the game, but to finish it and win.

In many ways, this seemingly trivial incident in the grand scheme of things is remarkably similar to what can occur in our life with Christ and our service for Him. Periodically, we can succumb to the heat of the day and scorching cares of life. They can wither our resolve, sap our spiritual strength and slacken our pace from pressing on for Christ. Energetic and enthusiastic at first, we are determined to do well and finish strong. But in the battle, we falter under the strain and sag in our spirit. Unfortunately for some, it has been that way far too long. The words of Paul to the Galatians seem very fitting: “You did run well, who did hinder you that you should not obey the truth?” (Gal. 5:7). Resolve can quickly fade like the setting sun (Judges 5:15).

But God in His mercy and grace has a way of helping us out in these situations just at the time we need it most. Like it was on that summer day on the ballfield, “someone” shows up (most certainly under the Lord’s direction) with a refreshing supply of “cold water” for our weary souls. How it encourages our hearts and revives our spirits! It might be a simple verse that speaks to a need at the time or an account of answered prayer that lifts our hearts. Or it may be an outstanding report of God’s power and might at work in a distant land – good news from a far country – that recaptures for us the hope that God’s ways will yet prevail. It has a wonderful way of renewing our spirits and lengthening our spiritual stride and its effect is often immediate and undeniable. Thank God for His “someones” who show up in our lives in our time of need.

From another point of view however, we can also be looking to be that “someone” to others who are within our spiritual reach. Service for Christ and prayer for His servants (both abroad and home) are ways in which we can be a source of blessing and refreshment. The battle can be heated at times and constant targeted prayer is an absolute necessity (Acts 12:5). Just as Joshua prevailed against Amalek only as Moses hands were held up and steady until the going down of the sun, (Ex. 17:12-13); so too the battles of the Lord are fought and won as God’s people are steadfast in prayer (1 Thess. 5:17). We need the help of each other to continue in prayer and those on the front lines desperately need our prayers. They need it and appreciate it! Israel prevailed because Joshua used the sword while Moses prayed. It is a tremendous picture of the means of victory – prayer and the Word of God.

God has His ways of providing help and refreshment when our steps are faltering. Whether we are on the giving end or the receiving end, He is faithful to His people and His Word. He is the source of all blessing and as the psalmist attested, “All my springs are in Thee” (Psalms 87:7). May we learn even more the meaning of these words in our walk with Christ.

“For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.” Philemon 7

Copyright © 2019 Know the Word Ministries. All Rights Reserved. Designed and Developed by Louise Street Marketing.