The Friends of the Nazarene On-line Magazine

Volume 3 - October 2000 (46 pages)

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: Nazarene Saints Publishing© is a Bible research group for a better Scriptural understanding. We are dedicated to the preservation and publishing of Christian writings which aid Friends of the Nazarene© to "follow the Lamb no matter where he goes." (John 15:14; 3 John 14; Revelation 14:4) The Friends of the Nazarene© are a spiritual community of Messianic Christians. We are apologists dedicated to the defense of the truth that "God is One" and not three. The Bible is our creed. We view this "God-breathed" Book as inspired alone, while the thoughts of men about it are not. We wish to show respect for our multitude of Christian brethren. (1 Peter 3:15)

Contributors:
Mark Miller / Senior Editor ( Hemet, California, USA
Ralph Slaney / Senior Spanish editor ( Almeria, Spain
Luis Padilla / Spanish Editor ( Whittier, USA
Andy Weeks / Editor [Webmaster] ( Chicago, USA
Andrew Foss / Hebrew editor (Belmont Shores, California, USA
Sergei Kremenitsky, Russian translator, Kiev, Ukraine].

IN THIS ISSUE

 

·         ANNOUNCEMENTS

·         FAITH PERSPECTIVES

·         NC2000 CDs ANNOUNCEMENT

·         GOD’S CURE FOR THE WEARY CHRISTIAN

·         REMEMBER THE CREATOR WHILE YOUNG [Ecclesiastes 12]

·         HOW TO KNOW THE GOD-BORN [1 JOHN]

·         FAITH – HOW CAN IT BE REALIZED?

·         “ORGANIZATION” – GOOD OR BAD?

·         HOW TO LOVE OUR GOD

·         THE LAYING ON OF HANDS

·         HOW MANY WERE PRESENT AT PENTECOST?

·         SIX BASIC TEACHINGS

·         WHEN THINKING ABOUT OTHERS

·         YOU MUST BE HOLY

·         MY SHEPHERD IS YEHOWAH

ANNOUNCEMENTS

·         WELCOME NEW CONTRIBUTORS: We wish to welcome a new contributor to the Friends of the Nazarene magazine – James Noble from Long Beach, California. Beginning with this issue all articles will carry the name of the author[s]. The author’s email address will be added should you wish to contact them directly.

·         FALL CONFERENCE REPORT: The meeting was introduced by Mark Miller following prayer. Warm welcome and greetings were read from England, Oregon, Spain, and Canada. The Friends were very happy to hear from like-minded Christians in other parts of the world. Luis Padilla Jr., 10 years old, gave a 2 minute comment on a verse of his own choosing, Matthew 5:8. The audience applauded this young lad’s good example. Luis Padilla then delivered a lecture on the subject of An Enthroned Messiah using Psalm 2 as the basic format. He showed how both Peter and Paul had quoted various verses in the Psalm and thus proved that Messiah became King upon his ascension to heaven in the year 33 AD. His discussion also included audience participation. Mark Miller followed with a three-part program on Searching the Scriptures. This first part was an audience discussion of Romans chapter 12 around the theme of Body Unity and the Transformed Mind. Romans 12:1, 2 were discussed with the audience. Then the various gifts given to members of the Body of Christ were discussed with the audience making expressions on how each of these could contribute to church unity. Finally, some of the more than two dozen Christian attributes were discussed from the standpoint of how these could contribute to congregational harmony. Mark Miller handled the second portion of Searching the Scriptures based on Luke chapter 24 and the theme, “Were Our Hearts Not Burning?” It was stressed that despite his resurrection, the Scriptures remained he basis for Christ’s teachings. The third portion of Searching the Scriptures was handled by Luis Padilla on the subject of Survivors of the Great Oppression based on Revelation chapter 7. The discussion centered on the identity of the “large crowd” that was to “come out of the great oppression.” Several views were mentioned and then using audience discussion brother Padilla helped the group to see that the 144,000 and the Large Crowd were the same and referred to the end-time Saints alive when Christ returned. He analyzed thoroughly the phrases “in sight of the throne” and “in His Temple” showing that both referred to heaven. Various announcements were made before Mark Miller handled the concluding portion. It was announced that the Nazarene Commentary 2000© CD was now available in Microsoft Windows format. Also, some hard copy materials were made available to the audience. Mark Miller opened the audience to a free discussion on any questions or thoughts from anyone present. Subjects included dealing with the conflict between and earthly and a heavenly hope. Matthew 6:10 and Psalm 37:29 were discussed. The tension between conviction and dogmatism were considered. The evil of religious control was covered. How to let the Bible interpret itself was a subject raised. Henotheism was brought up. Coping with depression and Paul’s words “a season of groaning pain” were discussed. We were saddened that four families had difficulty in getting to the Friends Seminar as “Satan cut across their paths.

·         WINTER CONFERENCE: A seminar is being planned for early January. Luis Padilla will be the chairman and he may be contacted regarding details.

·         Nazarene Commentary 2000©: Three new CDs have been prepared and are available now. For details see the article below.

·         CORRESPONDANCE COURSE: The email correspondence course is being conducted with Bible students in the USA, Canada, England, and Belgium. If you are interested in this course contact Mark Miller.

·         RUSSIAN NAZARENE PRINCIPLES STUDY TRACT: We are happy to announce that a Russian translation of a Bible study tract or booklet is being prepared by our brother Sergei in the Ukraine.

·         A CHRISTIAN MAGAZINE: This small monthly magazine is published in Spain and contains articles and encouraging information along with fine graphics. If you wish a hard copy by snail mail please contact the editor, Ralph Slaney.

 

FAITH PERSPECTIVES

Erasmus (1520 AD): "If we want truth,
every person ought to be free to speak what they think
without fear."
 

[A forum for the free and open expression of beliefs without fear.
We welcome brief thoughts and articles on any appropriate subject
addressed in a kind and respectful manner.]

WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT:

An interesting web [site], which looks at the Scriptures in a more balanced way. … So this web page makes an interesting reading, without being dogmatic!!!! [England]

 >>>>>

This is a terrific magazine. Before I found your web site … Nazarene Saints is beyond the Watchtower. It's just what I hoped for and needed. I'm sure there are many others who feel and will feel the same. [Long Beach]

Nazarene Commentary 2000© CD-ROMS

By Mark Heber Miller, Hemet, California -

 

Three CD-ROMs are being prepared that contain all the material in Nazarene Commentary 2000©. There are three CDs and we are asking for a donation of $20 for each disc, or $50 for all three. These three CDs contain:

 

CD-1 -- Nazarene Commentary 2000©

[NCMM]

This disc contains a new version of the Christian Bible [New Testament] with a footnote commentary on every phrase from Matthew to Revelation [including Daniel]. The features of this new rendering include:

 

·         A new rendering on most of the books of the New Testament. A few books are based on the Revised Standard Version and Weymouth Translation.

·         An interlinear example on Romans and Jude

·         Literal and paraphrase versions on Ephesians and First John

·         Every phrase is compared against various translations and most include the King James Version

·         Key Greek words are footnoted and referenced, many with Strong’s numbers

·         Cross references based on a computer search are provided

·         Phrases or verses quoted from the Old Testament appear in blue

·         Phrases in the Old Testament alluded to appear in green

·         The words of Jesus are in red

·         Key subjects are cross-referenced to more details else where in Nazarene Commentary 2000©.

·         Each chapter, and some paragraphs include review questions for study

·         Every chapter and paragraph has a topic heading for ease of memory

 

CD-2 -- Nazarene Commentary 2000© [BIBLICAL ARTICLES]

This CD contains 812 pages of about 150 articles and many more subjects dealing with Biblical topics. These cover materials in the Friends of the Nazarene monthly magazine from June 1997 to October 2000. A list of these articles is provided below.

 

BIBLICAL ARTICLES – A [219 PAGES]

 

·         DO NOT JOIN THEM! [LUKE 21:8]

·         Does John 14:19 Prove the Return of Christ Will Be Invisible?

·         What Is the Meaning of Daniel 8:14?

·         How Is 1 Thessalonians 4:17 To Be Understood?

·         What is "Spirituality"? [1 Corinthians 2]

·         What is the first mention of the "resurrection" in the Bible?

·         The Only True Religion---Does the Bible teach it?

·         Why We Cannot Preach These Are "the Last Days"?

·         How Jesus Died on Both a Tree and a Stake?

·         Is The Bible Inspired? [2 Timothy 3:16]

·         WHAT IS "THIS GENERATION"? [Matthew 24:34]

·         CELEBRATING The "MEMORIAL" OF CHRIST’S DEATH [1 Cor 11:26]

·         The "LITTLE FLOCK" AND "The FAITHFUL STEWARD" [luke 12:32]

·         Who Are the Ones That Belong to the Father?

·         NAZARENE LOVE [1 Corinthians 13]

·         THE TENT OF YAHWEH [psalm 15]

·         THE PAROUSIA FOLLOWS THE GREAT TRIBULATION! [Matthew 24:29]

·         The parousia-Judgment [2 Corinthians 5:10]

·         THE NEW TESTAMENT CANON

·         WHAT ARE "THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES"? [luke 21:24]

·         DO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCES POINT TO A CREATOR? [Romans 1:20]

·         WHAT IS THE "HOLY SPIRIT"?

·         WAS THE FLOOD LOCAL OR GLOBAL? [genesis 6-9]

·         WAS JESUS RAISED IN A FLESHLY HUMAN BODY? [1 peter 3:18]

·         DOES GOD EXIST? [psalm 14:1]

·         Dogmatism versus Conviction

·         HOW TO CONDUCT A BIBLE DISCUSSION

·         "THINK JUST AS CHRIST THOUGHT!" [1 Corinthians 2:16]

·         THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS [proverbs 1, 2, 13]

·         THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS [proverbs 13:11-20]

·         DO THE NAZARENE SAINTS "WORSHIP" TWO GODS? [john 1:18]

·         MAY PRAYERS BE DIRECTED TO JESUS RATHER THAN HIS FATHER?

·         ARE THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT STILL AVAILABLE TODAY? [1 cor 12, 13]

·         THE HOLY SPIRIT AS "HELPER" [john 14-16]

·         ARE THERE TWO CHOICES OR OPTIONS FOR CHRISTIANS: HEAVEN OR EARTH?

·         WHO ARE THE "SHEEP" AND "GOATS"? [Matthew 25:31-46]

·         THE HOPE OF THE PATRIARCHS [hebrews 11]

·         THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS [proverbs 13:21-24]

·         A LOVING DISCIPLE OF THE NAZARENE [1 Corinthians 13]

·         "TABERNACLE SHADOWS"

·         CHRISTIAN GIVING -- the Way to Spiritual Perfection

·         THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS [proverbs 14:1-5]

·         WHEN IS SATAN CAST OUT OF HEAVEN? [Revelation 12:10-12]

·         THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS [proverbs 14:6-14]

·         THE FUNDAMENTALS

 

 

BIBLICAL ARTICLES – b [188 PAGES]

 

·         The Divine Name and Your Favorite Translation

·         THE PROPHETIC HORIZON: How We Can Know the Future

·         THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS [proverbs 14:15-20]

·         THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS [proverbs 14:21-34]

·         REGARDING HEBREWS 7:1-3

·         ARE THE "TWO PROPHETS" AMONG US? [Revelation 11]

·         WITH WHOM IS THE "NEW COVENANT" MADE? [jeremiah 31:31-35]

·         THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS [proverbs 23:1-11]

·         "FOLLOW THE LAMB" [Revelation 14:4, 5]

·         WHAT IS WRONG WITH CHRISTIANS TODAY?

·         THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS [proverbs 23:12-19]

·         WHO HAS "THE TRUTH"?

·         PAY ATTENTION TO THE WORD OF PROPHECY [2 peter 1]

·         What is "The Love"? [1 Corinthians 13]

·         WHO IS THE "ONLY POTENTATE"? [1 Timothy 6:15]

·         GUARD AGAINST EVERY KIND OF GREED! [luke 12:15]

·         WHAT IS THE "BODY" AND WHO ARE THE "EAGLES"? [Mt 24:28; lk 17:37]

·         WHERE TO FIND “INSPIRED INTERPRETATIONS”

·         GOD AND JUDGMENT

·         A WARNING TO THE JUDGMENTAL! [Matthew 7:1, 2]

·         THE MEANING OF ROMANS CHAPTER 11

·         “YOU ARE NOT PART OF THE WORLD” [john 15:19]

·         WHAT ARE “TEACHINGS OF DEMONS”? [1 Timothy 4:1]

·         THE RESPONSIBILITY OF CHRISTIAN ELDERS [1 Timothy 3:1; titus 1:5]

·         WHAT MAKES WORSHIP “WORTHLESS”? [Matthew 15:9; james 1:26, 27]

·         THE FIFTEEN STEPS TO HEAVENLY GLORY

·         ARE THE “LAST DAYS” 2,000 YEARS LONG?

·         “COMMAND OTHERS NOT TO TEACH DIFFERENT DOCTRINE!”

·         WORTHLESS RELIGION AND DEAD FAITH

·         WALKING IN CHRIST’S DOCTRINE [2 john]

·         IMITATE GOOD AND NOT BAD [3 john]

·         “SEAL NOT THIS BOOK!” [Revelation 22:10]

·         HOW TO KNOW ONE IS BORN OF GOD [1 john]

·         WHERE WILL CHRISTIAN’S SPEND ETERNITY? [2 Corinthians 5:1]

·         DID CHRIST HAVE A PRE-EXISTENCE? [john 17:5]

·         EVERY CHRISTIAN AN EVANGELIST!

·         WHAT IS “ARMAGEDDON”? [Revelation 16:14, 16]

·         Should “Hebrews” Contain the Tetragram?

·         “IS CHRIST DIVIDED?” [1 Corinthians 1:10]

·         priests in the “more perfect tent” [hebrews 9, 10]

 

 

BIBLICAL ARTICLES -- C [208 PAGES]

 

 

·         “BEHOLD, A WHITE HORSE!” [Revelation 6:1, 2]

·         An Allusion to Christ’s Pre-existence in the Synoptics

·         EIGHT THINGS TO MAKE YOUR CALLING SURE  [2 Peter chapter 1]

·         OUR LORD TAUGHT THE RAPTURE! [1 Thessalonians 4:15]

·         NAZARENE PRINCIPLES [TRACT]

·         SEAL NOT THIS BOOK! [TRACT]

·         THE PROPHETIC HORIZON [TRACT]

·         FOLLOW THE LAMB [TRACT]

·         KEEP MY SABBATHS AND STAND IN AWE!

·         SIN OFFERING

·         THE BIBLICAL WOMAN

·         WHAT IS THE “GOSPEL”?

·         AGREE TO DISAGREE?

·         A DIFFERENT JESUS

·         BEHOLD, A RED HORSE

·         WHAT IS THE “REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST”?

·         FIRSTBORN MEANS “FIRST-CREATED”

·         KEY WORDS OF THE BIBLE

·         AFFIRMATION OF CONVICTIONS

·         OBSERVING THE LORD’S SUPPER IN A WORTHY MANNER

·         MESSIAH’S SUFFERING AND DEATH FORETOLD

BIBLICAL ARTICLES -- D [197 PAGES]

·         CHRIST – THE DAY OF DEATH BETTER THAN THE DAY OF BIRTH

·         DO BUSINESS UNTIL I RETURN

·         BIBLE THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

·         NAZARENE PRINCIPLES – BIBLE STUDY BOOKLET

·         THE “LOVE BOMB”

·         JEHOVAH IS OUR LAWGIVER [Isaiah 33:22]

·         FOR FREEDOM CHRIST HAS SET US FREE [GAL 5:1]

·         MESSIAH’S PRE-EXISTENCE IN THE HEBREW BIBLE

·         WHAT WE LEARN FROM YOUR LETTERS [REV 2, 3]

·         WHAT KIND OF CONGREGATION WILL YOU BE? [REV 2, 3]

·         BIBLE QUESTIONS ANSWERED

·         TWO KINDS OF FOUNDATIONS [LUKE 6]

·         FRUITAGE THAT PREVENTS REMOVAL [JOHN 15]

·         FEAR NOT, LITTLE FLOCK [LUKE 12]

·         INTRODUCTION TO NAZARENE COMMENTARY 2000

·         ILLUMINATED FELLOWSHIP [1 JOHN 1]

·         THE CHRIST-MIND – THE RIGHT MENTAL ATTITUDE [PHIL 2]

·         ENTHRONED MESSIAH [PSALM 2]

·         YOUTH, REMEMBER YOUR CREATOR [Ecclesiastes 12]

·         LAYING ON HANDS

·         HOW MANY WERE PRESENT AT PENTECOST? [ACTS 1-2]

·         BASIC TEACHINGS TO LEAVE BEHIND [HEBREWS 5, 6]

·         WHAT IS BABYLON THE GREAT? [Revelation 17, 18]

·         SOUND MINDS AND HEALTHFUL TEACHING [TITUS 2]

·         RICH OR POOR – WHAT DOES GOD THINK?

·         HOW TO START A BIBLE READING GROUP

·         HEALINGS COMPARED

·         KEEP YOURSELVES IN GOD’S GRACE

·         WHEN WERE DANIEL AND REVELATION WRITTEN?

·         BIBLE QUESTIONS ANSWERED

CD-3 -- Nazarene Commentary 2000©

[BIBLE STUDY PUBLICATIONS]

CD-3 contains booklet to book-size Bible study publications in over 800 pages on a range of specific subjects.

·         Nazarene Principles 2000 is a 175-page basic Bible study primer on the seven principles found in the Lord’s Prayer. It is recommended for those first being introduced to the teachings of Jesus the Nazarene.

·         Nazarene Commandments 2000 is a 30-page list of the 60 commandments of Jesus the Nazarene with a brief commentary.

·         Nazarene Community 2000 is a 71-page discussion of church order and fellowship. It includes commentary on Christian characteristics that will help maintain congregational unity.

·         Nazarene Apocalypse 2000 is a 189-page commentary on Revelation and Daniel. It can be used as a companion to the Nazarene Commentary 2000© on the book of Revelation and Daniel.

·         Where Are the Dead? is an 80-page discussion on the subject of death and the after-life according to the Bible. It begins with Genesis chapter one and follows the subject through to Revelation.

·         The Trinitarian Error [De Trinitatis Erroribus] is a 242-page comprehensive consideration of the doctrine of the Trinity. Virtually every verse used on this subject is discussed. There is a substantial collection of the comments of various Biblical scholars and historians. There is a thorough consideration of all the “early church fathers” and their comments on the nature of God and Christ.

These CDs may be requested by sending $20 for individual CDs, or $50 for three. Checks or money orders should be made out to “Mark Miller” and addressed to:

NC2000
1686 Yurok Street
Orange, California 92867

It should be kept in mind that much of the older material found in Nazarene Commentary 2000© may be downloaded in whole or part on the Friends of the Nazarene FREE OF CHARGE.

It is anticipated that Messianic Confessions – A Soul’s Odyssey by Mark Heber Miller will also be made available on CD for a gift of $20. These funds will be used in “keeping the poor in mind.” [Galatians 2:10] Messianic Confessions is the life story of Mark Miller’s experiences among Jehovah’s Witnesses from 1955 to 1996. The autobiography covers Mark’s life and the reasons he felt moved to walk away from the Watchtower Society in 1996.  

==== END ====

God's Cure For the Weary Christian

[Hebrews 12:2-4]

by James Noble - Long Beach, California


Many Christians struggle with a deep weariness, a tiredness that goes far beyond the physical. There may have been a time of joyfulness when they could energetically almost sing their way through each day. But now that's a thing of the past, hardly even remembered. Instead, they're tired. Tired of pushing. Tired of being one of the few people who really seems to care. Tired of sparse results for all their hard work. Or perhaps they're tired of being taken for granted. You may be saying, "How did you know?" That's easy. Just about every Christian eventually experience's this firsthand at some time in life. But a powerful and healing truth in this regard has been provided for us in God's Word at Hebrews 12:2-4: “Observe carefully the Arch- Leader and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus -- who endured execution because of the Joy that lay before him -- disdained the humiliation [of the Cross]. [He has] sat down on the right hand of the Throne of The God. ... Consider carefully yourselves such a person who endured such contradictory hostility of sinners against themselves, SO THAT YOUR SOULS MAY NEVER GET TIRED AND GIVE UP. In your own agony against that sin as yet you have not resisted until [you have shed] blood.” [NCMM]

Here's the cure for weary workers - or, perhaps also the preventive prescription. The writer says, in other words, "Keep your eyes on Jesus so you won't get tired and discouraged." It is a peculiar kind of weariness that can afflict those who conscientiously take on spiritual responsibility. It is a deep emotional kind that also saps them physically. It can come from many sources. It may be all the many needs and demands in their lives. It may result from being a member of the too few who carry the too much. It may be triggered by long hours or impossible-to meet-financial needs. Or it may me be from frustrating relationship problems.

You will notice God's diagnosis in Hebrews 12 gives no indication that the pressures or stresses of the Christian life and ministry are the root cause of our weariness.

The cause is clearly identified as taking your eyes off Jesus. You may say, "Well, I already knew that." No doubt you did, if you are a Christian. But is it possible you forgot and have been doing God's work in your own strength? Although knowing better, have you gone from God working through you to the weariness-creating tact of you working for God?

Or have you just wrongly focused your eyes, been looking at the results you're producing instead of the Savior you're serving. Or maybe you started to look at the people around you, at their difficulties, their negative traits, their approval. Focusing on people, on tasks, on results, instead of focusing on Christ is bound to wear one out!

Consider the Bible's example of Jacob. Jacob worked hard for seven years so he could marry Rachel, "But they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her." So too, when your work is all about loving the person for whom you're working, time flies and the burden seems lighter.

Have you stuck yourself down in Weary Ravine, made yourself prone to discouragement, to thoughts of quitting that to which were called, made your ministry mechanical? If so, it's time to get your sights back on Jesus Christ. His love compelled you to serve in the first place. Go back to your true Christian roots --Christ himself! Christ on the cross! Christ glorified at God's right hand! Return to the love you first had, to the simple serving of God through serving the master he appointed over us, his Son, Jesus Christ, who gave his life for us. Then -perhaps in no time at all- you will be singing praises throughout the day again.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.”

==== END ====

YOUTH, REMEMBER YOUR CREATOR

[Ecclesiastes 12:1-8]

by Mark Heber Miller [Hemet, California - ]

Ecclesiastes 12:1 Now remember your Creator in the days of your youth,

I cannot remember when I first thought about God. I know at my birth my mother prayed that I would be a minister or Biblical teacher. I know I first completed a reading of the King James Bible when I was twelve. So my first memory of God is when I was twelve, when I first accepted or received Christ and was baptized in the First Baptist church of Hemet, California.

I am now 62 – 50 years later !!!! – and I have been “remembering” my Creator for most of my life. I know now for a certainty that starting to “remember your Creator” when very young stays with you over the years. When we are young our minds and memories are like great sponges that will absorb either godly or satanic thoughts. So I can see the wisdom in Solomon’s word above. I would not have understood – possibly even denied – the following words, however.

For before you know it destructive days will come upon you,
And the years will hit when you will say, “I do not like this!”

A young person, in the bloom of youth and vigor, has little comprehension of what really lies ahead in the days and years ahead. I believe now that we were created with hard-wiring in Eden to live forever. So we begin – and often remain through our lives – with an in-built conviction that we will live forever and never die. It is something like the way Solomon put it also in Ecclesiastes, “God has put eternity in their hearts.” [Ecclesiastes 2:11]

This kernel of eternity remains with most of humanity despite hearing such maxims as, “There are only two sure things – death and taxes.” While politicians promise not to do the later, the former is one of life’s absolutes. We are going to die! However, before we die something else is going to happen. We are going to grow older and older and older.

It is a wise youth who learns early that “destructive days” are coming and it is best to prepare for these years when most will say, “I do not like this.” Unfortunately western culture, and those who have adopted it, “rage against the night” in a constant state of denial. Few people are willing to discuss death, or for that matter, even growing old.

I know when I was young I thought myself immortal. Accidents and death happened to other people. I was 18 when I actually saw my first dead person. I was asked to conduct the services for an elderly gentlemen I studied the Bible with. I can remember my first look at that waxy face in repose as though in deep slumber. I can remember the smell of flowers, which to do this day nauseate me some. For I was to go on to see dead persons in several contexts, but mainly in conducting a couple hundred funeral services from everything to a still-born baby to a person a hundred years old. No matter what – we die.

Solomon writes that it is the wise person who prepares for old age and death. Indeed, if given the choice of attending a funeral or a banquet, the wise king of Israel said: “It is better to visit the house of mourning than attend a banquet, because this is the end of all humanity, and the person still alive should soberly consider it. … The heart of the wise person is in the house of mourning.” [Ecclesiastes 7:2, 4 NCMM] So rather than deny our ultimate death, it is wise to begin to consider it early in life and then take wise and godly measures to assure that ‘the day of [our] death is better than the day of our birth.’ [Ecclesiastes 7:1] This will become so if we die with a good name with God.

Ecclesiastes 12:2 Do it before sunlight, moonlight, and starlight grow dim,
And things grow cloudy, followed by rain.

I have always had good eye sight. I can remember well the first time I began to wear glasses. I was about fifty years old and a friend asked me: “Mark, you don’t wear glasses, do you?” I told him I had always had good vision. It was not more than a few weeks later than I noticed that I could not read freeway road signs in the distance. Also, it took much longer for my eyes to adjust to darkness. It was no longer after that I had to be begin to wear glasses for driving. With eye strain I noticed the my eyes watered more than they used to. There was no denying it, those “destructive days” were coming upon me. Actually, they had begun much earlier.

Ecclesiastes 12:3 In that day the house-guards will tremble, and valiant men become bent.

I remember very well when I was first aware that I was not “young” anymore. I was about thirty-three and I discovered that I could no longer keep up with nineteen year olds on bicycles or climbing big mountains. Also, I noticed that I did not recover as quickly after great and vigorous exercise. Those sore muscles and aching bones did not go away the next day. They remained a week!

I once could do 600 sit-ups, 50 in one minute. My arms could do 100 pull ups, and pull my body weight up with just two fingers around a small nubbin of rock. Now I cannot do a single pull-up or sit-up. “Miller, you have gone to pot!” I once could throw a baseball or football a very long distance. Now I would never attempt to through anything that was not underhand.

My legs were always powerful. I could run a mile in 4:22, race a bicycle 5 miles in 10 minutes, run 3 miles in 13 minutes, ride a bicycle 100 miles up steep Sierra mountains. I could swim a hundred meters in several strokes all under 55 seconds. Once I leg-pressed 700 pounds. Now? I cannot even swim without pain. I cannot walk 10 feet without pain.

I remember distinctly when my legs began to go. In my early 30s a group of climbers were trying to tackle a huge boulder “problem” but no one could surmount the last move above an over-hanging lip. I reached the lip, swung my left leg high above my head, body horizontal, and did a “heal lock” [almost unknown then] and torqued my whole body up over the lip. I heard something snap, and two days later I was undergoing the first of four surgeries on my left knee. Now the joint needs a complete replacement with an artificial knee.

More and more I noticed I had a harder time standing straight. I was becoming more and more bent over. I also noticed that my hands were not as sure and nimble as they once were. Sometimes, between poor eyesight and shaky fingers, I had to concentrate to put the key in the lock to open the door.

The grinding women will become idle because they are few, and the ladies looking out the window grow dark.

Now, my teeth, that was something else. Between inheriting the weak teeth of my mother, and lacking good sources of calcium as a child during World War Two – as well as military dentists – I lost back molars early. In ancient cultures – and most today – decay and loss of teeth is a natural progression of age. Even today, when visiting and living in countries around the world, I noted that all the older persons lacked some front teeth. It is only in the richer areas of the western world where this problem is delayed by orthodonics and expensive dentistry.

Glasses, and now laser surgery, may keep the “ladies” viewing well into old age, but ultimately the eyes grow dim. I have to be careful how I chew and bite because my “grinding women” have become fewer. I cannot look out the window without glasses and even then my vision is not as sharp as it once was.

Ecclesiastes 12:4, 5 And the doors to the streets are closed, also the sound of the grinding mill becomes low. One is startled at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are silenced. They are frightened of heights, and there are unknown horrors along the path.

Young people can hear noises even outside in the street. My hearing has always been good, though my father had to have hearing aids and my sister also struggles with poor hearing. Though my hearing remains fairly good, I am plagued by constant ringing in my left ear. I try to mask this by music or the TV, but often it still bothers me and I have to learn to concentrate to ignore it.

Other than hearing aids, the ears have not yet succumbed to some miracle of modern medicine available to all. Most will lose some hearing as they grow older. Often one observes how an older person is suddenly startled by someone coming up from behind, even though they make some noise. I expect that in the decade or so that I have left, my hearing will also worsen, until everyone who speaks with me will have to repeat everything.

Whereas I could once leap from one ledge to another a thousand feet above the ground, now I have trouble just getting up on the doctor’s weight scale. I find myself holding on more often going down steps or stairs. What happened to that fearless man?

The almond tree has blossoms, and the locust can only drag himself along,

Spring and summer seem to go so fast now. Each summer I now say, “Make this summer last.” And I have no more said it – and zip – it is gone and here is winter again ticking off the clock. It may be spring but I drag along now like a grasshopper with no spring in my step. My back is in constant pain and I note that most elderly people I observe are bent over and walking with a cane. Almost every person I know over 60 suffers from lower back pain. I used to like to shoot pool or billiards, but last year I thought I would try. After but ten minutes the pain in my back was so severe I had to put up the cue. No more pool or snooker. Of course, ping pong is out too.

And there is no more desire.

I remember waking every day full of desire and passion for the new day and the experiences ahead. I leaped out of bed ready to go. Now I do the log roll to get to the edge of the bed. Then I have to raise myself up just right so I do not “pull” anything. Then I must sit there a bit before standing up. The zest is gone. There is no more desire. I remember my father in his 70s sitting at the edge of his bed cursing over and over until he could get the strength to move to the toilet. This was once a powerful man who could shoulder a two-hundred pound propane tank from a boat and up a bank to a fishing cabin.

When I was young there was not only a lot of desire, there was so much it was a problem to keep under control. I remember distinctly thinking that I could not wait until I was 60 – I have no idea why someone in their 20s would think “60” – when these “desires” were not so profound. Now that I am 62 “desire” has virtually vanished. I could not even dream it up. Why has all of this happen so … so QUICKLY?

Because humankind is moving toward a dwelling of unknown time, when the mourners parade down the street.

The once “immortal” youth now wonders how much time is left. Irreversibly time and age march on toward an Absolute Truth – I am going to die. Just like everyone else. Whether there will be mourners marching down the street I do not know. But I can faintly hear that sound. In the distance – and they are moving toward me.

I am not afraid of death, largely because of my faith. Dying is very easy. I actually have done it once and come extremely close a handful of times.  It is getting there that is the hard part. We seem to “begin to die” around middle age – which is 35-45 – not 60. In the last three years my mother, step-mother and father have all gone to that “dwelling of unknown time” – the grave. All my grandfathers and grandmothers and my aunts and uncles are all gone. I am at last an orphan. Most of us will end up as orphans.

It is a sad story because “death is an enemy” and not a friend. [1 Corinthians 15:26] Death takes our family and our friends. However, I also know that the same writer who said death was an enemy also said, “Death is swallowed up forever” and “Death, where is your sting?” [1 Corinthians 15:54, 55] I am so blessed and grateful that I learned these things in my youth. I not only thought about God – I remembered Him! By constant reading of His Word He is in my memory.

Ecclesiastes 12:6 [Do it] before the silver cord is removed,

I have remembered my Creator well in advance of that time when that silver cord of life is removed or broken. I will die with God as the Source of my life now and also in the future. I am so grateful that I have remembered my Creator throughout over 50 years now. I do not have to fret about wasted youth and now only in my later years first begin to remember Him. Really, I do not know how people exist who have not remembered God during their youthful and productive years.

And the golden bowl is crushed,

My brain is not what it used to be. Now the brain that scanned everything important in English history and literature cannot remember whether I took my morning medicines. Faces are familiar, but names are not. I know that my brain will be “crushed” at death and I will enter an unconscious sleep in the dust of the earth. [Ecclesiastes 3:19-21; 9:5, 10]

And at the jar at the well is broken, and the water-wheel at the spring is crushed.

My athletic heart – that marvelous pump that has worked so many years – is now weaker and I must be careful of strain. Medications control blood-pressure to a degree and occasionally I have an irregular heart beat. My grandparents and parents all lived into their 80s and most died quickly of a stroke. It is likely that is how I will die when that trusty jar and water-wheel stops. It can only beat just so many times. It has already beat more than seven million times, accept for one moment when it stopped for almost two minutes.

 

Ecclesiastes 12:7 At that time the dust returns to the ground as it was,

 

I have seen men and women die. I have seen well over two-hundred deceased persons in many different contexts. I know from the Bible, like animals and most living things, we will all “return to the ground” from where our first father came. Adam was created from the clay of Eden. [Genesis 2:7] Right here in Ecclesiastes, Solomon compares humans and animals in their deaths: “Eventually the same thing happens to humans and animals. Eventually they all die, because they all have one breath. So a human is not superior to animals because everything is futile. All go to the same place. They have all come from the ground and thus they are all returning to the ground. Who is aware that the human breath ascends and the animal breath descends into the earth.” [Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 NCMM] With this David agreed: “The human breath escapes and they all return to the ground. On that very day all their thoughts must end.” [Psalm 146:4 NCMM]

 

 

And the breath returns to the God who gave it.

 

I know that God is the Source of all life, including His only-begotten Son. [Psalm 36:9; John 5:26] When I die that miracle of the life-force that kept me breathing “returns” to the Creator. Job said as much: “If God determines it regarding any human and He gathers that person’s breath to Himself, then all humanity will breathe their last, and earthlings will return to the ground.” [Job 34:14, 15 NCMM]

I know ultimately this old, tired and painful frame will turn back into dust.

 

 

Ecclesiastes 12:8 “Utter futility!” says the Congregator, “All is futile!”

 

Many think death is a step toward immortality, but wise king Solomon knows better. He calls death, “utter futility.” That is, vanity and worthlessness. If death lead to another life it would not be vain or futile. Though this is the case, there is some Good News resulting from God’s “eternal purpose.” Paul declares this to both Greeks and Jews when he says on two different occasions: “[The God] has fixed a day on which He will judge the inhabited earth in justice, and this by a man whom He has appointed. He has furnished assurance to everyone by resurrection him from the death. … There will be a resurrection of both the law-abiding and the lawless.” [Acts 17:31; 24:15 NCMM] Therefore, I have great conviction I will one day be resurrected, and this to my own judgment before Christ. [2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27; 1 John 2:28; 4:17]

 

 

ALL, GOOD AND BAD, WILL BE JUDGED

 

Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14 “After everything is said and done, listen to the end of the whole matter: Fear the God and obey His commandments. For this applies to every human being. Because the God Himself will bring every work forward for the Judgment regarding every secret thing – whether it is good or bad.” [NCMM]

 

King Solomon says the same thing, as though Paul had the Israelite king in mind above. So I know that ultimately I will have to stand before God’s appointed Judge, Lord Messiah, Jesus Christ the Nazarene. Though throughout my life this outer frame of the “old person” has been “wasting away” during this “season of groaning pain” I will have to answer for whatever I did in this human body. [Romans 8:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16] For Paul says: “For it is necessary that all of us appear in front of the judgment-seat of the Christ, so that we might receive what we deserve for those things performed by means of the body, whether these things be good or vile.” [2 Corinthians 5:10 NCMM; Daniel 12:2; 1 John 2:28]

 

Solomon’s words above are similar to those of Paul at 1 Corinthians 4:5, “So, do not judge anything before the season, until the Lord arrives. He will bring to the Light the hidden things of darkness and manifest the motives of [all] hearts. And, then, each person’s praise will be from The God.” [NCMM] No matter what I think of myself, or how I judge myself, it will be Christ Jesus who will judge every single member of the Christian Church. I am aware that the basis for this judgment will be based on two primary criteria: my demonstration of my conviction, and how I have treated others. [1 John 3:28]

 

I am fully aware that this judgment will be based on whether I demonstrated empathetic charity to even the most humble of Christ’s brothers and sisters. [Matthew 25:31-46]

 

 

Now, Looking Back …

 

What should I say to this current young generation of Christians? First, you are going to die. Second, you are going to grow old. No matter how strong and vigorous and mentally sharp you are now – this will not last. Time will pass so swiftly. I view this passage of time like a train ride. I sit in the train station as a young person, so eager to feel the train finally moving. At first, it moves so slowly I become impatient – let’s get this trip moving. Then the train begins to gain speed. I watch the scenery pass by and I am able to examine everything closely. BUT, the train gains speed. Faster and faster. Pretty soon – quicker than I knew – the train is moving so fast I can only see things clear in the distance. And before I know it, the ride is over and I am at my final destination – death.

 

Solomon is so wise in exhorting youth to remember their Creator WHILE THEY ARE YOUNG and still have that youthful vigor, energy and razor-sharp memory. Use it now! Become God-centered in your youth and mold your enter life around Him. Old age is no time to FIRST BEGIN to think of God and His approaching judgment.

 

 

 

==== END ====

 

 

Faith -- How Can It Be Realized?

(by Ralph Slaney – Almeria, Spain)

 

To any conscientious Bible reader, it soon becomes apparent that the Bible contains dozens of accounts of acts of faith.  One is quickly aware that these acts of faith are much approved of by God.  In fact the Scriptures plainly tell the reader that: “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 KJV = King James Version)  As faith is so highly prized by God, and to a Christian, God is his Father, faith is one of the qualities that he will keenly strive to gain.  The Christian ardently wishes to please his Father and gain an ever closer relationship.

 

What is faith? and, How is it possible to improve it?  These are perhaps some of the more poignant questions that confront a Christian.  The average person is usually more concerned with his daily needs. (see Matthew 6:26-34)  Should one consult a dictionary with regard to the meaning of faith you could expect to find; confidence, reliance and trust.  It is possible to add to these definitions by entertaining the Bible’s own explanation as found at Hebrews 11:1: “It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen.  It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it ahead.” (The Living Bible)   Other Bibles use expressions like: “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV)  “The certainty of what we do not see” (New International Version) It is one thing to analysis what faith is but another to assimilate it into one’s character.  It does good to examine examples of faith.

 

The thrilling account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt engenders the very fabric of faith.  To picture in the mind the ten plagues and their effects upon the Egyptians and the subsequent crossing of the Red Sea has inspired many an author and film producer.  Yet in reality it shamefully showed up an awful lack of faith on the part of the Israelites.  Think for a moment!  They had just seen the powerful works of God, with no other explanation than divine intervention.  Each of the plagues in themselves an insult on the Egyptian gods and dealing devastating blows to their economy, with the final plague destroying every first born male both human and beast.  Yet just three days later while encamped at the Red Sea the message that Pharaoh’s army was on its way to recapture or destroy, evoked the response of many Israelites: “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?” (Exodus 14: KJV) 

 

This sarcastically pathetic and unappreciative remark was made despite the visible presence of God by means of a supernatural light at night time and an equally supernatural cloud during the day time.  They had every evidence to instill faith, and such faith would not have been ‘blind’ with no substance, they had every reason to believe in their saviour God.  Still what a relief it must have been to see the Red Sea open up before them and to safely reach the other side and watch their pursuers drown before their very eyes.  How much finer it would have been to have completely trusted their grand protector God.  Yet how true the Scripture: “Faith is not a possession of all people.” (2 Thessalonians 3:2 NWT = New World Translation) The full account can be read at Exodus 7 to 14.

 

The Lord Jesus Christ made a particularly astute observation with regard to Thomas and his lack of faith.  It was while Thomas was with the disciples just after Jesus execution that they were saying they had seen the Lord.  While Thomas was vehemently stating that he could not believe such a thing unless he could see and feel the marks left in Jesus hands and feet the Lord appeared in the enclosed room.  Well, after recovering from such an event Jesus said to him: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 New International Version)  Both Thomas, who had been with Jesus for three and a half years witnessing the miracles and events, and the Israelites, who left Egypt, had reason to put faith in the things not yet seen.

 

It becomes more evident that faith can be divided into that which is blind and that which is evidential.  Was it just blind faith that lead Columbus to sail from Spain across the Atlantic to seek the spice islands?  Can one imagine that the King of Spain would in any way fund a three ship enterprise for Columbus unless there was at least some evidence of success?  In actuality Columbus was a keen observer of winds, currents and climate, he had also done much study.  It appears that he was influenced by Ptolemy who believed in a spherical Earth.  He thus made final calculations to wit, the Earth at the equator measured fifty-six and two-third Roman miles for each degree of rotation, this unfortunately for him was based on an out-dated notion and gave him an underestimate by twenty-five percent.  Some of his notes can still be read and a finely drawn ‘planisphere’ with the equator and other major features marked thereon are held at the magnificent Catedral en Sevilla.  Eventually funding was granted by Spain’s King [possibly at feeling relieved that the last Moorish stronghold at Granada was surrendered by the ruler Boabdil at the beginning of 1492 and now looking forward to the challenge of opening up his empire elsewhere].  So it was on the 3rd of August that three ships: Santa María (flag ship), Niña and the Pinta set sail west for India. 

 

Although Columbus never found India, it was not by blind faith that he ventured west to look for it.  No, it was the verifying of certain knowledge based on study, research and observation.  Despite the fact that no one had, until that time, ever returned with information that there was a west passage around the Earth, and that there was no concrete evidence, there was reason to suppose such existed.  Interestingly just a few years later in 1519 Ferdinand Magellan did find such a passage around Cape Horn.  Thus we can find in this venture a major clue as to what real faith should be based on.

 

This concept of faith is not easy for all persons to comprehend, and it has to be said that Columbus was a deeply religious man despite his misdemeanours.  An account to illustrate this is found at Mark chapter nine.  The father of a demon possessed dumb mute pleaded with Jesus for him to be cured, if it were possible.  Jesus responded with an outstanding statement: “Everything is possible for the man who has faith!” But the father replied with another request this time from his inner-self: “I do have faith, but help me please where I need more.” (Full account Mark 9:14-29)

 

The closer one comes to God the more one’s faith becomes real.  A situation in the time of the Kings of Israel supports this assertion.  It was when Benhadad the King of Syria sent an army to destroy Elisha the prophet of Israel.  When rising early in the morning Elisha’s servant saw a military force was surrounding the town with war chariots and horses.  Crying to his master he asked what they should do, Elisha said that there are more with us than there are with them.  He then began to pray and asked that his servant’s eyes be opened.  And the Scripture tells us the rest: “Immediately Jehovah opened the attendant’s eyes, so that he saw; and, look! the mountainous region was full of horses and war chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17 NWT)  What effect this event, and the subsequent blinding of the Syrian army and the eventual un-blinding and their escape, had on the servant is not stated.  But it demonstrated Elisha’s total faith and it also gave to the servant evidence that would have engendered faith for a future occasion.

 

It becomes evident that like the other fruits of God’s Holy Spirit mentioned at Galatians 5:22 faith is a quality that can be worked upon, and thus improved.  The Apostle Paul explains: “So then, faith must be the consequence of hearing the message, and the message comes through the word which tells of Christ and which was sent by him.” (Romans 10:17 William Barclay’s Translation)  To what extent one wishes to acquire this quality is the extent to which one must seek it.  A reading of the accounts of faith is an excellent way to incite the personality to accept it as a part.  As a worthwhile exercise why not try reading Hebrews chapter eleven and then examining by cross reference each and every person mentioned.  Prayer to our Father, God, is to be encouraged; just as James when speaking about faith, showed its connection with wisdom, he said that God gives generously to all without reproach for those asking. (James 1:5)

 

Faith changes one’s viewpoint.  It is the Christian’s faith that makes him take a particular road in life, it is his faith that makes him place God first, it is his faith that gives him the hope of eternal life.  What blessings there are for which a Christian can look forward.  Therefore whatever befalls you keep faith in our Father, the Almighty God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

==== END ====

 

 

 

“ORGANIZATION” --- GOOD OR BAD?

By Mark Heber Miller, Hemet, California -

 

“Thus the entire Body is furnished by an inner energy according to each member’s gift, each one a part contributing to the Body’s growth and maturing as it is built up in loving concern.” [Ephesians 4:16 NCMM Paraphrase]

 

Introduction. For many people who have suffered under a controlling religion the word “organization” has become a nasty idea. Some of such persons, having left a controlling organization, have dreamed of some kind of association free of control and organization. Conflicting ideas and theories on how groups of people govern themselves are as old as humanity.

 

Virtually all smaller tribal peoples have been economically communist where everyone contributed their work to the good of the whole. These small groups recognized that not all persons can produce the same quality and quantity of work. As long as they tribes are composed of a few families the leadership has either been a leading group of men – in some rare cases, women – most often the elders or older and more experienced persons in the commune. Of course, as they tribes grow and become “nations” with borders the problems of rule, organization, and control also become more complex.

 

The most efficient form of government has always been a monarchy where one single person made all of the important decisions. Some monarchies also include a republic with a democratic body of senators who share in some of these responsibilities, with the final decision made by the monarch. The benevolent monarch -- who always has kindly concern for all his or her subjects -- has proved to be an effective way for a society to function.

 

However, back to this word “organization.” Is organization a good idea or a bad idea? It is obvious that to understand this we must first know what the word “organization” means. Anyone may consider the English word in a dictionary and see. Webster’s defines the word as: “a body of persons organized for some specific purpose.” The word organization is rooted in the Greek word ERG meaning “work.” In physics an ERG is a unit measure of work. Thus, the main thrust of the word organization involves work. One could list the several factors that must be involved for an organization to exist: work, a body of people, purpose, and, unity. It is obvious that the word organization itself is not a bad word.

 

The smallest unit of such an organization is the human family which begins at first with two people – a husband and a wife. Here the “body” is composed of two and later as more are added, three, four, five, etc. The “work” is obvious and in most cultures the male has his socially or biologically assigned work, as does the female. Unity is a must, but this depends on – at first – the husband and wife. In most cultures throughout history the male has been the “head” or leader and ultimate decision maker, though in a more casual manner they may work as equal partners. And in the best case scenario, they have a unified view on their common purpose. Thus, all marriages and families are an “organization.”

 

Whether this “organization” proves to be good or bad will depend on several factors: how the working unity is formed and maintained. If the leadership is self-centered and greedy, then even if the end results produce something useful, the organization itself may be termed bad, and not good. For in the process or being organized some harm is brought to others, while a small minority satisfy their self-centeredness and greed. So an organization, whether a monarchy, a democracy, a republic, or a communistic form will all be bad when the leadership seeks their own interests and when their greed harms others. This manifests itself when the hierarchy, or ruling body, live materially better than the poorer members of the organization. Ultimately the vast majority of the organization end up working for the unified purpose of maintaining the rulership in a more prosperous and privileged lifestyle.

 

How does the individual Christian, as well as any Christian group of any size, approach this matter? Reject all forms of organization? Just have individuals worshipping God alone without any fellowship? For as soon as a handful of people agree to meet regularly they have become an organization whether they like it or not. As long as this organization remains small, the problems will remain smaller. Though a single self-centered and greedy person can destroy even such a small group.

 

Was Jesus an organized person? Did he form an organization? Did the early Church maintain an organization?

 

A WORKING BODY

 

The Nazarene Community. Did Jesus the Nazarene start an “organization”? Did Christ create a working body with a unified purpose? Indeed, he did. First he hand-picked a dozen male Jews who had been baptized by John the Baptist. They followed him in his early ministry and got to be eyewitnesses of how Jesus went about his ministry. In other words, he taught and trained them first before actually forming them into a specific group. Mark 6:7 records, “Then Jesus summoned the Twelve and started to send them forth two by two.” [NCMM] He gave them specific instructions on what to say, how to go about this ministry, and when to terminate a specific mission. Not long after Jesus also organized another group of seventy and in a similar manner he gave them instructions.

 

Before his ascension Jesus gave new instructions to his apostles: “Go your ways and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing persons in the name of the Father, the Son, and the holy Pneuma. Teach them to observe everything I commanded you." [Matthew 28:19, 20 NCMM] The apostles were obedient to this command and as a result the preaching of the Gospel spread all over the known world. But, did these apostles remain organized? Did they actually expand on this organization?

 

The Early Church. The book of Acts records this growing organization as a single unified body of working people. We see the apostles organizing the financial matters of the first members of the Church of Christ. We see them making appointments of qualified men to care for matters beyond their physical abilities. [Acts 2-6] When problems of a doctrinal nature came up these were settled by the apostolic body in Jerusalem. [Acts 15] When a decision was made by the Christian apostles and elders, a notice of this was sent out by hand to the congregations. Acts 16:4, 5 records the results of this centralized arrangement: “As they traveled through the cities, they delivered to [the congregations] for observance the dogma that had been reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. So the congregations were strengthened in the faith, and they daily increased in numbers.” [NCMM] The word “dogma” here is from the Greek DOGMATA and is also rendered “decree.” This demonstrates that the local Christian groups were not autonomous or independent of the apostolic body in Jerusalem, or other men Jesus sent forth. The rapid growth of the Church was due in part because it was so organized.

 

 

A UNIFIED BODY

 

As shown above an organization is a working body of people who are unified, or have a common purpose. No Bible verses demonstrate this better than Ephesians 6:12-16 where all the elements exist in the word “organization.” Read the following and see if you can identify “work” and “body” and “unity.”

 

“These ‘gifts’ given to humans include apostolic representatives, prophetic spokesman, missionaries of the good news, pastoral shepherds of congregations, and teachers within the Church. The purpose of these “gifts” is to rearrange and perfectly equip all the Saints for the work of service to others; and, for the upbuilding and strengthening of the whole Body of Christ. And this until all of us attain a perfect unity of faith and a heightened relationship with the Son of God. Until we all together grow into perfect maturity measured by the full stature of the Christ. So we no longer remain babies, tossed here and there by (doctrinal) waves, carried aimlessly by every wind of teaching. By the deceptive slight of hand always engaging in methodical plans. Rather, these ‘gifts’ aid all of us to maintain loving truth, constantly growing in Christ in every way. Christ is the Head, the one from whom the whole Body is perfectly joined and fitted together by means of every connective muscle and tissue. Thus the entire Body is furnished by an inner energy according to each members gift, each one a part contributing to the Body’s growth and maturing as it is built up in loving concern.” [NCMM Paraphrase]

 

All the elements of “organization” are here. There is a “head” of the corporate Body with his representatives as “gifts” – apostles, prophets, missionaries, shepherds, and teachers. Even the root word of “organization” is present in the Greek word ENERGEIAN which means an inner working in cooperation. The whole purpose of this organization is two fold: instruction in Truth, and encouragement in love. Never can the organization itself becomes the reason for existence, but rather the congregational growth in truth and the communal development in love – every single member contributing their own effort and talents and blessings.

 

 

CONTROL AND UNITY

 

The word organization is often associated with the word “control.” Was there a degree of control within the early Church? Well, let us ask: were certain types of people not allowed within the fellowship of the Church? Consider the following verses:

 

1Co5:11 However, now, I write you not to associate with anyone called a “brother” [who is] sexually immoral, a greedy person, an idolater, a reviler, a drunkard, or an extortioner – not even eating with such a person. 1Co5:12 For is it for me to judge those outside [the congregation]? Do you not judge those within [the congregation]? 1Co5:13 And The God judges those outside [the congregation]. “Remove the evil person from your midst!” [Deuteronomy 17:7 LXX] … 1Co6:9 Or, do you not realize that the unjust will never inherit God’s Kingdom? Do not be misled! These will not inherit God’s Kingdom – the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, persons who abuse themselves with others, men who lie with men, 1Co6:10 thieves, greedy persons, drunkards, slanderers, extortionists. 1Co6:11 And you all used to be these sort of persons.” [NCMM]

 

A degree of control by the elders, as well as the peer pressure of the majority o the congregation, were necessary to maintain the chaste and virtuous reputation of the Christian Church.

 

Was there a degree of control over what was taught within the early Church? Indeed, there was, for Paul and other apostles did not tolerate “every wind of teaching” blowing through the congregations. Indeed, compare what Paul wrote:

 

6 I marvel that you are so readily leaving Him who called you by the grace of Christ, and are adhering to a different Good News. 7 For other "Good News" there is none; but there are some persons who are troubling you, and are seeking to distort the Good News concerning Christ. 8 But if even we or an angel from Heaven should bring you a Good News different from that which we have already brought you, let him be accursed. 9 What I have just said I repeat--if any one is preaching to you a Good News other than that which you originally received, let him be accursed. [Galatians 1:6-9 Weymouth Translation]

 

9 But hold yourself aloof from foolish controversies and pedigrees and discussions and wrangling about the Law, for they are useless and vain. 10 After a first and second admonition, have nothing further to do with any one who will not be taught; 11 for, as you know, a man of that description has turned aside from the right path and is a sinner self-condemned. [Titus 2:9-11 Weymouth]

 

8 So be sure not to lose what we have worked for. If you do, you won't be given your full reward. 9 Don't keep changing what you were taught about Christ, or else God will no longer be with you. But if you hold firmly to what you were taught, both the Father and the Son will be with you. 10 If people won't agree to this teaching, don't welcome them into your home or even greet them. 11 Greeting them is the same as taking part in their evil deeds. [Contemporary English Version (1995)]

 

This apostolic control acted as a “restraint” against a full-blown apostasy breaking forth too early in the history of Christ’s Congregation. [2 Thessalonians 2:3-11] Paul warns in the same spirit of 2 Peter 2:1 and 1 John 4:1 -- “For lawlessness is already at work in secret; but only until the man who is now exercising a restraining influence is removed, and then the Lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will sweep away with the tempest of His anger, and utterly overwhelm by the awful splendour of His Coming.” [2 Thessalonians 2:7, 8 Weymouth Translation]

 

Paul urges the appointed apostolic elder Titus to maintain that control which descends from the Head, Jesus: “Continue to speak and encourage all these things. Also reprove with every command. Permit no one to disregard you.” [Titus 2:15] Titus provides an example for modern elders. It is curious to examine contemporary teachers whether they teach these things. Titus is assured of his apostolic authority with the words, “reprove with every command.” That is, KJV: rebuke with all authority; GDSP: urge and insist upon; GDSP: full authority; NEB: speak with authority. This is no shrinking violet. Even Jesus was recognized because he “taught with authority.” [See notes on Matthew 7:29.] He is not without solid opinions and convictions regarding the “doctrine.” He was not to permit any disrespect or “belittle you.” [WMS] How does one do this? If Titus is treated lightly as to his authority he must demonstrate that he, in fact, has such apostolic authority. [1 Timothy 4:12] If necessary he will rebuke in public.

 

One of the ways this apostolic control or restraint did not turn into authoritarian tyranny was by appointing men who met all the qualifications Paul laid down for Titus. These are found in Titus 1:5-9. [For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 on Titus.]

 

“This is the reason I left you in Crete so that you should correct the defective things and appoint elders in every town, just as I ordered you. If anyone is --

 

·         unaccusable

·         a husband of one wife

·         a man with believing children not under any accusation or unsubmissive

·         not arrogant

·         not quick-tempered

·         not given to a lot of wine

·         not violent

·         not fond of dishonest gain

·         hospitable

·         a lover of goodness

·         sound of mind

·         just

·         holy

·         self-controlled

·         holding to that teaching in harmony with [the] faithful Word

·         also that he may be strong enough to exhort by that healthy teaching and reprove those who are opposing.” [NCMM]

 

What kind of man is this? Is this not a marvelous human being, a noble Christian man of great character? A man any group of people would want to lead and guide them? If this man were a king any people would want him to rule over them. For more details on the character of any man who would be an elder see Nazarene Commentary 2000© on 1 Timothy 3:1-11.

 

Conclusion.

 

The above is a brief examination of what the New Testament [Christian Scriptures] says about the organization of the early Church, first under the physical leadership of Christ, and later under his spiritual headship. Thus, the word “organization” is not an evil one. What becomes evil or harmful is the abuse of power and authority. What becomes evil and harmful is when appointed men begin to insist on controlling every facet of human behavior and spiritual fellowship. The reader would find it interesting to read Will Durant’s description of John Calvin’s form of Protestantism in his scholarly historical work The Reformation in “The Story of Civilization.”

 

Though the 1st Century Church was an organization – a working body of people with a unified purpose – all had to remember who the Head of the Congregation was, Jesus Christ. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “We are not the lords of your faith, but co-workers for your joy.” [2 Corinthians 1:24]

 

==== END ====

 

 

How to Love Our God

[by James Noble - Long Beach, California]

 

Do you love God? If so, you then desire to have a profound personal relationship with Him and also to know Him well. But, as a matter of fact, in order to have a deep, personal love of another person, don't we, of necessity, really need first to know, or understand, that person, usually through conversation, observation and reputation? We can easily see, then, that those above-mentioned two desires we have toward God -that of loving personal relationship with Him and knowing Him increasingly better- are so very closely related that is difficult to always know which comes first, one just seems to follow the other in a wonderful continuous cycle.

 

But we who love God are also confronted with the need to answer two questions : (1) How can we know Him better? (2) How shall we express our love to make us closer to Him?

 

Our God possesses something we also have, namely Personhood. Our God is a Person who has a personality and a character. Our wish is to know His personality and His character, to grow in His wisdom. In order to grow in His wisdom, we need to share His thoughts, His very mind. However 1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us: “For ‘Who has known the Mind of [God]? Who will instruct Him?’ … However, Christ’s mind we do possess!” [NCMM]

 

So, while the only way to know God and His character is to understand his thoughts, the only way we can understand God's thoughts is by understanding the thoughts of His Son, our beloved Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who spoke only his Father's words and was one with Him. We, in fact must respect and love all of God's words as found in His Holy Scriptures. It is only through His words we are able to come in touch with His very thoughts.

 

Let us, therefore, have David's attitude and exclaim praise to God by praising His words: How sweet are your words to my palate! Much more than honey to my mouth! ...Your word entering gives light, instructing the simple ones.” [Psalm 119:103, 130 Green's Interlinear]

 

-To be continued-

 

==== END ====

 

 

LAYING ON OF HANDS

By Mark Heber Miller, Hemet, California -

 

There are several views on the basic teaching of the early Church regarding the “laying on of hands.” Some believe the laying on of hands is a process of voting by a congregation in general. Another group views a mere rubber stamp by unknown men representing another group amounts to the laying on of hands. An examination of those main verses where the phrase occurs explains who and what were involved in such an action.

 

1.

Acts 6:3-6 – THE APOSTLES APPOINTED QUALIFIED MEN BY LAYING ON OF THEIR HANDS

 

Acts 6:3 “So, brothers, select from your number seven men who are well spoken of – full of Pneuma and wisdom – and then we will appoint them over this duty. Acts 6:4 But, as for us, we will continue to devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word.” Acts 6:5 And, this statement before the full number [of the disciples] pleased everyone. So, they chose Stephen [a man full of conviction and holy Pneuma], and also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas [a proselyte from Antioch]. Acts 6:6 These men were placed before the apostles, and having prayed, they laid their hands upon them.” [NCMM]

 

Conclusion: The laying on of hands by men already appointed may confer appointments on other men.

 

 

2.

Acts 8:17-19 – JOHN AND PETER LAID HANDS ON DISCIPLES FOR THEM TO RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

Acts 8:15 “[These two] arrived and prayed for them so that they might receive holy Pneuma. Acts 8:16 For the [Pneuma] had not yet fallen on them and they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Acts 8:17 So then, the apostles laid their hands on them and they received holy Pneuma.” [NCMM]

 

Conclusion: The apostles were particularly gifted to impart the holy spirit upon others by the laying on of hands. With the death of these apostles this dispensation of spiritual gifts ceased.

 

 

3.

Acts 9:12, 17 – THE DICIPLE ANANIAS LAID HIS HANDS ON PAUL SO HE COULD SEE AGAIN AND THEN BE FILLED WITH SPIRIT

 

Acts 9:12 “… and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias. And after you go in, lay your hands on him so that he might see again.” Acts 9:17 Then Ananias left and entered into the house, and after laying his hands on Saul, he said: “Brother Saul, the Lord has sent me, Jesus, the One who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, in order that you may see again and may then be filled with holy Pneuma.” [NCMM]

 

Conclusion: A male disciple – whether he was an elder is not stated, but it is possible – was instructed to lay hands on Saul of Tarsus to heal him and also dispense gifts of the Spirit.

 

4.

Acts 13:3-3 – THREE PROPHETS AND TEACHERS LAID HANDS ON PAUL AND SILAS TO ‘SET THEM APART” FOR A MISSIONARY CAMPAIGN

 

Acts 13:1 “Now in Antioch there were prophets and teachers in the congregation. Their names were Barnabas, Simeon of Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was raised with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. Acts 13:2 And as they were publicly worshipping to the LORD, the holy Pneuma said: “Set apart to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them.” Acts 13:3 Then they fasted and prayed, and after laying hands upon them they sent them away.” [NCMM]

 

Conclusion: Three elders with the additional offices of prophet and teacher could appoint elders to special ministries, such as missionary. [Compare Ephesians 4:12]

 

 

5.

Acts 19:6 – PAUL LAID HIS HANDS ON A DOZEN MEN FOR THEM TO RECEIVE THE SPIRIT

 

Acts 19:6 “Now when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the holy Pneuma came upon them.  Then they all began to speak in tongues and prophesied. Acts 19:7 Now there were about twelve men in all.” [NCMM]

 

Conclusion: Like the apostles John and Peter, Paul could also dispense the Spirit by the laying on of hands.

 

 

6.

Acts 28:8 – PAUL LAID HIS HANDS ON AN ILL MAN TO CURE HIM

 

Acts 28:8 “It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. So Paul entered the room and after prayer he laid his hands on him and he was healed.” [NCMM]

 

 

7.

1 Timothy 4:14 – A BODY OF ELDERS MAY LAY THEIR HANDS PROPHETICALLY ON A MAN

 

1 Timothy 4:14 “Do not neglect your gift which was given to you by a prophecy with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.” [NCMM]

 

Conclusion: An elder may be appointed by a body of elders.

 

 

8.

1 Timothy 5:22 – ELDERS ARE APPOINTED BY THE LAYING ON OF HANDS

 

1 Timothy 5:17 “Let those elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the Word and teaching. …  1 Timothy 5:22 Never lay on your hands hastily, nor participate in the sins of others.” [NCMM]

 

Conclusion: Judging from this text along with Titus 1:5 it is likely that individual men who were already elders could lay their hands on other men to appoint them as elders.

 

 

9.

2 Timothy 1:6 – PAUL IMPARTED A SPIRITUAL GIFT BY LAYING HIS HANDS ON TIMOTHY

 

2 Timothy 1:6 “Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands.” [NCMM]

 

Conclusion: A man already appointed as an elder by a body of elders could receive other gifts or appointments by the laying on of hands of another authorized man.

 

General observations: The laying on of hands seemed to serve three purposes: a] the dispensation of gifts of the holy spirit; b] the appointment to positions of authority; c] other special appointments. It is noted that women are never so appointed and that women never lay hands on others. Essentially, the phrase “laying on of hands” indicates authority. In the case of the early Church this authority derived from Jesus the Nazarene. By extension, and the application of godly principles, the same authorized laying on of hands could exist today.

 

For example, elders among the Friends of the Nazarene believe the appointment by other elders or deacons may be performed by any of the “founding elders” and those they appoint to do likewise. Though, as in Bible times, an individual elder – acting as an “apostle” – may make such an appointment, in most circumstances the other founding elders may be respectfully consulted for their opinions.

 

==== END ====

 

 

HOW MANY WERE PRESENT AT PENTECOST?

By Mark Heber Miller, Hemet, California -

 

When asked this question many Bible students automatically answer – 120. This is based on Acts 1:15 where “the number of persons was altogether about one hundred and twenty.” Is this verse referring to the actual moment when the holy spirit was poured out from on high? What does a careful consideration of the context and language indicate?

 

 

WHO WERE TOLD TO WAIT FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT?

Jesus told the remaining faithful eleven apostles: “And, look, I will send the promise of my Father to all of you [apostles]. So remain in the city until you [apostles] are clothed with power from on high.” [Luke 24:49 NCMM] Luke repeats the same in the opening words of the Acts of the Apostles, “Now while eating with them he gave them instructions not to depart from Jerusalem, but ‘to wait for the promise of the Father that I told you about. For John immersed in water, but you [apostles] will be immersed in the holy Pneuma only days from now.’” [Acts 1:4, 5 NCMM] No where in Scripture does Jesus the Nazarene say the same to his other disciples.

 

 

HOW MANY DISCIPLES WERE IN JERUSALEM?

From Paul’s language it could be assumed that “upwards of five hundred brothers” were still in Jerusalem after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. [1 Corinthians 15:6] Though some interpret Paul’s words to apply to the moment of Christ’s ascension, this is without real foundation. What does the context in Acts indicate?

 

Luke records what the eleven apostles now did: “Now when the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives – which is close to Jerusalem [about a Sabbath’s days distance] -- as they entered the city, they went into a room upstairs where they were staying. [These included] Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. All of these apostles were continually in devotional prayers along with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his [fleshly] brothers.” [Acts 1:12-14 NCMM] This record lists the names of the eleven apostles being in an upper room and includes some female followers of Jesus, including his mother and brothers.

 

The account in Acts then moves to another moment without indicating how much time elapsed. This is recorded in Acts 1:15-26 when a replacement for Judas was voted on by those present. The crowd is numbered as “about 120.” The opening words say, “in those days” without indicating how long later this was from the previous statements in verse 12 through 14. Peter addresses the assembled group, “Men, brothers … “ The Greek is ANDRES ADELPHOI referring specifically to a gathering of males who had a spiritual relationship. Though the designation “brothers” can sometimes include women, the qualifying word ANDRES means males. Why are these males gathered?

 

This is a meeting to make a decision on the appointment of an apostle to replace Judas. These males present likely included “those males [ANDRON] among us who gathered together during all the time the Lord Jesus came and went among us.” [Acts 1:21] This group of 120 men may have included the “seventy” Jesus had sent out as evangelists. Thus, these and the apostles numbered 81, leaving another 39 men who qualified. These men voted and the decision came down to two equally qualified men. Since the vote was divided, in harmony with Proverbs 16:33, they cast lots and it fell upon the disciple Matthias. It seems unlikely that female disciples of the Nazarene would have been included in this conference.

 

 

UPON WHOM WAS THE SPIRIT POURED OUT?

There seems a break in the context with Acts 2:1 as the record moves to the Jewish festival of Pentecost. The out-pouring of holy Pneuma as Jesus promised is described. Those who receive this spirit began to speak in foreign languages. The account states that reverent Jews from every nation heard these spirit-inspired languages. They responded: “They were amazed and astonished and began to say: ‘Look! are not all these speaking Galileans?” [Acts 2:7 NCMM] So, all those who spoke in these foreign languages were known to all be Galileans. It is well known the eleven apostles were such, and we may assume that Matthias was also Galilean.

 

The languages they heard are listed and it is possible to group these in twelve by number, indicating that each of the twelve apostles was speaking a different language. [Acts 2:9-11] Now, at this moment Acts 2:14, 15 states: “Now Peter rose with the eleven and raised his voice, declaring to them: “Men, Jews, and all those dwelling in Jerusalem, all of you know this and listen to my words! For these men [OUTOI] are not drunk as you suppose, for it is only nine in the morning!” Two things indicate that only twelve are present. First, “Peter rose with the eleven” harmonizes with the observation that these were all Galileans. Also, the Greek OUTOI indicates a number of men.

 

We have already been told that “reverent [Jewish] men from all nations” were being primarily addressed by Peter. Several times Peter addresses these Jewish males. [Acts 2:14 (ANDRES IOUDAIOI); Acts 2:22 (ANDRES ISRAELEITAI); Acts 2:29 (ANDRES ADELPHOI). How do these Jewish men address those Galileans who have just received the out-pouring of holy Pneuma? Acts 2:37 makes it clear: “Having heard this [the Jews] were pierced in their hearts, and they said to Peter and the other apostles: ‘Men, brothers, what should we do?’” [NCMM] Here these men use the address, ANDRES ADELPHOI, that is, “males, brothers.” The verse also says they addressed this to “Peter and the other apostles.”

 

Thus, nothing in the account indicates others, including women, were present at the out-pouring of the holy spirit. Rather, everything in the account points to only the twelve apostles as those who FIRST received the holy Pneuma as Jesus had promised.

 

“YOUR DAUGHTERS WILL PROPHESY”

Some will argue that Peter quotes Joel which shows that women also would receive the out-pouring of holy spirit in those last days upon Jerusalem and her Temple. This unique out-pouring of holy Pneuma upon the twelve apostles at Pentecost does not mean that others, including women, did not also receive the spirit later. For the first time in Acts 5:14 and Acts 8:12 female disciples of the Nazarene are shown to also be included in this spirit blessing. Many of these women did, in fact, “prophesy” [that is, publicly preach] to others outside of the Christian congregation. [Acts 21:9].

 

So, in summary, the truth that it was mainly the apostles who were to be the foundation of the spiritual Temple of Christ, that is, the new “Israel of God,”  that future “New Jerusalem.” [Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14] It was only fitting that Christ’s promise of the spirit-helper fall first on these chosen men who had faithfully remained in Jerusalem until the out-pouring of the Father’s Pneuma.

 

==== END ====

 

 

 

BASIC TEACHINGS TO LEAVE BEHIND

By Mark Heber Miller - Hemet, California USA -

 

What is involved with progressing to maturity?

 

Hebrews 6:1 “Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [elementary principles].” [NCMM]

 

Paul writes that mature Christians move beyond basic teachings, or elementary Christian doctrine. [TCN] Paul will go on to list these “basic teachings” or “elementary principles.” It will prove interesting what he includes and what he omits. New disciples were to advance beyond these ‘beginnings’ and continue growing in the Word. [Colossians 1:10] In moving beyond the fundamentals they  would be “progressing toward maturity [TELEIOTETA].” [WMS] The disciple is to strive for perfect, or mature growth, in relation to the “doctrine of Christ.” Largely this involves the Christian Bible as well as those portions of the Hebrew Bible applied and interpreted by the inspired disciples of Jesus. [1 Corinthians 13:11; 14:20; Ephesians 4:13]

 

In contrast to most church-goers in modern times, Paul exhorts, “let us not lay over and over again the foundation truths.” [PME] This author was once most disappointed when first accepting Christ and being baptized as a Baptist. For months he had heard the “altar call” to repent and accept Christ. However, after doing this, the following week the pastor’s sermons was the same. And the week after, and the week after, and the week after. NEVER, did the minister go beyond the most fundamental of Christian teachings.

 

The disciple is to pass beyond the introductory truths and progressively understand more and more “the deep things of God.” [1 Corinthians 2:10; 3:10; Proverbs 2:1-9] What are these “basic truths” or “first principles of the doctrine of Christ”? We should consider the six doctrines or beliefs every Christian should be well-founded in.

 

 

Basic Teaching Number One: Repentance

 

Hebrews 6:1, 2 “Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [elementary principles], namely ….repentance from dead works.” [NCMM]

 

Paul mentions “repentance from dead works” among the six basic teachings of the fundamental doctrine of Christ. What is “repentance”? What are included in “dead works”? Clearly it indicates the disciple has felt regret over former conduct, speech and attitudes, turning away from and ceasing former “dead works.” Some of the “dead works” would include what Paul lists as the “works of the flesh” --  “Now you know full well the doings [works] of our lower natures. Fornication, impurity, indecency, idol-worship, sorcery; enmity, strife, jealousy, outbursts of passion, intrigues, dissensions, factions, envyings; hard drinking, riotous feasting, and the like. And as to these I forewarn you, as I have already forewarned you, that those who are guilty of such things will have no share in the Kingdom of God.” [Galatians 5:19-21 Weymouth Translation] Repentance presupposes that the Nazarene disciple has stopped the habitual practice of these works.

 

The mature Christian should know the Biblical verses dealing with repentance and moved beyond them into those things “hard to explain.” [Hebrews 5:11]

 

 

Basic Teaching Number Two: Faith

 

Hebrews 6:1, 2 “Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [elementary principles], namely ….faith toward God.” [NCMM]

 

The second teaching Paul lists involves conviction in God, or “faith which turns toward God.” [KNX]  At first this sounds very simple, but when one considers the subject of God it becomes enlarged. Who is God? What is God and what is God not? What characteristics would you attribute to God? What is God’s “eternal purpose”? Surely the subject of the Trinity would have to be addressed by modern Christians as well as any other local teachings which are not rooted in the Bible. It is noteworthy Paul does not say, “faith in Christ” that that is a truth revealed elsewhere. Of course, faith in God means to also trust in His provision for the salvation of humanity – Jesus Christ.

 

The mature Christian should move beyond teachings on faith and progress into those things “hard to understand.”

 

 

Basic Teaching Number Three: Baptisms

 

Hebrews 6:1, 2 “Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [elementary principles], namely ….teachings on baptisms.” [NCMM]

 

The Knox translation puts this: “instructions about the different kinds of baptism.” This is the third item Paul lists. He uses the plural -- “baptisms.” There are several types of baptisms taught in the Christian Bible. What are these? Water baptism, spirit baptism, baptism into the Body of Christ, baptism into the leadership of Christ, baptism into death. There was also John’s baptism in repentance for violations of the Law of Moses and a baptism into fire which was fulfilled upon the Jews in 70 AD.

 

The mature Christian should progress beyond the fundamentals dealing with baptisms and begin to understand those things “hard to understand.”

 

 

Basic Teaching Number Four: Laying on of Hands

 

Hebrews 6:1, 2 “Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [elementary principles], namely ….laying on hands.” [NCMM]

 

This is the fourth item listed by Paul. Who would lay on hands? This would infer a central authority as demonstrated in the first century Church. [Acts 8:17, 18; 1 Timothy 4:14; 5:22] What are some situations where hands might be laid on others? [See notes on 2 Timothy 1:6] Though gifts of the spirit have ceased or passed away, the appointment of godly and qualified men as elders in offices of apostle, prophet, teacher, shepherd, and missionary by the laying of hands still seems appropriate.

 

Mature Christians should understand the authority involved in the laying on of hands and move beyond this into those things “hard to understand.”

 

 

Basic Teaching Number Five: Resurrection

 

Hebrews 6:1, 2 “Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [elementary principles], namely ….[the] resurrection of the dead.” [NCMM]

 

The resurrection of the dead is Paul’s fifth listed doctrine. What is the resurrection? Who was the firstfruits of the resurrection? When will Christians be resurrected? When will humankind be resurrected? What is the purpose of the resurrection? [1 Corinthians 15:20-28, 50-54; Revelation 20:4-6, 11-13] This subject would likely also include: What is the condition of the dead? What is the soul? What are two outcomes to the resurrection? [John 5:29] These are all related questions and subjects to Paul’s 5th basic teachings.

 

The mature Christian should know and understand all those Bible verses dealing with the resurrection and progress beyond them into those things “hard to understand.”

 

 

Basic Teaching Number Six: Everlasting Judgment

 

Hebrews 6:1, 2 “Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [elementary principles], namely ….ageless condemnation.” [NCMM]

 

Paul lists last as one of the “basic teachings of the Christ” – ageless condemnation. This is also rendered: KJV: eternal judgment; BECK: everlasting judgment; GDSP: final judgment; MOF: eternal punishment. This is Paul’s last elementary doctrine: judgment. The Greek may also mean “condemnation” and here it is of an unending kind. What does the Bible say about “judgment”? When will Christians be judged? When will humankind in general be judged? Who is the Judge? Do others share in this judging? Some might observe certain words Paul did not include in his short list of “basic teachings.” For example: salvation, justification, redemption, ransom, nor even ‘Christ crucified’ – though all of these may be inferred. [From notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

 

The mature Christian ought to know all those Bible verses dealing with “judgment” and progress beyond this into those things “hard to understand.”

 

“Regarding [Jesus] we have the word to speak and hard to interpret since you have become sluggish in your hearing. For there are those who ought to be teachers by now, but you have a need to be taught by someone all over again from the beginning the elementary principles the sacred words of The God. You have become those needing milk and not solid nourishment. For every person partaking of milk is really unfamiliar with the word of righteousness because they remain babies. However, solid nourishment belongs to mature persons, those who through the use of their sensory organs have been trained like an athlete to be able to distinguish between what is good or bad. … Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection. … And, indeed, this we shall do if The God permits. [Hebrews 5:11-14; 6:1, 3 NCMM]

 

 

==== END ====

 

 

WHEN THINKING ABOUT OTHERS

By Mark Heber Miller – Hemet, California -

 

 

There were several problems in the Christian congregation at Philippi. There were two types of Christians Paul describes in Philippians 1:15-17 –

 

15 However, in contrast, some proclaim Christ with envy and strife, while others, surely, because of good intentions. 16 These later ones do so out of loving concern, knowing I have been appointed to defend the Good News. 17 But, the former proclaim the Christ out of contentiousness, not with a pure motive, supposing they will stir up oppression in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way – whether in pretense or truthfully – Christ is proclaimed. [NCMM]

 

A few chapters later, Paul actually names two sisters who evidently had some conflict between them. It is possible they had also polarized the congregation around this so that various brothers and sisters took sides, harming the unity of the church. [Philippians 4:2]

 

Just after saying this Paul lists eight things to consider when thinking or talking about concerning others. The modern member of the Nazarene community does well to prayerful meditate on these same characteristics, for they reflect the Christ-mind perfectly.

 

 

1.    True

 

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, continue to consider these things: everything true.” [NCMM]

 

Paul lists eight things or characteristics the disciple of the Nazarene ought to consider, think on, take into account, or meditate on. For a week we will consider each one of these daily. If one examines these in the light of difficulties between the two Christian women mentioned above -- as well as the two different attitudes in Philippians 1:15-17 – it can be seen that some of these things are the way we ought to think of others. In other words when Paul first lists “everything true” he means “everything true” about another person. The opposite would be to think negatively or judgmentally. Paul wants us to think positively and honestly about others. Pay no attention to what is untruthful about another. Ignore slander and gossip, particularly if you know it is untrue.

 

 

2.    Serious

 

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, continue to consider  … everything serious.” [NCMM]

 

The second thing to consider about others are those matters that are “serious.” That is those things that are honest, honorable, dignified. Some people make big issues over matters of no consequence. They make mountains out of molehills, particularly when they wish to exalt themselves and belittle another. Do not chase after silly matters of no consequence. Rather, cultivate a high degree of Christian seriousness about those matters that involve worship and Christian character. Both men and women are counseled to be “serious.” [1 Timothy 3:8, 11; Titus 2:2]

 

 

3.    Righteous

 

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, continue to consider … everything righteous.” [NCMM]

 

The third thing to consider is “everything righteous” about another. That is, just. Do not meditate on unrighteous matters concerning others. Nor, those things that are not fair and just. Learn God’s righteous standards and walk in these virtues and principles. When thinking of others, and particularly talking about them, make sure your speech is right or correct, otherwise what you say may be slanderoous. Compare Philippians 1:11 where Paul earlier encouraged, “brimming over with the fruitage of righteousness by means of Jesus Christ.”

 

 

4.    Chaste

 

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, continue to consider … everything chaste.” [NCMM]

 

The fourth thing Paul lists as a subject to consider about others is “everything chaste.” That is pure and virtuous. Do not listen to things about others that are impure. Do not speak about others in an unchaste or impure manner. When the mind and heart drift to matters unchaste, learn to mentally say “No!” and change the thinking to godly matters. [2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 4:12; 5:2; 1 Peter 3:2] The “genuine disciple” is characterized by chastity in all its forms.

 

 

5.    Affectionate

 

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, continue to consider … everything affectionate.” [NCMM]

 

The fifth thing Paul lists to consider about others is “everything affectionate.” That is, lovely, endearing, amiable, lovable. Do not harbor hateful, unloving thoughts. Such come from pride and jealousy. Learn, not only to love others, but to “like” them. Paul said in his introduction, “I have a deep hunger for you with those tender affections of Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 1:8] Search for their better qualities and ignore those that irritate. [Romans 12:10]

 

 

6.    Reputable

 

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, continue to consider … everything reputable.” [NCMM]

 

Paul now lists a sixth thing to concern oneself with when thinking of others, “everything reputable.” That is, of good report, kindly spoken, gracious, well spoken of. Pay no attention, and give no consideration to, speech that destroys reputation and character. Say nothing that will taint your own reputation or that of others. When people think of you, or hear your name, they know, or are sure, that here is a reputable person who would never harm another. Elders particularly must have a good report from worldly persons. [1 Timothy 3:7]

 

 

7.    Virtuous

 

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, continue to consider … anything virtuous.” [NCMM]

 

The seventh matter Paul lists as an object for consideration or meditation regarding others is “anything virtuous.” That is whatever is morally excellent. Pay not attention to that which is not virtuous in thought and action. If it is suspect to public decency, run for your lives. The Latin word VIRTUS means strength of moral character, manliness, value. Cultivate those virtues humans generally praise. Think no thought about another that is not virtuous. Compare notes on 2 Peter 1:5.

 

 

8. Praise-worthy

 

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, continue to consider … anything praise-worthy.” [NCMM]

 

The last in Paul’s list of things to think about when considering others is “anything praise-worthy.” That is, honorable. If you hear something not praise-worthy of another suspect the motives. If you easily believe the worst of people, examine your own heart in prayer, for pride and jealousy may have you in their grip. The engine that moves slander is always prideful jealousy of another – egotism. Think and behave in a manner that others will praise for your kindness, good manners, thoughtfulness, forgiving nature, and godly example. [From notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000©]

 

The “genuine disciple” sincerely interested in “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” [2 Corinthians 7:1] should look within and consider or think upon whether the following attributes reflect the Christ residing within:

 

        Is what I think or speak of another – true?

        Is what I think or speak of another – serious?

        Is what I think or speak of another – righteous?

        Is what I think or speak of another – chaste?

        Is what I think or speak of another – affectionate?

        Is what I think or speak of another – reputable?

        Is what I think or speak of another – virtuous?

        Is what I think or speak of another -- praise-worthy?

 

 

==== END ====

 

 

"You Must Be Holy "

The Key To God's Ultimate Reward

by James Noble - Long Beach, California

“Because of this fortify your mental loins. Remain completely sober. Persist in your Hope of unmerited favor until [the] Revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children do not fashion yourselves according to your former ignorant passions. Rather, in harmony with the Holy One who invited you, you also become holy in all of your conduct. Just as it is written: "You must be holy, because I am holy." 1 Peter 1: 13-16 [NCMM]

What did Peter mean when he said we are to be holy? The word holy derives from the Hebrew qodes; Greek hagios, meaning the condition of being set apart, different, separated from others. The word's grandest meaning is in reference to God. It is also used to describe objects and people that God has specially set apart for His own use and service.

When applied to God, holiness highlights the vast differences between Him and man. These differences are apparent in regard to both His nature (which includes such attributes as His power, glory and knowledge) and His moral perfection (He is absolutely sinless). God's holiness is our basis for worshiping Him and at the same time our complete assurance that we can rely on Him to be absolutely good in how He deals with us.

Sometimes the word holy is used in the Scriptures to describe temple furniture and objects that were to be set apart for the solely for worship and temple service. At other times the term holy is used to describe people who have been chosen and set apart by God to be His representatives and witnesses to the world.

Saint is another word that derived from the same root as holy. In the Bible a saint is someone whom God has set apart for His service. This term, contrary to popular understanding, includes all persons who have accepted Christ as Savior and who God has called His people, His spiritual children, receivers of His special favor (as opposed to nonbelievers). (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:18). So Saints are not just specially holy people who lived in the past. Scripturally they include all people today, all followers of Christ, who have been set apart as the Lord's own special possession.

The word sanctification, used often in the New Testament, is also from the same root word as holy. This word has three closely related meanings as we will defined see below.

 

Sanctification is:

1.       God's setting us apart as His forgiven children.

The apostle Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 6:11: But, all of you were cleansed. All of you were sanctified. All of you were declared not guilty in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Pneuma [Spirit] of our God.” [NCMM]

God cleanses us and declares us His special children, holy and set apart for service to Him when we put our faith in Christ as our only hope of forgiveness, our Savior. We receive this, not because we have earned it, but as a free gift from God because we have placed our complete trust and reliance in Christ. (This is therefore sometimes referred to as positional holiness.)

 

2.       The process by which God makes a believer increasingly like Jesus Christ.

This is the lifelong experience in which every one of us who are Christians are involved. Remember, being sanctified we are set apart for God's special use. This is the sense of the term sanctified or sanctification about which the Bible teaches most often. Our purpose as persons chosen by God is to live increasingly in a manner that is consistent with our calling, namely to follow and reflect Jesus as closely as possible. Although we can never achieve Christ-like moral perfection in this life, we can experience the blessed effects of being in a right relationship with God. This is the very practical and progressive facet of holiness.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christians: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification." (1 Thessalonians 4:3). He added in the same letter, "May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:23) These quotes exemplify the purpose of many texts in the Christian Scriptures, that is, to explain how we are to grow in sanctification -- to become more holy in practice, showing by our actions that we belong to the Lord.

 

3.       The moral perfection that God's spiritual children will one day attain; the ultimate goal .

In 1 John 3:2-3, the inspired writer states, "Now, beloved, we are Children of God, and what we shall become has not yet been manifested. We know that whenever the Son is made manifest we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is really. And every person having this hope within purifies himself just as the Son is pure."

This scriptural promise, given by our trustworthy Holy God, presents to us the most magnificent prospect possible to anyone on earth:

One day we will be like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

 

==== END ====

 

 

 

 

MY SHEPHERD IS YEHOWAH

By Mark Heber Miller – Hemet, California

 

There is no poem or piece of literature that has been more published and memorized than the Twenty-Third Psalm. It is among the most famous of all writings. King David of Israel is given the credit for what amounts to a hymn or psalm. Surely David’s days as a young shepherd inspired much of his lovely expressions. The following commentary is based on the 21st Century Paraphrase of the Hebrew Scriptures [NCMM] of Psalms and the Nazarene Commentary 2000©.

 

Psalm 23:1 My shepherd is Yehowah. I will want for nothing.

 

David says that his God Yehowah [Yahweh, Jehovah] is his Shepherd. [Or, HAR: shepherds me; BAS: takes care of me; LXX: tends me as a shepherd.] [Compare Psalm 28:9; 78:71; 80:1] The prophets also call Messiah a shepherd. [Isaiah 40:11; 44:28; Ezekiel 34:23, 24; Zechariah 13:7. Jesus likens himself to a shepherd. [Matthew 25:32; John 10:2, 11-13, 16] Paul, Peter, and John do also. [Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4; Revelation 2:27; 7:17; 12:5; 19:15] Christ also shepherds by means of appointed men. [John 21:16; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2] David’s relationship to God is like a sheep to the shepherd.

 

It should be noted that no nameless “lord” is David’s Shepherd. Rather, he is unashamed to name his Shepherd as Yehowah. This Divine Name for the Creator is also rendered Jehovah or Yahweh. Many who have memorized this psalm and used the words, “the LORD is my shepherd” think this refers to Jesus Christ. This “LORD” [KJV] is not Jesus Christ, but rather his Father, of whom he said, “Let your name be sanctified.” [Matthew 6:9]

 

With such a divine Shepherd David says he wants for nothing. [Or, KJV: I shall not want; PBV: therefore can I lack nothing; HAR: I shall never be in need; BAS: I will not be without any good thing; TAY: I have everything I need; JPS: I lack nothing.] The idea of not wanting -- or wanting for nothing – indicates an end to desire, greed, or covetousness. The Messianic Shepherd teaches, “Beware of every kind of greed.” David’s words indicate there is no greed in his system. He is satisfied with what he possesses and has no egotistical desire for more.

 

 

Psalm 23:2 He makes me lie down in grassy meadows. He leads me to quiet waters.

 

David says Yehowah causes him to recline or lie down. [Or, PBV: feed me; LXX: fixed my abode; SPR: to repose; BAS: makes a resting-place for me; RHM ftn: cause me to rest there.] Sheep feed upright and so the fact this sheep lies down shows it “wants for nothing” and is well fed, pleasantly resting. We can imagine a mountain or hillside meadow or grassy field. This sheep is surrounded by food but is so satisfied it lays down to rest and serenity. There are few things more calming than the sound of gentle waters. This is true whether it is a bubbling mountain stream, the gentle lapping of a lake, or the soothing sound of surf. Many have observed these places to be excellent for meditation.

 

 

Psalm 23:3 He renews my soul. For His own Name’s sake He guides me correct paths.

 

David feels refreshed as he has just grazed and then lied down to rest. [Or, KJV: restoreth my soul; BAS: gives new life to; HAR: renewed life; NJB: revives my soul; NEB: renews my life within me; TAY: restores my failing health.] The purpose of this rest in quiet meadows is to restore or renew the soul. It would actually be harmful if sheep did nothing but graze. In a similar manner the worshipper of Yehowah must also take time away from spiritual feeding to meditate restfully on the things learned.

 

Though satisfied and restfully restored, David says Yehowah will guide him in “correct paths.” [Or, KJV: paths of righteousness; BAS: ways of righteousness; HAR: a virtuous course; NJB: paths of virtue; NEB: right path; KNX: sure paths.] The Hebrew has more the idea of “tracks” or “ruts.” These are well-worn with generations of others who have walked the same way and have become deep ruts. One can leave these only by effort. A sheep can wander away and get lost and this was a theme of the Nazarene – the lost sheep. The disciple is not forced-marched in a rut, but is gently led by the Shepherd on the way of righteousness.

 

 

Psalm 23:4 Even if I walk through the valley of death’s shadow I will fear nothing harmful, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

 

Most people feel some dread when passing through a deep ravine where dangers my lie in wait. Others render this phrase -- KJV: valley of the shadow of death; RHM: death-shadowed; LXX: shades of death; MOF: glen of gloom; AAT: darkest valley; NEB: dark as death. There are frightening places with great danger, but David feels the presence of his Shepherd and so has no fear. Sooner or later all humans pass through such a valley, but even near death they have nothing to fear, because “thou art with me.”

 

Sheep do have enemies and can become frightened. But David as one of Yehowah’s sheep is fearless. Learning to overcome fear is a struggle for some. The more one trusts and relies on the Shepherd the less fear will be present. With such lack of fear serene tranquility comes peacefully on the fearless. [Compare Hebrews 2:15.]

 

David feels the comfort of Yehowah’s “rod.” There can be two views: God’s rod of discipline and guidance; or, a rod of protection. [The Greek is actually BACTERIA.] This rod “comforts” David and does not cause him fear. It would seem the Shepherd’s rod is for the protection of the sheep. Also, he is comforted by Yehowah’s “staff.” The shepherd’s crook for rescuing the sheep. David is not frightened by Yehowah’s rod and staff, for these are for protection and guidance.

 

 

Psalm 23:5 Right in front of my enemies You spread out a table before me. You have anointed my head with oil. My cup is completely filled.

 

Sheep have enemies, like wolves, lions and bears. Likewise, David had enemies, as did Jesus. Nothing irritates hateful enemies more than to see the object of their resentment to be clearly blessed. And this is not just a quick snack wrapped in cloth as a shepherd might carry, but a full banquet. This irritates David’s enemies.

 

Sheep within the “one flock” of the Fine Shepherd [John 10:16] were also in danger from enemies who looked like sheep but were “dressed in the clothing of wolves.” [Matthew 10:16] Paul warns of such wolves when he speaks to an assembled group of Christian elders: I realize that after my departure burdensome wolves will enter your midst and will not spare the flock. Also, right from among you [elders] men will appear speaking twisted things to mislead the disciples to follow them.” [Acts 20:29, 30 NCMM] There is no need to “fear” presumptuous men who claim to be God’s prophets. [Deuteronomy 18:22]

 

Yehowah is not only like a Shepherd but also a hospitable Host who would wash the feet of a guest and then apply perfumed oil on dry skin. [Luke 7:44-46] This Host is not stingy but is willing to keep His quest’s cup filled. David also shows the right attitude. David is the optimist who always sees even a half-filled glass as half-full rather than “half-empty.”

 

 

Psalm 23:6 For a certainty all the days of my life I will aspire to goodness and covenant-loyalty, and so I will reside in the house of Yehowah throughout my days. [NCMM]

 

David is confident. He does not waver in doubt or indecision. He positively says he aspires to goodness, or that such divine goodness will always accompany him throughout his life. David may mean God’s “goodness” will be present throughout his life. Or, he may refer to his own goodness. The word “goodness” in English means virtue, excellence, kindness, generosity, benevolence. And not only “goodness” but also “covenant-loyalty” is present with David. That is, mercy, loving-kindness, love, loyal love, unfailing love, faithful love, steadfast love. The word refers to a bond or contract between two persons requiring trust and faithfulness in the object of love.

 

As one of the sheep of Yehowah’s flock, David’s hope is to remain within God’s household throughout his life no matter how long these years might be. So in David’s beautiful hymn he views his relationship to Yehowah as first a sheep to the Shepherd, and then, as a guest to the Host. Psalm 15 provides more details on just what kind of person will be permitted to reside in Yehowah’s Tent.

 

How comforted we feel as we have fed on David’s psalm. We can now lie down and meditate in peace as though near a happy brook – full and satisfied, walking with our Shepherd Yehowah without any want or fear. May He bless your quiet time in His pasture.

 


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