Wineskins Archive

February 20, 2017

Real Joy: In a Package or a Presence (Image Vol 9, No 6 – Nov-Dec 1993)

Filed under: — @ 2:28 pm and

By Rich Atchley
Fort Worth, TX

The famed Philosopher Lucy was telling Charlie Brown that life was like a deck chair. “Some like to set it to see where they’ve been, some set it to see where they’re going, and other like to place it to see where they are at the moment.” Charlie thought about this for a moment and then said, “I can’t even get mine unfolded.”

Does that sound like a lot of people you know? For many, life seems dull at best, and at worst, filled with anxiety and turmoil. Our nation’s constitution guarantees the pursuit of happiness as an inalienable right but it does not guarantee our ability to find it. Most people are in great need of a joy transfusion, but they don’t know where to get one.

Christians should be dynamic witnesses of the kind of joy people long for. I am persuaded that no method or program would attract unbelievers to our churches like the message that real happiness can be pursued and gained in Jesus Christ. But here comes a great irony: most nonbelievers do not associate the concept of joy with church. Indeed some think it strange that Christians would know anything about the subject. And isn’t it true that they have some reason to think that way? Haven’t we all been to church services where the assembly looked like they had gathered to mourn a defeat? Don’t you know Christians who give the impression that following Christ means accepting a life of grimness in exchange for the faith hope of a home in heaven. Too many Christians look like they were baptized in freshly squeezed lemon juice.

I confronted this perception of believers with my first boss. I was a salesman in a department store during my high school years, and my manager and I became friends. She asked me what I planned to do after graduation. I told her I intended to attend a Christian college and train to become a minister. She seemed startled by my plans. Finally she said, “Rick I just can’t see you as a minister. You seem like such a happy person!”

Are you one of those Christians who subconsciously believes that grimness is a biblical virtue? Perhaps as a young Christian, I too held that idea to a degree. But I did something that profoundly changed my mind – I opened my Bible! Let me share with you some of the things I learned.

I learned that God intends Christians to live a joy-filled life. Did you know that Jesus talks more about happiness than about heaven. He told us, “My purpose is to give you life in all its fullness” (John 10:10). God does not consider joy a luxury that only a few ever get to enjoy. He designed life in Christ to be joyful. Paul said, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17).

I saw how appropriate it is to approach God with joy. Psalms is full of calls to come before the Lord with gladness. “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs” (Ps. 100:1-2). I challenge the idea that reverence and humility before God precludes smiling in church. Our assemblies need to celebrate the goodness and faithfulness of our God. Grimness is not a Christian virtue.

I remembered that joy characterized the early Christians. Joy runs through the New Testament as if quite ordinary, as something to be expected. Read again Acts 2 how gladness was one of the characteristics of the very first church. In fact, Paul knew the Galatians had been exposed to a false gospel because their joy was missing (Gal. 4:15). (A side note – legalism is always a joy-killer.) To read the New Testament is to understand that a joyless Christian is an oxymoron.

I realized that God was the author and source of true joy. Paul lists joy as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). This means hat joy is not optional for those believers whose temperaments happen not to be conducive to it. Joy is the natural result of the presence of God in your life. Indeed, if partaking of God’s nature produces joy in our lives, then that means joylessness is a contradiction of the nature of God!

So where should all those people in need of a joy transfusion look? To the nearest community of New Testament Christians – that’s where. Christians should be reservoirs of much-needed joy wherever they are, because they understand the crucial truth that real joy does not come in a package, but in a presence.

In a season when people will spend billions of dollars trying to buy gifts that will bring cheer to others, we should be singing the answer to their search for happiness: “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”

Wasn’t that the message the angel brought the shepherds the night Jesus was born: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

This is where the joy of the Lord and earthly happiness part company. The angel said God’s joy was for all people, but that could never be true of happiness came from a package. There simply aren’t enough packages to go around. The problem with earthly happiness is that it is directly related to happenings. The joy of the world is profoundly affected by the latest thing to happen, by circumstances that are often beyond the individual’s control. People who continually depend on things and others for their happiness will find it a constant pursuit, never a perpetual reality. But the Christian’s joy springs from God’s presence in his life, a presence unaffected by circumstances. As the well-known missionary, E. Stanly Jones, put it, “I’m a happy man because my happiness is not dependent on happenings, but upon the joy of belonging to Him, whatever happens.”

You know, there’s at least one other song I am aware of titles “Joy to the World.” It’s lyrics say, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog. He was a good friend of mind. I never understood a single word he said, but I helped him drink his wine.” The words may seem silly, but they sum up the predominant view of the world: that joy is “out there,” and one just needs to find the right “bottle.”

But the Bible says joy does not come from a package, but from a presence. Joy is not “out there” but is an internal reality that results from a relationship with Christ. The real joy to the world is found in the words, “The Lord has come!”

Which song are you singing?

February 15, 2017

My Hopes for Our Assemblies (Image Vol 10, No 2 – March/April 1994)

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By Calvin Warpula

The New Testament does not give a detailed, uniform description of a worship service. Actually, the New Testament does not distinguish between “worship services” and other Christian assemblies. Our talk about “five acts of worship” is not New Testament language. It is in adequate to describe New Testament assemblies thusly. There are only a few assemblies described in the New Testament church that were strictly for the purpose of “worshiping God” Specific adoration acts of direct praise to God (worship) were probably a part of almost all the assemblies, but since many other things of an edification-fellowship nature were conducted, the vertical dimension seems not to have been the only focus of the assemblies.

Why did early Christians gather together?

Meetings of Christians are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5, 11, 14; Acts 2, 4, 12, 13, 20; Hebrews 10:25; James 2; and other places. Since the epistles were to be read in the churches, then what is written in the epistles for all Christians to do refers to what they could do individually or in concert with one another (in the assembly).

When believers gather together, the following actions were sometimes performed:

  1. Teaching the word of God and instructing in the Scriptures (Acts 2:42; 20:7-8)
  2. Convincing, rebuking, and encouraging, with the utmost patience in teaching (2 Tim. 4:2)
  3. Equipping the saints in works of ministry (Eph. 4:12)
  4. Reading the Scriptures (1 Thess. 5:27)
  5. Building up and edifying one another (1 Cor. 14:1-5)
  6. Encouraging one another in the faith (Heb. 10:25)
  7. Reading the names of those who were infecting the rest of the body with evil and warning the remainder of the church of them (1 Cor. 5:4-5)
  8. Partaking of the bread and the wine in remembrance of Jesus (1 Cor. 11:17-34)
  9. Practicing the “one another” passages (which are relational, mutual, reciprocal, or responsive), like “love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9), “confess your sins one to another” (James 5:16), “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Rom. 16:16), “serve one another” (Gal. 5:13), “rejoice and weep with one another” (Rom. 12:15), “pray for one another” (James 5:16), “speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19), “and “be kind to one another and forgive one another” (Eph. 4:32).
  10. Giving to help one another and others in physical and spiritual things (Gal. 6:10, 2 Cor. 8-9)
  11. Worshiping and praising God (Acts 2:46-47; 13:1-3; Heb. 12:28)
  12. Eating together (Gal. 2:11-14; Acts 2:46; 2 Pet. 2:13)

Anything that Jesus taught or that the early church did with one another is something that can be done in any assembly of Christians There are no principles given for all individual Christians that do no likewise guide and direct groups of Christians or congregations. There are no principles given to groups of Christians that are not applicable to the individuals in those congregations.

Our assemblies should model New Testament assemblies in three ways:

1 – In Their Focus

The focus of everything a believer does individually and corporately is always for the praise and glory of God. The praise and glory of God is the overriding motivation and purpose behind everything we do or say or eat or drink (Col. 3:17; 1 Cor. 10:31). When believers love one another more ad more, this is for the praise and glory of God. The “abounding love” of Philippians 1:9, certainly a horizontal dimension, is designed to ring praise to God as mentioned two verses later. Therefore, when we come together to do anything we are to praise and honor God by everything we are and say and do – our words, actions, examples, expressions, body language, priorities, and values.

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2 – In Their Forms

The New Testament is very short on form. What forms are required universally and permanently?

The only uniquely Christian forms that are permanent and universal are the ones attached to the core message of salvation: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. They are as follows:

  1. Immersion of a penitent believer into fellowship with the crucified and risen Christ (Rom. 6:1-7).
  2. The eating together of bread and fruit of the vine in remembrance of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11:17-34).
  3. The significance of the first day of the week as a day to assemble to praise Jesus Christ and to participate in the communion in his honor (Acts 20:7). This day became known as the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10). According to the early church fathers, this was the day of Christian assembly of the churches in the early and middle second century (Didache 14:1; Epistle of Barnabas15; Justin Martyr, Apology 1. 65-67).

All the emphasis on pattern in the New Testament is on following the pattern or model lifestyle of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:21; Col. 3:15-17; Phil. 2:5). What kind of life did he live among us? He was kind, loving, forgiving, truthful, obedient, trustworthy, reliable, evangelistic, prayerful, merciful, and serving. That’s what we are to be.

3 – In their Functions

How did the early Christians conduct their assemblies? What were they trying to accomplish?

  • The assembly should be conducted in a manner that is conducive to learning.

First Corinthians 14:6-12 teaches that assemblies should be designed so that those who attend my understand what is happening and so that everyone might be built up. If our assemblies are not building us up, then our function is wrong, though externally our practices may be biblical. Merely attending an assembly or doing the right acts does not guarantee that we are worshiping God or edifying one another.

Our assemblies should be celebrative family reunions with lots of joy, singing, and participation. Church should be “fun” – spiritually refreshing and encouraging. Joy in all its forms, is mentioned 125 times in the New Testament. Of all people, we have the greatest message in the world.

Joy is not always a part of our assemblies. A photographer went to church and took pictures of people as they came in. He took pictures of the same people as they left church, ad he compared the pictures of before and after. He then wondered, “What is it that happens in church that makes people so sad?”

  • The assembly could allow the participation of the congregation.

Assemblies do not have to be conducted by a limited few. The picture of the Corinthian assembly is an example of a church body that had the freedom and joy of participation and sharing .”When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation” (1 Cor. 14:26). Paul did not condemn this practice of each member contributing to the assembly but encouraged that everything be conducted for the building up of the body.

This allows freedom, flexibility, and participation in some of our assemblies. We could have testimonies or faith talks about what GOd is doing in our lives. We could have more confessions of sins, prayers for help, and openness with needs and concerns. This meeting would be a support group, like the Alcoholics Anonymous, with everyone participating. Our adult Bible classes or small group meetings, which emphasize discussion, lesson application, interaction, prayer concerns, confession of needs and struggles, and male and female participation, probably resemble the Corinthian assembly more than our usual tightly structured and time-conscious “worship services.”

are no
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One are that we need to critically and considerably study is the role of women in our churches. In most of our adult Bible classes, a woman can make coffee, serve as a greeter, make an announcement, ask a question, make a comment, and read Bible verses. However, in the worship assembly, women are not permitted to say or do anything except join in congregational singning.

The only limitation the Scriptures places on women in relationship to men in any Christian gathering is that they are “not to teach or in any other way have authority over men” (1 Tim. 2:8-15). Other than that women are as free to participate and serve Christ as men are.

Everywhere today people are asking of a woman may do the following things in an assembly: serve communion, confess sins, sing a solo, distribute the worship programs, be an usher, read Scripture, say a prayer be a deacon, lead singing, preach the Word, serve as an elder, teach a class with me present.

The Bible gives no specific answer except the general directive of the apostle, “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man.” In all these questions we should ask, “Is this a position or ministry where a woman teaches over a man or has authority over men?” If it is, then women should not do it. If it is not, then it is permitted.

  • The assembly could encourage all types of vocal music.

The Bible says we should sing praises to the Lord (Heb. 13:15) and “speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19). The Christians psalmody was, as far as we can ascertain, modeled after the Jewish manner of singing. Everett Ferguson in his Early Christians Speak (Austin: Sweet, 1971, p. 161) and his article on music in the Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (1990, p.630) shows several varieties of solo, antiphonal, and responsorial signing among the Jews and early Christians.

Concluding Statements

We not only deal with Scripture, but also with tradition and perception. Something may be scripturally right but, because of tradition, lack of teaching, or culture or subculture, perceived to be wrong.

Traditional practices are difficult to change. Nothing mores slower than a church Even though changes are scriptural, not everything should be changed at once. Change is more evolutionary than revolutionary.

We are free to practice our methods, styles, and ways of doing what God approves in cases where what we are doing does not violate any principles of Scripture.

In the Christian assembly, God evidently does not care about many things that often concern us. The Scriptures tell us God cares about such issues as: Do we love one another? Are we growing in the faith? Are we maintaining our hope? Are we looking forward to Christ’s coming? Are w living pure and holy lives? Are we working for peace and unity among all believers? Are we letting the Holy Spirit control us? Are we praising God and glorifying him in all things? Are we growing spiritually? Are we teaching the word to sinners and baptizing them into Christ? Are we maturing the converts? Are we seeking the lost sheep? Are we encouraging one another? Are we healing broken relationships?

Let’s focus on God. Let’s emphasize New Testament forms. Let’s remember the functions of the assembly. If we do, we know we will please God. We will probably also have a lot more joy, peace, and results from our assemblies.

Editorial: The Power of God (Image Vol 10, No 2 – March/April 1994)

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By Denny Boultinghouse

Storms are a natural part of our world. Whether it be the ocean storms on the West Coast that tear away the coast line, or the black thunderstorms of the South that cause flooding, or the blizzards of the North that wreak havoc in major metropolitan centers – storms are inevitable. They are a natural port of the process.

Storms are also temporary. But in the midst of the upheaval, the sensation that time is standing still may overwhelm. But time doesn’t really stand still; things continue. The rushing water, the swirling black clouds, the wind – they will all stop. The sun really does come out tomorrow, the seas really do become calm, and the snow finally does melt.

In our great brotherhood, storms are not new. In the midst of the storm, some fear the storm will never end and that it will destroy all that is good. We need to remember that calm will return. To paraphrase: if your house is built firm on the rock, it will stand firm during the storm.

Amid every transition, there are the prophets of doom who proclaim that “the current crisis will destroy all that we hold dear. It will ‘restructure’ the church as we know it. It must be fought with renewed intensity. All those who are truly informed can clearly see all the ramifications of this new threat.”

Well…yes, we need to be vigilant. Yes, we need to be responsible. But we need not panic, for ultimate survival of the church does not depend on our meager efforts. God is in control. Every generation has had its prophets of doom, and yet the church continues. Could it be that God is still active and working?

Perhaps the ultimate response to all our great concerns is to just allow God to be in control of his church, to allow his power to work.

Some fear that if we talk about the power of God working through the Holy Spirit in the church, we somehow deny the power of the Word. But actually, to believe that the Holy Spirit of God is alive and active in this world is not a denial of the Word, it is an affirmation of the Word. To affirm the working of the Spirit in the church is to affirm that God did not leave his people alone. It is to reject deism, which suggests that God set up the system and i now allowing nature to take its course without any intervention. Deism regulates God’s activity to the distant past and maintains that now he just watches us make it on our own.

The Bible clearly affirms that God has given the Holy Spirit to his people. It affirms that he is alive and well. If you do not believe that the power of God is active today, why do you pray? Where do you get the power to be conformed to Christ? Where do you get power to battle the evil one?

It is not our goodness, our logic, nor our study skills that really produce change in the hearts of people. Yes, it is important to be as good as we can be; yes, we must use our reasoning; and yes, we must be the best student of Scripture possible. But the real power is not in any of these things. Instead it is in the power of God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In reality, it is by the power of God that any of us are changed, and that should encourage us. we have plenty reasons to be optimistic about the church. In the church we are never without hope, because his power is greater than the imperfections of the church. We must depend upon his perfection and power to change the church.

Since the power comes from God, we must develop a deep yearning for him. We must have a passion in our hearts for God and not merely some stories in our mind. We must not only talk about him in our churches we must allow him to control our churches.

What does it mean to let God control our churches? None of us know all that it might mean. But amazing things will happen. It means that our churches will do things that actually require the power of God. we will do things that require more than mere human effort and ingenuity.

We will have elders who are literally on their knees in prayers of unworthiness. We will have elders who confess their sins to one another. We will have elders who never even appear to be lording over the flock.

We will have people who glorify in their weakness, rather than affirm their own strengths. We will have churches that are more concerned about being the living manifestation of Jesus on the earth today, they they are about some humanly devised “checklist for soundness.” Churches will be full of struggling sinners who need the power of God to overcome. Christians will extend helping hands to life one another up. We will have power-packed assemblies that praise God for what he has done and continues to do.

When God controls a church, people don’t panic, because their confidence in the power of God is always greater than their fear of the power of the evil one. Dependence upon the power of God always brings the strength to weather whatever storms come.

February 14, 2017

Can God Be Trusted to Keep a Promise? (Image Vol 10, No 3 – May-June 1994)

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By Larry James

We build our hopes and dreams and plans for tomorrow on promises, don’t we? Yet, we live in a world where promise-breaking seems to be increasingly common- even expected. Promises feel good when we receive them from people we love, respect, and trust; they fill us with expectation, motivation, and purpose they leave us breathless with anticipation. Broken promises “chop us off at the knees.” They send us reeling. They leave us breathless, drowning in an ocean of tears, despair, anger, disappointment, and fear. So much of life gets arranged around promises.

Mary stood beside Jim almost twenty years ago when he uttered the promise that made her his wife. The word returned to her now: something about having and holding, for better of for worse, both in sickness and in health…until “death do us part.” But today the death that parted them was the death of his promise. Jim could articulate his “reasons” – incompatibility, pressure from work, another person to whom he promised and gave too much. To Mary, all his words added up to a broken promise.

Allen accepted the offer, signed the contract, and worked hard and faithfully for almost thirty years with the company that hired him right out of engineering school. His career track led to great benefits, profit-sharing, and the “certain” prospect of a comfortable, secure retirement. But unknown to him, somewhere along the way, the world changed and with it all the rules of his workplace. He had been “laid off” (the phrase seemed weak and totally inadequate to describe what he experienced) just short of retirement, with little hope of beginning again at his age. Feelings of betrayal and injustice engulfed Allen, threatening to destroy him and all he had worked so hard to build. With tears in his eyes he told me, “They didn’t keep their promises.”

Friendship is just not supposed to work this way. Growing up together as best friends, Shannon and Heather made solemn promises. Loyalty, mutual defense, and unending devotion protected them all through high school against peer pressure, “clueless” teenage boys, and the ups and downs of school politics and popularity. Then came David, the blonde, bronze, beautiful, bold boy. In a heartbeat he stepped between them. From Shannon’s perspective, their friendship of over a decade evaporated in a single spring afternoon. Why? Broken promises.

She should have stayed. She told him she would never leave, that she would be all right, that God would make her well. But at age thirty-one, his mother died. She might not have intended to make a promise, but he took her words as a guarantee. Nine years old, with baseball cap, tattered jeans, and tearstained smudge on his face, he tried to explain to the guys on his Little League team why his mom couldn’t bring the soft drinks after games this year. She said she would stay. But she didn’t.


In a world where disappointment and broken promises seem commonplace, can I really trust anyone? Even more important, can I trust God as a promise keeper? As we wrestle with this question, I’ve got a story to review with you before making three observations about the nature of God’s promises.

What God promised to a man named Abraham, he brought to initial completion in the life of a man named Joshua. A summary paragraph toward the end of Joshua’s story serves as the conclusion of an epic saga that began centuries earlier:

Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land which he swore to give to their fathers; and having taken possession of it, they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers; not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Josh. 21:43-45 – RSV)

Joshua elaborates later by tracing this history of Israel from the call of Abraham down to the time of the successful conquest of Canaan (Josh. 24:1-13). To make a long, complex story short and simple: God brought the children of Abraham into the land he had promised to the head of their family.

What does this short summary of God’s dealings with his ancient people tell us about his promises to us? In a world of broken promises, what can we expect from Joshua’s God?

First, God’s promises usually turn out to be of the “long-haul” variety. God takes the long view with us as his people collectively and as his persons individually. In making a promise, he always provides us plenty of room, time, and space to assume our own responsibilities and to make our own decisions in the course of life. Yet, a part of the power of God’s promises resides in the fact that no matter what we decide or choose, God’s promises remain valid, trustworthy, and in tact. For confirmation, remember Israel! God promised Abraham, the head of the family, a fresh start in a new land. Abraham realized the promise before he died. Even though famine forced him to spend time in Egypt and in spite of the facet that he knew suffering, difficulty, and doubt firsthand, he moved into the land of Canaan and lived just as God promised. Before the nation of Israel realized the blessing of God’s promise, the descendants of Abraham endured suffering, disappointment, slavery, and rebellions. The wilderness wandering confronts us with a story of pain and disappointment, but the fact remains: God kept his promise.

Second, God’s promises provide peace for those who receive them (Josh. 21:44). Go back and read the entire story of Jewish history from Abraham to Joshua. In the midst of the ups and downs of victory and defeat, throughout the narrative of obedience and insurrection, you’ll notice a stability and a quit determination sustaining those players who placed their trust in Yahweh. Peace often comes after struggle and pain. People do not arrive at “rest” in the same manner. Abraham’s story reads differently than Jacob’s. The specifics of Jacob’s biography share little in common with Caleb’s. However the conclusion of each person’s faith story reads the same: peace and rest in the surety of God’s unfailing promises.

Third, God’s promises can be counted on as reliable. “Not one of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass” (Josh. 21:45 – RSV). Unlike human promises, plans and predictions, God’s promises were eventually fulfilled exactly as he indicated they would be – overcoming every obstacle, defeating every foe, both external and internal. In spite of the fact that he had to work with flawed, fearful, doubting people just like us, God kept his promises…all of them! From the barren womb of Sarah to the faltering faith of reluctant Moses, from the lying lips of fearful Abraham to the roaring tide of the Red Sea, God perfectly accomplished every plan in his own time for the good of his people. Because of their fundamental dependability, God’s promises serve us well as the foundation we need for building an unshakable life.

Faith is usually anything but easy. Living in a broken world, experiencing the fallout of broken promises, it is difficult to trust, isn’t it? After all, finding someone you can really “count on” grows tougher and tougher. Remember God’s amazing promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3? God brought it to initial completion at the time of Joshua. But the full completion of the promise came generations after Joshua.

As followers of Jesus, we understand his words to Abraham to be the heart of all God’s promises: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3b). Christians see this as a promise of the blessing arriving only in and through Jesus Christ, one of the sons of Abraham! Paul would certainly agree when he writes, “For in him every one of God’s promises is ‘Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen,’ to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:20). Every promise God extends to us begins and ends in Jesus Christ.

God’s faithful promises do not eliminate life’s pain, difficulty, or disappointment. God’s constant loyalty does not guarantee that others will not let us down or fail to fulfill promises they have made to us. His promises do sustain us as we move on through life while assuring us that much better things await us in a future defined, controlled, and guaranteed by his faithful promises.

February 9, 2017

Here and There (Image Vol 10, No 5 – Sept/Oct 1994)

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By Denny Boultinghouse

Restoration Forum Twelve will be held November 1-3 on the campus of Abilene Christian University. Speakers include Calvin Warpula, Alger Fitch, Bill Humble, James North, Chris Smith, Lynn Gardner, James Thompson, Charles Gresham, Jack Reese, Charles McNeely, Dean Smith, Beauford Bryant, Rubel Shelly, and Ronnie Norman. Having attended ten of the forums, I am sometimes asked, “Do the forums really accomplish anything?” I guess it depends upon what your vision for the forum is. If you expect Christian Church attendants to run home and throw out their pianos, then you may be disappointed. But the forums do accomplish a h=number of good things. It is always good when brethren come together and openly discuss Scripture with other brethren. It is also good to develop genuine friendships with brethren. When you gain a greater understanding of the sincere convictions of brethren, that is also good. No doubt, the Christian Church folks better understand that we in the Churches of Christ are not all a bunch of legalists who want to restrict the freedom of everyone else. On the other side, many of us have learned that respect or the authority of Scripture is just as important to our brethren on the other side of the keyboard as it is to us. People on both sides of the keyboard have developed a greater appreciation for each other and surely that is worthwhile. If you can attend this forum on the A.C.U. campus, you are invited. No one is ever asked to compromise his or her convictions. Everyone is expected to treat one another as brothers and sisters. Call the Bible department for more information (915-674-3700)

Setting your Church Free (Regal Books) is the title of a new book by Neil Anderson and Charles Mylander. It is subtitled: A Biblical Plan to Help Your Church. While those in our fellowship will have some theological differences with the writers, this book is packed with much wisdom that will benefit our churches. It is not merely a book of programs; rather it offers a real plan for changing your church. According to the authors, the biblical starting point for transforming a church is to transform the leaders of that church into the kind of spiritual leaders God desires. The book also deals with some corporate matters necessary to maturing an entire church. If our leaders would just read chapter 5, which deals with servant leadership, most churches among us would be transformed. Memories can be enslaving or enabling, and chapter 9 contains much insight about how to deal with the power of memories in a local church. Many of our churches struggle with how to deal with past memories, so this chapter should prove especially useful. This book is packed with so many spiritual insights that it should become a standard resource book for elders and ministers.

Consistent Pro-Life. We all hears the news story this past summer about the murder of the doctor at the Pensacola abortion clinic. I’ve heard all the arguments attempting to justify the action, but they are totally unonvincing. Murder to wrong, and that should be clear to all. Doing wrong for a good reason does not make that wrong right. Believers who are pro-life must be consistently pro-life, and that demands respect for all life. Since all mankind is in the image of God, we are under moral obligation to respect every human being. The fact that that person may be doing something immoral does not mean that w should not treat them in a Christ-like manner. Christians must totally oppose all unchristian behavior, even when such behavior is in opposition to abortion. Not to do so invalidates any claim we make about standing for morality. All unchrist-like behavior hurts the credibility of our moral stand.

The Harding University Bible Lectureship will be October 24-27. Some of the speakers include Jim Bill McInteer, Prentice Meador, David Slater, Jimmy Adcox, Michael Lewis, Gary Ealy, G.P. Holt, and many others. For more information call Allan Isom (501-279-4660).

“And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith (Phi. 3:9).

February 7, 2017

HomeFires: What’s Marriage for, Anyway? (Image Vol 10, No 5 – Sept/Oct 1994)

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By Ron Rose

After spending years teaching thousands of couples the “secrets of lifetime marriage,” I was sure I knew what marriage was all about. Then in the middle of a rather boring TV sitcom, a precocious six-year-old asked me, “What’s marriage for anyway?”

“Love!” “Happiness!” “Family!” But my quick response bothered me.

Is the goal of marriage really happiness or is happiness what happens to us on our way to the goal? Is the goal of marriage to be happy or to have a lifelong marriage? Are we a little mixed up, or is it just me?

Do we even care?

After all, most of us just want today’s problems fixed, or we want relief from our pain. We don’t even ask the question, much less seek an answer. In our rush to fix problems and heal wounds, have we forgotten, or perhaps trampled under foot, what marriage is really for? I was in uncomfortable territory, and you know where that leads…to changes, of course.

What is the Purpose of Marriage?

Is the purpose of marriage to fill our years with frequent and passionate lovemaking? Is it to transform the romantically disadvantaged into helpless romantics? Is it to faithfully meet each other’s needs? Is it to raise well-behaved children who will discover the purpose we’ve lost?

Married people do these things, but that’s not why they’re married. If it was that simple, we could read the right book, take the right course, watch the right video, or reinvent the right spouse, and our hopes would be fulfilled. Marriage would never be a problem; the “magic marriage potion” would be available by credit card on thirty-minute infomercials.

Look at This Mess

We have gotten ourselves into a fine mess. Like Humpty Dumpty, we have fallen, and we find ourselves smashed on the pavement. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put us together again. But God can…and he’s real good at it. Some of us, however, have gotten so used to our brokenness and so comfortable with the pavement that we just stay “in recovery.” We are more comfortable blaming our past for the fall than trusting our future too the hands of God.

We’ve lost our way, but we’re having a wonderful time playing with the compass. In order to cope, our self-focused culture disconnects us from our past and clouds our future. So, without intervention, our est plan is just to keep stirring the mess – just keep things moving. We yearn for victory without struggle, intimacy without vulnerability, and pleasure without pain. We are so busy solving problems, losing weight, and improving our six lives that we have no time to ponder the reason for the mess. After all, who can think while we’ re having so much fun?

By concentrating on removing our struggles, meeting our needs, and easing our pain, we keep all the focus on ourselves, and we cheat a generation, or more, out of purpose and meaning. When’s the last time you thought about your destiny, your reason for living, your purpose, your calling? When is the last time you thought beyond yourself?

Questions to Consider

Could it be that my marriage is a lifetime relationship – a partnership – with the person who can best help me unwrap the gift of life? Is it possible that marriage is a testing ground that God uses to nurture growth, shape destiny, and reveal our reason for being on this earth? Could it be that the pain we want so desperately to ease is really a window to the power of God? Is it my role as husband to lift my wife up to be everything God created her to be, to help her find forgiveness in the failures, blessing in the struggles, and healing in the heartaches? Is my purpose to help her hear the voice of God, loud and clear in spite of the distractions? Could it be that my job is to help my wife answer the call of God, regardless of the mess we’ve made?

Yes, to all of the above! And she does the same for me. That’s what marriage is for.

Together, we help each other read and compass and take the next step with the confidence that we are on the Way

Keep the Homefires burning.

Ron Rose

Shining Stars of Encouragement (Image Vol 10, No 5 – Sept/Oct 1994)

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By Denny Boultinghouse

“Are you encouraged or discouraged about the future of the Churches of Christ?” is a question I am often asked. In response I usually joke: “My answer depends upon which hour of the day you ask.”

There are times when I am encouraged, and there are times when I am quite discouraged.

On some days, a dear brother will call with a heartbreaking story of a church that has been poisoned by a narrow, nonstudying man, who has completely sectarian view of the church. This man usually has a mentality that is willing to destroy the church in order to “save it,” and he acts in completely unbiblical ways in order to help the church “stay with the Bible.” He never sees how unbiblical his power play is. He never comprehends just how incredibly arrogant it is for him to claim to “stand for the truth, even if he is the only one who is willing to do so.” The Bible speaks of such men when it talks about the blind leading the blind. When I get off the phone, I must confess I am sometimes discouraged about the future of the church.

But thanks be to God, there are many things to be encouraged about. We have so many wonderful people who are allowing Christ to live in them in such a way that they shine like stars. I honor every such servant of God We have thousands of unsung heroes of the faith who are giving their lives in service. Praise the Lord for these shining stars.

I honor the “dorm mothers” at Christian colleges. These loving women strive to comfort and lead the young people in the dorm in a Christian fashion. Though flawed like the rest of us, they give their lives in service. They love the Lord and work hard to mold the lives and faith of young people. I praise the Lord for the service of dorm mothers who shine like stars.

I honor dedicated elders of small rural churches. Week in and week out, they try to be good shepherds of the flock. Sure, they are not all they should be, and maybe they need to learn more about participatory leadership, but they hang in there, doing the best they can to be the kind of elders God wants them to be. Praise the Lord for the service they render as they shin in our universe.

I honor the servants who spend their summers as counselors (or other workers) at Christian youth camps. They stay up all night with young campers and provide spiritual leadership for the young lives entrusted to them. They pray with the kids; they offer a shoulder to cry on. Praise the Lord for the way they serve the kingdom as they shine.

I honor the thousands of Sunday school teachers who courageously and lovingly teach our children week after week. They give many hours to preparation of lessons. No, they are not always as prepared as they should be, and some may not even have much natural teaching talent, but they continually do their best. They want to help round our future leaders in the Word of God. I thank God for such dedication.

I honor the good-hearted song leaders who do their best to serve their churches. Some have a gift of music, others do not; but they are committed to blessing our assemblies through song. Sure, some drag songs, some sing words they do not know the meaning of, some spend little time in song selection, but they are willing to stand up there and try. Why? Because they love the Lord and his church. I thank God for such love and light.

I honor the men and women who come to the assembly without their spouses because their spouses are not Christians. But they continue to come and bring the children. They want their children to have the good influence of the church. They keep coming, even when it would be easier to just stay home. They don’t come out of a mere duty or obligation to law, they come because they love the Lord and his people. I thank God for the light they shed on their families.

I honor those who staff the nursery year after year. Every Sunday they hold babies, they burp babies, and they rock babies. They give of themselves so that young mothers can be a part of the assembly. I am thankful to the Lord for the love these ladies demonstrate.

Every church among us has many wonderful “unsung” heroes of the faith. You may be a part of an urban church of a thousand or a rural church of fifty; in both there are many shining stars. And quite honestly, when we focus on these people, who allow Christ to live in them, there is much to be encouraged about.

February 6, 2017

Toward 2000: Happy Days Ahead: Hard Times Assured (Image Vol 1 No 3 – May/June 1994)

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By Terry Rush

The future is full of healthy harm. The church has been experiencing turbulent times, and I believe the turbulence will severely increase (2 Tim. 3:1-4). The heart that dares to enter the roaring floodwaters of Christianity will only survive – will fully survive – by the fiery leadership of the Lord. Our passivity and our land of ease have made us vulnerably soft. While we face a new century, a monumental question faces us. Will we endure?

The turbulence ahead will provide us with a new focus. The coattails of the heroic dead will fade. The voices of liberal selfishness and conservative arrogance will become hoarse from yelling at each other. No other name will matter. Not Campbell. Not McGarvey. Not Nichols. Not Phillips. Not Rise. Not Walling. Not mine. Only the name of Jesus has the power to call us to walk the contrary waves of distress.

Healthy harm? The threat of harm often results in blessings – consider Joseph in the pit, Esther when she needed to speak up, Isaiah realizing his ruin, the jailer when the doors flew open, and the Lamb on the cross. Every imposition lead to life.

How will we respond too our “threats”? We can consider them as threats of doom or threats for opportunity. Will we keep doing, keep believing he will deliver? Or, will we exit? Will we speak up in praise to the King? Or, will we bury ourselves in disappointment?

Will we praise Jesus in prison? Or will we only praise him when the songs we like are sung from the book we like, in the congregation we like, that has a preacher who gives us sermons we like?

The single greatest blessing coming over the horizon is persecution. People in third world oppression worship contentedly, joyfully, under a shade tree with no marquee. I believe we will be hit broadside by more than California earthquakes and Mississippi floods.

Will we endure? If we see the blessing of healthy harm, we will. To endure consider these things?

The Inspiration of the Bible

The Scriptures are fathomably unfathomable! The deeper we dig the deeper we find Him to be. Razor sharp passages lead us to undeniable reservoirs of refreshment and renewal, and we are going to need them. The end is near. Convenient Sunday school classes and polite VBSs will be consumed by the overwhelming appetite of soldiers drafted for battle when it counts.

We will find ourselves casting off the mantle of independence. War is too big for independence. Persecution will wonderfully bring us to the end of our own provision.

Study of the second coming of Christ will become more prominent. This study will nt be a recital of the rote of days gone by. This study will not be a recital of the rote of days gone by. The truth about his return will be sought on the basis of the inspired Word that will not lie to us. This truth will ready us for priority.

The Foolishness of the Father

Who would have guessed that backwardness would take us effectively forward to the year 2000? God is magnificently quick. His ways are so foreign to the natural mind that we are likely to regard them as foolish.

To live we have to die. To gain we  have to lose. To be strong we have to be weak. To keep we have to give away. The older we get, the newer we become. To be poor is to be rich! Marvelous!

The awareness of these rich benefits is conducive to hard times.

According to these few concepts, having things forcibly taken from us (life, goods, strengths, etc.) only thrusts us into the realm of receiving even more blessings. When we lose all for the kingdom, we lose nothing. Rather, we gain.

The Courage of the Son

As clouds roll in, we will notice definable transformation all around us. Jesus, our greatest example, rose to the call when the press was on. Besides economic uncertainty, social unrest, and political upheaval. Jesus had to deal with the self-assigned Pharisees who called him a fake and said he was bumbling the cause of Jehovah. Jesus was constantly in trouble. But he never flinched. He never debated one of them. He took care of them for good. He unhesitantly died for them. Jesus is the greatest of all rebels.

The Will of the Holy Spirit

There have been times when I’ve pressed my will and gotten things my way. Ignorantly, I promoted or argued or defended my heart’s desire in the name of truth. But my way won’t work. His way does. We are going to be overwhelmed by days of persecution for being Christians. And I am confident we will rise to the occasion in grandeur. We will grow in faith and grace and love. Restriction of tax breaks will press. Poor health may tax. Public schools may press. Friendships may press. The American Dream is in direct conflict with the Holy Spirit’s leading. We will succeed because he will succeed.

His very nature will cause us to love the enemy as we go down for his name’s sake. We will not spare ourselves for ourselves. The Worse it gets, the happier and healthier we will become. The enemy is going to press us so far that we will rebel…and win…by the Spirit way.

I think the day of fighting issues is going to be surpassed by the call to fight the enemy. The battle won’t be overseas. It won’t be watched on channel two or five or ten. It will be in our own town, on our street. Though we may have been guilty of bemoaning the condition of the parking lot or the direction of the eldership, those days are going to be replaced by healthy harm.

Will we run? Will we excuse ourselves…again? Will we continue the Church of Christ pettiness of disliking the disbelieving and disassociating? Or will we fight hell and all it has to offer? I say, we do have the heart to throw down our printing presses and throw up our holy hands unto the deliverer!

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb. 12:1-3 – NASV)

The hard times will be our happy days because we will endure!

Homefires: On the Road to Understanding, Remember Your Sense of Humor (Image Vol 10, No 3 – May-June 1994)

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By Ron Rose

They had been married for less than a month, but there was one problem. He hadn’t taken out the garbage. She assumed he had been so busy he just forgot, so, ever so gently, she reminded him, “Honey, the garbage needs to be taken out.”

“Okay!” he responded. She thought he would do it right then. He thought she was announcing the fact that she was finally taking the garbage out. After all, it was really stinking up the kitchen, and he wandered if she had lost her sense of smell.

In her family, Dad always took the garbage from the kitchen to the garbage can outside. In his family, Mom took the garbage from the kitchen to the garage, and then on garbage day, it was Dad’s job to pack all the garbage into the garbage can.

“He must not have heard me,” she thought to herself. “Honey, did you hear me? It’s time to take out the garbage!”

He heard her. The one thing he feared about marriage was happening. He was henpecked, already. So, he responded like a typical male – he just sat there. “If she will just keep quiet,” he reasoned, “I’ll take out her garbage in a little bit – when it’s my idea.”

She was baffled. She walked into the living room and asked, once more, “Honey, did you hear me?” He sat in silence, pouting. Then, with a loud sigh of displeasure, he got up, took the garbage out, and washed the car for the rest of the day.

This pattern was repeated over and over for months, until their first post-wedding visit to her parents’ house. During this visit he noticed that her Dad took care of the garbage. Now, the rookie husband understood his wife’s expectation, but he still didn’t want to be henpecked.

On the way home they had a long talk about expectations and tasks. And they decided on a course of action that would take care of his fear and her need to get the smelly garbage out of the kitchen. Now, she asks, “Honey, is it your idea to take out the garbage yet!”

Nancy wanted something really special for this anniversary – it was their tenth. She hinted for weeks about a pari of silver, hoop earrings. She left the catalogue open on Barry’s desk with the earrings circled. She even guided their conversations around to the subject, with subtle comments like: “Speaking of the new tax laws, isn’t silver a good investment?” But on the day of the tenth anniversary, there were no silver earrings. No expensive chocolates. No flowers. For their anniversary, Barry gave her a new set of radial tires. “Nothing but the best for my girl,” he said.

Barry spent the rest of the morning washing and waxing her car, while Nancy fumed. Why couldn’t Barry be more romantic. “He must be romantically impaired,” she thought.

But as she watched him scrub and polish her car, she bean to realize the genuine love behind Barry’s gift. And, who knows, maybe on their twentieth anniversary, she’ll get a new car.

Lyn and I have been married twenty-six years. Through these years we’ve learned the value of accepting and understanding each other. During our first year we lived in a small, two-bedroom house, in Abilene, Texas. We were both going to college full time, and I was working for a local television station full time. On the first day of each month, we celebrated my meager 150 dollar paycheck, but it didn’t last long.

One Saturday morning toward the end of the thirty-one-day month, Lyn was in the kitchen preparing pancakes for lunch. We had a wonderful Teflon skillet, but non oil, no eggs, and no milk for the pancakes, just adding more water. Each time she tried to turn the cakes they crumbled. Nothing was going right. Tears of disappointment and frustration dropped to the skillet and sizzled.

I came around the corner, whistling, oblivious to her tears. She scooped up what was left of the “crumble cake” and threw it across the room, just missing my head. (She would have hit me if the pancake would have stayed together.)

“Is there something wrong?” I asked.

She scooped up the rest of the crumbs and threw them. We cried together. We laughed together. An, we invited ourselves to a friend’s house for lunch.

On your road to an understanding marriage, your sense of humor may be your most valuable possession. Don’t forget it!

Keep the Homefires burning.

Here and There (Image Vol 10, No 3 – May-June 1994)

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By Denny Boultinghouse

Focus on the Family makes available some excellent booklets encouraging abstinence until marriage. Some of the titles of the booklets are: “Sex and Singles,” “How to Help Your Kids Say ‘No’ to Sex,” “Why Condoms Aren’t Safe,” “AIDS: Facts vs Fiction,” and “Quick Facts on ‘Safe Sex.'” These booklets are good resources and should be available through your church. The booklet “Quick Facts on ‘Safe Sex'” should be given to every teenager. Call Focus on the Family (800-232-6459) for samples of these booklets. I appreciate the Focus on the Family ministry…

True Love Waits is an excellent example of one program that tries in practical ways to encourage young people to wait until marriage to be sexually active The young people in a number of churches around the country have taken the pledge to remain virgins until marriage. Contact Focus on the Family for information about using this program at your church…

Quote without comment (Reuel Lemmons, form 1983): “If we think unity consists of conformity in worship patterns, methods of work, or even church organization, we are mistaken. We can’t find such patterns in the Bible or in the New Testament Church. Systematic theology and even unity of church doctrine are products of human tampering rather than divine revelation. Creedalizing procedures are not found in the New Testament. Our ardent champions of orthodoxy, overzealous to suppress heresy, would drive us further into sectarianism…In a world crying for bread, we must not give it a stone. It would do no good to encompass heaven and earth to make a proselyte to a sectarian position. Unless we can maintain the totally free and totally nonsectarian nature of the early church, we have little reason to exist at all. If we maintain if, we will have to learn to tolerate a lot of leeway in the way different groups of brethren to things. African churches will not buy some of our method. Chinese church are going to be Chinese. And some American churches are going to have to learn to live with other congregations with other ways of doing things and the constant clash of differences Brethren must learn to tolerate differences. If they can’t, the movement is on the brink of senility.”

ACU’s Bible Teachers’ Workshop will be July 24-27. Contact ACU for more information.

On August 5-7 the third “A Church that Connects” seminar will take place in San Antonio at the Oak Hills church. This year the theme will be “Biblical Theology of Worship for Today’s Church.” The main speakers include Lynn Anderson, Jeff Nelson, Max Lucado, Harold Shank, Randy Harris, Rubel Shelly, Jack Reese, and Mike Cope. It will be a time of praise and freedom of expression. For more information call the Hope Network at 1-800-238-0866.

The 1994 Nashville Jubilee will take place on July 6-9. Some of the speakers this year include Max Lucado, Lynn Anderson, Mike Cope, Ron Rose, Harold Hazlip, and Jerome Williams. This workshop is sponsored by many Christians in the Nashville area. The organizers, the speakers, and those who attend all respect God and his Word. They want to be used by God to help people grow in Christ. They want the church to be more effective in reaching the lost with the message of the Cross. Each speaker seeks to lift up the Christ so that people will be drawn unto him Come to Jubilee. Be sure to come by the IMAGE booth in the display area for a visit.

The Spiritual Growth Workshop in Orlando will be August 4-6. This workshop will have many speakers and classes to challenge you in your service – Billy Washington, Jim Bill McInteer, Bill Long, Prentice Meador Jr., Howard Norton, and Charles Hodge. This will be a great period of fellowship and challenge for the Christians throughout Florida and the Southeast. If you are going to Orlando this summer, consider going during this time. Contact the Concord Street church in Orlando for details.

In Defense of Girls Praying is the title of an intriguing little book authored by James Casey. Brother Casey still has some copies of that book available. Write him for information (904 Friars Lane, Baytown, TX 77521-3214)

“Don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it might benefit those who listen” (Eph 4:29).


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