Volume 37 October-November-December, 2006 Number 4

 A Study of Esther
by Matt Hennecke
This new 13-lesson workbook is excellent. Click here for more information.

Unexpected Love - David Diestelkamp
Love Feasts - Karl Diestelkamp
Letters of Commendation - Al Diestelkamp
Irreconcilable Differences - Andy Diestelkamp
So, You Think You Can Dance? - Al Diestelkamp

By David Diestelkamp
"Love is" The unending quest of romantics, philosophers, and songwriters is to try to adequatelyfinish that sentence. Each of us probably has an idealized picture of love; people, places and things all coming together in a perfect, indescribable moment. And while we know that, in reality, love is not always running through a field of daisies toward the person of our dreams, romantic visions tend to dance in our heads when real love is what we desire and look for.

Now think for a moment about injustice, terrible loss, and suffering pain and death. With this picture any thoughts of love we were having probably evaporated. Where did all those thoughts of love go? Well, unfair judgments at a trial, the loss of one's possessions, abandonment, pain and death are not remotely a part of anyone's love story-- but they are part of God's!

"By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us" (1 Jn. 3:16). Love is not defined by butterfly feelings in our stomachs, but by the scourging, the loneliness, the physical agony, and blood of Christ who died for us. We would like a prettier picture of His love for us--with Him at sunset, hand in hand on a hilltop, calm, picturesque, warm, fuzzy and nice, but these are not how ultimate love shows itself.

The truth is that the application of love is often quite ugly. Love that sticks around only for romance or pleasure is no more than fantasy or lust. Of Christ, Isaiah prophesied, "He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isa. 53:2). Oh, the religious world has managed to clean Him up for marketing purposes, but that's not the Messiah revealed in Scripture. For us, He was "despised and rejected a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3). He was wounded and bruised, oppressed and afflicted, taken from prison and judgment (Isa. 53:5, 7, 8). He sweat in agony for us, was beaten, spat on, stripped and then crucified--hands and feet pierced (Psa. 22:16)--for us.

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By Karl Diestelkamp

There has been a lot of "dust" raised in some quarters about the so-called "feasts of charity" (KJV), "love-feasts" (ASV, NKJV, NASV) of Jude 12. We propose to set forth the truth and expose the speculation. All of this is necessary only because some brethren seem bent upon finding a way to justify the church in arranging and providing the place for eating common meals, pot-luck dinners, refreshments, parties, receptions and social "get togethers."

The Greek word translated "love-feasts" is "agapais," a plural form of "agape" which is translated "love." For centuries the speculation has been that these were feasts provided by the more wealthy Christians for the benefit of the poor among them. There is no New Testament evidence that this ever occurred. The "authority" cited for this position can be traced no farther back than the second century. Many defenders of social "love-feasts" cite 1 Cor. 11:20,21 as an illustration of a love-feast. But what proves too much proves nothing at all.

1. If 1 Cor. 11:20,21 was a "love-feast" it was taking place in conjunction with the Lord's supper. Will our social "love-feast" brethren be consistent and advocate it as a part of the Lord's supper and worship?

2. They cannot do that because Paul soundly condemned and rebuked what they were doing in Corinth and said, "What, have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?If any man is hungry, let him eat at home; that your coming together be not unto judgment," (1 Cor. 11:22,34). Will our social "love-feast" brethren say Paul did not know the truth about where common meals were to be eaten and who was to provide them?

Some cite 2 Pet. 2:13, "men revelling in their deceivings while they feast with you," as another instance of a "love-feast." They assume it is a "love-feast" on the basis of the phrase "they feast with you." The plain fact is that no form of the word "love" ("agape") is found in this verse or its context.

So, What Was the "Love-Feast"?

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Letters of Commendation
By Al Diestelkamp

It was once common, when moving from one location to another, for Christians to bring "letters of commendation" from their former congregations. The practice was likely based on the apostle Paul's remarks to the church in Corinth: "Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you?" (2 Cor. 3:1). The fact that Paul's life was well-known made such letters unnecessary.

The practice has been abandoned by most brethren, and it would be difficult to say that requiring letters is essential, but it can be beneficial when a person is not known. I met a man who admitted that for several years he hid from brethren in his new location the fact that he had unscripturally divorced his wife and married another. In that case asking for a reference from his previous congregation would have avoided that problem since he had not been attending for some time. Of course, even a letter is only helpful if those writing the letter have proper biblical convictions.

Whether by letter or other means of communication we have an obligation, to the best of our ability, to limit our fellowship to those who "walk in the light" (1 Jn. 1:7).

P.O. Box 891, Cortland, Illinois 60112
Email: al@thinkonthesethings.com

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By Andy Diestelkamp

We are not learning from the mistakes of the past. While some may take solace in the fact that divorce rates seem to have stabilized and that only about half of all marriages fail, the truth is that we have come to accept this statistical plateau as normal. The cultural trashing of marriage has undermined the stability of subsequent generations to the point that more are choosing to live in fornication rather than commit themselves to one another in marriage as husband and wife. Having sown the wind, we are reaping a whirlwind (Hos. 8:7) that is not only ripping apart individual families but is uprooting all that contributes to a moral society. For what reasons? Irreconcilable differences!

Does anybody think we are a better, more civilized people because we offer the vague euphemism of "irreconcilable differences" as a defense for the violent overthrow of what God created to be an intimate, stable, and permanent relationship until separated by death? That the world uses such lame jargon to attempt to justify itself is not surprising. What is disturbing is that those who wear the name of the one who bluntly concluded, "Let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19:6) are separating what God has joined together anyway.

What are we thinking, brethren? Have we learned from the world's vulgar treatment of marriage that it is better to make a clean break and start over rather than endure the stress of a marriage that is struggling? It was the Pharisees who read that kind of self-serving nonsense into Moses' words (Matt. 19:3,7). Jesus had no tolerance for it (Matt. 19:8,9). Neither should we.

Nevertheless, too often, saints who are married are separating for lengthy periods and for reasons other than spiritual deliberation. Paul warned against such behavior, implying that it could ultimately lead to fornication (1 Cor. 7:5).

I fear that we have raised up several generations of our own Pharisees. Yes, we know that Jesus gave one exception for divorcing and marrying another (fornication--Matt. 19:9). Armed with that knowledge but devoid of the love that must accompany it (1 Cor. 8:1-3; 13:1-3), some may create circumstances which set their spouses up to stumble sexually. Of course, most would condemn such if it were premeditated. However, when spouses separate without a clear intent to reconcile, it is sin that will lead to more sin.

I recognize that it takes two to reconcile. Indeed, the desire to reconcile may be present with one but not the other. However, other saints should be ready and eager to mediate and admonish one another to choose the moral and loving course (Gal. 6:1; 1 Thess. 5:14).

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So, You Think You Can Dance?
By Al Diestelkamp

An alarming number of professing Christians think they can dance without sinning, and bristle when anyone speaks out against the popular practice. Often their first line of defense is to note that there are numerous positive references to dancing in the Bible. After all, David "danced before the Lord" (2 Sam. 6:14), and Solomon said there is "a time to dance" (Eccl. 3:4). Of course, they know that it is not that type of dancing that we speak against, and it isn't the type that they (or their children) want to engage in.

Another argument which tries to divert attention away from the real issue is that "not all dancing is wrong--a married couple can dance together without sinning." While I will agree that a husband and wife may, in private, dance to their hearts' content, that does not justify others doing so. There are some things married couples may do in private that they shouldn't do in public.

So some want us to routinely explain the exceptions when we preach or teach against dancing. Perhaps we should, but then some of the same people would likely complain that we are preaching too long if every time we mention dancing we have to explain what we're not talking about.

Now that we have adequately noted that the kind of dancing we're talking about is the kind that tends to incite lust between those who have no God-given authority to fulfill those desires, let's ask the question again: "So you think you can dance?"

The kind of dancing that is done at proms and other school dances places boys and girls in the kind of bodily contact that incites lust that can't lawfully be satisfied outside the marriage relationship. If there is no such contact then the kind of bodily movements will do the same. It is unreasonable for parents to expect chastity when they allow their children to participate in such activity.

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About Think's Editor - Al Diestelkamp

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