Volume 38 January-February-March, 2007 Number 1
THINK ONLINE CONTENTS
Reproductive Rights and Wrongs - Andy Diestelkamp
When Will These Things Be? - Andy Diestelkamp
Defending Non-Church Collectivities - Al Diestelkamp
Denying God Secretly - Rick Liggin
Obituaries - Hiram Hutto and J.D. Barnes
By Andy Diestelkamp
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that whatever is legal is also moral. Just because the civil government permits something does not mean that it is authorized by God. Jesus sternly forbade putting away and marrying another (Matt. 19:9). That our state governments permit divorce and remarriage in no way means that we are at liberty to ignore Christ's teaching. There are many things that are legal but not moral: fornication, abortion, pornography, bankruptcy, lying, cheating, etc.
Certainly, our government has legislated on some of these matters, but for the most part our government allows us to live as we wish without mandating moral restraint. I will leave the debate over the degree to which government should legislate morality for another time. Suffice it to say that morality is legislated (Rom. 13:3,4), and only the naive or amoral think it should not be.
As Christians we must concern ourselves less with what our government legislates and more with the teachings of Jesus Christ and His apostles and prophets. If our rights and wrongs are defined by cultural standards, then we will find ourselves morally adrift. A case in point is seen with the sensitive topic of reproductive rights. Essentially, our government defends the rights of men and women to reproduce as they see fit. It is neither illegal to reproduce nor to employ methods to avoid reproduction.
However, the government's interest in protecting the rights of all persons compels it to legislate against things like rape and infanticide. Thus the abortion debate revolves around the personhood of the conceived yet unborn life and balancing "its" rights with those of "its" mother.
While it is understandable that our government wrestles with such questions, those who are conversant with Scripture understand, and therefore respect, the personhood of the unborn. When we read, "for that which is conceived in her," we do not wonder if at that point Jesus was a person worthy of protection (Matt. 1:20). Jesus came in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:7); if that which was conceived in Mary had personhood, then it is reasonable to say that conception is the identifiable point of personhood for all of us. Biologically there is no question about the matter.
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The difficulty of Jesus' earliest disciples to grasp the nature of His coming kingdom was manifested in a number of ways. From their failure to understand and accept that Jesus would die (Matt. 16:21-23) to their jockying for position and arguing amongst themselves about who would be the greatest (Matt. 20:20-28; Lk. 22:24), we realize that even those closest to Jesus had a very materialistic/physical concept of the Messiah and His reign. We may excuse the first disciples for these misconceptions on the basis of incomplete understanding; but nearly 2000 years after Jesus announced that His kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36), some insist that it will be of this world.
Another example of Jesus' disciples' initial failure to comprehend His mission as the Messiah is seen a few days before His crucifixion. The Jewish leadership had attempted to entrap Jesus in His words and had utterly failed. While their thoughts turned to more devious plots, Jesus continued to teach and uncover their hypocrisy and the futility of their external religion. How important Jesus' disciples must have felt to be the companions of this master teacher who was clearly on the verge of beginning His reign as Messiah. No doubt they were excited!
It was in this giddiness that; as they left Jerusalem with Jesus, they pointed out to Him the temple complex (Matt. 24:1) and observed its magnificence (Mk. 13:1) and its beauty (Lk. 21:5). This certainly was not the first time any of these men had seen these things, but they were looking at them with a new perspective. Their Master, their King, was a rising star who had demonstrated His mastery over the wicked and hypocritical powers that controled the temple. No doubt they believed Jesus would soon rise to power and all of that beauty would be His, and they would reign with Him.
I wonder if we can imagine their shock when Jesus proclaimed that not one of those glorious buildings they found so remarkable would be left standing. Indeed, not one stone would be left upon another. I imagine gaping mouths and complete incredulity as Jesus turned His back to those buildings and led His disciples out the city gates and across the Kidron Valley. The wind had been knocked out of them. It was not until they had ascended the Mount of Olives that the disciples composed themselves enough to question their Master's words.
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By Al Diestelkamp
There are some brethren who call in question the authority for individual Christians to form a collectivity other than a local congregation to accomplish work that the Lord has authorized to be done by churches. While I hope the preceding sentence fairly represents the views of such brethren, I recognize that there are some variation in beliefs among those who are in general agreement in opposing what some have called "religious collectivities" or "para-church organizations."
Since Think is a work of a collectivity of Christians involved in a work that is authorized to be done by local churches, I feel it is my obligation to defend our right to exist. This task is made a bit more difficult due to the fact that, as already noted, those who oppose such "collectivities" are not in full agreement as to what is allowed, and what is not allowed. As a result, I feel like one wrestling with an octopus--not knowing which tentacle is attacking.
For the sake of those who have never heard of this controversy, let me try to sum up the different views that have been put forth by those in opposition to such collectives:
Some oppose all collectivities of Christians in any work that churches are charged to do. They note that it is the church which is the "pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15), and conclude that any other collectivity usurps the church's mission. Specifically, they would deny the right of Christians to band together to teach or preach the gospel. This would include opposition to schools, camps and publications which teach from the Bible.
Most of these brethren would claim that the family is the one exception to this rule.
One variation of this view is to limit opposition only to collectivities that form legal organizations, such as corporations.
Still another variation allows that Christians may form collectivities and propagate the gospel as long as they charge for such products and/or services. Thus they give an exception if it is a business. So, they do not object to a "gospel paper" published by an organization if they charge a subscription price, but if it is free, or accepts donations, they claim it is unauthorized.
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If I have put my confidence in gold, and called fine gold my trust, if I have gloated because my wealth was great, and because my hand had secured so much; if I have looked at the sun when it shone, or the moon going in splendor, and my heart became secretly enticed, and my hand threw a kiss from my mouth, that too would have been an iniquity calling for judgment, for I would have denied God above." (Job 31:24-28).
Recently, when I once again came across these words of Job, I was struck by how serious he was about avoiding every form of sin and even the slightest of transgressions. In this text, Job is asserting his integrity before God and trying to argue his absolute faithfulness to God. Job recognized, and bluntly declares here, that any paganism at all--even in the smallest of forms--would constitute an utter denial of God.
When Job speaks in this text of looking at the sun or the moon in their splendor, he's not talking about simply admiring these great heavenly bodies as God created them. All of us, from time to time, stand in awe of God's creation and admire its beautyand rightly so! We should admire what God has made.
But this isn't what Job is talking about in this text. He's talking about looking at the sun or moon with the intent of worshiping these created things. Job is saying that if somehow he felt a desire to worship the sun or the moon by throwing a kiss at them--if he only entertained these thoughts secretly in his own heart--even that would be an outright denial of the true God of heaven.
Job knew, as we do, that the moon and sun are only parts of God's creation; they are not deities to be worshiped. Only God is God; and only He is worthy of our worship. And that means that even the slightest move by man in the direction of paganism would be an iniquity deserving of judgment.
Now, when I think about what Job says in this text, I cannot help but think of at least two lessons we need to learn from it:
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HIRAM HUTTO and J.D. BARNES
Gospel preachers, like all others, eventually go "the way of all the earth" (Josh. 23:14). We don't try to report all such deaths, but sometimes feel the personal need to honor those who have touched our lives by their work within our sphere of influence. In recent months, two such men have passed from this life.
Hiram Hutto was an Alabama preacher who dedicated some of the best years of his life working in central Illinois. Though he died back in August of last year, his influence lives on, not only in Alabama, but also in the Peoria, Illinois area.
John (J.D.) Barnes was another Alabama preacher who spent many years working with small congregations in several regions of our nation, including Illinois and Iowa where we came to know him. He went to his eternal reward in December.
Both of these good men preached as long as health permitted, which was well beyond what is thought of as "retirement age." We were blessed to know them.
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About Think's Editor - Al Diestelkamp
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