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By Andy Diestelkamp
every political election season come the debates between conservatives
and liberals. Liberals attempt to sell their positions as progressive
while describing their opponents’ policies as archaic and inadequate to
address present needs. Conservatives tend to appeal to foundational
principles and proven methods while disparaging their opponents’ ideas
as harmful and dangerous. Most people quickly tire of all the inane
rhetoric. Many are so disillusioned or apathetic that they don’t
participate in the political process at all—not even to cast a vote.
course, conservative and liberal attitudes are found in people’s
approaches to religion and Scripture as well. As with politics, many
people have become so disillusioned by all the denominations and bad
attitudes that they have stopped participating. This is the path of
least resistance, so we should not be surprised that many choose this
who view themselves as progressive in their approach to Scripture will
be quick to blame so-called conservatives and their intolerance of
fresh ideas for being the cause of all of this discouragement.
Meanwhile conservatives will blame the “change agents” that are
infiltrating the churches for causing divisions and breeding
insufficiency and inaccuracy of most of these labels (liberal,
conservative, progressive, anti or forbidding) should be evident
by the simple fact that, depending on the issue being discussed, we
would all find ourselves being labeled as each of these things at one
time or another. These labels might be helpful shorthand when
discussing a specific issue, but as a general label they are
essentially worthless, misleading, or, worst of all, slanderous.
for example the term “change agents.” Change is often viewed by those
who fancy themselves as conservatives as being the goal of liberals.
Yet change is a neutral word. It does not inherently mean digression
any more than it means progression. Whether change is good or bad
depends upon context and perspective.
is so easily illustrated in current politics. Every two to four years
we Americans change our government through elections. Sometimes that
change is for the better, sometimes it is for the worse, depending on
your political perspective.
Christians, let’s be careful about labeling those we think are simply
wrong about something as “change agents,” because change is not
necessarily bad. Indeed, change is necessary more often than it is not
since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
the perspective of the Jewish leaders of His day, Jesus was certainly a
“change agent” as He threatened the status quo (cf. Jn. 11:47,48).
Indeed, as His disciples it is our calling to be agents of change since
our Lord has commissioned the making of disciples (a change from not
being disciples) by calling on all to repent (change) (Lk. 24:47; Ac.
2:38). When this was faithfully carried out, it produced significant
change in turning the world upside down (Ac. 17:6).
pejoratively label as change agents those who are teaching or
practicing differently than we teach or practice sounds arrogant, as if
our way is the standard and that the way we have always done things is
right and we are in no need of change. Hopefully, we have not come to
see ourselves or our history as our own standard. If so, we are very
much in need of some Christ-like change agents among us.
we simply use clichéd jargon to demonize those we believe to be a
negative influence, we actually hurt our cause for doing what is right
and making an effective change for the better. Certainly, we must
oppose those who adulterate the pure gospel of Jesus Christ, but we
cannot do so by simplistically labeling them as “change agents” without
condemning the very thing we are trying to be—agents of change “in a
crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the
world” (Phil. 2:15).
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Leaders Must Be Approachable
By Rick LigginThe
New Testament teaches that those who serve as elders in local churches
must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2), and this ability involves much
more than just directing a class discussion of some Bible topic. Elders
must be so able to teach that they can hold fast the faithful word,
exhort in sound doctrine, and even refute those who contradict (Tit.
1:9); they are men who can “feed the flock” (1 Pet. 5:2) and equip
saints for the work of service (Eph. 4:11-12). These terms suggest that
shepherds are not only seasoned Bible students, but also seasoned Bible
teachers. Fundamentally, that’s what elders are: teachers…men who use
the Word of God to lead, guide, and direct the souls that are under
their charge (1 Pet. 5:2-4); and I would suggest that the Lord’s church
would be much better off if elders concentrated more on their teaching
work and less on business management.
course, it should be evident that “teaching” and “exhorting” are both
forms of communication—very specialized and highly skilled forms of
communication. One will never be able to teach and exhort if he does
not first learn to communicate. Consequently, good communication skills
are essential to good leadership, and that is especially so for those
who shepherd local churches.
please remember that communication is not just about speaking (and here
is where I begin to get to the real focus of this article). Effective
communication is always a two-way street: it requires both sending
information and receiving information. To be a really effective
communicator, one must do more than just learn how to speak. He must
also learn how to listen. In fact, as Stephen Covey puts it, an
effective leader will seek first to understand, and then to be
understood. This is a Biblical principle (cf. Jas. 1:19; Prov. 18:13).
order to effectively communicate as a leader, those led must have a
sense about me that I am willing to listen, and listen with a view to
really understanding what they are saying. They must feel that they can
come to me with their problems and get a fair hearing; that I am
willing to be a kind of “confidant” to them…someone they can turn to
and rely on when they need help and understanding. Being a “confidant”
is one of the many great skills of our God. Better than anyone else, He
know how to listen, and He cares about our troubles; which is why He
urges us to cast our cares on Him (1 Pet. 5:7; 1 Jn. 1:9). God is a
are supposed to be the ones children go to for advice and help in times
of trouble. Elders are the ones church members should call on when they
are spiritually weak (Jas. 5:14-15). In fact, all of us are supposed to
be people to whom others can confess their faults (Jas.5:16). This
requires us to be approachable people—especially if we are going to be
tells us that being “reasonable” (NASB) is something that characterizes
the “wisdom from above” (Jas. 3:17). This term can also be translated
“willing to yield” (NKJV) or “easy to be entreated” (ASV; KJV). It
carries the idea of being “persuadable”. There are some people about
whom others feel it would be futile to go to them with a problem: “I
could never go to that guy about this! He would never understand and he
would never see my side! He would only be unreasonable!” But one whose
wisdom comes from above will not be so unreasonable. A truly wise man
will be seen by others as one that they can go to and talk to and get a
you an approachable person? Do your children feel that they can
comfortably approach you with their problems, questions, or even
disagreements? Do the members of the church that you oversee feel that
they are able to speak with you as one of their elders? Is the
eldership that you are a part of one that can be approach by those in
the congregation? Do people, in general, see you as the kind of person
they can come to with their difficulties, questions, or criticisms?
know it’s hard to be objective in things like this. Most of us feel
that we are approachable and easily entreated, but do others feel that
way? “Sure, my kids know that they can come to me?” Do they really?
“Sure, the members know that they can talk to the elders?” Do they
really? “Sure they do! We tell them that all the time! And if they
don’t, that’s not our fault! You can’t force folks to come to you with
their problems or disagreements.” But is it really their fault? It
could be. Some, no matter who you are or what you try to be, just don’t
have the courage, confidence, or will to go to their parents or elders.
But as a leader, you must make sure that the problem is not you. Most
folks will go to one who is reasonable, persuadable, and easily
entreated. As a leader, you simply must build these qualities into your
character and exemplify them openly for all to see—so that they will
know you are the kind of person they can comfortably go to for a
are at least two other things people must know about you, if they are
going to feel comfortable approaching you…if you really are an easily
entreated person. And please recognize that the lack of these things
may point to the fact that you are not nearly as approachable as you
think you are:
You must be able to listen to others with a view to really
understanding them! People must know that you have a reputation for
being one who will listen carefully and understand before responding.
If you are one who often speaks before you think or before you hear,
people will not want to approach you.
You must be able to speak to others without getting upset or getting
your feelings hurt or somehow feel threatened. Some leaders seem to
wear their feelings on their sleeves, and so others are afraid to talk
to them (especially about disagreements) for fear that they will get
angry or get their feelings hurt. If you are one who finds yourself
bristling, getting hurt, or pouting when others disagree with you or
question your judgment, then don’t be surprised when folks don’t want
to approach you.
how approachable are you…really? If you truly want to be an effective
communicator and an effective leader, whether in the home or at work or
in the church, you need to develop this approachable quality; you need
to be reasonable and persuadable. And that’s going to require you to
make a deliberate decision to work at building approachability into
you make that kind of decision and work at being approachable? Your
family and the church you are helping to lead needs you to be that kind
of leader. Will you do it? I hope you will.
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Abstinence Is Reasonable"For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from formication"
1 Thessalonians 4:3 - KJV
By David Diestelkamp
is totally confused. It wants people to be reasonable (thinking,
logically) about sex. It wants them to think about civil law, time and
place (decency), disease, pregnancy, “protection,” etc. It wants
boundaries, thought and self-control in these areas, but when it comes
to abstinence it is thought “unreasonable” to expect people to maintain
boundaries, thought and self-control.
think abstinence is unreasonable because they don’t understand
sanctification. Couples give in to sexual temptation because they
forget their sanctification. The world thinks it strange and speaks
evil of those who “do not run with them in the same flood of
dissipation” because they do not accept sanctification (1 Pet. 4:4).
Abstinence happens for Christians because they are sanctified, not
because they have commandments that shame or intimidate them, or
because they have no sex drive. Sanctification changes who we are and
through that, what we do.
made our bodies. He knows what is best for us. He knows what we are
designed for: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the
Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your
own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your
Cor. 6:19-20). That’s right, God made us—sex organs, hormones, desires,
and all—to glorify Him.
world takes a “foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods” (1 Cor.
6:13) approach (“sex for the body and the body for sex”). Paul
answers: “Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord,
and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will
also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are
members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make
them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who
is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says,
‘shall become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord is one
spirit with Him” (1 Cor. 6:13b-18).
“flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18 - KJV) because in response to the cross
we are giving ourselves to God in all things. We see ourselves as
“joined to the Lord.” Therefore, abstinence is not simply about waiting
until marriage, it is about serving the Lord with our bodies right now!
Sexual abstinence works because our inner person wants to please the
Lord more than it (or our body) wants to please self or another.
is reasonable. It helps us arm ourselves to make good decisions. It
puts our self-worth and self-esteem in God’s great love, not in someone
else’s fickle love. It connects us with God who wants us for eternity,
not just for momentary passing pleasure. It even helps us develop
refusal skills as we learn in Christ to “…make no provision for the
flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 13:14).
answers the question, “What do we do with ourselves?” We serve the
Lord! Now the answer to the question, “Why did God give us sexual
desires and sex?” Marriage!
doesn’t mean abstinence, it means spiritual purity through submitting
to a relationship with God through Christ. Sexual intercourse is only
right between a husband and wife in a marriage formed in keeping with
God’s law. “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but
fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). Sex in marriage
isn’t dirty or sinful because it is in keeping with our submission to
the will of God. From the beginning this has been right and reasonable:
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined
to his wife and the two shall be one flesh” (Matt. 19:5; Gen. 2:24).
designed marriage to be the primary fulfillment of sexual desire and
solution to sexual temptation: “Nevertheless, because of sexual
immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her
own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2). This requires that the needs, wants, and
desires of one’s spouse be willingly met as though they were their own:
“Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise
also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her
own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have
authority over his own body, but the wife does.” (1 Cor. 7:3-4).
Depriving one another is only to happen by consent, and then only for a
time, “…and come back together again so that Satan does not tempt you…”
(1 Cor. 7:5). Abstinence can increase desire to the point of strong
temptation. Sexual selfishness, blackmail, revenge, etc., is dangerous
and a violation of our commitments to God and our spouses.
world is a very sensual and immoral place. Christians don’t avoid
sexual sin by denying this. They marry. It is “better to marry than to
burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:9b). Husbands and wives don’t cope with
the cultural inundation of sexual temptation by somehow imagining that
Christians don’t feel sexual urges or think sexual thoughts—they
fulfill the desires of their spouses. Just as husbands and wives want
to be the “best” at things for their spouses, Christians try to be the
best lovers to their spouses and want them to be the most sexually
fulfilled that anyone can be. Sanctification in Christ makes
us better spouses, for God and for our spouses.
under normal circumstances a married person is not abstaining from
sexual intercourse, faithfulness in marriage does imply abstinence from
sex with others—abstinence from adultery. Adulterers are enemies of God
(Jas. 4:4), do not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9), and receive
God’s judgment (Heb. 13:4). Adulterers act contrary to and without
regard to sanctification.
does not free one from all vestiges of self-control. Marriage can
awaken desires which cannot always be immediately fulfilled. In the
absence of one’s spouse, someone else is never an option. Even just
lusting after another is a compromise of sexual desire which is
committed only to one’s spouse (Matt. 5:28). Ultimately,
sanctification, not romantic love, attraction, or even sexual
satisfaction, is what keeps us from adultery. “How then can I do this
great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Joseph to Potiphar’s seducing
wife - Gen. 39:9).
faithfulness is really about sanctification. It is about our purity,
faithfulness and oneness with God. It is reasonable to choose the way
that leads to eternal life. It is not reasonable to act like unthinking
animals. It is reasonable that in Christ we act like the sanctified
people (saints) He has made us.
“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints” (Eph. 5:3)
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Distance ~ Death ~ Divorce ~ Digression
By Al Diestelkamp
recently my wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, and the
reflection leading up to that event reminded me of many friends, and
the very pleasant fellowship we experienced with them. Most of our
close friends were Christians with whom we struggled together in one or
more of the six congregations of which we’ve been a part. I guess it
should not be surprising that today we have little or nothing to do
with most of these people. Some of the reasons are understandable,
while others are disheartening.
certainly plays a significant part in deterring close association with
friends. We have moved—they have moved, sometimes hundreds of miles
from one another. With our modern communication and transportation
options this doesn’t have to quell a close relationship, but it often
enjoyed one friendship with a couple so closely that the hundreds of
miles between us did not deter us from remaining close. Many miles were
put on our vehicles simply so we could be together for a few days. We
took vacations together, and even brainstormed about someday moving
together to some place where we could establish a congregation where
there was none. But an untimely death halved that friendship, at least
are the friendships that have been destroyed by divorce. One in
particular comes to mind. We were very young, and they were slightly
younger. We were members together in a congregation that was in the
midst of controversy over issues that were dividing churches in the
early 1960s, and the wives were having babies “together.” They
eventually moved back to the south, but we remained fairly close for
awhile, but distance did eventually have its effect. Then we heard from
other friends of the divorce, and we never heard from either of them
since. I hate divorce!
there are a few close friends we had with whom we seemingly enjoyed
“one mind” concerning the faith, but over time they changed their mind
and headed a different direction. They would likely complain about me
accusing them of digression, but it was they—not us—who wandered in a
different direction than when we “walked together,” and that’s the very
definition of digression. When “two walk together” because they are
agreed (a principle stated in Amos 3:3), there is harmony, but it is
disrupted when there is no agreement.
disruptions to friendships by distance or death are only temporary. I
have faith they will be resumed in Heaven one day. Whether the ones
affected by divorce or digression will be renewed depends on the
judgment of God, to which I submit.
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P.O. Box 891, Cortland, Illinois 60112
By Robert E. Speer
It is amazing what one “learns” on the internet. For instance, the following quote:
Earth-size planet has been spotted orbiting a nearby star at a distance
that would make it not too hot and not too cold—comfortable enough for
life to exist, researchers announced today (September 29, 2010).
confirmed, the exoplanet, named Gliese 581g, would be the first
Earth-like world found residing in a star’s habitable zone—a region
where a planet’s temperature could sustain liquid water on its surface.
given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can,
I would say, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on
this planet are 100 percent,” said Steven Vogt, a professor of
astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz,
during a press briefing today. “I have almost no doubt about it.”
you just love science!?! Here we have an articulate and erudite
professor from no less than the University of California, Santa Cruz,
saying there is a “100 percent chance of life” on Gliese 581g, adding.
“I have almost no doubt about it.” “Almost”—”almost no doubt”?
Admittedly, I am not an astronomer nor an astrophysicist, but I have a
question: How can something be 100 percent and leave room for even a
I was a child—just this side of the invention of dirt—I have heard and
read speculation of life on distant planets. Scientists have long been
“sure” of life somewhere “out there,” but all the prognostication and
wishful thinking has not produced any life-as-we-know-it creatures;
people, animals, or otherwise, anywhere—except on earth. In the
biblical account of creation, one reads, “In the beginning, God created
the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The remainder of the chapter
reveals the unfolding of creation, specifically mentioning the day by
literal day development of earth, culminating in the creation of Adam
and Eve. The “chances” of this are 100 percent, and of this I have no
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