About Think's Editor -
By Andy Diestelkamp
are very important things. They establish patterns, traditions, habits,
rituals, etc. The beginning of a new year may be the occasion of
renewed efforts to break bad habits and/or establish good ones. The
beginnings of lives, marriages, governments, businesses, and movements
are often momentous occasions marked with ceremony, enthusiasm, high
ideals, and noble goals. It is fitting that the beginnings of good
things are noted, appreciated, and, when appropriate, imitated.
begins its inspired account of human history at the beginning of the
natural world with the simple affirmation that God caused it all. He is
credited with being the Creator of the universe. There are no
complicated, philosophical arguments for God’s existence. It is just
declared to be so.
Throughout time men have attempted to explain
how God did this, but it is not the purpose of Scripture to reveal
God’s mechanism other than to declare that it was by the power of His
word. “Then God said...and it was so” (Gen. 1:6,7,9,11,14,15,24,26,30).
men of science continue to inquisitively seek answers to God’s methods,
many, defying common sense, posit atheistic explanations. These not
only contradict Scripture, but much of what science has gleaned through
centuries of observation, investigation, and experimentation. What we
have learned is that something cannot come from nothing. Yet, the
current, most widely accepted theories in academia, while acknowledging
a beginning of the natural universe, suggest that everything we can
observe ultimately came into being from nothing. Indeed, “The fool has
said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psa. 14:1; 53:1).
God is invisible to the fleshly eye, Paul succinctly declares that man
is without excuse for his failure to deduce through its observation of
nature not only the clear implication that God exists, but that He is
powerful and eternal (Rom. 1:19,20).
History is littered with
the foolishness of ignorant men who have worshiped as gods anything and
everything in nature (including themselves and their ideas). Yet, from
the beginning, the God of the universe is revealed to be a power that
is outside of and superior to nature. He does not need us, we need Him
(cf. Ac. 17:24-29). Therefore, He “now commands all men everywhere to
repent, because he has appointed a day on which He will judge the world
in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given
assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Ac. 17:30,31).
is interesting to consider that when “God created the heavens and the
earth” and it was in darkness that “the Spirit of God was hovering over
the face of the waters,” (Gen. 1:1,2). As we are informed about the
beginning of physical things, a distinction is promptly made between
the natural and the spiritual. Nature is not God. To imagine nature as
being God (or vice versa) is to inevitably fall into the idolatry of
worshiping the created rather than the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:22-25). We
must not confuse the two.
On the sixth day of creation God said,
“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness...” (Gen.
1:26). Clearly, God made mankind distinctively different than the rest
of His creation. However, what is curious is that God was not alone
when He did this. In the beginning of God’s physical creation there was
more than one Person involved in the making of mankind in their image.
there is much that we are not told about the motives for God creating
this world and then distinctively creating mankind to have dominion
over that world (Gen. 1:26,28). But let’s be careful about assuming
that God somehow needed our companionship. Whether or not these texts
describing the beginning are early references to the three Persons who
are called God or just references to the heavenly host, it is clear
that God already had companionship.
However, the testimony of
those who first believed that Jesus was the Son of God provides us with
compelling evidence for who was at the beginning. John begins his
gospel just like the creation account. While the Genesis account simply
says, “God created the heavens and the earth,” John elaborates. “In the
beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through
Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (Jn. 1:1-3).
declared “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and
that are on earth, visible and invisible,whether thrones or dominions
or principalities, or powers. All things were created through Him and
for Him” (Col. 1:16). Jesus was certainly part of the “Us” in whose
image mankind was created. Jesus’ own explicit inclusion of the Holy
Spirit with Himself and the Father in the making of His disciples
through baptism (Matt. 28:19) confirms that the Three were One in the
creation as in Their plan of salvation for those created in Their image.
Creator dying for the created is too awesome to fully appreciate. That
we were created in His image is amazing. That despite our sin He still
welcomes us to be with Him is more so.
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By Keith Barclay
period of the Judges is among Israel’s most tragic times. Illustrated
for us within the pages of this short history are the results of a
people who have forgotten their God and the tragedy such a failed
Idolatry and immorality become a norm and
the people seem to be unable to fully extricate themselves from such
iniquities and abominations. Punishment in the form of oppression by
neighboring rulers would come, Israel (or the portion effected by the
prevailing oppression) would cry for deliverance and God would send a
judge (a deliverer) to return the people to periods of peace (2:11-23).
The peace would last for eighty years (3:30), or a generation or two
(5:31) or for shorter periods. At other times the length of time the
judge functioned is mentioned without any word of peace, though it is
usually assumed. This usually coincided with times when the judge
seemed to function more administratively than militarily.
bleak period demonstrates how quickly a people can go from triumph to
tragedy. From moving to possess the land promised by their God to
periods of bleak and debilitating oppression should have, at the very
least, caused them pause—and it should cause us to examine ourselves so
an unwanted history does not repeat itself.
As I reflect upon
this text I am reminded that apostasy is only as far away as my failure
to teach and lead properly. If I fail to remember my God and make Him
my focus and share that reality with others, I personally—and the
congregation I am working with—are in grave danger of behaving just
like the disjointed, sometime feuding and often oppressed Israelites of
the Judges period.
When I survey the spiritual landscape around me I
see the above description of Israel in the people of God today.
Might that not suggest that leadership is waning, and what leadership
there is has struggled to pass the principles of truth and
righteousness to the next generation, just as was true of the poor
leadership displayed during the period of the Judges when “everyone did
what was right in his own eyes” (17:6)?
This failure to “know”
God transcended knowing facts about Him or the history between Himself
and His people. It involved a relationship with Him from which an
unrelenting loyalty and obedience should have flowed. Did this ever
exist for them? I would suggest it did during those times of peace the
book describes. Does it exist for us? That one you will have to answer
The solution to this problem is more
complex than putting together an ideal curriculum for our Bible class
program. It involves more than a balanced presentation of positive and
negative sermons. It involves more than having scriptural leadership in
place. Each of these and a host of other things may all contribute to
an environment where we can truly get to know God but these do not
insure an intimacy with Him. That comes by choice...a choice guided by
all the facts we can know about Him, all the history we can assemble
about Him and His dealings with His people. It is my choosing not to do
what is right in my own eyes (17:6), but instead, willingly yielding to
Early in Israel’s history they failed to make this
choice even though: 1] they knew the facts (cf. Jephthah’s response to
the king of Ammon); 2] they or the ancestors witnessed things we can
only imagine (Red Sea, previous victories, fleeces, etc.); and 3] they
were “living” the promise fulfilled, the reception of the land (though
they probably had imagined it coming about in another way). In spite of
all this they chose “to do what was right in their own eyes.”
must keep the vision of an intimacy with God ever before those they
lead. They need to utilize every means at their disposal to accomplish
this...to remind us of His love, mercy, justice and judgment...to draw
us near and to secure an unwavering loyalty to Him who, in every way,
has demonstrated His desire to know us and to be our God.
not make the same mistakes as Israel of old. Let us lead valiantly and
let us choose intimacy. That combination will enable us to enjoy peace,
but more importantly, to enjoy God...not only in the present but for
generations to come...and not only here but for all eternity!
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By David Diestelkamp
at the University of California San Diego reviewed 14 years of accident
data and found that “A blood alcohol concentration of just 0.01 percent
was associated with risky behaviors such as speeding.” Lead researcher,
David P. Phillips, Ph.D. says, “For a 180 pound person, that translates
to one glass of wine or a bottle of beer.” (Better Homes And Gardens,
November 2011, pg 184).
Even some people of the world are
beginning to admit that for the person who doesn’t want to make bad
decisions that lead to “risky behaviors,” even one drink is too much.
As Christians, we have been taught by God’s grace that, “denying
ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and
godly in the present age…” (Tit. 1:11-12). We are committed to making
decisions that are pleasing to God in all things and we therefore
reject anything that clouds thinking or encourages risky behavior.
world wants us to be wise drivers. After even one drink we are not fit
to drive home. Impaired thinking will not get us to an eternal home of
glory either. Be wise. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler,
and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1).
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By Rick Liggin
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response to Peter’s preaching on the first Pentecost after Jesus’
ascension back to heaven is recorded for us in the book of Acts: “So
then, those who had received His word were baptized; and that day there
were added about three thousand souls” (2:41). We then read of these
same people “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching
and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (2:42). We
also read that these believers “were together” and that “the Lord was
adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (2:44-47).
the word “church” is not actually a part of the original text in this
passage (KJV; NKJV), the Lord’s “church” is clearly under consideration
here. If we carefully follow this “number” of saved people through the
early chapters of Acts, it soon becomes evident that they form “the
congregation of those who believe” (4:32), which is the “church”
(5:11). And so, as we read about “the Lord…adding to their number day
by day those who were being saved” (2:47), we recognize that this is
the beginning of the Lord’s church. We might even say that this is
where Jesus “established the church” He had promised to build (Matt.
16:18). But what do we mean when we say that the Lord “established” or
“built” His “church” here on the day of Pentecost?
establish or build something, like a club or wagon (as Robert Turner
used to say) and then invite people to “join” the club or “climb on”
the wagon in order to be saved? That is not what we read about here in
the book of Acts! What we read about are people “being saved” as each
one individually responded obediently to the gospel message preached;
and then those “saved” individuals were collected or added together
(2:41-47) into a “congregation” of believers. The church was the
results of people being saved by obeying the word of the Lord, which
was preached by His apostles.
When we start thinking of the
“church” as a thing established and people then joining “it,” we are on
the road to denominationalism. Why? Because we start to think of the
church as something other than the people, and “it” (the church) stands
between salvation and us; we start to think that we are saved because
we are part of the church (we see our salvation as dependent on “it”).
Maybe worst of all, we start to think that our salvation is secured
because we are members in this “institution.” This is simply the wrong
way to think about the church that our Lord established.
word “church” is a collective noun (like herd or flock). It is a word
that collects people…more specifically saved people. The church is not
a building or physical structure, and we need to stop using the word
“church” this way or we will forever perpetuate wrong views of the
Lord’s church! Again: the word “church” is a collective noun that
collects saved people together!
The church Jesus built is all
the saved collected together in a group, like sheep collected in a
flock or cattle in a herd. A shepherd does not establish a “flock,” and
then add sheep to “it”; nor does a rancher establish a “herd,” and then
add cows to “it.” A flock (or herd) is built as sheep (or cattle) are
collected together. And just as a flock does not exist without sheep,
and just as a herd does not exist without cattle, so also the church
does not exist apart from saved people. Without saved people collected
together, there is no church. The church is not something that is
built, and then people are added to it. In truth, Christ is building
His church as individuals receive His Word, are baptized, and are
saved. Building the church has been, and continues to be, a work in
progress…a work that Jesus began on the day of Pentecost (Ac.2:41-47),
and that He continues to do even to this day. Those who are in His
church are those who are in a relationship with Him, because He has
saved them (Eph. 5:23) and added them to His group (Ac. 2:47; 2 Tim.
2:19). Their allegiance is not to the group, but to Him…their Lord (Ac.
11:20-21,23). When one falls away and becomes unfaithful, it is not the
church he is unfaithful to…one doesn’t “quit the church!” It is the
Lord one becomes unfaithful to…he “quits the Lord!” Again, thinking
that our allegiance is to the church is thinking in a denominational
The point is that one’s salvation is not dependent on the
church or on one’s being in the church. To think this is to think
backwards. Your being in Christ’s church is dependent on your being a
saved one and continuing to act as a saved one. Being in the Lord’s
church is the result of one’s obedient response to the Lord’s will
revealed in His word, which brings salvation. And if one becomes lost
by refusing to remain true to the Lord, he is no longer in the Lord’s
church. Must one be a member of the church to be saved? No, one must be
saved to be a member of the church! But can one be saved outside the
church? No, since to be outside the church is to be among the lost! The
process that makes one saved automatically results in his being
collected into the saved group (Christ’s church).
don’t think that we are trying to suggest that the church is
unimportant. We are simply trying to help us get a proper perspective
on the church in relationship to Christ and our salvation. The church
is not the means of our salvation! Christ is…and therefore, it is
Christ who must be preached, and not the church! The church is the
results of men being saved through their obedience to the Lord in His
word. Your salvation is not dependent on the church or on your being a
member of the church; your salvation is dependent on your obedience to
the Lord’s will. If you refuse to obey the Lord’s will, you reject
salvation. And if you refuse to continue in the Lord’s will, whether
you consider yourself to be a member of the church or not, you have no
315 E. Almond Drive, Washington, Illinois 61571
The Moon Is Made of Green Cheese
By Al Diestelkamp
the 16th and 17th century, there was a popular proverb that “the moon
is made of green cheese.” As late as 1902 a study showed that, when
questioned about the moon’s composition, green cheese was the most
common answer. Today, the phrase is used to illustrate extreme
For many years in his preaching, my father would
say, “If you take scriptures out of their contexts, you can ‘prove’
anything.” He would often add, “You could even prove the moon is made
of green cheese.” One day after hearing him say that, my mother said, “Prove it!” Using his KJV Bible, here’s the 3-point “proof” he came up with:
1] “Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?” (Job 10:10).
“And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and
the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also” (Gen. 1:16).
3] “The range of the mountains is his pasture, and he searcheth after every green thing” (Job 39:8).
“Ridiculous!,” you say? Yes, but no more so than what some people do in trying to justify their false doctrines.
P.O. Box 891, Cortland, Illinois 60112
By Leslie Diestelkamp (1911-1995)
says, “if ye fulfill the royal law according to the scriptures. Thou
shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, you do well” (Jas. 2:8). Some
footnotes identify this “royal law” as “the law of our King.” It
certainly does not mean that this is the only law of Christ for us
today, but it surely does mean that those who have taken Jesus as their
King will love their neighbors. In other words, if one does not love
his fellowman, it is obvious that he is not in subjection to the law of
Christ. The reader is urged to see further emphasis on this matter by
reading 1 Jn. 2:10; 3:10, 14-23; 4:7-21.
But going back to our
initial text, we see another specific emphasis by reading the following
verse: “If ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced
of the law as transgressors” (Jas. 2:9). In fact, the entire first part
of this chapter is teaching the great principle of impartiality.
Significantly, the law of our King teaches us that we must love people
without preference that is based upon wealth versus poverty.
is a hard saying! Outwardly we may submit and do our best to give
attention to the poor, but what is the attitude of our hearts? Do we
actually have the same respect for the man in old, worn clothing as we
do for the one that is dressed in fine attire? When we greet people, is
there a difference in the inner feeling we have toward that one who
drives a new Lincoln Continental and the one who drives an old, beat-up
Ford Pinto? If circumstances make it necessary that we choose to greet
only one of two people, will we choose the one in a fine fur coat, or
the one in a plain cloth garment?
it is necessary that we examine the attitude of our hearts even more
than the outward expressions that are seen of men. After all, remember,
as one “thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). So if our hearts
are filled with vanity, pride, selfishness, and if we lack humility,
meekness and compassion, then, regardless of the outward demonstration
we may make, God is not pleased.
If we snub a poor person, he
probably won’t notice it much, for he is accustomed to such treatment.
But the Lord will take note, for the love of God, his grace and
mercy—and even His law—are completely without partiality, and one
significant intent of His law is that it produce the same impartial
compassion in the heart of each child of God.
Now let us
consider some applications: (1) Preachers: What is your heart’s desire?
Is it to go where there is a beautiful, commodious building and preach
to an affluent people? Would you consider a place that has no building,
or that uses a mud hut or a bamboo shack? (2) Elders: Do you direct the
energies of the church toward the affluent suburbia and the
sophisticated “upper class”? Would you consider the down-and-out people
of the tenement sections—those who have no cars, and even those who
have no jobs?
Submission to the law of our King demands more
than generous benevolence for the unfortunate. When we will have given
much money (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) we will have done well, but
when we will have given genuine love, expressed in gifts that money
can’t buy—in care, concern, companionship, compassion—then we will have
This article first appeared in THINK, Vol. 8, No. 4, dated July-August, 1977
|A BELOVED FAMILY MEMBER PASSES|
JAMES A. HODGES,
82, died April 10, 2012 following a battle with cancer. The husband of
our sister, Wanda, Jim was by far the most educated in our family,
holding three master’s degrees, as well as a Ph.D. from the University
of Chicago. Though known as Dr. Hodges in some circles, he was known by
our children and grandchildren as “uncle Jim,” and by fellow-Christians
as “brother Hodges.”
He spent nearly his entire adult life
serving young people at Florida College, first as a teacher of
upper-division students, and later as a director of the FC library. In
addition, he has spent many years writing a book defending creation and
refuting evolution, which is yet to be published.
survived by his wife, Wanda, a son, Paul (Nancy), two daughters, Lois
Matthews and Martha Prince (Gary), seven grandchildren and one
great-grandchild. A son, Timothy, and a daughter, Violet preceded him
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