About Think's Editor -
By Andy Diestelkamp
Is life stressful for
you? Do you have time for a crisis this week? Most of us cannot imagine
what it would be like to add to our already overly busy lives the
pressure of taking a stand for what is right and then the stress of
becoming the objects of our community’s scorn. (Although that might
free up some time for us.) Lot was a righteous man who was oppressed by
the filthy conduct of the wicked among whom he dwelt. “That righteous
man... tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and
hearing their lawless deeds” (2 Pet. 2:7,8). Do you have time for this
kind of torment?
As I attempted to collect and arrange my thoughts for
this article (while seated comfortably at my dining room table with a
cup of hot tea at my right hand, the wife of my youth industriously
making supper preparations, and my new laptop responding so
effortlessly to the patter of my keystrokes), I vacantly stared out the
window and tried to just think. My meditation was interrupted by a van
parking across the street. The upper-teen passenger exited the van,
and—as she went up the walk to the house—she lowered her sweat pants to
briefly expose her buttocks, turned to look back with a playful smile
at the driver of the van, and once more repeated her cheeky revelation.
I considered this to be a providential nudge to pursue
the course I was on with Lot and the culture of Sodom and Gomorrah. Do
not hastily assume that this prudish preacher’s kid has gotten his
undies in such a wad that he is ready to rain down fire and brimstone
on the neighbor for a little indecent exposure. Of course not! She
probably doesn’t know any better. She is a product of a culture that
has been gradually losing its sense of shame about nakedness for at
least a century now. Instead of blushing, she giggles.
It is interesting that Peter uses the adjective righteous
three times in reference to Lot. It is even more interesting that—from
the divine perspective—the torment experienced by Lot’s soul as he
lived in the Sodomite culture was, in part, self-inflicted. Oh,
certainly, it was the filthy conduct of the wicked among whom he lived
that oppressed him; but he chose to move there, and—more significantly—to stay
there and “day by day see their lawless deeds.” I understand that
Peter’s immediate point in using the example of Lot is to demonstrate
that God knows how to deliver the godly
out of temptation (vs. 9). The grace of God is abundantly manifested in
the story of Lot. However, if we think this means we are at liberty to
carelessly graze in the well-watered “greener grass” on the other side
of the spiritual fence (cf. Gen. 13:10), give our children into the
hands of a godless culture (Gen. 19:8,12), and expect God to swoop in
with some angels to save us from our carnal short-sightedness, then not
only have we failed to learn from Lot, we haven’t read Peter far enough.
In times past God spoke to men in a variety of ways
(Heb. 1:1). Some even entertained angels (Gen. 19:1ff; Heb. 13:2). But
God has finally spoken through His Son (1:2) Who is so much better than
the angels (vs. 4)! In God’s most glorious demonstration of grace to
mankind, He didn’t send angels. He personally came in the flesh to deliver us from our sins. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (2:3).
In the larger context of Peter’s letter is a warning to those who had already escaped
the pollutions of the world through Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 2:20). It is a
warning about false teachers (vs. 1) who had forsaken the right way and
gone astray (vs. 15). Such teachers speak great swelling words of
emptiness and allure through the lusts of the flesh and thereby deceive
even those who have already escaped (vs. 18). As Jesus succinctly
warned in a similar context, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Lk. 17:32). There was a woman who had escaped but whose affections for a perishing world were stronger than her appreciation for the manifest grace of God.
How about us? Will we
heed this divine warning in our own generation? Our nation does not
appear to be listening. There is a host of teachers wearing the name of
Christ who have taken up the mantle of Balaam (2 Pet. 2:15; Rev. 2:14).
They are seducing many churches into feel-good harlotry. Many are more
invested in the world than they are willing to admit. Most may fancy
themselves too sophisticated to “moon” somebody, but many are still
shamelessly uncovering their nakedness in socially acceptable ways.
This is not leading but following. Are we blushing (cf. Jer.
6:15) or giggling?
For decades our culture has been redefining love to suit
its lusts. Who can be surprised that it is also redefining marriage for
the same reasons? Where will it stop? Without moral leadership, it
won’t stop until the wrath of God is poured out. At least Lot used his
position “sitting in the gate” of the city (Gen. 19:1) to hospitably
protect his guests and finally had the courage to confront those who
would molest them saying, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly”
(vs. 7). Will we speak up? The pressure to conform is only going
to increase, and, despite all the public talk of tolerance, the
preaching of the Word is already “out of season” and soon will not be
tolerated any more than were Lot’s feeble efforts (2 Tim. 4:2-4). “This one came in to sojourn, and he keeps acting as a judge”
(Gen. 19:9). We, too, are all sojourners, right? In what direction is
your tent pitched? Could you pull up stakes and not look back? Do you
have time for that?
323 E. Indiana Avenue, Pontiac, Illinois 61764
By David Diestelkamp
is a gross understatement to say that suicide is a tragic, misguided
response to life. Those who love and respect life are shocked that
anyone would prey on the vulnerable by encouraging, advocating, or even
assisting suicide. Interestingly enough, most people do not find
encouraging and assisting spiritual suicide as shocking or despicable.
Seeing sin as suicide—Most
of us know that from the beginning the consequence has been, “…you
shall surely die” (Gen. 2:15:-17). Since Adam, the sin and death
formula has been repeated by all of us: “Therefore, just as through one
man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread
to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Ephesians 2 calls us
“…dead in trespasses and sins” (2:1-3).
The first challenge is
to see sin as death—not just being sick, imperfect, only human, etc.
And remember, any attempt to soften sin insults the reach and efficacy
of God’s grace! The second challenge is to see it as suicide. In other
words, sinning is a personal choice—we choose to die, we do what brings
about our own spiritual death. This is hard to accept because the
burden of personal responsibility is heavy.
“The soul who sins
shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the
father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous
shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon
himself” (Ezk. 18:20). Accepting the reality of personal sin is often
softened by the delusion that our sin is someone else’s fault. Whether
it be Adam, parents, or friends who introduced you to or sold you on
sin, God places the guilt on the one who chose, the one who acted—each
one of us. Seeing sin as spiritual suicide should make it (and
temptation) terrifyingly repulsive. As with physical suicide, sin is a
tragic, misguided response to life!
Seeing temptation as assisted suicide—I
remember the horror I felt years ago upon hearing a news story about
pedestrians in a large city chanting, “Jump,” to someone contemplating
suicide on the ledge of a tall building. From the first sin someone has
been enticing us to jump. With Eve, the devil attacked God’s law, then
denied the certainty of the negative consequence, and even questioned
His motives. Then Eve allowed her own desires (appetite, sight, wisdom)
to assist in deciding to take the final suicidal step.
We would view
temptation differently if we thought of it as pushing us to commit
spiritual suicide. People who are evil influences would no longer be
seen as urging us to live life to its fullest, but trying to convince
us to murder ourselves. False teaching becomes an invitation to your
own spiritual funeral. And what about the spiritual suicidal tendencies
our own words and actions encourage in others? It’s no wonder Jesus
said “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his
neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one
of these little ones” (Lk. 17:17). Recognizing the death consequence of
sin changes everything!
Seeing spiritual suicide’s second-chance—Physical
suicide is permanent, a one-way trip. It is right to call sin suicide
because, but for the grace of God, it also is a one-way trip. Thinking
of the normal permanence of suicide can help us appreciate what God
accomplished in redeeming us. “For if by the one man’s offense death
reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace
and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One,
Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17). What an “indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15).
We were dead, but now
are alive in Christ. We chose death, now we can choose life. We
followed others who proclaimed death disguised as life, but now we
follow Jesus Who is “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). It is
not within our power to reverse suicide, but it is within God’s power.
Why choose death? Why live in death? We’ve all sinned—we’ve all
committed spiritual suicide, but incredibly, through Jesus we don’t all
have to die! “…I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says
the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezk. 18:31).
940 N. Elmwood Drive, Aurora, Illinois 60506
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By Steve Fontenot
Who are churches of
Christ authorized to relieve? The only way to know is to appeal to the
Scriptures. The Christians in the Jerusalem church were “selling their
property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Ac. 2:45). Who were the “all” and “anyone” in the context? They are the same ones being discussed in vv. 41-44: “...those who had received his word were baptized;
and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they were
continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to
fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept
feeling a sense of awe...and all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.”
The Jerusalem church provided so that “there was not a needy person among them,
for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the
proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they
would be distributed to each, as any had need” (Ac. 4:34-35). “Among them” = “the congregation of those who believed” (v.32).
The disciples in the church in Antioch “determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea” (Ac. 11:29).
A collection was made by churches in Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia for needy in Jerusalem. Seven times it is said this collection was for needy “saints”
(Rom. 15:25,26,31; 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 8:4:9:1,12). To say Paul used
this for the relief of someone else (non-saints) is to accuse Paul of a
misappropriation of funds. Whereas there had been an age-old racial
barrier between Jews and Gentiles, many thanksgivings were being given
to God for the liberality manifested by these Gentile churches toward
their Jewish brethren, be they in Jerusalem or anywhere else, “unto
them and unto all” (2 Cor. 9:13).
Timothy, the evangelist in Ephesus, was to “let not the church be
burdened” with the relief of widows with children and grandchildren,
“so that it may assist those who are widows indeed” (1 Tim. 5:16). “Now she who is a widow indeed, and who has been left alone has fixed her hope on God, and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day” (1 Tim. 5:5).
In the New Testament, churches “of Christ” provided for needy “in Christ.”
315 E. Almond Drive, Washington, Illinois 61571
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'Segregation' in a Second-Hand Store
By Karl DiestelkampThere
I was, in a second-hand store to search through its many books. To my
surprise, all of the books were arranged according to the color of the
covers. Talk about giving new meaning to the phrase, “don’t judge a
book by its cover!”
I thought, wouldn’t it have been strange to say to my wife, “Honey, I’m going to the store to see if can find some green books to go with my all green
library.” And, after going there to come home and say, “I’m back, and
you won’t believe this. I ran into a guy who was looking for yellow books to go with his all yellow library. And you know what? We agreed to help each other—if I come across any yellow books I will send them to him and if he finds any green books he will send them to me—only he does not want any dark yellow books and I admitted that I did not really want any pale green books either. Neither of us want any of those ‘shabby’ little cheap books or ones that have been badly used or that are stained.” That would be as absurd as arranging books by the color of the covers in the first place.
But those books got me to thinking about local churches. The archaic
notion that certain brethren would “be more comfortable” in a
congregation made up of people more like themselves (whatever that
means) is still around in some places. No, most would not admit that
the color of the “cover” was really the issue or that some of the
people we fail to embrace or encourage are “shabby” and “cheap” and
have been “badly used” in life or are too “stained” for our tastes, but
it does happen. While “language” and “geographic location” may at times
determine the makeup of a local church, culture, social status,
economic achievement, ethnic composition, academic standing and skin
color should not be used to deliberately attract only certain ones and
to exclude others.
In Christ, “There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be no male
and female; for ye are all one in Christ” (Gal. 3:28). We have “put on
the new man, that is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of
him that created him: where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision
and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ
is all, and in all” (Col. 3:10,11). All such distinctions are erased in Christ. The world uses these artificial, separating barriers for its advantage, but Christians are forbidden to do so.
Peter declared, “…of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of
persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh
righteousness is acceptable to him” (Ac. 10:34,35). The gospel is to be
preached “to the whole creation” (Mk. 16:15); and we are to “make
disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19). That includes those who may
have had an unsavory past, like some in Corinth of whom Paul said,
“such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but
ye were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the
Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). And, for that matter, like all of
us as well, who “have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.
If the Lord has received those who have been “washed” and “sanctified”
and “justified,” on what grounds could I possibly refuse them, or
discourage them? If we consider ourselves to be “strong.” Paul wrote,
“Now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and
not to please ourselves. Let each one of us please his neighbor for
that which is good, unto edifying…Wherefore receive ye one another, even as Christ also received you, to the glory of God” (Rom. 15:1,2,7).
If we are tempted to make distinctions between people over superficial
differences, we “become judges with evil thoughts…if ye have respect of
persons, ye commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors”
Now back to the color of the books. I did not even look for a single
book among the colorful “factions” on the shelves. That is not the way
I search for a good book. Likewise, the church of the Lord has no
“color.” You make the applications!
8311 - 27th Avenue, Kenosha, Wisconsin 53143
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By Al Diestelkamp
For well over a decade The O’Reilly Factor on
the FOX News Channel has been, by far, the highest rated
cable news show on television. Its host, Bill O’Reilly, though highly
educated, often reminds his guests that he is just “a simple man.” In
his attempt to get simple, straightforward answers, he has declared his
program as a “No-Spin Zone.”
While much of his focus is on political issues, he sometimes delves
into moral and spiritual topics as well. As a frequent viewer of his
nightly program, I appreciate much of what he advocates. For instance,
he is an
eloquent and vocal opponent of abortion, and he speaks out frequently against attempts to eliminate God from our nation.
That being said, I take exception to his attempts to explain away
biblical accounts of creation and other Old Testament events as merely
“allegorical.” A recent 10-hour TV mini-series titled, The Bible,
caught his attention. Though the series is riddled with inaccuracies,
it does portray the events as actual. O’Reilly invited Robert Jeffress,
the “pastor” of First Baptist Church of Dallas, to represent the
“fundamentalist” viewpoint on his program.
O’Reilly began by questioning his guest as to whether the story of Adam
and Eve, as one example, should be taken literally. To this Jeffress
confessed his belief that they were actual people. This prompted
O’Reilly to reveal his Catholic schooling which taught him to “spin”
many of the Old Testament stories as “allegorical.” He opined, “A whale
swallowing Jonah for three days? That
doesn’t happen!” His guest pointed out that Jesus connected the
actuality of His own future resurrection with the fact that Jonah was
“three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish,” but
O’Reilly conveniently shrugged that off.
O’Reilly brought up the debate over the age of the earth, expressing
his belief that God created everything, but did so through the process
of evolution. Whether Jeffress totally agreed with him is not clear,
but sadly, O’Reilly was able to get him to concede that the earth is at
least 13 billion years old.
Bill O’Reilly has co-authored several books, including Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy,
both of which have been “best sellers.,” and the former having already
been adapted into a movie broadcast on the History Channel. He has
since announced that his next book will be Killing Jesus,
indicating that it will relate the true story. I’ve got news for him:
That book has already been written! If he relies on the only reliable
source for the death of Jesus he will be hard-pressed to write a book
with enough pages to warrant the $28 price he plans to charge.
Unfortunately, I’m sure he will not limit himself to the Bible as his
source, and the result will be a book containing some truth, many
embellishments and inaccuracies based on tradition and imagination. That will be the ultimate example of “spin.”
P.O. Box 891, Cortland, Illinois 60112
Psalm 92 and 'Going to Church'
By Keith Barclay
The Psalms are a wonderful
mirror in which we can see our true spiritual condition. The Psalmists,
whether David, Asaph, Moses or one of the anonymous writers, give us
insight like no other writers of scripture. They speak of worship,
repentance, recompense, relationship and reward. Righteous living and
worship are central, especially worship, since the Psalms were to be
included in the temple worship of ancient Israel. The 92nd Psalm is no
exception. This is entitled “a song for the Sabbath” and within its
verses is a wealth of praise and practical help for the believer.
Thanksgiving and praise open this Psalm. How often do we open (begin)
our day with thanksgiving and praise? Yet the Psalmist urges us to do
so morning and evening (v.2). The motivation for our thanksgiving and
praise is God’s steadfast love and faithfulness (ESV). Scripture
demonstrates these traits of our creator throughout the historical
books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles (each, one book rather than two,
in their original form). Repeatedly God proves His love and
faithfulness and Israel was to remember that, not only in Sabbath
worship, but also in personal worship every morning and evening. How
much less should we thank and praise our God for the ultimate in love
and faithfulness in the sending of His Son and the provision of
salvation Jesus brings?
God’s work is extolled and it is made clear that there will be those
who will not understand nor appreciate what our God has done. The
English Standard Version is very blunt in this regard, “The stupid man
cannot know; the fool cannot understand this...” (v.6). Surely we have
no desire to be among that number.
What does result from those so inclined are the wicked and evildoers
who will sprout and flourish but who will ultimately be doomed forever
(v.7). This demonstrates God’s faithfulness and steadfast love for
those who do know and understand, and who, as a result, live
righteously. The Lord, who is on high forever, will see His enemies
scattered and perish. What comfort this brings to those who have
suffered at the hands of the wicked (vs. 10-11).
This brings us to the practical portion of the Psalm and to the portion
which demands that I quit “going to church”! “What was that?” you ask!
You read correctly, we must stop “going to church.” This text suggest
that faithfulness under Moses’ covenant was accomplished by simply
visiting the temple on occasion. They were not people who made an
appearance at the temple or synagogue on the Sabbath. These are people
who are described as having been “planted” in the house of the Lord
(v.13a). They “flourish” in the courts of our God (v.13b).
Consider those terms. They suggest far more than a weekly appearance at
an assembly. These terms suggest someone who understands the
significance of God’s steadfast love, faithfulness and work. As a
result they firmly plant themselves (the tree metaphors of the text) in
God’s house. It is where they reside, not someplace they visit.
They relish their place there because there is no other place they
would rather be. Morning and evening they praise their God and give Him
thanks. As you look into this Psalm does it reflect similarly your
attitude toward God and His house today—the church? Are you planted
there and do you flourish?
A remarkable thing about being planted and flourishing is that even in
one’s old age one will bear fruit. We are ever green and growing, or we
are dead (v.14). What a blessing! Do we appreciate those among us who,
though age may have them bent and their body broken, continue to bear
fruit (cf. Gal. 5:22-23). Our tendency is to dismiss them as having
passed their prime and no longer able to be relevant. The Psalmist
declares the “planted” one who “flourishes,” though aged, is still of
is missed by those described in vs. 6-7. Eternity is missed by them as
well. In the Lord’s house we experience a taste of eternity as we
acknowledge God’s love, faithfulness and work. We offer to Him
thanksgiving, praise and a life filled with righteousness morning and
evening, planted and flourishing in His house.
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