June, 2014

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Guest Post by R.P. Amos: 7 Meeting Places of God with His People

Friday, June 27th, 2014

The Lord’s desires to be near His people.  “Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (Psa. 50:5).  There are 7 places in Scripture where God’s people as a whole habitually meet with Him.  Not just going to a service or a school to learn, but to meet Him.  Three are history from which we can learn. One is present of where we meet with God now.  Three are future of which it gets better.

1. MOSES’ TENT      “Moses…called it the Tabernacle of the congregation”

God had just judged Israel for its golden calf idolatry.  The sanctuary tabernacle with its holy places and altar had not been constructed yet.  Because the Lord was announcing He would not be in the midst of such a hard people, Moses took the tent where God met with him to talk, and moved it outside the corrupted camp of people.  God’s glory cloud then came to that tent (tabernacle) door and now; “every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation [meeting], which was without the camp.”  Now to meet with God, the people had to separate from the popular corrupted encampment and meet the Lord outside it where He was.  Meeting with the Lord would now have feet to it.

Now believers in Christ Jesus (He suffered outside the religious city gate) are told to “go forth therefore unto Him without the camp” [Christless corrupted religion], Heb. 13:13.

2. THE WILDERNESS TABERNACLE   “there I will meet with the children of Israel”

Once the portable tabernacle with its holy places had been pitched, God’s desire was to be in the midst of His people journeying home.  Now his people’s occupation was to “bring an offering [sacrifice] unto the Lord” at “the door of the tabernacle of the congregation [meeting]”.  It was first a place of bringing to God, not to get something.

Now the church is His spiritual house.  We are His holy priesthood that offers up to God (not for ourselves) spiritual sacrifices (praise, good works, charity, service) by Christ.

3. THE TEMPLE      “his habitation shall ye seek, and thither [there] thou shalt come”

Once Israel came into their land, God would choose a permanent place to reside among His people.  God eventually chose Jerusalem and had a permanent temple built by Solomon.  Now there was one holy city on earth where His presence was.  This one place was to be where His people could meet with Him.  All other places with names of other gods were to be destroyed.  Only His Name at His place was the only meeting place.

We learn in the church that God has placed His Name of “Lord” only on Jesus Christ.  All other names of identity are not to be taken by believers.  We are to gather in and call only upon the Name (authority and wisdom) of the exalted Lord Jesus Christ.

4. THE CHURCH    “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ when ye are gathered together”

When believers in Christ gather in His exalted Name and authority – Lord Jesus Christ, He promises to be in the midst of them by His Spirit.  So now in this age there is not one holy place on earth to come to but one holy Name to gather in, no matter where you might geographically be.  God’s Name has gone from Jerusalem to Jesus – the Lord.

So now “all that in every place that call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” constitutes His house, the church.  He is where all believers in any locale on earth continually come together into one place – in the Lord Jesus’ Name.  So now we don’t just “go to church” or to Bible study or to meeting – but to meet-Him.

And it’s His very presence that forms the church’s character:  Glory to be given only to Him (“no flesh should glory in His presence”).  Holiness is to be pursued (separation from the false and not letting sin spread among believers).  Reverence to be present.  Praise led by the Lord Jesus in the midst of the church in the power of His Spirit (not some worship leader or team).  Plurality of gifts involved in a gathering delegated by Him (not one ordained man).  Headship order His way with man and woman having different roles.  Remembrance of the Lord and His death at His Supper is to be the focus (not a human performance).  Word of the Lord is to be heard by His sheep (not using the Bible to prove our ideas but using it to form our ideas).

5. THE MEETING IN THE AIR     “to meet the Lord in the air…ever be with the Lord”

As important as it is meet with the Lord in Spirit on earth, He desires to be physically with His bride-body forever.  And so there is coming a great gathering to the Lord Jesus Christ of every believer in Christ – dead or alive.  He will descend and somewhere in the air between heaven and earth, all will be caught up to meet Him in the air to be united.  And so will we be forever meeting with the Lord Jesus Himself whether in heaven above or the kingdom beneath.  As the hymn writer said: “where Jesus is, tis heaven there”.

6. THE KINGDOM TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM    “all nations shall flow unto it”

The Lord Jesus will return with His united bride to rule on the earth for the thousand-year kingdom.  Once the unrepentant sinner is removed and judged there will be peace, justice and good will toward men.  His headquarters and palace will be out of Jerusalem, Israel with the rebuilt house (temple) of God there also.  Because King Jesus will now be there the name of Jerusalem will be changed to ‘Jehovah Shammah’ – “the LORD is there”.

But since the Lord desires to meet with all believers the door will be open for all nations to come to worship and meet with Him to learn His ways and word.  This will not be a union of all religions coexisting with each other but a “religious unity” where all agree that Jesus is Lord and His Word is right to walk in.  The fruit will be the abolition of war and the military for in the love and the fear of the one Lord Jesus Christ all will be united.

7. THE NEW JERUSALEM  “God himself shall be with them”

Even in the eternal state of the new heaven and new earth where the New Jerusalem descends from heaven, God desires to be with His people.  There won’t be a physical temple there for now the Lord is the worship center as He Himself with the Lamb is living with His redeemed – the bride.  And the Lord in this city will be the gathering center as all the saved nations will come to meet with Him and have their kings bring their glory and honor unto it.  And the door is never shut for no night is there – continual access to meet and fellowship with God Himself and His Lamb – Jesus Christ!

Yes, God desires to be near and meet with His people in His way.  Do you?

{Some Scriptures for the seven meetings.  MOSES’ TENT – Exodus 33:1-17.   WILDERNESS TABERNACLE – Exo. 29:42,43 / Lev. 1:1-3 (Church – 1Pet. 2:5 / Heb. 13:15,16 / Philp. 4:18 / Rom. 12:1).  TEMPLE – Deut. 12:1-14 / 1Kings 11:36  (Church – Philp. 2:9-11 /1Cor. 1, 5:4).   CHURCH ASSEMBLY – 1Cor. 1:2, 3:16, 5:4, 14:23 / Matt. 18:20/1Cor. 1:29-31/2Cor. 6:14-7:1/Psa. 89.7/Heb. 12:28 /Heb. 2:12/1Cor. 14:23-31/1Cor:11:3, 14:34,35/1Cor. 11:16-26/2Tim. 2:15, 4:2.  IN THE AIR – 1Thess. 4:16-18.  KINGDOM ON EARTH – Rev. 17:14/Isa. 2:1-4 / Ezek. 48:35.  NEW JERUSALEM – Rev. 21}

Book review: Taking God At His Word

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Book Review: Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me.

 by Kevin DeYoung. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014.)

I received a review copy from the publisher.

Kevin DeYoung, a well-known preacher and blogger, articulates the doctrine of Scripture in a clear, modern, and highly readable style. He emphasizes that classic position of Christians that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God. As he explains: “This is a book unpacking what the Bible says about the Bible. My aim is to be simple, uncluttered, straightforward, and manifestly biblical. I make no pretenses about offering you anything other than a doctrine of Scripture derived from Scripture itself.” In my estimation, he succeeds admirably.

He has excellent chapters explaining that the Bible is Sufficient, Clear, Authoritative, and Necessary. DeYoung easily condenses several centuries of high-powered evangelical scholarship into a few targeted quotations. The book’s strongest feature is its exposition of the view of Scripture held by the Lord Jesus and His apostles. He uses passages like John 10:35 and Matthew 19:3-9 to show that they viewed the Bible as the inspired, historically sound, and authoritative word of God.

This book is highly recommended for seekers, new believers, and more experienced Christians who want a concise resource on the doctrine of Scripture. The author provides a detailed index of the verses that are quoted in the book, and those wishing to delve deeper into the subject may consult his outstanding bibliography.

Becoming A Spiritual Heavyweight

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Dicksee-Victory,_A_Knight_Being_Crowned_With_A_Laurel-Wreath *

The celebrated boxing champion, Muhammad Ali once said: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”[1] His words reminded me of the need for believers in the Lord Jesus Christ to condition themselves for their Master’s future purposes. It is a well-known adage that in this age Christians are “training for reigning.” As 2 Timothy 2:12 says: “If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.” The life of the saints must be characterized by self-discipline in accordance with God’s chastening work in and through us (Heb. 12:5-16.) To paraphrase Ali, “Suffer now and live in the age to come as one who is more than a conqueror” (Rom. 8:37.)

Hitting The Sanctification Gym

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul employs two athletic metaphors for the Christian pathway: 1. A runner  2. A boxer. These events were staples of the nearby Isthmian games. Both types of competitor needed strict preparation for their contests. Verse 25 uses the term “temperate,” which Mr. Vine defines as “…the rigid self-control practiced by athletes. Their training was over in ten months: ours is to last our lifetime, and, as with the athletes of old, the self-control is to affect all our circumstances.”[2] This assures one that the life of a believer entails Spirit-led self-control (Gal. 5:23.) Loose morality, laxity in thought-life, unjudged sin in one’s personal life, and especially negligence of walking with the Lord through prayerful reading of His Word leads to spiritual weakness and sets one up for a fall. Paul guarded himself by keeping close to the Lord, letting Him empower His servant for the contest of life in a fallen world.

Bloodsport & Its Lessons

Gordon Franz gives historical perspective on boxing in these words:

“The boxer wrapped his knuckles with leather straps. In the Roman competition, which the Isthmian games probably followed, the wrapping ‘incorporated lead, irons and even spikes’! The athletes boxed, sometimes up to four hours, until one competitor was knocked out. Or one boxer ‘signaled defeat by a raised index finger’ (Milavic 1992: 14). Boxing was serious and brutal competition. At times, the Christian life could be also (2 Tim. 3:12).”[3]

As verse 26 shows, Paul wanted to make every punch count. He was not merely “shadow boxing”; rather, he wanted to fight properly in keeping with the rules, while still waging a good combat (2 Tim. 4:7.)[4] His words were calculated to lift up His champion and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 2:1-5.)

Above all, Paul wanted to avoid disqualification (1 Cor. 9:27.) While some think this term exclusively relates to becoming reprobate and being lost eternally, it seems more likely that he is referring to loss of reward. First of all, the Scriptures nowhere teach the loss of salvation for a true believer. They do teach that pretenders – false professors that John Wesley called “almost Christians”[5] – may apostatize from their spurious and nominal identification with Christ (e.g. Judas Iscariot, John 6:70-71; compare Heb. 6:4-8.) Such people never truly possessed salvation through faith in Christ; they merely acted the part deluding themselves and (sometimes) others.[6] Yet the context of 1 Corinthians 9 is of service in the Gospel, not eternal destiny (e.g. vv. 12-23.) Rather than fearing damnation, Paul feared the loss of his life’s work: a personal testimony that undergirds the preaching of Christ. As Vine explains “disqualified” in this passage:

“…[H]ere it means disapproved, and so rejected from present testimony, with loss of future reward. Such a possibility should be so appalling and abhorrent to any servant of Christ, that he should follow the apostle’s example, which is here given, not simply as a record of his own life, but as a guide to us in all our circumstances. We need to remember also that the apostle is here speaking of the responsibility and joy of winning souls for Christ. To save others should be the pursuit of our lives. The conflict and its issues are so tremendous, that we should never forgo any means of spiritual strength.”[7]

Bringing Home The Gold

Instead of being awarded medals as in the modern Olympics, ancient competitors vied for the laurel wreath crown known as the Stephanos (“the victor’s crown” – the Greek word is translated “crown” in 1 Cor. 9:25.)[8] Paul was laboring to win “an imperishable” one. Rather than taking it easy in this life, he submitted to the disciplined training regimen of a pilgrim on his way to eternal glory. Likewise, all believers are called to train in the Lord’s school for future reward and kingdom service in His future Millennial and eternal kingdoms (see Rev. 20 & 21-22 respectively.) Keep training, dear saint! Run with the Lord Jesus, increase your spiritual stamina by submitting to His ways in your life, and develop your minds by immersing them in His Word (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:15; Col. 3:1-2, 5-17.)

*Image: Dicksee, “Victory – A Knight Being Crowned with a laurel wreath”

[1] Muhammad Ali, quoted on ESPN’s twitter feed, May 21, 2014.

[2] W. E. Vine, Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: 1 Corinthians. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1996.)

[3] Gordon Franz, “Paul at Isthmia – Going for the Gold,” electronic ed. accessed on 5/21/14 here: http://www.lifeandland.org/2009/02/paul-at-isthmia-going-for-the-gold/

[4] “He is also like a boxer, but not a shadow one (orators who demonstrated their oratorical prowess before crowds, and not in actual debates were derided as shadow boxers).”Bruce Winter, New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed., D. A. Carson et al., eds. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1176.

[5] John Wesley, “The Almost Christian,” Sermon #2; Preached at St. Mary’s, Oxford, before the University, on July 25, 1741; Accessed here on 6/11/14: http://www.umcmission.org/Find-Resources/John-Wesley-Sermons/Sermon-2-The-Almost-Christian

[6] H.A. Ironside believed firmly in the eternal security of the saints; nevertheless, he thought Paul was referring to false professors in this passage: “The word ‘disapprove’ is also used for complete disapproval. You may be a church-member taking more or less part in so-called Christian work, but see to it that there is a real work of grace in your own soul, or the day may come when you will be utterly disapproved and you will find yourself outside the number of those who enter into the Father’s house in that day, not because you were once saved and are so no longer, but because your life has proved that you were never truly born of God.”

H. A. Ironside, Addresses on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1938), 275–276.

[7] W. E. Vine, 1 Corinthians.

[8] William D. Mounce, “Crown,” in Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 148.

Book review of David F. Wells’ “God in the Whirlwind”

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Book review: David F. Wells, God In The Whirlwind: How The Holy Love Of God Reorients Our World. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013.)

David F. Wells is the well-known author of acclaimed books like God in the Wasteland and No Place For Truth. In his latest work, God In The Whirlwind, Wells couples erudition, wisdom, and spiritual insight with a clear writing style that is a pleasure to read. He attacks the modern notion of God existing for the satisfaction of our needs and the bolstering of human self-esteem. One sample of his writing sets the tone:

We become inclined to think of God as our Therapist. It is comfort, healing, and inspiration that we want most deeply, so that is what we seek from him. That, too, is what we want most from our church experience. We want it to be comforting, uplifting, inspiring, and easy on the mind. We do not want Sunday (or, perhaps, Saturday evening) to be another workday, another burden, something that requires effort and concentration. We already have enough burdens and struggles, enough things to concentrate on, in our workweek. On the weekend, we want relief. It is not difficult to see, then, how this two-sided experience, this paradox, has shaped our understanding of God. It leaves us with a yearning for a God who will come close, who will walk softly, who will touch gently, who will come to uplift, assure, comfort, and guide. We want our God to be accepting and nonjudgmental. It also leaves us with the expectation that somehow this God of plenty will dispense his largesse in generous dollops to us. Maybe even through a lottery win. Perhaps we could win Powerball, or maybe some sweepstakes prize. That is the kind of God we want. This is what we expect him to be like.[1]

While I do not share all of his Reformed convictions – most notably his Covenant Theology perspective when dealing with Adam in the garden – I applaud his zeal for the holiness and love of God. He rightly diagnoses and deplores the modern man-centered culture that infects evangelical thinking at certain points and evidences itself in the Church’s worship (especially its music) and preaching (or lack thereof.) He spends a significant portion of the book defining “holy-love” and shows why this understanding of God’s nature is vital for Christian belief and practice. God commands full attention and is worthy of all of our affection and obedience. Wells rightly shows the scriptural emphasis on God’s supremacy and beauty. He inverts the skewed modern idea of human-centeredness, in favor of focusing on the triune God.

[1] David F. Wells. God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World (Kindle Locations 446-455). Crossway. Note: I received a review copy from Crossway.

Book Review: Facing Death by Franklin D. Taylor, Sr.

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Facing Death by Franklin D. Taylor, Sr.

Port Colborne, ON: Everyday Publications International, 2013.

Available here: http://everydaypublications.org/EPI/Order/Books.php?id=617

Reviewed by: Keith R. Keyser

Death is ubiquitous in our fallen world. The Scriptures affirm that “…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27.) Given its universality, it is not surprising that death is a necessary subject to consider.

Franklin D. Taylor, Sr.’s recently published book, Facing Death concisely examines death and the practical issues surrounding it from a Christian perspective. Dr. Taylor is described as an educator who has lengthy familiarity in counseling people, including the terminally ill and their bereaved loved ones. His practical experience lends helpful weight to his teaching. Having said that, his points are grounded in the Scriptures. In dealing with such a momentous subject, brother Taylor does not fall back on personal opinion or mere human wisdom; rather, he goes straight to God’s Word for answers to questions about death and the afterlife.

Facing Death helpfully deals with the questions that both Christian believers and unbelievers pose. To this latter group, brother Taylor clearly explains the Gospel, using many relevant Bible verses. To the former group, he likewise uses the Scriptures to offer comfort to those who know the peace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died and rose again to give eternal life to those who receive Him as Lord and Savior (Rom. 10:9.)

The book is fairly short – about 37 pages of main text, plus a few sidebars and five appendices – and is written in a nontechnical, easy to read style. The author offers balanced and insightful explanations rooted in the biblical text. Theological questions such as “Where did death come from?”,  and “How did Jesus defeat death?” are discussed, as well as more down to earth topics like planning a funeral, making a will, and counseling the terminally ill. The appendices deal with the common issues of cremation, euthanasia, suicide, and out of body experiences.

The fifth and concluding appendix is a template for planning one’s funeral, providing opportunity for documenting the relevant information for family members or friends who are involved in carrying out the deceased’s wishes, as well as space to record financial information that is germane to paying for the funeral expenses. There is also a journaling section, offering the dying person to record their thoughts as they near the end of their course on this earth. This is a thoughtful and helpful touch that adds practical benefit to the value of the book. In short, I thoroughly recommend this book for all adult believers – and even strangers to the Lord Jesus who desire to know the Bible’s teaching on death and what comes afterwards.