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Archive for October, 2016

Reflections on the Day of the Lord

By Marty Beamer

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Now, I understand that Jefferson was a deist and he said this it was in the context of slavery (which he owned many), but that in no way diminishes the truth of what he said. In fact, the more I reflect on these words, the more I see the truth of God in them.

At the end of Revelation, John says in verse 20, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Many Christians have taken this verse, and some others in the New Testament, and saying them often. And I’m afraid they do this without much reflection. I do understand where they are coming from. I see what they see. I see the evil in the world. I have stood at an abortion clinic and seen people go in to kill their child. I have watched the news and I get the Amber Alerts on my phone. I have been to India, Africa, and Brazil and have seen evil that just makes you want to scream out “Come, Lord Jesus!” So don’t hear this as a rebuke because I have very rarely found people who desire the Lord’s return more than me (although I’m sure you’re out there). Instead, hear this as a call to reflect more deeply.

Amos 5:18-20 says,

Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It  is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?

 When I read this passage it immediately made me think back to what Jefferson said. Do we really know what we are asking when we ask for the Lord to return, for the “day of the Lord?” Because what we must realize is that we are asking for the justice of God. We are asking Him to make all evil in the world right. Yes, we are asking Him to right the wrongs of every death in the abortion clinic, every stolen child, every starving child, every corrupt man. And we rejoice at that!  Justice for that kind of evil makes it easy to desire for the day of the Lord! But, did you also know that you are asking Him to bring justice down on everyone who ever had an evil thought? Or everyone who ever looked lustfully at a woman? Or anyone who dishonored their parents? Or every unkind word you have ever spoken?

When I think of what Jefferson said, my heart breaks and my soul, with him, trembles. I tremble at the justice of God. I tremble at what that means for our country. I tremble at what that means for family members. But where Jefferson stops, I continue. Where his trembling never stopped, mine does because of the blood of Jesus Christ. I do not have to be in a paralyzed fear that God’s justice will awaken on me because it was already roused and poured out fully on Christ. The just demands of God have been met.

So what I am calling for is a balance. Christians should be ones who tremble and, yet, stop trembling. We should know what we ask for when we say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” It should make us tremble to think of His justice. Yet, we do not continue in that state because the justice of God has been satisfied by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Let us together cry for the Lord’s return with joy knowing that we have escaped the wrath of God! But, let us never forget what we are asking for when He returns. A somber joy. A trembling assurance.

Marty Beamer is the Assistant Pastor of Faith Community Church

Posted in: Bible study

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Going Through the Wilderness

In our most recent Elder meeting, we discussed what seems to be a great increase in the amount of FCC families who are currently “going through the wilderness.”  And it’s sometimes hard to reconcile the sovereignty of God in the affairs of life and also watch your brothers and sisters being squeezed and purified.

I was reminded of a sermon we heard several months ago from Deuteronomy 8 dealing with the wilderness.  Read the chapter again and then meditate on the main points below:

  • Wilderness experiences are extended periods of time
  • All self-reliance is destroyed in the wilderness
  • He leads us into the wilderness so that we may learn to live on the Word of Godwilderness
  • Wilderness wanderings are the right-of-passage for God’s people
  • If you’re a child of God, you will be led into the wilderness
  • He leads us into the wilderness so that He might miraculously provide for us
  • He leads us into the wilderness to mature us

My last wilderness experience took eight years to go through.  It was an extended period of time.  But the Lord destroyed my self-reliance in many areas.  I was brought back time and time again to the truth of God’s word.  Would I have chosen eight years in the wilderness on my own?  Absolutely not!  But I’m glad He took me through it.

We most recently saw this as we finished the book of Revelation.  Jesus is preparing His bride, the Church.  Part of that preparation means going through the wilderness.  Brothers and sisters, keep the end goal in mind.  If you’re a believer, you will be going through the wilderness at some point if you’re not already in it.

Embrace the wilderness and know that the Lord who bought you with His own blood loves you enough to take you through it.

D H – for the Elders

Posted in: Christian Living

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Role of Old Testament Law to the Church

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By Marty Beamer

The Old Testament has baffled believers for centuries. What do we obey? Is it applicable for us at all? There are some people who think that the Old Testament law has no bearing on people today while others believe that it should be obeyed. The former will quote verses like Galatians 2:16, “… yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…” The latter usually take their position based on 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” However, the second group will usually do their best to avoid passages like Leviticus 11:17 “And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you.” So what role should the Old Testament law play in the church today?

Let me start by addressing those who say that the Old Testament has no bearing on the life of the church. While these people are usually right in stating we are under a different covenant, they are wrong in their application of the covenant. Usually, the book of Galatians is the go-to defense for this position. But a close reading of the book will easily refute this interpretation. Paul never once says in the letter that the law has no bearing on the life of the Believer. What Paul repeatedly says is that the law cannot save a person. Those who take this position are falling into a common fallacy known as the “either-or-fallacy.” Either the law has complete bearing on our life or it has none at all. The problem is that this creates a false dichotomy and places the New Testament against the Old Testament. Paul himself will strongly go against this when he says, “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not!” (Gal. 3:21). What these mistaken interpreters fail to realize is that a New Testament faith has its foundations on an Old Testament faith. In fact, I am bold enough to say that there is no New Testament faith without the Old Testament faith because they are one and the same. Those who had faith in the Old Testament looked forward to what God would do, and we look backward to what God has done. To say the Old Testament has no purpose for the life of a New Testament believer is to lay the ax to our very own roots. We need the Old Testament. And, it is just as much the breathed Word of God as the New Testament.

So then, what do we do with the law? If it is the foundation for the faith we hold today and the Word of God, then wouldn’t we be negligent to skip over portions of Scripture? If you answered yes, then how do you read the law and interpret it correctly? Let me try and give you a few principles that might help. These aren’t exhaustive but it might get you started.

First, try to understand the reason God gave the specific law you are looking at. What is going on in Israel’s history when the law is given? What is God’s main concern in giving the law? Almost all of the laws are dealing with how Israel is to live with a holy and perfect God. God demands holiness for those who dwell with Him. The law usually answers the question: What does it take to be His people?

Secondly, understand that the reason behind God giving the law is still applicable today. God still demands holiness to be in His presence. Christians today question what it means to be in communion with a holy God. The difference is that the sacrificial demands have now been met by Jesus. We are holy and beloved before God because the sacrifice has been made! There is nothing we could ever do to be made right with God (the argument of Galatians). But that does not mean we shouldn’t live holy lives. God desires for us to be in communion with Him and still desires for us to live in obedience for that to happen. Sin still breaks that communion. Again, the difference is that we do not go to the temple to sacrifice in order to restore that communion. It has already been restored by Christ!

Finally, let the New Testament help inform your view of the law. The New Testament, specifically the teachings of Jesus, are an extension of the Old Testament law, and consequently, the correct interpretation. If it is said in the New Testament, you can be sure that it has binding implication on your life. For instance, Jesus says adultery is sinful (Matt. 5:27), therefore the Old Testament law is still binding on us. However, the law about not eating pig (Lev. 11:17) is not restated in the New Testament. Instead, Jesus says in Mark 7:19 that it isn’t the food that makes us unclean but what is in the heart. Therefore, the principle of being holy before God stays the same, the practice of being holy before Him looks different.

I hope we will not take the Old Testament law lightly. The New Testament church should honor the law and understand the principles God taught, and still teaches, today. But, we should not be bound to it for our salvation. We are under a different covenant and so the application of the law looks different, but it is still, as Paul said, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” Do not neglect it but profit from it.

Marty Beamer is the Assistant Pastor at Faith Community Church.

Posted in: Bible study

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John Bunyan: Blessing God for Affliction

“Like the tearing of my flesh from my bones.”

That’s how John Bunyan described parting with his family after their brief visits with him in prison. Each time they walked away, John was reminded of the great difficulty his incarceration imposed on them, especially on his blind daughter, Mary. “What sorrow you are likely to have as your portion in this world!” he wrote. “You must be beaten, must beg, suffer hunger, cold, nakedness, and a thousand other calamities, even though I cannot so much as bear the wind blowing upon you.”bunyan

Adding to John’s misery was the knowledge that by just saying the word, he could be released. Just one simple statement—”I will not preach the gospel of Jesus Christ”—was all it would take to set him free to support his family again. But John couldn’t do it. “I have determined,” he said, “the almighty God being my help and my shield, yet to suffer, if frail life might continue so long, even till the moss shall grow on mine eyebrows, rather than thus to violate my faith.” And so John waited on God for twelve long years in the overcrowded, unsanitary, poorly heated Bedford jail. Here’s something of what he learned there.

“I have often thought that the best of Christians are found in the worst of times.” It was a great mercy that John found himself in a position to both minister and be ministered to in the Bedford jail. Most of the men housed in the Bedford jail at that time were there because of religious persecution. They were free during the day to study Scripture together, to pray and to encourage one another. John found himself in the ironic position of doing in prison what he was imprisoned for doing—preaching and teaching the Gospel—as well as learning from the other imprisoned preachers. Members of his church often came to the jail to comfort John and ask his counsel, and his family was allowed to visit regularly. God ministered His sustaining grace to John through His people.

“Nothing can render affliction so insupportable as the load of sin; would you, therefore, be fitted for afflictions, be sure to get the burden of your sins laid aside, and then what afflictions soever you may meet with will be very easy to you . . .” John learned many spiritual lessons in prison and came to a clear understanding that he needed to entrust his family to God. He meditated on Jeremiah 49:11—”Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive, and let your widows trust in Me.” Later he wrote,

I also considered that if I entrusted all to God, I engaged God to take care of my concerns. But if I forsook His ways, then I would not only falsify my profession, but would also consider that my concerns, if left at God’s feet while I stood true to, and for, His name, were not as secure as they would be if they were under my care, even though I was denying the way of God.

“If thou canst hear and bear the rod of affliction which God shall lay upon thee, remember this lesson-thou art beaten that thou mayest be better.”John Bunyan discovered his voice as a writer while in prison. He began writing as an extension of his ministry to the church and had written four books before his arrest. However, Bunyan’s two major works were written during his stay in the Bedford jail. The first, Grace Abounding, is an autobiographical testimony of his own conversion. The second, The Pilgrim’s Progress, is an allegorical novel that in many ways tells the same story asGrace Abounding, universalizing and personifying Bunyan’s struggles with guilt, doubt, despair and even incarceration.

Could these books have been written without the rod of affliction? George Whitefield didn’t think so. He said, “It [Pilgrim’s Progress] smells of the prison. It was written when the author was confined in the Bedford jail. And ministers never write or preach so well as when under the cross; the Spirit of Christ and of Glory rests upon them.”

“In times of affliction, we commonly meet with the sweetest experiences of the love of God . . . . Jesus Christ was never more real and apparent than now. Here I have seen and felt Him indeed!” After being released from prison, John added a chapter to the second edition of Grace Aboundingdescribing some of his experiences there. In the final paragraph, he described the comfort he received from God during a time of doubt in prison. He wrote, “I would not have exchanged this trial for much else; I am comforted every time I think about it and I hope I shall bless God forever for the things I have learned by it.”

Susan Verstraete is the church secretary for Faith Community Church.

Posted in: Biography, Book Review

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Man Must Endure His Going Hence

By Matt Greco

I have had the opportunity to attend a couple of funerals these past few months and I wanted to share with everyone some of my observations and thoughts concerning funerals in general and these two funerals specifically.lewis-on-funerals

I discovered that funerals are a product of a cultural and that funerals in the USA and Argentina are different.  In Argentina, most all funerals and burials happen within 24–36 hours after a person has died.  The main reason is that embalming is not practiced in Argentina.  When a person dies, you had better be prepared to go to the service.  If you are traveling or away on business, you might not be able to make it back for the ceremony.  In the USA it really doesn’t matter when a person dies because we will keep their bodies well preserved until a time that is convenient for most all of the family.

Of the funerals I attended in Argentina, it seemed that little attention was paid to what the deceased looked like.  Very little make-up was used, everyday clothes (not the “Sunday best”) were used for the burial, and in several of the funerals I attended in Argentina I saw that blood had settled in the lower legs and feet.  In the USA much care is taken as to what the deceased looks like in their casket.  The two biggest differences were the timing of the funeral and the appearance of the deceased. 

Of the two funerals I attended, both in the USA, I also saw two cultures emerge, the non–Christian culture and the Christian culture.  Several things were similar in both services. I did not know either of the deceased, but I did know a close family member.  The order of service was about the same, there was a time of visitation, a time of viewing, a message about the deceased, and several hymns.  Some kind of food followed the burial.

During the non-Christian service, several family members had heartfelt messages for the deceased that dealt with regrets, opportunities lost, and reconciliations missed.  Another thing was is how everyone talked about this individual as such a great person.  She was a member of this, she was a volunteer of that, she gave her efforts for others, etc.  Not one word about her relationship to Jesus Christ—only the remarks about how she is in a better place.

During the Christian service, there was a difference in the prevailing attitude, there was a sense of peace.  Now, it is not known for sure if the deceased was a believer, but the person I knew, who is the son of the deceased, is a believer.  He and his family mourned the loss, but in all the conversation and during the entire visitation I never once felt there was a sense of regret or opportunities lost or hopelessness.  And even though my friend expressed some surprise that his father had passed away because of recent health improvements, there was a solid trust in God being sovereign and His will being done.

For me, no matter what the culture, both timing and appearance play a part in death.  (Matthew 24:42,44) reads, “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” and “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”  Now I know this has to do with Jesus’ 2nd coming, but no one knows the timing of their death and I think it not heresy to apply these verses to say we should be ready at any moment to meet the Lord!

And how will we appear at this meeting?  Will we appear in the robes washed in the blood of Jesus (Revelation 22: 14) or will we be wearing the best clothing that we have available; our good works, our time, effort and money spent trying to do the best we can?  Our good works are no more than make–up and dress clothes on a dead body.  Only those who have “put on Christ” (Romans 13:14) are wearing appropriate funeral garments.

Matt Greco is the headmaster of Faith Christian Academy

Posted in: Christian Living

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Book Review: Growing a Wise Family

As a Sunday School teacher and as a parent, I can say from personal experience that teaching children from the book of Proverbs is difficult. The book is, without a doubt, full of wisdom that we all want to apply to our own lives and to help our children to absorb.  The problem is the wealth of riches found in such rapid succession. One chapter of Proverbs might touch on twenty different topics we’d like to help the children understand, so a traditional method of reading and discussing scripture a chapter at a time is overwhelming not only but to them , but to us, too.wisefamily

Bryan Coupland’s new book, Growing a Wise Family, helps us to slow down and apply what we are reading in family worship.  The book is made up of 100 devotional talks, each based on a verse from Proverbs. Coupland illustrates the wisdom found in each verse by weaving references from the entire Bible and by using simple illustrations from his life. It is written in a conversational style with pre-teens in mind, but I found that most of the single-page articles would be easily understood by my 1-3rd grade Sunday School class. Coupland has included three discussion questions for each article, with suggested answers to help us guide the conversation.  This book would be an excellent tool for any parent, but seems especially appropriate for someone new to leading family worship.

Bryan Coupland and his wife have been missionaries with New Tribes Missions for 41 years. Each of their three children has contributed a testimonial to the book about the benefits of growing up with family worship in the home and each continues the practice now, in their own homes.

Growing a Wise Family, is available from www.Amazon.com for about $16.00 or for $11.00 plus  postage,  by sending an email order to Bryan Coupland at bryan@ComeRestWithMe.com.

Review by Susan Verstraete, church secretary

Posted in: Bible study, Book Review

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