A Love That Will Not Let Go

I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” Psalm 116:1-2

It was in the midst of a severe personal crisis in 1882, that George Matheson, then just forty years of age, penned the familiar words of this time-proven hymn: O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe, That in thine ocean depths its flow May richer, fuller be.

It was an acknowledgement of the Lord’s deep love for him as well as his own searching, self-confession that verbalized his commitment to give back to the Lord so that his life might “richer, fuller be”. The fact that he composed the hymn in less than five minutes by his own testimony is the irrefutable evidence of the fruit that remains when it comes down the path of suffering and through the valley of the Shadow.

The Love of Christ

In writing to the Ephesians, Paul prayed that they might be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the “breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ…”, Eph. 3:18-19. As we examine the manifold grace of God in salvation, we only begin to see the magnitude and scintillation of God’s deep love for us in Christ, a love that indeed is “vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!”. At best, we only see the edges of His glory. Nevertheless, it fills our hearts with wonder as we consider His amazing grace (and is one of the reasons why we include the “Salvation Stories” column in every issue of this magazine). This love is at work long before our salvation (2 Thess. 2:13) and is evident all the way through our journey with Him, John 13:1.

It is truly a love that will not let us go despite our failures, as Peter and others well knew. It is a love that will keep us from falling (Jude 24), will not allow us to be separated from Him (Rom. 8:39), and is the basis of the certainty and security of our salvation. (For more on this topic, see George Ferrier’s article: “Double-Knotted Security” in the March issue). To realize that I am my Beloved and His desire is toward me, and that His banner over me is love should make us exult in the Lord and join with the psalmist in saying, “…I will call upon Him as long as I live!”. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised!

Drawing Near

With such a love like this, the only reasonable response from us is to give Him our all. How so? The answer is by drawing near and abiding in Him. The Shulamite stated of the bridegroom, “I sat down under his shade with great delight”, Song 2:3. That should be our response as well for the One who loves us to the end. Martha was a server and busy for the Lord but Mary was a learner who sat at His feet to take in the teaching from the Master. It demonstrated her deep desire to spend time in His presence, an enjoyment that would not be taken away from her, Luke 10:42. Are we doing the same? Love for the Lord comes not so much from the messages we “hear” as it does from the messages we apply – musing upon His mercy and grace, drawing near to Him and staying close by His side. There are many disciples that sit around the table, but only one that leaned upon His bosom. When David’s mighty men were acknowledged for their achievements and feats of bravery on the battlefield, it was a special group of three men that attained the highest honors among their peers. They were the cream of the cream of the crop, 2 Sam. 23:14-17. What was their achievement? It was to penetrate behind enemy lines at risk of their lives to get a drink of water for their king. David had a longing for the water from the well of Bethlehem, his own town that at the time was under the control of the Philistines. The ambition of these three men were to meet the desire of their king. Many of David’s men performed outstanding feats of heroism – some defeated the enemy single-handedly, one slew a lion in a pit on a snowy day, but none attained to the achievement of these three men that issued out of love for their leader. Service for the Lord is important, as are many other things in the Christian life, but the highest occupation and the greatest activity is love for the Savior and worship of Him this truly is the highest occupation and should be the spiritual impetus behind everything we do for our King. The evangelist D. L. Moody said, “Before I was saved, I worked toward the Cross, but after the Cross I worked from it”. He came to learn that salvation was by grace alone, but service proceeded out of love for “that Man of Calvary.” Deepening our love for Christ should be like Ezekiel stepping into river of God (Ezek. 47), progressing until fully immersed. The Love that does not let us go should respond with a love that does not let Him go.

In this issue, Randy Amos instructs us on the spiritual lessons from the various brides of Scripture, while Willie Burnett shares with us gleanings from John 21 and the lessons from the Lord’s recommissioning of Peter – searching words to the apostle and us. We have another interesting account of the Lord’s work of salvation in the life of Gerrit Schakelaar during the days of World War II and Wade Le Blanc gives us a powerful report on the mighty hand of God working among the prison population in Kenya, Africa. Be sure also to catch the poem, “The Man in the Glory” on the back page. It is a thoughtful look of the One who is working all the time on our behalf – the One whom we do not see now, but one day will and when we do, we will rejoice even more with a joy unspeakable and full of glory.

More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee.
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Shields & Shishaks

I press for the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

Coming through another winter Olympic season, we have all undoubtedly heard the oft-repeated phrase in commercials and elsewhere to “Go for the Gold!”. It is a verbal and vivid reminder to anyone engaged in competitive sport (or any other arena for that matter) – to excel and be the best in their particular discipline. To this day, I have never heard anyone say to a fellow colleague: “Go for the silver” or “Go for the bronze!”. The fact that there are runners up that finish in second and third place is fundamental, but the ambition of all the participants from the outset is to do well and to win.

When applying this principle to our spiritual life in Christ, we should have the same standard of excellence for the best of Masters. In writing to the Philippian believers, Paul exhorted the saints there to “approve the things that are excellent” (Phil. 1:10). He did not encourage them to lower the bar or change the standard from the previous generation with the claim that “times have changed”. Not at all. Paul would later challenge the saints at Philippi by example when he stated in clarion tones, “I press for the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). It is that indeed – a high and holy calling, issued from the One who said “Be ye holy, for I am holy…” (1 Pet. 1:15). It was his standard of excellence and one that he desired for them also, requiring dedication, diligence, and a steadfast pressing on with a high standard to attain to and hold.

When Shishak, King of Egypt invaded Jerusalem during Rehoboam’s reign, (1 Ki. 14:25-28), he took away the gold shields in the temple that Solomon had built. Over five hundred shields of hammered gold occupied that temple (1 Ki. 10:16-17), a plethora of precious items that characterized the glorious kingdom of Solomon and the house of the Lord. But because of rank failure among the Lord’s people (1 Ki. 14:23-24), these shields were taken away by the Egyptians and God’s protection of the nation was removed as well. These Egyptian intruders entered the land and took away the heritage of God’s people and the things that were counted dear to the nation. But rather than repenting, Rehoboam replaced the gold shields with bronze ones, shields which looked the same but were in actuality, a cheap substitute. They were still handled with pomp and ceremony and also treated with care (v. 28), but certainly did not possess the value of the shields that were taken away.

I have often pondered this incident from the Scriptures and have wondered if it does not have a parallel for us today. Are there precious truths once held dear to a previous generation that somehow have been taken away from us? Have we lost our grip on them and have allowed the world to snatch them away because of the intrusion of modern-day Shishaks? I have sensed it in my own life and ask if it is true of others also? What has happened to those gold shields – the discipline of personal prayer and devotional time, the regular reading of the Scriptures, the faithful attendance to the meetings of the church, and the extended fellowship with the Lord’s people? All precious protective shields, for sure in our walk with Christ. It does not stop there – perhaps it has an application to the local church as well. What characterizes the church? Is there a lack of fellowship, an abbreviated schedule of meetings, an overemphasis of music over sound biblical teaching and worship? Maybe not, but maybe so. It is easy for us to ignore the biblical injunction to take heed to the things that we have heard lest at any time we should let them slip from our grasp (Heb. 2:1). Worse is the temptation to replace them with those things, which have a resemblance but are cheap look-alikes – casual attendance, token prayer time, cursory devotions and the like. We can all fill in the blank as to what those substitutes are in our experience.

Paul told Timothy to “lay hold of eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12). Solomon urged, “Buy the truth and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23) and to “remove not the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set” (Prov. 22:28). Whatever the cost, we are not to allow Shishak to take away the gold that is the standard of the house of the Lord. Whether it is Shishak or Amalek who stole David’s possessions (1 Sam. 30:2), or the Philistines who choked up Abraham’s wells with dirt (Gen. 26:18), every generation needs to discover, uncover, or recover the words of truth and like Israel, possess their possessions (Obad. 17).

In this issue, Jim Comte forcibly reminds us of that need – keeping in the forefront of our minds the certainty of the Lord’s return. Nate Bramsen challenges us to make sure that our focus is always on the Cross. Ning Tan walks us through her personal journey of faith, reminding us that the fruit that remains often comes about as we go through the land of our affliction (Gen. 41:52). George Ferrier reassures us that our security in Christ is doubly sure in Christ and our thanks to Ted Gliske who provided the poem by James Deck, which helps to keep our destination of Heaven in view. Precious truths indeed and the heritage of the house of the Lord!

Challenges to the Church

For when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.” – 2 Corinthians 7:5

There is no question that the Church in North America is facing severe challenges. The decline in church attendance which has been steadily going on for years has now reached epidemic proportions in some circles. Why is this? To put it simply, there are more going out (and up!) than there are coming in. I remember well the healthy attendance that marked our fellowship in years past – the overflow VBS and Sunday school programs, the well-attended annual picnic, the regular stream of neighborhood visitors on Sunday mornings and all without any advertising! That is certainly not the case these days, especially for many traditional meetings like ours. Instead, there are huge gaps in the pews that in the past were simply not there – and the statistics bear it out. According to a 2013 poll from Pew Research Center, 37% of all Americans attended church on a weekly basis. Gallup estimated that once-a-week church attendance for Americans was at 39%. That fact is bad enough but the Hartford Institute of Religion Research has an even more revealing statistic. According to their findings, 40 percent of Americans say they go to church weekly when in fact less than 20 percent are actually in a weekly church meeting. In the Institutes’ words, “more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more fulfilling things to do on weekends”. There you have it… “more fulfilling things to do on weekends”. It proves just how powerful the sway of the great god “Entertainment” is over the masses. The majority of the population is occupied with worldly pursuits while a number of those who profess to know the Lord are halting between two opinions, having erected competing altars to the Lord and to other gods (1 Kings 18:21). We wonder why the Church does not have more influence in the world!

In writing to the Corinthians, Paul indicated that he was simultaneously waging a war on two fronts. He elaborated on this in 2 Cor. 11 – shipwrecks, stonings, stripes and imprisonments – just a few of the “fightings” without, all in his quest to share the life-liberating message of the Cross. After listing these adversities (vv. 23-28), he concludes his list with a terse but telling comment – “the care of all the churches” (v. 28). These were the “fears within”, the ongoing conflicts that he experienced from the false teachers who had infiltrated many of the churches he established but whose simplicity in Christ was being threatened (2 Cor. 11:3).

These same pressures are with us today and likewise affect the life of the Church. Externally, there is the threat of government intrusion and interference. Ironically, after decades of decrying separation of church and state, government now demands that we bow to legislative decrees that are objectionable to Bible-believing Christians just as it was in the days of Daniel (Dan. 3). The intimidation that it evokes has been quite effective in muzzling the message decreed from a Higher Authority. Along with the influence of the entertainment world, the challenge to penetrate society with the Gospel message is even more difficult as it keeps the population pitched toward Vanity Fair, all the while portraying Christians as narrow, old-fashioned and behind the times. Adding to the dilemma is the preponderance of false prophets, whose main target is “the people” (2 Peter 2:1). They are tireless emissaries of the devil who appear as ministers of righteousness whose conflicting half-truths steer souls away from finding and following the One whom they so desperately need.

What are the fears within? It is that same line of false teachers who ignorantly are “brought in” (Gal. 2:4) or who have deceptively crept in the assemblies of God’s people (Jude 4). Together, these influences upset the rank and file, make merchandize of the Gospel, pressure leadership to adopt unscriptural practices (Ex. 32:4-5) and foster criticism of the leadership for unscriptural reasons (Num. 12; 16; Jude 11). What challenges we face!

So, what then is the Church to do amid such formidable opposition? It is to do precisely what Paul and others did in his day. Equipped with the Scriptures and empowered by the Spirit, believers should fearlessly take the whole Gospel to the whole world. It is not for the world to come and hear but for us to “go and tell”. It is the responsibility of each one to do the work of an evangelist, 2 Tim. 4:5. “Each one, reach one” should be the cry. Buoyed by the promise that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail” (Matt. 16:18) and “the foundation of God standeth sure” (2 Tim. 2:19), we are to steadfastly hold forth the message of Life. We are to regard the words of Paul to the Philippians: “in nothing terrified by your adversaries” (Phil. 1:28) and to the Corinthians “a great effectual door is open to us and there are many adversaries” (1 Cor. 16:9). At the same time, we are to take heed to ourselves and to the doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16) and to be on guard against the devastating effects of false teaching and the subtle influences of the world.

Yes, there are far more fulfilling things to do on a weekend (and the rest of the week) but it is not in the passing pleasures of this world, but in Christ and in His Word! Our duty is to know Him and make Him known and as we do in the power and strength of the Spirit, perhaps we will see this trend turn around, with less gaps in the pews.

He Is Able

Don’t Forget, when things are looking tough… “He is Able!”

In the time of Trial, he is able to deliver us

If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.” (Daniel 3:17, NKJV)

There is no trial that He cannot bring us through (Isa. 43:1-2). Trials are the way that He can purge sin from our lives, but when they seem too big to handle, He can make a way of escape. (1 Cor 10:12). He says, Is there anything too hard for the Lord? (Gen. 18:14) and no trial is too big, if we call out to Him for help (2 Chron. 20:12). He is able to save to the uttermost (from the worst of situations, Heb. 7:25)

In the time of Temptation, He is able to Help us

Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” (Heb. 2:17–18, NKJV)

His ministry as our Great High Priest, is to help us in our time of need, (Psalm 46:1). Even when we believe not, yet He remains faithful. (2 Tim. 2:13)

In a time of uncertainty in our hearts, He is able to Keep us from falling.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,” (Jude 24, NKJV)

When we need the assurance in our hearts that we will keep true to Him or that our faith will fail, He reminds us through His Spirit that we belong to Him. “I am my Beloved’s and His desire is toward me” (Song of Solomon 7:10). We are preserved in Jesus Christ (Jude 1) and “nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ”, Romans 8:37. He is able to keep us (2 Tim. 1:12) and will not leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5)

In the time of Financial strain, He can provide the means so that we can still give to meet the needs of others

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NKJV)

God can provide for us when we are willing to be channels of blessing. He will provide for our needs so that we can take care of the needs of others. The widow of Zarephath was a prime example, (1 Kings 17:13-14; Matt. 6:33)

In the time of skepticism, when we think that someone will never bow the knee to the Lord is God is Able to Humble

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.” (Dan 4:37, NKJV)

King Nebuchadnezzar was a tough person to humble, but God did; Manasseh was a tough king, causing Judah to err and quite possibly the one responsible for Isaiah’s death, but God humbled him (2 Chron. 33). Those who walk in pride, God can bring to their knees, if He chooses to do so.

There are so many things that He is able to do – able to subdue all things to Himself, (Phil. 3:21) able to raise children unto Abraham from stones (Luke 3:8) and to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, (Eph. 3:20). When things get tough, don’t forget…GOD IS ABLE!

Ministry Update: Spring, 2017

The month of February, 2017 will be remembered in our household for a long time to come. At the end of January, our family flew down to Florida where I spoke at the meeting in Boca Raton. This was instead of the meetings that we had originally planned for April. There had been a change in the assembly’s speaking schedule that made this possible. For us, the timing was perfect. In addition, the airfares were much cheaper during this time of year. Every day, the weather was spectacular. I think it rained once – for 15 minutes – and then the sun came out soon afterwards. Also, it was great to reunite again with many of the believer’s from that meeting. We also had an opportunity to visit with our friends at the Jupiter assembly on another night, the meeting where Cindy’s cousin Wendi attends with her family. We always enjoy visiting with them every time we are there.

Hitler’s Mercedes – A Canadian trophy in their war museum

After coming home for a week, it was on the road again this time to northern territories. A lot of people thought we were a little mixed up, that we were doing things in reverse order …and we were! To go from a warm climate to cold one is not necessarily the norm, but that is the way it is in ministry. We traveled five hours to Camp Iroquoina for their winter family retreat. The group was larger this year than last, which is always nice to see. The fellowship around God’s Word was wonderful, the atmosphere relaxed, and the activities enjoyable. Despite milder temperatures, there was enough snow on the ground for the kids to do some sledding down Iroquoina’s long hill with the friends that they make at camps like this. After the weekend, it was on to Camp Galilee In Ottawa, an additional 5 hours further north over the border. We had a few extra days on our hands prior to the weekend meetings which gave us some time to venture into the city and to do some exploring in that area. The theme of the meetings were “Our reasonable Faith” from the first two verses in Romans 12. We always pray that something said will be a blessing and genuine help to the Lord’s people wherever we go.

 

Yours in Christ,

Mark and Cindy Kolchin – Phil. 1:6

When Christians Collide

“Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” – Job 5:7

The familiar time-proven quatrain says it well:
To live above with the saints we love,
Oh that will be glory!
But to live below with the saints we know
…that’s another story!

It is true that when we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! The Day will break, the shadows will flee away and we will be face to face with Christ our Savior. Sin and sorrow shall cease and we will dwell forever in the land of “no more”, where there will no more tears, death, sorrow, crying and pain, Rev. 21.4. We will be reunited with loved ones who have gone before us in the Lord, “the spirits of just men, made perfect”, Heb. 12:23.  As the hymnwriter has said; “What a Day, glorious Day that will be”!  But until that time, a lot of patience is required to “live below with the saints we know”. While we are in this life, we will eventually have to deal with the spirits of just men (and women) who are not so perfect!  Saints come in all “shapes and sizes”- from all walks of life and from various backgrounds with a wide range of knowledge and experience (or lack thereof). Despite the fact that believers share a common salvation, they can also be as different as night and day. They may have different ideas and opinions as to how a certain project or event in the local church should be conducted. They may differ on what is the best approach to reach the unsaved, or the best way to conduct youth ministry or what topics should be emphasized from the platform or even what music style in their opinion is the best. There are as many differences as there are faces in the local church. But when “an unstoppable force meets an immovable object”, then watch out!  Sparks will fly upward – you can count on it!

To help deal with this potentiality, God has included an abundance of “one another” commands in the NT that emphasize tolerance, patience and forbearance among believers. Christians are to accept one another, Rom. 15:7; be at peace with one another, Mark 9:50; bear and forgive one another, Col. 3:13; and be of the same mind toward one another, Rom. 12:16. These are reciprocal commands, meaning that what applies to one applies to the other. In other words, it is a shared responsibility and non-compliance by one does not dissolve the obligation of the other. These commands take into account that there will always be differences among believers, yet a sacred duty in upholding the Word of God, in keeping His commandments and in doing those things that are pleasing in His sight, 1 John 3:22.

Why the Differences?

What are the reasons for differences among believers and are they all that bad? One reason for differences actually comes from the Lord. 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us: “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” It is the same Spirit, Lord, and God who sovereignly bestow spiritual gifts, sphere of ministry and level of operation (enablement) among all believers. These differences simply highlight the manifold or multifaceted grace of God, 1 Peter 4:10. In some ways, it is what makes the Christian life so exciting! God calls different people from different walks of life, whose saving grace frames the life of the redeemed as pictured symbolically in Psalm 107. He endows each one with a unique combination of talents and abilities to glorify His Name. We are different and yet one in purpose – to glorify the Lord. It is the reason why Paul prayed that the Ephesian believers “might comprehend with all the saints what is the width, and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ”, Eph. 3:18-19. We need one another to help comprehend the range of God’s amazing grace. Our differences show the wide dimensions of the love of Christ and His power in redeeming us from the hand of the enemy. Thank the Lord for these differences, otherwise we would be all doing the same things, the same way!

But with these differences can come conflict. Some of these differences are due to personality. Some people are more outgoing than others, some are more reserved. One may be bothered when they see a jovial person always smiling; the other can be annoyed by the person who always seems to be down-in-the-mouth and acting as if a cloud perpetually hangs over his head, lacking the joy of the Lord. Despite the fact that there may be legitimate behind-the-scenes reasons for this, nevertheless, these differences can cause issues at times, issues that will eventually need to be resolved with patience and understanding and help from the Lord. 

Another reason for conflict among the saints may result from different levels of spiritual knowledge, understanding and maturity and experience. There may also be educational and social differences and different convictions about certain matters as there was in the Corinthian assembly, 1 Cor. 10-11. There some had opposite views as to days of the week or whether or not believers ought to eat meat that had been offered to idols. Today, the “gray” areas seems to revolve around music styles, whether or not it should be hymns or contemporary music selections. These differences (and many like them) can be very strong and difficult to resolve, causing much conflict in the Church.

Dealing with the Differences

How then are differences to be dealt with? What do you do when the “unstoppable force” and the “immovable object” collide, especially when both claim to know the Lord, and both quote Bible verses to substantiate their claims?  What then? Here is another reason why the Lord has supplied us with the “one another” commands in Scripture. Repeatedly, the NT emphasizes the responsibility that all of us have to work with each other in the common cause of glorifying God in the world, magnifying Christ in our lives and striving together for the faith of the Gospel, Phil. 1:27. We are to demonstrate by our mutual care and concern as members one of another that there be no schism in the body, 1 Cor. 12:25. By this, we are demonstrating in a practical way the fulfillment of our Lord’s prayer in the Upper Room that “we all may be one”, John 17:21. We can have diversity and yet maintain unity. Different, but of the same mind one toward another for the purpose of glorifying Christ, Romans 12:16; 15:5. When there is conflict, we believers are to seek the face of the Lord and the leading of the Spirit and to prayerfully open God’s Word to get light on the subject. Perhaps the problem is not with the other person, maybe it is with you! No one should be beyond the realm of teachability, Phil. 3:15. “Blind spots” are a reality.

Good Christians can and will collide at times. But if they strive to be like Christ in all their ways, seek to be conformed to His image in attitude and action and follow His steps, a lot of unnecessary hurt will be averted.  As we give preference to one another (Romans 12:10) and respond in a spirit of meekness humility, we will demonstrate that it is always good that the heart be established with grace, Heb. 13:9. As we approach our differences in this God-honoring way, we will be dousing the flame that the devil is fuelling to get blood-bought believers warring with one another instead of him.

Tried and True

“… that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” – James 1:3

 

It could hardly be said that any Christian enjoys going through a trial. It is one of those aspects of our faith that we would rather avoid. Depending upon its depth and length, it could shake us to the core, far more than we ever anticipated when we first began traveling down its winding (and perhaps harrowing) path. Yet after coming through it in dependence upon the Lord, we will undoubtedly admit that it had a significant part it had in deepening our faith, sharpening our once nebulous convictions, and conforming us more closely to character of Christ, Romans 8.28-29.

The Scriptures refer often to the purifying and beneficial effect that trials can have in our lives. When Job was going through his great trial of affliction, he could hardly be thankful for the series of calamities that befell him. But through the eye of faith he uttered his deep confession of faith with unshakeable conviction: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold”, Job 23:10.  Job understood well the benefit of the God’s refining process, a process he would have rather sidestepped if he had the option, but nevertheless proved invaluable in deepening his faith. It is not that Job was a blatant sinner—he was anything but that—yet, it could never be said of him that “he feared God for nothing” – that is, for personal benefit thus dismissing the arrogant charge of the devil, Job 1.9. There are a lot of trials that we also would prefer to sidestep, but if we do would likewise forfeit its beneficial effect in our lives. It was a tough road for Job and it may be a tough road for us, but it can and often does turn out to the glory of God and a shining example of how the Lord does indeed bring many sons to glory, Hebrews 2.9.

Sometimes however there are gaps in our lives as Christians that necessitate the disciplining hand of God through trial. Peter stated, if need be ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations (trials)”. There is for many a “need be” from the Lord because of certain sins that have found an open door in our lives and have been permitted to go unjudged. Like Israel who failed to cast out all of the Canaanites in the land, we too can tolerate and fail to cast out the residue of sins of our past life (James 1:21), only to impede our progress in the life of faith. Strangely, we allow some things that are objectionable to God to comfortably coexist with us without realizing the slow erosion that can occur in our walk with the Lord. Trials serve to jar us out of that complacency and to realign our spiritual priorities. Just as Samuel had to hack Agag to pieces, so too we are exhorted to take decisive action and mortify the deeds of our flesh in obedience to the Lord, Colossians 3.5. In short, it helps us to stay on track spiritually. David confessed, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now have I kept thy word, Psalm 119.67. He knew too well the sting of the disciplining hand of God upon his life on more than a few occasions, only to express later the surpassing value of it. Eventually, God would call him “a man after mine own heart”, Acts 13.22. regarding this, Charles Spurgeon the great 19th century preacher once related the account of a rope bridge in his day that collapsed unexpectedly, plunging many to their deaths in a ravine below. Upon investigation, it was determined why the catastrophe occurred: a little seedling had been ignored and taken root between the strands of rope and the wooden planks, thus weakening the bridge. Trials from the Lord help us to do surveillance on our lives in order to motivate us to pull the weeds of sin that could eventually weaken and mar our testimony.      

God wants all believers to reflect the character of Christ in their lives. To accomplish this, God may bring certain trials to soften the hearts, making the believer more compassionate and sensitive to the needs of others.  In so doing, they are able to comfort others with the same comfort that they are comforted of God, 2 Corinthians 1:4.  They become more like Christ. Colossians 1:27 states this principle succinctly: “Christ in you the hope of glory”. Additionally, like Daniel’s friends, the believer going through a trial will sense the Lord’s nearness perhaps more than at any other time in our life as they go through the furnace of affliction. There will be a reality to the words Isaiah 43:2: “when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee”.  Further, in a mysterious way,  the Christian going through a trial will ultimately sense that that they actually are the object of His attention and affection just as Zechariah prophesied to Israel about the Man among the myrtle trees, the Lord Jesus, who reassured them of a future glory when at the time they were at the “bottom”, Zechariah 1.  

This principle is depicted for us in Malachi as God explains what will yet occur with the nation of Israel during the future Tribulation. As the result of His refining work during that time, He will bring about a great spiritual purging within the nation. He is described as sitting like “a refiner and purifier of silver” in order to “purify the sons of Levi and to purge them as silver and gold that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness”, Malachi 3.1-3. The work of any refiner and purifier of silver was to subject precious metal to intense heat in order to remove the impurities from it. The dross which rises to the top is then scooped away. As the refiner sits over the purified metal and looks down upon an even more valuable product, he is able to see an image of himself. And so it is with us: our Father in heaven, subjecting His own special people to the purifying process of trial and affliction, makes us an even more valuable and precious commodity to Him, being conformed to the image of His Son, Romans. 8:28-29.                                 

The great patriarch Joseph also offers us some additional lessons about the trial of our faith. After going through many years of severe personal trial, he also acknowledged the beneficial effect that it produced. Rising to the rank of Prime Minister of Egypt, he was able to look back and acknowledge the hand of God at work in his life. His two sons named Manasseh and Ephraim, outlined his response to trials. The first he named Manasseh saying, “God hath made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house”, Gen. 41.51. The second he named Ephraim, stating ‘…God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of mine affliction”, verse 52. Despite the rejection and hurt caused by his brothers, the slander of Potipher’s wife and being forgotten in prison by the chief butler, he was able to avoid the snare of bitterness and resentment, deliberately “forgetting” the plethora of personal slights against him. By so doing, he was able to attest to the fruitful result from such a course of action—and a great pattern for us to follow; first “forgetting”, then fruitbearing, the inevitable consequence of committing our way to the Lord. In due time, God will honor us as we honor Him.                    

How much more could be said about the positive effect of trials in the life of the believer, if we yield to Him! There is Paul’s request to have his thorn in the flesh removed, only to be denied by the Lord to keep him humbly dependent upon Him and cognizant of His all-sufficient grace, 2 Corinthians 12: 9. There is Jacob’s all-night wrestling episode at Peniel with the Angel of the Lord, ending in a limp but also a changed life and a changed name and a changed purpose and a changed direction, as he crossed back over the river Jabbok to reconcile with his brother Esua, the sun rising upon him, Genesis 32. What a picture! And then there is James’ direct exhortation to adjust our attitude as we enter a trial to see the rounding-out of character that it produces: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing”, James 1:2-4.

The apostle Paul reminds us “for our light affliction which is for a moment “worketh for us a far more and exceeding and eternal weight of glory”, 2 Cor. 4:17.  Only as we look into the mirror of God’s Word, will we begin to understand more clearly the bigger picture and the wisdom of God in passing us through various trials and tribulations that we go through. As we do, we will be able to sing more convincingly the words of the hymn writer: “every joy or trial falleth from above, traced upon our dial by the Son of love. We may trust Him fully all for us to do, they who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true”.  

And is it so? I shall be like Thy Son, Is this the grace which He, for me, has won?
Father of Glory (thought beyond all thought), In glory to His own blest likeness brought.     

Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

Jacob at Peniel

“And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved.”  Gen. 32:30

Jacob – a more colorful character in all of Scripture there could not be! Contending with his brother before he was born, clutching his brother’s heel as he was born; conniving, cheating, and running most of his life. What a history and what a life! And yet, when we come to Hebrews 11:21, we read that Jacob as an old man, “worshipped, leaning upon his staff”.  Like many believers, God had faithfully seen this patriarch through many snares and pitfalls of personal experience. But how did He do it? How does the Lord do it with any of us? The account of Jacob’s experience at Peniel in Genesis 32 provides the clue and the paints the backdrop to answer this all-important question.

A Rough Start

As a twin, Jacob seemed destined for conflict from the start. His rambunctious personality was evident even before he was born. Rebekah his mother sensed the struggle between the two brothers while yet in her womb. Mothers seem to know the tendencies of their children from their earliest days and Rebekah was no exception. Jacob was rightly called a supplanter and it does not take long in the biblical account that this part of his character was clearly manifested as he bargained for the birthright and stole his brother’s blessing, Gen. 25, 27. Advised by his mother to make a run for it to avoid his brother’s wrath (Gen. 27:43-44), Jacob intended to stay with his uncle Laban for only a “few days”, a plan that turned into years. It was while en route that he had a dramatic encounter with God, Gen. 28:10-22. His elementary understanding of the principles of faith was expanded when he had a vivid dream of angels ascending and descending upon a ladder which had been set up on earth and reached to heaven. It would turn out to be the start of a spiritual journey for this man whose hard ways were symbolized by the rock that he put at his head as he lay down to sleep. It is a wonderful picture of the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ who meets people at their point of need and is Himself the “ladder” set up on earth that reaches to heaven. He is the means of divine communication and is the only avenue for sinful man to connect with God, John 1:51. The promises given to Jacob (v. 15) have their spiritual parallel for the NT believer. It highlights the faithfulness of God and the assurance that He will patiently and faithfully keep everyone who belongs to the “house of God”, (Phil. 1:6; 2 Tim. 1:10; Heb. 10:21). What God promised to do He did throughout Jacob’s sojourn even during the low points (Gen. 31:5; 7) right up to the end of his life, (Heb. 21) as He will do with all who know and love Him.

The Plot Thickens

Despite these assurances however, the attitude of Jacob was far from perfect. Looking out for His own interests, he makes a self-motivated vow to “seal the deal” at Bethel. To his credit, he establishes and anoints a pillar, an indication that he apprehended the importance of the spiritual life, though his understanding of its privileges and priorities were incomplete and carnal at best. But God is gracious and had great things in store for this man, as He does for us! Jacob promises to give the Lord a tenth of his money, provided that God would take care of him and bring him back, as if the Almighty needed his money!  How much like us, who so often are looking more to get than to give. It is the slanted perspective of someone young in the faith who has a long way to go in the school of God. That school with all its difficulties and disciplines was something that Jacob had not yet experienced, but would in time. Despite Jacob’s growing family and his success in business (Gen. 29-31), the life of Jacob for the most part was devoid of any vital testimony for the Lord. Like many Christians, he was knowledgeable of only the basics of the faith and had not progressed beyond a certain level spiritually. God had called him back to Bethel, the place of his spiritual beginnings, (Gen. 31:13) but that return (both practically and spiritually) had not yet occurred. Peniel would become the place in which Jacob would “turn around” would become the defining event in spiritual life.

Jacob’s Defining Moment

Nearly twenty years later, Jacob was still the object of his brother’s scorn. The events of previous years undoubtedly festered and garnered resentment in the mind of Esau. When Jacob came near Edom, it was no surprise that Jacob’s mind was already at work to effect a strategy of self-preservation.  God was still present in his life (Gen. 32:1-2), nevertheless Jacob put together a plan followed by a prayer—vintage Jacob running ahead of the Lord and asking Him to bless his self-driven efforts. How hard it is to die to self and to cast ourselves fully upon the Lord! Yet anyone who has been in similar circumstances understands how pride and self are often the last pillars to fall. His own “me first” attitude was further evidenced when he sent his family over the brook Jabbok, where he remained by  himself (vv. 21-24). It was at this juncture that the Lord began to work in a special way in Jacob’s life. God had already been at work in his life for a long time, first at Bethel and in the years that followed. But God had called him back to Bethel where he had first acknowledged the Lord and priorities of the life of faith. But Jacob, whose strength was more in his legs than his faith always ran from one problem to the next—to every place but Bethel.   

It was while Jacob was all alone at Peniel that the Angel of the Lord, an OT appearance of Christ wrestled with him all night. Often the greatest work that the Lord does in a believer’s life when they are all alone under dire circumstances. The condition was bleak: it was night and Jacob was by himself with nowhere to turn. It was a perfect situation for the Lord to work and demonstrate the truth of His promises. It is also intriguing to note that the Angel of the Lord initiated the wrestling match with Jacob. God had desired change in Jacob’s life all along, but to this point it was minimal on Jacob’s part. Now the Lord was taking further action to effect a deeper change in his life. It occurred after a long struggle that lasted all night. It was not until the Angel of the Lord was successful in getting Jacob to cling to Him and begging to be blessed that this transformation took place. What God had wanted in Jacob (and desires for us as well) was now happening. He had gotten him to the point where he was “close” to the Lord and not relying in his own strength. This same Angel of the Lord that slew 185,000 Assyrians in a single night (2 Kings 19:35) was patiently working to gain another type of victory in the heart of this heir of faith. Touching the hollow of his thigh, He aimed at his strength, making him weak but in the process helping him to prevail. And all it took was a “touch”!  It is a key principle in the school of God as 2 Corinthians 12:9 reminds us of the words of the Lord – “My strength is made perfect in weakness”.  How can we not refrain from declaring: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”, Rom. 11:33?

The Ways of God                 

The scene afterwards of Jacob limping as he headed over the brook Jabbok to face up to his brother Esau is a poignant one indeed. Here was a man who had gloried in his ability to keep one step ahead of his problems, but who had been subdued by the hand of the Lord and made to sense his own frailty before God. What a sight it was – a new walk, limping instead of running; a new direction, heading toward his problems and not away from them; a new name, Israel – “prince with God”; and a new purpose, reconciliation with his brother. What a change had taken place in this man’s life! It was all part of the process of Jacob becoming the person that God wanted him to be and one step closer to getting back to Bethel, Gen. 35.

In many ways, the life of Jacob is a composite picture of God’s work in the life of the Christian. It is certainly a portrait in miniature of God’s faithful and patient dealing with the nation of Israel as He will eventually bring them around to the point of submission, Zech. 12:10. Perhaps the biggest lesson however, is that God’s words and promises are true and He works in our lives, especially in our desperation to bring about significant change in our lives. May that be true for us as well.

August, 2016 Ministry Update

Dear friends in Christ,

Wow! What a month it has been. The “heat is on!” as they say. I cannot remember the last time that it has been so hot and so humid for so long. I often wonder how people survive in heat like this. It is a good reminder to pry for those serving the Lord overseas in environments like this as they minister without some of the modern conveniences that we enjoy here in the States.

Ministry

As we often do each year, we have an opportunity each July to get away for a week of conference ministry at Greenwood Hills, near Chambersburg, PA. This year was a little different in that I was asked to share the children’s meetings with another brother. I took the morning sessions and he took the evening sessions. It was fun teaching the kids, something that I have done on other occasions in other places. I took up the theme, “Super Heroes of the Bible”, a theme I felt would resonant with the kids. They were very attentive as they heard lessons of the some of the heroes of the faith and what made them great in God’s eyes.

The rest of the month of July was filled with speaking at various places including an open air meeting at Ocean Grove, NJ. In August, I will be preforming a wedding for a relative and also getting ready for a busy fall of 11 conferences that will take me to NY, Maine, Texas, Louisiana, and Iowa and many places in between. We would appreciate prayer for us as I travel and minister the Word.

Whiting Bible Study

In September, we will be starting up another year of ministry to this seniors group. We will be studying the book of Acts. I really enjoy this study which is now in its 17th year. Many time the people from this study will visit our meeting and sometime attend our luncheons that we hold every other month.

Bible Conference By the Sea

Please be praying for our annual conference we hold at Harvey Cedars. – our Bible Conference by the Sea. We look forward to this annual event which is both refreshing in the Lord and uplifting through the ministry that is offered for the week.

Family

We would also appreciate prayer as a family. Matthew has been working at Keswick this summer and it has been working out very well for him and we are grateful to the Lord.

We hope you enjoy the rest of the summer. It sure does go quickly!

Mark and Cindy Kolchin – Phil. 1:6

The Requests and Bequests of Our Great High Priest

“And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith”  – Heb. 10:21-22

John 13-17 is arguably one of the most sublime passages in the entire NT.  It is that portion of Scripture that contains the Upper Room discourse of the Lord Jesus—a discourse found in no other Gospel account. It is the tender farewell of a loving Savior as He prepares to return to His Father in Heaven. Directed toward His eleven disciples, it reveals a growing intimacy to those He now calls “friends” (15:15) as He unfolds many of the great truths of the Christian faith later developed in the NT epistles. The scene marks the conclusion of His earthly ministry that would eventually culminate the following day when He would lay down His life as a sacrifice for sin, validated by His resurrection three days later. Truly, having loved His own that were in the world He would love them to the fullest extent–unto the end. (13:1)

The Upper Room Discourse

The farewell ministry of the Savior commences in John 13. There He exemplifies the pattern that should characterize all believers when He humbly kneels and washes His disciple’s feet. It is the display before the discourse. Through this symbolic action, our Lord emphasizes not only to His disciples but to us the need for daily cleansing from sin and the self-abasing attitude that should characterize our service to others. What gracious teaching and what a great example! Then in chapter 14, He highlights what He would also do for us—prepare a place (v. 3), answer prayer (v. 14), and send a Paraclete—the Holy Spirit (v. 16) to comfort and guide us during His absence. All these things emphasize what He would do for us.  But in Chapter 15, He underscores what we should do for Him, namely to be a witness in the world and to bear fruit—much fruit—so that the Father is glorified (15:8).  The discourse crescendos in Chapter 16 as the Lord enlarges upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit, in particular His work toward the world (16:7-11) and toward His own (16:12-15). His teaching has become a deepening and widening channel of truth.  But nowhere are the depths of these truths more keenly sensed than with the words contained in chapter 17, commonly known as our Lord’s High Priestly prayer.

The Intercession of Our Great High Priest

Undoubtedly, John 17 is the apogee of the Lord’s personal ministry to His own occurring on the night before His crucifixion. On this unique occasion, they would have the inestimable privilege of hearing Him passionately pray to the Father on their behalf.  Embodied in that prayer are some of the richest themes in the NT; themes such as election, sanctification, and glorification.  Typically, this chapter depicts the final step in the order of approach to God as portrayed in the service of the OT Tabernacle. Having had His death pictured through His anointing in John 12, and having washed His disciple’s feet in John 13, the Lord then instructs them on a number of profound truths in John 14-16. Respectively, these actions represent the altar, the laver, and the Holy Place in the order of their placement in the Tabernacle.  Now in John 17, He takes them figuratively into the Holiest of All, the very presence of God where as our Great High Priest He intercedes exclusively for the heirs of salvation. It is yet another example of the many offices of our wonderful Savior and accentuates the focus and faithful execution of that office in intercessory ministry.

The Requests of Our Great High Priest

As our Intercessor, the Lord presents seven petitions to the Father: two for Himself (vv. 1-5); two for the disciples (vv. 6-19); and three are for those who would afterwards believe on His Name (vv. 20-26).  His initial request is for the Father to glorify Him so that He would consequently glorify the Father (v. 1).  Indeed that is what transpired at Calvary when He went submissively with the Father to the place of sacrifice just as Isaac did with his father in Gen. 22.  To cry out “Forgive them, they know not what they do…” undoubtedly brought glory to the Father and an immediate answer to His first request. The second one, that the Father would restore Him to His pre-incarnate glory (v. 5) was also be answered soon, just over forty days later when He ascended from Mount Olivet. (Acts 1). These two requests–for His glorification at the Cross and for His restoration to His pre-existent glory–were both answered in short order.

The next two requests dealt with the disciple’s preservation (v. 11) and sanctification (v. 17).  Repeatedly, the Lord referred all believers as having being given to Him (vv. 6, 9, 11, 12, 24). Each believer is in fact, a gift from the Father to the Son.  In v. 11, He entreats: “Keep through Thine own Name those whom Thou hast given Me”.  What greater assurance could any of us have in knowing that the security of our salvation does not depend upon our own abilities to “keep the faith”, but rather in being kept as both the object of the Lord’s prayer and the Father’s power (1 Peter 1:5)?  Further, knowing the deceptive and destructive wiles of the devil, the Lord adds to our assurance by including a plea for our spiritual protection from the evil one (v. 15).  In the same way as He prayed for Peter, He prays for us that our faith fail not (Luke 22:32).  Likewise, He also prays for our sanctification. His petition is: “Sanctify them through Thy truth, Thy word is Truth (v. 17).  It is both the substance and source of our walk with Him—separation from the world and direction from the Word. It comes about as we diligently study the Scriptures and apply them practically in our daily lives. Positionally, these two requests will always be answered since every believer is sanctified by God and preserved in Jesus Christ (Jude 1).  Practically, we will sense the reality of these truths as we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word.      

The final set of petitions is recorded in vv. 20-26. Their focus is upon our unification (v. 21), evangelization (v. 22), and consummation (v. 24).  His prayer is that we would be one, just as the Father and the Son are One. Congregations by the scores and individual Christians everywhere need to be reminded of this significant request of our Savior!  Doctrinal integrity is a must, but so is the putting away of petty disagreements and personality differences if unity is to occur. The apostolic Church was known both for their steadfastness in the truth and their love for each other. There was a cohesion then that desperately needs to be exhibited today. When that occurs, we can be sure the difficult task of world evangelization will be helped in some measure. Never mind the assessment of the church growth “gurus”, the Savior’s assessment is that unification among believers has to happen if ever the world is going to respond positively to the truth of the Gospel (vv. 21, 23). The Lord beautifully concludes this masterpiece of prayer by stating His ultimate desire that they would be with Him where He is, so that they would behold His glory—a prayer that is answered every time a believer in Christ leaves this world and called Home to heaven.    

The Bequests of Our Great High Priest

Not only does this chapter contain the requests of our Great High Priest, but it also cites a number of His bequests—those things that He has left us as part of our spiritual inheritance. Eternal life based on the proper understanding of the true God and His Son is the first item identified as the gift of the Savior to us (v. 3). Another is the manifestation of the Father’s name (v. 6, 26).  This is the clear conception of the true God that He transmitted to us through His ministry on earth (2 Cor. 4:6). Just before this He stated to Philip, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).  Further, He has given us the words of the Father (v. 8, 14), conveying eternal truths from the throne room of heaven which contradicted the doctrines of men. And lastly from this passage, He has bequeathed to us His joy (v. 13) and His glory (v. 22); the joy of fellowship with the Father and His glory that radiates through us when we are abiding in Him.         

The High Priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus is a spiritual treasure trove of incalculable worth. To mediate upon these glorious requests of our loving Savior and what He has provided for us through His intercessory work will not only lift our hearts in grateful adoration, but strengthen our resolve to live whole-heartedly for the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.     

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