Refreshment and Revival

“As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” Prov. 25:25

I will never forget the experience. It was a sizzling hot summer day when a group of men in our fellowship played another team in a softball game. When we started, we were all very energetic and ready to play. But as the game wore on, so did we. Halfway through the arduous event, with our arms and shoulders drooping (and our spirits as well), someone showed up with an ample supply of ice cold water and an array of soft drinks. What a surprise and what a blessing! It did not take long for that source of refreshment to be tapped into and enjoyed. And did we ever appreciate it! The effect it had on me as well as the rest of the team was astounding. There was a new supply of energy and a renewed vigor in my step as I related to one of my teammates at the time. We were all refreshed and revitalized as a team and we were able to complete the task we had set out to do from the very beginning – not just to play the game, but to finish it and win.

In many ways, this seemingly trivial incident in the grand scheme of things is remarkably similar to what can occur in our life with Christ and our service for Him. Periodically, we can succumb to the heat of the day and scorching cares of life. They can wither our resolve, sap our spiritual strength and slacken our pace from pressing on for Christ. Energetic and enthusiastic at first, we are determined to do well and finish strong. But in the battle, we falter under the strain and sag in our spirit. Unfortunately for some, it has been that way far too long. The words of Paul to the Galatians seem very fitting: “You did run well, who did hinder you that you should not obey the truth?” (Gal. 5:7). Resolve can quickly fade like the setting sun (Judges 5:15).

But God in His mercy and grace has a way of helping us out in these situations just at the time we need it most. Like it was on that summer day on the ballfield, “someone” shows up (most certainly under the Lord’s direction) with a refreshing supply of “cold water” for our weary souls. How it encourages our hearts and revives our spirits! It might be a simple verse that speaks to a need at the time or an account of answered prayer that lifts our hearts. Or it may be an outstanding report of God’s power and might at work in a distant land – good news from a far country – that recaptures for us the hope that God’s ways will yet prevail. It has a wonderful way of renewing our spirits and lengthening our spiritual stride and its effect is often immediate and undeniable. Thank God for His “someones” who show up in our lives in our time of need.

From another point of view however, we can also be looking to be that “someone” to others who are within our spiritual reach. Service for Christ and prayer for His servants (both abroad and home) are ways in which we can be a source of blessing and refreshment. The battle can be heated at times and constant targeted prayer is an absolute necessity (Acts 12:5). Just as Joshua prevailed against Amalek only as Moses hands were held up and steady until the going down of the sun, (Ex. 17:12-13); so too the battles of the Lord are fought and won as God’s people are steadfast in prayer (1 Thess. 5:17). We need the help of each other to continue in prayer and those on the front lines desperately need our prayers. They need it and appreciate it! Israel prevailed because Joshua used the sword while Moses prayed. It is a tremendous picture of the means of victory – prayer and the Word of God.

God has His ways of providing help and refreshment when our steps are faltering. Whether we are on the giving end or the receiving end, He is faithful to His people and His Word. He is the source of all blessing and as the psalmist attested, “All my springs are in Thee” (Psalms 87:7). May we learn even more the meaning of these words in our walk with Christ.

“For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.” Philemon 7

Moving Beyond Mediocrity

The scene is a far too familiar one: the regularly scheduled elders meeting begins with a brief, but generalized time of prayer. It is then followed by the usual routine of going around the table, each elder being asked what they would like to discuss. What usually follows ranges from the urgent to the trivial – and everything in between. It may be punctuated with a passionate exchange of differing opinions or it may simply proceed in the typical, unexciting “business as usual” format.  A few important items may be discussed at length, but by the end of the meeting, it resembles more of an administrative task force than a spiritual strategic planning and implementation think tank.  Unfortunately, the minutia of assembly life often wins the day – the withering details that cause the heads and hands to droop even lower than when the meeting first began as it comes to a rushed and nebulous conclusion. 

If this has been your experience in the meetings in which you serve as an elder, take heart – you are not alone! Too many elders meetings are characterized by such a routine, a routine that needs to be adjusted, if not radically overhauled if the local church is make a difference in the world. Considering the gravity of the present decline in our culture, it is incumbent upon all elders to maximize their time, sharpen their focus, and identify and address the significant spiritual issues affecting congregational life. True, there will always be minor “housekeeping” details that need to be addressed, but to exclude the more serious issues that require deeper spiritual dredging should never be neglected. They need to be brought up prayerfully examined, discussed and properly dealt with. The vitality and wellbeing of the congregation is at stake, a condition for which the elders will have to one day give an account, Heb. 13:17.  If the elders don’t do the job, who will?

With this in mind, I would like to suggest some helpful reminders to revitalize and improve the elders meetings. Here they are:

Prepare Your Heart

Prior to the elders meeting, each elder should privately commit this meeting to the Lord in prayer. As under shepherds of God’s heritage, prayer for everything affecting the local assembly should be the regular exercise of every elder anyway. Since this position was one that was desired (1 Tim 3:1), there should be a readiness to bathe their responsibility in prayer and an eagerness to do so. Done regularly, this can only help to elevate the tone of the meeting and steer it away from the mundane. In so doing, elders can practically demonstrate what Paul exhorted the Philippians to do, to “approve the things that are excellent”, Phil. 1:10.

Establish An Agenda

Another helpful reminder for effective elders meetings is to be prepared with an agenda ahead of time – not your agenda, but the elders! The temptation can arise to come to this meeting without adequate preparation and simply react to the items that are put on the table. Without planning forethought on each one’s part, effective elders meetings will struggle to stay afloat. To facilitate this, elders in some fellowships arrange in advance to collect agenda items in order to assemble and prioritize a master list. This can be done through emails or by phone by designated elder who collects all agenda items. This will help keep the meeting on track and effectively move it along at an even pace. Each elder should certainly be encouraged to keep an ongoing list between meetings so there is not a frantic last minute attempt to quickly put together such a list.     

Budget Your Time

Another important element of effective elders meetings and a must if they are to be revitalized is to adequately budget the time allotted. The length of elders meetings may vary among local congregations, but one thing is usually the same – items brought up first on the agenda have the luxury of being given a lot more consideration time, while items that come up at the end are time-deprived. This is accentuated when the typical order is routinely followed and the elder who unfortunately is last in line has only minutes to talk about what is on his list. This is why a pre-arranged and prioritized list is so important – it avoids a lop-sided agenda and keeps the discussion balanced.  It is also the reason why the order of discussion should be varied. If this is the format followed, try switching it up and changing the order. In the same vein, try also alternating who leads the discussion each month, quarter or year. It will go a long way in keeping things fresh.     

Keep on Track

Staying on track is also an imperative for effective elders meetings. We have all experienced the curse of getting off course. The question is asked: “How is brother so and so doing after his surgery?” “Well, he’s fine. He is out of rehab but his car is in the shop”.  To which another elder replies: “Maybe we need to arrange rides for him. By the way, have we serviced the church van lately?” Another elder replies, “No, not lately. Who is responsible anyway for servicing the van and why don’t we get a maintenance schedule established? This is a problem and we need to fix it”. And off the discussion goes into orbit, requiring a lasso a mile long to bring it back. A simple question of asking how a person in the assembly is doing ends up going in a completely different direction. And we wonder why we run out of time by the end of the meeting? If we are to get accomplished what really needs to get accomplished, it will require disciplined thinking and planning and bringing the discussion back to center. Not easy to do, but critical!  It is standard operating procedure in the business world, why not do it even better in the house of God, which is the “pillar and ground of truth”, 1 Tim. 3:15?

Keep Good Notes

Finally, there is a need to record items discussed and decisions rendered if we are to have effective elders meetings. We so easily forget and need our memories jogged as to the details surrounding certain decisions, especially in the months afterwards. Notes should be taken, duplicated, and stored for easy retrieval. Copies should be promptly provided to each of the elders. A collective “To Do” list with specifics included and a date in which items on the list should be accomplished should be assembled. Furthermore, efforts should be taken to employ every elder for the tasks at hand. It helps avoid the “armchair elder” syndrome that can characterize many elders’ meetings – a lot of talk, but little or no action. 

Effective elders meetings are definitely needed if we are to make any spiritual headway for Christ. These have been just a few suggestions for elders to help things run more smoothly in a job that receives very little thanks and can be excruciatingly difficult at times. Regardless, it is a position that should emote from every member of the local church an attitude of acknowledgement, submission and loving respect for those who serve the Lord in this way, Heb. 13:7; 17; 24. Anything that can be done to make it more efficient, more effective will help foster admiration and appreciation for the challenging work that they are engaged in. And for those who faithfully serve in this capacity, keep in mind that through the tears and through the years, the Lord holds out a special reward, a crown of glory that will not fade away, 1 Peter 5:4.   

Pressing On

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Phil 3:12

We sing the hymn regularly (or at least we use to in years gone by):  

I’m pressing on the upward way, New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
Lord, lift me up and let me stand, By faith, on Heaven’s table land,
A higher plane than I have found; Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

The next stanza really brings it home:

My heart has no desire to stay, Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound, My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

We sing this hymn both as a prayer and an admission that we are not where we should be with the Lord. There is indeed far more ground to be gained in our walk and service for Him. Though we would like to think that we are “gaining new heights every day”, we are more like Joshua who was told by God that despite his advanced years, there was “much more land to be possessed”, Joshua 13:1. It seems to be the same for many of us. Truthfully, for all the personal devotions we have had, the messages listened to and the Bible studies attended, we really should be a lot further along in our lives for Christ than we are.

So why aren’t we gaining new heights every day?  Why are we so vulnerable to the doubts that arise and the fears that dismay?  Admittedly, there are a lot of personal hindrances in the Christian life, but the chief reason may fall squarely on us. It really boils down to a matter of the heart. God says, “My son, give me thine heart”, Prov. 23:26. If our hearts are not fully occupied with Christ, they can become easily occupied with other things.  We can easily be lured off center. At best, we are unprofitable servants and like Paul can attest, “In me, that is in my flesh dwelleth no good thing”, Rom. 7:18. Truth be told, our hearts lean toward Egypt. We glance back there from time to time and then wonder why we are not satisfied with manna from above. Frankly, it shows that we still have an appetite for things that we developed a taste for in our former life, Num. 11:1-6. In the words of another hymn writer, we confess, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love”.  It is not that He leaves us – He will never do that (Rom. 8:39; Heb. 13:5) – but we can and do drift from Him. We would like to blame it on everything and everyone else, but when it comes right down to it, we are at fault because we allow the “little foxes” to come in and spoil the vines, Song 2:15. These are just some of the personal hindrances that keep us from gaining higher ground.   

But there are also outward hindrances that keep us from living life on a higher plane. There are a lot of adversaries to the Christian, 1 Cor. 16:9.  We live in a day in which the word of God is being denied, if not attacked. There is a “famine” in the land, Amos 8:12. The room is getting darker as the curtains of this age draw to a close. There is not much to encourage us as we watch the nightly news. Scripture calls this system, “this present evil world”, Gal. 1:4. It is contrary to the things of God and all we stand for. The world hated the Lord when He walked on this earth and it hates Him now when He is faithfully represented by His servants who walk in His steps, Luke 23:35-36; John 15:18, 1 Peter 2:21. Through various means, it enslaves the lost as it promulgates its philosophies and distracts and even derails the saints, causing them to leave to their first love and affection for the Savior, Rev. 2:4.  The glitter and glamour projected by the world and its ways are but a thin veneer that disguises the anti-God values that characterize it. Daniel’s prophecy of successive world empires portrayed it perfectly – valuable in the eyes of man (Dan. 2), but in actuality horrific and beast-like in the eyes of God (Dan. 7).  It is worse than we may even think, yet many of us are taken up with its ways.  We need to turn from it and take our cue from Demas’ defection (2 Tim. 4:10) and also the men in Elisha’s day when they said of Jericho, “the situation of the city is pleasant….but the water is bad and the ground barren”. It is an apt description of this world, 2 Kings 2:19. Like Jericho, the world offers nothing to refresh and satisfy the soul.  

The main reason for all of this opposition that keeps many living on a lower plane is due to the instigation of the avowed enemy of our soul, the devil. He possesses a vast array of weaponry in his arsenal to make the path of the believer as difficult as possible to tread. Through temptation, deceit, imitation, lies, inferences, and a plethora of other snares and devices (2 Cor. 2:11), he is able to dupe those who are rely on instinct rather than seeking the guidance of the Lord. He works tirelessly to keep the unsaved under his sway and to thwart believers from advancing to higher ground.

So, what is our recourse then? How do we gain ground as Paul encouraged the saints at Philippi to do? How are we to “press on” in the midst of so many hindrances and ardent opposition? One way is to stay focused on the bigger picture. Keep your eye on the goal – the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus.  One day we will be in heaven and this “light affliction” which lasts but for a moment will yield eternal reward, 2 Cor. 4:17. In the words of another, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus”. As a well-known evangelist once stated: “I have read the last chapter of the Bible and we win!”.         

Another, way to keep pressing on is to stand on the promises of God’s Word. God has given us light for the path and all along this path are the promises of His Word. There are the promises of His presence, of His power, and of His provision. He has told us clearly, that “…He will never leave us nor forsake us so that we may boldly say the Lord is my helper what can man do unto me?, Heb. 13:5-6. Like Jacob, He will be with us and keep us in the way that we go, (Gen. 28:15) and He finish the work that He began in us, Phil. 1:6. This promise of His faithfulness to should motivate us to live even more for Him, that we may do that we may be well-pleasing to Him, 2 Cor. 5:9.       

Yes, there are so many things to discourage us when we look around – defections to the world, disagreements with others, disappointments with ourselves – things that can keep us living on a lower plane. But when we look to the Lord and His Word, there is so much more that will brighten our path as we journey toward our home in Heaven. Press On!

“But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto that perfect day”, Prov. 4:18.


Every true believer has a responsibility to bear fruit for the Lord, a fact supported by the Scriptures, beginning to end. In Ex. 28, Aaron’s priestly robe was to be adorned on the hem with pomegranates and golden bells. The pomegranates speak of the visible aspect of our testimony—fruit-bearing—and the golden bells, the audible aspect in our testimony and service for Him. In Num. 17, Aaron’s rod that budded is a powerful picture of Christ as our Great High Priest in His resurrection ministry. But it is also a compelling example of the responsibility of the believer to walk in newness of life and to also bud and blossom and bear fruit. In the parable of the soils in Matt. 13, the only soil that the Lord spoke well about was the soil which brought forth fruit; some thirty-fold, some sixty-fold, some one hundredfold (v. 8). It represents the genuine believer whose fruitful life demonstrates the undeniable proof of properly receiving the Gospel seed. Likewise, in writing to the Colossian believers the apostle Paul commended them for the evidence of their true faith in Christ by the fact that the Gospel brought forth fruit in their lives from the very first day since they knew the grace of God in truth (Col. 1:6). The case is clear: every believer should bear fruit for the Lord.

But not only is there a clear case for bearing fruit, but there is also a clear command for bearing fruit. To those whose lives were impacted through the ministry of John the Baptist, the confirming word to them was: “Bring forth fruits, meet for repentance” (Matt. 3:8). Their repentance would be substantiated by the fruit that would be evident in their lives. Likewise, in Rom. 7:4 the command for fruit-bearing is also clearly stated: “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God”. The Lord said to His disciples in John 15:“Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear fruit, so shall ye be my disciples” (v. 8). It was not just a suggestion; it was a mandate from the Lord himself. Later, He stated: “You have not chosen Me but I have chosen you and ordained you that you should bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain…” (John 15:16). He has called us to bring forth fruit and for that fruit to remain. This fruit comes from abiding in Him and results in the Father being glorified. The Lord Himself promised that the Holy Spirit will dwell in us forever (John 14:7, 16, 23), but for the Holy Spirit to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit requires that we are in communion with Him. We abide in Christ as we dwell close to Him. This was the essence of Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians when he wrote: “that Christ might dwell in your hearts by faith” (Eph. 3:17). This should be our prayer as well. But how “close” are we to the Lord and how much fruit is being displayed as a result of being near Him? True, positionally we are very near to God and nearer we cannot be, but practically, perhaps we could be a little bit nearer.

The NT identifies four different categories of fruit-bearing for the Christian. The first relates to the fruit of our character. These are the inward attitudes and qualities that shape our personality and make up our personal, private lives. Often it is easy to identify the more obvious sins of the flesh, both in ourselves and in others. But attitudes are far more difficult to detect and are also displeasing to the Lord, if contrary to the Word of God. Gal. 5:22-23 describes the multifaceted dimension of the fruit of the Spirit and the type of attitudes that God desires for the Christian. This fruit reflects Christ-likeness; something the law could never produce (v. 23). These are the virtues and graces manifested in the life of every born-again believer through the purifying work of the Holy Spirit, which we should be diligent in cultivating (2 Peter 1:3-7). Are we working on these qualities through the help of the Holy Spirit as we pray and read God’s Holy Word? If we are, this fruit will be reflected in our demeanor and then wonderfully displayed through our kind words and deeds in our lives for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.

These kind words and deeds are the actions that represent the second category of fruit-bearing in the NT, our conduct. Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to be sincere and without offense until the Day of Christ, “being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:11). He acknowledged that their public lives and actions evidenced the work of Christ within. One of the ways that this fruit was exhibited in their experience was by the financial gift they sent to him. Paul rejoiced that this sacrificial gift was fruit that abounded to their account (Phil. 4:17). Giving to the work of the Lord is a fine example of fruit-bearing and one in which there could be more displayed! But giving is not all there is in terms of the fruit of conduct. James 3:8 reminds us that the action of peacemaking also qualifies as fruit: “now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by them that make peace”. There could also be more of this fruit displayed as well! Fruit-bearing is not just a private, attitudinal matter; it is outward and action-oriented.

A third category of fruit-bearing relates to our conversation, namely our worship of the Lord and the frequency by which we render thanks to the Lord. Heb. 13:15 reminds us: “By Him therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks unto His Name”. We should thank the Lord continually for all He did for us in salvation and all He does for us in His present intercessory ministry on our behalf. The leper that was healed along with nine other lepers demonstrated this fruit when he came back and consciously thanked the Lord, who was surprised that the others did not do the same. We are exhorted in 1 Thess. 5:18: “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God concerning you.” Each one of us ought to continually give thanks to the Lord, no matter what the situation may be. As Psalm 107;2 states: “Let the redeemed of the Lord who He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy”.

The fourth category of fruit-bearing in the NT deals with those we win to the Lord, our converts. In writing to the Romans, Paul expressed his desire to win others for Christ when he said: “that I might have some fruit among you also, as also among the other Gentiles” (Romans 1:13). He also referred to the house of Stephanas as the firstfruits of Achaia. Certainly, this is fruit that will always remain since no true believer will ever perish. What a worthy endeavor! If the great apostle Paul humbly requested prayer to open his mouth and speak boldly for the Lord (Eph. 6:19-20), how much more should we ask for help in speaking for Christ? Certainly, Paul longed for this fruit in his life and we should too.

To have these four aspects of fruit-bearing displayed in our lives is challenging enough—it requires that we honestly and objectively be before the Lord in prayer, and not just give Him lip service, but that we understand our responsibility and act on those duties with His help. But what truly makes the concept of fruit-bearing even more challenging is its progressive aspect alluded to by the Lord in the Upper Room Discourse. In John 15, the Lord explained that our fruit should advance from the level of no fruit, some fruit and more fruit (v. 2), to much fruit (v. 5, 8) and much glory to our Father in Heaven. Through extrapolation, this means that our fruit for God which was non-existent at one time in our lives before Christ, should always be on the increase. In other words, our joy, our patience, our love for others, our actions, our thanksgiving, our worship, those we win for Christ – these aspects of fruit-bearing should always be growing as we journey toward Heaven. But is it? Has our commitment to this fruit remained or has it become stagnant and static? Is it increasing or is it waning? Is it at the level that it once was when our lives were characterized by first love, or has it slipped back through sin or spiritual neglect? These are challenging questions indeed for every child of God who thinks through the issue of bearing fruit for God. Paul stated his desire to the Philippians to upwardly progress in his walk with the Lord when he said: “I press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”. (Phil. 3:14) May that be our desire also as we think through our responsibility to increase in our responsibility of bearing fruit for God.

Believers Beware!

Dangers in the Day of Famine  – 2 Kings 4.38-41

As the return of the Lord draws closer each day, the need for spiritual discernment among Christians will be of the utmost importance. The devil knows that his time is short and as the last days come to a close, he will pull out every stop and utilize every device in his arsenal to waylay the saints and waltz the unsaved to their destruction. Paul reminded Timothy that in the latter times “some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils…”(1 Timothy 4.1). Peter likewise warned: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you…” (2 Peter 2.1). There have always been false prophets in the world and false teachers in the Church, but toward the end of the last days their presence and power will intensify as Satan drags his own net across the sea of humanity and over a world system in which he has long held sway. Christians are to function as salt and light, but as the world grows increasingly corrupt and plunges more deeply into spiritual darkness, the Church’s testimony and influence in the world will be largely nullified unless spiritual vigilance is maintained. What can happen when believers are not spiritually discerning can be seen from an interesting episode in the ministry of the prophet Elisha.


Elisha lived during one of the darkest times in Israel’s history. His mentor, Elijah had in his day boldly prophesied to King Ahab that it would not rain because of the sin and idolatry that characterized the nation. Knowing the Scriptures as he did provided the man of God with the impetus to make such a powerful statement. Accordingly, a famine swept over the land, paralleling the spiritual famine that prompted it. To counter the effects of this spiritual famine, Elijah established schools for the sons of the prophets at strategic locations across the land. These schools were for the benefit of young men whom he personally discipled, drawn together by a desire for mutual encouragement and edification. Upon Elijah’s translation to heaven (2 Kings 2), this duty was transferred to Elisha his protégé who picked up the mantel and followed in his steps. On this occasion, Elisha requested that his servant put on a great pot following a time of spiritual instruction and boil stew for the sons of the prophets. But without saying a word, this servant apparently acted independently and went out into the field, gathered a lapful of wild gourds, and brought them back to be sliced into a pot of stew. When it was offered to the sons of the prophets, they could not eat it and cried out to Elisha, “There is death in this pot!” With that, Elisha instantly ordered that meal be put into the pot, which miraculously counteracted the effects of the poisonous gourds.


As we put the magnifying glass upon this portion of God’s Word, there are a number of present-day similarities that immediately jump out. First is the similarity between Israel’s condition then and the world’s condition now. Just as there was a spiritual famine in the time of Elisha, so too there is a spiritual famine in our world today. The prophet Amos wrote: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11). For Israel, disobedience to the word of God brought about God’s judgment, resulting in a lack of rain causing conditions in which healthy food was scarce and harmful food was in abundance. In our world, the profusion of harmful, poisonous “food” expressed through the arts, literature, philosophy and other forms of media simply substantiates the fact that there is a “famine” in the land – a dearth of the hearing of the words of the Lord, brought on by a widespread repudiation of God’s truth (Romans 1). Consequently, there are spiritual dangers at every turn. Paul wrote Timothy: “Take heed to thyself and to the doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:16), emphasizing the need to be watchful in his personal life and the spiritual food that he ate. How much more should the Body of Christ in these perilous times?


Another similarity can be seen in the actions of Elisha’s servant. Like this servant, many well-meaning, but naïve believers can also be guilty of gathering harmful “food”, that is false doctrine and introducing it into the assembly, bringing about much distress among the Lord’s people. The fact that he might have acted independently only highlights the need for personal accountability in the Body and the importance to closely monitor the spiritual actions of the younger generation. Perhaps if he had stated what he was going to do, this disaster would have been averted. Could it be that he thought that a few more items introduced into the stew were necessary to fill up the “great pot” or even to make it more tasteful? If so, it could easily represent the enthusiastic, but erroneous intentions of many novices in the Lord. After all, it was a “great pot” and like the Word of God, it is a sufficient provision for the people of God with no additives needed!


The vine which was the source of the problem is also a key similarity. When the servant left the house, he was venturing outside, a dangerous place in the time of famine. As it was then, so it is now—the world is filled with “wild vines” that look healthy enough and that grow in abundance, but are actually deceitfully poisonous, as seen by the adverse reaction that it had upon the sons of the prophets. The fact that he returned with his lap full in a time of famine was prima facie evidence that something was dreadfully wrong! Vines often lie close to the earth and as such remind us of the origin and the emphasis of all false doctrine and the “dirt” that surrounds it. The apostle Paul voiced this truth when he stated in Colossians 2:8: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ”. Believers need to be on their guard and need to have a Berean spirit to make sure that all spiritual teaching accords with Scripture, lest in the course of time they find out in a hard way, that it is not. Believers beware!


Further, there is also a valuable lesson illustrated in the sons of the prophets. These would-be disciples made the common mistake that many of God’s people make – they ate anything and everything put before them! At the least, they should have inquired as to what was in the stew. Unfortunately, they soon found out! They were not told, neither did they ask. There is one thing however, that they did do correctly – they went to a man of God who was more experienced and wiser than they. They knew something was wrong, but they did not know how to correct it. Note this carefully young people—do not go it alone, take your questions and your quandaries to those who are older and more mature in the faith and undoubtedly they will give you valuable advice that will keep you from harm.


What was the solution to this whole mess? When Elisha’s help was solicited, the solution came by introducing meal into the pot of stew. Meal, especially fine meal speaks of the moral and consistently fine life of Christ (C.P. Lev. 2). The antidote for any false doctrine comes down to a proper understanding and application of the Person and Work of Christ. This is what will undo the adverse effects of false teaching. Note that the servant was not exhorted to throw out the pot or even tip it over, but rather he was given the task of counteracting its contents with that which was nourishing to the sons of the prophets. Nor was the servant ostracized for bringing the poisonous gourds in. As a matter of fact, the servant was the very one who was given the task to purify the stew. What a lesson there! How many believers through the centuries have picked up some poisonous gourd and brought on adverse consequences or even personal suffering, has witnessed the miraculous turnaround that results from feeding on a diet rich on the Person of Christ?


The Apostle Paul commended the Philippian believers for their spiritual discernment when he said: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” (Philippians 1:9). That same spiritual judgment is what believers everywhere (especially elders) need to exercise if they are to avoid the dangers that abound in the day of famine.

The Danger in the Delay

When the Lord was with His disciples in the Upper Room on the night before His death, He gave them this wonderful promise: “In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am there you will be also” (John 14:2-3). That promise—that He would personally return for His own has been the blessed hope and joyful expectation of believers everywhere from the time that He ascended to the Father unto the present day. Despite the fact that this truth has been either forgotten or neglected by many Christians throughout the centuries, it still remains a purifying hope for all those who love His appearing. It points to a joyous reunion and brightens the countenance of everyone who can truly say, “He loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). But while we wait for His return, there is work to do and dangers to avoid. What those dangers are is clearly pictured for us in the episode of Israel and the golden calf in Exodus 32.

During their wilderness sojourn, Israel had grown impatient waiting for the return of their leader Moses from Mt. Sinai where he had gone to receive instructions concerning the Tabernacle. He had been there for an extended time and was to come back at a time appointed by God. But while Israel waited for him, they had forgotten their high calling, lost their sense of purpose and became occupied with other things. In their compromised condition, they approached Aaron who capitulated to their demands for an alternative and sensual form of worship. Instead of correcting them, he accommodated their weakened spiritual state and fashioned a molten calf from their earrings and subsequently proclaimed an unauthorized feast to the Lord. The result was confusion and devastating judgment from the hand of the Lord. (v. 35; 1 Cor. 10:7)

This disaster in the desert is filled with timely lessons for the people of God. Just as Moses, Israel’s divinely-appointed leader and deliverer went up to God, so too the Lord Jesus our divinely-appointed Leader and Deliverer ascended to Heaven subsequent to His resurrection, with a promise to return at a time appointed by the Father (Acts 1:7). But until He returns, there are dangers that need to be guarded against by the Lord’s people. One of those dangers is pressure from God’s people to steer the spiritual life of the assembly. God had specifically appointed Moses and Aaron, men of His own choosing to lead the congregation. But now that leadership was being challenged. The people knew that Aaron was in the minority and utilized the unsettled state of affairs to their advantage by gathering together and making petulant demands of him. As the pressure mounted, Aaron caved in to their request. Leaders in every generation continually need to guard against pressure from God’s people to deviate from the biblical pattern of faith and worship in order to replace it with worldly alternatives during the time that our Lord’s return is delayed. Equally, God’s people as a whole need to be reminded that His return is indeed imminent and that they should not grow weary in well-doing or waiting, and thus lose sight of the blessed hope and the sense of their pilgrim calling.

Another danger to avoid is the specter of popular opinion. Certainly Aaron could have dealt with the congregation more judiciously. No doubt feeling isolated and alone, Aaron should have nevertheless remained resolute in his convictions. But the demands of the people proved too much. Who was he to go against so many? This burgeoning movement at the base of Mt. Sinai was gathering momentum and perhaps he thought it best to give the people what they wanted to appease the situation. Besides, maybe he was having second thoughts about Moses’ return or even what he should be doing during the interim. But he should have realized that these demands were coming from people who had not been long out of the land of Egypt. Obviously, they still possessed some of the vestiges of their previous life in Egypt and needed to be instructed in the ways of God. Is it any surprise then that many of God’s people in our day, also redeemed are likewise recent emigrates from “Egypt” and similarly need to be instructed in the ways of God since they too have the residue of that land in their lives? They may be unified and fully persuaded in their thinking that a certain course of action is legitimate, but one principle in Scripture is very clear – the majority is usually wrong. Our society is continually blitzed with sensual messages and music from a variety of sources–ungodly influences that can infiltrate the lives of many of the Lord’s people, adversely affecting their attitudes and actions. If believers have not learned the discipline of keeping themselves unspotted from the world (James 1:27), they can likewise lose their spiritual focus and forget that they are passing through a spiritual wasteland en route to their inheritance reserved for them in heaven (1 Peter 1:4; 2:11). As a result, they may feel the need to look for alternative forms of worship to satisfy carnal desires, feeding on that which is contrary to the life of faith—things God never meant to be: programs that simply entertain; lavish, expensive activities that ring hollow; events that hardly satisfy the soul since they point away from the Person of Christ. No matter how popular an idea may be, if it does not stack up against the Word of God, it will also bring confusion and ultimately discipline from the Lord. How foolish to think that this type of worship, the product of their own devising can satisfy the heart as only God can! But this is what happens when God’s people like Peter look downward, rather than to the Lord (Matt. 14. There is danger in the delay!

Finally, a third danger to avoid is unbiblical proclamation. Perhaps to justify his own hypocrisy, Aaron “hallowed” the event by declaring it as a feast to the Lord, as though God had ordained or would excuse this sordid affair at Sinai. Unfortunately, some of God’s people do the same thing today, erroneously declaring the approval of God on something that has no biblical warrant. The declaration no doubt instigated further sin among the congregation. Were it not for the passionate intercession of Moses who in this instance is portrays Christ our Advocate and Great High Priest (Heb. 2:14), judgment most certainly could have been even worse (vv. 11-14).

The events of this portion are a clarion call, especially to our own generation. While the Lord tarries, there is a danger that God’s people will take the low road spiritually. The process is this: delay followed by demands, and demands followed by departure and departure by unbiblical declaration and unbiblical declaration by disaster and ultimately, discipline from the hand of God. Let us be then be faithful and true to the Lord whom we love, whose return we should look for daily, lest we bring dishonor to the testimony of Christ.

Amillennialism – An Overview

Ever since the publication of Hank Hanegraaff’s book, Apocalypse Code, the evangelical world has been reminded once again of the great divide that exists between those who hold to an amillennial view of Scripture and those who do not. In his book, Hanegraff the so-called “Bible answer man” hurls a blistering diatribe toward a number of premillennialists including Tim LaHaye, author of the highly popular “Left Behind” book series. He charges him with blasphemy because he differs with him and other notable dispensationalists regarding the course of future events. Hanegraaff, a preterist believes that most of the events of the Book of Revelation were fulfilled in AD 70 when the Roman commander Titus conquered Jerusalem, destroying its temple. LaHaye on the other hand, is a futurist who takes the position that most of the events of the Book of Revelation are yet to be fulfilled. Perhaps the only thing that Hanegraaff’s book did accomplish was to accentuate the difference between the amillennial and premillennial viewpoints – a difference so wide that one Christian would have the audacity to claim that another brother is guilty of blasphemy.


Despite the fact that it has been around for centuries, amillennialism continues to grow in certain theological circles. Without question, it is the predominant end time view of most of Christendom – some of whom are evangelical and most of whom are not. As the name implies, amillennialists purport that there is no biblical substantiation for a future, literal thousand year reign of Christ on earth, despite the fact that Rev. 20 makes reference to it six different times and that both OT and NT allude to this great event. Instead, they claim that this period is currently being fulfilled symbolically and that much of the Scriptures should be interpreted as such. They hold that Christ’s kingdom is in heaven where He is reigning now and that when He comes again it will not be to usher in a literal kingdom, but instead to bring about an end to world history, precipitating a general judgment of believers and non-believers alike. According to this view, God has permanently cast away His ancient people Israel because they rejected their Messiah, the Lord Jesus. Therefore, the promises made to them have a fulfillment in the Church, which has now replaced Israel. For this reason, this view has come to be known as “replacement theology” or “supercessionism” since the Church from their standpoint has superseded Israel and has become an historic continuation of it, inheriting many of its promises. Consequently, they hold that these promises to Israel in the past have no bearing upon the nation today, who are nothing more than an ethnic group among the nations of the world. In short, amillennialists would say that Israel no longer has a place in God’s divine plan and program.


In contrast, premillennialists would argue that the Bible clearly presents a literal, future thousand year reign of Christ on earth in accordance with prophetic Scripture. It sees in the OT promises made to Israel, especially in the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants the basis for making such a claim. Premillennialism teaches that when Christ returns again, it will be in two stages; the first stage when He comes for His Church just prior to a seven year period of tribulation on earth (1 Thess. 4:13-17) and then again when He returns in glory with His Church just before His millennial reign as the name implies. Premillennialists reject the idea that the Church has replaced Israel, but rather see a distinction between the two and staunchly maintain that God has a separate plan and program for each. The basis for their convictions they claim are due to a literal interpretation of Scripture advocating that the Bible should always be interpreted in this way unless the context and common sense dictate otherwise. Herein lays the fundamental reason for the difference between these two main theological positions— whether or not the Bible should be interpreted literally or symbolically.


Amillennialism first emerged approximately between the second and third centuries AD. Origen was apparently the first prominent Christian who introduced the concept of allegorization or the figurative interpretation of Scripture. This concept was further promulgated by his protégé, Dionysius of Alexandria. However, the main person credited with developing this school of thought was Augustine of Hippo.Up to that point, premillennial thinking was the overriding conviction of the early Church. Certainly it had been with the disciples who had asked the Lord the question just prior to His ascension “Is this the time that you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Further persecution under the Roman Empire only solidified the conviction of the early Christians that there was a bright and glorious kingdom yet to come when Christ would personally return to earth to establish His worldwide kingdom in fulfillment of prophetic Scripture, thus alleviating the severe persecution experienced under the Roman Empire. But with the so-called “conversion” to the Christian faith of the Roman Emperor Constantine who united the “church” with the world that persecution was immediately lifted, creating a false impression in the minds of many that Christ’s kingdom in some way had arrived, though He was not personally present, but considered to be reigning in heaven. This event, coupled with the underlying shift to the allegorical approach to Bible interpretation further contributed to the development and acceptance of amillennial thinking. Though evidence exists that premillennialism had always remained the firm conviction of many Bible-believing Christians, its prominence waned in the subsequent centuries from the medieval period through the Reformation, as amillennialism increased and become the dominant view of Christendom.


As mentioned previously, amillennialism builds its case upon the figurative interpretation of Scripture. Rather than viewing the OT promises made to Israel as literal, amillennialists see them as symbolic and applicable to the Church. It cannot be overstated just how important the Abrahamic covenant is in understanding God’s ultimate plans and purposes in the world and how it invalidates the amillennial viewpoint. It is foundational to many of the other covenants of Scripture and to the unfolding of biblical revelation. When God called Abram from the Ur of the Chaldees as recorded in Gen. 12:1-3, He promised him seven different things: 1) that He would make him a great nation, 2) that He would bless him, 3) that He would make His name great, 4) that Abram would be a blessing to others, 5) that He would bless those who would bless Abram, 6) that He would curse him who cursed Abram, and 7) that all the families of the earth through Abram would be blessed. At first, this covenant basic in its details. But what God meant and how this would be accomplished is further explained and expanded upon in subsequent chapters. In time, God did indeed make of Abram a great nation and He did literally bless him, both spiritually and materially and He did literally make His name great, and made him a blessing to others and literally blessed those who blessed him and cursed him who cursed Abram. All these things God did literally. Consequently is not unreasonable to assume that they in time would be fulfilled literally. In Gen. 13:14-18, God specifically promised a land for Abram’s descendents forever. In Gen. 15 in answer to Abram’s shrinking faith, God again promised a land to Abram (v. 7) and confirmed it unilaterally (vv. 8-17), thus making it unconditional and according to grace and not Abram’s own performance. Then in vv. 18-21, God further outlines the dimensions of the land and how it would go to his descendants forever. Finally in Gen. 17, this covenant is referred to as an everlasting covenant (v. 7, 19) and the land as an everlasting possession (v. 8), validating that these would always remain in effect come what may, until fulfilled. God stated five times “I will” when He first gave this promise and afterwards confirmed it with an oath (Gen. 22:16). God confirmed that it would come through Isaac and not Ishmael (Gen. 17:19-21; Gen. 26:3-5) and eventually through Jacob (Gen. 28:13-14) and not Esau, further substantiating that the literal, everlasting promises made to Abraham ultimately flow down to Israel. Years later in Egypt, God remembered the covenant that He had made to them (Ex. 2:24), thus validating that these everlasting promises definitely applied to Israel. Knowing their future and eventual failure to maintain a faithful witness through the centuries, God further stated in Deut. 30:3 that He would have compassion on them and eventually bring them back to the land—a land whose dimensions given in Gen. 15, but has never been fully occupied even in the days of King Solomon. Furthermore, when God made a covenant with King David (2 Sam. 7), He promised him a place for Israel where they would be planted “to move no more” (v. 10), verifying that Israel had never yet entered into the reality of this covenant even in the days of King David. In addition, God promised to David unconditionally, a royal dynasty and a throne that would last forever. David understood it to be a literal “forever” promise (vv. 18-29), for which he gave thanks to God and which Scripture substantiates would be assumed by the Lord Jesus, both prophetically (Isa. 9:6-7) and historically (Luke 1:31-33) which still awaits a future fulfillment.


In a word, it doesn’t. Because of its symbolic approach to interpreting Scripture, amillennialists fail to see the promises that God made to Abraham and David as literal and unconditional. Instead they predicate the keeping of these covenants upon Israel’s faithfulness rather than upon God’s own inviolable will and character. They disregard the weight of the word “forever” as stated many times by God but erroneously conclude that these promises were temporary to the nation and ultimately transferred to the Church. They falsely conclude that God has permanently cast away Israel even though Rom. 11:1 clearly affirms to the contrary when the Apostle Paul, himself a Jew loudly proclaims with divine authority: “I say then, hath God cast away His people? God forbid!”.

Amillennialism also fails to see the distinction between the Church and Israel as implied and directly indicated in both the OT and NT. The Apostle Paul’s reference to “the Jew, the Gentile and the Church of God” (1 Cor. 10:32) is prima facie evidence of this truth. The fact that the Church is referred to as a “new man” (Eph. 2:15) and not as some erroneously conclude, the “Israel of God” further substantiates a distinction as does the description of the city four square in Rev. 21 whose gates are named after the tribes of Israel and foundations after the twelve apostles–a powerful proof that God makes a distinction between the two and will throughout eternity! Consequently, amillennialism leads to inconsistency in the understanding and the application of the Word of God and forfeits a deep appreciation of how God will yet restore the wayward nation through His own wisdom and power (Rom. 11:33). It can lend itself to an anti-Semitic attitude among those who do feel that Israel has deserved rejection by God.


There are many more important aspects of Amillennialism teaching that could be considered. But suffice it to say, God indeed has a plan and a program for the nation of Israel which He will bring about in the course of time, though it will involve a time of great sorrow and tribulation (Jer. 30:7). He also has a separate plan and program for the Church as He calls many people out of the world (Acts15:13). Understanding God’s work in the world today toward Israel and through the Church underscores again the significance of the words of 2 Tim. 2:15: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

All Things

I have found that when it comes to studying my Bible, it is important to focus on “all things” in it and not just some. As a matter of fact, when we take “all things” into consideration, we come away with a completely different perspective about our life in Christ and our blessings in Him. Like the Psalmist, we are forced to pause and reflect on God’s unchanging truth which should evoke in our hearts a whole range of powerful emotions.

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“The Unity of the Faith”

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: Eph. 4:13

When the Lord prayed for His disciples in the Upper Room “that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…” (John 17:21), they had little understanding of the meaning of His heartening request. Not long afterwards upon the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they would soon experience and begin to understand the reality of the truth behind these words.  It was then that the Church was formed—“a new man” according to Eph. 2:15, the Body of Christ on earth connected to its Head in heaven, the Man in the glory. The event transformed a loosely-knit group of cowering disciples into a unified, singular group that would soon turn the world upside down, Acts 17:6. It was in fact, an answer to His request on the night before His crucifixion. 

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The Challenges and Blessings of Foster Care

AdoptionIt may come as a surprise to many that foster care, like many pertinent issues in society today, is referred to directly in God’s timeless word, the Bible. In Acts 13, Manaen, one of the prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch, is described as someone ‘brought up with Herod, the tetrarch’, v. 2. The Greek word used by Luke is suntrophos, meaning ‘childhood companion’. It strongly suggests that he was the foster brother of Herod Antipas and, thus, the foster son of Herod the Great. It’s true – the concept of foster care can be found in the Bible! It substantiates the fact that foster care is not just a contemporary issue but one that has existed for a long time, extending all the way back to the New Testament era. It further reinforces the fact that there has probably always been the need to provide an alternative home environment for children to come under the care of parents who are not their own naturally. Whether a wicked individual like Herod the Great provided a caring home environment could easily be debated, but, regardless, the record of scripture states that Manaen was brought up in his household and apparently with legal recognition.

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