Tag Archives: Steve Miller

What Jesus Said On The Cross — Steve Miller

And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left” (Lk. 23:33).  Luke records the beginning of the end in the life of Jesus upon the earth and documents the first two sayings of Christ from the cross.

The first three sayings focus on others, while the last four relate to Jesus himself and the Father. The depth and meaning of the last words of Jesus warrant our whole attention.

Rick Bauer wrote:

Last words are powerful words. Perhaps you’ve watched a loved one die, and heard his last words. Words of love, words of farewell, too often words of regret and remorse, all these describe the last words of parting before death. Jesus’ dying words are the most powerful words of parting ever spoken, and reveal his life, his concerns, and the true nature of his character in a way they are shown nowhere else in the scriptures. In these words, we truly find the meaning of the cross. Let us study with reverence the parting words of our Master … the message of the cross, the message of Jesus from Golgotha. We see Jesus for all that he is when we come to the cross, when we stand around it, when we listen to The Sermon on the Hill (Rick Bauer, The Anatomy of Calvary (Joplin: College Press, 1989), 121.

James Stalker likewise opined:

These are like windows through which we can see what was passing in His mind. They are mere fragments, of course; yet they are charged with eternal significance. Words are always photographs, more or less true, of the mind which utters them; these were the truest words ever uttered, and He who uttered them stamped on them the image of Him-self (James Stalker, The Trial and Death of Jesus Christ (New York: A.C. Armstrong, 1894), 187.

Forgiveness.  “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments” (Lk. 23:34; Isa. 53:12).  Jesus desires and prays for the forgiveness of his enemies, but this would only be possible by men being willing to repent and obey Christ to receive remission of sins.

Jesus calls upon us, His disciples, to extend love and kindness to those against us (Lk. 6:35).

Salvation.  “And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Lk. 23:43).  The two thieves represent two distinct attitudes toward Christ. The context before the verse reads: One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’  But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong’” (Lk. 23:39-41).

The key to remember is that Jesus gives salvation: “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Lk. 5:24).

Responsibility.  When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’” (Jn. 19:26).  John is understood to be the disciple being referred to here (Jn. 2:4; 13:23; 21:7, 20) and he is the only one who records it.

In this saying, we witness the love and care that Jesus exhibited toward his loved ones.  He was providing for His mother, even at the time of His death (1 Tim. 5:8).

Loneliness. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matt. 27:46).  The quotation is from Psalm 22:1. There is much here on which to study, meditate, and pray in order to begin to understand anything about it.  It is a statement of loneliness based upon separation.

G. Campbell Morgan wrote:

Alone in the supreme hour in the history of the race, Christ uttered these words, and in them light breaks out, and yet merges, not into darkness, into light so blinding that no eye can bear to gaze. The words are recorded, not to finally reveal, but to reveal so much as it is possible for men to know, and to set a limit at the point where men may never know. The words were uttered that men may know, and that men may know how much there is that may not be known. In that strange cry that broke from the lips of the Master there are at least three things perfectly clear. Let them be named and considered. It is the cry of One Who has reached the final issue of sin. It is the cry of One Who has fathomed the deepest depth of sorrow. It is the cry of One Himself o’erwhelmed in the mystery of silence. Sin, sorrow, silence (G. Campbell Morgan, The Crises of the Christ (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co.), 297.

The Hebrew writer wrote, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Heb. 5:7).  Our Lord was paying the ransom price for the sins of the whole world (Ac. 20:28; Heb. 9:22).

Humanity.  “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst’” (Jn. 19:28).  This is mentioned in Psalm 69:21.

The humanity of Jesus is shown here.  Jesus relates to our physical nature.  This is the only recorded statement of a physical need while on the cross.

Victory.  “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn. 19:30).  The goal of Jesus was to finish the task given by the Father (Jn. 4:34).  The victory over sin was being accomplished.  The fact that “Jesus Saves” comes ringing loud and clear because He came to “seek and save the lost” (Lk. 19:10).

Guy N. Woods wrote:

The words “It is finished,” sum up all that he came to do; the redemption of mankind was now being achieved and the course which had been laid out for him from the beginning, had been completed. His life and work, his suffering and death, the shame and agony of the cross, are all viewed as behind him and in triumph he shouts, It is finished! (Guy N. Woods, The Gospel According to John (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1981), 408.

Commendation.  “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last” (Lk. 23:46).  The final recorded statement of Jesus fulfilled Psalm 31:5.

R.C. Foster wrote:

He died a thousand million deaths on the cross as He died for all of us.  We cannot comprehend how great was His suffering for us.  If we could multiply the agony of death by as many millions of people as have lived in this world, we might approach the sum-total of His suffering: He bore the sins of all mankind as He died.  As His life was absolutely unique, so was His death.  His death was actual and real, but His suffering was so much greater than any of  us can ever know that we can scarcely comprehend it.  Jesus did not say: “I am finished.”  This saying (or words to the same effect) is so often heard from mortal man in the hour of death.  He has done all he can to fend off the fatal hour, but he cannot fight on any longer and so he cries: “I am finished.”  Not so with the Son of God.  The voluntary character of Jesus’ death is everywhere seen in the record of these hours on the cross.  He says: “It is finished.”  His thought is of the supreme work of God which He left heaven to accomplish (R.C. Foster, Studies in the Life of Christ (Joplin: College Press, 1995), 1284-85.

What Jesus said on the cross gives us a window to peer through to see into the greatest sacrifice ever given in the history of mankind.

Steve serves on the board of directors for the Carolina Messenger and is one of the ministers at the Gold Hill Road congregation in Fort Mill, SC.

Biblical Worldview — Steve Miller

What is your worldview? If you are not sure, we may need to ask: What is a worldview?

“A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being” (The Universe Next Door. A Basic Worldview Catalog by James W. Sire. Fourth Edition. [Downers Grove, IL; IVP Academic. 2004], 17-18.) Many influences are involved in an individual’s worldview.

David A. Noebel gets to the heart of the meaning when he writes: “Every individual bases his thoughts, decisions and actions on a worldview.  A person may not be able to identify his worldview, and it may lack consistency, but his most basic assumptions about the origin of life, purpose, and the future guarantee adherence to some system of thought” (Understanding the Times [Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1994], 1.)

Philipps and Brown simplify the idea by saying: “A worldview is, first of all, an explanation and interpretation of the world and second, an application of this view to life. In simpler terms, our worldview is a view of the world and a view for the world” (W. Gary Phillips and William E. Brown, Making Sense of Your World [Chicago: Moody Press, 1991], 29.) Applying what we believe to our everyday lives is living our own worldview.

One of the most influential studies on worldview by James Sire has seven questions to consider when examining our worldview:

  1. What is prime reality — the really real? To this we might answer God, or the gods, or the material cosmos. Our answer here is the most fundamental. It sets the boundaries for the answers that can consistently be given to the other six questions.
  2. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us? Here our answers point to whether we see the world as created or autonomous, as chaotic or orderly, as matter or spirit; or whether we emphasize our subjective, personal relationship to the world or its objectivity apart from us.
  3. What is a human being? To this we might answer: a highly complex machine, a sleeping god, a person made in the image of God, or a naked ape.
  4. What happens to a person at death? Here we might reply: personal extinction, or transformation to a higher state, or reincarnation, or departure to a shadowy existence on “the other side.”
  5. Why is it possible to know anything at all? Sample answers include the idea that we are made in the image of an all-knowing God or that consciousness and rationality developed under the contingencies of survival in a long process of evolution.
  6. How do we know what is right and wrong? Again, perhaps we are made in the image of a God whose character is good, or right and wrong are determined by human choice alone or what feels good, or the notions simply developed under an impetus toward cultural or physical survival.
  7. What is the meaning of human history? (James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door. A Basic Worldview Catalog. Fourth Edition [Downers Grove: IVP, 2004], 20.)

Sire surveys the landscape of people’s ideas on the questions he raises. It is important to note: “The fact is that we cannot avoid assuming some answers to such questions. We will adopt either one stance or another. Refusing to adopt an explicit worldview will turn out to be itself a worldview, or at least a philosophical position” (Sire, 21).

Questions That Need Answers

When we narrow down the field to the three most common questions, we begin to see our worldview more clearly: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going when I die? It is generally conceded that these three questions relating to our existence cover our curiosity and drive us to dig deeper in many cases to discover real, consistent, coherent answers that align with a worldview that makes sense to us. We may not be able to articulate our worldview, but we have one none the less.

Examples abound in books and materials with varying lists of questions that center around the same, basic inquiries as listed above. The biblical worldview answers each of the questions consistently as they are considered in reality and join together the overall plan of God for man:

Where did I come from? Mankind was the crowning glory of God’s creation. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).

Why am I here?  “The end of the matter; all has been heard.  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).

Where am I going when I die? Our eternal destiny depends on obedience to His commandments. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16).

The Big Issue

One’s view of God is the starting point for all worldviews. God is present in the foundation of our worldview if we have a biblical one. If we fail to include God in our worldview (Rom. 1:21), then we operate on an atheistic platform that will fail us eternally.

A biblical worldview is a perspective that sees everything through the “glasses” of Scripture.  Rather than allowing culture or experience to determine a worldview, it allows the Bible to make that determination.  “The Christian belief system, which the Christian knows to be grounded in divine revelation, is relevant to all of life” (Carl F.H. Henry, Toward a Recovery of Christian Belief [Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1990], 113.).

Divine Direction

The following are only a beginning sampling of biblical reminders of living our lives after the pattern of Him who died for us. A biblical worldview will be lived out by our unwavering allegiance to God and His Word in every category of life. We are not being true to God if we compartmentalize our faith and fail to consistently apply the gospel to our whole existence.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:2).

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8).

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7).

Take time to examine what you believe and why you believe it. Make sure your foundation is built upon God and His Word and seek to live your life in a consistent manner daily, all the while keeping your eyes focused upon Jesus Christ and His example.  A biblical worldview is the way of life for the Christian and must be maintained in order to please God our Creator.

Steve serves as one of the ministers at the church of Christ at Gold Hill Road in Fort Mill, SC.  He has just written a book about living the Christian life, Between Sundays.

The Baptism of Jesus — Steve Miller

The baptism of Christ (Matt. 3:13-17; cf. Mk. 1:9-11; Lk. 3:21-22) raises several questions. R.C. Foster, in his monumental work, Studies in The Life of Christ, highlights some of them: “The New Testament offers exactly ten verses as the historical record of the baptism of Jesus. Luke tells the story in two verses, Mark in three, and Matthew in five verses. John does not describe it, but alludes to it by presenting the impressions of John the Baptist concerning it. How can we reconcile the personality of Jesus with this act of humiliation? How do we harmonize the virgin birth with the baptism? How could Jesus be begotten of the Holy Spirit and yet need here the descent of the Spirit? Why should He, who was and is God, submit to John’s baptism? How can we relate this humble action with His claims of absolute pre-eminence? How reconcile the great mission of Jesus as Savior with this acceptance of baptism at the hands of another religious figure as if He Himself needed salvation? How do we reconcile the claims of Jesus and the New Testament writers that He lived a sinless life with His deliberate acceptance of this baptism of John which was ‘of repentance unto the remission of sins’?”

All things indicate that Jesus came to John because God told him to come. The baptism of John was prior to the baptism that would be under the new covenant of Christ. John’s baptism was from heaven (Matt. 21:23-27). It was according to God’s Word (Lk. 3:1-4), designed to manifest Jesus to Israel (John 1:29-34). It was part of preparing Christ’s way (Lk. 3:1-6).

Purpose. The baptism of Jesus was not for remission of sins. Jesus had no sin to take away (2 Cor. 5:21). As H. Leo Boles reasons: “We know that Jesus did not come to be baptized from a feeling of personal sinfulness, neither because of his personal connection with an impure people, nor for the purpose of showing that there was no incompatibility between his life and the life of others, nor merely to elicit the divine declaration that he was the Son of God, nor to confirm the faith of others in him, neither was it to sanction the baptism of John as having been authorized of God. It was the will of God for him to be baptized, and he came to do the will of God (Heb.10:7).”

The purpose of Jesus’ baptism was “to fulfill all righteousness.” “Righteousness” means doing what is right, obeying the Father’s will. Jesus was baptized in submission to His Father’s will. All of God’s commands are righteousness: “My tongue shall speak of Your word, For all Your commandments are righteousness” (Ps. 119:172, NKJV). In studying the phrase “fulfill all righteousness,” we understand Jesus simply complied because it was the right thing to do.

In addition to fulfilling all righteousness, the text reveals that the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him (Matt. 3:16). A voice came from heaven, which was when God first called Jesus His Son and said, “In whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Luke mentions that Jesus was praying (Lk. 3:21-22). God the Father, Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit were manifested. These are unique happenings that introduced Christ into His earthly ministry.

There are many aspects of the baptism of Jesus that show its uniqueness and its importance. The distance Jesus traveled to be baptized of John is significant. It was possibly 60-80 miles, depending on the exact location. The beginning of His earthly ministry is marked by His baptism at the hands of John (Lk. 3:23). It marked His first public identification with those whose sins He would bear (Is. 53:11; 1 Pet. 3:18). It publicly affirmed His being the Lamb of God by testimony straight from heaven (Matt. 3:17; Ps. 2:7; Is. 42:1). The miraculous power of the Godhead was evident in the baptism of Christ.

Lessons. The baptism of Christ foreshadowed the importance of Christian baptism. He was baptized in order to identify with us. He gave us an example of how to obey God: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9). He gave us the example to walk in His steps: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Pet. 2:21-22). He was baptized to teach and remind us about His death, burial, and resurrection. His being baptized of John the Immerser also helped to sanction John’s baptism and ministry.

Jesus’ baptism gives us applications to our understanding of baptism and its essentiality in becoming a Christian. Christs baptism is the foundation of Christian baptism” (Ferguson). We gain insight into the mode of baptism in the immersion of Christ. We observe that Jesus went to the water (Matt. 3:13), went down “into” the water and came up out of the water (Mk. 3:16). Our receiving of the Spirit, and becoming a son or daughter in Christ is connected to our baptism: Explicit in the text is the association of Jesus’ baptism with sonship and the gift of the Holy Spirit. At the baptism of Jesus, the Spirit came upon him and God acknowledged him as his Son (Matt. 3:16-17; Mark 1:10-11; Luke 3:21-23). Then he was empowered to begin his ministry. Only when the Spirit came in Acts 2 did the disciples begin preaching the gospel. For Christians, at baptism they are acknowledged as children of God (Gal. 3:26-27) and receive the Spirit (Gal. 4:5-7) and then begin a life of service” (Ferguson). Temptations will follow those who are immersed (Matt. 4:1-11; 1 Cor. 10:13) as we begin to work and serve the Master. Even as Jesus identified himself with humanity at his baptism, so at baptism his followers identify themselves with him, his ministry, and his cross” (Ferguson).

The baptism of our Savior provides an antecedent for the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3-4; cf. Rom. 6:1-4). We are baptized into His death, buried with Him in water, and raised to be a Christian, added to the church by the Lord (Acts 2:47).

The baptism of Christ provides an example of how Jesus always fulfilled the Father’s will. The implication is powerful that Jesus led the way through His example (being baptized) to show us the way which corresponds to New Testament teaching (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21), that those lost in sin (all – Rom. 3:23) must be immersed in water for the remission of sins in order to contact the precious blood of Jesus.

Steve is on the board of directors for the Carolina Messenger. He serves as one of the ministers at the Gold Hill congregation in Fort Mill, SC.


H. Leo Boles, Matthew (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1952), 89.

Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 180.

Soul-Winning For Jesus: He Commanded Us To Do It — Steve Miller

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). From this classic text we learn: The gospel, good news is to be preached to every creature in every nation. There are conditions of faith and obedience that must be met to enjoy the blessings and promises of the gospel. Every Christian is to be involved in taking and teaching the gospel of Christ to every soul without Christ. They are to assist those who choose to obey Christ so that they too may be disciples of Christ who in turn teach the gospel to others (2 Tim. 2:2).

The apostle Paul relayed to the Ephesian elders his consistent work and message of the gospel to the lost: “…how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:20-21).

The command is clear (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49) for Christians to teach others about Christ and His saving gospel (Rom. 6:1-18). Evangelism is to be public and private (Mark 16:15; Acts 2; 3:11-26; 8:5; 16:13-15).

The following points remind us of how we can assist others in coming to the Savior:

People must see Christ in us (Col. 1:27). The image and mark of Jesus must be evident in our words, actions and lifestyle. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). This will present itself in the realm of kindness, mercy, compassion, sacrifice, benevolence and love. These Christ-like qualities help influence those around us in the nature of Christianity and offer a better way of living and hope.

People must hear Christ in us. Our speech has influence in teaching the lost and being Christ-like examples. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). Our physical words as well as what we present on social media have a direct bearing on whether we are influencing for Christ. Some members’ media posts bring reproach upon the church and upon the Savior, closing doors to evangelism. We must do better knowing we will give an account of our words (Matt. 12:33-37; Col. 3:8).

People must infer Christ in us. Have you ever been accused of being with Christ? Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Can those with whom we associate and come into contact infer that we have spent time with our Lord in His teachings? Our mind must be in sync with His in order for us to live and practice true Christian living (1 Cor. 2:16). Our choices in what we do, where we go, who we are with, and how we act, all matter. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you” (1 Pet. 4:4).

People must turn from their sins. Repentance is the making up of one’s mind to cease doing evil and to do good, to stop serving Satan and begin serving God. It means to change directions (Jon. 3:10). The Lord tells us that our lives must change through our repentance (Luke 13:1-5). “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

People must turn to Christ. Those who are taught the gospel and receive it are those who submit to Christ by being immersed in water for the remission of their sins (Acts 8:37-38).

Finally, consider the example of the early church. They had a true passion for souls (Acts 5:42). As a result of this genuine concern for the lost, the church grew and expanded. Beginning with three thousand on Pentecost (Acts 2:41), the “number of men was about five thousand” (Acts 4:4), “believers were the more added to the Lord” (Acts 5:14) and “the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly” (Acts 6:7). There was a heartfelt motivation for the souls of men. Many of the pioneer preachers in this country manifested the same kind of evangelistic fire. It was not uncommon for entire churches to be converted from denominationalism to undenominational New Testament Christianity. Preachers stressed themes such as “What is our Plea?”, “The Cross of Christ,” “Authority in Religion,” and “What Must I Do to be Saved?” A pronounced emphasis upon book, chapter and verse encouraged people to study for themselves. As a result of this type of evangelistic, doctrinal preaching, and an emphasis on reaching the lost, churches of Christ enjoyed unprecedented growth.

What do we need?

We need a clear vision of the mission of the church. We cannot lose sight of the fact that the church is the body of Christ and that its mission is an extension of the work of Christ. “To seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10).

We need to practice personal involvement in the work of the church. Too many have fallen into the habit of, going, sitting, leaving, and forgetting. It becomes easy to criticize and speak of what THEY are doing or not doing. What about us? What are WE doing? After all, we are the church!

We must recognize the value of a soul (Matt. 16:26). Are we honoring the command of Jesus in the great commission in our individual lives?

Steve serves as one of the ministers of the Gold Hill Road congregation in Fort Mill, SC. He is the president of the board of directors for the Carolina Messenger.

Suffering — Steve Miller, Guest Editor (Editorial: May/June, 2016)

This issue of the Carolina Messenger presents studies surrounding suffering, from the Christian worldview.

Suffering is an inevitable part of life.  Physical illness, disease, injuries, broken relationships, death, persecution, natural disasters, and wars; from the consequences of our own choices, as well as the choices of others; remind us that many aspects of affliction, pain and sorrow plague our lives here on the earth.  Job said, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1, ESV).

We sometimes ask like Gideon: “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us” (Judg 6:13)?  What should our response as Christians be to pain and suffering?  We question, “Why me?  Why now?  What is God doing or not doing”?

Is there a more beneficial way for me to respond to suffering when it enters my personal life? Is there anything I can learn from it?  Does my response to human suffering demonstrate faith?  Does it demonstrate my love for God and Christ, or for Christ-like character?  What about my commitment? My priorities?  How can God use suffering in my life to help me, assist someone else, or, fulfill His purpose?

Brother Thomas B. Warren received an invitation to speak on a lectureship in 1963 on the subject, “Christ, Our Contemporary in Suffering.”  Previous to this time,  he had prepared a manuscript on suffering.  It was well received and he continued to study and add to the material eventually publishing it into a book, Our Loving God: Our Sun and Shield.  It has served as a meaningful study of suffering as a Christian.

In that volume, Dr. Warren observed the depth of loss Job experienced and how he still maintained his trust in God:

When one loses his possessions, he can usually gain strength and assurance from his children, his wife, his friends.  If he still has his good health and his sense of his place and worth as an individual, he can gain strength and comfort from them and launch out anew.  If one also loses (in addition to his wealth), his health, and his children, he can still grasp the hand of his wife, and the two may give strength to one another.  But when Job lost his wealth, his children, and his health, his wife also failed him.  If, after his wife had failed him, he had retained his good health, he might have gone on alone.  A healthy body gives one a vitality of outlook which is difficult to attain when one is in ill health.  But even after Job had lost everything upon which many human beings depend, he retained his faith in the one true living God (National Christian Press, Inc., Colleyville, 2003; 96).

Trusting God in times of suffering is the only avenue that will support our peace of mind and patient perseverance.  Trust in our Heavenly Father will cause us to:

Accept suffering and not blame God.  We must realize we may never understand “why” (Isa 55:8-9).

Acknowledge the inevitability of death.  As Christians, we view with eternity in focus, not years on earth (Ps 90:10).

Always strive to be obedient to the Will of God.  The perfect example of Christ is our pattern in the realm of suffering and obedience. “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.  And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb 5:7-9). We have the choice to make pain and suffering a part of the process of growing our faith.

Jesus Christ trusted God the Father through His pain and suffering. “…When he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet 2:21-23). “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor.  No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you” (Ps 84:11-12)!

A special thank you to the writers of this issue.  It is our hope that the content is beneficial to you or someone you know.

-Steve Miller


What Jacob Has Taught Me – Steve Miller

Jacob was the twin-brother of Esau and the son of Isaac and Rebekah. He was the favorite of his mother. The name Jacob means “supplanter.” His encounter with God in Genesis 32:24–30 records the change of his name from “Jacob” (meaning “he grasps the heel”, figuratively, “he deceives”) to “Israel” (meaning “he struggles with God”). Jacob was the recipient of the Abrahamic blessings.

The following are some lessons I have learned from Jacob:

God knows us (Gen. 28:12-17).       Jacob was alienated from his family. He discovered himself in the wilderness while on his way to Laban’s house. God disclosed Himself to Jacob while he was away from everyone who knows him. Jacob dreamed about a ladder that was set upon the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. Angels were ascending and descending on it and God was standing at the top of it. The Almighty used the occasion to introduce Himself as the Lord God of Abraham and Isaac. He renewed the land promise and explained how Jacob’s seed would be as the dust of the earth.

God knows us. He created us and knows us best (Is. 55:8-9). We think we know the best course, and have all the answers and can handle everything that comes our way. How wrong can we be? “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jer 10:23). He knows what you are thinking. He knows what your life is all about. He knows our plans and desires. He is God and we are His creation.

God is fully capable of fulfilling His plans. The Scriptures says, “Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted.  And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!’ (Therefore his name was called Edom.)  Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright now.’ Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’  Jacob said, ‘Swear to me now.’ So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob.  Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright” (Gen 25:29-34).

In the stories of Abraham and Jacob, God promised to do something great. It is remarkable that each of them resolved to try to assist God so that their dream could be achieved. We should never circumvent God’s principles in order to achieve God’s will. Jacob attempted to help God out by stealing his brother’s birthright and blessing. God does not need our assistance in fulfilling His purpose in our life. He needs our obedience. The supplanter, Jacob, demonstrated a selfish, greedy spirit.   Being deceitful has no place in the Christian character. “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit” (1 Pet 3:10). Truthfulness and honesty in all circumstances is the high road to take as we go through life.

God has a purpose and plan for your life. While Jacob was serving Laban for twenty years, God’s plan had not lessened. God had a plan for Jacob’s life, and it would be fulfilled. God pledged to bless Jacob, and He did.

Just as God had a plan for Jacob’s life, God has a plan for yours (Jer 29:11). Our purpose in life is to serve and worship God. May we remember, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Prov 19:21).

God wants you to seek Him. The Bible records the following: “And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.  Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’  And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’  Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.’  Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him.  So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered’” (Gen 32:24-30).

As Jacob wrestled with God, God told Jacob it was time for Him to go, but Jacob would not “permit” God to go until he obtained His blessing. We finally see a reliance on God’s divine power and guidance. God desires us to reach the point in our lives where our relationship with Him is more important than anything else in the world.   We are to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt 6:33). God wants us to “seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa 55:6-7).

God wants us to pray to Him in all situations. We read in Scripture: “And Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, “Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,” I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.  Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, “I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude”’” (Gen 32:9-12).

Jacob was a person of prayer. He decided to return to his home, country and family. He trusted God to return him safely. Jacob worked as a peacemaker with Esau when he met him and bowed to the ground seven times. This helped Esau manifest a friendly spirit toward Jacob. We are reminded that prayer is essential in our relationship with God (Phil 4:6). Christians are to approach God the Father “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph. 6:18).

God will reward obedience. The Bible gives us the record of the end of Jacob’s life: “And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning’” (Gen 47:9). Scripture then gives us a glimpse of the final moments of the life of this great patriarch: “When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people” (Gen 49:33).

The New Testament says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb 9:27). We must never lose sight of the fact of death and judgment. Jacob was disobedient in many things, but because of areas of obedience, God by His grace blessed him. He is mentioned in Hebrews 11:9, 20 and 21 as one of the great heroes of the faith. God blesses the faithful.

You reap what you sow.   Paul warned, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal 6:7). Jacob had a tough life of twenty years serving Laban. He was fearful of Esau, and his children dishonored him because of his disobedience. Jacob reaped many negative things in his life because he planted deceit and disharmony.     Our actions will bring results, either positive or negative. It is up to each of us to determine that we will sow righteous seeds and “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).




The Community Church Movement – Steve Miller

Today we are hearing more and more about the growth of community churches. What is the appeal to attend and join a community church? It’s really not complicated. When you consider that many people are only concerned with satisfying what pleases themselves and are not concerned with what their Creator desires. Community churches are man-founded groups within the denominational configuration that is contrary to the New Testament order.

The system and ideology founded on the division of the religious population into numerous ecclesiastical bodies, each stressing particular values or traditions and each competing with the other in the same community under substantial conditions of freedom (Jerald C. Brauer, Ed., The Westminster Dictionary of Church History, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971, pp. 262‐263).

J. Ruskin Howe gave a brief history of the emergence of community churches.

A growing phenomenon in American religious life since 1900 has been the rise of Protestant churches without denominational affiliation. Such churches were originally called union or federated churches. They came into existence most frequently through the merger of small, competing congregations in communities inadequate for the proper maintenance of several separate church plants, staffs, and programs. The mingling of men of all faiths in the armed services during World War I, and the rapid emergence of new communities where families of many religious backgrounds were thrown together, accentuated the demand for a type of church fellowship where inherited denominational differences could be transcended in a religious fellowship centered about the great central Christian convictions and expressed in terms of the nature and needs of the individual community. The name community church became a name to conjure with, and such non-sectarian congregations sprang up spontaneously throughout the land (“Community Churches,” Twentieth Century Encyclopedia Of Religious Knowledge Volume I, p. 278-279).

Community churches have been established to serve man, not God! Terms like smorgasbord, hodgepodge and potpourri describe the conglomeration of religious beliefs and practices. One writer cited a reason for the quick growth of community churches: “How do you sell a very old story to a crowd of bored baby boomers weaned on TV, wined and dined by advertisers and struggling to keep up with the 90’s pace of life?” (USA Weekend. April 13-15, 1990. p. 4) Bored baby boomers? Keeping up with the times? It sounds as if the people decide what pleases God in their lives. Can a community church fit the Bible’s qualifications for the church of Christ?

One community church that has served as a pattern for others is the Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. Bill Hybels started Willow Creek Community Church in 1975.

He began renting the Willow Creek movie theater in Palatine every Sunday morning. He would conduct services aimed at ‘Unchurched Harry’ – that spiritual seeker full of questions about the meaning of life, but uninvolved with any organized religion. Instead of merely preaching from the Bible, Hybels would compose sermons that linked Bible passages to everyday life – dealing with anger, for example, or the difficulty of being fully honest with people (Daily Herald, Suburban Living Showcase. May 18, 1988. p. 1).

A very revealing statement enlightens us as to the foundation of their purpose for existing:

After conducting a neighborhood survey to determine why people didn’t attend church, the church created an innovative weekend ‘seeker service’ with drama, contemporary music, and relevant messages targeted to 25-45 year-old ‘Unchurched Harry,’ a friend of a Willow Creek member (Willow Creek Association. 1993 Conferences And Seminars. p.3).

The idea of “giving people what they want” seems to be a common denominator among many of these community churches.  Saddleback Community Church founded by Rick and Kay Warren has been influential in the movement to practice religion according to the desires of the people. In Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church, he writes:

Targeting for evangelism begins with finding out all you can about your community. Your church needs to define its target in four specific ways: geographically, demographically, culturally, and spiritually … I use the word culture to refer to the lifestyle and mindset of those who live around your church. The business world uses the term psychographies, which is just a fancy way of referring to people’s values, interest, hurts, and fears … Within your community there are most likely many subcultures, or subgroups. To reach each of these groups you need to discover how they think. What are their interests? What do they value? Where do they hurt? What are they afraid of? What are the most prominent features of the way they live? (pp. 160, 165).

Dan Winkler comments on this quote by stating:

This entails what Warren later describes as learning to “Think Like a Fish” when you go fishing.’ His church, the Saddleback Valley Community Church of Orange County, California, has even personified their community’s composite profile into what they call, “Mr. Saddleback.:” Their ministry, in turn, is governed by the “priorities,” the “skepticism,” the personal “preferences” as well as the economic status, the academic prowess and the varied struggles that “Mr. Saddleback” represents (The Spiritual Sword, Vol. 32, No. 1, p. 31).

The terms of entrance into Warren’s Saddleback community are something other than what God has commanded. Notice their position on baptism:

Baptism by immersion symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and is your public declaration that you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Baptism does not save you, but shows the world that you have already been saved. And while baptism is not required for salvation, it is a biblical command and demonstrates your love and obedience to Christ.

How could baptism “not save you” but is a “command” and also “demonstrates your love and obedience to Christ?” Contradictory statement? Certainly (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21)!

The conclusion rests in our purpose for assembling: it is not for ourselves, it is to honor God our Creator. Owen Olbricht produced the following excellent observations:

Anyone or anything that takes center stage where God belongs and becomes the object of worship is robbing God of His rightful place of worship…Too often assemblies gather to observe what the created can do instead of assembling to express praise for what the Creator has done…Man is not to be the center of worship. Worship is not to be a performance for the benefit of other human beings. God is the audience instead of man (God Is The Audience, p. 117).

God is the object of our worship (Revelation 4:8, 11; 5:12-13; Romans 1:25; Acts 12:22-23), and He is the audience (Psalm 139:7-12; Genesis 28:16; Hebrews 4:13).

The church of Christ revealed in the New Testament is right in its origin, foundation, head, guide, designation, worship, and organization (Daniel 2; Isaiah 2; Matthew 16:16, 18; Colossians 1:18; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 16:16; Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Ephesians 5:19; Titus 1:5).

For a church to be “of Christ” it must have Divine identifying marks! The community church movement fails to satisfy God’s prescription for the New Testament Church!