Tag Archives: Steve Miller

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

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

stevemiller67@gmail.com

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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).

stevemiller67@gmail.com

 

 

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!