Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Fundraising

There is a wonderful example of fundraising in the book of Romans. Here it is: “But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while” (Rom. 15:23-24).

This letter to the Romans caused the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century and the Wesleyan revival of the 18th century. The letter does not command fundraising. At best, it is an example of a good support-raising letter. It gives far more than it gets. Paul did not ask for money to go to Jerusalem or to go to Rome. He did ask for assistance on his way to Spain. We do not know if he ever went to Spain, so that request may not have been met. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to receive a request for money at the end of a letter like the book of Romans?

The Bible includes other examples of raising money. Look at 1 Corinthians: “Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me” (1 Cor. 16:1-4). Here Paul asks for advance giving or saving up by the Corinthian church for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. None of the money was for Paul, nor was it carried by him.

2 Corinthians 8 and 9 tell more about this particular gift. It is an example of Paul’s integrity in money matters. “And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men” (2 Cor. 8:18-21).

There has always been much abuse in fundraising for charities, mission societies, and churches. This abuse includes greed and dishonesty in both raising and distributing the money. Consequently, the unbelieving populace accuses Christian workers in general of greed and dishonesty.

Let us pattern our view of money after the teachings of Jesus and the actions of Paul. Jesus said:

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Luke 6:38).

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" (Matt. 6:24).

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry" (Col. 3:5).

Are you attached to money or to things? “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty” (Prov. 11:24). Godly giving is very open and free. It is not manipulative. It does not “prime the pump,” giving a little in order to get a lot. It gives with no thought of return.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The True Church (J.C. Ryle)

Since the last few posts have been about the Church, I would like to share this article written by Bishop J.C. Ryle.

I want you to belong to the one true Church: to the Church outside of which there is no salvation. I do not ask where you go on a Sunday; I only ask, “Do you belong to the one true Church?”

Where is this one true Church? What is this one true Church like? What are the marks by which this one true Church may be known? You may well ask such questions. Give me your attention, and I will provide you with some answers.

The one true Church is composed of all believers in the Lord Jesus. It is made up of all God’s elect—of all converted men and women—of all true Christians. In whomsoever we can discern the election of God the Father, the sprinkling of the blood of God the Son, the sanctifying work of God the Spirit, in that person we see a member of Christ’s true Church.

It is a Church of which all the members have the same marks. They are all born again of the Spirit; they all possess “repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ,” and holiness of life and conversation. They all hate sin, and they all love Christ. They worship differently, and after various fashions; some worship with a form of prayer, and some with none; some worship kneeling, and some standing; but they all worship with one heart. They are all led by one Spirit; they all build upon one foundation; they all draw their religion from one single book—that is the Bible. They are all joined to one great centre—that is Jesus Christ. They all even now can say with one heart, “Hallelujah;” and they can all respond with one heart and voice, Amen and Amen.

It is a Church which is dependent upon no ministers upon earth, however much it values those who preach the gospel to its members. The life of its members does not hang upon Church membership, or baptism, or the Lord’s Supper—although they highly value these things, when they are to be had. But it has only one Great Head—one Shepherd, one chief Bishop—and that is Jesus Christ. He alone, by His Spirit, admits the members of this Church, though ministers may show the door. Till He opens the door no man on earth can open it—neither bishops, nor presbyters, nor convocations, nor synods. Once let a man repent and believe the gospel, and that moment he becomes a member of this Church. Like the penitent thief, he may have no opportunity of being baptized; but he has that which is far better than any water-baptism—the baptism of the Spirit. He may not be able to receive the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper; but he eats Christ’s blood by faith every day he lives, and no minister on earth can prevent him. He may be excommunicated by ordained men, and cut off from the outward ordinances of the professing Church; but all the ordained men in the world cannot shut him out of the true Church.

It is a Church whose existence does not depend on forms, ceremonies, cathedrals, churches, chapels, pulpits, fonts, vestments, organs, endowments, money, kings, governments, magistrates or any act of favor whatsoever from the hand of man. It has often lived on and continued when all these things have been taken from it. It has often been driven into the wilderness, or into dens and caves of the earth, by those who ought to have been its friends. Its existence depends on nothing but the presence of Christ and His Spirit; and they being ever with it, the Church cannot die.

This is the Church to which the scriptural titles of present honor and privilege, and the promises of future glory especially belong; this is the Body of Christ; this is the flock of Christ; this is the household of faith and the family of God; this is God’s building, God’s foundation, and the temple of the Holy Ghost. This is the Church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven; this is the royal priesthood, the chosen generation, the peculiar people, the purchased possession, the habitation of God, the light of the world, the salt and the wheat of the earth; this is the “Holy Catholic Church” of the Apostles’ Creed; this is the “One Catholic and Apostolic Church” of the Nicene Creed; this is that Church to which the Lord Jesus promises “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” and to which He says, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 16:18, 28:20).

This is the only Church which possesses true unity. Its members are entirely agreed on all the weightier matters of religion, for they are all taught by one Spirit. About God, and Christ, and the Spirit, and sin, and their own hearts, and faith, and repentance, and necessity of holiness, and the value of the Bible, and the importance of prayer, and the resurrection, and judgment to come—about all these points they are of one mind. Take three or four of them, strangers to one another, from the remotest corners of the earth; examine them separately on these points: you will find them all of one judgment.

This is the only Church which possesses true sanctity. Its members are all holy. They are not merely holy by profession, holy in name, and holy in the judgment of charity; they are all holy in act, and deed, and reality, and life, and truth. They are all more or less conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. No unholy man belongs to this Church.

This is the only Church which is truly catholic. It is not the Church of any one nation or people; its members are to be found in every part of the world where the gospel is received and believed. It is not confined within the limits of any one country, or pent up within the pale of any particular forms or outward government. In it there is no difference between Jew and Greek, black man and white, Episcopalian and Presbyterian—but faith in Christ is all. Its members will be gathered from north, and south, and east, and west, and will be of every name and tongue—but all one in Jesus Christ.

This is the only Church which is truly apostolic. It is built on the foundation laid by the Apostles, and holds the doctrines which they preached. The two grand objects at which its members aim are apostolic faith and apostolic practice; and they consider the man who talks of following the Apostles without possessing these two things to be no better than sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.

This is the only Church which is certain to endure unto the end. Nothing can altogether overthrow and destroy it. Its members may be persecuted, oppressed, imprisoned, beaten, beheaded, burned; but the true Church is never altogether extinguished; it rises again from its afflictions; it lives on through fire and water. When crushed in one land, it springs up in another. The Pharaohs, the Herods, the Neros, the bloody Marys, have labored in vain to put down this Church; they slay their thousands, and then pass away and go to their own place. The true Church outlives them all, and sees them buried each in his turn. It is an anvil that has broken many a hammer in this world, and will break many a hammer still; it is a bush which is often burning, and yet is not consumed.

This is the only Church of which no one member can perish. Once enrolled in the lists of this Church, sinners are safe for eternity; they are never cast away. The election of God the Father, the continual intercession of God the Son, the daily renewing and sanctifying power of God the Holy Ghost, surround and fence them in like a garden enclosed. Not one bone of Christ’s mystical Body shall ever be broken; not one lamb of Christ’s flock shall ever be plucked out of His hand.

This is the Church which does the work of Christ upon earth. Its members are a little flock, and few in number, compared with the children of the world: one or two here, and two or three there—a few in this parish and a few in that. But these are they who shake the universe; these are they who change the fortunes of kingdoms by their prayers; these are they who are the active workers for spreading knowledge of pure religion and undefiled; these are the life-blood of a country, the shield, the defense, the stay, and the support of any nation to which they belong.

This is the Church which shall be truly glorious at the end. When all earthly glory is passed away then shall this Church be presented without spot before God the Father’s throne. Thrones, principalities, and powers upon earth shall come to nothing; dignities, and offices, and endowments shall all pass away; but the Church of the first-born shall shine as the stars at the last, and be presented with joy before the Father’s throne, in the day of Christ’s appearing. When the Lord’s jewels are made up, and the manifestation of the sons of God takes place, Episcopacy, and Presbyterianism, and Congregationalism will not be mentioned; one Church only will be named, and that is the Church of the elect.

Reader, this is the true Church to which a man must belong, if he would be saved. Till you belong to this, you are nothing better than a lost soul. You may have the form, the husk, the skin and the shell of religion, but you have not got the substance and the life. Yes, you may have countless outward privileges; you may enjoy great light and knowledge—but if you do not belong to the Body of Christ, your light and knowledge and privileges will not save your soul. Alas, for the ignorance that prevails on this point! Men fancy if they join this church or that church, and become communicants, and go through certain forms, that all must be right with their souls. It is an utter delusion; it is a gross mistake. All were not Israel who were called Israel, and all are not members of Christ’s Body who profess themselves Christian. Take notice; you may be a staunch Episcopalian, or Presbyterian, or Independent, or Baptist, or Wesleyan, or Plymouth Brother—and yet not belong to the true Church. And if you do not, it will be better at last if you had never been born.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Membership of the Church

The Scriptures are completely inspired (1 Timothy 3:16), but they do not always speak in exact terms. Look at Acts 2:41: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Earlier in Acts, we see that the believers were “a group numbering about a hundred and twenty” (Acts 1:15). This number included women. We can draw several conclusions about that group of people:

• They were believers.
• They were baptized.
• They were “added to their number.” That is, about 3,000 were added to about 120.

After this initial jump in numbers, Acts 2:47 says, “and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Again, there is no exact number given. After Peter’s preaching in Acts 3, we find the number of believers had increased again: “But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about 5,000.” This time only the number of men who believed is given, and even that is an approximate number.

In Acts 5:14, we see further growth. This time the women are included. “Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” In Acts 6:1 and 7 there is more growth: “In those days when the number of disciples were increasing…,” “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

All of this increase was in the church in Jerusalem. Notice that the Lord did the adding to the numbers. The people that were added were all saved. We know that some of them were baptized. There is no clue as to how many believers there were except that their number exceeded 5,000. That number included men, women, and a large number of priests. Except for proselytes to Judaism, all of the believers were Jews, many of them ex-patriots.

At this point, the church was made up of thousands of saved people with no apparent church membership list. There were no deacons until later when a problem made them necessary. The problem was solved by men filled with the Holy Spirit.

Although the believers met in homes for breaking bread (Acts 2:46), they were called the church (singular) in Acts 8:1-2.

The account of these things is in narrative form, so it is not wise to derive doctrine from them. Church doctrine should come from the teaching and proclamation parts of Scripture.

Here are two decisions made by the councils in Jerusalem:

“'So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?' When they heard this they were silenced. And they glorified God, saying, 'Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life'” (Acts 11:17-18).

"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God" (Acts 15:19).

The first council recognized that God had saved the Gentiles who were in Cornelius’ home, and therefore there could be no objection to Gentiles being in the Church. The second council confirmed the decision of the first and ruled that the Gentiles who were turning to God did not have to be circumcised or keep the law of Moses. Circumcision was an entry rite and therefore denied as part of the gospel. Salvation is by the work of Jesus Christ, received by faith alone.

After they were saved, the Gentile Christians were required to…

• abstain from food polluted by idols
• abstain from sexual immorality
• abstain from blood and from the meat of strangled animals

The Apostle Paul confirms these decisions in his letters.

The narrative continues with stories of saved people being added to the Church:

"When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:15-17).

"Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord" (Acts 9:31).

"All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord" (Acts 9:35).

"This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord" (Acts 9:42).

"Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have" (Acts 10:47).

"When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life'” (Acts 11:18).

"The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord" (Acts 11:21).

"When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch" (Acts 11:23-26).

"But the word of God continued to increase and spread" (Acts 12:24).

"When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord" (Acts 13:12).

"When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God" (Acts 13:43).

"When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. The word of the Lord spread through the whole region" (Acts 13:48-49).

"At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed" (Acts 14:1).

"But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch" (Acts 14:20-21).

"From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles" (Acts 14:26-27).

"So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers" (Acts 16:5).

"One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message" (Acts 16:14).

"The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family" (Acts 16:34).

“'This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,' he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women" (Acts 17:3b-4).

"Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men" (Acts 17:12).

"A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others" (Acts 17:34).

"Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power" (Acts 19:18-20).

“'I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds" (Acts 26:17-20).

I have quoted only the conclusion of the preaching and teaching for each of these stories.

Only clearly-saved people were added to the church. In Acts 8, Peter recognized that the people had not yet been born again and that Simon was still not a believer. In Acts 19, Paul recognized that some “disciples” had not received the Holy Spirit, so he taught them to believe in Jesus. Then they were born of the Holy Spirit.

Today, churches have two extremes, neither of which are found in the New Testament:

1. Unsaved people are allowed to be members. We have let people “climb in by some other way” (John 10:1).

2. Saved people are required to meet other conditions in addition to salvation, such as:

• form of dress
• length of hair
• hair covering
• a distinct eschatology
• systematic theology (e.g. Wesleyan, Reformed, Dispensational)
• form of worship
• form and meaning of baptism
• form of church government
• following a certain leader
• other “sacraments” and “ordinances”

We have made it more difficult to become a member of a local church than it is to become a member of the kingdom of God. In the New Testament, conversion alone made people members of the local churches.

Churches full of saved people also existed before there was a church government (Acts 14:23). Removal from the local church (other than by moving away) was based on unrepentant immorality (1 Corinthians 5) or apostasy (1 Timothy 1:20). In both cases, the offender was “handed over to Satan” so that “his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord” and “to be taught not to blaspheme.”

Today’s churches teach loyalty to their particular group. They insist upon loyalty so much that any “disloyalty” can lead to church discipline or heavy false guilt laid upon the offender. This practice is strongly taught against in 1 Corinthians 1-3. Such partisanship is a sign of being worldly and “mere infants in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1).

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Character of the Church

"His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to GOD through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility." (Eph. 2:15-16)

This is the mystery explained to us by St. Paul. The hostility spoken of here is that between the Jews and Gentiles. When people are reconciled to God by the cross, their hostility is put to death. It is done away with. However, hostility in any form between any peoples is also put to death because God’s purpose is to create in Himself one new man. This means that Turks who have been reconciled to God and Armenians who have been reconciled to God are now one. It means Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda who have been reconciled to God have lost their hostility. It means Shiites and Sunis who have been reconciled to God by the cross have ended their hostility. Do they meet together for the Lord’s supper? Yes!

What about their language and culture differences? Those things are a consideration, but they are secondary. It is important to know a people’s language and culture for preaching and teaching the gospel so that they can understand it. However, if these things are used to keep up the barrier, they work contrary to the cross. They are in opposition to the gospel and should be renounced as evil. This is why Paul stood up to Peter at Antioch. The very purpose of God was at stake.

A few years ago, I received a letter from a missionary in another city who told me the following about his work with internationals. He would take them to an evangelical church for fellowship and the gospel. One day, one of the leaders of the church told him that the church’s objective was to reach the upwardly-mobile, upper-middle class, white Americans and that he should not bring other races to the church services because his actions hindered the church from carrying out its primary objective. Obviously, their objective was not the same as God’s objective.

Many years ago, I was in the South visiting a couple who were missionaries to international students. The church we visited was the missionary wife’s home church. She had grown up in it. The sign in front of the church read, “We preach Christ crucified, risen, and coming again.” The church sponsored missionaries in different parts of the world, including Africa. These missionaries brought African students to the church. The leaders of the church asked them not to. When confronted about this discrepancy in their missionary outreach, the church relented partway and said they could bring black Africans to church, but not African-Americans. This is contrary to the gospel “Christ crucified” that they claimed to preach.

Oneness in Christ is not limited to different races. “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26-28).

Following the 1993 international student missionary convention at Urbana, Illinois, there was a small conference of about 400 for foreign students only. (I say “only,” but there were a few of us Americans there, too.) Besides the excellent teaching, there was a wonderful occurrence when the Japanese students confessed as a group Japan’s sins against Korea in World War II to the Korean students and asked their forgiveness. This was evidence of hostility being put to death, although it was fifty years later. Hostility is transferred through generations and centuries. Christians have been known to participate in this hostility.

There are cultural differences that make up an unofficial caste system in our society. They include family, education, wealth, profession, vocabulary, athletic ability, fame, music, car and horse racing, and hobbies such as skiing and backpacking. There are a thousand others. Should all of these be in one church? The answer is an unqualified Yes! That is what the gospel is all about. Jesus Christ saves us into oneness. Will people feel uncomfortable? Perhaps, but the right way to solve that is by being in one church.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

International Evangelism

Did you know that a major test of ancient Israel’s godliness was how orphans, widows, and strangers in the land were treated? Here are a few select texts:

"For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt" (Deut. 10:17-19).

"When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him" (Lev. 19:33).

"The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked" (Psalm 146:9).

"Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan" (Ex. 22:21-22).

It is normal to have compassion on widows and orphans, so it is not surprising when a nation is judged for mistreating them. However, throughout history, aliens have not been treated well. Yet God puts them in the same category as orphans and widows.

Part of my youth was spent in south Omaha. It was there that I heard of dagos, wops and pollocks. They were not aliens; they were the children of immigrants. The long-term residents of the land did not love the newcomers, but they were not alone—the newcomers did not like each other. The German Catholic family to our right would not go to the same Catholic church as the Polish Catholic family who lived on our left. The father of the German family was very vocal as to why he did not go to that Catholic church.

After several generations of English speaking and intermarriage, the problems of the 19th and early 20th centuries have changed only in who the aliens are. Now they are the Mexicans, Muslims, and Asians. The commands given to ancient Israel still apply to Christians today. God’s character has not changed.

Let’s look at the early Church. The Church as we know it today began at Pentecost. About two months after the resurrection, people from sixteen different nations gathered at the festival in Jerusalem. The crowd heard the wonderful works of God declared in all their different languages. The result was a new church made up of 3,000 new believers from at least sixteen different nations. That was an international church. There were no racial problems until Acts 6. That problem was quickly solved by selecting men filled with the Holy Spirit to take care of it.

These 3,000 people were saved when they were away from home. Others in the New Testament who were saved while in a foreign country include the Apostle Paul, Apollos, the Ethiopian, Lydia, Onesimus, Priscilla and Aquila (probably), Cornelius, and Sergius Paulus.

There are many people from foreign lands in this country. We are to love them, take care of them, and “go and make disciples of all nations.” We do not have any other alternative if we intend to obey God. God does not give us multiple choices when it comes to obedience. We do not get to select which commands we are going to obey.

During breaks in the academic year (e.g. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break), many universities require students to leave the dormitories or move into a common dorm so that only one dormitory will have to be heated. However, there are always students who do not go home at these times. For about ten years in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I would visit that dorm at our local university on Thanksgiving morning and Christmas morning, going from door to door to invite students to our home for the big dinner. After dinner, we worked on jigsaw puzzles, talked about our different countries, and answered questions about Santa Claus and Jesus.

Towards the end of those years, we held English classes in our home; every room in the house had a class, from beginners to advanced students. Many friendships were formed. When the students were doing well enough in English to survive at the university, they would quit attending the classes.

One day, several years after he had quit coming, a Chinese student called to ask me if I would teach his wife English, and could I use the Bible to teach her. I went to see them. He told me that his wife had become a Christian in their home city in China while he was here in the U.S. He realized he had a brand-new and different wife than the one he had left behind in China. To find out whether she was a real Christian, I talked with her, using him as the interpreter. As a result of his wife’s Christian life and our Bible study, he became a Christian.

His first concern was that I not tell any Chinese about his Christianity, especially a certain man whom he was convinced was a spy for the Communist party in China. He then transferred to a different university for his PhD.

After he had gone, I went to see another Chinese graduate student to talk with him about God. He invited me into his apartment. To my dismay, the room had several other Chinese men and women in it. I realized that I could not talk about God. Consequently, the conversation was general. In the middle of it, an older man, a visiting scholar who was seated across a tiny table from me, said, “I know a verse of Scripture. ‘The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’”

This opened the conversation very wide. One of the women said that she was not a Christian, but that her husband was talking to her about Jesus all the time. Her husband was the man whom the other new Christian had considered a Communist spy.

For several decades, we have had an international church in Pullman, Washington, and in Moscow, Idaho. It was modeled after the International Chapels in Kyoto, Japan. We started by advertising free English conversation classes, free rides to church, and free babysitting. On the first Sunday, we had thirty-five adults and sixteen children. At first, the church was mostly Korean. Later, the Koreans started their own church, and the international church became mostly Chinese. For a few years, a Bible class and the preaching were translated into Mandarin Chinese. We also have had Latin Americans, Iranians, Indians, Japanese, Europeans, and people from both west and south Africa. The church was evangelistic by nature, and over the years many received Christ. However, the teaching and the preaching were primarily for Christians. The evangelism was done in our love for the internationals and through literature, recorded talks, and videos in English and in their own languages. We were not in a hurry to get people to respond to the gospel. Each person gets ready at a different time and receives Christ when he is drawn by God through the Christians speaking the truth in love.

Because this is a university town, our international church was made up of transient people. The size of the church varied from thirty to a eighty. However, hundreds have heard the gospel and been touched by the love of Christ through the Christians there.

If you are interested in reaching out to international students in Moscow, Idaho, you would be most welcome at the International Student Fellowship. It meets for dinner and Bible study Mondays at 6:00 at the Campus Christian Center at UI. Contact Ty Knight at tknight@christkirk.com with any questions.

You can also get involved in the UI Friendship Family program. Friendship Family connects international students at the University of Idaho to local families in the area. The students don’t live with you, but join in occasionally to your family activities, dinners, holidays, or whatever you invite them to do. To get connected, email Alexandra Zenko, the program director, at alexandra.zenko@gmail.com or Ty Knight at tknight@christkirk.com.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Honor Your Parents

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Ex. 20:12)

The first four commandments have to do with our attitude and conduct towards God. This command concerns other people. The first “other people” we know after birth are our father and mother, and we are to stay with them until we are married.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24)

That may be a long time.

This attitude and action of honor is to continue all the time before and after we are married. It has nothing to do with whether our parents are good or bad parents. They are our parents.

Disrespect, disobedience, or rebellion in thought or action is not honor.

Eight of the ten commandments are negative commands (“thou shalt not”). This command and the Sabbath day commands are the only ones that are expressed positively.

Violation of this command is sin and needs to be confessed.

St. Paul quotes this command in Ephesians 6:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise— ‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’” (Eph. 6:1-3)

Here Paul identifies obedience with honor. He also reminds us that there is a promise attached to this command—long life.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Christian Love

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32)

This kind of love is not a distinctive Christian trait. In fact, Jesus said that “even sinners love those who love them.” Many Christians love those who love them or love lovely people and think that they are evidencing Christian love by doing this, when in fact they are loving in a humanistic fashion. In other words, they love in the same way every other human being loves.

There is distinctive love that only Christians have. They have it because they received it when it was given to them by the Lord. “But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). His love for us had nothing to do with our loveliness or our love for Him. It had to do with His nature and our need. When we share this love with others, it should have nothing to do with their love for us or their loveliness. (In fact, those who need love the most are the least lovely; love produces loveliness in the one who is loved.) Jesus said, “But love your enemies and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:36).

If you are not loving as Christ loved, you are either a disobedient Christian, or you are not a Christian.