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An Open Letter to Mormon Missionaries

This is a letter I wrote several years ago after conversations with Mormon missionaries at the Moscow Farmers' Market.

Thank you for the three booklets you gave me at the farmers’ market. I have read them with interest. They are The Gospel of Jesus Christ, The Plan of Salvation, and The Family, a Proclamation to the World.

Who Jesus is:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-5, 14)

“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son, in whom we have redemption through his blood, even t…

From the Editor

Letter from the Editor (Nancy Wilson), Hammer Magazine, Vol. 2 No. 4, 1983

"I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side." (Psalm 3:5-6)

Today we can buy sleeping pills to help us get “rest” at night and pep-up pills to get us going during the day. But drug-induced sleep can never be a substitute for the peaceful sleep of a soul resting in God.

Just as a child can cast off his cares in his parents’ arms and sleep, so we see David sleeping amidst “tens of thousands” against him. What was his secret? It was a knowledge of the character of God and a responsive trust in Him. C.H. Spurgeon describes David in this Psalm as reclining “his head on the bosom of his God.”

As Christians, we should recognize that restless sleep is a symptom of a soul burdened with cares that belong on the shoulders of the One who alone can carry them. David had many life-threatening concerns, yet he says, “The L…

The Mouth Speaks

This is another article written by my wife Bessie.

“For out of the overflow of his heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. This statement meets with stiff resistance from children and adults alike. We do not want to be held responsible for what comes from our mouths.

“I was tired, so I said what I said. I didn’t mean it.”
“I was angry…”
“I was hurt…”
“I was only kidding…”

These are all excuses and inadmissible in the light of what Jesus said. When we look at the context, it is even more devastating. Jesus said, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart” (Luke 6:45).

We would like to think that two streams of words can proceed from a single source. James, in his letter, denies this by a rhetorical question. “Out of the same mouth came praise and cursing. My brother, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same…

Relaxing the Law

"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:17-20 RSV)

Jesus taught that there are three eternal destinies:

1) Least in the kingdom
2) Great in the kingdom
3) Never in the kingdom

In the rest of Matthew 5, Jesus taught how He fulfilled the law. He fulfilled it by going back to the motives of the hearthatred, lust, and love. This has to do with the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law. The spirit of the law is nev…

The Heart

This is an article written by my wife Bessie for The Hammer magazine.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Prov. 4:23)

Whether we know it or not, all of us have had heart trouble. Whatever part of the spiritual anatomy the heart represents, the Scripture is clear that it is the seat of the emotions, one’s very being, from which thoughts, words, and actions proceed. Jesus said, “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean” (Mark 7:20-23).

The prophet Jeremiah gave God’s diagnosis: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind” (Jer. 17:9-10a).

Therefore, the heart must be changed. He who did the diagnosis provides the remedy. This is G…

Husbands: Nourish and Cherish

"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church." (Eph. 5:28-29 KJV)

"And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Eph. 6:4 KJV)

Notice the difference between a husband-wife relationship and a father-son relationship: “nourish” and “nurture” are synonyms. “Cherish” and “admonish” are not, but they are both gentle. Cherishing is feeling and showing affection in a tender way. Admonishing is correcting in a gentle way.

We are to nurture our wives and our children, both spiritually and physically. We are also to cherish our wives and admonish our children. We are not told to admonish our wives.

"Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the g…

Husbands: Authority & Responsibility

What is the authority and responsibility of a Christian husband?

One of the good things I learned in the Navy was that authority and responsibility must go together in equal proportions. A person with authority but no responsibility will exercise that authority arbitrarily. He will order people around with no objective other than establishing his own authority. Conversely, a person with responsibility for a task but no authority to help him accomplish it will only be frustrated.

Before I apply this concept to Christian husbands, I want to discuss and hopefully dissolve a common misconception. Because the Scripture tells wives, children, and servants to obey, some Christians have inferred that it is the job of husbands, fathers, and masters to command. This is an inference only and is, therefore, invalid. The Bible contains no direct teaching nor implication that husbands, fathers, and masters are to be commanders. The Bible does not teach a chain of command. It teaches a chain of obed…

A Husband's Responsibility

This article is reprinted with permission from Perspective, a bi-weekly devotional letter published by Concern Ministries, Inc. of McLean, VA.

Dear Friend,

Sixty-five years, forty-five of them as a student of the Bible and thirty-eight years of marriage, have brought a deep, settled conviction. In the economy of God, 100% of the responsibility for sustaining a marriage belongs to the husband. No failure or sin on the part of the wife is his justification to forsake her.

St. Paul is explicit:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her…that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25-28)
This instruction admits of no condition whereby a husband may leave his wife. Christ will not forsake His church, no matter how she fails. God, speaking through His prophet Malachi, puts the blame for divorce strictly on the husband:

Obedience & Provision

Written by Jim Howard

A rugged-looking man of sun-bronzed skin, clothed in a rough leather garment, stands alone by the little mountain brook. He shields his eyes from the lowering sun to see a flock of large black birds swooping toward him. He reaches eagerly to take from the leading raven’s beak a part of the evening’s supper, then dips some clear water from the brook.

Elijah, the prophet of Israel (1 Kings 17:1-7), has been sent by God to a wilderness brook far from the burning vengeance of wicked King Ahab. Coming upon him in this scene, we can look briefly at two principles operating in his life: 1) his obedience and 2) his provision from the Lord.

We first see Elijah in the royal court of Samaria. Elijah has confronted Ahab, perhaps has warned him of his need for repentance, and now has told him of the ensuing drought as punishment form the Lord (v. 1). Immediately upon giving this message to the king, Elijah received a command. Notice Elijah’s obedience: “And the word of the Lo…

The Word of Authority

To what or whom does the Christian look as his ultimate authority?

First, authority never resides in a “what.” It always resides in someone, not something. The highest law of our land is the Constitution of the United States. We mistakenly speak of it as the final authority, but it is actually only an expression of the authority of the people.

Similarly, God, not the Bible, is the final authority for the Christian. The Bible is the primary expression of that authority, but is not the only expression. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Heb. 1:1-2). Jesus Christ’s time on earth was the other main expression of God’s authority. However, since Christ is a person, He is more than just an expression—He Himself possesses God’s authority. How do we know this? He made the worlds, and they are sustain…

Right and Wrong & How to Know the Difference

I would like to start by looking at two sentences in the Bible that are not very well known. They were written about 1,500 years apart.

"If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible." (Lev. 5:17)

"My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me." (1 Cor. 4:4)

Not knowing about a sin does not keep you from being guilty, and having a clean conscience does not make you innocent. There is a reason for this. My knowledge and my conscience do not necessarily correctly reflect God’s absolute value system. To bring my conscience and absolute “right and wrong” together, there are a few basic truths to follow:

1. I must be a Christian. At the time of my conversion, my conscience is made clean and sensitive to God’s moral law.
2. I must know the Scriptures well. The Scriptures give absolute (Exodus 20) and relative (Romans 14, 1 C…

Senior/Subordinate Relationships outside the Church

In the Scriptures, we find teaching on senior-subordinate relationships outside the church: government-citizens, masters-slaves, husbands-wives, and parents-children. These relationships are not chains of command as some might think, but rather chains of submission. The senior is not given the authority to command obedience, but rather the subordinate is told to submit. You can see this chain of submission in Ephesians 5 and 6, Colossians 3 and 4, 1 Peter 2 and 3, Titus 3:1, 1 Timothy 6:1, and Romans 13. Here are some examples:

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord" (Eph. 5:22).

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Eph. 6:1).

"Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ" (Eph. 6:5).

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established" (Rom. 13:1).

In each instance the s…

Qualifications of Elders

The qualifications of elders in the church are clearly defined in the Scriptures. These qualities include doctrinal and moral integrity, the nature of the elder’s relationships within the church and within his family, and his reputation outside the church. I encourage you to read the following Scriptures, giving attention to every word, using several translations: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, Hebrews 13:7, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Timothy 3:1-10, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Peter 5:1-4, John 13:12-17, Mark 10:42-45, Acts 20:27-31, Romans 12:7- 8, 1 Corinthians 12:28, 1 Timothy 5:17. You should expect your present elders and your future elders to adhere to the Scriptures.

My remarks will be about relationships within the church. However, the Bible also teaches Christians about their relationships outside the church government. There are similarities, but they are not the same. I will describe those relationships in my next post.

The following three verses in the New Testament teach or command Christians direc…

Leadership in the Church

God, in his goodness and grace, called me to be an evangelist, pastor, and teacher. These different responsibilities have been mine for over sixty years, both in and outside churches. During these years, I have been aware of unpleasantness in some churches. Here are a few general examples:

• The pastor is an autocrat.
• The pastor has been called to a “pastor-eating church.”
• The church is “owned” by one or two families who hire and fire pastors, who “chew them up and spit them out.”
• The church finds it easy to choose up sides within itself.

People condone, allow, and tolerate all sorts of irregularities in a church until they are in excess. Then the Christians get angry and endeavor to correct the situation with bitterness, anger, and clamor. The correction is not done in a Christian way. (If you are in such a church, please read How to be Free from Bitternesshere.)

Correction must be done gently, spiritually, and with all planks removed. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin,…

The House Church

House churches still exist. They exist because of:

• Persecution and the consequent necessity to be secretive
• Financial necessity. There is not enough money to rent, build, or buy.
• The size of the church. There may be enough money, but there are not enough people to warrant a dedicated building.
• On principle. It is better to have forty house churches of twenty-five people each than to have one building for one thousand people. Many house churches will reach a city faster than one big church. They can double in size, divide, and multiply. The big church can add to itself, but will not multiply.

House churches are not dependent on a gifted, high-powered pastor, nor on a large professional staff. In fact, they may not have a staff at all. They minister to each other. They are by nature family-oriented.

If a house church does require a pastor who is supported by the congregation full-time, it need not be a financial burden. If the church is made up of ten families, each of which ha…