Tag Archives: missionary

Holding the world together

zipper

by Michael E. Brooks

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3Hebrews 1:1-3
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The Letter to the Hebrews 1 1 God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds. 3 His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself made purification for our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

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NKJV).

On a bill-board just outside the international airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh is the following proud boast: “We hold the world together because we care.” The company making this claim is a manufacturer of zippers.

On first reading this I chuckled and applauded the company’s clever allusion to the nature of its product. Zippers are indeed used worldwide to hold things together. Further reflection however caused me some serious points of contention.

First, I question any commercial company’s claim to be doing business because they are so concerned about their customers’ well-being. For-profit corporations are in business for profit. They want to and must make money and that need / desire dominates virtually all decisions and activities. That is just the nature of the enterprise. Yes, they may be compassionate and show concern for the environment, humanity or other entities, but they are in the business of making money.

More importantly however, zippers don’t really hold the world together. I know the company was being cute and not seriously making that bold of a claim. However, it is easy for any person or organization to develop a magnified sense of their own worth. A company can grow large enough, and its products be popular enough, that it feels a sense of entitlement and importance far out of proportion to reality.

It is not an accident that the first requirement to a real personal relationship with God is humility. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:51 Peter 5:5
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5 Likewise, you younger ones, be subject to the elder. Yes, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to subject yourselves to one another; for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

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). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up” (James 4:10James 4:10
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10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you.

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). Whereas the world wants to exalt self and claim great importance, people of faith recognize that only God is great. We are his servants. Jesus taught, “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do'” (Luke 17:10Luke 17:10
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10 Even so you also, when you have done all the things that are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants. We have done our duty.’”

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Hebrews 1 makes a legitimate claim about holding the world together. Jesus, the Son of God, created all things and upholds them by the word of his power. And he really does hold it together because he cares. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16John 3:16
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16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

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) explains all of his gracious gifts including but not limited to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

The most powerful and useful fastener ever developed is not a button, zipper, snap, or hook. It is love. The love of God sustains the created universe. Our love for him and for one another builds relationships, empowers families, and provides motivation for all of our productive activities.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-31 Corinthians 13:1-3
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13 1 If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but don’t have love, I have become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing. 3 If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.

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Consider your calling

Paul
by Michael E. Brooks

“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:26-291 Corinthians 1:26-29
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26 For you see your calling, brothers, that not many are wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, and not many noble; 27 but God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame those who are wise. God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; 28 and God chose the lowly things of the world, and the things that are despised, and the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are: 29 that no flesh should boast before God.

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NKJV).

Another election has passed in Bangladesh. This time the major opposition parties boycotted the process, meaning that the party which was already in power remained in power. Though they may rightly claim that they were re-elected (votes were cast), one may question whether they represent the true choice of the people.

There is a vast difference in perspective between one who is chosen for an honor from among many viable candidates, and one who is taken simply “because someone has to do it.” Probably most of us have been there, in a situation where the electors had no alternative than to select us. I remember the school P.E. classes where teams were picked — everyone had to play whether they were good or not, so being selected for a team did not mean very much, especially if, like me, you were among the last to be chosen.

Christians are frequently called “the elect” (Colossians 3:12Colossians 3:12
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12 Put on therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility, and perseverance;

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), “the called” (Romans 1:6Romans 1:6
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6 among whom you are also called to belong to Jesus Christ;

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), and “the chosen” (1 Peter 2:91 Peter 2:9
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9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:

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). These terms emphasize the process by which we are saved, that of being called out by the Gospel (Romans 10:17Romans 10:17
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17 So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

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). They also remind us that God desires us; we are wanted by him to be in a relationship of faith and love.

This realization should prompt the question, “Why me, Lord?” As David asked, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?” (Psalm 8:4Psalm 8:4
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4 What is man, that you think of him? The son of man, that you care for him?

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). By “son of man” David is referring to himself (though later inspired writers would also apply these words to Jesus, see Hebrews 2:5Hebrews 2:5
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5 For he didn’t subject the world to come, of which we speak, to angels.

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ff). Each of us can relate to his humble recognition that God has treated us far better than we deserve.

In the passage quoted at the beginning of this article Paul invited the Corinthian Christians to examine themselves, comparing the makeup of the Church to human standards of society. God chose the weak rather than the strong, the poor over the rich, the lesser educated over the wise of their day. His point of emphasis is that it is those seeming undesirables whom God really wanted in his kingdom.

God had and has many choices. He says, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Romans 9:15Romans 9:15
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15 For he said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

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). If God has saved us it is because he selected us, not because he was under obligation or had no other choice.

Every Christian can be secure in the knowledge that he or she has been deliberately sought out and chosen by the Creator. We have value. We are the Elect. Therefore, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31Romans 8:31
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31 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

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Whenever we feel despised or rejected by others, or when we face discouragement and disappointment, let us take comfort in this knowledge. God loves us. He has saved us. We belong.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7Philippians 4:6-7
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6 In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

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A pure river

Pure Water

by Michael E. Brooks

“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:1Revelation 22:1
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22 1 He showed me a TR adds “pure” river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,

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NKJV).

One of the paradoxes of human behavior that is on abundant display in South Asia is the difference between people’s stated beliefs regarding rivers there, and their treatment of those same rivers.

The Hindus of India and Nepal consider rivers such as the Ganges and the Baghmati as holy and sacred. They ascribe to them healing powers, as well as the ability to give spiritual renewal. Great temples are built alongside them. The dead are cremated upon their banks and their ashes washed into the river to be conveyed to their proper spiritual destination. Special spots along the river are reserved for the cremations of royalty or others of high caste.

Yet the waters of those same rivers are among the most polluted on earth. Litter and garbage are thrown in without restraint, effluents are washed or dumped into their channels, and everywhere the waters and banks are filled with refuse.

In this age of over-population and the increasing scarcity of natural resources, we are becoming aware of the great value of pure water. States, municipalities, and nations quarrel and fight over control of rivers and watersheds. Vast sums are spent to store and channel water for human use. Increasingly stringent measures are adopted to prevent pollution. It remains perhaps the single most necessary resource for life and health.

It was certainly no accident that Jesus described his own gifts as “living water” (John 4:10,14John 4:10,14
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10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

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). Palestine is and was an arid nation, with an appreciation of life sustaining properties of clean water. People who traveled to wells or streams to draw out and carry every bit of water they used in their homes understood perfectly the importance of this resource.

We understand that Jesus was teaching that just as water is essential to physical life, so his teaching and influence is essential to eternal life. Those given his blessings in abundance will never lack for anything necessary. If we have him, we have everything.

In Revelation, John uses the same imagery to describe the eternal joy in store for the faithful. He saw in a vision a stream of pure water which enabled the growth and fruitfulness of the tree of life.

This water flows from the presence of God and Christ. There, just as on this earth, all blessings are given to mankind from God. He is the source of all life, physical and spiritual – mortal and immortal. Without the water he has made, life on this earth is impossible. Without the water which Christ gives, eternal life is also impossible. He is the life (John 14:6John 14:6
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6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.

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). Only in him can we be eternal.

But let us not overlook the adjective, “pure.” Unlike the waters of earthly rivers the river of life is perfectly clean and pure. No litter mars its surface. No chemicals pollute its depths. No sin perverts it. Those who drink of it suffer no harm. Plants growing on its banks flourish eternally.

This attribute is not limited to the heavenly waters. Those living waters given by Christ to us here on earth are also pure and uncontaminated. His teachings are perfectly true (John 8:32; 17:17John 8:32; 17:17
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32 You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 17 Sanctify them in your truth. Your word is truth.

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). His blessings are perfectly helpful, with no taint or blemish. He may be trusted in all things. His power to forgive and save is complete, without any limit save that imposed by free moral choice. No sin is too great for him to cleanse. No sinner is so depraved that Christ cannot love him.

“Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst” (John 4:14John 4:14
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14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

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Finding the Way

Bible Maps

by Michael E. Brooks

“And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation – as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15-162 Peter 3:15-16
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15 Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote to you; 16 as also in all of his letters, speaking in them of these things. In those are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unsettled twist, as they also do to the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

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I enjoy maps. I am not much of a GPS person. Electronic navigation tools may be fine for young folks who cut their teeth on computer games, but I like a good old paper map. Part of that is simply familiarity based on long time use. However a lot of it is that I enjoy the visualization of a good map. I can judge distance, gain perspectives, and get a feel for an area that I just don’t derive from hearing “Tom” talk me through the turns.

I realized long ago, however, that many people don’t use maps well. I have frequently asked preachers from Nepal or Bangladesh to locate their home area for me on a map. Most of the time they squint, look all over the sheet, and seem confused. Sometimes they place their area far away from where it actually is. In most cases this is the result of lack of familiarity with maps in general. Once they have been instructed as to how to interpret its symbols, they become much more proficient.

Reading the Bible is a learned art, just like reading a map. And it has been that way from the beginning of God’s word. Peter comments on the difficulty of understanding Paul’s epistles. If the inspired Peter had trouble, why are we so surprised that we do too? (I have always wondered if he was specifically referring to Romans).

At the beginning of the New Year, 2014, many have made a resolution to read the Bible daily. Some will persist, while others no doubt will be distracted and perhaps discouraged and let this practice fall by the wayside. One reason often expressed for giving up is the difficulty of understanding. Some thoughts at the beginning of the process might be helpful.

First, though there are certainly difficult passages to understand in Scripture, there is much that is clear and plain to virtually anyone who will read with concentration and an open mind. The Bible was written by a variety of individuals, some of whom were “uneducated and untrained” (Acts 4:13Acts 4:13
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13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and had perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled. They recognized that they had been with Jesus.

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God’s word was recorded in ordinary language of common people, not a special “heavenly tongue” nor in technical academic jargon. The subject matter of certain parts ensures a depth that requires more study. Other subjects, however, are simple enough for children.

Inexperienced readers should focus on simpler thoughts and ideas and reserve the obscure and difficult for later times, when they may be more capable of understanding.

Second, the Bible should be studied specifically. One does not normally open a map and attempt to memorize every road or town on it. Usually we focus upon a route or destination which we intend to use. A frequent traveler may eventually learn an entire state or region well, but it is not done in one trip or by one look at a map. Reading the Bible completely through will give us a general familiarity; in-depth study of doctrine should be attempted one subject or text at a time.

Finally, reading the Bible should be given greater importance than any map. A map contains essential data to the traveler seeking directions. The Bible’s information is even more important. Consulting it is not optional for those who intend to travel towards Heaven. There is only one Way (John 14:6John 14:6
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6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.

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). It may be learned only from one source. Let us be persistent and faithful as we read.

Hezekiah is alive and well

Hezekiah Syndrome

by Michael E. Brooks

“So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good!’ For he said, ‘Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?'” (2 Kings 20:192 Kings 20:19
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19 Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of Yahweh which you have spoken. He said moreover, Isn’t it so, if peace and truth shall be in my days?

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NKJV).

An environmental controversy was sparked recently in one South Asian nation. The government announced that its preferred site for the location of a large coal-fired generating plant was four kilometers from the “Safety Zone” protecting a unique national park. Protestors argued that such a facility would introduce contaminants to a delicate ecosystem and that catastrophic accidents would become likely or even probable.

The advocates’ response was simply that they liked that site and that it “should be okay.” That struck me as being so very typical of our selfish, “do-what-is-convenient-for-myself” orientation. Or in other words, it is a good example of the Hezekiah syndrome.

Hezekiah was a (mostly) righteous king of Judah in the late eighth century B.C. He is perhaps best known for his faithful defiance of the mighty Assyrian army, which invaded Judah after destroying the northern kingdom of Israel. Because of Hezekiah’s reliance upon God, his tiny nation survived the encounter and Assyria’s army returned to their home unsuccessful (2 Kings 18, 192 Kings 18, 19
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19 Rabshakeh said to them, Say you now to Hezekiah, Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this in which you trust?

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Later, however, Hezekiah displeased God, and the prophet Isaiah told him of future judgment against Judah , which would befall them in the days of his successors. The King replied, “The word which you have spoken is good.” His reasoning was that at least he himself would have peace during his lifetime.

Our world is filled with people who are perfectly willing to ensure misery and destruction for future generations in order to obtain present prosperity for themselves. Those who hold a true long-term view, with genuine desire to do what is best for others, seem to be a small minority.

Yet whom do we honor as heroic? Is it not those who put the needs or lives of others ahead of their own? Soldiers who died to save their comrades; patriots who gave their lives and property for the good of a nation; martyrs who accepted death rather than discredit their faith before the world – all of these and more have been remembered for centuries by those who have benefitted by their sacrifices.

Selfishness is seemingly a basic human condition, or at least one to which we easily succumb. It is not, however, an attribute of God, and therefore, it is antithetical to godliness. God is love (1 John 4:81 John 4:8
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8 He who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, for God is love.

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). Love is a commitment to the needs of others. So Paul teaches:

“Fulfill my joy by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:2-4Philippians 2:2-4
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2 make my joy full, by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; 3 doing nothing through rivalry or through conceit, but in humility, each counting others better than himself; 4 each of you not just looking to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.

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In this passage, love is demonstrated by unselfishness, by caring even more for others than for oneself. Note that we are not expected to care nothing for self. We are, however, forbidden to care only for self.

That distinguishes the obedient Christian from the Hezekiahs of the world. Most seem to be content if they have what they want, regardless of the fate of others. But “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” so that sinful man would not perish, but rather that he would live in eternal union with his Creator and Savior (John 3:16John 3:16
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16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

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Falling

IMG_6118
by Michael E. Brooks

“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4Galatians 5:4
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4 You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace.

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On several occasions I have had the privilege of trekking into the mountainous Himalayan districts of Nepal to visit congregations of believers and teach the Bible. I reflect back upon those hikes with wonder at how many times I slipped or stumbled and was literally upon the very edge of falling.

I actually did stumble and fall twice on my most recent such trip, but stayed on the trail and caught myself on my hands and knees without injury. One of my companions also had a similar fall with the same results.

Most of the time, however, had I fallen, it would have been much more serious. Those circumstances involved steep up or down rock steps where a misstep would have resulted in a hard tumble for considerable distance, or a narrow trail on an almost sheer mountain-side. A fall from that might send one down hundreds or even thousands of feet.

Some readers might remember the old country song, “Please help me I’m falling.” Whether that is an emergency plea or a simple request for a hand back up depends to a very great degree upon where or in what circumstances the fall occurs. A slip on a soft surface may result in a slight bruise; a fall from the side of a mountain usually means broken bones or death.

Spiritually, any fall is of the most serious nature. The Galatian Christians (see the verse quoted above) were on the point of rejecting salvation by grace through obedient faith in favor of a righteousness obtained by meritorious works of the Law of Moses (cf. Romans 9:31-10:4Romans 9:31-10:4
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31 but Israel, following after a law of righteousness, didn’t arrive at the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they didn’t seek it by faith, but as it were by works of the law. They stumbled over the stumbling stone; 33 even as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and a rock of offense; And no one who believes in him will be disappointed.” 10 1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God is for Israel, that they may be saved. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they didn’t subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the fulfillment or, completion, or end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

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). Paul said such a decision would result in their fall from grace. Imagine losing all of the blessings and gifts which God has prepared for us, while doing what we think will acquire those same benefits. What a tragedy.

Other spiritual falls described in the Bible include:

Falling “short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23Romans 3:23
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23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;

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Falling “into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:91 Timothy 6:9
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9 But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction.

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Falling “away” into apostasy or false teaching (2 Thessalonians 2:32 Thessalonians 2:3
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3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For it will not be, unless the departure comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of destruction,

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Falling “into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Timothy 3:61 Timothy 3:6
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6 not a new convert, lest being puffed up he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.

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Falling “into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:71 Timothy 3:7
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7 Moreover he must have good testimony from those who are outside, to avoid falling into reproach and the snare of the devil.

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Falling “into disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11Hebrews 4:11
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11 Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience.

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Falling “away (from God)” (Hebrews 6:6Hebrews 6:6
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6 and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify the Son of God for themselves again, and put him to open shame.

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Falling “into judgment” (James 5:12James 5:12
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12 But above all things, my brothers, don’t swear, neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath; but let your “yes” be “yes,” and your “no,” “no;” so that you don’t fall into hypocrisy. TR reads “under judgment” instead of “into hypocrisy”

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; compare also falling “into the hands of the living God, Hebrews 10:31Hebrews 10:31
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31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

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Falling “from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (2 Peter 3:172 Peter 3:17
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17 You therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, you fall from your own steadfastness.

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Falling “from your first works” (Revelation 2:5Revelation 2:5
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5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I am coming to you swiftly, and will move your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent.

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The consequence of any of these falls is, potentially, eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:6-92 Thessalonians 1:6-9
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6 Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay affliction to those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you that are afflicted with us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 giving vengeance to those who don’t know God, and to those who don’t obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus, 9 who will pay the penalty: eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

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). Only obedient trust in Jesus can spare any human from the inevitable fall from God’s glory into sin. Only confession of and repentance from sins can spare the erring Christian from guilt and punishment (1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-21 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2
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8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 2 1 My little children, I write these things to you so that you may not sin. If anyone sins, we have a Counselor Greek Parakleton: Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, and Comfortor. with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. 2 And he is the atoning sacrifice “atoning sacrifice” is from the Greek “hilasmos,” an appeasing, propitiating, or the means of appeasement or propitiation-- the sacrifice that turns away God’s wrath because of our sin. for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.

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One is prudent when walking on steep mountains to watch his step and avoid falls. One is much wiser who carefully avoids temptation, resisting the attempts of Satan to ensnare and condemn.

If you can, do

Helping-hand

by Michael E. Brooks

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10Galatians 6:10
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10 So then, as we have opportunity, let’s do what is good toward all men, and especially toward those who are of the household of the faith.

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NKJV).

While traveling I have adopted a simple motto as my standard operating procedure. When it comes to basic necessary functions (i.e., eating, drinking, sleeping, etc.) I practice the formula, “If I can, I do.” The reality is that in the kind of traveling I do one never knows when the next opportunity will arise. If there is food, and I have any level of hunger at all, I eat. Ditto with other bodily needs. The alternative may well be prolonged periods of enforced fasting or sleeplessness.

This principle is even more appropriate when it comes to spiritual needs and opportunities. The Hebrew writer urged his readers to “Exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13Hebrews 3:13
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13 but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called “today;” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

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). If one neglects an opportunity to encourage a brother or sister, one or both of them may be tempted and fall into sin before another such opportunity arises. The word of exhortation which may have averted the fall was never spoken.

The Bible contains numerous examples of those who understood the urgency of spiritual tasks. Nehemiah refused to be distracted by his enemies who insisted that he pause in his labors to talk with them on the plain of Ono. His response was, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3Nehemiah 6:3
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3 I sent messengers to them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I can’t come down: why should the work cease, while I leave it, and come down to you?

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Jesus answered in a similar way when Herod threatened him. “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected'” (Luke 13:32Luke 13:32
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32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I complete my mission.

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Perhaps the most general statement of this principle is that of the apostle Paul. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16Ephesians 5:15-16
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15 Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

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Note these particular spiritual activities which we are admonished to perform in a timely manner (i.e., at every opportunity).

Prayer: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:171 Thessalonians 5:17
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17 Pray without ceasing.

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). “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men” (1 Timothy 2:11 Timothy 2:1
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2 1 I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men:

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Benevolence: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all” (Galatians 6:10Galatians 6:10
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10 So then, as we have opportunity, let’s do what is good toward all men, and especially toward those who are of the household of the faith.

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Evangelism: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19Matthew 28:19
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19 Therefore go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

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). “And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14Romans 10:14
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14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in him whom they have not heard? How will they hear without a preacher?

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Bible Study: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:152 Timothy 2:15
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15 Give diligence to present yourself approved by God, a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed, properly handling the Word of Truth.

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). “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine . . . Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them” (1 Timothy 4:13-151 Timothy 4:13-15
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13 Until I come, pay attention to reading, to exhortation, and to teaching. 14 Don’t neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the elders. 15 Be diligent in these things. Give yourself wholly to them, that your progress may be revealed to all.

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Good Works: “Being fruitful in every good work” (Colossians 1:10Colossians 1:10
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10 that you may walk worthily of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

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). “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:581 Corinthians 15:58
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58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

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Worship: “Therefore by him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15Hebrews 13:15
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15 Through him, then, let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name.

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These represent only a few of the many opportunities to serve God that will present themselves to us in the future. Let us take advantage of each of them. “If you can, do!”

Something new

languages
by Michael E. Brooks

“For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21Acts 17:21
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21 Now all the Athenians and the strangers living there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing.

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NKJV).

“That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9Ecclesiastes 1:9
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9 That which has been is that which shall be; and that which has been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

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The curriculum for Khulna Bible College was designed several years ago when the school first opened for classes. But it has not remained exactly as it was. Some courses have been revised, others dropped, and new ones added to replace them.

These new courses represent a fresh approach or a different means of presenting material to the students. Sometimes material not previously studied will be added. However, all involved with the College are fully aware that none of the material is of new invention. The mode of teaching may change but the Truth by which men are made free (John 8:32John 8:32
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32 You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

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) is eternally the same.

One simple definition of the labels “Liberal” and “Conservative” describes one’s attitude towards old and new. A conservative is by definition a traditionalist; one with a preference for maintaining established beliefs and practices.

A liberal prefers change and the refreshment of new ideas and new ways of doing things. This is perhaps an over-simplification, but generally true.

Some of the tension between these widely different philosophies may be eased by recognizing that there is value in each. Relative age of a practice or teaching is not a valid measure of its worth.

The law of gravity was scientifically formulated centuries ago, yet no one suggests it is outmoded and irrelevant today. Conversely, information gained through computer technology or space exploration within the past few years is greatly enhancing modern performance. It is useful, even if new.

Certain truths are ancient, even eternal. Yes there are those who contend that there is no absolute truth, but that is itself a logical contradiction. If nothing is absolutely true, then it is not true that there is never an absolute truth. One cannot have it both ways. Most would concede that some things may be depended upon as constant – they are true.

People of faith believe that God is true and eternal. He is unchanging. He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last” (Revelation 1:11Revelation 1:11
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11 saying, “ TR adds “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.”What you see, write in a book and send to the seven assemblies TR adds “which are in Asia”: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

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“Sanctify them by your truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17John 17:17
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17 Sanctify them in your truth. Your word is truth.

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It is not blind traditionalism to hold to that which is ancient and true.

Neither is it irresponsible liberalism to be open to fresh insights, new applications, or additional methods of responding to truth. Much has changed since the time the Bible was written, not in the basic nature of God or humans, but in technology, culture, and human experience.

Having an open mind to ways to practice truth is far removed from believing that truth changes or that all essential truth has not yet been revealed. However there are limitations even to new methods or approaches.

Some things that have been proposed are clearly contradictory to those they seek to help understand. For example some modern methods of critical Bible study are founded upon the presuppositions that inspiration and miracles have never existed and that the Bible has no special authority for Christians today. Such methods must fail to aid in understanding of truth.

Some new practices are in opposition to commands other than those to which they respond. It is wrong to break one command of God in order to obey another in a supposedly better way.

A gullible fascination with the new and a blind allegiance to tradition are both certain to lead to error. We must have a balanced approach, “testing all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:211 Thessalonians 5:21
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21 Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good.

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Covering all the bases

Bible

by Michael E. Brooks

“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:102 Peter 1:10
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10 Therefore, brothers, The word for “brothers” here and where context allows may also be correctly translated “brothers and sisters” or “siblings.” be more diligent to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never stumble.

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NKJV).

The children who are raised on the Khulna Bible College campus are regularly exposed to multiple languages. Most of the time Bengali is used by the staff and students.

Some, however, are members of ethnic groups with their own languages and culture, and in the home, or to others of the same group, those languages are spoken. When Americans are here English is used some of the time.

One little boy about 2 years old struggled with keeping all those tongues distinct. Bengali has two common words for water – jal and pani. For a while Abishai would ask when thirsty, “Give me jal pani water.”

There are times when it is good practice to make certain, to cover all possible bases. In our desire to serve God acceptably that is a good policy. Peter called it, to “make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:102 Peter 1:10
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10 Therefore, brothers, The word for “brothers” here and where context allows may also be correctly translated “brothers and sisters” or “siblings.” be more diligent to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never stumble.

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That was the approach that sincere men took two hundred years or more ago as they sought to rid their churches of division. They determined to abandon any doctrine or practice for which they could not find conclusive authority in Scripture. “Speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent” was not just a clever motto; it became a philosophy of life.

For more than a century it was common to hear their spiritual descendants demand, “Give the book, the chapter, and the verse.” Sermons and discussions were filled with Bible references. Bibles were worn out by study, not molded and yellowed on the shelf.

Sadly that is often not the case today. Congregations are divided and movements begun over human innovations, desires, and doctrines. Scripture is ignored or explained away by some “New Hermeneutic.” Popular opinion, majority preference, or common logic are appealed to as authority.

But those things are fickle and ever changing. What is politically (or religiously) correct today by those standards will be gone and forgotten in another generation. There can be no certainty, only opinion and preference if that path is chosen.

Only God and his word are eternal and unchanging.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away” (Mark 13:31Mark 13:31
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31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

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God is incapable of lying (Titus 1:2Titus 1:2
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2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who can’t lie, promised before eternal times;

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“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do? Or has he spoken, and will he not make it good (Numbers 23:19Numbers 23:19
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19 God is not a man, that he should lie, Neither the son of man, that he should repent: Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not make it good?

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What God revealed in the first century remains his will today. What the church was commanded to do is still its mission today. The instructions of Jesus which guided Christian life in his days continue to be our guide and rule today.

We continue to need the fulfillment of the second element of the great commission:

“Teaching them to observe all things which I have commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20Matthew 28:20
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20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

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Jesus’ teaching is never dated or obsolete. It is as true and relevant today as when he gave it. And it is just as authoritative (Matthew 7:29Matthew 7:29
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29 for he taught them with authority, and not like the scribes.

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For everything which we as Christians should do, there is indeed a book, a chapter and a verse. They are in the Bible, and only there. Let us return to them and be certain.

Spiritual exercise

walking feet

by Michael E. Brooks

“But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-81 Timothy 4:7-8
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7 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables. Exercise yourself toward godliness. 8 For bodily exercise has some value, but godliness has value for all things, having the promise of the life which is now, and of that which is to come.

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NKJV).

We had planned a strenuous five or six weeks of work in the hills and mountains of Nepal. In preparation for that, Brenda and I had devoted ourselves to a pretty extensive conditioning routine throughout our months in the U.S. and also while in Bangladesh where we have suitable facilities.

Anticipating a week or more in Katmandu where there would be no exercise equipment we observed that we would get a lot of walking, which would help to retain our condition, while just getting around from place to place in the city.

At one point I asked, “Is it still exercise if we are walking to the ice cream shop?”

On reflection I realized that is actually a fairly significant question. Yes, one is still walking, and walking will produce some benefits regardless of destination or purpose. But obviously too much zeal in the ice cream shop will quickly remove all of those benefits and more. There are better places to which to walk, if improving one’s health is the goal.

That is true of spiritual exercise as well. Paul reminded Timothy that it is a good thing to keep one’s body in fit condition. It is an even better thing to devote more attention to the exercise that leads to godliness, that is, to spiritual conditioning.

What kind of exercises do that? How does one exercise spiritually? The answer is simple and basic. First there is the decision to focus attention on things above, where Jesus is (Colossians 3:1-2Colossians 3:1-2
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3 1 If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth.

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8 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

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Once that goal is established one pursues it by doing spiritual things, such as prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-41 Timothy 2:1-4
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2 1 I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men: 2 for kings and all who are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth.

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), Bible study (1 Timothy 4:12-16; 21 Timothy 4:12-16; 2
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12 Let no man despise your youth; but be an example to those who believe, in word, in your way of life, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity. 13 Until I come, pay attention to reading, to exhortation, and to teaching. 14 Don’t neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the elders. 15 Be diligent in these things. Give yourself wholly to them, that your progress may be revealed to all. 16 Pay attention to yourself, and to your teaching. Continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. 2 1 I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men: 2 for kings and all who are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all; the testimony in its own times; 7 to which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle , a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 I desire therefore that the men in every place pray, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting. 9 In the same way, that women also adorn themselves in decent clothing, with modesty and propriety; not just with braided hair, gold, pearls, or expensive clothing; 10 but with good works. 11 Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 12 But I don’t permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 Adam wasn’t deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience; 15 but she will be saved through her child-bearing, if they continue in faith, love, and sanctification with sobriety.

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Timothy 2:15), helping the needy (James 1:27James 1:27
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27 Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

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), and telling others of the gospel of salvation (Acts 8:4Acts 8:4
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4 Therefore those who were scattered abroad went around preaching the word.

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A consistent practice of these things will lead to the development of spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-24; 2Galatians 5:22-24; 2
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22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. 2 1 Then after a period of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me. 2 I went up by revelation, and I laid before them the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately before those who were respected, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. 3 But not even Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 This was because of the false brothers secretly brought in, who stole in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage; 5 to whom we gave no place in the way of subjection, not for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you. 6 But from those who were reputed to be important —they, I say, who were respected imparted nothing to me, 7 but to the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the Gospel for the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the Gospel for the circumcision 8 ; 9 and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcision. 10 They only asked us to remember the poor—which very thing I was also zealous to do. 11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before some people came from James, he ate with the Gentiles. But when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews joined him in his hypocrisy; so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they didn’t walk uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live as the Gentiles do, and not as the Jews do, why do you compel the Gentiles to live as the Jews do? 15 “We, being Jews by nature, and not Gentile sinners, 16 yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through the faith of Jesus Christ, even we believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law, because no flesh will be justified by the works of the law. 17 But if, while we sought to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners, is Christ a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a law-breaker. 19 For I, through the law, died to the law, that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. 21 I don’t make void the grace of God. For if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nothing!”

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Peter 1:5-7). And as Paul pointed out to Timothy, they give promise of a better life both here and here-after.

But are all spiritual exercises of equal benefit? Or are some of them possibly like walking to the ice cream shop? Consider what Jesus said of the hypocrites of his day:

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1Matthew 6:1
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6 1 “Be careful that you don’t do your charitable giving before men, to be seen by them, or else you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

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He goes on further in the chapter to say similar things about hypocrisy in prayer and in fasting (verses 5, 16es 5, 16
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16 But Yahweh of Armies is exalted in justice, And God the Holy One is sanctified in righteousness.

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Both the prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus in the New often pointed out that contradictory practices and immorality will certainly negate any efforts to worship God. Quoting from the prophet, Jesus said:

“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men'” (Mark 7:6-7Mark 7:6-7
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6 He answered them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, But their heart is far from me. 7 But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

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Exercising towards godliness is not only a matter of regularly doing religious acts. Those must be accompanied by a pure and sincere heart. Only such exercises will produce benefits.