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Wordwise Insight, Issue #019 --
July 14, 2006
Greetings

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free, informative monthly newsletter of Wordwise-Bible-Studies.com

IN THIS ISSUE...

BIBLE INSIGHTS. God's Anatomy, Faulty Hearing, plus an important study on "Truth in Our Trials" and a critique of The Da Vinci Code

READER Q & A. Will all "cowards" go to hell? plus the background of a number of our traditional hymns

IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH. Making the best use of your bulletin boards

NEWS & REVIEWS. About the Wordwise website


BIBLE INSIGHTS

THE IMPORTANCE OF A THING
The importance of a thing to us can often be measured by what we allow to interrupt it, or divert us from it.

It is recognized there is an aspect of personal choice and discernment here which prevents us from making sweeping judgments in individual cases. Circumstances sometimes affect a change in plans. However, as a pastor I have sometimes been saddened–and frustrated–by the alibis some gave me for not doing right. Like the ones in Jesus' parable, "they all with one accord began to make excuses" (Lk. 14:18).

A case in point: The person who says, “I missed church last Sunday because we had company drop in.” (My response sometimes is, “Why didn’t you bring them along?”) When I was growing up, if this happened, my father would simply say to the visitors, “We’re going to church now. You’re welcome to come with us. Or else make yourselves at home, and we’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

Another frequent excuse is, “We had to take my son to his baseball game” (or whatever the seasonal sport may be). But why, in the first place, would you involve your son in a league or tournament that would keep him from the house of God? Do you want your children to grow up thinking church is something we "do" if there’s nothing else to do?

1) What keeps you from the daily reading of God’s Word? (Job 23:12; Ps. 119: 103, 127)

2) What keeps you from consistent fellowship with the Lord in prayer? (Ps. 42:1; 63:1)

3) What keeps you from regular attendance at the house of God? (Ps. 122:1; Heb. 10:24-25)

4) What keeps you from witnessing and faithfully serving the Lord? (I Cor. 9:16; II Cor. 5:14-15)

GOD’S ANATOMY
Although we know God is a spirit Being (Jn. 4:24), the Bible–especially in its poetical sections–makes use of a figure of speech that is called anthropomorphism to portray God’s actions, ascribing to Him the physical attributes of human beings. It is picture language that puts spiritual realities into concrete terms we can more easily visualize and grasp. An example of this is Psalm 17. Note the parts of the body David uses to express various truths about the Lord.

1) God’s ear (vs. 1, 6)–He hears and answers prayer

2) God’s eyes (vs. 2)–He is fully aware of what happens to us, and of any injustice suffered

3) God’s lips (vs. 4)–God has revealed Himself and His will through His Word

4) God’s hand, or right hand (vs. 7, 14)–God graciously gives us what is needful and more

5) God’s pupil (“apple,” KJV) in His eye (vs. 8)–we are precious to God

6) God’s wings (vs. 8–not a human figure, but still physical)–God will protect us

7) God’s sword (vs. 13)–God’s active intervention to defend His own

8) God’s face (vs. 15)–God’s presence and fellowship, our greatest satisfaction

FAULTY HEARING
James 1:22 tells us, “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” It is sad to think that many who fill the pews of our churches week by week hear the truth, but do not personally assimilate and apply it. Hearers who do not become doers may fall short for one of the following reasons:

1) They are Sacramental Hearers. They think hearing is enough, in itself. They feel the ritual of attending church, singing the hymns, and listening to the preacher, will give them a restorative dose of religion, with no further commitment needed on their part (cf. Isa. 1:10-15).

2) They are Selective Hearers. They hear only what they want to hear, and what affirms them in their present condition and behaviour. A variation of this is the reinterpretation of what is heard to conform to the listener’s own preconceived notions (cf. I Kgs. 22:6-8).

3) They are Surrogate Hearers. Being blind to their own faults and failings, they think of all the people who need the message--except themselves. Someone has described this as handling the truth with a pitchfork, rather than a rake (cf. II Sam. 12:1-9).

4) They are Sporting Hearers. They enjoy hearing for its entertainment value, and have an emotional reaction to what is heard. But when the moment is past they return to other things, and the Word is crowded out of their thoughts (cf. Ezek. 33:30-32).

TRUTH IN OUR TRIALS. Check out the extensive outline study on the subject of suffering at Truth About Suffering.

THE DA VINCI CODE is often in the news these days. The novel by Dan Brown claims to be based on fact. Is it? Check out the resources in this newsletter, as well as the following article The Da Vinci Code.


READER Q & A...

Question: What does it mean when it says in Revelation 21:8 that the “cowardly” will be consigned to hell? (Could most of us, even as Christians, not be accused of this to some degree, and at certain times?)

Answer: Revelation 21:8, in the NKJV states, “The cowardly...shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” The word (in Greek deilos) is translated “fearful” in the KJV. It means timid, cowardly. It is never used in a good sense. (On the other hand, phobos, another Greek word for fear, sometimes is–e.g. to refer to the reverent fear of God).

As a number of commentators suggest, the word is used here in a certain restricted, moral sense. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary observes, “Not having steadfast endurance, they are devoid of faith....Thus they are linked by John to the ‘unbelieving’ and ‘vile’ [abominable].” The contrast between this kind of fear and faith is also sharply drawn by the Lord Jesus when He says, “Why are you so fearful [deilos]? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mk. 4:40). The fear of which John is speaking in Revelation is that which is found in the absence of faith.

The verse is not suggesting some kind of salvation by works. (I.e. “Don’t do this and you will be safe.”) Rather, it is describing things in evidence in the lives of unbelievers. Christians can certainly be fearful and cowardly at times. But that does not qualify them for the lake of fire. The text is describing behaviour that characterizes the unsaved because it flows from an unregenerate heart. Fear of losing their reputation, or fear for their personal safety, or dread of some other consequence has kept them from turning to Christ in the first place. Charles Ryrie states, (The Ryrie Study Bible): “Those whose lives can be characterized in these ways will be cast into the lake of fire, because they have shown themselves to be unbelievers.”

The unsaved may show a temporary and superficial enthusiasm for the things of God. But when testing times come, their apparent faith collapses–often through exactly the kind of fear spoken of in this text. On the other hand, the steadfastness of truly born again individuals is a byproduct of their relationship with God. In Hebrews the Lord says, “‘If anyone draws back [shrinks back fearfully], My soul has no pleasure in him.’ But [says the writer] we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:38-39). (Again notice how fear and faith are antithetical.)

The context of Revelation 21:8 makes a contrast between Christians and non-Christians. “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall by My son. But the cowardly...shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire...” (Rev. 21:7-8). John characteristically calls born again believers “overcomers.” In his first epistle he says, “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world....Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (I Jn. 5:4-5). Paul uses the same Greek word when he says that absolutely nothing can separate the Christian from the love of Christ. “In all these things we are more than conquerors [abundant overcomers] through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). God is not consigning to eternal fire Christians who exhibit timidity in some circumstance. He is describing a prevailing condition of soul common in the unsaved, itself an evidence they are unregenerate.

Question: Charlotte writes and asks for background on the hymns “O That Will Be Glory,” “My Saviour’s Love,” and “Jesus Is All the World to Me.”

Answer: Thanks for the question, Charlotte. There is an interesting story behind “O That Will Be Glory.” The origin of the other two is a bit obscure. I’ll tell you what I know.

O THAT WILL BE GLORY. For one individual, a bright smile almost became a trademark. At the beginning of the last century, a cheerful old man named Ed Card was superintendent of the Sunshine Rescue Mission in St. Louis, Missouri. Ed was a radiant Christian who always seemed to be bubbling over with the joy of the Lord. His glowing smile, and a habitual expression, earned him the nickname “Old Glory Face.” During meetings at the mission, the one safety valve for all his pent up enthusiasm was the word “Glory!” (to him meaning “Wonderful!”). He often just exploded with it, in the middle of a sermon or a prayer. As author Ken Osbeck notes, “He praised the Lord, not with many words, but with one word repeated many times!” When he prayed, he would inevitably end with thoughts of meeting his Saviour in heaven, saying, “And that will be glory for me!”

Charles Gabriel (1856-1932) was a good friend of Mr. Card’s, and he wrote the hymn “O That Will Be Glory” around 1900, in honour of the superintendent’s shining testimony. It begins, “When all my labours and trials are o’er, / And I am safe on that beautiful shore, / Just to be near the dear Lord I adore, / Will through the ages be glory for me.” The superintendent’s joyful anticipation of meeting Christ is reflected throughout the song. Like the Apostle Paul, Ed Card was one of those who “loved His appearing” (II Tim. 4:8). They both looked forward to the day of Christ’s return, and to an eternity with Him. The old man had the privilege of singing Charles Gabriel’s hymn himself, just before he died. He was thrilled to think that his Christian life had been an inspiration to others.

MY SAVIOUR’S LOVE. This song was written by Charles Gabriel in 1905. Gabriel grew up on a farm in Iowa, where he taught himself to play the family’s pump organ. With his great musical gifts, by the age of 16 he was conducting singing schools. He went on to create both words and music for many songs, and edited a number of song books. Charles Gabriel was the most popular gospel song writer of the Billy Sunday era (around 1910-1920). Sometimes he published hymns under the pen name Charlotte G. Homer.

The song in question, which depicts the scene in Gethsemane, begins, “I stand amazed in the presence / Of Jesus the Nazarene, / And wonder how He could love me, / A sinner, condemned, unclean.” Some hymn books omit the third verse of this hymn (based on Luke 22:43): “In pity angels beheld Him, / And came from the world of light / To comfort Him in the sorrows / He bore for my soul that night.”

Now, a personal opinion from a long-time song leader. This beautiful hymn is difficult to handle properly. The reason is the tune is so singable. It just gallops along, seeming to pick up speed as it goes. However, a bouncy, sprightly style is totally at odds with many of the lyrics. Gabriel is depicting one of the most solemn and awesome moments in the life of Christ–when He agonized over the terrible weight of sin He was to bear.

To me it borders on blasphemy to race along in a jolly way with, “For me it was in the garden / He prayed, “Not My will, but Thine;” / He had no tears for His own griefs / But sweat drops of blood for mine.” I prefer to slow things down, and have the congregation sing this hymn quietly and prayerfully. (If you have folks who can carry a part, why not try singing at least a verse without the instrumental accompaniment.) Then, the tempo and the volume can be picked up for the last verse, “When with the ransomed in glory...etc.” As I say, a personal opinion!

JESUS IS ALL THE WORLD TO ME. Will Lamartine Thompson (1847-1909) wrote the words and music of this hymn in 1904. The tune he named “Elizabeth,” after his wife. Otherwise, we know little of the origin of the hymn. Thompson was a trained musician, who studied at the Boston Conservatory of Music, and also over in Leipzig Germany. He founded the Will L. Thompson & Company publishing firm, creating and editing many musical publications. “Softly and Tenderly” is another of his hymns. He visited Dwight Moody, when the great evangelist lay dying, and Moody said, “Will, I would rather have written ‘Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling’ than anything I have been able to do in my whole life.” Thompson wrote both sacred and secular music, but his greatest joy was composing and singing songs about his Lord.

NEXT MONTH: What is the meaning of James 5:13-16 and is the promise of divine healing meant for today?

A QUESTION FOR YOU. In my research of our hymns I recently began work on the song “Wounded for Me.” If any of my readers can add to the following details about the author and composer, I would be glad to hear from you. The first verse and tune came from W. G. Ovens (1870-1945) The other stanzas were written by Gladys W. Roberts (1888-?). No one seems to know what the W. G. stand for, and the W. in Roberts’s name is sometimes given in full as Westcott, other times as Watkin. One source lists the two as husband and wife, and another states they are both Irish. But attempts to find other details, or learn more of the occasion when the hymn was written, have so far been unsuccessful.

BIBLE STUDY: Available now on the Wordwise website is a discussion Bible study on The Lord's Prayer. Why not check it out at The Lord's Prayer.


IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH

1) BULLETIN BOARDS
In the foyer of most church buildings there is a bulletin board (or perhaps several of them). Here are some tips and ideas for making use of them.

1) Bulletin boards provide an excellent place to make announcements, giving details that are more difficult to convey from the pulpit (times, addresses, phone numbers, etc.). People will appreciate knowing there is the place to get added information.

2) If you are using rented facilities, consider purchasing a free-standing board with an easel which could serve a similar purpose.

3) Bulletin boards can be interactive. You might sometimes employ a sign-up sheet for some event or task, with a pen on a cord attached to the list.

4) Bulletin boards can be seasonal–celebrating Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Valentines, etc. Or they can feature particular events or programs–a missions conference, camp ministry, etc. Or, highlight particular themes such as prayer, outreach, and so on.

5) As well as advertising events beforehand, you can put up captioned photos afterward. Folks are usually interested in spotting themselves or others.

6) Missionary prayer letters can be displayed on the bulletin board. (It might be helpful to highlight certain things, so the casual reader can spot them easily.)

7) Bulletin boards can be used to challenge or encourage. There are attractive posters available at many Christian book stores which feature key mottos or verses of Scripture. Or you might simply print up a verse of Scripture, or the verse of a hymn, on the computer, using a large and readable font, and coloured paper. Another possibility is to post cartoons that carry an edifying message.

8) You can brighten up a bulletin board with the purchase of a role of wrapping paper. Staple paper in place, covering the entire board. (The pattern should be fairly generic and low key, or it will detract from what is posted.)

9) If you have the luxury of several boards to work with, you might consider making one for children’s ministries, one for missions, one for women’s ministries, and so on. Then people know where to look for the information they need.

10) If you have a church library, try featuring new acquisitions on the bulletin board–perhaps a picture of the book’s cover, plus a brief write-up.

11) I was on the staff of a large church where we had a map of the layout of the building on the bulletin board, with a “You Are Here” dot. This was a great help to newcomers looking for their child’s Sunday School class, etc.

12) Occasionally, just before a big event, you might consider clearing the bulletin board of everything but a poster or simple announcement for that event. It will be eye-catching!

13) Collect items for future boards and file them away carefully. It is a great help to have material to draw on when Christmas or Easter (etc.) rolls around, without having to start digging then. Also, some items can be reused another year, or a couple of years down the road. Keep them safe.

14) One of the biggest faults in using these boards is to leave items in place too long. They soon become invisible to those who pass by. If it hasn’t been seen in three or four weeks, it rarely will be. Make a change.

15) Another error is to allow boards to become so cluttered nothing stands out any more. I saw one recently that had layers of material on it. Postings were simply added on top of what was already there. The result was chaos! Keep it simple. A few things, well spaced, will be far more effective.

16) Another difficulty arises when anyone and everyone thinks he has the right to add whatever he likes to the bulletin board. I have seen advertising for private businesses posted, and advertising for events the church would not be in doctrinal agreement with.

17) It can also be a problem if things are posted all over the building, on the walls, the doors, and so on, instead of on the board. Soon the place can look like a giant billboard, and be most unattractive. (And if tape or pins are used to secure items, they may permanently disfigure walls or doors.)

18) The answer to the above problems is to have someone specifically assigned to be responsible for what goes on the board, one who will attend to what is put up week by week, and change it regularly. The individual should be accountable to the church leadership.

19) Encourage your “bulletin board secretary” to train an assistant. Perhaps this could be an older child or a young person who might later grow into the job.

20) There are numerous websites with all kinds of creative ideas for making effective use of bulletin boards. Do a web search and you will find more information than you could ever use!

2) THE MYSTERY BOX
Prepare a sturdy box which can stand up to reuse. One possibility is to purchase a good-sized lunch pail for the purpose. You could paint Mystery Box on the side of it, or perhaps scattered question marks. Inside the lid of the box, glue the following instructions.

ABOUT OUR MYSTERY BOX

God has designed the physical world around us to be full of illustrations of spiritual truth. Everything from rainbows to rocks, wind to weeds, and more, is used in the Bible to teach important lessons. For example, Proverbs says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard [you lazy person]! Consider her ways and be wise” (Prov. 6:6). In the verses that follow, ants are used to teach the importance of hard work and careful preparation for the future.

Using this principle of comparison, we can illustrate many valuable lessons using objects we find around the house. Think! What lesson might by illustrated with a mirror, or a postage stamp, or a glass of water, or a packet of seeds? Here is your assignment–something the whole family can work on together:

1) Choose a familiar small object. It should be something recognizable to the pastor and to most of us in the church, or the lesson may be lost.

2) Decide on a good lesson that can be illustrated by the object. Discuss this together. You could ask your family and friends for ideas. Some clues: Ask yourself what the item is used for. What are its characteristics? What would happen if you didn’t have one? And how is something here like what we have, or need, in our Christian lives?

3) Place the object in the Mystery Box, and bring it to church. Wrap it carefully, if it is something that could spill or get broken.

4) During the morning service, the pastor will take a quick look at the object, and try to come up with a lesson that could be illustrated by it.

5) If you stump the pastor–if he can’t think of a good less from the object you brought–you can share a lesson you came up with.

In introducing this project, the pastor himself should choose the items for several weeks, so everyone understands what is required. Then, he can ask for a volunteer–either an individual or a family– to take the box home and come up with something themselves. You could do this for several weeks, and then take a break from it. Use your own judgment. Don’t let the activity become stale.

The objective behind this little game is to teach the use of analogy. Much of the wisdom of Proverbs uses this technique. By being observant and using some imagination, we can find wonderful illustrations of spiritual truth all around us. This should become a habit!

3) The best Bible study tool ever! At least, the best one I have ever discovered, is fully described on the website. Strictly speaking, this is not an idea for your church program but for you, personally. However, if you try it, you may want to share it with your Sunday School class or Bible study group. If a number of you begin using it and trading insights, you may be amazed at what will happen! See Best Bible Study Tool.

4) Is your church thinking of purchasing A NEW HYMN BOOK? Check out Choosing a Hymnal for Your Church on the website, for nearly three dozen excellent tips and ideas to help you make your choice.

5) Check out a Wordwise Bible study series to help seekers, or new Christians! A wonderful "review" for long-time believers as well! The free 10-part series is now available at Exploring Christianity.


VIEWS & REVIEWS

WORDWISE BIBLE STUDIES
I would not presume to do a “review” of my own website, except to say that I continue to labour prayerfully to make it useful and effective for the Christian community. There are a number of things in the works which will be added as time permits. For example:

1) Almost completed are two discussion Bible study series on prophecy. One deals with the subject topically in 12 lessons, the other covers the book of Revelation in 15 lessons.

2) The Learner-Servant Principles will outline how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, presenting 7 biblical life-principles with supporting Scriptures.

3) Music in the Christian Life is a full-length book I wrote several years ago which will be added to the website in time. It describes 12 key principles for evaluating the music in our lives and provides a biblical philosophy of music.

¤ I invite you to check out the website from time to time to see what is there.

¤ Also, if you subscribe to this free monthly newsletter you will receive up-to-date information on new materials.

¤ Please encourage others to sign up for the newsletter as well.

Check us out at WORDWISE BIBLE STUDIES.


If you have a question or an idea to share, please go to the Wordwise website and use the question form.
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