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Wordwise Insight, Issue #022
October 14, 2006
Greetings

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

IN THIS ISSUE...

BIBLE INSIGHTS. On Steps in Service, plus other useful materials

READER Q & A. When did God's life begin? and a questionnaire for pastoral candidates

IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH. A Bible reading contest

NEWS & REVIEWS. A Bible Handbook that is not as useful as it might be


BIBLE INSIGHTS

SEVEN STEPS IN SERVICE
One particular miracle of Jesus is described in all four Gospels, perhaps suggesting its significance. It is "The Feeding of the 5,000." This event provides a wonderful illustration of how our service for the Lord is to be carried out, and the results when it is done properly. Consider the seven steps in service, as found in Matthew 14:15-21.

1) The COMMAND of the Lord. It begins with a command from the Lord (vs. 16). In terms of the Age of Grace, this command could be summarized by what we call the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).

2) The CONFESSION of Our Limitations. In light of the task before us, there is a recognition of utter inadequacy by the followers of Christ (vs. 17). If this step is missing, it likely means the work will be done in the energy of the flesh and will fail to bear eternal fruit.

3) The COMMITMENT of Our Resources. The servants of God yield what they have to Him, little as it may be (vs. 18). (These things are ours by the Lord’s bountiful provision to begin with. With David we say, “All things come from You, and of Your own we have given You,” I Chron. 29:14.)

4) The COMPOUNDING of Our Offering. The Lord returns what is offered to Him, multiplied many times over (vs. 19a). In the case of the physical miracle, this involved food for one becoming food for thousands (perhaps 10,000 or more in total). In ministry, the impact of one small offering to the Lord is multiplied in amazing ways.

5) The CONVEYING of God's Gifts. The servants of the Lord give out what the Lord has provided (vs. 19b). Though they cannot do what the Lord has done, He has engaged them and equipped them to have a part. Paul understood that. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (I Cor. 3:6).

6) The CONTENTMENT of the Recipients. Those who receive are satisfied (vs. 20a). It was not a case of “those who were hungriest ate enough to tide them over.” All who ate were filled. (The Greek word is chortazo, meaning they were all satisfied.)

7) The COMPENSATION of God's Servants. The Lord’s servants are themselves blessed (vs. 20b). The twelve small wicker baskets (Greek, kophinos) likely provided a supply of food for each of the disciples to take with him in their travels. When we share God’s truth with others, we too are blessed.

THE LEARNER-SERVANT PRINCIPLES
On the website there is an article about discipleship called The Learner-Servant Principles. Extensively referenced to Scripture, and with many diagrams, this material will give you a unique perspective on the subject. The seven basic principles are interconnected. They show the essence of discipleship as it is revealed in God’s Word, four key things God expects of us, and how sin contrasts with the four. As well, you will gain a helpful understanding of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and walk in the Spirit. The framework described can also be used to analyze passage after passage in the Bible. Please study the material, put it to use, and pass it on!

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: Matthew asks, “When did God's life begin?”

ANSWER: Thanks for the great question, Matthew! There is a simple answer of course: It didn’t. The Scriptures tell us God exists “from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps. 90:2). He is “the eternal God” (Deut. 33:27). But I’m sure you want a little more than that. Here are some big ideas to think about.

Each of us human beings had a beginning. There was a time, before our conception in our mothers’ wombs, when we did not exist. But once we begin our lives, they will go on forever. We are “eternal” in the sense that God has created us to live on for endless time. Even that is hard to imagine! The last verse of the hymn “Amazing Grace” is startling. Speaking of Christians living with God in our heavenly home it says, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, / Bright shining as the sun, / We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise / Than when we’d first begun.” If we watch a television program, every minute we watch is one less minute till the end of the program. But that is not like the heavenly kingdom. Ten thousand years is 3,650,000 days. Yet even after all those days have passed, believers will have no fewer days to enjoy the blessings of eternity!

Actually, your question is itself a contradiction. When we talk about things beginning and ending, we are speaking of matters of time. God created time, as a part of the setting in which the universe and man would function. We speak of minutes and hours, days and years. But God exists outside of time. The Bible says He “inhabits eternity” (Isa. 57:15) and He exists in an eternal now. As the Lord told Moses, His name is “I AM” (Exod. 3:13-14). Past, present and future are all alike to Him. That is why He knows what is going to happen tomorrow, or next week, or next year. In some way we are unable to grasp, He sees it all as now. So He is able to say, “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done” (Isa. 46:9-10).

As creatures of time, these are big ideas to get our minds around. Concepts such as infinity (cf. Ps. 147:5), or eternity, are virtually impossible for us to imagine because we are finite beings, existing in time. Before, during and after are what we understand. But God is different. Perhaps we could think of time as a straight line from “A” to “B” If we go to a football game, it has a beginning “A,” and an end “B.” But God is not like that at all. Compare a straight line with a circle. Where would you put the “A” and the “B” on a circle? It has no beginning or ending. And that is like God. If He had a cause–someone that brought Him into existence–then that someone would be greater than He. But God is, by definition, the Supreme Being. There is nothing and no one greater. He says, "I am God, and there is no other" (Isa. 45:22). As theologian Samuel Harris wrote, “He is uncaused. Therefore He must be without beginning.”

God invented time. Hebrews says, “He made the worlds” (1:2). But the writer did not use the Greek word kosmos for “worlds,” but aion, better translated “ages.” He made the ages, originating the orderly progression of time. And He is able to step into time when He chooses, but still inhabit eternity. So we read, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4). God the Son took on our humanity. “The Word [Christ] became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). But unlike each of us, that is not when His life began. When the prophet Micah foretold that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, he said His “goings forth are from everlasting” (Mic. 5:2). Although He was to be born as a human Baby, He never had a beginning. He became Man, but He did not stop being God when He did that. Jesus Himself declared, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn. 8:57-58). We could not speak that way. Even if we were enormously old–older than Abraham (who lived around 2000 B.C.)– we could only say, “Before Abraham was I was.” But that is not like God. At any point in history He is always “I AM.”

I hope that is a help, though these ideas are so big they are beyond our full understanding.

Next time: What do you think of Rick Warren’s teaching?

SEEKING A NEW PASTOR for your church? Check out the Pastoral Questionnaire.

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) BIBLE READING CONTEST The public reading of the Word of God must not be abandoned in our church services. (Responsive Bible readings have their place too, but that is for another newsletter.) We have all sat through stumbling renditions of the Word that are difficult to follow, and capture little of the impact. Conversely, there have been times when I at least have felt God speaking directly to me through a thoughtful reading. Clarity of diction, appropriate pauses and expression can make a passage come alive.

What about having a Bible reading contest? Select a passage (and a Bible version) to be used. (Acts 19:23-41 gives plenty of opportunity for dramatic expression.) If you will be having various ages involved, you might want to have a simpler, or shorter, passage for the younger ones. Give some basic tips, and encourage as many as possible to participate. Select those who will be judges of the event. If many are going to take part, you may wish to have some preliminary rounds to choose the top few. The final readings should be done before the congregation. You can consider offering suitable prizes–perhaps a Bible, or another good Christian book.

Yes, folks will be hearing the same passage read several times. (The downside of this is...?) Those who participate will learn a valuable skill. And because they will be reading, rather than speaking extemporaneously, most will not find this too difficult. The end result could be that you will be able to identify a number who can assist ably in reading God’s Word in the services.

2) 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.

3) 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.

4) Check out EXPLORING CHRISTIANITY, 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


THE WILKINSON & BOA BIBLE HANDBOOK
This claims to be “A practical guide to help you get more out of the Bible.” (It was published in 1983, by Thomas Nelson Publishers.) The volume contains Bible book introductions and outlines, and some helpful comments and analysis. But it is too broad and general for most study. Most of the material is available in a good study Bible--which gives you more immediate access to the information.


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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