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Wordwise Insight, Issue #023
November 14, 2006
Greetings

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

IN THIS ISSUE...

BIBLE INSIGHTS. Come Unto Me, False Prophets and True, plus other useful materials

READER Q & A. Comments on The Purpose Driven Life, the story behind the hymn "Wounded for Me," and a questionnaire for pastoral candidates

REVIEWS & IDEAS. A review of The Complete Word Study New Testament


BIBLE INSIGHTS

COME UNTO ME
The Lord Jesus issues a tender loving summons, “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28. How have you answered His call?

1) In these gracious words, there is first of all A Presupposed Crisis of some sort, a significant personal need. Those to whom Jesus speaks are weary with life’s trials, weighed down and burdened to the point of exhaustion.

2) To them there is A Presented Call. “Come to Me,” Jesus says, and the word “Me” is emphatic in the original Greek of the text. There is no one who can help us but Jesus only. Other remedies perhaps have been tried, but they have failed, or will do so.

3) Finally, there is A Promised Cure. The Lord Jesus assures us that we will find in Him exactly what we need: rest. The word signifies soul refreshment, comfort and calmness, a release from pressures and tensions. Spiritual renewal is found in Him.

FALSE PROPHETS & TRUE
Ezekiel Chapter 13 provides a graphic description of false prophets and their evil work. A parallel can be see with those who erroneously claim this gift today, and with false teachers as well. God’s severe judgment (vs. 8, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 23) will fall upon them for the following reasons.

1) They prophesy out of their own hearts--i.e. their prognostications come from their own minds and imaginations (vs. 2). They follow their own spirit rather than God’s Spirit (vs. 3). They have seen nothing–i.e. nothing of divine revelation and inspired truth. They have rejected God, fitting the biblical definition of a fool (cf. Ps. 14:1; Matt. 7:21-23).

2) They are spiritual destroyers. The roll of a true prophet is implied in vs. 5. He is to be a restorer of God’s people through his ministry. The false prophets are not restoring the ruins (vs. 4, cf. the NIV).

3) They have a false hope. In contrast with the true, the false prophets' divinations are lies, their visions false (vs. 6). Yet they may be self-deceived, hoping that what they say will come to pass.

4) They tailor their message to what people want to hear–a seductive message of peace, when God has promised judgment (vs. 10; 16; cf. I Thess. 5:3). They are lying to people who swallow their lies (vs. 19).

5) They use (or claim) occult powers and magic to “receive” their false messages (vs. 18, 20, 21).

6) They are mercenary, prophesying for their own gain (vs. 19; cf. Matt. 7:15).

7) Their prophecies may please the wicked, but they sadden the righteous, those who know better (vs. 22).

A similar indictment is found in Ezekiel 22:23-31 (see also 34:1-10), where God says he “sought for a man among them [among the leaders of the people] who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land...but I found no one” (vs. 30). If we take the reverse of the negative picture we are given in this latter passage, it suggests some qualities the Lord wants to see in today’s church leaders.

1) Spiritual discernment, to protect what is sacred and reject what is profane, rather than the opposite (vs. 26; cf. Lev. 10:1-2, 9-10).

2) Sacrificial love for others, which seeks their good and blessing, their encouragement and edification, rather than manipulating them and taking selfish advantage (vs. 27, 29).

3) Scriptural authority to teach and train, not basing teaching on the erroneous notions of men or on false spiritual visions (vs. 28).

THE OIL OF JOY
After the wall of Jerusalem was completed in Nehemiah’s time, we read, “They...rejoiced ...for God had made them rejoice with great joy” (Neh. 12:43). It was a spiritual joy coming from an inner appreciation of the blessing of God, a joy generated in their hearts by God Himself, not an emotion worked up by outward manipulation in what someone described to me recently (with approval) as “happy clappy” church services.

The Jews found, as have many others, that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). What does that mean? Perhaps it is a call to rejoice in the Lord who is our strength. Or it promises that rejoicing in the Lord will strengthen us. Both would seem to be true.

As they rejoiced in what God had done in restoring their ruined city, He strengthened their faith and gave them, in Isaiah’s phrase, “The oil of joy for mourning” (Isa. 61:3). "Oil" often meant olive oil in that day, used for light, for grooming, and as a medication. Isaiah likely means the Spirit of God will heal wounded broken spirits and replace sadness with the joy of the Lord when we trust in Him.

Charles Spurgeon however thought of another application of oil--as a lubricant. He comments, “When the wheels of the machine are well oiled, the whole machine goes easily; and when the man has the oil of joy, then his business and his family, the wheels of his nature glide along sweetly and harmoniously.” The joy of the Lord lubricates our lives, making things run more smoothly. Interesting thought!

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: What do you think of Rick Warren’s popular book, The Purpose Driven Life?

Answer: Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, and Purpose Driven Church have been widely lauded. Unquestionably there are some good things in the material. But a warning flag needs to be raised. Consider the fact that the “40 Days of Purpose” campaign has received public endorsements from the Evangelical Free Church, United Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Assemblies of God, the Church of God, Vineyard churches, Nazarene churches, and Seventh Day Adventists–as well as some corporations and sports teams.

While this wide appeal may be seen as an asset to some, it ought to concern us that charismatics and cultists, Premillennialists and Amillennialists, Calvinists and Arminians, those who teach the need for a second blessing experience, and those who practice infant baptism, all find a home here. In the words of Jesus, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (Lk. 6:26).

We need to be cautious of our associations and what they imply about us. To put it another way, are we suggesting by becoming “Warrenites” that there is no significant difference between us and the other groups in that camp? Are we implying that we agree with them all? A member of our family attended one of the Purpose Driven classes to see what it was like. Her comment was that the participants seemed to be encouraged to assume they were all Christians, when this was dubious to her. Another couple I know investigated a different group. There, the leader raised the question, “How does a person become a Christian?” A group member responded, “By being baptized.” And the leader said, “That’s right.”

Admittedly, to some extent, the Purpose Driven books are only as good as the leader makes them. There is no book (or lesson material) that is inspired (God-breathed) and infallible, as the Bible is. There may be times using any material when we have to say, “The author missed the mark here. This is what the Bible says...” So it might be possible to use a book by Mr. Warren and handle it that way. But to my mind he is often too far off the mark to make that profitable. There are other curricula that are better.

Warren’s books are laced with quotations from Roman Catholics and theological liberals, as well as psychologically based principles for which he struggles to find biblical support. One author describes his material as “Religious Humanism.” In common with such ventures as Promise Keepers and the Alpha program, Warren offers a kind of commercialized pop-christianity that sometimes seems far more consumer-oriented than Bible-oriented.

While he makes use of over a thousand Scripture verses in The Purpose Driven Life, it is important to see how he employs them. He quotes from a number of newer Bible Versions (such as the New Living Translation, the New Revised Standard Version, God’s Word Translation, The Message, and others) which take great liberties with the precise meaning of the text. This bothers Mr. Warren not at all. In fact, he leans upon it, seeking out versions that best support his point, rather than the one that most accurately reflects what God has said.

Here is an example–one of many. Second Corinthians 5:18 says, “God...has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (NKJV). Paul goes on to describe believers as “ambassadors for Christ” who implore sinners to “Be reconciled to God” (vs. 20). However, Rick Warren wants to make the point that we should be peacemakers, helping to restore broken relationships between individuals.

While this is true enough, it is not what the text says, unless we use the versions the author carefully selects. The Message says, “God...settles the relationship between us and him, and then calls us to settle our relationships with each other.” And the (misnamed!) God’s Word Translation says, “He has restored our relationship with him...and has given us this ministry of restoring relationships.”

Warren’s casual treatment of the Scriptures is also seen in this deplorable claim: “[God] depends more on circumstances to make us like Jesus than he depends on our reading the Bible” (p. 193). How this contrasts with Christ’s refusal to take one step (in His “circumstances”) apart from the Word and will of His heavenly Father (Matt. 4:4)! And what then does Warren do with Second Timothy 3:16-17? ( Or what about Ps. 19:7-11; 119:98-99; Rom. 15:4; Heb. 4:12; or II Pet. 1:19?)

There are other flaws as well. Noticeably absent, is an emphasis on personal holiness, on the Bible’s emphasis on fearing God, and on purity of doctrine. In the church, Warren advocates a kind of subjective, anything-goes worship, using the carnal bedlam of rock music, “hula praise,” and more.

Finally, the author sometimes seems to confuse the biblical purpose for which we were created with some of the actions involved in achieving it. His five stated life-purposes are: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism. This is all very well. But it misses the great and overarching purpose of all that God does, and of everything He desires man to do. The purpose of all God’s works is to reflect glory and honour to Himself. Here is a quick sampling of many passages which indicate this: Ps. 104:31; Matt. 5:16; Jn. 15:8; Rom. 11:36; 15:5-6; I Cor. 6:19-20; 10:31; Eph. 1:6 ,12, 14; 3:21; Phil. 4:20; I Tim. 1:17; II Tim. 4:18; I Pet. 4:11; II Pet. 3:18; Jude 1:25; Rev. 1:6; 5:13; 7:12. Whether we are fellowshiping or witnessing, cooking a meal or driving a tractor, these are merely to be various means to that greater end.

Question & Answer: Some time ago in this newsletter I asked if anyone could give me background on the hymn “Wounded for Me.” Here is what I have learned from others, along with a couple of pictures of the author, in middle-age and in his senior years.

FOR ME
Two Bible verses almost seem to contradict one another. One says, “Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2); the other, “Each one shall bear his own load” (Gal. 6:5). But the seeming conflict is only apparent, not real. In practice we know there are certain responsibilities individual’s face that cannot be relinquished to another. Yet perhaps we can assist and encourage him or her, thus making the burden lighter. A husband in the delivery room with his wife understands that. Only she could carry that little life for nine months, and only she can give birth. Yet her partner can support her, to render the birthing process more bearable.

The ultimate act of burden bearing is a supremely costly one. Sometimes in trying to help or deliver another individual, the person sacrifices his own life. When this is done not accidentally, but intentionally, we admire the rescuer as a hero. Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). Every day our police officers and fire fighters risk their lives for us. They deserve our sincere commendation. In time of war, many give their lives in the defense of freedom. Again, they ought to be highly honoured for doing so.

One day in the years following the First World War, William Gilbert Ovens (1870-1945) saw a wounded veteran limping past on the street and was impressed by the thought that, in a sense, the young man had taken that wound for him. W. G. Ovens was a man with a single purpose in life. It was said of him "the consuming passion of his life was Jesus Christ–to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him, to share with others the joy he found in Him, to lead others to Him, and to draw still others nearer to Him.” And one friend observed, “There was no shadow of compromise with him. He had no time for half-heartedness or lukewarmness.”

“WGO,” as his friends called him, was involved for over thirty years in children’s ministry. He conducted programs for boys and girls in Northern Ireland, pointing multitudes of them to faith in the Saviour. He also authored books and pamphlets. But it was his leadership at prayer meetings that co-workers spoke of in after-years with warmth and gratitude. He would seat himself at a little organ and take requests for choruses, interspersing these with comments and times of prayer. Participants testified to the powerful sense of God’s presence during those special times. A number of the songs they sang William Ovens had written himself.

One of these had its birth in the moments after that limping soldier passed by. The thought crossed Ovens’s mind, “He was wounded for me.” And instantly he drew a parallel to the Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Bible says was “wounded for our transgressions” (Isa. 53:5). The Lord Jesus Himself declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His live for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). “By this we know love,” says John, “because He laid down His life for us” (I Jn. 3:16). In doing this He became a peerless Burden Bearer. The good news is that “Christ died for our sins” (I Cor. 15:3). He took the punishment we deserve upon Himself, so that we, through faith in His sacrifice, might be forgiven, and be saved eternally (Jn. 3:15).

With these thoughts in mind, W. G. Ovens wrote a little chorus that says, “Wounded for me, wounded for me, / There on the cross He was wounded for me; / Gone my transgressions and now I am free, / All because Jesus was wounded for me.” Later the chorus was expanded into a hymn. Gladys Watkin Roberts (1888-?) added four more stanzas that complete the picture of Jesus dying for me, risen for me, living for me, and finally, “O how I praise Him–He’s coming for me.”

Next month: Brenda asks about a delicate but important issue–what does the Bible have to say about the practice of masturbation?

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.


REVIEWS & IDEAS

1) The Complete Word Study New Testament Here is a Bible study book from which all can profit. You do not have to be a scholar to benefit from it. The book claims it is “Bringing the original text to life,” and amply justifies its claim. Edited by Spiros Zodhiates, (published in 1992, by AMG International Inc.) the book provides the full King James Version text of the New Testament, with every word numerically keyed (using Strong’s number system) to an extensive dictionary. Print of the keys will be a little small for some readers. Otherwise, highly recommended. A companion volume dealing with the Hebrew of the Old Testament is also available. Check it out at The Complete Word Study New Testament.

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.



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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