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At the Edge

May 4th, 2017

Bro. Paul Mooney

by Paul Mooney

 

Several years ago, I walked out to the edge of the Grand Canyon, near a spot where a young lady had recently jumped to her death. A nearby park ranger approached me and engaged me in a conversation about the dangers of being near the edge. He said, “There are two forces at play concerning the edge. There’s the force that pushes you toward the edge and over the edge, and then there’s a force that keeps you from falling.”

The more I thought about this, and the more I analyzed my own step toward the edge that day, I became convinced the ranger had it right. There is a force of some sort, perhaps it stems from our sense of curiosity or the desire for a better view, but it does indeed draw, at least some people, to approach the edge. Yet, all the while the second force is in play, triggering our heightened senses and warning us of the edge’s danger.

Man standing at edge of cliff

Today, almost all social commentators, politicians, newscasters, academics, pastors, philosophers, and even common men talk almost incessantly about the current and influential forces that are pushing us to the edge. Are we foolishly curious to see how “fun” it might be to break down the Judeo/Christian moral foundation of our country, to rip the U.S. Constitution to shreds? Would it satisfy our prurience to discredit the Bible by exposing it to continuous debates and dubious examinations, rather than preaching from it as the revealed Word of God? Let us keep in mind that before foundations are removed they are first cracked.

Former President Obama stated in 2007, “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation, at least not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, and a Buddhist nation and a Hindu nation and a nation of nonbelievers.” That powerful statement, combined with increasing moral decadence and increasing universal godlessness, supports the fact that the United States is increasingly a post-Christian nation (America’s Post-Christian Apocalypse, Goehle, 2015). A force of some sort is pushing us to the edge.

A warning signIf secular writers, journalists and various non-Apostolic denominations dare to speak to these pressing issues concerning the “loss of Christianity’s cultural authority” (Goehle), when do we plan to join the fight? Where are our old-time, Pentecostal, holiness preachers who dared to make clear that the very essence of Christianity is the principle of separation – coming out of the world? Who will raise their shield to protect this future generation from the secularization, deception and mindless inclusion into worldliness? Who will be the voice of warning against the force that is pulling us toward the edge?

I’m an Apostolic pastor. I’m concerned. I’m troubled. I’ve decided to resist modernism and secular ideas of “enlightenment.” I’ve decided to resist spurious, choreographed worship that reeks of carnality and sensualism (1 Corinthians 14:40). I resist the blatant deconstruction of holiness, the doctrine of separation and the disparagement of the holiness lifestyle. I resist theatrical services and sermons devoid of the Spirit, devoid of discernment. I resist the democratizing or privatization of doctrine (John 18:20). This is not the time to put our beliefs up for debate. This is not the time to tell our congregations, “Whatever works for you!” This is the time to defend steadfastly the Apostles’ doctrine as never before. We cannot afford to break down spiritual authority – if we do, we lose the concept of right and wrong altogether.

I must, at all cost, fight for my family and the children, teens and ministers who are in my pastoral care. It is an imperative that they not be enticed away from pastoral authority, unethically enlisted, isolated or indoctrinated into paths of apathy and worldliness. The forces that have pushed our world to the edge must be met by a second, counter force. The force that keeps us from falling.

 

“But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,” (Jude 1:17-24).

Biblical Length for Women’s Hair

Apr 18th, 2017

Bro. Bobby Killmon

by Bobby Killmon

 

Is it clear Scripture does not leave ambiguous whether a woman’s hair is okay to trim if it’s still technically long? Girl with her hair down

This is one of our key biblical distinctions from the Apostle’s doctrine addressing the distinction in sexes. A fascinating thing is while some Apostolics are picking up “studied ambiguity” from non-Apostolic sources on this subject, scholarship outside our movement are revealing some amazingly plain admissions.

One claim is 1 Corinthians 11 is just addressing a local Corinthian custom. But, Dr. R.C. Sproul (chancellor of Ligonier Academy and Reformation Bible College) says, “If Paul merely told women in Corinth to cover their heads and gave no rationale for such instruction, we would be strongly inclined to supply it via our cultural knowledge. In this case, however, Paul provides a rationale which is based on an appeal to creation not to the custom of Corinthian harlots.” He goes on to push interpreters by stating emphatically, “We must be careful not to let our zeal for knowledge of the culture obscure what is actually said.” His point is that this is not a cultural issue but a command for all times and places.

What should we Apostolics say? Amen!

Another common attempt to move away from this biblical prescription is by saying the words or concepts in 1 Corinthians 11 are so far distant from us that we cannot be sure of the correct meaning or reading. This claim suggests we cannot be sure of what is or isn’t on a man or woman’s head. However, again, cutting edge research flies in the face of this claim.

For instance, Dr. A. Philip Brown II (Associate Prof. of Language, Bible, & Theology at God’s Bible School & College) points out that although “long hair” (κομάω) can be used with various metaphorical senses, the normal meaning of the word throughout Koine literature is “to allow the hair to grow long by not cutting it, wear long hair.” He further takes on the counterarguments of both Ben Witherington III (Prof. of NT Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary) and Preston T. Massey (Prof. at Indiana Wesleyan University) proving them wrong.

bonnybunhead

Dr. Brown points out that while the word “long hair” kóme (κόμη) occurs in the NT only in 1 Cor. 11:15, that “hurdle” does not leave the meaning ambiguous. He points out the early church’s interpretation regarding Paul’s use of komáo (κομάω) and kóme (κόμη) is uniform! He proves, citing example after example, there is simply no case historically where Paul’s words are taken to refer to hair that is long and yet cut. The consistent understanding from all the existing records is that “. . . men are not to have uncut hair and women are to have uncut hair.”

What is an Apostolic response? Amen!

Brown shows all the writing in the Greek of the New Testament (Koine Greek), and even all of classical Greek does not support a distinction between cutting hair and trimming it. Further, he shows Paul did not intend to make a “long and yet cut” distinction in 1 Cor. 11. He states emphatically, “Since I can find no such distinction in Koine literature, in the early church’s understanding of this passage, or in Paul, I conclude that the argument is not legitimate. Paul’s expectation was that women would have uncut hair that grows however long nature has determined, and that men would have cut hair that did not ‘cover’ their heads and thus is distinctly masculine.”

Isn’t it fascinating when even non-Apostolic authors make incredible admissions rooted in the facts of the Scripture? What a powerful day to be on the side of truth! Can I get an “Amen?”

By Endurance We Conquer

Apr 11th, 2017

Bro. R. L. Rodenbush

by R. L. Rodenbush

 

Endurance is not a default position. It is not opting for neutral. Endurance is a mindset that takes courage, determination and fortitude. It is natural to want to succeed, to reach a goal, or win an elusive victory. But what if you’re divinely asked to endure? It’s a biblical principle but difficult to live out. It’s much easier to accept healing than sickness, blessing than sacrifice, joy rather than pain. Yet, many are simply asked to endure. “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life” (James 1:12). When facing a trial or difficulty you are likely to be told: “Just hold on,” “Keep on keeping on,” or “Just endure.” At the time such remarks, however well-intentioned, can be painful. Yet when a test or hardship goes on for long periods, the fire of endurance has to be stoked and continuously monitored.

The word endurance has become synonymous with the book titled “Endurance,” that chronicles the expedition of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. The telling of Shackleton’s amazing story by Alfred Lansing defines endurance better than any other. The vessel they would navigate through the treacherous waters was rechristened “Endurance” by Shackleton, in keeping with his family motto: “fortitudine vincimus” – “by endurance we conquer.”
Man climbing an icy wallShackleton had been taught from an early age that endurance was not a position of weakness but strength in action, fortitude displayed.

In a materialistic world of instant self-gratification, teaching endurance is more of a challenge than ever before. Yet I do believe that “by endurance we conquer.” The transfer of this message to the next generation is essential. Prosperity doctrines, surface spirituality or feel-good religion will not build in our children the strength or determination they need to withstand the attacks of this world. “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

Shackleton was described thus: “Whatever his mood – whether it was gay and breezy, or dark with rage – he had one pervading characteristic: he was purposeful.” I pray that a sense of destiny and purpose will fall upon us and upon our children as we contend for the doctrine so faithfully delivered to us.

It’s easy to make fun of the old “Hold the Fort” mentality. Perhaps that song wasn’t the best musical effort of that era, but it did have a message; that protecting and defending what we believe and standing ready, enduring whatever comes our way, was honorable and necessary.

We live in dark times. In the last day sound doctrine, morality and godliness will not be endured (2 Timothy 4:3). The temptation to compromise, to lay aside our heritage, to blend in to the ecumenical circle, to yield to conformity, complacency and acceptance, must not overtake us. By endurance we conquer.

Fair to Middling

Apr 4th, 2017

Bro. Paul Mooneyby Paul Mooney

 

“Oh, fair to middling, I guess.”

Such was a common greeting among the farmers gathered at the Farm Bureau store or the grain elevator to gossip about the latest news or to track the price of corn. My father, and the others, mostly greeted one another with the question, “How are things going?” And the answer was almost always the same – a casual, mindless and non-specific mumble, “Ahh, fair to middling, I guess” – humbly admitting they were in the middle, not so bad, not so good.

pullmistertractorThe middle perhaps seemed an appropriate description for the Hoosier farmers. They were a modest breed of men who helped harvest one another’s crops, shared ideas, worked together and enjoyed deep friendship, and most all, when I was a boy, they were enjoying post-World War II prosperity.

Middling is an interesting concept, and in some situations can be a good thing. For example, in a fair society, creating a bridge out of poverty in order to pull people up economically to the middle class is considered a good and right thing to do. However, to do so at the expense of robbing others or designing a system that traps everyone, in spite of their talent, education, hard work or genius, in a mediocre prison is oppressive. History has proven that this type of societal manipulation typically stems from evil intent.

 

Middling, or being in the middle, when it comes to ideology, belief systems and moral codes can be dangerous.

 

Societies, institutions or individuals may aspire to reach a middle position out of altruistic aims; however, the concessions, accommodations, adjustments or compromises required to attain a “happy medium” often make neither side happy. A moral stance is just that, a high ground that allows one perspective to see the chaos, confusion and weakness of the other side. Coming down from this vantage point to meet the opposition in the middle doesn’t project strength or virtue – it does, however, demonstrate that one is willing to give up something. For this reason, meeting the adversary in the middle weakens one’s position, creates dissolution of the original value system and ultimately will render it less effective.


As the disciples of Jesus obediently made their way to the Upper Room we should note that they were not headed toward a mediocre middle. They were about to be born again.


“And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). From that moment, the disciples could never say they were “fair to middling.” There was no middle. Establishing an acceptable middle was not their calling. They made it their mission to preach Christ and Him crucified, not to seek a middle ground upon which they could establish a middle theology. Middling was not their destiny. Their message was controversial. It was revolutionary, and it required full conversion, not confluence.

To their own Jewish brothers they declared, “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh…” (Acts 2:16-17).aguidetomypath

From the Upper Room, the Apostles were left with no options. The truth had now gripped their minds and their hearts. The words of the prophets now made sense. The mission of the Messiah was revealed. Jews and Gentiles were now and forever together in Christ (Galatians 3:14). The middle wall was gone (Ephesians 2:14).

 

In today’s complex spiritual climate, the most devastating attitude is the attempted personalization of the truth, as if there is a truth for you and a truth for me. Modernity has intoxicated many into thinking that there is no right or wrong. We live in a culture of strict code, enforced by the politically correct and tolerance extended only to one side of an argument – and it’s not really a side at all – it’s the middle. It’s the popular meme expressed in the question, “Can’t we all just agree to disagree?”

 

I strongly urge us to ask the question, “Exactly what do we give up to come to the middle?”

 

We have to admit that in some ways we have given up ground. I see authority being drained out of our preaching and teaching. Social activism has become the new priority. This was not the way of the Apostles. They refused to forsake preaching to serve tables (Acts 6). The Apostle Paul desired to be in Rome in person, face-to-face, to impart the truth and spiritual gifts. And let’s not fail to note his didactic preaching and single message for all believers, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Anything that is not faithful to God’s Word is not a service to God. The times challenge us to care about every sermon, every song. Once we exalt our own opinions, or treat the middle of the road as an honorable position, we have failed. Anointed preaching imparts a vision of the truth’s power. Anointed preaching helps us see the truth as a contrast to the world’s agenda. We are called to holiness; we are called to defend the message of a new birth in Jesus. We are called to take up the cross, to engage in the fight for the greatest message ever given to mankind. This does not make us intractable, difficult or negative. This makes us committed. Mediocrity will not change the world. Aiming for the middle will not advance the Apostolic message.

Critically Reading and Listening, Part 1

Mar 28th, 2017

ibc-faculty-killmonby Bobby Killmon

 

 

I always hear from elders to “listen and read critically” sermons and other commentaries. How can I do that well?

What a great question. There is no way to treat the breadth of that here in the brevity of this article, but perhaps we can treat one example in the next couple of column articles.

How we approach the Bible matters. Reading and listening to others discerningly is necessary because one’s theological starting points can distort what they write about Scripture. The importance of understanding how we approach Scripture is shown in the ramifications for what it does to biblical inspiration and inerrancy. Unwittingly, and I believe in most cases unconsciously, some have repeated things they’ve read or heard without realizing the consequences. This is especially true in dealing with liberal scholarship and how it makes its way into pulpits through things like the liberal development of “historical criticism.”

What is historical criticism and where did it come from? This development was “born” out of “hermeneutical presuppositions” which are our assumptions we hold when we approach reading the Bible. This can be seen by asking three very simple questions and realizing that our starting points determine our conclusions. They are as follows:

What is the Bible? There are basically three groups of answers to this question, although there are subsets in each. There is what has been called the “historical grammatical” approach that believes the Bible is the Word of God. “Historical” means, in this approach, the text is a true witness to God’s interaction in history and it has been recorded and preserved for us in the Bible.

The liberal approach of historical criticism suggests the Bible isn’t the word of God, but “contains” the word of God. “Historical” then means the text is a product of people through the historical process. The liberal critic assumes the Word of God is there, but it was “mixed up” with other human words that were a part of this historic process.

leadersarereadersFinally, there is post-modern skepticism or post-modern hermeneutics which says the Bible is merely a “human” document. They claim there is no word of God in it at all. They further say the Bible is simply a reflection of the religious experiences of individuals and communities.

Directly out of these conclusions the second question is already answered. How does our view of what the Bible is affect interpretation? Or what is the “task” of the reader or preacher? The Bible-believing approach (historical grammatical) says we are to understand the text correctly, then proclaim it.

The liberal historical critical approach (Bible “contains” the word of God) says if there are “words of God” and “human words,” the task of the reader or preacher is to discover which is which. We are to “sort out” the word of God, to finally “discover” the word of God, then proclaim it.

The post-modern skeptical approach (Bible is merely a “human” document) says simply read the Bible and see if anything agrees with our own desires for religious experience. This approach claims there’s nothing authoritative in the Bible; it’s simply another example of religious ideas, which can be used or dismissed as such.

So how does this affect teaching and preaching? How does this affect methodology? I will show in the next article that inerrancy and inspiration are at risk.

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