A Modern Day Miracle?

Charlton Rhinehart

If ever there was a case for a modern day miracle, it would have to be the events that happened on December 23, 1971 to Juliane Koepcke. You will not find a more amazing story of deliverance from certain death than the story of Juliane, she lives to tell the story herself to this day, the evidence of the event is undeniable, and no one hears the story and walks away not wondering how she survived. But if we compare this story to the miracles of scripture, will it hold up to match what we find there?

Juliane Diller, the present day married name of Juliane Koepcke, boarded LANSA flight 508 on December 23, 1971. The 17 year old girl had just attended her graduation ceremony and she was flying with her mother from Lima, Peru to Panguana, Peru. During the flight at nearly two miles high in the air, the plane was struck by lightning and began to tear apart. To anyone’s terror, Juliane was sucked out of the plane with nothing except the seat that she was strapped into. Juliane fell from 10,000 feet outside of the plane with no parachute and nothing but the seat she was in – landing in the Peruvian rainforest. Against all odds, most would say miraculously, she survived the fall!  But the story doesn’t end there; she was now deep in the rainforest with no one to help her survive and no rescue team aware of where she was. Juliane was lost in the rainforest for 11 days. She had many cuts, an injured arm, and despite her fall from the sky, her only broken bone was a collar bone. But now insects were feasting on her and maggots had began infesting her injured arm endangering her life though infection.

Juliane’s survival story continues as she pressed on and was able to search until she found an empty encampment with an old boat motor with some old gasoline. Using her wisdom of the threat to her health with her pending infections, she soaked her arm in the gas to kill the maggots, an action which experts have credited as part of her survival. Latter, loggers returning to the camp discovered her and got her the help that she needed. Once she was treated initially at a hospital she assisted search parties to find the crash site recovering the many killed in the crash, including her mother’s body. She continued to make full recovery and has written about and told her story many times on many programs.

When I first heard the story I did not believe it could be true. Part of my disbelief was my studied position that miracles have ceased, yet this story obviously had to be a miracle to have really happened.  Knowing however the trustworthiness of the individual sharing it, I searched for the story myself. Once I saw how many major news stations had interviewed her, how many articles were written on her and how many books told the story including her own, I had to believe it – but how could this be? People fall from small ladders everyday across our country and die, a fall from a tall ladder is almost certain death, yet here is a woman who fell from 10,000 feet, just shy of two miles high with nothing unusual to land on or not even a tangled parachute but here she is telling the story with no visible handicap.

A story like this is very difficult to fathom, a conclusion of a miraculous explanation seems inevitable, but taking a step back and reevaluating the story brings out some other factors. No, there is not reason to doubt the truth of the account, but there are some factors that don’t match the miracles of scripture. One of the first things you might learn as you look at the story in more detail is that Juliane had spent much time with her father in the rainforest. Though she was only 17 at the time of the crash, this was an important factor in her survival once the crash was over. Likewise her family’s ties to science perhaps played a part in her wise choices for treating her wounds. But this leads us to a very important factor in comparing Bible miracles to Juliane’s  story, and that is, why were there any injuries at all? Granted, the injuries are quite minor considering the event she survived, but does this compare to the miracles of the Bible?

The miracles we find in scripture are not left lacking in any way. For example the many lame men who were healed by Jesus did not walk away with a limp. Naaman’s skin was restored from leprosy, it was not with scars and imperfections, but it “…was restored like flesh of a little child…” (2 Kings 5:14). And even the blind man who Jesus healed at Bethsaida, who saw men looking like trees at first, the miracle wasn’t completed until he was seeing clearly (Mark 8:25). These miracles are not ever left incomplete, these miracles are not left short for natural healing to finish the job, rather the miracles of scripture are unlike any claims we see today. And Juliane’s miracle is lacking in this comparison though still staggering as the story is.

There is yet another similar factor to this story that separates it from a miracle, and that is the other lives that survived but were ultimately lost. Remember her mother’s body and the many others from the wreck that Juliane helped them find? All of those individuals were deceased when rescuers found the wreckage, it was apparent that many of them had also survived the fall from the sky, but sadly they failed to survive the conditions of the jungle.  It is the survival of the fall from 10,000 feet that is the factor making many of us convinced this is a miracle, but the fact that God would have miraculously delivered several individuals just for them to die a short time afterwards does not match the deliverance that we see God gives through Bible miracles. To call Juliane’s survival a miracle would cause us to also have to call the other initial survivor’s deliverance a miracle too; yet their injuries cost them their lives soon after. It’s a factor that we just cannot ignore and one that doesn’t match what God would miraculously do.

This story will always stick with me as an astounding story. The scientific reasons how she survived such a fall will baffle us and even the non-believing scientist, though the explanation of the factors are extremely difficult to comprehend or imagine they are somehow there. Perhaps it was the winds involved in the storm that helped slow her fall, perhaps the foliage of the jungle played a factor, or perhaps the speed of the plane helped create a different force like a parkour athlete jumping from a building with speed and rolling as he lands to break the fall. I do not dare to try to explain exactly how she survived such an event, but I know it was not a true miracle and that the laws of nature somehow had to work in her and the other passenger’s favor in this fall. This story doesn’t match the supernatural and perfect miracles of scripture.

…to claim that a modern day event is a miracle robs the magnificence of the true miracles recorded for us in scripture.

As much as we want to call the events in our lives a miracle and give God the glory for it, to claim that a modern day event is a miracle robs the magnificence of the true miracles recorded for us in scripture. The miracles that we find in the Bible are on a whole other level from even the most amazing stories we have. To discredit God’s hand in helping Juliane survive is not my intention, the providential works of God have always been in effect, but the miraculous have not. Even in miraculous times God also worked providentially, and in non-miraculous times such as today or the 400 years of silence between the testaments. I am glad I got to hear about this story, to challenge my own view in my own mind as I thought it through. It provided me an opportunity to test and strengthen my faith and uphold the view of the church knowing that the miraculous was for confirming the word of God in Bible times. Miracles provided signs and evidence that the prophets, the Messiah, and the apostles were inspired by God and that their message is from Him – proven by flawless miracles. Let us look to His completed word for our guide, and not within ourselves, and may we reserve the term “miracle” for the acts of God in the scriptures.

“For My Thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8 NASB.

Salvation without the Church?

Charlton Rhinehart

There is nothing more offensive to our society in our current times than to hear someone say – “You have to be part of the church to be saved”. Even the handful of people who are left in our society that still go to church take offense at such a statement, because the denominations teach salvation by belief alone apart from anything else mentioned in scripture. It is interesting however, how the same offended individuals will quickly change positions whenever a passage such as Eph 5:23-25 is read, which shows that the church is the body, for who Christ died and is the savior of. Now that they are on board with the statement that the church is necessary they will quickly point out that we are the church, the universal church they might say, and the church is the people. 

“The church is a structure, not a brick and mortar structure – but a structure of people…”

It is true that the church is the people, but unlike the new position these individuals are now embracing, the church is not just people or even saved people. The church is a structure, not a brick and mortar structure – but a structure of people that assemble together, are accountable to leaders, are responsible for tasks together, and who worship together. The church is a local congregation you assemble with, answer to, and work with. For this God set elders and deacons up for His church, not just as an option for those who desire. For this God called the church “the pillar and support of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). For this God said do not forsake the assembly of the saints (Heb 10:25), and to listen to those who give account for your souls (Heb 13:17). 

There is no salvation outside of the church – period. Do not be deceived, this is the kingdom of God which the whole Bible points toward (Matt 16:18-19, Col 1:13, Rev 1:9). If you are not in the church, or your church teaches it is not necessary (which is the belief of most of denominations and community churches), then you need to be concerned for your soul.

For the husband is head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives aught to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her;” Ephesians 5:23-25 NASB

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28

… to the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” Galatians 1:2-4

And one of the the seven angles who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.“” Revelation 21:9

Does Christmas belong in Worship?

Charlton Rhinehart

Many churches of Christ include some aspects of Christmas in their December worship in our current age, and many congregations of the Lord’s body still do not. Which is right? Does it really matter? What about scripture? What about growth? What about reaching the lost? What about spirit and truth? All of these are thoughts to consider on the subject, and yes – it matters.

The basic argument is something along these lines: There is no “Christmas” mentioned in the Bible, there is no celebration of Christ’ birth annually by the scriptural church, therefore Christmas should not be something brought into the church’s worship. Granted most all the members of the church celebrate some American-type traditions of Christmas at home such as a tree, lights and Santa Clause for their children; but for some the line is drawn at the church and rather or not to include the religious aspects of Christmas in worship, and this is a major offense to those who do incorporate the two. I am sure this whole issue looks foolish to the world of various denominations and community churches, but until you have studied the importance of biblical worship, then you cannot comprehend how important this issue is to us.

The other side of the argument in the church is fairly common also, for those who want to include Christmas in the church, first the concern with scriptural worship is acknowledged because we all come from the same basic understanding of the restoration. Then the shift is made that it is Christ’ birth that we are talking about, and the scriptures make a big deal about that. Who are we to suppress the teaching of the birth of Jesus? Next we address the lost, how many are looking for truth this time of year through the birth of Christ, and the fact that we are missing out on those opportunities because we do not include Christmas in worship and in our church efforts. These congregations will then modify the sermon to be about some aspect of the birth of Christ, there will be several of the songs replaced with the usual Christmas themed church songs already in our mainstream song books. We stick a tree out in the foyer and we give away some hams to the poor that we talk about but never have seen. But through all this we keep in mind that we are still seeking a simple worship as seen in scripture, so an extravagant Christmas program is not what any of us are comfortable doing.

So which way is right? Truth be told it seems neither side is very far apart. The progressive side is just a different but still biblical lesson away, and even a few scriptural songs from the progressive side is nearly all that separates us. The reality however is that these two congregations are very different, and these details matter to God and must matter to us.

All the details of the restoration matters to us, because we know that they matter to God. We know the structure of the church is vital, I am writing to the members of the church so I feel no reason to explain. But we know there is no way we can substitute our structure with the common pastor or headquarters of our society. We know that our teachings of salvation cannot be ignored, all of the plan of salvation is truth that is absolute and necessary. We know that worship matters, far more than we would have ever thought, but we know what happened to Uzzah at the ark, to the houses without blood over the doors at Passover, to Nadab and Abihu, or with Cain and Able’s sacrifice. We know the importance of the measurements of Noah’s ark and of the instructions of Solomon’s temple. We know why Saul’s sacrifice was wrong and that it is better to obey than to sacrifice. We know why Naaman had to wash in the Jordan and not the rivers of Damascus, we know why the blind man had to wash in the pool of Siloam, and we know about Ananias and Sapphira. We know about the pattern of the tabernacle in the Old Testament, and we know about the pattern of the apostles pertaining to the church as the Spirit guided them into truth.

We know our responsibilities to worship in spirit and in truth and we know that appealing to the lost by compromising those things is absolutely no excuse. We know that a sermon on the birth of Christ is right, but we also know that to do so on the closest Sunday to Christmas is deceiving to our visitors, our youth and ourselves. We cannot let ourselves compromise any of our teachings for the sake of pretending to be a group that we are not. If a visitor is really looking for a Christmas service, do we really think that any of us can compete with the world’s churches? They have plays and solos, they have instruments and stage lights, they have choirs and a live manger scene, the sky is the limit when there is no guide to go by. Even the most liberal congregation of us who still clings to our name for whatever reason cannot offer those things. We have something far greater to offer, we have truth, the truth of the scriptures, the truth of biblical worship, the truth of the church of the bible and freedom from the distractions that pseudo-christianity spends their focus on.

If Christmas is mentioned in the church’s worship then let it be because we are addressing the truth about it. If we want to speak on the birth of Christ because it is on everyone’s mind then so be it, but let’s make it clear in the same lesson that we are not doing so because we are incorporating Christmas into our worship. Christ died for the church, if we are going to be that church then we will be different, we will follow the pattern of the apostles and not the pattern of the world and it’s divisions of Christ. Even if we knew the exact day of Jesus birth it would make no difference, if the church of the bible did not practice it in their worship, then neither can we. We don’t have to be rude about what we believe, we don’t even expect the world to understand us without studying with them deeply, but we’ve got to be the pillar of truth, and we cannot be that by pretending to be someone else.

“You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.” Galatians 4:10-11 NASB

In Vain Do They Worship Me, Teaching As Doctrines The Precepts Of Men.” Mark 7:7

Christian Meditation?

Charlton Rhinehart

Meditation has become somewhat popular in our western culture, it has always been a major part of oriental cultures, but Americans are starting to catch on too. Think of how many exercise classes incorporate some element of meditation now. The same is true in various types of counseling and therapy, and of course there are many spiritual or religious movements using meditation. Meditation is a major part of many religions and it is also a fundamental part of Christianity, but the meditation spoke of in the Bible is very different from meditation of the world’s religions.

Recently I was in a group where we were being spoken to by a public speaker who was also a practicing Buddhist. While her religion was not at all the focus of her subject, she still began her talk by having us participate in some meditation (something that I knew came from her religion and culture). She began by having us close our eyes, to focus on our breathing, to forget about our concerns, and mostly to relax. It was a nice way to pull us in, a nice experience to relax some, but I couldn’t help but be on guard a little knowing where the practice comes from. The experience had me thinking, what is meditation? How could it be good or bad? Is it right to do or is it just a waste of time to distract us from what we should be doing?

Meditation is spoken of many times in scripture, mostly in the Psalms. Psalm 1 speaks of the blessed man who keeps his way from trouble, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and nightPsl 1:2 NASB. Notice what the mediation is upon and what this meditation must be like. It is a focus on the law of the Lord, a concentration on those things and it is this man’s joy – his delight. Perhaps this reminds you of Psalm 119 where the word of God is praised in the longest chapter of the bible, it is also where we find the word meditate many times again. “I will meditate on Thy precepts…” v. 15, “… I will meditate on Thy statutes” v.48, “…that I may meditate on Thy word” v.148. Many other Psalms use the term also, such as 143:5, “… I meditate on all Thy doings; I muse on the works of Thy hands”. It is easy to see what is being described, to meditate is to think upon a particular item. This last passage even gives us an alternative term to help us understand it – to muse on the subject or to be consumed in thought and focus on these aspects of the Lord; particularly His commands and desires for us, the power of Him and His creation, or the eternal aspects our minds struggle to comprehend. This is what meditation is, it is focus, deep thought, concentration, and reverence toward what God has revealed. What good is the word of God if we never meditate on what it means? How can we ever respect the authority of God if we never meditate on His power? Meditation is a key aspect to the man of God under the Old or New Covenant, if we truly are thinking on and concerned with what God has said, what he has done, and what He will do, then we are meditating on Him.

In contrast, the meditation of the world’s religions is far different from the meditation we find in scripture. Perhaps a decent summary of the world’s meditation would be a way to simply relax, to set aside stress and connect with the spiritual things as we imagine them. There is a mindless aspect to this worldly meditation. As I looked further into the meditation of the Buddhist and similar religions, their meditation was described as a way of setting all these concerns aside in order to focus on one thing. I thought for a moment that there is something similar there we could relate to, that in order to focus on one thing, (such as the law of God), we must lay aside our other concerns. But when you consider the ultimate goal of their meditation – nirvana, it is evident that progress, conclusion and understanding from this thought process is not the goal. Nirvana in the Buddhist religion is the hard to reach point of meditation that reaches the peak of total emptiness, it is to be completely apart from your concerns or even your own awareness of who you are, unaware of your situations that might take your thoughts away from this mental place of perfect freedom. Its goal is not focus on any particular item, but rather just the opposite – it is the achievement of forgetting about everything for a moment. This may sound great to the person in need of a vacation, but it is in stark contrast to the sober and alert Christian of the New Testament (1 Pet 5:7, Acts 20:28), and it also isn’t the way of the Psalmist who is concerned of the devil’s snare and the Lord’s teachings (Psl 1). The meditation of the Buddhist or Hindu is a way to simply escape their current problems rather than face what needs to be done by God’s instruction. It offers no more than a drug or drink of alcohol, a simple escape for the moment and a way to avoid seeking the truth which is true meditation.  

Meditation is an important part of our Christian walk, without it we will never apply what God has taught us, we will never appreciate what we have been given, or acknowledge the power that God holds. Biblical meditation is far different from the meditation that the world shows us and it nearly the complete opposite of what the other religions have made it to be. As usual, the God of the Bible stands in obvious contrast to the gods of the world, and He differs in meditation too.

The book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and you will have success.Joshua 1:8

Placebo Effect Miracles

Charlton Rhinehart

We all know what a placebo is, that fake pill given out to some of the test group during the trial of a new drug. Yet it is always amazing how many of those who simply receive a fake sugar pill somehow have beneficial results. It makes for a challenge for the actual drug to compete with, not only does the real medication have to show real results, but it has to prove it is better than all these false results that people claim. But why are there so many benefits from a fake pill? Perhaps some of it is psychological to the person taking the drug – when they think positive they get positive results. Perhaps some of it is natural healing that takes place on its own and gets credited to the drug. And finally perhaps some of it is just plain dishonesty. Nevertheless, the placebo effect is something that even scientist have to account for. Could it also be that modern day miracles are the same thing, a placebo effect in our thoughts for those who believe them?

The churches of Christ have a unique view on miracles that I honestly haven’t seen in any other group. We believe that miracles have ceased. No, we don’t claim the miracles of the Bible are false, we don’t deny that God has the power to perform miracles, but we still claim they have ceased for the time we live in. The simple straight forward reason is because miracles served a purpose – they were to confirm the word of God, and that word is now complete. II Timothy 3:16 tells us of the inspiration of scripture, and verse 17 goes on to tell us that by it we can be “complete” and “thoroughly equipped”. This same message has been “…once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 4). And as John wraps up the book of Revelation he concludes by warning about those who would add to the words of the book, or take away from the words of the book (Rev 22:18-19). He was clearly talking about the book he had just written, but it also seems as more than coincidence that this is the last book of scripture written. The statement serves as a warning as well to not add to or take from the book as a whole, the big book that is – the Bible, it is now complete.

The fact is, miracles were performed not just for the convenience of the person benefiting from them, but they served a purpose, they were a sign that this is true. A sign that this prophet really is a true prophet from God, a sign that Israel was God’s nation, a sign that Jesus really was the messiah, and a sign that the apostles really were revealing inspired truth. The scriptures interchange the term signs and miracles often, John chapter 20 tells us these “signs” (v30) were “written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ” (v31). If this is the case with miracles and the prophets have been fulfilled in Christ, and if the apostles have revealed their message in scripture, then the need for miracles or signs are no longer needed.

So what about the miracles we see today? We have all seen some amazing things – are these not the same miracles we see in scripture? A miracle by definition is something supernatural, something that cannot  happen by natural laws, not just something that is rare, but something that cannot possibly happen within any natural odds. One of the most common things today that we call a miracle is the birth of a child. As amazing as the birth of a child is, especially your own child, birth is a very natural thing. Birth is well within the laws of nature to look at it from a scientific point, or well within the design of the human body from a Christian perspective. Truth be told we often misuse the term miracle for natural things that we don’t see every day, but a miracle is something that no person can explain. But what if a couple is told by their doctor that they are unable to have children, they pray for a child anyway, and a pregnancy occurs? Is this not a miracle?

Perhaps a better term for this unlikely pregnancy would be providence, this is what we pray for and hope for as God works with us today. The situation of the desired pregnancy is that the woman was highly unlikely to become pregnant, so much so that the doctor told her it wouldn’t happen. But just because the pregnancy occurred does not mean that a miracle has occurred. This isn’t something supernatural and totally unbelievable, but at the same time don’t rule out God’s involvement with it either. Perhaps if there was no prayer for this child the pregnancy would have never occurred. You see God can work out things that would have never occurred without His influence, but though He is involved, the result is not a supernatural unexplainable sign. God used those miracles, those signs in the past for a reason, to witness part of His word. But the need for that miraculous witness is fulfilled now as His word is complete for our understanding of Him. Still we know of His power and capabilities, still we pray and hope for His influence on the world around us providentially, but the instant supernatural response is not what we can expect in our time.

So why are there so many believers today that buy into miracles? They will tell you of things they have been healed of miraculously, tell you about angels they have seen or things God has spoken to them verbally. Perhaps the only way to explain this is the placebo effect and their own misunderstandings. Just like the convincing healing of the placebo pill that has to be false, so also many are convinced that they have witnessed the miraculous. Often these individuals are friends we know and trust to tell the truth. Sometimes it makes us think twice if something miraculous really occurred, but we have to realize these things cannot be true. For many of these individuals the churches they are a part of encourage their thinking. At these churches people will testify of things they have seen, Calvinism will have them looking for a calling to salvation, or preachers will tell of their unique miraculous calling to preach. Soon our friends are looking for something similar in their life and it doesn’t take long for them to find it in that mindset. One of the hardest challenges in evangelism is trying to show the truth to someone convinced they have seen the miraculous; someone who doesn’t believe the word of God is the whole authority for truth. Please reexamine the subject, just as there were 400 years of silence from God between the testaments, God can be silent today also yet we still know what He expects and that He is faithful.  Don’t swallow a sugar pill of lies.

“ Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease, if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophecy in part; But when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” (1 Cor 13:8-10)NASB.

“But the one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty…this man shall be blessed by what he does.“  (Jas 1:25)NASB.

Strange Evidence for God

Charlton Rhinehart

There are many evidences for a person to have faith in God. For some it is nature itself and seeing all the beauty that God has created (Rom 1:20; Psl 19:1), the fact of how it all works together day after day. Perhaps others stand on the fact that it is impossible for something to come from nothing, the scientific excuse that the elements have just always existed leaves too much unexplained. Another source for faith is the word of God (Rom 10:17), when we stick with the study of His word long enough, we begin to see how it all ties together in a way only something far greater than us could design. When we see the different authors over thousands of years all in harmony with the nature of God, when we see the Old Testament stories foreshadowing the New Testament flawlessly it becomes obvious that faith does come by hearing that word. There are many more sources of faith that God gives us, but here lately there is one that stands out to me above the others, and that is the foolishness of sin, that which looks so appealing to the world but God condemned in wisdom only He could have. The more the world becomes wrapped up in sin, the more attractive it becomes to them when in reality it is so obvious the disgust and consequences it holds, that is when Satan’s pull is revealed. Likewise this is also when God’s way looks the best to those who can see beyond these short pleasures, His existence, His wisdom, His words become apparent truth.

An example of the world’s strange attraction to sin is political liberalism. While there is no single party we can recommend the church to vote for that matches God’s word perfectly, it is also so amazing just how Anti-God the left has become – the church cannot be silent about it. The liberal political views that are rapidly spreading in our schools, our youth, among minorities, Hollywood and the wealthy are not just an innocent different view of things as we sometimes think of them. When we see the handouts to those not willing to work we are seeing God’s word ignored (2 Thess 3:10). We see the idle time these individuals now have that Satan uses for temptation, and the lack of respect for what others have worked hard to build. We see genders made into a confusing mess, youth are encouraged to be another sex and prescribed hormones to alter their body’s development causing permanent damage and depression. We see murder being stood for with passion as the left lobbies to keep abortion legal and obscure ideas like euthanizing of elderly, sick, or those with down-syndrome slowly becoming a considerable option. The good principles of America, our founder’s faith, our recognition of God’s word and principles, our heroes who fought wars for these freedoms are made the villains. Homosexuality – that which is against nature, is praised as special and the family by God’s design with scriptural marriage is despised. How could a single party stand for so many evils? How could the majority of our nation now fall for such senseless positions? Only because Satan is the prince of the world, only because God’s way is foolishness to them (1 Cor 1:20, 3:19).

Lust is another example of similar rebellion but with a strange way of spiraling out of control – again however it all testifies to the wisdom of God. On more than one occasion I have seriously discussed scriptures with someone at their home while nearby was a picture or poster of a woman with nearly no clothes on. Often you will find yourself in a situation such as a garage playing gospel music on the radio yet there will also be a calendar nearby featuring a bikini model. It is easy to become hypocritical when ignoring some of Jesus’ commands, especially a command such as to not even lust after a woman which He calls adultery in our hearts leading to hell (Matt 5:28,29). That glance of a beautiful woman in our society can easily turn into a stare of lust, that lust can cause us to seek out more images leading to pornography – always available anywhere by technology. The world’s culture is being destroyed by pornography that Satan has made so common. A person begins it with curiosity and turns away disgusted by some of what is seen. Soon he returns again remembering a favorable image or two, soon those disgusting acts become tolerable, then they become desirable, finally they become an obsession. Pornography twists the mind and heart. No wonder perversions, lust for the underage and rape, homosexuality and many unthinkable desires have manifested our society since the internet has become readily available. We think we can maintain control if we just overlook a command of God, but before we know it our life is consumed with sin and our conscience is seared. If anyone who is locked into this cycle can stop just long enough to look at what has happened he will not only realize his need to change, but he will realize the wisdom of God in a way that shows His undeniable existence.

Sin has a way of blinding us (2 Thess 2:11; Rom 1:26), it also has another way of also waking us up (1 Cor 5:5). From time to time we have that chance to see God’s wisdom in His word because of either our own sins or other’s sin around us. Perhaps it is in these many moments you will find yourself seeing one of the most convincing evidences of God. Strange as it is, sin reveals the glory, wisdom, and evidence of God, and yet it is all around us.

“How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes sweeter than honey to my mouth! From Thy precepts I gain understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.” Psalm 119:103,104 NASB

That’s a lot of Liquor

Charlton Rhinehart

There is a restaurant that my family and I often eat at and across the road from that restaurant is a liquor store. I have noticed the store a time or two, once there was a man stumbling around out front of the store that my wife and I watched for a moment, but aside from that I have paid the store very little attention. Recently I was leaving yet again from our favorite restaurant, and as I pulled out onto the main road I noticed that far down from the liquor store was shelves and shelves of liquor. I did a double take as pulled out onto the road watching careful for traffic coming also, but I had to see; was that liquor store really that big? It was that big, the store went down much further in the shopping center than I thought it did. I was impressed to see all the bottles that I did on those loaded shelves, and just to think it stretched all the way down to that entrance and beyond was surprising. I thought to myself, “that’s a lot of liquor”.

I was driving alone this time having drove separate from my family, and that gave me time to think. I wasn’t trying to think on the alcohol, it gives me hardly any temptation and perhaps even more disgust to dwell on it, but still I thought about all those bottles in that store. My first thought was that’s a lot of money – a lot of value to all those bottles, which lead to the next thought, that’s a lot of drunkenness. My mind wondered on still picturing all those rows and rows of bottles, I wonder how many DUI’s those bottles will cause? Worse yet, how many of those bottles will lead to wrecks on the road – or how many family’s will loose someone in one of those wrecks? I wonder how many will lose their job because of one of those bottles, as I thought of the man at work that most recently lost his job to his last DUI. That’s a lot of problems, that’s a lot of liquor.

That’s a lot of hangovers and miserable days. That’s a lot of money, not just the $50 bottles of vodka or tequila, but the wastefulness of a man under it’s influence for the night. That’s a lot of fights, arguments and hurt feelings. A lot of black eyes – physical and to the reputation. That’s a lot of bold words with no thought texted, and lot of apologies and shame in the following days. That’s a lot of foolish choices, that’s a lot of liquor.

That’s a lot cheap laughs at sinful things that should be despised (1 Cor 13:6). That’s a lot of excuses to sleep with a person that isn’t yours. That’s a lot of fornication, adultery and divorce. That’s a lot of broken homes, children with heartaches, and children tempted to turn to sin as they grow up empty. That’s a lot of missed house payments and bankruptcy. A lot of cost to society, but all our city council sees is the initial tax revenue. That’s a lot heavy cost to us all, that’s a lot of liquor.

Half of the liquor stores in my home town are still called package stores because there was a time when we were ashamed to admit what we had permitted to be sold. Instead, when we think of a liquor store or restaurant bar now, we think of dollar signs, good times, and prominent men making big business deals over a drink. We have somehow learned to ignore the true cost of alcohol.

There was a time when I would have liked to walk into that liquor store and pick out a bottle or two like I did at others. A time when all of those rows of liquor would have been appealing to me though I thought I was a Christian, liberalism told me I was fine. I can see beyond the appeal of such folly now thanks to truth and I can see what each of those bottles really are, and I can despise it. I am sure most all of these problems were sitting on one of those shelves of this store, and I am sure at least some of these problems were in each of these bottles. That’s a lot of problems, that’s a lot of  liquor.

Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine, And valiant men in mixing strong drink;” (Isa 5:22) NASB.

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper” (Psalm 23:29-32).

The Elder’s Wife

Charlton Rhinehart

Throughout the scriptures we find examples of elders leading the church. In Titus we find a list of qualifications for elders, as well as I Timothy gives qualifications for elders, deacons, and their wives. As we look at all the qualifications it is the wife of an elder that we often forget about, but she is one of the most valuable qualifications of this leader in the church.

Among the many roles that we can each have as servants in the kingdom of God, there is no greater honor, respect and responsibility than that of the elders. We always see a plurality of elders in each single New Testament congregation, it is not the job for just one man. The elders who rule well are to be -“…considered worthy of double honor…” (1 Tim 5:17, NASB). We, the church are to – “…appreciate those who labor among you, and have charge over you…” ( 1 Thess 5:12). The elders also – “… keep watch over your souls, as those who will give account…” ( Heb 13:17). Great will be the reward in eternity for many faithful shepherds in the church of our Lord, but likewise great will be the punishment for many shepherds who have allowed their congregation to go astray. The position of an elder is one that holds great reward and accountability.

One of the first qualifications we see an elder is to have is his wife. He must be – “…the husband of one wife…” (I Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6). Peter also having served as an elder (I Pet 5:1-4), makes clear the responsibility of the husband and his wife toward one another (I Pet 3:1-7). We see that the elders’ wives are to be – “…dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things” (I Tim 3:11). If a woman is not to be a leader in the church (I Cor 14:34), if she is not to teach or have authority over the men (I Tim 2:12), then why is her presence such an emphasized requirement? Beyond her presence, why is she required to meet certain qualifications if she bears no responsibility herself? The answer is she does carry a great responsibility.

When I think of the good elders I have seen in the church, I no longer think of just the elder himself but often of him and his wife. One foremost word that comes to mind when I think of the elder and his wife is teamwork. Just scan your church auditorium as we are assembled, find each elder in the crowd, chances are he is not sitting next to the other elders but next to his wife. Watch as worship or classes end, she will get up and likely be one of the busier people. She is sure to be talking with others keeping up with the members concerns, she will seek out visitors and find out if they know about the church or not. Watch who is involved with the many children’s classes, the preparation for them and the coaching for new teachers. Notice how her involvement with the children link her to so many of the families in a special way. If there is any upcoming event in the church she is sure to be involved. Notice who is often working hard coordinating food for the sick, making sure needs are being met, and hosting groups for new Christians or other ladies. Some of the busiest and most involved individuals in the church are the elder’s wives. Sure anyone of us could step up and do many of the same things, but God knew that the elder’s wife would especially be involved in the church’s work. God placed certain qualifications for her because He knew the responsibility she would bear. An elder and his wife are a team in the church, they each lead in very different and very similar ways.

Another aspect of the shepherd’s wife is her counsel. If you have any clue to the elder’s work than you know they make many difficult decisions on weighty matters. If there is trouble in the church they are dealing with it, if there is a family having problems, if there is a member slowly falling away, the list could go on but there are many hard issues that each elder has the responsibility to be involved with. Many of these issues require deep thought, study and prayer. If an elder was to share many of these difficult things with other church members it could likely cause splits as groups take sides, if an elder were to talk about these things in front of his children gossip would be sure to leak out incorrectly at some time or another. An elder needs to be able to share the difficult things he is thinking on with someone intimate, his spouse. Perhaps again God knew this would take place, could any man be in such a hard position and not share his thoughts with his wife? This too is why his wife must meet some qualifications. An elder could possibly be married to a non Christian and meet the requirement of just being married, but if she were not a Christian he could not share these difficult things with her for her compassion and input. God set a requirement of her Christianity and character as a helpmate to the elder. She needs to be of solid Christian character, hence – “…faithful in all things” (I Tim 3:11). She too will be tried by the challenges an elder faces, she too will need knowledge of the scriptures as she counsel’s her husband, that knowledge which only comes with years of study. Her involvement in the church also might bring out facts the elder alone often wouldn’t know. Of course it is not to be that the man is merely a puppet only doing what his wife tells him, the scriptures deal with this also – (Eph 5:22-24; Col 3:18; I Pet 3:1-6), but she is his helper and most intimate friend. Men rely on their spouses’ input far more than they or others realize, God knew the elder’s spouse needed to be a faithful sister in Christ.

An elder’s and a deacon’s wife are one of the most involved individuals in the church leading in ways we often don’t think of. She holds a great responsibility that is more than just setting a good example. As I think about my own children, I would love for my son to one day be able to preach and teach and to defend the church if he is willed that capability. But as for my daughters, they may not ever be behind the pulpit or at an elders or deacons meeting. I know however that they can grow to be just as valuable in the church in ways like these if they are faithful and taught the Lord’s ways. The elder and his wife are a team in the church, how can we ever say that women are so limited in the kingdom?

My Grandfather, 12 Years in Judgement

Charlton Rhinehart

The first close person in my life that I lost was my grandfather, I lost him 12 years ago. Sometimes I think about the things we did together, sometimes I think about the things he said, and sometimes I think about where he is now; and when I do so I must make a difficult choice.

Grandpa was a good and blessed person. He lived his life faithful to his wife and with a great concern and love for his family. I was blessed to spend many days with Grandma and Grandpa while my parents were at work. Grandpa had grown up during the depression in a very large family, they often had to go without, because of this he lived very frugally and responsible. He told a story of a coin he dropped on the way to buy a pair of shoes as a boy, he never found the coin and had to go the whole year without shoes because of it. Perhaps because of hard times like that my Grandma and Grandpa would spend all week cutting out coupons and preparing for grocery day, they would visit several grocery stores on the shopping day to get all the best deals. They made the most of their money in many ways living well under their means like many grandparents, yet they were not frugal at all when it came to spending on us grandchildren.

Grandma never drove a car her whole life, Grandpa always drove her around although she was very smart and capable, in several similar aspects he catered to her in an old fashioned way. The two of them kept their house prestige, Grandma would keep the indoors spotless and Grandpa worked daily maintaining their small lawn. I would work with him and I enjoyed it, we would mow every chance we got, bag every blade of grass, check the gutters, trim the hedges, and check the oil in the car and mower every week. Hardly ever did they need any oil but we still checked. Grandma and Grandpa always cooked at home, eating at a restaurant was no option. Grandpa always led a prayer before the meal, it was always the same recited prayer, but we never skipped giving thanks to God. Likewise Grandma and Grandpa never traveled anywhere for fun, the cost of travel was an unnecessary expense, but my Grandmother later told me she really regretted not taking vacations.

Grandpa was sharp although he never got to attend college, he helped several families with their taxes who couldn’t figure them out on their own. He read the paper cover to cover every day, he would watch the news knowing each each interval the new stories would be on. I never saw grandpa study his bible but I assumed he did so at some point from time to time. Grandpa always kept a close watch on the weather station also, if I could only count the times I listened to the music that played on The Weather Channel as the local forecast was displayed, I think of those days every time I’ve heard it since. We would show up way early for doctor appointments, and the doctor offices always made us wait way late before they would take one of us back to meet the doctor. In a sense this only contributed all the more to my procrastination habit as I saw how pointless being so punctual was. In many ways Grandpa bored me to death, I saw many grandfathers going fishing or woodworking, but Grandpa didn’t have any hobbies. Looking back however I realize he was a good grandfather, how much he cared for me and the responsibility he showed me.

Grandpa fought in World War II, he had traveled to Germany and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He had several good stories, but I was never brave enough to really ask him about any of the war action he had seen, I wish I had. The only gun he owned was a Luger he had brought back from Germany that he showed me a couple times. Grandpa was not an career soldier, he had volunteered when the war had grown to a size that a draft was about to begin. Grandpa had worked otherwise for the local chemical plant in the storeroom, a good fit as he was very organized and responsible. Despite his travels and service in life, hardly ever would a curse word slip from his lips, not like many of the other veterans I met.

Grandpa had grown up in a denomination, his father was the preacher for that church. His 11 brothers of his humongous family were quite wild like many preacher children are, but grandpa had a very different character of kindness. Grandma and him attended church in that same denomination every Sunday, even when they were very old and Grandma couldn’t hear a thing said there, they were still there each Lord’s day. Because of the denomination, Grandpa was never immersed or baptized for the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16). He was never even immersed for that matter, as he was only sprinkled as an infant which was the denomination’s practice for baptism. On top of this, the church embraced much error in structure, worship and practice. Year after year the church would adopt new errors changing with the times, yet Grandpa stayed with them. It didn’t help that his father was a preacher in that denomination, though his father’s gospel might have been much closer to the truth than what that church evolved into, it still gave my grandfather roots in a church not found in the scriptures (Gal 1:8), one that he never let go of.

Sometimes I think about the things my grandfather and I did together – sometimes I think about the things he said – sometimes I think about where he is now and what he is doing – and it hurts.

Grandpa was a good man, looking him in the eyes anyone could see kindness. There was nothing evil inside of him, there was no one he desired to hurt or who he despised. Many of his brothers had chosen a sinful life, several of them had become alcoholics, but I never saw grandpa touch a drop of alcohol or even joke about such things. I could go on with examples, but my grandpa was a good man, he loved me, and I loved him. By the world’s definition Grandpa was a good Christian man. There is a truth however that I have to face: that by the Bible’s definition Grandpa was not in Christ. His life showed many challenging characteristics of a person in Christ, but some of the most basic things that place us in Christ and in His saving church were not there (Gal 3:27; Eph 5:23). Perhaps I could tell myself it is not up to me to judge, but it’s my grandpa, day after day I think of him. There is a empty hole left in my life where Grandpa was and I cannot help but think about the life he has now. I think of him, and what it must be like, and I count the years it’s been.

We live in a world of lies, according to our friends and according to the religious leaders, almost everyone is going to heaven. We lie to ourselves about who God is, we lie to ourselves about where our loved ones are and we lie to ourselves about where we are going. Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and truly is the prince of this world (John 14:30). There is however in this world of lies a reality revealed by the word that true Christians must face – it is difficult, it hurts, but through that narrow and difficult path of reality is life. The truth hurts us, it breaks our hearts and sometimes it steals away our loved ones from where we want to believe they are. It is also however this same painful truth that teaches us what is right and shows us the only way to have life unending.

Perhaps one of Satan’s greatest lures is that of our family. The love we have for those we have spent countless days with and have built our lives around, how easy it is to sell us into a deception about their soul’s state. When we buy into the lie about where our loved ones are, we buy into a lie that takes our soul also. The religious life our loved one lived suddenly replaces the right and wrong of God’s word that we knew. Sometimes it is tough to be truthful, truly ignorance is bliss. I will always cherish the memories of my precious grandfather, but as much as it hurts I have to live in truth and accept what it teaches me. Let us determine then to have the goal, not to set out to judge every soul that has ever lived, but to judge ourselves with righteous judgement (John 7:24), to live in truth and in God’s standard rather than our own.

The Importance of Today

Charlton Rhinehart

Often times we as humans tend to focus on tomorrow, and when we speak of tomorrow, we often mean months or even years from now. What are we planning to do? What vacation are we going to take this year, what sports should the kids play this year, or how about next year? Thinking this way is the responsible thing to do, we plan ahead and are prepared for tomorrow. After all is it not the irresponsible individuals who live for the moment and often latter pay the price? It is good for us to plan in such a way but also does that mean we sometimes forget the here and now, important things of today like enjoying the moment or being engaged with our family today?

When it comes to the work we plan do for God as Christians, often times we take the same course. What will I do next year for God as I plan for a new year’s resolution? Who do I hope to talk to about how to be saved when the perfect moment arises? What great mission trip do I hope to take before I die? We have our plans, we have our hearts in the right place seeking after God’s work, but far too often our good plans are all we ever achieve. Perhaps we need to realize the importance of today.

First of all don’t get me wrong, there is value in planning. Proverbs praises those who plan for the coming seasons (Prov. 6:6-11), Jesus likewise tells us that just like a man building a tower we must plan and count the cost of being a Christian (Luke 14). Churches and their elders, deacons and members all need to plan for their works, but when hopes and future plans are all we have we forsake our greatest opportunity – today.

Today is the day to Obey! “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord… (Duet 11:26-28 NASB). We need to realize that today is our only chance to obey. As preachers often say, “we are not promised tomorrow”, this couldn’t be any more basic but also it couldn’t be any more truthful. Today is our chance to obey God, to put aside our disobedience and traditions, to be immersed in Him for forgiveness, becoming a Christian.

Today is the day to Repent! Repentance is part of obeying Christ, one of our initial steps to Christianity. But for far too many there is a need to come back to the salvation they were once in (II Pet 2:20). Once we face death and join the billions who are already there, there will be no opportunity to repent. There is no biblical purgatory as some teach nor is there is a second chance to repent after a millennial reign as premillennials teach. Once the Bridegroom comes the door will be shut, those unprepared will left outside forever (Matt 25:10). There is only here and now before we face death that we have to repent. God longs to embrace us like the prodigal son once we turn around (Luke 15:20), but if physical death comes first eternal death is all He can give us. Don’t put off what needs to be done today.

Today is the day to Serve! Jesus told the parable of a rich man who had a profitable year, the man said to himself he would build bigger barns, store his goods and live well for many years. Little did the rich man know but that very night his life was taken from him (Luke 12:16-21). Such it is with or lives also, how many of us plan to work hard, perhaps we hope to retire early and take a big mission trip at that time. According to this parable that is a foolish plan if we are putting off our service for God now gambling to do a better job tomorrow. Likewise we do the same thing with our money. We give very little today, we plan and work hard to climb the corporate ladder in our career telling ourselves we will give so abundantly latter – don’t we see we are never satisfied with what we have no matter how prosperous we are? Now is the time to give! Probably the greatest thing we put off for tomorrow is what we prefer most not to do – evangelism. It is awkward speaking up for Christ, it is challenging to start the right conversations and consuming to be prepared with the scriptures we need to know to do so. We tell ourselves we are waiting for the perfect moment, maybe when we are alone with an individual for a long period, maybe when the subject of salvation or the church comes up. We wait and wait for this perfect moment, we have our honest high hopes, but in the mean time these very individuals come and go from our opportunities. Situations change fast, our coworkers or our classmates change so quickly and before we know it our opportunities and hopes have been missed. Do these individuals a favor, look at them with love and compassion, realize how brief our moments are together and ask yourself what can you show or tell them today?

Jesus told us when He was speaking of the concerns of this world to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care of itself…” (Matt 6:34). Perhaps we are far too focused on tomorrow, perhaps this is really Satan’s way to get us to procrastinate God’s work day after day. Not only are we putting off God’s work, but we are planning for a day we don’t know that we will have. Let us make the most of what God has given us, let us realize how valuable this very moment we are in is, let us do His will today!