Teaching

HARVEST – A TIME FOR REFLECTION

(October 21, 2021) Brian Bell reflects …

As Moses approached the end of his earthly life, he reminded God’s people about the festival of harvest (Deuteronomy 16:10) which was one of the three festivals they were to celebrate each year. These festivals were an opportunity for God’s people to reflect, remember and recognise the Lord’s blessing on them.

Here in Northern Ireland, ‘Harvest Sunday’ is for the most part, still a fairly traditional celebration, usually in the colder, wetter, and darker months of September and October and held especially for folk in our farming/agricultural communities.

God’s handiwork
Last Sunday, October 17, we celebrated harvest in my home church and while we would not be described as being folk who live in a designated farming/agricultural community, some of our folk do come from such backgrounds. The church sanctuary was therefore modestly yet tastefully decorated and as I looked at the various displays they reminded me not only of the harvest of creation – fruit, vegetables, and such, but also of the harvest of salvation.

For me, the harvest of creation can be seen in the words of David J Mansell’s song Jesus is Lord which say, Jesus is Lord, creation’s voice proclaims it, for by his power, each tree and flower was planned and made.’

Creation is God’s handiwork – but he has given us a fairly significant role in managing it and we see this in the rewards as we reap what is sown.

The harvest of salvation is also God’s handiwork. As the good seed of God’s word is sown, the Holy Spirit can lead people into a saving experience and he reaps a harvest of those who respond in faith.

This theme of reflection is also found in Jeremiah chapter 8, from which I will share some brief thoughts…

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THE ‘BIG QUESTION’

(October 11, 2021) Dr Jim McClure, noted theologian, shares in-depth on what can be a distracting issue…

Here is a topic that has often distracted Christians and divided home Bible study groups – Did God select in advance those who would be saved or is the exercise of our free will to accept Jesus as our Saviour the deciding factor?  How many fruitless hours have been wasted in argument that has often been dogmatic, hostile and divisive!

The ‘Big Question’ which often stirs people is this: Is our salvation determined by God’s decision or by ours? The problem is finding an unambiguous and unequivocal answer because there is an apparent conflict between the biblical concepts of God’s sovereignty and human free will. Does God decide in advance who will be saved and who will be lost? 

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This is a massive theological issue that has been addressed in multiple books by many profound theologians so I admit that my comments here are most inadequate.  However I hope that they may be of some help.

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FELLOWSHIP – κοινωνία  – KOINONIA  

September 13, 2021) Dr Jim McClure, noted theologian, shares…

‘Fellowship’ is a word that Christians often use. It is one of the great New Testament words but is has been used so much to describe such a variety of ‘church meetings’ that it has become devalued. 

What is ‘fellowship?’  Is it just a term given to differentiate Christian groups from non-Christian groups – Men’s Fellowship, Women’s Fellowship, Youth Fellowship and so on? 

Or, does the New Testament use the word in a different way? That is what we are going to explore.

The Greek words κοινωνία and κοινωνέω
In the KJV the Greek noun κοινωνία (koinonia) has been translated by the words…

  • Fellowship (12 times),
  • Communion (4 times),
  • Communication (once),
  • Contribution (once), and
  • Distribution (once).

The verb κοινωνέω, ‘to share’, has been translated to partaker of, communicate and distribute. It is clear that it is a much more significant word than is suggested by the way we frequently use it.

Before it became a New Testament word, it was used in secular Classical Greek generally as a business word to indicate, for example, partnership in a business. 

It was also used in the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, to translate the Hebrew word חבר (chaber), which means to bind or join together in any context.

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ABIDING, RESTING AND TRUSTING IN JESUS

(September 9, 2021) Geri B encourages remaining in Jesus the vine…

Continuing along my earlier article on the theme of the grape vine (Abiding in the Vine)…

Jesus makes it clear that the Father wants his children to be fruitful and tells us that… ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful… Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing‘ (John 15:1-5).

Remaining… to bear much fruit

  • If we remain (abide) in him, we will do just that – bear fruit.
  • And if we bear fruit, the Father will prune us so that we will be even more fruitful.
  • But the warning comes to us twice in this short passage… remain in him, otherwise you cannot bear fruit, you can do nothing!

Not only is it the Father’s desire that we bear much fruit by abiding in him, but there is that oft-missed warning that unless we remain in him, we cannot bear fruit, nor can we do anything of true value!

With all the gifts we have been endowed with there can often be a tendency to take ownership and believe that we can use them whenever and however we so choose… but the truth of it is, we are simply stewards of the manifold gifts of God and to really see lasting fruit from what has been entrusted to us, we must take our direction from the Lord – we must abide in him.

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SALVATION – WHAT AN INEXHAUSTIBLE MINE OF TREASURE!

(August 28, 2021) Dr Jim McClure, noted theologian, explains an important aspect of the Christian faith…

The Hebrew and Greek words of scripture are like inexhaustible mines and one finds new treasures each time the words are examined. 

I have selected an important one to reveal just some amazing truths – salvation.

Firstly – by way of introduction, salvation as found in the Old Testament is a great salvation – ‘yasha.’

The Hebrew word moshia, which is usually translated as ‘saviour’ in the Old Testament, comes from the Hebrew root yasha, which has been translated as avenge, defend, deliver, help, preserve, rescue, and save, has the meanings of opening wide, being large in capacity, living in abundance, being free, safe, helped, rescued, victorious and being made whole.

It is a word that contains amazing riches and is found around 180 times in the Old Testament.  When we consider that in the New Testament the noun Saviour, sōtēr, is found 24 times and the verb sōzō meaning to save, deliver, heal or make whole is found 110 times, it becomes evident that not only does the Bible say a lot about salvation – it is scripture’s dominant theme.

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WOMEN WHO MINISTERED TO – SERVED – JESUS

(August 20, 2021) Brian Bell shares an insightful meditation…

Dr Robert McQuillan’s recent article (What? Some Women Still not Permitted to Minister Today) in which he gave a wise, brief answer to this question, set me thinking about the many scriptural references in which women are mentioned in relation to what I would describe as ‘ministry.’

I feel that too often the word ‘ministry’ is considered only in a narrow context, for example, ‘the ministry of the word’ – that is the preached word of God or the readable Bible itself.

Actually the word ‘ministry’ is diakonia, which basically means to aid, serve. In church circles, we think of the deacons who assist, serve in various ways – I myself am a member of such a group in my own church.

In a scriptural context I believe every believer is in effect called to ‘minister’ not just a particular group … however the nature and place of ministry is as varied as the Lord’s people are with our different personalities, gifts and abilities.

Divine design
Scripture tells us God made Eve as ‘…a companion who would help…’ Adam (See Genesis 2:18ff…noting that ‘help’ is ezer, to aid, assist).

Clearly God has given specific attributes to both women and men which, while they may in some ways be different, are complementary in working together, assisting each other. To me this is clearly a ‘divine design’… not some random or evolutionary trait and not something to be ignored.

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TRUTH OR DARE?

(July 25, 2021) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, dares every Christian to be a Daniel today…

Have you ever played the party game Truth or Dare

It can be very funny or very embarrassing!  Some ‘Truth’ questions could be, ‘What is the most embarrassing thing you have ever done?’ or, ‘When did you last tell a lie?’  If you do not like those questions, you may choose ‘Dare’ instead of ‘Truth’ and may, for example, be dared to ‘Eat a really hot chilli’ or ‘Try to touch your nose with your tongue.’ Consequently you can be confronted by all kinds of humiliating and challenging tests.

I have chosen that title for this article because I want to draw attention to something which is vitally relevant and challenging to Christians today. We are, I believe, at a time in history which is quite unlike any other. And I’m not referring to the Coronavirus but to something that is significantly more serious and invasive and dangerous – especially for Christians.

In so many ways we are at a crossroads today religiously, socially and morally.

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BLUE AND BLACK OR GOLD AND WHITE?

(June 19, 2021) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, brings a timely challenge…

About seven years ago someone posted on the internet a photo of a dress that caused quite a debate among people regarding its colours. Some people adamantly declared that the colours were obviously blue and black while others just as dogmatically stated that they were gold and white.

What do you think? What were the actual colours of that dress?  (Answer at the bottom of the article!)

There is a correct answer to the question and there are also perceived answers… and there are many reasons why the perceived answer appears to be the ‘obvious’ answer!

So what point am I trying to make?
Simply this. Christians often disagree over things that are mentioned in the Bible and often that disagreement leads to disagreeable conflict, arrogance and legalism.

After many decades of academic study and personal reflection of the content of the Bible I must confess that I do not have all the answers!  Indeed regarding some of the things I once was convinced were undisputable, I now have to admit that conceivably I may have been incorrect in my strongly held perceptions.

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WARNING: ‘A TEXT OUT OF CONTEXT IS A PRETEXT!’

(June 16, 2021) Robert McQuillan reflects on the above…

Personally, I will never forget these words of wisdom above, made decades ago by an outstanding pioneer of Pentecostal truths. There’s always something that sticks in one’s mind when a great preacher declares something profound, and this certainly did… has, and always will!

Now, it’s a warning that has been highlighted in different ways by others over the years, but at the time it linked perfectly with scriptures the Holy Spirit had burned into my heart three years previous when out-of-the-blue he had spoken to my spirit.

I well recall that wintery night when he stunned me by saying clearly that he would use me to teach God’s word simply but in-depth, challenging Christians and leaders to understand what scripture is really saying, not what they think or suppose, or declaring as being ‘the latest thing in God.’

Dangerous spiritual junk food
The Holy Spirit strongly impressed on me to deeply study the Timothy epistles, to wholeheartedly devour Paul’s warnings about end time lack of hunger for truth in some Christians.

Influencing me about a coming lack of desire for God’s word, a careless Christianity,he burned 1 Timothy 4.7Message into my heart: ‘Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion.’

Then, especially 2 Timothy 4:3-4, ‘You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching but will fill up on spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.’

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SILENCE IN THE CHURCH?

(May 17, 2021) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, brings a timely challenge…

Silence is not always golden – sometimes it is dross – rubbish!  Solomon succinctly stated in Ecclesiastes 3:7, ‘(There is) … a time to be silent and a time to speak.’

I would maintain that the ‘time to speak’ is now!  There is a rampant decadence and ungodliness today that is saturating and destroying our culture, unsettling our society and silencing our Christian witness.

That witness has been severely undermined in recent years.  While the Christian faith was once seen as a pillar of society and generally enjoyed a degree of esteem and its message was respected and valued (even by many of those who did not embrace it), today the church and its message is largely scorned and dismissed in many Western countries. There are various reasons that could be quoted but I highlight two that I sense are very pertinent.

1. The scourge of ‘political correctness’
The so-called ‘good old days’ were not as good as some may want to claim, however once there were values that now have not only been discarded in society but also scorned.

(i) The reversal of values
There was a time when…

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