The Voice 1.16: May 08, 2011

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The Voice

The Work of the Local Church

As we strive to be New Testament Christians, using the New Testament as our standard and guide, it is important for us to consider what God has established for the work of the local church. As we look around us in the denominational world, we see churches engaging in all kinds of different activities. When we search the Word of God to see what is approved, we see that God intends for the local church to engage in the work of benevolence, evangelism, and edification.

Benevolence. We see in Acts 11:28-30 that when a famine was predicted for Judea, the brethren of Antioch determined to send them relief. A similar need is seen in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 8-9. From this we conclude that it is not only right but important for churches to assist churches in other areas when a need arises. Furthermore, we see particularly in 1 Timothy 5:5-16 that those who were “widows indeed” within a congregation could be supported by that congregation, and from this we conclude that the local church can help physically support their own who are in need. We see no evidence from any of the Scriptures, however, that churches were involved in assisting those outside the flock of God. Helping those who are in need who are without is absolutely the responsibility of the individual Christian (Galatians 6:10, James 1:27), but nowhere has God “so burdened” the church (cf. 1 Timothy 5:16).

Evangelism. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:1-14, established that it was right and profitable for him, if he so chose, to receive physical, financial support for the spiritual work he was doing in the Kingdom. Indeed, in 2 Corinthians 11:7-9, Paul says that he “robbed” other churches, particularly in Macedonia, to work with the Corinthians! While we believe that Paul is speaking in a figure, probably with a little sarcasm, in order to establish his point, since the Macedonians freely supported Paul (cf. Philippians 4:15-18); nevertheless, we see that the New Testament establishes that evangelists, for the spiritual work they do, can be supported by the congregation. Likewise, whatever material that is necessary for the promotion of the Gospel may be obtained so that this work may be done (cf. Philippians 4:14-18).

Spiritual Edification. The church was designed by God to assemble– after all, of what value is an assembly that never assembles? (The word “church” in Greek is ekklesia, which means “assembly”). Paul and the Hebrew author explicitly identify one of the main purposes of the assembling of the saints: to encourage one another, to build one another up– to edify (1 Corinthians 14:26, Hebrews 10:24-25). To assemble requires a place of assembly, and determining such is considered a liberty in the New Testament. The church also is to facilitate the partaking of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 11:20-34), for which brethren are to purpose to assemble. The assemblies in the New Testament were designed for the spiritual building up of the saints, and we do not see present all kinds of attractions of a physical sort in the least.

Such, then, is what God has established for the church to do. While men will often add to the responsibilities of the church, we can understand from 1 Timothy 5:16 that the church is not to “be burdened” with obligations beyond what is necessary. Let individuals fulfill their responsibilities before the Lord so that the church can focus on its spiritual mission in this darkened world!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Voice 1.16: May 08, 2011

The Voice 1.15: May 01, 2011

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The Value of Encouragement

Wherefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as also ye do (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Recent research has confirmed a trend that has been quite evident for some time: people are not going to church these days like they did in the past. Many people attend assemblies of churches very rarely. Others have come to the conclusion that they do not need to belong to a church to be a Christian. It is not as if everyone has turned their backs on God and have rejected the claims of Jesus– they find value in Jesus, but not in church.

Sadly, this trend is understandable. Many churches have turned their assemblies into a collection of lifeless rituals. Other churches have gone along with trends in society and just offer another venue for entertainment: their assemblies are really performances. For generations too many went to church only for social reasons. When the church does not seem to offer much, is not participatory, and is no longer a social hub, it is clear why so many no longer attend religious assemblies.

Is the problem with God or with Jesus? Absolutely not. The New Testament does not provide the impression that the assemblies of Christians were designed to be performances or merely social occasions. Instead, the Bible makes it clear that the assemblies were intended to be opportunities for Christians to encourage each other in their faith (1 Corinthians 14:26, Hebrews 10:24-25), and that the church is much more than just its assemblies (1 Corinthians 12:12-28)!

While we might feel better when we tell ourselves that we are independent people and do not need the help of others, we should all recognize that we are all weak at many times in our lives. Our spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak (cf. Matthew 26:41). Our Adversary is too strong for us as individuals to stand against him (cf. 1 Peter 5:8)– if we have a chance, it is because we are there to strengthen one another in the faith (1 Corinthians 12:12-28, 1 John 1:5-7).

Therefore there is great value in encouragement. When we are weak, others can lift us up, and we can lift others up in return when they are weak. We are all better off because we have one another. But that can only be the case if we actually have one another and know one another and are active in the lives of one another!

And that is why God, in His wisdom, established local congregations for His people– a group of Christians who would assemble frequently to strengthen and build one another up in the faith (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:26, Hebrews 10:24-25). In assemblies, they pray together, sing together, jointly participate in the Lord’s Supper, give for the needs of the congregation, study God’s Word, and hear it preached (Acts 2:42, 20:7, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 11:23-26, 14:17, 16:1-3). But the local congregation is supposed to be more than just assemblies– Christians also get together at other opportunities to strengthen one another, and the church is to become more like family than a social club or organization.

Perhaps you believe in Jesus Christ but have been turned off by various churches or do not feel that the church is necessary. Please consider, however, how important it is to encourage and be encouraged. Come and be a part of our family!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Voice 1.15: May 01, 2011

The Voice 1.14: April 24, 2011

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Glory be to God

To the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and power, before all time, and now, and for evermore. Amen (Jude 1:25).

It is one of those phrases over which the eye may pass over quickly; we often do not give it much thought. Yet it is present often throughout the New Testament (e.g. Romans 16:27, Galatians 1:5, Hebrews 13:21, 2 Peter 3:18): a doxology declaring that all glory be to God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. Even though we find such declarations frequently, especially at the end of letters of the New Testament, precious little is said about them. This relative quiet is especially tragic considering how important such declarations are in displaying the way that the early Christians viewed themselves and their work.

The New Testament describes the work of the early Christians, especially the Apostles, as they labored to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the ancient Mediterranean world. The book of Acts and the testimonies of the many New Testament letters record the fruit of these efforts– many thousands of believers, Jews and Greeks, slave and free, men and women, throughout the known world.

Yet the early Christians did not pride themselves in their own efforts. Instead, they gave all glory to God. They understood that their task was to promote the Gospel; the job of conversion and the honor that went along with conversion and growth belonged to God (Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, Hebrews 4:12). None of them deserved to be saved or were saved on the basis of their own efforts (Romans 3:9-23, Ephesians 2:1-18, Titus 3:3-8); all received reconciliation with God on account of their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior and their willingness to serve Him (Romans 5:6-11, 6:3-23). Therefore, there really was no basis upon which to boast or be proud, because God is the One who paved the way of salvation, and it was God’s powerful work through the early Christians that led to such spectacular growth and development (Romans 8:28-29, Philippians 2:12-13)!

The early Christians understood that they did indeed have their role to play, but it was by the direction of their Head, the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 5:22-32). Christians understood that they were part of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27), and just as various body parts may be able to accomplish many wonderful tasks, yet remain part of the body, humble, and dependent on the head, so it is with Christians. Individual Christians may be able to accomplish great things, but the honor and glory goes to the God who empowered them and made it all possible (Ephesians 3:20-21). They understand that they are always connected to their fellow Christians and completely dependent on the instruction and direction of the Lord through His Word (Ephesians 4:11-16, 5:22-32, 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

We must never forget that we are nothing without God. He has provided us with the creation, life, and the opportunity for salvation and every spiritual blessing through Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:3). Great things for the Lord have never been accomplished merely by human power; our power alone is always insufficient. Instead, we must depend on the Lord for strength, and when He strengthens us and we see increase and development, He ought to receive all the glory (cf. Philippians 4:13). Let us join with the Apostles and the early Christians and declare that all glory, honor, majesty, and dominion be to God our Father though the Lord Jesus Christ for all eternity!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Voice 1.14: April 24, 2011

The Voice 1.13: April 17, 2011

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Unalienable Rights

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“Unalienable rights”: many hold quite passionately to this premise with great zeal. This fervor for “unalienable rights” and the condemnation of anyone who is perceived as attempting to limit or reduce any of these “rights” is a mainstay of American politics and philosophy. In terms of political philosophy, the idea that it is self-evident that men are created equal and thus have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was quite revolutionary and has been a blessing for many of those who have participated in the American experiment. It has proven to be as much of an ideal that Americans are still working toward as much of a declaration of the political reality Americans have desired.

Nevertheless, this declaration of “unalienable rights” is not from Scripture; it is from the Declaration of Independence. The philosophy behind this declaration of “unalienable rights” is as influenced by the Enlightenment as by the revelation of God in Scripture. While Christians might be strong advocates for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as “unalienable rights” in the political sphere, we must also keep in mind that such are not necessarily guaranteed in the spiritual sphere.

For Christians, God’s revelation through Scripture is the ultimate standard, not the Declaration of Independence. It is true that in the New Testament God has declared all men and women to be equal before His sight (Acts 17:26, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). When it comes to life, Scripture declares that God gives it, and man ought not take it away (Genesis 9:5-6). It is in the matters of “liberty” and the “pursuit of happiness” that Christians must take care not to confuse the Declaration of Independence with the New Testament.

According to Scripture, while man does have free will to follow or reject the Lord, man’s liberty ultimately boils down to the question of whom he will serve–righteousness or sin (Romans 6:15-22). The Christian’s freedom is from sin and death in order to serve the Lord Jesus, not license to live as he or she pleases (Romans 8:1-11). In Christianity, liberties are those things which are to be renounced if they cause difficulty, not something to demand no matter what (cf. Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8). Christians are to serve the Lord whether they live under a government that promises liberty or a tyrannical and despotic government (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:11-17).

While Christians are to pursue the ultimate form of happiness–eternity in the resurrection with the Lord (Philippians 3:11-14, Revelation 21:1-22:6)–they might not experience much earthly happiness. The Christian’s life will involve suffering and tribulation (Acts 14:22, Romans 8:17-18). Christians must rejoice, but their joy is not necessarily based on favorable earthly circumstances (Philippians 4:4). In all circumstances God’s will revealed in Scripture must be followed; it will not do to assume that God wants us to be happy in the way we want to be happy and thus God approves of whatever makes us happy, as too many believe.

The Declaration of Independence may be good, but it is not Scripture. Let us serve the Lord and obtain true freedom and happiness!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Voice 1.13: April 17, 2011

The Voice 1.12: April 10, 2011

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Suffering and Scripture

People in the Western world have been able to experience an extraordinary level of sheltering from suffering and evil in the world. Advances in technology and healthcare have extended life and the quality thereof along with deadening whatever physical pain people might experience. While tyranny, despotism, corruption, greed, violence, and other forms of evil remain, they are not as pronounced as in times past.

Ironically, this isolation has been as much a curse as it has been a blessing. As a society, we have become rather immature when it comes to how we think about evil. While we might appreciate the opportunity to be sheltered from various kinds of evil, in the process, we begin to believe that major evils will not befall us. But if and when we come face to face with some horrendous evil we do not really know what to do. We may try to run away but find ourselves unable to do so. Far too many completely abandon every anchor in their lives, particularly their belief in God, when confronted with the horrendous face of evil.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy is how so many feel as if the Bible does not provide sufficient spiritual resources to address the problem of evil. This feeling comes from frustrated expectations: we want the Bible to tell us the answers to the questions we have in the way we have phrased them: “why does evil exist?” “How can God be a loving God and yet there is so much evil around?”. People do not find answers to these questions in Scripture, and so they walk away feeling as if there is no God.

The problem is not with Scripture but with modern man’s expectations. Long ago the Preacher declared such questions an absurdity (Ecclesiastes 8:14-17). Part of the reason lies in the futility of the question: even if we somehow could understand why evil exists, or how God can be loving and yet allow for so much suffering, what does that change? Evil still hurts. Pain still exists. Suffering is still acute.

Modern man should stop deluding himself into thinking that he is the first one to really tackle difficult questions. Much of Scripture, in fact, involves people with strong confidence in the existence of the Creator God, His goodness, holiness, love, and mercy, attempting to make sense of the evil and sufferings that have befallen them.

Whole books–Job and Lamentations–are devoted to this theme. The Psalmist in Psalm 44 takes God to task for the suffering of Israel, and many Psalms take up the theme of suffering and distress. The emotional and spiritual agony of Jeremiah is apparent in many of his writings (e.g. Jeremiah 20:7-18).

Giving up on belief in God when confronted with terrible evil is really the easy way out, and it solves nothing. The greater challenge is to seek to live as Job did, to bless the name of God in adversity as well as prosperity. We may not like suffering and evil, but they are part of this creation, and Scripture has made it very clear that we will not be able to inherit eternity and glory until we have endured the crucible of suffering (Acts 14:22, Romans 8:17-18). Therefore, whether we are presently suffering or not, let us take comfort from difficult Scriptures and be strengthened for present and/or future trials, able to maturely stand firm during the day of suffering and trial!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Voice 1.12: April 10, 2011

The Voice 1.11: April 03, 2011

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2 Peter 3:8 and the End of the World

But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8).

Ever since Jesus promised that He would return there has been no lack of people who have trying to predict precisely when that will be. Most recently the group at “Family Radio” has made well-publicized and provocative claims that the time of judgment will begin on 21 May 2011 in the evening. They base this conclusion on Genesis 7:4, declaring that the seven days before the flood are parallel to the seven days before the judgment day, we are to understand from 2 Peter 3:8 that each day represents a thousand years, and voilà– 7,000 years would pass between the flood and the end of the world. They date the flood to 4990 BCE; hence, the world will end in 2011 CE.

They want to make this scheme look persuasive and Biblical, but they are not the first people who have attempted to make an equation out of 2 Peter 3:8. The Epistle of Barnabas, most likely written between 70 and 132 CE, attempted to say something similar on the basis of the creation in Genesis 1:1-2:3:

Give heed, children, what this meaneth; “He ended in six days.”
He meaneth this, that in six thousand years the Lord shall bring all things to an end; for the day with Him signifyeth a thousand years; and this He himself beareth me witness, saying; “Behold, the day of the Lord shall be as a thousand years.” Therefore, children, in six days, that is in six thousand years, everything shall come to an end.
“And He rested on the seventh day.”
This He meaneth: when His Son shall come, and shall abolish the time of the Lawless One, and shall judge the ungodly, and shall change the sun and the moon and the stars, then shall he truly rest on the seventh day (Epistle of Barnabas 15:4-5).

Even though the date of the creation is somewhat disputed, most chronological analyses (including the one by those behind “Family Radio”) place it more than 6,000 years ago, thus invalidating the claim of the Epistle of Barnabas. If this type of thinking was inaccurate regarding the days of Creation, why should we expect a prediction involving the seven days before the Flood in Genesis 7:4– a detail for which there is no explicit association with the judgment day, even in 2 Peter 3:1-13– to fare any better?

God’s judgment will come quickly upon this prediction. Nevertheless, the major methodological problem will remain: Peter never equates one day with a thousand years. He says that for the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day (2 Peter 3:8). Peter does not want anyone to think that God is “slow” in fulfilling His promises, and he does so by showing that time has no meaning to God. Two thousand years, to God, is no different than two days!

We know that the Lord will return when no one expects Him (1 Thessalonians 5:1-10). That, in and of itself, likely invalidates any expectation of His return on 21 May 2011. But let none be deceived: He will return. It may come before May 21, or it may come long afterward, so let us be prepared for His return at all times (Matthew 25:1-13)!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Voice 1.11: April 03, 2011

The Voice 1.10: March 27, 2011

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“Progress”

That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

“Things are different now. People back then were more gullible, did not know any better, and believed strange things. We have a much better understanding of the way things work than people did in the past.”

How many times have we heard statements like the above– or thought them ourselves? Whereas generations before us tended to think that previous generations were better than they, these days people do the opposite. Since we have developed technologically and have greater scientific understanding we presume to understand all of reality better than our forebears.

But what if this presumption is mere conceit? While we want to believe that we understand things better than our ancestors did, do we really have a better handle on life than those who came before us? In short, has humanity really made any progress?

It is true that we have a better understanding of the way that the universe and our little corner of it works. We have made many advancements in technology that have increased the quality and duration of life for many people.

In so doing, however, we now presume to understand how everything works. Technology can end life and harm life as quickly as it can better life and extend life. Ultimately, the challenges that mankind has experienced for generations–the reason for existence, the prevalence of evil, attempting to control the desires of the flesh–have been no better answered now than in the past. If anything, the challenges have deepened over time!

The Preacher is right: there is nothing really new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). While we might have different pieces of technology, and may understand some things our ancestors did not, we suffer from many of the same temptations and challenges as they did (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13). Some temptations and challenges might be different, but they are no less pressing or difficult!

There is a reason why so much of what is written in times before us resonates to this day: even though technology may be different, we share in the same human experience as those who have come before us. Therefore, we should not so easily brush aside the wisdom and experience preserved for us in the Scriptures, assuming that somehow we “know better” today. In reality, we do not!

Why am I here? What is life about? What is going to happen to me? Why do so many people suffer? Why am I always tempted to do things I know I should not do? These are all questions that no piece of technology or scientific advancement can answer. Yet we can find a way forward with these questions when we explore the Scriptures of God, and through them know how to live for today and for eternity (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Let us keep “progress” in context, remembering that human nature is the same today as it has always been, and be willing to learn from God!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Voice 1.10: March 27, 2011

The Voice 1.9: March 20, 2011

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Bailout!

The Great Recession has led to great economic distress in our nation. Many financial companies had overextended themselves, and if they were left to handle the situation on their own, many would have gone bankrupt. The United States government felt that the bankruptcy of many such companies would cause more damage than it was worth, and so it began “bailing out” these corporations. Billions upon billions of dollars have been given to these companies to keep them functioning to this day.

One could argue whether such bailouts were really a good idea or not and whether it was really worth it for the American taxpayers. On the other hand, can we all not look back in our own lives and find times when we were “bailed out”? It is unlikely that we received millions or billions of dollars in our “bailouts” in life, but were we not relieved that thanks to someone’s intervention, we did not have to suffer the consequences of some of our actions?

That, essentially, is what a bailout does: it either provides a cushion to soften some dire consequences or it removes them altogether.

While we can understand and appreciate the value of bailouts in our physical lives, what about in our spiritual lives?

If we stop and think about it, the spiritual consequences of our actions are often dire. The Bible clearly reveals that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:10-23, Ephesians 2:1-3, Titus 3:3-5). The spiritual consequences of such sin is quite clear: death (Romans 6:23). On account of our sin, all of us deserve to suffer the consequence of eternal separation from God, the Author of Life, and eternal torment for our misdeeds (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9). On top of all this, there is nothing that we ourselves can do to “make up” for or atone for our sins. If God had left us on our own, our fate would have been far worse than mere bankruptcy!

Yet thanks be to God, for He has provided us with a “bailout!” In His great love for us, He sent His Son Jesus Christ to show us the way to live, to die on the cross for our sins, and to be raised in power on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-3, 1 John 2:6). Because of His sacrifice, we can be reconciled to God through His blood (Romans 5:6-11). He suffered the consequences of our sin so that we would not have to (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). We did nothing to deserve any of this, yet God freely accomplished it so that we could be saved (Ephesians 2:4-9, Titus 3:6-7).

As with all “bailouts,” however, there are terms that must be satisfied. These terms do not mean that we somehow “earn” the bailout, but if we do not meet the terms established, we will not obtain the benefit. God’s terms for the “bailout” involve our own death to sin (Romans 6:1-2) and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:22). We are to no longer live for ourselves; instead, we are to live to glorify God and to serve His purposes (Galatians 2:20). We begin our service by believing in Jesus, confessing His name, repenting of our sins, and being immersed in water for the remission of our sins (Romans 10:9-10, Acts 2:38).

You may not have obtained a billion dollars in the economic bailout, but God extends you a bailout offer of much greater value. Change your ways today, obey God, and be saved!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Voice 1.9: March 20, 2011

The Voice 1.8: March 13, 2011

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A Most Challenging Command

To him therefore that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin (James 4:17).

How do we define a “good, moral person”? Much of the time, a “good, moral person” is defined more by what they are not doing than what they are doing. “Good, moral people” do not get drunk, do not kill other people, do not steal (at least that much), do not lie, and avoid many other sins. They are “good neighbors” because they mostly keep to themselves and do not bother “us.”

In the New Testament, priests and Levites would, by common confession, be considered “good, moral people.” In fact, in the eyes of many, they were quite holy: they worked for God, perhaps even in the Temple. They worked quite diligently to avoid contracting any form of uncleanness.

Yet, when Jesus tells us the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), the priest and the Levite in the story do not turn out to be that “good.” They are the ones who saw the man beaten up by robbers but did nothing to help him. In so doing, they failed to prove to be “neighbors” to that man, and thus violated the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (cf. Leviticus 19:10, Luke 10:27).

But the priest and the Levite were “good, moral people!” They would surely have been morally outraged had they seen the robbers beating up the man. They might even have complained about how terrible times were– you cannot even go from Jerusalem to Jericho in peace! Nevertheless, as unpalatable as it may be, the priest and Levite are just as condemned as those robbers who beat up the man in the first place. Sure, the priest and the Levite did not actively hurt the man– yet, when presented with the opportunity to do good to him, they failed to do so. Instead, the “dirty half-breed” Samaritan proved to be more righteous than they!

The New Testament makes it clear that for those who wish to serve Jesus Christ, it is not sufficient to just avoid evil: we must also do what is right. It is not enough to “abhor evil”; we must also “cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). We are incomplete if we only avoid the works of the flesh; we must also develop and manifest the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:17-24). James 4:17 goes so far as to declare it sin to fail to do what is good. Since the New Testament never provides any indication that there is a hierarchy of sin, failure to do what is good is just as bad as actively doing what is wrong!

What, then, are these “good things” that we should be doing? We need to be praying for all men (1 Timothy 2:1-4). We need to show love, mercy, and compassion to all people, even those who hate us and who stand against us (Luke 6:27-36, 1 John 4:7-21). As we have been forgiven, we must forgive others (Ephesians 4:32). As we have opportunity, we ought to do good for all people, especially those in the household of faith: we may do so through financial benevolence, giving of our time, and/or using our talents for their benefit (Galatians 6:10, James 1:27). In all things we must imitate our Master, and be willing to serve and be a blessing for others, even without reward (1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 John 2:6).

This is a most challenging command for even “mature” believers. It would be much easier if all we had to do was avoid committing acts of sin! Nevertheless, we have all been called to die to self and live for Christ (Galatians 2:20): that requires us to take on the mind of Christ and to serve others as much as it requires us to renounce self and the desires of sin. Let us not prove disobedient to this charge, but instead to do good whenever we have opportunity!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Voice 1.8: March 13, 2011

The Voice 1.7: March 06, 2011

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The Unseen Reality

The situation seemed dire.

The prophet Elisha had helped the king of Israel three times now. The Aramaean king was very distressed that he could not get the advantage against Israel, and he had learned that Elisha was the source of the problem. A good part of the army of the Arameans now surrounded Elisha and his servants.

One of Elisha’s servants saw the great army of the Arameans. What were they going to do? The city of Dothan was not that large, and Elisha surely did not have that many men.

Elisha, however, was not disturbed. When the servant informed Elisha of the matter, he simply responded, “do not fear; there are more that are for us than there are for them.”

Surely the prophet was mad! There before them was the army of the Arameans, with horses and chariots no less, and all that could be found were a few servants of Elisha. How could it be that there were far more on the side of Elisha than on the side of Aram?

And Elisha prayed, and said, O LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha (2 Kings 6:17).

We have here narrated the events of 2 Kings 6:8-17, and they serve as important reminders for us in our own lives. We live in a day and age that focuses almost exclusively on what can be perceived: in the eyes of many, if it cannot be seen, smelled, touched, felt, or heard, it does not exist to them.

Human beings, however, are fallible and limited: while we have great brains and brainpower, the brain is a finite organ, and without a doubt there are realities beyond its ability to perceive. There are many animals who have more developed senses than humans, and as humans increase their technological abilities, more and more of the universe can be perceived than ever before. The Bible reveals for us, however, that there is a reality within our own that we do not perceive: the spiritual world in our midst. We see this with the servant of Elisha: where there seemed to be nothing there appeared chariots of fire. Reality had not changed– the servant’s perception changed!

We can be confident, then, that all around us right now is a spiritual reality that is left unseen to human eyes. We may not know exactly what is around us, but that does not mean that it is not there. Nevertheless, this reality is left hidden from our eyes; this is not some trick of God, but the presentation of the opportunity to believe without having seen (cf. John 20:29).

Right now you may be in the presence of angels, God Himself, or perhaps even a host of flaming chariots. A mere glimpse of this reality would leave you awestruck. The challenge posed to us is to live our lives always realizing by faith that this spiritual reality is in our midst (Hebrews 11:6). We must live as if we are always being seen, for indeed we are always being seen, and all that takes place will be exposed (Luke 8:17).

Now is the time to believe in the unseen reality. If you wait, the unseen reality will be made manifest, and it will be too late (Matthew 25:1-13). Believe and obey God today!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Voice 1.7: March 06, 2011