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   Christian Concourse - POETRY
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The Journal for Jesus' Sheep - Volume 8, No. 1

the Church - The Bride of Christ

Published by:
Christian Concourse Ministries, Inc.
1543 Norcova Ave.,
Norfolk, VA 23502

© Copyright 1997, 1998, 2010 by Christian Concourse Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this journal may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.
 
The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Christian Concourse Ministries, Inc.

Christian Concourse Ministries, Inc. is a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation, registered in the State of Virginia, USA.

Gerald T. Johnson, President
Gerald T. Johnson, Editor
Dar Johnson, Assistant to the Editor

Laura Olmstead, Assistant Editor
Jeff Hadsell, Contributing Editor

 

This Journal is dedicated to the work of Jesus Christ.  The goal of this ministry is to provide a vehicle for believers to improve their relationship with each other and with Him. 

   

"Only Christ can enable men to live in a right relationship with each other. It is this unifying power of His which must dictate your every decision, for you were meant to be one united body."
Colossians 3:15 BARCLAY

   

YOU HAVE A PART!
Each believer has faith and experience in Jesus Christ. This personal treasure multiplies in our sharing it with others. We invite you to write down what the Lord has given you. Send us your Christian poem or prose to encourage others in their faith in Jesus Christ. Please click here for details and more about Christian poetry on our website. 

 

From The Editors
 
Dear Reader, greetings in the Name of Jesus Christ. We extend our prayer to Him for you that: love of others, joy in life and peace with God be multiplied in your heart by His indwelling Holy Spirit. Enjoy this journal! Read it like a letter from your friend. We offer it to you for your personal edification and the strengthening of the interdenominational Body of Christ. We are honored that the authors printed in this issue reflect a cross-section of denominations, and we doubt you will be able to tell which is which. So, we encourage you to look only for our Lord on these pages. Let Him minister to you as you read these gems from fellow Christians who have been motivated to give you their insights and thoughts in writing. Please note: Our goal to encourage and edify the reader will not be fully satisfied unless you read this journal entirely as a unit. To avoid a distorted or partial message, carefully consider how the authors compliment each other as they relate to our theme.

Gerald T. Johnson, Editor

 


This issue of The Journal is centered around the theme: The Church, The Bride of Christ. The articles, poems, and testimonies herein have been chosen, for the most part, because they reflect this theme. Some of the pieces focus on our identity as the Bride and what that means to us as individuals and as a body. Other pieces focus on our longing for our Bridegroom. Still others dwell on the longing of the Bridegroom for His Bride. And lastly, some of the articles focus on our responsibilities as Christ's counterpart here on earth.

I believe it is important to keep in mind, when reading about our responsibilities, that our starting ground is our acceptability to God because of Jesus. We obey as beloved children, holy and already perfected, for the purpose of pleasing the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. It is a delightful task to please One who loves us and is pleased with us; on the other hand it is a wearying task to try to please one who continually criticizes our efforts. For, to the eyes of Love, our imperfect, feeble attempts to please are a sweet smelling savor and such eyes has our Lord.

May God's blessings of grace in Christ Jesus continue to bring encouragement and comfort to your hearts. To Him, who loves us and made provision for us in Jesus, be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Laura Olmstead, Assistant Editor

 

        

Table Of Contents

 

The Blessed Hope Is Near
Damon E. Wyatt

The World And The Church
Matthew J. Barlow

My Father, My Mother, And I
Jerry Johnson

Gods True Love
Penne Haynes

The Answer
Nell Hawkins

Mothers In The Faith
Jackie Richardson [edited for Christian Concourse]

Kindness
Elizabeth Atwood

Trust
Amara Olmstead

And Everyones Chains Fell Off
Mark Phillips

The Church Defined
Jay B. Jones

Where Do I Go From Here?
Valerie Widgins

The Presence Of Greatness
Frederick W. Faber

Alone With Jesus
Margaret H. Newsom

A Helper Fit For Him
Ellie Olmstead

Sinners Married To Christ
From The Gadsby Hymnal

I Am His Garden
Ed Miller

Aspirations
Jeanne Marie de la Motte-Guyon

The Ministry of Christian Concourse


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The Blessed Hope Is Near

Damon E. Wyatt

 

Lift up your head, Oh Christian!
Erase the plague of fear;
The evening is advancing,
The Blessed Hope is near.

Yes, Jesus Christ is coming,
At midnight comes the cry.
The upward flight is ready
To mansions in the sky.

In the mansions of the Bridegroom
The table is all set.
The marriage feast is ready
For God's redeemed elect.

Don't be a thief or robber,
There is no other way.
Look now to your salvation
Act now while it is day.

Is your lamp all trimmed and burning?
Have you filled it with God's oil;
To light your upward journey
Above the sin-cursed world?

Have you put your trust in Jesus?
His word is true and clear.
Walk TALL ye noble Christian,
The Blessed Hope is near.

 

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The World And The Church

Matthew J. Barlow

 

The world approached the Church one day
In manner suave and cool,
"Come rendezvous with me my love,
I'll fill your empty pews.

"Your sanctuary is cold and lonely
Your message goes unheralded,
I'll give you wealth and power, dear
If you will be my girl."

Alas, the tired and weary Church,
Beset by sin and doubt,
Accepted the vain world's proposition
And shut her Master out.

On Judgment Day, The Lord came down
To claim His pure white bride,
In vain He searched the wayward Church
His bride he could not find.

He wrote upon her altars
In FLAMING letters red,
"YOU ARE SOUND ASLEEP IN ZION,
LIFELESS, COLD AND DEAD!!!

`Midst bingo games and raffles
You have COMPLETELY shut me out,
I'll go ELSEWHERE to seek My bride
I SPEW YOU FROM MY MOUTH!!!!"

He found a wretched beggar
Upon a lonely road.
He drew him to His bosom
And claimed him for His own.

A quarry slave bowed down with toil
He gathered to His side,
A hopeless alcoholic
He did not turn aside.

Along the lonely byways
O'er valley, hill and plain,
He gathered up His pure white bride
To dwell with Him for ere.

So the book of Revelation
Revealed to the one Christ loved
Will come to pass on that great day
When He appears in the sky above.

 

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My Father, My Mother, And I

Jerry Johnson

 

Before my time . . .

My mother walked the streets at night;
She was poor and outcast, diseased.
Plying her wares -- a social blight --
A "thing" to those she sought to please.
In the dreadful mornings, when the sun shone bright
She sulked away in sullen shame,
Hoping sleep, wicked guilt would tame.

Now the King who ruled the daylight
Was Love epitomized.
Only those who never met Him
His kindness criticized.
He was meek and He was humble
Though no man dared try His might.
He was handsome beyond comparison;
From His eyes . . . came healing Light.

Early, as my mother scurried
For her ragged bed through the morning dew,
The mighty King's great procession
Turned onto the city avenue.
She cast a shameful glance his way,
When her eyes met his - she could not lift a shoe.
Oh, the horror when his chariot stopped;
Oh, the amazement as he spoke: . . ."I would love to marry you!"
So into His chariot He lifted her
As she clutched her ragged shawl.
He put his strong arm around her:
At His side, no chance to fall.
To His glorious castle He took her
And He proudly announced to one and all:
"This is my lovely bride, prepare her,
To the guests of the wedding feast send out the call!"
In elegance and innocent charm
In a glistening white wedding dress
My beautiful mother adorned His arm
As she walked the aisle with no regrets.
Unreserved, without alarm
She sincerely did profess
Her past ways were wholly gone
She would love her King . . . with faithfulness.

Now the King who ruled the daylight
Was Love epitomized.
Only those who never met Him
His kindness criticized.
He was meek and He was humble
Though no man dared try His might
On her hand He placed His ring,
In her wounded heart . . . His healing Light!

As time passed . . .

Now the King had one great servant
Who was greater than them all.
He was mighty, he was beautiful
But his arrogance was his fall.
And he thought to have the King's new wife.
He knew her past . . . her young resistance would be small.
So decked with his brilliant, gleaming robes
He cornered her alone one day in the hall
He whispered, I have caught your wondering eyes
Admiring my physique --
For love like mine your memory cries.
Now I'm sure the King is kind and sweet
I know he really tries
But it is my touch that you seek.
Wander with me 'neath the blue skies
Of the wilderness for a week!

My mother fell for his scheming ways.
They fled into the wilderness.
Indulging in the horrible deed for days . . .
Her satisfaction turned to emptiness . . .
And too late she found it isn't worth the lonely wage it pays!
Now the great servant disdained her highness
As he hurried off he laughed: "I'm leaving, only the King's condemnation stays!"

The day that devil left her . . .

She found herself alone and lost
The desert now her home.
If only she had counted the cost;
If only she had known!
Oh, the misery of the desert morning frost!
Oh, the scorching of the sun at noon!
But the King's love that she had tossed
She discovered wasn't dreamed . . . she'd have His baby soon!!!

I was conceived in love and security
I was born in hopelessness and shame.
Though my mother was awash with iniquity
We still carried my Father's kingly name.
We wondered among my mother's former kind;
She dragged me from sordid place to place;
A helping hand, a pleasant word we could not find:
Her old friends hated . . . the light upon my face.
I was rejected and felt forsaken
For my own mother wished me dead:
For she felt it better if I were taken
Than to face the hopelessness ahead.
We scrapped, we scratched, we crawled
As the desert fed us worthless sand.
The uselessness of fighting left us both appalled.
What a meal we ate at the hateful servant's hand!

Then, one day we met a messenger.
From the King's palace he had come.
He said the King had lost His wife to sin,
But He knew she was carrying His son!
He said the King would take her back again!
For He searches every day.
On His mighty white steed He rides the clouds.
When they see Him they can call Him -- He will turn their way.

The herald didn't know us
In our rags and blistered skin.
As he left to go on preaching
We could not believe the flicker of hope he left within.
So we turned back to the desert
With tears of hopelessness streaming from our eyes.
And the wilderness was still laughing when I saw . . . the glimmer in the skies.

Through the thick, dark, brazen overcast
A shaft of light did pierce.
Though incredulous, our heart leaped inside at last
And our sorrow turned to joyful tears.
Behold, the Mighty White Steed
And my Magnificent Father held his reins!
We cried, we screamed: "Dear Jesus!!!! Dear Jesus!!!"
They were gone: . . . the guilt, the sorrow, the pains.
His face in that instant burst
With living, loving Light.
He seemed overjoyed to see us
As resurrected by the sight!

Our guilt and that devil had lied to us --
He never wished us any harm!
And swooping low, rushing toward us,
He safely lifted us . . . with His mighty arm.

And now . . .

As born again, my mom and I
With Him safely ride from condemnation freed;
Winging for Home thru the clearing sky
Upon His Mighty Steed.
For in His loving eye
I see now my destiny:
In His Amazing Grace to abide
In every word and deed.

Now the King who rules the daylight
Is Love epitomized.
Only those who never met Him
His kindness criticize.
He is meek and He is humble
Though no man dare try His might
He is handsome beyond comparison;
From His eyes come. . . for soul and spirit . . .
Everlasting, healing Light.

 

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God's True Love

Penne Haynes

 

You have loved me from the very start
All You asked of me was my heart
I gave my heart to you many years ago

But a few years back, I lost my way
I somehow had taken my eyes off of You on life's highway
I found my way back to You through the guidance of a friend
And I have cried tears of relief and joy
Because on that lost road, You patiently waited for me at the end

You've given so much to me
So much it seems I could never repay
You gave your life that a sinner like me might be free
You have blessed me with family and friends who care
I hope with them Your love and light I might share
You'll give me clean, white linen as my dress
You'll give me clothing of righteousness
This dress You'll give because I am Your Bride
I know I will meet You in Heaven
And Your arms will be open wide

I pray I can live my life so that others can see
That I gave my life to You and they can see You in me
I will get through each day with Your mercy and grace
And will wait with anticipation for that special day
When, at last, I will see your face!

 

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The Answer

Nell Hawkins

 

You wake up in the morning,
And your path seems dark and drear,
You feel you won't get through the day
Without a sigh or tear,
You think your nerves are going to snap,
And everything goes wrong,
You've quite forgotten how to smile
Or praise the Lord in song.

Just pause for one brief moment...
And bow your head in prayer...
Then ask the Lord to undertake
And banish every care;
No problem is too great for Him,
There's nothing He can't do;
For Jesus specializes in understanding you!
Remember: He lived on this earth,
And He was once a man!
He knows the things you cannot do,
He knows the things you can!
Then why become frustrated
And let things get you down?
It surely isn't Christian-like
To grumble and to frown!

Perhaps it isn't easy
To trust where you can't trace,
Or realize just what can be
Achieved by sovereign grace,
But if you truly love the Lord
And know His ways are best,
Just tell Him plainly how you feel
And let Him do the rest!

 

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Mothers In The Faith

Jackie Richardson [edited for Christian Concourse]

 

During Mother's Day service at our church last year, I felt a deep sense of sorrow for those among us who either could not be, or were not, mothers of their own children. I am very blessed that I am a mother; though on very hectic, stress-filled days I sometimes envy those who are not. But, let me share my thoughts from that Sunday morning.

I believe that the Lord has designed woman with a nurturing, loving character which causes her to help her children feel loved, and guide them in bettering their characters. That drive in women can also be extended to those adults whom they love. How many times have we heard men complain, "I didn't want a mother when I married you"? I do not remember ever having a conversation with another woman in which we have not tried to show that same kind of nurturing to each other. So, even though we might be childless in the natural, we are certainly not childless in the faith.

Even Paul, a man, saw his work with the different churches as a job similar to a mother's. Galatians 4:19 reads, "Oh my children, how you are hurting me! I am once again suffering for you the pains of a mother waiting for her child to be born -- longing for the time when you will finally be filled with Christ."

How important it is to be involved in each other's spiritual walk! For we can raise a child, but if we do not lead them to the Lord, what good is it to them? I believe that we all have the responsibility to nurture one another in the faith of our Lord Jesus.

Webster's defines nurture as: "to rear, to care for and educate, foster." In 1 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul writes, "But we were as gentle among you as a mother feeding and caring for her own children." Paul truly expressed a responsibility to the body of Christ as a parent figure.

To those women out there who might be suffering the emotional pain of not being able to have their own children, I offer you the opportunity to be my mother in the faith and to care for me as you would your own child, and I, on my part, will most definitely endeavor to return the blessing!

 

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Kindness

Elizabeth Atwood

 

Kind words come from within
When the heart is touched with love;
With sympathy and patience;
And courage from above.

I humbly thank The Father;
For the blessings He bestows;
From the bounty of His wondrous gift.
My heart just overflows.

May I show, in my small way;
With joy and love and praise,
As I live a life of gratefulness;
By others' hopes to raise.

 

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Trust

Amara Olmstead

[Editor's Note: This poem was written by a nine year old girl. The easy lines belie their depth. Here is a true reflection of the theme of this issue of Christian Concourse: The Church, The Bride Of Christ. In words of simple, childlike faith, "Trust" shows the sweet response to God's loving character that often springs from our redeemed heart.]

 

I love God . . .
Because He loved me first.

I love God . . .
Because He died for me.

I love God . . .
Because He is the King of Kings
And the loving Lord of Lords.

I love God . . .
Because He never sinned.

I love God . . .
Because He listens to me when I pray.

 

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And Everyone's Chains Fell Off

Mark Phillips

 

And At midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened and every one's bands were loosed. Acts 16: 25-26

 

Prisoners in pits
and pressed in by bar
of attacking and trouble
bought and paid for.

Chains bind them to walls
of cold sweat and concrete.

At noon we sing on Sunday
and place our dollar bills
and pray for daily bread.

Parents past their prime reside in rooms
in homes alone.

Pink-gowned nurses
the only visitors
to aged elders
who've lived and earned something better than arts and crafts.

At noon we leave on Sunday
and shake our hands
and seek the noon buffet.

If we learn to sing at midnight,
If we learn to pray in prison,
If we learn to worship on the street,
perhaps the doors will spring open,
the chains fall off,
and the truth be truth indeed.
 
Hoping for a prison to pray in!!

 

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The Church Defined

Jay B. Jones

 

As Christians, who are we?

That's easy, you might say. We are those who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Yes, but there's more. As Christians, as those with Christ-in-us, who are we? How do we define ourselves? How do we describe ourselves? How do we think of ourselves? How do we speak of ourselves to ourselves and others?

Well, we are "a kingdom of priests unto our Lord."
Now, we do like that description, for it speaks of importance and purpose, and it is scriptural. It describes us as doers; it speaks to ourselves and others that we're about doing great things for the Lord.

Every description of ourselves has lasting and telling repercussions both in the sacred and secular realms. How we describe ourselves as Christians comes with a set of expectations about ourselves, by ourselves and by others, and thus affects our witness. And our witness to a lost and dying world is our "prime directive", our Great Commission. It is our purpose for living, and dying.

So...

Who are we?

How about wife, or bride?

Okay. Fair enough. The "Bride of Christ" is good and scriptural, but "wife" is just a bit mundane, and though true, just doesn't fit today's need.

Let me say this as blunt as it may sound...

Any other description of ourselves other than bride and wife can, and very possibly will, lead us down the road in which we will one day hear,

"I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place." Rev. 2: 2-5 (NIV)

 
Can we risk this indictment?

There is a separate yet connected problem that has helped lead the church down this road thus far. It is a problem, at least in Western Christendom, that affects our mindset, that subtly affects how we think about ourselves and ultimately how we "do," how we live for our Lord.

It is a problem with language. More specifically, it is a problem with terminology.

How did you come to Jesus? How did you receive him? How was the invitation given? How was it extended to you to come into a saving knowledge of Christ?

In my experience it was, "Will you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?" And I'll make an educated guess that yours was much the same.

It's a good, straightforward, time-honored and traditional invitation.
So, what's the problem?

It's in, and with, the word "accept" that I take exception.

???

Accept.

Think about it. Think about how we use the word.

"I accept this... I accept that... I accept this gift... I accept this award... I accept what you are saying... I accept your opinion... I accept you...."

Our use of the word is passive, at times even with an air of tolerance. When we accept, we are the recipient. Most of the time when we accept, receive, all that is required of us is acknowledgment, and sometimes acknowledgment coupled with a show of pleasure. "Acceptance" does not mean "agreement with" someone or something. Our use of the word is passive, thus our thinking with respect to acceptance is passive, and our action becomes inaction. Our mind tells us that when we accept, we don't really have to do anything -- "no further action required".
And it is my belief that this way of thinking has had telling effects on how we live out our Christianity today.

Consider this...

How would it sound to an imminent spouse-to-be if during the wedding vows the pastor or priest asked, "Do you, John, accept Jane, to be your wife... and do you, Jane, accept John, to be your husband...?" And how would it sound if during these same vows the response was heard, "Yes, I accept Jane as my wife..." "Yes, I accept John as my husband...." No further action required. I don't think so!

Why is the word "take" used in the vows? Because it is the language of action and passion. There is force behind it, with intent to consummate. I'm not talking brute force, but rather am speaking of the drive and passionate desire to come together to complete the union of two separate beings and wills, and become one, willfully focused on each other in love, in desire and passion for one another, consummating it in, and with, action.

Certainly the word "take" does also contain the underlying idea of brute force as during a theft or a rape, and in this use "take" equates to "violate", which, again, is an action.

But within marriage there is no room for such action; violating force is not to be condoned, for in such there is no mutual consent, only lopsided, one-sided, selfish intent acted upon. Likewise in Christianity, there is no room for such "taking", for God in Christ Jesus is our example for living and He is the perfect gentleman, never forcing Himself on anyone.

Yet "take" we must, but take with the force of love and mutuality, for then we will see the fruit of our action ripen to the fullness of joy and the sharing of it with others.

"Do you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior?"

NO!

I TAKE Jesus as my Lord and Savior, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, and, forsaking all others, to be faithful to Him.

Now, here, in the context of the wedding vows, I have written with respect to the individual, whereas for the rest of the time previous it has been with reference to us as Christians, in the plural. And it is at this point that I rejoin the singular with the collective, the individual with the Body of Christ, for it is the vows of the individual believer that form the backbone of the Church.

Since we have "solved the language barrier" and renewed our vows, let me ask once again... As Christians, who are we? Can we, or will we respond by saying that we are the Bride of Christ, that we are His wife, spouse, lover?

Let me suggest a blueprint for living as a community of Christians within the city of the world. Perhaps what I suggest has been thought of before as a plan for building up the Church; perhaps not. With Christ Jesus as our Husband and Foundation, let us consider ourselves as His wife and pattern our lives as such:

 

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
"Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
The Proverb of the Noble Wife (Proverbs 31:10-31 NIV)

 

Can the Church go wrong when we follow wisdom such as this?
Let us not forsake our first love!

But then, what does it mean to be "a wife of noble character"? (Men, don't get the idea I'm speaking only to the female "species", for being of "noble character" is genderless. And here I'm speaking in the context of the church as wife, and that certainly includes us. Also remember what Paul wrote to the Ephesian church as he gave marital counseling to couples there. He said, "Wives, submit..." and it is noble to submit and obey, but then he said, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...". And which act is more noble? And more responsible, I might add?) So, what does it mean to be "of noble character"?

Jesus told a parable, as is recorded in Luke 8:5-15, which is commonly called "The Parable of the Sower". In explaining the meaning of the parable to His disciples, He said, "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart,...". But did He stop there? No, for He defined "those with a noble and good heart" as those "who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop" (verse 15).
Luke later wrote of another "noble" happening. In Acts 17:11, he called the Bereans noble, writing that "...the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians,...." Why? "...for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." They did not seek to prove Paul wrong; they sought to confirm the truth.

Yet there is an older story which further gives us the inside track as to what "noble character" is all about. Consider the story of Ruth and Boaz. Better yet, take the time to read that short, four chapter book of Ruth, for it is a love story of epic proportions, containing amazing truths and ramifications for us, the Church. And remember that it was this union of love and redemption that was part and parcel in producing the human lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ. In chapter 3, verse 11, Boaz says to Ruth, "And now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character." What made her "noble"?

In short, she forsook her people and her gods for her mother-in-law's people and God. Then she worked at menial labor, gleaning the fields, in order to provide food for Naomi and herself. And she listened and heeded good advice from both Naomi and Boaz. All these she did willingly because she considered her choices and chose the right course. Ruth did what she had to in order to bring honor to her husband's name. Perhaps the author of "The Proverb of the Noble Wife" was thinking of Ruth when he wrote it.
What does it mean to be a wife of noble character, a church of noble character? The proverb quoted is a line by line instructional guide to us, the church. It is a definitive model for being "of noble character."

Have we left our "parents" so that Jesus has full trust in our relationship with Him? By "parents," I mean our nationality and culture, for retained allegiance to our ethnic and cultural background can and will affect our marriage to Jesus, for in those parents are also all the siblings, those philosophical "isms" such as pragmatism, humanism, hedonism, etc. Are we more American as Christians or more Christian as Americans? Is color or race more important than the Name of Jesus? Does the-practical-thing-to-do or the-end-justifies-the-means or name-it-and-claim-it-prosperity take precedence over remaining in the Spirit and waiting upon the Lord? Are the state and federal governments our salvation or is our Husband our Deliverance? Jesus does have full confidence in us, His wife, for He commissioned us to reproduce with Him, making disciples, by going, baptizing and teaching them to obey His commands. But have we brought Him everything of value that we can? Or have we spent much on ourselves?

Have we brought Him only good, and no harm, each and every day we exist? Do we love one another as He commanded, and do we persevere in doing good? Or do men curse Him because of us? Do we jealously guard Him and His interests each and every day, never giving up even in the face of opposition?

Do we work with eager hands?

Do we go to great lengths to bring in to the "fold" what is needed for sustenance in the spiritual, physical, and emotional realms of our family's existence? Are we discerning and attentive to the needs amongst us?

Do we willingly and lovingly put aside our desire for sleep and comfort in order to ensure those members around us are well fed and cared for in all aspects, and do we continue beyond that by meeting the needs of the supporting cast as well? By supporting cast, I mean those people we come in contact with everyday and that are just as much a part of our lives as those we worship with. God does not show favoritism... nor should we ever.

Are we good stewards of all the resources that Jesus has given to us? Out of what we have and produce, are we producing more? Or are we satisfied with the status quo, or do we produce more only to keep more? Do we truly share what we have with others who have not? Do we make love with our Husband only for personal enjoyment, or do we make love to give pleasure to Him and to reproduce His offspring, the fruit of our joy together, fully knowing that that entails uncomfortable pregnancy and painful childbirth? Allow me to report a statistic from 1990: the World Evangelization Database reported that 95% of the existing mission agencies spent themselves and their resources on the Christian world. Furthermore, 99% of the entire fare of Christian resources are consumed by Christians, which leaves only 1% for outreach to non-Christians. Has this trend changed since? We don't consider ourselves rich, but if we make $5,000 a year, we are well-off by the world's standard. And if we make $10,000 a year, then we are indeed rich, even considered affluent. [For more on World Evangelism, click here.]

Do we work diligently and industriously, not tiring of the task at hand?

Does our give and take with the community around us bring worth and honor to Jesus? Does our light of truth and integrity and love shine continuously?

Do we work with skill?

Do we provide for the poor and needy? Think about it. For all the churches 'round about, why is there any governmental welfare at all? Jesus provided food for thousands with little at hand. He took what was available, thanked God for it, broke it up and had it distributed to the needy, and had more left over. It could be the same for the Church today. Jesus relied on God's abundance to provide in the face of having next to nothing in hand. Are we generous to those who have less than us, giving to meet their physical needs and doing so without arrogance or the paternalistic "father knows best" attitude that can so plague us when we are well fed and well off? Do we give without passing judgment, and by this I mean condemnation, knowing that it is by God's grace that we even have what we have and not of our own hands least we should boast? Do we practice what James says... "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (1:27)? Do we "regard no one from a worldly point of view" (2 Cor 5:16)? Do we seek to reconcile men to God through loving and compassionate actions of meeting their physical and emotional needs while sharing the Good News that our Husband can provide for them too?

When the storm clouds rumble and rise, and then slam our house with full force -- and they will -- have we built one another up, bearing one another's burdens, encouraging and "clothing" each other with the appropriate attire so that there is no fear of loss to life or limb?

Do we keep the relationship with Jesus our Husband, fresh and alive in love and respect, and the marriage bed pure in faithfulness to Him? Do we make time to spend it with our Husband in intimacy and mutual adoration? It is an easy thing to get busy with the work of maintaining the household, feeding the children and doing the chores. But let us not take our relationship with the Lord for granted. Be as passionate for Him as He is for us.

Do people bless the name of our Husband because of us, or do they curse it? Has hypocrisy found a foothold among us?

Do we make disciples who in turn make more disciples, or do we make them just to build up our own little house?

Are we confident of who we are in the Lord, standing firm when the philosophy of the day seeks to lead us astray?

Do we speak wisdom? Do we watch our words, aware that we are accountable for every word we speak and knowing that the tongue is a fire and untamable by man? Are we indeed faithful to our Husband when we teach others?

Are we faithful managers?

Is the Church seen as blessed? Without spot or wrinkle?
Can Jesus say of us..."Here is my wife -- there is none like her!...She has the character and bearing of a queen, full of grace, seeking truth and committed to living it with integrity...She is priceless and cannot be bought!"?

Where does our beauty come from? Do we have that "unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" (see 1 Pet 3:1-5)? Do we fear the Lord?

Are we willing to wait for our reward, or are we reaching out to grab it now?

Let us heed the Word that gives us life. Let us not forsake our first love . . . a do-anything, go-anywhere kind of love. And may our love-relationship with Jesus be marked by passion. Passion. O, the passion of first love! As He demonstrated His love for us by willingly going to the Cross, so let us prove our love for Him by being passionate for Him first and then being living witnesses of that love-relationship to the world. Jesus, Lover of our soul, has exalted us to nobility by taking us as His Bride; let us not forget that gift, nor our common beginnings. Take Him, love Him without measure, and do the acts of nobility.

Let those who have an ear to hear, hear!

Love, Jay.

 

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Where Do I Go From Here?

Valerie Widgins

 

Where do I go from here
The time of night draws near.
Follow through, carry on
Break through the endless dawn.

Time awaits, so bid farewell
Just call on Jesus whom your problems tell.
Why study long, linger no more
Procrastination won't open the door.

Where do I go, whom shall I see
With whom do I confide, in all sincerity.
God gave you endless abilities
To share with others that they might see.

Do you know, are you willing to learn
As the desires rage and the fire burns.
Set me free, pave the way
Show me Dear Lord, how to pass each day.

There is so much to do, with places to go
Time is wasting away like the melting snow.
I know it's right here in my heart
I will just do what I can, and with love, impart
To try each and every avenue
I don't want to forget what I must do.

Then The Lord says, "The times you sunk in utter despair
Proved that only true life shall climb this stair.
It's done, it's done, what more shall you be
Go my child in dignity."

 

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The Presence Of Greatness

Frederick W. Faber

 

O how the thought of God attracts
And draws the heart from earth,
And sickens it of passing shows
And dissipating mirth!

'Tis not enough to save our souls,
To shun the eternal fires;
The thought of God will rouse the heart
To more sublime desires.

God only is the creature's home,
Though rough and straight the road;
Yet nothing less can satisfy
The love that longs for God.

O utter but the name of God
Down in your heart of hearts,
And see how from the world at once
All tempting light departs!

A trusting heart, a yearning eye,
Can win their way above;
If mountains can be moved by faith,
Is there less power in love?

 

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Alone With Jesus

Margaret H. Newsom

 

I am alone with Jesus
Every step of the way
He is in my heart
He is in my thoughts
Each and every day.

In the night I am never lonely
For He fills my heart with His love
And I know that some day
He will take me away
To be with Him, forever above.

 

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A Helper Fit For Him

Ellie Olmstead

 

What was it like for Adam on the day of his creation? Adam was alone in the garden amongst all the beautiful trees and flowers. Imagine yourself in his place. See the dew on the grass; smell the perfume of the flowers. Sense the worship in his heart as he looks around at the creation of his God and Creator. Yet as he looks around, he senses that he is alone. There is not another like him.

(Yes, man was made in the image of God , and hence, he was not alone in a spiritual sense. However, on the physical level, he was alone and unique.)

The Lord God Himself recognized man's state and said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him. "(Gen. 2:18)

Let us focus again on Adam as he looks around himself. All is quiet. No birds singing, for God has not brought them to him yet. No crickets playing music, for they have not been manifested yet. Perhaps all he hears is a gentle breeze through the leaves; there is a feeling of quiet anticipation. Adam is longing, but for what? He does not know what he is missing but the sight of the verdure and the bright flowers and the sound of the gentle breeze have awakened a longing for company.

Quietly, so subtly that at first he does not notice, a new sound arises: a little plop from the stream nearby. Adam investigates. Under the surface of the silvery water, shapes are darting to and fro, quick slivery metallic creatures. Wonder fills his heart. I'm not alone, he thinks. There are others! Not like me, but still, I'm not alone! And he names them. Then a background of music begins, crickets and other insects play their tunes, and Adam's heart begins singing a melody to his God. Then bird song fills the air, creating counterpoint and harmony. He looks around in anticipation of the unveiling of more wonder and lo, through the trees there -- a flash of color, of red -- the ancestor of the cardinal appears and to the right a bright multicolored relative of the macaw. He names each one, his heart bursting, the music building. "I'm not alone. Look at all this; it's so beautiful!"

And as he is lost in the beauty flying around and the music resounding in his ears, he feels something brush his foot. Looking down he sees a mouse. Now this is something new. He squats down and touches the soft fur, names the creature, praising his God.

But that is not all, for from all sides, new sounds are manifested as creatures approach. In peaceful yet relentless succession they come: the soft furry cat , purring under his caress. He smiles as he observes its beauty. Then a lizard runs across the path and he laughs. Suddenly, a growl resounds from the brush and a lion steps into the clearing. Trembling, Adam reaches out and strokes the majestic mane. Something about this creature excites him and inspires reverence in his heart. More sounds resonate around him, the branches crackling as even more animals come to him: giraffes and tigers, bears and snakes; then behold, a trumpet blows. What more! How much wonder can Adam take in a single day! The elephants press through the branches as they appear, male and female. Adam names them, his heart cantering at 200 beats a minute.

"The earth is full," he shouts! Life abounds! And yet as he observes all the diversity around himself, still a longing abides, even made stronger as he observes the duality of the creatures -- male and female. He stands alone, male, as the last of the creatures scamper by, perhaps a pair of playful, intelligent monkeys. He names them, continuing his praise of God, hearing the music of the creatures build to a crescendo, then suddenly a stillness descends. Adam discovers that he can stand no longer. First to his knees, then to his back he falls and enters into a deep, deep sleep. All creation pauses in this moment -- something newer than new is happening.

[And God took something from inside the man and fashioned a woman. Then He woke Adam.]

Adam awakens and looks around. The music has toned down though he still can hear the steady hum of the crickets and flies, the interrupting loud notes of the cicadas, the distant sound of elephants trumpeting, and even larger creatures crashing through the trees. Looking through the branches of the trees, he sees something else approaching: a flash of flesh causes his heart to pound. Then she steps into the clearing and suddenly Adam sees her whom he was longing for without even knowing it. His heart almost stops as his eyes caress every inch of her beauty and unable to hold back any longer he exclaims:

 

"THIS is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man."
Gen. 2:23

 

Adam is no longer alone.
Now, since God had provided a helper fit for Adam, when the second Adam came, it was also necessary to provide Him with a mate. If the first Adam had a helper fit (that is suitable) for him, does it not make sense that the second Adam would also receive a helper fit for Him?

What was it like for Christ? As Adam, perusing God's wonderful creation found no helper corresponding to himself, so also did Christ find none. God, born in human flesh, had no counterpart. Though one in essence with the Father, He now had a body, He was now man --the God-man. He was in this way different now from the Father, since the Father was pure spirit. He knew fatigue, whereas the Father never tired. He was one in fellowship with the Father, never alone, yet... there was a longing. A longing for a counterpart.

He looked around Himself. Could he see her? Nay, for when he looked around himself he saw faithless, sinful humanity. "But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men..." (Jn. 2:24). He found no one to entrust Himself to, to give His heart to. No one like Himself. He was, in a way, alone.

Then there were hints: one leper returning out of 10; a Canaanite woman with great faith; a centurion with a like faith; Mary with her devotion and perfume; a forgiven prostitute with tears and long hair; a short tax collector climbing a tree...His passion was ignited... "I have earnestly desired..." (Lk. 22:15) Christ is like Jacob upon finding his Rachel. "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field." (MT.13:44) The treasure is His bride, the church; the field is the world. The time had come.

THE CROSS. HE DIES, BEARING OUR SIN.
"IT IS FINISHED." HE COMMITS HIS SPIRIT INTO THE FATHER'S HANDS.
THREE DAYS LATER HE ARISES.
FORTY DAYS LATER HE ASCENDS.
HE SENDS DOWN HIS SPIRIT.
THE CHURCH IS BORN.
HE HAS FOUND HIS HELPER FIT FOR HIM.
HE IS ALONE NO MORE ! ! !

Let us meditate on this together. How can this be, that we are suitable, fit, for Him? We see, and cannot hide, our own sinfulness, selfishness and imperfection. How can we ever be "fit" for Him? For we all know that He is beautiful, perfect, holy, wonderful, exalted, sinless, ad infinitum. If we compare our apparent lack of perfection with His obvious, overwhelming glory and perfection, we see that we fall short, far short. Just from observation we must conclude that we are not fit for Him.

And having concluded that we are not fit for Him, we have a tendency to avoid fellowship, intimacy, with Him. We feel too dirty to fellowship with someone who is so pure, so lovely, so self-less, so beautiful. Along with this, how could One such as He desire to fellowship with us?

What then does the Scripture say?: that "Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless." (Eph. 5:25-27) Please let us not miss this: these verses say that the church's glory, cleansing, perfection is a result of what Christ has done. The church's perfection is His accomplishment.
Let us ask ourselves, has He done it? Has He sanctified us, the church? Has He made us fit for Him? Let us ponder the following verses:

 

"By this will [i.e.. God's will] we have been sanctified [please note the past tense] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all...for by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 'This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD; I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them,' He then says, 'And their sins and lawless deeds I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.' "
Heb. 10:10, 14, 16 & 17

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Cor.5:4)

 

What is His word saying? Amazing thing: the church is perfect, sanctified, cleansed, able to do God's will, in fact, is the very righteousness of God -- not due to any innate goodness in us or by our own achievements, but because of what He has done. Jesus accomplished what He set out to do. He sanctified His church. He, Himself, has made the church fit for Him.

The conclusion is now inescapable: we, the church, are fit for Him! Is He holy? So are we. Is He righteous? So are we. Is He perfect? [Hold your breath] So are we. Is He beautiful? So are we. Is He without spot or wrinkle? So are we. In every way we correspond to Him! However, in all ways He retains His headship.
We may not feel holy. We may not seem perfect. But we are -- in His eyes. Let us not allow our current physical imperfection to discourage us from believing what the Word clearly states. Let us focus our hearts instead on our Savior, our Heavenly Husband, and enter into sweet intimacy with Him. Let us not allow unbelief to keep us from hearing our Beloved's voice. Listen as He speaks to us in the Song of Solomon:

 

"[You are the] Most beautiful among women. Like a lily among the thorns, So is my darling among the maidens. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along. Oh my dove, let me see your form, let me hear your voice. For your voice is sweet, and your form is lovely. You are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you. You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; You have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes . . . How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better your love than wine."
Songs 1:8, 2:2, 10, 14; 4:7, 9,10; 5:2

 

Let the truth of these verses sink in. They make it sound as if He, the glorious magnificent Christ, is in love with us, that He is quite taken with us. The wonderful truth is this: He is. He is taken with us! We excite Him, as a bride does her groom. He wants to fellowship with us for we are lovely and attractive to Him. "...as He is, so are we in this world..." (Jn. 4:17)

In this atmosphere of love we can approach Him without fear. When we pray, we are not praying to One who is picking apart every word, but to One who enjoys our company, who loves to hear our voice, who gave His all in order to acquire us. Enter in and share yourself with Him and enjoy all He wants to be to you.
We are indeed fit for Him, our Heavenly Groom, because of what He has done. Let the church say with the Shulamite: "I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me." (Songs 7:10). Oh, glory! His desire is for me!

 

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Sinners Married To Christ

From The Gadsby Hymnal

 

Ro 7:4 ; Jer 3:14

 

My soul with holy wonder views
The love the Lord the Savior shows,
To wretched, dying man,
So strong, so boundless is His grace
He takes the vilest of our race
With Him to live and reign.

He'll charm them with a holy kiss,
And make them know what union is;
He'll draw them to his breast,
A smiling eye upon them cast,
Which brings them to his feet in haste,
Each singing, "I am blest!"

"I'm blest, I'm blest, forever blest;
My rags are gone, and I am dressed
In garments white as snow;
I'm married to The Lord, The Lamb,
Whose beauties I can ne'er explain,
Nor half His glory show."

 

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I Am His Garden

Ed Miller

 

The Song of Solomon is a love story of two worlds; the romantic love between a man and woman is God's illustration of His heart and love towards His people. Marriage is the most intimate relationship on the Earth, and therefore, it was created and instituted by The Lord to be the most precious reflection of His desire for spiritual union with His people. It is very interesting to trace our romantic history with The Lord through this wonderful book. Like the Bride in Song, Christians are often insecure in their relationship with The Lord and struggle with the reality of The Groom's love. The Song is a diary of how the Groom finally overcame all the bride's reluctance that stood in the way of a blessed relationship and tenderly brought her through the fearful shadows into the full sunshine of His Love.

One of the obstructions to be removed before she could enjoy an unclouded union with her Lover was her self-depreciating attitude, which always caused her to try to make herself more attractive to Him in order to win His acceptance and love. He met this need in her heart by showing her the liberating truth that she was already attractive; she was, in His eyes, the most beautiful person in the world; she was, in fact, His private garden. All He ever desired from her was that she allow Him to enjoy her. She tried so hard to please Him as His faithful gardener, she never realized she was His garden. This discovery transformed her life and was a forward step in enabling her to rest in His love.

To appreciate the amazing response of her heart to the discovery that she was, in fact, the very garden of her Groom, it helps to understand the conflict that was raging in her heart. Her Lover was a very wealthy and prestigious king; she was a lowly country girl, a laborer in the field. She had absolutely no difficulty in believing how she felt about Him. She could say with assurance, "He is mine! He is beautiful! He is altogether lovely! He is my joy, my love, my peace, my satisfaction, my strength, my life, my everything!" That she saw clearly and believed without question. But that He should feel the same way about her -- that He should consider her His treasure, His satisfaction, His life -- that was too good to be true.

She regarded herself as worthless. It required a miracle of quickening to convince her that her Groom actually took pleasure in her for who she was in herself. David wrote in Psalm 18:19, "He rescued me because He delighted in me." These were the words that overwhelmed her: "...because He delighted in me." Such a holy revelation this is, and how liberating, when God begins to dawn this truth on the fearful hearts of His lowly people! He had already declared His heart to her and confessed, "You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; you have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes." He was ravished with the sight of her. It was the wonder of His estimate of her that enabled her to freely surrender in the most complete way. These were the words that opened the way for their most intimate union, "A garden locked is my sister, my bride, A rock garden locked, a spring sealed up. Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, henna with nard plants, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all the trees of frankincencse, myrrh and aloes, along with all the finest spices. You are a garden spring, a well of fresh water, and streams flowing from Lebanon."
 
Oh, for like light, for gracious revelation to believe without a shade of doubt, that the Bridegroom of our souls has left His glory, where all the fruits are choice and excellent and fragrant, and has come to dwell within these wild hearts of ours and regard them as His garden!

Can it be that He takes pleasure in feeding on the fruits and fragrances of His children? It is true! We may rest in it! It is time to lay down the gardening tools by which we have labored and struggled to make ourselves pleasing to Him, and allow Him His heart's desire -- the privilege of enjoying us!

 

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Aspirations

Jeanne Marie de la Motte-Guyon

 

My spouse! in whose presence I live
Sole object of all my desires,
Who know'st what a flame I conceive,
And canst easily double it's fires;
How pleasant is all that I meet!
From fear of adversity free,
I find even sorrow made sweet,
Because `tis assigned me by Thee.

Transported I see Thee display
Thy riches and glory divine;
I have only my life to repay,
Take what I would gladly resign.
Thy will is the treasure I seek,
For Thou art as faithful as strong;
There let me, obedient and meek,
Repose myself all the day long.

My spirit and faculties fail;
Oh, finish what love has begun!
Destroy what is sinful and frail,
And dwell in the soul Thou hast won!
Dear theme of my wonder and praise,
I cry, who is worthy as Thou!
I can only be silent and gaze;
"Tis all that is left to me now.

Oh glory, in which I am lost,
Too deep for the plummet of thought!
An ocean of Deity toss'd,
I am swallowed, I sink into nought.
Yet lost and absorbed as I seem,
I chant to the praise of my King;
And though overwhelmed by the theme,
Am happy whenever I sing.

 

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The Ministry of Christian Concourse

 

In the name of Jesus Christ, this ministry is dedicated to God for the development of practical tools with which we may harmoniously enhance our relationships and our service within the greater interdenominational Church. As the full-time Director, the President and the founder of this ministry, I seek to follow our Lord in each step of our progress. In prayer and consultation with other Christians, we have established an organization that is flexible yet faithfully focused on our goal of promoting The Good News of Jesus Christ and Christian Accord among believers.

To that end, our labor encompasses activities in three distinct areas:

Nursing Home Ministries
Christian Publications
Small-group Bible Studies

The long-term care facility arena is a perennial opportunity for Christian service. My wife, Dar, and I conduct "church services" in several care centers each month, and we have been instrumental in helping many others start. The ministry collects and distributes "care packages" for nursing homes year 'round.  There are over 130 facilities in Hampton Roads. It is our goal to see all of their Christian volunteer needs met.

The publication of "The Journal" answers our burden to offer Christian writers the opportunity to share their work. We minister to them by providing the opportunity to be in print and, in turn, they minister to the Christian community that reads them -- both without fees or subscription costs. We know of no other publication of its kind. The criteria for consideration of an article is that it should magnify Jesus Christ or encourage others in their faith in Him.

Our inductive Bible study format, Chapter & Verse, has been developed especially for interaction with a small-group. The type of study we have designed does not impose on someone what we think they should believe the Bible means. Rather, we guide the serious Biblical student toward discovering for themselves what God meant when He recorded it. We also present the Focus On The Family video series, "That The World May Know." This suite of seven volumes, with several lessons each, is a Biblical teaching tool for the spiritual growth of believers, using the historical, cultural and archeological settings of Ancient Israel.

All of our ministry is provided without cost. We are supported solely by freewill offerings.

As you can readily see, each of these areas of endeavor incorporate tools that bring Christians together in meaningful activities. I strongly believe that in God's eyes, though there are many assemblies, there is only one Church in each locality. And I am equally convicted that our Heavenly Father wants us to act like it! It is my prayer that these efforts will, in a great way, effect that reality.

Gerald T. Johnson
Director of Ministry

 

 

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© Copyright 1997, 1998, 2010 by Christian Concourse Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this journal may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.

Content - © Copyright 2010, 2011, 2014 Christian Concourse Ministries, Inc.  All rights reserved.

 

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