By Al Diestelkamp
economic recession our nation is experiencing did not come about
overnight. There were signs of its approach for some time before
it was realized. While the recession has had an impact on our whole
nation (and beyond), there are some areas of the country that have
fared better than others.
In a similar way,
there may be evidence of “spiritual recession” that is
affecting the body of Christ. Just as signs of economic decline were
generally ignored, many of us ignore the signs of spiritual decline
until the damage is done.
immaturity should serves as a warning to us that something is wrong.
This malady often results in strife (1 Cor. 3:1-3), and always produces
a scarcity of adequate teachers (Heb. 5:12-14), and congregations that
can only be described as “lacking” (Tit. 1:5).
Another signal of
spiritual recession is apathy toward the local work. The most obvious
evidence of this is reflected in sporadic attendance by members,
despite the oft-quoted warning found in Hebrews 10:25. Apathy may be
the reason that our giving appears to be inconsistent with our
prosperity (1 Cor. 16:2).
in the work and worship is another symptom of spiritual recession. It
can be identified by obvious lack of preparation for Bible classes,
missing enthusiasm during worship or by misplaced priorities. Planned
congregational events (i.e., gospel meetings, singings, etc.) are
treated as “optional.”
Sometimes there is a
lack of personal involvement with one another. Hospitality and good
deeds are left to others, and cluttered lives have caused some to be
“too busy” to interact outside of the meeting place.
While our primary
obligation is to the local church, it seems that there has been a
marked decline in brethren showing support for the work of other
congregations. I am not referring to financial support for gospel
preachers in other locations, but in lending encouragement to
neighboring congregations in their evangelistic and edification efforts.
Our national leaders
of both political parties decided that the answer to our economic woes
would be to implement a “stimulus package.” Whether that
effort will eventually work may be up for debate, but regarding
spiritual matters there is no doubt that we need to be stimulated to
climb out of recession.
With God’s help,
we as individual Christians can start the climb out of spiritual
recession, but that climb will be even more successful if we will work
together in our congregations. In order to have the revival we need,
let me suggest some things that might help:
We must remember the past
Like the church in
Ephesus, about which Jesus had some good things to say, we need to
“remember from where we have fallen” (Rev. 2:1-5). Those
who have been involved in the start of a new congregation can probably
remember what an exciting time that was. Over time, we may have lost
that excitement. We must not allow ourselves to be satisfied with
mediocrity. Are we willing to put forth the effort and make the time to
remember and “do the first works”?
We must forget the past
This may seem to be a
contradiction to my previous point, but bear with me. There are some
things we should forget. We cannot rely on past performance or
successes. Too often we are inclined to justify relaxing our present
efforts because of our past work for the Lord. No matter how successful
we have been in the past, we need to ask ourselves, “What have we
done for Christ lately?” Consider the apostle Paul’s
attitude (Phil. 1:13). Nor can we allow past losses or failures to
hamper our future work. We need to forget such things and move on.
We must strengthen ourselves
Not only that, but we
must help in strengthening others (Heb. 12:12-13). We cannot be
satisfied with remaining stagnant. We are commissioned to “abound
in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58), and to work together to build up the
body of Christ (Eph. 4:16).
However, we must avoid a number of failures which could prevent the recovery we so desperately need:
Failure to recognize the problem
If we deny we have a
problem, or that the problem is ours, we will not be motivated to do
something about it, and will end up just “keeping house for the
Failure to pray for recovery
If we want relief from
our spiritual recession, we must recognize that we can’t do it by
ourselves. God won’t revive us without our effort, but He has
promised to provide the wisdom we need (Jas. 1:5).
Failure to expect revival
If we pray to God for
help, we must have the faith that He will answer. His word tells us
that the effective and fervent prayers of the righteous “avail
much” (Jas. 5:16), but He holds out no helping hand to the
double-minded (Jas. 1:6-8).
Our political leaders
tell us that change is coming to America. Whether these changes will
bring an end to our nation’s economic woes, or worsen them, is
yet to be seen. No matter what happens in America, it’s
imperative that positive change must come in the congregations of
P.O. Box 891, Cortland, Illinois 60112
Conduct "In the Lord"
By Rick Liggin
Colossian brethren, Paul writes about the “renewal” or
“renovation” that should be taking place in us now that we
are Christians (Col. 3:1-17; esp. 3:11); and according to the apostle,
this “renovation” should also have an affect on our
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Paul begins by
addressing wives, urging them to “be subject to your husband as
is fitting in the Lord” (3:18). Now, I am aware of the fact that
submission to a husband is “counter-cultural” conduct. Our
culture (or society) says, “You are his equal!” And that
certainly is true in terms of value: in God’s eyes, women and men
are of equal value; but God has clearly given women a role different
from men. Our culture says to our women, “Assert yourself! He has
no authority over you! You take the lead! You take control!”
But the Lord
consistently demands that wives be submissive to their husbands (cf.
Eph. 5:22-24; Tit. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). And this submission, says Paul,
is “fitting in the Lord” (Col. 3:18); literally, it
“comes up to” His standards. Now please note well that the
text does not say, “fitting to the Lord,” but
“fitting in the Lord.” This is “in the Lord”
If we were “in
the world,” then worldly conduct would be “fitting”
for us. But we’re not “in the world!” We are
“in the Lord,” and that means that our conduct (our
behavior) must “come up to” His standards --not the
This brings me to the
real subject of this article. Because we “have been raised up
with Christ” (Col. 3:1) and are now “in the Lord,”
our conduct, even at home, must no longer reflect worldly standards,
but rather the standards of our Lord. As Christians, we’ve been
called out of the world, and are now “in the Lord”--and our
conduct must reflect this change in relationship. Our conduct, even in
the home, must “come up to” the standards of the Lord,
rather than just the standards of the world. Christ calls on us to live
in a “counter-cultural” way. He calls on us to live in a
way that is “fitting” to Him.
We see this same point
made when Paul says to young folks: “Children, be obedient to
your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing in the
Lord” (Col. 3:20--check your marginal note for this more correct
literal translation). Conduct that is acceptable or
“well-pleasing in the Lord” may not be acceptable or
well-pleasing “in the world.” Young folks in the world may
rebel against their parents, but a young person “in the
Lord” whose life is being renovated after the image of Christ
obeys his parents and submits to their authority.
The point is that we
are “in the Lord!” We are not “in the
world”--not anymore! And because this is so, our behavior must
“come up to” the Lord’s standards; it must be
“fitting” to Him--everywhere--and in every
relationship…even at home!
If we really want to
build better families, we must start living in a counter-cultural
way--even at home. And this must be true, not just of wives and
children, but of all of us--husbands included. Our conduct must reflect
the fact that we are “in the Lord”--and not in the world!
Is your conduct “in the Lord”?
315 Almond Drive, Washington, Illinois 61571
FINDING SOME DISCIPLES
By Al Diestelkamp
the travels of the apostle Paul, Luke reports about him “finding
some disciples” in the city of Ephesus (Ac. 19:1). We
aren’t told just how Paul went about locating these twelve men
who believed in Jesus, but like Apollos, “knew only the baptism
of John” (Ac. 18:25).
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How fortunate for
these disciples that Paul took the trouble of finding them. Having
“not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit” (Ac.
19:2), they needed to be “baptized in the name of the Lord
Jesus” (Ac. 19:5).
Still, I wonder just
how Paul found these disciples? He didn’t have the Yellow Pages
or an Internet to aid his search, and I seriously doubt they had a sign
outside their meeting place. I suspect the answer lies in the fact that
first century disciples were aggressive enough in their own
evangelistic efforts that finding them was not a big problem.
How hard is it for
someone traveling into our communities to locate the Lord’s
disciples? Given the confusion produced by counterfeit church-es, the
task is sometimes difficult. However, given our ease of com-munication,
faithful brethren should not be hard to find.
Unfortunately, even if
one is able to locate the meeting place of a congregation in a given
area, often the information given is inadequate or inaccurate.
Congregations sometimes change locations or times of assemblies. There
is nothing wrong with that, but too often they neglect to do what they
can to help traveling or relocating brethren find them.
Even many churches
which go to the trouble and expense of having a website, are careless
about updating the information needed by wayfarers. Churches having
answering machines or voice mail for times when no one is available to
answer the phone is helpful only if someone consistently checks the
messages and returns the call.
I don’t know
about you, but I am en-couraged when brethren who are traveling on
vacation (or for business) take the time and make the effort to find
and meet with us. In turn, when I am away from home I am edified when
worshiping with disciples whom I may not have previously known.
If you make it more convenient for strangers to find you, I’m confident it will prove to be a blessing to you and to them.
P.O. Box 891, Cortland, Illinois 60112
Why the Meek Are Blessed By God
By Andy Diestelkamp
Washington, D.C., to Beverly Hills, California, it is the rich and
famous, the influential and powerful, whose lives are glamourized. From
our youth, entertainers and athletes of all kinds are our heroes. As we
mature, perhaps we begin to see beyond the thin facade of fame, but let
a notable personality suddenly cross our path and we revert to giddy
groupies mugging for a photo-op. (“If I may but touch his
garment, I shall be...”what?! Made whole? important? powerful?
wealthy? humble?) Aren’t we just a little bit em-barassed about
how we sometimes behave ourselves in the presence of flawed men and
women who have become famous for their looks, their money, their power,
or their ability to do something with a ball?
Greatness is often
sought through very carnal means and measured by very shallow
standards. However, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is
strength, intelligence, and greatness. Paul wrote, “For you see
your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not
many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Cor. 1:26). So, who
are the wisest, the strongest, and the most beautiful in the eye of The
Beholder? Who are the ones who will achieve greatness, success, and
reward? Those the world would least expect.
Have you ever found
yourself being envious of what others (who do not fear God as they
ought) have? Perhaps you have questioned why the corrupt and godless
can live so comfortably while you struggle to make ends meet. Indeed,
when I make such comparisons, I reveal a discontentment that does not
befit the faith that I profess in Christ. Paul wrote that he had
learned to be content regardless of his economic or physical status and
boldly announced, “I can do all things through Christ who
strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13).
David wrote, “Do
not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of
inquity” (Psa. 37:1). In this psalm he proceeds to reveal that
the end of the wicked is nothing to be envied. The reward and
inheritance offered by God is not going to go to the famous but to the
meek (vs. 11). The defining characteristics of the meek are revealed in
this psalm. The meek trust in God (vs. 3). They delight in God (vs. 4).
They commit themselves to God (vs. 5). They patiently wait on God (vs.
7). They cease from anger and wrath (vs. 8). To be meek is to forego
what the flesh has the ability to do, and what perhaps the world would
say we have the right to do, and instead submit to the will of God.
Thus Jesus quotes from this psalm in beginning His sermon on the mount
and identifies those to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs (Matt. 5:5).
So, why does God favor
the meek? One reason is that the meek know their place. Paul tells us
that because men in their arrogance have chosen not to know God, He has
chosen to reveal the way of salvation in a manner that would be
foolishness to many who are wise in their own eyes (1 Cor. 1:21). This
He did so that no flesh should glory in His presence (vs. 29). At first
one might ignorantly think that God feels threatened by any
competition; however, our pride does not threaten God in the least. It
threatens us. A warped perspective of our own worthiness based on our
our own intelligence, wealth, power, or beauty significantly decreases
the likelihood that we will see how dire our spiritual condition really
When Eve rationalized
her choice to ignore God’s instructions (Gen. 3:6), she was not
being meek. God values the quality of meekness because it honors and
submits to what is right, rather than what the flesh selfishly wants.
The problem of sin is not merely the technical transgression, but the
prideful attitude that rationalizes and justifies serving one’s
own will over God’s will. (And this can even happen with things
that are not technically sin.) The end result of such my-opic arrogance
is a depravity that can only be called ugly (Rom. 1:22-32).
God offers something
much better, and the meek recognize this. Indeed, it is the meek who
will repent, obey, and conform to the will of God. Recall the incident
with Naaman and his leprosy (2 Ki. 5:9-14). For whatever reason, Naaman
was too proud to do something as apparently foolish as washing in the
Jordan River to be made clean. It just did not make any sense from his
perspective. God does not ask us to do “foolish” things for
the sake of the act itself but to demonstrate the submissive attitude
of meekness. When we resist doing the will of God simply because it
does not make any sense to us, it indicates that we are not as meek as
we ought to be.
If we are not as meek
as we ought to be, then it is going be very difficult to have a
righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. Yet,
unless we do, we will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt.
5:20). Indeed, as we then continue to read all of Jesus’
“but I say unto you” commands following His challenge to
have excellent righteousness, we come to realize that meekness is
critical to carrying out those commands. Reconciliation (vss. 23-25),
self-control (vss. 28-30), not causing someone else to sin (vss.
31,32), being true to your word (vs. 37), and enduring unfair treatment
(vss. 39-42) all require this quality of meekness.
Yet ultimately the
reason God values meekness so highly is that it is reflective of His
image in which we were created. Jesus calls upon us to love our enemies
(vss. 43-48), which certainly takes meekness. When we bless those who
do not deserve to be blessed, then we are being like God. In our
relationships with one another, we are called upon to have the mind of
Christ and not look out after our own interests but the interests of
others (Phil. 2:3-8). The example of the suffering of Christ is an
example of meekness, not only in that He endured the cross, but that He
did it for us, and we do not deserve such grace (1 Pet. 2:21-24). When
we follow Jesus’ example and meekly submit to the governing
authorities (1 Pet. 2:13ff), our masters (vss. 18ff), and our spouses
(3:1-4), then we are truly disciples of Jesus Christ.
The world has its
standards of greatness, and so does God. They are rarely the same. From
the evolutionary theory of survival of the fittest, to the fleeting
fame of Hollywood, to the endzone antics of athletes, there does not
seem to be much meekness. Yet God has told us what is good and what He
expects of us: “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly
with [our] God” (Mic. 6:8).
The spirit of meekness
is not just for women in their relationships with their husbands; it is
essential in our relationships with God and one another. It is no
wonder then that God in His “foolishness” requires us to
repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Ac. 2:38). True
repentance is only possible in a heart that is meek; and a meek heart
will not resist but will submit to being baptized (note the passive
action) into Jesus Christ.
Nothing we do is done
truly on our own, nor should it be done for our own glory, but in
humble submission to the will of God. It is only in meekness that we
can respond to the meek and lowly invitation of our Lord and God and
find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:29).
323 E. Indiana Avenue, Pontiac, Illinois 61764
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this issue we mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of Think. In
1969 we never dreamed that we would still be publishing four decades
Four Decades Together
From the beginning our
aim was to publish a paper “in the interest of purity of doctrine
and practice” and distributed to Christians free of charge. We
determined that we would not overtly solicit funds to help defray our
costs, but have been blessed by a host of individual Christians who
have become our Voluntary Partners in this labor of love. Their help,
as well as the encouragement we have received from readers, has
extended the lifespan of this paper beyond what otherwise would have
My father, Leslie
Diestelkamp, served as editor and primary writer for twenty years. He
had the uncanny knack of being able to sit down at his typewriter and
quickly pound out numerous articles as needed. None of his sons or
grandsons inherited that gift. At the beginning of 1990 he turned the
editing responsibilities over to me, a task I have done for the past
Over the past forty
years we have published 175 issues. At the outset we indicated that we
would publish “in quantities and as fequently as ability
permits,” printing 55 issues between 1969 and 1979. Since then we
have consistently published on a quarterly basis.
When I took over as
editor, and especially after the death of my father, I anticipated that
the loss of his influence would diminish interest, and especially
affect the voluntary donations to the point where we would be forced to
cease publication. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by the
support and encouragement we continue to receive from readers.
Through the years our
mailing list has remained fairly constant, numbering between 1400 and
1500 per issue. This, despite the fact that we aren’t always
provided forwarding addresses when readers move. We are always happy to
add new readers who request to receive the paper.
Since December, 1998,
we have also maintained a website containing the articles from Think.
Visitors to the website are able to read and/or copy articles from
current and all past issues since 1998. The website was
originally designed by Matt Hennecke (my brother-in-law) and maintained
by him until earlier this year when I took over the maintenance. I
still rely on Matt as a trouble-shooter when needed.
It is our plan, the
Lord willing, to continue publishing Think as long as ability permits.
Somewhere along the way the younger generation will have to decide
whether it is feasible to continue the printed format. When the time
comes that I cannot do the actual printing on my offset press, to
con-tinue may require an investment in more modern and less cumbersome
P.O. Box 891, Cortland, Illinois 60112
Obituary: BETTY ERDMAN
By Karl Diestelkamp
Erdmann died September 1, 2009 at the age of of 95 years. Many readers
of this paper have had the privilege of getting to know Betty, a long
time member of the church in West Bend, Wisconsin. She obeyed the
gospel many years ago under the teaching of Albert and Bernice Wanous,
and never looked back to her popular life in the world. All who knew
her understood her unflinching dedication to her Lord and her constant
efforts to teach the gospel to the lost. To say that she was unique is
an understatement--she had her own style. Always smiling and joyful,
she loved everyone with a warm, holy affection, and like Phoebe of Rom.
16:1,2, she was “a servant of the church…for she herself
also hath been a helper of many, and of mine own self.” I know of
no one who has more unselfishly given of herself and her resources to
assist anyone and everyone (Gal. 6:10) and to share with them at the
same time the gospel of Christ. She will not only be missed at West
Bend, but throughout this whole region. Mike Cox who knew Betty most of
his life and who labors in the gospel in West Bend plainly preached the
gospel to a large crowd at her funeral. She would have been pleased.
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