Simeon the Prophet

Simeon, that was called Niger (Acts 13:1)

Simeon is an alternate spelling of the name Simon (Acts 15:14 spells Simon Peter’s name Simeon). The name Niger means “black.” Some have suggested that this means that Simeon was a black man. If this is the case, then it would imply that Simeon was a Gentile, and would therefore be the first recorded Gentile prophet in the New Testament. If the fact that he was called “black” means that he was indeed of African descent, then that makes the Antioch church look even better, because they didn’t care about skin color.

Others state that in the Roman Empire, the surname “Niger” or “Black” was just as common as the name “Black” is today in the United States.

A third suggestion which is made is that this Simeon/Simon was one of the people mentioned in 11:20, and that the phrase “of Cyrene” applies in 13:1 to both Simeon/Simon and Lucius. If this is the case, then it would identify this man with Simon of Cyrene who was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus Christ to Golgotha.1 According to Mark 15:21, he is also the father of two men whose name pop up elsewhere in the biblical record: Rufus2 and Alexander.3

Luke has a habit of rarely mentioning people by name unless they show up elsewhere, are well-known to his readers, or are a main character in the narrative. For example, there are two disciples on the road to Emmaus who meet the resurrected Christ. One of them (Cloepas) is named, the other is not. According to John 19:25, Cleopas (also spelled “Cleophas”) was the husband of one of the women who stood at the cross of Christ. Though this isn’t definitive proof, it points to Simeon being someone who appears elsewhere in the biblical record. For that reason, it seems as though identifying him with the man who carried the cross of Jesus would make the most sense.

But look at the beauty of this: A man who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time was grabbed and forced to carry Jesus’ cross. There’s no indication that this man was a disciple of Jesus at this point. But then comes Pentecost, and Simon of Cyrene hears the gospel, and obeys it. He returns home and teaches them. He hears about the household of Cornelius, and he knows the importance of that event. He rushes to Antioch and starts preaching Jesus to the Gentiles there, and watches the church grow and flourish. While he’s there, he meets Saul of Tarsus, the former persecutor-turned-prophet, and gets to know him. And it’s also about this time that his name becomes immortalized, because Matthew—one of Jesus twelve apostles—has published the first official gospel account,4 and it is making its rounds among the Jews and Jewish Christians. And there, near the end of it, Simeon sees the words, “And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled him to carry (Jesus’) cross.”

Is it any wonder that Simeon is mentioned in this list?

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Luke 23:26

2 Romans 16:13

3 Acts 19:33

4 Some scholars date Matthew as early as AD 38. It is not within the scope of this work to debate/prove the order in which the gospels were written. However, we would submit that every collection of the gospels in Greek and Latin have Matthew first. We would also submit that it was the universal assertion of early Christian writers (at least, of those who spoke to the order of writing) that Matthew and Luke were written first, then Mark, then John. J.W. McGarvey suggests a date between AD 42-58, while seeming to lean towards the earlier end of the spectrum.

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God answered your prayers

To all of you,

Thank you so much for your prayers and messages.  God has answered them greatly!

Yesterday morning, Deserae (our youngest) had spinal fusion surgery, and came through it with flying colors.

Through your prayers, the doctors were quite surprised, because the surgery took a full hour less than they expected (which they said was very rare). She came out from the anesthesia like a pro, talking and joking with us (the nurses all kept repeating how impressed they were with her and how polite and sweet she is).  Yesterday afternoon, she rested.

Her back is now straight, she is at least two inches taller, and she is as sweet as ever!

Today, she starts the process of standing and walking, and Lord willing we will be able to take her back home tomorrow or Saturday.

Anyway, we just wanted to thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.  May God bless you all as He has blessed us this week.

-Bradley S. Cobb

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Keep us in your prayers tomorrow

Tomorrow is going to be a stressful day for the Cobb Six.

Deserae, our youngest (she’s 12), will be undergoing spinal fusion surgery Wednesday morning, starting around 7:30.  They will be screwing metal rods to her spine in order to correct a potentially life-threatening case of scoliosis.

Desi (as we call her) is holding up as well as can be expected, though as it gets near, she is getting more and more nervous.  The same thing is true for her parents.

If you subscribe to the Quarterly, you might remember a couple poems that Deserae wrote, which were published in the first issue.  We are including that poem below.  Please take the moment to read it, and then say a prayer for her.

God knows the difference between right and wrong,
We should live for Him, though our lives are long,

We’ve suffered here for many years,
Though Jesus went through more than tears,

They whipped Him and beat Him until He died,
Then they shoved a spear through His side,

But now He’s up on God’s right side,
Up in heaven so fair and bright,

Trust and obey, we can go too,
Lord I will live my life for you.

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A Big Announcement (and how you can benefit)

We’ve not said anything about it here, but we’ve been working on shuffling some things around to make TheCobbSix.com less cluttered and easier to navigate.

The biggest part of it is that the store, where you can purchase many of the books from Cobb Publishing, is going to be moved to a brand-new website.

As part of this moving of the store, we are having a massive blow-out sale of all the books we currently have in-stock.  Most of these brand-new books are priced at $5.00 or less until they’re gone.  Even after shipping, that’s cheaper than you can get them on Amazon.

To take advantage of this “while supplies last” offer, just go to the store page.

Our new website, dedicated exclusively to the Cobb Publishing business, is (drum roll, please…) CobbPublishing.com.  It is still under construction, though we’ve got several items there ready for purchase.  And in the coming weeks, our entire catalog of books will be made available.

Lastly, if you’ve written a book, and are interested in seeing it in print, please contact us.  We would be happy to talk with you about the services we offer in that area.

-Bradley S. Cobb

 

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Elders in the Old Testament

The following essay was written by Richard Mansel, and was featured in the first issue of The Quarterly (Vol. 1, No. 1, January 2017).  We hope you enjoy it!

INTRODUCTION

Leadership requires a level of courage that eliminates the timid or vacillating. Some are drawn to the flame because of inadequacy or vanity while others heed the call to makes things better. Leadership exposes the character beneath the surface in a way that bluster and bravado can never deliver.

Church government that is common to the New Testament is somewhat foreign to the Jewish society of former days. They resided in a theocracy led by God and were governed by the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 4:1-2).Those who answer the call of leadership must have the spiritual courage to “stand in the gap”1 (Ezekiel 22:30), ready to face whatever comes. Our faith should be resilient enough to withstand the “flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16, ESV) and persistent enough to never waver (Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 2:10).

The modern tolerance of the aged is in stark contrast to the respect they received in ancient societies. Accordingly, their wisdom was utilized and expected in moments of urgency and gravity.

THE TERM

Ancient cultures commonly elevated their elders to leadership positions of varying degrees because of their sage advice and keen eye for reading situations. In Genesis 50:7, we read about the elders of Egypt and in Numbers 22:7, the elders of Midian and Moab. As heads of certain family groups, they had accumulated some wealth and influence in their lives and were able to command authority.

The concept of an elder was akin to the senator in Latin and the sheik in Arabic.2 The Semitic root means “to be hoary” which refers to advanced age.3 “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31, KJV). The English Standard Version translates it as “gray hair” and the New King James Version says “silver-haired.”

The Hebrew word for “elder” literally means “beard,”4 so it did have reference to age. However, “In Israel, as among all ancient peoples, the elder is not only a person of advanced age, but also a man of distinct social grade.”5

“In all but a few instances, the elders in the Old Testament appear as a distinct social grade or collegiate body with certain political and religious functions, and not merely as ‘old men.’…but we must bear in mind that the word in actual usage need not by its etymology signify an old man any more than ‘Senator’ or ‘alderman’ does in the United States.”6

Further complicating the picture is the ambiguity of Scripture on this point.

“The Old Testament does not explain who the qualified, leading men of Israel were. Although Israel’s elders are mentioned some 100 times throughout the Old Testament, no detailed description of their organization, appointment or qualification is given.7

We therefore turn to their limited role in Israel’s leadership.

LEADERSHIP

We know that elders were of more than average age and were men of social standing and influence. Above that, we know very little. We don’t have specific passages addressing their qualifications the way we have in the New Testament (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). We just have to tie together a variety of passages and make application.

When we talk about their responsibilities we need to remember that they were performed by human beings subject to sin, weaknesses, prejudices, political alliances, etc. (Romans 3:23). Some will do well and others will fail. Sadly, how the leadership goes, Israel follows.

In Exodus 18, Moses is overwhelmed with trying to counsel and judge the growing population of Israel. His father-in-law, Jethro, is alarmed at Moses’ work load. His tasks included judging disputes and teaching the Law to the people (Exodus 18:16). Jethro says to Moses after watching him judge the people the entire day, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” (Exodus 18:14).

Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.” (Exodus 18:21-23).

Moses complied and the providence of God instituted a legal system that would propel the nation into the future. Examining their qualifications we see God’s hand. They were “literally men of might”8 who had the “three qualities of piety, veracity and strict honesty, or incorruptness.”9

They were to be “able” or “capable” (NET Bible) men who were undoubtedly able to render decisions on their own without constant supervision. The word “connotes ability, leadership, management, resourcefulness, and due respect.”10

[A form of the word ‘able’] is…used in expressions like “mighty man of valor.” The word describes these men as respected, influential, powerful people, those looked up to by the community as leaders, and those that will have the needs of the community in mind. They will be morally and physically worthy.11

Naturally, they must be men who fear God and exhibit humility and respect for the Word of God (James 4:10; Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19).

From the time of their appointment, the ‘rulers’ were not merely judges, but ‘heads’ of their respective companies, with authority over them on the march, and command in the battlefield. Thus the organization was at once civil and military.”12

While these qualifications are for judges and not elders, we know that elders worked with judges for many years to come. Furthermore, we see the type men God desires for leadership. These points are crucial when we look ahead for men who will be leaders in the Lord’s kingdom. Their vision and sagacity will be crucial as they discern the proper paths to lead the brethren.

Jethro instructs Moses in the art of delegation and elders will fall into their roles, as a result.

Wise, decisive, compassionate leadership is a gift from God that every human community needs. Yet Exodus shows us that it is not so much a matter of a gifted leader assuming authority over people, as it is God’s process for a community to develop structures of leadership in which gifted people can succeed. Delegation is the only way to increase the capacity of an institution or community, as well as the way to develop future leaders.”13

As the nation grew and time progressed, delegation led to the functions of elders. “From earliest times a judicial body of elders was formed to give judgment on certain cases. They gathered in the gates of the city where rulings were pronounced” (Deuteronomy 21:19; 22:15; 25:7; Ruth 4:1-2).14

They were tasked to specific kinds of cases. “No professional judgment [was] necessary in such cases: the elders presided over a case, whose consequences [were] clear beforehand.”15 Judges sat for advanced cases where more skilled knowledge was needed.16

Concerning the elders of the city, their “functions [were] best exemplified by the pertinent laws of Deuteronomy.”17 They were usually involved in matters of blood redemption (19:12), rebellious children (21:19), the defamation of a virgin (22:15), and levirate issues (25:9). “All of these cases dealt with the protection of a family and local patriarchal interests.”18

Judges served in local courts (Deuteronomy 17:8ff; 19:17-18; 25:1-3).19 Only once do we find situations where the elders were involved in a legal matter as advanced as a murder case. The elders of the city closest to the site of the corpse had certain responsibilities that had to be performed (21:1ff).

The elders of the people represented the people in spiritual matters and in the teaching of the law (Exodus 19:7; 24:1, 9; Deuteronomy 27:1; 29:9ff; 31:9; Joshua 8:33; 24:1). They appointed leaders (1 Samuel 8:4), declared war (Joshua 8:10) and conducted political negotiations (Exodus 3:16-18; 4:29; Numbers 16:25; 2 Samuel 3:17; 5:3).

APPLICATION

The position of Elder under the Law of Moses is different than the position in the New Testament. Yet, we take what we’ve learned and make a few applications so we can better understand God’s plan for the Church today. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

It appears that “elders” served an organic function. Their society revered the aged and their influence was obvious. Naturally, God used them to accomplish His goals. Yet, in their origins, we find a nugget that the church can use.

Like the elders of Israel, elders in the New Testament aren’t given age parameters. They must be mature in the faith (1 Timothy 3:6), married and have children (1 Timothy 3:2-5; Titus 1:6). Yet, they come from the people. They’re men who are already working and serving the Lord. The respect they have cultivated helps elevate them to the eldership. By wisdom, presence, and example, the people have witnessed their seriousness of mind and soul.

Elders under the Old Covenant were servants and remained within their boundaries. They worked for and with the judges, kings and leaders of the nation. Their responsibilities were limited but important. They were expected to handle them with respect and sobriety.

Elders in the Lord’s Church need to remember that they’re servants called to do the Lord’s work of tending the flock (Acts 20:28). They must know the brethren, their minds, fluctuations, and trends.

The judges, leaders, and kings had their own problems and stressors. They depended on the elders to be the barometer of the nation and to do what needed to be done in that respect. Likewise successful elders today are focused on their responsibilities rather than trying to do the work of the preacher or the deacons.

The elders were numerous and were to be a united front (Psalm 107:32). Their collective nature is of even greater importance today. As men of God stand for truth and against error, there must be complete agreement and commitment to the doctrines of Scripture.

However, just like today, elders sometimes followed their base instincts instead of God and the nation suffered. Because of their influence, their moral integrity was integral.

During the early monarchy, the kings depended much on the elders’ cooperation for successful rule” (1 Samuel 15:30; 30:26; 2 Samuel 5:3; 1 Chronicles 21:16).20

David “knew their weakness and fickleness, especially in their unstable political condition. He also knew that he could shepherd the nation effectively only with their cooperation. In a real way, the elders in each city functioned as David’s undershepherds.”

Of course, they fell for Absalom’s deception and caused great pain to David (2 Samuel 17).

They refused to stand for truth when they served under Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 21). During the days of Josiah, the missing Book of the Law was discovered by Hilkiah and was read to the king and the people (2 Kings 22). The elders should have been more diligent to help preserve the Word of the Lord.

Isaiah rebuked the elders of their waste, poor stewardship, abuse of the poor, and for failing to follow God’s will (Isaiah 3:14ff).

The lessons are obvious. Elders today must stand alone if necessary to preserve the way of the Lord. They mustn’t allow wolves into the fold (Acts 20:29) and never back down from those who threaten the Church. Elders must be warriors for truth.

CONCLUSION

Men of God have been indispensable since Adam failed to lead spiritually in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6). The greatest problem in the Lord’s church today is a lack of sound leadership. The more we can learn about God’s plan for leaders, the better off we will be.

The qualities God desired in judges, prophets, priests, elders, husbands and fathers have, despite their functions and contexts, been basically the same. Put the Lord first, be men of prayer and the Word. We must show our family and the world that God is the answer we all seek. Godly men of strength will desperately be needed until the end of time.

1 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references will be from the New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984).

2 Moshe Warfield, “Elder” jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0006_0_05737.html

3 J. Conrad, “Elder.” Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament edited by G. Johannes Botterwick and Helmer Ringgren. Translated by David E, Green. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003), 4:123.

4 F. Charles Fensham, “Elders,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 2:53.

5 Warfield

6 Alexander Strauch, Biblical Leadership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership (Littleton: Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1986), 139.

7 Strauch, 137.

8 Exodus 18:21, Pulpit Commentary, e-sword, electronic resource.

9 Ibid.

10 Theology of Work Project; www.theologyofwork.org/old-testament/exodus-and-work/israel-at-the-red-sea-and-on-the-way-to-sinai-exodus-1317-1827/the-work-of-justice-among-the-people-of-israel-exodus-181-27/

11 Note 62; www.christianleadershipcenter.org/exod.32.pdf

12 Pulpit Commentary, Exodus 18:25, e-sword, electronic resource.

13 Theology of Work Project

14 ISBE 2:53

15 Weinfeld

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.

20 Strauch, 144.

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The Lost Sermons of H. Leo Boles

The following article is by Kyle Frank and Bradley S. Cobb.  It originally appeared in The Quarterly Vol. 1, No. 1 (January 2017).  We hope you enjoy it!

This sad tale follows a brown satchel. Yes, a brown satchel.  For years, H. Leo Boles served the Lord as a preacher, writer, editor, and debater.  In January 1946, he came down with a bout of pneumonia to go along with the phlebitis (an inflammation of a vein) which had severely hindered his mobility.  However, by February, he had recovered from the pneumonia, and was successfully overcoming the phlebitis, and was expected to make a full recovery.  But early in the morning of February 7, 1946, he awoke his wife and his secretary with a horrible scream of pain. He passed from this life to the next that same morning.

After his unexpected death, his funeral was conducted by N.B. Hardeman, S.H. Hall, and B.C. Goodpasture.  It was soon after this event that the brown satchel came into play, and the story of the lost sermons begins.

H. Leo Boles wrote his sermons in brief outline form, and expanded on them as he was preaching them. They were usually typewritten, and he would often write the date and location where he used the outline at the bottom of the page. After his death, his office was cleaned out, and all of his known outlines were put into his brown satchel.  Mrs. Boles, in a show of appreciation to her husband’s secretary, gave her this satchel.

This secretary’s name was Miss Violet Devaney.  She came from a very wealthy family, and had several sisters, but no brothers.  Growing up, they all dreamed of getting married and having families of their own.  However, their father had other ideas.  He gave them an edict, that if they ever married, they would be completely taken out of the will, and would receive not even a penny of the family fortune.  Perhaps he did this so that his daughters would find men who were more interested in them than in their inheritance.  Or perhaps he was slightly off his rocker.  Only God knows the answer to that.

One of the daughters fell in love, and married.  She was promptly removed from the will, and the father did it with such a vehemence that none of the other daughters ever became a bride.  This married sister comes into play later in our story.

Miss Devaney lived the quiet life of a spinster, her only real male friendship being that which she had with Brother Boles. Then he died. The years that went by were spent in relative solitude.

A couple years after Boles’ death, Violet was approached by B.C. Goodpasture, editor of the Gospel Advocate, who was seeking some of the sermon outlines that he had been informed she possessed.  She gave him several, and those were then published in a book called “Sermon Outlines of H. Leo Boles.”  This book is no longer in print.  Three decades passed, and Miss Devaney still kept that brown satchel.  In the 1980s, Arthur K. Gardner approached her, asking if there were any outlines that he could use in a book on brother Boles.  She gave him some, and they were published, along with a brief biography, in “The Life and Lessons of H. Leo Boles” (available from Gospel Light Publishing, Delight, Arkansas).

But that brown satchel still contained more outlines that hadn’t seen the light of day since that fateful February morning in 1946.

By the mid-1990s, Miss Violet Devaney was a member of the Lord’s church in Russellville, Alabama.  It was here that she left this world behind, having faithfully obeyed her father’s wishes, dying an unmarried woman, and went to be in paradise, the home of the faithful.

After her death, her sister—the one who had gone against her father’s edict and chose marriage and family over wealth—came to Russellville to take care of her estate.  Among her worldly goods was a very old, very worn, brown satchel.  This satchel remained faithful to its duty, caring for the papers and outlines entrusted to it.

When Miss Devaney passed to her reward, Benny Johns was the preacher for the church in Russellville. The sons of Violet’s married sister gave him full access to the outlines to type them up and hopefully make them available to future generations. He typed them all up, but they remained unseen by the almost the rest of world for two more decades.  In the late 1990s, the writer of this article was permitted to see them, and obtained a copy of each of them, which he has kept since that time, unsure of what to do with them, and how to make them available.

It is now 2017, and it has been 71 years since H. Leo Boles took his final breath on this earth.  But through his writings (including his sermons), “he being dead, yet speaks.”  His sermons are no longer “lost.”  By the time you read this, “The Lost Sermons of H. Leo Boles” will be published for the world to see. Unfortunately, the brown satchel is lost, and probably gone forever.

It is my hope that by putting these sermon outlines into print, they can be used to bring glory to God, who makes all things possible.

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The Beatitudes–a Freebie!

Since its publication, The Beatitudes: A Sermon Collection has quietly been one of the most popular books I’ve written (The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts being the most popular).

And as my gift to you, you can download the digital version at no cost.  The link is at the end of this post.

This book contains eight detailed sermon outlines, each dealing with one of the Beatitudes, showing how they all work together, and showing how ultimately, the Beatitudes answer the question, “What must I do to be saved?”

Now, here’s where I ask one small favor of you.  If you read through this book, and you like it, please take a minute to leave a review for it on Amazon.com.

Thank you!

Beatitudes e-Book

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Insights from Seasoned Ministers: Stafford North

This interview, conducted by Jim Mitchell, originally appeared in our magazine, The Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1 (January 2017).  We hope you enjoy it!

Dr. Stafford North has been a part of Oklahoma Christian University as a teacher and administrator since 1952. Though he has stepped out of the role of full-time instructor, he is still very much involved with the university and continues to teach several classes. He has been preaching since 1948 for congregations in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Florida. Through the years, he has specialized in studies of: Evangelism, Daniel, Revelation, eschatology, church doctrine, and church leadership.

What changes have you seen in the Lord’s Church in Oklahoma over the years.

SN: I moved to Oklahoma City in 1958, when Oklahoma Christian College moved to the city from Bartlesville. Back then, there were somewhere between 10 to 15 congregations in the area, and they seemed to work well together. The church has grown a lot since then. I think that’s partly due to the influence of the university over the years. There have been a lot of students who have graduated and stayed in the area. Along with the positives, there are challenges we face. In 2003 we had 605 churches in Oklahoma with 63,581 members. That has since gone down to 566 churches, with 56,528 members. Things are changing where rural congregations have had a hard time continuing. There have also been studies indicating that not as many young people are staying with the church they grew up in. I think one of the things we need to work on is finding ways to help them stay faithful. As a whole, I think the relationship among the congregations here in Oklahoma has been positive. That’s not true everywhere else.

In terms of some of the things going on in the church generally, there are things that have developed elsewhere that have not affected us very much in Oklahoma. I counted the other day the number of churches in the states around us – OK, NM, KS, AR, TX (those states around us) – who have started using instruments. In those states, there are 36,000 churches and 36 have gone instrumental. There are two such congregations in Oklahoma, and they have not thrived with such a decision. I think that says something about Oklahoma churches wanting to be faithful to the word and it speaks well of the churches in Oklahoma. Some churches have begun to use women in more ways in worship, but I don’t know of any churches in Oklahoma where that is the case (that’s not to say that no one has done so, but that I’m not aware of any), so that trend doesn’t seem to be infiltrating Oklahoma churches either.

I think there are a lot of things that speak well of Oklahoma churches. The spirit is positive and we continue to be staying with what the Bible teaches about all of these things. I will say, though, that we don’t seem to be evangelizing as much as we ought to. There are more and more congregations who are recognizing their need to be more evangelistic and we need to do whatever we can to help them do that. That’s something at which we can all be better.

As you think over the time you’ve spent in the state, what strikes you as some of the most unusual or most humorous experiences you’ve had.

SN: Early in the history of Oklahoma Christian, back in 1955, when the college was in Bartlesville, I drove to Grove, Oklahoma to preach. It was about a 100 mile drive and I would drive over Sunday morning and drive back late Sunday night. I remember staying up late, working a musical we did titled “Songs America Sings.” It was a three act show and a big deal for the school as nearly the entire the student body (of 150 or so) was involved. After staying up late one Saturday night and driving to Grove the next morning I had, in the middle of the sermon, the kind of moment you have when you’ve been driving down the road and all of a sudden realize you’re not quite sure where you are. I had that moment during the sermon. For a moment, I didn’t know where I was and didn’t know where I was in the sermon outline. I went to sleep in my own sermon! I quickly just picked a point on the outline and started from there to finish the message. I want to be very clear that that’s the only time I’ve ever gone to sleep in my own sermon!

What makes you the most optimistic about the direction of the Lord’s church and the direction of Christian education?

SN: In the years I’ve been teaching at Oklahoma Christian, I’ve met a lot of very fine young people, who want to serve. That seems to be a characteristic of this generation and we need to capitalize on that. They go on campaigns and help with local evangelistic outreach (the Capitol Hill church of Christ is a great example of that with the medical outreach they have and the way they talk to people in line about the Gospel). The inner city work in both Oklahoma City and in Tulsa are good examples of being evangelistic in meeting the needs of others. We’ve also been blessed with a lot of great preachers here in Oklahoma throughout the years, and that has also helped strengthen the cohesion we have among the churches.

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Insights from Seasoned Ministers: Loren Gieger

The following interview was conducted by Jim Mitchell, and was featured in our magazine, The Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1 (January 2017).  We hope you enjoy it!

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with two men who have been a part of Oklahoma Christian University for decades and have had a positive impact on thousands of students over the years. Both are still very active in the Lord’s work, and their insights on how things have grown and changed carried both encouragement in things which have been positive as well as concern for the challenges the Lord’s church faces.

Dr. Loren Gieger served as a Professor of Biblical Studies at OC for 31 years before retiring from the University classroom. He continues to teach the Early Bird class on Wednesday evenings at the Memorial Road church of Christ in Edmond, OK – which he has done for over a quarter of a century, and he preaches for the church of Christ in Stroud, OK. Dr. Gieger is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Near Eastern Archaeological Society. He has done archaeological studies in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt.

What changes have you seen within the Lord’s church through the years?

LG: The first change I see is a decline in numbers. Small congregations in rural areas continue to decline as smaller communities dwindle and people migrate to the cities. It seems like congregations that are doing well are the larger congregations as people become more attracted to congregations with huge numbers. The strength of the leadership within many congregations is declining as membership in general is “graying.”

My second concern is with the soundness of the church. I think that younger ministers have not fought the battles a previous generation did with denominationalism. Younger ministers in general seem unaware of the dangers of the vocabulary used where there are non-Biblical terms frequently used in the religious world. Generally, as I listen to younger preachers, they don’t seem to know the book or how to exegete passages properly. They endeavor to appeal to a wider diversity of members and as a result, the distinctiveness is losing ground. I do think we need to turn some of these trends around.

What things do you see happening today which are encouraging?

LG: Our preachers are more formally educated than ever before. They tend to be very sharp, eloquent and good communicators. They are much better at illustrating lessons, stories are interesting, the lessons they give include lots of examples. However, as a result of that emphasis, there is a lot less Biblical proclamation in their preaching.

There are more opportunities and ministries for local congregations which is fantastic. Visual presentations (utilizing things such as power point) make lessons interesting and memorable more than ever before. The internet gives us opportunities which are unparalleled as we can communicate with Christians and missionaries around the world. Generally speaking, members of the church are more prosperous (at least in this country). We have finer homes, but may actually use them less in Christian hospitality than previous generations. The younger generation in the Lord’s church are very service oriented and take advantage of multiple mission trips, camps, and campaigns around the globe.

Within the younger generation, the commitment to the restoration of New Testament Christianity is not something which I see today as much as in the past.

What can you share from your ministry which was unusual or humorous?

LG: When I was in Fort Worth, one of the elders gave me a call late at night about the death of one of our members and told me he would come by and pick me up to go visit the family. I dressed hurriedly and slipped my shoes on (I had two pairs of shoes sitting by the couch). When we arrived at the home and rang the doorbell, one of the two elders with me said “Hey preacher, look down at your feet.” I had put on one white shoe and one black shoe. I tried to hide one foot behind the couch, but finally just brought both feet and told them that I have on one black shoe and one white shoe as you can see, but that I had another pair just like it at home. When I arrived back home, the front porch light was on, and my wife had set the other white and black shoe out on the porch. Later, the congregation took up a special contribution to give me a trip to the Bible lands. They rented a banquet room and had a dinner to see me off on the trip. Every man who came to that dinner came wearing one white shoe and one black one. The story made the front page of the local paper in Fort Worth.

What concluding thoughts do you have as we bring this interview to a close?

LG: I am afraid that the restoration mindset may be fading away, and I’m not sure how to stop that from happening. I also think there are some things we have taught we need to continue to revise, we never want to get away from scripture, but there are some things that are problems in today’s society that we really haven’t faced as well as we should. We have taken a [prohibitive] stance in churches of Christ (you can’t do this and you can’t do that) but we have not taken a redemptive stance, that is, how do you handle people that are in certain situations. I think we need to take another look at how we conduct funerals. We can do a better job ministering to the family of the deceased in times of grief. I think we need to teach people how to give. I think we have converted people (even on the mission fields), but we don’t teach those people to give like previous generations have given. I don’t want to sound negative, but I do think that along with the positives taking place, there are problematic areas we need to continue to address.

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Luke the Historian

Did You Know?

Luke has been called a “first-rate historian” by a man who was an atheist.  This atheist (Sir William Ramsay) set out to prove the Bible false by traveling the same route that the Apostle Paul traveled.  However, he found that everything Luke said was 100% accurate, even down to the names and ranks of various Roman officials at the time Paul went through (though those officials may have later changed roles).

Perhaps the most contested part of Luke’s writing, from a historical standpoint, was his statement about a census during the governership of Cyrenius over Syria.  It was stated that (1) Cyrenius was never governor over Syria—he held a different role; and (2) there was no record of a census (“taxing”, KJV) during the time under consideration.  Sir William Ramsay, an archaeologist himself, discovered inscriptions in Syria, dating from that same time period, describing Cyrenius as “governor.”

Never once has archaeology found anything that disproves the biblical record.  Not once.

-Bradley S. Cobb

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