Crises of Faith – 5

Not long after I finished High school, I applied for a job with the Colorado Department of highways as a part of a survey crew and was hired.  The first day after orientation I loaded up with the rest of the crew and went out to an intersection where I was dropped off and was told to wait there until they came back for me.  They gave me no indication as to how long it would be but my instructions were clear, just wait until they returned.  It was a warm spring day but there was no shade for me to wait under.  I did have my lunch and a jug of water with me and that turned out to be a real good thing.

The morning began to wear on and I wondered what was taking so long.   As time wore on I began to wonder why they left me there alone.  It didn’t make sense but I continued to wait.  Noon came so I had my lunch and tapped my jug of water but they didn’t return.  I continued tapping my water as the afternoon wore on but still no one came for me.  It was just about quitting time when I saw the crew returning.  Everyone was smiling but no one said a word.  Come to find out it was a test to see if I could follow directions.  My directions were to wait and watch for their return. 

That is the same directions that the Lord gave to His followers with one exception, we are to be busy sharing the gospel of Christ as we wait and watch for His return.  There may be additional directions that that the Lord gives, but the point is that we cannot be trusting the Lord when we take it upon ourselves to add – or subtract – from those direction.  Anything we change in those directions is not trusting in Him, but ourselves.  Romans 14:23 says, “. . . whatsoever is not of faith, is sin.”  King Saul was given specific directions by the Lord to destroy the enemy, his flocks, and his herds.  But when Samuel came by to check on him, Saul had not destroyed the cattle and sheep.  He explained that it was his intention to sacrifice them to the Lord.  For this sin of changing the Lord’s plan the kingdom was taken from him.  Samuel’s response is very telling.  I Samuel 15:22-23 “. . . Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because thou has rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

Sometimes what the Lord doesn’t make sense to us but we are to follow it to the letter else we stand against God.  Faith in the Bible is clearly understood to mean that we are following the Lord’s directives, otherwise it is not faith in Him.  What we see a lot of today is doing what we think might be the Lord’s will.  That is nothing more than a wild guess, carried out to the full of our understanding and is not faith in the Lord but faith in our guess.  In order to walk by faith in the Lord, we must get our directions from the Lord.  If He is not directing then we cannot proceed.  So where do you find His directions?  The vast majority of God’s will is written down in Scriptures.  God will never contradict His Word.  Another way that God directs us today is by His Holy Spirit.  That is not a hunch, or good guess, or even what seems right, but the leading of the Spirit.  Again, it will never contradict His Word and will require us to trust Him and not a result.  Further, it will glorify or expose God to the world and call us to righteousness.  I do not put stock in open and closed doors as Satan can also open and close doors.  However, I do believe that we can find God’s leading through those who have traveled the road of faith successfully.  Long established principles of faith and doctrine can clarify the way. 

Popular fads may look good at the moment but fade over time.  Worldly success is not a good measure of God’s involvement.   Sensationalism is one of the most popular measure of a church’s success but promotes the individual rather than the Lord.  In the final analysis the way of God is a narrow way but it leads to life everlasting.

Crises of Faith – 4

2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good  4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;  5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.  6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,  7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds,  reprobate concerning the faith.  9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

Today, I want to look at a passage of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:1-9 copied above.  The apostle Paul is writing to his son in the faith, Timothy and describing the conditions of the latter end of the last days.  This looks a lot like the days we are living in today.  We know that we are much closer to the last days than we have ever been before.  Paul describes these times as perilous, that is risky and dangerous, and that there would be a type of “religious” people who are like the world but not like Christ.  Notice that they have a form of godliness that is they may be benevolent and involved in a church but are not focused on extending the kingdom of God. When the time to stand on principles comes, they stand against truth.  You need only to look at the issues of abortion, free speech for Christians, prayer, etc.  The workplace is a mine field and can bring accusations of raciest, sexist, homophobia, prejudice, unfairness, etc. for proposing any alternate to the proposed cause. 

How can you tell if the “religious” are real Christians or just imposters?  One way is to test their message.  Does it speak of glorifying anything other than Christ.  It the message is “Hey, look at me, it or them” when it should be saying “Hey, look at God”, then it should shout DANGER!  Another evidence is that those who are following Christ are accompanied by God’s power.  God backs up the believers faith by His power.  If there is an absence of God’s power, then there is cause to turn away from the person or teaching proposed. 

A third warning is the appeal to knowledge as opposed to a faith walk.  I am not against knowledge for the Scripture states that we are to study God’s word.  However, when we come face to face with the knowledge of the truth, we are changed by it.  We will be changed  from faith to faith and we will not be able to just absorb the information without being changed.  In My dad’s day, they used to speak of educated idiots.  They had tons of information but no application.  The military used the phrase, “a thirty day wonder.”  People sometimes think that if they could just understand it then they could believe it. Just the opposite is true, however, that you must first believe it and then understanding will come.  That was Jannes and Jambres problem with Moses.  They opposed it because the problem was in their minds and the Scripture states that they were reprobate (depraved, corrupt, unprincipled) in their faith.  The Bible states that their folly shall be manifest to all men.

The crises of faith we see in the church today is not because there is no faith, but that the faith is exercised in the wrong things, when it should be in response to God’s directives.  The lack of power in the church, the use of the platform for attention, and the hypocrisy in the leadership are some of the causes of today’s crises of faith in the church today.

Crises of Faith – 3

Today I want us to look at the state of the church in America.  We see its values being attacked on a daily basis and its effect on the American culture lessening continually.  Church attendance is shrinking and the message is becoming confused with false doctrine.  In short, we are steadily losing ground  

Churches are trying different strategies to try to turn the tide, but nothing seems to bring lasting results.  One of the cries is that the church is out of date and boring, so some churches are changing the format to include a different type of music and dress code to make people feel more comfortable.  The doctrines are being watered down and compromised.  Some churches are promoting the “prosperity gospel” that is measured by physical prosperity.  While it is true that the attendance does increase for a time and the excitement is there, it is also true that many of the traditional values are driven out of the church and when the emotions subside (and they will) and when the music style changes (and it will), then the same results of a diminishing core will certainly follow. 

The reason that these will be the results will follow is that they have not identified the real problem.  It is just as my father used to say, “you can’t fix it until you know what is broke.”  Attendance and excitement are not what makes a church effective.  In reality, it is much easier to fill a church with people than it is to fill a heart with hope. 

There are several flaws in this type of approach to building a church.  First of all, we need to remember that the church belongs to the Lord.  It is not our church and therefore the ultimate responsibility is His and not ours.  He is the one who has the power to convict of sin, and He is the one who will draw the people to come.  The point is that He will fill the church in direct proportion to the room we make in our hearts for Him.  God is willing and able to turn the tide but His grace is frustrated by our refusal to surrender the control of our lives to Him.  As long as we cling to the controls of the church, we prevent God from working as He wants to and our faith is in our abilities instead of in Him. 

As I shared with you in my last blog, the object of our faith is the Lord.  Not in what He will do but simply in Him.  We need to trust His working and not our programs.  We need to trust His promises and not our ways.  Our faith must not be in our ability but in His ability to effect change in us first and then in our living in His ways.  Here is a glimpse of what that means:   new life comes from the death to the old life; gain comes from giving; greatness comes from serving; humility and compassion trumps power and authority and Love never fails.  When the lost world sees the life of Christ in the believer, then that is the only thing that will satisfy the hunger of the heart.  No other plan of man will work to stabilize the church.  The problem is not in what we are doing but is in our failing to live by faith in Him.  Romans 14:3 states that whatsoever is not of faith is sin and Hebrews 11:6 states that without faith it is impossible to please Him.  That is why I say we are in a Crises of Faith.   We are religious but not righteous.  2Ti 3:5  Having a form of godliness but denying  the power thereof.

Crises of Faith – 2

In my last post I stated that America and some other countries around the world are experiencing a decline in many areas of church life that include attendance, finance and respect, is due to a crises of faith.  Today I will begin to explore why I make such a bold statement.

Before we can really address this issue we must define some words that we use so often with many different meanings, so that is where I will focus this blog entry.  The first word is faith.  It can mean anything from a wish, to a ritual, to a feeling, to a religion.  If we are to be able to communicate on the same plane we must understand faith in the same context.  So let’s begin with how Webster’s Dictionary definition.  1.Unquesting belief that does not require proof or evidence.  2.  Unquestioning belief in God, religious tenents, etc.  3.  A religion or a system of religious beliefs (the Catholic faith).  4.  Anything believed.  5. Complete trust confidence, or reliance.  6.  Allegiance to some person or thing; loyalty . . .  As you can see there is a wide variety of ideas as to what is meant by the word faith in the English language. 

The biblical definition of faith is much more restrictive in its meaning.   I reference the Greek language, and specifically koine Greek, since that is the language that the Bible was written in.  Of the 254 times that faith is used in the bible, all but two of them are in the New Testament, and use the Greek word, pistis, which means to trust or rely upon.  Both of the times it is used in the Old Testament it uses a word of the same meaning, and Habakkuk is quoted three times in the New Testament where pistis is the word that is translated as faith.

We can therefore deduct that the meaning of faith in the Bible means to rely or trust.  It is therefore means to rely or trust is someone or something beyond ourselves.  By definition, then, it cannot mean that it is a dependence upon our ability, gifts or effort and is dependent upon that in which we trust.  So what is the object of our faith?  That is where our faith is validated or invalidated.  The object of our faith must be able to control the outcome.  If it has no power to perform then it is dead faith, and if it is flawed it will produce a flawed product.  The only object that is capable of such power as is promised is God, Himself.  That is also the one to whom we are directed to place our faith in.  Have faith in God is the directive of the Bible.  So we can conclude that any faith in anyone or anything other than God is not Biblical faith.  Further, faith in the wrong object cannot produce the fulfillment of the thing sought.  This is one of the prime reasons that “our” faith doesn’t work.  Faith must have the proper object of trust.

That brings us to another critical point and that is that if we are trusting another (ie. God), then He is in control and not us.  You do not have the control of the outcome but you are trusting in the one who knows best and does what is best.  You may not understand the why of the outcome but because of who it is that you are trusting, you entrust the results to Him. 

In my next posts I will address the operation of faith, the steps of faith and many other aspects of faith that help us to understand why our faith is not productive and our church are so enemic.

A Crisis of Faith

There is a strange phenomenon going on in the churches of America.  It is affecting all churches of all sizes and all denominations and that is that the attendance is dropping, as well as resources, influence and power.  If it were only one denomination we might conclude it was because of a teaching or doctrine.  If it were just the larger churches or just the smaller churches we might conclude it was because of resources.  But it is affecting all churches which are causing church leaders to ask why is it happening.  I have even heard that it is the fulfilling of the prophecy that times will wax worse and worse as we get closer to the end times.  However, this process of degenerating has been going on for thousands of years already.  No, this phenomenon is something else that has not yet been understood by the vast majority of the churches.

I remember before I became a Christian that it was hard to distinguish between the Christians and the non-believers.   They all seemed to follow the same moral code and conduct.  There was a general respect for the church member over the nonmember but little else.  Later, after I became a Christian I became curious about not seeing God’s power working in the lives of the members and churches.  I wondered why I didn’t see or hear much about God doing much in His people.  Then the scandals of the tele-evangelist and the breakdown of our national morals followed, until today when we have been devastated by compromising many of our long held beliefs.  Despair has become much more prevalent and there are all manner of “churches” sprouting up that claim that the long held truths that we have stood on for ages are no longer valid and were just for a time.

Lest I be understood to be saying that there is no hope and that everything is falling apart, I want to say that this is nothing new.  It has happened many times before.  If fact, every great revival of history began in such times as we are in today.  Let me also say that this phenomenon is not worldwide, though it is found in several countries.  Last year, I visited the underground church in another country and found an altogether different church.  There it was illegal to publically share your faith and Christianity was declared as darkness by the government.  Still, believers were so hungry for the gospel that they would travel up to two hours to a Bible Study; they would arrive 30-45 minutes early and quietly pray and read their bible;  sit on a plastic child’s stool that didn’t even have a back, for nearly 3 hours without complaining or squirming around;  take notes like a college student studying for an exam; stay for an hour or more in fellowship; and travel the up to two hours home.  After they completed their work day they would return the following evening and each day thereafter.  They weren’t tardy or missed opportunities but considered it an honor to be able to be there and were very grateful.  I came home wanting to bring that back with me.  Under these conditions the ratio of Christians was around 1in14 where here it is somewhere between 1in50 or 1in100

So we come back to the question of what is wrong in our churches in America.  I have prayerfully considered this for a long time and remembered what my Father told me years ago, “ You can’t fix it until you know what is broke.”  If we do not properly diagnose the problem we will just be treating the symptoms and will not see real change so I share with you what I believe is the real problem.  We are in a crises of faith.  With all of the books that are written on faith, I do not know of one that is addressing this as the problem.  So I will be writing several post on this and hopefully we can move closer to the center of God’s will in this matter.  After all, Romans 14:23 tells us that whatsoever is not of faith is sin and Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please Him.  I conclude therefore that until we get our faith walk right that we will see a continued deterioration of our churches and the quality of life that we live.

Worship

Think back to a recent worship experience.  Was it enjoyable?  Was it memorable?  How about life changing?  Sometimes we leave the service with an “oh hum” attitude that leaves us examining the value of the use of our time. 

Your response to the worship service is quite revealing and it is worth noting how you left the worship service.  The first thing you notice is was it a positive experience or did it leave you with something missing.  It may be the service but it could also be because of what is going on within you.  Before we go criticizing the church for failing to bring you into worship, we should at least consider that it may not be their fault.  Worship is personal between you and God and must begin with us.  Worship is possible in any situation when we are focused on Him, rather than on ourselves.

Now look at the focus of the worship.  To what did the service call your attention?   Did it focus on life in the here and now or in the sweet by and by?  Did it emphasis individuals or the Lord?  Sometimes it seems as though the leaders are saying, “Hey, look at me” rather than “Hey, look at Him.”  Was the main emphasis the church growth, a program, a performance, or was it one of what God is doing and how He is leading.  Oh, and be sure to check out your own expectations.  Were you looking to be entertained or were you looking for some direction or answer from God?

Thirdly, Look at the message, itself.  Did you take notes?  Even if you never look at them again, taking notes are beneficial for you to digest the message and to organize your thoughts.  Can you tell about the message in a word or sentence or two?  What was the message about?  Another very important point is was the interpretation in agreement with clear biblical doctrine.  The message should be directed by its text.  Preaching should break open the hidden things of the text and expose it to be examined by the listener.  Where did you thoughts travel?  Did your thoughts travel heavenward or were they anchored here in this world by circumstances or needs.   Were they led by the speaker or was you focus on things of this life and you never caught the concept of what is beyond this life only. 

Fourthly, consider your vision of life, were you left with the feeling of times are getting worse and worse, or did you leave with hope in the end that God has a plan and He is in control.  There are needs a plenty and difficulty is common to all but how does God fit into all of life.  What is the purpose of God in allowing us to go through all of this?  How can we have peace in the midst of all of this turmoil?

Finally, as you think back over this experience, were your expectations met?  This may sound strange to you at first, but I hope that they were not.  Many people leave a church because their “needs” were not  being met.  The criticism vary and may include such things as the sermon was too long, the choir is always off key, so and so has this problem, and so on.   This type of criticism is selfish and focuses only on self.  It lacks understanding of the others and the point of worship.  Worship is a corporate event and includes everyone.  Though it is true that God is concerned about your every need, it is also true that He is concerned about everyone’s individual needs.  We all need to be loved and valued.  True worship finds us as a part of God’s plan that includes everyone and excludes no one. 

So, as you consider your own worship experience, consider that worship requires and investment of yourselves, a discipline to bring self under His control, a vision beyond this life into the next, a faith in God and not in something temporal such as a man or church or a plan, and  a surrender to the will of God rather than just your will. My prayer for you is that your worship will become richer and fuller with each experience. Since worship is at least a part of our eternal existence, we should be practicing it now.

I cannot take credit for this insight as it was outlined by David Jeremiah with the following thoughts:

                It is not about us – it is about Him

                It is not about here (the physical) – it is about there (the eternal)

                It is not about what is seen – it is about what is unseen

                It is not about now – it is about then      

                It is not about one person – it is about many people

What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

I have listed a few of my favorite scriptures on believing as I will be discussing them and they are here for your reference.

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Mark 9:23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Matthew 17:19-20 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

In our harried world of social networking, busy schedules, pressures, and hectic paces, we often try to simplify or reduce the topic to one main idea.  We have all heard the saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”  When it comes to studying the Bible, we often look for basic concepts or verses that go straight to the heart of the truth.  One verse that was eye opening to me was John 6:28-29 (The title of this article and verse 29 listed above).  I was a new Christian and I simply wanted to know what I should be doing.  I didn’t know a lot of verses or history and it was all new to me so I wanted to just be doing the right thing.  I wasn’t interested in denominations or traditions, just what the Bible said.  Verse 29 summed it up for me.

But then I asked the question, “What does it mean, to believe on Him?”  I had a generic idea that it meant to be in agreement and to do right things but what were those things that I was supposed to do?  Like so many other people, I thought that the Lord would be pleased with me if I did the right things.  My understanding was in the doing, but the verse said that it was in believing and not in the doing.  As I studied I learned that the word, believe and the word faith are the same word in the Greek.  That word is pistis and it is translated as believe in one place and faith in another.  This opened a whole new thought process to me.  The Lord is not looking for me to do great things but He is asking me to allow Him to do great things through me.  Now I am not working for God (as though I am earning His favor), but He is working on me, and consequently through me so that he can transform me into His likeness and image to prepare me for eternity.

I learned that to believe on Him is to trust and rely on Him to do the work.  It is His job to do the mighty works and it is my job to be in a position of faith, reliance and dependence on Him for the results.  Those results are limitless. There is nothing impossible that he will not do to those who are believing in Him.   This brings up the question, why then, do we not see this power working in and through our churches today?  I believe that He answered that in Matthew 17:19-20.  The disciples could not cast out the demon because of their “lack of faith”.  But it was not a shortage of faith, rather it was that their faith was not in Him.  This was also brought out with the father of the demon possessed son.  He began with the word “if”, as though to say I don’t know you well enough to trust you but I have no other one to turn to so please help.  I trust you to help my son, but I need you to first help me with my faith.  The barrier to our seeing God work is that we see him as a man, but he works when we see him as God.

This faith in Jesus is to see him as the God of Creation who can move mountains.  Even to the extent of using the likes of me to do greater works than those that He was doing.  Simply put, to do the impossible.  So how do you know Jesus?  Is He just a man?  Or even a prophet?  A might man of power?  Or is he very God who loves you and will spare no expense, and cross any barrier that we might know Him for who He is and know His resurrected power in this present evil time.

John 14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

Luke 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

My Tribute to Joel Bandy

This Saturday, at 2:00 PM we will be attending the memorial service for Joel Bandy who was translating my book into Russian. He passed away about three weeks ago. Apparently, he passed away shortly after we talked on Saturday night. He had just finished Chapter 6 and he said that he would send me a copy the next day. He never had another day to send me that chapter but his brother has his laptop and told me that he would be sure that I would get it.

Joel and I talked about my trip to China last year and he wondered if something would happen and I would wind up in prison or something and he would lose me as his friend. You need to understand that he had called me several times a week for over 25 years. We had come to understand each other quite well. I was one of the few friends that he had and I had become one of his closest friends, but more than that I was his counselor, pastor, and father figure.

Joel had many problems but faithfulness wasn’t one of them. I always tried to tell him the truth, even though it hurt at times. He had grown from an angry man to a patient and forgiving person. He struggled with his ministry to the Lord and would often try to guess what it was. He made many guesses but none of them ever went anywhere. He would often come back to translating Russian which is what he was doing before his mental illness took hold. One day I suggested that if he wanted to be used in translation then he should be active in translating. He said, I have no one who wants to hire me and I have no avenues to take. I said, then you should just start translating something so you would have it to show. We talked back and forth for a few minutes and each time we came to a wall where he would just stop. Then I said to him, Okay, then translate my book to which he replied that it was too big a project. So then I said that he should try just one chapter and again he said that was too much of a commitment. I finally suggested that he had to start somewhere so just do a sentence. After a bit he said that he would do a sentence.

When he called me back he had done a whole paragraph, even though it was a short one. We then went over it and he read it to me in Russian, and it was fine. Then he was willing to take on one more paragraph which turned out the same way. Then for the next two years he would call when he had completed a paragraph and we went over it until he had finished a whole chapter. Then it was two, then three and the last time we talked he had finished six chapters which was over half of the book. Why do I recount all the details. Because he was that detailed. He would search a word that didn’t say it exactly right until he found a way to say it that carried the same meaning that I had intended when I wrote the book. He took great pride in doing a great job.

He was that same way in his personal relationship with the Lord. It took him a long time to get the doctrine right but once he understood it he would stand as strong as any one could. I had the privilege of leading him to the Lord and I was often rewarded by his example. I have never know anyone who spent more time in prayer and the study of the Bible, than Joel. He was a very lonely individual but he would often say that the Lord was his comforter and he longed to be with the Lord. Not in a suicidal way but in an eternal way as he recognized the temporary nature of this life and the promise of the eternal life of the Lord.

Though we talked about death and how he would make it if his mother, brother or I would be gone, we never considered how we would continue without him. That now is where I sit and I rejoice in his victory. I know that he is not lonely any more and he is with the Lord.

It’s Just A Little sin.

My oldest son, who lives 10 minutes from me, is building a cover for his patio and has asked me to assist him as some of the beams are 6” x  12”  x 18’ to 23’ in length.  For the last two days we have been moving the beams as well as all the other lumber to the rear yard by hand.  Along with assorted scratches and bruises, I managed to get a splinter in one of my fingers.  This morning I noticed that it had become infected and swollen so the splinter had to come out.   It was one of those splinters that was blond and not easily seen so it was not apparent that there was a splinter but because of experience I knew that it was there.  There was all the evidence; pain, swelling, infection and a puss pocket.  After it was removed there was immediate relief.  The pain and soreness quickly subsided, the puss was removed and the redness began lessening. 

So why did I wait until this morning to remove the splinter?  I suppose that there is a number of reasons.  I was in the middle of a job that had to be completed within the time I had.  It took priority over the situation so I just put it off until a more convenient time.  Then there was the fact that it didn’t seem that bad at the time.  I have had lots of splinters and they have never caused a major problem so I didn’t feel that it was that urgent.  Also, I wasn’t certain that there really was a splinter because I couldn’t see it.  Then there was no urgency as the splinter and its repercussions were not yet evident.  But by this morning all of these reasons for procrastination were gone and in its place was the urgency to do something about it, simply put – get it out now.  It would not wait even long enough to write this post. 

It is funny how something as small and insignificant as a splinter can command such attention.  It is such a small portion of the beam that its loss does not affect the strength of the beam yet when it is pricked into the skin of a person it affects the strength of the person so much as to require immediate attention.  The reason is that it brings germs with it that begin to multiply and attack the body.  Infection is the bigger problem and is more devastating than the injury. 

So it was with man.  He was created without sin and was a giver by nature.  He was in step with God and His ways.  Harmony was the order of the day and all of creation was in harmony as well.  Plants did not have thorns and were not poisonous (with the exception of the tree of knowledge of good and evil), animals did not eat each other and everything supported the plan of God in perfect harmony.  So what happened?  You know the story of the sin of Adam and Eve.  They injected their will in the order and sin (like germs) began to effect man and all of creation until now,  Ro 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  The order has been infected by sin and now instead of being a blessing, we seek to get a blessing.  We have become takers instead of givers. 

With the entrance of sin into the world comes the consequence of sin , DEATH.  (Romans 3:23)  Physical death is a certainty but eternal spiritual death is yet to be decided.  It can be averter but ONLY by the blood of Jesus our Lord. Heb 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. Just as the splinter demands its removal  for healing, so also our sin demands the blood of Christ, or there is no remission of sin.  There is no plan be or any other way.  You cannot earn it by your good works but it is offered free to those who will put their trust in Jesus as the Lord of their life.

To Die is Gain

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Yesterday was a very different day that will have extensive repercussions.   I was just walking out the door for an appointment when my daughter called me with the news that her brother-in-law, Joel Bandy had passed away.  The news was quite shocking as I knew him quite well and had for a quarter of a century. 

During that time I worked with Joel as his fried, pastor, counselor, and whatever else he needed, along with many others.  He would call me once or twice a week and share his struggles.  He fought through mental illness, personal worth, etc.  Over the years he changed from an angry man to a gentle loving person.  He found his greatest joy in the Lord and that was always the subject of his conversation.  He spent multiplied hours reading through the scriptures and could quote scriptures with the best. 

I don’t know why we became so close.  Perhaps it was because he was so genuine and unpretending.  He knew who and what he was and had little to no time trying to be someone else.  His greatest desire was to be used by the Lord and wanted others to know the Lord as he knew Him.

This struggle was continuous until one day, in an effort to give him something to work on that he would find challenging aa well as rewarding, I suggested he use the college training he had.  He majored in the Russian language and had worked as a translator.  It had been years since he had used it and was rusty.  He then asked me how to do it?  He said he didn’t know how to start and had no contacts that would hire him.  I told him to find something to translate and just start doing it for the experience.  I told him that the job would follow.  He still seemed reluctant so I suggested that he translate my book into Russian.  His immediate response was that no, it was too big a task and that he wouldn’t want to start with such a big project.  I then suggested that he take small bites and just do a chapter but that was still too much so I suggested that he do a paragraph or even a sentence.  I wasn’t looking for a translator but simply a project that would help him focus on developing his skills.  He said he would pray about it and let me know.  That was Joel, he prayed about everything.  Then, a few days later, he told me that he would at least make an attempt at a sentence but he wasn’t promising anything beyond that. 

That was nearly two years ago.  After he translated the first sentence, he said that he would try another, which he did by the next day.  He began to enjoy translating and then it was a paragraph, and then another and each time he said he didn’t know how long he would continue but for now he would continue.  Within a few weeks he had completed the entire first chapter.  Sometimes he would find a word or phrase that didn’t translate so he would call me and we would figure it out together.  It wasn’t long until he began to clear out the rust and the familiarity would come back and he really began to get better and doing it.  He began to collect the tools he needed to do an accurate job.  He took pride in doing a good job and would chase a word to its beginning and through its uses to get it right.

He pressed on and finished the first chapter, then the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth chapters.  As we worked through the ends of the sixth chapter, he seemed to be pressing hard and did the final three paragraphs at one time, and we rejoiced together.  He said he just wanted to get it finished and was glad we had it done.  He said he would be forwarding it to me soon.  That was on Saturday evening.  Then on Tuesday morning I got the news that he had gone to be with the Lord. 

We talked on various occasions about this life being so short, yet he longed to be with the Lord.  The Lord was his comforter and understood him.  Now he is enjoying life in a whole new dynamic.  His struggles are over and his victory is won.  While I lost my friend, brother, co-laborer, and translator; He has gained peace, victory and the presence of the Lord.  I rejoice in his gain and I will miss him until we are reunited there with the Lord.