My oldest daughter has a low pain tolerance.  Once, when she was in grade school, she was stabbed in the hand with a freshly sharpened pencil.  It became infected immediately and was causing her great pain.  When I tried to look at it, her fear of me increasing her pain level was so great that she couldn’t even allow me to even look.

I have know many people who have endured great pain and have even endured great pain myself.  Pain can cause great fear and is difficult to endure.  So why did the Lord include it as a part of life?  I submit the following reasons in answer to this question:

  1. Pain is a warning of danger. The Lord has provided amazing healing powers that are built in to our bodies, yet not all healing is automatic.  Sometimes your healing will require assistance beyond what is built into your body.  For example, if you break a bone it may need a splint, or cast, or even surgery and screws to hold the bone in place.  Failure to address the issue will cause extenuated limitations, even to the point of death.
  2. Pain demands attention.  It needs to grab your attention, which is does quite well.  It doesn’t matter what you are involved with, when pain announces itself it cannot be ignored.  It gives the situation an importance that it demands.
  3. Pain is a demonstration of love.  One of the things about love is that it does what is best, not what is easiest or the most enjoyable.  God’s love for us mandates that He provide the means to insist on our care for our bodies as it is the temple of God.  He wants the best for us and is more intent in our completion according to His standards, than He is on our own success rate.
  4. Pain is trans-formative in that it makes us mold-able.  It breaks down our resistance to change and cause us to become willing to move in a given direction.  People who endure great pain often say, I have no choice.  You become pliable like plastic that is forced into a mold.  It causes us to go where we would not go and become what we would not become
  5. Pain is a teacher. Consequence is a great instructor and guide. Often we hear with our ears but not our hearts.  Instructions have to find a lodging in our hearts in order for us to learn.  When we suffer the consequences of our actions we learn its importance.
  6. Pain helps the memory.  Because pain is so repulsive, we will take great care to avoid it when possible.
  7. Pain highlights the importance of the details.  Often we tend to major on the big things and to minimize the minor details.  Greatness is in the minutia, or the seemingly unimportant details.  The major things are obvious but the minutia is essential.

Wisdom speaks and says that it is good to make friends with pain.  You will not enjoy pain but you can be benefited by it.  Pain is for our good.

Word Study – Love

Love is a word that merits study in the Greek language, the language the New Testament was written in.  Note the following quote from Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.

In NT times three words for love were use by the Greek speaking world.  The first is eros, referring to erotic or sexual love.  This word is no used in the NT or in the Septuagint.  It was commonly used in Greek literature of the time.

The word phileo (and its cognates) refers to tender affection, such as toward a friend or family member.  It is very common in the NT and extrabiblical literature.  It is used to express God the Father’s love for Jesus (John 5:20), God’s love for an individual believer (John 16:27), and of Jesus’ love for a disciple (John 20:2).  The word phileo is never used for a person’s love toward God.  In fact, the context of John 21:15-17 seems to suggest that Jesus desired a stronger love from Peter.

The word agapao (and its cognate agape) is rarely used in extrabiblical Greek.  It was used by believers to denote the special unconditional love of God and is used interchangeably with phileo to designate God the Father’s love for Jesus (John 3:35), Bod the Father’s love for an individual believer (John 14:21), and of Christ’s love for a disciple (John 13:23).

In English we have just the one word, love, and it can mean a lot of different things.  We have to look at the context and subject matter to discern its meaning and even then it may not be clear.

The NT is repleat  with multiple scriptures on love.  Biblical love has God as its object, true motivator, and source.  I Corinthians 13 (known as the love chapter) list the characteristics of love and concludes with the statement about the three everlasting qualities of the believer, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of the three is love.  It is the fruit of the spirit and the quality that exposes Christ in us to the world that we are Christians.

We are to love in four directions.  First, we are to love God. Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.  Second, we are to love thy neighbor.  Mr 12:31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.  Thirdly, we are to love one another (the brethren).  Joh 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  Finally, we are to love our enemy.  Mt 5:44 But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Word Study – Perceive

Mt 13:14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:  

The word “perceive” is often misunderstood as meaning to learn or to mentally figure it out.  The word is  horao, pronounced  hor-ah’-o  and means to discern clearly.  It includes both the physical and spiritual applications.  To perceive is to see it as it is and all of the applications associated with it.  It sees through smoke screens and misrepresentations.  It is not fooled by empty promises, emotions or wishful thinking.

Perception is not done by seeing.  You have heard that seeing is believing but we all know that we see different things while observing the same thing.  Eyewitnesses do not always see the same things.  Beholding is not seeing everything.  It is also not seeing from the same perspective.  Furthermore the details we see are interpreted through the filter of our understanding and experiences.

After we have gathered our information of believed facts, we then piece them together into some rational meaning that we call understanding.  It may be logical but it may not be the truth.  Our conclusions are warped by our limitations, prejudices, inexperience and preferences.  In short, we are fallible and limited.

Perception does not come from the eyes but the heart and is given by the Lord.  It does not come by knowledge, understanding or effort.  You can’t manufacture it or produce it.  Once given it is used in harmony with the facts without distortion.  It is knowledge beyond the normal means of using your senses and mind.  It only comes as a revelation from God and in harmony with His will.  That is why it is not under our control.  We can know what we could never know or understand without it.

Perception supersedes spiritual blindness can be caused by our limitations, immaturity, erroneous training, misinformation, stubbornness, sin, or a hardened heart.  It confronts issues that prevent a right response to God and is one more of the road blocks to hell.  When rejected it compounds the problems and judgment.

Word Study on Subtil

Today’s word study is taken from Genesis 3:1 and is the word “subtil”.  The Hebrew word is aruwm and is pronounced ‘aw-room’.  It is usually translated as cunning but also includes the idea of crafty, prudent, and sly.  It is usually meant in a bad sense.

This is the word that is used to describe the serpent that spoke to the woman and the serpent is understood as a reference to Satan. Notice the strategy.  The ability to deceive increases in effectiveness as the separation from the source increases.    Satan did not attack Adam as he had a close relationship to God so he came to the woman who in turn, had a relationship to Adam.

The second level of attack was not to defy God, but only to put a question on the motive of God.  He took a partial truth and twisted it to imply that God was not looking to your best interest and was holding out on you.  By asking a question about God’s instructions he implied a lack of understanding on the part of Eve and introduced the idea that there was more to it than she knew.  When she responded, In her effort to show her knowledge, she added the part of even touching it and fell into Satan’s trap.  She was now guilty of adding to or changing God’s instructions.  Her insecurities opened her up to other trickery  At this point Satan challenged God’s follow through saying “ye shall not surely die”.  In other words, surely God won’t destroy His own creation.  To this he offered another partial truth about knowing good from evil . . . and ye shall be as gods.  And the when she saw. . . (the possible benefit) . . she took and ate and gave to her husband and he did eat.

Oh! What A Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice To Deceive” Sir Walter Scott.  Because of the sin of Adam we now live in a world of twisted values, empty promises, partial truths and self justification.  We walk in this dark world until we take God at His word and follow Him.  Until then we practice deception like the Father of lies.  Out of the mouth proceeds the intent of the heart and as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.  Mt 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Fitting In

Its that time of year when the NFL draft is in full swing.  Teams are making decisions that will complete their team and hopefully propel them through the playoffs.  But what makes them the best fit for a team is not their skill level because all of them have skills, but how well they can play for the team, or how well they fit in.

When I was young we moved several times.  Each move involved cultural, social, economic and environmental changes.  It was always a tremendous challenge for me to figure out how I fit in to the new situation.  Relationships were already established and experiences were already anticipated.  I didn’t have any relationships and often my responses were not what was expected which made me a target.  I was behind right at the beginning so I had to overcome a lot to just start even with others.

Probably the most difficult place for many people to fit in is in church.  They do not have the church language down, they don’t know the history or even know how to maneuver thought the Bible.  They feel out of place like everyone is staring at them and they are quite uncomfortable.

I had one experience that I treasure to this day.  One of the students came up to me as I was walking down the hall and introduced himself and then welcomed me to the school.  It wasn’t a major thing in many respects but it meant the world to me.

Figuring out how to fit in to God’s plan for you in this world is undoubtedly the most important adjustment you will ever make in your life.  A lot of time it is described as your purpose in life.  Jesus underscored its importance in John 3 when He told Nicodemus that “you must be born again.”  God’s plan for you is not just for your comfort in this world but it is eternal in its scope and purpose.  Gods plan for you is first stated in Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  His plan is to complete you in the fashion of Himself and to dwell with you for eternity.  You were chosen before creation ever came to be because God looked down the corridors of time and saw you chose Christ.  To put it another way, God chose all those who choose Christ.

You fit in because you made the decision to be a part of His plan and now follow in obedience, placing your faith in Him and not in yourself.

Baby Steps 5

I was sharing the story of our experience with the pastor in Japan with our educational pastor and how gifting had opened up such a rich experience, when he suddenly said, You need to be teaching your book to our people, and then added this fall.  It was so sudden and unexpected yet somehow I knew that this also was from the Lord so I agreed and the time was set.

I had no basis on what to expect or how many would attend.  As the class began there were about 15 that showed up that first night and it grew several more during the classes on the book. Interest was high and several were asking questions and adding their insights.  One night after class there were a couple or three standing around and visiting when a lady spoke up and said, I think the Lord is asking me to translate your book into Spanish.  I was both stunned and surprised as I knew very little about her.  We began discussing the idea and I left her with the request that she pray about it and then we would talk some more.

Come to find out, she was quite sincere and told me what she did for her job was working with translations into Spanish.  She was a member of our church and her family was also members.  I was still a little shocked by this recent turn of events but I did sense the Lord’s fingerprints all over this so I suggested that she move along and send me chapter one when she finished it.  She then told me that because of a sick mother and other commitments that it would be a few months before she could begin but that she would proceed.

Since then she has finished the first chapter and sent it to me.  Then I didn’t hear from her for several months.  I didn’t have her phone number but I did have her email so I dropped here a note and said that I had been praying for her but did not get an answer.  A few more months went by and one day I met her and her husband in the hall at church.  She then shared that she had been going through an extreme situation with her mother as well as several other matters.  She assured me that it was coming to an end and that she fully intended to continue.  I ran into her a few weeks later and she said she had been working on it and now has chapter two almost completed and that she would send it to me shortly.  She also reported to me that she is dealing with other situations that is causing her a lot of delay but that she could use the prayers to help here through this current time.  Please lift her up to the Lord in your prayers as well.


Baby Steps 4

The third translator came quite surprisingly.  A man I have been working with for over a quarter century, was having a struggle in knowing how the Lord wanted to use him.  He had studied Russian for several years and had made a couple trips to Russia.  He even had worked as a translator in the Russian language but because of a limitation he had, he had never been able to really find the work he fit into.  He was constantly second guessing God’s plan for him and as a result, was never able to settle on any one thing that God had made certain.

Knowing his background as well as his heart, I found myself giving him the same advice over and over again. Somehow he thought that he might miss something so he tried to add credence to everything that came along.  The result was that nothing was ever truly settled.  It is just as the Bible says,  Jas 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

As I listened to him I found a common denominator which was that every conversation revolved around what he could do.  I then attempted to turn his attention  from himself to others.  It was not what he could do for God but how he could enrich the lives of others.  I also advised him that he needs to begin doing what was in his heart to do.  The thing he identified that was the greatest joy to do was Russian translation.  So then  I suggested to him that he simply begin to translate something for the practice to sharpen his skills again.  Lacking confidence, he wanted or needed something more specific so I suggested that he try my book, thinking that it would at least give him a start.  It seemed to be a mountain to him so I suggested that he begin with only one chapter.

Now he is growing more and more rapidly and moving at a faster pace continually.  He talks less of himself and more about others.  He has stated that the more he has translated, the easier it has become.  It is much easier to carry on a conversation with him now and his understanding grows every day.  One of the most outstanding  things that I see in him is his dedication to be precise and accurate in his work.  He is now finishing the third chapter and has every intention of finishing the book.  He has said several times that upon the completion of his work that it then needs to be examined by others for a more perfect translation.

Sometimes all of us needs a helping hand to lift us to a higher level of living.

to be continued . . .

Baby Steps 3

A second bond came from a pastor in Japan that I met on a trip to visit my son who was living and working in Japan.  My wife and I were visiting our son, Daniel, in Japan.  While we were there we determined that we wanted to visit a Christian church to have the experience and to aid us in our understanding of their culture.

We asked our daughter-in-law if she knew where on was and she put us in contact with a church.  The church then sent a car to pick us up as we didn’t know our way around the area.  We were so appreciative and wanted to thank them in the right way.  I knew that gifting was a big thing in Japan but we were on our way already so there wasn’t time to buy something.  Then I remembered that I had a copy of my book with me and determined to give that as a gift for their care for us.

Upon arrival, we were directed into the church and introduced to the pastor.  I then presented the pastor with my gift, not knowing if I was doing it right.  He hesitated for a moment and then he got misty and I thought he was going to cry.  I asked, did I do something wrong?  He replied, No you don’t understand.  You see, I have been praying that the Lord would send me someone to encourage me and you are him.  Then I felt like crying.  Our bond was immediate as we both felt that this was a divine appointment.  I am not sure what he told the congregation but after the service we were surrounded by everyone and they all wanted to talk with us.  At one point I was talking to four people at the same time, trying to answer their questions and my wife was trying to talk to two more.  All the while the others were crowding around to listen.  This went on for the better part of an hour so we didn’t get any time to speak with the pastor.  He then requested for us to join him for lunch the next day.

Darla, wasn’t feeling well the next day so I went on alone.  I was met with the pastor, his wife, his daughter and son-in-law at a fine restaurant and enjoyed a great meal.  He shared that he had read my entire book and was so impressed that he asked permission to use it in his work and of course I agreed.  He then told me of a member of his church that was impressed by our visit that she had determined to read my book as well.  The pastor challenged her with the question, you don’t speak English nor do you read English, so how do you intend to do that.  She replied that she had considered it and had decided that she would get an English/Japanese dictionary and read it that way. (Note, so far she has read three chapters.)  My immediate thought was, Lord give us this kind of dedication.

Our bond was instantaneous and has continued to this day.  He became my second translator though I wasn’t  even looking for another translator.  He now calls me his mentor though I learn from him continually.  His heart is so big that it includes all of Japan and China.  He has made at least 9 trips to China to train the young pastors there. Because of his schedule, the translation has been going slow but recently the Lord sent him an assistant so the work will gather momentum.  His goal is for all of Japan to read the book and to put their trust in the Lord.

to be continued . . .

Baby Steps 2

The next step was that the Lord moved us to Texas where we currently are living.  I didn’t know where we were moving to when we sold our home in Maryland so we loaded what we could and gave away the rest and came here to my oldest son’s home to give us time to find the next step in God’s plan.  We stayed with him for a couple months and the Lord revealed that we were already there.  We found the greatest church that I have ever been a part of and in getting to know the pastor and church leadership was introduced to a man that has become one of the translators of my book.

I wasn’t looking for a translator at that time, but while I was visiting with my pastor about my book, he told me that we had a Chinese pastor in our church that could translate it into Chinese.  This was a new idea  that I hadn’t even occurred to me.  I said that I would like to meet Him and let the Lord direct it from there.

I found out that he was from China and was starting churches there.  My pastor said that he was so good at it that the Chinese government had invited him to leave the country, which he did and came to America and became an American citizen.  He then attended and later graduated from Southwestern Seminary and joined our church.  He then started a Chinese congregation attached to our church.  When I met him there was an immediate bond and we visited for over two hours.  I gave him a copy of my book and he promised to read it.  When we talked again, he said that he thought is was an important work.  I then asked him to pray about translating it into Chinese.  I didn’t hear from him for a couple months but when I did hear, he said that he would but he couldn’t start until the end of the year because  he had applied for a visa to China, which had been granted and he was leaving for China soon.

Upon his return to China, he took time to get settled and then began the translation.  The next time I hear from him he had finished the first chapter.  He then told me that he was using my book in his work there in China and that printed religious material is so very hard to find.  The next time I talked with him, he told me that he was using my book to help train the new pastors in the house churches as they usually had not formal training.  The next time I heard from him we discussed the publication of the book.  He said that he would find a place to have it printed there in China as it would be too expensive to have printed and then shipped there.  Also, there was the possibility that it would be discovered and destroyed and could even lead to governmental persecution.

Since then he has made two trips back here to the US and I have been given the privilege of private meeting with both him and his wife.  It is always a delight to talk with him and to hear of his work there in China.  Our church is planning a mission trip there late this year and I have been invited to go.

to be continued . . .

Baby Steps 1

With the translations all moving ahead, I am beginning to make plans for their publication.  I am currently assembling a list of publishers to check out to find the next step in the Lord’s plan.  I do not see clearly as to the timing or the means of this effort so the first step is through prayer.  My prayer is that the Lord will make me sensitive enough to detect His leading.  It is not my job to gather the resources or to make the decisions, for this is His work.  My most important job is in prayer.  My tendency is to try to do His job while ignoring my job.  I think there are a lot of people with that mentality.   We waste resources, motion, time and opportunity in attempting to control the situation, rather than follow the Lord through it.

I did not start this project but it was given me by the Lord.  I do not know what the Lord will do with it or even if I would ever complete it, but look at what the Lord has done, so far.  First, I was asked to do a job that I had no inkling that I could do and that was to write the book.  I stumbled along for years starting and then stopping.  I knew that I had been given insights into faith because of the many experiences that He had led me through but I did not feel qualified.  Then He gave me I  1Co 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;  Neither my skills or abilities qualified me but my Lord chose me because it would be easier for others to see Him, because no one would even think that it was from me.  Then I remembered that even the apostles were uneducated men but were qualified by the Lord.

Then came the finishing of the book.  It was clear that I needed help and it came from the most surprising source.  My number three son, Daniel, who has a masters degree in English and is a College professor who teaches English as a second language, stepped forward and offered to polish it for me.  He didn’t want any credit for its content and refused any recognition.  He only wanted to help me, knowing my limitations.  He was of tremendous help in moving me through its completion.

By this time in my life I was beginning my retirement so I had the time.  Also, I had just discovered that I had stage 4 cancer in my neck and the back of my tongue.  That urgency was also a help in keeping me on track. Later, the Lord healed me completely from the cancer and the book was finished and published.  That alone was amazing but there is still more.

to be continued . . .