Summer Bible Conference Underway

We are now in our Senior Adult Summer Bible Conference which runs from yesterday through Wednesday.  Yesterday we had two speakers in the afternoon that both spoke on aging but from a totally different perspective.  Both were great and gave us several valuable insights.  One of the highlights for me was that it can be (and should be) one of the most productive times of our lives.  We have the opportunity to influence more people with more lasting insights than we have ever had the opportunity to do.  Today, Tomorrow and Wednesday we will have two speakers each day; the first speaking at 10:00 AM and the second will be speaking at 11:00 AM and repeating the times each day.

I will be speaking on Wednesday at the 10:00 AM slot.  My message is on John 6 where Jesus gave one of the great “I AM” teachings, I AM the Bread of Life.  All of the messages are being recorded and you can go to our Church’s web sight and listen to them at your convenience.  If You would like a copy of any or all of the messages (on a CD), drop me a note in the response box and I will try to get it to you.  If you live outside the US there will be shipping charges as I am not a business but an individual living on a fixed income.

Do you remember a blog that I wrote back in January about this blog being an ongoing adventure and that we would see the Lord in action, on our journey home.  Later I told you about my being asked about making the trip to China and later I shared with you that I was indeed going?  Yesterday, I found out that the entire trip is going to be paid for.  Since I am on a fixed income, and it was not part of my budget, it was going to take the Lord for it to happen.

The operation of faith is one of the strong point in chapter 4 of my book, The Mystery of Faith. Faith operates in the following manner: God initiates faith, then man believes, then God finishes it or brings it to pass.  Since God had initiated my making the trip to China, it was up to me to believe that He would provide what was needed to make the trip.  Since I then believed it was indeed God setting it up, I had compete trust in Him to bring it to pass.  This is how faith operates.  I did not go to God to make this happen, but He came to me with the request for me to go.  I wasn’t the one initiating the action, nor was I the one who initiated the request.  The request was the result of my response to God’s request for me to go.  He always finishes what He starts.  This is His chosen means of operation.  Until we get this operation down, we will continue to struggle with our faith and how God intends for us to walk.

Love In 4 Directions

I am sure that many of you already know about the various meanings of the word Love, in the Bible.  There is ‘eros‘ which is the physical or lustful attraction; there is the ‘phileo‘ love which is brotherly love such as a parent for a child; and there is ‘agape’ love which is the love of God that is supernatural.  Our focus today is not on what kind of love but on the agape love that is to find a home in our heart and finds it’s expression in all directions.

First, we are to Love God back with the same love that He loves us.  That means that we have no other gods that we hold in comparison to Him.  He alone is God and there is none other like Him.  Until we get to know Him we do not love Him.  The more we get to know Him, the more capable we are to love Him, for God is Love.

The next area of our love that must be developed is to love one another.  That is to love those of your family and those to whom you identify such as your church family.  This requires some stretching and maturing.  Sometimes we forget that our love for one another is not based on how we feel about the other person.  It is not based on what they do for you but on their value which is not always apparent.  Sometimes their value will not become apparent for a long time but love can’t wait till then.  They need to be loved whether or not their value has appeared.  The world will know we are Christians by our love.  Love does what is best, not what is convenient, or easiest or even by what is desired.  It is the expression of what erupts out of the heart from our concerns and understanding of the others needs.

The third direction of our love is focused toward our neighbors.  That is those to whom we have contact in our everyday living.  It includes those who cut in front of you in traffic, your fellow employees, the beggar, the down and out as well as the up and out and even your business acquaintances.  You are to love them and seek for their good.  This will take even more growing to develop a love that is ever a blessing.  Some people are not easy to love.  The negative, the critical, the depressed, the gossip, the one who never stops talking, the gossip, and on and on it goes.  These people are all hurting and need your love.  They come from all sorts of backgrounds and bad situations yet God loves them and we are to love them with His love, too.  We have to learn to live with each other yes, but it is even more important to learn to love each other.  This love will cover a multitude of sins.

Finally, we are to love our enemies.  They are the ones who are not fair or merciful.  They attack us and all we stand for.  Sometimes they are from outside our world and come at us suddenly and without cause.  Sometimes they are close to us and hurt us the deepest.  Sometimes they are cruel and sometimes they are sly.  It doesn’t matter what they attempt but what does matter is the attitude that you express when they do.  They are expecting a fight but they are not expecting your love.  These are the ones who have the least love in their lives.  They have probably endured the worst treatment, have been taught the least, had the worst examples and come from the most dysfunctional families.  They can only be won by love.  To that they will respond.  Not at first but they can be won if your love is real.  They will cost you the most and they are the hardest to convince but they are some of the most loyal and dedicated of all.  The apostle Paul comes to mind as a great example.

God is not looking to punish us but to redeem us.  He paid the ultimate price so that we might have eternal life.  To God, we are each worth more than the entirety of this world.  There are a number of tools that God will use to reach the isolated and unloved, but the greatest of them is Love.  Love is God’s chosen means of reaching the hearts of men.  So how is your love growing?  When you are loving, you are expressing the very nature of God.

Forgiveness

Matthew 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

2Corinthians 2:7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Forgiveness is a concept that is often misunderstood and has therefore not brought the peace and relief that was intended.  We hear phrases like “Forgive and Forget” or “God will forgive us because He loves us”.  Though these type of phrases are well intended, they do not properly represent the truth about forgiveness.  You do not have the power to just forget.  You will still remember long after forgiveness has been given.  Forgiveness does not wipe the memory, but it justifies the memory.  Further, God’s forgiveness is not based on his pity or compassion for us but it is based on the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.  If we reject His Son and His work on the cross, we also reject His forgiveness and we remain condemned.

Forgiveness is not excusing the trespass but accepting the cost of the trespass for yourself.  Forgiveness is not discounting the trespass as though it doesn’t matter for it does matter.  Forgiveness is not overlooking the trespass for the barrier it has brought will continue to grow until it is addressed with forgiveness.  Forgiveness is understood as ‘giving forth’  or giving to the extent of the need.  Forgiving will cost you something.  It not only hurts but also requires something from you that is beyond your human ability.  To forgive requires that you go to God to receive the grace and mercy that is required by the offence.  It is not a natural thing but is a supernatural response of the Holy Spirit to reach the heart of the offender and to reconcile man to God and man with man.

When we shut up our forgiveness several things happen.  First there is a conflict between you and God.   To refuse to forgive is a slap in God’s face for what He has done for you.  Second, your concern for the offender should be cause enough for you to forgive him.  To withhold forgiveness reveals a lack of love for your fellow man as well as a lack of faith in God.  Third, when we withhold forgiveness it causes a barrier for us in our growth and we become bitter and the longer it goes on, the more bitter we become.  Further, it hinders our spiritual life is every way and we open ourselves up to the tricks of the Devil.  There is every reason for us to forgive as it exposes God who lives in us, to the world, it improves our relationships and people skills and equally importantly, it not only improves our disposition and attitude but also settles the war inside of us, restores our joy and peace and builds us in multiple ways.  We are all on a journey to our eternal home so lets enjoy the trip.

Train Up A Child – Consequences

Pr 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

When we are training up a child it is important to note that there is a way he should go.  He should not be left to his own choices because he has not yet learned that there is a difference.  Every choice has a consequence that is either a blessing or a curse.  Bad choices produce bad results.  Good choices produce good results.  It seems so simple yet we have parents letting the kids decide the choice without preparing them for the consequences, and then letting them avoid negative consequences.  Without feeling the consequence of their actions, the child is not taught how to make decisions, but is taught rather that it doesn’t matter and he does not develop a sense of which way to go.  Further, he fails to develop a sense of true values which may even lead him into a destructive behavior.

When a child is not taught that there is a consequence to every action, both good and bad, then he becomes confused about life.  In spite of what society may say, there is a right and a wrong.  It is not determined by how I feel about it, rather, it is determined by its consequences.  If you don’t like the consequence of the heat of the stove, then don’t put your hand on it.  It doesn’t take long to figure out that choices have consequences.  You not only hinder a child from making good choices, but you put a roadblock in front of him that hinders good choices.

This is why the Lord allows us to face so many choices in life to help us make good choices, that we will be blessed and live a fruitful life.  One of the responsibilities of the parent is to enforce these lessons of life. If a child fails to obey the parent there should be consequences but the consequences should not be to punish, but to correct the process of making good choices.  The child should take the responsibility of the choice and thereby the consequence.  Proverbs 19:18 Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.  God provided a place for spanking and it will not damage the child but it is quite sensitive, due to design.  Spanking should be only to enforce this lesson of consequences and we should not swerve from it for the child’s sake   It is an act of love and should be followed by other expressions of love.  Whenever I found it necessary to administer a spanking, it was always followed up with hugs and consolations.  The purpose is to turn the child, not to punish or administer justice and should always be accompanied by grace.  Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. 

Proverbs 29:17 Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.  I meet so many parents and/or guardians that are totally exhausted in the battle of who is going to rule the day.  If you fail to carry out your responsibility to teach this lesson, the child will become confused about life and get the idea that he calls the shots and will wear you out.  Your responsibility begins at birth and is built over time but once done will bring you reward for your making the right choice.  This is one of the most important lessons that a child is to learn – that there is a right way and to know what it is.

Paul’s Prayer For The Church At Ephesus

Ephesians 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  Eph 3:16 That he would grant you . . . That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;Eph 3:18 (That ye) May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

The apostle Paul spent 3 years working with the church at Ephesus. Acts 20:31  Now, as he writes to them, he clearly lays out why he felt so deeply and earnestly for them and the extent of his prayer for them.  He is now looking to their journey ahead and what is yet needed.

First, he prays for them to be strengthened.  This strengthening was to be with might, that is, not just stronger, but to be the strongest they can be.  Strength come by exercise and sweat and by overcoming greater and greater trials.  This strengthening was to be with might, that is to the extreme; by His Spirit, that is supernaturally and finally, in the inner man, not physical strength but strength of character and will.

Secondly, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.  The term dwell has the idea of permanence and regularity.  It is not a mountain top high, but rather a constant dependence on Him.  The only way for that to happen is by faith in Him.  We should not expect feelings, sensations, etc. but by a continual trust in Him that He will do by His power.  It is not by seeing with our physical eyes but through the eyes of faith that we see the way.

Thirdly, he prays that they (you) may be able to comprehend what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge and that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.  Wow! what a mouthful  of wonder.  Let’s break it down.  The word comprehend can also be translated ‘apprehend’, and it means to take possession of or to know experientially.  This is not head knowledge but knowledge that comes through experience.  Literally, to know God as He is, the immensity of His height (all that is above), and depth (all that is below), and breadth (all that is past and future) and length (all peoples of all races and all authorities).  All of this combined together and you will begin to grasp the Love of God and all He has planned for His Saints or believers.  Literally, to be filled with the fullness of God.

Paul closes the chapter by concluding that God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we as or think, but it is according to the power that worketh in us, that God is glorified (seen) in the church.  This is normal Christian living.

Precious and Magnificent Promises

2 Peter 1:4  Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

If you read yesterday’s post of Great Expectations, you caught a glimpse of what God expects from us.  He doesn’t expect for us to succeed in our efforts to please Him because He knows that the old nature cannot please God.(Romans 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.)  It is God that enables us to live holy (separated) lives, but just to be able to do the right thing still comes short of God plan for our lives.  It is one thing to know what is right.  It is still another to do what is right.  It is still another to have your nature altered so that you do what is right naturally.  If it were possible to do what is right all the time, it would still leave you unprepared for eternity.

Doing what is right is great and I do not want to minimize it.  Being right is even better because it is not performance oriented.  When you nature is changed, doing what is right is what you do naturally and takes no effort at all because your sin nature is being put to death daily and you find less and less in common with it.  So how does this transformation take place?

Our scripture gives us the initial clue to how this takes place.  God gives us exceeding great and precious promises to use in this process of transformation.  It is by our standing on these promises and rejecting the old nature that we begin to take on the divine nature.  For example, after I accepted the Lord as my Savior, I noticed that I couldn’t hold the same views that I previously held.  I began to understand things in a different light and my attitude toward others began to change.

Here is a partial list of just some of the promises to get you started in claiming them for your own.

  1. Eternal Life
  2. Nothing shall be impossible with God
  3. God will NEVER leave you or forsake you
  4. Nothing shall ever separate you from the Love of God
  5. God Loves you
  6. God is for you
  7. All things work together for good, to them that are the called
  8. All the treasuries of God are available to you
  9. Forgiveness
  10. Grace
  11. Mercy
  12. Spiritual Gifts
  13. Love (agape)

God would have us to take on His characteristics (likeness and image and dominion) to enable us to interact with Him through out eternity.  We become partakers of His divine nature as we make these promises our own life.

 

What Is Your Handicap?

I love the commercial where children from St. Jude hospital, who have varying disabilities refuse to be called handicapped.  Though they recognize that they are limited in some ways, they also believe that they are blessed in other ways.  They refuse to allow their limitation to make them a lesser person.

One of my grandchildren was a born premature and along with that came the disease, cerebral palsy.  This disease left her with major problems with her legs and has had to have surgery to give her more mobility.  Yesterday I was talking with her and she just made my heart leap.  She said that last year when we were here and she became a Christian, she decided to not let her disability make her a handicap but she had decided to turn it into an asset.

This attitude is the key to living a rich and full life.  It is the product of Christ working from within you to give you victory over your circumstances.  Everyone has limitations and circumstantial problems of one type or another.  I have never met a woman who felt she had no flaws nor a person who felt they had enough wealth not a star who was secure in their fame.  All of these things are temporary.  Age will steal a person’s beauty, the spotlight is only for a moment, and wealth is limited and will be gone at death.  What a person becomes in their victories are what make them more than what they were.  It is in the struggles that they are stretched into  greater capacities.

One of the greatest examples of this transformation process is the Apostle Paul who started out persecuting the church and was the leader at the stoning of Stephen.  After his conversion on the road to Damascus, he became the Apostle to the Gentiles and wrote 9 books of the New Testament.  At one point in his ministry, he was given “a thorn in the flesh” and asked the Lord three times for it to be removed.  The Lord refused to remove it and stated “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

1John 5:4 For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.  Note: the eth ending on the word overcome.  It means that it is a contentious action and not a one time event.   Also, note that the faith referenced is faith in Jesus as Lord of life.  When we entrust ourselves to Him and follow in faithful obedience; then He uses His power to enable us to overcome whatever we face.  We can take life head on without fear and live it as it was intended.  Our struggles become the tools that God uses to deliver us out of this sin filled world.

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 . . .