Persecution

For those of you who follow us on our “Journey Home”, there is some news that is quite important.  I just received an email from Japan on the state of the church in China.  The persecution there is intensifying every day.  I hear regularly about The Chinese government forcing Christians to sign a document that they renounce their profession of faith and pledging to total support the government.  If the document is not signed then there are severe consequences, such as forbidding them to hold a job and they are ostracized from society.   Sometimes they are imprisoned and other means to force them into submission.  I know of one individual who was in his third year of studying medicine and he was forced to leave the school and is not allowed to continue his studies. 

In another situation the pastor and his wife and 70 of the members were put in prison because they would not turn over the control of their church to the government.  The church was then disbanded and the remaining members were then interrogated and required to sign the paper.  In other situations the church is split into several smaller groups and forced underground.  Life for Christians in China is quite difficult,  It is illegal for a church to own property and all of their resources are confiscated.

The government will allow a church to continue if they will allow the government to place faces identification cameras in the church and yield to the government’s full control.  It didn’t work for king Ahasuerus in the book of Ester nor did it work for the Roman government’s requirement of calling Cesar Lord.  Historically, the church has always grown more under persecution than it has at any other time so we should be looking for what God is doing.  It is at the most difficult times that God is seen clearer and works the greatest miracles.  The examples are numerous of atheistic kings discovering God when trying to stamp out His people. 

I often hear the question, why does the Chinese government persecute the church?  I am sure that there is several reasons but the number one reason is probably that they are considered a threat because the church refuses to bow to the government as the ultimate authority.  It makes sense that an atheistic government would fear a people who do not recognize them as the ultimate authority.  After all, they came into power by not recognizing the then current authority so they would want to squash any authority that they couldn’t control.  This is especially true when there are as many as 100 million Christians in China (that is 1 in every 14) which is a large block of people that you don’t control.

Perhaps a more important question is, why does God allow persecution?  It all seems unfair (and it is) but God has good reasons to allow it.  Consider the following reasons as some of the purposes of God in allowing persecution:

  1. To reveal His personage.  The main reason that leaders demand to be acknowledged as the ultimate authority is that they do not know God who is the ultimate authority.  They see God as uninvolved if they even acknowledge His existence.  Often their view of God is in the lives of His professed followers who are not a good representation of Him.  They are unaware of the possibilities and the dangers of defying God.  (Consider Goliath)  God wants us to know Him as He is with all His power, knowledge, love, etc.  He has only good in mind for us but for us to enjoy it we must have our grip on sin broken.
  2. To refocus His people.  God’s people sometimes get out of step with God and become carnal or worldly.  We begin to take the reins out of God’s hands and attempt to justify ourselves and earn our place with God.  This will never be allowed by God.  The Bible states clearly in Romans 14:23 “whatsoever is not of faith (in Him) is sin.” In Hebrews 11:6 “without faith (in Him) it is impossible to please Him.”  Whenever we get on the works system we are setting ourselves up for persecution.  The Lord gave the early church the command to go into all the world and teach all nations . . . (Matt. 28:19-20) but the church stayed in Jerusalem.  The next event that followed was the death of Stephen and a great persecution against the church.  Then the church began preaching Christ after they were scattered everywhere.  We need to learn to follow God’s instructions and not what we think.
  3. To recover and refine His people.  If God did not let us know we were off course we would continue moving out of God’s will and people would perish and we would suffer great consequences.  We desperately need course corrections.  The hardest lessons are often the ones we remember the most and are most apt to turn us from our own self will.  Not only is it His intent to recover us from our error, He wants to refine us in His service and expand our usefulness.  Growing in His grace is essential in our transformation into His image and likeness.
  4. To renounce false gods.  It is important to note that everyone lives by faith all of the time.  Having faith is not our weakness but placing our faith in the Lord and not in anything or anyone else is the biblical faith that causes God to get involved with our situations.  He only responds to faith in Jesus as Lord (boss).  When we trust anything else it is unbelief in Christ and brings its own consequence.  The key to triumphant living is in living by faith in Jesus and renouncing all other options as false gods.  Why is it so important that we get this straight?  Because there is no other Gods and the world needs desperately  to see the truth.
  5. To reach the Lost.  The world will die in their sin unless and until they know the only true God.  We are the illustrated version of this message that God is real and He has revealed Himself in the personage of Jesus.  Romans 10:13-17.  Jesus said we are the light of the world.  (Matt 5:14), and II Corinthians 5:18 states that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  These are but some of the reasons God allows persecution.  

Baptism

There has been much debate on the subject of baptism over the years that have caused a lot of confusion among believers and even the splitting of churches.  What you believe about baptism is important and can cause real problems in fellowship.  Baptism is not required for salvation.  If it were, the thief on the cross would not have been saved yet Jesus declared that they would be together in paradise that day.  Though it is not a requirement for salvation, it is a requirement of obedience and a faith walk of the believer.  It is proper evidence of your conversion.  A Scriptural baptism will include these 5 points of identification.

  1. The first point of identification is that there must be a proper candidate.  A proper candidate is one who has become a believer in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  He has been converted from the old way of living (sin) to the new life (walking by faith in Jesus).  This is done by a confrontation and confession of sin (called repentance) and the surrender of the control of your life to Jesus (faith in Him).  This is a conscious and deliberate choice of the will.  An infant is not capable of making such a choice, yet a few do make that choice at an early age prior to the teenage years.  A proper candidate is already a believer so baptism is not a part of getting saved but it is an important part of walking by faith and should be done as soon as possible after getting saved.  Without the conversion experience, you are not a proper candidate.  Baptism is not part of your qualification for salvation but an evidence that it has already been accomplished.  See Acts 2:38, 8:12-13, 36-38, Ephesians 4:5
  2. The second point of identification for a scriptural baptism is a proper mode.  A proper mode is how it is done.  The word baptism is a transliteration of the Greek word “baptizo” which is the only method used in the Bible.  It means to dip, immerse or plunge under.  The sprinkling or pouring came much later in the history of the church and was in response to the erroneous doctrine that baptism was necessary for, or a part of salvation.  Scriptural baptism knows of only one method and that is by immersion and is seen in its meaning.
  3.  It is the picture of God’s provision of our salvation in Christ:  He died on the cross, He was buried in the tomb and He was raised victorious over death hell and the grave.
  4. It is also the picture of what has happened to the believer.  He has died to sin, buried in a grave of water and raised to walk in newness of life.
  5. It is further, a picture of the Christians’ hope.  We die physically, we are buried in the ground and we will be resurrected to join Christ in the air and so shall we ever be.  See Romans 6:4-6, I Thessalonians 4:13-18
  6. The third point of identification for a scriptural baptism is a proper time.  There isn’t a lot of scripture about the timing of baptism but the scriptural example is that it should be done as soon as possible after conversion.  Acts 8:36-38  I have heard of a number of individuals who claim to be believers but have never been baptized. In every case I have observed that there is a major problem in their faith walk.  We are commanded to be baptized once we become a believer and to put it off becomes disobedience when not done promptly, as it will affect your faith walk. 
  7. The fourth point of identification of a scriptural baptism is a proper purposeMatthew 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.  A common question about baptism is why should I be baptized since I am already saved?  Some people have the idea that going to heave is all that is important but Jesus said that we should fulfill all righteousness.  Getting to heave is just the means of travel but God is in the business of transformation of the believer so that when he gets to heaven he will be at home.  Without this transformation we would either miss the trip all together or if we should actually make it there we would be dis figured or handicapped forever.  Here are some of the reasons that we should be baptized.
  8. It is a declaration of independence from the control of sin on our lives.  It is also a declaration of independence from the curse of the law (legalism).  Further it is a declaration of independence from the dominion of the old nature.  We are no longer a prisoner of our old nature.
  9. It is a declaration of dependence upon Christ not only to provide salvation but a means to continually be cleansed from sin by our confession of it to Him.  It is also a declaration of our dependence on the Holy Spirit to teach us the scriptures, give us recall of them (John 14:26), convict, convince and convert the world (John 16:8),  guide you into all truth (John 16:13), Shew you things to come (John 16:8), and to glorify the Lord (John 16:14).  We are totally dependent on the Lord.  Further, it is a declaration of dependence upon the Scripture.  It is wholly trustworthy as it will never pass away.  It has stood the test of time, trials and twisting and remains the sure foundation of all doctrine of God.
  10. It is a declaration of interdependence.  The church is the bride of Christ and very precious to Him.  As a part of a local church we support one another and learn  to lean on the Lord as He is in the church.
  11. Baptism is to be administered by a proper authority.  The proper authority is His church made up of His believers.  It is the church that was commissioned to carry the gospel to the whole world, to baptize the new believers and then to teach them to observe the things that He commanded us to do. (Matthew 28:19-20)  Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22) Acting under His authority and leadership we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  (II Corinthians 5:18)

Which is Better, Success or Failure?

As I thought on this question, I realized that it is a loaded question.  My opinion is just that, an opinion, but it may not be a fair answer without taking into consideration some basic considerations.  For example, what determines success or failure?  Which perspective is being considered?  Who is determining the outcome?  Is there a specified time period to consider? 

Perhaps we should just consider these ideas separately so we will start with a definition of success or failure.  My first thought is can it be both or is it either/or?  Could something be considered both a success and a failure?  The original question is presented as an either success or failure so we will start there.  So what is the standard that makes it a success?  Is it because it brings the desired outcome or the best outcome?  Is it best for me or best for others?  Is it because of monetary, emotional or appearance reasons?  How about who is doing the determining of the outcome?  One might conclude something a success whereas another would see it as a failure.  And finally, what may appear a total loss could turn out to produce the greatest reward.  As you can see this isn’t going to be an easy task and my conclusion could be just the opposite of yours.

Perspective is another consideration that can change the outcome.  For example, let’s suppose that there are four of us sitting at a table on each of the four sides and we are looking at a cup sitting in the middle of the table.  If I am looking at the cup and see that the handle is on the right, the person opposite of me sees the handle on the left, and the person to my right sees the handle in the middle and the person to my left asks, what handle?  We are all looking at the same object, but from a different perspective.  Sometimes we are not in a position to see the outcome and therefore could not make the determination of success or failure.

Values are another important aspect of deterring success or failure.  My life is touched by many different things.  If it affects my life then it may be important to me but if it doesn’t affect my life it may not be so important to me.  The price of tea in China may not concern me unless I am buying or selling tea from China.  If I am living in America and don’t use tea from China, it may not be important to me at all.  Another consideration is if it doesn’t affect me directly, it may affect someone who is important to me and thereby affect me indirectly.  What your values are will carry weight as to whether it is a success or failure.

Time is another consideration.  Is the benefit needed quickly or is the final outcome more important.  Variations of the time line of the event will necessarily affect our determination of success or failure.  What may be considered a failure in the short term, may be totally different when viewed from a long term outcome.  There may be many other considerations beyond these but these will suffice for my query.

By now you are seeing the problems with the original question.  It is easy to see why we may not be able to determine whether the outcome is a success or failure.  In our eyes we see a totally different view than that of God.  We see how it affects us in a temporal world but God sees it from the eternal perspective.  We see how it affects our environment, but God sees it from how it affect us in the light of eternity.  We measure it in terms of our profitability but God sees it from the perspective of the good of everyone.  We want to look good in the eyes of others, but looking good in God’s eyes is the only eyes that count.  Because of these considerations (and probably many others) he stated in 1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.  It is not necessary to know if an event is a success or a failure.  All of us are flawed is determining such a thing.  What is important is that you do it in faith in the Lord and leave the results in His hands. 1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

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.

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.

Adversity

I did not write the following illustration but I felt that its message was worth passing on. I don’t know who the author is or when it was written but the message is timeless and the author undoubtedly knew the Lord an His ways.

____________________________

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose. 
   
      Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying A word. 
 
 In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. 
 
 Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”  “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied. 
 
 Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. 
 
 Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma the daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?” 
 
 Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water. 

 “Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean? 
 
 Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? 
 
 Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart? 
 
 Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?
 
 May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy. 
 
 The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way. The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can’t go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches. 

Grace and Mercy

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Recently, my wife asked me the difference between grace and mercy.  She said that she has gone over this before but still has trouble distinguishing between them.  I know that they can be confused as they are so similar.  As in the verse above they are used in the same sentence and the difference is not readily understood.   At one time I heard this explanation and it stuck and I have been using it ever since, as it made it clear to me.  Grace is getting what you don’t deserve and mercy is not getting what you do deserve.

I remember when I was growing up that there were times that I messed up and came under the judgement of my parents.  I was confronted with my fault and there was a time of discussion followed by some punishment which was then followed by my dad taking me in his arms and telling me how he loved me and that it was harder on him than it was on me.  I never understood what was so hard on him because I was the one facing the music.  This came clear to me as a parent and on the other end of the situation.  The purpose of the discussion was to make sure that my understanding was clear so that I would be able to make a good decision next time.  The punishment was never for the purpose of me paying for my transgression, but to turn me from such actions.  Had it been for punishment it would have been much more severe.  That was mercy – not getting what I deserved.  Then when it was all over and he would take me in his arms and tell me how much he loved me – that was grace- getting what I did not deserve.

So often, people do not want to come to God to be confronted with their transgressions out of fear, not knowing the heart of God.  Perhaps  no one does, but I have found that it is necessary if we are to our relationship with Him.  This is also true between individuals as well.   No matter how good the relationship was before, when a breach of that relationship happens, it is never the same again.  That does not mean that it cannot be repaired and even become greater than it ever had been, but in order for that to happen, there must be a confrontation between the offended and the offender.  If it is only dismissed or ignored then the relationship cannot continue until it is repaired. 

When the confrontation happens, then the offended must cancel the debt in some manner.  It will include both grace and mercy.  There will be a forgiveness of the debt (grace) and the holding of the person in greater value than the offence (mercy).    Whenever  the offended is not big enough to extend both grace and mercy then the offender is unable to get past the breach and will carry it from then on and it will stunt his growth in future relationships.  It will either cost you something or you will forfeit something.  So the end result is that the offender and the offended have an opportunity to grow or both become handicapped because of the offence.  It is really up to those involved as to which path they will travel.