The Flaming Sword

Occasionally, I like to address a Scripture that is commonly misunderstood.  Today is one of those days.  The Scripture is found in Genesis 3:22-24 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:  23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.  24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

A common understanding is that since man sinned, he was driven out of the garden where the tree of life was located because he couldn’t be trusted any more and the angel with the flaming sword was stationed there to protect the tree of life by preventing man from ever returning. 

There are several things wrong with that interpretation.  First, God was not protecting the tree of life from man but rather He was protecting man from the tree of life.  Had Adam taken from the tree of life, he would have sealed his own doom because that would have sealed his eternity in the fallen state and God had greater thing planned for man.  It would have destroyed God’s plan of man being completed in God’s image, likeness and authority.  Man needed time to be changed into that likeness.

Second, it was not an angel that was placed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, but a Cherubim, which means spiritual enforcer.  This was not to prevent man from taking from the Tree of Life, but to restrict man until he would come restored to a right relationship. 

Thirdly there are two directives as to man’s exodus.  In verse 23 states that the Lord sent him forth from the garden to till the ground from whence he was taken.  The ground was cursed for man’s sake (v. 17)  He needed to see the effect of sin in order to turn from it and back to God.  Then in verse 24 we see that man was driven out.  Man had willfully gone against God and he needed to understand that thereare consequences for sin.  God will not lower His standards and wink at our sin.  It will take God’s intervention to deal with sin and it was pictured in the slaying of the animal for their new coverings or clothing.

Fourthly,  the flaming sword is described in Eph 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: as the Word of God.  We know it as the Scriptures or The Bible.  It is further described in Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  You cannot fool God and He will know you to the depth of your inner most being.  Entrance is restricted to only one way, the way of the cross.

Finally, the phrase “to keep the way” does not mean to keep the way closed, but just the opposite, to keep the way open.  Though it is kept open it is still restricted to meet God’s standards.  There is hope for man to complete God’s plan for man by entering in the manner that God is pleased with and that is the was of Faith in Jesus.  However, we must come repentant of our self-government and surrender our will to the Lord Jesus for it is His blood the brings our sin into submission.  Without that blood there is no remission.

Update 12.27.2019

Today my wife and I celebrated our 55th anniversary.  During that time there have been a lot of milestones along the way.  There was the birth and growth of our 7 children; and our 21 grandchildren; and our 12 great grandchildren.  Then there was the loss of all of our grandparents, parents, and two of my oldest siblings, as well as several uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews.  God’s call into the ministry, school, pastor of 5 churches, interim pastor of 4 additional churches as well as numerous other ministry positions.

One such venture was the establishing this website on January 1, 2018, just two years ago.  Since then there have been 3171 visitors to this site from 52 different countries around the world.  I have made 203 post (including this one) and have received 81 comments.  I never suspected that it could have such a worldwide reach.  Sometimes a response will come from another country and in a language I don’t know but I am able to read it through a translator and even respond in their language.  I especially like to hear about the Lord answering their questions and needs through this medium.  Occasionally I will receive a word of encouragement or a prayer or a suggestion that only makes this effort better.  I only want to be a blessing to others as I have been blessed. 

My wife and I were blessed to have spent the past week visiting our daughter and family in Oklahoma over the holidays and while we were there my oldest son and his family joined us there as well.  I also had a wonderful meeting with a China missionary and the chairman of Deacons from his church.  We were beginning the planning for a Christian Training Center for Eastern Asia to train church leaders in their work.  Our vision is to provide the training that is not available in several countries.  You will be hearing more on this in future post as to the methodology and means of leading churches to be a blessing to their countries and peoples. 

To this point God has provided everything that has been needed including finances, translators, personnel, and opportunities to continue this work.  Our greatest need is for individuals to pray for us that we will properly represent the Lord in His work.  We are eager to find those whose hearts are open to the Lord and want to see their own part of the world improved.  The greatest opportunities imaginable are often in the obscure and unimportant corners of the world.  We only want to help.

Seeing the invisible

As I sit here this morning, I am already seeing God at work.  The mission meeting in Oklahoma is starting to take shape and I see God’s fingerprints on each thing that happens.  Each person is key to its success.  God began this work many years ago.  As I consider just how long ago, I find that it began before He created anything.  We were in the mind of God and everything needed for us to become what He intended was provided.  He has been working ever since and I found Him working in my life long before I found out that I was a part of His plan.  You may remember a blog that I wrote recently about HIStory.  That is what history is all about, it is HIS story.  He alone establishes kings and rulers and He alone removes them.  He orders the natural laws that govern the universe and He made mankind, and more specifically, He made me.

He is the one who spoke to my heart and called me out of darkness and into His marvelous light.  He is the one who gave me a burden for the persecuted church.  He directed me to write The Mystery of Faith, then moved me to where I now live, and connected me with all of the ones who have established this vision of equipping the church leaders.  He provided the translators of my book, paid for the mission trips and provided everything to go on these trips.  Now I am beginning to see His plan on equipping the persecuted church leaders to do the work of shepherding their churches.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews has some wonderful insights on seeing spiritually.  It begins by listing a number of notable Bible personalities who LOOKED for a city, made by God and SAW it from afar (verse 13).  There is an interesting note in verse 27 concerning Moses which says “for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”  Then based on that vision, they responded by faith which is summarized in verse 33-38.   The chapter concludes with the statement, “having obtained a good report through faith . . .”

As I look ahead I see a vision taking shape.  It is not my vision, but His plan which has it beginning in God, and will see its realization by faith in Him.  The hardest part of such an endeavor is to keep my hands off.  The temptation is to claim it as my vision, my work, my heart, etc. but it is in truth, not mine at all but His.  This is His working so we must not lead but follow, we must not offer our works but our faith in Him.  If I can do it without His involvement then it will not require faith nor His power and will not properly represent Him.  It is precisely because of this impossibility that I can see the invisible.  It is because I see God working on all fronts that I can see His objective.  It is because the devil is working so hard to keep people in darkness that they need God’s light in order to see beyond this world into eternity.

We are much like the 12 spies that Moses sent into the promise land to search it out.  They all came back with a report that the land was a good and rich land and even brought evidence with a bunch of grapes that it took two men to carry.  The difference was in what else they saw.  10 saw the giants and determined that the fight was impossible.  The other two, Joshua and Caleb, also saw the giants, but also saw God who was greater than the giants.  So here you stand, giving your report of the Promised Land.  What do you see, Giants, in the form of an oppressive government or God who is greater than the opposition?  What is your report on what you see?

Having Faith

Yesterday, while my wife and I were shopping for Christmas gifts, I noticed a lady in the store who looked at me as though she knew me and then walked over to me and asked me if there was anything that she could pray for me about.  My immediate reaction was where did this come from?  I don’t know you and this is so out of the ordinary so why do you want to pray for me?  I made no response but knowing that the Lord works in wondrous ways.  I thought about it for a moment and the first thing that came to mind was the Christian Training Center in Japan so I asked her to pray for that.  I specifically asked that she not pray that the Lord would bring it to pass but that we would be sensitive to what the Lord had planned.

I have learned that God is not concerned about the doing of mission projects as He is about our walking by faith in Him.  After all, He is the one doing the work, as the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.  You see, God’s greatest work is us.  He is completing His image in us so that the world can comprehend what He is like.  He will bring it to pass without our effort if we will “believe in Him”.  Another way to say it is “if we will have faith in Him”.   

In my Bible studies I try to find the exact meaning of the original language in order to accurately understand.  This led me to an amazing discovery and that is that the word we translate as “faith” is pistis, which means to trust, rely on, or follow.  Then I found that the word that we translate as “believe” is also pistis, and has the exact same meaning.  The only difference is that faith is a verb or action, whereas believe is a noun or the act of trusting.  In other words you can substitute one for the other without violating the meaning.  For example, in Mark 9:23  Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.  This is an amazing promise and most people believe that God can do anything. However, if you substitute the word faith, for the word believe it takes on a whole new dimension.  Now it reads “. . .if thou canst faith, all things are possible.”  Do you see the implication?  What is holding God back from doing, is our unbelief or our non-faith in Him.  In other words we are the limiting factor in God working. 

Most of the time, we focus on the doing, instead of the believing.  That is because the carnal mind is trying to earn God’s favor but God has removed effort from the formula of pleasing him and now all that is required is for us to “believe in Him” or “to have faith in Him”.  God’s part is the doing and our part is the believing.  He works through our faith but He doesn’t work because we work.  God’s power is only exercised upon our position of faith in Him.  This is perfectly aligned with James 5:15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Our efforts should first be to know the Lord intimately, and then to discover what He is doing and join Him.  He does not join us to fulfill all our plans and dreams but when our plans and dreams are to see Him magnified here on earth we will see Him do amazing things.

God At Work

As I said in my last blog, I would share some more developments in the training center for Eastern Asia.  The need is growing day by day.  The attempt to stamp out Christianity by several countries only emphasizes the importance of this effort.  I considered why these countries would fight so hard to eliminate the church and I came up with a few considerations.  First, the number of Christians is growing dramatically.  In China alone there are somewhere in the neighborhood of a million or more Christians.  That is one in fourteen of the people in China are professing Christians.  That is a serious block of people who could potentially threaten the government’s power.  This “threat” would make any government uncomfortable by itself.  What the governments fail to recognize is that the Christians will only make the government stronger when they are seeking to do what is right.  Christianity stabilizes the people.  Yet the genocide and persecution of Christians to death , is alarming.  There have been more martyrs in the last 10 years than in all of the previous years of recorded time, and the rate is increasing every year.

Secondly, historically speaking, every government that has set out to destroy the church and its people, have incurred God’s wrath and have fallen as a result of their error.  Governments were established by God to be a blessing to the people but when they reject God and His ways, they are removed by God.  The Christians are not the ones that they should fear but rather, God who set them up to begin with for he sets up kingdoms and also removes them.  If they truly want to do what is right then they should embrace them. 

There is a hunger for Bible Training that must be met.  I saw this in China last year and again in Japan this year.  People are willing to make great sacrifice of time, resources and personal suffering in order to satisfy this hunger.  I saw people endure long sessions on small plastic stools night after night, taking notes as thought their lives depended on it; and do it night after night.  Stories abound of the cost to satisfy this need.  People are crying out for help and God is listening and has already begun to answer their prayers.

My burden is to set in motion the working of a Bible Training Center that will be available for God’s people to get that training that is so needed.  I have already begun to contact key people who are in a position to be a part of supplying this need.  I have talked with at least two different schools that presently have online courses available as well as many of the colleges and universities that also have such opportunities.  I have talked with a couple of individuals that have financial resources that are willing to help.  I am personally in contact with some professors and educational institutions that are willing to step up and be a part of this effort.  I will be in a meeting in December with two key people who will be praying and working with me to outline such a program.

Would you make it a matter of prayer to support this effort?  As I look around I see God’s fingerprints on each part of this work.  I did not choose it but it was placed upon me and I can do nothing but move forward with it as the Lord leads.  Please understand that this is not my project, but the Lord’s.  We are seeing God at work.

A Christian Training Center?

While meditating on the possibility of establishing a training center for church leaders, I felt led to discuss it with my pastor.  He was encouraging and made several observations that I want to share with you.  First, it will take time.  The old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” seems very appropriate here.  It also fits with my experience in life.  I was once asked how did I get so smart.  My answer was it took 75 years and I am still learning every day.  I have also observed that the men that God used the most all spent years in preparation.  Consider Joseph’s time as a slave, an overseer, a prisoner, and forgotten, before he was made vice regent over Egypt.  Or you might consider Daniel’s time as carried off into another country as a prisoner,  lost everything and was watched carefully and accused by jealous government officials, cast into the lion’s den yet rose to serve under 3 rulers and was over the wisest of that country.  Or David who was the youngest of his 7 brothers, given the least jobs as a shepherd, faced a lion and a bear and then later Goliath, defeating them all and was pursued for 20 years, lost his wife and had multiple attacks on his life before being anointed as king.  Even Jesus himself didn’t have it handed to Him.  He knew his mission at the age of 12 yet he spent the next 18 years under the authority of his home.  These are just some of the examples that are in the Bible.  

Secondly, it require the Lord’s power.  It is not something that I could ever do on my own.  That is good because it is God’s work, not mine.  I am just a part of His plan.  That way we get to see Him and His working and not me and my working.  The Lord wants the world to see Him and that He keeps His word that He really does work in the world today.  He is trustworthy and we can attempt great things when God is in charge.  Our faith in Him is put on display and He is the one that does the work. 

Thirdly, it will work wonders within me.  I think it is important to remember that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.  He is more concerned about our development than He is about our works.  It is in the exercise of our faith that we are changed from each glorious experience unto the next glorious experience.  Walking by faith in the Lord will tax you to your limit so that you begin to understand His limitlessness.

Fourthly, it will enable those called of God to prepare themselves for the task that He is calling them to do.  When I went to China last year and again in Japan this year, I saw the need for a training center.  The hunger was greater than I had ever seen as well as the commitment to learn. even at great sacrifice.  The fact that the governments are persecuting the church and trying to eliminate Christianity only underscores the need.  Whenever a vacuum exist there is an effort to fill it.  When I saw people going by the thousands to worship gods that do not exist, I realized how great this need is.

These are just some of the reasons that I am praying and preparing to establish this work.  The pastor also issued me a challenge to write out my view of how it should be done and I am working on that.  Here is briefly what I see from my vantage point.  First, it will begin small to meet some immediate needs.  Specific training in the essentials such as the conference we just had in October in walking by faith.  The next thing that is on my heart to do is training on knowing the one and only God, as He has revealed Himself.  There is no other gods and when you worship a god that doesn’t exist, Satan steps in to be that god and leads people away from the true God.  As it progresses it will change in structure but not in dynamic.  It will always hold to the Bible for doctrine.  It will use the church facilities or rent space for events but will keep cost as low as possible to help those coming for training.  It is not clear to me at this time as to many of the details but just as a fog is lifted so also are the detail becoming clearer.

I am asking you to become a part of this effort by praying regularly for this endeavor.  I welcome your suggestions and any other help that you believe the Lord would have you do.  Mostly, I need your prayers and encouragement. I will be posting additional information in the coming posts as it develops.

The Wide Gate or the Straight Gate

As I write this blog, I am thinking of the burden that the Lord has placed on my heart about training the church leadership in the Eastern Asia Countries.  It began last year when I made a mission trip to china and saw the hunger for the Bible and also saw the lack of training available for the house church pastor and church leadership.  The sacrifice they were willing to make just to attend a bible training meeting was soul searching. 

Then to be invited to speak at a Bible training conference in Japan this year had another impact on me.  As we were preparing for the conference, we visited a shrine and a temple there in Japan.  We were told that the entrance to the shrine or temple is always through a gate such as the one shown here. 

The gate entrance to a shrine.

The purpose of the shrine is that the people have a place to worship and they would go through various exercises in order that the “gods” would bless them.  The gods were somewhat mystical in how they would respond but there was a void in the culture and this was established to fill that void.  It reminded me of Acts 17:23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. Since there is no other God than Jehovah God, to worship another god would be worshiping a false god or Satan and his cohorts.

My thoughts then turned to Mt 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  If this worship is not of the only true God, then it is not a god at all but one of Satan’s haven of refuge that teaches his false doctrines and holds people in bondage.  Simply put it is the entrance to hell.  Jesus promised that the church would storm the gates of hell and they would not stand against the forces of God that He would bring against the forces of darkness This faith is the power and method of Christ working through the church.

We felt this power all through the conference that was attended by leadership of churches from 6 countries.  The conference was presented in three languages, English, Japanese and Chinese.  This may seem odd to some as the Chinese and Japanese have fought each other for a long time, yet about half of the attendees in this Japanese setting, came from China.  The theme of the conference was walking by faith and it extended over 4 days.  One of the features was the session in the evening where those attending the conference would share from their observations, what they had learned from the days events.  The worship sessions were a special blessing as the music was sang in three languages as well.  As we sang and worshiped together there was a unity of spirit that overshadowed all other separations so that we all focused on Christ alone and His presence was especially felt.  The afterglow that followed the day’s events was also a special blessing as it was spent in sharing and counseling as late as midnight and beyond.  This was a tremendous meeting and following it there have been additional results of three additional mission trips, and opened doors to additional possibilities.

This brings me to my burden for a training center in Japan.  I shared it with my pastor who not only endorsed it but also stated that this is where our mission efforts are projected.  He challenged me to write down my vision for such a conference and agreed to work with me in its concepts.  One of the pastors that attended the conference is now moving to Oklahoma to pastor a Chinese church there and we are meeting in December to also pray and plan for this Training Center.  Also, we will be meeting with Dr. Alan Bandy who is the NT professor at Oklahoma Baptist University who I spent a few days with over the Thanksgiving Day holidays.  I have also contacted some other Christian education schools who have also indicated their intentions to work with us on this project.

As my wife and I were returning home on the flight, I was following our progress on the monitor and considering the idea of a training center, I was jolted by what I saw on the monitor.  The route showed a satellite view of the ocean floor and just below the Aleutian Islands and on our route I saw 17:7, below the route and near the center of the picture.  The Aleutian Islands are above the route line and the islands are shown as the white portions.  You can see it also on Google Maps in the satellite view.

The 17:7 is below the route line and nearly centered. The Aleutian Island are shown as white above the route line.

It has been there for thousands of years and was truly put there by God when He created the earth.  It was so plain but what did it mean?  I noted that this is the chapter and verse designation used in the Bible of separating the chapter and verse by a colon.  I began to look at each book that has 17 chapters or more and in the 17th chapter has a 7th verse.  There are 23 such verses in the Bible so which one was intended? 

Of the 23 verses in the Bible that have a 17:7 location, one stands out above all the rest because it is the only one that  references sacrifices offered unto devils and it is found in Leviticus 17:7 And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute forever unto them throughout their generations. 

So I sense that the message is simply this, Go in faith that God intends to deliver those in bondage to false gods so that they may come to know the only true God, Jesus who is the Christ and He will deliver them.  Satan does not have the power to withstand against the church that walks by faith in Christ alone.

Update 11.23.2019

Thank you for praying for me as I have been going through some real struggles.  It is not health for the Lord has been quite gracious to me.  I have lost a few pounds which I needed to do and am feeling fine.  It is not a financial or social or personal problem either.  It has been a spiritual battle within me.  I find myself wasting time on lesser important things and not doing the things that are of eternal value.  One of the things that I have neglected is posting here on the website and I felt that I needed to address it openly and honestly.

It’s not that I haven’t had time, for I get the same allotment that you and everyone else get, 24 hours a day.  Not even a second more or a second less but exactly 24 hours a day.  It is not how much time I have but how I manage it.  Lately, I have been letting it manage me and that was my sin.  Just as you can just sit in a boat on a river and remain in one position, life is constantly moving like the river and either you let it carry you down river or you paddle to go upriver.  If you try to anchor yourself in one position you will eventually sink because the river is constantly changing.  Not only is it always moving but sometimes it has more water and sometimes it has less.  Sometimes the wind blows and sometimes it is at rest.  Also, the seasons are constantly changing and bring various types of debris that affect your travel. 

 Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,  Itis not alike I was doing something that was sinful or immoral.  I wasn’t being productive in my stewardship.  It doesn’t have to be a sinful activity in order for it to be a sin.  Any old weight will do.  Weights are unnecessary activity that consumes your attention and resources so that you are not effective in doing the will of God.   James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. 

I do not offer excuses, but rather, I ask from you forgiveness.  We are all on a journey to eternity and the decisions we make determine not only the journey now but also how we are completed for eternity. 

Life Event

You may have been wondering why I haven’t written more on my blog in the past few weeks so here is the answer.  Life gets in the way sometimes and we have things that we have to do that messes up our schedule.  I know that sounds like an excuse but in this case it is reality and my preferences have nothing to do with it. 

My wife had a knee that was not only quite painful but was just wore out.  She was past the cartilage and well into the bone and it would fail her at times.  On Friday of last week she had a knee replacement operation to correct the problem.  The operation was successful and she was up walking immediately after recovery from the surgery.  They have had her doing  therapy twice a day and a busy regiment of ice, exercise,  compression socks, compression equipment and pain medication that requires a lot of time on my part to assist her in her recovery.  I must be close to her to fetch things that she needs and assist her in things that she cannot do yet, like showering, dressing herself, and getting in and out of bed.  But even with that she is continually surprising me with things that she can do now that she couldn’t do just 4 days ago.

She is doing very well and even was able to go out on a short trip to Walmart to pick up a couple items that we needed.  She is diligent in her doing what she is instructed to do as we have known some who have neglected this part of recovery and have had problems that affected them a very long time.  I think that because she had so much pain with her knee that she is not suffering as much as some do who will not do the exercise because of the pain. 

I marvel at the fact that she was on her feet just a couple hours after having knee replacement.  As I see her walk now I marvel that her leg is now straight and she can walk on it so well.  I thank the Lord that we live in a time and place that all of this is possible.  I think of how great our God is and that He is the one who has made all of this possible.  It causes me to praise God from whom all blessing flow.  Sure it interferes with my schedule and I have to make a number of adjustments; but just look at what He is doing.  I will gladly go through these events to get my eyes off of what I am doing to see what God is doing.  It can really adjust your perspective.

Japan Mission Trip

We have returned from our mission trip to Japan and I am so blessed to have been a part of such a great event.  There were six nations represented at the Olive Conference.  It was presented in three languages over 4 days.  There were 64 attendees (mostly church leaders and pastors) in addition to speakers, worship leaders, and host.  It was such a joyous spirit of love and fellowship and unity that differences had little meaning.  Evidence of Christ’s presence abounded and many new bonds were made.

The theme of the conference was “Walking By Faith” and First Baptist Church of Keller was invited to teach the training classes (6) that was followed by a discussion time for each day.  It was amazing how the participants could almost quote what was said in each class and had real insight of its meaning.  I have rarely witnessed such commitment to learning and applying the material to everyday experience. 

The team from First Baptist Church of Keller, Tx consisted of four:  Mission Pastor, Lawrence Duhon; Mission Committee Chairman, Bob Vigoren;  Mission Committee member, Michael Faubel; and Mission Committee member, Vernon Ball.  Beside teaching the six classes, the team participated in personal counseling, joint worship where the music was sang in three languages, each in turn, and participating in the group discussion time. 

There was some time allowed for personal devotions and relaxation.  On a couple of these times I went for a walk in the forested mountainous setting  on one of the trails and found a number of spider webs that crossed the trail.  To keep from walking into them we waived a stick up and down to clear the webs from the trail.    It reminded me of the snares of the devil.  Sure enough, Satan tried to trick a key person in the conference into leaving the conference, but the Lord stepped in and that member was rescued from making a life changing error in her faith walk.

We saw a number of such victories in several different situations.  It was a great blessing to see the Lord magnified among us in so many ways.   I received a note from Pastor T saying that the “connection with the local leaders and pastors are now more committed. Next month I’ll visit some cities there.”  There is speculation of another conference next year.  Please be in prayer that we will remain in step with the Lord in this matter.