He leaves a legacy of love for his family and a wonderful example of abiding trust in Jesus Christ to all who know him.
Over the years George attended Greentree Church, I would often receive a card or letter from him. These were always encouraging. It might be a simple note of thanks for our church, or a comment on how a recent sermon affected his soul.
More recently his notes would contain updates on the serious health issues faced by him and his wife Joan. George had fibrosis of the lungs which meant they were hardening. Doctors informed him that nothing could be done to stop this condition from gradually worsening and resulting before long in his death.
On top of this, George’s beloved Joan, suffers from Alzheimer’s. For George, care for Joan far outweighed concern for himself.
Despite carrying what we would all agree are heavy burdens, George remained an encourager to his family and those who knew him.
George’s notes continued right up to his final days on this earth. My last card from him arrived the day after he passed away. Knowing his time was short; George filled out one last card and insisted that his daughter deliver it to the post office that day.
In one of his recent notes, George once more graciously shared his love for our church. He emphasized the impact of both the preaching of God’s Word and the consistent care they received from their church family.
In typical fashion, George closed with these words:
“I am always aware of God’s may, many blessings to (us), and I am also aware – so vividly of the hurts and heartaches of so many people.
The hope we have in Christ Jesus is so wonderful and so liberating! For in this HOPE we are saved.”
I hope George’s legacy can extend further to influence each of us to see God’s faithfulness in all circumstances. And along the way, may we follow his example of frequently sharing expressions of love, faith and thankfulness to one another!
For many of us worry is as much a part of life’s routine as the daily sun rising of the sun. We think worry is inevitable, necessary, and a part of our life responsibility.
However, obeying God and then trusting His sovereign care is a much better way to approach the responsibilities of life.
Jesus sought to burst our misguided sense of needing to worry when he asked this question:
Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
Here is Jesus question from Luke 12:22-31 in its full context:
(Jesus) said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
How do you answer Jesus?
“Prayer and Healing”
When I was 16, I watched a woman be healed dramatically! Since then I have watched many people die. The subjects of Prayer and Healing are connected and of deep interest to all believers.
James begins with an encouragement to pray (v13)
Whatever is going on in life, we are to respond with prayer and praise
Prayer and praise should be inseparable, neither one existing alone
Prayer and praise are the voice of the Christian life
As Christians, how can life move apart from interaction with the Triune God?
Prayer and worship are not polite Christianity, or religious form
They are integral to how we think of God, the gospel, ourselves, and Christ’s kingdom
Prayer and praise is our starting place, our safe place, and where we find strength
Let’s look at the text through a series of questions
1. Why are we told to ‘call for the elders’? (v14)
Elders (pastors) don’t have special power, they represent the Church (v16 tells us elders are not the only ones to pray for these needs)
God’s role in our lives is connected to our local church
At Greentree we emphasize biblical community, because the Bible does
2. Why are the sick to be ‘anointed with oil’? (v14)
Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit; it is a reminder of where the power comes from
The use of oil is not a sacrament (giving grace); and oil from Jerusalem is not more effective
Oil is used in the Bible for anointing to declare we are calling for God’s presence
3. Why do we need to ‘confess our sins’? (v16)
It’s not because all sickness is the result of a sin; v15 says ‘if’ they sinned. And Job’s friends were rebuked by God for making that accusation against him
The emphasis here is that we must come to God with a right heart
This is similar to the principle behind John Baptist’s ministry; he prepared the way for Christ by calling on people to repent
Prayer for healing must be more than acknowledging God’s power
We are acknowledging His rule over all things, including our bodies and life
4. What is the “prayer of faith”? (v15)
This is prayer that trusts in God, by acting on what He has said
It is trusting that we have free access to God, that He is able to heal, that He cares for us, and He is perfectly good
This prayer is offered in Jesus name, which means it is offered according to his will
In Exodus 6:2-3, when God made his “name known” to His people it was to say “I am the Lord”. God was claiming sovereignty over their lives
Prayer offered in Jesus name fulfills what we are taught in the Lord’s prayer “Your will be done”
It follows Jesus prayer in Gethsemane when he said “Not my will, but yours”
Our faith doesn’t leverage God into acting on our behalf
Biblical faith can never involve the lessening of God’s sovereignty
5. Why are not all Christians healed? (v15)
There is a measure of mystery to this, which we cannot fully answer – now
But Paul was told by God that his “thorn in the flesh” would not be removed.
Paul refers a few times to his co-laborers who he left ill
1. Sickness can come for different reasons
Sickness at times may be because of our sin, as a discipline from God (1 Corinthians 11:27-30)
Sickness may not be because of our sin, but a test from God (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
Sickness may be the mercy of God to deliver us from this evil world (1 Kings 14:1 & 13)
Sickness may be so God can demonstrate his sovereignty (John 9:1-3)
2. It is good to want healing, but remember those who are healed on earth will eventually die
3. We are encouraged to pray for healing, expecting God’s activity
It is not more spiritual to accept disease and refuse to ask for healing
If we hide sin in our hearts we should not ask for or expect healing
4. Total healing cannot occur until our incorruptible bodies are changed at the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15)
Aging, sickness and death are a direct result of the original sin. Our current bodies are affected by our sin nature
5. As people of the gospel, we should recognize God uses our condition in His big plan!
The witness of spiritual fruit (godly character) is greater than that of miracles
God will be good in our sufferings and He will use them well (James 1:2-3)
6. God will heal all things perfectly and forever!
I don’t like waiting. Actually my attitude is more aggressive than that – I hate waiting.
I detest waiting in line; I am annoyed at waiting for my turn to talk; I hate waiting for unpleasant things to go away; and I’m not happy about waiting for exciting events to arrive. “Now” always seems like a far better option then waiting.
However, I have noticed that God is not impressed or moved by my attitude toward waiting. This is obvious, because He keeps me waiting on a regular basis.
Brett Campbell does an excellent job of laying out a more healthy (i.e. biblical) perspective of why God seems to thrust waiting so regularly into His dealings with us. I think you will find his article, “Why Does God Make Us Wait?”, to be very helpful.
You say that you believe that God is sovereign and in control of all things. You definitely love Romans 8:28 which tells us, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
So what does it look like to live according to this belief? Or, to put it another way, how do we show God who truly is sovereign, the trust that He deserves?
Here are just a few suggestions. I am sure you can think of a few more.
In fact, why not write them down in the comments, so we can all be encouraged by your additions to this list!
1. With our Anxieties: Remember that everything which causes us stress, has always been in God’s eternal plan. If God is never anxious or uncertain, then we can rest in His confident sovereignty.
2. With our Obedience: If God is in control, then everything He commands is not only best, it is un-improvable. Do we really think some other way or wisdom will be a greater benefit in the end?
3. With our Pursuit of Him: What could be more urgent, than to draw nearer to God. Nothing will benefit us more, than to have a heart that loves God more
4. With our Doubts: It’s not our place to ask “Why, God?” The far better question is “How do you want me to respond”? Let our doubts be like a mist under the sun which quickly burns away
5. With our Possessions: It really doesn’t make sense to grasp so tightly to our possessions, when they all belong to God who will not withhold any good thing in our forever with Him. Let us trust God to give us what is needed, when it is good to have it
6. With our Worship: He is always Lord of all, and He is unceasingly praiseworthy! May our praise be tied to who God is, not what we want Him to fulfill.
The Psalmist writes, ‘The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice!’ (Psalm 97:1)
Do you believe God reigns today? Then today we should rejoice!
Life is a battlefield and we are victorious!
1 Timothy 6:11-12
As for you O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses
We are going to focus on the four actions given to us in vs 11-12
#1. FLEE the battles that sin brings into our lives
There are struggles caused by not living fully for Christ
The ways of God are wise for a reason, they make our life and relationships healthier
Obedient believers still have struggles, but they are purposeful struggles
The immediate context of fleeing is materialism (vs 9-10)
Materialism is a life out of priority, so it makes life dysfunctional
We can say this about any pursuit without God (see Ecclesiastes 2)
What are paths we should “flee”?
- Any form of sin
- Doing the least we can for God
- Having a critical spirit
- Selfishness and always holding expectations for others
These courses create burdens and steal the joy and fruitfulness of God from us
#2. PURSUE what brings you closer to God
The most effective way to “flee” is to “pursue”
This involves filling our heart with new pursuits, but even more it is filling our heart with them
Unless God has our heart, even good pursuits go astray
We are told to pursue the qualities that keep us rooted in Christ (v11)
We often think that aggressively pursuing God will add burden to our life
In reality, the pursuit of God is always the best gain (How can less of God be better?)
Two reflections will deepen these convictions:
(1) Meditate on the person and works of Christ
(2) Meditate on eternity (this is the only way to clearly see loss and gain)
#3. FIGHT biblically
What we are fighting?
It is anything that keeps us from being faithful to God
Christ won the war for our soul, but every day we fight the battle for our heart
Who is our enemy?
Our battle is not against people, but spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12)
People are used against us, but that’s because they are also under attack (but don’t understand it)
Whether people are unbelievers or sinning Christians, they all need the gospel from us
Satan is our great enemy
He has strategies and plans set against us (2 Timothy 2:26)
Satan has accomplices (false teachers, the values of the world, and our sinful nature)
Satan’s chief weapon is deception (John 8:44 ‘he is the “father of lies”)
Satan cannot make us sin, so he deceives us in ways that are both blatant and subtle
Any thought that minimizes sin, or keeps us from being faithful, is a deception:
- To focus on our rights instead of our responsibilities
- To see only one side of sinful lives
- To think we’re strong or worthless, instead of weak and valuable
- To start with ourselves instead of God
- To value the temporal over the eternal
How does faith come into this fight?
Truth is the answer to deception, and faith is to trust in the truths we believe
Biblical faith is to act on what God has said
Biblical faith builds life on biblical truth
We “fight the fight of faith” by responding to all struggles with biblical truth
- Overwhelmed: God is sufficient and cares for us, so we can praise him
- Hurt: God has forgiven us totally and forever, so we can give grace to others
- Confounded: All wisdom flows from God, so we should follow his word
- Worn out: God rules over our present and eternity, so we will rest in him
#4. TAKE HOLD of the victory Christ has given us
Christ has risen, he is exalted, hell does tremble and eternity is ready
We don’t ‘fight’ to get or keep this victory, we live in it
The gospel holds us; so we can hold and use the truths of the gospel
If you’re not sure you have strength to hold on, know that God holds us first (Philippians 3:12)
Even if we let go, we are still being held
We never stop being victorious, even when we ignore that victory
The difference among mature and immature believers is how consistently we hold on
Life is a battlefield, but we are victorious!
One of my big reading projects this year is to slowly work through “A Puritan Theology” by Joel Beeke. There has been a lot of rich reading over the months I have spent in it. A chapter on the Promises of God has definitely fit that category.
One of the main points of the chapter was the importance of praying with faith, the promises of God. The question was then brought up, how do we pray in faith for things we desire, but do not have a particular promise of God attached to them? Beeke quotes Edward Leigh (1602-1671) who handled that question in a way I think is helpful to us all.
“If I pray for the salvation of another, I have no promise, so how then can I pray in faith? Likewise when a man prays to be guided in business, to have such an enterprise to be brought to pass, to have deliverance from such a trouble, such a sickness or calamity that he lies under, he finds no particular promise, and for all he knows, it shall never be granted: how can he be said to pray in faith? For to pray in faith is to believe that the things shall be done.
Leigh’s answer to his own question brings us back to the goodness and wisdom of God, reminding us that whether or not we have a promise to plead, faith involves our trust and submission. Leigh said, “To pray in faith is to go as far as the promise goes. Now no particular man has any particular promise, that he shall have such a deliverance, that he shall have such a mercy granted him; and therefore it is not required to believe, that that particular thing should be done, but [rather] that God is ready to do that which is best for me, in such a particular, that which shall be most for his own glory, and my good.” We may still pray in faith, but in the faith of submission and not with definite assurance. In this type of faith, we believe we will receive an answer of good tidings, knowing that the good we receive will be determined according to what most glorifies the Lord and is best for us and those for whom we pray.
Beeke then adds this comment for praying in faith when we do have a clear promise of God:
Even in such prayers for absolute promises, however, we must pray in submission to God’s will and wisdom. Praying for things absolutely promised does not mean prescribing to God when or how He must keep His promise. We must trust Him with the circumstances of time, means and measure, for He has reserved these things in His own power.
All sin involves deceit of some kind. This is Satan’s great weapon; he is the “father of lies” and “the Deceiver”
“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44
“The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” Revelation 12:9
“I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” 2 Corinthians 11:3
Satan cannot make us sin, but he works very hard to deceive us (with much cooperation from our fleshly nature)
He wants to delude us about sin and its fruit
He wants to delude us about what is important and wise for life
He wants to delude us about God and His absolute rule and His overwhelming faithfulness to us
How do we respond to deceit? We put our faith in the truth!
In Ephesians 6, Paul instructs us to protect ourselves from spiritual attack with the Word of God and our faith in it
“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (vs16-17)
Biblical faith looking to the truth of God and acting upon it
Biblical faith is to live according to God’s perspective about Himself, the world, and ourselves
Biblical faith sees God as the main character is every situation
Biblical faith builds our life upon what God has said and done
“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” 1 Timothy 6:12
To “fight the fight of faith” is to enter the battle of daily life, trusting God and obeying Him
God is most important – so I will worship Him, and turn my heart toward Him
God is the source of wisdom – so I live by on His word
Christ’s Kingdom is the only one that will last – so I serve His will
God is glorious and good – so I trust Him enough to give Him all of my life today
Keep preaching the gospel to yourself, and the lies of the enemy will sound shrill and look foolish
I spent the day at Bethlehem Church speaking in their Youth Conference. The theme was “Fighting the Good Fight of Faith”. I gave the first general session last night and also the first general session this morning. My topic was “Using our Sword and Shield”.
My main focus was the “shield of faith” from Ephesians 6. I gave a foundation of how faith acts as a shield and then spent time illustrating it; by bringing up several common attacks or “fiery darts” that Satan aims at us and then explained how we answer those attacks with our faith in Christ. Hopefully it was practical for them.
The afternoon was spent in smaller breakout sessions. My breakout seminar on “Growing Faith” was given three times in small group settings. Entering the day I was concerned about keeping the same message fresh. I am used to preaching twice each Sunday, but it is a bigger energy and focus leap when a third message is added. My Dad did it for many years in our church’s former location. Of course it is easier to preach the same message three times than to listen to it three times.
I had a mix of translators, Gleb, who I have known since my early years in Belarus gave Violette a break part of the time. I am spoiled by Violette’s capabilities, but Gleb is very experienced, so it went smoothly. With a good translator, your focus remains on your message and the audience. I was glad Violette got a break. It is easy to self-centeredly think about my own teaching load and neglect that she has to do the same with perhaps an even greater burden of concentration. We are thankful to have her on the SEE Global staff.
The worship team was an asset all day. They sounded great. Some of the music we have been hearing at the conference is from Sovereign Grace. When Sergei Lukyanov went with me to the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s Conference in November, he was given a CD of Sovereign Grace music translated into Russian. I arrived in Belarus to find that a number of churches are excited over Sovereign Grace Music. Both Sergei and Anatoly from the Gatovo Church have been translating songs from their “Come Weary Saints” CD.
When I get home I will find out how SEE Global can work with Sovereign Grace Ministries to translate more of their music for Russian speaking churches. God and gospel centered songs are an important part of helping churches become more God and gospel centered. We are all excited about the potential in this project and hope it is one more way that SEE Global can serve the church in Belarus and beyond. I am always glad to find ways to partner with Sovereign Grace Ministries, the pastors of our church have benefited immensely by their friendship and influence.
The church used a few young men to serve as emcees during the conference. One of them is 23 year old Misha Bychko. I met Misha in the summer of 2007 when I spent a week visiting pastors throughout Belarus. He traveled with us and occasionally served as translator. For the last three years, Misha has been in my class at the seminary. He serves as a leader for youth in Bethlehem Church. Misha has a strong heart for God and ministry. Tomorrow we will be in the church his father pastors.
A side benefit of the conference was seeing old friends. People attended from long distances and some of them were former students from the Bible College. It is fun to see them with their families and to experience their joy in seeing me, which is very satisfying. Two of these were students during my first visit to Belarus. Olga has been to other conferences where I have taught, but I had not seen Sergei in many years. He is now the father of four. He introduced his infant son, who Sergei proudly announced is the only person in Belarus with the name Amadeus.
I returned to the seminary apartment pleased with the conference and body tired. I was also hungry, but I didn’t feel like walking to a restaurant, so I made my standard meal in the apartment, which are eggs cooked in the microwave. The bread was getting stale and I am about done with eating eggs. If Debbie was here even those eggs would have tasted better.
For the past few years I have left a suitcase of clothes and other articles behind in Belarus, it makes it much easier to pack when a third of what I need is already here. Somehow this year I came up one day short in socks and underwear, so I had to wash some in the sink tonight. Then I noticed my white shirt for church tomorrow is wrinkled. I have not ironed clothes since college and that was only once. I remember thinking no wonder women hate ironing, this takes forever – eventually I noticed the iron was not plugged in.
I have been missing Debbie since I arrived at the Philadelphia Airport, but tonight I was reminded about the full extent of how she takes care of me and our family. Every day she lovingly works hard to make our lives easier. I would be a helpless mess without her. I am ready to be home – and just in time for Valentine’s Day too!
We have one more day of activity in Belarus. Tomorrow Eric is back in Gatovo and I will be preaching in churches for morning and evening services. Keep praying for our energy, we both want to give our best all the way to our final moments in Belarus. And pray for effectiveness, only God can make anything we have done truly fruitful.
Impossible faith acts on God’s faithfulness Romans 4:18-21
18In hope (Abraham) believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about 100 yrs old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God; but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God 21fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
Yesterday we looked at the reasons why biblical faith can survive any obstacles! Today we continue by examining ways that we put that faith into practice
Preach to yourself about God’s glory
God has already given us all the material we need, to preach faith inspiring sermons to ourselves! He has acted in many glorious ways to us (read Ephesians 1 carefully) for a long list). In vs 20 we see that Abraham responded to hopelessness by glorifying God. We often respond to hopelessness – by feeding it. We keep reviewing the obstacles, instead of glorifying and being amazed at our God. Ask yourself, which is the greater reality, the obstacle ot God?!
Act according to what God says, not by what we want
Glorifying God includes submitting to him. As we live for God’s kingdom, we will see that kingdom and its glory, more clearly. Submission to God also expands our experience with God, which will make trusting Him the obvious decision
Depend on what God will do for us, not what we do for him
We automatically act as if we are the necessary component to our day. Think about you daily routine. It is filled with waht you do in order for your day to work. We act as if reading God’s Word, praying and worshipping are optional activities, or to be more honest with ourselves – we act as if they are unwelcome intrusions that get in the way of getting things done! Yet all true success is what God does in and through us. What would change tomorrow if God truly is the necessary component to our day?
An encouragement to all believers: you have demonstrated impossible faith!
You believe in the trinity (even though you cannot really understand it); you belive in the virgin birth, and you believe in the resurrection of Jesus (and eventually of yourself). Yet you have not observed any of these things. The world rejects tall of these as being superstition and foolishness, yet you easily believe them. This is because you have experienced God. He touched you beyond human possibilities and gave you faith. Next time you wonder if you have much faith, compare what you believe with what the world completely rejects.
You have impossible faith, so put it to use!