Thursday, December 30, 2010

Drive The World From Me...


Recently I have been quite concerned about prayer and it's importance. I'm going to share with you a little of the background.

I am participating on a project at our local church where we are working on an initiative we have deemed "Prayer Partnership, Circle of Prayer". The goal of the Partnership is to encourage 100% of the congregation to participate in our missions endeavor. We believe we must support our missionaries first and God will meet all our church's other needs. Prayer is the one thing that EVERYONE can do.

But, I digress.

The initiative we are undertaking means that we're going to be asking the congregation to commit to praying for 1 missionary, each, daily. Example - if we had 300 people in the congregation and 15 supported missionaries that would mean each missionary would be prayed for by 20 different individuals, daily. The circle is then completed when each missionary agrees to pray for our church and the Missions Committee daily.

I should have been quite excited by this initiative, yet, I actually felt uneasy. I think it would be more accurate if I used the word vexed or maybe a better word would be convicted.

Vexed, Covicted???


It took a few days of searching and asking God to help me understand. [Note: long ago I stopped asking "why" about things and started asking for understanding. I figure God has His reasons and I don't really need to know the why. So now I just ask for understanding.]

Ok, a few days into it, I'm praying and chatting with God and all of a sudden God brings up the verses and an image about Jesus clearing the merchants and money changers out of the Temple. Each gospel has an accounting, Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19 & John 2. Jesus was disturbed, to say the least. God impressed it on me that the "world" had entered the Temple and was using a place made for worship & prayer to transact business! Jesus called the Temple His Father's house. Here are the verses from John 2: 13-16 ESV -

(13) The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (14) In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. (15) And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. (16) And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade."

A lighted bulb appears above my head! I now knew why I was feeling convicted. I have been concerned that we on the Missions Committee were not spending enough time praying & fasting as a group, seeking God's will and direction for our committee and the Missions outreach. In fact, it was a minimal amount of time, imho. God had allowed me to see that the Christian Church is being successfully assimulated into the world. [but that's another blog post for the future]

Now I was feeling like somewhat of a hypocrite. Here we were going to ask the congregation to pray, in earnest, daily and we on the committee were not earnestly spending real time in prayer & fasting, as a group. Individually maybe, but not as a group. Oh, we would pray, but it was the kind of prayer where we did all the talking and none of the listening. Ever found yourself doing that? Bet you have. Having this realizaton, I asked God what the verses had to do with this? His answer -
"The reason you are bothered is because you know that prayer has not been a priority with you or the committee.You are being convicted by my Spirit..." He continued... "omd, the world had entered My Temple, a place of worship and prayer. They were carrying on worldly business as if they were in the marketplace. Think about this. There is now a new covenant as well as a new Temple. OMD, the new Temple is your body... it is each one of my children's bodies. The Holy Spirit resides in each of you. You are bothered because you now have realized there is much of the world left in you and it is contending with the purpose of my Temple. Remember, you are only IN the world, you are no longer OF the world! There is no place for the world in you. "I, Jesus, drove the world out of the Temple. Now, I say to you, ask that the world be driven out of you!"

Gulp!! I had always been told to be careful what you ask for. 0=:o)

Now my prayer is, "Father, drive the world from me and each of your children & the believing church."

With 2011 just 1 day away I challenge each of my brothers and sisters in Christ to make their New Years resolution to be just this

I resolve to beseech Jesus and ask that the world be driven out of me.

Please make this your resolution, too. God is earnestly at work encouraging His children to pray and fast seeking His face and direction.

Happy New Year and I pray that God will prosper each of you & your families spiritually, financially, in good health, content and seeking Him. Let me know if you are willing to take this resolution.

I am a Fellow Christian Sojourner and One More Disciple of the Christ, Jesus


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Is Heaven a Free Gift OR Do You Earn Your Way In?

Brothers, Sisters & Friends,

It's been a longer than expected hiatus from this blog for me. There's been much water under the bridge. I've had my struggles, trials & tribulations and I fight with procrastination. I just got stuck in life, is all!

Many years ago a wise older man gave me a tidbit of wisdom that has stuck with me. I must have been selling an excuse for something. His retort was; "My young friend, Life is what happens to you in-between your plans." - How very true! It's
too bad that there are times when we choose the happenings of life as an excuse to ignore our relationship with God.

What I'm posting today is a great article providing us with a good thumbnail sketch of the differences between Biblical Christianity and the other belief systems we humans may subscribe to. You will discover other works by the author by clicking on "The Berean Call" at the beginning of his article.

Hope you all enjoy. Here goes. OH, and feel free to post any thoughts you have regarding the article.

Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Works-Salvation Delusion
By T. A. McMahon
The Berean Call

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come[s] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. - Galatians 2:21

When we compare biblical Christianity with the religions of the world, using the Scriptures to guide us, we see that the gap between them is unbridgeable. In fact, one is forced to the conclusion that there are really only two religions in the world: biblical Christianity - and all other religions. (Note: I refer to biblical Christianity as a "religion" only for comparative purposes: a religion is a manmade belief system, whereas biblical Christianity is what God has revealed to mankind.)

These two "religions" are set apart primarily by what they teach about salvation - how one can get to heaven or paradise or Valhalla or Nirvana or the abode of God, or whatever else people believe about the afterlife. Each of the two can be placed under one of two categories: Human Achievement and Divine Accomplishment - or, to put it simply, the religions of "Do" and "Done." I'm referring to the fact that either there are things you must do (Human Achievement) or there is nothing you can do because it has already been done (Divine Accomplishment) to earn entrance to heaven.

Biblical Christianity alone comes under the heading of Divine Accomplishment. All the other religions of the world must be placed under the label of Human Achievement. Let's first consider some of the major religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and certain denominations or cults that profess to be Christian.

Hinduism has about 330 million gods who must be appeased through some type of ritual. A couple of years ago I was given a tour of a massive Hindu temple just outside Chicago. The parking lot was filled with luxury cars. There was imported stonework from Italy. No expense was spared. Inside, doctors, lawyers, and engineers, among others, according to my guide, were serving meals to the idols, Hanuman, the monkey god, and Ganesha, the elephant god.

Hinduism is a system of works - things that one must do to reach moksha, the Hindu heaven. It involves the practice of yoga, which, contrary to what many have heard, has never been for improvement of one's health but is rather a means of dying to one's body in the hope of delivering oneself from the physical realm. This is supposed to yoke one to Brahman, the Supreme Deity of Hinduism. Reincarnation, a system that supposedly enables one to work one's way to heaven through many births, deaths, and rebirths, is one of the teachings of this religion.

Buddhism is also all about works. Buddha believed that the key to reaching Nirvana, which is allegedly the state of perfect peace and happiness, is through an understanding of the Four Noble Truths and by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path.

In essence, the Four Noble Truths declare that we endure suffering because of our desires or cravings. These "Truths" claim that suffering will stop when we cease trying to fulfill those desires. According to Buddhism, we can achieve this by following the Noble Eightfold Path, which has the elements of "right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration." This is all done by man's achievement, i.e., "doing things right" in order to reach Nirvana.

In Islam, paradise is attained when Allah weighs a follower's good works against his bad deeds on a scale at Judgment Day. The Qur'an declares:
  • "For those things that are good remove those that are evil" (Surah 11:114).
It's a quantitative process. Good deeds need to outweigh or blot out evil deeds. From the Qur'an again:
  • "The balance that day will be true: Those whose scale [of good works] will be heavy, will prosper: Those whose scale will be light will find their souls in perdition" (Surah 7:8,9).
Here's an interesting example of what a Muslim faces to get into paradise: On April 3, 1991, the Egyptian magazine, Akher Saa, recorded a heated debate between four female journalists and Sheik Doctor Abdu-Almonim Al-Nimr, who holds a high position at Al-Azher Islamic University. One of the journalists asked him: "Is the hijab [veil or head covering] obligatory for women in Islam? If I do not wear the hijab, shall I go to hell in spite of my other good deeds? I am talking about the decent woman who does not wear the hijab."

Dr. Al-Nimr replied, "The ordinances in Islam are many, my daughter, Allah made us accountable to each. It means if you do that ordinance you earn a point. If you neglect one, you lose a point. If you pray, you earn a point; if you do not fast you lose a point, and so on." He continued, "I did not invent a new theory...for every man there is a book in which all his good and evil deeds are recorded...even how do we treat our children."

The journalist said: "That means, if I do not wear the hijab, I will not enter the hell fire without taking into account the rest of my good deeds." Dr. Al-Nimr replied: "My daughter, no one knows who will enter the hell fire...I might be the first one to enter it. Caliph Abu-Bakr Al-Sadik said: 'I have no trust concerning Allah's schemes, even if one of my feet is inside of paradise who can determine which deed is acceptable and which is not.' You do all that you can do...and the accountability is with Allah. You ask him for acceptance [Italics added for emphasis].

"In Judaism, heaven is attained by keeping the Law and its ceremonies. Obviously, that isn't consistent with what the Tanakh (the Old Testament) teaches, yet that has been the practice of Judaism for millennia. As Jesus said, "In vain they do worship [God], teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).

His words also apply to a number of "Christian" denominations and cults that stress works as necessary for salvation. Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, the Church of Christ adherents, Roman Catholics, Eastern and Russian Orthodox members, Lutherans, and many others all include something that needs to be accomplished or is necessary for salvation, whether it's baptism, the sacraments, or joining their particular organization and fulfilling their requirements.

Here is an example from the first 30 years of my own life as a Roman Catholic. I lived by a religious system of laws, many of which a Catholic is obligated to keep. It began with baptism. If one is not baptized, the Church says he can't enter heaven. It also says that although baptism is required, it is no guarantee. There are many other such rules that a Catholic must keep.

I have a book in my office called Code of Canon Law. It contains 1,752 laws, many of which affect one's eternal destiny. Sins recognized by the Roman Catholic Church are classified as either mortal or venial. A mortal sin is one that damns a person to hell, should he or she die without having had it absolved by a priest. A venial sin doesn't need to be confessed to a priest, but whether confessed or not, all sin adds to one's temporal punishment, which must be expiated either here on earth through suffering or good works or else be purged in the flames of purgatory after one's death.

There are obligations that a Catholic must fulfill regarding both beliefs and deeds. For example, one is required to believe that Mary was conceived without sin (an event called the Immaculate Conception). If a Catholic doesn't believe that, he commits a mortal sin, which carries the penalty of eternal damnation. The feast day of the Immaculate Conception is a holy day of obligation, a day on which all Catholics are required to attend Mass. Failure to do so could result in commission of a mortal sin.

All the belief systems that I've mentioned, and many others as well, consist of doing or not doing certain things to reach "heaven." All are based upon human achievement. But what about biblical Christianity? How is that different?

Ephesians 2:8-9 spells it out for us:
  • "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that [salvation is] not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast [emphasis added]."
That's pretty straightforward. Our salvation doesn't have anything to do with our achievements.

Verse 8 tells us that it is by grace that we are saved. Grace is unmerited favor. If any merit is involved, it cannot be by grace. It's the gift of God. So if it's a gift, it can't be of works. That should be obvious. Someone puts in a tough month of work and his employer comes to him with his paycheck and declares, "Good job, Joe, here's your gift!" No - Joe worked for what he was paid. No gift was involved.

Regarding a person who works, Romans 4:4 tells us that his wages are a payment for the debt his employer owes him, and his paycheck has nothing to do with grace or a gift. A worker who has done a good job can boast or feel a sense of pride in the work he has accomplished. Yet all of that is contrary to grace or a gift. Grace rules out any sense of merit, and a gift does away with any sense of something earned or paid for.

Paul's teaching in Ephesians is affirmed in his epistle to Titus, chapter 3, verses 4-7:
  • "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
We can see that this is consistent with Ephesians 2:8-9. It's not by our works that we are saved - not by works of righteousness that we have done - but it's by His mercy that we are saved.

You may well imagine that, as a Roman Catholic conditioned by a life of Church rules and rituals, I had great difficulty believing that faith was the only basis by which I could enter heaven. It didn't make sense to me.

Well, not only does it make sense - it's the only possible way anyone can be saved. It is miraculously sensible!

First of all, what keeps anyone from heaven or eternal life with God? We know that the answer is "sin." Here is a small sampling of the applicable verses: All have sinned (Romans 3:23); the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23); sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2); the soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20); sin brings forth death (James 1:15).

Genesis 2, God explains to Adam the consequences of disobeying Him. Adam was told not to eat from a certain fruit in the Garden of Eden. It was a commandment that was related to obedience and love - not of God's withholding something from Adam, as the Serpent implied. Remember, Jesus said "If a man love me, he will keep my words," that is, His teachings (John 14:23). Our love for God is demonstrated by our obedience.

What was God's penalty for disobedience? Genesis 2:17:
  • "...for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."Adam and Eve loved themselves more than they loved God, because they didn't "keep [His] words." They disobeyed Him, and the consequence was death. "The day you eat of it you will surely die." In the Scriptures, death always involves separation, and in God's judgment upon them, two applications are found: 1) physical death (the degeneration of the body, leading ultimately to its separation from the soul and spirit), and 2) eternal separation from God.
Adam and Eve did not die instantly, but the death process began at that point for them and for all creation. However, their spiritual relationship with God changed immediately and forever. God's judgment for sin is eternal: separation from God forever. It's an infinite penalty. And God, who is perfect in all of His attributes, including justice, had to carry out the punishment. He couldn't let them slide by and just give them another chance. That would have meant that He was not perfectly true to His Word. The penalty had to be paid.

So what could Adam and Eve do? Nothing, except die physically and spiritually, which is to be separated from God forever. And what can the rest of mankind do, seeing that all have sinned? Nothing. Well, one might ask, what if we do all sorts of good deeds that might outweigh our sins, or if we go to church a lot, or get baptized, do religious things, receive the sacraments, and so forth? None of those things will help us. Why? Because they don't pay the penalty. So what can we do? There is nothing that we can do - except to pay the penalty ourselves by being separated from God forever.

Our situation would be absolutely hopeless except that God has some other attributes in addition to being perfectly just. He is also perfect in love and mercy! "For God so loved the world" that He sent His only begotten Son to pay the penalty for us (John 3:16).

And that is exactly what Jesus did on the Cross. It is incomprehensible to us that during those three hours of darkness (when He cried out "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?") He took on the sins of the world and suffered the wrath of His Father - for us. On the Cross He "tasted death for every man" (Hebrews 2:9), that is, He experienced and paid the infinite penalty for everyone's sins.

When that divine accomplishment ended, Jesus cried out, "It is finished," meaning that the penalty had been paid in full. It was a divine accomplishment because it was something that only God could do! God became a man and died physically, because physical death was part of the penalty. Yet, as the God-Man, he was able to experience fully the penalty that every sinner would experience - being spiritually separated from God forever.

God's justice demands payment. Either we pay the penalty ourselves or we turn to Jesus by faith and receive the benefits of His sacrificial atonement. What does Roman 6:23 say?
  • "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
The Bible could not be more clear that salvation can only be "the gift of God" and that we can only appropriate that gift by faith.

Any attempt to merit salvation by our works is not just futile - it is impossible:
  • "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).
Worse yet, it is a denial of the infinite penalty that God imposed, a rejection of God's "unspeakable gift," and a repudiation of what Christ accomplished for us.

It used to be that most evangelicals would agree. This is no longer the case as the apostasy gathers momentum in these Last Days. Recently, a Pew Forum survey of more than 40,000 Americans found that 57 percent of those who said they were evangelicals believed that Jesus is not the exclusive way to heaven. Since Jesus is the only one who provides divine accomplishment, all that remains is the futile delusion of human achievement for salvation.

Related Links

How can salvation be not of works when faith is required? Isn't believing a work? -

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Job's Suffering... Why?

I found this to be an intriguing question. Comments after the article. I ask a different question than Dr. Graham is answering.



What was Job's Answer to the Question of Suffering? By Billy Graham, Tribune Media Services

Q: I took a religion class in college last year, and one of our assignments was to read the book of Job in the Old Testament. Can you help me understand it? I read it through three times, and I never did figure out what Job's answer was to the question of suffering. -- K.H.

A: The Bible says that Job was "blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil" (Job 1:8). God had blessed him with great wealth, and also with a large family.

And yet in spite of his goodness and his devotion to God, God still allowed him to experience almost limitless loss and suffering: His family was destroyed, his wealth was taken from him, and his health was ruined. So terrible was his suffering that at times Job wished he had never been born. In spite of this, however, he never lost his faith and trust in God: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 13:15, KJV).

Why did God allow Job to pass through such suffering? This is the book's central question -- and it's the question we ask when we experience loss and suffering. Job's friends suggested various answers, but in the end, the only answer Job discovers is that God is far greater than we are, and He can be trusted to do what is right -- even if we don't fully understand. Someday we will understand when we enter into God's presence -- but not yet.
But the Bible points us to the One who experienced far more suffering than Job ever did -- and that is Jesus Christ. He was without sin, and yet all our sins were placed on Him, and He took the sin and death and Hell that we deserve. Have you thanked Him for this by giving your life to Him?


Send your queries to "My Answer," c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM, or visit the Web site for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:


I'm not putting myself anywhere near the class Billy Graham is in but I would like to comment on a different question.

Why DID God allow satan to torment Job?

It is my sentiment that God allowed Job to suffer for this reason.

Earlier in the story, if you remember, the sons of God [angels] had presented themselves before God and, satan, the accuser of mankind, was with them. I'm looking at Job 1: 6 - 12

6 One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them.

7 The LORD asked Satan, "Where have you come from?"
"From roaming through the earth,"Satan answered Him, "and walking around on it."

8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil."

9 Satan answered the LORD, "Does Job fear God for nothing?

10 Haven't You placed a hedge around him, his household, and everything he owns? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions are spread out in the land.

11 But stretch out Your hand and strike everything he owns, and he will surely curse You to Your face."

12 "Very well," the LORD told Satan, "everything he owns is in your power. However, you must not lay a hand on Job [himself]." So Satan went out from the LORD's presence.

Remember satan's nature is evil. He looks to devour. He looks to whip up trouble and perpetuate evil. He wants to destroy that which God has made. He wants to be equal to God or, even, be God. He rebelled against God, lost, and was thrown from heaven to Earth, he, and 1/3 of the angels that sided with him. So, while satan is 'roaming the earth and walking around' just what do you think he is up to? No good, is the answer. In verse 12 God placed everything Job owned in satan's power. BUT satan had to accuse God first, seen in verse 10 & 11.

Again the question I pose: Why would God allow satan to test Job and cause him to suffer?

My response is: To show satan and the rest of creation that a man, with a fallen nature, would still choose to trust in God and worship him even in the face of much adversity and suffering.

Job was a devout believer and God had richly blessed him in family and material wealth BUT Job also was a sinner as evidenced by his practice of burnt offerings. A man of great integrity, blameless & upright, yes, but still a sinner.
Of course we know that animal sacrifice [burnt offerings] was the custom used for the atonement of sin before Jesus established a new covenant with mankind when He, Jesus, became that atonement for sin.
Satan was allowed to test Job. Satan, as prosecutor, kept arguing his case before God [and maybe even accusing God]. Satan said if God removed His protection from Job, surely Job would curse God or even denounce God. We see that Job did not curse of denounce God even though advised to by his wife and friends. Through great adversity and suffering Job endured, losing EVERYTHING except his life & wife.
Job STILL chose to worship and trust God.

I pray I am never put to the test Job endured. I wonder, when I read Job, if I would have the same integrity and faith as Job exhibited.
How about you that are reading this?
I'd be interested in your thoughts.
We are very blessed. There are millions around the world that endure Job like suffering. They persevere and are even martyred yet stay faithful.

"Father, I pray we may be found with the same integrity and faithfulness that Job displayed when we are tested or even tormented by satan" In Jesus name I ask for your strength and wisdom for us all." Amen and Amen

I am a Fellow Christian Sojourner and One More Disciple of the Christ, Jesus


Friday, March 21, 2008

..."Their sins and lawless acts...


..."Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more."... Hebrews 10:17

Even knowing who He was, in their hearts, their hearts were so bent on evil that they ordered His execution! IMAGINE!! They traded the truth for a lie and thinking they were wise they became fools. In the end ALL will bow and proclaim Jesus as Lord of All. Draw near to Him NOW while you still can. Waiting until judgement day will be too late.

A medical accounting of crucifixion

33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the
criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.

34 But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are

doing " And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.

35 And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him,

saying, "He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His
Chosen One."

36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine,

37 and saying, "If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!"
Luke 23:33-37

Jesus chose to die for us so we could choose to live for Him

Imagine, even from the cross, the most humiliating, cruel and painful way to be put to death, Jesus prayed for forgiveness for those responsible. I wonder if Barabbas realized that God took his, Barabbas', place? Did he ever realized That God saved his life, which gave HIM another chance to repent? I wonder what ever happened to Barabbas?

A Fellow Christian Sojourner and One More Disciple of the Christ, Jesus


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Easter in Romania

Today I'm going to highlight a Missions organization by the name of Word Made Flesh [WMF]. Here is their vision statement:

Vision Statement:

"Word Made Flesh is called and committed to serving Jesus among the poorest of the poor. This calling is realized as a prophetic ministry for, and a holistic, incarnational ministry among, the world's poor. We focus our energy to make Jesus known among the poor while reconciling the Church with the poor."

"Our involvement for the poor is primarily through serving the Church as a prophetic voice articulating God's passion for the poor through Scripture and further educating them concerning the needs of the world. We seek to reconcile the Church with the poor as a means of communicating and testifying of God's redemptive work in our lives. This movement of bringing the Church and the poor together is done through Biblical preaching, teaching, discipleship, exposure experiences, music, media and other creative means. As we participate in this movement we pray that our lives will answer both the cry of God for the poor and the cry of the poor for God."


At the end of this post I am also including a letter from a friend of mine "Rachel" who is a missionary in Romania with WMF.

As Disciples of the Christ we are called to participate in spreading God's message of hope and salvation. Part of this can be in the area of Missions. I don't mean you have to pack up your gear and quit your job or leave your family [unless you're called to].

We, as disciples, can participate and derive a great joy and blessing that comes from missionary support. THIS is the other way to participate! Whether it's praying or writing or sending monetary support, God will honor your participation.

Read in Philippians 2: 10 - 20. It is there that Paul is thanking the Philippians for their gifts [not that he was looking for one, though] It is in verse 17 where Paul indicates that their, the Philippians, gifts will be credited to their account [in heaven]. He goes on to say in verse 18 that their gifts are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, which is pleasing to God AND that "my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ, Jesus."

Now for Rachel's letter. She has served in Romania for sometime now, I think 6 - 8 years. Rachel left (I should say was called and she accepted) the comfort of her home to go to Romania and work with the street children.

Be listening for God's voice in your lives.

A Fellow Christian Sojourner and One More Disciple of the Christ, Jesus

Solis Deo Gloria



Hi friends,

Easter on the Orthodox Church calendar falls at the end of April this year, which has caused a little confusion for me as I think about observing a season of Lent. My Western calendar says I should have begun early in February, but that would mean two and a half months of observing Lent! Nope, I'll stick to the 40 days, thanks very much. Due to this difference of calendars, it feels early for me to share an Easter reflection, but I have an encounter that I am eager to share and I also know that most of you reading this letter are already well into the Lenten Season and will be celebrating Easter in March this year. The following is based on a journal entry from November 2007.


I approached Ron and Audra's apartment building, puzzled by the police officer and medical vehicle parked out front. Two black printed words across the side of the yellowed-white station wagon announced: "LEGAL MEDICINE." The back trunk door was popped open, and I thought, "Funeral, at this hour?" The police officer, chatting with a slightly distressed middle aged woman in her long black overcoat and furry hat, rested his arms against his chest and casually watched me as I approached. When I passed by, I heard the officer utter in a low tone, "Let's see what she does." I pretended not to hear and proceeded on past the medical vehicle which was backed up to the front entrance of the apartment building. A single glance inside the opened back confirmed my fears – dead body. "But no," I thought, "That was just a blanket bundled up in the shape of a body. I've never seen a funeral without a casket, and never a body simply wrapped up in a blanket!"

As I entered the building, a solitary light bulb cast long shadows from an open apartment door beneath the stairwell. I quickly mounted the stairs to my second floor destination. Then I smelled it. That smell. The unforgettable smell of rotting human flesh, an odor of putrid decay. My stomach turned. I knocked on the door. No one answered. I knocked again, harder, louder. The odor of human decay wafted all around me as I took short, quick breathes, desperate for an escape.

Ron answered the door with a smile and I rushed inside, closing the door securely behind me. He seemed puzzled by my rapid, flustered entry, but I had no time to explain before I was tackled by his two little boys, full of stories and happy to see me. In an effort to protect the boys from the trauma outside their door, I said nothing until after dinner when I was alone with their parents and the boys were occupied with toys. I explained which apartment door I had seen open and Audra recalled having met an old man crawling on his hands and knees near there once before. She had asked another neighbor if anyone should help him but she was told to just leave him alone. Was he alcoholic? Probably.

Who was inside that blanket? How did he die? We could only guess that an old, lonely, possibly alcoholic man died in his apartment and was discovered later on by a neighbor or relative who called the police to investigate and take care of the body.

So here I was confronted with the putrid odor of a cold, motionless, lifeless body. This is a peculiar smell that one does not forget. And this was not my first encounter with the smell of death. Romanian funerals are traditionally three day events, and almost always open casket. Since my arrival six years ago, I have attended an average of one funeral per year. In 2006, I attended three funerals in the space of four months.

In Romania, after a person dies they are placed in an open coffin in a room of their home where family and friends mourn their passing for three days. After the three days have passed, an orthodox priest comes to the home and reads or sings the funeral liturgy. The open casket is then placed on a flat bed truck and a procession of mourners line up behind the slow moving casket, accompanying the deceased on their journey to a final resting place. As the procession nears the cemetery, the gate keeper rings a huge bell and the procession passes through the gate under the sounding bell. Gathered at the grave sight, the priest performs the final rites of the liturgy, the family is asked to bid their final farewell at which point the women usually wail and kiss the hands of the deceased. Finally the cemetery workers slide the cover onto the casket, nail it down on each corner with stinging blows, and lower the casket into the pit.

As I walked home that night my thoughts were flooded with scenes of flickering candles and funeral processions and the piercing cries of weeping mothers as four large nails are pounded into the coffin to secure the cover before lowering the dead into their grave.

But even as these painful memories swirled through my mind, my spirit was stirred by a peculiar hope. That very morning during chapel we had read through the entire account in John 11 of Jesus raising his good friend Lazarus from the dead. Resurrection!

Jesus arrived in Bethany four days after Lazarus' death. They warned him not to go near the tomb because of the smell -- the smell of death. Jesus wept. But then he went forward, refusing to listen to Martha's concern. "Lazarus, come forth!" And out he came. That was all, just three simple words, and the dead was restored to life. No putrid odor, no decay, no bodily fluids staining the ground. Just life. Lazarus, living and breathing and alive!

And this Jesus, this Restorer of life, He is our God and we are His friends. This one who raises the dead without fear of their odor, He is the one we serve. He is the God of life.

He says to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26).

And now Jesus is asking us the same question, "Do you believe this? Do you really believe that I have power over death?"

I believe He does. And I am convinced that if we truly believe in God's power over death we would live our lives much differently than those around us, not with fear or anxiety but full of hope, peace and joy. This Easter I am challenged to ask myself if my life reflects my belief in a God of resurrection, the God who weeps over the death of His friends but also restores them to life!

May the God of peace whisper words of hope to each one and stir our hearts to live in the light of our radiant resurrected King who is not afraid of the smell of death, our God of life who promises us life everlasting. May He have mercy on us and grant us peace.