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Archive for June, 2017

Book Review: These Are the Generations

By Susan Verstraete

Grandmother Bae burned all three Bibles that her family owned. All night long she sat by the fire, tearing two or three pages at a time out of the book she loved and feeding it to the flames.  A North Korean State Security Officer could knock at any time, which made keeping the books just too dangerous.

Can you imagine what was going through her mind as she burned the sacred pages? Did tears stream down her face? Did she wish she had memorized more? And what was Grandfather Bae thinking as he guarded the door until it was finished? How could he lead his family without the Word? How could God save their family or the rest of North Korea when Scripture was outlawed?

These are the Generations tells the exciting and heart-wrenching story of the next three generations of the Bae family, Chinese Christians who escaped to North Korea to flee persecution by the Japanese after World War 2.

I’ve read a great number of Christian biographies, but this one struck me as unique in its honesty about the extremely difficult choices faced by believers under persecution. For example, some Christian families actually hid their beliefs from their own children for fear that the children might slip up in public and bring the Security
Office to the family doorstep. Others, like the Bae family, felt they had to burn God’s Word. A Christian mother asked her son to steal to keep the family from starving, and her believing son did what she asked.  The Pastor hid in fear when the Japanese army came to burn down his church, and no one spoke openly about Christ.

I kept asking myself, “What would I have done? Where’s the line between protecting my family and betraying my faith?”

The only criticism I have of the book is that the gospel is not clearly explained in this narrative. At times it sounds as if being a Christian is equivalent to obeying the Ten Commandments, for example, and Mr. Bae never mentions Christ. But Mrs. Bae does mention Him later in the book, and I think that this oversight may be attributed to the lack of systematic teaching in their lives rather than to a completely faulty understanding of redemption. Still, while I heartily recommend reading These are the Generations as a family, I wouldn’t  let a preteen read it alone without making sure to explain that we all often believe more than we articulate.

Susan Verstraete is the Church Secretary at FCC.

 

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Welcoming the Broken

By Julie Gancshow

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:13–16 (NASB)

How do you decide who to minister to? What are your criteria for those to whom you will reach out a helping hand? Does your church have an open hand toward people who have troubled pasts or are known to be emotionally unstable or undergoing treatment for psychiatric disorders?

Unfortunately, many pastors and church leaders hesitate to embrace those suffering with emotional problems or those labeled as problematic people. It has become accepted to send them to the local secular counselor rather than take an interest in rendering aid to them.

Because there is little to no teaching on this subject, the church people don’t know what to do with these souls either, so they do nothing other than sadly shake their heads and offer to pray.

For the most part, people with emotional problems or psychiatric diagnoses are simply avoided in our churches. It could be because of fear of exposure, as though they think a psychiatric diagnosis or emotional problem is contagious like the flu or a cold. It could be because they are unsure of the stability of such people, or they fear some violent outburst.

I am sorry to say that I have also seen these people discouraged from attending church at all! There are simply some individuals who don’t want that kind of a person in their church. As a result, they are marginalized and pushed out of the very place they need to be to find healing for the soul.

May I challenge you today to look for possible ways to minister to a person who would otherwise be a “hopeless case?” There are many of them out there! They are the people psychology has written off and cast out of the system with nothing more than a prescription for medications. They have been fed diagnosis codes and stripped of hope to ever be considered “normal.”

These people are the most helpless and broken among us, and they are also fertile ground for the hope and help that comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ. As biblical counselors and disciplers we bring the message of complete sufficiency of the Word of God and the miraculous love of a Savior who heals. God specializes in broken people; in fact, He prefers us that way.

We do not shy away from accepting what would be considered the tough counseling cases, and we believe the love of God and the truth found in His Word can penetrate the most difficult circumstances. It may require that you get a little dirty in the process and maybe even reach out to other organizations and people for help in ministering to this population.

Become the place of refuge for those hurting souls who desire to look at their problems from the Word of God. Ask them if they are interested in seeing what the Bible has to say about their troubles. Many are willing but have not had anyone take an interest in them before.

If you adopt this mindset and begin to reach out of your comfort zone, our church will become known as the place for hurting people to go. We will develop a reputation in the community as caring and compassionate people who live what they believe and are shining lights of hope in a very dark world.

Julie Ganschow is the director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center and a member of FCC.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling, Christian Living

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Giving is Grace

By John Worley

After pastoring for 20 years, I did project fundraising for a   Bible College for 7 years and for a missionary organization for another 7 years. Most nonprofit Christian ministries employ many of the world’s ways of motivation for giving money. Why? The world’s approach is commonly used because it seems to get results, but sometimes with the sacrifice of integrity.

What should be the approach in reminding us of our accountability in giving? The same means employed in our church to hold us accountable in all other aspects and roles of life, the Word of God.

Basically, a steward is one who manages gifts on loan from God, answering to Him for his attitude about and utilization of those gifts. These may be the spiritual gifts God gives every believer for the work of the gospel and the building up of one another in the faith, or they may be financial resources entrusted to us while on earth. These gifts are grace, and we are accountable for the grace given us by God. Our world believes that money is the medium for measuring value.

The Bible, however, teaches us of the unseen evidence of spiritual and relational realities that have true and lasting value. These can give contentment, with or without money.

There is, of course, a practical side to money. It is, in effect, the fluid form of things; it makes property portable and serves as a medium for exchange of both material things and services. For this reason, most people come to view money as what matters most, that is the objective for life’s enjoyment. The status or influence that comes with money, and the so-called security of money, they view as their motivation in achieving this objective. Consequently, they buy things they do not need, with money they do not yet have, from people they do not even trust.

Our society has come to think of money only in terms of accumulating and spending, like the farmer who desired to make more money so he could buy more land, so he could plant more corn, so he could sell more hogs, so he could buy more land, plant more corn and so on. The Bible, however, deals with money mostly in the context of giving. When Jesus taught his

disciples about living for God, he invariably ended up teaching them about giving to God and to others. Half to two-thirds of our Lord’s parables deal with our attitude toward and responsibility for material possessions.

In 2nd Corinthians 7, Paul explained the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow.  In the next two chapters, he taught the difference between worldly charitableness and biblical giving.  2nd Corinthians 9:6-8 tells us,

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, that you may have an abundance for every good deed.

Verse 8 gives a promise, but one that is conditioned upon its context. There are two conditions to the promise of verse 8. One is the bountiful participation of verse six and two is the cheerful attitude of verse 7. The promise is abundant grace; all-sufficient provision. This gives grace for all-sufficient contentment with what we have, all-sufficient confidence in the Lord who gives it and all-sufficient convictions about how we should use that which he gives.

Is this bountiful giving from God intended for the abundance of things for ourselves? No. Rather, Paul says, it is for the enablement to undertake every good deed (verse 8c).  Christ Himself is our example, as indicated in verse 9. “He scattered abroad, He gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever (from Psalm 112:9).  Verse 10 tells us, “Now he who supplies seed for the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (taken from Is. 55:10 and Hosea 10:12 and providing the sowing/reaping principle of verse 6).  We are doing the sowing, but God provides the seed. The reaping is not in material things, but rather reaping a harvest of righteousness (vs 10c).  This is the same truth presented earlier in verse 6, that “…you may have abundance (“increase” in vs 10) for every good deed.”  These acts are done in right relationship with God and with right intentions. That is, in submission and in sacrifice through service and giving. It is this right attitude in our giving that God loves (vs 7 “cheerful giver”). The harvest (results) is our increasing in right behavior and increasing in developing in right character. We honor God by purposing in our heart how much and when we give, and God provides the righteous enablement to us. The reason for our giving (vs 7) is that God loves it (that is, it pleases Him). The resource for our giving (vs 10) is out of what He supplies (vs 8), that is, all-sufficiency in everything. We sow in attitude and service and we reap spiritual enablement and spiritual, material and physical contentment.

A promise we are all familiar with is Philippians 4:19: “and my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory.”  Yet this, like the 2nd Corinthians 9:6-10 passage,  is a conditional promise. The preceding context of Philippians 4:13-18 reveals that this promise of God supplying all our needs is conditioned upon our meeting the needs for ministry as the Philippians did towards the Apostle Paul. They were actively engaged in sacrificially, voluntarily and thankfully responding to the opportunity. The conditional promises of 2nd Corinthians 9:6-10 and Phil. 4:13-19 are tied to the practice and the practicality of our present, responsive obedience to God-given opportunities, and to our enjoyment of our relationship with God through Christ our Lord.

2nd Corinthians 9:7 identifies how we are to give, “just as he has purposed in his heart.”  To have “purposed” is to have chosen beforehand.  “Heart” is used here in parallel to the word “mind,” as it is in 2nd Corinthians 4:6 where it says that God has put the light of the knowledge of the glory of God “in our hearts” (minds).  Chapter 9:7 goes on to present two negatives and one positive truth about giving. It must be “not grudgingly” (that is not with regret or grief over the giving, and not to view it as a loss) and “not under compulsion” (that is out of mere obligation, duty or embarrassment). Rather, to give cheerfully is to have joy over the privilege of the opportunity.

We are in the midst of raising funds for our new building. How should we each respond? In accord with a Christian liberty principle Romans 14:5 “let each man be fully convinced in his own mind.”  Make a deliberate, predetermined response based on personal conviction before God (read Romans 14:17-19, 22-23).  As an American businessman was visiting a pastor in Korea several years ago they came across an unusual scene for the American. A strong young Korean was in a field pulling a plow with straps upon his shoulders, while his father guided the plow. The American commented, “they must be very poor.” “Yes, they are” replied the pastor. “Do you remember the small new church that we just passed? The people of this village built it themselves and the family had no money to give, so they prayed about their desire to participate. They then gave what they had, their most valued possession. They sold the ox and gave the money to the project.” We might not need to choose to postpone buying a new car or to take a less expensive summer vacation in order to give. Some will give out of their abundance and some will give out of their meager assets. The amount given by one person may differ substantially from another, and yet the sacrifice may proportionately be the same. As Pastor Tim reminded us recently, we serve a God who can do all things, including things which seem improbable and things which seem impossible.

John Worley was a former FCC elder,  the beloved husband of Judy and father of Jackie Rebiger.

 

Posted in: Christian Living

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Two Book Reviews: Biographies of Paul and Margaret Brand

The Gift of Pain: Why We Hurt and What We Can Do About It

Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, Zondervan, 1997

Paul Brand was a medical missionary in India, and the son of missionaries. He specialized in treating people who suffered from leprosy and is credited with being the first to discover that leprosy did not cause rotting of the flesh, as previous generations has supposed. Brand observed instead that the disease deadened the nerves that brought messages of pain to the brain. Without these messages, his patients repeatedly injured themselves. These injuries became infected and caused the loss if fingers and toes, and often the loss of ability to earn a wage. Brand fought this progression with surgical and practical means—surgically rerouting healthy tendons to replace deadened ones, for example, and sending each patient home with a cat, so rats didn’t chew off numbed digits while the patients slept. He set up a school to teach those with leprous hands how to safely use them to earn a living as a carpenter or plumber, and set up a cobbler’s shop, where customized shoes were made to protect the deformed feet of his patients. Brand spent decades treating patients who could not feel physical pain, and though it sounds odd to our sensibilities, he said, “If I could give any one gift to my patients, it would be the gift of pain.” The Gift of Pain is available through Amazon.com and CBD.com.

If you prefer to watch the Brand’s story on video, here’s a link to a three-part series by Day of Discovery http://www.dod.org/Products/DOD1982.aspx . (It does graphically show the effects of leprosy on the hands and eyes, and may not be suitable for tender-hearted children.)

Vision for God: The Story of Dr. Margaret Brand

by Dr. Margaret Brand and Dr. James Jost, Discovery House, 2006

“We always believed that the Lord who took us in would take us through, adventure by adventure.”-Dr. Margaret Brand

Her baby was just two weeks old when the note came, asking Dr. Margaret Brand to go to work part time, without salary, in the mission hospital where her husband was on staff. The note arrived by messenger and said, “We must have help in the eye department.” It couldn’t have been a worse fit. Margaret had actually missed the ophthalmology rotation in her medical school training and had no experience in the field. She wrote back, “I know nothing about eyes. You’ll have to look for someone else. Sorry.” One hour later there was another knock on the door. The messenger once again handed Margaret a note. “You’ll learn,” it said. “Please start on Monday.”

To say that she learned is an understatement. That first day, the small eye clinic saw nearly 400 patients. Within a few weeks, she had learned to remove cataracts, a major cause of blindness in sun-drenched India. In eye camps held in remote villages, the team might perform 100 surgeries in a day, literally saving the lives of those who could no longer work to support themselves because of their blindness. Over the years, Margaret would also learn much about how the disease of leprosy affects the eye, and became the world’s foremost expert in the field. She pioneered surgical techniques to restore the ability to blink to her patients’ paralyzed eyelids and, still without becoming board certified in ophthalmology, became the Chief of Ophthalmology at the National Hansen’s Disease Center in Carville, LA.

But this biography is much more than a medical journal. Margaret tells us what it was like to raise six energetic youngsters in a foreign and sometimes dangerous country. Someone always seemed to be having an adventure—like the time the pet leopard punctured their daughter’s jugular, the time Margaret locked herself and some friends in a padded cell in an abandoned mental hospital, the time the gibbon grabbed her daughter’s hair and Margaret played tug-of-war with her screaming child, the time marmalade exploded inside all their trunks on a sea voyage, the day they were presented to the Queen and Margaret twisted her ankle when she curtsied, and the many times one or another of the family succumbed to a tropical disease. All this happened as Margaret and her husband Paul homeschooled six children, became world-class authorities on the treatment of leprosy and, most importantly, shined the light of the gospel into the spiritual darkness of India.  Vision for God is available through Amazon.com and CBD.com.

 

Posted in: Biography, Book Review

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Forgiveness After Sexual Sin in Marriage

By Julie Ganschow

I have often heard it said, “I can forgive anything except adultery.”  There is nothing quite as difficult as forgiving intentional sin, so when a wife is asked to consider forgiving sexual sin the challenge factor goes up astronomically.

Adultery and other kinds of physical sexual sin violate the most closely held tenants of marriage and are among the hardest to forgive. For a woman to deal biblically with the fallout of the sexual sin in which her husband has been involved, she will have to understand what it means to forgive him biblically and how to do so.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Colossians 3:12—13 (NASB)

I am not sure I can forgive

When it comes to forgiving sexual sin, one of the major reasons a wife may not want to forgive is because she believes the hurt and betrayal are just too big to get past. Sexual sin is the unforgivable sin in marriage in the minds of many people; however, is that what the Bible teaches?

Many people struggle to forgive in general because they are not clear about what forgiveness from the heart really is; they do understand and look for reasons or make excuses not to forgive.

The Bible teaches us that the greatest need we all have is to be forgiven for our sin. Without the forgiveness of sin we are all destined for hell and eternal damnation (Romans 6:23). You don’t have to be Bible a scholar to figure out that if God forgives us, He has the expectation that we will forgive each other on the basis of the forgiveness we’ve received.

To refuse to forgive will add to the internal misery and woe she will experience. The unforgiving person is the one who suffers the most. When a woman informs me she chooses not to forgive, I can guarantee she will become bitter. In choosing this path, the sins of bitterness and unforgiveness enslave her and will ruin her life. She may think that by refusing to forgive her husband will “get his,” but that is not so. In refusing to forgive, she will be the one who suffers even greater misery than she experienced as a result of his sexual sin.

 

I have also been told by a wife that she can’t forgive her husband until she forgets what he did. This is backward thinking and is indicative of someone who is holding on to the wrong that has been done to them. Each time she chooses to dwell on the offense and the hurt she has experienced, she engrains it a little deeper in her mind and heart.

The truth is that every time she rehearses the ooffense it only serves to exacerbate the pain which in turn leads to bitterness. She will not forget until she learns to forgive. When she forgives the wrong done to her, she releases it and then, in time, she will begin to forget the pain.

Some wives remain angry and unforgiving because their spouse has not asked to be forgiven. They say, “I’ll forgive when he says he is sorry.”

Jesus teaches on forgiveness

The Lord addresses this with Peter in Matthew 18. Peter thought he was being very generous by boasting that he would forgive the same man seven times. The Lord Jesus revealed his heart by instructing him to forgive 70 times seven!

The same instruction was given in Luke:

Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him. Luke 17:3—4 (NASB)

At first glance it appears that granting forgiveness is conditioned on the person actually asking for it first. Sometimes a woman is reluctant to forgive because her husband has not asked her for forgiveness nor has he repented of his sexual sin.

This suggests that unless someone asks for forgiveness, you can never really forgive them because without them asking, there isn’t any taking ownership of their sin as one would when repenting to God. This is true as far as it goes. Unless a person asks, obviously there is no admission of sin; however, that does not that mean we are free to withhold forgiveness.

The first thing a wife must understand is that forgiving her spouse is not an option for the Christian; it is required.

The level ground on which she stands

She must understand that her position before God is exactly level with that of the worst sexual sinner, because the ground is level at the foot of the cross. There is nothing exceptional about her or any non-sexual-sin sinner; this is because we are all sinners and all in need of God’s grace and mercy. She must choose to forgive her husband on the basis of what God has forgiven her.

God intended to forgive her of her sin before she asked. In fact, He did forgive her at the cross, which was long before she was born. How then can she withhold forgiveness from her husband for his sin?

By forgiving her husband she chooses to release him from the sense of debt she believes she is owed because of the hurt he caused. It’s like saying, “Husband, you do not owe me anything, nor will I personally punish you for what you did to me. I choose to forgive you this debt just as I have been forgiven my enormous debts by God.”

This takes big faith! In order to exercise big faith, she must believe that she serves a big God who is able to work in all circumstances of life.

Julie Ganschow is the director of Reigning Grace Counseling and a member of Faith Community Church.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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