Volume 13, Number 1, May-June 2009

We print a representative sampling of our mail—both positive and negative. We do not include names unless we are fairly sure that the writer would not object.

To avoid any difficulty, writers should specify how much of their name and address they would like us to print.

 

Encouragement

Letter:         July 20, 2008

Mr. Edwards,

I just read much of your info about what's been going there and will be praying for the success of the communityI have similarly gotten myself into severe financial distress and despite feeling strong desire to help you all with your difficulties, I'm unable to help except for prayerI would love to come and help and live in a community like you describe. Unfortunately my circumstances won't allow that currently, perhaps someday God willFor now I'll be praying for the diversity of people to come and help, the heavy debts to be erased, the repairing/education of your family and people to be served.  I know you have the strength to endure and believe that God will bless your efforts. 

Your brother in Christ,

      —Kevin Wright, California

 

Response: Thank you for your encouragement. There are times when I really need it!

—NSE

Are Sermons Biblical?

Letter:         July 4, 2008

Brother Norm,

Excellent workI especially enjoyed the articles entitled People of the Passover and Are Sermons Biblical?

By the way, I will be publishing a new website in a few days that will reinforce and expand what you have found to be true regarding Greek rhetorical influence in the church. Look for it next week:

www.aramaicbibleperspectives.com

It will start off small like any work but grow like a mustard seed, God willing.

All the best,

      — James J. DeFrancisco, Ph.D.

      MILTHA Ministries

 

Response: While I did not have time to study it in detail, I know that some of our readers will appreciate knowing about your website. Your efforts to deal with the Aramaic versions of the scriptures are commendable, since it was the common language of Jesus’ day, and since most Bible scholarship deals only with Hebrew and Greek.

—NSE

People of the Passover

[This article was sent via e-mail in April, then published in the July/Aug 2008 Servants’ News.]

Letter:         April 20, 2008

Dear Norman Edwards,

My wife Mary and I just are settling down and getting ready for bed after sharing a large group meal and some pretty decent fellowship. Thank you for including me to send the article to.  I will read it and perhaps respond with any thoughts I might have regarding it. Hope you shared an edifying Passover with a pleasant portion of God's people. Of course when you speak of the people of the Passover you are speaking of the same people spoken of in 1 John 3:1-4Even as we contemplated identifying the body of Christ/discerning the body, we should have been giving thought to purifying ourselves to become more like JesusThat thought would have been concerning how we can give others more consideration than we give ourselves, becoming more like Yeshua/Jesus is.

Along that line, I often think of the reason and usefulness of fear. Love casts out fear and love of the brethren obviously does the same. As a point for the “sheople” among us, fear causes them to be unthinking and desiring of escapeThat isn't the path we want to open for them. There are some that can be saved by fear, but with the consideration of what was told us.

At some point we give up our concern of discerning the sinful or evil amongst us and allow that God can do the winnowing and what we cannot clearly see or isn't clearly evident we shouldn't be spending a lot of effort fearing. We know that there are some amongst us whom God will "weed" out at His own time. We know they are there, even like Christ knew they were there. What does it hurt if those are also loved by those of us who are given to loving one another? If they cannot stand love that might tell us that they need it the more or have problems we can help with. [We also must realize that there] would be evil actions that we would have to be afar from.

Your own experiences hopefully have not overly colored your judgments. :0)      The words of Stephen are our best reference. "Father; forgive them for they know not what they do." It is so with so many today, that they simply don't know what they are doing.

Have a very good Unleavened bread.

      —Bob Phelps

 

Response:Thank you for your wisdom. This verse used to trouble me:

He [Judas] did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it (John 12:6, NIV).

Jesus knew the thoughts of people (Matt 9:4; 12:5), he certainly knew that Judas was stealing. Why couldn’t Jesus run a financial operation without corruption? If Jesus was sinless, shouldn’t his organization be without internal thievery?

It took many years to realize that Jesus was not perfecting organizations he was perfecting people (Matt 5:48. His work was not about money. Christ could have miraculously taken care of their food or other needs. It was a blessing to those who gave to his ministry, and it was a curse to Judas who was tempted, then succumbed to stealing.

—NSE

Former Ford Employee Looks at Economic Future

Letter:         December, 2008

Hello Norm,

In response for information on Sept-Oct Servants’ News, I decided to write this letter.

I received a good buyout from Ford, instead of paying off our house, I paid off all other debts, though I have a 401K loan, which they take from my account each month. I also have money in a couple of 401K accounts, which dropped about 40%, partly my fault. (I paid an on line investment firm, $7,000 for a lifetime of service; lost $20K with their advice). I realize now, I should have paid off my house, as I'm not an "investment person". We are barely making it every month. I can see I had my "head in the sand" for years, from my Worldwide days, with the outlook that was drummed in our head.

With the (lack of) business at Ford, what would happen if they go under? It is possible that I would get half or less pension and then wait six months for a reduced SS payment to flow in. I suppose circumstances could happen for us to be foreclosed on. (Happened to my grandfather in the 30's).

When the news mentioned Ford, the idea many of us would be homeless brought your issue in mind. Could PABC have an influx of new "poor people, whose jobs, pensions and money disappeared with the banking crisis?

Servants’ News: I do like many of the articles written like "People of the Passover"—very insightful. The articles in the latest issue on money and politics are very good also.

I reread the July issue on the future of PABC; you sure have paid a price the last few years there: being separated from your family, money problems, trouble with those who were once with you, fire in your home, etc. You seem to be waiting for direction from God to see what you should do now; more or less reading the signs to see. I wish I could make a choice on whether or not you should continue, but it isn't my place to decide if you should make the sacrifices necessary. The time you missed can't be made up, but is it really wise to continue? I wish I had the answer.

I do the same thing for decisions I make, sometimes it works, sometimes not. I find out when not, I was putting my own thoughts and desires into it, rather than waiting to see what God really knows is best for me. So I suffer. Perhaps it is a learning experience to discern what the Spirit "says".

Your focus on helping the community is very good. The [church of God group I attend] is doing the same: food banks, community garden, blanket drive, etc.—in some bad areas of town. The pastor said "Doctrine is not where it is at".

I have several decisions to make in the near future. Should I take the Electrical Contractor's test and start a business? Doing Factory Electrical work is one thing, but starting a small business is something else. But who would hire someone like me? One fellow at club we belong to, said he would call me about a job driving three days a week, $23 an hour. No call at all, so far.

You are an example on overcoming obstacles for something you believe in. I can see your plight you are facing now. All I can say is that I'll pray about your situation.

      — Michigan

 

Response:Thanks for sharing your story. I remember my father and other advisors telling me when I was young that the best thing one could do is get a good job working for a big company with a good retirement program. Companies like Ford and GM would be considered the best.

That was a time when company leaders often had dedication to make their product the best that they could, make their company strong and ultimately make the nation strong.

Today, advancing one’s personal economic situation has replaced all of that. If leaders can reap huge profits by sending most of the jobs to aother country, they often do. If they can reap temporary profits by decreasing quality, or selling off the assests of the company and leasing them back, they often do. If they know their company is about to fail, they can make a secret deal with a friend to “short sell” their own company’s stock, and make a profit from its demise. (Yes, that is “insider trading”, but if the S.E.C.never finds out about the secret deal, they cannot prosecute it.)

Finally, corrupt leaders can vote themselves a big bonus, retire, and let the next leader figure it out. Not all executives are like this, but there does seem to be more and more of them.

The reality is that people who worked for a big company all of their lives, saving a generous retirement, may find their company unable to pay what they promised, their personally managed funds lost to market crashes, and government social security insolvent. I saw an article just today stating that the estimates for viability of social security and medicare have to be shortened by several years because so many unemployed or underemployed people are now paying much less into them.

I realize that PABC may play a role in helping poor people who have lost their job and resources. One can certainly live much cheaper by pooling resources in the community. There would be a lot of work for them, as well as serving as mentors for young people. Ihave tried to encourage people who still have resources left to come to PABC now and help get it ready. But most people do not get interested in coming until all of their resources are gone.

A friend who runs another ministry, and who has considered starting a community there with it, said that most Americans do not want to live in a community until they are forced to—but it would sure be helpful if we could get some practice learning to make communities work before the economy forces us into them.

As more people lose jobs and the pension, unemployment and welfare systems are unable to pay what they used to pay, I think the federal government will set up camps that the homeless, penniless people can go to. The camps will provide minimal housing, food, clothing, supplies and medical services. People will be assigned work if it is available, but it probably will not be paid. The camps will not be called  prisons, but it will not be easy to get out of them. There is evidence that these camps are already being built, but that is a subject for another article.

      — NSE

Prayer Is the Difference

Letter:         July 23, 2008

Dear Mr. Edwards,

Greetings and loving regards to you and your beloved family and the brethren with you. Thank you for sharing with us all there is to know about PABC project since its inception and its yet quite uncertain future. Some individuals having to do with the project have also presented their side of the matter.

It used to be that when I find myself presented with a set of conflicting circumstances, I would readily get to work in analyzing the pros and cons, would weigh the two sides presented with the end in view of finding which side is at fault, etc etc, and would make my own conclusions, observations, and of course, finding myself ending up exhausted emotionally, mentally, physically.

More often than not, in such cases, one can only say, as you said so yourself, "This writer is content to accept God's ultimate judgment..."

But being presently in an ongoing difficult and most trying time in my life, which has been going on for three or so years (affecting self, family, and the small body of believers with us), I have learned to fully appreciate the marvelous change in my approach to handling or looking into the who, what, why, and the wherefores of things.

This has been greatly brought about by what God has called my attention to in His Word in 1Thessalonians 5:16-18:

Rejoice always, Pray without ceasing, In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

For the first time in my long number of years in God's church (thankfully, without discontinuity), it is only of late that I have been moved by God to focus on this most enlightening scripture and together with Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You."

I am amazed to find myself making gains over discouragement and depression which could at times become so overwhelmingly suffocating.

But I am not, here and now, to talk about what my family and I and the brethren with us have gone through and are going through even at this time of writing. There will be a time for that, I'm sure.

For now, I feel I owe such a one as you and your exceptional wife and children something God has inspired me to share if only to help us realize some things that could be easily overlooked when they are the very things to rejoice forever about, to pray for unceasingly, and to thank God forever.

For indeed I rejoice and thank God there is such a one as you, a servant of God so courageous and so zealous and enthusiastic in the service and love of God, and his fellow believers as to put his life, limb, and property and those of his beloved wife and dear dear children on the line. True, it may have been done imperfectly. But no matter, it has been done in great faith. And paraphrasing the words of Jesus Christ, I can say I have not personally seen or heard such great faith, no, not among God's people!

I can pray without ceasing to direct and guide you to the accomplishment of His will for PABC, not only, but also for yourself and for your family.

Proverbs 16:1,9, 33 and James 4:15 are a solid support for this ceaseless prayer. There are also occasions when reasoning with God upon His invitation (Isaiah 1:18) and making a wall and standing in the gap before God (Ezekiel 22:30) proved amazingly helpful as God even makes room for, no, invites and looks for.

And if it would help in any way in sharing with you what I have learned through the years from the troubles, persecutions, afflictions, tribulations in my own life, and from those of other people, though you may also have known and experienced them, I may just do so by way of a timely reminder:

•     "He who commits himself to something worthwhile will always experience the hostility of those who stand for nothing." (God is our Fortress, remember?)

•     "One can see beyond one's trouble to the good that may come out of it." (Surely the trial of our faith is more precious than gold)

•     "Is there anyone who faces no trouble or adversity? (...this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man by which they may be exercised)

•     "Both blessing and adversity are not forever."

•     "The troubles, pains, tribulations, adversities make us realize our humanity, our failures, our inadequacies, our insufficiency to handle situations and thus make us acknowledge humbly our need for the LORD's help, His strength, His wisdom and guidance, healing, forgiveness and deliverance.

•     "A true believer's trouble has to be regarded as that  which the hand of a loving God allows to accomplish what may never be seen or realized in this lifetime. (This is where Isaiah 26:3 perfectly fits, and this is perfectly exemplified in the words of Jesus Christ "Yet not My will but Your will be done.")

How you have so far handled the complicated situations you are in has been truly commendable as it demonstrates the godly way to put an end to turmoil and chaos and brings about peace:

•     Stopping "blame game" that only brings about anger, irritation, distress, etc, etc;

•       Getting your relationship right with God;

•     Willing and ready to hold out the olive branch.

Dr. Harold J. Sala, an author, counselor and Bible teacher, has a timely encouragement in his book, Today Can Be The Best Day of Your Life. he writes,

Though God never promised to exempt His children from the ravages of bacterial infections, or bad decisions, or from the mistakes and failures of imperfect knowledge, He did promise to walk with us and to meet us at the point of our pain. (Hebrews 13:5,6) It is this that allows us to forgive ourselves, pick up the pieces of our lives, and go on."

Mr. Edwards, as prayer is the best way I know to help you at this time, I am moved to share with you an inspiring enlightenment about prayer from an old old book dated 1854, written by Margaret Maria Brewster, Work--Plenty To Do and How To Do It. It is in chapter 12, entitled "Praying Work," which the author introduces with Isaiah 45:11 and John 15:7. And follows it with a prose by Trench,

"LORD, what a change within us one short hour

Spent in Thy presence will prevail to make;

What heavy burdens from our bosoms take;

What parched grounds refreshed as with a shower!

We kneel and all around us seems to lower;

We rise and all—the distant and the near—

Stands forth, in sunny outline, brave and clear,

We kneel; how weak! We rise; how full of power!

Why, therefore, should we do ourselves this wrong:

Or others, that we are not always strong;

That we are ever overborne with care,

That we should ever weak or heartless be,

Anxious or troubled, when with us is prayer,

And joy, and strength, and courage are with Thee?"

The chapter continues,

Prayer is the life of all work. Without prayer, work would be as useless as the soot of armor without the living man within it—or, as the richly-carved casket from whence the gems had been stolen—or, as the scabbard from the sharpened steel.

Without prayer, 'everyday work' would be but a dull, round of uncongenial tasks. Without prayer, 'social work' would degenerate into worldliness on the one hand, or weariness of the flesh and spirit upon the other.

Without prayer, 'home work' would be but another form of self-entrenchment. Without prayer, 'warfare' weapons would dim with rust, and there would be a turning back in the day of battle—Psalm 58:9.

Without prayer, 'waiting work' would become sloth and self-indulgence; 'preparatory work' would turn into intellectual idolatry, and 'desultory work' would be aimless and spasmodic. Without prayer, there could be no 'praising work' or it would be but the diffusion of the natural heart, praising nature but not God, admiring beauty but not its Creator.

Without prayer, 'special work' would be nought but the 'splendid sins' of the self-righteous, and the self-justifying. Without prayer, the missionary in his hut beneath the banyans would be weak as other men. Without prayer, the Jew of Tarsus would have been a blind leader of the blind gentiles. Without prayer, the strengthening angel would not have appeared to the Agonized of Gethsemane.

Nor is prayer the medium only through which we receive spiritual blessings and consolations—an opening of the heavens, through which, like the captives of Kebar, we may see visions of God—nor is it only the salt which preserves from corruption—thus the throb of life in the living work; it is in itself work—the noblest, the highest, the most successful; for it moves God Himself to work; it commands His hand!

This wonderful work is not limited in its sphere; it is suited to all situations and all capacities. Many there are who cannot work what man calls work, but none there are who cannot pray. The lonely dweller among the mountains, with no neighbors save the eagles of the corrie, with no listeners save the winds of the heavens, can pray; and the dry bones of the far-off world may become a living army through his lonely prayers. The pale silent sufferer on the couch of pain can pray. And by her voiceless petitions may be hastened the outpouring of the Spirit, the coming of the Kingdom. Far away may we be from those whom we love better than life; Powerless may we be to guide them, to watch over them, to comfort them; but we can rouse up for them an untiring Watcher, an unchanging Lover, an unfailing Comforter—we can pray.

Agonizing may be our fears for precious souls hurrying on the broad road to destruction—our words fall unheeded, our anxieties are laughed to scorn, our presence is avoided. Can we do nothing? We can pray! We can call down upon them the mighty Spirit, the resistless Pleader; we can bring the Savior to them, though they will not go to the Savior.

There was once a little child who understood somewhat the nature of sincere prayer; he refused to pray one evening; his mother reproved him, but to no purpose--he would not pray; he was asked his reason, and weeping bitterly, 'My sparrow dee'd last night, and I couldna' say 'Thy will be done.'

Yes, it is hard to pray, but we make it harder. We come as subjects to a king, but we come not as children to a Father—we come as slaves to an Overseer, but we come not as brethren to an elder Brother. We are afraid of irreverence in prayer; or we think there is little need of telling God what He knows already; or we dread being selfish in our petitions, and so we do not come to particulars in prayer.

"We confess our sin in a general way. But we do not detail its sufferings, its temptations, and its aggravations. We pray for our friends, and we implore the Divine guidance upon our way but we do not specify times and seasons, circumstances, sorrows, idols, fears, names, cares, and reasons; And thus we have so few answers to prayer--so many heavy and unrelieved burdens often made up of trifles like rocks of microscopic shells.

Yes! it is hard to pray; but, blessed be God, we are not left to pray alone. There is One who will put within us the courage of sons, the confidence of daughters, One who is the Teacher of prayer, loving to teach, and loving the taught, and who is the Helper of our infirmities; One who ever liveth to present our petitions, that they may be answered for His own sake. Oh, then, Christian, pray and work, work and pray! Prayer is the beginning of work. Prayer is the end of work, Prayer is work itself."

With our continuing love and prayers, from the family and the brethren in the Church of God Sharing Village,

      — Priscilla Cardona, Philippines

Response: Thank you for your long letter of encouragement! We do not normally publish letters with long quotes like this, but this teaching on prayer seemed particularly important now. Even Jesus, who never sinned, had the Spirit without measure, and worked great miracles, still continually arose early to pray..

      —NSE

 

 

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