Friday, April 17, 2009

News and fellowship

Marçon, le 17 April 2009

Dear Brother,

Thanks so much for your letter last month. Don't worry one bit about the “times and seasons” it takes us to write each other – know that we think of you often with much affection. We, too, know what it's like to be just too busy to sit down and write!

It was good to hear from you all and to get your news. The children too are particularly having a good time communicating. It was funny to hear some of your news about being on television and in the newspapers. It's a very strange world where a Christian family with twelve children makes the news just for being. Time was not too distant that most families were the size of ours, if not yours. Still, we are the ones with the blessings, not them and their foolish comments expose their selfishness.

I'm glad you liked the book. It came so strongly to me that it might be a help to you last time we talked. It sounds funny to hear it described as a “refreshing and non-religious view” because, of course, it was written by a minister with a real heart for God. Yet I know exactly what you mean and that was the very thing I appreciated, too! Leslie Weatherhead had a real heart for God in honesty and as a result he understood something that most nominal Christians have never grasped: that you cannot love God without loving people. And to the extent that you love people, you love God.

I used to tell my children to look around the room and see God because that was the closest they would ever get to seeing Him on earth. I believe it. No man has seen God but he who has seen me has seen the Father. To the extent that you show people love, you are showing God your love for Him. Whoever gives to the poor, lends to the Lord.

I even say that you cannot show God any form of a love that is real without expressing it in actions to others. I'm sure I don't need to quote the scriptures from James, John and the Gospels that go hand-in-glove with that point of view and I don't think we can exaggerate it too much.

As true believers, it is one of the very most important things we can learn. And I think that even though we think we learned it years ago and know the doctrine well, on paper, it does us good to renew this spirit within us. Because we are always tempted and drawn to return to religion in all its forms and with all its heresies simply because religion is the “way of the world”, the way of Cain, of Babel, of Esau, and of Ishmaël. How many people are trying to please God and utterly failing? God help us.

How many raise their hands in holy worship, swaying with the rock music and overwhelmed with the beauty of their emotional production and call that “worship” that pleases God? How many? Thousands, in every city, surely. How many of the same crowd spend time giving to others? (I speak not in judgement for I speak with self-conviction). We must remember Samuel's rebuke to Saul and David's prayer in Psalm 51. Will it be obedience or will it be sacrifice? This is not the rest He has chosen for us. We thought He was altogether one like unto us and tried to please Him in our way, but His ways are never our ways.

You talked about the lonely walk of the true Christian life and you're right. Jesus had twelve but one of them was a devil. And poor Paul, for all his trials, stood alone before Nero at the end of his life knowing that everyone had forsaken him. We don't judge Paul on the number of his converts, do we?

We must be encouraged! We must encourage each other and we must be encouraging to those around us. We walk a pilgrim way. It's a lonely way but it is entirely a voluntary pilgrimage. Thank God we have each other, even though it be at a distance!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on telephones and your Internet access. Rest assured that I understand you very well. I've often said that if my trade were different I'm not at all sure that I'd have computers in my home either. We know how easily they waste one's time and draw us away from the love of the brotherhood.

Regarding your proposition for another visit, September is just fine. Our life is too complex to allow us definite projects that far into the future but come on over whenever the Lord makes a way and you'll be welcome and I know you all will fit in just fine.

Right now we're pulling out all stops in preparation for our Spring Conference in May. David Bercot – author, lawyer, and Patristic scholar – is coming to be the guest speaker, the theme being “The Kingdom of God”. This will be his first speaking engagement in France and it's a privilege for us to host it. I hope you've already heard all about this and this is not your first invitation because it sure would be wonderful to have you down here for this event. Already we're getting a lot of interest because his Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs is well-known and very well respected.

Before then we're trying to relocate the bookshop to the former café at the near end of the hotel. I have a plasterer coming on Monday to start the first efforts then we'll get into some serious painting. Right now the Bibles and books are in boxes all over the floor but once we get the walls done I plan to build some custom-fit shelves myself. It'll be nice to have at least that one room done by conference time!

Well, this has been long enough for now, dear brother; I must be about other things. May the Lord Jesus bless and keep you all in His love and peace.

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