[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #341 ---- 6/21/04

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From: "Bob Tolliver" <lifeunlimited@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 2004 15:51:17 +0300
Standing Shoulder To Shoulder Together As 
We Fight the Good Fight of Faith

A personal letter of encouragement to You, written solely to "lift up hands that hang down".

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SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #341 ---- 6/21/04

Title:  "To Ask, or Not To Ask" -- Principles of Asking

Dear Friend and Great Commission Partner:

Today's letter is different, of necessity.  So, I'll get right to the point.  This has been an unusual ride for us the past two weeks, and in order to fully understand my thoughts to you today, they have to be seen against the backdrop of the following situation.  So, as in many sermons some of us preach, the introduction is longer than the main body.


As you might imagine, most of our attention and energy have been centered on the situation with our newest grandchild, Nicole Grace.  Like most grandparents, we never anticipate problems, and usually assume healthy pregnancies, deliveries, and life.  This time, as you know, was different.

God continues leaving His fingerprints all over this situation; it is obvious there is something going on that is much bigger than what we see in the visible world.  From her conception to the selection of her name, to her emergency birth, to her fragile life, and her impact on others during the past eleven days, it is obvious that God has destined greater plans than is the norm.  Even if she were to die today, which she easily could, her life has had an astounding influence on thousands of people on five continents.

All we can do, and all Jim and Deanna can do, is humbly praise God for choosing this circumstance to touch lives in such deep and profound ways.  

Through a series of events and letters that took place last week, we've been able to communicate some of these things with those on our prayer team; others have done the same.  Because I don't have space or desire to fill today's letter with details, let me encourage you to visit http://associate.com/groups/hope4kyiv to access the collection of letters we have sent out to our prayer warriors.  If you'd like to see two or three pictures of her, go to http://community.webshots.com/user/01lum and click on "Family" album.  This will enable you to better understand the situation.

In the meantime, I want to share some examples of God's activity in this situation as people have written to Jo Ann and me this past week.  To set the stage, I first share parts of a letter I wrote to them following an extraordinary experience at our dentist earlier that day:

FIRST  My letter to Jim and Deanna on June 17th:


(Just got home from the dentist (it's 9:30 pm here) and a very interesting experience, intending to write to you about what happened.  Your note and the timing of your calls from the doctor were also interesting.)
Following Jo Ann's dental work and before mine, our translator, Anatoly, explained the situation to Anya [our dentist] when she asked about Nicole.  As soon as he began describing the "Mosaic" and the "chromosome 18" thing, she sat down on the couch, nodded her head, and basically explained back to him exactly what the situation was and how it worked. . . . She knew exactly what was going on.
Then she shared the story of her little girl who turned three the day Nicole was born, and how she refused to embrace the diagnosis the doctors had given her. . . . Within minutes, Anya's baby was taken from her and she didn't see her for 24 days.  The baby quickly went into a deep coma.  The doctors told her that if she remained in the coma more than seven days, she would either die or be a vegetable all her life.  
Anya poured her mother-heart out to God, refusing to give in to the report, refusing to give up on her baby.  The baby was in a coma for 14 days, all the while Anya, her family, and about half the church praying for her.  On the fifteenth day, she came out of her coma, crying, and immediately began to improve.  Today she is healthy and with virtually no physical or mental deficiencies.
Like you, we've really come to peace with what looks like is inevitable for Nicole, but . . . .
But, as we heard Anya's testimony, we felt like God was telling us to take another look, and to not accept the apparent so quickly.  We felt like we were witnessing the tenacious faith of a woman like the Widow of Nain, who refused to be satisfied until God gave her specifically what she asked, even though her son was already dead.  Though a quiet woman, Anya spoke with a conviction and determination that came not from "name it and claim it" faith, but from a faith tried and tested by her
knowledge of God and her desperate experience with Him over her little girl, and also then her own subsequent deteriorating health that resulted in the loss of part of one lung.  Basically, Anya prayed a "I refuse to give up, and I will not let go" faith like Jacob when he wrestled with God.
Then she got up,  . . . called all her staff into the waiting room with us, left at least one patient in the chair, shut the whole office operation down, and prayed for Nicole, you two, and the two of us with a genuine passion, seasoned conviction, and determined authority we've witnessed only a few times.  She prayed many things, much of which we can't remember.  But I do know she prayed that God would confound the diagnosis, amaze the doctors, and heal and restore Nicole to a full and healthy life and lifetime.  She prayed against any and all spiritual forces opposed to God' plan, and prayed that you two and we two would not confess things humanly inevitable but instead would confess only what was possible at the hand of God. . . .
This all took place here at what would have been shortly after 7:00 am your time.
As you can imagine, it was a pretty intense time.  We came away with several conclusions:
+  Nobody cares more and is praying harder for us than Anya, her staff, and her church.
+  While we are looking at what is logical and probable from a human viewpoint, we must look longer and harder at the adequacy of God to do a complete reversal.
+  We must not allow ourselves to assume the inevitable, but continue strong in faith and confidence that God is more than able to bring Nicole back from the brink of death.
+  We all know God is able, but sometimes are not so convinced that He is willing.  We wonder about God's will.  I came out thinking that God is also willing.  Because He knows what is best overall for all involved, and because He has an overriding plan that is beyond our view, we sometimes forget that His willingness is built on several factors ---- our desires, our needs, His high purposes, and His glory.  It's not an either/or, but rather an all inclusive.  So, we can know that He is indeed both able, willing, and faithful, within the parameters of our ultimate needs, His ultimate purposes, and His absolute glory.
+  God's sovereign will is unchangeable, but His compassion to hear and answer is, also sovereign.
We don't pretend to know what all this means, or if it will make any difference.  All we know is that we've been reminded of how easy it is to accept logical voices as being the final word when only the Father has the final word, and we've been reminded of how many passionate people around the world are not satisfied to accept the doctor's
prognosis on Nicole . . . . at least for now, and how this may be a marathon race rather than a dash, and we must not get spiritually winded or exhausted before the race is over.  

The race must be finished at all cost, and it needs to be run with the full intention of winning.  
Then, if we don't cross the line first, we can still finish, satisfied that we gave it all we had.  If Nicole does not recover, we can accept it knowing our faith and our passion to cry out to God never waned or faltered.
So, for whatever that's worth, we hope it encourages you.  We think this will be especially important for the two of you, no matter the outcome. So, keep asking, keep trusting, keep believing with tenacious, courageous, belligerent faith until the final answer comes, one way or another.  Then you'll know that you can be satisfied with your pleas and content with the end result. . . . 


Daddy and Mother


Both Jim and Deanna subsequently wrote back, expressing how God had buoyed them up and given them new perspective and a second wind concerning Nicole's prognosis.  They had previously, though strong in faith, concluded that her life would be short.  And it still may be, but that's not how unknown numbers of people are now praying.

NEXT, comments from some of our prayer partners and intercessors.

We knew that literally thousands of people have been praying for Nicole Grace, which means "Victorious Heart", since her emergency birth on June 10th, but we were really not prepared for the outpouring of support letters we've received.  It has amazed us beyond words, and has sustained us more than the writers will ever fully understand.  Although I know I am leaving out some remarks that were very special to us, here are some examples I want you to read.

+  From my Best Man and dear friend, Ben ---- Just read your update on baby Nicole and the amazing story of the prayer service in the Dr.'s office.  I then went to the picture of baby Nicole and as I looked at her I had the strongest urge to pray for her healing right then.  This was around 5:40 p.m. Central time, 6/19.  As I prayed, I felt a strong since of God's love and a very strong feeling of the Holy Spirit.  I mean unusually strong!  I don't know what this means, but I do know that God heard my prayer and assured me that He is very involved.  I hope that it means that He has already done a miracle as your doctor requested.  At the very least, He is doing something very special through all of this and I felt that I had to email it to you immediately.  I will continue to pray.  
In Jesus, 

+  From a former mission team member and current dear friend who ministered in Kiev in 2003 ---- Thank you so much for keeping me informed about what the lord is doing in your lives and especially about Baby Nicole.  I have read all of your emails about her and it's really touched my heart.  As you both may remember, I have a huge heart for children - especially ones with disabilities.  She has blessed my heart so much!  I know that it seems unfair at this point that the Lord would take her from you all in such a short time, but think of all the work He is doing through her through this.  What a powerful prayer chain has developed because of her!  Some of us dream of making the effect on the world like she has in just a few short days, praise the Lord!  I went a looked at a picture of her, she's beautiful!  I'm praying for her and your 
family; you both have blessed my life incredibly and I pray that yours will be blessed as well.  The least I can do is get on my knees for you all.
Eternally His,

+  From missionary colleagues here in Ukraine ---- We know this is a difficult time for you and your family, and yet we are able to see the Master's love more clearly at these points in our lives.  He never told us our lives would be easier, but He said He would be with us always.  Please know that Mary Ellen and I are lifting your family to the Father . . . We have to do the one thing we have been taught by the world Not to do --- that is to let the circumstances go into the Father's hands.  It has taken being on the field for me to understand that clearly, as Mary Ellen and I walked through the valley of the shadow of death when she had her heart attack . . . . as we understand His grace, we see what a miracle He offers to us everyday.  His grace will sustain us through all circumstances; what a promise!
Dan and Mary Ellen

+  From a former pastor who continues to encourage us ---- God wants us to have an unbreakable, unshakeable faith in him so that we have a relationship with him that the world just does not understand.  We are to help them understand.  You, Joann, Jim and Deanna are in special place to allow people to understand faith in God is not just a "when everything is perfect" thing but a lifestyle.  From my perspective, you have done that unbelievably well.  Even with the "twists and  loops" to come on the rollercoaster ride, remember God is sufficient!!

+  From fellow missionaries in Kiev with another agency, people who have become very special to us ----This is precious, amazing, incredible, draining, awe-filled --- need I go on??  I just want you to know that I continue to lift this precious baby up to God and that my heart is full of compassion for her parents and grandparents as they/you are asked to walk through this time together with Nicole.  Know that while you are weary, many of us are standing strong on your behalf and Nicole's behalf.  Don't worry about feeling weary as there is a strong army of your sisters and brothers with you who are not.  Rest, knowing that we stand with you.
God bless,

 +  From a widow friend in a former church where I served almost two years as interim pastor ---- I know I cannot understand your true feelings if though I try at times to put myself in your place.  My oldest Granddaughter had her first baby in April and I was very concerned there.  God answered prayers. . . . I have thoroughly enjoyed all your "messages".  Every Monday morning I feel I have been to Church again.  But the one today about Foot prints and Finger Prints, I had never thought of it in the way you presented.  We have been praying for both of you regarding your health and the decisions you feel you need to make soon. . . . May God continue to bless both of you in your ministry.  I am so happy I have a computer and gave you my address.  

+  From total strangers we've never met ---- . . . . I just felt led to write to you  and tell you that I have people here praying for your granddaughter. Your newsletter really touched my heart as I read it tonight. John is pastor at [name] Church here in [town] NC. Sometimes in ministry you have to look for the fingerprints because Satan is working so hard to distract you. Thanks for reminding me of those ever-present fingerprints. Please know that John and I both are praying for little Nicole Grace and for you and your family.
In His Grace,

+  From a former member of our first mission team to Croatia in 1996 ---- You touched my heart with your eloquent letter. My words seem inadequate when I see a faith as strong as yours in such a difficult situation. Thank you for blessing me with God's fingerprints through your letter. Thomas and I are praying for your family and for Nicole Grace. We are praying for a miraculous healing that only the Lord can do. We are praying for  God's wisdom for doctors and nurses as they care for baby Nicole. We are praying for peace and comfort for Jim, Deanna, and the rest of the family. We will pray especially for you because I know it must be extremely difficult for you right now to not be where your heart is, St. Louis. You both hold a special place in my heart and in my prayers, especially right now.
All my love,

To Ask or Not To Ask ---- PRINCIPLES OF ASKING:

As you might suspect, Jo Ann and I have been put through the "wringers" the past several days.  We've gone through the "wringers" of faith against doubt, of radical action verses conservative inaction, of healing vs non healing, of truth vs opinion, and a whole bunch.  Actually, it appears we've not just been in the old wringer style washing machine, but rather in the big city laundry filled with an abundance of wringers.

I'm not sure if there's yet another rinsing cycle followed by more "wringers" or not (some of you younger readers probably won't get the analogy, here), but one thing that has become more clear to me is the level of risk I am prepared to take in asking God for Nicole Grace's healing . . . . in asking Him for anything at all, for that matter.

Lots of questions have flooded my mind again . . . questions I thought had already been answered, questions I've never asked before, questions I thought too unimportant.  Questions such as, "I know God heals, but when and why?"  "What if asking God to heal is against His sovereign will?"  "Does my faith in Him sustain my asking Him in the first place?" . . . . some really troubling questions that I'd really prefer not to face.

However, out of this process have come some observations that essentially reinforce what I've pretty well known for a very long time; I'm now simply having a chance to see them in light of a very real, crucial, and personal setting . . . . like the possible death of an eleven-day old grand daughter I may never get to see this side of heaven.

So, my friend, . . . what about it?  What about this issue of asking God for something?  What about asking when you're afraid of what the answer might be?  

Consider these observations (time and space are gone, so you look up the scripture references):

+  Asking is a natural and expected part of life.  

+  Asking reveals a need . . . . the need for an answer, or a resource.

+  It is natural for children to ask things from their fathers.  A good father would be disappointed if his child never asked.

+  Asking one's heavenly father is often influenced by the experiences one has had with his earthly father.

+  Asking should never be intimidating or embarrassing for a child of God.

+  We are commanded to ask.  More than once Jesus instructed us to ask when we had a need or a question.  He never told us to debate, justify, or explain.  Just ask.

+  When we ask, we know beyond a doubt that God hears.  We never need to wonder about that.  A father always has his ear tuned to hear the voice of his child.

+  All such asking is based on God's promised provision.  How much more will our Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

+  Sometimes we don't have because we don't ask.  We have not because we ask not.

+  Sometimes we don't have because we ask improperly.  We have not because we ask amiss.

+  Sometimes we don't know what or how to ask.  The Holy Spirit prays in our behalf with groanings beyond words.

+  Sometimes we don't ask because we're proud, rebellious, ashamed, or afraid.  God fixes those attitudes, too, as we ask.

+  Sometimes we don't ask because we want to know the will of the Father first, in order to ask correctly.  That's a waste of time; the human mind doesn't operate the same way God's does.  We will never know His will fully enough.  There will always be other questions.

+  The only way we can sometimes know if we're asking according to His will is to go ahead and ask, and then see the outcome.  He said if we ask according to His will, He will do it.  If He doesn't do it, then what we asked wasn't His will; He had something better or higher in mind.

+  So, I guess I'd rather ask and not get what I'm asking for, than to not ask and possibly miss out on what God wanted to do.

If you were Nicole Grace's grandma, grandpa, or mother or daddy, would you take a chance and ask, not knowing if you were asking properly, and just cry out to a merciful God, trusting Him to deal according to His will with the outcome, . . . . or would you clam up, preserve your pride, give in to your fears, or insist on having your doctrinal ducks in a row before you ask?

Well, there are a whole bunch of folks who have somehow apparently gotten over the hurdles of asking, and have decided to just cry out to God for this little baby girl.  And, we're asking with absolute confidence that God is hearing, . . . and that He is responding.  We just don't know yet what His sovereign purposes are.  But, we are convinced that He is able to answer, willing to answer, and faithful to answer.  We're just waiting for His answer.

We believe that He has heard our cries, He has been touched by our grief's, and He has chosen to accomplish His purposes and reveal them to us when the time is right.  In the meantime, we keep asking and believing.

Come on, friend! . . . . let's get really honest here.  Too many times we don't ask because we're either too self sufficient, we have too much doctrinal pride, we're too scared of being disappointed, or we don't trust God to sovereignly do what He knows is best.  In the meantime, suffering people and horrendous conditions continue to thrive around us simply because we don't ask.

Seems to me we're living in a day when asking in faith, . . . believing a trustworthy God, . . . should be in vogue again.

How else, for goodness' sake, do you think your part of the world can be changed?

Have a great Asking Week.  Don't miss out on something from God by not asking.  

In His Bond and For His Kingdom,

Bob Tolliver -- Psalm 2:8
Copyright June, 2004
Life Unlimited Ministries
  http://www.hope4kiev.org/team/members.asp?ID=10 (Personal ministry)
  www.hope4kiev.org (General team ministry)
  http://community.webshots.com/user/01lum for our pix albums.

If this letter has blessed you, feel free to forward it, with proper credits, to any and all you wish.

Please do NOT hit reply to this letter.  This is an automated unmanned system.  If you want to write Bob, send directly to lifeunlimited@.... Replying to "Shoulder To Shoulder" mailer gets you nowhere.

REMEMBER ---- "We will not Work where we have not prayed."  (Todd Golden)

May I Recommend . . . .

If you have a heart for God and would like to be encouraged in your life and ministry, 
    and you have a burden for your church, your community, and the world, 
    then you may want to receive . . .
www.cnsnews.com for daily world news without a liberal, godless bias.
www.worldprayerteam.org ---- A world-wide network for praying together.
www.watchword.org ---- excellent resources on revival, prayer, missions.
www.waymakers.org ---- resources on prayer, evangelism, etc.
www.operationiraqcare.org ---- To adopt and pray for a special historic city in Iraq.
http://www.nppn.org ---- "National Pastors' Prayer Network" newsletter.  ~  
    email: phil@....  Register your PPG: http://www.nppn.org/ppg/ .
Usprayercenter@... ---- U. S. World Prayer Center.
www.cityreaching.com ---- City Reaching/City Impact Roundtable.
fridayfax-subscribe@... ---- Wolfgang Simpson's "Friday Fax" from New Zealand.
www.LifeAction.org ---- "Life Action Outreach".
www.revivalcsa.co.za ---- "Bulletin On Revival" by Francois Carr in South Africa.
www.yifa.org ---- "Youth Interceding For America".
www.missionamerica.org ---- "Mission America" .
www.lighthousemovement.com ---- "The Lighthouse Movement". Click on "Lighthouses".

Other Great Resources Are:
www.sermonindex.net for access to over 3900 downloadable audio sermons.  Exceptional site.
www.biblemaster.com for great Bible resources and downloads.  Exceptional site.
www.e-sword.net (one of the best free download Bible study site I've ever seen!)
http://associate.com/camsoc/ctt/"Christian Communications Toolkit" (using internet wisely) 
http://www.associate.com/camsoc/crop/software.html#freewin. Free software or shareware listings, 
www.associate.com/camsoc/crs/ for church related software from CAMSOC.
    To subscribe to CAMSOC update newsletter, go to grga@....
www.ccmag.com.  "Christian Computing Magazine", 
ccmag-subscribe@....  CCMag discussion newsletter, 
http://www.christiangraphicdesign.com/premierinfo.htm  Thousands of Free Christian graphics.

Online Resources on Ukraine are . . . .

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