[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #342 ----6/28/04

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From: "Bob Tolliver" <lifeunlimited@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Jun 2004 17:13:19 +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 #342 ---- 6/28/04

Title:  "Simple Truth ---- About Faith (part one)"

Greetings Dear Friend:

It seems like yesterday that we were wading snow and fighting the harsh winds of a Ukrainian winter.  And yet, here it is the end of June with the year half past.  I trust that your spiritual life is enjoying the necessary growing and maturing season that leads to abundant harvest.


1.  No matter one's political feelings, I know everyone is anxious over the transfer of authority from the Coalition Forces to the people of Iraq that is to take place this coming Wednesday.  We need not be reminded of how earnestly we must pray for this to successfully take place.  There is so much going on in the world today that reminds us of Bible prophecy, and the circumstances throughout the Middle East certainly do just that.

Last night as I caught the remaining few minutes of an educational program on Discovery Channel, I was reminded again of how Christians have suffered and have been persecuted worldwide.  I've also been reading Russian Resurrection by Michael Rowe on the history of Russia's evangelical church.  The suffering in the former USSR was severe and comprehensive.

God has reminded me again of just what Jesus said to His disciples and then prayed to His Father in John 17 . . . . the fact is, if you're a follower of Jesus (or even perceived to be simply because of your nationality), hatred, violence, and persecution awaits you.  The rise of radical Islamists' activities against everything that associates with Judaism and Christianity is a clear indication of what lies ahead.  We have not seen the worst.  The hornet's nest has been stirred, and the hornets are insanely angry.

2.  Many subscribers also receive our "Hope4Kyiv" praise and prayer letter and, therefore, know about our newest granddaughter's battle with major critical genetic problems.  However, I don't know if you have kept up to date or not, so am sending this very brief update and prayer request.  She has now survived two and one-half weeks and has seen some good improvements in several areas.

However, her heart has become somewhat unstable in the past 24 hours, so am asking you to pray especially for Nicole Grace ("Victorious Heart").  Because some of their letters correspond with the topic of my letter to you today, I'm giving over much of the space for them.

This first report came to us from Deanna and Jim around 8:00 Saturday evening, and has some exceptional insight in it:


Not much change again today in Nicole.  She seems to have plateaued a bit.  She is up to her max. amount for feedings 1 ½ ounces.  She was fairly restless today for some reason and has some slight arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) - but it doesn't seem to be affecting her, so they aren't concerned about it.  She's had lots of messy diapers the past two days (which Deanna got to change, yippee! And stink city!)
There still are specific prayer requests, though.
+  Of course, our ultimate prayer and desire is for her complete healing and recovery from all traces of trisomy 18, including her heart and brain.
+  As far as specific requests for what must be accomplished before being transferred closer to home, pray she will gain weight.  She gains and then loses again.  Since she is up to her max. feed amount right now, she really needs to start gaining some weight.  

+  Also, her liver bilirubin count is still way too high and they still aren't sure what is causing that.  Pray it will decrease dramatically regardless of if they find the cause.  Pray her platelet counts will stay up.  They did determine that some antigens (or something) in my blood was at least part of the problem.  As she begins to produce her own blood supply, that "should" resolve itself.  

+  Pray for our other children's safety as they head down here tomorrow. and for our safety - 

+ . . . and Deanna's health, strength, recovery -- as we travel back home on Monday to take care of some things and bring the kids back.  The trip on Thursday set Deana back a couple days as far as how she was feeling - pray that Monday's trip (which is necessary for her due to a doctor's appointment) won't have the same effect.
 All of the above, in terms of Nicole's well-being is almost more frustrating than when she was going downhill.  Monotony seems like a cruel, selfish word to use when facing a situation like ours. but it's the truth.  I have to admit that today I don't feel strong.  Under the surface is that same old growing frustration, anger, fear.  OF COURSE I'm happy she is no longer declining. but I guess actually that's it.  When there isn't any improvement and when they still can't find the cause of the high billirubin (or whatever) and when her heart is beginning to act "funny" again. I guess maybe I wonder if she really is "plateaued."  
God was faithful again today and gave me "fresh words" of encouragement.  My daily readings (actually, I'm several days ahead now.) took me to Isa. 6.  When King Uzziah died, it was a very tenuous time in the history of Israel. dangerous, unsteady, uncertain, difficult.  And yet the FIRST thing Isaiah sees in his vision is "the Lord on His throne. high and exalted."  It reminded me of John's similar vision in Revelation.  A similar situation for John - lonely, exiled, troubled, etc. and in his vision, he also sees the Lord ON THE THRONE.  And then the Lord reminded me of the time when John the Baptist was in prison and sent his 2 disciples to Jesus to basically ask, "Are You REALLY the One? Have I been wasting time?  This sure isn't turning out the way I thought it would what with me in prison and all.  so I just need to be sure."
And Jesus simply tells John's disciples to tell him what they were seeing - the work of Christ, healings, the Gospel preached etc.  All of the above served as a kind reminder that no matter what we go through, . . . .

#1 - God is still on His throne (and not particularly nervous about losing His grip there.)  In other words, He is completely sovereign and all -powerful.  

#2 - He is working even when we can't see Him.  Sometimes it takes others to return to us in our prisons and declare, "Here's what God is doing."  That's what your prayer and e-mails mean to me. at least partly.  
From there, the Lord also showed me Isa. 7 - in verses 3-6, the prophet basically reveals the plans of the enemy. . . what the king has been told is going to happen.  But in verse 7, it says simply, "But THIS is what the Sovereign Lord says."  I'm not going to "spiritualize the text" by claiming that all of this is the enemy's work (I don't know
that.) but it was a kind reminder of one of the things God has said all along.  Basically, you've heard from the doctors. you've heard from this person and that person and they've told you what they believe will happen.  But it is our loving, heavenly Father who will have the final word about the future of my Victorious Heart.  Here's what the doctors (and your own heart and whoever else) are saying.  BUT. THIS is what the Sovereign Lord says.."
And, as I preached about a year ago, we're still waiting for God to fill in that blank in our situation.
Keep praying.

Here is a brief follow-up report from our Jim as of late Sunday morning:


The irregular heart beat mentioned in last night's e has gotten much worse. more defined.  The doctors are now keeping a pretty close eye on  things and MAY have to start Nicole on another heart medication - a Beta Blocker.
Also, we learned this morning that the whole team of doctors wants to have another pow-wow with us on Tuesday or Wednesday - so what all that means, we don't know.
Please pray, specifically, for her heart.  Pray that the irregular heartbeat cease and return to normal.  Pray for the strength and efficiency and proper working of her heart.  We STILL don't believe her name was accidental.  We still believe we will see Nicole's heart be Victorious.


Here is a third letter we received, written about 8:00 am Monday.

doctors did put Nicole on a Beta Blocker to try to even out her irregular heartbeat.  It appears to be somewhat working.  However, she still sets off her alarms on semi-regular basis.  . . . it is an unnerving, nerve-wracking experience to sit by the bedside of my baby. my victorious heart. and every couple of minutes the alarm goes off because her average beats per minute have dropped significantly. and the reason her beats per minute have dropped is because her heart periodically stops.  Instead of a steady beat, you could dance to the syncopation of her heart!  

However, the new medication seems to be helping.  And, she still has plenty of positive signs of overall health (wet diapers, stinky diapers, still "tolerating" full feeds, good oxygen levels, etc.)
. . . Nicole is going to be tried on the smaller nasal prongs again this week.  In fact, this week, they're going to really "push" it on her and force her to work. trying to get those lungs to develop. trying to wean her away from being dependent on "forced oxygen."  
+  So.  Please pray specifically that her heart rate will even out and become steady.  

+  Pray that her heart will gain strength and ability to function.  

+  Even if her heart remains "dysfunctional," pray that she can handle it.  

+  Pray that her lungs develop and that she be able to breathe on her own.  

+  Pray for the "trials" to go well and for her lungs to gain strength and endurance.  


Thanks for your continued prayers.  This has been quite a journey, especially for Deanna and Jim and their church.


Apparently I failed to add a recommended website to the list at the bottom of my letters.  Francis Frangipane is a pastor and founder of "River Of Life Ministries".  He is author of a number of books (House of the Lord, The Three Battlegrounds, Christ-Like Life, The River of Life, The Stronghold of God, The Days of His Presence, and others), and has been mightily used of God to speak the message of unity, love, and Christlikeness to the Body of Christ at large.  I recommend his weekly articles, as well as several of his books, to you.  You can subscribe to these articles at http://frangipane.org. 


The opportunity to rub shoulders with and experience life with people of another culture over an extended period of time has been an experience of great significance to Jo Ann and me.  Having that same opportunity to do the same thing with western missionary colleagues in the same setting has been another eye-opener.  Through these experiences, God has shown me again what I feel are three re-focusing truths that, I pray, will change my heart, life, and ministry forever.

+  First, we are missing the mark if we do not constantly return to the simple basics of the Gospel.  Somehow we westerners have adopted the philosophy that we need to learn "more" rather than to learn "better".  So, like the great academic philosophy of the former Soviet educational system, we drive ourselves to know a little about a lot rather than to know a lot about a little.

A Ukrainian friend told me recently of an American missionary who is trying to teach little "babushka's" in their town about the book of Ezekiel.  What!!!  Friend, I don't even understand Ezekiel!  How can you expect a group of older women, most of whom have less than a high school education and have virtually no knowledge of the Bible outside what their Orthodox priest may have told them, to have any comprehension of what Ezekiel's talking about???

I certainly can't speak for that missionary, but I do know that when I find myself tempted to move into such areas, if I truly examine my motives, I discover that I'm not so much interested in helping people understand things that will change their lives as I am in helping them understand just how brilliant I am.

+  Second, this not just an eastern European problem.  The more I study and assess culture and people here, the more familiar they become to what I have known back in my own home country.  People really are the same.  Not only do people in Ukraine not sufficiently understand the simple message of the Gospel, the life-changing realities of prayer, and the simplicity of faith, but neither do the average church members in America, or England, or Germany.

People simply have little or no understanding of the simple teachings of the Bible, much less the more profound issues of eschatology, the number of baptisms there are, how many angels fit on the head of a pin, or such things.  If you want to know what your youth and adult member really know about the Bible, ask them some questions taken from your primary age SS curriculum and see how many correct answers they can give you.

If they can't answer those things, what makes you think they fully understand in their spirits what you're trying to teach them about spiritual gifts, witnessing, stewardship, or the second coming of Christ???  They may accumulate a measure of intellectual knowledge, but it will not likely make much difference in the way they continue living.  Why is that true?  Simply because it often has not been directly connected to the simplicity that is in Christ, and they still do not fully comprehend the majesty and power of basic things, such as unconditional live, child-like faith, or loving obedience.

+  Finally, no matter which culture we're living in, most of us who are missionaries or pastors still don't get it.  Most of us still pursue higher and deeper understanding of the more complex issues of Christian faith.  And, that's not all wrong; . . . any person who is growing in Christ is, by default, programmed to grow in this manner.  However, when we've been called to share the Gospel with others, no matter which culture, we must never forget that we're to be drawn to where the people are if we ever expect to draw them to where we are.

This realization is what prompted me a few months ago to teach a group of about 50 adults, almost all unbelievers, on how to read and study the Bible.  And, frankly, most Christians in America don't even know how to do that.  Many of them are still convinced that they recently read from the Book of Hezekiah.  

The response was amazing.  Then it occurred to me that one reason people don't comprehend the possibility with a personal relationship with God is because they've never been told how God created man for that very purpose.  So, we followed up with a study of the book of Genesis.  When we got to chapter three, I realized that a clear and simple understanding of sin and how it became a part of our nature was a totally foreign idea.  So, we spent five weeks learning about sin, and then followed up with the solution.

At the same time, God prompted my heart that most of the folks who attend the church I pastor here in Kiev really have a distorted and perverted view of faith.  I suspect many of the folks in your church have the very same problem.  So, for four weeks I've been teaching simple truths about faith.  Of all the sermons I've preached here in more than a year and a half, there are more people telling me how these messages have impacted them than anything I've preached otherwise.

And, the exciting things is . . . . they're learning to trust God.

So, with that in mind, I want to share with you some of the things I'm sharing with my people about faith . . . . including some new things I'm learning myself, even at this age.


It seems to me that it's far too easy to become presumptuous and casual about the subject of faith.  You and I both know all the familiar verses we've memorized (such as Eph 2:8-9; Rom 5:1; Rom 1:17; I John 5:4, etc.) and we well remember the stories of Abraham, Noah, and all the other "heroes of faith" in Hebrews 11.  But, just maybe we've become so familiar with faith that we no longer live by it.  Perhaps it would be wise to review some simple truths about faith.

A verse that really came back to life again yesterday as I preached on the subject is Romans 1:17 in the NIV translation.  The KJV phrase, "from faith to faith" always left me wondering just what was meant.  I was never quite sure, so I'd try first one person's spin and then another's.  However, when Paul declares that those who have been made righteous by the power of God and have been made justified will live "by faith from start to finish", it was like fresh breath to my soul.

It reminded me of some things God has showed me a few weeks ago about the difference between Bible faith and human faith.  We both know what most of those contrasts are, and yet we often struggle in differentiating them both in our own personal living and also in our efforts to explain them to others.

So, today, I'd like to share five simples statements God gave me about four weeks ago about what makes Bible faith so absolutely unique and separate from any hybrid version of faith the world may try to concoct.  Someone suggested it could serve as a "test" of faith that could be used to discern what type of faith we're encountering in others or what type we're personally exercising.  Don't know if I'd go that far or not, but hopefully these thoughts will bless you.

Faith that pertains to our relationship with God is unique from all other forms in at least the five following ways:

+  Bible faith pertains to actions and relationships that have eternal outcome, and not just temporal.  Whenever we're dealing with Bible faith, God always has plans and objectives that reach far beyond the sphere of that which is seen into the world of that which is not seen.  As the writer of Hebrews said in 11:1, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (nasb)   The NIV says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

II Cor 4:16-18 reminds us that,  "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Things that are evident to the visible senses require nothing more than acceptance of objective fact . . . . in other words, human faith based on evidence and sight.  Things in the unseen world relate to eternal matters because they exist in more than simply molecular structures.  They demand something our senses cannot provide, our reason cannot explain, and our circumstances cannot justify.  We must look beyond what we can see . . . . and that is not possible without the eyes of Biblical faith that sees what exists, even though it is beyond the realm of human focus.  It is beyond the horizon of material reality, but that does not mean it isn't there.

As with Abraham anticipating a land in his world of limited understanding, and the promise of a son in his old age, yet being to see both because he was looking into the realm of eternity, we also must learn to live by that same faith.  As II Cor 5:7 reminds us, "we walk by faith, not by sight . . .".  In order to so live, we must be constantly aware that things we are trusting God for with true Bible faith will have, at their core and even if unrecognized or unseen, the stamp of eternal value imprinted on them.  If our faith is not invested in something or for something that has eternal consequences, I doubt seriously that it is a faith to which God will significantly respond.

+  Bible faith involves "burning the bridges" (all of them) behind you with no plan for turning back or wavering.  This fact has recently been driven home to us in regard to our little Nicole Grace.  All medical evidence gives our little granddaughter only a 50/50 chance of living a month, and only a 10% chance of living beyond a year.  And yet, what we feel in our hearts, and what others have fervently declared in faith and prayer, is that doctors don't have the final word.

Now, obviously we believe that in principle . . . . but it's been another story to believe it in practice.  So, we've come face to face with the frailty of our faith, the wavering of our confidence, and the value of our own reputation.  While we still don't know the final outcome, we have chosen to burn the bridges, stop making excuses for our unbelief, and give up on trying to protect God's reputation by confessing, "If it's not His will, . . ."

Faith is not true Bible faith if return routes, escape hatches, and safety features have been embraced.  Like true marriage, there is no divorce alternative or faith disclaimer if God doesn't come through.  I'm fearful that far too many believers are exercising what they think is true and pure Bible faith, and they don't realize they have created paved detours and life rafts to take them to safety if things don't work out they way they had hoped.

Bible faith has burned all the bridges and bulldozed all the alternate routes.  There are no "just in case" second choices.  If you live by faith, you must be prepared to die by faith.

+  Bible faith incorporates action as one of its primary ingredients.  Bible faith is active and not passive.  Bible faith is not fatalism; it is a trust that propels us to obedient action.  Bible faith is neither presumption nor assumption; it does not take God for granted, and neither does it presume on God to accept our passivity.  Too many Christians actually try to hold God "hostage" to the ultimate outcome without taking any personal responsibility for their own lifestyles, attitudes, and willingness to actually be part of the answer themselves.  

This is best illustrated by people who pray for the salvation of a friend or loved one, but do nothing to witness or share the love of Christ with those for whom they pray.  It is characterized in the lives of people who pray for the missionaries but never give a single dollar to the cause of missions or never take time to pray for the missionaries.  It is illustrated in the lives of those who claim to live by the grace of God but do nothing to clean up their own ungodly living.

James was absolutely right . . . . faith without obedience is dead.  What is dead faith like?  Well, what is anything like that is dead?  It's lifeless, it's valueless, and its useless.

There are three things about this necessary action ---- first, obedience is a testimony of faith and of love.  Second, obedience is an expression of that faith.  Finally, faith is what gives momentum to the obedience itself.  Just as claiming to trust a chair to hold me up but refusing to sit in it, or claiming to believe in marriage but never taking the vows actually betray my faith and expose my unbelief, so faith without cooperative obedience that is related to the situation lays bare a faith that is merely human with no seed of true Bible faith in it.

+  Bible faith has as its essence a child-like trust in the person or object in which it is placed.  This is hard for some people, because they have never learned that there is more to faith than mere intellectual belief.  They haven't discovered that there is also an emotional desire accompanied by a volitional decision.  Children are not so encumbered.  They take people at face value; they have not yet learned to be suspicious and cynical.  Too many Christians have a faith that is bound by cynicism, skepticism, and suspicion.  Their culture, life experiences, disappointments, and exposure to the world's unfulfilled claims have so shaped their belief system that they no longer are able to believe anything or anyone without some sort of proof.

A child has not yet been so influenced, and so, with simplicity of faith and with confident hope unencumbered by broken promises, he can take Jesus' words at face value.  This is the type of faith that is Bible faith, but our world system tells us that this if foolishness, and a truly intelligent person will demand proof before he believes.  Well, . . . I must say that requiring proof before faith makes true faith an impossibility, for you no longer can believe without seeing, because you have seen.  Imagine the anguish Thomas must have felt after the fact because he had to see before he would believe.  Jesus said that the greater blessing came because of believing before seeing . . . . in order to receive and then see.

+  Finally, The success of Bible faith depends more on the object in which it is being placed, rather than in the one who is doing the believing.  This is a major issue of monumental significance for many people who have not yet discovered that the secret of Bible faith is not how hard you "try to trust" (a total oxymoron) or in how much faith you have.

When you analyze the situation, it soon becomes evident that a faith that trusts a set of beliefs, or trusts its own intensity or quality, is not faith . . . . the faith has turned into works.  How?  Because the act of faith has become the test of faith.  If my faith is in my faith, or in an experience, or a pastor or missionary, or a list of statements, then my faith depends on the trustworthiness and reliability of my faith, or of my experience, or of my pastor, or of my list of beliefs.  

Then, if my list of beliefs, my pastor, my experience, or my own frail and wavering faith are called into question, then my faith collapses around me.  The reliability of my faith is not found within itself; it is found only in the object in which I have placed it.  If I place my faith in a chair that collapses in a heap when I sit on it, I don't get up and declare I didn't have enough faith.  I simply admit I put my faith in the wrong chair.  If my faith had been expressed toward a solid chair, I'd have never ended up on the floor.

In examining the faith of Abraham, we find this great truth.  Abraham believed God . . . . and that expression of faith was all that was necessary to have him declared righteous in God's eyes.  There was nothing else for him to do.  Clearly he discovered, "it is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by His great grace" that we have been born anew.  You see, my friend, your responsibility and mine is to be certain that we are trusting God, and not a cause, a doctrine, an experience, or some individual with a charismatic personality.


So, let's summarize.  Am I living through Bible faith?  Is my faith characterized by recognizing the ultimate outcome always has the focus of eternity?  Have I destroyed all potential escape routes?  Am I trusting Him through immediate and constant obedience because I love Him?  Am I taking Him and what He says simply at face value just because He is who He is?  Am I trusting Him, and not just trusting some belief, system, or experience?

It seems to me that those who claim to follow Christ need to be reminded of these fundamental characteristics of faith.  If you and I don't take time to tell them, we are guilty of allowing them to live in false hope, and we are guilty of not throwing to them a life raft that can truly rescue them from hopeless despair.

Let's be people of true Bible faith . . . . faith that works!

In His Bond, By His Grace, 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 . . .
http://frangipane.org ---- for excellent brief words of encouragement from 
    one of America's premier evangelical writers/thinkers.
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 . . . .

Secular News on Kiev and Ukraine will give you interesting views at . . .

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