The Treasure of Friendship
Years ago our friends, Sam and Pam Harsin, gave us the “Irish Blessing” picture that hangs on the wall just inside our front door (across from “Only One Life – It will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” The Irish Blessing reminds me day by day to thank God for our many wonderful friends, because I realize that if we only had one really good friend who would stick by us no matter what, then we are truly rich. True friendship is a treasure that cannot be bought at any price. When I think of my family and our friends, I feel most richly blessed – like the richest man alive. The love of God, the grace of Jesus, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and the gift of many genuine friends is a treasure trove of true riches that no thief can steal from us. Proverbs 17:17 says: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (ESV). Proverbs 14:18 reads: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (ESV). It is a double blessing to have a friend who is also a brother (or sister) in Christ.
During our recent trip to western Oregon, I not only had the great privilege to share the Word of God concerning “Many Infallible Proofs” with three enthusiastic congregations, but we also had the pleasure of enjoying the treasure of rich friendships. “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!”
“Born to Adversity”
Why do you suppose that Proverbs 17:17 has the phrase “a brother is born for adversity” right after “A friend loves at all times”? Could it be because adversity in some of its forms is the common experience of human beings worldwide. Why? Because we live on a cursed earth! God did not create a cursed earth – He created a beautiful, peaceful earth and put our original parents in a perfect environment with only one restriction. Think of it! Our primal parents were put in a peaceful, perfect paradise, but they perverted it and produced sin, suffering, sickness and sorrow! This is why we live on a cursed earth of death and destruction worse than Pandora’s Box. Do you realize that the question “Why?” is answered in the third chapter of Genesis? Do you realize that the problem of pain and evil is not exclusively a problem for Christian proclaimers, philosophers and pastors to ponder? It is the same problem for every philosophy, religion and worldview. The pungent point to ponder is – why don’t other worldviews have a concise, clear, convincing comment? The fact is that Biblical Christianity is the only worldview with an actual answer!
The fact that the answer is often rejected, scorned, and scoffed at does not nullify the power and pertinence of the Biblical answer. Scoffing often shows much more about the attitude of the scoffer than the validity of his viewpoint. The Bible says, “the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Perceptive philosophers point out that the depravity of the human heart is the easiest doctrine of the Bible to verify historically (and from every newspaper). Yet it is the most vehemently resisted and rejected. Scoffers scoff – that’s what scoffers do – but scoffing is not proving the scoffers position. Actually the current scoffers are a fulfillment of prophecy. Consider this passage:
“…knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For this they willfully forget: that by the Word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:3-7.
How Happy Are You?
Abraham Lincoln said, “A man is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.” How happy are you? The best way to be happy is to focus on Jesus and live in the “Triangle of Triumph”. Remember these verses: “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
Are you miserable because you are focusing on your circumstances and contemplating what you don’t have? Or are you looking unto Jesus, thanking Him for what you do have, and using your blessings and abilities to the glory of God? Do you remember the old saying, “I complained because I had no shoes – until I saw the man who had no feet”?
Opportunities for Prayer, Service, and Financial Gifts
Stephen and Iryna Yagilnicky are both Ukrainians, founders of Love Cradle International ministry to orphans. They have their home base now in Pennsylvania and another base in Mala Viska, Ukraine.
“Dear Rick & Della…Thank you for the ministry update/prayer letter. Iryna and I are well. We continue ministry outreach to the orphanages along with the LCI administrative workload, and we continue to search/wait for the right staff for the Transition Home. Iryna and I are holding down the fort, so to speak, for now.
Rick, we have an open door to many state run orphanages and we would like to start a special “English Language” evangelism program. We would like fellow brothers and sisters in Christ from North America to come for 4 week missionary teaching outreach trips. The curriculum used to teach English can/should be Christian. People who have taught/have worked in the teaching profession would be best. People that would like to be helpers/assistants to the instructor would not need to meet the above criteria and there would be other activities/outreaches available. I hope you can come to Ukraine soon and spend some time with us at the Transition Home…maybe Della could come with you.
Please pray for us from Deuteronomy, 12 “…what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good? 14 Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it.”
Iryna and I pass on our greetings and blessings to you.
Kids Quotes, Plus Pertinent Points
Trinity Hope, our four-year-old granddaughter was sitting by me at our table when she said, “I love you, Grandpa!” I replied, “I love you too, Trinity – very much!” She then asked, “To the moon and back?” I told her, “Oh much more than that!” She then concluded with “I love you to the moon and back!” A while later I heard her shout “Hallelujah! Mr. Sippy and Mrs. Sippy!” (She has heard family members talk about Mississippi.) Why don’t you ask me if I’m content to be my age and a grandpa?
During our very pleasant and productive trip to western Oregon in March, two of Della’s cousins shared with us their memories of our son Randy when he was a little boy, about three years old. Sylvia vividly remembers him standing on his “soapbox” holding a Bible while dressed in short pants, cowboy boots and cowboy hat. He held up the Bible and said, “Power o’ God! Power o’ God!” I’m praying that preachers all across this nation and around the world will do the same! (But they really don’t need the same outfit to get the message across.) Jan told us a prayer Randy prayed that she has never forgotten, which was approximately, “Lord help me to be good before I get a spanking with all the many blessings in it.” I’m praying for our nation to wake up, repent and turn to Jesus, our only hope, before the discipline of our Heavenly Father gets any more severe. The Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to write to the rebellious nation of Judah: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: ‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider.’ Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward. Why should you be stricken again? …. ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be devoured by the sword’; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 1:2-5a, 18-20 (NKJV)
The need for repentance and revival in the churches is severe because “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Proverbs 14:34 (NKJV) “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’ Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” 1 Peter 4:-17-19 (NKJV) “Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?” Hebrews 12:9 (NKJV)
When we lived in Germany and Randy was still a small boy, he told us one day, “The closers are shutted!” Friends, the closers are not yet shutted for coming home to the Father in repentance! “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come, And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17 (NKJV).
Not one of us knows the day when death will knock on our door nor the day when Jesus will return, so the vital message for all of us is, “Prepare to meet your God!” Amos 4:12 (NKJV). The Bible ends with these two verses: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Revelation 22:20-21 (NKJV).
In the late 1700’s, Jonathan Edward’s most famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, was a huge spark in starting the flame of the Second Great Awakening. Why? Because there was a foundation of respect for Almighty God. Later, about 1830, when Alexis de Tochville came to tour America to discover the key to the rising greatness of the country, he looked into many potential reasons. His conclusion was that not until he entered the churches of America and heard the passionate preaching of the truth of the Word of God did he realize the reason for the freedoms we enjoy and the genius of America’s greatness. If Alexis could tour America again now, would he grieve and report the degeneration of the nation as “God in the hands of angry sinners”? Let’s pray! Pray! Pray for genuine spiritual awakening!
“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” (Psalm 127: 1)
On the aluminum cap, atop the Washington Monument in Washington, DC, are displayed two words: Laus Deo. Laus Deo! Two seemingly insignificant, unnoticed words. Out of sight and, one might think, out of mind, but very meaningfully placed at the highest point over what is the most powerful city in the most successful nation in the world. So, what do those two words, in Latin, composed of just four syllables and only seven letters, possibly mean? Very simply, they say, “Praise be to God!”
What are you putting on the pinnacle of your life?
1. Living Hope Church in Kharkiv, Ukraine, has been ministering to the refugees (IDP) from the war zone with food, clothing, shelter, medicine, etc. to the tune of $8,000 per month – but their primary source of funding ends May 1st. Please pray for God to raise up other sources of supply. With God all things are possible!
2. Stephen and Iryna Yagilnicky, founders of Love Cradle, and now also becoming representatives for Overseas Outreach, need short term missionaries to teach English and Bible. Please pray!
3. Please pray also for Zhenya and Natasha Molodchy and their children, for their new church plant, and for Volodya Lipov. Zhenya wrote: “Good news Rick. As we had fellowship today after the service at Linda’s, Volodya Lipov expressed desire to be baptized in summer on the river. Let us pray for God to guard that desire and have others to join Volodya. Pray for our children Masha and Yan as they also are thinking about baptism. We dream now to have a special service on the river or lake in Kharkov area in June. We pray God will protect our small gatherings in Linda’s apartment… and this cell group will grow into the blessed God’s congregation.
Thank you for all your care. You and Della and your family are precious in God’s sight. Thank you for leading life and ministry of encouragement.”
A Note from Rick:
Volodya is a professor of economics, an author, and was one of my first 2 students in the city of Kharkiv (for improving English and learning the Bible). He also came as a presenter to the Man and the Christian Worldview Symposium in 2008 at my invitation. Last year he started coming to Zhenya’s English Club to practice reading English – and now he’s coming to the house church Zhenya started from the English Club. So this is a huge praise and prayer request.
4. Please pray for God to heal Curt Landreth of cancer. (Curt is the son of our prayer team members, Vernon and Ellen Landreth). Also we invite you to praise God for healing our good friend, Dave Adams, who preaches for River Hills Church in Gresham, Oregon. Last summer Dave was diagnosed with leukemia.
5. Praise and prayer report. Please pray for total healing for Joni Miller after major surgery, for reduction of the pain, protection from the side effects of medications and that there will be no reoccurrence of the cancer. Joni is my cousin Steve Miller’s wife. She grew up in the Philippines because her parents were missionaries there. When I talked with Steve and Joni on the phone about a week after her surgery, she told me that a few years ago when she was on a short term mission trip to the Philippines (where her brother and sister still serve Christ), she was asked which of two books she would recommend for use in a class for training national church planters and leaders. She was surprised to see my name on one of the books – and she even recommended it! They had 24 copies of “Ready to Give an Answer”, which had been donated – just the number they needed for the class! Praise God! Could this be considered one of those divine appointment surprises?
On the first page of this prayer letter we shared with you the “Irish Blessing”, which reads: “May the road rise to meet you; may the wind be always at your back; may the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields, and until me meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.”
I want to also share with you the “Aaronic Blessing”:
” The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26.
Most Richly Blessed
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for but got everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all people, most richly blessed.
(Anonymous – alleged to have been found on a CSA casualty at the Devil’s Den, Gettysburg)