Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Faithful Witness

But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position 

and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away.

For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; 

and its flower falls off and the beauty of it's appearance is destroyed; 

so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

James 1:9-11

If we are lucky, God will bless our lives with a person whose Godly qualities are etched in our memory so that we will never forget them. 

Although my sister Charlene died over 30 years ago, my memories of her ... 
are as if we were speaking yesterday.

Char was eight years older than me, and our childhood was not that close. 
And as adults she lived 8 hours away, so I did not see her often. 
But as you will learn here, the paradox verse above speaks to Char first, then me, and then Char and me.

I thought of Char this past week as I was writing about judging others, and memories of our conversations came to mind. She was my discipler, guide, counselor, mentor, and best friend during the first years of my conversion to Christianity in 1980.

We spoke for hours … two or three times a week every week during my initial spiritual growth up until her death from cancer. I can remember sobbing when I was told she had died. It was as if a part of me had been torn away.

Char’s impact on my life began to take hold in 1978 or 79. One day when I came home from work, my wife Cheryl said to me … “you’ll never believe what I just heard, Char and King have decided to move to Prairie Bible institute in Canada and live in a trailer. King walked away from his lucrative job in Silicon Valley and they sold their home. With eight kids living in a trailer in Canada? This was clearly a big deal.

Cheryl said to me; "can you believe it? What kind of religion would cause them to make this kind of a move?”  I replied: “I have no idea, but I wish I believed in something that gave me that kind of courage … something in my life that would give me the conviction to make that bold of a decision."

Later I would learn that Char and King and the missionaries in Canada were praying for Cheryl and me when we went to the Zig Ziglar Richer Life Course in Texas that changed our lives. Actually their church Sunday school group had been praying for us for more than five years.

After I became a Christian, the first person I called was Char. I wanted to know if there was a church she would recommend and what type of a Bible to buy. This was the beginning of our talks. She advised me on almost anything and everything. She always explained to me which scripture verses she based her views upon, and why they applied to my specific questions. Personal opinions or feelings were not the issue, the question was always: “what is God saying to you or leading you to do?”

Char taught me to study the Bible one verse and one word at a time ...  
always seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit.

As one example, when writing my post on Judging Others a specific conversation came to my mind. Char told me that she was going to have to tell one of her closest friends that she was no longer able to associate with her. Why, I asked? “She is a Christian who has moved in with a man in an immoral relationship. I love her very much, and only want the best for her. But the scripture is clear; she has chosen to defy her Lord and Savior and she needs to realize that there are consequences” Char explained.

Isn’t this judging her, I asked? Char replied; "In the case of another Christian, Jesus says I am to go to her privately and hopefully she will turn away from her sin. If she decides to follow Christ rather than her feelings, our relationship will be quickly restored. In the meantime I will be praying for her." 

Years later when I went to visit Char in the hospital in Mexico, we talked for more than twelve hours. Towards the end of our visit she said to me; "Bob you have grown a lot now, and I want to tell you something I have been afraid to share with you ... up to this point." 

"Before you became a Christian we were praying for you for years and your disregard for God was discouraging. You are a leader in our family and I knew that if you turned your life over to Christ it would have an impact on others. You were so successful in your business that it was as if you did not need God as long as everything was going so well for you. So I hope you won’t be mad at me; but I prayed that if the only way for you to trust your life to Christ was to suffer loss ... that God would bring you down and cause your business to fail. You can only imagine how this has weighed on my heart since your business has failed.” But at the same time, I am more than encouraged that you have believed in Jesus and will spend eternity in heaven.”

I then explained to Char that my family, personal, and spiritual lives were at an all-time high and Becoming a Christian by far out-weighted my business loss.  And that I still had the skills that had brought me success in business. In any event I would not change a thing if this is what was standing between me and God, and the forgiveness and redemption that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Now when you read the Paradox Principle above (James 1:9-11) --- hopefully you will understand how it applies to both Char and me; and possibly you as well. The paradox is the the man in the humble circumstances is the one who is exalted in God's economy. God's ways are not man's ways. Char was the sister of humble circumstances who was sharing the glory of her high position; and I was the rich man in my humiliation. But now I am the brother of humble circumstances ... who is sharing the glory in my high position --- along with my sister Char.

This post is primarily written to Kathy, Lynda, John, Eric, Joe, Chris, Merrilyn, and King; but also to Char’s grand-children and nieces and nephews who were never really able to meet, or to really know her. If Charlene was alive today and she was able to answer your questions, whatever they might be.  I am convinced that her answers to you would always be pretty much the same: “Believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, and follow the teachings of His eternal Truth. He will never leave you or forsake you … 
His word is Truth --- yesterday, today, and forever”

Charlene Anderson is in heaven now with the Lord Jesus Christ. She was a missionary to Vietnamese and Cambodians in the San Francisco Bay area. Hundreds of refugees and one very lost and hopeless real estate broker in Orange County were her mission. We were led to Christ and encouraged to maturity through the loving care of Charlene Anderson. I will always love you my wonderful sister.

God bless you my friends, Bob

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