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WHEN THINGS GO WRONG

Five Questions to Ask: True or False?
By Samuel E. Ericson

What do you do when things go wrong? How do you react to bad news? What do you do when you are told you have cancer? How do you feel when money runs out? What do you do when the system turns against you? How do you react when a close friend betrays you? It's easy to get angry, frustrated and discouraged. But it's best to step back and ask five true or false questions.

Accepting Christ does not shield us from problems. In fact, our decision for Christ will often bring along a new set issues. Many of the old problems-health, finances careers and relationships- may continue. But as a follower of Christ, you can ground your response to life's big challenges by focusing on the Word of God that remains true regardless of circumstances. There are five verses that have been very helpful to ne over the years. The core issue is whether these truths are as relevant when things go wrong as they are when things go right.

Question #1: True or false - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Cancer is the most feared word in the English Language. I knowdoctors have told me twice in four years. "You’ve got cancer!'' in August 1999, 48 hours before leaving for conferences in Romania Bulgaria and Albania, I passed out in a restaurant after dinner with Bobby. We had been told by three doctors that there was nothing wrong, but I knew something was amiss so I cancelled my trip. A week later we discovered that I had the largest mass of bladder cancer that my urologist had ever seen. Even more serious were the tumors preventing my left kidney from draining properly. If I had travelled to Eastern Europe, the kidney might have burst and I would have come home in a box.There was no psychological connection at all between passing out and my cancer! God intervened!

Four years later, I slipped and fell on the wooden steps in our home puncturing my right lung and breaking seven ribs. Chest x-rays soon revealed some other news: a malignant cancerous "hot spot" was found in my left lung. It would have gone unnoticed but for the fall.

The oft-quoted Romans 8:28 promise has two prerequisites: 1) we must love God, and 2) we must walk according to His will. It is never a blank check for everyone. But it is true at all times!

Question #2: True or False - Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

On March 31, 1980, reporters with the Los Angeles Times and ABC News called our home for my comments on the first-ever "clergy malpractice" lawsuit. It was filed against our church, Grace Community, and four pastors. I was on leave from my L.A law firm serving as legal counsel and executive pastor for the Church at the time. The suit involved in the suicide of a 23-year-old friend who had been counseled by the pastoral staff. The case was built on falsehoods. We won two trial court decisions, including a dismissal after a five-week trial. The appellate courts reversed both our wins. The California Supreme Court finally held that the church and pastors had done everything possible to help the young seminarian. Equally important, they held that "Clergy malpractice" suits as well as all suits against "non-licensed therapists" - have no place in California law. The U.S. Supreme Court let the decision stand.

The case took over nine years and about 2,000 hours out of my life. But it was worth it. By 2003, no state in the U.S had strayed from his landmark state-court decision. In fact, because of its broad national sweep, several constitutional scholars consider it to be the most significant state-court decision in U.S history! After the calls from the two reporters on that Monday evening in 1980, I called Pastor-Teacher John MacArthur at Grace Church to inform him of the lawsuit and told him, "I'm glad we're first! We are ready for this issue!" he agreed. In everything give thanks…

Question #3: True or False- But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

In April 2000, peter Waiyaki, the assistant general counsel for kenyam Airlines in Nairobi, Kenya, sent as e-mail reporting on plans for an August 2000 conference for 80 Christian lawyers and pastors from six eastern African nations. He mentioned that they were praying for $33,000 that they still lacked. I told our general counsel, wally Cheney, that if Peter would send us a detailed budget then Bobby and I would draw down $10,000 on our home equity line to help their conference.

The next day Advocates received a $ 10,000 gift from a "total stranger" in Phoenix, Arizona. It was the largest gift we have ever received from a stranger. I called the benefactor to find out who he was and why he had sent this gift. He told me that he first heard me speak when he was a law student at UCLA in 1981-19 years earlier! He heard me speak a second time in April 2000 at the Arizona Governor's Prayer Breakfast. My talk was Living Beyond Belief - it's not enough to believe something, we must act on it. His gift came in response to those two "Sowings" of my life into his.

As it turned out, Peter and the Africans did not need our $ 10,000 gift. But we learned once again that all these things will be given to you as well if we are available and continue seeking Him!

Question #4 True or False - You, dear children are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 (NIV)

Every day we receive stories about religious persecution around the globe. Evil is on the loose on every continent. We also receive His-stories of God's intervention - often through his local advocates- in ways that none of us could ever plan. A common thread among these "overcomers" is perseverance. They trust God. They never quit. For example, in several countries Christians prayed that their Parliaments would not pass law making all evangelism a crime. They got their answer. In one nation, a military coup dissolved the Parliament. In another a new election was held where none of the co-sponsors of the proposed laws were re-elected! Greater is the one in you…

Question#5: True or False - I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

The Body of Christ is a Reality! Within the Church are Lawyers, judges and national leaders. Our mission is to encourage, enable and equip these advocates to live out the Good Samaritan parable in their practice. They are the parable's "innkeepers" with the languages, law licenses, contacts and commitment needed to promote religious freedom, human rights, conflict resolution and ethics. Our home office has three full-time staff to facilitate linking lawyers reaching over 135nations. My life verse is "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." After God's unmerited gifts to me of 21,575 days, 517,800 hours and over three billion heartbeats, I know this verse is true when things go right and when things go wrong! God's Word never fails! We can bank on it!


Who Needs an Advocate?

Advocates international's global network has been active since 1991 in promoting religious freedom and human rights, reconciliation and justice, ethics and the integration of faith and practice, by 2002 the network linked over 30,000 law professionals in 100 nations, including those in 30 former or current communist nations and in over 60 nations where religious freedom is under attack. The following is a sampling of the countless ways Advocates Staff Board and national colleagues are engaged globally. With few exceptions, the services were provided free of charge.

Churches, missions and ministries wresting with Ste or U.N policies

  • When the UN embargo on Haiti grounded all flights to the island, advocates intervened to get medical missionary planes back in the air.
  • When the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice planned to bar all adoptions of orphans by Americans, advocates intervened and kept the door opened for hundreds of adoptions.
  • When the Union Bible Training Centre in Uaanbaatar, Mongolia was shut down and fined$39,000, advocates successfully re-registered it and had the fine cancelled.
  • When the pastor of the Evangelical Congregational Church in Sophia, Bulgaria, after serving several yearsin prison, sought to get church properties back that had been confiscated under communism, advocates intervened and all the properties were eventually returned.
  • When churchesin Russia faced possible liquidation for failing to register properly, advocates intervened by preparing a Cd kit which advice on how to register and keep their doors open.
  • When hundreds of Jesus film videos were confiscated at Mongolia's main airport, advocates successfully intervened with the customs officials for their release.
  • When churches, orphanages, seminaries, church schools and Christian radio stations and other ministries in Bulgaria, Eritrea, France, Latvia, Mongolia, Nepal, Romania, South Africa, Turkey and other countries in feared closure, advocates intervened to keep them open.
  • When advocacy at the U.N was needed by evangelical ministries to protect their right to speak at the U.N Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, advocates provided that voice.
  • When missionaries needed visas or were threatened with deportation, advocates intervened.
  • When churches and ministries sought to recover properties that had been confiscated during the communist era, advocates intervened in almost all affected nations.

Persecuted believers

  • When a Paskistani Christian was sentenced to be hanged in for violating the "Blasphemy Law" advocates intervened by meeting directly with the Chief Justice to discuss the general applicability of the law to believers. Some months later, the man was freed.
  • When 15 Greek Pentecostals were indicted for "proselytizing". Advocates intervened successfully as lead defense counsel and expert witness.
  • When Saudi Arabia threatened to decapitate two Filipino Christians for holding home bible studies and services, advocates joined others in persuading the Saudis to send them home.
  • When Israeli officials threatened to deport three Messianic Jewish sisters back to Ethiopia, a network of advocates intervened to prevent the deportations.
  • When persecuted believers needed their stories told at the U.N Human Rights Commission advocates spoke for them.

Countries seeking to write or amend their laws and Commissions
  • When the religion and judicial clauses to Albania's Constitution were drafted, advocates served as consultants.
  • When Albania, Bulgaria, China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Peru, Portugal, Romania and others needed assistance drafting laws on religion, advocates intervened.

Lawyers and judges seeking fellowship and professional training
  • When the Supreme Courts of Albania, Armenia and Mongolia wanted to hold judicial conferences, advocates intervened. Albania judges received their first-ever robes when advocates "converted" 180 Presbyterian Choir robes hanging in U.S closets to judicial robes.
  • When the Rule of Law institutes in Bulgaria and Mongolia needed office space, advocates help them acquire facilities. The Mongolians move also benefited a clinic for the blind poor.
  • When lawyers in several nations wanted lunch national Christian fellowship groups, nearly 1,000 lawyers worldwide to attend global and regional conferences on religious liberty, conflict resolution, and the integration of faith and practice.
  • When law schools I several former and current communist nations needed law books, advocates intervened.

The helpless, poor, sick and oppressed
  • When street children in Kenya were denied education and jobs because they did not have the necessary identity cards, advocates acted to insure that all children could have the cards.
  • When the first unrestricted abortion-on-demand challenge in South Africa surfaced, advocates intervened and derailed the initial efforts.
  • When an AIDS babies hospice in South Africa was about to be evicted and closed, advocates intervened and got the lease extended on even better terms.
  • When thousands of Russian prisoners needed legal aid, medicines, chapels and religious materials, advocates intervened. Advocates helped reduce over 600 years in sentences.
  • When individuals without representation were convicted in death penalty cases, advocates in Kenya, Russia and Uganda provided legal aid. In Russia several advocates helped get a moratorium on all executions because of the lack of representations in many cases.
  • When two Albanian Supreme Court Justices from Muslim traditions needed laser surgery in the U.S to cure their blindness, advocates intervened in helping restore their sight
  • When the President of Albania in 1995 planned to jail the Chief Justice for promoting the rule of law, advocates helped the Chief Justice and his family immigrate to the U.S and later employed him to help draft provisions to a proposed Constitution.
  • When Nepal's Prime Minister asked for medical assistance to help 8,000 refugees, advocates provided the legal work needed to enable the visit of 110 U.S doctors and nurses.
  • When a young Mongolian Christian Lawyer needed $ 3,000 for serious dental and medical care to prevent irreparable heart damage, advocates intervened by finding a benefactor.
  • When an Albanian diplomat needed major dental care that had caused two-year's constant pain which would cost $7,000- advocates intervened and the dental work was done free.