"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:12-13 NIV)
This past Sunday, we had to be absent from our regular duties here in Cedar Key in order for me to meet with the Elders and other members of the church in Montgomery, Alabama that asked if Galina and I would make a mission trip to Inta, Russia and learn first-hand about their situation and provide them some encouragement. This was important because the Inta church was not able to have visits from missionaries for over 5 years - the same as Magadan. I also preached for the church in Alabama and informed the church about our visit using words and pictures. Galina also talked about Russia with various people in different settings as we were shuttled here and there during those two days.
We also received a blessing Sunday night during their evening worship service. Prior to my introduction as speaker, the local preacher conducted a ten-minute Children's Bible Hour. Most of the kids appeared to be pre-school and up to 2nd grade. We were in awe as they enthusiastically sang praises to God from their hearts. They answered difficult Bible questions with a measure of confidence lacking in many adult Christians. These bright kids were rewarded by the preacher with little gifts for their hard work in acquiring this knowledge. This brought memories of my boyhood days when preachers and other teachers taught us the Scriptures with the same zeal. My heart was overjoyed to be an eyewitness to a sparkling revival for the love of scripture in the Church.
Back in the Seventies, while on a mission trip to the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent, it happened that our mission work was on the extreme northern end of the island in two small towns mostly populated by descendants of Carib native people. Since this was my first visit, I was concerned that the people would not have much knowledge of the Scriptures. It turned out that this was not a well-founded fear. There was a small school in the center of the community, and we learned that since this used to be part of Great Britain, the children still studied from the King James Version of the Bible as their primary text for learning the King or Queen's English. It turned out that only a small group of people on the island had their own copy of the Bible, so they were overjoyed to receive copies of God's word and to study its message.
On my first visit to Russia not long after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was an exhilarating experience as our group passed out copies of God's Word to hundreds of people packed into an overcrowded meeting room to hear preaching for the first time in their lives. Those three weeks in northern Russia in 1992 helped me to realize more clearly that the Bible is not an exclusive asset of the American people. In striking contrast to certain commodities, the value of the Bible actually increases as more copies are distributed around the world. People read it for the first time in their native language, and become familiar with our loving God the Father, the Holy Spirit and accept Jesus Christ the Son of God as their Lord.
After this initial visit to the northern Ural Mountain region of Russia, my mission work in Russia turned to helping plant Churches of Christ in the Far East cities of Khabarovsk, Komsomolsk-na-Amur, Birobidzhan, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, and ultimately to Magadan in the northern Far East. Magadan, the very name rings fear in the hearts of many citizens who remember the horrors of the old Gulag forced labor prison camps for people who spoke out against the Soviet regime or who dared to defy the government and openly practice their faith. Millions suffered and died in these camps.
It was there in Magadan that I met Galina and later learned from her how she once used an entire month's salary to purchase her own copy of the Bible in Russian language. She did this as soon as it was possible to order it by mail from a publisher in Moscow. It was a courageous act at a time when she was a single mother struggling to take care of two kids on her salary as the Chief of the Foreign Language Department at the Magadan Regional Library. The only way she could afford to do this was to work teaching English in a college at night.
Besides the indescribable treasure of a New Life in Christ made possible when we become aware of God's saving grace and have obedient faith in Jesus Christ as our new Master - what could be worth more than your own Bible?! Is a new car worth more than the Bible? A new house; new jewels; new clothes; stocks, bonds, timberland? Men and women will utterly give their life in pursuit of the wealth of this world. Yet, only a few will realize that the greatest treasure in the world is freely available to all humanity. The secret to eternal life is not bubbling up from a spring in Florida. It is not hidden in some pyramid in Egypt or the Yucatan. The absolute truth about how to have eternal life is plainly revealed in the books of the Holy Bible! Believe with all your heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God and the true Messiah (Christ) for the entire world. (Mark 16:15-16) Repent of your sins. (Acts 2:38) Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins. (Acts 22:16) With the help of God's grace, live faithfully until death. (Romans 6, Revelation 3:21) The Bible is absolutely the most remarkable book in the entire world. Have you discovered its treasures? Some people accuse Christians of having a superstitious view of the Bible. However, the fact is that the Bible leads us to knowledge of God's wisdom - the truth. Some skeptics say to us that there are some good ideas in the Bible, but we are very nave to think that everything is the truth. People of faith sincerely believe that the facts in the Bible are factual statements. These facts will never be disproved by sophistry or cleverly misusing scientific data. When God teaches us something in the Bible, it is up to us to accept it as fact. When a loving father tells his children that the house is on fire and they must get out now, there is no time to argue with Daddy about the truth of his statements. We are all running out of time. It is urgent that we accept the message of salvation sent by God's Son.
You are invited to attend the services of the Church of Christ which meets at the corner of 3rd and E Streets. Please write me with any questions or comments at, P.O. Box 186, Cedar Key, FL 32625 or email@example.com. Or you may also request to receive the daily WORD OF THE DAY by e-mail. Visit our web site at www.cedarkeychurchofchrist.com.