Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Subjected in Hope

Last night my dog died. He was old and it wasn't totally unexpected. The last few months his health had been deteriorating. It was still hard to see it happen though.

When I checked on him for the last time last night, he was struggling to breath, but still alive though he seemed unable to control any of his limbs or do anything more than just breath waiting for the inevitable. My other younger dog mostly kept her distance, except for letting out a few barks at the great unseen enemy that came for its due.

All this caused me to consider Romans 8:20, and how God subjected creation to corruption, not willingly but in hope. One day there will be a new earth, with no more death in the animal kingdom, no more pain and suffering. He allowed man to fall and as a result all creation was subject to these things, but it was not done purely punitively but in hope of the better world to come. Sometimes we can't see clearly now, but one day we will see that every suffering here that this creation must undergo will be more than made up for with joy in the new and perfect creation that God will make. May God grant that we all see it!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Contrast of Words

This morning I was reading in Proverbs and I came upon this verse. Proverbs 18:8, “The words of a whisperer are as dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts.”
Some translations go on a Jewish tradition and translate “dainty morsels” as wounds, but the actual text is dainty morsels. Wounds are received against the will, but delicacies are only too readily swallowed down. Gossip is often received without any hesitation as to its truth or falsehood, and yet it goes down into the mind and heart and changes human relationships forever. This is the negative power of words.

The words of the wise however are like goads and fastened nails (Ecc. 12:11). They encourage us and prod us along when we become complacent and provide stability and structure just like a well placed nail does in a frame. The source of these wise words is the One Shepherd – God, who gives wisdom to the wise.

Our words are important, do we speak from our own spirit or repeat what others have said, or do we speak what God gives us to say? Christ judged righteously and not by the hearing of His ear or the sight of His eye, and we should do the same.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Wisdom of God

The Wisdom of God is necessarily as unbounded as His existence and intellect, so this post is more just a brief look at a few points than a study that really does justice to the subject.
Having the wisdom of God is essential as believers because we are called to manifest this manifold wisdom not only to the world, but to all the spiritual rulers in the heavenly places. Eph 3:8-11, “This grace is given to me (who am less than the least of all saints) to preach the gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ among the nations, and to bring to light what is the fellowship of the mystery which from eternity has been hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ; so that now to the rulers and powers in the heavenlies might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord…”

Not only is the church to manifest wisdom, but it is to manifest manifold wisdom, or wisdom in every facet and area of interaction between itself as a body and the outside world. Of all the wonderful plans which Christ has for His Church this is probably the one of which His Church most often falls short.

Since it is God’s desire that we should walk in His wisdom, I would like to look at a few things that could be called hallmarks of His Wisdom, things that we can look at to see if we are making wise choices.

Zophar tells us in Job 11:6 that sound wisdom is manifold, or double. One of the key elements of God’s wisdom is that it works not only for a short term solution, but for an eternal goal. Earthly wisdom is often very shortsighted and involves a buy now pay later mentality.

James gives us several practical attributes to test our “wise” ideas against in James 3:17, “But the wisdom that is from above is first truly pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

Firstly it is pure, anything that seems like a good idea, but is tainted by any impurity of any kind will eventually be tarnished, whatever temporary good may result will be destroyed by the impurity.
Secondly it is peaceable, much that happens in churches is manifestly not of the wisdom of God, because of its combatative nature. God is angry with the wicked and yet can still draw near to them with an offer of peace should they be willing to submit, and we should learn from Him.

It is gentle. Telling someone the truth is necessary, but gentleness can make the difference between the person receiving or rejecting the truth. Wisdom is not only what we say but how we say it. People may reject the Word of God anyway, but we don’t want to give them an excuse to do so by our rough manner. Wisdom gives people what they need to hear in the way that is most likely to make them able to receive it.

It is easy to be entreated. It is genuinely interested in the best for people and when asked puts forth the real and lasting solutions to their problems without a condescension.

It is full of mercy and good fruits. One of the most amazing aspects of God’s wisdom is His ability to restore men like David and Peter and use them to such a degree that not only is mercy vindicated, but also His wisdom in restoring them. It is far wiser to be able to restore someone who has been a recipient of care, ministry, and training then to totally cast them aside.

It is without partiality. Whenever people use prejudices to determine their choices they inevitably not only wrong the ones they overlook, but they also wrong themselves. God responds to people as they respond to Him, not based on their ethnic group, age, gender or any other outward appearance that we choose.

It is without hypocrisy. God’s wisdom is what it is. There is no guile in God, no trickiness. He may not reveal everything, because we cannot fathom it, but He does not manipulate or deceive.

God’s wisdom works. It is always justified by the good fruit it produces. It not only achieves results in a situation, but it lays down the character of God into the life of the one who follows it. His Wisdom declared that He would send apostles and prophets to be martyrs (Luke 11:49-51). This would work several things at once. It would provide a witness to the unbelieving, who would become more culpable in God’s sight. It would provide an opportunity for His followers to lay down their lives that others might know of salvation even as He had given His life for the salvation of mankind. Lastly it would cause men like Saul to be touched and turn from a persecutor to a preacher and spread the message farther and faster than men like Stephen could ever have taken it had he not laid his life down. Truly the foolishness of God is wiser than men!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Back in Malawi

I arrived back in Malawi on Saturday. My first recollection as I disembarked from the plane was how hot it is here. Sure South Africa was a lot hotter than Erie was, because the seasons are polar opposites, but neither compared to the raw heat coming off of the pavement as I walked towards the immigration building. When it starts raining it should cool off a little, but until then a fan helps a lot (actually as I write this it has started raining and gotten much cooler) . Sunday my parents were in Dedza ministering at a church there, I was holding down the fort here. While I was doing that I got the wifi network setup, which should make things easier for us here. After a little niggle I managed to get the internet connection shared too. This all simplifies backing up files without using a flashdisk to move stuff around.
Conditions in Malawi are around normal, we have electric outages every other night. We also are having a diesel shortage, dad got the pickup filled up the day before I arrived back, but he spent 8 hours finding a station that had it and waiting in line to get it. Our new pickup is running well. The old one is awaiting replacement of its springs (4th time this year) and brakes. Dad was going to drive down to Luchenza (1 ½ hours SE) to deliver some tin for a church, but the trip has had to be postponed.
Mom has finished ironing a lot of the clothes we buy in bales and then distribute for Christmas. Yesterday I spent most of the morning dividing 50 kg bags of beans into 1kg packets for distribution (this will be a reccuring task for the next few months especially in the lead up to Christmas). Today I partially sorted out a printer problem (a little bit of tape was on the copper circuit preventing the printer from recognizing its presence), only to run into a second one (the cartridge ran out of ink halfway through the 3rd page anyway).
This Sunday I will be ministering in one church in Luchenza, while dad ministers in another one in the area. That’s a pretty brief summary of this last week and what is coming up this week.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Blog from JFK

I should be in Malawi by now, but here I am. How did this happen?
I left Buffalo on Jetblue at around 5:50, and arrived at JFK minus one luggage item. It had apparently been searched by TSA, probably because it had several cans of food in it. I went to the baggage claim section and talked to them, the missing bag came in on the next flight and I had it in my hands at 9:35am and headed to the South African Airways Terminal. I thought I would just make it since the flight only left at 11:35 and I was there by 9:45 (actually sine Jet blue had given me a $30 voucher I felt pretty good about the whole thing at this point). However SAA shuts their check in at 9:30, and the lady (wo)manning the check-in had apparently come close to perfecting Nietzsche’s virtue of courage in turning away from the face of human misery. Neither my letter from Jetblue, nor the fact that missing this flight would make me miss my Malawi connection and have to wait until the next flight on Saturday, nor even my best “Lightning McQueen” Kachow-Kachow smile and charm could get me on the plane.
During the second attempt to try to get Jetblue to help me somehow, following the refusal of SAA. By the time I tried a few things SAA had closed their ticket booth, which is only open 7-10:35, so I had to wait until the next morning to sort out the tickets.
About the only good thing I feel about saying about Jetblue right now is that they have free wifi in their terminal which is how this gets out.
I tried to phone some of my siblings so they could contact the people in South Africa and my parents in Malawi concerning what had happened.
I kept on getting answering machines and voice mail, each of which cost me a dollar in change and sometimes didn’t take the message. I bought a five dollar phone card and contacted one of my sister-in-laws who was able to email people. I then found out that Jetblue has free wifi all throughout their terminal and used it to email people myself.
Spent the rest of the day (remember I got here at 7:15am) wandering around, found a set of shops and food court at Terminal 4, spent the night there. I got a decent amount of sleep but felt pretty stiff because I was using my laptop case as a pillow.
This morning I got my ticket changed, but since Tuesday is the one day SAA does not fly out of JFK I will be here until Thursday morning. I am currently sipping coffee and recharging my laptop, if I were stuck with other people I would probably rent a baggage locker and go see some of New York, but sightseeing alone isn’t a lot of fun. On the plus side I am reading a Church history book a friend of mine loaned me and I am making good progress on it 
I am looking forward to leaving, but not to another night sleeping on the benches here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


One of my biggest and reccuring faults is irritability with people. So one of the things I find most amazing about God is that inspite of His knowing and seeing far more than we do, He is still able to be longsuffering and patient. A little while ago as I was irritated and trying to get over it, I thought of this Scripture.

2 Cor. 5:18-19 But all things are of God, who has made us at peace with himself through Christ, and has given to us the work of making peace; That is, that God was in Christ making peace between the world and himself, not putting their sins to their account, and having given to us the preaching of this news of peace.

It struck me how offended God had to be with our sin and how He actually had to overlook it even to do for us. He was justifiably angry yet, He chose to overlook it that He might take the cost of reconciliation upon Himself. Had He not been willing to overlook it, He would never have been able to take the sin upon Himself and we would have been stuck in our condition forever. This is a reminder to me to let things go and even be willing not only to overlook wrongs but to be willing to bear the blame in relationships so that I can be like Christ.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Chaff and Wheat

One of my favorite portions of Scripture is found in Jeremiah 23:28-29, “The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream. And he who has My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? says Jehovah. Is not My Word like a fire? says Jehovah; and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”

This was spoken against the false prophets who all had words that were false and confirmed people in the wrong way. God, however speaking through Jeremiah, compares the words which are not His counsel with chaff, and His Word to wheat. In threshing and winnowing the chaff is carried away by the wind but the wheat remains. God’s word is abiding, it will stand every wind of change and every gale of trouble to come, but the chaff of man’s word, man’s ideas and ways will not abide.

Chaff is an often used symbol in the Bible for transience. The wicked are compared to chaff, because their works are not eternal. In the vision Daniel had in Daniel chapter 2 the image was broken and became as chaff that passed away showing that all the kingdoms and ways of this world will not abide in the end.

Wheat has several different meanings in the Word of God, but they all spring from the fact that it is desirable, edible and enduring in the winnowing process. Wheat has substance and weight to it which causes it to endure in the time of the blowing wind.

Last night I began to think about wheat and chaff, and had a realization. In these verses we just read God’s word is compared to wheat. God’s Word is enduring, because it is not only a word, but it is also an eternal Person. Christ the Word made flesh. Also in Matthew 3 and Luke 3 John the Baptist points to Christ as one who will winnow and gather the wheat of His people into barns and burn the chaff of the wicked. Wheat is therefore not only symbolic of God’s Word, but also of God’s people. Then I was struck by a thought, are God’s people not like wheat because they receive the wheat of the Word? Why do the people of God remain in the winnowing? Because they have the eternal substance which is found in the eternal gospel, they are partakers of the divine nature. This is the importance of receiving with meekness (submissive obedience) the engrafted Word. The Word of God imparts something of the eternality and stability of God to us as we obey it. The Word weighs us down so we are not driven to and fro by the winds of changing circumstances and peer pressure. It gives us a stability that the world does not and can never have.

Jesus brings the permanence produced by hearing and obeying His Word in another analogy in Mat 7:24-27 “ Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock. And the rain came down, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house. And it did not fall, for it was founded on a rock. And everyone who hears these sayings of Mine and does not do them shall be compared to a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain came down, and the floods came, and the wind blew and beat on that house. And it fell, and great was its fall.”

In the times that are coming we need more than ever to have His enduring nature within us and this is imparted through obedience to His Word. The winds and floods will come in different ways to each of us, but if we abide in Him and His Word abides in us we will stand strong. Praise God!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Your Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven

The last day or two I have been reading in Zechariah and thinking a little bit about the visions of the four horses (Zech 6:1-8). I am still praying for light on the whole thing as I feel that maybe God wants to show me something on it, but having looked at a few commentaries and having read over the passage some I still don't know.

However, we are all given a pattern on how to pray by Christ, and in that prayer we are told to pray that His will would be done in the same way on earth as it is in heaven. This much I can see in Zech. 6, so I will start at looking at how Scripture shows us God's will is done in heaven so we can see what we are to be praying for.

God's will is done willingly and promptly. In Ezekiel 1, the four living creatures did not turn when they went, but moved straight ahead in immediate obedience to the promptings of the Lord. They also return to be instantly ready to serve again.

As we see in Zech. 6, God's will is accomplished with a desire to bring joy to Him and to remove anything which offends or disturbs Him. I do not know what specifically the chariots were sent to do, but clearly there was something in the north country that had disturbed God and they were sent and put it right (Zech. 6:8). We also should be zealous for the Lord's quiet and pleasure in all that we do.

Lastly God's will is fully accomplished in heaven, and so may it ever be in our lives. Amen.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thoughts on Psalm 83:11-12

Psa 83:11-12 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna, who said, "Let us take possession for ourselves of the pastures of God."

Asaph in remembering the past victories which God gave to Israel, specifically in the book of Judges, is crying out to God for a similar work against the current enemies of the Lord.

These four men had made themselves notable examples of both oppression of Israel in the days of Gideon and by their defeat also notable examples of divine retribution. Their desire in oppression was a possession of God’s land, specifically His pastures, houses or sheepfolds (the word has those three significations), all of which point to churches. These four men are types of spirits which attempt not just to destroy individual believers, but attempt to actually mar God’s inheritance by taking over churches.

Their names are significant, starting from the last to the first we see a causation of decline in churches.
Zalmunna means protection is denied. It is impossible for God’s enemies to gain even temporary possession of God’s houses unless He has removed His hand of protection from them. As the love of God’s people towards Him cools and they no longer serve Him with joy and gladness His protection is withdrawn (Rev. 2:4, Deut. 28:47).
After a while of continuing in this condition God actively gives over His church to His enemies, this is the meaning of Zebah – sacrifice or victim. These are the princes, or chief causes of the desolation which follows, the withdrawal of protection and active giving over. The nobles are the actual enemies which now wreak havoc within the churches given over.
Zeeb – the wolf, is a type of false teachers and heretics. False teachers are ordained by God (Jude 1:4). I picture this in this way, God looks through His church and sees the hearts of all men, He then gives a call, “I need teachers of error to test my peoples love for the truth. Which of you would like to have popularity and money more than you would like the truth? You will have everything you desire, but no relationship with Me, and only eternal judgment on the other side.” The hearts of the teachers of error all put up their hands and say, “Pick me, pick me.” Admittedly the choice is not often that blatantly stated, but even if it were they would make the same choice.
What state are we in when it is possible for a church to have one of its members commit murder and then suicide and claim that he is still in heaven, but he lost all his rewards?!?

Lastly there is Oreb – the raven. An unclean, carrion bird known throughout antiquity for its eerie ability to detect sickly and dying animals by smell and to call to the other ravens, hence the sound of a raven became an omen of death. It also was known for attacking the eyes of its victims first (Prov. 30:17). It is truly a type of those unclean spirits which detecting weaknesses in men take them captive in all uncleanness, and using the eye as the main means of entry through lust, have deprived men of both spiritual and natural sight as in the case of Samson.

These enemies must be defeated, not only Oreb and Zeeb, but the ones who enabled their ravages - Zebah and Zalmunnah. The victories will be notable even as the Rock of Oreb was noteworthy as where he was slain and the winepress of Zeeb was known for his demise. There will be clearly distinguishable points where these battles were fought and overcome. Then God’s mature leaders, not youths, must earnestly seek for and deal with Zebah and Zalmunnah, and restore God’s protection to His people, and lead them to turn their hearts back to Him (Judges 8).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Upward Call

Philippians 3:13-14 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Recently I have been thinking about the phrase the upward call, or as it is sometimes translated the high call, or upward invitation. This is the prize for which Paul was constantly running towards. What is this upward call?

First, it is a drawing of our desires toward the one who calls. As Song of Solomon says, “Draw me and we will run after you.” An invitation when it is received draws out a response from the one who receives it, whether favorable or not (ignoring an invitation is as sure a refusal as an emphatic “no”). The upward call is a continuous outpouring of the heart of God calling us higher and higher so that we can be closer and closer to Him. It can be to a higher level of ministry and revelation as it was with John in Rev. 4:1, where he is called up from one level of vision and prophecy unto a higher one. It can also be a call onward to know Christ in a new and deeper way through entering into His sufferings and joys.

Second, and very importantly, the upward call creates ability to fulfill it. When Christ walked on water, Peter seeing Him, said, “Lord, if it is You, tell me to come.” After the Lord’s call to come, he was able to do the impossible as long as his focus remained on the Lord. Christ’s upward call not only calls us onward, but it gives us the power to move. It is this upward call that enables us to change and be conformed to the image of Christ.

Our part is to respond to the upward call, to hear it and obey it. Like men walking in the dark being lead by a guide, hearing His voice and following. His call always leads to Himself! This is what Paul was constantly running in response to, what he was reaching for! The light of Christ shed abroad at that moment followed by obedience and awaiting further light. Those who follow hard in this life are privileged to do the same forever (Rev. 14:4). Praise God!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Spare Your People O Lord

The ELCA has officially decided now to allow homosexual clergy in their churches. It is good that the signers of the Augsburg confession are in heaven where there is no sorrow, otherwise doubtless their hearts would be broken. They were willing to risk earthly honors, political quiet, and even war for the sake of the Gospel and their descendants in America are not willing to bear with the disapproval of the world and its agenda.
That on its own is sad enough, but as this morning as I have been contemplating the state of the Church in general, I have had the realization that this will likely not be the last denomination to do this. Those of us who are not Lutherans look and say, “whew, I am glad I am not Lutheran.” Yet, I must wonder how much lower must the Church come before It awakes. We are like the Germans in Nazi Germany, who looked the other way when the Nazis persecuted the Jews, because they were not Jewish, then ignored what they did when they came for the Catholics, because they were not Catholic. At last there was no one left to turn to.
Let us awake and cry out to God.

Joel 2:27 - Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, "Spare your people, O LORD, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'"

It is a reproach to Christ when any church that has preached the Gospel in any measure is given over to rule by any open sinners of any variety. The people of God are His heritage, those that have His Name upon them. It is an exceedingly grievous thing when any of His sheep are under such leadership. Yet again Christ comes to His own and His own receive Him not. This is an often repeated scenario, repeated by nations, churches and individuals. We would crucify Christ again if it were possible, the cry goes out, “not this man, but Barabbas!” We would rather have a murderer or other notorious sinner in our midst than the very Son of God!

This is not the first time such a thing has happened. During the Arian controversy many, many churches were under men who denied the Deity of Christ in any real sense, and some who did not deny it themselves compromised for the sake of imperial favor. Many centuries later, during the heyday of the Puritans, men like Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, George Fox and many others had a hard time in their youth finding ministers who were sober in the pulpit, let alone able to lead others in the way of salvation. The Church has weathered both of these and other storms and this one shall also pass. However we must pray that God would spare His people, that He would not let the heathen rule over them. Perhaps if we turn to Him with our whole heart He will relent and not allow the Church to be plunged into further darkness.

Let us not be like Ephraim or Samson who sunk so low as to not realize their own decrepitude before it was too late to avoid a serious captivity (Hosea 7:9; Judges 16:20).

Spare Your people O Lord! Turn our hearts again toward You!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Practical Application Of Daniel 2:31-35

Dan 2:31-35 "You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

We know from the verses which follow that this refers to the kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome and revived Rome, but I would like to look at this from a different and personal perspective. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). So how can we apply this personally?

First is the head of gold, our own bright ideas and plans for our lives. Our own creativity and mental capabilities. We all want to control our own destiny, but it is not in man to direct his way (he can choose a path, but the path takes him where it goes). God wants to destroy our plans and establish His far better ones in their place. Our thoughts are not His thoughts, and He desires us to surrender our thoughts to Him.

Second is the breast of silver, which compares to our affections (after all, the heart is there). Are our affections on the things of this world? If we love this world the Love of the Father is not in us. Our affections should be set on those things above, where Christ is.

Third is the middle and thighs of bronze, this speaks of motives (Hebrews viewed the kidneys as the source of motive, see Psalm 7:9). What are our motives for what we do? Even good deeds are evil if they proceed from corrupt motives. We should not seek the praise of man but of God. God desires to revolutionize our motives for the deeds we do.

The legs of iron could refer to our own stubborn way of doing things - an inflexibility and insistence on our own methods and traditions. God wants us to be willing to yield to His leading even when it contradicts our cherished traditions (but not His Word).

The feet of iron mixed with clay - these are our inconsistencies and good but short lived intentions. We try to serve God in our own strength and we fail. When God's Kingdom comes it destroys all confidence in our own ability and leaves us wholly dependent on Him (Phil. 3:3).

Christ personally comes to each of us and as we allow Him to work like the stone in the vision, He will demolish these Kingdoms in our life and establish His own in us. These things are blown away like chaff, because they have no real substance. His Kingdom will endure forever. It has substance, and when it fills us and replaces these other Kingdoms we too will have an enduring substance. Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.(Psalm 125:1). Praise God!

Second Week of Bible School

Today marks the end of our first week of Bible School. It has been a good week, we have had 27 students this term. I taught on Repentance. Tomorrow, Dad will start a study on the lives of David and Solomon, which has a lot of good lessons specifically for leaders. The third week I will teach on the Gospel of John, and the last week Dad will teach on the Second Coming of Christ.

Ordinarily we have our third term in October, but since my (one and only) sister is getting married in October in the States, we moved the term forward. Mom will be heading to the States in a week, then Dad will follow right after Bible School ends and I will complete the Exodus a few days before the wedding.

It is great to have our students back, and to see growth in their lives.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Thoughts on Psalm 24

Psa 24:1 A Psalm of David. The earth is Jehovah's, and the fullness of it; the world, and those who dwell in it.
Psa 24:2 For He has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.
Psa 24:3 Who shall go up into the hill of Jehovah? Or who shall stand in His holy place?
Psa 24:4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart; who has not lifted up his soul to vanity, and has not sworn deceitfully.
Psa 24:5 He shall receive the blessing from Jehovah, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Psa 24:6 This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face, O God of Jacob. Selah.
Psa 24:7 Lift up your heads, O gates; and be lifted up, O everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
Psa 24:8 Who is this King of glory? Jehovah strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle.
Psa 24:9 Lift up your heads, O gates; even lift up, O everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
Psa 24:10 Who is this King of glory? Jehovah of Hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah.

This Psalm begins by magnifying the greatness of God. The world belongs to Him, He formed it and bears rule over it. All mankind are His subjects, whether obedient good subjects or criminal rebellious ones.
The Psalm then shifts emphasis, if there is fear in the heart of a man to approach unto a mortal monarch, who held virtually unlimited power over the subjects in those days, how can anyone approach to this Monarch whose rule and power is far greater and justice more severe? If men fear a king because of his power of life or death over his subjects, how much more He who kills and makes alive and punishes or rewards after death? To approach such a King is either the surest way to all happiness or to all misery depending upon your reception.
Then are mentioned the qualifications for a good reception: clean hands – hands that are not polluted by evil deeds; a pure heart – a heart that does not meditate on and take pleasure in evil; Who has not lifted up his soul to vanity – our soul that is our affections should be fixed on things above and not fixed on things that perish; Not sworn deceitfully – there is no falsehood in God and no falsehood can stand long in His presence, our actions must follow our words and we must be faithful even as He is faithful. It is one who does these things that receives a blessing from the Lord, surely even to be allowed into His presence is a great blessing, but from that blessing flow many others. Also this man though he has done good things to arrive at this place has not a righteousness of his own to stand in, but instead has become a candidate to receive the righteousness of God. Truly when we have done all, we are only unprofitable servants!
Verse 6 is a very interesting verse if for no other reason, than it is a place in Scripture where God Himself assumes the name of Jacob (most translations insert God of). This is an act of mercy, lest having seen the high requirements set before us we should despair. None of us have clean hands or a pure heart that we could approach unto God, but He is the God of Jacob. The God of the crooked one who is willing to submit himself to God’s processes in his life that result in his straightening. The same God who sets a high standard also is willing that all should attain that standard.

This psalm being written around the time the tabernacle of David was set up, it ends with a cry that the gates of Jerusalem would open to receive their King, so that all could come and seek Him. May God open the gates of our hearts to His presence that He may dwell among us also! Amen.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Breadth, Length, Depth and Height of Love

For a few weeks I had been thinking of Eph. 3:19 and specifically "How is it possible to know that which surpasses knowledge?" Then a couple of days ago, my friend Allan asked me what were my thoughts on verse 18 and the breadth, length, etc. This made me decide to write on these verses.

Eph 3:17-19 "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God."

The first thing we see here concerning the love of God is that it requires Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith. God is love and it is His love that is shed abroad in our hearts starting with our new birth. As we partake of this love and are rooted and grounded in it, we are made able to comprehend it.

Next we need to know what is the breadth of this love. God's love extends to all of His creation and to man in a greater measure because we were created in His image. His love causes Him to give freely to all His creatures what they need (Psalm 145:16;Psalm 104:14-21; Matt. 5:44-45). The highest expression of this love was the gift of His only-begotten Son, who died to redeem man from the curse of sin. The breadth of this redeeming love is stretched as wide as the arms f Christ upon the cross and take in all who will shelter there.

The length of this love is actually from everlasting to everlasting. All who believe in Christ are loved in Christ by the Father and made partakers of that love. The love of the Father for the Son is before time and will continue long after time itself has passed away (John 17:20-26). It is this perfect love which is shared among the Trinity that Christ brought to earth and enabled us to receive. It is an eternal love and we are eternal recipients of it, as even in all eternity we will willingly return to the Father the love that He has poured into us. This love also bears with a life time of our struggles and shortcomings as we are prepared for glory.

The depth of this love is great. It brought the sinless Savior down from a holy heaven into a defiled world. He who knew no sin became sin for us. The abyss of love met the abyss of human depravity and filled the void. Not only did Christ come to earth and even sink down into the death of the cross, but (as my friend Allan reminded me) He descended into Hades and returned triumphant bringing souls in train. His love has gone as deep as depth is.

The height of this love follows closely on the depth. not only does it find us where we are, but it draws us up to Him. It causes us to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus and to be partakers of His divine nature. Eventually we will be there in heaven with Him having been transformed by this love. His love will have taken us to the highest place, near Him and with Him for all eternity.

To really understand this love is beyond our human capability. That is why it is said to surpass knowledge, but the more we realize its breadth and length ad depth and height we can manifest this love. As we do this we are filled with the essence of God Himself, which is love. When we deal with other people we need to remember this love. It is wide, they are included in its scope. It is long, both long-suffering and enduring. It is deep and will undergo much for those it loves. It is high and it will take all who exercise it up to it's fountain head in God above. That is the love that we should show others, praise God!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

In Him

The past couple of days I have been reading some of Hilary of Poitiers works. Since he lived in the midst of the Arian controversy, his writings have specific reference to the the divinity of Jesus Christ. While I wouldn't say that I learned a lot from reading his works because I am, of course, already a firm believer in the divinity of Christ, yet I did find it interesting to see how he draws from all the Scriptures starting in Genesis to show Christ's divinity. For example discussing the Angel of the Lord as a Christophony and using Scriptures like Gen. 19:14 to show the Son and Father working together in the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. Christ Himself contended with the Jews that if they had believed Moses they would have believed Him (John 5:46). All Scripture testifies to Christ and shows that He as the Son of God is the dividing line in history. Our eternal fate rests directly upon our attitude and response to Christ (Psalm 2:12 truly a greater than Solomon is here!)

With all this in mind I was thinking of the Phrase "in Him". This phrase shows the centrality of Christ, and the necessity of relationship to receive what is His and in Him. The Apostle Paul cried out to be found in Him clothed with His righteousness by faith. John tells us in Him was life. In Him we live and move and have our being. We were loved in Him and chosen in Him from before the foundation of the world. In the fulness of time God will gather all of heaven and (redeemed) earth in Him (Eph. 1:10). In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead (ie. the attributes that make God God). We are complete in Him. We are glorified in Him. This is by no means an exhaustive list of what is in Him.

The whole point of this is to show the centrality of Christ and our relationship to Him to everything in life. Everything we need in this life and the next is in Him, so are we "in Him." Are we trusting Him, believing Him, listening to His voice and obeying Him. It all depends on that. Unto Him be glory in the Church!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Seeing Him Who is Invisible

In Hebrews Chapter 11 we find the Faith Hall Of Fame so to speak of the Bible. Almost all the great heroes and heroines of faith receive at least a passing notice in this chapter, with some being only alluded to and others named with more details of their lives given. Part of what is said of Moses is as follows:

Heb 11:24-27 "By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to share ill treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he looked unto the recompense of reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible."

When we compare this little summary of this part of Moses' life with what we see in Exodus 2 and Acts 7:20-29 it appears that Moses had known that he was called to be a deliverer and in helping a fellow Israelite and killing the Egyptian, he thought it would be apparent to his people. It wasn't though and he had to flee and spend forty years in the wilderness (incidently if you follow Stephen's speech in Acts 7 it basically is showing the Jews how they have always resisted all the leaders God sent them from Moses right through until they even chose a murderer instead of Christ).

Moses must have been deeply discouraged, nothing he had attempted had worked out as he thought. He had abandoned all the earthly power and prestige that he had to be with the people of God and then they had rejected him. Yet he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.

When we have had disappointments and discouragements and wonder if God's promises will come to pass when it seems impossible we too must endure by seeing Him who is invisible. It is faith that enables us to see Him. It is faith that enables us to continue in spite of the difficulties that all believers will face to some degree.

Jeremiah wondered if God hadn't somehow tricked him in having him prophesy to people who had no interest in what he said (Jer. 20:7). However he still was faithful to speak God's word.

When we see Him who is invisible then there is really only one option, obedience. Yes, you can disobey and it would make life, at least temporarily, easier for you, but you would have disobeyed God and if you have a consciousness of Him it is hard to do that. Thus it is faith that causes us to carry on even when we don't like the options that the path gives us. The only options are either to go forward and trust God even though we do not see how things will work out, or quit, which would lead us out of immediate difficulties but bring us into far greater eternal ones.

This knowledge of the eternal realities is a seeing of Him who is invisible. It is only possible by faith and only continues as we exercise that faith and do not give up. This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Praise God!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Fighting God

In Luke 14:31-33 Jesus is speaking on counting the cost prior to choosing to become His disciple. In our day of easy-believism, it is interesting to see that Jesus was more interested in that the response of following Him would be made a full view of the dangers and difficulties as well as promises and blessings, something we tend to underemphasize today.

Luk 14:31-33 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not first sit down and consult whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So then, everyone of you who does not forsake all his possessions, he cannot be My disciple.

The first thing we need to see here, is that each of us is a king. Not only that but we are a king who is at war with another King. He is a good King to whom we owed vassalage, and homage, but whose yoke we early cast off. We have refused Him his due and He is angry with us for that, it is only a matter of time before His armies exact a punishment upon us for our willful and repeated rebellion against Him. This King is God.

With this in mind we must make a choice, and it had better be the right one. We must first consider if we are equal to the task of prosecuting this war, can we effectively fight God? Many have thought so, many have tried, and they all had a confidence that they could carry the war. Nietzsche gloried in his own intellect, yet when he left this world that intellect had been stripped from him and he died in a state of imbecility. Many have trusted in the vigor of youth, only to find themselves struck down in the midst of their youth by accident or sudden illness. Are you better prepared? If you think so, by all means gather your abilities, talents, wits, charm by which you intend to either overpower or impress the Most High. If you think you will impress Him by your abilities and talents or even charm, remember that these are His gift to you and He has seen all too many talented, charming people appear before Him on that grounds and yet they were condemned. Having created man and seen their doings for 6,000 odd years God is not easily impressed. If you choose to fight Him with strength, you will quickly find His power out-powers yours.

Your only chance is to quickly make your peace with God. The condition on which He will make peace with you is found at the end of these verses – a willingness to renounce all, and follow Christ. You should make peace as quickly as possible, while the Spirit of God is drawing your heart. You are only able to respond to God as He draws you. If you refuse the times of His offer of mercy, and allow Him to approach in judgment, then when your ammunition of strength is spent and the wall of your self-confidence breached and you stand vanquished, will you then presume on mercy, who despised it before? God delights in mercy and does not afflict the children of men willingly, but to be sure of receiving His mercy we must respond to the offer when it is given, while grace is available.

If you are reading this and you have never surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, giving Him complete control to order your life as He sees fit, please surrender to Him, and do it without delay.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Best Laid Plans…

My intention yesterday was to get started on the printing of “The Journey of Israel” study manual for our Bible school. I woke up nice and early ready to go, but thanks to the electric company, I was powerless to do it. Since it is always dark by 6:30 here, everything runs earlier than what it would in other parts of the world with more artificial lighting. I wake up at 4:30 most mornings and have my time of prayer and devotions. My 5:30 alarm is my signal to actually get up and turn off security lights on the compound and unlock the gate and put on a pot of coffee. The power cut at 5:29. I got up turned all the switches off (the lights themselves were already off if you want to be technical), and unlocked the gate. Since we had lost power so early I figured it would be off for a while so I got some wood out of the shed and boiled water to make coffee (this is a labour of love – primarily self-love, but dad enjoys it too). In addition to boiling water for coffee and later for tea (it was a fairly cold day), I also got to put my John Wayne skills to the test cooking baked beans and hamburger (power only came back on at 12:40). I had mixed results, the baked beans were great, but I had to much burger sticking to the grill in that option.
I’m typing all this to say that I had a totally unproductive morning, at least as far as what I wanted to do was concerned. On a positive note, I did not complain about the outage (much better attitude than my usual), so maybe I can call it a moral victory? Anyway, some days just carrying on is all the productivity that can be expected.

The Best Laid Plans…

My intention yesterday was to get started on the printing of “The Journey of Israel” study manual for our Bible school. I woke up nice and early ready to go, but thanks to the electric company, I was powerless to do it. Since it is always dark by 6:30 here, everything runs earlier than what it would in other parts of the world with more artificial lighting. I wake up at 4:30 most mornings and have my time of prayer and devotions. My 5:30 alarm is my signal to actually get up and turn off security lights on the compound and unlock the gate and put on a pot of coffee. The power cut at 5:29. I got up turned all the switches off (the lights themselves were already off if you want to be technical), and unlocked the gate. Since we had lost power so early I figured it would be off for a while so I got some wood out of the shed and boiled water to make coffee (this is a labour of love – primarily self-love, but dad enjoys it too). In addition to boiling water for coffee and later for tea (it was a fairly cold day), I also got to put my John Wayne skills to the test cooking baked beans and hamburger (power only came back on at 12:40). I had mixed results, the baked beans were great, but I had to much burger sticking to the grill in that option.
I’m typing all this to say that I had a totally unproductive morning, at least as far as what I wanted to do was concerned. On a positive note, I did not complain about the outage (much better attitude than my usual), so maybe I can call it a moral victory? Anyway, some days just carrying on is all the productivity that can be expected.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Quote from Ruysbroeck

Recently I have been reading Ruysbroeck’s Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage, which I have so far found to be very good. While of course he predates either Calvinism or Arminianism proper, this quote shows pretty clearly which side he would weigh in on.
From Chapter 1 On the Active Life,

“The light of Divine grace is a fruit-bearing shoot, coming forth from the
living paradise of the eternal kingdom; and no deed can bring refreshment or
profit to man if it be not born of this shoot. This shoot of Divine grace,
which makes man pleasing to God, and through which he merits eternal life,
is offered to all men. But it is not grafted into all, because some will not
cut away the wild branches of their trees; that is, unbelief, and a perverse
and disobedient will opposed to the commandments of God.

But if this shoot of God’s grace is to be grafted into our souls, there must
be of necessity three things: the prevenient grace of God, the conversion of
one’s own free will, and the purification of conscience. The prevenient
grace touches all men, God bestowing it upon all men. But not all men give
on their part the conversion of the will and the purification of conscience;
and that is why so many lack the grace of God, through which they should
merit eternal life.

The prevenient grace of God touches a man from without and from within. From
without through sickness; or through the loss of external goods, of kinsmen,
and of friends; or through public disgrace. Or he may be stirred by a
sermon, or by the examples of the saints or of good men, their words, or
their deeds; so that he learns to recognize himself as he is. This is how
God touches a man from without.

Sometimes a man is touched also from within, through remembering the sorrows
and the sufferings of our Lord, and the good which God has bestowed upon him
and upon all other men; or by considering his sins, the shortness of life,
the fear of death and the fear of hell, the eternal torments of hell and the
eternal joy of heaven, and how God has spared him in his sins and has
awaited his conversion. Or he may ponder the marvellous works of God in
heaven and in earth, and in all creatures. Such are the workings of the
prevenient grace of God, stirring men from without and from within, in many
ways. And besides this, man has a natural tendency towards God, because of
the spark of the soul, and because of that highest reason, which always
desires the good and hates the evil. In all these ways God touches all men,
each one according to his need; so that at times a man is smitten, reproved,
alarmed, and stands still within himself to consider himself. And all this
is still prevenient grace, and not yet efficacious grace. Thus does
prevenient grace prepare the soul for the reception of the other grace,
through which eternal life is merited. For when the soul has thus got rid of
evil willing and evil doing, it is perplexed and smitten with fear of what
it should do, considering itself, its wicked works, and God. And from this
there arise a natural repentance of its sins and a natural good-will. Such
is the highest work of prevenient grace.

If a man does all he can, and cannot do more because of his feebleness, it
rests with the infinite goodness of God to finish the work. Then, straight
as a sunbeam, there comes a higher light of Divine grace, and it is shed
into the soul according to its worth, though neither merited nor desired.
For in this light God gives Himself out of free goodness and generosity, the
which never creature can merit before it has received it. And this is an
inward and mysterious working of God in the soul, above time; and it moves
the soul and all its powers. Therewith ends prevenient grace and begins the
other grace, that is to say, the supernatural light.”

To me this all sounds very evangelical and very Arminian, in spite of it being written in the 14th century. Of course I would not agree with all of Ruysbroeck’s doctrine, but from what I have read I do believe that he knew Christ and I do expect to meet him in heaven, along with others from Groenendael and the brethren of the common life.

Daniel’s Recent Dabblings

Mission work is by its nature often varied. When your job description is assisting your parents, it can be even more varied than average.
Yesterday, submitted my application for another two year work permit here. Meanwhile, dad got the new vehicle registered, road-worthied, etc…
My main jobs here are in order of importance not frequency, Bible school teacher, book publisher/printer, electrician, computer technician, building assistant and cook/message taker. Most weeks I don’t leave the compound except on Saturdays and Sundays, I spend my time studying, supervising workers, preparing lunch, holding down the fort while writing blogs like this one.
My current main project is to reprint one of the courses we use in our Bible School, “The Journey of Israel.” This was the first book we printed when we set up the bible school in 2001. At that time, we didn’t have a CD burner, so it was backed up on floppy disks using Mwbackup, which came standard with Windows 98 (we actually got a CD burner not too long after doing this book, so it appears to be the only book we don’t have backed up on CDs). Of course our machines are now using XP, which has a backup that is incompatible with mwbackup. So how do I get the files unpacked so I can fix the 10-15 spelling mistakes and typos we have in the book? Well first I resurrected a derelict Pentium1 that has been out of use for good reason for a couple of years, got Windows 98 installed, had hardware problems, managed to persevere (this all took the better part of a morning, including periodic power outages which we experience around here). Discovered the old dinosaur had a serious problem with its floppy drive, which prevented it from reading any floppies. I then moved the hard drive to another computer so I could boot in 98 and hope for the best. That sorted out all the hardware problems, and I would have been all set if the floppies that had the backup on it were actually still good. Malawi is for electronics what Outer Mongolia was for Roman soldiers and the Eastern front was for Germans… Between the humidity, temperature fluctuations and dust (obscene amounts of dust), the floppies were no longer working. We still have the hard copy masters that we used to run the book last time, so I took those retyped paragraphs in Word, printed them out and then used scissors, glue and typex to get them onto the masters. Since the leading and paragraph lengths are slightly different, it is not a perfect fit. Some small corrections I ignored, because my fix, would be worse than the mistake it is fixing. The others are okay. It goes against all my DTP training to do this (my parents didn’t notice the difference until I showed them), and kind of stuck in my craw, but I’ve had some water and I think I’ve washed it down now . Tomorrow having given plenty of time for the typex and glue to dry I will run the book.
Now is one of the best times of year to run the book, because with the colder ambient temperature, the rubber roller that does the paper feeding on the Risograph doesn’t jam as much. Jamming results in half printed pages, and much frustration for the person operating the machine, punctuated by heart-felt cries for divine assistance and patience to get through it all.
So if anyone reading this was ever wondering I wonder what sort of challenges missionaries face, maybe you’ll have a little better idea now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Speaking Good Of People

A while ago (few weeks, a month or two, chronology has never been my forté) I was reading a blog called Pyromaniacs. Since this is a Calvinist/Cesationist blog fairly frequently they do posts on why the gifts are not for today etc... Which in general I skip, occasionally there are other things I find of interest. However reading one specific comment thread, there was a continualist who basically called Warfield a fool.

That got me thinking. Much as I believe that Warfield was dead wrong in his racism, theistic evolution, calvinism, and cessationism, I would not speak too harshly of him. Here's why: 1. He is dead... nothing I say about him is going to alter his eternal state for better or worse, so it is pointless. 2. Vilifying someone's wrong doctrine does not improve my own doctrine which will stand or fall on its own truthfulness. Actually since it is God who opens our minds to see truth, if He sees us mock others who are benighted, He may very well withhold light from us. 3. If Warfield was as wrong as I believe he was, then he has already had his theology rectified by Christ when he passed away. If there was no reward waiting for him, or his work was found to be unacceptable to God than he is already suffering loss for his error, and I would hate to kick a man while he is down.

Think about it, here is a human life, a man lives a full life, through his share of joys and sorrows that that entails, if his life does not count for eternity, that is certainly too tragic to mock, and out of knowledge of our own frailties and need of mercy if for no other reason we should be careful how we speak of men.

We all have our theological heroes and villains, but we should be careful how we speak of people. Yes, we must fight error, and counter it with truth, but we do not have to vilify those who uphold error. God is their judge and also is ours. It is said of Christ that He judges and makes war in righteousness (Rev. 19:11), and Michael the archangel did not use vilifying words even to the devil (Jude 1:9).

Since we are followers of one who could weep and have pity for those who were killing Him even though He knew many of them would even reject His sacrifice (Luke 23:28), let us imitate Him.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Divine Sovereignty and Personal Responsibility

I this post I would like to look at how Scripture ties these two complementary facts together. The Bible clearly teaches that God is sovereign, in other words, He has the final say in all that happens on earth. “Man proposes, but God disposes” as the old saying goes. However it is also equally clear, that God responds to the choices of His creatures. Ultimately we become what we desire to be. Our destiny is thus based on our character, which is the sum of our choices, or in other words the composite way in which we have responded to the grace that God has given us.
Jeremiah 10:23 tells us, “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” This verse does not say that men have no choices, but rather that we choose paths, which take us in directions of which we may not necessarily have even a remote idea at the time of choosing. Once a path is chosen it can be difficult to go in another direction. The path we take now determines which crossroads we will later have, which will determine later crossroads. There was a man I knew, who while living with one woman had fathered a child by another. He hid the thing from the woman he was living with. They later got born again and got married. Eventually after around 13 years it came out, it was really difficult for the wife to bear, but thankfully she weathered it. Someone asked me, “How he could do that?” His first choice not to tell made it the easiest choice thereafter. As each year passed, whatever pain and grief he had tried to avoid by hiding would be compounded, thus making it harder to come clean. Joseph’s brothers undoubtedly faced a similar situation, in their betrayal of Joseph and lying to their father. Grace alone enables us to break away from destructive paths we are walking in and come into the light to be cleansed.

God’s sovereignty is seen in the fact that our paths are not self-ordered. Our responsibility is to choose the right path. God is not passive in this process, because He offers grace unto man to enable him to choose the right path. However if grace is refused, not only is the man set on a wrong path, but God will sometimes even impel the evil doer in his wickedness. When Judas had made his choice to betray Jesus, Jesus not only allowed it, but encouraged it in telling him to do it quickly. The choice and covetousness which caused it all belonged to Judas, but once he made a choice to betray Christ, Christ Himself sealed him into that choice.
King Saul is another example, if you study his life carefully, you notice that his heart was really set on having the favor and honor of the people. When he repeatedly disobeyed the Lord, God gave him over to an evil spirit. This is an active sending and not merely a passive allowance, from that time Saul became an evil instrument that God was using to do a good work in David.

Balaam was first forbidden by God to go at all with Balak’s messengers. Then when he persisted to ask God for permission, God gave it. This was not a case of God changing His mind as to the best course of action, but a case of His allowing a stubborn man (as we all can be stubborn) to do his own thing if that is what he wants to do. Even then, however, Balaam’s choice is limited. God is angry with him for going and angry with his desire to curse Israel, but after reproving him through a donkey, He allows him to go. The most amazing part of this amazing story is that Balaam is used by God to give some of the most profound Messianic prophecies in the Bible – while he is actually hoping that God will let him curse Israel.

Both Balaam and Saul were used by God to prophesy, even as they were going directly against God’s purposes in their hearts.

Samson, though he had a better end than Saul or Balaam, is another example of one who was used by God, though his lifestyle and heart motives could never be approved by God, at the time of his death though he does appear to have come to a place of repentance. Samson is a very interesting character, he fulfilled his role as a deliverer, but from inherently selfish motives. In a sense he is like those spoken of in 2 Timothy 2:19-22 as vessel to dishonor. They are in the house of God, but yet are not fit for every good work, but only for certain uses.
We are fitted for a certain use by our own choices. Samson wrought deliverance out of personal vengeance. That was his desire and God granted it, but that also sealed him off from other avenues of ministry.

God is able to make from the same lump (the same individual) a vessel of mercy or wrath (Romans 9:21). He forms us according as we resist or receive His grace. In eternity we will realize that we became exactly what we wanted to be, whether we realized what we were doing at the time or not. Even for Christians our position in the Kingdom of heaven will be affected by motives for what we do, and how we do it. Let us be vessels of honor that we can please the heart of God and be fit for every good use!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Music, worldview and True Love

Recently, I took a bus from Blantyre down to Johannesburg. It is a long trip - this time it took about 36 hours. On the bus I was subjected to a lot of pop music, based on that exposure I will make the following observations.

1. I am so glad I have a Saviour to sing about and redeeming love, rather than all this hogwash. Music is the best expression of heart and emotion, how anyone could get emotionally behind the shallow, sensual trash is beyond me, but then as I said before I have something better.

2. The songs while many all basically fell under two categories: a. love - but only in its sensual, infatuation stage b. Telling your ex just what rotten, lousy, etc... he/she is and how little you will miss him/her. I might suggest that these two themes are very related. It is amazing, but somehow a culture thinks it can focus on the sensual aspects of love, have an almost solely physical view of love, where basically people give themselves physically in order to receive love in return, and yet still act surprized when they are cheated on! God reserved sex for marriage for a reason. Marriage is a large step and commitment. When God's standard of a life-long covenant is in view than marriage is never a trivial thing to be entered into lightly. This ensures commitment and relationship before physical love. If the order is reversed, then you are left with much of the emotional struggles, but none of the commitment of marriage. You hardly know the person, barely know anything about them, but you give yourself to them, and then you wonder why a little later they find someone else.

God intends so much more for human life. Someone once said that people do not so much break God's law as they break themselves upon it. That is very true. Thank God there is a better way, that it is possible to live in through Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Thoughts on Proverbs 30:21-23

Pro 30:21-23 For three things the earth doth tremble, And for four, which it cannot bear: For a servant when he is king; And a fool when he is filled with food; For an odious woman when she is married; And a handmaid that is heir to her mistress.

A while ago (maybe more than a year) I wrote a series on Proverbs 30 and the sets of four in it. This one however I never covered. I only realized that last week and so I have decided to take it up now.

These four things show us that a mere change of outward circumstances do not change character. If our character is not changed then the change in circumstances will not produce a real benefit, but only spread an evil influence further.
1. The servant who is king
This is not referring to having a servant-heart in leadership – that is a blessing. Christ , Himself, exemplified a true servant-king. Joseph is another good example of a former servant turned into a good leader. However, there is a vast difference between being a servant and being servile in disposition. A servile person works only when it is forced on them, and only when they are constantly watched. It is a great tragedy when people like that are in leadership, because thinking others are just like them (all people do), they act the part of oppressors. Also because of the change in their position they tend to be very insecure and use their authority to lord it over others.

2. A fool who is filled with food
When someone is wicked, walking in their own ways, and even actively opposing the things of God, it is a great difficulty to the earth that they prosper. God allows it at times and it made the Psalmist wonder what was going on (Psalm 73). When people see them prosper they are easily influenced to follow in their folly, God uses this to test us. If bad things never happened to the righteous then there would be no need for faith. If good things never happened to the wicked then there would be no temptation to follow in their ways. God allows the wicked to prosper for a time to see who is more interested in temporal blessings than in eternal realities – to see who is willing to sell Christ (perhaps without a full realization of it) for the things of this world.

3. An odious woman when she is married
The best adornment for a woman is a meek and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:3-4). The natural tendency however is to trust in outward beauty, charm etc… This is not just a tendency for woman, one of God’s repeated complaints against Israel as a nation was that they trusted in their own beauty (figuratively their own resources, talents, etc…). Women might obtain husbands by using these methods, but not keep them. Our generation continues to pay a high price in pain, broken and damaged lives, through our high divorce rate, because we enter into marriage for our own selfish reasons. Marriage in and of itself will not make you a happy or fulfilled person. Having a good character and being willing to respond in a good way and even lay down your will is the key to true happiness in marriage or any other situation.

4. A handmaid that is heir to her mistress
Hagar is a prime example of this one. Sarah deserves a share of the blame for it too, because the whole situation was her idea. This verse likely refers specifically to concubinage. Whenever God’s moral law is broken there are consequences. Humans like to think that they are immune to them, but they are not. Concubinage not only made the maidservant not particularly willing to serve her mistress, but also placed her in direct competition with the wife for the husband’s affections. It creates some of the same problems as divorce and remarriage does - Step-parents who are jealous of children who aren’t their own, viewing them sometimes as a threat to their marriage. God never intended for married people to have to compete for their spouses affections, that is an aberration that we have invented.

In these four things we affect not only ourselves but even nature around us by our sin. Our dominion over earth is not totally eradicated because of sin, we still govern, the problem is we are not really fit to do it!

May God grant us character and ability to match every situation He places us in, to Him be the glory! Amen.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

End of this Bible School Term

Tomorrow the Bible School term ends. It has been a good term.

At our prayer meeting this afternoon one of the students had a word of knowledge, It is the second one he has had this term. The first one was for sore eyes, which was something that mom was having at that time. This time he felt someone was having knee pains, and it was one of the students. It is wonderful to see them begin to flow in the gifts.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Promise of the Name of Jesus

Mat. 1:21 “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

The name Jesus was chosen by God to be given to the Christ-child because of its meaning, which is “Jehovah is salvation.” Christ was the salvation of Jehovah for God’s people not from their natural enemies as the Jews at the time expected, and as the Old Testament Joshua (same name) had done, but from the far worse internal and spiritual enemy of us all – our own sins.

Notice this text does not say Christ would save us from hell, or only from the consequences and penalty of our sins. Too often that is all we deal with these days. Christ does free us from the penalty of our sins, but if that is the extant of our salvation than it is a mockery of all that is good and just. Imagine if you would, a man who is a murderer, he is pardoned, set free and absolved of all the responsibility for his past actions. He would probably think that is great! However his neighbors might desire to be saved from such a salvation!

It is essential to have a clear idea of what sin is or we will not be truly thankful for our deliverance which has been provided in Christ. There are some sins which almost everyone condemns, however other sins are viewed in a more favorable light, depending much on the cultural and religious background of the viewer.

When a person can ask how God can send a “good person” who is not a Christian to hell, it shows that that person does not really grasp sin. Imagine that there is a certain terrorist organization. This organization needs funding to fight the lawful government of its own nation. To get the funding and support of the people, it establishes various charitable institutions (this actually isn’t as farfetched an illustration as you might think; some terrorist organizations really do this). People may not know the purpose of the organization, and might consider it to be their friend. However in the eyes of the law, it is an enemy, not because of its charitable deeds, but because the purpose of the supposed good deeds is actually to undermine the greater good of the land, and to set up its own regime. Thus the very good things it does only increase its odiousness and culpability in its rebellion and the misery which that rebellion brings on all around it.

When a man trusts in his own good works to justify himself in the sight of God, or uses philanthropic deeds to minimize the guilt his conscience feels, he is acting in rebellion to God. He is in an active state of war against the One who formed him and who has the lawful right of rule over him. Anything he does other than admitting his rebellion and submitting to God only increases the punishment of his crimes, because these things are merely covers he uses to plot further rebellion.

When man is confronted with his own rebellion, he often tries to point to others to justify himself. One story I have heard was of a missionary who had recently translated part of the Scriptures into Cherokee and read the Sermon on the Mount to a chief with the hope that the chief would allow more preaching in his tribe. Asked if he did not think this book was good the chief replied, “this is a good book, I wonder why the white people’s lives are not better when they have so good a book.” Anyone reading the Sermon on the Mount is struck by the wonderfulness of it, but it is beyond what we are capable of in ourselves. What do we do? Do we acknowledge our faults, or do we point at other’s failures to place ourselves in a good light. There are far too many hypocrites in the church, however, my pointing out hypocrisy and the sin of others does not excuse me from the bar of God. To trust in my failure being common is the same as seeing other motorists speeding and trusting that because they are doing it, I can do it. See if that logic will get you out of a ticket when you are pulled over.

In First Corinthians, the apostle Paul having just finished a list of behavior which will keep us out of heaven says, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” The most beautiful part of this verse is the past tense. Such WERE some of you. It shouldn’t be necessary for me to write this, but in this evil age I must, notice he did not write, “such are some of you.” Christ is able to save unto the uttermost. He is able to save the vilest of sinners. He will save them, not only from the eternal misery of hell, but also from the the sting of death – sin. Praise be to God!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Add on to Yesterday’s Post

This morning I thought of a third way in which the Church completes Christ. We are the crown of His glory, even as a virtuous woman is a glory to her husband (Prov. 12:4; Prov. 31:23; 1 Cor. 11:7). When we arrive in heaven we receive crowns so that we may cast them at the feet of the One who really did all the work, and Christ is glorified not only by His Church, but through His Church. Praise God!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Thoughts on Ephesians 1:22-23

"God has put all things under His feet, and has appointed Him universal and supreme Head of the Church, which is His Body, the completeness of Him who everywhere fills the universe with Himself" (Weymouth NT).

The main thing I would like to look at form these two verses is the final phrase. Referring to the Church as the completeness (or fulness) of Christ. It is a extremely remarkable statement. The Church is to be that which completes Christ.

This is not stated in a sense that God stands in need of man or in debt to man somehow. Rather, God has chosen to create man and give man the privilege of entering into a relationship with Him whereby God's plans and purposes are willingly fulfilled in them and through them.

The church is called to complete Christ, to be His fulness in two ways.

Firstly, the church is to complete the work of Christ. The earthly ministry of Christ finished after His ascension but His work remains to be done. When John and Peter went to the tomb on the day of the resurrection, they saw the cloth which had covered Christ's head folded and placed to one side, however the cloth which wrapped His body was left as it was (John 20:7). This shows that the Head had finished His work, but the body still has work to do.

The apostle Paul could say that he was filling up or completing the sufferings of Christ on behalf of His Church (Col. 1:24). In a sense this is completing the work that Christ accomplished on Calvary, He died to present to Himself a glorious Church, and sometimes a portion of His church suffers with Him for to help accomplish perfection in the whole.

Secondly, the Church is to be His bride, and to bring completeness to Him in the same way as a bride does to a Husband. To enter into His joy and sorrow and share His thoughts, feelings and emotions.

It is interesting that God chose to form Eve from a part of Adam. He could have created her ex nihilo, but He did not. Perhaps that was to show a parallel between the first and second adam, who both have brides formed from themselves. We become the Bride of Christ by receiving His nature which is imparted at the new birth. We truly are partakers of Christ's divine nature in a real way, just as Eve was a very true partaker of Adam's flesh.

When we truly catch a vision of our need to complete Christ's work and to enter into His life, it will change how we view what we do in church. The Church is called to far greater things than we realize and unless we set our goals high we will miss the goal. If we are truly to complete Christ's work and fulfill His desires for fellowship too much of the things we do in church actually inhibit rather than promote this, because the focus is more on what makes us happy than what pleases Him.

May we truly be that which completes Christ and brings joy to His heart!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Another Bible School Term Begins

Today was our first day of this four week term. We have 25 students here now, which is pretty good for the first day. We may have some others show up tomorrow. It is good to see our returning students and also good to meet new ones.

Dad is teaching this week on the Tabernacle of Moses. Next week I will be teaching on Faith using the book "Pillars of Faith." Now that we have a waterpump again, the water situation should be a little better than last term.

On the whole things are fine here, and I am looking forward to teaching next week.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Parable of The Great Supper (Luke 14:15-24)

“And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. But he said unto him, A certain man made a great supper; and he bade many: and he sent forth his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a field, and I must needs go out and see it; I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. And the servant came, and told his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor and maimed and blind and lame. And the servant said, Lord, what thou didst command is done, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and constrain them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, that none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper.”

It is my belief that this parable refers primarily to the marriage supper of the Lamb. If you study the parables of the Lord carefully especially His parables which refer to the marriage supper (The Ten Virgins), it becomes apparent that not all believers will be at the wedding feast. Also there will be varying positions at the feast, the virgins, the friends of the Bridegroom, and the bride.

This parable specifically deals with qualifications to be a guest at the feast. These would also be prerequisite qualifications to be part of the bride.

We see first that many are invited, but they refuse. In a different though similar parable in Matthew 22, verse 18 says that those bidden were not worthy. They judged themselves unworthy, by their bad response to the invitation.

Here we see three basic reasons people will not be at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

1. An inordinate love for material possessions

The first man had just bought a field and his pleasure in possessing it was greater to him than any benefit he could gain from leaving it to attend the supper. There are many Christians, whether consciously or unconsciously, who choose this very choice. If your best life is truly what you have now, then you have no reason to desire the marriage supper of the Lamb. Indeed, you cannot with any sincerity pray, “even so come quickly, Lord”, because it would destroy all your earthly prosperity which you now enjoy. One could even argue quite plausibly, that if you really do have your best life now, than since heaven is infinitely better than the best the earth can offer, it means you are not headed there. The wicked can have their best life now, because no matter how difficult their life is here, it is a picnic compared to what awaits them in the hereafter. However, no matter how glorious or good, or blessed our life here is as a Christian, we have a better more glorious life awaiting us in heaven. If we focus on the fleeting earthly one, we might just miss the eternal one.

2. An inordinate preoccupation with business

The second man wanted to test his yoke of oxen. He was a classic workaholic. His only satisfaction in life came from his work, he had just obtained the new equipment his business needed to really expand and he could not wait a single minute to begin to use it. God commends hard work, but not as an end to itself. It is not the work we do, or even the quality of it per se, but the one for whom we work that sanctifies a work. If we work to feel a sense of accomplishment and achieve a sense of self-worth, we are on shaky ground. If, however, our hard work is done unto the Lord, He is our source of self worth. Really, all three of these wrong responses come down to the issue of idolatry and finding our sense of belonging and self-worth in something other than God.

3. An inordinate love for human companionship

The last man in the parable placed human affection above the invitation to the supper. This as the other two previous excuses is a perversion of that which God created as good, through making a god out of it. Humans were created as social creatures and there is no blessing like a godly family stirring each other up to follow the Lord. This power when used in the opposite way is extremely detrimental. The very blessing of human fellowship, then becomes a snare and a trap. It is well known that cults usually gain and manipulate people through a sense of belonging and acceptance. If we seek the praises of man instead of the praises of God, we will assuredly not taste of the supper.

I think one of the best examples of a couple that chose to put God first comes from the early days of the China Inland Mission. Hudson Taylor had only very recently begun the mission and had been offered 2 free passages to China on which he was going to send two men. One of them backed out at the last minute. He needed someone to use the ticket and the only man available was George Crombie, who was going to be married shortly to Anne Skinner, they had then planned to make the voyage on their honeymoon. In those precarious days, there was no telling how long she would have to wait to follow him if he went or even any guarantee that they would ever see each other again in this life. When they saw the telegram, Anne said to George, “Go, George and let the world see that you love the Lord Jesus more than me.” He left and God made a way for her to follow him a couple of weeks later.

It is no mere coincidence that this parable is immediately followed by Christ’s command to count the cost. If we are to be blessed to eat bread in the Kingdom of God, we must not allow any of these three things which are in themselves good to have an inordinate place in our hearts, lest they rob us of the eternal blessing.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thoughts on John 15:9-11

“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”

Without a doubt, the Gospel of John Chapters 13-17 are some of the greatest in the Word of God. The interesting part about these three verses found here (and of course all of the surrounding matter) is that they bring out things which are so deep as to take a lifetime to really realize.

Christ starts off, by saying that He loves us with the same love that the Father has loved Him. That is as amazing as it is undeserved. The Father loves Christ who is of the same substance as Himself, and Who is perfectly yielded to Him with an infinite love. Yet Christ manifests that same love to us who have been most disobedient, and totally undeserving of it, who are of a contrary substance. He then says to continue in His love or more literally in the Greek, “Continue in the love, that which is mine.” That says more than our English. It is His love in us that loves Him, and that loves others. It is not so much a continuing to be good so that the love of Christ may remain on us, as instead a continuing to allow His love to work in and through us as we follow the commands that He gives. Disobedience separates us from the source of His love and thus stops its flow.

The standard of obedience He gives is His own obedience to the Father, which is perfection to the utmost.

He tells us these things that His joy, again literally, “the joy that is mine” might remain in us. A few months ago I had an experience which sort of brought this home to me. Without going into any details, I had a strong sense of God’s joy in the purposes He has for my life. That experience made me realize the meaning of the phrase, “Enter into the joy of Your Lord.” It is His joy that we are allowed to share. Firstly it is His own joy which is in Himself and infinite. Secondly, it is His joy in what we do by His power and in obedience to Him that we enter into. These joys cause our own joy to be filled, producing joy in us.

Praise God!

Thoughts on John 15:9-11

“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”

Without a doubt, the Gospel of John Chapters 13-17 are some of the greatest in the Word of God. The interesting part about these three verses found here (and of course all of the surrounding matter) is that they bring out things which are so deep as to take a lifetime to really realize.

Christ starts off, by saying that He loves us with the same love that the Father has loved Him. That is as amazing as it is undeserved. The Father loves Christ who is of the same substance as Himself, and Who is perfectly yielded to Him with an infinite love. Yet Christ manifests that same love to us who have been most disobedient, and totally undeserving of it, who are of a contrary substance. He then says to continue in His love or more literally in the Greek, “Continue in the love, that which is mine.” That says more than our English. It is His love in us that loves Him, and that loves others. It is not so much a continuing to be good so that the love of Christ may remain on us, as instead a continuing to allow His love to work in and through us as we follow the commands that He gives. Disobedience separates us from the source of His love and thus stops its flow.

The standard of obedience He gives is His own obedience to the Father, which is perfection to the utmost.

He tells us these things that His joy, again literally, “the joy that is mine” might remain in us. A few months ago I had an experience which sort of brought this home to me. Without going into any details, I had a strong sense of God’s joy in the purposes He has for my life. That experience made me realize the meaning of the phrase, “Enter into the joy of Your Lord.” It is His joy that we are allowed to share. Firstly it is His own joy which is in Himself and infinite. Secondly, it is His joy in what we do by His power and in obedience to Him that we enter into. These joys cause our own joy to be filled, producing joy in us.

Praise God!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Law Internalized

During my teaching of Romans (specifically chapters 5-7) in Rwanda, I had a thought which I want to develop here. Some people write because they have a clear thought to express, others, like me, write to clarify and crystallize thoughts that they have only half-formed in their minds. So we’ll have to see how this goes, but here it is.
First, God’s law is internal to Himself, because He is Faithful and True, He cannot of His nature command differently than He does in His Word. His Word is a self-revelation of Himself, thus for example stealing is a sin not only because it goes against His command, but it is against His command because it is against Who He in fact is in Himself. God as revealed in the Bible is a satisfied God, the three persons of the Godhead need nothing to complete them, they are complete in their love and enjoyment of each other. They chose to create, so that They might have others to bring into fellowship with Them, and freely bestow all that is needful for life and happiness upon Their creation. Theft is the result of several attitudes and actions contrary to godliness. Firstly it lacks trust in God, which the Godhead has within itself (fear and distrust cannot be in the perfect love of the Godhead for Itself). Christ manifested complete trust both in the ability and intention of His Father while He was on earth. Secondly it reveals an exaltation of one’s own wants over another’s, contrary to the beautiful flowing together of the Trinity, where the Son’s desire is to bring glory to the Father, the Spirit glorifies the Son and both Father and Son will defend the Spirit against any slights done against Him.
In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were sinless, but this was a state of innocency. The law was solely external to them, it was given by God but their nature was capable of obedience or disobedience. They disobeyed and through Adam’s transgression we received a nature of sin. This nature needs only a law to transgress to become a transgressor. It is a nature that stands opposite to the character of God, having been infected with the nature of the serpent. It has a threefold root which produces all actual actions of sin – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (Gen. 3:6; 1 John 2:16). These three roots will are contrary to the very nature of God, and only await for the law to manifest themselves in disobedience. However, until the law was there, sin was not manifest (Rom. 5:12-15). The law was given so that we would see the nature of God and His commands and realize our own inability to follow them. For that purpose the law worked very well… The next 1500 years or so of Biblical history are records of Israel’s failed attempts to keep the covenant of the law.
God then promised a new covenant. Jeremiah 31:31-34, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Often we major on the last part of this covenant – the forgiveness of our sins, because that is great news, but no less great news is the first part. God is going to internalize the law, so that we can be like Him. We do not have to always be up and down as we read in Romans chapter 7, Romans 8:2 speaks of the law of the Spirit of Life. This law deals with the other two laws which are found in chapter 7. The law of sin is the law of Adam’s failure being repeated. God’s law as given to us shows us what to do, but we are powerless to do that in the flesh. However, the law of the Spirit of Life empowers us to do that which we are unable to do in ourselves.

This is the internalized law. It is placed in us when we are born again (born from above). The very nature of Christ is placed within us at that moment so that we may nurture it and allow it to grow. We become partakers of the divine nature. This new nature cannot sin (1 John 3:9). However, we still have the old nature in us which can sin. This means that we can yield to the old nature and sin, but the new nature is stronger. If we follow the new nature, the law of God will be imprinted on our hearts, our character will change. In a certain sense the external law ceases to bind us (it is still morally binding, but it does not go against your renewed will, 1 Timothy 1:8-10). God gives us a willing heart that desires to walk in His ways. This is what God wanted even before Eden, a group of men and women who become consistent like Him, whose thoughts, motives and deeds flow from His goodness placed in them through the divine nature of which they are partakers. This is only fully realized in heaven, but it is a lifelong process. Praise God for His full salvation!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Back In Malawi

Well, I am now back in Malawi after a great trip to Uganda and Rwanda via South Africa (only in Africa do you fly a couple thousand miles south so you can head a few thousand north).

It was a great trip, I met up with my cousin Cameron, who was flying in from Singapore. We took a bus from Kampala to Kigali and did tag team ministry for 5 days in Rwanda teaching Romans to a class of 24 students. Then we took the bus back (11 hours and not fun). On the bus ride, after about 9 hours of being bombarded by repetative annoying music, one of our fellow passengers requested that they shut it off which they readily did, if only we had asked earlier...

In Uganda we had some more great times of ministry and also did some Romans highlights (We only had an hour each to cover parts of the book). Then Cameron and I parted ways to head to our homes.

It was a real blessing to meet up with a lot of my friends from South Africa in the short time I was there (not quite 2 full days).

I brought back a laptop someone donated for my dad and they let it in duty free which was a real blessing. My first order of business when I returned was to get our internet up again. Dad had been unable to get signal for 3 days. I walked around with laptop and dongle until I found signal. Today we went to check on ways to boost signal to our area since even when we are getting signal it is not very strong. We may have a solution now, we'll know in a couple days. Things are pretty much back to normal here, mom is really busy gathering info on orphan families on our list, and receiving a tenth from those we helped buy fertilizer and giving it out to others who have no land to farm or are unable to do so. It's good to be back.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Heading Out Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will be flying out for South Africa. I will stay there until Monday and hopefully see some friends I have there before flying out to Uganda. There I will be staying with Pastor Ntege of the Cornerstone church in Kampala. Tuesday a team from Cornerstone Church in Singapore will be arriving including my cousin Cameron and we will be travelling by bus Wednesday morning to Rwanda. We will be teaching the book of Romans at a Bible school there and then returning to Kampala on the following Monday. We will be doing ministry in Kamapala and then leave on Thursday. I will return to Malawi on Saturday.

Basically, Right now I am mostly packed and can't wait to go!!! See ya soon Cam!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thoughts on Guidance

A couple of weeks ago I did a few posts on the possibility and necessity of hearing God’s voice. So I thought it would be good for me to share my own method of obtaining guidance.
1. Hearing God’s Voice
This is the sine qua non of guidance, because guidance requires a guide. We must discern God’s voice when it comes to us. It may come to us through a Scripture verse, dream, vision or prophecy, the leadership over us or through others, even unbelievers. God also gives guidance by circumstances (the main reason why I am here in Malawi right now is because a couple years ago, my dad fell and hurt his arm right when I was at a loose end, since then God has confirmed things and I am here longer than the original timeframe).
A semi-deist (a Christian who does not believe that God speaks directly today) will disallow that God’s voice is present to be heard in any specific instance. So I would ask him, “do you know you are doing God’s will for your life?” His answer according to his principles would have to be “No, it is unknowable, I can only know I am following Scriptural precepts, but not anything specific.” To which I answer, “If you don’t know where you are going don’t expect me to follow you.” If you are going to follow someone at least follow someone who believes they know where they are going. Next check to make sure they aren’t deluded.
If the ability to hear God’s voice is allowed, then we can look for keys to hearing it.
a. Patiently Waiting for the Lord and Obeying His Precepts
We need to be willing to wait for God to speak and not do something just for the sake of doing something. God often waits to speak in order to test us (Psa. 25:3-5, 27:11-14, 37:7-9). Also since light is sown for the righteous, we must be doing what we know to be right to receive further guidance.
b. Praying For Guidance
We need to ask God to lead us. We should never take His leading for granted. There are many things that God does not do unless we ask.
c. Being Willing to Obey Totally and Unconditionally
This one cannot be overemphasized. Most failures in guidance are due to this and this alone. People often make up their mind what they want to do and then try to get God to rubberstamp it. That always results in disaster, that is what Balaam did. God also makes a promise in Ezekiel (not one you would want to claim), that if you really want to do something and set it up as an idol in your heart and ask counsel of a prophet, he will tell you what you want to hear (Ezek. 14:3-5).
This is why many people can say that they received a word, a prophecy, etc. to do something against God’s word. Effectively, God told them, “if you want to be a fool, don’t let Me stop you.”
If you are willing and obedient God will keep you. If you have integrity it will preserve you (Pro. 11:3; 20:7). Many times God tests us on what we want the most. What are we willing to hear? If we lack integrity we will want to be deceived and will be. However if we truly desire the truth, we will not accept false answers; we will be willing to let the truth cut us and bind us up. Without integrity, none of these keys will work; we will follow what we want to hear.
Elisha heard the call of God to a double portion of anointing, that upward calling burned in his heart, and no manner of discouragement could dissuade him from being with Elijah to receive it. He had several genuine opportunities to forfeit it, but he chose the hardest and best way.
From experience, I can say that God speaks when we are willing to be made wiling. In one specific instance I was pondering a certain course of action that someone else had suggested. I did not want that course, but I committed it to God. I prayed that God would reveal His will and make me willing to do it (the last part is very important otherwise we only increase our condemnation). That night God gave me a dream and it showed me that the course of action was not God’s best for me. I could happily refuse to do it.
Being made willing is important, because more often in my case, I have not liked what God spoke, at least not initially. As I lay down my ideas and my will however, joy and peace come. A certainty also comes.
Critics claim that in effect we cannot trust our own heart and that these impressions are self-generated, and use the Scripture concerning the heart being deceitful above all things to try to refute our ability to hear. However, what they fail to realize is that the heart also affects understanding and would also affect our understanding of Scripture. That is unless they are willing to assert that they have an infallible knowledge of how to apply Scripture in every event. The heart is the lens through which we perceive our world and apart from grace we can see nothing as it really is (That is in its eternal perspective). Caleb and Joshua saw the same things as the other 10 spies, but the others saw them through the lens of an evil heart of unbelief and thus did not see rightly at all.
2. Godly Counsel
I place this second because for it to function at all the ability to hear God’s voice is first required. If we cannot hear God’s voice in our own heart even if it upsets our ideas and plans, there is no way we will be able to receive it from a human vessel. God never intended counsel from others to supersede His own voice to us, the Israelites repeatedly chose that out of fear (Ex. 20:19; Judge 8:22-23; John 19:15).
However, God does confirm His Word and there should be a confirmation by the leadership over us when we are in the right course. Also, even if we are heading in the right direction, many times godly counsel can help with details that may not be clear otherwise.
Often if we are sure that God has spoken but we lack the concurrence of leadership it is a sign to wait for things to develop. God uses this to work character in us. Being longsuffering with people is only developed as we do it. I think one of the best examples of this are Caleb and Joshua who had to endure 38 years of wandering because of other people’s attitudes, and yet God made it up to them.
3. Scriptures
Everything we do should be in line with the Word of God. God may ask to do things that are not normal, but never anything that is not moral. We will never obtain correct specific guidance if we are willfully walking against the precepts of God. In His light we see light (Psa. 36:9).

To finish my treatment of this subject, I would like to remind you to ask God for integrity so you can discern His voice apart from your own desires. One time right after I had graduated from Bible School, I was considering a certain course of action, I knew that is was not good, but at the time I had almost convinced myself I didn’t care. While I was pondering this course, a man I barely knew, who was not a believer, approached me and out of the blue began to recommend the very course of action I was considering. It was unnerving and I realized that it was a test. I had another similar experience later in life as well. God will allow you to hear what you want to hear, He will give you excuses to give up or do your own thing, but that is all it is an excuse. The experience reminded me of Psalm 1 and the blessing of not walking in the counsel of the ungodly. Do you want to do something so badly that you will feel good about it if it is the devil that encourages you in it? Integrity will keep you, God knows the truth and you will know too if you are willing to take a good look at yourself. Also as a rule of thumb in choices choose the path of self-abnegation. If I make a mistake I would rather it be through over renunciation than through self-exaltation. If that is truly our motive, God can rescue us from a bad choice, but if we make a bad choice from a bad motive, we are in much greater trouble.
May He guide you with His counsel and receive you to glory!