Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Praying for the Church in Mongolia

This past Sunday night I was able to show some pictures of my recent trip to Mongolia. I showed the people Sunday night a little embroidered picture of "gers" with the word "Pray for Mongolia" - a gift given to me by the students. How then should we pray for the Mongolians?

Pray for the leaders - there are many challenges in "the early church of Mongolia" for which they need much wisdom. Pray that God would give them wisdom as they are lead by His Spirit.

Pray that there may be a burden to preach God's Word. One of the pastors shared with me that after my last visit, he determined to preach more in his church. While there was a little opposition, he persevered and now preaching is part of his weekly work. God's people will be built up through the preaching of God's Word.

Pray for the church as they grow. The Lord continues to work as hearts are changed in repentance and faith to the finished work of Jesus. Pray that the people would mature and continue to have a heart for evangelism.

Pray for families. While family units can be strong, alcohol and other vices rip families apart. Pray that the gospel works in marriages and families so they live out the gospel in a radical way.

Trusting that God will continue to work in amazing ways in the country of Mongolia ...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Arrived and Settled

13 hours after take off from Seoul, I landed in Toronto to meet my family. Missing them for two weeks, you can imagine how fantastic it was to give them all a big hug! On the trip home, they regaled great adventures of home life while I tried to match them with a few stories from Mongolia.

I am thankful to be home once again and look forward to showing pictures and sharing the work in Mongolia this coming Sunday night at Grace. Thank you for your prayers and I thank God for hearing and answering.

Now - I think it is bedtime, isn't it?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Landed in Seoul

Last year when I left for Seoul from Mongolia, snow fell in the morning with high winds, causing a delay in departure. Last night the weather was perfect and the plane left on time - 12:20. We landed at around 4:30 (Korea is one hour ahead of UB) and I was able to land a hotel room and have a good rest.

This morning I wake up feeling refreshed and looking forward to the final flight, leaving Seoul at 9:00 p.m. Thank you again for your prayers and I trust that as God's people meet today at Grace, His presence would be known in amazing ways.

A Nice Day for a Walk

Today is the day I wait for my flight at 12:20 a.m. I woke up this morning and after I marked the tests with my cup of "wanna-be-bucks" (my term for powdered coffee), I went for a walk downtown. There is a large square downtown with the statues of Mr. Khan and his offspring.

As I walked through the square, there was a wedding with bride and bridegroom with some dressed in traditional clothing.

At 1:00 I met with a family and had a tremendous time of fellowship. We met (get ready for this Nick) at the Khan Irish Restaurant and it was quite a revelation when I told them that Genghis Khan was actually Irish - history changing, really.

Following the terrific lunch, I walked around the black market - a huge market where they sell everything.

Along the way, I found my dream van ...

... and the store that - well, what else could you include?

And now I am going to shut down my computer, pack it up, vacuum the apartment and wait for my ride to come and pick me up. It has been a gift from God to be in Mongolia but I am very thankful to return to my family and Grace Bible Church.

Friday, October 03, 2008

All Done - but the flight

Well, another teaching session in Mongolia finished with the study of Romans 15-16 and the final test. We ended early today at the request of some of the pastors who come in from the countryside. So after the test, we had pictures, lunch, a final prayer and I hopped in a taxi and went back to my apartment. It was a privilege to study God's Word and in particular the book of Romans with these church leaders. Together we worked through the book chapter by chapter, seeking to apply it to our own lives and learn how to take the Word and preach Christ.

One lady who took the class embroidered a nice little picture of "gers" (Mongolian houses/tents) with the words PRAY FOR MONGOLIA. I am looking forward to taking this back home and showing the people at Grace, a simple yet profound reminder to pray for the growing church half way across the world. I am also thankful for Grace Bible Church as they supported my trip. Again, I wish I could take all of them to Mongolia with me so they could see the impact of their giving and allowing me to be apart from them for these three Sundays.

This afternoon I went to the Mongolian market and wandered around. The market is absolutely huge, enormous - even gigantic. You have a huge section for shoes, for jeans, for rugs, for food and for many more items. It was relaxing after a busy two weeks. Tomorrow I plan to meet with one of the pastors tomorrow around 1:00 and then look forward to packing my stuff and heading to the airport around 9:00 for a 12:20 a.m. flight.

Thank you for your prayers - God has been gracious, providing abundantly more than we could ask.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

So ....

So ... today we travelled through Romans 6-10. One of the great advantages of working through an entire book in one week is you can begin to see the big picture. After introducing himself and his love for the people, Paul begins to preach the gospel declaring all are under God's wrath. BUT there is a righteousness outside of the sinner sent by God received through faith - Jesus. Paul then turns to the Old Testament and shows how Abraham was justified by faith in the promised seed and this took place before he was circumcised, so the promise is offered both to Jew and Gentile. But if justification is a declaration, what about sanctification? Romans 6. And what about our relationship with the law? Romans 7. And what takes place between salvation and glorification, including our suffering? Romans 8. But is there a problem with God's Word if the Jews are not believing? Romans 9- 10. And God's plan for Jew and Gentile? Romans 11.

One of the joys of my day was taking the students through Romans 8. We will suffer, as our Saviour suffered but He will keep us as the Spirit intercedes for us and as the work of Christ is applied to our lives. Will anything separate us from the love of God? If God is for us, who can be against us? Imagine, after Romans 1-3, we read God is for US!! It was such a joy to rejoice in the gospel together and celebrate the love of our God.

Romans 7 went smooth - or at least for a while. I went through Romans 7 with them, expressing my view (I'll keep it a secret for now so I do not lose 2/3's of my faithful blog readers, assuming the three views are evenly divided!!) and then asked if there were any questions - NO. OK, we move on. But we got sidetracked on a totally different question and when I thought I was clear, a student asked about another view. Rats - they caught me!! So we spent some more time on it and I told them that I held all three - loosely;). Actually, whatever view one holds, all agree that our position with the law has changed and we rejoice to be under the new covenant with the leading of the Spirit.

Now, Romans 9 and "Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated" - (as you can see - a BIG day in the small classroom on the ninth floor of an anonymous Mongolian apartment building where church leaders are studying Romans to bring back to their people so those outside the apartment can maybe one day hear the gospel!!). We went through the various questions and at the end, one of the men stood up and said that it really helped clarify his understanding!! I rejoiced in the good providence of our sovereign God. One of the amazing things about teaching in Mongolia is they do not have years of baggage - it is so clear in God's Word and therefore, it is accepted and believed.

So ... tomorrow we start again. While exhausted at the end of the day, there is an inner joy as my heart has been nurtured by God's Word and Spirit.

Now ... on a totally different subject I know I have ranted about traffic in Mongolia and I assume you are still reading so if you will permit me another rant - elevators. I am on the 12th floor and I leave the apartment about 8:15 so I can meet my ride at 8:30. Here is how the elevator works in this apartment: if there is someone lower then the 12th floor (in other words - everyone!), then the elevator will stop, go all the way down to the first floor and drop them off. It starts the trip up again and if someone happens to be on the 4th floor, it stops, picks up and then drops them off. I saw - I saw the elevator stop at the 11th floor (there is a crack in the wall) and I heard it travel down. Seriously - 10 minutes waiting.

So... why did I not walk down? A good question - a very, very good question. I have three views on why, let me share them with you ...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Typical Day

So, what takes place here in Mongolia? What happens in a typical day? Let me begin with last night as it was rather special and then we will end with tonight.

After teaching class yesterday, I was invited to a student's home. We walked up the three stories of a very run down building and the door opened to a spacious apartment with a beautiful family. This man has 4 children and I was able to meet them as I entered. I also met his wife who invited me to the kitchen were we sat and had supper. The man of the apartment invited another student and the four of us had a time of fellowship. I was able to ask about their lives and the church in Mongolia (the man spoke English) and they were able to ask me questions. After the meal, we played a game, talked some more and then had a word of prayer. It was a rich time of fellowship and you could sense the Christian unity. On the way out, the man showed me his home and in one of the rooms was his 92 year old grandma - a short, hunched over lady. I took pictures of her with her family and then reached down to shake the elderly ladies hand while she pulled me to her and kissed my cheeks. What a blessing to see how the gospel impacts a whole family and the warmth of fellowship in Christ.

After being driven home, I got ready for bed and was asleep by about 9:30. I woke up at 6:00 and began to prepare for the day by reviewing Romans 4-6. After some serious instant coffee, I was picked up at 8:30 to begin class at 9:15.

This morning I began with a devotional asking how the church grows in maturity? We looked at the end of Hebrews 5 and saw that the church must go from drinking milk to eating solid food. There were some questions about sermon preparation and ministry in general that lasted until 10:30 - time for our first break. I had originally wanted to begin with Romans 4 but once the questions started pouring in, these immediate ministry concerns became front and centre. At the end of this time, one of the students talked about the need for all sorts of demands in ministry, such as mentoring, church planning, evangelism, etc. The interpreter told me what he had said so I thought I would address the concern after the break.

I said I would like to make four comments about the man's question but then we should really begin to look at Romans. I said first - be patient because growth happens over time; second - do not panic - God is sovereign; third - love your wife and children (God first, then marriage and family, then church); and fourth, preach the Word (make it your main goal to preach the Word and pray for the people - all else leads from this). It was a unique moment as this young Mongolian church grows in their faith and knowledge.

We began to go through Romans 4-6 which lead us through justification, propitiation, faith, saving faith, faith and not the law, assurance, representation and many other teachings. One of the aims for me is not only to bring them through the book and teach them doctrine but to first show that doctrine impacts all of life and second to show that God gives grace to preach the Word.

We finished a little early today at the end of Romans 6. I travelled back to the apartment to get ready to take a family out for dinner (this is the family that took care of me last year and also has done a lot to help me this year). While we ate in a Mongolian Grill style restaurant, near the end of the meal the lights went out. No problem - they just brought candles to the tables and life went on. (The power has gone off in my apartment several times, one time for about 30 minutes. If you are on the elevator and the power goes off, you just have to wait until it the power is on. So, every time I get on the elevator, I pray that God will keep the power on!!)

I arrived home to email my wife and family and write this quick blog. During the day there are still those special, real moments. A man received a call to hear that his child was sick and was going to be brought to the hospital. Before he left, he asked for prayer so the men sat, prayed silently, concluding with one man praying for the young child. Then there are the moments when we are going through Romans and their faces light up with the truth of the gospel. These brothers and sisters have been God's gift to my life and I have learned a tremendous amount about vulnerable, simple faith in ministry.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Every Nation, Every Tongue

One of the great joys of meeting with God's people is singing. This morning I walked for about 10 minutes to Zion Church (some of the churches have very interesting names, at least from a North American perspective: Salvation of Word; Glory of Jesus; Eternal Life; Amazing Blessing; Light of Life; Star of Grace; Jesus' Sheep Herd; Light Future - some of the church names represented from the students in the class)to be greeted by the pastor - one of the students in the class. He is a quieter man, gentle and very kind. As the people gathered, it became very obvious that there were a lot of young people. They opened with a few words and then began to sing with enthusiasm - an older man on the drums (yes!! it is true), a younger man on the guitar, and a young lady all helping with the singing. Singing filled the building - loud, enthusiastic and filled with expressive actions. It was a joy to see the young church of Mongolia express freely God's amazing gift of salvation, to see young people lifting their hands and voices to the Saviour and to see young and old celebrating the goodness of God. I knew two of the songs: Create in Me a Clean Heart and Hosanna, Hosanna. They sang in their tongue while I sang in English - what I consider a foretaste of the glory to come. I really wish that I could take my family and church family and fly them all to meet the brothers and sisters in Mongolia and worship God together, singing the praises of the Almighty - one Lord, one Saviour, one God, one gospel, one family.

They asked me to come up and preach and I began by bringing greetings from my family and my church family - what a privilege to connect God's people with God's greeting, the ties that bind believers who have never met. I preached from the book of Ephesians beginning with Ephesians 2 and the great gospel message - Christ's kindness expressed through his salvation. And then we went to the great prayer of Ephesians 3 and saw the enjoyment of the kindness of Jesus through his great love. We finally ended in Ephesians 4 and saw how we are to express that great kindness in our lives. My goal, by God's grace, was to show by God's Word that the Christian life is not just a list of do's and don't's but is a relationship in the great love of God and the reason we do what we do as believers is because of God's kindness in Christ.

I was just so happy to preach to the people, a people who have so much to teach me in so many areas of my life.

After the service, I was able to meet some of the people and then I had lunch with the leaders and their wives. I asked them how we could pray for them and they responded that the government may take their land to build apartments - please pray the government would not touch the land as God did not allow the lions to touch Daniel or the fire to touch his three friends. They also asked for prayer as they grow as a church in Mongolia - the church is only 18 years old, the freedom of the gospel coming in 1990. Please pray that God may continue to grant them an enthusiasm for evangelism and that they may grow in maturity in the knowledge of God's Word. Almost every church leader I ask about how we may pray for them respond with the need to be taught so they may train the next generation of leaders.

Before we left, they prayed for me - I don't know what they said but you could sense the warmth of Christian love in Christ. I asked if I could pray for them and I prayed God would bless and guide the leaders and the people and that the great gospel would shine bright for the glory of God in Mongolia.

Revelation 7:9: After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. and they cried out in a loud voice:

Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.

Canadians and Mongolians will be together one day even though miles separate now and they will stand side by side, basking in the glory and love of the Triune God, singing: Salvation, this great salvation, belongs to God, who sits on the throne and the the Lamb, our Saviour, to whom be glory forever and ever.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My First Mongolian Head Butt

I'll get to my trip to the countryside in a moment, but I have to tell you about a first for me in Mongolia. I had supper tonight (chicken and Greek salad - very tasty and no ill effects - very thankful) and on my way home I stopped to get some groceries. After picking up a few things, I was walking down the sidewalk looking for a place to cross the very, very busy road when I saw a group of three young guys heading towards me - they seemed somewhat unstable on their feet and a little happy. One of the guys approached me and I did not know what he was going to do. I know that alcohol and violence are a problem as well as pick-pocketing.

I was carrying a bag of groceries and this young man (he came to about my shoulders) leaned into my chest and gave me a subtle head butt. I didn't know what was going on. It didn't hurt at all but I did not know what he was going to do. My money was well protected but I know these guys can wrestle. However, he simply moved on down the street with his buddies - thankfully.

And now that I am safe in my 12th floor apartment and writing this, I wonder if instead of a moment of potential violence, he was simply trying to reach out and become my friend. I wonder? Maybe it was a cry for help? Seemed like a rather nice guy and maybe I mistook his rather aggressive stance - you know, judged him too early - for hostility when I should have been more open. Oh well, just thankful to be safe.

Today I had the opportunity to go out into the country. The Mongolian countryside has a rugged, dry beauty with wide open plains surrounded by rolling, steep hills. The countryside is vast. After a 45 minute drive, we first arrived at a new statue of Chinggis Khan - gigantic Chinggis. Made of steel, this vast structure is like the America Statue of Liberty and the Canadian ... the Canadian ... oh well, I'll move on (boy, that was uncomfortable, eh?). It was quite magnificent. After stopping off the beaten path by a river and having a small fire with some snack food, we travelled to a 1500 year old monument to dead Turks (not Turkey but the ancient Turkish people). Cylinder stones planted in the ground many years ago still contain noticeable writing while a broken stone table 20 metres away lays crumbled. There are also stones "planted" every metre or so apart from one another in two lines that run 200 kilometres through the countryside in remembrance of all who died in their wars. 200 kilometres! It is said in those days war was so prevalent that 25% of men would die in battle. It was a real moment walking through history, remembering our fallen world and longing for Christ to return once again.

Tomorrow morning I will be preaching in a church of one of the students. Please pray that God's Spirit may lead and the Words of Life may penetrate the hearts of the hearers.

Friday, September 26, 2008

So, a few things have happened ...

I moved ...

to a unoccupied missionaries 12th floor apartment. The arrangements are a little better as there is hot water (in the other place, hot water was rare - not that I am complaining!!) and it is more centrally located.

I finished Systematics I with the class ...

we were able to discuss the doctrine of Scripture, God, His creation, and His decrees and providence. We began with a devotional each morning and then from 9:00-4:45 (with a lunch and 2-3 breaks) we discussed God's Word. This morning they wrote the test and in the afternoon, we began to look at the book of Romans. We made it through the first 4 verses and then they began to ask questions concerning practical areas of church life. One man mentioned that there is much confusion in some of these matters so it was a really good opportunity to discuss and look at how to apply God's Word to church life.

I have made some plans ...

the family I stayed with last year is going to take me out into the countryside and we are headed to some statue of Mr. Khan. Also, I have the opportunity to preach this Sunday morning at 11:00 for one of the pastors attending the class. And finally, I am going over to one of the student's house Monday night for supper. This is a great privilege to be invited and I am very thankful to God because one of my prayers has been that I will connect better with the students.

Thank you again for your prayers. I have been somewhat tired and am thankful for the rest I will be able to have this weekend. We have had some very special moments in God's Word as we looked at various gospel truths and I very much look forward to digging into the book of Romans with the pastors of Mongolia.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Super Hero Moments

As I begin to write, it is presently 5:50 p.m. Tuesday night in Mongolia. I arrived safely Saturday night around 12:00 at night and got to my apartment at around 1:00 in the morning. I was so thankful to God for a safe flight.

It is good to be back and I am thankful to have some familiarity with the surroundings. It still takes a while getting used to the traffic - it is completely insane. For example, if there is not a lane, they will create a lane all on their own and it does not really matter if another vehicle is heading straight for you - that is his problem, not yours. Crossing the street still ranks up there as one of the most dangerous moments in your life - EVER!!! Agility, a keen eye and lightening speed all come together in a great "super hero" moment as you bound across the street and hopefully don't get wiped out by someone honking their horn.

These past two days 17 students have met to study Systematics I. It is a tremendous time to share God's Word to these church leaders. At one point today, we talked about how the knowledge of God leads to practical living. It was one of those moments in the class that you could sense God's presence as we talked of knowledge that leads to greater worship of God. If we are going to truly worship God, then we must see His glory and taste and see that He is good, so that all the other false gods that we taste pale in comparison. We also saw how in 1 Corinthians 8:1 knowledge does not puff up but leads to a life of love.

This year I am intentionally seeking to get to know the men and women better. The language is a huge barrier but I was able to talk with 2-3 men and learned more about their ministries. It is a real privilege to stand alongside of these leaders and serve God with them.

I walked home after having supper last night at around 8:00. Actually, I had supper at the Irish Pub (that one is for you Nick!!) and had bacon and eggs - nothing like breakfast for supper!! During my 45 minute walk I saw a fwy young children begging with one little boy holding his even smaller sister and another little boy swaying and in a very quiet voice singing; I saw a number of drunk men, staggering, one man in particular trying to find a wall just to brace himself; and I saw just lots of ordinary people enjoying the night life. Sights like this common all over the world emphasize once again the need for the great gospel of Jesus Christ to penetrate Mongolia.

Please pray for the leaders of Mongolia - the church is growing and God is moving. Pray that the church might serve with passion and faithfulness for His glory.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Has Such A Great Thing Ever Happened?

The plane landed in Seoul 2:30 a.m. Saturday (or 1:30 p.m. Friday Cambridge time) and I was thankful to the Lord for a safe and relatively smooth flight. One of the highlights - or at least I thought it would be a highlight (and so would my children!!) was the showing of the movie Kungfu Panda. Sadly, I had not slept for a very long time and even a panda doing karate could not keep my determined eyelids from shutting.

Today I have been able to sleep, read, email my family and just wander - what else do you do until 7:30 in the evening? It has struck me once again in my wanderings the amount of people that fill this hallway and country.

As I wandered, I prayed that a great gospel presence may be found in Korea and Mongolia. As we have been looking at the book of Deuteronomy, my prayer for the people of Mongolia is Deuteronomy 4:32: For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. While Moses would go on and talk about creation and the exodus, he would point to a greater message - Jesus and the good news. Has there ever been a greater thing to happen than the life, death, resurrection, ascension and promised second coming of Jesus? Please pray with me that this message of the great grace of the only God through Jesus may resound from one end of heaven to the other.

On a more personal note, I really do thank you for all your prayers. I will miss meeting with God's people at Grace Bible tomorrow and trust that God's presence will be felt and enjoyed for His glory. It is tremendously comforting to know that I have a church family who will pray and who will care because the gospel has so radically changed their lives.

... know therefore today, and lay it in your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. Deuteronomy 4:39

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mongolia and Hot Tubs

Well- my second trip to Mongolia begins. I am presently waiting in Toronto Airport for an 11:50 p.m. departure so I only have another 2 hour wait. After waiting in line to hand over my luggage, the kind gentleman ushered me to the window with the sign above it reading PRESTIGE CLASS. Now this is the life, I thought, they have upgraded my ticket! I can see it now - I will stretch out the entire flight, maybe take a dip in the hot tub that I am sure is on the plane somewhere (did I bring my bathing suit???), and then finish off with a fine three course meal- maybe T-bone steak with some mashed potatoes and a pile of gravy.

I am loving this. The kind lady behind the counter processed my luggage (I was a little over because of a huge container of peanut butter I am bringing the family I stayed with last year - but she let it through. One of the perks of my new status, I thought) and then handed me my ticket. Seat 51!!! I thought - PRESTIGE has taken a hit these days.

Knowing my hot tub moment was over, I asked one more question before a real Prestige person presented himself - is it an aisle seat?

She nodded yes and I walked away a happy man. An aisle seat! May not be a hottub but on a long flight, it ranks right up there.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Time To Be Kind

Do you wish you were more kind?

We go through life examining our sins and coming to certain conclusions: I wish I could control my anger; I do not want to look at a woman that way; I don’t want to be so greedy and self-centred, etc. When we enter a situation, do we walk away with that one question: I wish I was more kind? I confess, I do not often think like that – did I win the argument? What else could have I said that would have convinced that person? Not – was I kind?

Kindness, like love, is often easier to describe than define. Kindness is also most often described in Scripture as some sort of action – unexpected, contrary to circumstances, filled with a spirit of humility, grace and selfless action. If I had to define kindness, I would say it is active humility that sets aside self and places God in the centre of a relationship or circumstance. When God stands in our place, surprising things happen like forgiveness, gentleness in tone and language, self control in actions, and unforeseen grace that honours God.

Kindness takes a prominent place in Scripture. We read of kindness in lists - 1 Corinthians 13.4 (love is kind) and Galatians 6 (fruit of the Spirit). We read of God’s kindness in places such as Acts 14.17 (God’s kindness to all people as he pours rain from heaven for the crops) and Ephesians 2 (God’s kindness in the giving of His Son) And we read of how our Christian response is to be one of kindness. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 reads: Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and every one else. The amazing thing about this verse are the qualifiers: nobody, always, each other and everyone else. Here there is little wiggle room. We are to always seek to be kind – humility with God at the centre – even when we are wronged by one another and every one else. We also read in 2 Timothy 2:24 that the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Again, the qualifier: everyone – even with those who oppose our ministries.

But it is not only in particular verses that we find kindness passages. Elisha, among others, was a very kind prophet. There was the incident were he cursed some youths who where then mauled by bears after they called him “bald” and told him to “go up” (possibly a reference to what took place with Elijah – so not even so much a personal reference) but the rest of his ministry was filled with acts of kindness – much like the ministry of Jesus. He healed water with salt so the town could drink; he provided oil to a widow so she would not have to sell her sons into slavery; he restored the Shunamite’s son to life; he fed a hundred people; he poured some flour in a pot so the prophets could eat soup; and he healed Namaan the Aramean (an enemy) from leprosy. The story before the one we will look at is Elisha hearing the plea of a prophet whose axe head fell into the water. This may seem small scale to feeding a hundred people or healing leprosy but you hear the anguish in the prophet’s voice: Oh, my lord, it was borrowed. And so a simple act of kindness follows – Elisha causes the axe head to float.

Our passage is 2 Kings 6.8-23 and it is a powerful passage about the kindness of God leading to kindness among enemies. Elisha takes the people of Israel out of the “vicious circle of folly” which would lead to more war and leads them to acts of kindness which stops the Aramean raiders from invading Israel. If kindness is active humility leaving God in the centre, then in the story of the Arameans and the king of Israel, we learn how to bring kindness into our relationships.

There are two incidents before the Arameans enter Samaria which place God in the centre. In other words, if we are to express kindness, we must understand God’s kindness or more specifically, experience it. The first act of kindness was shown towards the King of Israel, the one who would later ask: Shall I kill him, shall I kill him? The king of Aram would set up ambushes to capture the king of Israel but time and again, God would tell Elisha who in turn would tell the King of Israel where the ambushes would be set. We read in verse 10 this happened time and again.

The point in verses 8-12 is that God’s kindness is expressed to us daily. Every day, whether we give thanks or not, we receive kindness from God. We read throughout the Scriptures of God’s protection – David and Goliath, Daniel and a few lions, Peter in prison. We also read of God’s presence in the valley of the shadow of death and refuge in times of trouble. The very fact that we breathe is a kindness of God. Food on our tables, a roof over our heads – all expressions of God’s kindness.

But God’s kindness does not stop with general kindnesses such as protection. In verses 13-19 the King of Aram becomes very upset so he sends an army to attack Elisha. The next morning Elisha’s servant steps out of his house with his cup of coffee, looks up and sees – AN ARMY!!! After spilling his coffee he runs to tell his master – Oh my lord, what shall we do? And what does Elisha say? Do not be afraid. A man who probably had as good a reason to BE AFRAID as anyone in Scripture is told – do not be afraid. This is the amazing kindness of God as it goes beyond protection and provision (verses 8-12) to absolute rest in God so His people never need to be afraid. There is perfect peace found in God’s expressions of kindness. Even though troubles and “sorrow like sea billows roll” causing fear, God stands before us and calms the waves: peace is like a river that attends the soul – it is well, it is well with our soul.

This calmness brings Godly response – grace, mercy, love, wisdom – all done in his strength. God’s stands in the middle and we reflect what we have enjoyed – kindness. The reason the servant is told not to be afraid is because those who are with us are more than those who are with them. Amazing. God is so great and His strength so surprising that the servant’s eyes are opened to God’s army – hills full of chariots and horses of fire.

Here is God in the middle – we have all received undeserved kindness from God. But this only comes when our eyes are opened and we live by faith – when we see God. It is like Paul in 2 Corinthians 4.16-18, pressing forward through difficulties because he looks to what is unseen, not what is seen.

Elisha and the King of Israel had both experienced God’s kindness and now it is time to express God’s kindness to the enemy ((19-23). After Elisha prays, the army is led blind right into the heart of Samaria. When the king of Israel sees this, he is like a little boy in a candy store – Shall I kill them? Shall I kill them? And then in what I think is one of the key verses, Elisha reveals the natural human heart – the natural response to the enemy: Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword and bow? Well, yes I would and so would the king of Israel. But God gives a different answer – throw a banquet. While you may kill, God offers a feast. You kill with words and attitude and anger and tone but God pours a feast of love and grace. You hate, God shows kindness.

Elisha tells the king of Israel: Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master. God stops the vicious cycle and reveals the gracious cycle of wisdom. The people of Israel send them away and the bands of Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory. The consequences of kindness are freedom from war and fear.

It is those consequences – war and fear – from which many long to be freed. Their lives may not be surrounded by a physical army but they are married to someone who ambushes them time and again. How do we stop the cycle of foolishness? How do we cease (over time) the angry words, the harsh tone, the acts of revenge or the neglect of gentleness? How does a wife not fear that God is not dealing enough with her husband but rather that God is out to get her – everything is against me in the words of Jacob.

How many times do we walk into a relationship and we hear the words (although put in a more sanctified manner) – shall I kill them, shall I kill them? What is the great danger? It is not only destruction of a relationship but it is the hardening of the heart that becomes distant from God. We read in Romans 12.21, the reason we are to not repay anyone evil for evil is that you may not be overcome with evil. That is a strong warning.

So where does one find compassion, gentleness, thoughtfulness and consideration? Is it to try better and not let things hurt so much? We read in Ephesians 5 31-32: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another …. How? Like Elisha, we have been shown kindness (Ephesians 1-3). In fact, Paul’s final prayer is a desire that you get a glimpse of the depth of the love God has for you – sinners. And it is this reflection of God’s kindness that we bring into our relationships. It is what Elisha experienced and then reflected so the Arameans where able to see who God is and His gracious feast of kindness.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Walking With Sinners

In the last post I mentioned that we are to walk with those who have addictions in their new life. How do we do this? I think a number of ways.

First, the person is probably hurting and so they will need great encouragement. We read in Psalm 32 that when the Psalmist kept silent about his transgressions his bones wasted away through [his] groaning all day long. We read later that his strength was sapped as in the heat of the summer. We need to understand that they are engaged in a battle and even the small advances in holiness should be noticed and pointed out. They need to hear someone thanking God for victories they may not yet see.

Second, the person should continually "expose" his sin - that is he should be accountable to you. Ephesians 5 encourages us to expose our sins by the light. As you walk with this person, you need to be someone they can trust with their sin. You need to be someone who will speak the truth in love, not as one standing above but as one walking alongside - a fellow sinner. In fact, we need to understand that it is often us who has the log in our eye while we see their speck.

Third, the person needs to know this is a process. Sanctification is in part the process of God working His will in our lives to separate us from the world. In fact, walking beside someone is a very appropriate image because it conveys a journey that takes time but as you travel, you become closer to the destination. In the case of someone fighting an addiction, we need to reassure them of Biblical truth that God is working - at times slowly and at other times more decisively - and creating in them a pure heart.

Fourth, the person needs to know that while God's discipline is at times harsh, it is always for our good. We need to allow people to speak about the groaning and weariness of the battle but we cannot leave them there. We must ultimately point them to Jesus and the hope that is found in him.

Fifth, the person must be encouraged to become active in Christian service and Bible reading/prayer (fellowship with God). Why? Because there is joy found in a deeper relationship with God and in a serving relationship with God's people. That is joy. And the more joy they experience of God and His people, the less attractive sins looks. This means that the one walking with the person must also exhibit great joy in the Lord.

The greatest battle against sin is won not ultimately looking at sin and its consequences but looking at the cross and knowing the joy of the Lord (Hebrews 12).

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sexual Addictions

Sunday morning we looked at Ephesians 5 when Paul spoke: But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as it proper among the saints.

It is striking how often the Bible warns God's people about sexual sins. Not only that but we read that when there are specific sins recorded, sins of a sexual nature often appear at the top of the list. What do we make of this? Well, we may say for certain that sexual temptations are serious in nature and also that God's people struggle. This means that the church should be talking about it - but we don't. We pretend no one looks at "those" pictures or visits "those" websites and I believe the result is people suffer and struggle in silence. Or, we don't know how to respond other than wagging the religious finger at that shameful sinner.

Jesus met up with a "sinful" woman in Luke 7. She struggled with immorality and made her living by it. And what did Jesus do?

First, she felt welcome. In order to feel welcome, she must trust Jesus. He is a welcoming trustworthy person.

Second, the first words spoken directly to her were: Your sins are forgiven. If someone comes to you confessing sexual addictions, Jesus teaches us that we are to point them to the cross. There is forgiveness for sexual sins and hope for future victory at the cross.

Third, (and note the people begin to question his worthiness to forgive sins - and Jesus does not even answer - he is focused on ministering to the sinful woman) he gives hope for the future: Your faith has saved you - go in peace. Jesus says - from this point on, your life is a changed life. And that is what Paul will go on to say in Ephesians - your life is a changed life and there is hope for obedience.

If someone comes to you and confesses that they have a sexual addiction, Jesus teaches us - welcome them, point them to the cross and then walk with them in this new life.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ministering To Those With Cancer

Where to begin? What to say? These are just a few random thoughts about how to minister to believers who have cancer.

1. They are first of all not believers with cancer; rather they are believers. That may seem like splitting hairs but the point needs to be made. When we talk with them we may want to focus on how they are doing with their cancer or how they are feeling. As difficult as that is (and it can be extremely difficult) there is a spiritual battle that is being waged fought in many areas including trust in the sovereign ways of God. That leads us to how we minister to believers with cancer - that is we come alongside of them as brothers and sisters in Christ and seek to encourage them through genuine Christian fellowship. Sometimes it is just listening; sometimes it is praying with them or praying quietly for them while you are listening; or sometimes it is providing practical help with providing meals or cleaning their house or doing yard work or caring for the children for a while. Pray for wisdom that God will give you insight as you make a phone call or talk with them at church - and God will lead.

2. When you approach the believer with cancer, they may have already talked about their health with 10 people beforehand and are a little tired of discussing their medical health with everyone they meet. There is a fine line between caring and smothering. They are not only going through cancer but they are also a mother, a wife, a believer, a employee - whatever it may be. Focus on the whole person.

3. Laugh with them. God has given moments of laughter and we do not need to be so "spiritual" with them that we lose our joy.

4. Share your life - not in a comparison sort of way but in a "you can pray for me in this area" sort of way. In other words, be real - they want to help you and minister to you as God gives them strength.

5. Pray often for them in your heart. Psalm 63.1: O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water. They are in a dry and weary land. As you talk with those who have cancer, weariness can be their greatest experiences - appointments, effects from treatment, anxiety concerning their family, etc. Pray that their soul would be fed by God - He is the great provider and comforter.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


This Sunday we are looking at Ephesians 5:4-14 as Paul reminds believers that the gospel radically changes people's lives. Specifically, in verses 3-14 Paul speaks out against sexual immorality, any kind of impurity and any kind of greed. The believer is to be shaped not by darkness and sin but by light and the gospel.

One verse I found interesting is verse 6: Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. In the battle against sin, you will hear many deceitful words that lead to emptiness - empty living, empty purposes, empty hearts, empty minds and empty futures. It is all a lie! Satan, the world and our remaining sin would have us ignore the great promises of God and live not by faith but by sight as we seek to satisfy our desires with emptiness.

One is reminded immediately of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes as he relates various experiences with money, women, work and great possessions - all of which lead to one word: emptiness (meaninglessness).

Why does the church seem to run on empty, filling time with religious words but so little godly action? Why are so many Christians filled with anxiety and disappointment rather than joy? Is it because we are listening to deceitful words that lead to empty living? In other words, true joy and meaning is found in light, not darkness and that means our lives must be radically different than the world which is without the gospel.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Battling Sin

Sometimes when we read the Psalms which deal with "enemies" and "bloodthirsty men" we wonder how we can relate. As far as I know, I am not on anyone's hit list - at least not yet. So what do we do?

Recently, I read Psalm 59:

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him. Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me; (2) deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men. (3) For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD, (4) for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. Awake, come to meet me, and see! (5) You, LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel. Rouse yourself to punish all the nations; spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah (6) Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city. (7) There they are, bellowing with their mouths with swords in their lips-- for "Who," they think, "will hear us?" (8) But you, O LORD, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision. (9) O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. (10) My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies. (11) Kill them not, lest my people forget; make them totter by your power and bring them down, O Lord, our shield! (12) For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride. For the cursing and lies that they utter, (13) consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, that they may know that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth. Selah (14) Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city. (15) They wander about for food and growl if they do not get their fill. (16) But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. (17) O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.

I began to think - who is attacking me? Who are my enemies? Well, my own heart can be my enemy, Satan and attacks from the world. These are my enemies. They would rise up against me and I need to be delivered. And so I started to pray Psalm 59 asking the same God as King David served to Awake, come to meet me and see.

I noticed a few things including an awareness that I was in a battle and also God is more powerful than my enemies. There are enemies that would seek to destroy our testimony and our salvation but when we cry to God, the One who laughs at the rebellious nations, we may rest in Him as he is our fortress, the God who shows [us] unfailing love.

Take the Psalms which talk about your enemies and begin to pray against your sins, your own battles of the heart and the attacks of Satan and his legions. God will grant you the desire of your heart as you battle.

Friday, February 22, 2008

SGF Day of Prayer Saturday Feb 23

Tomorrow we will meet at Grace Bible Church from 10-2 and pray - pray for SGF churches, our governments, churches throughout our land; we will pray for the unsaved and missions; and we will pray for church plants, Toronto Baptist Seminary and theological training.

Tomorrow we meet confessing our dependence on God. If the gospel would spread and if the churches would be effective and if His people would be encouraged, we must pray for God's moving, God's leading and God Spirit.

And so we gather to pray ...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Run the Race

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

There is so much that would pull Paul away from the "race" - he went through persecutions, he would defend the faith against false gospels, and he would go through difficult church issues, all of which could have torn him away from the race. However, he would live out his ministry with faithfulness, passion and courage. As I recalled 2 Timothy 4:7, I was struck by how powerful these words really are in their context. It is not an easy task to finish the race for Paul or for any believer. How many have you known who have "dropped out"? Many? How many times do you hear - well, they made a decision but I don't know anymore.

Paul writes to Timothy and reminds him - it is a fight, it is a race, you must keep the faith. Simple words but profound truth. What was it for Paul that kept him? Verse 8: Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. Paul longed for God and His appearing.

Fight the fight. Run the race. Keep the faith. One day, one day you will see Him.