Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Can God Use You To Serve Him?

Sadly, there seems to be a group in the church which falls under the "too bad you messed up that bad in your earlier life and therefore cannot have full joy in Christ nor the freedom to serve in the church anymore" category. This group really, really messed up in the past - you know, the serious sins like divorce or premarital sex or homosexuality or thieves or greedy or drunkards or swindlers - the sins found listed in 1 Corinthians 6... and who were part of the church! Bottom line - all in the church have really, really messed up.

In John 8 we read a woman caught in the act of adultery. The sensitive religious leaders of the day haul her before a crowd of people, using her as a test case to trap Jesus. She had, after all, sinned a biggie and she was caught red-handed! After the religious dance takes place, Jesus is found alone with the woman uttering these words: Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more.

Jesus shows the church how to deal with the "biggies" - there is no condemnation- NONE - because Jesus bore our wrath. But Jesus also shows those who fall under the "I've messed up" category that there is a lot of room for joy and service. The "go and sin no more" is not just negatively, leave adultery but positively, serve Christ in the fullness of joy. In fact, Jesus is adamant that she GO - get active in serving Him. Jesus did not add "but you cannot serve in this area or this area"! He simply said "from now on sin no more". There is freedom in Christian service as God gives strength and wisdom.

The church needs to work hard precisely at this point: do not ask saved people to do lifelong penance with an evangelical twist. You know, the penance of the divorced who cannot enjoy a Christian marriage (once having followed Biblical directive) or in time, potentially serve as an elder if qualified. Or the one who had a child out of wedlock, never to enjoy a godly husband or a blessed family life. The message to them is simple and unbiblical - you sinned BIG so you cannot have the fullness of joy in the Christian life. If this standard were held before a holy God, then none would serve Him in ministry. Isaiah was a man with unclean lips, but spoke some of the most glorious truths found in Scripture.

What about the following: Abraham, an idol worshipper, became the father of the nation of Israel; Moses, a murderer, became the under-shepherd of Israel; David - the adulterer and murderer - continued to serve God as king and write as the poet; Matthew, the tax collector, became a disciple; and Saul, the persecutor of God's people, became the "least of all" the apostles.

Can God use you in the church to serve Him? Based on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, he does not condemn you and says simply: GO - and sin no more. Go and live in the freedom of the gospel, the joy of Christ and the active service among God's people.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Returning Home

Today was the last day of class. The students wrote their final test on Homiletics III after another week of studying how to present God's Word. The last few days we focused on Christ Centered preaching in the flow of the text and context. It was interesting watching them write their final test as they were asked to write an outline and theme for a certain passage. I have not been able to read what they have written but it was good to see them putting what was learned into practice.

This evening at 5 we all met at a Mongolian Grill type restaurant to share a meal and also present a Carey School of Theology certificate to one student who completed all his tests. It was good to be able to thank the Lord for His labours and entrust him into God's care. Also, because of a kind donation, I was able to present the students with a Bible Dictionary - all were very excited!! None of them possessed a Bible Dictionary and all were extremely happy to receive them. One person said that they appreciated the gift very much as they could never afford this helpful tool in the study of God's Word. They also presented me with a traditional Mongolian "vest", a picture and a very warm pair of slippers.

It has been extremely encouraging this year as I feel I have connected much more with the students. I was able to go out for supper with a number of them as well as develop relationships with them during class time. While language is still a barrier, 3 years of coming to Mongolian have built solid relationships. I do wish I could bring my family and GBC to come and meet these men and women so they may see their passion for the Lord and their love for God and His people. I am thankful to my home church for allowing me to serve in Mongolia and look forward to telling them of the blessing they have been to the leaders and their churches.

I leave tonight at 12:20 in the morning and am waiting in my hotel room. Lord willing, I will land in Seoul at around 4:00 in the morning and then leave once again at 5:00 in the evening to arrive at 8:00 the same night in Toronto. While God has been gracious in Mongolia, I do look forward to returning to my family and church family.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Picked up my first English newspaper in UB ...

... and read about what the students have been talking about all week - the Democrat Party defeated the Communist Party in the election held this past Sunday. There was some tension here as last year when the elections took place, there were riots and 5 people killed because it was claimed that the election results were rigged. This year, there was much more control over how the election took place and as a result, the Democratic Party now enters power.

Today in our class, we put together a sermon from Psalm 77, looking how God gives rest to His people as they continue to seek the Lord. In the afternoon, we looked at various passages which speak of how the Word and the Sprit work together and also the need for the Spirit's work in the pastor's life as he ministers. Please pray for the students as the end of two weeks is coming close and they are getting tired.

I remember my first hear here, I visited the countryside with Andrew and Liz and saw some people just spreading a blanket with food and relaxing. I asked Andrew why people do this and he mentioned how they love the fresh air. After being in the heart of the city for almost two weeks, I can understand the need for a picnic every once and a while. There is a row of trees with their spring flowers blooming and everytime I walk by on my way to and from our classes, I try to take in the smell with a deep, lingering sniff. However, all I get is more bus exhaust than flower. They do, however, look beautiful.

Well, two more classes, a meal tomorrow night with a pastor and his wife and then a meal with the class with graduation and I will, Lord willing, be headed to Seoul and then back to Canada. Please continue to pray that God's blessings would be on the students.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Little Delayed

Well, it has been a while ...

My internet connection here is a litle suspect and is very sensitive so I really try to be nice to it but it still cuts out on me for extended periods of time. As well, when I did try to sign in to my blog, I got blocked under suspicion of being a spammer - imagine, me being a spammer - I barely know how to turn on a computer. How exactly does one spam? Does one create a spam or does one just spam and spam just happens to come out as spam? Anyway, my name was cleared, I was pardoned and am now allowed the full rights and privileges of blogging. So I do apologize for not being able to keep up to date.

We just finished our second Monday of classes. So far we have done a lot of work putting together sermons - capturing the flow of the text, looking for the fallen condition focus, applications, illustrations, preaching the text from the immediate context and historical redemptive context, and other aspects of sermon writing. There have been times taken up with questions unrelated - pastoral questions concerning circumstances in their churches, concerning other points of theology, and many others.

This past Thursday night I was able to have supper with Andrew and Liz and some of their family - they work with the organization that helps bring me into Mongolia. It was nice to see them once again as 2 years ago I stayed in their apartment. They are a very kind family and also very hospitable - it was good to catch up with them.

On the Sunday, I had the opportunity to preach out in the "ger" district - a place just outside of UB with about 2000 people. The pastor and his wife are very passionate for the Lord and for their community. They have asked us to pray for their people and for their outreach - a place where they seek to minister to those without showers, without schools, without police or medical aid. They would like to minister to children and families, providing a place not only for the proclamation of the gospel but also for ministries of mercy. After preaching in their service, I met with their church leaders and we had about a two and a half hour lunch where they asked plenty of questions. We also had an enjoyable time getting to know one another and how the Lord saved us.

In order to come back into the city, my interpreter and I had to catch a taxi - I could not believe this guy - he was the Mario Andredi of Mongolia - it did not even matter if traffic was coming the opposite direction (now I have been in my share of taxis in Mongolia so I have already experienced and somehow got used to this unique thrill - but this guy took it to a whole new level!). About 3-4 minutes earlier, we missed taking a small mini-van like taxi. Well, with Mario at the wheel, we caught up to him, passed him, and left him in our pothole dust. When I got out of the backseat (I did look for a seatbelt but they seem to hide them in the backseats or just take them out), I thanked the Lord for bringing me safely back into the city.

Tonight, after teaching I was able to have supper with a pastor, his wife and their lovely 6 year old daughter. I preached at this man's church last year and so it was good to catch up once again on how their church is doing and how they are doing as well. Last year they where concerned that their church building may be removed and apartment buildings would be raised on their land. I asked how that was going as I had been praying for them and they mentioned that they are not going to build anymore apartments in that place - thank the Lord.

It has been good to be in the Word with the pastors and also to listen to their questions. The Lord continues to do great things in this young and vibrant church. I thank the Lord for your prayers - He has been gracious with health and strength.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Putting a Sermon Together

For the past 3 days we have been looking at how to put a sermon together. Today we began with a devotional in Jeremiah 23, speaking about how false prophets are those who speak their own words while true prophets are those who have "stood in the council of God."

It has been axciting to watch as the pastors are beginning to understand expository preaching (exposing the text). Today we looked at how to outline a passage to see the flow as it fits within the context. We looked at Ephesians 1.3-6, 2.1-3 and Luke 7 - the story of the sinful woman. We went from outlining to looking at how a sermon can flow from the text. At times there would be creases of confusion and at other times, a smile. So God has been gracious and tomorrow morning we will begin once again.

Today I also had the opportunity to visit a buddhist temple in UB. It was sad to walk through, seeing all the idols and deception - a time to spend praying for Canada and Mongolia.

Monday, May 18, 2009

1st Day at School

I was picked up at 8:40 this morning after a "time-zone adjusting" sleep and the taxi barreled through angst-driven traffic to the apartment where we held our classes. It was really good to see most of the students had returned and even though the language remains a barrier, we could sense it was good to see one another again.

We began the day with thanksgiving that God had brought us all together, followed by a devotional in Psalm 29 - how God will be exalted through his "voice" (his Word) which in turn will bring strength and peace to His people. We spent today examining how the voice of God or the Word of God is both powerful and effective. In other words, before we learn how to put a sermon together, we need to be passionate about the Word of God. So from 9 until around 4 we went through Scripture looking at the powerful Word of God.

After the classes, I got dropped of at the parliament buildings or the square and from there took a tour through the Mongolian Museum of History - a very interesting look at the rise and troubles of a nation. This was followed by a meal at the Irish Khan restaurant - a natural hang out of Nick Dunne if he were to visit Mongolia. Nick, I would suggest that you do not order the Khan burger - it does not do the name of Khan very proud at all.

This was followed by an hour's walk home, a drop in to the grocery store to pick up breakfast (no, it is not Fruit Loops - and did you know that 2 apples from Korea cost approx. 8 US dollars!! I passed). I arrived home and I was so very thankful to have hot water, none of which has been found in this apartment building since I arrived.

It is good to be back in Mongolia and be with the men (and a few women) once again. They are eager to learn God's Word and eager to preach His saving work on the cross. I am thankful for what God is doing in this country - His Name is great and His glory is shining.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A few funny (or not so funny) things

Today I was asked for directions instead of asking for directions. Amazing - a guy approached me as I exited the internet cafe this morning and asked if I knew where the black market was located? He did speak English (obviously) but it struck me as odd that I was pointing down the street giving him the location. I thought afterwards I should have added "you can't miss it" as the cherry on top of that experience.

Under the funny but may not be so funny experience: I was walking back around 2:30 to my apartment on this relatively warm day (probably 20-25 degrees) when I spotted a lady carrying a garbage bag and picking up another one from the trunk. The trunk, on this hot day was filled with all types of meat - not thinking trunks are refrigerated. Anyway, one of the bags splits open causing a huge chunk of meat to fall splat on the pavement, intestines spilling out of the meat. Curious, I watched from a distance as to what you do in a situation like that - in case it ever happened to me, say. After laughing - maybe it was a nervous laugh or an "on-no" laugh", one is to pick up the meat as quickly as possible and carry it straight into the restaurant.

I made a mental note to self not to visit the restaurant in the near future.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Back in Mongolia

I am sitting in an internet cafe in Mongolia writing again on my blog - hard to believe. Leaving Friday morning I arrived in Ghingis Kahn Airport Sunday morning at 12:30 and the first question asked after making it through customs and luggage: Need a taxi? I declined, looking for Turuu my personal taxi. He was there and we headed to my apartment for the next 2 weeks. I arrived safe, half way around the world - our God is gracious.

Part of my flight took me into Vancouver, a place I had never been before. I sat in an aisle seat but I could see out of the plane's window a portion of the magnificent mountains and marvelled again at the majesty of God. I thought that is probably how I see God - just a porthole of his greatness. The mountains seemed so magnificent as they rose to the clouds lifting their hands in praise and I only saw a portion.

If you would pray - God would show more of His glory! We will be looking at how to prepare and preach God's Word to the people.

Please pray as the lessons in preaching begin tomorrow. Pray that the glory of God through His magnificent grace would compel his called pastors to preach the Word faithfully and with deep passion.

I thank you for your prayers - in weakness God has given strength.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Come to Jesus (Isaiah 24:8-11)

"The gaiety of the tamborines is stilled, the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent. No longer do they drink wine with a song; the beer is bitter to its drinkers. The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred. In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all gaiety is banished from the earth."

Silence. Gloom. Bitterness. Stillness.

Jesus came to save sinners - guilt ridden rebels with one cause - our glory our way. Jesus came to bring life to those imprisoned in their sinful desires. Come to Jesus in repentance of sin and faith in his righteous life, perfect sacrifice and new resurrected life and find life now and everlasting.

Come to Jesus.