Thursday, May 20, 2010

On My Way Home

Yesterday ended with a test for the students and a meal with the leaders of BKH. The test went well as for many this would have been the first test in years! We began the day putting together a sermon from Genesis 6, looking at God's command for Noah to build an ark. After we pieced together a theme and outline, we finished the morning with an encouragement to preach God's Word, knowing that we are never alone - the Spirit blesses His Word. Following lunch - the test! 50 multiple choice questions on Systematic Theology. One of the challenges of taking a test is the language barrier - what may seem like a simple sentence in English can be difficult to translate in Mongolian -so the test ended up being out of 43!

After the final day of teaching, they presented me with some kind gifts (I am now starting my own "ger" collection ;)) and then the leaders took me out to dinner, once again expressing their gratitude that Grace would send me into the countryside to teach their leaders. The meal was fantastic - a bowl of rice served, adding beef (of course!) as the meat from a main plate as the meal progresses. This is followed by Thai soup (I told them I could only have a little otherwise my wife would not recognize me when I returned - I would have eaten so much) and then some apples. A very kind gesture.

I am presently in UB after a wild flight. It was a semi-windy day and for most of the flight we bounced, swayed and dipped. However, I was still able to down a ham sandwich and a can of 7UP. Tonight I am staying at a hotel I stayed at last year, ready for some sleep. I leave tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. to catch the flight to China, Vancouver and then final my family - I mean Toronto.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

And They Caught On!

Today we worked a lot on developing a theme and main points of the message. We first worked on 2 Corinthians 4.12-16 and after they spent some in time class working on it, we discussed their work. At that point, it was a little discouraging because they seemed to miss what was being taught. So we worked through that example and tried again, this time with James 1.2-4. They spent around half and hour studying and putting together a theme and outline. When we discussed the theme, almost all of them that spoke had a similar theme (complete in a sentence and not only stating the truth but making it interesting for the people) and relevant points. It was really exciting seeing them grasp putting together a sermon.

The Lord has been really gracious in the two courses taught this time. Systematics gave them some basic truths of Scripture they had never been taught and Preaching has given them tools to bring God's Word to the people. They have been very attentive and as the week has gone by, have asked more questions. They also sit on very thin benches with no backs for about 8 hours - and they are soaking in the teaching (except when some get really tired and I see heads dropping on the desks ;)).

After class, Jeff, my translator and myself met with the 2 leaders of the church of BKH. The one leader served us supper at his house and we had an extremely positive and productive meeting. They are thankful for the teaching and so thankful that their church leaders are being taught God's Word. There is no one else offering this type of teaching in this area (the leaders are unable to go to the city for training) and they are so thankful someone would come all the way into the countryside to minister to them. It speaks a lot to them that we went out to them.

So I am so thankful for Grace Bible Church and their gift to the ministry, the leaders and the people of Mongolia. I wish you could have sat with me during the visit to hear their appreciation for the service to the people of Mongolia. So I thank the Lord for Grace Bible Church who serves a people they have never seen but Lord willing will, one day in glory!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Found One More Picture

Goat's Meat and Preaching

On Sunday I was able to preach at the "ger" church in town and then have a lunch with the leaders. The lunch was a real Mongolian BBQ where they cut up goats meat and through it in a boiling pot of water with potatoes and spices. Because of the hard winter, goats meat is at a premium so the goat we got was probably fairly old, if toughness of meat says anything. I had one tender piece and it was delicious. All you need to do is pick it up with your hands, make sure the goats hair is off (our goat had lack hair and plenty of it!)tear it with your teeth and and chew! A great meal all in all. The church service was exciting - I am always thankful to experience church in Mongolia - reminds me of how the gospel is going throughout the world!

Today was a good day of teaching, working through how to practically put a sermon together, starting with choosing a text to getting the theme of the passage. The students have been very eager to learn, many of them being called to preach but no practical training at all!

I have added some pictures (which I think are at the top - still figuring this thing out!). Jeff took some pictures of teaching the students. Please do continue to pray as we have two more days of "putting together sermons".

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Tired Day

Well, this was day five of teaching and a Saturday on top of it all. After finishing up a few matters from the first course, we began the preaching course. After lunch, the group was looking rather tired and after about an hour I saw more than a few heads land on the table. I thought either I am boring or they are tired - I went for option two and called an early break. After en extended break, we continued but the eye lids kept dropping so we called it an early day, stopping at 4:00.

Tonight I was able to take Jeff, Shauna and their daughter Kaylee out for a meal (they are the family that is hosting me and have been very kind, hospitable and helpful). We went to a restaurant called the Byanburd, and Shauna and I had some amazing chicken - the first time since leaving Canada. Jeff had this bowl of rice, some cucumbers and other various matters at the bottom.

Tomorrow I have the opportunity to preach at the "ger" church in BKH and afterwards meet with the leaders. We are also going to have a lunch with something boiled in milk - I forget exactly how Jeff explained it but I do remember him say, "oh, you have never had it - you are in for a treat." I will definitely keep you posted!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Camel Time on Mongolia!!

Today was another busy day of teaching and this time with lots of discussion from the students. We looked at perseverance of the people of God, the church, baptism, Lord's Supper and church discipline - each carrying a lot of practical discussion on how to apply God's Word in their various churches. Does baptism save? What if you do not have enough water in the Gobi Desert to immerse? What do you do if someone is caught in sin but is repentant? It is always encouraging to hear their questions as it lets me know what they are thinking and what the church is struggling with in their ministries.

After the teaching, Jeff took me out into the countryside with a few others and we had the opportunity to ride a camel. Mongolian camels have two humps and because it was such a harsh winter, one of the humps on the camel was "limpy" (you will see the "limpy" humps in some of the Mongolian art work). It was a great experience and as I rode I looked out over the Northern Gobi thanking the Lord for the beauty of His creation and the opportunity to be sharing God' Word. I will say the dismount from a camel can be a little awkward - front knees first and then settling down on his hind legs. Every time the camel had to bend, he would let out this groan as if to say, "Oh man, not again."

It was a good day and I look forward to the opportunity to begin to teach homiletics tomorrow for four days. Sunday I am preaching in the large "ger" church in town, looking forward to worshiping with them. Now, as you are in the middle of your day, I think I will head to bed!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday In Mongolia

It was another beautiful day in Mongolia. The sun is warm with a cool breeze, the Mongolians enjoying the first signs of spring. Jeff and I traveled to the church where we are doing the teaching and from 9-5 we are together learning God's Word. For many of the students, this is the first time they are hearing from Scripture an explanation of the Trinity, God's sovereignty in salvation, special revelation and other teachings from Scripture. So they are thankful for the opportunity to train and hear the teaching of God's Word. It is amazing to see their enthusiasm and patience as they sit for a very long day.

After teaching, Jeff took me to the large hill in the middle of the city. I was able to see the mountains surrounding the city, the mountains further back still having snow on the tops. The city of BKH is large, filled with gers surrounded by fences in a neat, orderly fashion. While we were up on the large hill, a group of 10-15 grade 5 boys and girls began to talk with us and wanted us to take their pictures. And that is how it began - we would take some pictures and they would look at themselves, then they wanted to take pictures and look at them and then they wanted to run with my camera down the hill to take pictures of their friends... and look at them. It was amazing to see their joy and their laughter at the "tourist". We finally recouped our cameras and drove down the hill, with one guy hanging on the back tire for about 10-20 feet.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

First Day of Teaching in BKH

I landed in BKH yesterday morning at around 8:00 and was able to settle into the house of Jeff an Shauna, have a coffee, study my material, meet some of the men and then hit the bed at 7:30. That's right, I hit the sleep wall and fell right into bed. Slept for almost 12 hours.

Today I began teaching Systematics. I was thankful for all the pastors that attended and we had a good day studying God's Word. We not only covered the material prepared but got into many practical ministry questions. It was good to be able to talk together with them.

This is a short blog, with just a quick update as I have to run. Please do continue to pray. Jeff asked some of the pastors if they had ever heard some of the teaching and they said no - so I am thankful to be sharing God's Word with them.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sunday in Mongolia

Well, I finally landed in Mongolia at 6:15 this morning to a bright, sunny and rather chilly morning.

I am thankful to be hear because if I took my usual route, it would have been much more than a 9 hour delay. During my last three trips into Mongolia I have flown with Korean Air from Korea to Mongolia. This time was different as I was booked to fly with Miat, the Mongolian airline. This was considerably more inconvenient as I had to go through customs, collect my luggage and re-enter rather than just do a transfer as I had done my previous times. But the Lord was gracious because while Miat flew out 9 hours late, the next Korean Air flight landing in Mongolia would not be until Monday night! If I was on that flight, I would have missed my flight to BKH tomorrow morning at 6:15 a.m. and probably would have had to take a 12 hour van ride, not arriving until Wednesday. So I am thankful to God for His provisions and feel a little rebuked for the earlier grumbling about the inconvenience.

Presently I am staying in an apartment with a couple who have been very kind to me. We went to church after I slept for 3 hours and spent an enjoyable afternoon getting to know one another and more about the ministry in Mongolia. I also talked to Jeff from BKH and he has said everything is ready for the conference and the leaders are looking forward to the time. I continue to pray for God's good grace to shine.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Sitting In Seoul

Well, it is 9:28 a.m. Cambridge time and 10:28 p.m. Seoul time on a Saturday night and I am still sitting in the airport in Korea. Apparently there was a lot of sand flying around Mongolia today so instead of a 6:00 departure, it will take place at 3:30 this morning.

God has been gracious in terms of travelling mercies. I am still absolutely amazed at how such a large plane carrying everyone's kitchen sink can stay in the air for so long. I do look forward to arriving in Mongolia and meeting up with the family I will be staying with for the night. They will then drop me off Monday morning and I will fly to Outer Mongolia, hopefully meeting with the pastors, Lord willing.

I could write more but I am not sure you want me to regale you with stories about how tough it is to chose between Robins Donuts and Bean and Tea place. It just may not capture the imagination of the masses. Anyway, I do appreciate your prayers for my safety and for the Mongolian people - I have had some time to focus on/pray about the opportunities of teaching and ministering to these men. I do pray, as we read in John 15, for abiding fruit that will build up God's people and spread God's glory.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I Don't Feel Like Forgiving

How do we forgive when we don't feel like forgiving? 2 Chronicles 7 is helpful as God responds to Solomon's prayer from chapter 6. God will speak about forgiveness but before he does, he sets out the foundation of forgiveness.

2 Chronicles 7.12-13 read: the Lord appeared to him at night and said: I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, ...

Why did God not simply begin with the words, "I will forgive when you humble yourself before me"? Because God is teaching his people that before forgiveness takes place, one must understand grace. God speaks to Solomon expressing that He will hear but it is an ear given to sinners who deserve punishment. God knows that the people of Israel will sin but he rsponds with grace as he will hear and forgive.

So, what happens when you don't feel like forgiving? God does not simply say "forgive". Instead, he teaches about grace and found in the realm of grace is the strength to forgive.

Forgiveness is not based on feeling or strictly speaking, raw obedience. It is built upon the foundation of knowing the amazing and abounding grace of God in our lives.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why Those Who Sin Have Hope

Earlier I wrote a few paragraphs entitled Why Guys Who Watch Porn Will Never Get Married. The title was admittedly inaccurate and was used to grab the attention of the reader. The purpose of the post was to expose what is often hidden behind all the supposed glamour of porn and how porn negatively impacts relationships. But the post was incomplete as it left no hope for the one who struggles and may have conveyed that they are trapped in this sin.

So we ask, why do those who sin have hope(and not just with porn but a host of heart sins which affect relationship - words, lack of forgiveness, envy, greed, etc)? Where do they find encouragement? We want to look at just two places from Scripture.

First, in 1 Corinthians 6.9-11 Paul lists a number of sins, among them sexually immorality, greed, drunkenness and slander. Is the believer ever trapped? Paul writes: And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

There is hope which begins with our standing before God. We are a changed people in His sight - we are washed (cleansed), sanctified (set apart, made holy), justified (given a righteous standing before God because of Jesus). It would seem strange that someone who struggles with sexual immorality would never be able to grow in holiness and therefore, never grow more and more conformed to their standing before God. This gives the believer great hope because the change will not ultimately come because we change ourselves but simply and profoundly, because God will change us. God within us through His Spirit will grow us in holiness. This change is often gradual and therefore the believer must continually come back to the cross, being reminded of God's work in us. God will mercifully and graciously discipline us so we become more like our Father in heaven.

Second, Romans 6 tells us that we are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness. The good news here is not only is God working on our behalf, but humanly speaking, God gives us means to strengthen our resolve to walk in holiness. We are not powerless and the grip of sin is never stronger than the grip of God. And so the person struggling with porn, words, envy, greed or anger is able to bow before a sovereign God pleading mercy and then rise, using God-given resources to battle unrighteousness.

And so, is there hope? Absolutely. It is an amazing paradox that in the glamour of porn we find death and in the horror of Christ's death we find life.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Christians As Icebergs

What do you mean "Christians as icebergs"? Sounds harsh doesn't it? Do you mean that they are usually cold and unwelcoming? Well, no. Generally I have found believers in Jesus to be the exact opposite - warm and welcoming.

However, I have heard that when you see an iceberg you are really only see 10% while the remaining 90% is submerged from view. It is only when you come closer do you realize what lies underneath.

I expressed to the people at church recently that when I look out from the pulpit, I view them as icebergs - what I see is the 10%, with another 90% underneath. This is not a paranoid pastor speaking, nor is it trying to find issues when there are none to be found. Instead, it is to be honest with the circumstances of life. We are taught to wear a happy face as worship for worship is really only for those ready to praise God and give their all to Him. But what about those found in Psalm 55.1-5: Listen to my prayer O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught ... my heart is in anguish within me ... fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed. me.?

That is the hidden 90% the "iceberg" brings into the church as she quietly sits in the back row - trapped in a sin, filled with guilt and desperate. However, recognizing the hidden spiritual struggles allows us to minister God's powerful, personal Word AND deal honestly with people's lives - the 90%. It is here we will see God revealed in the Psalm and conclude God is the only place to cast all our cares. Suddenly the 90% finds hope.

How do you view those coming into church? How do we get past the superficial? How about beginning to view believers as icebergs - it will impact preaching for the pastor and fellowship for all, creating a deeper level of true ministry.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Got the Grumbles?

The Israelites had just been delivered from slavery when they began to grumble against Moses and Aaron: If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this assembly to death.

There are two lies that are believed when we begin to grumble.

The first lie is God is not wise. The Israelites really believed they knew better than God as He had made a mistake bringing them into the desert. If God really knew what He was doing, He would have left them in Egypt where slavery was so much better! Really? Remember the bricks? Here is the truth about the person of God - He is all wise, even when we do not understand His ways. We become convinced that God does not need to work on us any more and really, if we are happy, he should leave us alone. But God is interested in change and grumbling resists change. A thankful heart knows that in God's great wisdom, trusting that He is bringing us to a better place.

The second lie is God has abandoned His people. Would God really leave His people to die in the desert? Did He not make a covenant with them? Did He not just deliver them from a powerful army? Did He not declare "I am the Lord"? We have so many assurances God is leading us and will never abandon His people. Grumbling forgets the promises and person of God.

Grumbling is a matter of the heart, resulting in a sinful view of God. Knowing God and holding onto His promises will produce a thankful heart as we know all that is given is far more than we have ever deserved.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Expecting Trials

John 10.28 is a verse not only of great comfort but one that teaches us to live life with a certain expectation. We read I give them (my sheep) eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

The great comfort is easy to spot - the promise of eternal life and never perish. What a great God! But before we meet our Father in glory, the believer must live the Christian life knowing that he or she is on Satan's hit list. They are a target as Satan and his demonic forces come to visit you, your family, your life, seeking to "snatch" you from the Father's hand.

Jesus is teaching His disciples to live a balanced life - one which has the believer's feet firmly planted in the promises of God and at the same time aware of the vicious, subtle attacks. Do you know you are under attack? That when you repented and put your faith in Jesus, you were put on Satan's hit list? This awareness will spur us on to rely on God's great promises as well as live with great boldness. Satan may attack but God will prevail as the victory has been won for God's people.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

An Essential Question for Holiness

Moses had two choices - life surrounded by all the riches of Egypt as adopted son of Pharaoh or life among mistreated slaves serving God. Seems like a no brainer, correct? Moses thought so as we read in Hebrews 11.26: He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of far greater valuethan the treasures of Egypt because he was looking ahead to his reward.

For Moses, he chose life among God's people even when he was surrounded with all the pleasures of Egypt. How did Moses come to this conclusion? How did he resolve to battle sin and momentary pleasures filled with self love?

He asked one simple question which is brought out again and again in the entire sermon to the Hebrews: what is better? Are the momentary treasures of Egypt better than the everlasting treasures of God? Are the sinful self filled moments better than the self-sacrificial calling of the believer? Moses answered - Christ and His path have much greater value and his life showed his answer to this simple truth.

When you are tempted, begin with this one question: what is better? What is of greater value? And as Hebrews says, Christ is better - a better sacrifice, a better covenant, better blood and better promises. Moses was right - this is a no-brainer.