Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pray for Jan Korbel

I received the following update from Jan Korbel this morning. Please join me in holding her up before Christ.

Dear Praying Friends -
Thank you for holding up our immigration appeal before God. We submitted our appeal last week and found out late on Friday that we had been denied.
Because of this we will be investigating a change in our organization from NGO (non-governmental organization) to a Society. This is what all churches register in Kenya as. Under such status we should automatically be granted a missionary Class E work permit. In fact we may have pursued this when Care of Creation first registered if the process was not so long and involved. Thankfully we now have a good friend who works as the Registrar of Societies and we should be able to make the change in the next few months.
In the meantime, I will return to the US for a short time (God willing) to do some additional fund raising for my increased budget in the coming year. I would appreciate your prayers for this next process to go smoothly and quickly. But even more so that I would be able to raise the needed support in the next couple of months. I will likely arrive on Sept 30.
Thank you again, Jan

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Knowledge of God

The third chapter in Arthur Pink's book The Attributes of God (Baker Books, 1975) is entitled "The Knowledge of God." Pink writes, "God is omniscient. He know everything: everything possible, everything actual; all events and all creatures, of the past, the present, and the future. He is perfectly acquainted with every detail in the life of every being in heaven, in earth, and in hell...God not only knows whatsoever has happened in the past in every part of his vast domains, and he is not only thoroughly acquainted with everything that is now transpiring throughout the entire universe, but he is also perfectly cognizant of every event, from the least to the greatest, that ever will happen in the ages to come. God's knowledge of the future is as complete as is his knowledge of the past and the present, and that, because the future depends entirely upon himself. Were it in anywise possible for something to occur apart from either the direct agency or permission of God, then that something would be independent of him, and he would at once cease to be Supreme" (21, 24).

Oh how right Pink was to say, "What a wondrous being is the God of Scripture! Each of his glorious attributed should render him honorable in our esteem. The apprehension of his omniscience ought to bow us in adoration before him. Yet how little do we meditate upon this Divine perfection!"

But when we do take the time to meditate upon this Divine perfection it has equally strong and opposite affects on believers and unbelievers alike. For the latter, they despise this perfection because they so strongly desire to escape from accountability to God. If God knows all then he sees all, and if he sees all then all will give account to him. And they hate this because they love their wicked ways, even as believers once loved their wicked ways.

But for believers this Divine perfection is fraught with much joy and comfort. For instance, he knows that when he is perplexed, God knows his ways and guides his every step. When she lifts up her prayers to God she knows she prays to a God who knows all and sees all and has power over all and works all things together to the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. He knows that, even though the omniscient one knows all his sin, he is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and has determined to set his course aright in Christ.

Oh what joy there is in resting in the God who knows all things!

Pink closes with one more observation: "Now the Divine knowledge of the future is not a mere abstraction but something which is inseparably connected with and accompanied by his purpose" (24). Point being, the fact that God knows something does not in itself cause a that something to come about. He must also will it. Just as knowing what the weather will be does not cause the weather to act accordingly, so God's knowledge of all things does not cause them to occur--he must add to his knowledge his causative will. "Nothing has ever come to pass, or ever will, merely because God knew it. The cause of all things is the will of God." More on this in subsequent chapters.

For now, Pink brings his meditation to an end by urging us to see that this Divine perfection ought to strike amazement, holy awe, and adoration in our souls. "The whole of my life stood open to his view from the beginning. He foresaw my every fall, my every sin, my every backsliding; yet. nevertheless, fixed his heart upon me. Oh, how the realization of this should bow me in wonder and worship before him!" (26)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Good News from Guinea

What a joy it was to receive the following report from the missions organization "Serving in Mission" about the Manika people. Through the influence of Bethlehem Baptist Church I have been praying for the Manika along with many others for some years and it is quite a privilege to see God answering our prayers--in our life times. Here's what they wrote, it's a little long but worth the read:

In 2006, after nearly 90 years of Christian witness, there were only about 75 believers and one pastor among the nearly 2 million Maninka people of Guinea in West Africa. That, however, may soon change.

Until 2006, the Gospel of Luke was the only book available in a language the Maninka could easily understand. Today, Genesis, Ruth, Jonah, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians have all been printed, and other books are nearing completion.

But giving the Maninka the Word of God requires more than simply publishing Scripture. The Maninka are an oral people with only about 25 percent of the population literate. The treasures of their history and culture are passed on not in writing, but by singers and storytellers.

So how does one communicate the Truth
A dramatic reading of God's Word captures the attention of a Maninka man who may be hearing the gospel for the first time in his own language.
of the gospel with a non-reading culture? Although literacy training does have a place, literacy programs take time and very few of the Maninka people are interested in learning to read.

To give the Maninka people the opportunity to hear the Good News of Jesus in a culturally relevant way, SIM's Guinea team took a creative approach and launched the Maninka Audio Media Outreach (MAMO).

As Scripture is translated into Maninka, the MAMO team makes recordings of God's Word, read dramatically in the style of the Maninka storytellers. MAMO's first dramatic recording of the book of Genesis utilized more than 20 Maninka readers and was completed in June of 2006.

Upon its completion, the first tape of the four-cassette recording was given to the guard at the studio. As he listened to it with a friend, a crowd gathered. Some of the people wanted to buy the cassette from the guard, but he wouldn't sell it. When asked what he thought about the tape, he kept repeating, "It's very, very good!"

Since then, we have made many copies of those tapes and are distributing them to the Maninka for a small fee. We are also working on recording more books of the Bible as teams translate additional Scriptures into Maninka. Our prayer is that we will be able to produce, copy, and distribute the tapes quickly and that they will spark an interest in God's Word among the Maninka.

Recently, we learned that God is answering our prayer in a way we hadn't expected. When a local Christian traveled to another city about four hours from our recording studio, she saw a crowd of people gathered. When she walked closer to the group, she realized the people were listening to our multi-voice recording of Genesis! Upon further observation, she concluded that the man playing the message was a merchant who had made copies of our cassettes and was selling them.

Although copyright issues are important to most studios, we didn't mind a bit! As Paul said in Philippians 1:18, "What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this [we] rejoice."

Please join us in continuing to pray that God's Word would spread among the Maninka and that many lives would be transformed by the gospel as a result.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Decrees of God

The second chapter in Arthur Pink's book The Attributes of God (Baker Books, 1975) is entitled "The Decrees of God." The decrees of God are "his purpose or determination with respect to future things...They are called God's 'will' to show he was under no control, but acted according to his own pleasure. When a man's will is the rule of his conduct, it is usually capricious and unreasonable; but wisdom is always associated with 'will' in the Divine proceedings, and accordingly, God's decrees are said to be 'the counsel of his own will' (Eph. 1:11)" [15-16].

I would add that infinite holiness and infinite goodness are also always associated with "will" in the Divine proceedings. Holiness, goodness, and wisdom are constants in the Being of God. When we are careful to keep this in mind we avoid many errors, fallacies, and heresies, not to mention griefs.

"The decrees of God relate to all future things without exception: whatever is done in time was foreordained before time began" (16). This truth, of course, leads to many challenges and difficulties, not the least of which is the relationship between Divine decree and human responsibility. But in the end I find the absolute sovereignty of God over all things to be inescapable because if nothing else his absolute and eternal foreknowledge of all things demands it. Pink quotes Jonathan Edwards in this regard:

"Whether God has decreed all things that ever come to pass or not, all that own the Being of God, own that He know all things beforehand. Now, it is self-evident that if He knows all things beforehand, He either doth approve of them or doth not approve of them; that is, He either is willing they should be, or He is not willing they should be. But to will that they should be is to decree them" (19).

This is one place where the constants of holiness, goodness, and wisdom in the Being of God become preeminently important. As difficult as it is to understand how and why God could and would decree all things--even bad things--we must learn, as beloved children in Christ, to trust the character, will, and purposes of our Father. He has thought it best to create the world as it is, and in the end we will see why this is so, even as we are now seen, and we will worship him for his great goodness and wisdom. And indeed, not us only but all creation:

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved--and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-7, emphasis added).

"Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!' And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!' And the four living creatures said, 'Amen!' and the elders fell down and worshiped" (Rev. 5:11-14).

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Solitariness of God

Lately I've been reading a book by Arthur W. Pink entitled The Attributes of God (Baker Books, 1975). Though I differ with him on a few things--and at times with the tone he takes against theological opponents--I have thoroughly benefited from the book so far. Thus, over the next few weeks I plan to post some thoughts about each of the chapters of his book, the first of which probes into the solitariness of God.

By "solitariness" Pink means that God is fully self-sufficient in his being and excellencies. "There was a time, if 'time' it could be called, when God, in the unity of His nature (though subsisting equally in three Divine Persons), dwelt all alone. 'In the beginning, God' [Gen. 1:1]. There was no heaven where his glory is now particularly manifested. There was no earth to engage his attention. There were no angels to hymn his praises; no universe to be upheld by the word of his power. There was nothing, no one, but God; and that not for a day, a year, or an age, but 'from everlasting.' During a past eternity God was alone; self-contained, self-sufficient; self-satisfied; in need of nothing. Had a universe, had angels, had human beings been necessary to him in any way, they also had been called into existence from all eternity. The creating of them when he did, added nothing to God essentially. He changes not (Mal. 3:6), therefore his essential glory can be neither augmented nor diminished" (10).

There are great treasures hidden here. The nature of the being of God, especially his eternality and self-sufficiency and character, is the key to understanding every aspect of life and theology. Thus, I would encourage you to spend a little time in the near future contemplating the 'solitariness of God' and the implications of it. The rest of the book, and my brief meditations, are simply the outworking of a precious few details--but the source of them all is the nature of the being of God so we would be wise to spend much of our time there. Time spent exploring the being of God is never time wasted.