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Archive for the ‘Biblical Studies’ Category

Dear friends,

I’m writing the following to keep you updated on the progress of my eighth Missons trip to Siaya, Kenya, to teach and train the pastors there, and to educate the students in the Bible Institute that Danny Gilbert founded, and that I’m helping to lead, as the Professor of Biblical Studies.

For you who have been praying for me, THANK YOU!  And for you who have partnered with me financially, THANK YOU!  I could experience no success — humanly-speaking — apart from you!

Here is the update from the first two days:

Sunday, March 11: Here’s an important story the Lord used the next day for the pastors, which stirred them deeply for evangelism.

Our drive to church took about 20 minutes, much of it along simple, extremely rugged dirt roads with many, many people walking about.  On this drive, I probably greeted about 100 people (because we had to  drive so slowly, due to the road conditions).

However, my greetings were in Luo and in Swahili; I’ve learned a great deal of the Luo language, so I would say, “God bless you” in Luo (“Nyasaye ogwethi!”).

In Swahili, I would say, “Mungu akubariki!” and, “God loves you” in Luo (“Nyasaye oheri!”).

There are at least three reasons I said these things: First, I’m here to bring the name of Jesus to as many people as I can.

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Secondly, I sensed — correctly, as I found out later from the pastors – that virtually no one does these things in the Kenyan culture!

How shocking and exciting it is for the Luo people to even see a white man, and then to hear him speak their language with the correct pronunciation has been causing lots of discussion!

I would say that this was a significant highlight of my day.

My message in the packed church service I preached in was very well-received.

Monday, March 12:  Perhaps the most important teaching Danny Gilbert and I’ve ever done occurred immediately in our very first training session for the pastors, Monday morning: The Holy Spirit marvelously led us to switch what we had planned to teach on, and instead, to focus on evangelism.

At first, the pastors demonstrated very little interest in reaching the unsaved, as I asked them many questions about them sharing the gospel with others.

So, I stopped, and said, “we need to pray; something is very wrong here, and we need the Holy Spirit to come quickly and change hearts.”

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When I finished praying, I was silent for about a minute, and I could sense hearts changing, and the spiritual atmosphere changing.

Once I began teaching, I immediately noticed a significant change among the pastors, who were humbled and greatly stirred to ask God our Father and Jesus our Lord to give us His heart for the lost.  I called it, “break my heart for what breaks Yours” (i.e. the unsaved).

I taught them from Luke 19:1-10 about the story of Zaccheus, and how Jesus reached out to him in a friendship love.  In addition, I gave numerous personal examples of how to share the gospel with the unsaved, all of which connected deeply with the pastors, and which inspired them.

But I found out that what seemed to convict them the most was how many people I blessed, on the way to church, and how I spoke about my deep burden at seeing so many people who were obviously not going to church, but merely going about their business.

I think each of the pastors thought, “here this foreigner is coming to my nation, speaking to the people about God, and I’m doing nothing; this needs to change!”

We ended up praying much for the unsaved, and we could see immediately how quickly the work of the Holy Spirit penetrated their hearts.  They were deeply moved.

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On a different note, Danny began to teach on the Great Commandment, and when he got to the part about loving ourselves, he asked me to teach on that part, which I did, and I showed the pastors how to grow in a healthy, biblical way of loving themselves.

I showed them how to pray through God’s Word in a devotional manner in the first-person to grow in our ability to love ourselves, and I taught them what the outcomes would be.

I also led them in praying about these things corporately; when we finished, there was great rejoicing among us!

Lastly, the soccer ball we bought for the orphans at Ebenezer Children’s Home a year ago popped, so I bought a new ball for them, seen in the picture below.

soccer ball

Friends, your prayers are being answered greatly, and your finances are truly being multiplied, as the pastors are rooted and grounded more deeply in their faith, and as they’re being challenged to share their faith, leading in evangelism for their congregations by example!

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We would be wise to not let the passing of such an historic, prominent man and leader as Billy Graham slip by us without heeding so many of the stellar examples of integrity in life and leadership he set.

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Among many reasons for his decades-long success as the most influential religious leader of the 20th and 21st centuries, was Billy Graham’s early decision to hold himself to a high and rigorous standard of accountability.

First, that meant submitting himself to a team of three other men — Grady Wilson, Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea — with whom Graham stayed in close, strong friendship and relationship all of his life.

Second, meeting in a hotel room in Modesto, CA in 1948, the team agreed to what was later called the “Modesto Manifesto,” an agreement that none of the men would make the mistake other ministers had made so often — meeting with alone with women — and then falling into an adulterous relationship.

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The other three parts of the “manifesto” included having an outside concern do the physical count of people attending the crusades, to remove the temptation to exaggerate attendance.

In addition, they decided to have an independent firm conduct regular financial audits of the ministry — with full, public disclosure — and they refused to bring public criticism of churches or other ministries with whom they may have privately disagreed with.

These matters proved to be the kind of principled foundation that would protect Dr. Graham from scandal, and enable the kind of success witnessed throughout the world for an entire generation.

The signal temptations of sex, money and fame will always dog every minister, but Billy Graham demonstrated an ability to overcome those temptations with humble and wise boundaries.

One last thought about the “Modesto Manifesto” of 1948 (this was a verbal agreement among the men; nothing was ever written down), and that is the idea of a covenantal relationship — a friendship rooted in the idea that believers in Jesus Christ ought to maintain the same devotion to each other that God has with us.

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I find it a very real, but sad thing indeed that few ministers choose to walk in the kind of security, humility and devotion with other fellow ministers that should be far more evident in ministers of the gospel.

To be sure, every relationship “takes two” to be successful, but Dr. Graham and his team demonstrated that it is possible.  I hope his example stirs many ministers to follow what has been written above, and that such an extraordinary man’s legacy is heeded seriously.

 

 

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Instead of leaving it as one, long paragraph, I split up our first president’s proclamation into more easily read paragraphs:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor;

and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be;

that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation;

for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;

for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;

for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;

and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; 

to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually;

to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord;

to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

President George Washington

 

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A very dear friend just gave me an encouraging word a few days ago from Is. 43:19, and I hope that you’ll be encouraged as well as you ponder the meaning of this simple, yet profound Hebrew word (hadash).

More than a chronological word, it means to renew; to rebuild; to refresh; to repair.  Thus, when the LORD does something “new” in our lives, this is the kind of result we can expect, and of course, we rejoice greatly.

However, in a sense, we don’t need to wait for a certain time for Him to do that something “new”: repeatedly in the Psalms, we’re called to sing to Him “a new song” (cf. Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9), where in each of these verses, the Hebrew word for “new” is the same as that in Is. 43:19 (hadash).

Thus, when we engage with our triune God in praise and worship – and if we come expecting – we can be assured that the Holy Spirit will be involved in bringing His renewal, His refreshing, His repairing, and His rebuilding.

You see, when the LORD calls us to sing to Him, there is a very good reason for it!  Of course, there are many good reasons for it, but in our step of faith and obedience, we can know that He will do His part to respond in one or all the ways the meaning of hadash implies.

In fact, why not ask Him to do these very things before you enter into praise and worship – individually or corporately?  Is that a prayer He wants to answer?  You know it is!

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I’m studying Ps. 33 this morning, and I want to share with you from just one word in this section an important insight about the vitality of praise and worship for the believer in Jesus Christ.  But first, please read Ps. 33:1-4:

Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones;
Praise is becoming to the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings.
Sing to Him a new song;
Play skillfully with a shout of joy.
For the word of the Lord is upright,
And all His work is done in faithfulness.

Throughout my walk with the Lord since about 1980, He has used praise and worship greatly in my growth in Him.  I greatly appreciate that He puts a song in my heart when I wake up in the morning, and I always benefit supremely from that song – and especially “new” songs.

Also throughout the years, a certain song or two ministers greatly to me during different seasons that I’m in.  I believe this is likely what David had in mind when he wrote in v.3, “Sing to Him a new song.”

This “new” song goes beyond merely singing a song which has just come out; it goes beyond chronology to a decisive moment or quality in time.

There is a “sound” from the new song that resonates in our hearts, and more importantly, the truth it brings from the Word of God (v.4) has transforming power for us.

Here is why the “new” song is so important for us: the Hebrew word translated “new” means “fresh; to rebuild; to renew; to repair.”

Those descriptions are things we all need, and so often, each day.  And therein lies the power and the vitality of praise and worship: God intends to use it for us in a way that brings us renewal, in a way that rebuilds our spirit.

He wants to use praise and worship to bring a freshness to our relationship with Him, and to repair the things in our lives that need repairing.

And now we can understand the purpose of David’s opening exhortation to “sing for joy in the LORD,” and for why he says that “praise is becoming (better, “fitting”) to the upright” (v.1b).

Friend, do you engage in praise and worship as part of a regular lifestyle, so that God can use this powerful tool to do in you what He desires to do in you – to refresh you, renew you, rebuild you and repair you?

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Far too many evolutionists and atheists openly depart from intellectual and academic honesty, only to reveal their true motives in holding to their worldviews.  I will show — from their own words from this brief blog — that with such people, their worldview is not intellectual, but moral.

They simply do not want anyone to have authority over them; indeed, they love their sin more than they love God (John 3:19; 5:42; 7:7; cf. Rom. 1:18-23, 28-32).

Even a cursory study of evolutionist and atheistic writings bears this view out.  Instead of arguing their points on merits alone, they constantly resort to ad hominem attacks against Bible believing Christians.

In fact, many of these writers are quite open about why they hold to an evolutionary worldview.

For example, one woman, grossly ignorant of what Scripture really teaches, writes, “It is wonderful not to have to cower before a vengeful deity, who threatens us with eternal damnation if we do not abide by his rules.”[1]

Aldous Huxley argued,

I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning: consequently I assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption…For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation.  The liberation we desired was…liberation from a certain system of morality.  We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.[2]

In another profoundly ignorant comment of what Scripture actually teaches, Bertrand Russell wrote, “The worst feature of the Christian religion is its attitude toward sex.”  The title of his book says it all: Why I Am Not a Christian.[3]

A plethora of similar statements can be read in recent books from evolutionary atheists Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Peter Singer and Steven Pinker.

Bioethicist Peter Singer invokes Darwinism to make the claim that there is no essential difference between people and animals.  As such, animals should be given the same rights that people have.

He argues that since man is the product of evolution, and not the special creation by God, then the entire structure of Judeo-Christian morality is discredited.

As a consequence, abortion, euthanasia and infanticide all become permissible and in some cases, desirable.[4]

Another atheist and evolutionist, Steven Pinker, advocates openly that women should be able to kill their newborn children.

After a teenage girl gave birth to her baby in a bathroom during her high school prom — and promptly dumped the baby in the trash — Pinker wrote an article in the New York Times in support of her actions.

He wrote that evolution has enabled us to have “a capacity for neonaticide [that] is built into the biological design of our parental emotions.”[5]

Moreover, he added that many cultural practices are “designed to distance people’s emotions from a newborn” so that the child can be killed without too many qualms.

In his book The Blank Slate, Pinker complains that the problem with humanity is not enough morality, but too much of it.[6]

This is the fruit and disgusting, logical outcome of evolutionary philosophy.

Such Neanderthal views (pun intended) are merely right out of the playbook of one of the most wicked philosophers of modern times — Friedrich Nietzsche – who fancied himself an “immoralist.”

Nietzsche is famous for his writing on “the death of God” — not so much that He actually “died” – but that man justly killed Him in order to win for himself the freedom to make his own morality.

And what would that look like? Nietzsche answers that question with his famous “will to power” statement: the strong (read evolution) get to rule over the weak, no matter what the cost.

By removing God from life, there is no more morality from above — only that which those in power legislate. Thus, all appeals to dignity, compassion and equality no longer apply.

The entire purpose of this is to remove human guilt, enabling us to live beyone “good and evil,” which requires a remaking of morality, what he calls “transvaluation.”[7]

This playing and twisting of words is quite popular in postmodern writing and philosophy: no moral absolutes.

[1] Karen Armstrong, A History of God: The 4,000-Year Old Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (New York: Ballantine Books, 1993), 378.

[2] Aldous Huxley, Confessions of a Professed Atheist, Report, June 1996.

[3] Bertrand Russel, Why I Am Not a Christian (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957), 26.

[4] Peter Singer, A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution, and Cooperation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).

[5] Steven Pinker, “Why They Kill Their Newborns,” New York Times, November 2, 1997.

[6] Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Viking, 2002), 269.

[7] Quoted from Dinesh D’Souza in What’s So Great About Christianity (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2007), 268.  These themes D’Souza writes about are advanced in Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power (New York: Vintage, 1968); see especially 129, 136.

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It’s a special joy to me – through the answered prayer of so many – that through our teaching and ministry, the Lord opened the eyes of so many more pastors to a biblical understanding of the Father and how to relate to Him.

Moreover, they gladly, eagerly and reverently received a biblical worldview of marriage; they agree that the way even Christian men treat their wives is unbiblical.  Danny and I taught extensively through Gen. 2:18-25, some of 1 Cor. 7, and then verse-by-verse from Eph. 5:21-33.

The pastors consistently indicated they had never been taught these things, that they can’t wait to implement what they learned, and that they know they’re going to be persecuted for treating their wives the way God wants them to treat them (Eph. 5:1).

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We dealt with very difficult theological issues, with matters of biblical interpretation and application, with the greater need for character and Christ-likeness and with a great deal of practical matters in every-day living and in church and ministry.

At the same time, we all experience an ongoing amount of laughter; our meetings are full of life and joy!

Once again, passing out 15 NLT Study Bibles to those who have never owned a Study Bible was a major highlight; the same goes for giving the students 32 Luo Bibles, updated in 2017 from the most recent translation from 1970!

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I never want to overstate anything; too many in ministry do that.  On the one hand, we must believe in faith for God to do great things, but on the other, we must wait for Him to move to glorify His name.

That said, I do have the confidence that He has found a group of men and women in Siaya, Kenya to work through to bring His reformation to His Church in Kenya and in Africa.

From what the pastors tell me, a substantial portion of the Church in Africa is essentially a mockery of New Testament Christianity, and instead of bringing the Lord honor, it blasphemes Him.

This is especially true of Church leaders – so many of whom worm their way into leadership, so that they can reap financial reward and enjoy a place of honor in society.  Others are extremely unscrupulous; still others are rampant adulterers and wife-beaters.

Heresy and false doctrine abound.  Some in Missions say we should only focus on reaching unreached people groups with the gospel, but I’m of the opinion that God sends His people where He wants them to be and where He knows they can make the greatest difference for Him.

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I like the “both/and” approach to life and ministry, rather than the “either/or” approach, and I believe this pertains to Missions as well.

I shared with the pastors that if the Church in Kenya is weak, corrupt and greedy, how can we expect the government to be righteous, and free from corruption and greed.

The comment “stung” — in the best way — and we prayed fervently for God to bring His righteousness through men and women of integrity in His Church in Kenya (there is an expectation of great violence in the coming presidential election).

I also shared that if we can get the Church in Africa thriving, Islam is weakened.  But if the Church is weak, the lie of Islam is strengthened.  Moreover, where the Church flourishes in sound doctrine and behavior, all of society benefits.

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However, a stunning number of families are child-led, because AIDS has killed off both parents.  Every day I see children working very hard to survive; they cannot afford to go to school, so they labor.  Approximately one-third of children in Kenya are orphans…

On a different note, I see a common sight: farmers plowing their fields behind oxen!  Kenyan society in rural areas is about 100-125 years behind America.  That opinion comes from one of the leading Kenyan pastors we have the privilege of ministering to.

Friends, together, we’re bringing tangible hope to a people without hope and who struggle greatly to survive.  In fact, this same pastor tells me that in the rural areas, the average life expectancy is about 40 years old!

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Where the gospel is proclaimed and lived out in truth, humility, sound doctrine and in the power of the Holy Spirit, society is greatly blessed.  This is the legacy of the Christian faith for the United States and Great Britain; my prayer is that one day soon, we can say the same for Kenya.

 

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