Faith in God’s Provision

Every attempt that Adam and Eve made to cover up their sin left them exposed before God. Making clothes of fig leaves didn’t cover their shame. Hiding in the trees didn’t avoid the all-seeing eye of the Judge. Passing the blame onto another didn’t relieve them of their personal guilt and responsibility to obey God. The only solution to sin was for God to provide His own sacrifice through the shedding of innocent blood on their behalf.

So Adam and Eve, stripped of all self-effort and works, were covered by the Lord. He killed an innocent animal from the Garden, shed its blood and the made for Adam and Eve tunics of skin, and clothed them (Genesis 3:21).

From Eden onward, there have been two competing religions in the world. The first is packaged in many different names and varieties of self-effort at being good and godly. Each of these comes down to man attempting to reach God by personal effort. That effort may come in the form of saying a prayer, denying self of some necessity or desire, helping others through social causes, or participating in a religious ritual.

Christianity, however, is based upon faith in God’s provision. Man has no part in reaching God, but God reached down to us. We don’t seek after Him, He came to seek and to save the lost. We don’t sacrifice and surrender, God the Father gave His Son to die for the sinful. God, by grace, saves those who have faith in His provision. Biblical religion condemns the addition of any of our own works to gain God’s favor or earn His forgiveness. Our self-efforts nullify grace and make Christ’s death in vain.

No man is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16)

 

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A New Church in Kwa-Matingi

Richard, Benedict, Kim and Rose (4)
My wife and I with Pastor Benedict and Rose Muendo

This is a photo of Benedict Muendo and his wife Rose. Both are soon to graduate from the Berean School of Ministry in Tala, Kenya.

In 2016 I taught at a conference sponsored by Pastor Benedict. For 6 hours I preached from the Bible on the Doctrines of Grace: how from eternity God chose sinners to be saved, how He saves them by grace alone, and how He keeps them saved eternally.

Kenyans walked or rode for hours to attend this meeting at the Grace and Glory Fellowship Church located on the remote coffee plantation in Kwa Matingi.

The building constructed of wood scraps, tarps, and corrugated sheet metal was packed with 150 and had an overflow crowd. Adults and children sat and stood inside and out listening in both English and Swahili. We ended by singing the great hymn, To God be the Glory, despite calls for me to continue preaching.

Earlier this year I received an update from Pastor Benedict. God used the conference in an amazing way to impact the community, resulting in a second congregation formed and opportunity for a third!

Kenya is a land of unsatiated spiritual hunger. People walk for hours to hear the gospel preached. Cults are actively taking advantage of this spiritual hunger, but Berean School of Ministry stands as a strong voice for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

The support you provide with prayer is invaluable. The financial gifts to send me to Kenya have been greatly appreciated, and the monthly scholarship support to the Berean School by both Dean Fairly and Matthew Ferraro is literally changing lives of pastors, congregations, and communities in East Africa.

Thank you for being a part of God’s work in Kenya.

Click here for information on the Berean School of Ministry

Planting a New Church

Pastor Isaac Mathembe translating for me at the Family of God Celebration Center in Mutalia, Kenya.

Not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith (Philippians 3:9).

I finished preaching from Philippians 3:1-11 on the Apostle Paul’s own testimony of God’s salvation. Using himself as the example, Paul explained all the ways that he had tried to gain the forgiveness of sins. He appealed to his own ancestry and nationality, religious rituals and family upbringing, spiritual enthusiasm and traditions, yet none of these made him right with God.

After a personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus, Paul came to understand that God saves sinners apart from any and all works, rituals, or merit. God saves sinners only by full dependence and reliance in the One who died and was raised to life.

When the service was over, one of the women in the church asked if I had a moment to meet her mother. Outside I was introduced to an overjoyed woman my own age who was visiting from the opposite end of Kenya.

She shared how the message of God’s grace had touched her personally. She said, I had no idea there was anyone in Kenyan preaching like this. Then came the shocker. She donated a piece of property in her hometown for a church to be started where the Bible’s message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone would be preached!

Plans are underway to legally transfer the property title and the planting of a new congregation. The great need right now is for God to raise up – and us to train – a Biblically qualified pastor.

Pray and rejoice with us as God continues to work for His glory in the nation of Kenya.

The Perfect Man

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself … holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27c).

I’ve got the best wife in the world, at least the best for me. She is supportive when I lack faith, encourages me with hope in disappointments, listens when I need a friend, goes along with my spontaneous road trips to Wyoming, laughs even when I’m not trying to be funny, is my partner in ministry I can always count on, and loves me despite my every fault.

I admit that I’m not a perfect husband. Not. Even. Close. I continually pray that God provides in Himself what I lack toward my wife, and that He grows in me in the ways I need to be a better husband.

God never expects us to be perfect husbands, but He does expect us to love our wives. That means that I give up myself and my dreams and wants for what is best for her. It means that my highest priority in our marriage is not to make her happy, but to encourage her in holiness and godliness.

Husband, love your wife as Christ loves the Church.

Leaving Home

My son Daniel has turned 18, and though he still has another year to complete in high school, he is old enough and mature enough to leave home and be living on his own. He wants to be on his own.

It’s difficult as a father to feel, see, and hear his eagerness to leave home. I know, it’s what children do when they grow up, and I’m excited to see what he makes of himself, but it still hurts.

Pastors get hurt too. Talk to any pastor you know intimately, and he’ll confide how lonely the job is. Adding to the hurt is that we’re taught in seminary never to become friends with our congregations. Friendship makes it difficult to carry out discipline and can even appear as ungodly favoritism; but friendships still happen. Congregations should not only worship as friends, but exist as family.

When a member leaves the church, it hurts the pastor. Even when it’s a trouble-maker who goes, it still hurts. Always. Believers never leave a congregation because of spiritual maturity but because they are angry or hurt about something. We’d never consider leaving a spouse or our family because our feelings get hurt, yet that’s exactly how we treat our local church and we don’t see it as sinful.

Regularly pray for your pastor; he’s a human being too. No pastor is perfect like you are and he will hurt your feelings at some point in the course of his duty, especially if you are close. You’ll be tempted to flee, but remember that he gets hurt too.

Be kindly affectionate toward one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (Romans 12:10).

The Door of Opportunity

God said to Cain, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).

You pray for God’s guidance for a job, a husband, or a new pair of shoes. Beware that an “open door” may not be God’s door but a door of opportunity to sin.

Temptation is the enticement to do evil, to disobey God. Every temptation comes down to a decision: Will I obey God or listen to the voice that offers what my sinful flesh wants?

As Christians, we’re promised that God leads us. If you’ve been born again, you should expect the Spirit of God to lead you (Romans 8:14). The problem is that your sinful flesh also leads you, warring against the Holy Spirit (Romans 7:23). It is only when you walk by the Spirit in submission to the Scriptures that you won’t fulfill the lustful desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

Adam’s son Cain was warned by God that sin was waiting, crouching like a lion ready to pounce. Opportunity wasn’t necessarily God’s will.

One evening King David stood on his housetop and spied Bathsheba bathing. That “open door” was a temptation to sin that caused great suffering for David, Bathsheba, and the whole Jewish nation.

A fall often occurs when we’re faced with sin of presumption or defiance against what we know God has said. Be careful to examine every door by God’s Word – even when you feel peace about it. Feelings of peace are deceptive. Feelings, like doors, open and close, come and go, but God’s Word remains.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple … Keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me (Psalm 19:13).

Hating our Children

The water from the fountain sprayed on us as Kim and I sat enjoying the hot summer day. On the other side of the fountain was a family of four.

The boy of 5 or 6 grabbed his mother’s cell phone, ran, and waved it over the water in the concrete pond.

Don’t you dare drop that in there,” yelled the mother. The boy just smiled.

After several more warnings, the mother gave up. “If you drop it I’ll just buy another one,” she said with a shrug. Her son tossed the phone into the fountain and ran away.

Kids feel entitled to things because of their skin color, social standing, or personal desires. Children are giving birth to babies. Thuggery, violence, drug use, and sexuality are perceived as the building blocks of success by whole communities (here). Parents refuse to act like parents, preferring to be best friends to their children. These are the mounting results of a godless society (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

God established parents as the foundation of the home, and godly parenting produces a civil society. Loving your children requires disciplining them.

He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly (Proverbs 13:24).

The Voice of God

Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105).

Some of us begin each day with prayer, which is us talking to God. Prayer is important, but it’s more important to hear what God has to say than for Him to hear what we have to say.

It is in the Bible that we hear the voice of God speaking to us. If we set our marching orders every morning by what we think God needs to know – rather than listening to what God has said to us – we’re bound to walk off the path He’s set.

There will be time to raise your bleating cry after you’ve first listened to the Shepherd’s voice.

Great Honor

The goat given by Pastor Benedict Muendo and his wife Rose to honor me.

They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:43).

In America we honor someone with a handshake and a $25 gift card to Starbucks Coffee. In Kenya, honor is bestowed in the slaughtering and eating of a goat.

I watched as the knife severed the neck of the goat. Matthew covered his ears and turned away moaning “Ohhhhhhhhhhh!” All the while our Kenyan hosts were repeating what a great honor was being bestowed on me.

The carcass was skinned, the entrails removed and cleaned for eating, the meat boiled into a quick stew, and the head stored away for a much-loved Kamba soup.

Different cultures have different ways of bestowing honor. Some may consider one form more tasteful (or more tasty) than others, but no one cultural form is better than another. Whatever means we might use of showing honor on the people we esteem, the honor truly of value is that which comes from God.

Our sinful nature seeks to be honored by others. Jesus, for example, condemned the Jewish religious leaders as hypocrites because they tailored their prayers to impress people (Matthew 6:5-6). We’ve all recognized those kinds of prayers when we’ve heard them, but God despises those kinds of prayers.

The Christian doesn’t live for the applause or reward that comes from other people, but desires the honor that comes from God alone.