Friday, February 29, 2008

Basic Principles of the Christian Worldview and Common Grace

The following are quotes from the excellent book, He Speaks to Me Everywhere by Dr. Philip Graham Ryken, the pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:

1. The basic principles of the Christian worldview includes the following (pages 14-15):

· Creation: God made the world and everything in it
· The Image of God: Me, women and children are made in the likeness of God
· Law: God has revealed one standard of righteousness for all people
· Sin: In our rebellion we have broken God’s law, and now the whole world is corrupted by sin
· Salvation: God is working to rescue His people and renew His creation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
· Providence: By the wise counsel of His will, God governs and sustains the world that He has made
· The Lordship of Christ: In all of life Jesus rules over the people He is working to save
· Final Judgment: The world will end when Jesus Christ returns to punish the wicked and take His people into everlasting joy
· The Glory of God: The goal of all things is for God to be praised

2. Common Grace (pages 15-16)
“One further principle of the Christian worldview deserves special mention: the doctrine of common grace. Theologians make a distinction between the grace God shows people in salvation (saving grace) and the grace He shows to humanity in general (common grace). God has not reserved all His gifts for Christians. Even the ungodly are graced by His goodness, for “the LORD is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made” (Ps. 145:9 ESV). This is God’s common grace, common in the sense that it belongs to everyone as part of our common life in this world.
Common grace is not saving grace. In the words of the systematic theologian Louis Berkhof, it “does not pardon or purify human nature, and does not effect the salvation of sinners.” Nevertheless, there is something gracious about it, and thus it has a positive influence on the world. As Berkhof goes on to say, common grace “curbs the destructive power of sin, maintains in a measure the moral order of the universe, thus making an orderly life possible, distributes in varying degrees gifts and talents among men, promotes the development of science and art and showers untold blessings upon the children of men.” In other words, common grace includes every divine blessing short o salvation.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Old Slave Wanting to Read the Bible

As a student of the Abolitionist Movement and slavery throughout the world, I have enjoyed reading the excellent book, The Classic Slave Narratives, printed in 1987. Let me share the following from this book:

Old Slave Wanting to Read the Bible
From “The Classic Slave Narratives: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”-page 401-402

“I knew an old black man, whose piety and childlike trust in God were beautiful to witness. At fifty-three years old he joined the Baptist church. He had a most earnest desire to learn to read. He thought he should know how to serve God better if he could only read the Bible. He came to me, and begged me to teach him. He said he could not pay for me, for he had no money; but he would bring me nice fruit when the season for it came. I asked him if he didn’t know it was contrary to law; and that slaves were whipped and imprisoned for teaching each other to read. This brought the tears into his eyes. ‘Don’t be troubled, uncle Fred,’ said I. ‘I have no thoughts of refusing to teach you. I only told you of the law, that you might know the danger, and be on your guard.’ He thought he could plan to come three times a week without its being suspected. I selected a quiet nook, where no intruder was likely to penetrate, and there I taught him his A, B, C. Considering his age, his progress was astonishing. As soon as he could spell in two syllables he wanted to spell out words in the Bible. The happy smile that illuminated his face put joy into my heart. After spelling out a few words, he paused, and said, ‘Honey, it ‘pears when I can read dis good book I shall be nearer to God. White man is got all de sense. He can larn easy. It ain’t easy for ole black man like me. I only wants to read dis book, dat I may know how to live; den I hab no fear ’bout dying.’

I tried to encourage him by speaking of the rapid progress he had made. ‘Hab patience, child,’ he replied. ‘I larns slow.’

I had no need of patience. His gratitude, and the happiness I imparted, were more than a recompense for all my trouble.

At the end of six months he had read through the New Testament, and could find any text in it. One day, when he had recited unusually well, I said, ‘Uncle Fred, how do you manage to get your lessons so well?’

‘Lord bress you, chile,’ he replied. ‘You nebber gibs me a lesson dat I don’t pray to God to help me to understan’ what I spells and what I reads. And he does help me, chile. Bress his holy name!’

There are thousands, who, like good uncle Fred, are thirsting for the water of life; but the law forbids it, and the churches withhold it. They send the Bible to heathen abroad, and neglect the heathen at home. I am glad that missionaries go out to the dark corners of the earth; but I ask them not to overlook the dark corners at home. Talk to American slaveholders as you talk to savages in Africa. Tell them it was wrong to traffic in men. Tell them it is sinful to sell their own children, and atrocious to violate their own daughters. Tell them that all men are brethren, and that man has no right to shut out the light of knowledge from his brother. Tell them they are answerable to God for sealing up the Fountain of Life from souls that are thirsting for it.

There are men who would gladly undertake such missionary work as this; but, alas! Their number is small. They are hated by the south, and would be driven from its soil, or dragged to prison to die, as others have been before them. The field is ripe for the harvest, and awaits the reapers. Perhaps the great grandchildren of uncle Fred may have freely imparted to them the divine treasures, which he sought by stealth, at the risk of the prison and the scourge.

The Classic Slave Narratives
(page 401-402)
Edited and with an Introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
A Mentor Book, New York: 1987

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Container, Visa, Mississippi, and the Philippines

Dear Friend,

We have been encouraged with the following from Psalms, “If the LORD had not been my help, My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. If I should say, ‘My foot has slipped,’ Your lovingkindness, O LORD, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:17-19, NASB).

1.CONTAINER ARRIVES! Praise the Lord! The container filled with Bibles, books, relief and ministry supplies arrives safely in Uganda and has cleared customs with no huge extra charges! The 20’ container was filled and sent from Seattle last October.

2.VISA APPROVED! Nelson Reed (International Director) received his visa for short ministry visit with the ACTION India Team. Nelson leaves Seattle for India February 26 and then to the Philippines for ACTION’s International Council meetings scheduled March 10 to 14.

3.MISSISSIPPI BOUND! This weekend I speak several times at Audubon Drive Bible Church in Laurel, Mississippi. Pastor Jerry Marcellino will be speaking at one of our pastors’ conterences in the Philippines November 10. We may also be able to print his book on the family.

4.MOVING ON TO MANILA! Margaret and I are scheduled to leave for the Philippines Monday March 10 at 2:30 a.m. (any volunteers to take us to the airport?)! We arrive late for the International Council meetings, but this could not be avoided. Our good friends, Mike & Rebecca Watters will arrive March 2 from Manila (with plans to serve with ACTION in Africa) and will stay at our house and care for Dad Jespersen during the two months we are in the Philippines.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15, NASB)

Blessings on you, dear friend.

Sincerely in Christ,

Doug Nichols

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

So much to do, so little time, ability, money, and personnel


It is easy to talk about the impossibility of meeting the needs of the world. How can we possibly reach the 143 million orphans and 160 million street children of the world with the Gospel and compassionate care?

A great preacher Charles Spurgeon said over 100 years ago, “Don’t let the immensity of the task deter you, but let it drive you to do something about it for the glory of God!”

So, what should we do? Nothing? Something? It would be more comfortable to do nothing, but God will be glorified if we did something in His Name!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Two Scrolls of Blessings!

Recently I enjoyed reading again the life story of Margaret's parents Mom and Dad (Walter and Helen) Jespersen "Under His Wings" by Agnes Lawless.

Mom and Dad were married on Nov 17, 1942 in Chengtu, Szechwan, China. The day before Mom gave Dad a wedding present of two brown silk scrolls. A prayer of David from 1 Samuel 7:29 was printed in Chinese on each scroll in gold lettering.

On one, "Oh, Jehovah, now be pleased to bless your servant's family." On the other,"Oh, Jehovah, you have already given your blessing and will continue through eternity."

These two scrolls hang in our house today, a gift of blessing with God's Word given in China to Dad over 65 years ago!

Feel free to stop by and see the scrolls anytime and while here visit awhile with Dad (who will be 95 March 12) who is still "blessed and happy in God."

Doug Nichols

Caring for the Little Ones

Breakpoint reported the following two years ago. Notice the number of orphans What would the number be now?

“The United Nations reports that some 143 million children worldwide have lost one or both parents. That’s roughly equal to the population of Russia. In 2003 alone, 16 million children were orphaned. Every fourteen seconds, a child loses a parent to AIDS. Genocide, war, famine: These are just a few of the reasons for so many orphans. And in the USA, more than 800,000 children pass through America’s foster care system each year. Some 120,000 of them could be adopted.” (www.breakpoint.org, November 14, 2006)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Questions to Ask a Missionary

When missionaries return from their fields of service, or a short-termer returns from three to six months of ministry, or summer workers return after two or three weeks of summer ministry, sometimes the only questions that people ask are, "Was it hot in the country?" and "What was the food like?" and nothing else. The conversation then switches to the recent ball game, the high price of gas, or the latest movies. This can be discouraging to a missionary or a short-term
worker.

The following are a few suggestions of simple questions to ask missionaries to get them talking about the work so that you can learn more about what God is doing in other parts of the world:

1. What did you most enjoy about your work?
2. Tell me something about the people of your country.
3. What was the economic situation of the people you ministered to?
4. What most encouraged you in your work?
5. Were many people responsive to the gospel or just a few? Why?
6. Describe an experience you had on the mission field that impacted the way
you do ministry.
7. Tell me about your devotional Bible study time schedule on the field. Was it
difficult to maintain?
8. What did you appreciate most about the culture you were living in?
9. Tell me about a special friendship you had with a national. Who was your
best friend?
10. What was security in the country like?
11. How were church services different or alike in your country of service?
12. Tell me about your church and worship in your country.
13. Were there times that you could specifically focus on children's needs?
Tell something about them.
14. What are some specific prayer requests you have for your country and mission
of service?
15. Tell me about raising your children in a different culture. Advantages? Disadvantages?
16. Were you able to purchase the books, supplies, and materials you needed for
your ministry in that country? How?
17. What was the greatest spiritual need you noticed in your ministry? Physical need?
18. How did you adapt to being in a different culture?
19. What has been your most noticeable spiritual change since you began ministry
as a missionary?
20. What is/was a typical day like for you? your family?
21. Tell me about your local church.
22. Who provides your pastoral care?
23. Please tell me of someone whose life was impacted with the gospel and the
change you saw in his life.
24. Were you able to share the gospel and disciple people freely in your country
of service?
25. Tell me about the missionaries you serve/served with. What are their
ministries and how are they doing? Are they encouraged?
26. What are some ministry needs and opportunities that need filling on your
team?
27. How is your support? If your personal support is good do you have any
projects that need funding?
28. How can I help you while you are here?
29. What was your biggest surprise about the country? The people? Yourself?
30. What could the church/friends/others do to help encourage you?
31. What was really important to you in your time there that you want us to know?
32.  What did you learn from the indigenous Christians ....especially inthe area of faith, contentment, materialism?
33. What did God show you about being a servant?
34. How can I change my lifestyle to dedicate my life to the same values God has for the poor and disadvantages in the developing world?

These questions will not only encourage the missionary, but also help inform you of God's work worldwide for His glory. Please feel free to make copies of these questions to distribute to your family, friends and church.

They went out for the sake of His name . . . therefore, we ought to help such men, that we may be fellow-workers with the truth (3 John 7-8, NASB).

– Doug Nichols

Caring for Your Missionary on Location and at Home –

What can you do?
from Church Missionary Society – Australia

Caring for Your Missionary on Location

1. Pray
As well as praying for them on your own, you can bring your missionary's prayer needs before your church. Aim for brief but regular updates.

-Include prayer for your link missionary in services.
-Distribute their prayer points and newsletters to members of your church and small groups. Don't forget to help your church kids to pray!
-Collect e–mail addresses so that you can e–mail your link missionaries' prayer points directly to people.
-Start a mission prayer group.
-Let missionaries know about your prayers

2. Keep in touch

-Write a letter or e-mail them. You can encourage your link missionary by telling them about what's been happening in your family, church, neighborhood. When e-mailing, check before sending attachments or long messages. In some countries e-mails are monitored. Find out if there are topics that you should avoid mentioning for security reasons.
-Keep them in the loop. Send the church bulletin occasionally and tell them about what's going on at church.
-Send a tape or CD. If you prefer talking to writing send an audio or videotape or a CD of you or people at church. You could also send sermon tapes to encourage your link to your missionary.

3. Spoil them

-You can help missionaries to feel cared for by sending birthday cards, videos, magazines, books, chocolates or things for their children. Check first to see what they would like.
-If you send parcels check that they won't have to pay heavy customs duties. Mark your parcel 'printed matter only' (if that is what it is), 'NCV' (no commercial value) or 'gift'. Tell them that you are sending the parcel and what is in it.

4. Send resources to help with their work

-Send books, ideas and give creative suggestions for outreach activities and presentations for students and children.
-Some missionaries welcome craft things, balls and pencils, as well as puppets to explain Bible stories.

5. Visit them!

-A well–planned visit from supporters can be a great encouragement to missionaries.
over…
Caring for your missionary on home assignment

1. Pray

Pray that missionaries will:
-Adjust
-Have opportunities to share about their ministry
-Enjoy times with families and friends
-Have stability in family life despite their changing program
-Be refreshed

2. Help them to settle in

-Help set up their house
-Arrange a welcome home box of basics for the pantry and help to set up their home with furniture.
-Lend them a car
-Help settle their kids

3. Help missionaries to feel at home

-Visit them
-Invite them to join a home group or ask their kids to join Sunday school or youth group.
-Lend a hand. Think of the things you struggle with during busy periods.
-Spoil them

4. Make the most of their visit to your church

-Arrange for your missionary to spend a week visiting your church, sharing about their ministry in a variety of meetings. Ask your missionary for ideas.

Used by permission. © 2004 Church Missionary Society - Australia http://www.cms.org.au/care/#location

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Playing Hurt!

Recently, I was able to watch the last four minutes of the 2008 Super Bowl. It was an exciting game. Several times in the reporting of the game and interviews afterward, it was mentioned that one of the key players played hurt. He had an injury, but continued to play thorough the pain for the good of his team and the game.

I know many pastors, Christian workers, and missionaries who do the same. They serve, work, and help others, but with pain and sadness. They have hurt in their lives: sickness, inabilities, a child that is not walking with the Lord, an unloving parent, a relative who couldn’t care less about their life or ministry. Even though they have friends and people that pray for and encourage them, health to get through the day, enough money to buy food, they still have sadness, they still have that little hurt.
 
We need to realize that this hurt is the very thing that God uses to bring sanctification in our lives to trust in God and not in man. Hurt is simply a feeling, an emotion, and one of the basic tenets of Scripture is that we are not dictated in our lives and walk by our feelings. We walk in faith trusting that God will care, lead, guide, and minister to us in our need.

A great verse to remember during sad and hurtful times is "For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins. You made men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance" (Psalm 66:10-12, nasb).

So, dear brother and sister, continue to minister to others in your hurt in Jesus’ Name. It is the very thing that God uses in your life to draw you closer to Him and to bring glory to God!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Self-denial, Afflictions, and a Thorny Bed

As all of you know, life is a marathon, not a 100-meter dash! If you are not having troubles today then wait until tomorrow.

Some of us may be shocked when we first arrive on the mission field or the first month of marriage or the first year of our birth or adopted child. Things that were suppose to be so wonderful, blessed and easy become difficult. 

We rejoice at the birth of our little child and yet they are sickly. We get married and find out our mate does not agree with us on everything; we arrive on the field enthusiastic in serving God and we find we have to work with a bunch of grumpy, inhospitable missionaries that appear to have no vision, or we get sick, and people we come to minister to don't seem to really like us.

The world would say give the child back, get a divorce, or leave the field and go back to where people like you. Good questions to ask ourselves are: "What will happen to our mate if don't love and care for them, our children if we don't nurture and train them, and what will happen to the needy pastors or street children or the church in the country in which we have been called to serve if we pack up and leave?"

Let me share three quotes which might encourage all of us in our walk with God:

1. Matthew Henry, one of my favorite British pastors who died in 1714, made an excellent comment regarding Luke 6:40: "Christ's followers cannot expect better treatment in the world than their Master had. Let them not promise themselves more honor or pleasure in the world than Christ had. Let each live a life of labor and self-denial as his Master, and make himself a servant of all; let him stoop, and let him toil, and do all the good he can, and then he will be a complete disciple."

2. Psalm 66:11-12: "You (God) laid an oppressive burden upon our loins... yet You brought us out into a place of abundance." Charles Spurgeon said, "We often forget that God lays our afflictions upon us; if we remembered this fact, we should more patiently submit to the pressure which now pains us."

3. J.I. Packer said the Puritans teach us much of the love of God: "...that it is a love that redeems, converts, sanctifies, and ultimately glorifies sinners, and that Calvary was the one place in human history where it was fully and unambiguously revealed, and that in relation to our own situation, we may know for certain that nothing can separate us from that love (Romans 8:38), although no situation in this world will ever be free from flies in the ointment and thorns in the bed."

I trust the above will encourage you to persevere. Keep your mate, love your child, and make a long-term commitment to the country that He has called you to for His glory!

It is always too early to give up, walk away or quit!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Book Review: To Own a Dragon

Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father
By Gary Gilley

Donald Miller’s writing style is often humorous, always vulnerable, interesting and sometimes crude (pp. 19, 22, 87, 99, 106), yet To Own a Dragon is not the attack on conservative Christianity that Miller’s best-known book, Blue Like Jazz, was. This volume is more of the musings and development of a young man growing up without a father. Children living in a home where the father is absent will often face serious ramifications
and Miller is no exception. Miller has worked through, and is working through, many of these implications in his own life and this book details this journey.

Miller tells the reader that he does not miss having a father any more than he misses having a dragon (hence the title). But he does wonder if he missed out on something important. As he reflected on these things, he had the opportunity to live with John MacMurray (co-author) and his family for four years. There for the first time he experienced traditional family life and observed a good father in action. MacMurray, who I gather did not actually write any of the book but is often quoted, provides the most helpful insights throughout.

While Miller has some good thoughts, his great deficiency is his lack of biblical knowledge. He admits that he does not know the Bible very well (p. 69) and does not read it very often (p. 96). The consequence of these inadequacies is readily apparent in all of Miller’s
writings. Because he does not know what God teaches on the themes he is addressing he cannot present it to his readers. Additionally, because he does not have a working knowledge of Scripture he is easily deceived, most notably in this book, by pop-psychology. He has been greatly influenced, for example, by John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart (pp. 90, 101, 196), in which Eldredge blames men’s problems on their “father-wound”—a typical psychological view with no biblical foundation.

The same flaw is evident when Miller addresses subjects such as sin (pp. 138-139), sex (pp. 135-145) or experience (p. 192). He has a purely secularist view of these things which is not drawn from the text of Scripture. His understanding of what constitutes a real man serves as a good example (pp. 104-106). Miller’s actual comments are too crude for this review, but could be summarized when he states, “I don’t think being a ‘real man’ has anything to do with loving Jesus at all, anymore than being a ferret has something to do with riding a bicycle.” It seems to be beyond Miller’s scope of knowledge that God has described “real men” throughout Scripture, gave us the perfect example in His Son and defined “real men” in 1 Timothy 3:1-10. But this is what happens when a man who “does not know the Bible” (p. 96) tries to teach others how to live the Christian life.


Contact Gary Gilley at ggilley@svchapel.org.


“Book Review: To Own a Dragon, Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father” by Gary Gilley. Think on These Things. Southern View Chapel. June 2007.