Thursday, July 31, 2014

On the Road (California and Oregon)

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SAMSUNG            Monday we made the drive down from Ashland Oregon to California. Joyce says it is her favorite drive that we make on support raising trips. Through most of the trip we are driving SAMSUNG            within site of the peak of Mount Shasta and Joyce snapped several pictures of the mountain with her phone. I stayed intent on driving the curves on Interstate 5. Even with several stops and slowdowns for construction the drive only takes about two hours. We are back in Redding now and will be heading for Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley on Thursday.

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A couple more “road pictures”

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ministry at Ashland Bible Church

SAMSUNG            Last Sunday Joyce and I had the opportunity to fellowship at SAMSUNGAshland Bible Church in Ashland Oregon. We enjoyed sharing about our ministry at PIU and in Micronesia in the Sunday School hour (pictured above) and in the main worship service. I preached on taking the message of the Bible out to the streets and sharing it within relationships. (That message will be posted soon). After church we enjoyed a picnic at the beautiful home of one of the church members. We also had a fun time there with a spirited singing of old hymns with a large group of people. Thank you to old friends Garland and Roberta Shinn (right) who housed and fed us – yes more fresh fruit for me! Yeah! 

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We enjoyed an outdoor lunch on a beautiful afternoon

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This is the view from the deck where we ate lunch

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I spent a lot of time trying to get a picture of a hummingbird in flight next to the feeder on the deck

Sunday, July 27, 2014

This Week in Ezekiel (1-19)

Ezekiel ChartThe key themes in the prophecy of Ezekiel are God’s Glory and God’s Presence. The book is balanced by God’s glory leaving Jerusalem in judgment at the beginning of the book and returning in restoration at the end. It points out that the most important blessing God gives is the blessing of His Presence with us. All other blessings flow from that. Judgment is mainly the withdrawal of his Presence and subsequent loss of protection and relationship with God. Ezekiel emphasizes over and over that God does not desire to judge us (withdraw from us) but it is our desire to go our own way that causes Him to withdraw. He is always ready to return when we repent and desire relationship with Him. Thus, the message of the 1st half of Ezekiel is that Judah and its people are responsible for the troubles happening to them because of their rejection of God and His covenant. Judgment is coming but repentance will bring restoration after the exile.

Quotes are from the New American Commentary – Ezekiel by Lamar Eugene Cooper…

When people are consumed by insurmountable problems and buffeted by the storms of life, they usually do not need another perspective on their problems. What they do need is a new perspective on God as Lord of life and larger than all its difficulties. Humanity in peril needs a sense of the awesome majesty of God. There needs to be an awareness that God is greater than adversity. He is with his people in the midst of their problems. Ezekiel 1.28, 72.

The measure of success in God’s work is not always in terms of the amount and frequency of visible response. Success is to be measured in terms of our obedience to the words, commands, and will of God regardless of the visible results. So the mission of the prophet was to proclaim the word of God to a rebellious and unresponsive Israel. Ezekiel 2.6-7, 77.

This is the key issue in the book. The most important thing in our lives is our relationship with God and our success is determined by our faithfulness to the mission he has called us to live out.

As a prophet in the midst of the people, he was able to identify their needs and feel the weight of impending judgment. It is a reminder that we must identify with the needs of those who search for God. While we do not participate with them in a godless lifestyle, we must seek to understand their emptiness and alienation if we are to be effective communicators of the words of God.  Ezekiel 3.11-15, 83.

This is what keeps God’s spokesman from being a condemning judge. Ezekiel told the truth to encourage repentance, not to condemn.

Neglect of the word produced a famine both of food and of the knowledge of God and spiritual truths. Second, the reaction of the prophet came not because of his view of the defilement of sin but because of his training as a priest. This was God’s way of reminding Ezekiel and Israel that they were more sensitive to regulations than to the violation of their relationship with God. Ezekiel 4.12-15, 97–98.

Israel was set in the “midst” of the nations as a kingdom of priests, and thus they were supposed to be instruments of God’s missionary purpose. But the nation dwelt on the privilege of being God’s chosen people rather than on their responsibilities. The nationalistic spirit created an isolationism that can be seen in the example of Jonah.Eventually the New Testament church was endowed with the missionary assignment originally planned for Israel.  Ezekiel 5.5-6, 102.

The point, of course, was that people will know him either through response to his loving attempts of salvation and fellowship or through judgment. God’s preference, as that of the prophets, was the former. Ezekiel 6, 109–110.

Material things will be of no value in a time of divine judgment. Unbridled materialism and secularism that divorces God from human society tends only to intensify judgment. Ezekiel 7, 113.

Judah failed to keep covenant with God because they substituted ritual for heartfelt obedience and saw God’s blessings as deserved rather than a gift of grace. This led to nationalism, materialism and a sense of entitlement to God’s blessing. This is always a temptation to God’s people, especially when God’s blessing brings them prosperity. We tend to love the blessing rather than God. This is the grave danger facing the church today. We tend to love prosperity and use it to benefit ourselves instead of God’s kingdom. We worship celebrity and wealth. As with Israel and Judah this can only lead to judgment that removes all these things and directs us back to God.

We may suppose, in fact, that violence always brings him grief (cf. Gen 6:11). God does not consider insignificant these violations of his holiness. These people provoked his anger and invited his judgment by their highly repugnant behavior. Ezekiel 8, 124.

In response to Ezekiel’s plea for mercy, God reminded him that there was a just and equitable basis for the punishment he had witnessed. Their sin literally “wickedness,” was great, the land was filled with violence and bloodshed, and the city was filled with injustice. Therefore there would be no relaxation of judgment. Ezekiel 9, 128.

God always judges based on behavior, and often the consequences of the behavior become the judgment as God withdraws his protective presence. The love of wealth (as above) seems to always slide down into violence and immorality and thus, bring down the judgment of God.

Craigie sees two new perspectives added by these verses. First, the judgment of God cannot be distinguished from the glory of God. The presence of the glory of God demands purity and purging to produce holiness... Second, judgment of the temple and Jerusalem was marked by the departure of God. The most severe aspect of God’s judgment was his absence from among his people. Ezekiel 10.3-8, 131.

The remnant would be made up of those who repented and returned to the standard of the single heart. Single-hearted devotion is what God expects from us. Whenever we fail to give him our single-hearted commitment, we invite the chastening of God. Ezekiel 11.17-21, 144.

God’s holy character necessitates his judgment. God’s character also necessitates his forgiveness, but the standard God requires from us is that we love him with all our heart.

These verses demonstrate that there are many ways to despise God’s word, whether by outright denial or by diverting its message to other times and applications. Ezekiel 12.26-28, 153.

In days of moral crisis there are always those who seek personal profit by establishing counterfeit ministries, who preach man-made systems instead of divine truth, proclaim peace instead of repentance, use materialistic methods, and set up idols in human hearts. Ezekiel 13, 158.

This prophecy warned that those who patronized false prophets would share in the same judgment that would befall them. Ezekiel pointed out that those who frequented these prophets were responsible for their apparent success. If they had not traded on the lies of these false representatives of God, there would have been no market for their services. Their practices would have long since ceased. Ezekiel 14.1-11, 159.

One of the ways that we are tempted to turn away from our heartfelt devotion to God is through twisting of His Word. God is often denied by people who claim his name. We need to be very careful that we know the word and can distinguish the true from the false. The worship of idols seems to be the sin that God hates most and we are very good at setting up false gods in our hearts. We love gods who do our will instead of doing the will of God.

The presence of godly people in society will not alone deter deserved judgment. People must respond personally to God by confession, repentance, and faith.  Ezekiel 14.12-23, 164.

Without God no individual or nation will ever realize their true potential or purpose. Like an unproductive vine, they have no purpose beyond fruitbearing. When they bear no fruit, they are replaced. Ezekiel 15, 167.

Personal responsibility is a major emphasis in Ezekiel. No matter what is going on around us we are responsible for our own decisions and our own responses to God. As Christians we will be judged based on our contribution to God’s mission in the world.

Israel was the orphan who became a queen. All the figures used in the description were reminders of the providential care God gave Israel from the time of Abraham to nationhood and onward...The love and compassion of God offers hope to those ruined by sin.... God transforms the lives of those who respond to his love. They become new creatures, enfranchised as the people of God.  Ezekiel 16.1-14, 170.

Because Judah had exceeded the sins of Sodom and Samaria, any hope of restoration also must include them, since God is just (v. 53). Ezekiel envisioned not only their restoration but also that it would take precedence over that of Judah...Sodom, then, may represent the Gentile peoples whose widespread repentance is predicted elsewhere. “In His mercy He has even loved the ‘citizens of Sodom,’ as it were. And they are we!” Ezekiel 16.53-58, 177–178.

God’s establishing his covenant with his rebellious people will be based on his all-important work of atonement, not overlooking but covering their sin by his marvelous grace. Israel’s departure from God had come because they had failed to remember who they were in relationship to him (15:2). But as a result of his atoning work, they would remember and return in humility and gratitude. The grace of God always is available to those who repent. God will remove the guilt of sin and will heal, forgive, and save people and nations. Ezekiel 16.62, 179.

With very graphic, even obscene, language Ezekiel portrays the unfaithfulness of the nation as the worst kind of adultery. The parable here portrays the history of Israel in terms of a marriage relationship with God. Israel starts off as an unwanted, abandoned orphan who God, the king, takes in, provides for and marries,making her a queen. Instead of faithfully loving God, she takes all his good blessings and uses them to draw lovers into multiple affairs. Instead of trusting her king-husband she tries to make her way by seducing the nations. This leads to captivity. But this is not the end of the story. When she repents God restores her to her place. The thing that really stuck out to me here was the idea that we (Gentiles) are Sodom and we share in this blessing only through God’s grace.

Planted on the highest mountain in Israel, his people will flourish beyond anything they experienced in the past and will furnish shelter to “birds of every kind” (v. 23). Furthermore, “all the trees of the field,” that is, all nations, will acknowledge what Yahweh has done in humbling the proud and in exalting and restoring languishing Israel and the Davidic line in the Messiah (v. 24). Ezekiel 18.23-24, 184.

Individually each person is responsible for his or her own guilt of sin. But we must always be aware that the consequences of sin will affect others who may be innocent of the guilt for that particular sin. This is true even when the sin is forgiven. God promised to remove the guilt of sin, but most often the consequences remain. Ezekiel 18, 189–190.

Thus the exile in Babylon is depicted, the Israelite monarchy apparently a thing of the past. The first poem (vv. 1–9) laments the end of two kings of Judah; the second poem (vv. 10–14) laments the end of kingship itself. Ezekiel 19, 197.

This section (12-19) lists the reasons why God was just to bring Judah into judgment and exile in Babylon. The worshipped idols and they believed lies. They tried to abdicate the responsibility for sin but God would not let them. Though there was hope for the remnant (in Babylon) that repented, Judah and Jerusalem would never regain the prestige and prosperity they enjoyed under the Davidic monarchs. God would keep his promise to David, but Ezekiel hints that it would be done in an unexpected way.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Furlough Update July 25

SAMSUNG            We are now up in Redding. We made the drive yesterday afternoon from El Dorado after a couple nice visits with friends there. In the morning we met Del and Louise Freeman for breakfast at the Golden Waffle in Placerville. Joyce has known Louise since she was in high school and Del since the early 80’s. It was a lot of fun to sit with them for a while. In the early afternoon we met Bob and Jean Werum at their home in Folsom. Bob and Jean have been partners with our ministry since we began in 1984. We were so encouraged that they pray for us every day. I don’t have pictures of either meeting. All the pictures here are of the backyard garden at Joyce’s parents’ place. We made it up to Redding just before dinner time and enjoyed a quiet evening on the back porch with Joyce’s mom and dad.

SAMSUNG            We had a good week in El Dorado. In addition to the two presentations of our ministry at Camino Community and Gold Country Baptist Churches (see 2 previous posts) we got to spend a lot of time with my family and met with some other friends. If we keep eating at restaurants we may not fit into the airline seats! Joyce says that “eating out” at her parents’ place means going “out” to the garden, picking some fruit or vegetables and eating it. This is pretty much true although we have had some other things to eat too.

 

SAMSUNG            One of my favorite things to eat in California is the summer fruit. I am trying to get my fill of cherries, plums, peaches, and other summer fruit. This morning I had a peach-banana smoothie for breakfast. I had a bowl of cherries for dessert at lunch today. Last night I picked plums. In the picture you can see that the grapes are about ready. They look pretty good. I got under the grape arbor and took the picture looking up at the grapes hanging down above me. I took the picture late in the evening after dinner. We will be picking grapes soon.

2014-07-24 21.22.15We had a nice evening last night with Joyce’s mom and dad talking on the back porch and looking at the sunset. Though today it was over 105 degrees in Redding, last night was cool and pleasant. We talked until well after dark. Tomorrow after lunch we will leave Redding and head to Ashland, Oregon where we will speak Sunday morning at Ashland Bible Church. If you are in that area come and join us. We will be back in Redding on Monday for a few days before we head back to Scotts Valley. If you are near us we’d love to see you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sunday Night at Gold Country Baptist

SAMSUNGOn Sunday evening we spoke at Gold Country Baptist Church. GCBC is one of the three churches that have been a part of our mission partnership team since we first left for Palau in 1984. It was a kind of anniversary as we spoke at GCBC in July of 1984 right before we left. So, it was a great night to see many long-time friends and make some new ones. We didn’t get any pictures of the actual service but did get several of us posing with friends. I suppose this is appropriate as Gold Country has sent out more volunteers to us at PIU than any other church. We had a good time talking about what God is doing at PIU and enjoyed the fellowship dinner and service.

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Left: Greg Ross and I (Greg coordinated the sidewalk project at PIU. Right: Joyce with the Plaxton family. Tim and Melody served several years on staff at PIU and Erin taught at Bethania High School in Palau.

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Joyce had a good time getting caught up with friends

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sunday Morning at Camino Community Church

SAMSUNGSAMSUNG            Our 4 week odyssey of meeting with our partner churches started yesterday morning at Camino Community Church in Camino California. It was great to see so many of our friends there – some of whom we have known for more than 30 years. We had the opportunity to talk with them about our ministry in Micronesia at PIU in the Sunday school class and then I had the privilege of speaking in the worship service about the need to take the blessings we have in Christ “outside the walls of the church” to those who need them. After church we went with several of our Camino friends to the Smith Flat Road House for a tasty lunch and good coffee. Our trip has started well!

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Joyce and I both shared our report of what we are doing in Micronesia in the Sunday School class

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We enjoyed spending some time with the Vogels at the church service and lunch time

Sunday, July 20, 2014

This Week in Jeremiah (44-52, Lamentations)

Lamentations StructureI am in California this week preparing to speak tomorrow at Camino Community Church in the morning and Gold Country Baptist Church in the evening. I finished working through Jeremiah and Lamentations in the New American Commentary this week. The sections in both of Jeremiah’s books focus on destruction and judgment, but both books provide hope based on God’s character and promises. As long as one is alive there is the possibility of confession and repentance. This may not mitigate the consequences of past disobedience but it does put one into remnant who will share in God’s eternal kingdom.

As usual the quotes are from the New American Commentary, Jeremiah and Lamentations, by FB Huey.

The abruptness with which Jeremiah’s story ends is a reminder that the word of the Lord is important, not the one who bears the word. The lone exception to this is, of course, Jesus Christ, who both brought the word and was the Word. Jeremiah 44, 370.

Blessing is often equated with material prosperity, even as it was in ancient Israel. The lesson to be derived from Baruch’s complaint is that God determines the nature of rewards for faithful service. It may or may not be what we would expect. The best summary, however, is from the words of the German pastor D. Bonhoeffer, who, in the face of Nazism, lost his life. He said: “When a person has completely given up the idea of making something of himself … then one throws oneself entirely into the arms of God, then one no longer takes seriously his own suffering, but rather the suffering of God in the world … I think that is faith.… How is a person to become proud of success or to go astray at failures when one shares God’s sufferings in the life of this world.” Jeremiah 45, 372.

For the minister of God (which should be all Christians) the focus of ministry and life should be God and his mission, not self or blessings for self. The great blessing is relationship with God and God’s presence. All other blessings must flow from that. We need to (as Jesus did) think of this life in terms of looking through the cross and looking forward to resurrection.

The message for Judah was clear: God is in control of history, not just Judah’s history but the history of all the nations. In essence the Lord is larger than they ever imagined, and he is righteous.  Jeremiah 46, 373–374.

Ease and affluence of a nation may lead to weakness and internal decay; that was Moab’s condition. If we are to become everything the Lord wants us to be, there must be a certain divine discontent and striving to realize one’s fullest potential. A willingness to be “shaken” in order to grow and mature does not contradict the advice of Phil 4:11 and Heb 13:5, correctly understood and linked to Phil 3:14. Jeremiah 48.11-13, 390.

The length of the message of judgment on Moab may have been intended to underscore the seriousness of the sins of pride, complacency, and idol worship and to teach the sovereignty of God over all nations and their accountability to him.  Jeremiah 48, 397.

The cause of Edom’s downfall, like Moab’s, was its pride and confidence that it was secure from all enemies. It had inspired “terror.”...Pride and smug self-confidence have been the downfall of many a nation other than Edom. Jeremiah 49.14-16, 402.

Damascus depended on its fame (49:25). Kedar depended on its remoteness (49:31) and Elam on its bow, but all of them failed. The fate of those nations is a solemn reminder that dependence on human resources rather than on God will always fail. Jeremiah 49, 407.

History repeats itself, but nations and peoples are slow to learn its lessons. Even as God had punished the king of Assyria, he would punish the king of Babylon. After the death of Ashurbanapal in 627 B.C., the last of the great Assyrian rulers, Assyria rapidly declined and was overthrown by the Babylonians in 612 with the taking of Nineveh. Now Babylon was facing a similar fate. Jeremiah 50, 412.

Tyrants may have had their day in the sun, but they would eventually come under God’s judgment...Bel would be forced to give up the wealth of nations he had taken. This was the same god the Babylonians had credited for the Lord’s defeat in Jerusalem in 587. Now the Lord would show his superiority over Bel by bringing his people back to their land. Jeremiah 51.36-44, 426-7.

The destruction of Babylon’s wall is announced (cf. 51:44). Its city walls were one of the wonders of the ancient world. Its tall gates that ordinarily protected the city from invaders would be set on fire. The defenders would exhaust themselves to no avail. All their efforts would only serve as fuel for the destructive flames. Jeremiah 51.58, 430.

Judgment of others should always be seen as an opportunity to examine ourselves for the same issues (believe me they are there). We should not be smug about our own righteousness when we realize that God judges his own people by a much higher standard than those who don’t know him.

The “fall of Babylon” was the message the exiles desired to hear. After having served in exile, the people saw the fall of Babylon as a sign that the Lord is God, not Marduk; it was time to go home. Jeremiah 51.61-64, 431.

The inclusion of Jehoiachin’s release as the conclusion of the Book of Jeremiah probably was intended to communicate hope to the despondent Jews that just as Jehoiachin had been freed, so one day the nation would be free. Thus the book ends on a positive note that a descendant of David was still alive and through him the kingdom could be reestablished. Jeremiah promised a restored Davidic ruler in 23:5–6; 30:8–9, 21; 33:14–17. Therefore chap. 52 is not an unnecessary postscript or anticlimax to the book. Rather, “The chapter seems to say: the divine word has been fulfilled—and will be fulfilled.”  Jeremiah 52, 439.

One of the saddest things about post-exilic Israel is that though they were freed from Babylon, most of them did not choose to return to Jerusalem and continued to live in exile. Sadly this is the condition of most of the church. Jesus has freed us to be part of his kingdom and we still choose to live in the captivity of the world.

Contemporary applications that can be made from the Book of Lamentations include the following: the wickedness of any people will eventually result in the disintegration of that society; we should never take God’s past blessings as assurance that they will continue when we continue in sin;...though many solutions for human suffering have been proposed, ultimately the only satisfactory way to deal with it is through deep and abiding faith in God in spite of the circumstances. Lamentations, 446–447.

The basic message of Lamentations is that the end of sin is total and complete destruction, but there is hope for the repentant remnant because of the character of God who keeps His promises with His people. The comment in Romans 6.23 that the “wages of sin is death” is written to Christians. God’s people experience “death” when they move out from under the kingship of Jesus Christ.

The first lament has focused on the misery and desolation of a city that suffered the consequences of ignoring the prophets’ warnings that God punishes those who sin. It serves as a solemn reminder of the ultimate misery and sorrow of all who think they can escape God’s punishment. Lamentations 1, 457.

The verse serves as warning that no amount of ritual can avert God’s judgment or take the place of obedience and a broken and contrite heart. Lamentations 2.6-7, 461.

It seems to me, that, most often, God’s judgment consists of letting us experience the full consequences of our bad choices. The people of Judah wanted to live like the rest of the nations and move out from under the kingship and torah of God. God let them do that and experience living outside of God’s protection.

Often in life people do not realize the faithfulness of God until the “bottom has fallen out” of their lives. In Lam 3 the “faithfulness” of God is to be interpreted in light of his promise to destroy, which he has done, and his promise to restore, which he would do. Lamentations 3.22-24, 474.

The people had put their trust in the Davidic dynasty as well as in the temple and the prophets and priests, but they failed to put their trust in God, the only One who could have saved them. Lamentations, 483–484.

One of the major reasons for God’s judgment is to draw us back into the only adequate basis for trust – God himself. We tend to trust other things as the basis for our lives (money, power, etc) and so God lets us experience what those false objects of trust provide. As Jesus said, “those who live by the sword, die by the sword.”

For the poet serious questions arose, but the answer was that it was not God’s fault but rather was that of the people. Hope is present, but only when it is realized that hope rests in knowing who God is: God is love (3:22; 1 John 4:16). His compassions are new every day, and they reveal his faithfulness (3:23). While many may remain in a state of utter despair, hope is in acknowledging, in that despair, that God is “good to those whose hope is in him” and wait for the “salvation of the LORD” (3:25–26).  Lamentations 5, 488.

The truth is found only in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This must be the basis for our hope. God doesn’t just want our mental assent or worship rituals, he wants to know us in relationship as our king and God. Hope only comes through knowing God and in his ultimate revelation of himself through Jesus.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New MABTS Program at Pacific Islands Evangelical Seminary

MABTS Announcement

This Fall 2014, PIU will be launching a NEW MA program. The Master of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies will offer a more in-depth course of study that focuses on, at the student's discretion, either Church Ministry (Pastoral, Christian Education, Missions) or Biblical Scholarship.

This program will provide theologically, exegetically and practically trained male and female leadership (we want to train couples together for ministry) to the churches of the Pacific Rim, including pastors, Bible translators, biblical counselors, and missionaries to the unreached people groups of Asia, who are trained in a relational, mentoring, practical environment that will serve as the model for future ministry.

Future plans for this program include an emphasis in Counseling and another in Bible Translation. PIU provides an affordable seminary option for islander students (tuition at the same rate as the undergraduate program) and a place where those who plan to do their ministry in a cross-cultural, missionary context can already be doing missions while they are training.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

This Week in Jeremiah (26-43)

jerchartThe 2nd part of Jeremiah is a little more hopeful, but in a way that would not have been expected by the nation of Judah. Jeremiah’s message throughout the book has been one of soon coming judgment and that does not change. The added element here is that the “remnant” who believe Jeremiah’s message and surrender to the Babylonians will be preserved through 70 years of exile, and after that, will be a 2nd exodus that will return and rebuild the nation. But, even better than that, God would provide a “Davidic Priest-King” who would inaugurate a New Covenant which would change the people from the inside out and re-gather those who truly trust YHWH into his eternal kingdom.

Quotes are from the New American Commentary, Jeremiah and Lamentations by F. B. Huey.

Believers should never be afraid to proclaim (i.e., speak and live) the word of God... persecution of such believers can be severe (death of Uriah) and trying (Jeremiah’s trial); nevertheless, such faithfulness to God is rewarded by knowing that God is present at all times in the lives of such faithful witnesses. Jeremiah 26, 240.

Though the major emphasis of Jer 27 is on God’s threat of punishment if the people refused to submit to the Babylonian yoke, it also speaks of another facet of God’s nature. He is always ready to forgive and give an opportunity for a new beginning. The same God who pronounces judgment on sin also proclaims hope for those who will turn to him. God forgives and gives second chances. Jeremiah 27, 245.

God’s ways may not seem logical, but one had better follow them. Judah’s deliverance would come through submission, not resistance. The NT speaks of achieving greatness through servanthood and of being set free through submission to Christ. It speaks of death in order to live, of giving in order to receive, of forgiving as we are forgiven. The passage also serves as a solemn reminder not to teach what is contrary to God’s Word, even if sincere. We must not confuse our own beliefs and desires with the will of God. We are held accountable for every careless word spoken. Jeremiah 28, 250.

God does not tend to act and call us in ways that would be expected by humans. God’s message through Jeremiah was to surrender. This must have been very hard for Jeremiah to say, yet he was faithful to preach God’s Word instead of what was expected of him. In Jeremiah’s message one can see a tremendous mix between telling the unvarnished truth and an offer of mercy and forgiveness. One really does not work without the other. Of course, Jeremiah’s reward was persecution and hatred even from his own family. Yet his reward from God was preservation and a place as one of God’s remnant.

God is accessible. If we seek him, we will find him when we want him more than all else (“with all your heart,” i.e., with the mind, the will). God assured his people that when they sought him wholeheartedly, he would be found.  Jeremiah 29.13, 254.

Optimistic words do not mean that they are God’s words. Many speak of being optimistic in crisis situations. And though there is nothing wrong with hope, hope is found in God’s will, but optimism can be (as here in 26–29) blind to God’s will. Jeremiah 29, 257.

Hope is found in truth, discipleship and relationship with God, not in positive thinking or blind optimism. God is not here to make you wealthy and comfortable. He provides the means for us to be living ambassadors of his kingdom to bless the people around us.

This verse, then, prophesies a priest-king through whom the Lord would restore Israel...As van Groningen explains, “The Davidic king is the covenant mediator through whom all the promises and responsibilities of the covenant will become realities.” The relationship would not be restored on the basis of the old Mosaic covenant, however, but by a new covenant that is announced in 31:31–34. Jeremiah 30.21-22, 267–268.

The tears of the exile, he (D.A. Carson) writes, “are climaxed and ended by the tears of the mothers of Bethlehem. The heir to David’s throne has come, the Exile is over, the true Son of God has arrived, and he will introduce the new covenant (26:24) promised by Jeremiah.” Jeremiah 31.15, 275.

The five “I wills” in the passage, together with references to “my covenant,” “my law,” and “my people,” demonstrate clearly that as in the other major theological covenants, it would be God taking the initiative. Human history since the garden of Eden has been the story of humankind’s flight from God and his pursuit of us. The God who speaks in these verses is a pursuing God, who refuses to leave his people alone to follow their own self-destructive paths.  Jeremiah 31.31-32, 284.

Christ, descendant of David through his earthly genealogy, is the fulfillment of this as well as other messianic texts. The prophecy of Jeremiah, therefore, was not fulfilled completely with the restoration of Judah in the communities of Ezra and Nehemiah but is fulfilled in Jesus Christ (in his present reign and future return)...If the promise of a Davidic king is considered to be fulfilled in Christ, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Christ in his priestly role fulfills the Levitical priestly role. Jeremiah 33.17-18, 302.

God has made the move in Jesus Christ to extend a new covenant, not just to the people of Israel, but to also fulfill the role Israel always had, to extend his offer of relationship, kingdom and blessing to all the nations and peoples of the world. Jesus has inaugurated this covenant (which means the church has the job to extend kingdom relationship and blessing by making disciples of all nations in this age) and will complete in the age to come.

We readily affirm that God can do great things, such as create the universe. But do we really trust him in life’s decisions?  Jeremiah 32.24-25, 293.

Verse 3 is a remarkable reminder that God’s knowledge far exceeds ours and that he is always ready to hear our appeals... The NT equivalent of this verse is John 16:13, but neither of them justifies a “crystal-ball” mentality that seeks to know the future. There is no “secret” formula for unlocking the doors to the future. God can reveal what he desires to whom he desires and when he desires.  Jeremiah 33.3, 298.

A people who had experienced slavery in their past should have had a more compassionate attitude toward others who were enslaved.  Jeremiah 34.12-14, 309–310.

Here is the application of the New Covenant for us. Do we really believe God enough to live out our daily lives based on his covenant promises? Do our credit card statements, day timers, personal relationships, possessions reveal a kingdom focus or a self focus? Are we able to live with and forgive others as God lives with us and forgives us?

It is quite remarkable that anyone would keep a vow made by an ancestor hundreds of years earlier or consider it still binding on the descendants. It is equally remarkable that anyone who enters into a covenant relationship with God through the new covenant today would be inclined to a life of disobedience. The commendation of the Recabites for their faithfulness and the warning to Judah for its unfaithfulness contain a valid lesson for the present generation. Jeremiah 35, 318.

Verse 31 serves as a reminder that leaders are held responsible for their actions, but those who follow them without protesting immoral leadership are also held accountable. When leaders commit wicked or immoral acts and their people say nothing, the people are in effect giving assent to their leaders’ deeds. Therefore they should expect to reap the consequences of their silence.  Jeremiah 36.31, 326.

Ebed-Melech’s trust in the Lord saved him from the fate of the rest of the city. God did not commend Ebed-Melech for his compassion or courage but only for his trust in God. His life was saved because he risked it to save Jeremiah’s life. The passage serves as encouragement that the person who trusts the Lord will experience the Lord’s protection. It also serves as a subtle warning against self-centeredness, only doing what will benefit oneself. Jeremiah 39.15-18, 346.

This begins the section which, in telling the story of the final days before the destruction of Jerusalem, shows what kind of people are in the blessed righteous remnant and what kind of people are not. People who listen to and live by the word of God and keep covenant with God and their fellow human beings are “in.” Those who are unfaithful to God, don’t keep faith with others and live to enrich themselves at the expense of others are “out”

Many people throughout history have been imprisoned for being faithful to God...Like Jeremiah, believers must be willing to make the supreme sacrifice in the life of faith. God calls people to obey him at any cost. Jeremiah 37, 332.

In retrospect Jeremiah’s forty years of identification with the Word of God had brought him a sense of purpose in life that indelibly altered his life. His experiences brought a level of maturity that he earlier denied when he said, “I am only a child” (1:6). His ministry resulted in hostility from his people, even from his own family, as well as physical suffering and threats of death. But his obedience to the ministry the Lord gave him blessed him with fellowship with God that few have experienced. Jeremiah 38.28, 340.

Jeremiah, therefore, received better treatment at the hands of the enemy than from his own people whom he loved. Jeremiah 39.11-14, 344.

Jeremiah was learning a bitter lesson that God had tried to teach him years earlier (see 12:5): the reward for faithful service may be more rigorous service. Jeremiah 43, 362.

As I heard somewhere, “don’t evaluate God’s love for you and his promises based on present circumstances.” Jeremiah seems to be rewarded with persecution and difficulty whenever he takes a stand for God. “Smoothing the way” is not necessarily an indication of God’s direction. Nevertheless, like Jesus, he was vindicated in the end and used mightily by God.

Where was God? Why had God taken them out of their land? The answer is found in understanding that the land was not the ultimate gift of God at Sinai but rather it was his presence...The land remained important as a gift from God, but belief and faith are centered not in a “geographical place” but in one’s heart and soul (Deut 6:4–5).  Jeremiah 40-41, 357.

Jeremiah 42:7 gives valuable insight into the nature of biblical prophecy. The prophet could not set the time for hearing from God, nor did he speak until he was sure he had discerned God’s message. Jeremiah 42.7-10, 359.

We need to be careful to make sure we are preaching God’s message before we speak. We also need to know his word in the context of its whole message. Incomplete, adulterated word of God is not the real thing. We need to stop going to God’s word to confirm our biases and go to it to allow the Spirit to change our thinking.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Storm that Wasn’t

Guam has again been missed by another storm. This time according to the Pacific Daily News

The National Weather Services downgraded Tropical Storm 09W to a tropical depression and expects to cancel the tropical storm warning at 8 a.m. today. The strongest winds will be north of Guam and the closest point of approach is still 9 or 10 a.m. There was 2 inches of rain overnight. The wind speed at 9 or 10 a.m. is expected to be around 20 mph. The depression is expected to move north through the Rota channel, move toward Taiwan and intensity as it moves across the Philippine Sea.

SAMSUNG            Last night as we were waiting for the storm to approach Joyce and I both noticed how calm things were. SAMSUNG            This time of year there is almost always a good evening breeze but the air last night was dead calm all evening. I went out about 11pm and there was nothing stirring. Even this morning there is very little breeze. Note the chickens in our front yard (left) are entirely unconcerned. We have also had very light to no rain.

SAMSUNG            The preparation was a lot more rigorous than the storm itself. I stood in line for two hours to get water at the Yigo Payless SAMSUNG            yesterday. We didn’t get any water because their water pressure ran low. Hopefully, I will get my filled water bottles today. It was fun though. I got into a couple good conversations with people in the line. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits and understanding that we need to work together to prepare for a storm.

We do know that it is just a matter of time until a big typhoon hits Guam again. I am thankful to God that we did not get hit yesterday. But, we live in a fallen world and typhoons, earthquakes and war effect the “good” people along with the “bad”. I struggle with the people who say that “God saved Guam again.” Last time a typhoon missed us it devastated the Philippines. We know that God does not love Guam more than the PI right? Let’s not make the mistake of thinking we know much about what God is doing in the events around us – except for what he has revealed in His Son Jesus Christ.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Another Storm on the Way to Guam

According to the Guam Pacific Daily News Guam is now in “Condition of Readiness 2.”  This means that…

damaging winds are possible within 24 hours. All government agencies are closed, and residents are urged to make preparations.

The National Weather Service has upgraded the system to a tropical storm. Tropical Storm 09W is still tracking toward Guam and is expected to pass directly over Guam around sunrise on Saturday.

"Damaging winds" means winds capable of picking up objects that can hit you or your property. This kind of wind, along with the rain, can cause flooding, make debris fly, and topple over small trees.

It looks like this storm will go right over Guam and we will get a lot of rain and wind, but not too bad. Of course weather can change quickly. We appreciate your prayers as the Owen’s and PIU prepare and go through Tropical Storm 09W.

Owen Furlough Schedule

Next week Joyce and I will be getting on the plane and flying from Guam, through Tokyo and into San Francisco on Thursday July 17th. We will be in California and Oregon (for a couple days) until August 14th. Below is our travel and speaking schedule as it stands right now. If we are anywhere near where you are we would love to meet with you to talk about PIU and our ministry in Guam and Micronesia. We would especially like to talk with anyone interested in coming to PIU as a student, staff/faculty, or in volunteering at PIU. You can always reach me at dowen@piu.edu

Schedule

July 17th – Arrive at SFO (Thanks Jo Romaniello for picking us up!)

July 18th – Drive to El Dorado County

July 19th-23rd – El Dorado County CA

July 20th – 10 AM Service: Camino Community Church, Camino CA

                 6 PM Service: Gold Country Baptist Church, Shingle Springs CA

July 24th – Drive to Redding CA

July 24th-26th Redding CA

July 26th – Drive to Ashland OR

July 26th-28th – Ashland OR

July 27th – 9.45 AM Service: Ashland Bible Church, Ashland OR

                 Afternoon Family Picnic

July 28th – Drive Back to Redding

July 29th-30th Redding CA

July 31st – Drive to Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz CA

August 1st-5th Scotts Valley CA

August 2nd – Baymonte Christian High School Class of 1974 40th Reunion

August 3rd – 9.30 and 11 AM Services: Gateway Bible Church, Scotts Valley, CA

August 6th – Drive to Santa Rosa CA

August 7th-11th – Santa Rosa CA area

August 10th – 9 and 10.45 AM Services: Hessel Church, Sebastopol, CA

August 12th – Drive back to Scotts Valley

August 14th – Fly out of SFO to return to Guam

Schedule is subject to slight alterations as we go! We will alter our schedule if necessary to meet with you!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Seeing Old Friends in Palau

Friends (5)While we were in Palau we got to see a lot of old friends and make some new ones. Here are a few pictures of people that might be familiar to you.

Friends (3)Friends (8)

I always see some of my Emmaus students (we taught at the high school in Palau from 1984 to 1988). On the left is me with Robert Ramarui. Robert is now the academic Dean at PCC. On the right is Mike and I with Gevhart Snebard. Gev lives in the Houston Texas area now.

SAMSUNG            SAMSUNG

And of course we meet PIU alumni. Meluat Meluat on the left and Mac Alfonso on the right

Friends (2)Friends (4)

Leeman Sebastian and Joyce Charley on the left. Steve and Anne Stinnette presented to the Palauan Church on the right.

Friends (7)Friends (10)

Old and new friends here. On the left, Slick Douglas who works with Pacific Missionary Aviation (new friend) and Johannes and Anita Staerkel on the right. We worked with Johannes and Anita back in the ‘80’s while we were living in Palau.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Pacific Islands University renews MOU with Palau Community College

IMG_1221Pacific Islands University, a U.S. accredited institution located in Mangilao, Guam, recently renewed its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Palau Community College. The MOU outlines the working relationship between the two institutions, allowing a more seamless cross enrollment and/or transfer for PIU and PCC students. This agreement follows the recent signing of three other MOUs, one with Guam Community College, New Hope Christian College in Honolulu, HI, and Faithwalk IMG_1229Christian College in Tol, Chuuk, FSM. 

PIU President, Dr. David Owen shares “PIU has a long relationship with PCC that has been beneficial to both schools. We are happy to continue partnering with PCC in helping young people meet their educational goals.” PCC President, Dr. Patrick Tellei shares that he is “Looking forward to helping more people through this renewed relationship between our institutions.”

IMG_1226The MOU was signed on Friday, June 27, 2014 in the Palau Community College Board Room by PIU President Dr. David Owen, PCC President Dr. Patrick Tellei, and PCC Dean of Academic Affairs Mr. Robert Ramarui. Also present at the signing were PIU Administrative VP Mr. NiƱo Pate, PIU Executive Assistant Ms. Samantha Owen, and PIU Board Chairman Rev. Howard Merrell. PIU Provost Dr. Sam Mabini signed the MOU upon the group’s return to Guam this week.