Fellowship of Prayer

God’s Covenant with Humanity (RV)

The Russian version is now in the hands of a publisher in Moscow. Not only have we placed an initial order for 50 copies, but Bishop Pavel Bak has been in touch with a number of churches and a Bible College asking them if they are interested in placing additional orders at their own expense. We have also been in touch with the Moscow Theological Seminary, and the North Caucasus Bible Institute (NCBI) where I taught some years ago.

A number of places have expressed their desire for copies, including NCBI. Please pray that they will go to people and places where they will be profitably used.

God’s Covenant with Humanity (Chinese)

Phoebe is now working on the translation of the Chinese version. Even at this early stage we have had an order for 10 copies of this book, and on-going chapter translations for sharing with Chinese people attending English courses at one of the churches.

Growing Network

I personally do not have the gift for promoting my own material. Having said that, the Lord has been giving us an increasing number of people both in Australia and overseas who have been passing on our books to friends, relatives, and congregations. All we can say is that it’s the Lord’s doing, and we are deeply thankful to him. He goes before us and opens doors we did not anticipate. Yet, when we stand back, we realise how past experiences and opportunities for ministry are coming together in a fruitful alliance.

For example.

North Caucasus Bible Institute

Some years ago, I was invited to teach a course at NCBI, making some important and long-lasting friendships. It was there that I met Andrey Kravtsev who translated my book, “God’s Covenant with Humanity” into Russian. He and his wife Albina are carrying out a novel and effective ministry to Muslim Balkars in the Caucasus.

Michael ChizhmaI also came to know Michael Chizhma, the Rector of NCBI who has asked for copies of my book in its Russian version. Incidentally, please pray for his son Maxim, specifically, as he has intestinal problems for which local medical treatment hasn’t been effective.

The North Caucasus Bible Institute is a mission-focused educational institution in Southern Russia. The school was

established in 1998 by the pastoral council of the region.

In 2008 NCBI became affiliated with Moscow Theological Seminary, the central school under the Russian Evangelical-Baptist Union. Since that time, the school has also partnered with Russian Leadership Ministries based in Wheaton, Illinois; Moscow Seminary and Russian Leadership.

Michael writes, ‘The institution has experienced blessings and difficulties. Blessings in the fact that this academic year the number of students exceeded 200. This year we celebrated our 20th anniversary. For 20 years, God has led and blessed the institution. But unfortunately, there are presently some difficulties. In the last twelve months, three federal departments spontan-eously began an audit of the institute: the FSB (Federal Security Service), the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Education of Russia. The FSB and Justice Department had no complaints against us. The Ministry of Education has been checking for a year and a half. During this time, we have had to face more than 10 court cases. Some we won, some we lost, but by the grace of God we continue to work. Please pray that these investigations will come to an end.’

The courses range from various Christian ministries, to Christian education, music ministries, youth work, children’s ministries and video ministries. Some are part-time courses, others full-time.

How to read the Bible

The Bible, like any other book, has a beginning, a progression, a climax, and an ending. On the other hand, it isn’t like any other book. Putting it in crude terms, God is saying I made a beautiful world for you and look at the mess you have made of it! But I’m not going to let you continue to destroy it. I’m going to show you how I resolve the problem. Read carefully what happens when people have their own way in this world. Don’t blame me for the mess you make. Learn from your mistakes, so that you will be ready to understand why it is necessary for you to experience the kind of salvation I alone can provide for you in Jesus Christ. When you come to understand the nature of this salvation and accept it as the only solution to your predicament, you’ll be ready for the rest of the journey I have for you.’

Not a book of devotions

The Bible is not a book of ‘devotions’ that we read regularly just for the sake of some kind of ‘inspiration’ or personal edification, to take us through the daily grind of life. If we read it like that, we might not get the ‘kick’ we expected, and it can lead us to give up on regular Bible reading completely. It can also lead some people to the kind of selective reading just mentioned.

One church elder came to his small study group one day and told them that he had just completed reading the book of Jeremiah. He got no benefit from this reading, he said, except for the one verse that stood out to him as an encouragement.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11).

This passage, however, goes on to show that these plans of God for Israel could only be experienced when they call on him and pray to him and begin to seek him with all their heart. None of this was mentioned when this man recounted his experience of reading this prophecy.

We cannot take an isolated verse of the Bible and claim that this is God’s message to us at any particular time, especially when our full surrender to Him is questionable. The immediate context of what we read needs to be kept in mind if we are to be honest before God.

Context matters!

There is also the wider context of the Bible as well. How is our understanding of what we read affected by the rest of the message of the Bible? I remember asking a group of high school students this question: ‘If God has said, a+b+c+d+e+etc, why can’t I assume that the ‘c’ passage in isolation contains everything God wants me to understand?’ A sixteen-year-old could tell me that it is taking it out of context. I have to understand it in the light of everything else the Bible tells me.

The ’larger picture’

What is the implication of this? Doesn’t this point out the importance of understanding the ‘larger picture’ the Bible portrays for us? For people who want to sound more academic this ‘larger picture’ is the meta-narrative of the Bible.

An ethnic pastor, whose English was limited, wanted to show that his theological studies were superior to that of other students who also studied all the prescribed books as part of the course they had to go through. He said, ‘I only read the Bible… the Bible…!’ A legitimate question is, ‘How did you read the Bible?’

Biblical theology helps us to understand the ‘larger picture’ we are to see in the Bible. Why biblical theology? Dr Peter Adam has stated that if we understand biblical theology, it saves us from “…the ultimate destructive postmodern question ‘What does this text mean to me?’ to the more fruitful question, ‘What does this text mean?” In other words, ‘What does God want me to understand?’ not, ‘What suits me?’

A correct understanding of biblical theology is also a good safeguard against false and reductionist views of the Christian faith.

Believers need to be introduced to a correct approach to Bible reading from an early stage in their Christian experience. Can you help someone else do that?

To help people approach the Bible with a better understanding, God’s Covenant with Humanity, gives an overview of the biblical message. When you have the ‘big picture’ before you, you are less likely to misunderstand, or to stray. This book is still available for the printing price of $15AUD, plus postage.