Greetings from the great ever-changing-weather state of Tennessee! As corny as this may sound, if you don’t like the weather here, just wait until it changes tomorrow. A man said something similar to that to me the other day at Lowe’s. I have a little portable heater in my office as well as a small oscillating fan. And yes it is true, one day I may be running the heater and the next day the fan. Yesterday, temperatures were in the low 70’s in Jackson. Tomorrow it is supposed to dip below freezing with rain, sleet and eventually snow! But who knows? By the time you read this newsletter it could be back in the 70’s again. Aren’t the changes in life curious?
Interestingly, however, there is a paradox in all of this change. In writing about change there is something a little déjà vu about all of this – I’ve written quite a bit about change in previous newsletters. So actually, nothing really has changed which reminds me of the saying of the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, “Nothing endures but change.” That’s probably an overstatement, but you get the point. So at least change is constant; and that means there is at least one thing constant. But there are other areas where constancy can be found.
God is constant. Through the prophet Malachi, God said, “For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob” (Mal. 3:6). Moses made a similar point about God: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19).
People frequently equate God with man. I suppose that’s the only way they know how to consider Him. Consequently, they make expressions about God—what He does and doesn’t do—in the same way we mortals are understood. We promise and hope to do something, but we forget. We threaten and warn, but fail or are unable to carry out our words. But God isn’t like that. His nature is true and unchanging. Our complacency with one another has no impact on the constancy and consistency of God. That’s why faithful gospel preachers and Bible teachers encourage people to take God seriously. What He says, He will do. It is as good as done! And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Another constant thing of life taught in Scripture is the frailty and brevity of life. Just in the time I have been typing this newsletter, a newsflash popped up on my computer screen announcing that former South African President Nelson Mandela has died at age 95. I once saw Mandela in the city of Arusha, Tanzania in 2000 while running some errands at the AICC (African International Conference Center) building which had been hosting the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for war crimes. He lived 95 years—quite a long life—and accomplished many great things in South Africa and around the world in the area of human rights. But his demise only illustrates the fragility of all mortals.
The righteous and unrighteous alike fall, break bones, contract infectious diseases, have cancer, heart attacks, muscular dystrophy, pneumonia, common colds, and catch the flu. We all have to earn our living by the sweat of our faces. We all pay taxes. We all grow old. And we all eventually must die (cf. Eccl. 9:3-4).
So, what does that have to do with the price of beans? My point is to emphasize the constant nature and design of the gospel in view of the fate of this world. Peter reminds Christians to give diligence to God’s divine things and abound in them in order to make their calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10).
And then later in chapter three, in view of God’s consistent promises, Peter encourages Christians to BE DILIGENT in living the Christian life (3:14); BEWARE of those who would deceive and mislead you into thinking that God is not serious about his promises and warnings (3:17); and GROW in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ (3:18).
At the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Ukraine (BVBIU) we are continually encouraging our students to understand the importance of holding to the pattern of sound words as revealed in the New Testament. In the daily changes of the world, only God holds changeless truths revealed in His word that alone can make people wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). This is important because people all around the world become so easily preoccupied with their physical existence to the point that they forget God and God’s “things” (cf. Phil. 4:6-8). For that reason, we need those who will remind God’s people and inform the worldly minded that there is a GREAT DAY coming. As Noah warned a closed-minded people of his day of a flood of water (2 Pet. 3:5-9), so these preachers warn today’s generation that a greater judgment is coming (2 Pet. 3:10-12).
May our graduates become “signposts” to inform and to warn people in their geographical areas to think soberly and seriously about the fate of their souls. May they prepare themselves to live godly lives before the people to whom they are sent. And may they remember that they are representing the blood-bought church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Howell
Plans For January
In only a few weeks I will be making my first trip back to Ukraine for the new 2014 year. The tickets have already been booked and purchased, and I’m already excited about seeing our friends, staff and students again in Ukraine. The dates for the trip are Jan 9th – 20th. Like last year, I plan to teach Homiletics II to the second-year students. Mary will be going with me this time and will be teaching ladies’ classes. The Ukrainians always know how to make my day. When I tell them Mary is not with me, they say, “Oh”. When I tell them she is coming with me, they say, “Yaaaay!” They know who the really important person is. :-)
To say it will be cold in Ukraine in January is an understatement. Last January there was about a foot of snow when I arrived, and I don’t expect things to be differently this coming January. One of the projects I have been helping with is the replacement of the old existing wooden windows in the BVBIU two-story building. At the present time, we have been able to replace about ten of the windows with new double-pane vinyl windows. We hope to replace five more windows this time. In case you’re wondering, there are more than 40 windows in the building. Once we have all of them replaced, the heating of the building will be much more efficient and cost-effective. You’ll have to experience it to understand. Howell
Ferguson family during Thanksgiving at Camp Meribah, Centerville, TN.