Ethiopia Trip, Part II

Ethiopia Friends

This is the second part of a post by my wife, Mary.

The ministers’ conference took place Thursday and Friday, January 8–9. Joel’s addresses were on “the work of the pastor,” “the life of the pastor,” “the leadership of Jesus Christ,” “the ethics of leadership,” and “the test of leadership.” Our friend—the PRTS alumnus—spoke on “the growth of the Ethiopian church—historically,” “the great commission,” and “how to spread the gospel throughout Ethiopia.” Joel’s interpreter was Mihret (meaning “mercy”). The language barrier is partially overcome with the interpretation and some of the men knew some English, but we still feel bad for our limited ability to converse with them. One thing that was very apparent, though, was their affection and warmth. They greet each other with a handshake, either touch shoulders or go cheek-to-cheek and kiss the air or kiss the cheek—right, left, right, and then another handshake. If they are really close and haven’t seen each other for a long time, they hug for a little while. All the while, they are laughing and talking. Even for us, they gave a reserved version of these greetings. It is common to see men walking down the street holding hands or one with his arm around the other—it is a brotherly/friendly thing, absolutely no link to homosexuality. After giving four addresses the first day, Joel was exhausted. A quick supper at an imitation Starbucks, a bit of emailing, and off to bed. At 2:00 a.m. we were rudely awakened by the off-tune droning of the Orthodox priest again. He continued the rest of the night, with only a few 15-minute breaks. Happily, our friend found us a quieter hotel for the following nights.

Pastor Bezabeh picked us up Saturday morning to take us to Debre Zeit. In the nine years he has been at his church, they have purchased land in a poor rural area and built a church, a K-12 school that has 600 students, a Bible school, and a health clinic. Their people walk to church. They receive most of their support from North Ireland. Joel preached on the Canaanitish woman and they responded warmly. They kindly put us up at a nice resort that also hosts missionaries. It was wonderful to relax and eat our meals lakeside. Even though Ethiopia is near the equator, it is a comfortable 75 degrees year around, due to the elevation. Sunday morning dawned cloudy—unusual for Ethiopia in January. Joel preached on “Running the Race” from Hebrews 12. Two young teen boys were very affected by the sermon and expressed a desire to live for Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray for lasting fruits.

Young Listener at Open-Air Preaching

Young Listener at Open-Air Preaching

Ethiopians are event- and people-oriented whereas Americans are more time-oriented. So as we relaxed over lunch, time ticked away, and the event of open-air preaching 1.5 hours away came closer. Transportation was hastily arranged and we were on our way. We would have been only a little late, but as we got on the ring-road around Addis, the car stalled. Our Ethiopian friend got it started again, but for the next hour, we limped along, stalling 30 to 40 times. Sometimes he got it started by popping the clutch, sometimes by starting it and revving the engine. We think it was overheated, because it didn’t have the problem after the outdoor service. Or maybe Satan didn’t want us to go there. It was scary being stalled on a highway. We prayed a lot. Fortunately they don’t go too fast and are used to going around obstacles; God protected us. As the sun was setting and the air was cooling, Joel preached in the open air to 700 people on “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” They listened well—pray with us that eternity will reveal fruits.

Open-Air Preaching to 700 People

Open-Air Preaching to 700 People

Back to the city. People walk everywhere, thousands of them. Even at night, with dark clothes, they walk in the road. It is a constant braiding of cars, taxis, and people. They just adjust moment by moment and go around each other. A quick beep means, “I’m coming through.” It’s like the people cross roads by faith, lane by lane, as opposed to planning for the whole way across before setting out. They trust the drivers, they trust they will make it to the other side, and I hope they trust God. Mihret met us on the way, and brought us to his house for an Ethiopian supper. His wife Bekelech had prepared a feast. He had earlier told us their courtship story. They had both decided to give their whole life to the Lord and not get married because they were so on fire for Him, but God brought them together in a wonderful way.

Winging our way home Monday, we were thankful for safety, prayerful for blessing, and enriched by our experience with the Ethiopian people. Maybe we should live life a little bit more like they cross the road, still planning ahead like we do, but stepping out in faith, trusting (and loving) others and God, and trusting we will make it safely to the other side.

Ethiopia Trip, Part I

Ethiopia Mary with Children

The following post was written by my wife, Mary.

Monday, January 5, 2015: We woke up at 3 a.m. for our 5:25 flight to Chicago, but our departure was moved to 7 a.m. The pilot finally arrived at 7:30 a.m. so we didn’t leave until 8:15 a.m. Consequently we missed our connection to Washington DC, went standby on the next flight, but missed our Ethiopia flight. We then rerouted through Frankfurt, Germany, so that we could arrive in Ethiopia on Tuesday evening (15 hours later than expected) rather than Wednesday morning, when my husband was scheduled to preach his first sermon.

As we relaxed over lunch in DC, we chatted with a middle-aged man named Jim at the next table. “Where are you headed?” “Ethiopia.” “Purpose?” “Conference for ministers.” He told us later that because we were going to a place not associated with vacation, and because we seemed relaxed about our delays (we had worked through our frustration earlier), he asked his next question, “Can you explain predestination to me? And do we have a free will?” Joel eagerly explained with Scripture and diagrams. Jim grew up Roman Catholic but said it never did anything for him. He was repulsed by scandals in the church. But his interest and curiosity about God has been growing. He doesn’t have a Bible, but when he rides his Harley in the wild hills of Texas, he has experienced the beauty and presence of God. He doesn’t want to bother God or take up too much of His time by praying too much to Him. And he doesn’t feel right just asking for things from God without giving back in return. He ventured a logical, fatalistic attitude: “If God knows whom He chooses, then what difference does it make if I seek Him?” Yet he is searching for God. When Joel explained praying by ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication), he said, “I have experienced adoration and confession; that is very helpful.” We encouraged him to pray without ceasing, that God has time for him and millions of others—24/7, because of His gracious and omnipotent nature. We explained God’s secret will and revealed will and encouraged him with God’s invitations to repent and to believe, and to come unto Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. He had tears in his eyes and wondered aloud if this meeting was planned by God. We believe it was. Joel encouraged Jim to email him with questions and promised to send him the new Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible and several other books. Joel prayed with him and we walked away greatly encouraged, thanking God for this opportunity to share His goodness. Then, too, I noticed a few others listening in to our conversation in the cramped quarters of the restaurant—so maybe other seed was sown as well!

On to Frankfurt, Germany, an overnight trip. I slept some, Joel not so much. Three hour layover, then off to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, with a stop in Jeddah, the capital of Saudi Arabia. We were very pleasantly surprised to be bumped up to business class! We were waited on hand and foot with elegant food, and seats that reclined fully! This was one time in my life that I wished the flight was longer!

It took a long time to get out of the airport—health scan, purchase visas, wait for luggage, find our Ethiopian friend. He is a PRTS grad who still lives in Grand Rapids and is working on his doctorate at Southern Seminary. He invited us and arranged our trip. A generous donor paid for the expenses of ministers traveling to the conference. Ethiopia is an emerging country. It is the birthplace of coffee, which is still a main export, along with livestock and water. The 94 million people are 65% Christian, 33% Muslim, and 2% no religion; they have gotten along peacefully for a long time. There is beginning to be some external influence to agitate the Muslims to become more conservative and work against Christians. Ethiopia’s military is strong, and terrorists are imprisoned or executed. The people are very warm and friendly and affectionate, marriage is esteemed highly, and homosexuality is illegal.

Preaching with Translator in Ethiopia

Preaching with Translator in Ethiopia

Our hotel was right next to a hilltop Ethiopian Orthodox church, and the priests were chanting/singing over a powerful loudspeaker until 3:30 a.m. Believe me, it was not a lullaby. Ethiopia celebrates Christmas on January 7, so Joel preached to about 400 people on the shepherds announcing the birth of Jesus. How fitting that on the way to church we passed a number of shepherds herding their sheep to market for families to buy one to slaughter for Christmas dinner. The church is more than fifty years old and has started fifteen daughter churches. Some of the old elders were the founders: kind, wise, and dignified men. Our friend said the streets were quite empty compared to a normal day, though I thought they were teeming with people. It is a family day; many go to church. Addis Ababa, population nearly 4 million, is not an international city. We saw thousands of people today, and only five white folks besides those in the mirror. It is a city in transition. There are many shanty towns—houses made of sheets of aluminum and scrap materials along dirt pathways. Yet high rises, highways, and railways are replacing them. The infrastructure is improving, but things like internet, phone service, and utilities are works in progress. China is funding many projects. They see great potential in the country because of possible oil and mineral resources. They employ hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians since labor is cheap. The Ethiopians like Chinese involvement more than American because the Americans criticize some things about the country and the Chinese remain silent.

After lunch, we headed to Nazareth 65 miles away for Christmas dinner with our friend’s in-laws. Once outside the city, the scenery was open and beautiful: mountains—mostly brown because it is dry season, but with trees dotted on the landscape and some canyons. Nap time on the way. It was the old father’s 95th birthday that day. His wife is 73, and she wasn’t feeling so well. We asked them if they loved the Lord. She replied, “He’s our only hope and our only Father.” They have been married 55 years, and had twelve children, eight still living. Two daughters worked hard to serve the meal: “hospitality bread,” “injera”—a tortilla-like bread made from a grain named tef, with different types of “wot”—stew or meat. We had lamb, and chicken with a spicy sauce. It was different, tasty. They had a “coffee ceremony,” which they do up to three times a day: spread grass on the floor, build a fire on a little charcoal burner, roast wild coffee beans, let everybody smell them, grind them, heat the water on the charcoal, wash the cups, pour the water over the beans, serve and drink the coffee. One of their daughters lives in her own little house on the property, takes care of her parents, and runs a small business—she showed us her two cows that she milks in order to sell the milk and cheese. Her ex-husband was present. He is very intelligent, has an advanced college education, and could have been an ambassador to Egypt but chose to waste his life on alcohol and drugs instead. He is homeless. Our Ethiopian friend very strongly admonished and evangelized him. He resisted at first, but our friend pressed him for his soul’s sake. He finally said he would acquiesce to God. Our friend prayed with him. We continue to pray that this is a real and dramatic change in his life.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

The Reformed Pastor Conference with Conrad Mbewe

TheReformedPastor Conf with Mbewe

Select Works

The following post was written by my teaching assistant, Paul Smalley:

Logos Bible Software has compiled a digital collection of twenty-six books under the title, The Select Works of Joel R. Beeke. If you are interested in this product, then you should know that Logos will be offering a special sale on it at the end of this year. Ordinarily priced at $315.95, the collection will be discounted to $249.95, a twenty percent savings. The sale will begin on December 26 (Boxing Day for our British friends) and run through January 5. The Select Works include the following books which, by the grace of God, Dr. Beeke authored, co-authored, or edited, amounting to over 6,000 pages of Reformed, experiential material:

  • Encouragement for Today’s Pastors: Help From the Puritans, by Joel R. Beeke and Terry D. Slachter
  • Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God’s Way of Leading Sinners to Christ by Joel R. Beeke and Paul Smalley
  • A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones
  • Living Zealously by Joel R. Beeke and James A. La Belle
  • The Beauty and Glory of the Holy Spirit edited by Joel R. Beeke
  • The Beauty and Glory of Christ edited by Joel R. Beeke
  • Bringing the Gospel to Covenant Children by Joel R. Beeke
  • Developing a Healthy Prayer Life by Joel R. Beeke and James Beeke
  • Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer edited by Joel R. Beeke and Brian G. Najapfour
  • Contagious Christian Living by Joel R. Beeke
  • Calvin for Today edited by Joel R. Beeke
  • Living by God’s Promises by Joel R. Beeke and James A. La Belle
  • Sing a New Song: Recovering Psalm Singing for the Twenty-First Century edited by Joel R. Beeke and Anthony T. Selvaggio
  • Calvin, Theologian and Reformer by Joel R. Beeke and Garry J. Williams
  • Family Worship, by Joel R. Beeke
  • The Soul of Life: The Piety of John Calvin edited by Joel R. Beeke
  • A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-Centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin edited by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones
  • Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption by Joel R. Beeke
  • The Family at Church by Joel R. Beeke
  • The Heritage Reformed Congregations: Who We Are and What We Believe by Joel R. Beeke
  • Reformation Heroes by Joel R. Beeke and Diana Kleyn
  • Meet the Puritans by Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson
  • Jehovah Shepherding Sheep: Sermons on 23rd Psalm by Joel R. Beeke
  • Knowing and Living Christian Life: Weekly Devotions by Joel R. Beeke and James D. Greendyk
  • Gisbertus Voetius: Toward a Reformed Marriage of Knowledge and Piety by Joel R. Beeke
  • Puritan Evangelism: A Biblical Approach by Joel R. Beeke

The Works of William Perkins–Volume 1 Now In Stock

Perkins Volume 1

I am so excited—a dream of 40 years is beginning to be fulfilled! Just moments ago, William Perkins (1558-1602), the father of Puritanism, arrived! He’s even more handsome than I thought—volume 1 that is. Edited well by Stephen Yuille (Derek Thomas and I are serving as general editors of the 10-volume set), this volume (a 820-page gold mine) contains Perkins’s Sermon on the Mount and his Combat between Christ and the Devil. Both make great reads for pastors and educated church members. Next up: volume 2 on Galatians, which the editor Paul Smalley is just completing his first pass on, scheduled for print next summer. Share this great news with your friends! You can order a copy for only $38 from Reformation Heritage Books.

True Prayer (2): Eleven Attitudes in Prayer

The Scriptures give us many directives about how to pray in general and with what attitude to pray specifically. Here are eleven different attitudes the Christian is to have when he prays.

Believing. Mark 11:24 says, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Prayer requires faith—a believing in God, a trusting in God, and a placing of our expectations in God.

Penitent. The prodigal son illustrates what it means to pray openly as an unworthy supplicant (Luke 15:21). When we conceal things from God, it creates unrest and anxiety, but an open confession fosters rest. True rest in God through prayer is experienced when we confess our failures, relate our problems, and open our hearts in His presence.

Fervent. In Genesis 32:24–28, Jacob “wrestled through the night.” We must pray fervently, not wrestling in our own strength, but earnestly clinging to Christ, saying: “I will not let thee go except thou bless me” (Gen. 32:26).

Humble. Remember the publican in Luke 18:13. He thought himself not even worthy to lift his eyes up to heaven, but beat his breast saying: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Each us is unworthy as well, yet like the publican we must humbly plead with God for mercy.

Bold. Note Hebrews 4:16. Genuine humility and genuine boldness are not opposites. The publican’s prayer was truly humble, yet he came and prayed to God. As a bold beggar he had courage to enter the King’s dwelling. Praying boldly is praying freely and humbly, knowing that we pray in Christ. We have a High Priest to intercede for us as we pour out our hearts in His presence.

Interceding. Moses prayed on behalf of Miriam when she had leprosy (Num. 12:1–2, 10, 13). Love to others must be evident in our prayers. We must remember the temporal and spiritual needs of our neighbor. If we truly love others, we will love to pray for them. We must be like Job—he prayed continuously for his family members (Job 1:5).

Dependent. Romans 8:26–27 speaks about depending on the Spirit who makes intercession for us. So often we struggle with self instead of resting in God. We need to be weaned from self-reliance and look to the one who gives, hears, and answers prayer.

Expectant. Elijah prayed to God for rain and then sent his servant to see if there was any sign of it (1 Kings 18:41–46). He sent his servant seven times—Elijah had great expectation in God! Expectant prayer conquers discouragement and waits upon the Lord. James 1:6–7 tells us to ask with unwavering faith.

Childlike. We must ever go to God in Christ as little children would their father. “What is that child-like inclination?” Thomas Manton asked. It is this: “The soul cannot keep away from God, and that is an implicit owning him as a father: ‘Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me’ (Jer. 3:19). It is a child like act to look to him for all our supplies…. As when a child wants anything, he goes to his father.” In another place, Manton said, “Children do not use to make starched speeches to their fathers when they want bread, but only express their natural cry…. A word from a child moves the father more than the orator can move all his hearers” (Manton, Works, Vol. 1, 34, 28).

Thankful. This is strikingly portrayed in Psalm 136. In this psalm, “give thanks unto the Lord for His mercy endureth forever” is repeated twenty-six times. We must not only be thankful for clear answers to prayer and for blessings for which we did not pray, but our thankfulness must penetrate deeper. We are also called to be thankful for these things that distress us or events that are not to our liking. Think of Paul and Silas’s gratitude, even while in the inner prison!

Persevering. The Canaanite woman prayed this way (Matt. 15:21–28). When she did not receive an answer to her prayer, she persevered, crying all the more urgently after Christ. She begged Christ to let her “eat of the crumbs” from the Master’s table. Persevering prayer does not give up on the Lord, but pleads upon His promises.

Reading Plan on Spiritual Warfare

christian_in_complete_armourWilliam Gurnall’s book, The Christian in Complete Armour, is a treasury of spiritual knowledge and wisdom. Not only does it offer an exposition of the classic Scripture text on spiritual warfare (Eph. 6), but in so doing it opens and applies virtually every aspect of the doctrines of salvation and sanctification. It is a feast for the soul.

However, Gurnall’s book is also massive, weighing in at almost 1200 pages in the Banner of Truth reprint. How to consume such a large meal? The answer is one bite at a time. There is a reading plan that divides the book into portions of only four or five pages a day, five days a week (to download it, click here). If you have not read Gurnall before, then I challenge you to make this part of your personal devotions for 2015. By the end of the year, you will have finished the book!

Many thanks are to due to Zack Ford for developing this plan.

Ponoka and Lacombe, Alberta (Dec. 5–7, 2014)

Conference at Parkland Reformed Church

Conference at Parkland Reformed Church

I had a great, quick trip to Alberta over the first weekend of December. Moses Wright picked me up from the Edmonton airport. I had a great talk with him for the hour drive to the Dibbet home where I stayed for the weekend. A graduate of PRTS and a former neighbor, Rev. Scott Dibbet is the pastor of the Free Reformed Church in Lacombe, Alberta. He has been serving there for three years with God’s evident blessing. The church appears to have grown spiritually and has doubled in size. It was great to be with him and his wife, Becky, and their five children, Merissa, Caleb, Abby, Zach, and Emma.

Pastor Scott Dibbet with Sons and Hunting Trophies

Pastor Scott Dibbet with Sons and Hunting Trophies

The weekend conference was organized by the Parkland Reformed Church of Ponoka, a United Reformed Church of 350 people pastored by Rev. Mitch Ramiksoon for the last nine years. He and his wife Doris were originally from Trinidad, and are delightful to speak with. On Friday evening, I gave an address to 200 conference attendees on “What the Puritans Can Teach Us About Building a Godly Marriage.” On Saturday, I gave three addresses on childrearing: “How to Bring Children to Christ”; “How to Rear Children in the Faith”; “How to do Family Worship.” The attendees, whose responses were very encouraging, were mostly marital couples who came from a variety of Reformed churches within a two hour radius. They bought more than $4,000 worth of books.

On Saturday I enjoyed supper and fellowship at the home of good friends, Brian and Sharon Beevaart. Sharon has cancer, but so far is doing remarkably well. Please pray that God may wondrously heal her completely. We were joined by Roelof Janssen and his wife Theresa for supper. Roelof runs the book ministry of Inheritance Publications, so this made for much lively discussion as we shared experiences with each other.

Brian and Sharon Beevaart (left), Roelof and Theresa Janssen

Brian and Sharon Beevaart (left), Roelof and Theresa Janssen

On Sunday I preached twice for the URC of Ponoka and once for the FRC of Lacombe, spent some time with the Dibbet family, and then visited that evening with Rev. Barry and Val Beukema, a URC minister serving in Alberta. It was a delightful time.

On the flights to and from Edmonton, I was able to finish editing an excellent volume on Alexander Henderson, the great Scots leader most responsible for the Scottish National Covenant of 1638, that Reformation Heritage Books hopes to publish early next year. I also edited our next Puritan Reformed Journal—320 pages of very good material on a great variety of subjects. If you’re not getting this, you really should subscribe to that journal—you will love it!

The Works of William Perkins

Update on Trichelle Beeke

Trichelle Beeke

(Here is an update from my nephew Dave Beeke about the cancer treatments of his wife, Trichelle.)

Greetings family and friends,

This past year and a half has been a marathon of tests and treatments, but we have really felt upheld through it all and give thanks to God for that. He has given us the strength to get through each day.

Isaiah 43: 1-3 says, “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.  When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.  For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.”

We are thankful that Trichelle was able to have her final Herceptin treatment today.  There were plenty of hugs and wishes from the Cancer Centre as Trichelle left today after seeing the staff there so regularly over the past 16 months.  The staff there are like family to us.  Although we are so thankful that all the planned IV treatments are complete, we will miss the loving and supportive atmosphere that the cancer treatment staff provided for us on this journey.

We are also thankful that Trichelle’s MUGA scan showed that her heart has gained some strength!

Monday morning, December 8, Trichelle is scheduled to have her port taken out through day surgery.  We do not have a date yet for the postponed surgery that was to occur tomorrow.  It will be sometime in the New Year if all is well.

With all the planned IV treatments complete, we enter a new time for us where Trichelle will no longer go in for cancer IV treatments.   As the cancer that was in her cannot be traced or detected, we are called to rest in the Lord and trust Him that all of the past medical efforts will be blessed and that Trichelle is cancer free.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

Thanks again for so much support,

Dave, Trichelle, Breyden, Quinten, and Emilee Beeke