2014 December 3
Dear friends and family,
We want to praise God that the training is going very well. We are almost done with the third week already!
Robert, the church planter out at Dafra, had to leave yesterday after hearing that his brother died. Please pray for him. He hopes to return on Friday to continue the course. The student from Lere who left to be with his sick father has not returned yet. Please pray for him, too.
We have had lots of variety for meals. Sometimes our boule is rice only. Sometimes it is rice and sorghum. Sometimes it is sorghum and rice. Sometimes there is more rice than sorghum. Sometimes there is more sorghum than rice. Our sauce is varied greatly, too. Today it was slime sauce and beans, more slime than beans. Yesterday it was beans and slime sauce, more beans than slime. The day before that it was long sauce, slime that stretches very long. Other sauces we have had include alum leaves with peanut butter, other leaves with peanut butter, and other other leaves with peanut butter, sesame sauce one time, leafy sauce without long chunks of okra, leafy sauce with long chunks of okra. And so, you see, we have a lot of variety. I think I've only seen the same sauce once or twice the whole time so far. (Thankfully I eat breakfast and supper at home).
We have been studying the gospel and how it really is good news. We have studied how it relates to the law, sin, atonement, confession, repentance, and temptation. It is so exciting to see the students eagerly learning about some of these things for the very first time.
Like us all, they sometimes have a hard time forgetting ideas they have harbored for a long time. For example, I asked, "Where does pardon come from?" and they answered correctly, "God." Then I asked, "Where does repentance come from?" and they answered, "Man." Hmmm. Interesting. I had them read Acts 5:31: "Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." Then I asked again, "Where does repentance come from?" and nearly everybody said, "Man." I paused and let the silence make them uncomfortable. Then a brave soul said "God." The others said, "No, repentance comes from man." And thus the debate continued. I asked them to read the verse again. They did. Then about half of the class said repentance comes from man and half said that repentance comes from God. Eventually, with other verses, everybody saw. But not after a struggle. Repentance, like pardon, is a gift from God. We cannot repent, we cannot bring about a change in our lives, without God's power.
We studied desires today. As humans, our desires are naturally evil and lead to death (see James 1:13-15). That is not good news. But the good news is that God wants us to have good desires. We looked at a number of verses on the topic. Then I asked, "How can we have good desires?" One student piped up, "Through obedience." "Really?" I persisted, "I can change my desires by obedience?" Isaiah 64:6 says, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." I can try to obey on my own, but it is like trying to clean myself with a filthy rag. I pulled out an oily rag. "Can I clean my white shirt with this?" I asked. "No, your shirt will get dirty," they answered. So are our efforts to change ourselves without Jesus. We just get into more trouble, more sin, and more discouragement. I asked them to read Ezekiel 11:19-20: "Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God." Then I asked again, "How can we have good desires?" They said, "Obey the commandments." I again paused and let the silence become uncomfortable. "Really?" I asked. What does verse 19 say? It says that God replaces our old stony heart with a new heart of flesh. That results in obedience. I asked, "Which comes first, obedience, or a changed heart?" Much of the class said, "Obedience" while the rest studied the verse to see what it said. It finally clicked with most of the students: "We cannot change our natural desires on our own. We must have a change of heart. God gives us this change of heart. The result and the response is that we obey Him out of love for Him and what He has done for us."
We studied how God gives us no excuse for sin. He gives us a way out for every temptation. He offers to cleanse our thoughts. He offers to remove our old heart and to give us a new heart. He offers to give us what our heart desires if we delight in Him. He offers the bread of life, the water of life, the breath of life, and the light of life free of charge to anybody who will simply accept them. Just as we cannot live without food, water, air, or light, so we cannot live spiritually without spiritual food, water, air, and light. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Jesus is the Water of Life. Jesus is the Breath of Life. Jesus is the Light of Life. Amazingly, many of us desire to life our lives apart from Him, but in so doing we are choosing to life apart from the Source of life and will eventually suffer eternal separation from Him, eternal death. None of us refuse meals, refuse to drink water, refuse to breath, or refuse to walk in the sunshine. But how often do we refuse to eat and drink and breath and bask in the light of Truth?
It is messages like these that we have been studying. The Holy Spirit is working. Please pray that the students will choose to follow truth at any cost.
Thank you for your support and your prayers.
In His service,
Jonathan and Melody and Gideon Dietrich