Friday, December 21, 2007

Pray for Pakistan

I received the following prayer request from Voice of the Martyrs today. Please join your brothers and sisters from around the world in praying for Pakistani Christians:

"The Voice of the Martyrs has received several prayer requests from believers in Pakistan. Due to the volatile and sensitive climate in Pakistan, VOM cannot release the specific locations of these believers. They request:
  • "Please pray for our ministry, we want to reach all of Pakistan and distribute the Word of God to Muslim hands."
  • "Please pray for us to be strengthened in our faith and for God to give us wisdom and knowledge".
  • "Pray for areas that are under attack from suicide bombers, any lives are being destroyed. Ask God to protect people in these areas and that they will be able to know Jesus Christ."
Psalm 23, Romans 8:31"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

J. C. Ryle & the Scripture

This week I began to read J. C. Ryle's classic book, Holiness. Ryle was a pastor and then a bishop in the Church of England in the nineteenth century. In his day there were several movements within the evangelical church that, though they differed in the particulars, were not all that far removed from our modern day "seeker" and "emergent" movements. At the end of the introduction to his venerable work he writes this:

"There is an amazing ignorance of Scripture among many, and a consequent want of established, solid religion. In no other way can I account for the ease with which people are, like children, 'tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine' (Eph. 4:14). There is an Athenian love of novelty abroad, and a morbid distaste for anything old and regular, and in the beaten path of our forefathers. Thousands will crowd to hear a new voice and a new doctrine, without considering for a moment whether what they hear is true. There is an incessant craving after any teaching which is sensational and exciting, and rousing to the feelings. There is an unhealthy appetite for a sort of spasmodic and hysterical Christianity. The religious life of many is little better than spiritual dram-drinking, and the 'meek and quite spirit' which St. Peter commends is clean forgotten ( 1 Pet. 3:4). Crowds, and crying, and hot rooms, and high-flown singing, and an incessant rousing of the emotions are the only things which many care for. Inability to distinguish differences in doctrine is spreading far and wide, and so long as the preacher is 'clever' and 'earnest,' hundreds seem to think it must be all right, and call you dreadfully 'narrow and uncharitable' if you hint that he is unsound...All of this is sad, very sad."

Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun! Therefore, let us leave off the novel and cling to that which is eternal.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pray for Pastors in India

This morning I received the following report from the Voice of the Martyrs. Please join me in praying for our brothers in India:

"On November 25, Pastor Joemon, Pastor Jojo and another believer were stripped of their clothes, tied to a pole and beaten after a worship service at Christ Vision church was raided in the Hassan district of Karnataka. According to a Compass Direct news report, when police arrived several hours later, they took the Christians to the police station and charged the pastors with forcibly converting Hindus to Christianity. The Christians have reportedly refused to press charges, saying they have forgiven their attackers. Pray for the full recovery of those injured and for endurance for them to remain faithful despite this attack. Pray for Christian converts in India who are facing pressure to renounce their faith. Psalm 107:2"

Monday, December 03, 2007

MacArthur on the Emergent Church

A friend of mine forwarded the following article to me this morning, and I found it a fascinating read. I think it will definitely be worth a few minutes of your time:

MacArthur: The Emergent Church is a Form of Paganism
Paul Edwards

Paul Edwards, host of "The Paul Edwards Program" on WLQV in Detroit, interviewed pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church John MacArthur about the emerging church movement in America. Paul begins the interview by asking Pastor John to respond to a radio interview with prominent emerging church leader Doug Pagitt. In the clip from October 22, 2007, Pagitt denied that there is a place of eternal conscious torment for persons who die apart from faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul Edwards: Help me with this--the emerging church prides itself on conversation, having a conversation, so let's have a conversation. How can you have a conversation with someone, when you're not even speaking the same language?

John MacArthur: Let me just cut to the chase on this one: [Doug] Pagitt is a Universalist. What he was saying is real simple. He was saying when you die your spirit goes to God and judgment means that whatever was not right about you, whatever was bad about you, whatever was substantially lacking about you, gets all resolved. It doesn't matter whether you're a Buddhist, a Hindu or a Muslim--doesn't matter whether you're a Christian really; we're all going to end up in this wonderful, warm and fuzzy relationship with God. That's just classic universalism.

I think you know it's most helpful, Paul, to go back and kind of recast how we view these people. He's not a pastor; he's not a Christian; that's not a church. When you call yourself a Christian and you call yourself a pastor and you say you have a church, all of that has to be--to be legitimate--defined biblically. And if it's not, that's not a church and you're not a pastor and you're not even a Christian.

What you have here is a form of false religion ... A form of paganism that basically wants to be thought of as Christian because it gains a certain ground. But the underlying bottom line of this whole emerging movement is they don't believe in any doctrine, they don't believe in any theology. They don't want to be forced to interpret anything in scripture a certain way and the out is, "Well the Bible isn't clear anyway." In other words, we don't know what it means; we can't know what it means.

Brian McLaren says nobody has ever gotten it right--we haven't got it right now--so let's not make an issue out of anything. Let's just be open to everything. Let's not take a position on theology, or for that matter, on morality or behavior because, hey, there's no judgment anyway so we're all going to end up in God in some ethereal, eternal relationship. And that's just non-Christian. It is blatantly, flagrantly non-Christian. It's as non-Christian as any false religion.

Edwards: [When "Emergents" and many seeker-sensitive church advocates say "We do church a certain way,"] it seems to me that they do it by totally ignoring the book of Acts and the Epistles.

MacArthur: I'm going to seem anachronistic if not an outright dinosaur at this point. I believe the church has one function, and that is to guard the truth, to proclaim the truth and to live the truth. So you take the Word of God, you teach it, you proclaim it, you protect it, you defend it, and you live it, and that's a church. The Word of God rightly divided, rightly understood.

That's not the idea in a seeker church; that's not the idea certainly in an emerging church. Everything becomes style and contextualization and everything is built around the manipulation of people's hot buttons as if we were selling a product like any other product in our culture. This fails to understand that the only real power in the spiritual realm is Divine and that God works His power through His truth, and that's all that matters.

I think the illusion of success is created by crowds. You've probably heard recently that Bill Hybels, who is the guru of the seeker movement, has openly confessed that they did a big survey and found they've been doing it wrong.

Edwards: "We made a mistake," he said.

MacArthur: Yes, we made a mistake. And so, the solution is--one of the lines in the statement was--we gotta get a blank piece of paper and start all over again. That's exactly the problem. Why do you want a blank piece of paper when you have all kinds of paper full with the Word of God?

Edwards: Right.

MacArthur: If you want a biblical mandate and you want to do ministry biblically, you teach and preach the Word. I don't think it matters whether you have smoke and mirrors. I don't think it matters whether you wear a tie, or don't wear a tie, whether you wear a black T-shirt and holes in your knees or a blue suit. (I think there are reasons to go with the suit rather the grunge approach--of dignity, respect, sober mindedness, seriousness, loftiness, etc, etc.)

At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that we proclaim the Word of God. Look, I've been doing this for so long, and I haven't changed anything. Contexts come, contexts go; fads come, fads go; styles come, styles go. I just keep doing the same thing. We show up on Sunday morning, we sing a little bit, we pray, we open the Word of God and explain His meaning to the people. The people just keep coming and coming and what I say goes around the world, on radio, and then it gets transferred into 50 languages and books and commentaries because [the Word] knows no boundaries. It knows no cultural restraint, because the Word of God is transcendent.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Evangelism Sites

This morning I preached about evangelists and evangelism from Ephesians 4:11, and I said that evangelists are those who are gifted to harvest souls and equip the rest of the church to share the gospel. I said that for the majority of the church that's not gifted in evangelism, our part is to submit ourselves to these who have been given this gift and let them equip us.

Thus, I mentioned a couple of websites that are particularly excellent for equipping and I challenged people to spend 30-60 minutes per week on these sites. Here are the sites I mentioned, I hope you will take time to check them out and grow in your passion and skills for evangelism.

Ray Comfort, www.wayofthemaster.com
Lee Strobel, www.leestrobel.com
Hank Henegraff, www.equip.org
R. C. Sproul, www.ligonier.org

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Black KKK

Earlier this week NFL star Sean Taylor was shot and killed. I just read an amazing reaction to this incident and the media coverage thereof. It's by award-winning Kansas City Star writer Jason Whitlock, and though it's long, believe me it's worth a read.

You can access the article here.

Praying for Jan Korbel

Though Glory of Christ Baptist Church is brand-new and small, we have already begun supporting a missionary. Her name is Jan Korbel and she is raising support to go to Kenya where she will be part of a ministry called Care of Creation. Care of Creation is a ministry that is sharing the gospel with West Africans (and hopefully many others) by teaching them how to rebuild and care for their land. Much of Africa has been truly devastated because of mal-care, so much so that some leaders are saying the environmental crisis in Africa is greater than the AIDS crisis--wow, that's serious.

I received Jan's monthly letter this morning and on it she included her blog address. If you have some time will you please look at her blog and pray for her as she continues raising support. You can access her blog here. She's up to 71% of her total needs now, and she cannot depart until she has raised 100%.

The Lord never wastes a difficulty. He's always using circumstances to build our faith and make his will clear. So pray for Jan, not only that her support comes in but that she learns all the lessons she's supposed to learn before she goes.

Jan, may your fellowship with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, be sweet in these days as you learn to trust him and as he, more and more, becomes your only portion.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Doctrine of Election

Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting with several other church planters from around the Twin Cities. There were supposed to be some guys there from other parts of the country, but being a holiday weekend they couldn't find affordable plane fares! We missed them all, but the Lord knows what he's doing!

As I said in my blog yesterday, it was my turn to bring the devotional and, by assignment, I led us to reflect on the third part of Bethlehem Baptist Church's Elder Affirmation of Faith which I will again quote:


3. God’s Eternal Purpose and Election

3.1 We believe that God, from all eternity, in order to display the full extent of His glory for the eternal and ever-increasing enjoyment of all who love Him, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His will, freely and unchangeably ordain and foreknow whatever comes to pass.

3.2 We believe that God upholds and governs all things – from galaxies to subatomic particles, from the forces of nature to the movements of nations, and from the public plans of politicians to the secret acts of solitary persons – all in accord with His eternal, all-wise purposes to glorify Himself, yet in such a way that He never sins, nor ever condemns a person unjustly; but that His ordaining and governing all things is compatible with the moral accountability of all persons created in His image.

3.3 We believe that God’s election is an unconditional act of free grace which was given through His Son Christ Jesus before the world began. By this act God chose, before the foundation of the world, those who would be delivered from bondage to sin and brought to repentance and saving faith in His Son Christ Jesus.


Section 3.1 tells us both the purpose and the plan of God. The purpose of God is to display the fullness of his glory for the joy of our souls. The plan of God is to do so by ordaining and foreknowing all things. I don't know about you, but joy was not my initial reaction when I first heard the doctrines of predestination and election and the foreknowledge of God. It was very difficult for me to conceive how a holy and loving God could have foreordained everything, including evil and the destinies of every person who has ever lived.

But in the end, the sheer amount of texts in the Bible that teach these doctrines, and much more the persuasiveness of these texts, overwhelmed my doubts. I came to a place in my life, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, where I either had to reject the Bible or explain away so many texts or simply believe what the Bible says. Obviously, the third option was the only option and I chose to embrace these doctrines. Over time they have become exceedingly sweet to me, although I'll have to explain why this is so some other time.

For now I want to point out that once you acknowledge the absolute foreknowledge of God his sovereignty over all things is implied. This is why section 3.2 expounds on God's sovereignty over all things, and why section 3.3 expounds on God's sovereignty over the salvation of human souls.

The key point I made yesterday, and that I want to make here in this blog entry, is that God's sovereignty over all things was specifically designed to produce great joy in our hearts, because his sovereignty over all things is tantamount to the display of his glory.

Where are you with your knowledge and embrace of these precious doctrines? Are these doctrines producing joy in your soul? If so, how so?

You can access some great resources to help you understand and rejoice in these doctrines here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Church Planting & the Doctrine of Election

About once per month I meet with several other church planters from around the country who, like me, have been trained and sponsored by Bethlehem Baptist Church. This network is called "Treasuring Christ Together," or TCT for short. Today is that once per month, and it's my turn to bring the devotional.

As TCT church planters we are required (and gladly so) to embrace Bethlehem's Elder Affirmation of Faith. You can read this Affirmation here. Thus, I was asked to bring a meditation on section three of that affirmation which is entitled God's Purpose and Election. For today I want to post the text of that section (without the substantial footnotes), and then in coming days I hope to summarize my devotional and share a little bit about the interaction with the other pastors.

Please pray for us today, if you're able! I appreciate the partnership.

3. God’s Eternal Purpose and Election

3.1 We believe that God, from all eternity, in order to display the full extent of His glory for the eternal and ever-increasing enjoyment of all who love Him, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His will, freely and unchangeably ordain and foreknow whatever comes to pass.

3.2 We believe that God upholds and governs all things – from galaxies to subatomic particles, from the forces of nature to the movements of nations, and from the public plans of politicians to the secret acts of solitary persons – all in accord with His eternal, all-wise purposes to glorify Himself, yet in such a way that He never sins, nor ever condemns a person unjustly; but that His ordaining and governing all things is compatible with the moral accountability of all persons created in His image.

3.3 We believe that God’s election is an unconditional act of free grace which was given through His Son Christ Jesus before the world began. By this act God chose, before the foundation of the world, those who would be delivered from bondage to sin and brought to repentance and saving faith in His Son Christ Jesus.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving Meditation: Part 3

What Does the Bible Instruct Us to be Thankful For?

If you were to peruse the 150 or so verses in the Bible that speak of thanksgiving, you would find that the Bible mostly instructs us to thank God for who He is and what He does. For example, we are to thank Him for His power and might over creation (1 Chronicles 29:13), for His faithful defense and protection (Psalm 28:7), for His work of salvation (Romans 6:17), for the victory that He always brings to His people and will complete for them on that great and final day (2 Corinthians 2:14 & 1 Corinthians 15:57), and for his eternal lovingkindness (1 Chronicles 16:34).

Thanksgiving in the Bible is radically God-centered. It’s all about God. And this helps us to interpret what the Bible means when it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “…in EVERYTHING give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In other words, learn to see and savor what God is doing in every circumstance and aspect of life and give Him thanks for what you see.

Thank God, not so much that you’re having a turkey dinner, but that God provided the food for you and gave you the sense of taste with which to savor each and every bite. Thank God, not so much that you’re with family, but that He gave you this family and you to them. Thank God, not so much that you’re team is winning, but that He gave humans the ability to make up games and play them with passion. Thank God, not so much that you have a few days off, but that He provided them for you to rest or spend time with your family or get a few things done around the house.

Learn to see and savor God in all things, to take joy in Him in all things, and to express your thanks and praise to Him for all things. Why? That He may be greatly glorified among all peoples!

If we will have eyes to see and ears to hear, this Thanksgiving can be for us the beginning of a new way of life. And indeed, that is my prayer for us all:

Our heavenly Father, please give us eyes to see you in all things this Thanksgiving, and well beyond. Give us new hearts that long to see and savor your glory and greatness and goodness, for truly there is nothing else in all creation that is worthy of our attention and affection. Give us hearts full of joy at who You are and what You do, that we might speak our thanks both privately and publicly to the end that You will be glorified in all the earth. Thank You for Your kind answers to our prayer. In Jesus Name and for Your glory we pray, Amen.

Pastor Charlie

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Meditation: Part 2

Why Does the Bible Instruct us to be Thankful?

Second Corinthians 4:15 perfectly summarizes the answer to this question: “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” In other words, all of the good gifts and graces of God are given to us for our benefit and satisfaction and joy, so that we may thank and praise Him for who He is and what He does, so that He will be greatly glorified among all peoples! The Bible instructs us to be thankful because God wants us to have great joy in Him and to greatly glorify Him by speaking of that joy.

Now, this gives rise to two other questions, namely, How do thanksgiving and joy relate to one another? and How does joy produce glory for God? First, thanksgiving, when it is earnest, is simply a response to finding benefit and satisfaction and joy in something or someone. When I thank my wife Kim for doing something for me, it’s not because I’m obligated to do so—it’s because I find so much joy in the fact that she wants to do life with me and treat me kindly and do nice things for me. I thank her, both privately and publicly, because I take great joy in doing life with her!

Likewise, when we see something of the glory or greatness or goodness of God in our lives, we thank Him because we take so much joy in the fact that He is God and that He loves us and that He took the time to reveal things about Himself to us. We thank Him, both privately and publicly, because we take great joy in doing life with Him!

So, to reiterate, thanksgiving, when it is earnest, is simply a response to finding benefit and satisfaction and joy in something or someone.

It should be obvious, then, how our joy produces glory for God. As we delight in Him to the extent that our hearts overflow with thanksgiving and we speak of our delight in the presence of others, the praise and honor goes to God. One day a family member of mine commented, “I’m so impressed with how you’ve turned your life around.” To which I joyfully responded, “I appreciate that, but I didn’t do it—Jesus did.” I wasn’t trying to one up her or anything of the sort, I was simply speaking the truth with joy, and it gave glory to God.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Meditation: Part 1

A couple of years ago I wrote a meditation for thanksgiving, and over the next couple of days I'm going to post that piece by piece. And as I post it I will pray that God blesses you, not only with a good holiday, but with a true spirit of thanksgiving.

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting!" (1 Chronicles 16:34).

Thanksgiving is a time when we, as Americans, pause to reflect on our nation’s history and “give thanks” for a pilgrim people who dared to venture into a strange land, for a native people who had already lived here for centuries, and for a time when they peacefully gathered around a table and enjoyed a common feast. It is a time when we give thanks for a similar feast and family gatherings and football games and a four-day weekend.

And it can also be a time when we pause to reflect on what life could be like if we lived with an attitude of thanksgiving.

So it is that I came to ask myself these questions over the last week: What does the Bible mean when it instructs us to be thankful? Why does the Bible instruct us to be thankful? and What does the Bible instruct us to be thankful for? What follows is the outcome of my study into these questions.

What Does the Bible Mean When it Instructs us to be Thankful?

In the original languages of the Bible, there are a couple of key words that are translated “thanks” or “thanksgiving.” The Old Testament Hebrew word is pronounced “yadah” and it essentially means “to confess,” in the sense of recognizing and declaring the truth about something whether good or bad. If we have sinned, we recognize what we have done and “yadah” or confess or declare it openly. Conversely, if we see something good or beautiful or breath-taking in the Word of God or the character of God or the works of God, we “yadah” or confess or declare it openly as well. So, to be thankful is to confess the truth about something with gladness and gratefulness and sincerity—it is to praise the object of our thanks.

The New Testament Greek word for “thanks” is pronounced “eucharisteƍ,” and it literally means “to offer a good gift.” More generally, it means to be grateful and appreciative for something to the extent that we verbalize our thoughts and feelings—it means to praise the object of our thanks.

So, when the Bible instructs us to be thankful, it is encouraging us to see and savor the glory and greatness and goodness of God, and then to thank and praise Him for what we’ve seen. This leads us to the second question…

...which we'll deal with tomorrow, Lord willing!

Pray for North Korea

I received the following report from Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) in my in-box this morning. Let's be thankful for the freedom God has given us, and let's remember Hebrews 13:3, "Remember those in prison as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated since you also are in the body."


In September, the National Security Service of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) announced the arrest of several "foreign spies" and "native citizens working for a foreign intelligence service." VOM sources say those arrested are Christians and not spies. VOM sources have identified the following nine Christians who have disappeared and are believed to have been arrested by government authorities: Mr. Chul Huh (34), Mr. Chun-Il Jang (39), Mr. Myung-Chul Kim (36), Ms. Young-Su Jin (32), Mr. Nam-Suk Kang (48), Mr. San-Ho Kang (36), Mr. Suk-Chun Suh (29), Ms. Mi-Hae Park (30) and Ms. Young-Yae Lee (37). The whereabouts of these individuals is unknown. It is possible they have already been tried and executed. Pray the loved ones of those arrested will find peace in the fact that God works all things for the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose. Pray that North Korea's leaders will come to repentance and faith in Christ. Romans 8:28, Psalm 91

Monday, November 19, 2007

Update on Brother-in-Law

I received an e-mail from a friend in Iceland today--how many people do you know who have a friend in Iceland! She asked about my brother-in-law's condition, and helped me to realized I had never posted an update of what happened with him.

The fear was that he had a catastrophic heart condition that would qualify him as a candidate for a heart transplant. If he had the condition there would be no surgical solution, and if they could not find a heart to replace his he would, one day, experience total heart failure and die. Since he has three small children this was difficult news to hear.

Well, praise the Lord, the news came back that, though he does have some heart issues, he does not have the catastrophic condition they feared he might have! They told that he still might have to have open heart surgery some day, but he said that compared to what he was facing this seemed to him like a walk in the park.

Thank you so much for praying with us for Jason, we really appreciate your partnership in this. Please continue praying for him that God would remove even the condition that he does have for the glory of His name. And that one way or the other God would continue to build Jason's faith and give him a heart of worship and adoration for the Lord.

Thanks again!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Godly Heritage

I had lunch today with my grandmother-in-law who just turned 87 and still loves Jesus. For many years we've had a picture of her grandmother in a prominent place in our living room. In the picture great-great-grandma is sitting at her dining room table praying with her Bible open.

Grandma tells us that she was a great prayer warrior. She prayed everyday for every person in the family, and she prayed about everything all the time. In fact, just before the picture was taken she was sitting at her dining room table praying for food. Just at that moment Kim's grandpa brought over a couple of bags of groceries and noticed her praying. She didn't hear him come in, so he sneaked out, grabbed his camera, sneaked back in and snapped the shot.

That picture has become a lasting memento in our family of the heritage God has given us, and it has reminded us to devote ourselves to prayer.

Though great-great-grandma neither knew nor prayed for Kim and me by name, I've got to believe that a woman like her even prayed for family yet to be born. But one way or the other we know for a fact that she prayed for grandma who in turn now prays for us.

It's really amazing to have this kind of heritage in our family, and I'm deeply thankful for it. May the Lord be gracious to us and cause our great-great-grandchildren to love him with all of their heart and soul and mind and strength, as we devote ourselves to prayer for generations yet to be born.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thank God for our Freedom Today

As Americans we take our religious freedom for granted. Let's remember to thank God for it today! Here's one picture of what it's like to be a Christian in Iran:

"In July 2007, an Iranian Christian couple was sentenced by the Justice Court of Revolution to be whipped, two years after they were accused of attending a house church. According to Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN), "The couple was arrested on September 21, 2005, by government agents. They had gathered in a house, in a town northwest of Tehran (gohar dasht) for their regular prayer and devotional time." The FCNN reported, the woman was born into a Christian Assyrian-Iranian family, while the man converted to Christianity long before their marriage. Following the arrest in 2005, the couple was required to check in with authorities on a regular basis until the court decided their punishment. FCNN reported that on one occasion when the wife met with authorities, she was abused and decided not to return. According to FCNN, "After a few days, in September 2007, two female and four male agents went to this couple's house and showed them a letter from the court saying they should execute the sentence of whipping right there in their house. This couple is under high mental pressure right now." The Voice of the Martyrs is providing assistance to this couple. Pray for this couple and Christians in Iran who face great challenges because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Ask that the Holy Spirit will give them peace, health and protection during this difficult time" (Psalm 23; 2 Timothy 1:7; Voice of the Martyrs weekly e-mail report).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Using the Lord's Name in Vain

Twice in the last two weeks I have received a long e-mail letter from a person who claims to be a Christian, and attempts to bolster his/her case by using Christian language including, in several ways, the name of the Lord. The point of the letter is that the person has money stuck in an African bank account somewhere and he/she wants to transfer that money into my account so that he/she can access it, and of course--in the name of the Lord--I'll receive my fair share for my services.

This is a well known scam. What they're really trying to do is get me to give them my bank account number so that they can bleed me dry, and they're using the name of Almighty God to do it. Oh how I pray that they will repent before they have to face God and answer for what they have done. It is no small thing to use the name of the Lord in vain, and fierce wrath awaits those who do so and do not repent.

Both times I've received the letter I've prayed for these people, but this morning a question occurred to me that really pierced my heart: Is there any way that I am using the name of the Lord in vain, even if subtly, even if unconsciously? If so, oh Lord, please show me the error of my ways and grant me a humble heart that I might repent!

Exodus 20:7--"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pray for Columbia

I received the following report yesterday from Voice of the Martyrs (www.persecution.com):

"Pastor Diego Armando Bejarano, 27, was killed recently in the region west of Bogota. Witnesses say hooded men took Bejarano by force and stabbed him. The motives for the killing are unknown; however, it is common knowledge guerrillas groups view Protestant pastors who encroach on territory under their control as military objectives. In the last 10 years, guerrillas have assassinated 133 pastors, Protestant missionaries and Catholic priests, according to the Evangelical Council of Colombia. Ask God to encourage and minister to the pastor's family and church as they mourn. Pray his testimony draws his attackers and nonbelievers into the knowledge of Jesus Christ."

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted...Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:4, 11-12)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

An Outrageous Decision Calls for Action

I just received this notice from the American Center for Law and Justice, Jay Sekulow's organization, and I want to share it with you. Oh Friends, let us intercede with passion for our land!


"Now, I want to call your attention to another serious issue where your voice can make a real difference because what is happening right now in Portland, Maine, should actually concern you. The Portland School Committee has overwhelmingly voted to begin distributing prescription birth control pills and patches to students in Grades 6 through 8 at King Middle School.

"Add your name immediately to our online Petition to Protect Children. We must send a powerful, united message to the school district in question: Change this troubling policy immediately and hand the responsibility of school-aged children back to their parents. It is beyond disconcerting to think that students - as young as 11 years old - can freely obtain a full range of prescription contraceptives at school ... even without their parents' permission.

"This is an outrage that cannot be ignored! Your parental authority could very well be on the line. What happens at this school could have tremendous repercussions for you and your children and grandchildren. Yet even more troubling ... while the school district's health program is distributing contraceptives to minors, the law in Maine prohibits anyone from engaging in sexual relationships with a person under the age of 14, regardless of the age of the other person involved.

"In fact, a healthcare provider is required to report all known or suspected cases of sexual relations with minors age 13 and under to the Department of Health and Human Services. However, the Portland School Committee has taken matters into their own hands, usurping parental responsibility and state law on this issue ... not to mention sending a mixed - AND DAMAGING - message to their students.

"Add your name to our online PETITION TO PROTECT CHILDREN right now and demand that this disturbing reproductive health services policy be immediately revoked at King Middle School. We are at work on this troubling situation. I commissioned some of our senior lawyers to prepare a legal memorandum to the school concerning the policy. Our Legal Director for Maine, Steve Whiting, will be present at the School Board Committee hearing at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 7th. We sent a demand letter to school officials requesting that this damaging policy be changed.

"It is outrageous that young, impressionable students can get immediate access to prescription medicines, including birth control, without parental consent. Let's end this radical move right now before the headline reads: Middle school birth control plan coming to a school near YOU."

Love & Hate in Proverbs 8

This morning in my quiet time I meditated on Proverbs 8:13 and 8:34-36:

"The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate...Blessed is the one who listens to me [wisdom], watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death."

Life is not a matter of loving OR hating; life is a matter of choosing what we will love and what we will hate. Oh Friends, if we only loved Christ with passion and hated sin with an equal passion we would be so much farther down the road with him.

Monday, November 05, 2007

It's Deadly to Become a Christian in Egypt

I took some time to peruse the Christianity Today website today and came across this news-brief:

"An Egyptian convert to Christianity has gone into hiding following calls for his execution. Mohammed Hegazy, the first Muslim-background believer to seek to have his religion changed on his national ID card, has been threatened by clerics and, he claims, tortured by police. Though conversion is legal according to Egyptian law, many Muslims uphold an Islamic law that proscribes death for apostates."

Pray that our brother in Christ will stay faithful unto death that he might receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10). And pray that we who live in such comfort would ever remember Hebrews 13:3, "Remember those in prison as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated since you also are in the body."

Saturday, November 03, 2007

U.S. Center for World Missions

I spent some time this morning poking around on the U.S. Center for World Missions website. If you haven't checked it out before, please do (www.uscwm.org). It will be worth your time. Here's an excerpt from their front page:

God deserves praise, glory and obedience from all peoples.

But 10,000 people groups do not yet have a community of disciples among them who can witness to His true nature.

The U.S. Center for World Mission (USCWM) is a community dedicated to making the glory of God fully known, and to bringing all the people groups on the earth to worship and obey God (as revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ). The USCWM produces and publishes resources to motivate and equip Christ's body to join Him in His Biblical purpose to "bless all the families of the earth" (Genesis 12:1-3). The USCWM also engages in a variety of activities toward ensuring, as soon as possible, that each distinct people group is "reached"—that a viable movement is established to evangelize and disciple each people group.

Churches and prospective missionaries face many obstacles to effective involvement in reaching unreached peoples. Mission agencies and field missionaries face another set of obstacles. By gathering, applying and publishing insights in each of these realms, the U.S. Center for World Mission advances shared solutions to common hindrances in the mission effort.

"You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation."
Revelation 5:9

Friday, November 02, 2007

One Day in October

What were you doing on Thursday, October 11? I was researching and writing a sermon on 1 Peter 2:9, first at the local Caribou Coffee and then later in the comfort of my prayer room at home. It was a blessed day in the Lord--and it was quite comfortable.

Not so for our brother in Christ Hua Huiqi:

"On October 11, prominent house church leader, Hua Huiqi, was repeatedly attacked and beaten by police at his home. According to China Aid Association, 'Hua was reading his Bible at his home despite police surrounding his house. He was sent to Beijing Tiantan Hospital, because he lost consciousness after repeated beatings from the police.' China’s Public Security Bureau (PSB) recently put Hua under house arrest. PSB officers had been surrounding his house, when they attacked him. Pastor Hua’s 77-year-old mother, Shuang Shuying, remains very ill in prison, serving a two-year sentence. Voice of the Martyrs contacts say she is being held hostage by police in order to put pressure on Pastor Hua to reveal names and information of believers. Pray for Hua’s speedy recovery and for God to minister and encourage him while he is in the hospital. Ask the Holy Spirit to convict his attackers and draw them into the knowledge of Jesus Christ" (www.persecution.com, "Top Story," November 2, 2007).

Whatever you did on October 11, and whatever you're doing today, I pray that you, like me, will get on your knees and ask God to cause you to so love him that you will not fear the consequences of sharing his mercy and love in Christ. I pray that you, like me, will ask God for forgiveness for your timidity in Christ, and ask him to fill you with godly, gentle, loving, bold courage to tell the truth about him. I pray that you, like me, will join thousands of others and pray for his mercy and strength to be on the Chinese House Church movement.

"Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Church Planting is Difficult!

Once per month Kevin Feder (Pastor for Family Discipleship at Glory of Christ) and I meet with other church planters from around the country who have been supported/sponsored by Bethlehem Baptist Church. One of those guys, Sean Cordell, has become a real hero of mine over the last several years.

Sean and his team are planting a church in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. It's 75% African-American and Sean and his team are 100% white. They have a real passion to develop a multi-ethnic church. They have had a very difficult time finding a stable place to worship. In fact, Sean said on Monday that, in a span of about two years, his church has moved seven times to six different locations. Wow, that's difficult.

During that time, this little church has poured itself into a group of folks that have a heart to go over seas in full-time ministry. They are on the verge of sending about 20 missionaries onto the field--did you hear that? A church of a little more than 100 persons, meeting in a very difficult area with no stable meeting place for over two years, and they're just about to send 20 missionaries into the world! I am amazed at the grace of God on this church.

And as if this wasn't impossible enough, Treasuring Christ Community Church insists that each missionary develop a team and relocate to the field with that team. This is healthy missions philosophy but it takes a tremendous amount of time, effort, and money. But they have stuck to their guns and they're about to bear the fruit of their faith, patience, and labor.

Friends, how I pray with all my heart that we would learn to look to heros like Sean Cordell and let them inspire us to pursue higher things than this culture would have us pursue. How I pray that we would die to the world and our flesh, take up our crosses and follow Jesus all the way. How I pray that we would know the joy of total dedication to the person and beauty and purposes of God.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Please Pray for Our Men's Retreat

This weekend the men of Glory of Christ Baptist Church will gather at Miracle Bible Camp, Lord willing, to commune with God, commune with one another, feed on the Word, and play together. We'll be singing songs old and new, we'll be meditating pretty deeply on 2 Timothy 2:15, we'll be praying and sharing with one another, and we'll be shooting guns, playing floor hockey, baseball, football, and whatever else meets our fancy.

And by the way, this is all set to take place on Woman Lake--no joke!!!

Our aim in every single thing we will do is to bask in the glory of God together and to build and maintain the unity of the Spirit in he bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). The more I've prayed for the retreat this week, the more I've had a rising sense of the importance of it in the life of our church.

So, please if you will, pray with us that God will meet us there and have his way with us. I sincerely appreciate your partnership in this labor of love.

For the glory of Christ,
Charlie

Monday, October 22, 2007

Please Pray for my Brother-In-Law

When he was a kid, Kim's brother Jason had cancer. Because of this he had to have three major surgeries in two years, one of which was to remove one of his lungs. He affectionately refers to himself as the "one-lung-son."

As positive as Jason is about his past, the surgeries took their toll. Over the last couple of weeks he's been having some chest and arm pains and thus he went to see the doctor last week. The initial tests turned out well, but to be sure they feel they need to look directly into his heart. Thus, today he is underg0ing that procedure and Rachel and I are going over to watch his three little children so that his wife, Carla, can be with him.

If you have a moment, please pray for him and his family. They are both believers and are raising their children in the ways of the Lord.

Thanks for your partnership!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

On Being a "House of Prayer": Part 2

Last Wednesday night at Glory of Christ Baptist Church we continued our discussion of why we ought to strive to be a house of prayer for all peoples. I began by reminded those gathered of the first reason: God's house is a house of prayer for all people, and we are that house (see "On Being a 'House of Prayer': Part 1" below). Then I led to consider John 15:1-11:

"1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full."

The second reason we ought to strive to be a house of prayer for all peoples is because, as a church, we are utterly dependent upon God. I have often spoken of prayer as a barometer by which are conscious dependence upon God is measured. In actual terms we are 100% dependent upon him for every thing. But one of the key questions of life is this: Are we living in such a way that acknowledges our actual dependence upon God?

The amount of time a person spends in prayer, in communing with God in all circumstances of life, is the answer to this question.

Thus, we want to be a church that is so deeply conscious of our dependence upon God that we strive for the biblical goal of praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Culture & Crime

I received an e-mail newsletter today from the President of Prison Fellowship Ministries, Mark Early. You may or may not appreciate the article but I hope you agree that we evangelicals must think more, and better, about how to apply the gospel to vast social problems. Of course, we must avoid the mistakes of Walter Rauschenbusch and his followers, but we must not continue to turn a blind eye to issues like systemic justice and injustice.

Here's the article:

I recently told you that events in Jena, Louisiana, raised important questions about the role of race in our criminal justice system. But there's more to this issue than just race—there is a cultural dimension to the problem as well.

That cultural dimension was recently articulated by the distinguished sociologist and historian Orlando Patterson of Harvard. In a Sunday New York Times op-ed, Patterson cites the numbers—African-Americans make up 13 percent of the general population, but 50 percent of those in prison. He asks: "How, after decades of undeniable racial progress, did we end up with this virtual gulag of racial incarceration?"

Part of the answer undeniably lies in the way that our laws, especially our drug laws, are enforced. As Patterson writes, our criminal justice system "unfairly focuses on drug offenses and other crimes more likely to be committed by blacks . . ."

Combine this with "draconian mandatory sentencing" laws, and there is little wonder that so many young black men are behind bars. Still, the sad truth is that even if racism were eradicated from our criminal justice system, young black men would still form a disproportionate percentage of prisoners.

Why? Patterson points the finger at what he calls a "crisis in relations between men and women of all classes." The result of this is the "catastrophic state of black family life, especially among the poor."

This "catastrophic state" is best illustrated by the fact that "some 70 percent of black babies are born to single mothers." Patterson writes that this "absence of fathers" is "undoubtedly a major cause of youth delinquency." As a result of this absence of fathers, "far too many African-Americans" face a "lack of paternal support and discipline." Single mothers are forced to work "regardless of the effect on their children's care." This leaves their children vulnerable to gangs, which often function as "parental substitutes" and what Patterson calls the "ghetto-fabulous culture of the streets."

These conditions then combine with the criminal justice system to make "hardened criminals of nonviolent drug offenders." The result is a self-perpetuating "vicious cycle" that produces young men who are "unemployable, unreformable, and unmarriageable."

These are hard words from Patterson, not only for African-Americans like Patterson, but for all of us. The "catastrophic state" Patterson writes about is the result of cultural trends and ideas about the family that originated outside inner-city neighborhoods. As political scientist James Q. Wilson has pointed out, the poor and marginalized were simply more vulnerable to these forces.
Whatever the causes, Christians cannot stand by and do nothing while this "vicious cycle" perpetuates itself.

Prison Fellowship is dedicated to breaking the cycle: by working for a more just criminal justice system and through Angel Tree, which reaches out to the most vulnerable victims of this cycle, the children of inmates. And here at BreakPoint, we seek to equip Christians to oppose the false values and ideas that help to cause so much misery.

A great deal has gone wrong to bring us where we are today. It is time for God's people to dedicate themselves to setting things aright.

Monday, October 15, 2007

On the Providence & Being of God

I've just begun reading Stephen Charnock's massive treatise on God called The Existence and Attributes of God (Baker Books, Grand Rapids: 19996). It was written some 154 years ago and will, I'm sure, prove a sumptuous feast on the excellencies of God.

I was taken straight away with something he said in the seventh paragraph of the book:

"Those that deny the providence of God, do in effect deny the being of God; for they strip him of that wisdom, goodness, tenderness, mercy, justice, righteousness, which are the glory of the Deity. And that principle, of a greedy desire to be uncontrolled in their lusts, which induceth men to a denial of Providence, that thereby they might stifle those seeds of fear which infect and embitter their sinful pleasures, may as well lead them to deny that there is any such being as a God. That at one blow, their fears may be dashed all in pieces and dissolved by the removal of the foundation: as men who desire liberty to commit works of darkness, would not have the lights in the house dimmed, but extinguished. What men say against Providence, because they would have no check in their lusts, they may say in their hearts against the existence of God upon the same account; little difference between the dissenting from the one and disowning the other" (page 24).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Lesson for Preachers

This morning, among other things, I read Nehemiah chapter 8. The book of Nehemiah, as you probably know, tells the story of the exiles who returned from Babylon to Palestine to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, the temple of God, and the Jewish society. Chapter 8 tells the story of of Ezra, one of the leading religious figures of that time, reading the books of the Law to the people.

The text says that he read "from early morning until midday," and that "the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law" (v. 3). And then near the end of the chapter it says this: "Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading."

As a preacher, this is one of my favorite texts in all the Bible. So many today are trying to make the Bible more palatable for people by preaching topically on subjects they think the people will care about. So many are trying to make the Bible more marketable. But the main problem I have with this approach is that it causes the preacher to skip over difficult and important things that God means to communicate to his people. It is a preacher-centered way of preaching, rather than a God-centered way of preaching, in that it puts the ingenuity of the preacher above the wisdom of the Word of God.

Our job as preachers is two-fold: (1) to read the Word of God clearly for the people, and (2) to explain what has been read so that the people understand what it means and how it applies to their lives. That's it!

The Word of God, clearly read and helpfully explained, has great power to change people's lives, including the preacher's life. We should trust in God and his Word and not in our own ingenuity and that of others. God makes no promises about our ingenuity, but about his Word he says things like this:

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

On Being a "House of Prayer": Part 1

Last night at Glory of Christ Church we commenced our mid-week service which is wholly dedicated to fellowship and prayer. For the next 6 or 8 weeks I will be bringing a devotional for the service which will try to show why Glory of Christ should dedicate an entire service, every week, to prayer. Below is a summary of the first devotional. I hope to post summaries of each of the subsequent devotionals on Thursday mornings.

Why should Glory of Christ seek to be a house of prayer? Why should every Christian seek to be a house of prayer? Because God’s house is a house of prayer, and we are his house.

I get the idea that God’s house is a house of prayer from Isaiah 56:6-8: “6 ‘And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.’ 8 The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, ‘I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.’”

When Isaiah penned these words, he was referring to a physical “house,” the temple of God in Jerusalem. But now that Jesus Christ has come and that, by his grace, we have believed in him, we are God’s temple. Here are a few passages that show that:

1 Corinthians 3:16-17: “16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Ephesians 2:19-22: “19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

1 Peter 2:4-5: “4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

The nature of God’s temple has changed since the days of Isaiah, but his vision for his temple has not: he wills that it be a house of prayer for all peoples, and thus we above all people ought to be a praying people. The aroma of prayer ought to rise from our hearts every moment of every day. We ought to pray without ceasing, as we ever commune with God and call upon him in all circumstances of life.

And as we do, we will know the joy of the Lord because in Isaiah 56:7 the Lord promises to fill us with joy in his house of prayer! What is the source of this joy? It is God himself. As the people of God delight themselves in the being of God—not the blessings of God, but in God himself—they are filled with joy inexpressible and everlasting, and obeying this great and gracious God, even to their deaths, is the thing they long to do.

To put this another way, to build a house of prayer is to build a house of joy. To be a person of prayer is to be a person of joy.

And Jesus Christ was very serious about this joy in the house of God. Look at how he reacted when religious leaders perverted God’s vision for the sake of financial gain:

Mark 11:15-17: “15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, ‘Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”? But you have made it a den of robbers.’”

Jesus is still that passionate about prayer and about joy in God’s house of prayer. He will protect this vision with fierce vengeance!

In sum, the reason we are dedicating an entire service to prayer at Glory of Christ is because God’s house is a house of prayer. Therefore, it is the nature of a Christian person to be prayerful, and it is the nature of a Christian church to be prayerful as well. We simply must learn what it means to live a life where the admonitions of Scripture characterize our manner of life: “Devote yourselves to prayer,” “pray without ceasing,” “pray and do not lose heart.”

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

White Horse Inn

When I was a sophomore in college I stumbled across a radio program called the White Horse Inn. It's hosted by some professors and pastors who hail from the reformed camp, and I always find myself invigorated and educated when I listen to it.

They post each program on the web now, and I strongly encourage you to check them out at www.whitehorseinn.org.

They also produce a periodical called Modern Reformation that I find very uplifting and helpful.

Let me know what you think!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Controversy in Australia

Generally speaking, I don’t like forwarded messages, especially the ones that lay it on thick: “If you care at all about ________, then you will forward this message. Otherwise you are a _________. “ I still have a bit of a rebellious streak in me, and so when I read a threat like that I refuse to forward it just on principle!

But every once in a while I read a forwarded message that’s worth my time. That happened this morning. A good friend of mine, Danny Kain, sent me a brief report on some things that Australian government officials said about Muslims in their country. And although I would have been more measured with my comments, I think I’m in agreement with the basic thrust of what they said.

Here’s the text of the report:

Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to get out of Australia , as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks. A day after a group of mainstream Muslim leaders pledged loyalty to Australia and her Queen at a special meeting with Prime Minister John Howard, he and his Ministers made it clear that extremists would face a crackdown.

Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to Howard, hinted that some radical clerics could be asked to leave the country if they did not accept that Australia was a secular state, and its laws were made by parliament. "If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you", he said on National Television.

"I'd be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia, one the Australian law and another Islamic law, that is false. If you can't agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country, which practices it, perhaps, then, that's a better option", Costello said.

Asked whether he meant radical clerics would be forced to leave, he said those with dual citizenship could possibly be asked to move to the other country.

Education Minister Brendan Nelson later told reporters that Muslims who did not want to accept local values should "clear off. Basically people who don't want to be Australians, and who don't want, to live by Australian values and understand them, well then, they can basically clear off", he said.

Separately, Howard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying he supported spy agencies monitoring the nation's mosques. Quote: “IMMIGRANTS, NOT AUSTRALIANS, MUST ADAPT. Take It Or Leave It. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians."

"However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the 'politically correct' crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others. I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to Australia. However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand. This idea of Australia being a multi-cultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. And as Australians, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle.

"This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom. We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society . Learn the language!

"Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.

"We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us. If the Southern Cross offends you, or you don't like ‘A Fair Go’, then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. By all means, keep your culture, but do not force it on others.

"This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, 'THE RIGHT TO LEAVE'.

"If you aren't happy here then LEAVE. We didn't force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

In Honor of my Nephew who Recently Died

It's been two weeks now since my nephew ended his own life, just as his father had done only four months previous. I had lived with their family (my sister, her husband, and their children) for two or three years when I was coming up, so I was close to them and these deaths have hit me hard. But in the midst of this trial, the Lord has been a rock of salvation and comfort and strength and help to me, and I love him for it.

Last Sunday, September 30, I preached a sermon that dealt with some issues surrounding this tragedy. It wasn't focused on my family but it was born out of this time of grief. I have never done this before, because I don't believe in commending myself to others, but I feel compelled to provide the link to my sermon and ask you to listen to it if you have time. The title doesn't fit the message because it wasn't the message I had intended to preach, although I stayed with the same text. When you go to the link below, look for the message entitled "The Glory of God and the Purpose of the Church."

I preach long sermons--about 40 minutes each--so know that, but if you feel so moved I think it would be worth your time to give a listen. I'm not a great preacher by any stretch of the imagination. I rank myself at a 5 out of 10, and every once in a while I deliver a 6.

But every once in a while the Lord just pours a message through my heart, and this is one of those. You can access the sermon here.

Thanks for your time, and please pray for my family as your able.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Slavery, Justice, & Christianity

Yesterday I read the July/August 2007 issue of Mission Frontiers which is published by the U.S. Center for World Mission. The title of the issue is The Global Slave Trade: A Cause for our Time. I would highly recommend this issue, as well as the publication in general.

The cover story, composed by the International Justice Mission (www.ijm.org), gives a brief overview of the problem in our times, including such jarring facts as these:

1. There are more slaves today—approximately 27 million—than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade (National Geographic report).

2. The problem exists, to some extent, in at least 112 countries worldwide (U.S. State Department report).

3. Human trafficking generates about $9.5 billion per year (U.S. State Department report).

The article goes on to suggest three ways that we, as Christian people, can engage in the work of justice for these millions of human beings: educate ourselves about the issue, explore the issue personally by taking a short-term missions trip or two, and report cases of which we are aware to IJM.

In 1991 or 1992, Kim and I were ministering in a little village in Mexico called San Vicente. One day we went out with some Mexican friends to a field where migrant laborers were gathering in the harvest. There we preached the gospel and ministered to the needs of the workers. As we were coming to the end of our time with these precious souls, two of the men approached us in tears and asked if we would help them escape. They told us that they and their families had been taken by force from inland Mexico and separated from one another. They pleaded with us, “We just want to find our mothers.”

Our hearts simply broke for them and we agreed to help them. As we traveled down that remote dirt road toward the only paved road in the area, they shared more with us about their situation. After they had been abducted, they were forced to work the fields for a major farming conglomerate for only one-dollar per day. Once per week they were brought to the local store and allowed to spend their money. The store was owned by the company for which they worked. It is rare to see Mexican men cry: these men were weeping.

As we approached the paved road we noticed two military police men standing by the side of the road. They had M-16s or something similar in their hands, and they appeared to be drunk. We prayed and kept on driving, and by the grace of God they paid absolutely no attention to us.

We took the two men into the main town, dropped them off, and never saw them again.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we simply cannot turn a blind eye to such tragedies as slavery. We must stand and speak, and even die, for those who are weak, down-trodden, and oppressed. As the Bible says in Isaiah 1:17, we must “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow.”

I close with a quote from Ralph Winter, General Director of Frontier Mission Fellowship: “Evangelicals are very well known at the Billy Graham level for talking and explaining and communicating and giving out information about Jesus Christ. Even commanding people to obey Jesus Christ. But we are not so visible when it comes to actual planning, to a presence in meetings that are now being held around the world on the really urgent suffering that is going on outrageously in many places, in many different ways” (Mission Frontiers, July/August 2007: 4).

Lord, help us display your glory in the world by laying our lives down for the helpless.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Desiring God Conference

Late last week Kim and I had the privilege of leading the prayer room ministry, along with our good friend Larry Agnew, at Desiring God's National Conference. The main speakers at this year's conference were John Piper, John MacArthur, Jerry Bridges, Randy Alcorn, and Helen Roseveare.

You can access all of the audio and video for the conference, free of charge, here.

Since we spent most of our time in the prayer room, we didn't catch many of the messages, but one we did catch was Helen Roseveare's meditation on persevering in Christ. PLEASE LISTEN TO HER MESSAGE!

Helen is an 82 year-old former missionary who is burning brighter now in Christ than she ever has. She was so inspiring to me. Oh how I long for my daughter to love Jesus at 82 years old as much as Helen does!

I thought about summarizing a few keys thoughts from her message in this post, but honestly if you just read the ideas without seeing the light of Jesus pouring through her I think her message will be weakened or lost. So again, please take the time to listen to her message. After all, what does the latest episode of your favorite TV show really matter in the end?

I'd love to hear your thoughts once you've listened to her message.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Prayer for the Church in Bulgaria

I want to pass along to you a notice I received yesterday from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ; http://www.aclj.org/):

"As an important member of the ACLJ, one who is committed to the causes of life and liberty, I knew you would want to be made aware of an incident in the European country of Bulgaria - a dangerous attack on religious freedom, in which churches were raided and church leaders were viciously beaten.

"Our European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) is engaged in this case which represents, to date, the largest religious freedoms damages claim ever argued at the European Court of Human Rights. Although this is a battle being waged on another shore, it is a fight that shares YOUR vision for religious liberty and YOUR hope for all to enjoy the right to worship without discrimination or persecution. We MUST help to protect people of faith on an international scale.

"Let me explain what is happening: In July 2004, 250 Holy Synod churches (part of the Alternative Bulgarian Orthodox Church movement) were raided by Bulgarian authorities without a court warrant. Priests were forcefully removed from their churches and beaten if they resisted arrest. The church raids and priest removals were done as part of a government crackdown on religious freedom. This violent action was condemned by the Helsinki Commission.

"Following this outrageous government action against the Alternative Orthodox Church, the ECLJ and attorney Latchezar Popov brought suit at the European Court of Human Rights (the ''Supreme Court'' of Europe). Since then, the ECLJ and its partnering European attorneys have been vigorously working on the case to be heard in European Court and filing necessary paperwork to ensure its admission.

"We have just received word that the case has, in fact, been admitted. This very involved and heated case is crucial to the protection of religious rights in Europe. The judgment could largely determine the future of critical church freedoms in Bulgaria."

Let's join our brothers & sisters in praying for God's favor in their case, and for the salvation of their prosecutors.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Peace of God, the God of Peace

Some of you know that lately I've been reading Jerehiah Burroung's book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Banner of Truth, 1964, original, 1648). Every once in a while I come across a book that makes me want plead with people to read it--this is one of those books. Please buy and carefully read this book. Believe me, it willl be worth your money and your time.

Here's how he defines contentment: "Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition." And to be well skilled in this "mystery of contentment" is "the duty, glory, and excellence of a Christian" (19).

He has much to say about what contentment is and how we are to pursue it, but the pinacle of his argument is that it is found in God--not in what God gives, but in God himself. Thereby he comes to this conclusion: the Christian is both the most satisfied and the most unsatisfied person in the world.

"If [a Christian person] had the quintessence of all the excellences of all the creatures in the world, it could not satisfy him; and yet this man can sing, and be merry and joyful when he has only a crust of bread and a little water in the world. Surely religion is a great mystery! Great is the mystery of godliness, not only in the doctrinal part of it, but in the practical part of it also...A little in the world will content a Christian for his passage, but all the world, and ten thousand times more, will not content a Christian for his portion...A soul that is capable of God can be filled with nothing else but God; nothing but God can fill a soul that is capable of God" (43).

Then he quotes Philippians 4:7-9 and concludes, "Here is what I would observe from the text, That the peace of God is not enough to a gracious heart except it may have the God of the peace" (44).

The Christian will not be satisfied with peace from God--he must have God! And when he does have God he has peace, because the peace of God is simply an inward fruit of authentic communion with God, in Christ.

Christian, are you feeling discontent? Anxious? Worried? Angry? Seek your contentment, your peace, your all in God! It is him that you need. All of the things of this world will never satisfy you--go after God, in Christ, with passion and intensity, with commitment and sincerity. Settle for no less than communion with God himself and your soul will find what it's longing for.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Massive Machine & the Pursuit of God

What takes 20 years, costs $8 billion, and the efforts of physicists from over 60 countries? Seriously, any guesses?

It’s called the Large Hadron Colider. It’s located 300 feet below the ground near the west end of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. It’s a massive, circular cylinder that is 17 miles in diameter. It has been touted as the most complicated thing human beings have ever built.

And what’s the point of it? Scientists are purposely colliding sub-atomic particles at speeds near the speed of light to see what will happen and what they can learn about the nature of matter. It amazed me to see one of the leading scientists on the project admit in print that they have no idea what the outcome of this experiment will be—I mean, can you imagine spending $8 billion for something you just hoped would be meaningful? But then again, the last time these particular scientists put their heads together they developed the World Wide Web. (Sorry to burst your bubble, Al Gore was not responsible for the information super-highway!)

By the way, I got all of this from the August 2007 issue of Discover Magazine, “The Biggest Thing in Physics” (page 45-49). You can visit the official project website here.

As I read this article the moral of the story became this for me: I don’t always know where my study of Scripture is going to lead me, either. At times I have pursued a train of thought for months, or even years, not knowing what the implications would be but finding out later that it had everything to do with everything!

For instance, a man once said to me, “Why do you care so much about how we were saved? It’s enough for me to know that I am saved. The rest is God’s business.” While I understand his sentiment, I must tell you that the many hours of study I have put into this subject, along with some sleepless nights and heated debates, have paid off for me big time when I was in the throes of difficulties or suffering or opposition or disappointments in my ministry. At times the most impractical-seeming doctrines have been a rock for me.

So, don’t hesitate to explore God to as great of depths as you can! Granted, you cannot always see the end from the beginning, you cannot always know what the outcomes will be. But by his grace God will apply gospel truths to your life in ways that you cannot imagine. And when he does, you will praise and glorify him for it!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Media, Maturiy, & Missions

In an article entitled “Profile of Students Today: Preparing for Missionary Service” (Evangelical Missions Quarterly, July 2007), Marvin Newell states, “Many late adolescent young people today are four to six years behind the previous generation in sociological and psychological development.” Why is this so? Newell surmises that it’s because young people are saturated in a media culture that is very immature, that they have a vast number of life choices to wade through which, for the most part, their parents did not, and that they suffer from general information overload.

I am most persuaded by his first reason. It calls to mind Psalm 115:4-9: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. O Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.”

The idols of our culture are different from the ones mentioned here, but the principle remains the same: we will eventually take the shape of the idols, or the God, we worship. And when we allow our children to sit at the feet of the media culture for hours on-end every day—television, internet, video games, iPods, etc.—we set them up to become like the idols they behold.

When you think about this on a mass level, you see that the media choices we make for our children each day have a radical shaping effect on Christian culture and missions. When millions of our children know more about the latest video games than about the mission of God in the world, when they know more about their favorite television personalities than the person of Jesus Christ, we are going to meet with much difficulty when we try to recruit and train and send them to give their lives away for the sake of that mission, and of that person. How shall they be sent to tell of person they don’t really know? How shall they be sent to tell a story they don’t really understand?

All true missions is from the inside out; it is an overflow of love and worship that expresses itself in sharing the mercy one has received from God, in Christ. This cannot happen if our children aren’t being taught to behold the glory of God and to love him more than all else on this earth.

Those of you who know me know that I am not a thoughtless anti-media guy. I think when used cautiously the media can be enjoyed as a blessing from the Lord. I also think it can be used as a tool by which to build bridges into people’s lives and share the gospel with them. But you also know that I’m a big-time pro-Jesus guy who just wants to see parents and children love him more than anything else in their lives, including the internet and video games. The more eternal your God, the more eternal your joy. Media culture is far from eternal and therefore its joy is as fleeting as a vapor. Jesus Christ is eternal and therefore his joy is everlasting. All I want is maximum joy for our children and for the world!

Parents, I’m sure it’s obvious enough that the burden of all of this falls on us. We simply must take the lead and teach our children to recognize, articulate, prize, and praise the glory of God in all they do. And, of course, in order to do this, we’ll have to learn to do it ourselves. “O Israel [O Christian parents], trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.” Behold the Lord and you will become like him. You will become willing to follow wherever he leads you. Your God-given passion will bleed into the hearts of the next generation.

There’s much more at stake in the great commandment than we know, isn’t there? “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).

Monday, September 24, 2007

Scientists on Religion

Last night I read an article in Scientific American called, “Should Science Speak to Faith: Two Prominent Defenders of Science Exchange their Views on how Scientists Ought to Approach Religion and its Followers” (July, 2007). That was the wrong title. It should have been called, “How Science Can Put Ignorant Theists (mainly Christians) in Their Place: Two Defenders of Science Discuss Their Respective Strategies.”

The first defender, Lawrence M. Krauss, a leading American physicist, suggested that scientists have to woo their dissenters and reach out to those who (ignorantly) believe in such foolish myths as god. At one point he actually put those who believe in God in the same category as those who believe in flying saucers! His strategy for wooing us? Don’t outright condemn them, just help them to see that their beliefs are irrational and guide them into a more general belief in God. In other words, tolerate them as long as they don’t actually believe the specifics of what they believe.

The second defender, Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, was not so gracious. He argued that “tough love” and confrontation are what is in order. Here a couple of quotes from him: “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that)” (90).

Then, responding to some comments Kraus made about Carl Sagan, Dawkins remarked, “Was Carl Sagan a religious man? He was so much more. He left behind the petty, parochial, medieval world of the conventionally religious; left the theologians, priests and mullahs wallowing in their small-minded spiritual poverty. He left them behind because he had so much more to be religious about. They have their Bronze Age myths, medieval superstitions and childish wishful thinking. He had the universe” (91).

Actually, Mr. Dawkins, we have the God who holds the entire universe in the palm of his hands, who created all things, who rules over religion and science, and to whom Carl Sagan and you and I will one day give an account of our lives.

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:18-21).

Amen.