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).