Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

I'm in Venice, Italy today getting ready to put on an outreach event for 30 or 40 Italians who do not know Christ. Our plan is to treat them to a Thanksgiving feast and explain the true meaning of it to them which has much to do with Christ.

In fact, from May to mid-July 1621 (the year of the first Thanksgiving) there had been a horrible drought and the people feared for their lives. Thus, they fasted and prayed and the Lord answered their prayers with much rain. The Native Americans were very impressed with this and so sometime after the harvest they celebrated the Lord's blessing by way of a meal. What we're normally taught is that the meal was the sealing of a treaty, which in part it was, but mainly it was a celebration of the Lord's provision for all the peoples of the "New World."

Some 242 years later President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a day of national "thanksgiving and praise." Here is the text of his proclamation:

Washington, D.C. October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America. A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A City on a Hill

I'm sure Assisi was built high atop a hill so that the people could protect themselves from the warring faction of Perugia, but as we approach the city I cannot help but think of Matthew 5:14--"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden."

From below Assisi appears to be one massive monastery but as we make our way up the winding road I can see that it's not quite that. After locating a parking spot, we exit the car and ascend several flights of stairs which lead to a very modern looking set of shops and eateries. Unfortunately, all them are closed today because for whatever reason Italy all but shuts down on Mondays.

So we traverse through the shopping area and let ourselves out the back where we're met with slushy snow that sometimes turns to rain. It's cold but we keep moving toward the steps that seem to lead up to the Monastery, however, we soon discover that they don't. Instead, we find ourselves in a small community that resembles something you'd read about in a fairy tale.

The streets are narrow and paved with various types of stone, and almost seem to be one with the walls that climb well into the sky. It's hard to believe that cars actually drive on this street and that the people don't mind walking there as they do but that's in fact how it is.

Because the walls are so high, and the streets are so unconventional, it's difficult to tell which way to go. We ascend and go to the left, we ascend and go to the right, we make the best judgments we can at each juncture but the only thing we're certain of is that we don't quite know where we're going.

Pretty soon we happen upon a restaurant that's open and decide to get a bite to eat. It's a quaint little place with home bake goods, soothing art, and a little pug dog that wanders the dining area in search of affection and, of course, donations di cuisine. In Italy, eating is an event. It takes time. So we order the cheapest things we can find on the menu and settle in for what our Mexican friends call a siesta. It's nice to feel warm. It's nice to be in Assisi.

The food is simple but delicious, and on such a cold and dreary day it sure does hit the spot. We begin plotting our next moves but don't even consider asking for directions because both John and I love adventure and, of course, we're men. As we stroll towards the door I try to tell the restauranteur that the food was excellent and the ambiance was superb but I must not have done a very good job because she looks at me as though to say, "That's nice, you irritating tourist, now move along." I'm not offended but I sure wish I would have taken the time to learn a little Italian. That would show more respect and garner a better response to my compliments, I'm sure.

We walk back into the cold, wet air and decide on what we think is the best course of action which turns out to be, not the best, but not bad. Eventually we find what we're looking for, the Basilica of Saint Francis.

The Basilica is not very impressive from the outside. It's attractive but plain, inspiring but not pretentious. But as we enter the upper Basilica my impression immediately changes. The more than 30 frescoes, as well as the unique design of the ceiling, move my heart and capture my attention. Without thinking I grab my camera and click off a shot. The attendant, who's dressed like a policeman, quickly makes his way over to me and whispers that I'm not allowed to take pictures and that I should remain as quiet as possible. I apologize profusely which seems to affect his demeanor. He tells me I can keep the picture but that I shouldn't take anymore. I assure him I won't.

It doesn't take long to notice that we're in a different kind of place today. I don't know exactly why it is, but I don't feel as put off by this place as I did by Saint Peter's. It's humble. It feels more like an attempt to communicate something sacred than a display of the church's power. I can't tell exactly what the frescoes are trying to teach me but I can see that they're inviting me into something bigger and more important than myself, and yet they're not doing so in a forceful way.

We traverse the entire upper Basilica and then decide to head downstairs. We get a little turned around but then finally discover the steps that descend into the lower, and older, Basilica. It's modest but very moving. Unique architecture, carved wood, vibrant frescoes, and near silence combine to make one feel reverent, even if he doesn't embrace Catholocism or agree with every aspect of the various depictions of the Bible. I wonder again if Protestants have gone too far in rejecting the potential of structures to inspire the soul toward God.

I look toward the back and notice twenty or thirty people sitting on several pews looking as if they're waiting for something. Slowly we approach the area where they are and notice that just in front of them and to the right there is a set of stairs leading down to where Saint Francis' remains are kept. We want to go down but it's hard to tell if we should, so we stand atop the stairs for a moment and then, hearing no objection, begin our descent. I don't know what John is thinking but I'm thinking, "If we're doing something wrong someone will stop us."

But no one does and we soon find ourselves in what feels like a very sacred place. It's scantily lit, even more quiet than above, and every aspect of it is obviously designed to strike reverence in the soul. We pass through a gate and approach the actual tomb, but again, we both hesitate to come near to it because others are keeping their distance and, at least for my part, I can't tell what I'm supposed to do.

So we sit for a few moments waiting and watching, and pondering what we see. I think to myself, "I don't agree with the theology that drove Francis to be who he was, and I certainly don't beleive all the stories about him or think it's a good thing that his remains are enshrined like this, but I can see that my life too will be short and I don't want to waste any of it. Francis lived to be forty-four; I'm now forty-one and who knows how long I have left to live. Father, for the glory of your Name help me to make the most of what remains."

Within a few minutes a younger couple approaches the tomb. This gives me the permission I need to do the same so I get up and begin to make my way around but as I do something of the sacredness of the moment is broken for me. To my left I notice that the priest who had been off to one side praying on his knees is now sitting at a desk, filling out some paper work, and taking money from the young man. John whispers to me that he's paying for mass to be said in his name.

Without thinking I feel the putridness of profitting off of people's devotion to God. It seems to me like this whole thing has been a set up to make me feel something that would in turn cause me to fork over my money. I'm sure this is not true to an absolute degree but I can't escape the fact that I'm witnessing a version of what caused Luther, Calvin, and so many others to break with the Catholic Church at the cost of their lives. I feel the outrage that is Protestantism in a way I've never felt it before.

We fairly quickly make our way back upstairs, not so much because we're offended but because we don't want to disturb those who are on a pilgrimage. We take our time exiting the Basilica and then make a quick stop by the gift shop since we were unable to take pictures. Both of us find books that meet our needs, after which we take one last look over the city and then begin the journey back down to our parking place. Soon enough we descend into the valley below and make our way toward Florence.

It's dark now and I feel a strange mix of emotions. I'm very moved by the wonder and beauty and uniqueness of Assisi. I've never seen a city like it. I'm inspired by the architecture, the art, the culture and I wish I had grown up in such a place. I also appreciate the humble magnetism of the Basilica and I do feel inspired toward God. But at the same time, I'm very much disturbed by the fact that the Catholic Church is, in so many ways, a money making machine designed to take advantage of people. It seems to me that the reason they don't want to reject their traditions in favor of close adherence to the Bible is because it would cost them too much. I don't feel arrogant about it, but I'm more confident than ever that it's right to be Protestant and I'm sure that the deaths of our forefathers were not in vain. I feel willing to lay down my own life for the truths that cost them theirs.

In a sense Assisi is a city set on a hill and it is a light for all to see. But it's not at all clear to me what the source of that light is and whether or not it will prove to be of God. God knows. For my part I pray for Assisi and hope that all who live there will come to know the true light of the world and lay their lives down to make him known, no matter what the cost.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

An Interesting Juxtaposition

My friend John Anderson and I are in Rome today so we thought we'd stop by Saint Peter's Bassilica which, of course, is home to the Popes and the epicenter of Roman Catholicism. We happened to catch a mass while we were there and, as I said to John, I felt at once a sense of awe and disgust. I felt awe because of the magnitude and architectural genuis and artistic beauty of the structure, as well as the reverent way in which the mass was carried out. Everything is designed, it seems, so that one almost cannot help but feel an overwhelming sense of the holy. But these very things also provoked in me a sort of disgust because they seemed so much like a flexing of the muscles, like a display of earthly power, like Roman idol worship with a veneer of Christianity. The day before we had toured the ruins of the Roman empire and learned a little bit about how they conducted their religious affairs. Frankly, I could hardly tell the difference between those ancient practices and what I was now experiencing, except of course that it was all decorated with Christian language and symbols. I thought more than once, "Surely, this is not what the Lord and his apostles had in mind as they laid their lives down to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him throughout the world."

But on a more redemptive note, I did come away thinking that we American Evangelicals have gone too far in forsaking almost any sense of reverence in our architecture and liturgy. In reacting against things that must be rejected we have, I fear, dispensed of other things that are valuable and perhaps even desirable. Granted, we must labor to keep ourselves from venerating structures and traditions rather than God but I wonder if there is a way to utilize the gifts God has given us to exalt his name and inspire his people to look upward toward him. I don't have the answer to my own musings but I do have a longing to nourish a deeper sense of reverence for God in my soul and the souls of those I'm privileged to shepherd.

Once the mass was completed, we had to race back to the main part of Rome because we were scheduled to attend the worship service at The City of Church of Rome where a friend of John's, Corrado Primavera, serves as Pastor. John met Pastor Corrado in Italy but then also attended Dallas Theological Seminary with him. The building was very small and the congregation was even smaller but the praise was sincere and the preaching was "tethered to the Word," as John Piper is fond of saying these days. The people sang and Pastor Corrado preached in Italian so I didn't understand the majority of what was being sung or said but I could pick up a few words here and there and, more importantly, I could see love for Jesus radiating from Corrado and the people. It's strange how being in the presence of Jesus causes one to worship even if he doesn't understand everything that's going on. We have all the most important things in common and therefore nothing can truly divide us, not even the deep and high walls of language and culture. I felt very privileged to be there and I rejoiced that one day the curse of Babel will be removed and we will, with one voice, worship him who was and is and is to come forever and ever.

After the service was over we visited for a while and then walked back to our shuttle which was near the ancient Coloseum. As we strolled along I could not help but feel somewhat jarred by the juxtaposition of these two worship experiences. One was the most amazing display of earthly beauty, power, and ceremony one could imagine but it left me with a deep sense of tumult; the other was almost completely devoid of these same attributes and yet it left me feeling that I had been in the presence of Jesus and of his people.

I will leave the ultimate judgment of these things to our God and Father but I have come to the conclusion that as for me and my house we will choose the simple. We will choose the church where Jesus alone must captures people's attention by the wooing of his Spirit rather than by earthly means. There's more than one way to breed a sense of the awe of God in the soul and, at the end of the day, I think the best way is careful and regular meditation on the Word of God.

Tomorrow we leave Rome for Assisi, Florence, Venice, and Bologna--not all in one day, of course! Please continue to hold us up in prayer. God is doing much in my heart and I am eager to listen well. Thanks again for your faithful partnership.

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm Traveling to Italy Today!

A couple of months ago, a man in our church, John Anderson, invited me to come along with him to Italy to help some missionaries there put on a couple of outreach events. I said yes, of course, and now the time has come for us to leave.

We will be leaving Minneapolis at 3:00 today and landing in Amsterday on Friday about 6:30 a.m. (11:30 Mpls time). From there we travel to Paris and finally Rome. We have a day or so to recuperate and the we'll be visiting a church plant in Rome on Sunday night, after which we'll travel to Venice and Bolgna to serve at the outreach events.

Finally, we plan to travel to Athens and Corinth for some sight-seeing and study, coming back to the States on December 3.

Please hold John and I up in prayer. Besides serving missionaries and sight-seeing, we plan to have a long conversation about foreign missions at Glory of Christ and this conversation feels very significant to me. Thanks so much for your partnership in prayer! I will blog as often as I'm able to access the internet.

By the way, please also pray for Kim and Rachel. Rachel is traveling to Disney World with her grandmother and a few others tomorrow where she'll be for one week. Kim will be staying with her father next week (he lives close to her work) and then taking care of Rachel and all the household affairs by herself the following week. Kim loves Christ with all her heart and she'll be depending on him, but she could use your prayers as well.

Thanks again, in Christ!

Thanks for Praying!

The second day of the TCT church planter's meeting was a blessed one. We heard a presentation of a church planting proposal from Tim Cain who plans to plant a church in San Diego beginning next year. It's so exciting to be around guys who love Christ and have such passion to see others come to love him as well.
Then we spent the rest of the day working out several important details about how the TCT network will look in the coming years. The Lord was very gracious to us and gave us clarity of insight with regard to the future and we're all very grateful for that.
Thanks so much for holding us up in prayer over those two days. Your partnership is greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Personal Transformation & the Gospel

Yesterday Sean Cordell, Pastor of Treasuring Christ Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, brought a devotional before the TCT church planters (see yesterday's post for context; Pastor Sean is on the far right in today's photo). He spoke with us about how personal transformation can happen when we reflect on our attitudes and actions in light of the gospel.

Often, he said, when we sin and feel regret for that sin our impulse is just to try harder, to encourage ourselves to do better next time. However, that will never bring change. Instead we must push past the surface and ask ourselves, Why did I do what I did? What was I craving at that moment? What did I believe about God and myself at that moment? Then, in light of our answers to these questions, the next step is to ask, What does the Bible say about my answers?

For instance, Sean shared the story of a time when he was irritated by someone because he had invaded "Sean's space." Sean's self-assessment was that his craving at that time was for his own comfort and pleasure and his belief at that time was that he was the most important person in the situation rather than God. So what does the Bible say about this? Matthew 20:26-28 came to mind, "It shall not be so among you [the followers of Jesus]. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Now, with the wisdom of the Word of God in hand, Sean was in a place to see transformation happen in his heart and actions. He was in a place where, by the power of Jesus Christ applied to his life by grace through faith, he could think and act differently and, more importantly, for different reasons, namely, the glory of God and the blessing of the other. Far from being some self-help scheme, Christianity is about the power of Christ pouring into our hearts through the Word of God and transforming us from one glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18). Christianity is about the application of the finished work of Christ on our behalf. It's not at all about what we can do for him, it's about what he's already done for us, what he's doing for us, and what he will do for us.

Sean spoke for over an hour so I'm not doing justice to his devotional here, but I must say that I was so helped by this train of thought. I was moved by the idea that I must learn to preach the gospel to myself and to apply the things of Christ to my own heart in an intentional way. Or perhaps better put, I must learn to reflect on my attitudes and actions in light of the gospel and open myself to the transforming power of Christ. I was overjoyed to think of the twin facts that I do not have the will or power to change myself but that Christ has both.

Ephesians 2:4-10 says this: "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Amen. May the power of God in Christ pulse through our hearts and minds until we are formed perfectly into the image of Christ.

Monday, November 17, 2008

TCT Church Planters Meeting this Week

The church at which I serve, Glory of Christ in Elk River, Minnesota, is part of a larger network of church plants called the Treasuring Christ Together Network (TCT). TCT emerged out of the minsitry of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis as one means by which they could fulfill their mission, namely, "to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples, through Jesus Christ."

Currently there are five church plants in the network (Charlotte NC, Raleigh NC, Memphis, TN, Brooklyn Center MN, & Elk River MN) with two more to be born in the next year or so (San Diego, CA & Saint Paul, MN). The pastors of these churches meet in Minneapolis four times per year for fellowship, accountability, training, and vision. This week is one of those meetings.

Leading us this time around is Jordan Thomas, pastor of Grace Church Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee. We plan to talk about "soul-care" of the pastor, the pastor's family, and the flock of God. We alsom plan to spend some time dreaming about the next stages of the TCT network, about where the Lord wants to take us from here.

Please lift us up in prayer over these next two days. Pray that the Lord will draw near to us and lead us in the way he would have us go. Pray that he will grant us power from the Holy Spirit to fulfill the mission on which he's sent us.

Thank you so much for your faithful partnership in the work of the Kingdom!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Sovereignty of God

The sixth chapter in Arthur Pink's book The Attributes of God (Baker Books, 1975) is entitled "The Sovereignty of God” and is an extension of the last chapter. Pink argues that the supremacy of God is his exaltation and power over all things while the sovereignty of God is the exercise of his supremacy. In other words, the sovereignty of God makes the supremacy of God visible.

“Divine sovereignty means that God is God in fact, as well as in name, that he is on the Throne of the universe, directing all things, working all things ‘after the counsel of his will’ (Ephesians 1:11)…‘Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that he did in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places’ (Psalm 135:6). Yes, dear reader, such is the imperial Potentate revealed in Holy Writ. Unrivalled in majesty, unlimited in power, unaffected by anything outside himself” (40-41).

But at this point many object for, they say, such a view of the sovereignty of God excludes human will and responsibility. However, Pink counters, the sovereignty of God does not exclude human will or responsibility rather it is the basis of both. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). And among what he pleases is making creatures as he sees fit—angels, Adam, Israel, the elect, whomever—with whatever freedom of will he decrees. For instance, “What right has the husband to require submission from his wife? None, unless God had appointed it…[In this way,] human responsibility is based upon Divine sovereignty” (44).

“Many have most foolishly said that it is quite impossible to show where Divine sovereignty ends and creature accountability begins. Here is where creature responsibility begins: in the sovereign ordination of the Creator. As to his sovereignty, there is not and never will be any ‘end’ to it!” (43)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Supremacy of God

The fifth chapter in Arthur Pink's book The Attributes of God (Baker Books, 1975) is entitled "The Supremacy of God.” Pink is very concerned that the “god” of the modern pulpit is “all too human.” He writes, “The ‘god’ of this twentieth century no more resembles the Supreme Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun” (36). But to Pink’s mind God is either absolutely supreme or he is not God at all. “A ‘god’ whose will is resisted, whose designs are frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated, possesses no title to Deity, and so far from being a fit object of worship, merits nought [sic] but contempt” (36).

With this, Pink moves along to prove his case positively, mostly by quoting Scripture. For example, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name” (1 Chronicles 29:11-13). “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works [this word means ‘effectually works] all things according to the counsel of his will…” (Ephesians 1:11).

The Scriptures so plainly display the supremacy of God over inanimate things (Exodus 14, Numbers 16, Joshua 10), animate things (1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 6:5, Psalm 135:6), and the human will (Exodus 34:24, Proverbs 21:1, Ephesians 2:1-10) as to make the doctrine an undeniable tenet of the faith. And this ought to bring great comfort to the believing soul. Pink concludes:

“Here then is a sure resting-place for the heart. Our lives are neither the product of blind fate nor the result of capricious chance, but every detail of them was ordained from all eternity, and is now ordered by the living and reigning God. Not a hair of our heads can be touched without his permission…What assurance, what strength, what comfort this should give the real Christian” (39).

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Tribute to my Brother Ralph

Many of you know that my brother Ralph died earlier this year. Recently I took the photos from my trip to California and put them into a video. It speaks for itself. Ralph is to my immediate right in the first photo.

To my family, I love you and I pray this video blesses you.

For the glory of Jesus,


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Foreknowledge of God

The fourth chapter in Arthur Pink's book The Attributes of God (Baker Books, 1975) is entitled "The Foreknowledge of God" which is of course a follow up to his third chapter on the knowledge of God. The emphasis in this chapter is on the relationship between the knowledge of God and election, that is, the doctrine that God chose those who would be saved before the foundation of the world.

Pink begins by asserting that the Arminian position on this matter is "radically wrong" because (1) it repudiates the truth of total depravity, (2) it takes away the independence of God, and (3) it reverses the biblical order of cause and effect by making our believing the cause of God's election rather than his election the cause of our believing.

To counter this position Pink begins by defining the word "foreknowledge" which, he says, simply means "to know beforehand." Nothing unexpected here. But what is perhaps unexpected is that the word "foreknowledge" is never used to refer to God's prior knowledge of events but rather to refer to God's prior knowledge of persons. And, furthermore, it denotes a sense of the favor of God upon those persons so that to say "God foreknew a person" is to say "the favor of God rested upon a person."

The practical import of this is that when the Bible says God "foreknew" certain persons it does not mean, as the Arminians says it means, that he foresaw their exercise of faith in Jesus and then elected them to salvation. Rather it means that he foreknew them with favor as persons and then elected them of his own free will. "God did not elect any sinner because he foresaw that he would believe, for the simple but sufficient reason that
no sinner ever does believe until God gives him faith; just as no man sees until God gives him sight. Sight is God's gift, seeing is the consequence of my using his gift. So faith is God's gift (Eph. 2:8-9), believing is the consequence of my using his gift" (33).

Pink concludes, then, "This being so,
all the glory and praise belongs alone to him. You have no ground for taking any credit to yourself. You have 'believed through grace' (Acts 18:27) and that, because your very election was 'of grace' (Rom. 11:5)" (34). Therefore, though God's electing of certain persons to salvation is, and perhaps always will be, a mystery to us, we know that he did so in order to remove boasting from our lips and replace with it pure praise. He did so in order to exalt his glory and increase our joy in him, and in that final day we will see that there was no other, no better way to acheive this. Thus, let us praise him now by faith!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Please Pray for Missionaries in India

I recently received the following prayer alert. Please join me in pleading for these precious souls. We at Glory of Christ are supporting a missionary in this part of the world and thus feel this situation very keenly.

Dear beloved sponsors and friends of Good News India:

We have never seen anything like this. We knew that Orissa was the most
resistant and hostile State in India as far as the Gospel is concerned. And
we brushed off the continuous threats and harassment we faced as we went
about His work. But none of our staff imagined that they would see this kind
of carnage.... And it seems to be totally under the radar of the Western
Media .... Let me explain.... A militant Hindu priest and 4 of his
attendants, who were zealously going around the villages of Orissa and
'reconverting' people back to Hinduism, were gunned down by unknown
assailants in Central Orissa last weekend. Immediately the Christians were
blamed. The cry rose up...'Kill the Christians!' And the horror began.... In
the past 4 days, we have first hand witness to hundreds of churches being
blown up or burned and many, many dozens of Christian tribals have been
slaughtered. For no other reason than they bear the name of Christ.

Night and day I have been in touch with our Good News India Directors spread
across 14 Dream Centers in Orissa... they are right in the middle of all
this chaos. In Tihidi, just after the police came to offer protection, a
group of 70 blood-thirsty militants came to kill our staff and destroy the
home. They were not allowed to get in, but they did a lot of damage to our
Dream Center by throwing rocks and bricks and smashing our gate, etc. They
have promised to come back and 'finish the job.' Our kids and staff are
locked inside and have stayed that way with doors and windows shut for the
past 3 days. It has been a time of desperately calling on the Lord in

More police have come to offer protection. In Kalahandi, the police and some
local sympathizers got to our dream center and gave our staff and kids about
3 minutes notice to vacate. No one had time to even grab a change of clothes
or any personal belonging. As they fled, the blood thirsty mob came to kill
everyone in the building. We would have had a mass funeral there, but for
His grace. In Phulbani, the mob came looking for Christian homes and
missions. The local Hindu people, our neighbors turned them away by saying
that there were no Christians in this area. So they left. We had favor. The
same thing happened in Balasore.

All our dream centers are under lock down with the kids and staff huddled
inside and police outside. The fanatics are circling outside waiting for a
chance to kill. Others were not so fortunate. In a nearby Catholic
orphanage, the mob allowed the kids to leave and locked up a Priest and a
computer teacher in house and burned them to death. Many believers have been
killed and hacked into pieces and left on the road.... even women and
children. At another orphanage run by another organization, when this began,
the Director and his wife jumped on their motorbike and simply fled, leaving
all the children and staff behind. Every one of our GNI directors that I
have spoken to said: 'We stay with our kids.... we live together or die
together, but we will never abandon what God has called us to do.' More than
5000 Christian families have had their homes burned or destroyed. They have
fled into the jungles and are living i n great fear waiting for the
authorities to bring about peace. But so far, no peace is foreseen.

This will continue for another 10 days.... supposedly the 14 day mourning
period f or the slain Hindu priest. Many more Christians will die and their
houses destroyed. Many more churches will be smashed down. The Federal
government is trying to restore order and perhaps things will calm down. We
ask for your prayers. Only the Hand of God can calm this storm. None of us
know the meaning of persecution. But now our kids and staff know what that
means. So many of our kids coming from Hindu backgrounds are confused and
totally bewildered at what is happening around them. So many of their
guardians have fled into the jungles and are unable to come and get them
during these trying times. Through all this, I am more determined than ever
to continue with our goal: the transformation of a community by transforming
its children. Orissa will be saved... that is our heart's cry.

If we can take these thousands of throw-away children and help them to
become disciples of Jesus, they will transform an entire region. It is a
long term goal, but it is strategic thinking in terms of the Great
Commission. What can you do? First, please uphold all this in fervent
prayer. Second, pass this e-mail on to as many friends as you can. We must
get the word out and increase our prayer base for this is spiritual warfare
at its most basic meaning. We are literally fighting the devil in order to
live for His Kingdom. The next 10 days are crucial. We pray for peace and
calm to pervade across Orissa. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Please pass it on and help us to get as many people to partner with us on
this cutting edge effort to fulfill His mandate: Go and make disciples of
all nations.... Prayer works!

Blessings, Chip & Sandy Wanner

Col 2:2 MBI Team Facilitators to YWAM frontlines

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pray for Jan Korbel

I received the following update from Jan Korbel this morning. Please join me in holding her up before Christ.

Dear Praying Friends -
Thank you for holding up our immigration appeal before God. We submitted our appeal last week and found out late on Friday that we had been denied.
Because of this we will be investigating a change in our organization from NGO (non-governmental organization) to a Society. This is what all churches register in Kenya as. Under such status we should automatically be granted a missionary Class E work permit. In fact we may have pursued this when Care of Creation first registered if the process was not so long and involved. Thankfully we now have a good friend who works as the Registrar of Societies and we should be able to make the change in the next few months.
In the meantime, I will return to the US for a short time (God willing) to do some additional fund raising for my increased budget in the coming year. I would appreciate your prayers for this next process to go smoothly and quickly. But even more so that I would be able to raise the needed support in the next couple of months. I will likely arrive on Sept 30.
Thank you again, Jan

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Knowledge of God

The third chapter in Arthur Pink's book The Attributes of God (Baker Books, 1975) is entitled "The Knowledge of God." Pink writes, "God is omniscient. He know everything: everything possible, everything actual; all events and all creatures, of the past, the present, and the future. He is perfectly acquainted with every detail in the life of every being in heaven, in earth, and in hell...God not only knows whatsoever has happened in the past in every part of his vast domains, and he is not only thoroughly acquainted with everything that is now transpiring throughout the entire universe, but he is also perfectly cognizant of every event, from the least to the greatest, that ever will happen in the ages to come. God's knowledge of the future is as complete as is his knowledge of the past and the present, and that, because the future depends entirely upon himself. Were it in anywise possible for something to occur apart from either the direct agency or permission of God, then that something would be independent of him, and he would at once cease to be Supreme" (21, 24).

Oh how right Pink was to say, "What a wondrous being is the God of Scripture! Each of his glorious attributed should render him honorable in our esteem. The apprehension of his omniscience ought to bow us in adoration before him. Yet how little do we meditate upon this Divine perfection!"

But when we do take the time to meditate upon this Divine perfection it has equally strong and opposite affects on believers and unbelievers alike. For the latter, they despise this perfection because they so strongly desire to escape from accountability to God. If God knows all then he sees all, and if he sees all then all will give account to him. And they hate this because they love their wicked ways, even as believers once loved their wicked ways.

But for believers this Divine perfection is fraught with much joy and comfort. For instance, he knows that when he is perplexed, God knows his ways and guides his every step. When she lifts up her prayers to God she knows she prays to a God who knows all and sees all and has power over all and works all things together to the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. He knows that, even though the omniscient one knows all his sin, he is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and has determined to set his course aright in Christ.

Oh what joy there is in resting in the God who knows all things!

Pink closes with one more observation: "Now the Divine knowledge of the future is not a mere abstraction but something which is inseparably connected with and accompanied by his purpose" (24). Point being, the fact that God knows something does not in itself cause a that something to come about. He must also will it. Just as knowing what the weather will be does not cause the weather to act accordingly, so God's knowledge of all things does not cause them to occur--he must add to his knowledge his causative will. "Nothing has ever come to pass, or ever will, merely because God knew it. The cause of all things is the will of God." More on this in subsequent chapters.

For now, Pink brings his meditation to an end by urging us to see that this Divine perfection ought to strike amazement, holy awe, and adoration in our souls. "The whole of my life stood open to his view from the beginning. He foresaw my every fall, my every sin, my every backsliding; yet. nevertheless, fixed his heart upon me. Oh, how the realization of this should bow me in wonder and worship before him!" (26)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Good News from Guinea

What a joy it was to receive the following report from the missions organization "Serving in Mission" about the Manika people. Through the influence of Bethlehem Baptist Church I have been praying for the Manika along with many others for some years and it is quite a privilege to see God answering our prayers--in our life times. Here's what they wrote, it's a little long but worth the read:

In 2006, after nearly 90 years of Christian witness, there were only about 75 believers and one pastor among the nearly 2 million Maninka people of Guinea in West Africa. That, however, may soon change.

Until 2006, the Gospel of Luke was the only book available in a language the Maninka could easily understand. Today, Genesis, Ruth, Jonah, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians have all been printed, and other books are nearing completion.

But giving the Maninka the Word of God requires more than simply publishing Scripture. The Maninka are an oral people with only about 25 percent of the population literate. The treasures of their history and culture are passed on not in writing, but by singers and storytellers.

So how does one communicate the Truth
A dramatic reading of God's Word captures the attention of a Maninka man who may be hearing the gospel for the first time in his own language.
of the gospel with a non-reading culture? Although literacy training does have a place, literacy programs take time and very few of the Maninka people are interested in learning to read.

To give the Maninka people the opportunity to hear the Good News of Jesus in a culturally relevant way, SIM's Guinea team took a creative approach and launched the Maninka Audio Media Outreach (MAMO).

As Scripture is translated into Maninka, the MAMO team makes recordings of God's Word, read dramatically in the style of the Maninka storytellers. MAMO's first dramatic recording of the book of Genesis utilized more than 20 Maninka readers and was completed in June of 2006.

Upon its completion, the first tape of the four-cassette recording was given to the guard at the studio. As he listened to it with a friend, a crowd gathered. Some of the people wanted to buy the cassette from the guard, but he wouldn't sell it. When asked what he thought about the tape, he kept repeating, "It's very, very good!"

Since then, we have made many copies of those tapes and are distributing them to the Maninka for a small fee. We are also working on recording more books of the Bible as teams translate additional Scriptures into Maninka. Our prayer is that we will be able to produce, copy, and distribute the tapes quickly and that they will spark an interest in God's Word among the Maninka.

Recently, we learned that God is answering our prayer in a way we hadn't expected. When a local Christian traveled to another city about four hours from our recording studio, she saw a crowd of people gathered. When she walked closer to the group, she realized the people were listening to our multi-voice recording of Genesis! Upon further observation, she concluded that the man playing the message was a merchant who had made copies of our cassettes and was selling them.

Although copyright issues are important to most studios, we didn't mind a bit! As Paul said in Philippians 1:18, "What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this [we] rejoice."

Please join us in continuing to pray that God's Word would spread among the Maninka and that many lives would be transformed by the gospel as a result.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Decrees of God

The second chapter in Arthur Pink's book The Attributes of God (Baker Books, 1975) is entitled "The Decrees of God." The decrees of God are "his purpose or determination with respect to future things...They are called God's 'will' to show he was under no control, but acted according to his own pleasure. When a man's will is the rule of his conduct, it is usually capricious and unreasonable; but wisdom is always associated with 'will' in the Divine proceedings, and accordingly, God's decrees are said to be 'the counsel of his own will' (Eph. 1:11)" [15-16].

I would add that infinite holiness and infinite goodness are also always associated with "will" in the Divine proceedings. Holiness, goodness, and wisdom are constants in the Being of God. When we are careful to keep this in mind we avoid many errors, fallacies, and heresies, not to mention griefs.

"The decrees of God relate to all future things without exception: whatever is done in time was foreordained before time began" (16). This truth, of course, leads to many challenges and difficulties, not the least of which is the relationship between Divine decree and human responsibility. But in the end I find the absolute sovereignty of God over all things to be inescapable because if nothing else his absolute and eternal foreknowledge of all things demands it. Pink quotes Jonathan Edwards in this regard:

"Whether God has decreed all things that ever come to pass or not, all that own the Being of God, own that He know all things beforehand. Now, it is self-evident that if He knows all things beforehand, He either doth approve of them or doth not approve of them; that is, He either is willing they should be, or He is not willing they should be. But to will that they should be is to decree them" (19).

This is one place where the constants of holiness, goodness, and wisdom in the Being of God become preeminently important. As difficult as it is to understand how and why God could and would decree all things--even bad things--we must learn, as beloved children in Christ, to trust the character, will, and purposes of our Father. He has thought it best to create the world as it is, and in the end we will see why this is so, even as we are now seen, and we will worship him for his great goodness and wisdom. And indeed, not us only but all creation:

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved--and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-7, emphasis added).

"Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!' And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!' And the four living creatures said, 'Amen!' and the elders fell down and worshiped" (Rev. 5:11-14).

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Solitariness of God

Lately I've been reading a book by Arthur W. Pink entitled The Attributes of God (Baker Books, 1975). Though I differ with him on a few things--and at times with the tone he takes against theological opponents--I have thoroughly benefited from the book so far. Thus, over the next few weeks I plan to post some thoughts about each of the chapters of his book, the first of which probes into the solitariness of God.

By "solitariness" Pink means that God is fully self-sufficient in his being and excellencies. "There was a time, if 'time' it could be called, when God, in the unity of His nature (though subsisting equally in three Divine Persons), dwelt all alone. 'In the beginning, God' [Gen. 1:1]. There was no heaven where his glory is now particularly manifested. There was no earth to engage his attention. There were no angels to hymn his praises; no universe to be upheld by the word of his power. There was nothing, no one, but God; and that not for a day, a year, or an age, but 'from everlasting.' During a past eternity God was alone; self-contained, self-sufficient; self-satisfied; in need of nothing. Had a universe, had angels, had human beings been necessary to him in any way, they also had been called into existence from all eternity. The creating of them when he did, added nothing to God essentially. He changes not (Mal. 3:6), therefore his essential glory can be neither augmented nor diminished" (10).

There are great treasures hidden here. The nature of the being of God, especially his eternality and self-sufficiency and character, is the key to understanding every aspect of life and theology. Thus, I would encourage you to spend a little time in the near future contemplating the 'solitariness of God' and the implications of it. The rest of the book, and my brief meditations, are simply the outworking of a precious few details--but the source of them all is the nature of the being of God so we would be wise to spend much of our time there. Time spent exploring the being of God is never time wasted.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Update from Jan Korbel

I received this update from Jan Korbel a couple of days ago. Please join me in standing with her, trusting in the grace and power of Almighty God to meet her needs for the glory of his name and the good of others and the joy of her own soul:

Dear Praying Friends,
The immigration appeal process is long and involved - as is the case with most things here in Kenya. Yesterday we went to immigration and talked with a man that had been recommended to us by a Kenyan lady, Wanjiku, who is the registrar of churches and societies. Wanjiku is a friend of Craig Sorley's parents from when they lived and worked here.
The first man we met with was as friendly and helpful as we could imagine. I think he is a Christian man and assured us if it was up to him he would grant our request. However it isn't up to him at all. He talked with Mr. Chariot, the chair of the committee that makes these decisions and said that he would follow-up and see our file through the process. Since Mr. Chariot was not immediately available we returned later in the day to meet with him to ask for the best approach to appeal our class A permit (to be changed to a class E - missionary). He was not very convinced that we should be granted the class E since we are registered as an NGO. However in the end he gave us a list of things to include in a letter of request and also suggested we include letters from churches we have worked with.
After our two trips to immigration we paid a visit to the lawyer that helped Care of Creation through the registration process and recommended registering as an NGO rather than a church related society because he understood it would not be difficult to get a class E permit, considering the type of NGO we are. He agreed to present our appeal to the immigration committee.
Now it is for us to draft our letter of appeal, collect letters from churches or organizations we have worked with here in Kenya and pray, pray, pray for God's favor with this committee. The deciding committee meets every Thursday. It's my hope that we can get things to them by next Wednesday so they can consider it sooner rather than later. However, I am sure there is no guarantee that this will get on their agenda straight away.
Please continue to pray for God's favor with this committee. Pray that the letters we request from folks will come in quickly and say what is convincing. Pray that what we say is also understood. I think that being misunderstood as a mission organization is starting to take its toll on us. We are committed to a work that seems to need constant defending. I will let you know when I have more information about the process.
Thank you so much for your support, Jan

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Spurgeon on Prayer & Thanksgiving

I am preaching this week on Thanksgiving as it relates to worship, and in the course of my studies I came across the following simple but helpful quote from Spurgeon. I pray that you will have a most blessed Lord's day as you fix your eyes on the risen Christ and worship him with all your heart.

"Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

No care but all prayer. No anxiety but much joyful communion with God. Carry your desires to the Lord of your life, the guardian of your soul. Go to Him with two portions of prayer and one of fragrant praise. Do not pray doubtfully but thankfully. Consider that you have your petitions, and therefore thank God for His grace. He is giving you grace; give Him thanks, Hide nothing. Allow no want to lie rankling in your bosom; "make known your requests." Run not to man. Go only to your God, the Father of Jesus, who loves you in Him.

This shall bring you God's own peace. You shall not be able to understand the peace which you shall enjoy. It will enfold you in its infinite embrace. Heart and mind through Christ Jesus shall be steeped in a sea of rest. Come life or death, poverty, pain, slander, you shall dwell in Jesus above every rolling wind or darkening cloud. Will you not obey this dear command?

Yes, Lord, I do believe thee; but, I beseech thee, help mine unbelief.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Praise from Jan Korbel

I just received the following update from Jan Korbel. Thanks so much for praying! Let us keep persevering in prayer with her to the very end.

Hello Friend,
(If you feel like you are coming into this in the middle of a story, please see my blog listed below.)
GOOD NEWS! I don't have to leave the country. I was granted an extension to my current visa. I have 90 days more before I need to leave or get my work permit settled. I also applied to get an alien's registration card and was finger printed today - all ten digits! I should get my little alien card in about 5 weeks! -- I'm legal!
Tracy and I also talked to a man in immigration about our issue and wanting to change or appeal the Class A permit. We got some advice, but still have no clear idea of exactly what will happen. We will ask the Baptist Mission of Kenya to draft a letter and perhaps some other organizations or churches we have worked with, then we will return to meet the Chair of the committee that decides these issues in immigration to make our appeal. Please continue to pray that God would show us favor in what we bring back as a request and they will grant the new (Class E) permit. We will need to word these things in such a way that is winsome and convincing that we are in fact doing missionary work as opposed to something else. This process could take weeks. And once I am through it the Sorleys will go through the same thing because their permits under the Baptist Mission expire later this year.
While my visitor's visa was extended for 90 days, we only have about 60 days to appeal the Class A, because the form telling us permission has been granted for that permit is only good for a certain amount of time. Once that expires it will be difficult to get any kind of permit for me.
Thank you so much for praying. I put a short update on the blog and will write some more detail of the trip to immigration in the following days.
You are a blessing, Jan

Please Pray for a Chinese Pastor

I received the following report from Voice of the Martyrs this morning:

Pastor Zhang “Bike” Mingxuan, known for traveling across China on a bicycle to evangelize, was arrested by Chinese police just two days before the Olympics began. Pastor Bike was the inspiration for the recent partnership between The Voice of the Martyrs and China Aid Association to create the Olympic Prayer Band.

Learn More about the Olympic Prayer Band here

Pastor Asks for Prayer Band
Earlier this year, Pastor Bike pleaded with VOM staff to ask Christians to pray for persecuted Christians in China during the Olympics. The pastor voluntarily preaches the gospel openly in China despite being persecuted. He has asked for his identity to be revealed to bring continued attention to the persecution of Christians in Communist China.

Thanks to Pastor Bike’s inspiration and the commitment of concerned Christians across the United States, more than 800,000 prayer bands have been circulated. On Aug. 6, Pastor Bike was arrested while trying to deliver medicine to his ailing wife. His wife and another pastor were also arrested. We have also learned this week that Chinese officials are opening a full investigation of the Olympic Prayer Bands that were distributed to house church members within China. Despite this increased pressure from Chinese authorities, Chinese Christians continue to ask for prayer and to make their plight known.

Order your Prayer Bands today!
As the Olympics goes on, the harassment of Chinese evangelists continues to increase. Please help remind others to pray for persecuted Christians like Pastor Bike by ordering your prayer bands today!

More about Pastor Bike
Pastor Bike, president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, rode his bike more than 10,000 miles, visiting 24 Chinese provinces to introduce nonbelievers to Jesus Christ. Armed with a Bible and his business card, which declared “Believe in Jesus, Earn Eternal Life,” Pastor Bike brought the gospel to thousands of people. He and other Chinese evangelists have been repeatedly harassed by Chinese officials during this Olympic year. Please pray for the release of Pastor Bike and his wife.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Piper on Why Christians Sing

I'm preaching one more sermon on singing this weekend and in the course of my research I came across this quote from Pastor John and I wanted to share it with you. I'll be off for "family camp" for the next couple of days with Glory of Christ so I won't be able to blog but I should return Tuesday or Wednesday. In the meantime, my your eyes behold the glory of God in the face of Christ and may your heart sing in praise of him!

The following is an edited transcription of the audio (you can find it here).

Is it true that Christianity is unique in the fact that it is a singing and rejoicing faith?

Absolutely. I don't think there are any other religions that sing like Christians sing. Christians really make music over their faith.

Even the sheer radio reality of Christian contemporary music is an interesting phenomenon. It has many pitfalls because of, perhaps, the way that theology is dumbed down in it or the way it is infected with an entertainment mindset; but the sheer existence of Christians who are always looking for ways to make melody about their faith--finding inspiring tunes growing out of their convictions about God and Christ and forgiveness and eternal life--I think that is an amazing and unique thing. I don't think there are any other faiths in the world that come close.

In fact some faiths, like Islam, don't even believe in singing. But what kind of faith could say that the human heart, with its readiness to make melody over almost everything it enjoys, should not do that over the most important reality in the universe? That's a really strange religion, I think.

The fact that Christianity is a singing religion bears witness, not only to the way we're wired as human beings, but to the kind of God we have: namely, a God who is one day, according to Zephaniah 3:17, going to sing over us. He is going to lead a choir and celebrate the fact that we are his. And we're going to join in singing that he is ours, because God is so valuable and so beautiful and so multi-faceted in his perfections that to leave out the emotional component--and not let it spill over in poetry and song--would be to leave out a key element in worship.

I really don't have a lot of patience, frankly, even with Christians who want to put a lid on music and singing, or put it back five centuries, or limit it to one kind of instrument, or take away all instrumental music and just let it be voice. I think that all of that is hopelessly defeatist, because we humans have explosive souls; and the reason we do is because God is explosively beautiful and great and glorious. He is going to call out from us song and music of every kind, and we might as well just let it out and try and bring it into its deep, powerful significance with truth.

That's the crucial thing: govern our music-making with true biblical doctrine.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Please Pray for a Missionary Friend

Please join us in praying for a missionary friend of ours who is undergoing severe trials. I do not know her wishes regarding security so I will not mention her name, I will only say she's serving in a difficult part of India. She recently wrote her prayer team (of which I'm apart) to say that she's at the end of her rope, and knowing what she's faced over the last year I can understand that. I wish I could say more, but I can't. Please join us in pleading for her before Jesus.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Please Pray for Jan Korbel

After a two month hiatus, I'm finally back to blogging again. I want to begin anew with a prayer request from one of our supported missionaries at Glory of Christ. Please join us in interceding for her situation.

Dear Friends,
Last week we were notified by immigration that I had been granted permission for a work permit and I should go down, collect the notice, pay some fees and fill out some forms to get the permit process going. I meet the man (James) that the Baptist Mission employs for immigration needs down at Nyayo House (the building that houses all the immigration offices). We climbed to the fifth floor, waited for the lady we needed to see to return from lunch, only to find they had held the notice long enough and then put it in the mail a few days earlier. (It never ceases to amaze me that anyone can find a record of anything in these offices.)
Sure enough, the notice arrived here on Saturday. I picked it up on Monday. When I opened it the form read that I had been granted permission for a Class A permit, we could get two years at once. The only problem is that a Class A permit for two years costs a little over $4200!!! I need a class E (for missionaries) permit. Two years for a class E is about $65.
Dorcas (our secretary) went to Nyayo House on my behalf today. She met James there. No, it wasn't a mistake. Care of Creation Kenya (CCK) is registered as an NGO (non-governmental organization, similar to what we call a non-profit) so I need an NGO Class A permit. Craig and Tracy had researched this when they were going through the process to register the CCK. They were assured that they could still get a Class E permit, even as an NGO. And that is what the NGO board of Kenya recommended for us in their letter to immigration.
Anyway, it's a big problem. I would appreciate your prayer. Tracy went into bulldog mode when she heard about it. Even though she and Craig are in Nairobi today taking the kids to the doctors and so on, she has made several calls including to the NGO board and will no doubt fight it all to the very end. In the meantime, I need to get my third three-month tourist visa in a row as my current visa runs out a week from Saturday. I must go on the day or the day before, no earlier or later.
Please pray about this. I know enough about the culture here to realize that 'fighting' something can result in additional trouble. One must be very careful how things are approached so as not to demand things or upset anyone's pride in what they do. There is also the opportunity for corruption to make its way in through such a process. No doubt we will have more help from James. We need to think creatively how to pitch the need for this position I fill to be a 'missionary position'. We may need to go back to the lawyer that helped us register... I do not know what all it will entail. I just know it will take a lot of prayer.
Thank you for standing with me in this, Jan

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm Writing this Week

Many of you know by now that I'm writing a book that's due to be published this fall. I have a long way to go, so I've dedicated this whole week to (almost) nothing but writing. This morning in my quiet time I read Psalm 119:66 which says, "Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments."

And this is my prayer: that by his Word the Lord will empower me to write well about his Word! Please join me in this prayer, that his name might be glorified as his Word is exalted.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

How Should a Christian Buy a Home?

A few weeks ago an opportunity arose for Kim, Rachel, and I to acquire a home—our first home. It is a “lease with option to buy” deal, and it’s being offered to us by a man we know and trust. We think we’ll be ready to buy a house on our own in a year or so, but this would allow us to get into something now while the market is at, or near, the bottom.

Thus, we’ve been looking at several homes and working through lots of details. Along the way, I’ve tried to keep our family’s hearts focused on the right things and this entry is a brief summary of some of those things. To put it in the form of a question, How should a Christian go about buying a home?

1. Guard your heart by remembering that your hope is in Christ alone. Paul writes, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). And Peter adds, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).

Christians must die to the American dream and be born to the Kingdom of God dream. We must fix our eyes and Christ and set our hope fully on the day when we will see Jesus Christ face-to-face and commune with him and worship him forever! We must inflame affections in our hearts for that day when we, together with people from every tribe and tongue and nation, will shout from the depths of our hearts, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12) This leads to the second thing.

2. Guard your heart by remembering that this world is not your home and that Christ is preparing your true home even now. Just before he went to the cross Jesus said to his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going” (John 14:1-4).

Why would I give my heart to an earthly home that will one day be destroyed or otherwise fade away, when Christ is preparing for me an eternal home that can neither be destroyed nor fade away? As the writer of Hebrews said, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). Reason being, this “city” will not last but that “city” will. And the wise put their hope in that which lasts.

3. Guard your heart by remembering that your resources have been entrusted to you by Christ and that he wants you to be a good steward. To be very honest with you, owning a house in and of itself means nothing to me because my hope truly is in Christ. But at the same time, I’m building wealth for my landlord even as I write when I could be building wealth that at least has a good chance of being invested in the Kingdom of God. As a steward of God’s resources, I would like to deliberately glorify him with the resources he gives me. This doesn’t mean that every Christian should buy a house, but it does mean that Christians have good reason for doing so if the Lord so leads.

At the same time, another part of stewardship is committing not to stretch resources too far. It is all to easy in the process of buying a house to reach for the little more than you can afford, but the good steward will guard his or her heart and discipline the flesh away from this. After all, the point of stewardship is the glory of God not the comfort of the flesh. This leads to the next point.

4. Guard your heart by remembering that the purpose of life is the glory of God, and therefore Christians should want their homes, as well as the process of buying those homes, to bring glory to him. How does one glorify God in buying and owning a home? Here a few thoughts: (a) Have integrity throughout the process and be absolutely honest with everyone. (b) Be open about the fact that this world is not your home, and that you’re looking for another lasting city. Look for opportunities to share the gospel along the way and so help others acquire an eternal home. (c) Strive for simplicity. Display the fact that Christ is your hope and heaven is your home by buying only what you need for your family and the outworking of your life in Christ. (d) Assess your home for its usefulness in ministering to others. In other words, don’t just look for the home that will meet your needs but the one that will help you be who you are in Christ. (e) Everyone’s situation is different and thus I don’t want to mentions specifics here, but pray that God will allow you to avoid even the appearance of evil. Ask questions like this: What about this house makes God look glorious? What about this house makes God look ugly? Can the latter things be changed so that he looks as he is?

5. Guard your heart by remembering the warnings of Scripture against trusting in wealth. Consider, for example, Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6:17-19: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

We must take great pains to ensure that we are not feeding the vanity of our flesh, to ensure that we are not subtly living for ourselves in the guise of living for the “glory of God.” At the same time it is true that God, our Father, gives us all things to enjoy and it’s not a sin to like living in your home. I suppose the point is, why do you like it? And if part of the answer is, “Because it meets my needs,” does the meeting of your “needs” bring glory to God?

Well, I have to go to a meeting now so I better stop writing. But I hope these few thoughts bless you as you consider buying a home or living in the one you’ve already bought.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

On the Basis and Essence of Worship

It was my privilege to preach on worship this morning from Ephesians 5:18-21. Here are a few excerpts from my sermon, you can listen to the sermon here.

In light of the biblical words used to express the concept of worship, here’s the picture that emerges: (1) The basis for true worship is that God is infinitely superior to us, and we are infinitely inferior to him. He is infinite; we are finite. He is the Creator; we are the created. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the source of all things and the completer of all things; we are utterly dependent on him for every breath we take and every moment we live; He is unimaginably strong; we are weak. He is incalculably rich; we are poor. He is the vine; we are the branches, and without him we can do nothing and we are in fact nothing. The absolute superiority of God, and the absolute inferiority of ourselves in relation to God, is the biblical basis for true worship. This leads to number two.

(2) The essence of true worship is awe and humility. True worship is a holy fear of God that’s born from seeing something of the sheer magnitude of who he is. It’s a sense of astonishment at the beauty of his glory. It’s a sense of being enthralled with him and captivated by him and drawn to him like a moth to a flame. It’s a sense of curiosity and a desire to explore him and come to know the breadth and length and height and depth of him.

True worship is also a bowing of our hearts before the Lord in light of who he is. It’s a willingness to let go of the things of the world and grasp onto the things of God to such an extent that even our speech is marked by the praise of God. It’s a disposition to give thanks to God always and for everything because we know that he is God and we are not. We know that he has absolute control over all circumstances and therefore that he has some intention or purpose in mind for everything we go through. We know that we are nothing before him and that we deserve nothing from him and that every comfort we have in this life is an immense mercy. True worship is submitting ourselves to God in all circumstances of life and obeying him at every turn, and it’s demonstrating that submission by submitting to one another out of reverence for him.

The essence of true worship is awe and humility—awe is most often expressed through singing and otherwise praising God, humility is most often expressed through obedience and submission to God. And so when I think of worship, I like to picture a coin one side of which is called praise—this side represents our sense of awe and wonderment before God. The other side of the coin is called submission—this side represents our sense of humility and bowing before the Lord in the way we live our lives. Praise is the expression of awe, submission is the expression of humility, and taken together these two things represent the essence of true worship.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Please Pray for my Book

Probably only a few of you know that I am working on a book. I wrote about half of it five or six years ago when I abruptly shifted from topical preaching to expositional or verse-by-verse preaching. The book is about this change, and many significant issues related thereto.

My publisher, Xulon Press, wants the manuscript by September or October if possible, so I plan to work hard on it over the summer--starting today. I am dedicating 8 or 10 hours to writing today and I'd sure appreciate it if you'd pray for me. The world doesn't need more books for the sake of having more books--but it desperately needs books that are soaked in the wisdom and glory of God. Pray that the Lord will allow this book to be like that.

Here's the outline, in case you're interested. I can't get this blog to format the outline as I want it, so sorry about that and thanks for praying.


Part One: On Topical Preaching

1. What is Topical Preaching?

2. There is a Way that Seems Right to a Man: My Journey with Felt-Needs Topical Preaching

3. Testing the Spirits: Several Problems with Felt-Needs Topical Preaching

4. A Benevolent Providence: The Birth of a Preacher

Part Two: On Expositional Preaching

5. What is Expositional Preaching?

6. Like a Tree Planted by Streams of Water: On the Beauty and Benefits of Expositional Preaching—Part I

7. Like a Tree Planted by Streams of Water: On the Beauty and Benefits of Expositional Preaching—Part II

8. Blessed is the Man Who Delights in the Law of the Lord: On the Joy of Expositional Preaching

Part Three: Five Essential Elements of Expositional Preaching

9. Why Some Expositional Sermons Flop and Others Fly

10. Sharper than a Two-Edged Sword: Preaching the Actual Words of God

11. Pray without Ceasing: Communion with Christ and Power in Preaching

12. Without Which no one Will See the Lord: Holiness of Life and Fruitfulness in Preaching

13. Feed My Sheep: Learning to Love the Flock of God

14. God Will not be Mocked: Hard Work and the Joy of the Harvest

Part Four: On Developing Expositional Sermons

15. Preparing the Way of the Lord: Finding the Balance Between Discipline and Spontaneity

16. Rightly Dividing the Word of God: Discerning What the Text Says and What it Means

17. Shepherding the Flock of God: Discerning How the Text Relates to the Issues, Challenges, and Circumstances of God’s People

18. What Shall I Say? Discerning How Best to Communicate God’s Word to God’s People

19. We Always Pray for You: Finishing Well by Praying for the Flock of God—Again

Epilogue: Let the Little Children Come to Me: Why I Love Preaching to Children

Appendix: On the Term Pastor-Teacher in Ephesians 4:11