Thursday, January 31, 2008

Great News, Sobering News

Yesterday we received a note from Jan Korbel, a missionary to Kenya whom we support, that her support level is finally high enough for her to depart for Nairobi. Jan originally planned to leave last October but the Lord delayed her, and only he knows why. But certainly this season of waiting has been trying, and yet the measure of the pain has now become the measure of joy in her release to go and serve where she is called.

This morning I received a forwarded message through a pastor friend of mine from a pastor who's living in Kenya, and about whom I've blogged two or three times. At last word, he said he and his loved ones were safe but now he reports that two of his best friends were killed last Monday and that fierce violence has broken out again. They have little hope of finding food or other supplies, and his house is filled with orphans and widows and other needy people who have no where else to go.

Please take a few moments and obey Hebrews 13:3 with me, "Remember those in prison as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated since you also are in the body." Brothers and sisters in Christ, though they are far removed from us physically, we are one with our siblings in Christ and they desperately need us to stand with them now.

Isn't it interesting that in this harrowing time, the Lord has seen fit to release Jan Korbel to go there and enter into the suffering of the people. The call to ministry is the call to suffer with Christ, that we may also know the power of his resurrection. Please pray for Jan, and the Care for Creation team in Kenya. Pray that the Lord will use her as one means by which to infuse the gospel into an exceedingly tragic situation.

Thank you for standing with me on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thanks for Praying

Well, we just pulled back into town. Thanks to those of you who prayed for us. The Lord was so good and did meet us in a very special way. Now please pray that we will follow through well and obey him all the way!

Thanks again, we really appreciate your partnership.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Please Pray for our Quick Pastor's Retreat

My fellow pastor, Kevin Feder, and I are off this morning for a quick retreat to pray and plan for the church we serve. Our hope is to do some big-picture planning and lots of praying.

Will you please pray for us while we're gone? We are zealous to meet with our Great God and Father, though the time is brief.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Joy of Dedicating Children to the Lord

This morning we, at Glory of Christ Baptist Church, had the privilege of dedicating three children to the Lord. This was our first child dedication. While it is true to say that in this service we as a body of believers are dedicating the children of our church to the Lord, it seems more to me like we're dedicating the parents to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord and dedicating the whole church to being their partners in that process.

Whatever the precise nature of our ceremony is, I must say that as I watched my fellow pastor lay his hands on those children and pray a prayer of dedication over them, I was deeply moved and filled with joy. Oh how I long, as one of the pastors of those children, to see them grow up loving the Lord who fashioned them in their mothers' wombs. May it be so.

If I can get my hands on some pictures of the service, I'll post them here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Leading the Church by the Word of God

This morning I read, among other things, Acts 15:1-21. This chapter recounts the time that Paul and Barnabas disputed with other leaders from the Jerusalem church over whether or not the Gentiles had to live as Jews in order to be saved, and more specifically, whether or not they had to be circumcised.

As Gentiles who are more than 1,900 years removed from the situation, it may seem to us like a no-brainer--of course we don't have to become Jews in order to be saved. But the solution to this problem was not so clear to them, and it shouldn't have been. It would have, in my view, been tragic if the leaders of the early church simply dismissed Moses and the Law as though it had meant nothing. After all, Moses' writings are the Word of God and therefore teaching people that they don't have to obey those writings is a very serious matter.

But what really jumped out at me this morning is the means by which the leaders in Jerusalem were finally persuaded that the Gentiles should be released from strict adherence to the Law of Moses. First, Paul and Barnabas shared with the leadership what God had done through their ministry among the Gentiles. Then the believers who were of the party of the Pharisees rose to say that the Gentiles still had to be circumcised and keep the Law. Much debate followed. Next, Peter stood up and briefly recounted his experience with Cornelius (recounted in Acts 10-11), and took sides with Paul and Barnabas. This caused the crowd to fall silent, and once again, Paul and Barnabas recounted what signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through their ministry.

Finally, James took the floor, referred back to what Peter had shared and then quoted, probably from memory, Amos 9:11-12. On the basis of this text, James made the following statement: "Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues" (vv.19-21).

And with this the leaders of the early church decided to release the Gentiles from the obligations of the Law, writing in their letter, "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater than these requirements" (v. 28, same requirements as above).

I have been in many a church board or business meeting where decisions were made, not by appeal to the Word of God, but by appeal to common sense, to current trends, or to whoever happened to be the most persuasive that day. I feel, however, deeply encouraged by Acts 15 to lead a church that makes decisions by the Word of God, as much as that is possible. Of course, the Bible doesn't say what color carpet churches ought to buy, but it does say what our attitude toward one another ought to be as we're making these kinds of decisions: be humble, gentle, and patient with one another, bearing with one another in love (Eph. 4:2). "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph. 4:33).

In all things, it's God's wisdom that we need, and that wisdom is made manifest through the Word. Therefore, we church leaders must discipline ourselves, and train our people, to think by the Word, renewing our minds until we think God's thoughts after him and can be so bold as to say, "This decision seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Lack of Assurance & Hope in Christ

If you are one who believes in Christ, who has repented of your sins and followed him, and yet you continue to struggle with knowing for sure whether or not you are in Christ, let the words of Pastor J. C. Ryles minister to you:

“A person may have saving faith in Christ, and yet never enjoy an assured hope, such as the Apostle Paul enjoyed. To believe and have a glimmering hope of acceptance is one thing; to have ‘joy and peace’ in our believing, and abound in hope, is quite another. All God’s children have faith; not all have assurance. I think this ought never to be forgotten” (Holiness, 128).

“I believe it is of great importance to keep in view the distinction between faith and assurance. It explains things which an inquirer in religion sometimes finds it hard to understand. Faith, let us remember, is the root, and assurance, is the flower. Doubtless you can never have the flower without the root; but it is no less certain you may have the root and not the flower” (130).

Update on Kenya

Yesterday, or maybe it was the day before, I received an update from the pastor in Kenya whose e-mail I posted on my blog some time ago. The friend who forwarded the e-mail to me asked that the e-mail not be forwarded or posted in any way, and I will honor that request.

He and his family and his church are all still alive, but they are in constant danger. The country is in great turmoil, and is in desperate need of our prayers. Will you please take a couple of moments and pray for our brothers and sisters in that country? Also, please pray for the spread of the gospel.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Assurance & Holiness

This morning I began reading Ryle's long chapter (in Holiness) on assurance. At the outset he makes this comment:

"If I am not greatly mistaken, there is a very close connection between true holiness and assurance. Before I close this paper, I hope to show my readers the nature of that connection. At present, I content myself with saying that where there is the most holiness, there is generally the most assurance."

I don't know how Ryle will support this statement in the end, but I know how I would support it had I written this chapter. I would attempt to show that holiness is not an end in itself, but rather that growth in holiness is roughly equivalent to an increased vision of God (e.g., Mat. 5:8; Heb. 12:10, 14; 1 John 3:1-3). To put it another way, I would attempt to show that the purpose of holiness is communion with God.

The root of assurance is that I know him--not just that I know facts about what he's done for me and what he's promised me, as important as these things are. But rather that I know him and commune with him and learn of him and receive from him every day of my life. I'm sure that I will be shocked beyond words when I actually see my Lord and Savior. I'm sure that he will be more glorious than I've ever imagined. I'm sure that what he has prepared for those who love him will take my breath away and be so far beyond anything I've ever seen or heard or imagined.

However, in that day I will not meet a stranger. I will meet my Father with whom I have been walking in Christ for more than 21 years now.

Holiness leads to assurance because holiness is the path to communion with God. That's how I would argue the case. I look forward to seeing how Pastor Ryle argues it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Love & Growth in Holiness

Over the last few weeks I've been reading J. C. Ryle's classic work Holiness. Chapter 6 is on the subject of growth in holiness, and in the middle of that chapter he says that one sure sign a person is growing in holiness is that he or she is growing in love. Putting the case negatively, he writes:

"There is no surer mark of backsliding and falling off in grace than an increasing disposition to find fault, pick holes, and see weak points in others. Would any one know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increasing charity [love]."

Indeed, the more one grows in holiness, the more one becomes aware of the depth and horror of his own sin. And the more one grows in the awareness of his own sin, the more one becomes aware of the astonishing grace of God in Christ that has covered his sin. And the more one becomes aware of the grace of God in Christ, the less judgmental he becomes.

In this way, growth in love is tantamount to growth in holiness.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Please Pray for Jan Korbel

About six months ago, Glory of Christ (the church I pastor) began supporting a missionary to Kenya. She has been there in years past and felt the call to go back, and thus has been raising support for some time now. I just received her latest news letter and she's still a little short. Here are a few excerpts from her letter:

"The great news is I have 100% of what I need for outgoing (one-time) expenses. I just need a little more in monthly commitments to be fully supported...I want you to know how much I have appreciated and felt the prayers of those who have been lifting me up during this process. God has provided for me in so many ways. And he continues to do so...I need just $715 more per month to be at 100%. If just 14 people started giving at $50 per month, I can go...Please check my blog for updates: Join me in praying that God would do an amazing thing and get me to Kenya with this team."

Thanks for standing in prayer with our friend and sister, Jan.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Update from Kenya--Please Read This

Hebrews 13:3 says, "Remember those who are in prison as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated since you also are in the body." Brothers & sisters, our siblings in Christ from Kenya desperately need us to stand with them in prayer right now. What follows is the latest e-mail from a pastor in Kenya, forwarded to me by a friend. You may remember that I called you to pray for him some time ago as he was missing. Praise God that he spared this pastors life, but as you will see the Lord allowed many others to be faithful unto death.

Oh how serious the admonition of Colossians 4:2, "Continue steadfastly in prayer, keeping alert (staying awake) in it with thanksgiving."

I greet you in the name of the Jesus Christ. I write you to give you a very sorrow or sad news from Kenya about the general election on December 27th,2007. There was a lot of rigging of votes of which the one who was loved by millions of people in Kenya was snatched his votes and given to the one who was defeated so the president we have now, Kenyans did not want him. For this reason, thousands of people have been killed, injured as the people are demonstrating in the towns, roads etc.

There are a lot of lootings and through this, thieves get a very great adavantages for stealing everywhere in Kenya. Many people are being killed in everyday as from last year December 29th upto now!.There are no peace everywhere in Kenya. All roads are blocked and you must pay a lot of money is when you pass through. No communications and transportation from one place to another. People are running towards to the churches and the police stations to rescue their lives. Many churches have been burnt with many people in them. We have a lot of works here as pastors. The hospitals are full of the injured people, and we walk to the hospital and pray for those people. We have no peace in these churches because of the killers who can come in abruptly with guns and stones and arrows to kill people.

There are a lot of destructions in the country. Towns, vehicles, supermarkets, markets, homes, have been burnt. Animals are being killed! Many people hear suffering. There is great hunger here. Many people have remained without clothes, blankets, food, people are dying now because of coldness because where the people are sleeping now are the places like open air places.There is a lot of thugerries in all places in Kenya now.

We need a lot of your prayers because prayer makes a significant difference in the lives of the suffering because God hears and answers prayers. Pray for grace to remain faithful unto death, that they will receive the the crown that awaits them (Rev.2:10). Pray that Christians friends and family will faithfully stand with us and that God’s comfort will sustain us all the time of this sorrow and troubles. Pray for healing for those seriously injured or tortured. Pray God will make provision through loving Christians when there are widows and fatherless or motherless who are left now in many places here destitute and where homes and churches have been destroyed, displacing many. Pray the persecuted will love their enemies and pray for them who despitefully use them (Mathew 5:44), remembering that those persecuting them do not know the wonderful Jesus that the Christians know,and are heaping up condemnation to themselves, while through the christian suffering, God is glorified (I Peter 4:12-14). Pray that the spirit of God will sweep over hands where there are persecuted Gods people, bringing many to repentance and giving them a change of heart that Gods people (I Timothy2:2-4). Pray that the plans of the enemy satan will be defeated, and that as God will He might deliver His faithful children (II Peter 2:9), working miracles of protection. Pray the persecuted will trust God.

I’m so glad to tell you that we are not killed and we are safe in the Lord, thank you for your prayers. My dear beloved, I’m very sorrow and sorry to tell you that I’ve stayed for that long before I write to you because there wasn’t internet. We are sorrowful to see that my beloved friends have been killed and their children remains with no parents!!!. I pray to hear more and more from you. Thousands and thousands of people have gone out of Kenya to other neighbouriong airports to rescue their lives passed the boarders. As from December 29th in last year 2007 up to now I’ve been staying with over twenty people including children in my house from their villages which have already been burnt down with everything and still I don’t know when they will go to other places. Please pray for the food and blankets and healing of our people here in Kenya.
In Christ, Pastor xxxxx

Saturday, January 05, 2008

E. M. Bounds on the Word & Prayer

Last week at our church I preached on delighting in the Word of God from Psalm 1, and Lord willing, this week I'll be preaching devoting ourselves to prayer. This combination of delighting in the Word and being devoted to prayer, and the need of each for the other, really fires me up. It' s one of my favorite things to preach about.

Well, each week I write a little blurb for our bulleting called "For the Glory of Christ." This week the majority of the blurb is a quote from E. M. Bounds on the subject of the Word and prayer. Please join me in reading this passage carefully, savoring the taste, and then applying what we read to our manner of life.

"The Word of God is a great help in prayer. If it be lodged and written in our hearts, it will form an out-flowing current of prayer, full and irresistible. Promises, stored in the heart, are to be the fuel from which prayer receives life and warmth, just as the coal, stored in the earth, ministers to our comfort on stormy days and wintry nights. The Word of God is the food by which prayer is nourished and made strong. Prayer, like man, cannot live by bread alone, ‘but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.’

“Unless the vital forces of prayer are supplied by God’s Word, prayer, though earnest and even vociferous in its urgency, is in reality flabby, vapid, and void. The absence of the vital force in praying can be traced to the absence of a constant supply of God’s Word by which to repair the waste, and renew the life. He who would learn to pray well, must first study God’s Word, and store it in his memory and thought.

“When we consult God’s Word, we find that no duty is more binding, more exacting, than that of prayer. On the other hand, we discover that no privilege is more exalted, no habit more richly owned of God. No promises are more radiant, more abounding, more explicit, more often reiterated, than those which are attached to prayer.”

Amen, Pastor Bounds! May we learn, then, to delight in the Word of God and to continue steadfastly in prayer.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Message from Another Friend in Kenya

Our church, Glory of Christ Baptist Church, supports one of the staff members of a ministry in Kenya called "Care of Creation." Craig Sorley, the founder and Director of the ministry, recently sent the following note to some friends in the states:

Many of you have no doubt been watching the events unfold in Kenya. Your ongoing prayers are much appreciated!

We are both blessed and grateful for the fact that this tension has not yet affected us directly in our community area around Limuru, which is about 35 miniutes away from Nairobi. We are in "Kikuyu" country which is the president's stronghold. The indirect effects, however, are starting to be felt quite keenly here. A couple of our employees can't come to work because transportation is shut down, gas stations have no supplies left, grocery store shelves are empty because factories have been shut down for so long, and banking and other forms of commerce etc. is impossible.

As a brief update, yesterday's big rally attempt in Nairobi was prevented from taking place by police with water canon, tear gas, etc. Fortunately I don't think there were any fatalities. The protestors spend most of the day trying to assemble at Uhuru park, and there was a fair amount of violence in the form of vandalism. Two churches were reported to have been burned down, along with a gas station and a number of smaller roadside shops. Some stonethrowing at vehicles took place, with protestors setting up road barriers in several parts of the city. But all of the rally leaders interviewed stated that they did not support any kind of violence.

So the situation has not changed much. Both the govt and the opposition are still playing hardball and seem to have refused to accept any outside mediation, rejecting the international suggestion that OAU leader and president of Ghana serve as a mediator. It's hard to understand why the govt is taking a rigid stance when their own election officials, etc. admit they have no confidence that Kibake actually won the election. Kibaki announce yesterday he is willing to dialogue, but apparently only on his terms and after things settle down. Another rally is supposed to take place today to try and achieve the same goals that were thwarted yesterday. Basically all business and commerce has now been shut down since Christmas eve, so you can imaging the impact its having. If the gov't doesn't step forward soon with some major steps towards reconciliation and dialogue, this situation could go on for awhile. It's hard to tell. Some expatriates have already left the country, but we're not at that point yet.

Pray that both gov't and opposition leaders would swallow their pride and pursue what is best for the country.


Craig Sorley
Director: Care of Creation Kenya
P.O. Box 32, Limuru Kenya
cell: 254-733-451372

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Urgent Prayer Needed for Kenya

This morning I received the following prayer request from a fellow pastor, who in turn received it from a friend of his. Beloved, may we be awake this day to the realities our brothers and sisters in Christ are facing around the world. "Remember those who are in prison as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated since you also are in the body" (Heb. 13:3).

Dear Friends,
I have a pastor who lives in Kenya who writes me almost every day. There has been terrible riots in Kenya the past four days because of a corruption election process. Today they were burning some churches because people who had been hurt or whose homes had been burned down and looted had taken refuge there. They were killing the pastors and people in the churches. I have not heard from my friend since this started. Please join me in praying for him and his family and the nation of Kenya. His name is John Kaoto and he has a large family and also shelters aids orphans.
In His love,