Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Response to Teen Suicide

Yesterday our family received the news that two teenagers had committed suicide here in Rogers, Minnesota. Then today I received an e-mail from a family in our church who knows the family of one of the young men. He and his family were deeply grieved by this, as you can imagine, and after praying for some time here is how I responded (I've edited out some portions of the note). I hope these few words will help you in times of grief, as well.

Dear Brother in Christ,

It’s times like this when our belief in God, and our beliefs about God, are put to the test. And for us who believe so strongly in the sovereignty of God one particular question comes to the fore: how can God be good when he has the power and the right to stop things like this but doesn’t? If I could fully and satisfactorily answer this question I would be the most famous pastor/theologian in history. I do not have a full and satisfying answer to this question, but in times like these here are the things I strive to remember:

1. God is holy to the core of his being, and therefore he is faultless in all he does and all he allows (Lev. 11:44, Is. 6:3, Jam. 1:17, 1 Pet. 1:16, 1 John 1:5, Rev. 4:8).

2. God is good to the core of his being and therefore all he does is good, even if it appears to be evil (Ps. 25:8, 34:8, 100:5, 106:1, 107:1, 118:1, 135:3, Nahum 1:7).

3. God is wise, and though we don’t understand his ways, someday we will see and understand and worship him for every single decision he has made—yes, even those who hate him will acknowledge the infinite superiority of his wisdom in every single decision (Ps. 104:24, Pr. 2:6, 3:19, 21:30, Is. 28:29).

As one of my pastors used to tell me, “You can trust the heart of God when you cannot trace his hand.” You can trust the character of God when you cannot understand what he has done, or what he has allowed. Thus, my counsel to you, brother, is to read every one of these texts with your family and drive them deeply into your soul. Suffering is a kind of key that unlocks the depths of our hearts and it gives us, therefore, an opportunity to drive the truth deeper than we otherwise could. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with grief—in fact, something would be wrong if we did not feel grief. After all, even Jesus wept at the death of Lazurus. But his grief was not a hopeless grief, and if we will allow truth to carry the day neither will our grief be hopeless (1 Thes. 4:13).

Brother, I love you and your family very much, and I hope that my words will be a help and not a hindrance. May the God of all comfort be near you (2 Cor. 1:3-7). Please let me know if there’s anything specific I can do.

With grief and hope in Christ,

Pastor Charlie

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pastors Beaten by Militants in Andra Pradesh

From Voice of the Martyrs:

"On April 14, three pastors--who were distributing Christian tracts to children in the town of Devarkonda, Andra Pradesh--were beaten with sticks by approximately 50 Hindu militants. Pastor John Kumar's hand was broken and the other two pastors were severely injured in the attack. Pray for healing for these believers. Ask God to give them and other church leaders in India the wisdom to know how to shepherd the believers through times of suffering. James 1:5, Psalm 91"

Where there is great love, there is willingness to suffer. Oh, that we might love Jesus to the extent that we also are willing to suffer for the sake of the Name. "But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you" (1 Pet. 4:13-14).

Monday, April 28, 2008

Leaving your Church may not be the Solution

In a chapter entitled “How the Soul may be Recovered from Spiritual Decay,” John Owen makes the following observation:

“When a tree grows old, or is decaying, it helps to loosen the soil around its base and then to manure it. This may revive it and cause it to flourish again. But if you uproot it and plant in somewhere else—which may appear to be a good thing to do—it will probably wither and die. This is exactly what some spiritual backsliders have done. Finding themselves growing more and more unspiritual, they leave their own church and go over to Rome [that is, the Roman Catholic Church] or to some other denomination, thinking that the fault lies with the teaching of the church they are in, when in reality the fault lies in themselves. Such people have visibly withered and died spiritually. But if they had used the right means for healing and recovery, they might have flourished and brought forth much fruit” (The Glory of Christ, Banner of Truth, 1994: 160, emphasis mine).

Owen is not saying, I’m sure, that the fault never lies with the church, but he is saying that more often than not the cause of spiritual decay lies within the person and not without. And what is the main cause of such spiritual decay? Owen answers some pages later:

“The reason why the spiritual life in our souls decays and withers is because we fill our minds full of other things, and these things weaken the power of grace. But when the mind is filled with thoughts of Christ and his glory, these things will be expelled (see Col. 3:1-5, Eph. 5:8). When we behold the glory of Christ by faith every grace in us will be stirred up. This is how our spiritual life is revived (see Rom. 5:3-5, 2 Pet. 1:5-8)” (167).

Therefore, if you sense decay settling into your soul, begin by looking within, repent from your sins, and make every effort to behold the glory of God in the face of Christ.

On Beholding the Glory of Christ

For the last two weeks I have been preaching on what it means to say that “at one you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). And I have tried to argue (1) that the way we transform from one to the other is by beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6), (2) that the way we grow in holiness and Christ likeness is by beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18), and (3) that the destiny of every Christian is to be thoroughly and totally transformed by beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ (1 John 3:1-3).

If these things are true, and I’m convinced they are, then the question is, How do we behold the glory of God in the face of Christ? There are many important answers to this question, but here are a couple of thoughts from John Owen’s The Glory of Christ (Banner of Truth Trust: Carlisle, PA, 1994).

“How, then, can we behold the glory of Christ? We need, firstly, a spiritual understanding of his glory as revealed in Scripture” (115). Owen does not explain what he means by this, but I take him to mean that we cannot behold his glory until we have come to faith in him. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). Therefore, the “natural person” must be overcome by grace through faith in order to have sight of Christ. But ironically, the way the “natural person” is overcome is by being granted the sight of Christ.

Consider 2 Corinthians 4:6—“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” And consider the implications of the language in Ephesians 1:18 and Hebrews 10:32, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened…but recall the former days when, after you were enlightened” (see also John 1:9 & 2 Tim. 1:10). The implication of these verses is that coming to faith in Christ is equal to seeing the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ and believing in him. Darkness flees in the presence of light, and when the light of Christ overcomes the “natural person” he or she is now in a place, more properly, to behold and comprehend and enjoy and praise the glory of Christ.

This leads us to Owen’s second bit of counsel: “Secondly, we need to think much about him if we wish to enjoy him fully (1 Peter 1:8). If we are satisfied with vague ideas about him we shall find no transforming power communicated to us. But when we cling whole-heartedly to him and our minds are filled with thoughts of him and we constantly delight ourselves in him, the spiritual power will flow from him to purify our hearts, increase our holiness, strengthen our graces, and sometimes fill us ‘with joy inexpressible and full of glory’” (115).

Here’s one way to summarize what Owen is saying: if you want to behold the glory of Christ, then you must strive to behold the glory of Christ. The sight of Christ does not come by laziness or apathy or the kind of “faith” that sits on a couch and waits for life to happen. It comes as faith seeks sight. It comes as longing strives for fulfillment. It comes as light aggressively seeks to overcome the darkness. It comes as love for Christ overwhelms 1,000 other desires. As Owen said a bit later in his argument, “When we fall in love with someone we often think about them. So, when we fall in love with Christ we will be constantly thinking about him” (117).

Beloved, let us then strive after Christ by the same grace that saved us. Let us behold Christ by striving to behold Christ, dying along the way to 1,000 lesser pleasures. And let us hang on to the promise that sometimes, by the mysterious grace of God, this pursuit of Christ will fill us “with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:8-9).

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pray for Pastor Bobur Aslamov

From Voice of the Martyrs:

On April 3, Pastor Bobur Aslamov was beaten and jailed in the city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, following a police raid on a house church meeting. According to Forum 18 News, "Other members of the house church were also beaten during the raid. The pastor remains in detention in an unknown location." At last report, no formal charges had been filed against him. Pray for the release of Pastor Aslamov from prison. Pray Uzbek Christians will continue to share Christ fearlessly despite the ongoing pressure. Ephesians 6:18-20

Friday, April 25, 2008

Four Christians Killed in Somalia

From Voice of the Martyrs:

On April 13, four Christian teachers, two of them converts from Islam, were murdered by Islamic militants in Beledweyne in south-central Somalia. The four teachers, two British citizens of Somali origin-Mr. Daud Hassan Ali (64) and Ms. Rehana Ahmed (32)-and two unidentified Kenyans, were shot and killed by Islamist insurgents during a midnight raid on the Hakab Private English School. The Islamic extremist group responsible for the violence, alleged that they fired indiscriminately and that the teachers were killed in crossfire. Local people, however, believe the teachers were singled out for their suspected evangelistic work. The wife of Daud Hassan Ali alleged that her husband was targeted because he was a Muslim-born convert to Christianity. Pray the families of those killed will rest in the knowledge that those who die in the Lord will be raised with Him. Pray the perpetrators of this attack will come to repentance and salvation. Pray for wisdom and protection for those serving Christ in Somalia. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Please Pray for Glory of Christ

Dear Friends of Glory of Christ Baptist Church,

Several months ago, a family approached Glory of Christ to inform us that they would like us to acquire their 5-acre property--a property which "just happens" to be right where we were praying the church would eventually settle. We have prayed and pursued possibilities with them for some months, but it looked like it wasn't going to work out and we had no desire to strive in our flesh to make something happen that God was not in.

About an hour ago I received a phone call from the owner of the property. He informed me that they have a family acquaintance who has been wanting to invest in a ministry. She heard about our church and this property and is seriously considering purchasing the property on our behalf. She is so serious that they are meeting at the bank tomorrow to make a decision.

Therefore, I am writing to call you to prayer. I do not want to tell you how to pray for the Holy Spirit is able to do that (Romans 8:26-39). But I do want you to know how I'm praying: I'm praying, "Lord, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." If this is God's will, then, Amen, may he display his great power right before our eyes. If this is not God's will, then, Amen, may he display his loving care for his church and shut this door. I would rather have God with nothing else than have everything else without God. He is our treasure, and he is enough for us. May He have His way with His church.

I will let you know how things develop. Thank you for praying.

For the glory of Christ and by faith in his name alone,
Pastor Charlie

Pray for "Muhammad's" Family

I received the following report from the Voice of the Martyrs yesterday. Oh, how we ought to labor to keep our hearts and minds sober about the price being paid by Christians around the world, simply for being Christians. May the Lord find us worthy to suffer for the Name as well. "Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ" (Acts 5:41-42). "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name" (1 Peter 4:16). Here's the report:

Every night on the news we hear updates of violence in Iraq. The war continues and commentators debate whether American soldiers should be there or not. What we do not hear about is the plight of Christian nationals in Iraq. For them a spiritual war wages.

When "Muhammad" first converted to Christianity from Islam, he kept his new faith a secret. In fact, the first person he told outside of his wife and son was a Christian named "Joseph." He knew the risks of sharing his faith with others in his homeland of Iraq but felt led to do so anyway. So he witnessed to his extended family. Following radical teachings of Islam, family members killed Muhammad.

Muhammad's widow sent Muhammad's friend "Joseph" an e-mail after the martyrdom of her husband. She wrote:

"I have bad news. Muhammad is dead. Our family killed him for sharing his new faith in Jesus Christ. I miss him dearly. Muhammad left me two important things: my son and our Bible. I'll never forget why he died. He died for Jesus. I believe Jesus will help me. Tell the people [other Christians] to pray for me."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pray for Chrsitians in China

I received the following report from Voice of the Martyrs yesterday. Please join me in interceding for our brothers and sisters there.

China Aid Association (CAA) reports that the Chinese Communist government recently launched a strategic campaign against house churches in Xinjiang Autonomous Region. As a result of this campaign, on April 13, 46 Christians were arrested by Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials during a Bible class and worship service in Kashi City, Xinjiang Province. CAA reported, "Forty-six house church Christians were holding Bible class and worship in the home of Mr. Ding Zhichun when PSB officials intruded into Ding's home and arrested all of them. Forty-four Christians were released after the trial day, following a 50 Yuan deposit to the PSB, by the family members." CAA added, "The Christians were mandated to confess their illegal Sunday worship activities and study the government's handbook on Religious Policy. They were also required to return and recite the policy to officials within one week." The Voice of the Martyrs supports and stands with Christians in China and encourages you to pray for believers who are living under immense pressure. Ask God to encourage and minister to the two Christians still being held by the police. Pray their testimony will draw nonbelievers into fellowship with Christ. Psalm 91

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Development in the Rueben Story

Last week I received a phone call from Paul Rueben's ex-wife, and the mother of his two children. Paul Rueben, you may remember, is the man who was executed by militants in Iraq last month (I believe it was last month; time is going by fast for me this spring). Kathy, Paul's ex-wife, informed me that his current wife is raising money and keeping it for herself rather than giving it to the children.

To be honest, I don't know anyone in this family and I don't know who's telling the truth. I simply received an e-mail from a trusted friend regarding the fund set up by his present wife and out of compassion decided to post it on my blog.

However, I spoke with Kathy today and told her that I would post her info on my blog as well, if nothing else to be fair. I apologize if I have caused any confusion, but I was simply trying to do the right thing for a family in need. I trust that the Lord will sort things out. He hates darkness and deceit and eventually what has been whispered in secret will be proclaimed from the roof tops.

With that, here is the e-mail Kathy sent me today:

Dear Pastor,

I am writing to give you the information for the Education Fund that I have set up for Pauls and my children.


Education Fund

US Bank

Thank you for mentioning this fund that will benefit Pauls children. The other fund that his wife set-up will not benefit them only her.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

T4G Day Three

I was very eager to listen to John Piper preach on Thursday morning. His subject was how the supremacy of Christ produces radical living. His main thesis was that Christ’s supremacy has this effect because it causes us to hope in a treasure so great that we are willing to risk and suffer and even die if we must to have it—and to invite others to have it as well.

I have heard this theme many times from this pastor and mentor of mine, but I was no less inspired to “go outside the camp” where Jesus is (Hebrews 13:13). To risk for the glory of his name and the good of others and the joy of my own soul.

After his message, the question was asked, “What does it mean for us to go outside the camp? Where is that place?” Answer: wherever Jesus commands you to go, and you will know this in part because it will be uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worst. But this discomfort, this danger is very strange: it produces immense and lasting joy, because it is not an end in itself but a necessary means to the end of sharing in the glory of Christ. As Paul said in Philippians 3:10-11, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Oh how this message encouraged me to lay down my life for the glory of God and the good of others and the joy of my own soul! Kevin and I had a significant time of discussion after this message. Please pray that the Lord will help us live in the things to which he’s called us.

After a short break, C. J. Maheney brought the final message of the conference. It was an encouragement to pastors to live in the joy of Christ, as did Paul, and it too ministered to my soul. I love C. J.

We’ve been on the road for about eight hours now, and we have about six to go. Kevin and I are sharing the journey with several brothers from Bethlehem, and we’re really enjoying the fellowship. It’s been a great week, but I can’t wait to be reunited with Kim and Rachel, and share with them in the joy the Lord has given me this week. Unfortunately, after sharing only a few hours together in the morning I have to leave again for a day. But the Lord is good, and he will work all things together for his glory and our joy.

Once more, I want to thank you for praying for us. God answers prayer, and he has answered yours. If the blessing he’s poured upon us this week is any indication, he’s answered yours. So thank you in Christ.

To God be the glory,

Pastor Charlie

Thursday, April 17, 2008

T4G Day Two--Concluded

Al Mohler has been the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky for about 15 years now. He is a brilliant man, praise be to God, and his address last night was heavy, intellectual, penetrating, and in some ways overwhelming. Kevin commented that it was like drinking from a fire hydrant.

To be honest, unless you have studied (and like) philosophy or theology, you will probably not enjoy his message. But it was an important one. In it he demonstrated the depth and seriousness of the debate over the reality and meaning of the atonement of Christ, and he persuasively argued that we cannot give ground on this one.

There was one thing that grieved me: part of his critique was leveled at Joel Green's book Recovering the Scandal of the Cross. Joel was a professor of mine and we also worked together on grant-writing for the seminary. He was a good friend and mentor, and he helped me many a time to survive as a Bible-believing evangelical at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. I am deeply indebted to Joel on several levels--more than he knows.

But the sections Al Mohler read from his book concerned me very much. I remember a couple of years ago when Mark Dever wrote an article in Christianity Today about this issue and leveled several serious criticisms at Joel. I wrote Joel and asked him about these matters, and his answer was satisfying to me. (I don't have the time to go into the details, sorry about that.) But the paragraphs--yes, paragraphs not sound bytes--that Dr. Mohler read last night were clear and problematic. So I'm feeling a tension between my love for and commitment to biblical truth and my love and appreciation for Joel Green. The tension is not whether to cling to truth or to love my brother. By the grace of Christ, I'm committed to truth no matter what the cost. It's just that this is a man I love, admire, and am indebted to and I'm deeply concerned and grieved over what I heard from his pen last night. And now I must decide how to respond. Please pray for me as I think through the issues and how I should proceed.

Well, Kevin and I are off for the final session or two. John Piper is next, followed by C. J. Mahaney, and then we'll be heading home. Thanks again for your prayers, please pray that we will finish well.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

T4G Audio Link

I looked it up myself (translated meaning, my passion for you to hear R. C.'s message overcame my laziness), you can access the conference audio here. May the Lord richly bless you as you listen.

T4G Day Two--Continued

What a privilege it was to sit at the feet of R. C. Sproul. I say this not to his glory but to God's who saved him by grace and made him what he is by grace. God gives teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, and thus I can say without reservation that R. C. Sproul is a gift from God to the church--for the glory of His own name, not R. C.'s.

With that important caveat, I must be honest and say that I'm struggling to find words to express how I feel about the message I just heard. It was simply stunning, gripping, weighty, full of glory, true, powerful, God-honoring, soul-shaking, pride-shattering. It was, as Peter said our preaching ought to be (1 Pet. 4:10-11), as an oracle of God. It was so obvious that the Lord himself was there.

R. C. spoke about an aspect of the doctrine of the atonement that is so often neglected, forgotten, and even despised--the fact that the curse of God was on Jesus. His main text was Galatians 3:10-14, however, he drew from all over the Bible to establish the principle of God cursing as well as blessing, and then to show that God in fact cursed Jesus in our place. Please, I beg of you, if you can find it listen to this message. It will probably make you feel as though you've never heard the gospel before.

I'm struggling now to know how to close out this entry, because I'm simply speechless before the Lord. I'm in awe of his massive power, his unassailable holiness, his righteous justice--and also his matchless mercy in Christ. This message did what all sermons should do--it has caused me to worship God. I hope you're able to listen to the message and join me in worship.

Why it's Good that God Prepared our Works Beforehand

A week or so ago, during one of our staff meetings, Kevin and I listed seven reasons why the truth of Ephesians 2:10 is good news. Here's the text of 2:8-10:

"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 can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

Please take a moment and let this sink in--the last time you shared the gospel, served your spouse, taught the truth, picked up trash, helped the poor, or whatever "good work" you did, in Christ, the Bible is saying God had already prepared that for you. You did not think it up, he did.

If this strikes you immediately as good news, you're probably not thinking very well about it! (Please don't take that as an insult, I just happen to think it's true.) As a friend of mine has said to me several times lately, "If I give some expression of love to God only to find out he himself had prepared that expression for me and caused it to come about, it doesn't seem to me like an authentic expression of love. Why would God do things that way?" My friend was thinking.

What follows is not a full and satisfying answer to these questions. It is simply the musing of two pastors who believe the Bible, love it, and know that understanding what it teaches, on its own terms, is the path to true joy.

1. This is good news because it removes self-centered boasting from our hearts and mouths and replaces it with boasting in God alone. This is perhaps the most important reason why this teaching is good news.

2. It's good news because the path to walking in these works is communion with God. I don't have the time to develop this argument but here's what I mean: we are not pre-programmed robots. God causes us to walk in the things he's prepared beforehand by means of our connection with him. We draw close to him and he to us, we hear from him through the Word and prayer, and then we obey. I'm not saying we get verbal commands every day from God as to precisely what we ought to do, but I am saying that communion with God is the foundation of walking in the good works of God. I'm really tempted to develop this point, but I'd better move on. If you have confusion about what I'm trying to say, though, please ask me to clarify.

3. God is holy to the core of his being, and therefore the works he has designed for us are perfect and pure and right and pleasing to him. One of the reasons our good works are filthy rags before the Lord is because they're developed by profoundly flawed beings. But since God is profoundly without flaw, his works are perfect, and this becomes a source of great joy as we walk in them.

4. God is wise beyond imagination, and therefore he skillfully designs works that perfectly fulfill all of his purposes in the world. God knows precisely what is needed, and how much of it is needed, to fulfill any purpose he has, and thus in designing our works he has guaranteed that they will play their part in fulfilling his purposes.

5. In preparing our works, he also prepared our fruit, and in this way God has guaranteed his glory, the good of others, and our joy. We can rejoice in these works God has prepared because we know--we know--they will produce lasting fruit! (See John 15:1-11)

6. As one of my spiritual "fathers" used to say, where God guides, God provides. Therefore, that God has prepared our good works is good news because along with those works comes all the necessary grace to perform them. Were we to create our own good works, who knows if we would have the energy, patience, tenacity, etc. to complete them (2 Cor. 9:8).

7. Finally, that God prepared our works beforehand is good news because it makes us very bold--humble before God and others, but bold. It makes us unafraid to give ourselves passionately to whatever he's set before us because we know that his works in his way WILL produce his fruit! Who will stop him?

I hope these several thoughts have encouraged you. I'd love to hear your feedback, questions, comments, arguments, whatever. But most of all I hope you take these things before the Lord and come to rejoice in this God so great that he would disperse abroad the riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7).

T4G Day Two--So Far

Day Two, I think, may out-do Day One. Kevin and I started the morning by meditating, along with an old friend of Kevin's, on Mark 4 and the parable of the soil. We then shared with one another how the "soil" of our hearts was doing and we laid them before the Lord.

Then it was off to hear John MacArthur talk about the doctrine of total depravity, or as he called it the doctrine of the inability and unwillingness of the human being. It was an outstanding message. Again, I'm not sure if they're posting the messages, but if they are believe me this one is worth listening to. It's not so much that it contains a lot of new info, it's just solid biblical truth applied with insight, authenticity, and passion. I was helped very much by this message.

The second session featured Mark Dever who addressed several ways Christians are trying to help the gospel by adding various things to it. Ironically, however, in trying to help the gospel they end up losing it. Mark, therefore, simply encouraged us to hold firm to the message as taught.

It's lunch time now, and I'm living in the tension between two blessed and God-given possibilities: sleep (we only slept 4 or 5 hours last night) or listening to R. C. Sproul who's one of my heroes. I think, with the Lord's help, I'll choose the latter blessing!

Thanks again for your partnership! More to come soon.

Pastor Charlie

T4G--The Rest of Day One

Thanks so much for holding us up in prayer. God was gracious to us and made his face shine upon us, and I don't take your part in that for granted. So again, thank you.

The time last evening with Don Witney was good. About 30 or so people crowded into Kenny Stoke's hotel room and we just asked him questions. He's become pretty well known for writing and teaching and speaking on "spiritual disciplines" from a biblical and reformed perspective, and thus he mostly helped us think about how to remain connected with God in the ministry and how to keep from burning out or falling into moral failure.

One thing he said really struck me. He told us about a pastor from England who had fallen into moral sin. As that pastor's supervisor listened to the reasons why, he nearly stopped him from telling the story because he knew what he was going to say. The pastor had left off personal time with Jesus in the Word and prayer because he thought he had "grown beyond that," and that he didn't need it. HERE'S WHAT REALLY STRUCK ME: the supervisor later reported that every single known case of moral failure among pastors in England was due to the same cause. Wow!

Connecting with Jesus in the morning is not exactly a chore for me. There's nothing in life I love and cherish more. But the seriousness of this warning really hit me between the eyes and I was encouraged to let my commitment to that time remain fierce and to grow fiercer.

After that meeting, I worked on my sermon for a couple of hours and then went back to the convention center to meet with "Friends of John Piper." About 50 or 60 of us crammed into a room and just chatted with Pastor John. It was good to see him, as it's been a while. We both laughed that we had to come to Louisville to see each other! Pray for him, he's going on writing leave next week.

Finally, Pastor Kevin and I came back to the room, touched in with our wives, and then talked about various issues for an hour or so. The Lord really blessed us in that.

Thanks again for praying, I can't tell you how encouraging it is to know you're standing with us. To God alone be the glory.

Pastor Charlie

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Good News from China

I received this report from Voice of the Martyrs today:

"Praise God! On February 19, Zhou Heng, a well-known house church leader and manager of Yayi Christian Book Room in China was released from prison. According to China Aid Association, Heng was released after a court determined there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him. During his imprisonment, Heng was reportedly beaten severely by inmates and prison guards. He is now recuperating at home with his family. Thank the Lord for Heng's release. Pray for strength and healing for him. Pray that he will be emboldened by the fact that God commends those who suffer for doing good."

Indeed, praise God!

T4G Day One--So Far

My fellow pastor, Kevin, and I are at the Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference in Louisville, Kentucky this week. T4G was founded by four pastors/scholars--Mark Dever, Al Mohler, C. J. Mahaney, and Ligon Duncan. Their passion is to unite people who are concerned about preaching the gospel in a biblical manner, and who are concerned about the abandonment of the Bible and biblical theology in many corners of the evangelical world today.

The day started, for Kevin and I, by meeting with fellow church planters who have also planted out of Bethlehem Baptist Church. This is the main reason I came to the conference, and it was worth all the effort and sacrifice it took to get here--not to say it was exactly "suffering" to come, but it did call for certain sacrifices of time and money and sleep. And believe me, this meeting was worth it, and a lot more.

I cannot tell you what a privilege it is to spend several hours with other brothers who are laying their lives down for the sake of the glory of Jesus Christ in their cities. I will write more about this later, but for now let me just publicly thank Jesus Christ for the honor of being in the room with such as these. I feel humbled, inspired, and energized to put my hand to the plow in the NW suburbs of Minneapolis.

After that meeting, we had lunch together and then it was off to the first session of the conference. The session was led by Ligon Duncan who is s the pastor of a church (sorry, can't remember which one) in Jackson, Mississippi and a leader or member of numerous evangelical organizations. His message was this: theology matters, and it exists for the glory of God, the joy of our souls, and the salvation of the world. It was a good message, and I was very much encouraged to continue in the way we are going at Glory of Christ.

Equally as moving to me was when Mark Dever, the MC of the week, asked all the preaching/senior pastors to stand up. He then had us remain standing if we had been in pastoral ministry for more than 5 years, 10 years, 20 years and so forth. In the end, one man remained standing--he had pastored for 56 years, 50 of which have been in the same church. The 5,000 or so attendees roared with applause, expressing their appreciation to God for sustaining this man and their admiration of this man for enduring in Christ and ministry for these many years. I cried. I was deeply touched by this moment.

There's still one more message to go today, although I will not be attending. I have to spend a couple of hours working on my sermon. Before that, a handful of us will be meeting with a professor from Southern Seminary (Louisville) named Don Whitney, and after that we'll be meeting with John Piper.

By the way, I'm not sure if they'll be posting the messages or not, but it can't hurt to google it and see what happens. Just type in T4G 2008 and let's see what happens.

Please continue praying for us, that God will give us eyes to see his glory, ears to hear his truth, and hearts to worship him and stay faithful unto death. Thanks for your partnership in Christ!

A Note to "Vicki"

Someone named "Vicki" or "Vicky"--sorry I don't remember!--asked if I have an address for TCF so that those who live out of state and want to donate to the Ruben family can do so. I do not, but you can find out at

Thanks for the note, Vicky(i)!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Please Pray for Kevin & Me

I probably won't get a chance to blog tomorrow, so I wanted to be sure to call you to prayer for Kevin and me. Lord willing, we will be attending the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Kentucky from Monday to Thursday of next week. Among the speakers are Al Mohler, C. J. Mahaney, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, John Piper, and John Macarthur.

While I look forward to hearing from these "leading lights," I'm most excited about gathering with other church planters in our movement on Tuesday or Wednesday night. What a privilege it is to partner in God-centered church planting with other like-minded brothers in Christ.

So again, please hold us up in prayer, asking the Lord to grant us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to follow after him no matter what the cost.

Thanks so much for your partnership!
Pastor Charlie

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Praise God for Caleb!

Caleb is one of my favorite people in all the Bible. I love his faith, his courage, and his perseverance. To the day of his death, he clung to the Lord his God and he walked in steadfast love and obedience. I want to be just like him!

Here is one of the key passages about his life from Joshua 14:6-15 (ESV):

"6 Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, 'You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. 8 But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the LORD my God. 9 And Moses swore on that day, saying, "Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God." 10 And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. 11 I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. 12 So now give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said.'
"13 Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. 14 Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the LORD, the God of Israel. 15 Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba. (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.) And the land had rest from war."

Oh, how I love Caleb! And what I love about him most is that in all his manly bravery he did not fail to give glory to the Lord and acknowledge that, if he had victory, the Lord would be his victory. "It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said."

Father, give us the spirit of Caleb! Give us hearts that fear no enemy but wholly trust in your name! Give us hearts that are humble and that give you glory and that acknowledge, in the deepest and most secret places, that without you we can do nothing!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Pray for our Brothers & Sisters in China

I received the following notice from Voice of the Martyrs today. Please join me in praying for these beloved children of God in Christ:

On March 29, seven house church leaders were arrested in Qu county, Sichuan province, during a house church praise and worship service. According to China Aid Association (CAA), "Seven believers were taken by a group who claimed to be from the local religious affairs bureau, community administration and national security. Two believers were released after interrogation, one was released the following day and three female house church leaders remain in the detention center. " Meanwhile, on March 30, nine female house church leaders and four children were arrested by police officials after a Sunday school service in Sichuan province. CAA reported, "All the children and two elderly believers were released after interrogations, but seven female house church leaders are still in the detention center, and one is missing." According to copies of the criminal detention notice issued to the family members of some of those arrested, the house church leaders were being "suspected of using [an] evil cult to obstruct the enforcement of the law." These arrests are the latest in the Chinese communist government’s crackdown on Christians prior to the Olympics this summer. The Voice of the Martyrs stands with believers in China despite the government’s attempt to harass and intimidate them. VOM encourages you to pray for these arrested believers and their families. Ask God to comfort and encourage them. Also, pray their testimonies will draw nonbelievers into fellowship with Him.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Call to Prayer for Abortion Bill

I received this notice from a friend in the Minnesota pro-life movement today. Please join me in prayer over this:

The abortion industry has hit the state with the most radical pro-abortion bill ever. The Reproductive Privacy Act, S.F. 3720/ H.F. 4059, could invalidate all laws protecting unborn children, minor girls and vulnerable women presently in place in Minnesota. Passage of the Reproductive Privacy Act could nullify the Parental Notification Law, the Woman’s Right to Know Law, the Unborn Child Pain Prevention Act and others. Please contact Sen. Amy Koch, 651 296-5981 and Rep. Tom Emmer, 651-296-4336, and urge them to oppose the Reproductive Privacy Act.

The Kahn Cloning Bill is still being considered. This deadly legislation would sanction human cloning and embryo-killing research at the University of Minnesota and allow the U of M to use taxpayer funds to conduct these experiments. The bill also requires the U of M to kill all cloned human beings or face felony charges. Please call your representative and senator and ask them to vote against the Kahn Cloning Bill.

The MCCL backed Saline Abortion Ban has been introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives. This legislation, S.F. 3575/ H.F. 3947, would outlaw a gruesome method of abortion in which a salt solution is injected into the womb, poisoning and burning the unborn baby. These abortions are performed after 16 weeks and the poisoning takes up to 90 minutes, causing horrible suffering to the baby. Please urge your senator and representative to support the Saline Abortion Ban.

Please Pray for Sonya

About once per month I meet with an older man in Christ who mentors me. We always meet at the same restaurant, we always have the same waitress, and we always encourage her in the Lord and pray with her over our meal. (She's not a believer.)

Yesterday morning, as I was waiting for my friend to show up, Sonya (the waitress) asked me if I believe in demons. She was concerned that I would think she was strange and I think she was quite surprised when I had so much to say about the subject.

It seems her boyfriend, who deals drugs, has been plagued by demons of late, and having heard some of the details I'm convinced he really has been. I then shared Christ with her in a very bold way and warned her that Jesus is the only one who can deliver her, and him, from them. She seemed very taken, almost stunned, by what I shared.

All to say, will you please pray for Sonya?

Father, I thank you for the many appointed meetings we've had with Sonya, and I thank you for yesterday. Now please remove the blinders from her eyes, allow her to see the glory of Christ, deliver her from the enemy, and save her soul! I also pray for her boyfriend and her daughter, that they would be forever changed as they see with their own eyes your power over the darkness.

Oh, how we praise you, Lord of Light! And it is in your great and holy and merciful name that we pray, amen.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Missions Week @ Glory of Christ

This past week at Glory of Christ was missions week. Last Sunday my fellow pastor, Kevin, brought a great message on the theology of missions, then last Wednesday we had a prayer service for the nations, and finally this Sunday I brought a message on Acts 2:1-13 and the power of Christ that both fuels missions and guarantees its outcome. You can listen to the sermons here.

At the close of my message this morning I suggested seven ways that the people of our church can involve themselves all the more in missions. I post them here in the hope that they will encourage and help the readers of my blog as well. And I hope they will.

1. Grow in your knowledge of the theology of missions by reading the Bible, by reading books like Let the Nations be Glad (John Piper) and Operation World (Patrick Johnstone & Jason Mandryk), and by taking courses like the Perspectives Course (now available on-line).

2. Grow in your knowledge of the state of the gospel in the world by regularly perusing websites like, (U.S. Center for World Missions), (the Southern Baptist International Missions Board), and (Voice of the Martyrs). Resolve to obey verses like Hebrews 13:3, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”

3. Resolve to invest some time every week praying for the spread of the gospel among the nations of the world. Consider using the Global Prayer Digest as a guide (

4. Consider supporting a Christian missionary or ministry organization somewhere in the world, for as Jesus himself said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

5. Consider volunteering to help Glory of Christ envision and develop our missionary care program and our missions training program.

6. Consider going on a short-term missions trip sometime in the next eighteen months. If you are interested in this, please contact Pastor Charlie as soon as possible so that he can work with you to determine when, where, and how long you want to go.

7. Consider offering your life to God as a career missionary, for “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Remebering Martin Luther King, Jr.

Forty years ago today Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down at a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Some of you know that I took two courses in Seminary that directly dealt with his life, and a couple of others in which his life and works played a prominent role. All to say, Dr. King has had a profound impact on my life and ministry. I am aware of some of his flaws, and I'm not naive about how significant those flaws are. Nonetheless, this man has left an indelible mark on my soul and so I write today to urge to take a little time to think about him, perhaps read something from him or watch some video of him.

I close with a quote from his Letter from Birmingham Jail that convicts me very deeply and causes me to pray that, as the Pastor of a "white church," my heart will not be as hard as those who have gone before me:

"I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi, and all the other Southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: 'What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with the words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?

"Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the Church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappoinent where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the Church. How could I do ohterwise? I am in the unique position of being the son, the grandson, and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the Church as the body of Christ. But oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being non-conformists."

(Quoted from The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., IPM: 1998, page 200.)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Note from Jan Korbel

I just received the following note from our missionary in Kenya, Jan Korbel. Please join me in praying for her.

Hello Friends,
I am writing from Swahili Language School in Morogoro, Tanzania. If you look for this university town on a map it's directly west of Dar es Salaam and not very far from it. (About 2.5 hours by car.) I have enjoyed refreshing my memory on many words I learned back in 1994 when I took lessons in Nairobi. Here I am learning much better grammar. It remains to be seen if I can actually put it into practice. :) I am trying.
I spent the Easter break (five days off school) on the island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania. I have been faithfully writing on my blog, Not Easy Being Green. And I have been trying to keep up with picture posting on my photo site:
Please feel free to visit these often as I am better at keeping up on my blog than at sending out email updates. I love to hear your comments. That's how I know you are reading. My only request is that you identify yourself even if using the anonymous option. I have had a few odd comments that I have quickly deleted because they led to mysterious links.
I really appreciate your continuing prayers. They are felt! About a week and a half ago I was diagnosed with typhoid and spent all of last week in my room, laying low. I am still finishing my course of medicine but I feel much better. From what I understand I think I should have felt much more sick. So I am thankful to God for not being really wiped out.
I have found this time at language school to be a bit lonelier than I expected. I realize now that it's because I am still in transition and will continue to be until the middle of May when I return to Kenya and settle into life and work there. All that is to say that I would love to hear from you. If you have time to drop me a note that would be nice. I will try to write back as soon as possible. Unfortunately I have a hard time receiving attachments here in Morogoro. So if you have a website or are on Facebook send me the address.
Blessings to you all, and thanks again for all your prayers.
Love, Jan

My Day's Going Very Well, Thank you!

Don't know what you're going through today, but if you'll take a moment to reflect on the following note from Voice of the Martyrs I think you'll agree that things are going pretty well with you, as they are with me:

Ten college students in Ham Kyung Book Do Chung, North Korea, were recently investigated and arrested for reading a Bible and watching a video CD about the Bible. According to Free North Korea Broadcasting, Mr. Jung, former vice president of GumRung Company of the Rodong Dang Labor Organization Department, reported the case and has since escaped to China to avoid arrest by the National Security Agency (Bowiboo). "In March 2006, 200 Life Bibles and several hundred CDs were purchased in China and secretly placed in flour bags before being smuggled into North Korea. This huge Bible smuggling case was headed by GumRung Company employees who were influenced by Christianity in China and underground Christians in Nasun City. All the leaders have been arrested and are being severely tortured. If I am caught, I will be sent to a prison camp for political criminals. I didn't want to die in prison camp, so I escaped," Mr. Jung said. In the Free North Korea Broadcasting report, Mr. Jung added that most of the arrested students attended Chung Jin College. "These students shared the Bible and video CD with their friends. They also distributed the Bibles and video CDs to the other college towns," he said. Pray God encourages and protects believers in North Korea. Ask God to give them courage and for them to love their persecutors.

Let's lift up our North Korean brothers & sisters in prayer.