Friday, August 31, 2012

New Family Structure Survey: Definitions of Marriage & Their Effect on Children

Just watched an interesting video on the differences between children raised in homes with one father and one mother, as opposed to those raised in same-sex relationship households. I've embedded the video below, but I encourage you to check out the main website here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Doug Goodno: A Father in the Faith

Over the last few weeks I have been writing about a document I keep on the desktop of my computer entitled, “My Motivation.” It is designed to remind and inspire and focus me toward Christ-centered living, but it’s comprised of pictures rather than words. Nine of the fifteen pictures are of various men of God who inspire me for a number of reasons and play important roles in my life.

One man who has played a major role in my life but who doesn’t appear on my “Wall of Faith” is Doug Goodno. Why? Simply because I don’t have an electronic picture of him! But if I did, his would be the most prominent of them all. Doug was not the one who led me to Christ, or who first discipled me in Christ, but the Lord brought him into my life at a crucial time and, in many ways, he became a kind of father to me. I don’t think I could write a book about him, but I could certainly write a chapter of a book about him, and perhaps someday I will. But for the purposes of this devotional, let me just summarize several life-shaping lessons I learned from Doug.

First, Doug taught me to be a man of the Word. He was not the first to teach me this lesson, but Doug provided a most amazing example of what it looks like when the Word of Christ dwells richly in a man; when he reads it and also lives by it; when he does more than just check off the “I read my Bible today” box, but somehow, by the grace of the Spirit, really connects with Jesus by the Word. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for this example.

Second, Doug taught me to pray. The reason Doug’s life in the Word was so life-giving, was because he sought, by the grace of Christ, to connect with the God of the Word by prayer. He read the words from God each day, and then he prayed those words back to God. He slept only six hours per night, rising at 4:00 a.m. every morning just to be with Jesus, and he did this for over fifty years! The glory for this belongs to Jesus alone, and Doug would be the first to tell you that Jesus gave him the grace to live in this way. But I cannot tell you how grateful I am for an example in my life of a man who preferred Jesus to rest. I need more than six hours of sleep each night, but I pray that I would share in Doug’s overwhelming passion to be with his Savior day by day—just to be with him.

Third, Doug taught me to sing. Every morning he would sing a number of hymns to Jesus, and in this way he committed hundreds of them to memory. So many times when I would come to Doug with a praise or prayer request or concern of my heart, he would answer with Bible verses and hymns, by which I mean he would often quote lines, stanzas, and entire hymns from memory. Oh the glory of a mind saturated with the Word of Christ and heart overflowing with the praise of Christ!

Doug went to be with the Lord several years ago, but neither his passion for being with Christ nor his example have died, rather, they have come into fullness.

Longing to love Jesus more than all,
Pastor Charlie

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Roby Duke - Right On Time

Here's a tune from another favorite funky white guy who loves Jesus. Roby went to be with the Lord a couple of years ago which is a great loss for us, but a great gain for him as he now sees Christ face to face. What a joy it must be to see the glory of the One who's been so gracious to us all! Here are a few lines from the song, some of my favorite!

Hey now, you can't squabble with God,
He just might bust your face,
With His redeeming love,
And His amazing grace!

Alright, Roby, lead us on toward the Lord...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Charles Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers

Over the last few weeks I have been writing about a document I keep on the desktop of my computer entitled, “My Motivation.” It is designed to remind and inspire and focus me toward Christ-centered living, but it’s comprised of pictures rather than words. Nine of the fifteen pictures are of various men of God who inspire me for a number of reasons, the ninth of whom is Charles Spurgeon.

Spurgeon came to know Jesus at the age of 16, and only four years later was called to be the preaching Pastor of New Park Street Chapel in London, England, later called The Metropolitan Tabernacle. Spurgeon would serve the Lord there for some thirty-nine years, during which time he preached to around 100,000 people!

Of all the preachers who might appear on my personal wall of faith, I chose Spurgeon for several reasons. First, his preaching was deeply rooted in and saturated with the Bible. He was committed to the Word of God without apology in an age where modernism was sweeping the culture, and the church, and Bible preachers were widely counted to be less than intelligent or educated or cultured. But he stood on the firm foundation of the Word of God, and therefore we are still talking about, and benefiting from, his ministry today.

Second, because he was faithful to the Bible, he did not shrink back from teaching biblical theology to the church he served, and he did not tremble at identifying himself as a Calvinist, although he preferred to be called a biblical Christian. It takes courage to teach hard and controversial things over time, and for this I respect him very much.

Third, by the grace of God, Spurgeon was fruitful in ministry, by which I mean he not only instructed the church in a broad sense, but also trained many preachers, teachers, ministers and missionaries. And as if that were not enough, he won many souls to Christ through his passionate biblical preaching. He is living proof that a preacher can have a consuming passion for the Word and the lost at the same time.

Fourth, Spurgeon was faithful to the church he served, staying there for nearly four decades and only parting via death. God does not call every preacher to invest his entire life in one place, but he does call some to this. Since I feel that my calling is to stay at GCF for a long time, Spurgeon is a glowing example of faithfulness to me.

Finally, although his ministry was solid and courageous and fruitful and faithful, Spurgeon did experience his share of suffering. Beside the constant battles that come with being in ministry, he also suffered with depression all his life. But Spurgeon believed in the sovereignty of God, and thus thanked God for his trials. He once said that the good he gained from easy times could fit on a penny, but that the good he received from trials, by the grace of God, could neither be counted nor contained. I so respect those who know how to suffer to the glory of God.

May the Lord continue to increase the fruit of his faithful servant, 
Pastor Charlie

Please Pray for Fellow Pastor Allan Joseph

Earlier today I received the news that my friend Allan Joseph, Pastor of All Nations Christian Fellowship in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, suffered a mild-heart attack yesterday. I was able to speak with Allan for a bit, and pray with him, and he's in good spirits. There was no damage to the heart, or so it seems at this point, bu they did have to place a stint in one of his arteries. As hard as it is to believe, he's going home tomorrow, so praise be to God for that! But please do continue to lift him and his family up in prayer.

Father, thanks so much for your grace in Jesus Christ that has covered this man's life for many years. Thank you for forgiving his sins and calling him into your eternal Kingdom. Thank you that his hope is in you, both in this life and the one to come. Thank you for protecting him from what could have been much worse yesterday. Thank you for good medical care. Thank you for family and friends and fellow believers who are surrounding him. Thank you for sparing his life. I pray that as he recovers, he would have a renewed passion to live every moment for your glory and the good of others. May his joy all the more be found in you alone.

In the great and gracious name of Jesus Christ I pray, amen. 

God Loves a Broken Heart

Listened to a song entitled "God Loves a Broken Heart" on You Tube today by a Christian R & B artist named Jon Gibson. Jon was instrumental in the growth of Christian pop music in the '80s and '90s, and is still probably my favorite Christian musician. I love funky music that's saturated with a heart for Jesus! So here's the first song I heard by him, the one that got me hooked. The look is strange, but the music is good! May the Lord Jesus be near you as you soak in his grace toward you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Songs of Praise Rise from Affliction

What a joy to have a God-fearing wife! Every so often my beautiful bride forwards devotionals to me, and they always seem to hit the spot. I would rather have a wife who points me to Jesus than all the riches in the world, so darling, I'm thankful to God for you! 

Today, Kimmy sent me the following devotional from Mrs. Charles Spurgeon. I hope it touches you as deeply as it touched me. 

Mrs. Spurgeon writes, "At the close of a dark and gloomy day, I lay resting on my couch as the deeper night drew on; and though all was bright within my cozy room, some of the external darkness seemed to have entered into my soul and obscured its spiritual vision. Vainly I tried to see the Hand which I knew held mine, and guided my fog-enveloped feet along a steep and slippery path of suffering. In sorrow of heart I asked, 'Why does my Lord thus deal with His child? Why does He so often send sharp and bitter pain to visit me? Why does He permit lingering weakness to hinder the sweet service I long to render to His poor servants?' 

"These fretful questions were quickly answered, and through a strange language; no interpreter was needed save the conscious whisper of my heart. For a while silence reigned in the little room, broken only by the crackling of the oak log burning in the fireplace. Suddenly I heard a sweet, soft sound, a little, clear, musical note, like the tender trill of a robin beneath my window. 

"'What can it be? surely no bird can be singing out there at this time of the year and night.' Again came the faint, plaintive notes, so sweet, so melodious, yet mysterious enough to provoke our wonder. My friend exclaimed, 'It comes from the log on the fire!' The fire was letting loose the imprisoned music from the old oak's inmost heart! 

"Perchance he had garnered up this song in the days when all was well with him, when birds twittered merrily on his branches, and the soft sunlight flecked his tender leaves with gold. But he had grown old since then, and hardened; ring after ring of knotty growth had sealed up the long-forgotten melody, until the fierce tongues of the flames came to consume his callousness, and the vehement heart of the fire wrung from him at once a song and a sacrifice. 'Ah,' thought I, 'when the fire of affliction draws songs of praise from us, then indeed we are purified, and our God is glorified!' 

"Perhaps some of us are like this old oak log, cold, hard, insensible; we should give forth no melodious sounds, were it not for the fire which kindles around us, and releases notes of trust in Him, and cheerful compliance with His will. 

"As I mused the fire burned, and my soul found sweet comfort in the parable so strangely set forth before me. Singing in the fire! Yes, God helping us, if that is the only way to get harmony out of these hard apathetic hearts, let the furnace be heated seven times hotter than before." 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Rejoicing in the Good News of Jesus

This morning in my quiet time I was scheduled to read Romans 5-6, which I did. But as I read slowly and prayerfully, the Lord was speaking so powerfully to me that I couldn't stop reading! So I read chapter 7, chapter 8, chapter 9, chapter 10, and finally decided to stop at the end of chapter 11. If you've ever read these chapters, you know that they are dense and profoundly meaningful. 

By the time I got to church, I felt like I was glowing. I was sort of intoxicated with Jesus. I felt in awe, stunned, by what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. I didn't quite know how to express what was in my heart, but I knew that I wanted to live my life knowing Jesus and making him known. 

And then as the worship service progressed, one of my fellow Pastors, Mike Perry, stood before the church and preached a simple but powerful message on the gospel, or good news, of Jesus Christ from the book of Galatians. It was the perfect compliment to what the Lord had been speaking into my heart all morning, and I felt all the more thankful to God. All the more intoxicated. All the more passionate to know him and make him known. 

If you have the time, you can listen to Mike's message here. It will be worth your time, not so much because Mike's amazing, but because Jesus is amazing. He's done it all for us, and all we have to do is believe in him, resting in what he's done for us. 

How I pray that the Lord God Almighty will speak the gospel into your hearts and minds, even as he's spoken into mine this day. 

With hope and joy in Jesus,
Pastor Charlie 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jim Elliot: Faithful Unto Death

Over the last few weeks I have been writing about a document I keep on the desktop of my computer entitled, “My Motivation.” It is designed to remind and inspire and focus me toward Christ-centered living, but it’s comprised of pictures rather than words. Nine of the fifteen pictures are of various men of God who inspire me for a number of reasons, the eighth of whom is Jim Elliot.

Jim was born in 1927 to Christian parents who taught him to love Jesus, read his Bible, and live adventurously for Christ. He entered Wheaton College in 1945 where he grew in the passion to preach the gospel to unreached peoples, and where the Lord focused his attention on Ecuador.

After some years of preparation, he and a friend arrived in Ecuador on February 21, 1952. Their passion was to reach the Waodoni Indians, who were both unreached and reportedly brutal. They commenced their work by first assisting with existing outreaches, and then later expanding the work toward the Waodoni.

Before taking that fateful step, Jim married his wife Elizabeth in the fall of 1953 with whom he had one daughter, Valerie, born in February of 1955. But despite his deep love for these ladies, he was still compelled by the Lord to reach the unreached, and thus he and his friends made initial contact with the Waodoni. Their first forays were positive and encouraging, but within several months a group of about ten Waodoni warriors overtook their base camp and killed them all—Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, and Pete Fleming.

There is so much to say about these precious men of God, but let me quickly summarize for you why I count them heroes of the faith, and why I regularly gaze upon a picture of Jim Elliot. First, these men lived with a consuming passion for the lost, especially for unreached people groups. Second, they put their money where their mouths were, so to speak. Third, most of all, they were faithful to Jesus unto death and therefore they will receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

Jim Elliot famously wrote in his journal on October 28, 1949, three years before arriving in Ecuador, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Amen. Jim’s life testifies to the truth of his words, and for this reason I count him a hero and pray that I will have the faith and courage to live what I believe, even unto death.

Longing to give and gain by faith in Christ,
Pastor Charlie

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Herein Lies the Key to Life: Cease to Strive and Rest in Christ

The following is an excerpt from a message I preached on Sunday, August 12. You can listen to the sermon here

A little over 100 years ago, Jesus profoundly taught a lesson to a man who in recent months has become a sort of mentor to me, and the Lord has pressed this lesson into my life as well. That man's name is Hudson Taylor, and for many years he was a pioneering missionary and leader of China Inland Mission which sought to reach unreached peoples throughout that China. From his youth, Hudson knew the truth that “Christ is all and has done all,” but he struggled to live it in his daily life. He wanted so much to know Christ and serve him better, so he strove to read the Word more. He strove to pray more. He strove to live a more holy life. He strove to be a better servant of the Lord. He strove to seek and save the lost. He strove to mobilize and train and send and support other missionaries. And although these things are good things, at times he felt almost crushed by the weight of them. The calling was so great and the needs were so vast and the resources within and without were so scarce and the necessary power seemed so elusive.

As I've thought and prayed about his life, I've come to believe God allowed Hudson to feel the weight of these things because he was preparing Hudson to learn a lesson he would never forget, a lesson that would mark the rest of his life and shape his legacy, a lesson that would be used to influence the church of Jesus Christ for generations to come. 

When the Lord knew the time was just right, he sent Hudson back to China from his native England where he had been laboring for some time, and upon his arrival he received a letter from a friend. In this letter his friend explained how Christ had been teaching him to rest in his finished work and to cease striving. The friend struggled for words and tried as best as he could to explain but at the end of the day he could only hope and trust that the Holy Spirit would give Hudson understanding. Near the end of the letter his friend wrote, in part, “[Knowing that faith is the means by which we are to rest in Christ,] how then to have our faith increased? Only by thinking of all that Jesus is and all he is for us: his life, his death, his work, he himself as revealed to us in his word, to be the subject of our constant thoughts. Not a striving to have faith…but a looking off to the faithful one seems all we need: a resting in the loved one entirely for time and for eternity” (Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, OMF Books, 2010: 118-19). 

The Lord used this letter in Hudson’s life, and powerfully so. In fact, those closest to him said he was never the same after reading it. One of those people wrote, “Troubles didn’t worry him as they had before. He cast everything on God in a new way and gave more time to prayer.” He stopped working so late into the night and instead just went to bed, rising at 5:00 or 5:30 to be with Jesus. He was giving more time to prayer and the Word now, and yet it wasn't a striving, it wasn't a work of his flesh. It was a resting a Christ, it was time spent with Christ for no other reason than to spend time with Christ. 

This was a black and white moment, a before and after moment in Hudson's life. His dreams and responsibilities and sufferings remained, but the burden of it all was gone. The anxiety had evaporated. He was only a man, so I’m sure he still had his moments of struggle, but by and large the Lord gave him the grace to rest rather than strive. He had discovered the peace of laying down in the sufficiency of Christ and his finished work on the cross. He had found the key to life: cease to strive and rest in Christ.

Of this time he wrote in a letter to his sister, “I don’t know how far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it, for there is nothing new or strange or wonderful—and yet, all is new!...And the sweetest part…is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything” (123). From this time forward he was often heard telling others to “roll the burden onto the Lord.” Someone would come to him with stress about sin or a relationship or circumstance or need or opportunity, and he would just say, “Brother or sister, roll the burden onto the Lord. It’s his alone to bear.” He had found the key to life: cease to strive and rest in Christ. This was Hudson Taylor’s spiritual secret—deep dependence upon the Christ who saved him. 

The glory for this belongs not to Hudson but to the Lord who so graciously taught him. And the Lord taught him for the good of us all. If we’ll have ears to hear, I believe God will use this man to teach us a way of life that will free us from anxiety and escort us into a new fruitfulness in Christ that will be high and deep, wide and broad. And I believe that in part because this way of life is not just for the super-spiritual, for famous believers like Hudson, rather, this way of life is for all of God’s children. God wants all who are redeemed to learn the beauty and joy of resting in him. Herein lies the key to life: cease to strive and rest in Christ. Eat of him, drink of him, believe in him—this is your only work, and God will give you grace even for this. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting

Oh how this song has been touching my heart and expressing what the Lord has been teaching me through the Gospel of John chapters 6, 7, and 15, as well as chapters 14 and 15 of the classic book, Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret. I pray that it blesses you as well. Sing along, savor the words, open your heart to Jesus and let him teach you, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light.