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Archive for the ‘Missions’ Category

Once again… but this time perhaps more disjointed.  Bear with me.

A couple years ago I went thru a period of deep consternation over what I saw as a problem with my preaching.  Time and time again I would get up and preach my heart out and would be time and again soundly rejected by everyone who heard.  It would be even worse when there was a crowd with whom I felt I especially connected with and was getting them to understand what I was preaching but then characteristically they would reject it and march away seemingly  unmoved and unswayed from their sinful lifestyle.  As I reflected on this and after seeing it for years consistently I was really getting concerned that perhaps we were preaching a false gospel or doing it in such a way as to obscure the true gospel or perhaps that I just wasn’t doing a good enough job at presenting it.

This was before I came to convictions regarding the absolute sovereignty of God over salvation and the depravity of man’s heart.  The notion of man that I had was definitely arminian to the core.  I viewed man as deeply confused rather than at war with God.  I saw their arguments as valid concerns rather than the disguises thrown up by hearts that hate the God that made them.  And thus I saw the fault of their rejecting my preaching as falling upon me.  I just wasn’t good enough at arguing or not convincing enough or something.

Now, since coming to grips with the teachings of scripture about the wickedness of our hearts I can see that the problem was not so much with my preaching as with the brute fact that I was advocating God before a crowd that hated His guts and was at war with Him.  (Kind of like showing up in the middle of the hood and preaching white supremacy to all the homies.  Not very likely to be well received.  I wouldn’t preach that by the way.)  They by nature reject it and thru no cunning  argument or wisdom of words could I possibly reach them.

One thing before I go on.  If someone wants me to provide scriptural evidence for the doctrinal positions that I am mulling over here I would be happy to provide them.  This is not intended as a scriptural thesis so much as the mutterings of a convoluted mind over various topics.

So now when I go out and preach I think I can see things the way the writers of the new testament saw them.  The people before me, no matter how innocent they may seem, no matter how honest in their excuses and arguments, are at heart wicked rebels against a good God and my duty is to faithfully uphold the glory of God in all areas and then show them their sin in the light of that and finally to present the call of the gospel.  They will reject it.  Of course they will.  They could nothing but reject it because they hate the light as it exposes their sin.

So in the area of preaching as in all other areas of the Christian life the preacher is cast entirely on the grace of God.  I as a preacher am utterly useless to bring someone to Christ.  He must give eyes to see.  He must remove the stony hearts and give hearts of flesh.  He must save.

Now if the Father decided in His sovereignty not to reveal himself at all to anyone then it is not as if we have wasted our time.  First off we have obeyed God and even if no one is ever saved the preaching is worth it for this sole reason.  But in another sense what we do is also well worth it.

When the gospel is presented it naturally divides people.  If God works in your heart then you are drawn to His throne in repentance and if He leaves yo to your own end then you will run from Him with all you have.  Noone is left standing still when the gospel is faithfully represented.  You will be affected either negatively in heaping up your damnation or positively thru the Father saving you.

God is glorified in both sets of people.  With those the Father decides to save we will glorify Him thru all eternity for His mercy and grace.  With those He chooses not to save we will glorify Him thru all eternity for His justice in their condemnation.  Read  Romans 9:22-23.  Two purposes are given for the Father’s election of man.  One that He may show His wrath and make His power known.  Two that He could make known the riches of His glory.  Hallelujah!!  But that is for another blog post.

I have many more thought I was wanting to share on preaching but I have said enough for now.  The night drags on and my bed calls my name.

No, Caleb, crucify the flesh.  Read your bible.  Study the Word.

But it looks so nice there with the soft pillow and the warm blankets.

Who needs sleep?  Listen to some Greg Bahnsen or something.

But the nice bed???

Who wins?  Guess I will find out in a very few minutes.

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I have a few random and disjointed thoughts to share here so I apologize if it sounds choppy.

Since I was quite young I have been exposed to many different street preachers with many different methods.  And the father has brought me thru a lot of things so I could see what our focus is to be and how we are to present this most glorious message.

Not to pretend though that I am some sort of awesome person with great experience.  I struggle every time with how I am to point to God and His glory revealed in the cross without dumbing things down and becoming humanistic in my preaching.  By His grace He has moved me from one who used to cry out with the main motivation being a shallow fear that they go to hell to one who sees that the gospel call is going out from God so that He might be glorified.

‘That He might be glorified’.  What does this mean?  For the one standing on the street corner yelling about the Christ?  How do we incorporate the awesome goal of all of redemptive history into our preaching.  I wish we all could see the full breadth of the glory of God’s work!   The work of the triune God from eternity past both to redeem mankind.  For what purpose?  That He would be seen as Holy.

So, flowing from that, if I just stand there and preach of Jesus dying on the cross then I think we must realize that I am not sharing a complete gospel.  It is frightening to me to hear what some people think is the full gospel.  Devoid of any reference to the claims that God has on our lives as our creator.  Lacking is the strong emphasis on God’s holiness that makes our sin so exceedingly sinful.  I mean for crying out loud why did Jesus have to come and die???  It is shallow and ridiculously deceitful to go out and just say that Jesus died for us and now we just need to trust Him as our personal Lord and savior.  What does that mean that Christ died?  Why did He have to die?  Why do we need to trust Him?  What does it mean to trust Him?

I am seeing more and more that in our preaching we need to be lifting up the entirety of the gospel.  Front to back and cover to cover.  Telling the story of the cross is not enough.  Without the backdrop of a sovereign God who rules from on high and who is perfectly just and the epitomy of holiness we cannot see our sin as anything more than a simple slip-up.  Christ’s death on the cross is all just a great big joke unless they can see how desperately wicked we are in the eyes of our God.  But, when they see their sin as it is, and then they see the justice of God and His hatred for sin then and only then can they see the grace extended at the cross for the marvelous gift that it is.

On the side of this blog there is a quote from Charles Spurgeon.  Read it if you would.   While it is true that salvation is entirely the work of God and not something we can conjure up thru our passion in preaching or eloquence in speech it is also equally true that God uses men that know Him deeply so much more than men that know Him on a shallow level.  May we be broken by this God so we can preach Him as He ought to be preached!

One thing we need to remember is that if are totally rejected by those we preach to so long as we are faithfully representing Christ we need not be disheartened.  Christ will be glorified thru what we have done because the gospel does not only affect those who accept it.  The gospel also greatly affects those who reject it in that it drives them further away from God and deepens their damnation.  Natural man hates the true God that made Him and will do all in His power to hide himself from this God.  They will reject us when we preach.  But God will be glorified by them in spite of  that.  His mercy and grace are clearly seen thru His pardon of those He saves and His justice and wrath against sin are clearly seen thru His destruction of those he punishes.  God will be glorified thru their lives and their pitiful rejection of Him does not foil His plans.

I pray that thru what I have said I do not seem to be calloused or uncaring for those that are lost.  I do care for them and wish I cared more.  But my chief goal is not to see them saved but to see our God glorified.  The love should flow from us as we call men to repentance but we cannot water down His holiness nor the fact that He as sovereignly reigning over this world will see to it that He is glorified.

I mean to write some more very soon but this will have to do for now.

For the King!!!

Caleb

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The past little bit has been very eventful.  Spent a little over a week rampaging the mid-atlantic area with Michael Marcavage.  Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey all felt the effects of our crazy “yelling”.

Thruout the week we hit two college campuses, a phillies baseball game, a strip club, three downtown NYC parks, a homosexual rally and the Apple blossom festival.  I pray the word went out clearly and am now leaving it to the Father to do as He sees fit.

Two things that really stood out to me.  Number One.  I have grown up around street-preaching.  Seen it most of my life and met many men around the nation that are witnessing in this way for Christ.  But I am blown away by how many people are jumping into this ministry over the past few years.  Everywhere I go I am meeting people who have been led into this thru the ministry of Ray Comfort. These are for the most part reformed people which is very encouraging because outside of this there is little evangelism to speak of going on from people in those camps.  I speak generally knowing that there are some churches which are exceptions to that.  So it has been very encouraging to find these like-minded believers boldly standing up and proclaiming Christ to a dying culture.  May the word go forth with power!!!

Secondly I remember during my time with a ministry school in Wisconsin how I used to get depressed about how we would preach and preach but would seldom see fruit.  The world marched by on its way to death without a second glance.  I have been on a long theological journey the past three years.  It has led me to a place where I now see salvation in a very different light.  If I now, while preaching the true gospel with a real heart for the lost, see the world pouring by and if not ignoring you then hating you then I am able to rest in that.  It hurts to see so many rushing to their doom but now I see how apart from the grace of God giving them eyes to see and a heart of repentance not a one would be saved.  So now I still preach my heart out and am concerned for them but I can rest and not beat up on myself for not preaching it right.  The King will do the work.  We need only preach it right with a real heart of concern.

So with all that said….

May the King be glorified in all that we do!!!

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I was challenged recently by a friend to give a defense of tract-bombing.  To be honest this is not something that I have given a lot of thought to in the past.  I have by and large just accepted it as a valid means of communicating the gospel and left it at that.  So I will here attempt to give a basic defense although I acknowledge from the get-go that there does not seem to me to be a lot that can be said.  The whole discussion seems to me to be one that for the most part will be settled by the presuppositions the reader already has before entering any dialogue.

First off I will define my terms.  For those not familiar with it the term Tract-bomb is used mainly in reference to undercover mass distribution of tracts.  This is generally done door to door in urban areas during the night.  The practice is of course limited to those countries that are “closed” to the gospel and/or Christianity in general.

And then one must define what a good tract is.  I would rather not use a tract without a heavy emphasis on biblical quotation and explanation.   It must contain a clear message of the glory of God, the depth of our sin and rebellion against Him, His plan of salvation thru Christ’s atoning work and the necessity of repentance and a total turning from sin.  Without all these present and clearly laid out with scripture I think we would have an incomplete gospel message.

The first question one runs into is, “Are tracts in general even biblical?”  Well, if you mean are they mentioned and supported by scripture then the answer is no.  Undergirding the use of tracts is the presupposition that any form of communication is valid for the proclamation of the gospel.  The belief is that if the gospel is communicated clearly then the means used does not matter.

While I do believe that the gospel can be validly communicated via different means I do think that in scripture there is a primacy given to preaching that we cannot avoid.  One may object that this primacy is there because no other medium of communication was possible and there is truth in that.  However despite that when studying the scriptures and God’s working throughout the ages we see Him raising using preachers again and again.  When England was in great spiritual decline God sent John Wesley and his Methodist circuit riders to proclaim His truth again.  During a time when very few were going forth to spread the word God raised up Count Zinzendorf and his Moravians to head the charge.  And into modern times God’s preferred method seems to be the preacher who is lifting up his voice and proclaiming the glory of the King.

You may have noticed that not very much has been said that seemed to nail things down or even perhaps give an argument with substantive force behind it.  This is because most of the arguments that will be made in this debate are arguments from silence and are really not that strong.  It is an assumption that tracts are a legitimate means of communicating the gospel just as it is an assumption that preaching is the primary means that God uses for proclaiming the gospel.  When I say assumption I mean that it is a conclusion we come to that seems probable from reading scripture and viewing the works of God but is not explicitly stated anywhere in scripture.

In the beginning I said that the debate would I believe be largely settled by the presuppositions held prior to entering this discussion.  Since each side is primarily resting on assumptions that are not explicitly stated in scripture it will be hard for one side to convince the other of the truth of their claims.

There are a few differing views of this topic amongst Christian.  There are those who look at scripture and see only verbal preaching and thus claim that the only valid method is preaching.  This is of course an argument from silence.  Because people preached does not mean that other forms of communication are invalid.  This is a leap of logic.

Then there are those Christians who acknowledge the validity of tracts but say that they are not to be separated from the preaching.  To walk up to someone out of the blue and hand them a tract without verbal communication of the gospel is not the biblical way of evangelism.  They make the assumption that tracts are OK to use but further assume that they are not legitimate to be used by themselves.  This is another argument from silence and it is hard to critique as there are no substantive arguments to critique.

Then there are those who see the primacy given to preaching in the scriptures but also believe that any method of communicating the gospel is a valid one.  Whether on the internet or in the form of an audio CD or thru a tract God will use them to convict and draw men to Himself.  This is the position that I hold to but like the previous two it is hard to defend or critique or argue for because it is based on assumptions and not hard biblical data.  There is no scripture verse that says that any method of communicating the gospel is valid.  There is likewise no scripture verse that restricts this proclamation to spoken words.

Thus we seem to be left in a quandry.  Not any position can be established securely.  Neither can any position be critiqued strongly simply because of the absence of any arguments.   The scriptures are strangely silent.

It seems to me from viewing the work of God throughout time that though He does primarily work thru the preaching He also is not loath to use written forms of communication.  I know those who have been saved thru reading tracts.  There are many who have been saved thru reading the scriptures without the aid of a man to explain things to them.  Thus it seems logical to me to assume that these other methods are valid.

The friend who challenged me to write this made this statement (slightly edited for clarification), “It is our duty to boldly proclaim the truth and not run and hide while we tract-bomb.”  So the question logically flows out of this, “Are we called in times of persecution to proclaim the truth in the market square boldly knowing that we will die for it or are there other means we can use?”  Based on my reading of scripture I do see the mandate to be bold about your faith in personal witnessing but I do not see the demand that we throw our lives away.  Scripturally I can readily see that advising a believer in a closed country to witness boldly one on one is biblical but to tell him that he must needs stand up and preach in the open knowing that this will bring torture and/or death is something I do not see.  Boldness is commanded.  As is wisdom.  There are times God may lead a man to witness in such a way that will surely end in death but that I believe is the exception rather than the norm.

In conclusion it seems to me that once the door is cracked and other methods of gospel communication are recognized as being valid there is no legitimate stopping point before recognizing their total legitimacy in every situation.  One cannot critique it without resting on bare-boned assumptions.  While I do see several reasons outside of scripture to validate them I cannot build a scriptural case for tracts.  Out of these assumptions logically flows the practice of tract-bombing in closed countries.  It is boldly proclaiming the gospel to masses of people who otherwise would never hear while giving the Christian a fair chance of escape.

I am sorry that I could not write a more conclusive analysis.  The lack of substantive arguments related to this issue has tied my hands from being too conclusive.  To overstate an argument I view as more of an error than understating it.  In spite of this I hope that this has been informative if even slightly.  If you are just plain old confused then I hope this leads you to scripture and to the history of God’s working thru the church for the answers.

May we never tire of proclaiming the glory of our King!!!

In Christ,

Caleb

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Well this is Sunday afternoon.   Tuesday afternoon I will be boarding a plane and taking off for China.  While I am looking forward to this trip a lot I must admit that my excited anticipation is mixed in with a good bit of anxiousness that I am certain I could do without.  I keep on going thru this thought process…

Thought #1  I am leaving for China in just a few days!!!

Thought #2  I will be leaving my home, family and friends and the life that I know.

Thought #3  Are you crazy Caleb???  What do you think you are doing going out there and forsaking this fine life you have back here???

Thought #4  Come on Caleb it is only three months.   Think of Carey, Judson, Taylor and all the other missionaries who threw their whole lives into the field!!  Three measly months and you’re whining like a baby!!  Give me a break!

Thought #5  Hallelujah!!! I’m going to China to serve the King of kings!!!

And then we return to thought #1 and begin the whole process over again in a few minutes.

So anyway, that is just a peek into the contorted functions of my mind.

The past few days I have been thinking a lot about the place of missions in our lives.  Also the state of missions in our world today.  One thing I have noticed is that the church in the west has for awhile now fallen under the influence of teaching that has greatly hurt our zeal to send out the gospel to the unreached.

There is a certain debate that is raging now among theologians over whether or not salvation is possible for those who have not heard the gospel.  Just so we are clear I will lay out the various camps.

Particularists (otherwise known as exclusivists or restricivists) believe that salvation is only made available thru the preaching of the gospel.  It could be in the form of a tract or a Bible or any means of verbal communication but it is only available thru hearing the gospel.

Inclusivists believe that God can save men outside of hearing the gospel.  They say God works in the hearts of all men to draw them unto himself and a native in the jungle who has never heard of Christ can be saved by yeilding to this drawing and be a believer and live and die without ever hearing of Jesus.  This they say is not necessary.  A heart repentant of sin and submitted to God is necessary.

Pluralists believe that God is not merely at work in the Christian religion but also in Hinduism, Islam and so on.  God saves thru all the religions and is not a Christian God but the God of the whole world and all its people.  What is necessary to be right with God is a good heart and an honest desire to help other people.

Though Pluralism is not a big threat to Evangelicalism yet; it being recognized as what it is, a departure from the faith, yet Inclusivism has become a great threat.  We see it everywhere in our churches.  Preachers are hesitant to say that it is the gospel that saves because, they say, ‘We don’t want to limit God’.  It has become extremely common even among us laymen to hear people questioning the justice of sending someone to hell who has never heard the gospel and to postulate possible ways they could still be saved or at least offered salvation.

I used to be an Inclusivist.  I would say, “God is at work in all men’s hearts to draw them unto Himself and if a man will begin to submit and to follow the leading of God then he can be saved.   A knowledge of the gospel is not necessary for salvation.”   Looking back at my reasoning I can see how I was so influenced by humanistic ideas.  Though I would say with my mouth that God didn’t really need to offer salvation to mankind but could have just thrown us all into hell for our sin I did not really believe that.  It took a lot of thought for me to recognize that my ideas were founded on a secular concept of justice rather on God’s word.  When i looked at my reasoning it was sound but the premises were all false.  The scripture gives not one applicable example of a man coming to Christ thru other means than hearing the gospel.  It in fact makes many claims that salvation is only thru the gospel.  “How shall they hear without a preacher?”

In light of these biblical truths I was forced to throw aside Inclusivism and realize that is His sovereignty God has ordained that in this world salvation would not be available to some.  Sounds harsh and cruel but I contest it is not scriptures but our secularized notions of justice that make us think it is so.  Our conceptions of justice and goodness as well as our lives need to  submit to the standards in God’s word.

Well hope that made sense.  I pray that the King of kings blesses us all with a zeal to see His name hallowed and His kingdom advanced in this world.

All for the King!!!

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Info on my China trip

Just thought i’d give you guys some info on the whens, wheres, whats and hows of my china trip.

I will be leaving from Richmond, Va on Feb. the 27th.  After a hopefully beautiful and uneventful flight I will arrive in Shanghai, China.  From there I will take a train out to Xining, which is the capitol of Qinghai province in central western China.   There I will meet up with the guys I will be working with over there.

My activities will consist of a lot of tract bombing {distribution of tracts on the sly, mostly at night} and witnessing to those English speakers I meet along the way.  The focus of this particular group is to try to  reach with the gospel the far out-lying people groups that have never heard.  Here is a link to their ministry A Voice in Asia’s Highlands

It seems from what I have gathered from the emails back and forth between Eugene {director of ministry} that I will be running all over most of the time taking trips to outlying villages and Tibetan monasteries.

I have tentatively set my return date for April 27th.  That date may change based on the need over there.  If it is pressing that I remain I may stay another month or longer.

When we are doing ministry here in the states it is rare that you come across someone who has never heard the gospel.  Maybe their view of it is contorted and humanistic but they have heard it and they know Jesus died for them on a cross and He rose again and is coming back.  Have you ever come across someone who hasn’t heard of Jesus?  Christian teaching and general doctrine is common knowledge in western culture.

But when we get over to areas such as those i will be going to there is a huge difference in how you need to share the gospel.  Not only do they not understand the real gospel they don’t even know who Jesus is.  Not only do they not know who Jesus is they don’t even have a concept often about what a monotheistic God even is.  When we say God they don’t automatically understand that we mean a personal transcendent being.  They perhaps have no concept of deity or maybe a skewed Buddhistic concept.  Just getting them to comprehend the Christian God much less understand the gospel must be i think an interesting task.  It sickens me to think of all the stubbornly selfish Americans hearing and turning down the gospel for the umpteenth time while there are millions who will live and die without hearing of God’s call to repentance.

If all works out I plan on posting pics and videos both to this blog and to facebook of the goings-on in the boonies of Tibet and China.

May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of It’s suffering, namely the worship and love of the holy bride it died for.

All for the King!!

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