Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Update

My son, Paul, arrived home this week. He has been in Baghdad, Iraq for the past 15 months as a soldier in the US Army and this Sunday after service we are having a church luncheon to celebrate Paul’s safe return. Please come!

Don’t forget Candlelight service on Christmas Eve at 6:00 pm. This is my favorite time of the year. The short service will include Scripture reading, Christmas Carol singing and I’ll share a special Christmas message. This is our way of keeping Jesus as the reason for the season.

Isaiah 9:6-7
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Merry Christmas,
Pastor Bob Engelhardt

The Sovereignty of God

I just finished updating and editing a book entitled ‘The Sovereignty of God’ by Arthur W. Pink, originally published in 1918. The book is a convincing presentation of the Calvinist doctrine of divine election and predestination and was written by a man who, although he did not have much public acclaim in his lifetime, has since his death in 1952 become a main source of inspiration to students of expository preaching and reformed theology. The Sovereignty of God is being published by Bridge-Logos and will be out in January.

In thinking of Christmas I was reminded of Arthur Pink’s salvation experience and life. Born in Nottingham, England in 1886, the oldest of three children to devout Christian parents, Arthur entered life at the height of the Industrial Revolution, one year before Queen Victoria celebrated her fiftieth year on the throne of the United Kingdom. This latter Victorian era was a period of significant social, economic, scientific and technological progress for England and Christian faith and morality were the predominant, though in retrospect, too comfortable, cultural influences. As a result, many counter-Christian trends and alternative influences in intellectual and spiritual thought can be either originally traced back to, or gained powerful momentum during the Victorian era.

In this physically prosperous but intellectually discontent environment, all three of the Pink children, in spite of the outstanding character, dedication and example of their parents, apparently walked away from their Christian upbringing. Arthur ended up, at a young age, embracing Theosophy, which is described as a cult that “holds that all religions are attempts by the "Spiritual Hierarchy" to help humanity in evolving to greater perfection, and that each religion therefore has a portion of the truth.” It was an influential movement of that era, headed in England by Annie Blessant who, like Arthur, also embraced Theosophy in retaliation against her own Christian background.

Arthur apparently rose through the ranks of the cult quickly, becoming a speaker at meetings and was considered something of a rising star. Interestingly, one of the attractive aspects of Theosophy to him was their involvement in Spiritism, the experience of occult paranormal phenomena, which in turn, ostensibly validated their core beliefs. In fact, the main appeal of the cult was through séances, the appeal of secret knowledge and the power of magical healing and clairvoyance. Fortunately, his foray into Theosophy ended abruptly in 1908, when he was just 22 years old.

Through Arthur’s tuning away from Christianity, his parents prayers and unwavering commitment to their faith, never faltered. Upon returning home from a Theosophy meeting one evening, on his way to his bedroom, Arthur was given the scripture by his father: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs14:12). Arthur could not shake the conviction of this scripture and after three days of wrestling with God emerged from his room gloriously converted. Oddly, by his own admission, he had previously had no inner longing or sense of emptiness that had brought him to this point of surrender, but rather it was a sudden event. In fact, he seems to have remained through his life convinced that what many Spiritists experience is not trickery but demons impersonating the departed.

His life changed dramatically from that point, publicly leaving Theosophy and embracing Jesus Christ as his Lord. He studied the Word of God with a voracious hunger and immediately felt the call to the ministry. Pink biographer, Iain H. Murray, describes best Arthur’s life of study after his conversion: “For two years after this spiritual crisis Pink continued in his daily work but in his bedroom it was now his Bible that was ever open. Ten chapters of Scripture were read daily, plus one particular portion to which he would give particular study, ‘ten minutes or more’, through seven days. In addition, he would take one special verse each day for meditation, carrying it with him on a slip of paper to which he would turn in spare moments, ‘asking God to open to me its spiritual meaning and to write it on my heart’. Recommending the practice to others, he was to say, ‘The writer memorized the whole epistle of Ephesians on the street-car, a verse at a time.’ On days when he was free of business he could spend up to ten hours in his new delight with the Bible.”

Arthur’s ambitious pursuit of God and insatiable study of scripture brought him across the Atlantic to a very brief stint as a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and on to his first pastorate in Silverton, Colorado by August, 1910. This lasted two years and over the ensuing years he pastored churches in such diverse places as California, Kentucky and South Carolina and ministered as an itinerant Bible teacher. In 1916 he married Vera E. Russell, who was from Kentucky. From 1925 to 1928 he served in Australia, including as pastor of two congregations from 1926 to1928, when he returned to England and to the United States the following year.

In 1922 he started a monthly magazine entitled ‘Studies in Scriptures’ concerned solely with the exposition of Scripture, which circulated among English-speaking Christians worldwide. This is wheremost of his works first appeared though only to a relatively small circulation list of around 1,000. His writings pointed the readership back to an understanding of the gospel that had rarely been heard since the days of C. H. Spurgeon. At the time his magazine seemed as inconsequential as its author, but subsequently Arthur Pink's writings became a major element in the recovery of expository preaching and biblical living. In 1934 Pink returned to England, and within a few years turned his Christian service to writing books and pamphlets.

Pink was virtually unknown and certainly unappreciated in his day. His own independent Bible study convinced him that much of modern evangelism was defective. When Puritan and Reformed books were generally disregarded by the Church was a whole, he preached the majority of their principles with untiring zeal. The progressive spiritual decline of his own nation (Britain) was to him the inevitable consequence of the prevalence of a "gospel" that could neither wound (with conviction of sin) nor heal (via regeneration).

Familiar with the whole range of revelation, Mr. Pink was rarely sidetracked from the great themes of Scripture: grace, justification, and sanctification. Our generation owes him a great debt for the enduring light he has shed, by God's grace, on the Truth of the Holy Bible.
A. W. Pink died in Stornoway, Scotland on July 15, 1952.

After Pink's death, his works were republished by the Banner of Truth Trust and reached a much wider audience as a result. As Iain Murray observes of Pink,"the widespread circulation of his writings after his death made him one of the most influential evangelical authors in the second half of the twentieth century." His writing sparked a revival of expository preaching and focused readers' hearts on biblical living.

-Iain H. Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink, 2004edition-The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, andEcclesiastical Literature by Rev. John McClintock andJames Strong. -Wikipedia

I encourage anyone praying for a loved to find the Lord this Christmas to take courage from A.W. Pink’s father and keep praying! God is able to save even the most lost soul and make him/her a hero of the faith. Do not give up; take heart; know the He is an awesome and mighty God and no person or circumstance can hold back His mighty hand.

Look for "The Sovereignty of God' by A.W. Pink and revised by 'yours truly' to be available next month.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Over $1Million of Faith-Work Served!

I'm excited to announce that we have just passed over the one million dollar mark in value of food distributed through the Family Table CAP program in the past four years. Thank you, Jesus! This really marks an important point in time for this outreach. There are so many people involved in a success like this so I want to acknowledge some of the key players in this miracle of God.

First of all, without the precious Holy Spirit we would never have been in position to see this as an opportunity from Heaven. Thank you Holy Spirit.

Dr. Larry Keefauver, who in his apostolic anointing and wisdom, recommended that we start this kind of program and connected us with Harvest Time International in Orlando. Thanks Dr. Larry.

Pastor John Murphy of Harvest Time International, Orlando, FL, who freely opened his ministry to us, trained our start-up team, provided our very first truckload of food and helped us many times since. Thanks Pastor John.

The CMCC family of believers who responded with an initial offering to finance the start-up of the CAP program. You guys are the best! Without your sacrifice, CMCC could not have grown from a veritable house-church in 1991 to a major ministry epicenter, smack in the middle of town, feeding the poor, teaching children, preaching the Gospel and blazing the light of God’s love. Thank you all.

Our original CAP start-up team; Nick and Kathy Malaxos and Mike and Chris Tuch, who all took a week off from work to drive to Orlando with me for training at Harvest Time International. This group of committed Christian neighbor-lovers set up the original store and tended the program for the first full year of operation. Without Nick, Kathy, Mike and Chris there would be no CAP today. Much gratitude to these faithful friends of Jesus.

Mr. Terry Henderson, who, when he saw our functioning CAP program, provided funding and leather furniture donations to sell, to get us to the next level. Thank you for everything Terry and Ruth. You are well loved!

Randy and Letty Johnson and Tracy Larokko, who diligently worked the phones for months and months, at first with no results, to break through and create the vital business connections necessary to receive the food to stock our shelves. Thank you, I really appreciate all your hard work.

Our food suppliers. Thanks to the many stores, wholesalers and manufacturers who have entrusted product to care for needy people in our region. Hannaford, Price Chopper, C&S, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, LaBella Pasta, Mountainside Creamery, Kraft, and A&P come to mind as well as many other fine organizations who have kindly befriended us.

Thanks to the dozens and dozens of workers from our church and the greater community who have given so many hours of labor and contributed in so many ways. If I begin naming names, I will surely offend some hard working saint by forgetting to acknowledge you, so please forgive me if I do not. The Lord knows those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19).

Local businesses like Hubbell Brothers, the Cheese Barrel and many others, who have been consistent supporters of the CAP program through goods, services and financial donations. Thank you all so much.

Stephanie Seminara, whose excellent leadership and incredible hard work brought the program from mom and pop status to the current region-wide resource. Proverbs 19:17 “He who has pity on the poor lends tothe LORD, And He will pay back what he has given.” Thanks Stephanie!

Finally, thanks to the more than 600 families, totaling over 1500 individuals who are currently members of the Family Table Community Assistance Program. It is an honor to serve you.

The Family Table CAP is, in my mind, the perfect expression of James 2:14-20: What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled, "but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

The Family Table: Over one million dollars of faith-work served!