Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Best and Worst in us...

My buddy believes that John Owen is the greatest of the post-apostolic theologians. Well, I am sure he would get some debate on that issue, but when you read quotes like these, you understand why he is convinced of Owen's lofty rank.

Sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep, when they are still. - John Owen

While the best a non-Christian can do is sin, the worst a Christian can do is sin. - John Owen

Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Mega-Media-Mess of a Church

One of the proudest moments in what is this modern, media-contrived Christianity that is so popular on television these days was the purchase and dedication of the new Lakewood Church in Houston, TX. You know, the one that is pastored by the media-delivered darling Joel Osteen. They recently moved into the building that onced was the home arena for the Houston Rockets. Now it is the home of the Spacely Sprockets, as Osteen and his faithful followers moved in. It was a grand celebration, I hear. I am sure that many of you heard it too. But what I would like you to read is the assessment of that mega-mess by Rick Phillips, who happened upon the celebration on the television one morning. Watching Joel Osteen, caused Rick Phillips to reflect upon what he was watching, and to offer a most insightful evaluation. By the way, the above article is at Reformation 21, the new online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Good stuff.

Whatever Happened to Modesty?

We live in an immodest society. This is unquestionable. Those things that use to make us blush, today don't even cause us to bat an eye. The public airways are replete with all types of indiscretion and innuendo. The commercialism of sex has trivialized it and caused it to lose much of its heavenly luster, as it is transformed in to a lustful highway of temporary, momentary fulfillment, and often long-term and permanent failure. Yet in actuality, this can be understandable in a world where sin reigns, where the natural mind is not subject to the law of God, nor can it be. Unfortunately, modesty has fallen out of favor and beauty in the church as well. No longer are women seeking to obey the command of God to "adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control" (1Tim. 2:9). While it may seem a minor thing, actually reformation in the church must begin with reformation in the heart. If you want to see reform in your church, one avenue is the proclamation of Gospel. Yet tied to that is the reclamation of modesty among our women. Here's some help for you. Carolyn Mahaney, wife of former pastor C.J. Mahaney, and her daughters have put together a handy and healthy pamphlet entitled, The Modesty Heart Check. My wife and other women have found this helpful. Surely you will too.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Greatest American....

Well the results are in and according to those who participated in the poll, the Greatest American of All Time is...You guessed it, Ronald Wilson Reagan. Some of you will no doubt disagree with that (Sherard :-), and while others will give their wholehearted approval (this is obvious by the mere fact that Reagan won). Well, I am not here to praise or revile Mr. Reagan (for he is an honorable man, so are they all honorable men). I would like to note however that any listing with Bill Clinton in the top ten, needs to be suspect. Nevertheless, the reason for this post is not to comment on the legitimacy of Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, but rather to draw your attention not to the greatest American, but rather to what I consider to be the Greatest American Speech ever written and heard. It is Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural. Now there have been some wonderful speeches given in the history of our country. From Thomas Paine, "Give me Liberty," to Sojourner Truth's "Am I Woman," to John F. Kennedy's Inaugural, to M.L. King's "I Have A Dream." Yet, I am convinced that none captured the pathos of the day while speaking with such prophetic insight and theological acumen as did Lincoln's Second Inaugural. Lincoln has been called "the most theological of our presidents." To read his Second Inaugural and to understand the circumstances surrounding its writing is to understand why Lincoln would be given such a designation. Recently, I had the pleasure of reading a fantastic book detailing, examining, and breaking down Lincoln's thoughts contain in that speech. The book is Lincoln's Greatest Speech by Ronald C. White, Jr. It is a remarkable and insightful read. Learning the Reformed Theological influences upon Lincoln, particularly as they are expressed in this speech, is worth the price of the book itself. If we had men (politicians and preachers) today committed to such theological integrity in the public arena, we may just see more names added to the list of Greatest Americans. If not, at least more added to the list of Greatest American Speeches.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Loving God, Dissing the Church?

I love the church. This would seem to be an obvious statement for anyone who would name the name of Christ. For to love Christ is to love the things that He loves. And there is nothing as dear to Christ in the world than His Church, the Bride for whom He gave His life. Yet amazingly there are those who would seek to draw this dichotomy between Christ and His church, between loving God and loving the church. This is particularly the case among the so-called "intellectual elite" who find themselves pontificating upon the evils and short-coming of a society that has such a religious soul. For them, short-comings and evils that plague our society are the result of the short-sightedness and sociological impotence of the church. This is particularly true of the so-called "black intellectual" who sees and understands the predominantly Black Church in America to be a socio-political institution that once fought for Civil Rights but now fights for prime real estate to build mega-church edifices. Therefore, they level their criticism at the church, while claiming at the same time to have a relationship with God, or as John W. Fountain, former reporter for The Washington post and current journalism professor at University of Illinois at Urbana, claims to be connected to God but disconnected from the church. In his recent article, No Place for Me: Fountain suggests that the church is no place for him because it has lost its way. He loathes the modern mega-church preacher (or wannabes) because they are men (and unfortunately women) who are more concerned with filthy lucre than with faith in Christ, and faithful living. His criticism, while at many points is legitimate, comes from an illegitimate position. His is a self-righteous, pietistic arrogance that is as evil, if not worse, than the money-grabbing prophets of today. He knows not, nor loves the true church of God.

Journalist John totally misses God and the reality that is the church. His criticism of these so-called preachers is obviously correct, however, his analysis of the church is as wrong as is his criticism of the preachers right. To say, "I feel connected to God, but not connected to the church" is a self-falsifying statement. But he can not know that, because for him church has been nothing but a heavy dose of emotional stimulation. And when the emotional high has worn off, he begins looking for work to do to make him once again feel significant. Here is a glaring and sad illustration of a man who thinks he experienced God when all he experienced was religious experience itself. Yet, he is smart enough to know that something is missing, he just is not spiritually inclined to know what that something is. He thinks its about him. But as you know, church (biblical Christianity) is not about him. It is obvious, he has no desire, or affection for God. If he loved God, as he claims, he would love the church, because the church is what God loves (His Bride). The author's self-righteous is just as bad if not worse than the self-indulgence that he accuses these pimping-preachers of. (By the way: if he had real courage he would call out Creflo Dollar, TD Jakes, Eddie Long, and his own mega church pastor. But alas, such courage wains when it is really called upon). Speaking of courage....The saddest part is the ending. The way the article ends is in an attempt to gain a sympathetic ear. Yet, for me the very converse is true. I am most disappointed and unimpressed with the cowardice he demonstrates in sending his small daughter to church and not leading her. He is teaching her that there is a relationship with the husband (Jesus Christ) while dismissing the bride (The Church). He is teacher her to be individualistic and that God is pleased not with what God wants, but with however we choose to serve Him. How pathetic it is that he who would bemoan the problem is himself the problem. If he would ever get a vision of the God of heaven and earth, of the God whose purpose is decreed from all eternity, who is not defined by the fluctuations of our emotions, nor the schemes of our social agendas, he would see that the God we worship is a God terrible, fearful, and awesome. He is not dismissed at our whims. He is glorified and is being glorified in the heavens and in His church. Those who know not Him nor His church, can not see it. How would they? These things are spiritually discerned.

Those who would criticize the church, must first love her. He who would level accusations of her unfaithfulness, must first realize and joyfully admit that they could not live without her. He who would love God, and therefore have a zeal of God that consumes him, must do so for those things that God loves, namely His bride, whom He is faithfully bringing to perfection through the cleansing of His word. Sorry John. You can not know God, nor love God, apart from the church. As Augustine so rightly said, "He who would have God as his Father, would also have the Church as his mother."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Not to Us, O Lord!

Non nobis Domine (not to us, O Lord). Taken from the first line of Psalm 115, this Latin slogan joined the grand pantheon of phrases that marked the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers understood that if God was going to restore His glory and majesty to the church once again it was going to be for His name and for His glory alone. They knew that the glory of God was in the Gospel of Christ and if God would visit His people He would do so for His name and His glory alone. Subsequently, they all with a singular voice wrote and preached, "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory" (Ps. 115:1). Today will be no different. The Reformation that we pray and labor for in the Church (and the African-American Church in particular) is a Reformation that will only come because God determines to glorify Himself through us and to us, not for our glory, but for His alone. So we, like the Magisterium Reformers, proclaim and pray, Non nobis Domine. It is my prayer that it will be the undercurrent and foundation of all we write, preach and pray.