Friday, December 29, 2006

Not Peace, but a Sword

At this time of the year we are frequently bombarded with notions of peace and joy. We are rightly reminded that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and that when he was born the angels declared "peace on earth." However, we must also be mindful that the peace which Jesus offers is a peace not defined by the world. In fact, Jesus himself reminded us that he did not come to bring peace but a sword. Any message containing the Peace of Jesus that does not also communicate the nature of His peace is at best an incomplete message. Last evening Charles Spurgeon gave us some insight into our Lord's notions of peace and what it will cost us. For Jesus, peace comes along with a sword. Think about it.

“I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword.”
Matthew 10:34

The Christian will be sure to make enemies. It will be one of his objects to make none; but if to do the right, and to believe the true, should cause him to lose every earthly friend, he will count it but a small loss, since his great Friend in heaven will be yet more friendly, and reveal himself to him more graciously than ever. O ye who have taken up his cross, know ye not what your Master said? “I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother; and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” Christ is the great Peacemaker; but before peace, he brings war. Where the light cometh, the darkness must retire. Where truth is, the lie must flee; or, if it abideth, there must be a stern conflict, for the truth cannot and will not lower its standard, and the lie must be trodden under foot. If you follow Christ, you shall have all the dogs of the world yelping at your heels. If you would live so as to stand the test of the last tribunal, depend upon it the world will not speak well of you. He who has the friendship of the world is an enemy to God; but if you are true and faithful to the Most High, men will resent your unflinching fidelity, since it is a testimony against their iniquities. Fearless of all consequences, you must do the right. You will need the courage of a lion unhesitatingly to pursue a course which shall turn your best friend into your fiercest foe; but for the love of Jesus you must thus be courageous. For the truth’s sake to hazard reputation and affection, is such a deed that to do it constantly you will need a degree of moral principle which only the Spirit of God can work in you; yet turn not your back like a coward, but play the man. Follow right manfully in your Master’s steps, for he has traversed this rough way before you. Better a brief warfare and eternal rest, than false peace and everlasting torment.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

On Celebrating Kwanzaa

Over at Reformed Blacks of America, Pastor Eric Redmond of Hillcrest Baptist Church has shared Some Christ-Centered Thoughts on Kwanzaa.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

My Favorite Christmas Gifts

One of the finest pleasures God allows me to experience is playing golf with my children. Yesterday I played with my son, Tony, Jr. and my daughter, Siera. Everyday is Christmas when I see them enjoy what I enjoy so much. This year I share with you two of my favorite Christmas gifts.

She carries a big bag, and she wields a big swing. You git'em girl!

One day, hopefully he'll beat me. But not too soon, right?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Too Hot to "Handel"

One of the greatest achievements of human history is George Frideric Handel's Messiah. Is Christmas ever really Christmas without hearing at least one rendition of The Messiah? And without a doubt, it contains one of the most recognizable and memorable musical movements ever penned, namely The Hallelujah Chorus. But I am wondering today, what would Handel think of the recent interpretation "Too Hot To Handel: A Modern Messiah?"
I am not inclined to believe that Beethoven's Ninth can not be improved upon. If you ever hear someone fiddling with Beethoven's magnum opus, do us all a favor and insist that they fiddle no more. Demand that they sit and listen and not presume upon such greatness. Yet, with Handel's creation, I am inclined to see it as more fluid and open to interpretation. Thus, we have heard many good renditions. Is "Too Hot To Handel" another? Apparently, NPR thinks so. Click on this link to read the story and hear a sample of the Gospel/Jazz interpretation. What do you think?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Word for the Day

sempiternal (sem-pi-tur-nl) adj. Enduring forever; eternal. See Synonyms at infinite. [Middle English, from Old French sempiternel, from Late Latin sempiternālis, from Latin sempiternus : semper, always; see sem-1 in Indo-European roots + aeternus, eternal]

Augustine of Hippo: "We say we believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the sempiternal God."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Helpful Reminder

Here is a helpful reminder when reading and writing blogs (HT: JT):

"The blogosphere is the friend of information but the enemy of thought."--Alan Jacobs

In similar fashion I recall the words of Richard Pratt:

"You can't say everything about anything else you end up saying nothing."

Keep these in mind when you are inclined to lose your cool with something someone wrote in the blogosphere.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Prayers for Dr. James and his Family

By now, all of us have heard of the ongoing search for the three climbers of Mt. Hood in Oregon. Today the news has come down that one of the climbers has been found dead. He is Kelly James, brother of Dr. Frank James, president of Reformed Theological Seminary. I have longed admired Dr. James as a professor and now as president of the seminary I attended. In all of my conversations with him during and after my seminary years, I have found him to be a genuine man of christian character and conviction. We are saddened to hear of this tragic lost and all of our prayers go out to Dr. James and the wife and family of his brother Kelly. May God continue to be gracious to them as they weather this storm. Here is a link at CNN to the story and video of a press conference featuring Frank James.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What an Amazing Heritage!

This week the World's Oldest Person died. Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bolden died on this past Monday at the age of 116. The number of children she has left behind is amazing. May we all, in similar fashion, receive the blessing of Psalm 128:6.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Silencing the Uniqueness of Christ

One of the more prominent black preachers in Atlanta has decided that it is time to join forces with the Nation of Islam in order to eradicate violence, drugs, and crime from the black community. Jasper Williams, Jr, pastor of the well-known Salem Bible Church (formerly Salem Baptist Church) c0-organized with a local Nation of Islam mosque what they called a Stop the Violence Unity Coalition Silent March. This march took place in an Atlanta neighborhood on November 11, 2006. The organizers hoped to demonstrate the so-called unity that exists between people of faith when it comes to the issue of crime and violence in the streets of our communities. As one on the outside looking in, I must applaud Rev. Williams for the laudable ends which he seeks. All of us desire to see the crime rate go down in Atlanta, and to see black on black (or any type for that matter) violence cease. This is a commendable goal and the ends of the march should be an ends we all strive to attain. However, the problem with Rev. Williams' decision to be cobelligerents with the Nation of Islam is that the ends do not justify the means.

(You can click on the above link to see a video summation of the march, and to listen to the inter-faith service that was conducted at the end of the march.)

As Christians we are not called to stop crime at all cost. We are not called to bring about an end to violence and drug trafficking by any means necessary. While we may implore a variety of means and promote different agendas, we must not do so to the detriment of our witness to the uniqueness and glory of Christ. By becoming co-laborers with the Nation of Islam, Williams became co-laborers with anti-Christ. Question: Are we called to walk hand in hand with anti-Christ so long as the there are no more drugs on our streets? Question: If conspiring with anti-Christ meant that you could walk the streets safely at night, would you conspire with him?

Any way you slice it, the Nation of Islam (from Elijah Muhammad to Louis Farrakhan) is anti-Christ. To walk hand and hand with them is to give legitimacy to their blasphemous teachings concerning our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The interesting aspect to any cooperation between Christians and the Nation of Islam is that it always benefits the Nation of Islam. As an illegitimate religious organization, it seeks legitimacy by seeking alliances with Christian leaders. The Christian leaders who give them a platform to speak and/or to pray will inevitably hear Christ blasphemed, as did Rev. Williams and those in attendance.

Rev. Williams may yet be successful in silencing the violence in our communities. But is it worth the price of silencing the uniqueness of Christ in the process? The name of Salem Bible Church may be more known, but what of the name and character of Christ? Unfortunately, this is what happens when we become more concerned for our communities than we are for the person and glory of Christ.

Friday, December 08, 2006

2007 SCF Men's Retreat

It is official. The 2007 Men's Retreat sponsored by Southwest Christian Fellowship will be held on March 8-10, 2007 amid the rolling hills of Cleveland, GA at the Woodlands Camp and Conference Center. Our main speaker will be Pastor Louis Love of New Life Fellowship Church in Vernon Hills, IL. The theme for this year is Before the Face of God. We will look at both the theology and practice of living our lives in light of God's character. If you will find yourself inclined to join us, there is more info and a registration form at the Men's Retreat Page.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

LaRue on Black Preaching

Here is an interesting lecture on the nature of African-American preaching by Dr. Cleophus J. LaRue. LaRue is an associate professor of Homiletics at Princeton Theological Seminary. He has written widely on black preaching, including a book I am currently reading entitled Power in the Pulpit: How America's Most Effective Black Preachers Prepare Their Sermons. The lecture is entitled: "The Heart of Black Preaching." After you listen to it, it would love to hear some of your comments concerning his understanding of preaching in general and Black preaching in particular. He seems to make some good, insightful points; yet I question some of his conclusions. But more on that later. I would love to hear your thoughts. So, check it out if you can.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Congrats to the Anyabwile Family

The first Anyabwile born on Cayman Island soil is Titus Ezekial Anyabwile. Congratulations to Thabiti and Kristie on the birth of their son. Titus is the first, but by God's grace may he not be the last Anyabwile born in Cayman. May God bless the Ayabwile family with many more years of fruitful service. Be blessed my brother.

Friday, December 01, 2006

What's In the Bible

You may recall a while back I mentioned that at our church we were beginning a series of midweek studies on "What's In The Bible: A Survey from Genesis to Revelation". Audio messages from the series are being made available for download and listening at the church's website.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Blessed"mess" of Children

Recently I had the pleasure of riding to church with a good friend and his family. As I climbed into the passenger seat, his wife asked if I would excuse the untidiness of the vehicle. Before I could respond, her husband remarked, "I am hoping that Pastor Carter would understand, having children of his own." Indeed.
Nothing says, "Children in the vicinity," quite like a messy vehicle. The vast majority of us parents have experienced getting in our cars and wondering, not only where did most of the trash come from, but when did the perpetrators get the time to dump so many used wrappers, empty cups, and crumpled paper. The adeptness of children in creating chaos in short periods of time is an inexplicable wonder.
Many of us find in this a source of frustration and exasperation (count me among the many). Yet on further reflection, might I suggest to you that a junky car (besides needing a cleaning) can serve as a reminder of the graciousness of God in the blessed gift of children.
Children are one of those gifts from God that that calls for us to work hard at to really enjoy and gain its blessed benefits (marriage is another). However, as we work at procuring the benefits of these blessings, let us do so with a mind that with every moment of labor they cause, there is the reminder that God has allowed us to share in the coming of His kingdom through the replenishing of His image upon the earth. Can there be a greater privilege, messy back seats and all?
Here are a few more areas, besides a dirty car, that says God has blessed us with children for his glory and our good. Perhaps you could suggest a few more:

1. Baskets of Dirty Clothes. Ask my wife what is the bane of her existence and she will tell you the never depreciating pile of dirty clothes that must be washed. It is not her favorite pastime, but it can be a blessed reminder that children are present and God has been good in not only giving them to us, but also providing for their welfare.

2. A Sink Full of Dirty Dishes. A bachelor has nothing in the way of dirty dishes as does the home that has been graced with children. A pile of dirty dishes may have us longing for our single days, but they should also give us a boost of thanksgiving, not only for the meal that was served on those dishes, but for the loving mouths that ate the blessed meal.

3. Hectic Early Mornings. Here's a well known secret: Parenting involves time management. A parent with any number of children quickly learns that things in the morning can be unpredictable and even hectic. Subsequently, mornings can be a source of frustration if we are not proactive in realizing that the unpredictability is just another way that God teaches us to be still and know that He is God. It is another gracious opportunity to teach our children to reflect the God we worship by doing things well, even on time.

So the next time you experience a chaotic car, loads of laundry, dirty dishes, or a manic morning, thank God for His gifts that make such blessings possible. Smile, because He has smiled on you. And then...get to work.

Looking for Carol at Christmas

Jazztheo has an interesting little piece on the origin and enjoyment of Christmas carols. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Tonight CBS will air the holiday classic A Charlie Brown Christmas. For more than 40 years this cartoon piece has graced the television airways. In my humble opinion it is unmatched in storyline, character, music, and message. Who can forget Linus' recitation of Luke 2:8-14? Undoubtedly, the best scene regularly scheduled to air on television every year.
Today's generation is treated to the most advanced animation technology. Yet, none has surpassed or even matched the simplicity and clarity of Charles Schulz's, A Charlie Brown Christmas. One of the great aspects of this production is the music that accompanied it. Written by little known jazz musician Vince Guaraldi (unknown to everyone except perhaps jazztheo :-) , the music of A Charlie Brown Christmas was controversial at the time, but is now classic and unforgettable.
This morning NPR did a piece on the airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. They particularly focused on Guaraldi and his contribution. It is a good piece and well worth your attention today. But greater still is the airing of this classic cartoon tonight, and the irrepressible answer Linus offers to Charlie Brown's question, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving Thanks

Ravi Zacharias is fond of saying:

"At Christmas, my children thank me for putting candy in their stockings. Who do I thank for putting two feet in mine?"

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Miami Conference Host

Humanly speaking, what makes the Miami Pastors' Conference such a wonderfully encouraging and refreshing experience is the faithful, joyful labors of the Glendale Baptist Church staff and volunteers. Anyone who attended the conference would no doubt offer the same testimony concerning the servanthood and hospitality of those at Glendale. Ricky Armstrong leads an excellent team of people who labor all year to make this event go smoothly. From the drivers to to cooks, from the servers to the secretaries, from the hosts to the maintenance, everyone seems to have a vision for the glory of God in their service to Glendale and this conference. I could not commend them more. They demonstrated what was preached with an uncommon zeal and love. We were all challenged and encouraged by them. Thanks Glendale.

Here is a clip from Ricky Armstrong's message of Preaching Christ from the Psalms

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Need for Christ-Centered Preaching

The messages preached at the Miami Pastors' Conference were, if anything, timely. There is undoubtedly a need for a Reformation in preaching within the evangelical church at large, and the predominantly black church in particular. The brothers in Miami not only stated the case, but they also demonstrated the way. I am convinced that never before in our history has there been more heretical and destructive teaching claiming to be biblical than there is now. And perhaps no one is more demonstrative of this homelitical plague than is Mr. Creflo Dollar in my beloved Atlanta, GA. If you have not already seen it, here is a recent expose on Mr. Dollar done by the local FOX news affiliate in Atlanta. Listening to Mr. Dollar and realizing the audience and influence he has with black church goers and watchers, we can not overstate the need for Christ-centered preaching within the black church. Here in demonstrates the wall of destructive preaching and teaching we are up against. Yet, I am encouraged by what God has historically done with walls in His people's way.

Ferguson at the Miami Conference

Sharing at the Pastors Conference was our good friend and teacher Sinclair Ferguson. I have had the privilege of sharing a platform with Sinclair on a previous occasion. Yet, even more precious to me was the privilege I had of sitting in a classroom and gleaning theological and homiletical truth from him. What a tremendous and undeserved blessing it was.
At the conference Sinclair shared with us from the subject, The Centrality of Christ in Preaching. Below is a short clip from one of his three messages. It is in classic black and white.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Miami Pastors' Conference HiLites

One of the wonderful aspects of the Pastors' Conference in Miami was how the messages were pointed and consistent. The subject matter was of the utmost importance, "Christ-Centered Preaching, and the messages consistently and poignantly demonstrated both the gravity and the relevance of the subject. Here are a couple of video clips from messages delivered. Hopefully these will wet your appetite for the full conference CDs when they come available.

Ken Jones, "Pre-Conference Seminar: The State of Preaching Today"

Thabiti Anyabwile, "Preaching Christ from the Pentateuch"

Friday, November 17, 2006

More on the Conference

The only bad part about the Miami Pastors Conference is that we have to wait a year before we can do it again. Yet, once you attend you are convinced that it is worth the wait. If you were there, you know what I am talking about. If you were not, I strongly encourage you to make plans for next year, November 8-10, 2007. Block out those dates on your calendar today and begin to pray as plans are already underway. Here are a few more pictures of the presenters and attendees. Enjoy and see ya next year!

Ken Jones in the Pre-Conference

Kevin Smith preaching: The Christ-Centered Life of the Preacher

Some brothers enjoying the wonderful meals served by the Glendale Kitchen

Michael Leach at night in front of Glendale Baptist

Finished and Full!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My Kinsmen According to the Flesh

Over at Reformed Blacks of America, my good friend, Stephen Love, has written an excellent article entitled My Kinsmen According to the Flesh. Stephen is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary and the son of our good friends Louis and JR Love. Reading Stephen's words caused me to rejoice to know that God is faithfully raising up young men to carry the torch of sound, biblical, Reformed theology to the predominantly black church. We have a lot of work to do, but with Stephen and others, I believe the work is in good hands.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Reformation Came to Miami

It is commonly believed that the Reformation came to the English speaking world through conversations that were regularly held at The White Horse Inn, a pub in Cambridge, England. Well, I did not have the privilege of being at The White Horse Inn for those conversations. Nor have I had the opportunity to visit Cambridge, England. But I was in Miami last week. And I even had the privilege of sitting at the Dairy Queen and I believe it could be said today, that the Reformation was being spread in Miami through converstations held at the Dairy Queen. Guess who else was there after cruisin' with the top down on a Mustang convertible?

All of the Bible is about Jesus

Miami Pastors' Conference 2006:
The Aim of Christ-Centered Preaching!
Our brothers in Christcentric have a line that was most appropriate for our time in Miami. It goes:
We should be mindful of this devout thesis
All of the Bible is about Jesus
This past week we gathered in Miami at Glendale Baptist Church and it was a most encouraging and enriching, challenging and impactful time. As the brothers proclaimed Christ throughout the Scriptures I was reminded of my own need to make sure that Christ is the center and circumference of my preaching and ministry. In the coming days I will post comments, pictures, and maybe even some audio from this year's conference. In the meantime, today I would just like to give a heartfelt thank you to Ken Jones, Thabiti Anyabwile, Kevin Smith, Michael Leach, Sinclair Ferguson, and the host pastor Ricky Armstrong. Thank you men for your faithful labors in the word, for your demonstrable servanthood, and your humble sumission to the God of the Bible which you seek to proclaim. I was served, as were all who sat under your preaching and teaching. May God continue bearing fruit through your labors for His glory and the good of His people.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Miami Conference This Week!

If you have not already, then it is not too late to make reservations for Miami this week. The 2006 Miami Pastors Conference begins this week on Thursday and runs through Saturday. With much anticipation we are eager to get to Miami to hear and see what God would give us from His word to strengthen and encourage us in our labors for the kingdom. The theme of the conference is The Christ-Centered Aim of Preaching. The theme verse is found in Luke 24:27: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."

As I was reflecting upon my contribution to the conference and what I eagerly anticipate gleaning from those God has called to participate, I was reminded of just how beautifully our Lord Jesus Christ is woven throughout the pages of Scripture. Truly biblical preaching understands the words of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins:
I say more, the just man justices;Keeps grace:
that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is -
Christ - for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.
When it comes to preaching the Scriptures we see and glory in the fact that Christ indeed plays in ten thousand places. My prayer is that He will play well in Miami. I hope you will pray to that end as well. See ya there!

Friday, November 03, 2006

No MegaFest Next Year

T.D. Jakes is pulling the plug on MegaFest 07 and the city of Atlanta is not happy. Apparently, the Megafest (more accurately dubbed MegaMess) is costing Jakes and his ministry more than they can handle. The attendance is down, while travel cost is not. One of these days those who name the name of Christ will wake up and realize that Bingo Long's Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings might make for great theatre and slapstick comedy, but it is a pitiful and poor representation of the gospel and the kingdom. Good riddings!

Monday, October 30, 2006

More on Reformation Day

Here is a Reformation Polka for all of you reformed folka! Credit for this goes to the guys at The Kingdom Come. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Reformation Day

Tomorrow is Reformation Day. In honor of the God's goodness to us in resurrecting the gospel in the church during the Reformation, I would like to suggest to you two unbeatable resources that speak to the truths that so defined the Reformation and the Gospel itself. One is a quote and the other is a book. The book is The Case for Traditional Protestantism: The Solas of the Reformation by Terry Johnson. Johnson examines the five solas of the Reformation and demonstrates their incomparable effect upon the church. This book is a well written analysis of the Reformation and the necessary application of biblical reformed truth upon the church today.

The quote comes from Spurgeon. Spurgeon's words need no introduction or apology. Read and rejoice in the truths we are simul justus et peccator (at the same time just and sinner):

“We are all as an unclean thing.”
Isaiah 64:6

The believer is a new creature, he belongs to a holy generation and a peculiar people—the Spirit of God is in him, and in all respects he is far removed from the natural man; but for all that the Christian is a sinner still. He is so from the imperfection of his nature, and will continue so to the end of his earthly life. The black fingers of sin leave smuts upon our fairest robes. Sin mars our repentance, ere the great Potter has finished it, upon the wheel. Selfishness defiles our tears, and unbelief tampers with our faith. The best thing we ever did apart from the merit of Jesus only swelled the number of our sins; for when we have been most pure in our own sight, yet, like the heavens, we are not pure in God’s sight; and as he charged his angels with folly, much more must he charge us with it, even in our most angelic frames of mind. The song which thrills to heaven, and seeks to emulate seraphic strains, hath human discords in it. The prayer which moves the arm of God is still a bruised and battered prayer, and only moves that arm because the sinless One, the great Mediator, has stepped in to take away the sin of our supplication. The most golden faith or the purest degree of sanctification to which a Christian ever attained on earth, has still so much alloy in it as to be only worthy of the flames, in itself considered. Every night we look in the glass we see a sinner, and had need confess, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Oh, how precious the blood of Christ to such hearts as ours! How priceless a gift is his perfect righteousness! And how bright the hope of perfect holiness hereafter! Even now, though sin dwells in us, its power is broken. It has no dominion; it is a broken-backed snake; we are in bitter conflict with it, but it is with a vanquished foe that we have to deal. Yet a little while and we shall enter victoriously into the city where nothing defileth.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Here is Love

Many of us have lamented that there is not enough good, sound, and interesting Bible commentary material written for children. Well, we need not lament this condition any more (at least as far as the first six books are concerned). Nancy Ganz has written an excellent series of commentaries for young people on the first five books of the Bible entitled:

These books are a most welcomed introduction to the Bible and parents will find them informative and interesting, even as their children do. I have been reading the Exodus commentary with my children, and will begin using this series as part of our homeschool Bible curriculum. If you are like me, and are always looking for ways to impart the truth of the Bible to your children, here is a very helpful resource. You may find yourself learning as well.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Debtor to Mercy

I am rejoicing to see that there is another reformed African-American who has entered the world of bloggers. His name is Wyeth Duncan and he is blogging at A Debtor to Mercy. Wyeth is an accomplished musician and a brother of good, sound theological convictions. Check out his thoughts and encourage him to continue to spread a word for the supremacy of Christ in all things. Welcome Wy!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Out with the Shout!

Scotty Williams, over at Réformateur Créole Noir (Black Creole Reformer), has a good and thought provoking article on the phenomenon that is called "shouting." The article is entitled: Despiritualizing Shouting in the Black Church. Most of us who grew up in the predominantly black church are familiar with this phenomenon and perhaps have even found ourselves as a participate. Scotty sheds some good historical and biblical light upon the subject. It is well worth your time to read and consider. Thanks for serving us, SW.

Monday, October 23, 2006

On Prejudice - Unintentional and Non-malicious

Last night I was on a flight from Virginia after having spent the weekend with my good friends at Sovereign Grace Church in Chesapeake. While on the flight, I observed an interesting, even sobering occurrence of the unintentional, non-malicious racism and prejudice that lies in the heart of the best of us.

I was sitting in an exit row. Across the aisle was lady also sitting in an exit row seat. As the flight attendant was giving her rote lecture (it seems everything these attendants do is by rote, you know, like many of our liturgies) on the responsibilities of those sitting in the exit rows, the aforementioned lady expressed her discomfort with the possibility of having to be responsible for the exit door in the case of an emergency. She requested another seat. The flight attendant was eager to oblige her. Therefore, she quickly began to scan the seats nearby to identify a likely candidate for the switch. She noticed, directly in front of her, was a black gentleman sitting comfortably with two white women. Thinking him to be a prime candidate, she asked him, "Sir, are you traveling alone?" Immediately he responded, "No, I am traveling with her," pointing to the white lady directly to his right. Realizing her blunder, the attendant quickly moved on.

The couple seemed no worse for the wear. They grasped hands and comforted one another with the knowledge that they indeed were together. Immediately, however, I began to wonder if they felt the slightest offended, or if they felt embarrassed for the flight attendant. I found myself experiencing both emotions. You see, there were other men seated in similar proximity whom she could have asked. There were white couples and black couples. Obviously she was not interested in, nor did she hope to, split up a couple traveling together. Yet, I wondered why she assumed that the man she asked was not traveling with the woman next to him. Actually, it was obvious. She did not think that the black man and the white woman were together. She demonstrated what is too prevalent in our society, and even worse, too prevalent in the church. Her question was prejudiced and racist. No, it was not malicious. I do not believe it was intentionally discriminating. Rather it was the racism and prejudice that is just under the surface of most of us, having been so conditioned by a racialized society.

Upon hear her words; I said to myself, "Man, she is so wrong and how inappropriate a question." However, as I was thinking these thoughts, I was convicted in my own heart. I thought to myself, "Would I have asked a similar question in that situation? Did I in first looking at the couple assume they were together?" Unfortunately, the answers I honestly gave to myself were not satisfactory. The attendant was undoubtedly wrong in her approach. Yet, my sin was in thinking that I would have done better. My sin also was that I was not confident that my thinking has been so renewed by the grace and knowledge of Christ that I would have not seen that couple through the same prejudiced eyes. I can not say for certain that I no longer have unintentional, non-malicious prejudice and racism in my heart.

This lovely young couple probably is used to such things. And if they stay together, they undoubtedly will experience more. However, I am confident that they will not experience it again from that flight attendant. I believe she learned a lesson. I also hope no one ever experiences a similar behavior from me. I too learned a lesson - one I pray God does not allow me to forget.

Friday, October 20, 2006

No Tongues at Southwestern

According to reports: "The Trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have put it in writing: They will not tolerate any promotion of speaking in tongues on their campus." In a resolution that passed 36 to 1, the board stated:

"Southwestern will not knowingly endorse in any way, advertise, or commend the conclusions of the contemporary charismatic movement including private prayer language. Neither will Southwestern knowingly employ professors or administrators who promote such practices."

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern, stated: "I have opposed (speaking in tongues) for all of these years because I think it's an erroneous interpretation of the Bible. Southern Baptists traditionally have stood against what we feel like are the excesses of the charismatic movement. All we're doing is restating where we've always been."
Dwight McKissic, the lone dissenter in the voting and probably the impetus for the statement, was displeased with the outcome but resolved to stay on as a member of the board. He stated, "My flesh wants to quit, but the spirit of God tells me that I've been called to this hour to do this."
Eric Redmond, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Temple Hills, MD and himself a board member, said, "We interpret the scriptures in such a way that we do not see room for a private prayer language and we're saying we will not waver on that."
Some will surely disagree with Southwestern. Whether we agree with them or not, we should at least admire the fact that they are willing to take a theological stand on an important issue. Clearly the statement is not meant to answer all questions associated with this debate. The statement is open to interpretation. Yet, no one can interpret it to mean that Southwestern is in favor of the practice of speaking in tongues, public or private. This surely was the point of their statement. They made that point. And good for them. This surely will not be the end of the debate, but it will give some clarification to the positions. I believe we surely could use more of this type of theological debate and clarification among African-American Christians.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

In Submission to Sovereignty

Let us welcome another Reformed African-American brother into the world of the bloggers. Keith Tolbert has begun blogging at In Submission to Sovereignty. Keith is a good man, who has a very interesting story to tell. Read his story, and give him a visit. We need more men like Keith willing to stand up for Christ, the Church, and the Truth. Way to go, Keith!

Knowledge of the Holy

The messages from this year's New Life Bible Conference, held each year at New Life Fellowship Church in Vernon Hills, IL, are available for order. The theme of this year's conference was "Knowledge of the Holy: On the Attributes of God." You can obtain ordering information by going here. Also, next year's conference is slated for June 21-23, 2007. The theme is "The Godly Life." You will want to mark your calendar and make preparations to attend this growing and edifying yearly event.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Word for the Day

My reading this week has brought an interesting and unforgettable word across my path. I share it with you:

per‧spi‧ca‧cious [pur-spi-kay-shuhs] – adjective
1. having keen mental perception and understanding; discerning: to exhibit perspicacious judgment.
2. Archaic. having keen vision.

In a sentence: "The world should know Christians to be both perspicacious and principled people."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Chickens Coming Home To Roost

Recently in an editorial in the USA Today, columnist Steve Kluger wrote, People Like Foley are Gays' Worst Nightmare. He was making reference to the recent disclosure of former US Congressman Mark Foley's escapades and pursuit of young male congressional interns. Apparently Kluger and others are seething over how poorly Foley's actions reflect upon the broader gay and lesbian population. Admittedly, the vast majority of gays and lesbians in America are not pedaphiles or predators. However, it would be wrong to not make any connection between the fundamentally deviant behavior of homosexuality in general, and the uber-deviance of homosexual pedophilia in particular. And yet the connection must not stop there. The rise of Foley is nothing more than the manifestation of the ungodly sexuality that permeates our society. Foley's is the story of the Desperate House Member. And yet his story is undeniably connected to, and indeed a natural out growth of, our society's infatuation with Desperate House Wives.
Once you leave the natural, healthy grounds of heterosexual relationships between a married man and woman, the slope upon which you find yourself is not just slippery, but it is inevitably deadly. Foley is not only the gay communities worst nightmare, he is the worst nightmare of a sexually promiscuous society. He is another vivid demonstration of how the human species never has and never will be able to govern its own passions apart from the gracious and loving commands of God. Foley, and those like him, are nothing more than the chickens of unabashed, unconstrained, God-defying heterosexual and homosexual behavior, that so permeates our society, coming home to roost. The chickens are already out of the pen. Our society has let them out. Therefore, it should not surprise us when they come back to roost.
Sadly, this is lost on some within the predominantly black church (I use the word "church" loosely because such talk could not biblically represent the true Church of Christ). Apparently, Rev. Horace Griffin, an Anglican priest, has written a book Their Own Receive Them Not: African American Lesbians and Gays in Black Churches. According to Griffin, "The black church's teaching that homosexuality is immoral has created a crisis for lesbian and gay Christians in black churches. This black-church-sanctioned homophobia produces a lot of twisted black people."
Today, Thabiti Anyabwile at Pure Church has more on Griffin's unfortunate and even pitiful understanding of truth.

From the Reading Desk

It has been awhile since a listed books I have either recently read read or am currently reading. Here is what is currently on my desk for reading:
Promises Made: The Message of the Old Testament by Mark Dever. As we are preaching through the Bible, book by book, on Wednesday evening, Dever's sermonic work not only provided the catalyst for this study, but has been a valuable resource as well.
Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graeme Goldsworthy. The Bible, though the majority of it is an account of ancient Jewish history and life, it is first and foremost for us a Christian account of the history of God and his redemptive work among His people. If we are going to be faithful expositors of God's word, we must see the Bible as Christian Scriptures.
Foundations of Grace: A Long Line of Godly Men by Steven Lawson. This is the first volume in a series on the history of the Doctrines of Grace. This first volume deals with the Doctrines of Grace in Biblical history and theology. This book and series should prove to be an indispensable contribution to the church's understanding and articulation of these glorious doctrines.
Sound and Fury: Two Powerful Lives, One Fateful Friendship by Dave Kindred. This is a biography of Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali and their unlikely, yet unmistakable friendship. This book came to me recently as a recommendation from a friend. I have not started reading it yet, but I look forward to starting soon.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Enter you PIN

I have been out of town and very busy for the last few days and have not had the opportunity to post. When I finally got around to the computer again and to check my email, I found this picture in my inbox. Is this farfetched, or no?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Brothers at Conferences

We are encouraged to see that Thabiti Anyabwile will be the pastoral speaker at the 2007 Bethlehem Pastors Conference in Minneapolis MN on February 5-7, 2007. Great choice, John.

Voddie Baucham's message, The Supremacy of Christ and Truth in a Postmodern World, delivered at this year's Desiring God National Conference, is available online - as are all the messages from the conference.

Also, don't forget to register for the Miami's Pastors Conference in November.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

BAD on Arrival

Yesterday I came across an Augustine quote that is vintage Augustine and biblical theology. The quote comes from the Confessions (naturally) and is Augustine reflecting upon his sinfulness even as an infant. He demonstrates that our sinfulness and selfishness is not a learned trait but an inherited one. According to Augustine:
Then I knew only to suck, to repose in what pleased, and to cry at what offended my flesh, nothing more. Afterwards I began to smile, first in sleep, then waking. So it was told to me of myself, and I believed it, for we see the like in other infants, though of myself I do not remember it. Thus, little by little, I became conscious of where I was and began to want to express my wishes to those who could content them. But I could not express them because the wishes were inside of me, and they outside; nor could they by their senses enter into my spirit. So I flung about at random, limbs and voices, making the few signs I could and such as I could, like "though in truth very little like" what I wished. And when I was not immediately obeyed, my wishes being harmful to me or unintelligible, then I was indignant with my elders for not submitting to me, with those owing me no service, for not serving me, and avenged myself on them by tears.

Today I received confirmation of this truth from a combination of John Piper and Michael Jackson (check it out). One thing is for sure, like John says, we are all bad. And like Augustine reminds, we are bad on arrival. Thank God for Grace in Christ. Thank God that Christ lovingly obeyed His parents for me - even as my substitute. Christ is the only baby ever born who was not bad on arrival. Though our Lord is BAD!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Dead Man's Log

Having a brother who is in prison for life on account of murder, always has me thinking about crime, punishment and our justice system. It is not just the human justice system I contemplate, but the righteous, holy, sovereign justice of God Almighty. Recently I read an interesting Associated Press article detailing the way the state of Ohio chronicles the last hours of prisoners on Death Row. One can only speculate what one would feel and do with knowledge that this was your last day and death was coming at a specific hour, even minute, of that day. The state of Ohio apparently is interesting in knowing what men in this condition think and do. They have, since 1999, kept an accurate minute by minute log of these men and their actions. You can read the article and get a sense of what men do under an imminent death sentence. Or, you can walk the streets of your city or town tomorrow morning and see as well. If you want to read what thoughts dead men are logging on the internet, you can read the average blog to find that out. You see, according to Word of God, every human being is born under a death sentence. Everyday they live their lives and go about their business in what essentially could be the day that they find themselves experiencing the eternal judicial punishment of God. Yet, if they realized this, what would they do differently? If they realized that they essentially are no different than the men on death row in Ohio, would they be more sober about their decisions? Would they make appeals to the Judge of Judges, even as the men on death row constantly make appeals to human courts?
Reading the article, I was reminded once of again of the sovereign mercy of God to save, and even pardon death row sinners, of whom I was chief. I was reminded of the grace of God in Eph. 2:1-5:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved-
Now, that's a dead man's log!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Cyrene Ministry Update

Most of you are aware of my affiliation with Cyrene Ministries. I am co-founder, serve as the webmaster and what essential has been its Director of Ministry. Today I am excited to announce that the website for Cyrene Ministries is going down for reconstruction and retooling. Also, if everything goes according to plan, there is another organization that when it is fully off the ground, Cyrene will closely affiliate with it. These are exciting times as I believe that God is humbling us by his grace and is mercifully giving us an awakening of Reformation theology among African-Americans. Let us pray that we will be faithful stewards of this awakening.
While Cyrene Ministries is down, I will continue to blog. In the meantime, stay tuned for more info on Cyrene and other important announcements.

The Duty of Worship

As I am putting the finishing touches on a writing project on worship, I was reminded this morning by Charles Spurgeon of the duty and joy of worship for the Christian. Appropriately, Spurgeon reminds us that it is the warp and woof of our lives.
"Sing forth the honour of His name, make His praise glorious."—Psalm 66:2

IT is not left to our own option whether we shall praise God or not. Praise is God's most righteous due, and every Christian, as the recipient of His grace, is bound to praise God from day to day. It is true we have no authoritative rubric for daily praise; we have no commandment prescribing certain hours of song and thanksgiving: but the law written upon the heart teaches us that it is right to praise God; and the unwritten mandate comes to us with as much force as if it had been recorded on the tables of stone, or handed to us from the top of thundering Sinai. Yes, it is the Christian's duty to praise God. It is not only a pleasurable exercise, but it is the absolute obligation of his life. Think not ye who are always mourning, that ye are guiltless in this respect, or imagine that ye can discharge your duty to your God without songs of praise. You are bound by the bonds of His love to bless His name so long as you live, and His praise should continually be in your mouth, for you are blessed, in order that you may bless Him; "this people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise"; and if you do not praise God, you are not bringing forth the fruit which He, as the Divine Husbandman, has a right to expect at your hands. Let not your harp then hang upon the willows, but take it down, and strive, with a grateful heart, to bring forth its loudest music. Arise and chant His praise. With every morning's dawn, lift up your notes of thanksgiving, and let every setting sun be followed with your song. Girdle the earth with your praises; surround it with an atmosphere of melody, and God Himself will hearken from heaven and accept your music.

"E'en so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing,
Because Thou art my loving God,
And my redeeming King."

Friday, September 29, 2006

For Whom the Bell Tolls

In his Meditation XVII, John Donne wrote the famous lines:
Perchance he for whom this bell tolls, may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me...may have caused it to toll for me...and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Donne's words immediately came to mind when I learned of my brother and friend, Sherard Burns' recent resignation from the preaching ministry at All Nations Christian Fellowship in Minneapolis, MN. Sherard has decided to address us all in an Open Letter of Confession. As you read it remember:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load (Galatians 6:1-5).

I Love You, Brother.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Conference Update

Have you signed up the Miami Pastors' Conference on Nov. 9-11? If you have not, you can make your calling and election sure by signing up soon, in fact, today. Please note, there has been an update on the schedule. You can take a look at the revised schedule and register online here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

You might recall my mentioning of Elliott Greene back in May when he joined the blogging team over at Reformation 21. Back then I also mentioned that he was starting a new venture in pastoral training called Tyrannus Hall Foundation for Pastoral Ministry. Apparently this worthwhile venture is up and running and we all should be glad it is. If there is anything the church needs more of it is reformed African-American preachers and predominantly African-American churches where they can serve. From these churches they may be able to raise up another generation of African-American preachers who will surpass their fathers in zeal for God and His supremacy in all things.
So check out Tyrannus Hall and lets sound the word that a firm foundation is being laid for the future of Reformed Christianity among African-Americans. And it looks good.


Monday, September 25, 2006

An Assured Atonement

Unfortunately, many find it necessary to refer to themselves as "four point Calvinists." For them the point with which they are uncomfortable is the third point, namely Limited Atonement. They find it hard to fathom that Christ did not die with the intention of saving every human being. They find it difficult to swallow that the death of Christ was designed to save only the elect of humanity and not the entirety of humanity. Ironically, the vocal discomfort of the "four pointers" often leads to an apologetic, even reluctant understanding of the doctrine of Limited Atonement among those who would otherwise hold to the truth of all five points (see Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology). Nevertheless, the third point in TULIP is a most biblically verifiable doctrine, and even a most comforting and assuring point. When properly understood, the atonement of Christ on behalf of the elect is a doctrine that offers us the sweetness of an assured justification like no other. It assures us that the Father and the Son are indeed one in purpose, on the same eternal page. It assures us that our destiny of eternal communion with the Father and the Son is not based on our ability to please the Father, but on Christ willingness to satisfy the demands of justice on our behalf.

This morning Spurgeon reminds us of just how beautiful and comforting the doctrine of a definite atonement can be. He rightly says, " soul for whom Jesus died as a substitute can be cast into hell.":

"Just, and the justifier of him which believeth."—Romans 3:26.

BEING justified by faith, we have peace with God. Conscience accuses no longer. Judgment now decides for the sinner instead of against him. Memory looks back upon past sins, with deep sorrow for the sin, but yet with no dread of any penalty to come; for Christ has paid the debt of His people to the last jot and tittle, and received the divine receipt; and unless God can be so unjust as to demand double payment for one debt, no soul for whom Jesus died as a substitute can ever be cast into hell. It seems to be one of the very principles of our enlightened nature to believe that God is just; we feel that it must be so, and this gives us our terror at first; but is it not marvellous that this very same belief that God is just, becomes afterwards the pillar of our confidence and peace! If God be just, I, a sinner, alone and without a substitute, must be punished; but Jesus stands in my stead and is punished for me; and now, if God be just, I, a sinner, standing in Christ, can never be punished. God must change His nature before one soul, for whom Jesus was a substitute, can ever by any possibility suffer the lash of the law. Therefore, Jesus having taken the place of the believer—having rendered a full equivalent to divine wrath for all that His people ought to have suffered as the result of sin, the believer can shout with glorious triumph, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" Not God, for He hath justified; not Christ, for He hath died, "yea rather hath risen again." My hope lives not because I am not a sinner, but because I am a sinner for whom Christ died; my trust is not that I am holy, but that being unholy, He is my righteousness. My faith rests not upon what I am, or shall be, or feel, or know, but in what Christ is, in what He has done, and in what He is now doing for me. On the lion of justice the fair maid of hope rides like a queen.
Steve Lawson, pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church and author of Foundations of Grace, has a series of messages entitled Ten Reasons Why the Bible Teaches Definite Atonement. You might find these quite helpful, encouraging, and if need be, convincing. The doctrine of a Definite Atonement is all over the Bible. I, for one, thank God it is.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Word Today

Everyday I come across a word in my reading that makes me say, "Hmm." These words are usually not readily familiar to me and they cause a bit more contemplation before I move on. From time to time I would like to share a word or two with you. So, the Word for Today is:

cav·il - v. cav·iled, also cav·illed cav·il·ing, cav·il·ling cav·ils, cav·ils v. intr.
To find fault unnecessarily; raise trivial objections. See Synonyms at quibble.v. tr.
To quibble about; detect petty flaws in.
n. A carping or trivial objection.
[French caviller, from Old French, from Latin cavillr, to jeer, from cavilla, a jeering.] cavil·er n.

Spurgeon: "Submission is our duty, cavilling is our folly."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Long Line of Godly Men

Speaking of the importance of ever preaching and teaching the Doctrines of Grace, the new publishing arm of Ligonier Ministries, Reformation Trust, has released a new book on these Doctrines entitled, The Foundations of Grace: A Long Line of Godly Men. The book is authored by Steve Lawson, pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, AL. When I had the privilege of working at Ligonier, I was always impressed with Ligonier's willingness and desire to want to expand their outreach and to think of more effective ways of communicating the holiness of God and the historic Reformed faith. As I left Ligonier, I thought to myself that the natural progression for Ligonier would be to beginning publishing their own books, as well as the books of others. Lo and behold, this year Ligonier introduced Reformation Trust. One of the first books they have released is this book on the Doctrines of Grace.

In The Foundations of Grace, Lawson demonstrates that the Doctrines of Grace were not invention of Calvin or the Synod of Dort, but rather are found throughout the Bible, beginning with Genesis and ending in Revelation. Recently, RC Sproul discussed with Steve Lawson the contents and importance of this book. They even answered the question, "Who is the greatest preacher of the doctrines of grace?" You can listen to this two part interview by going to Ligonier Ministries online and listening to the broadcast from days 9/14 and 9/15.

Monday, September 18, 2006

It's Still Grace!

I just returned home from a weekend of meetings in Winston-Salem NC. It was a blessed time, as we gathered at Sovereign Grace Chapel for their 13th Annual Sovereign Grace Conference. The theme of the conference was the Sovereignty of God in Salvation. It was a familiar theme, and we looked at familiar passages of Scripture. Yet, I was reminded that one can never grow too familiar with God's sovereign grace. I have found that the more intently you peer into the glories that are God's in the redemption of the elect, the more humbled you become and more fit for worship you are. Unfortunately, it is popular among the neo-reformed to downplay what they would refer to as the obvious doctrines of reformed theology, and seek to up-play progressiveness and postmodern theological ingenuity. Now anyone who really knows me knows that I am all for progression and ingenuity, but my hope remains built upon the doctrines of God's sovereign grace. I fear that we too often make light of these truths as if they belonged to the elementary elements of the faith. On the contrary, I am convinced, both by biblical precepts and experiential practice, that these doctrines are the foundations of our faith and provide, more than anything else, the summation of the glories of God in salvation and my hope of eternity. Still some will say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I've heard all that before." To you I say, "Apparently, you need to hear it again. And again. And again." I have found that the depth of my sinfulness needs to hear and know the Doctrines of Grace continually. I am confident that if you really wanted to know the depth of your sinfulness, you would say the same thing. Friends, let us never move too far from the Doctrines of Grace. Let us never get too sophisticated for the simple pronouncements of the Doctrines of Grace. Let us never grow too familiar so as to believe that we have or are anything apart from the Doctrines of Grace. Friends, no matter what the latest doctrinal wave has washed upon the shores of the church, the greatest of these is still GRACE.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What's In The Bible

Last evening we began a series on What's In The Bible: From Genesis to Revelation. It will be a 66 plus week survey of the Bible hopefully covering a book a week (thanks to the inspiration for this series from Louis Love and from the work of Mark Dever). It is a most fitting study in light of the recent cover article for TIME magazine. If our people are going to be discerning and not over fascinated with the frills and superficiality that is the mega-show of prosperity, they will need to know what's in the Bible. Here are a few quotes from last nights study:
Concerning the Bible:
The Bible is often referred to as a book, but actually it is a collection of books or writings. In fact, our Bible has a total of 66 separate books. These 66 books were written by at least 30 different writers, over the span of approximately 1500 years. Hebrews 1:1 reminds us that these writers were various, and wrote at various times, in various ways.
In the Bible we will find wide range of literary genres. He find historical writings full of data and numerical figures. There are law codes which have influenced judicial systems around the world. There are biographies that would make A&E proud. There are poems and hymns, which are still capturing the literary world’s imagination. There are short stories and suspense filled page turners. There are letters, both common and official. There are short, pithy, and anecdotal sayings, as well as long discourses of tragedy and triumph. There is prophecy, which at times has confounded the brightest of minds, and drama and political intrigue that would easily top the ratings charts for modern television viewing.
You look at the writers and some of these writers were of royal blood and lived in palaces. Others were of common stock and walked among the peasant people. Some had the finest education that money could buy, while others barely had any education at all. And yet God used each of these writers to bring His glorious, inspired and inerrant self-revelation of truth and justice into the world.
It is a book that essentially begins in a garden paradise and ends in a paradise city. It is a story that begins with God being worshipped by two people and ends with God being worshipped by an innumerable host of people.
Concerning the Prosperity Message
Beloved, the message of the Bible is not how you can get rich and increase you monetary portfolio. It is not a message about how you can have your best life now. It is not a message of conquering depression or avoiding pitfalls and frustration. It is the message of God’s glory in reconciling a sin-marred creation through a sufficient Savior.
Contrary to what you might believe, or what you might have heard, our greatest struggle is not financial. Our greatest problem is sin. Christ took the nails, wore the crown, spilt his holy blood on the dirty ground, not so that we could have what we want, but so that we might be supplied with what we need. He did it to confirm the promise God made to Adam and Eve. He did it to validate the promise He made to Noah and Abraham. He did it to verify the truth given to Moses and David. He did it because God’s word is true. And if He promises something it will surely come to pass. And not one dot or iota shall pass way from it. He did it because God is not a man that He should lie – no matter how many men lie about God.

Monday, September 11, 2006

More on Prosperity Pimps

(HT: Thabiti Anyabwile) Apparently, more and more people are growing restless and even tired of the foolishness that is the prosperity gospel. The National Baptist Convention, USA, the largest predominantly black denomination in America, has officially denounced the prosperity gospel and its peddlers. Here are some recent articles and official press release.

National Baptist Speakers Criticize Prosperity Gospel, 'Seeker' Churches
Black Baptist Eschew Prosperity Preaching
Time Magazine has a cover story on "Does God What You To Be Rich?" (HT: Justin Taylor). Sooner or later the larger Christian community will take up the charge to call out these fleece agents, rather than waiting for the world to call them out. There may be nothing more destructive within the broader Christian community, and the predominantly African-American church in particular, than these Word-faith, health and wealth, prosperity preachers. Melvin Jones ( is doing a yeoman's job in pointing out these foolish teachers.
Interestingly, the cover picture of the Time magazine has a resemblance to the website of the increasingly popular Jamal-Harrison Bryant and his Empowerment Temple.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

It's a Thin Line Between Love and Hate

I do believe it was Malcolm X who would frequently seek to assure America and the world that his love of Black America did not equate with a hatred for White America. According to Malcolm, many people mistakenly assumed that his vociferous pronouncements for the self-determination of Black America was also his despising of all things White. Malcolm was determined to show his "love" for Black America no matter the perception from White America. What Malcolm was reminding us is that there is a thin line between love and hate. Admittedly, Malcolm's language was often demonizing of White America, and thus one would have to ask the question, "Did Malcolm need to use the language of demonization of White America, to show forth his love for Black America? Did he cross the line from love to hate?" Well, I am not here today to take up that question. I simply refer to Malcolm in this instance because I can understand how our passion for one thing can easily be mistaken for a denunciation of another. This I have recently experienced when it comes to my insistence upon Reformed African-Americans developing our own agendas.

Some have assumed, wrongly, that my recent pointing out of the fact that the majority Reformed Conferences have a woeful lack of diversity was an attempt to indict or to impugn the integrity of those who put these conferences together. Nothing could be further from the truth. All I did was point out the obvious. My overall intention was not to denounce these conference. Hell, I plan to joyfully attend many of them. No, my main intention was, and continues to be, that the lack of diversity is a call for us, as Reformed African-Americans, not to lament the fact that we are not represented at these conferences, but to develop our own conferences and materials which will be representative of us. Actually, developing our own conferences is a step toward greater unity. I believe that is it only when my white brothers and sisters are able to come and fellowship with us, as we so often come and fellowship with them, will we ever come to the maturity of the Body of Christ. I also believe, that it will be primarily through the development of Reformed African-American leadership that Reformed theology will make serious inroads into the broader predominantly African-American church.

One need not assume that my desire for the further development of the Reformed African-American community is an indictment or even guilt-edged maneuvers against my white brothers and sisters. God forbid. I would not be who I am and know what little I know except for God's grace to me through the lives of men like RC Sproul, James Boice, Sinclair Ferguson, Richard Pratt, John Piper, and many others. Yet, I also know I am also who I am and know what little I know because of people like my mother, my coaches, my many close Christians of African descent who have never heard and may never hear of Sproul, Piper, or any of these men. Who will develop conferences for them to know and adore the supremacy of God in all things? Who will set before them a passion for the Sovereignty of God with language and faces that identify with them? We must. If God's gives me space and grace, we will.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Aim of Christ-Centered Preaching

The Aim of Christ-Centered Preaching
November 9-11, 2006
Glendale Baptist Church, Miami, FL
It's time to register! It's time to plan! It's time to prepare for a wonderful, challenging, and worshipful time of teaching, preaching, and fellowship. Let's meet in Miami in November and see if God will not meet us as well.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Crossing the River of Death

We finally came to the end of our series on The Pilgrims Progress. As Christian and Hopeful crossed the River of Death and gain entrance into the Celestial City, we were reminded that the last enemy to be destroyed is death. Death is not a friend. It is an enemy that all must encounter. And yet we encounter the terrible foe with the assurance that it is but the last hindrance to our eternal bliss. It is but the final door through which we pass to enter into our paradise of marital communion with our blessed Savior. And while Bunyan does not hide the dread and the pain that too often accompanies death in this life, we are reminded that grief and sorrow at death is a bittersweet reminder that in but a little while the griefless life shall be ours. The English Puritan, Christopher Love, understood this well.

On August 22, 1651 in England, Christopher Love was executed, beheaded on Tower Hill, having been wrongly condemned of treason. On the morning of his execution, he wrote these words to his loving and faithful wife:

The will of the Lord be done. Oh, say ye so when I go to the Tower Hill. The will of the Lord be doneÂ…I shall call thee wife no more, yet I am not much troubled, for I am going to meet the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, to whom I shall be eternally married.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

ND 1 - KKK 0

"On May 17, 1924, thousands of hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan converged on South Bend, Indiana, to terrorize the students of Notre Dame. A weekend of rioting ensued, with the 'fighting irish' prevailing in the streets."

These are the words found on the front flap of the cover of the book by Todd Tucker entitled, Notre Dame vs. The Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan. I have just completed reading this book in time for the season opener against the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets on tonight (8:00 et ABC). Even if you are not a Notre Dame fan (and shame on you if you are not), I am willing to bet that you will find this book most enjoyable and informative. It was interesting to learn that the KKK in Indiana during the early twenties was a different and more powerful organization than what it was during the 50's and the 60's. And yet, while Tucker does a masterful job in relating the cosmetic differences, he accurately and ultimately demonstrates that the heart of the organization has always been these - corrupt, depraved, power-intoxicated, racism. The boys of Notre Dame took to the streets of South Bend and gave those kluxers all they wanted and more. This is a good read. And tonight will be a good game. GO IRISH!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Popular Preaching

Have you been wondering what the people in church are listening to during the week? Well, wonder no more. Joel Osteen is the most popular pastor in America and he is not popular because people don't listen to him. On the contrary, people flock to their television by the hundreds of thousands and they fill auditoriums all over this country to experience An Evening with Joel. I had not listened to Osteen in quite some time, so I thought I would surf my way over to his ministry site and see what ol' Joel has been putting in the heads of some of our brothers and sisters, even some of the people in our church (if you have a church of any size and believe that none of your people are listening to Osteen, you are kidding yourself). So, in case you haven't checked in a while, here is a short list of sermons currently being aired by Joel Osteen:
I listened to the sermon Living At Your Ideal Weight. While Osteen made some very good practical points on eating right and eating healthy, he said nothing of the Bible or anything that remotely regarded a biblical text. These are the messages of the largest church and the most popular preacher in America. Listen and weep.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Not so conspicuous...

Apparently what I thought was obvious is not so obvious. Several of my brothers in reading my last post have suggested that I was referring to the fact that the Directory of Reformed Conferences did not include the Miami Pastors Conference or the New Life Bible Conference. Admittedly, these are glaring omissions, but I must give Challies the benefit of the doubt that he would not know about these conferences unless someone informed him. So while these are obvious omissions to us, they are probably less obvious to the vast majority of Challies' readers. Nevertheless, I am still of the mind that there is yet something missing, or better yet, someone(s) missing from these listings that should be obvious to all of Challies' readers. The missing element is the presence of Reformed African-American preachers at these conferences.
I am much appreciative of the conversations that Reformed evangelicals, churches, and denominations are having concerning the rightness and God-glorifying aspects of racial harmony and diversity. I do believe that there is much sincerity and genuineness in the voices and motives of the majority of these Reformed leaders. However, I must say that there can be no harmonization without representation. Until these Reformed organizations and leaders are serious about diversity, not just in their conference attendees but also in their conference speakers, their pronouncements of racial harmony and diversity are little more than an attempt to integrate their pews but leave their pulpits unchanged. Integrating the pew feels good because is soothes the conscience. Integrating the pulpit is the greater challenge because it challenges the heart. Teaching African-Americans is not a problem. Learning from and sitting at the feet of African-Americans, well, that has been a different story.
Looking at the list of conferences as they are constituted currently, the only known African-American speaker is Voddie Baucham, listed on the platform for The Pastor's Conference sponsored by Truth for Life. Admittedly, these list are not complete and there may be more African-Americans listed before the final rostrum of speakers is given. In fact, if recent history is any indication, I am quite confident that at least John Piper and the folks at Desiring God will have at least one African-American among their conferences' plenary speakers. I do commend Piper and Desiring God for being intentional in this regard. Nevertheless, the initial absence of Reformed African-American speakers has caused me once again to iterate the need for Reformed African-Americans to be proactive in devising conferences that speak with our voices, to our concerns (see post La Cosa Nostra part 1, part 2).
So, when my brothers say that the list is missing conferences sponsored by African-Americans, they are actually on the right track. The omission should underline for us the need to continue to develop our own conference tracks while actively participating in the tracks of our Reformed brothers and sisters of a lighter hue, and inviting them to do the same. One day questions of diversity and harmony will belong to former things. One day our conferences and platforms will be so diversified that the question will be if any could recall a time when they were not that way. One day true harmonization will be realized because we see true representation. Until then let us continue to raise the issue while also not neglecting those who have never attended a conference currently on Challies' list, namely the vast majority of African-Americans.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Something's Missing

Over at Challies Dot Com, Tim Challies has put together a Directory of Reformed Conferences which will take place over the next couple of years. The list is impressive and quite informative. I hope to attend my share of them. However, I do have one question. Can someone tell me what is conspicuously missing from that list?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Confessions of Driscoll

Admittedly, I've been putting off reviewing one of the most interesting and yet complex books I have read in a while. Recently I completed reading Mark Driscoll's "Confession of a Reformission Rev." It was not the first book by Driscoll that I have read. Last year I was given a copy of Radical Reformission and I was not much impressed. So when I heard about Driscoll's latest book, I was not eager to put it on my reading list. However, it was creating such a buzz and so many people had such divergent opinions of it that I felt slighted and uninformed for not having read it myself. Thus, I took up the task of giving Driscoll one more shot. And man am I glad I did.
I must say that I enjoyed reading Confessions (no disrespect to Augustine for the use of the one word reference). I particularly enjoyed Driscoll's passion for the gospel, the ministry, and all things kingdom. Driscoll has an engaging writing style that is full of honesty, candor, and humor. I was brought to unexpected laughter several times. This I enjoyed.
Yet, as much as I appreciated the read, I wondered to whom could I recommend it. You see, sometimes Driscoll's honesty is a bit over-the-top and his candor is...well...let me can strain the sensibilities. I also wondered how I could write a review that would communicate those elements that I found most insightful and helpful, while admitting that some elements I did not find as encouraging. Well, to my wonderful surprise, I do not have to.
The other day I received in my inbox the latest edition of the 9marks Newsletter. In the newsletter was a review of Driscoll's books by Mike McKinley. After reading the well written review, I decided that much of what McKinley wrote is a summation of my sentiments and instead of reinventing the wheel, I will just say a hardy "Amen" to McKinley's article. So here are McKinley's words (The Radical Reformission and the Confessions of a Reformission Rev). Listen closely and you might hear me saying "Amen" from time to time.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Back from Florida with Gifts of Grace

We just returned from a weekend trip to Gainesville, FL to fellowship with the good folks at Abundant Grace Community Church and my friend Phil Courson. It was a wonderful time and a most encouraging experience. It was one of those rare occasions that my entire family was able to travel with me and people had opportunity to meet my wife and children. Like most of you, I try not to live under the illusion that anything I am able to accomplish is done by anything but God's grace and goodness. And outside of the grace that has come to me in the forgiveness of sins, the most precious gift of grace has been my wife. I am always pleased when others are able to meet her and to see that she is the one who really makes our home go. She is the one that more people seem to like best (in fact, most of my return trips are after she has traveled with me, coincidence?). When she travels with me, it seems people listen to me more intently because she gives such a blessed testimony and makes friends so quickly. I am grateful today for Abundant Grace hosting us for the weekend. I am grateful to God for His gifts of abundant grace.