Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Associate Pastor Position

Desiring God Community Church in Charlotte, NC is looking for an Associate Pastor. The pastor, Coty Pickney, and the good folks at Desiring God Community Church are good friends with a heart for the supremacy of God. If you or someone you know might be interested in this position, here is the job description and contact info.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Abortion is the Issue

I don't want to make light of the seriousness that is the AIDS epidemic. All of us know friends and/or family members who are suffering or have even died because of this disease. However, AIDS is not the deadliest plague facing African-Americans. In fact, the number one killer among African-Americans is not heart disease, it is not cancer, nor is it AIDS. The number one killer among African-Americans is Abortion.
The Federal Centers for Disease Control estimate that around 1500 African-Americans babies are killed by abortion everyday. That totals to over 500,000 a year. Blacks comprise only 12 to 13% of the population, and yet are the victims of 36% of the abortions. Since 1973, the year abortion became legal, and estimated 14 million African-American babies have been aborted.
Friends, this is not political issue, as much as it is a moral question. Will we, the men and women of God, prophetically speak and act in denouncing this wrath-of-God-invoking practice of abortion? When will those so-called reverends, who have national platforms (i.e. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson) really take the moral ground and address the issue that most threatens African-Americans? Personally, I won't listen to Sharpton or Jackson until they stop seeking liberal, political cash with issues like AIDS and homophobia, and they speak with equal fervency against the sinful practice and dreadful plague of abortion. Somehow, I don't envision listening to them any time soon - more's to pity.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Wolves in Minister Apparel

Apostle Paul graciously and prophetically declared to the Ephesian Church that after his intended "departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30).

There can be little doubt that what are witnessing in our day, is the furthering of the decline of the truth that Paul prophesied in his day. If you had any doubts, and I am sure you did not, you need only read the foolishness that took place recently in good old Atlanta: Black Clergy Tackle Homophobia.

What I am thankful for, however, is that at least we are finding out more and more who the wolves are, if we were not aware of them already. I just lament the fact that Atlanta is quickly becoming the favorite den for alpha wolf, Al Sharpton, and the rest of his growing pack.
Yet, someone will ask, "What are you doing?" To which I say, we are doing what the Bible says do. We are preaching and teaching the sovereign grace of God which has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions...(Tit. 2:11-12). We are affirming Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in our homes, in our church, and in our community. For this is how we have learned Christ, and how we have been established upon the truth, not cultural, religious, and/or political expediency.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Finding a Good Thing (Prov. 18:22)

My calling often takes me away from home for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, my wife usually is not allowed to accompany me because of school, the children, and responsibilities at home. Many ask me how I am able to manage my time away from home and it not be an undue burden upon my family. My answer is simple, I am blessed with a good wife. I was reminded of this the other night when I came home from a meeting and she was siting in front of the computer, the kids were in bed, and she was studying for an upcoming Women's Fellowship. She was reading an article by Noel Piper entitled John and Noel Riding in Tandem. As she shared it with me, I was not only encouraged by the writing and insights of Noel, but I was even more encouraged by my wife's desire to ride in tandem with me to the glory of God. I have never ridden a tandem bike (though now I am more interested than ever), but I have been riding in tandem with Adriane for over 12 years and I can honestly say that her heart and submission to God makes the peddling a lot easier and less hazardous than this man deserves.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

First Corinthians 15:58

Check out the development of a fine blog Totally Reformed by Joshua Parker. It is Christian. It is reformed. And by the way, the man behind the curtain is black. JP we're with ya!

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Best of Christianity?

According to The Church Report, they have determined the 50 Most Influential Christians in America. Anyone who knows anything would know that such a listing is nebulous, shallow, and ultimately insignificant in the true Kingdom of God. In fact, I find it ironic that they would list John Piper as number 24 when John would be the first to say that such lists are not only counter-productive, but are inherently unchristian. Nevertheless, too many people in America and around the world view Christianity by the popular faces of Christianity set before them. With this in mind, I can not help but lament the poor perceived state that is so-called African-American Christianity. There are four African-Americans on the list of the top 50, with T.D. Jakes proudly wearing the banner as #1. Yet, the four names are illustrative of the darkness that is the predominantly black church. In fact, if Christianity in general, and African-American Christianity in particular, is represented by T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, and Harry Jackson then hello world, welcome to the Church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14ff). Yet I am not totally pessimistic. I believe as Dr. King once said, "Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars." We continue to be encouraged by the ground swell that is Reformed Theology among African-Americans. We continue to appreciate the work of those who faithfully labor for the truth once and for all delivered to the saints. Although, in looking at the African-Americans on the list the words of Dr. King may not be as appropriate as are the words of Whodini, "The freaks come out at night!" (www.pulpit-pimps.org)

Friday, January 20, 2006

I'm Hearing VOICE's

Back in September 2005 I recommended the rap the music of Shai Linne. I think Shai Linne is trying to accomplish a very difficult and maybe impossible task, making the rap genre a Christ-centered, God-exulting vehicle of the gospel of sovereign grace. Therefore, I commend Shai and all those so committed. Another such brother has recently come to my attention. His name is Curtis Allen a.k.a Voice. His rap CD is called Progression. On it he seeks to lay down rap lyrics and music that are theologically accurate and grace infused. Admittedly, I want to be careful in my recommendaton of rap music. While it is at one level encouraging to see reformed brothers using the medium of rap to dissimenate the gospel, rap does not readily lend itself as a medium of worship. Rap my nature is hedonistic and narcissitic. Those who are the most successful are those who are the most hedonistic and narcissitic. One of the aspects that I appreciate about Voice's album is that he readily admits this in his cut All Rap Is:
All rap is, is the lust of the flesh that is easily seen through drugs and sex.
All rap is, is the lust of the eyes, almost any video can help you realize that,
All rap is, is the boasting of what he has and does from how we live to MTV cribs.
I ain't hatin' but to me rap's the glorification of what led Christ to propitiation.
So, when I recommend a rap artist, as I did with Shai Linne and as I do so with Voice, I must offer this important caveat. There is a difference between worship and Christian entertainment. I know the lines are often blurred and too many of our churches are nothing more than Sunday morning's poor imitation of Saturday evening's juke-joints, or concert halls. Nevertheless, there is a necessary distinction between worship and entertainment, which we must maintain. Christian rap has entertainment value for those so inclined to be entertained. Yet, its worship value is at best questionable, if at all possible. Yet, Shai Linne, and now Voice are seeking to find that illusive place where rap entertainment gives way to worship. Is it possible to find? Maybe. Maybe not. Then again, maybe we should not even ask them to do that. Maybe we should just appreciate it for what it is, brothers seeking to glorify God with their talents and encouraging others to do the same. If that is their end, then let me say, "I am encouraged and challenged!" Keep it up, keep it real, and keep it glorifying Christ.

By the way, the cut Maybe is pretty good too:

Maybe you're not one who trusts in God
And maybe you think that life is too hard
And maybe you think faith is what you do
Well maybe, just maybe, its not about you.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Awesome God

Recently I was asked to participate in a review colloquium, of sorts, for the Children's Music CD published by Sovereign Grace Ministries entitled "Awesome God." While I could review this music and give my assessment of it, I thought it more appropriate and even fun to enlist the opinions of my children in this exercise. Not only would it allow me to be lazy (as I am prone to do) but it also gave me an opportunity to hear from them concerning their opinion of music and what they like and don't like listening to. For your information, the two reviewers are my son Tony, 11 (actually he is 10 until next month - but you know how that is), and my oldest daughter, Rachel, 9. I found their reviews interesting and thoughtful. While I did not always agree with them, most of the time they made good points. I asked them to write what they would say if someone wanted their opinion on whether or not to buy the CD.

Tony: "I would say yes to someone who wanted to buy this CD. It is good for children because it tells about God. If someone wanted to know truly who God is - listen to Awesome God."

Rachel: "You should buy this CD because it is a good CD for children and if they learn the songs they will learn how to grow closer to God."

Here is a sampling of some of their opinions of individual songs:

Almighty Creator: "I like this song. It tells us of God's purpose in creating us. It also tells us that we are to worship God because he created us to worship him." - Tony

Forever God: "I like this song because it says that God is everlasting and that He goes on and on and on." - Rachel

You Are Always with Me: "I like the words because it tells us that God will never leave us, even in the dark He is there. I did not like the music." -Tony

Your Love: "This is my fav.....orite song! It has a good beat and it says God's love is like a river." -Rachel

Too often Christian Children Music is nothing more than mature testimonies sung with immature voices. You are often left wondering just how much of the song do the children really understand. Or how much of the song have the children truly experienced. Bob Kauflin and the good folks at Sovereign Grace sought to rectify that situation. And well they did. They produced a CD suitable and appropriate for children, both intellectually and experientially. Though the music has a definite cultural slant, the words are transcultural and God-exalting. Kauflin and the Gang are to be commended.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Welcome our Brother Michael Leach!

Well, it has finally happen. Michael Leach has entered the world of blogs, and we are all grateful and encouraged by it. Leach is a dear friend and teacher. He has one of the most astute and acute theological minds I know and is as fine a preacher as you will find. You must visit his blog, Lux et Veritas (Light and Truth), and encourage him to write more and more. But I do warn you, he is provocative and insightful. You will find yourself scratching your head at times and at other times you will find your heart strangely warmed. Yet that is what all good preachers should be producing in their hearers and readers. So I welcome my brother and do pray that he is diligent in giving us a piece of his mind regularly. Lord knows he could spare a few pieces :-).

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What a Celebration!

Well, I'm back! Sorry for the absence, but I had the privilege of being in Citrus County, Florida this weekend for Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend. I was hosted by the Ministerial Alliance in the county and by Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church, where I preached and where the Community Wide MLK Service was held. It was a most magnanimous time (if such time is possible). The people of Seven Rivers were awesome. Ray Cortese is the pastor. His heart for all things gospel and all things glorious, including justice, righteousness, and equality was evident from the very start. I was much impressed with him and the wonderful people of Seven Rivers. I was pleased to offer words for such an auspicious and truly bridge-building event. You can hear the message by going to our website at Cyrene Ministries or you can contact Seven Rivers to request a copy. I do pray that I was able to serve them in some way that reflected the gracious and Christ-honoring service and encouragement they gave to me. Thanks Citrus County. Thanks Seven Rivers.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Satisfied In Him

Well, here is a wonderful new venture as a vanguard in the world of reformed blogs. Our black and reformed friend Vikki has started a blog with women in mind. It is Satisfied in Him. You will want to check it out and encourage her in her efforts. We need more of these type of initiatives.

On Being A Black Reformed Christian (Part 3)

Being Christian. It means that I am a child of God first and foremost. It means when you see me, you see a black man, but when you hear me you hear a Christian man. It means that Christ is my Lord. It means that I am daily seeking to understand my African-American experience in light of the Lordship of Christ. It means that I am nothing apart from the grace of God, and that God has created me who I am at the time that I am that I might show forth His mercies while He is daily conforming me to the image of His dear Son. It means that my service, yes my worship and allegiance, is not first to the Black cause, though noble it may be at times. It is not first to the Reformed cause though grand it may appear to be. It means that my service, indeed my worship and allegiance is to Christ first and last, now and at all times. If I can serve Christ while sincerely serving an African-American cause, then let me do it. If I can serve Christ while promoting a Reformed agenda, then by all means let me at it. But if Christ is in conflict with any of these at any point or at any time, then let me have the courage, indeed the unction to say, “Away with blackness, and away with Reformedness – give me Jesus and Jesus only.” It means that I must understand that Martin Luther King gave his life that I might vote, but Christ gave his life that I might live. Frederick Douglas gave his life that I might me free from slavery, but Christ gave his life that I might be free slavery to sin and death.

I am black; there is no mistaking that. I am reformed, and make no mistake about that. But those two distinctions have relevance only in so far as they are understood in light of the fact that I am Christian. It was Spurgeon who said, “I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, ‘It is Jesus Christ.’” I am proud to be an American. I am equally proud to be an African-American. I thank God that my theology is the biblically grounded, historically consistent theology of the Reformation. But if you ask me my faith, if you ask me my creed, if you want the sum of my life, “It is Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ.” May it be yours as well.

Monday, January 09, 2006

On Being A Black Reformed Christian (Part 2)

Being Reformed. It means that I have a heritage that transcends my skin. It means that the grace of God has appeared to me according to the good pleasure of God. It means I see my God as sovereign, omnipotent, holy, and right. It means I see my sin for what it is, heinous and worthy of death. And it means I see my Savior as sufficient, immutable, and altogether good. It means that my heroes are not only men like Frederick Douglas and Booker T. Washington, and but they are also and to some degree even more so Martin Luther, and John Calvin. It means my legacy is seen from Lemuel Haynes to Langston Hughes. I have as much in common with Martin Luther as I do with Martin Luther King. John Bunyan and John Marrant, belong to me as much as do Abraham Kuyper and A. Philip Randolf. It means that I can look to J. Gresham Machen and listen to his ability to articulate the dangers of the sin of liberalism and yet question is inability to comprehend the dangers of the sin of racism. It means that I have solid, historical, and biblical grounds upon which to stand in this world, as I seek to be an instrument of God in spreading his righteousness, peace, justice, and joy throughout the world. It means that my ideology is informed by my theology, which is reformed, because what I am most of all is Christian. (to be continued)

Race and Refomed Theology Syllabus

The Institute for Reformed Theology and the Presbyterian School of Christian Education has online the suggested reading list/syllabus for their 2006 Colloquy on Race and Reformed Theology. While I would not recommend the theology/ideology of every author, I would recommend this list as a good reference for material on the issue of Race and Reformed Theology in our culture. Check it out. You may find a book or two that peaks your interest.

Battle Stations 7A

Lance is going on with his Battle Station Series. This time he is tackling the popular notions of worship in Battle Stations 7A.

Friday, January 06, 2006

John Piper Has Cancer

The news has been made public that John Piper has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He and his family will surely be in our prayers. Below is a letter that from John to his church. It was accessed from the blog of Justin Taylor, Between Two Worlds. It is typical Piper and why we admire him so.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Dear Bethlehem Family,

I hope this letter will encourage your prayer, strengthen your hope, and minister peace. I am writing with the blessing of the other elders to help you receive the news about my prostate cancer.
At my annual urological exam on Wednesday, December 21, the doctor felt an abnormality in the prostate and suggested a biopsy. He called the next day with the following facts: 1) cancer cells were found in two of the ten samples and the estimate is that perhaps 5% of the gland is affected; 2) my PSA count was 1.6, which is good (below 4 is normal); 3) the Gleason score is 6 (signaling that the cancer is not aggressive). These three facts incline the doctor to think that it is unlikely that the cancer has spread beyond the prostate, and that it is possible with successful treatment to be cancer-free.

Before going with Noël to consult in person with the doctor on December 29 about treatment options, I shared this news with the Bethlehem staff on Tuesday morning, December 27, and with the elders that evening. Both groups prayed over me for healing and for wisdom in the treatment choices that lie before us. These were sweet times before the throne of grace with much-loved colleagues.

All things considered, Noël and I believe that I should pursue the treatment called radical prostatectomy, which means the surgical removal of the prostate. We would ask you to pray that the surgery be completely successful in the removal of all cancer and freedom from possible side effects.

With the approval of the executive staff and elder leadership, we are planning surgery in early February. The recovery time is about three weeks before returning to a slow work pace, and six weeks to be back to all normal activities.

This news has, of course, been good for me. The most dangerous thing in the world is the sin of self-reliance and the stupor of worldliness. The news of cancer has a wonderfully blasting effect on both. I thank God for that. The times with Christ in these days have been unusually sweet.

For example, is there anything greater to hear and believe in the bottom of your heart than this: “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)?

God has designed this trial for my good and for your good. You can see this in 2 Corinthians 1:9, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” And in 2 Corinthians 1:4-6, “He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God . . . If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation.”

So I am praying: “Lord, for your great glory, 1) don’t let me miss any of the sanctifying blessings that you have for me in this experience; 2) don’t let the church miss any of the sanctifying blessings that you have for us in this; 3) grant that the surgery be successful in removing cancer and sparing important nerves; 4) grant that this light and momentary trial would work to spread a passion for your supremacy for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ; 5) may Noël and all close to me be given great peace—and all of this through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.” I hope God will lead you to pray in a similar way.

With deep confidence that
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting.
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:54-57

Pastor John
With Sam Crabtree, Lead Pastor for Life Training
Kenny Stokes, Lead Pastor for Spreading
Tim Johnson, Chairman of the Council of Elders
Ross Anderson, MD, Bethlehem Elder

Thursday, January 05, 2006

On Being A Black Reformed Christian

Recently, a brother blogged at RBA on being Black and Reformed. While I do not consider myself an unquestionable expert in this area, I do have a passion for such musings and thought I would share a few of my thoughts with you over the next few days.
I am often asked what it means to be black and reformed. Or as an interviewer once asked me, “Why did you write On Being Black and Reformed?” My answer was simply, “Because I am Black and Reformed.” The interviewer thought this a rather clever answer. Yet, I thought it a merely obvious one. The truth, it seems, is so obvious to us at times that we often overlook it. Yet, since publishing the book, I am often faced with similar questions of the purpose and meaning behind my writings. I rejoice to tell people that I am a Christian; that I hold to Reformed Theology; and that my heritage is Black American. Each of these is according to the sovereign grace of God, for which I am the greatest of debtors. Yet, each could be explained further and put into its proper place. What do I mean when I say that I am Black, Reformed, and Christian?

Being Black. It means that I have a distinct, indeed unique, if at times bitter experience. It means that I have drunk of the waters of Marah in a land that has flowed with milk and honey. It means my fore parents felt the lash of the whip and witnessed the horror of babies and loved ones cast down to the depths of unknown and untold graves in an angry deep. It means their sweat and blood were fertilizer for a land upon which they could only see but never own. It means being African-American. It means having a face but often no name. It means having a home, but no country. It means having a voice to cry with, but not a voice to vote with. It means having to learn to sing a joyous song in a strange, foreign land. It means learning to live upon a God who is invisible and trusting his purposes though they seemingly ripen slowly. (to be continued)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Swann for Governor?

It appears that Lynn Swann is going to throw his hat, or rather his helmet, into the political arena. Reports are out that an announcement could be coming real soon stating that Lynn Swann is officially a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor of the state of Pennsylvania. Swanny make some rather acrobatic moves during his Hall of Fame playing days with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But this may be his most profound and challenging move yet. By the way, did I mention that he is a republican. I guess you probably gathered that from the picture. I was never a Steeler fan growing up. But I must admit, I am impressed with Swann's proposed move here. Go Swanny!

Battle Stations 6

Lance is still at it. You will want to keep up with this series.

Battle Station part 6

Sunday, January 01, 2006

God Fixed It!

Every New Year brings with it a plethora of slogans that are to excite people about the possibilities of God in the coming year. These trite sayings promise happiness and blessings in God for the coming year. One such slogan that I heard recently is "God's Got It Fixed In 2006." How amusing, if not for the fact that it is tragic. The fact that people must yearly seek for the new, the novel, the trendy in Christianity every New Year is another testament to the dearth of understanding and the lack of confidence that so-called Christians have in the Word of God. Besides, to say "God's got it fixed in 2006" is to say two miserable things. One, that God and I have "me" as the primary concern in 2006. In other words, God has got it fixed, He has it fixed for me, not for Him. Two, it makes light of what God has already fixed. You see, it God's got it fixed in 2006, it is because God fixed it a long time ago. When our Lord said on the cross, "It is finished!," He was literally saying "It is fixed!" What is fixed? My sin was fixed. He fixed the wrath of God against me and my sin. He fixed the burden and guilt of my sin. He fixed the penalty due to me for my sin. At the cross God fixed my greatest need and took away my greatest misery. Therefore, I need not search for my happiness and blessedness year to year, but I know my happiness in 2006 is sourced in the same place it was in 2005, 2004, 2003.... My happiness is found where David found his:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in who spirit there is no deceit (Ps. 32:2).
God got it fixed in 2006? Only because He fixed it on Calvary nearly 2006 years ago. Tell me, have you heard any of these trite sayings so far this year?