Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Speaking with Equal-Handedness

On the Together for the Gospel Blog for Memorial Day, Mark Dever reminded us that we need to not only remember the faithful who sacrificed for our country, but we need to be mindful of the faithful who sacrificed for their faith in God. According to Dever, this rememberance must extend to those African-Americans who faithfully lived and died in faith. Few of us really endeavor to know them. And yet, all of Christianity is the poorer for the neglect of the faithful among African-American Christians.
Thanks Mark, for your thoughtful and challenging post. You reminded us that God's dealing with His people is far more glorious and diverse than most understand or will readily admit. It is an undeniable demonstration that God does not have a problem with diversity, we do. However, I do lament that we have yet to get to the point where we speak of Christians with equal-handedness. Indeed, I can only pray for the day when we speak of Black Christians in the same way as we speak of White Christians. I mean, how often do we recount the story of a White Christian from history and have to tell people that he was a White man? Yet, when we tell of the life of Black Christians, we always have to give the designation of them being Black. It makes it seem that being White and Christian is normative and being Black and Christian is an anomaly. Unfortunately, we have not attained to the place where we need to be. Yet, we have moved from the place we were. I commend you Mark, for continuing to move us along the path to God's glory in diversity.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Do You Still Wonder?

Had a great Memorial Day weekend. Took the kids swimming. Worshipped with the saints. Grilled a Boston Butt. Caddied for my son in his first golf tournament. It truly was a wonderful weekend. Yet the most interesting and thought provoking experience was a conversation my kids were having, into which they drew me. I was drawn into it by a question. The question posed to me by one my daughters was, "Daddy, can cows really jump over the moon?" The immediate response that came to mind was, "No. Of course not." But before I could answer, my mind was driven to the deeper and more challenging question. Do I still have the innocent wonder of the power and supernatural ability of God? You see, my daughter wonders at the prospect of a cow jumping over the moon. For her that is fantastic and she is still inclined to believe the fantastic. What is fantastic for me? Does my walk with God hold out the possibility of experiencing the fantastic? Am I so inclined to an ordinary God that he has little to nothing to impress me with in the realm of the impossible? Oh, to maintain a childlike faith that says, "With God all things are possible."
Of course, I told her that cows can not jump over moons. But somehow, I am confident that she still wonders at the prospect of the fantastic in her wonder-filled world. I can not help but wonder if I still wonder at God. Do you still wonder?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Leach on Cone, Long, and ITC

Apparently, Michael Leach is interested in taking this much needed discussion to another level. As usual, he has added a more indepth analysis of the theology involved, and invites your serious and sober considerations and comments. Some have suggested that there needs to be a forum for such discussion. Perhaps Leach is seeking to do just that. Check it out at Well, Well, What Do You Know.

Friday, May 26, 2006

'Til Fame (or selfishness) Do Us Part

In the latest Ebony Magazine there is an article on the frequent break-up of celebrity couples entitled, The Hollywood Shuffle. The article raises and seeks to answer the question, "Why does it seem so difficult for celebrity marriages to last these day?" Well, I am not one fascinated with the rich and famous. I find that most people who are intrigued and idolize the lifestyles of the entertainment elite are those who are discontented with their own lives and wish to be like those they so idolize. I pray this is not you, but if it is, let me say that "Money can buy you love (for a moment), but it can't buy you marital fidelity." Marital bliss only comes through an understanding of the modus operandi of marriage. And this is what most marriages among the rich and famous lack. And what is the MO of marriage? It is humble-servanthood.
Make no mistake about it, a marriage in which the man and woman are finding fulfillment and happiness is the marriage in which each thinks more highly of the other than each thinks of him or herself. Humble servanthood is putting others before yourself. It is giving priority to the needs of others. It is sacrificing for the other, often at the expense of oneself. Without a doubt, if there is anything that is woefully missing among the Hollywood elite it is humility and servanthood. The entertainment rich and and famous may be called many things (some attractive and some not so attractive) but few, if any, could be called humble.
They live and breath in an atmosphere of egotism and narcissism. All around them reminds them of just how good and perfect they are. They are not use to serving because they spend the better part of their waking hours being served. On the set of movies or on stage at concerts, they are worshiped and waited on hand and foot. It is one thing, for one person in the relationship to live in this self-promoting, self-gratifying world, it is all together a recipe for marital disintegration when both live in that world. Because of this, celebrity marriages will always have a greater rate of failing than succeeding. But what should this say to those of less worldly importance? It says, "Take heed, lest we fall!"
I must be mindful that I am only a few selfish, self-glorifying, self-serving attitudes away from the slippery slope that is marital disaster. Biblical marriage is the only true marriage. Yes, non-Christians do marry and even have fulfilling marriages. But it is only because they have borrowed from God's manual on marriage, whether they realize it or not. Let those of us who are familiar with the Maker's instruction be foremost in heeding His words, and learn to serve more than be serve. So, let us love our spouses with a love that says to them,"My life and goals are only important in so much as they serve God's glory and your good."
"God's Glory and Your Good" - perhaps someone among the Hollywood elite will decide that is a good title for a movie. I know it is a good motto for marriage. Marriage is more important to God. Movies are more important to Hollywood. Which is most important to you?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Reformation 21 Welcomes Greene

The guys at Reformation 21 Blog has done the Christian internet community a huge favor. They have introduced Elliott Greene to the broader Christian blogosphere. Greene will be joining the feature bloggers at Reformation 21 and adding his unique and qualified insights to their discussions. He will add a bit of much needed flava as well. I first met Elliott at a Pastors Conference in which we participated in 2001. We only had a brief time to get acquainted with one another, yet I can honestly say that no one impressed me more in such a brief time than did Elliott Greene. He teaches Biblical Languages at Westminster Theological Seminary in Dallas, TX. He is also the principle of the newly formed Tyrannus Hall Foundation for Pastoral Development. His is the vivid demonstration that God has brilliant men and women, of whom most of us are not aware, serving faithfully in various areas of his kingdom. He is further evidence that being reformed and black is not an anomaly. I can not tell you how glad I am that the guys at Reformation 21 had the foresight and insight to invite Elliott Greene. I am quite confident that soon all of Reformed Christianity will be glad too.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Learning Humility

Humility is a learned virtue. No one is born humble. It is an aspect of godliness that we must learn to joyfully embrace. I am learning. And I do plan to be enrolled in this school for a long, long time. One way of knowing that we are growing in our humility is in the way we give and receive criticism. Ironically, criticism is far too easy to give, and far too difficult to receive. Yet, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we must a people who are able to give graciously only that which are able to receive graciously. I am learning to receive criticism better because of an article a friend shared with me on The Cross and Criticism. I pray that I am learning to give criticism more graciously as well. I know of no one who could not be better at both aspect of this Christian duty. So read, and pass along. And the next time you have in your mind to wash my feet and serve me through a legitimate criticism, please do so. I am being better prepared to receive it. Just be warned, I am inclined to wash a few feet of my own from time to time. God bless :-).

A One Point Calvinism?

Apparently this morning our brother Michael Leach is feeling like a One Point Calvinist. Leach does not blog much (at least not as much as he should.) But when he does, his thoughts are always well worth our attention.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Applause of God

Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching at a church in Atlanta that is currently between pastors. I preached from Heb. 11:1-6 on "The Applause of God". When I preach, I am always prayerful that God will have someone in the congregation who is particularly needful of the word I deliver and is acutely aware of that need. Well, by God's grace there was such a person. After the message, a lady came up to me to let me know that she was a missionary on furlough from China. Since she had been back, she was dealing with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, as many of those around her were asking her about her financial and estate planning. Their concerns were more about her being established for her life here in the states than they were about her labors among the Chinese people. This had been a source of discouragement because she felt inadequate to discuss such matters. She was beginning to sense that maybe her focus was wrong and that she should focus on the approval of her American friends. To my thankful surprise, she informed me that my sermon was of particular encouragement to her as she once again became convinced that it is the Applause of God we seek, not the applause of the world.

You see the writer of Hebrews reminds us that God can be pleased and that we are capable of pleasing Him (11:6). When we please God we receive the commendation of God, or the applause and approval of God. The means by which we receive this applause is "faith;" the faith to know and trust that God will reward us if we diligently seek Him and His applause and not the applause of this world. Apparently the preached word had its intended affect as this missionary was encouraged to continue to labor for God's applause, and not the applause of her comfortable and secure American friends. I am praying this morning for this missionary. I hope you will pray for her as well. I am also thanking God for the gracious privilege and pleasure of being able to preach His Word to His people. If I might paraphrase Eric Liddell, "God made me to speak. And when I preach I feel His pleasure."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Miami Pastors' Conference

Registration for the 2006 Miami Pastors' Conference has officially begun. This years theme is Christ-Centered Preaching in an Age of Pulpit Fads. This promises once again to be a wonderful time of challenge and encouragement as we gather at Glendale Baptist Church for three days, November 9-11. I can not emphasize more how important it is that we support these type of meetings. No one is going to connect with, influence, and represent Reformed Theology among Black Christians like Black Christians can. As we heard at the Together for the Gospel Conference, our White brothers lamented that there were no African-Americans among the presenters. I did appreciate their comments and believe they sincerely lamented the situation. However, we must not just sit around and bemoan this fact, we must get busy with the work of the Kingdom in exposing more African-Americans to these truths so as to find ourselves more accurately and consistently represented. One of the ways in which this takes place is by putting on and promoting conferences like the Pastors' Conference in Miami. All are invited to attend. Yet, if no one else is inclined to come, Black pastors and church leaders must do all they can to be there.
Unfortunately, many of my white brothers will wonder if they should attend. They will wrestle with whether or not this conference is for them. Yet, they should know that none of the African-Americans who attended the T4G Conference wondered if it was for them. None of the Black brothers at that conference contemplated not coming eventhough they knew they would not be represented on the panel, in the display area, or in the bookstore. As Reformed Blacks, we have learned the necessity of learning from our White brothers. I am not yet convinced that our white brothers have learned to learn from us.
Racial harmony among Reformed people is a bagpipe dream until we learn that we have much to learn from each other; until we begin to appreciate each other's gifts and be willing to sit at each other's feet. Where this is happening, we are seeing real strives in community and fellowship. Where it is not, all we are hearing is a cacophony of bagpipes.
So I say, let's all go to Miami in November! What a joy it would be to see my white brothers in attendance, not to teach, but to learn. What an encouragement it would be to see Reformed Blacks and Whites learning, worshipping, and fellowshipping together at a conference put on by Reformed Blacks, but not designed solely for them.

Monday, May 15, 2006

"O" Trumped by "W"

Oprah Winfrey, the goddess of this age, was planning the airing of her special, Oprah's Legends Ball, on tonight on ABC television. However, President Bush has taken the airways over this evening with a special message for the American people. The Legend's Ball will air on next Monday, May 21. Apparently, for all of her pop culture deification, "O" still must give way to "W". Nevertheless, this should not let us relax our discernment. Oprah is a clear and present danger to the people in our pews. You may not believe it, but I am quite confident that a vast majority of African-Americans who sit in churches find more comfort and counseling from Oprah Winfrey than they find in the Bibles that are placed in the pews in front of them. Oprah's power and influence should not be underestimated, she seeks to set the emotional and spiritual direction of not only Black America, but for all the television world. She is the epitome of the New Age gurus and the outworking of 20th century theological liberalism. Her's is the religion and pulpit so eloquently summarized by H. Richard Niebuhr, in which he characterized liberalism as preaching, "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross." This is the message our people are hearing five days a week from Oprah. My question is, "Are we proclaiming anything different on Sunday morning?"

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Long Coming Home To Roost

The Inter-denominational Theological Center has invited arguably its most famous alumnus Eddie Long, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, to be its commencement speaker this year. You would think that this would be a most welcoming and rejoiceful time for the institution, as one of its sons would be coming home to share his ministry. However, all is not well in Mudville. Apparently, Long's questionable ethics, financial misdealings, and theological irresponsibility has led some to request resending of the invitation. A group of graduating students have written a letter to the President of ITC, Dr. Michael Battle, expressing their concerns and laying out the specific issues which they believe should warrant Long's dismissal as this years commencement speaker. Protest, boycotts, and even a walkout is under consideration.
To add an interesting twist to this predicament for ITC and to demonstrate the folly of theological liberalism, apparently Dr. James Cone, the preeminent black liberation theologian of our time, was scheduled to receive an honorary degree at this year's commencement. According to reports he is planning to boycott the ceremony because of Bishop Long's presence. Cone has been a vocal critic of Long and the prosperity gospel purveyors (and you thought only Reformed guys played mean - heretics can play hardball as well). What fascinates me, however, is how Cone can bemoan Long, Creflo Dollar, TD Jakes and the rest of the prosperity princes and not realize that it was his hermeneutic that basically fostered the prosperity gospel. Here is the irony, Cone dislikes the hermeneutical and missiological approach of Long, Dollar, and Jakes, yet all they have done is become the grandchildren of Cone's subjective, existential approach to biblical interpretation. Liberation theology sought to dismiss the objective truth of Scripture in return for a subjective approach that allowed for Scripture twisting to fit the social and political struggle of a certain people group (in Cone's case, Black America). Prosperity theology does the same, only with the twist that God's design for the poor is indeed liberation, not unto political power, rather economic freedom and prosperity. Cone may not appreciate how far Long and others have taken it, but he is responsible for letting the rooster out of the pen. And to paraphrase one of his heroes, the prosperity gospel is nothing more than the liberation, subjective hermeneutic coming home to roost. It is liberation by any means necessary. Cone chose the way of poverty and blackness. Long chooses the way of wealth and prosperity. Neither one has chosen the way of the cross.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

CJ: Watching Life and Doctrine

When Jesus spoke of Nathanael he said, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" (Jn. 1:47). When I see CJ Mahaney I say to myself, "Now here is a man in whom there is no pretense." It is not surprising that CJ would be asked to give us perhaps the most important message of the conference, "Watch your Life and Doctrine." Using Paul's admonition to Timothy, which is worth our memorizing and meditation daily, CJ reminded us, "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1Tim. 4:16). The tendency for me and for most of the pastors at the T4G Conference is to spend most of our time diligently giving clarity and insight into our doctrines. We have been reminded over and over through the years of the importance of sound doctrine and confession. In a world where truth is compromised and dogma is denied, as ministers of Christ we are rightly called to give attention to sound doctrine. And we do. However, admittedly this attention is often pursued to the neglect of the attention that needs to be given to our faithful practice and living of doctrine. This was brought clear to me even more as I read a recent article in Essence Magazine (I do not recommend the reading of this magazine. It has little to no redeeming value, except to know what ungodliness is manifesting itself among Black America) on Hezekiah Walker entitled Hezekiah's Healing.

As I read the complete article on Hezekiah Walker and how his life in ministry has been a constant navigation between the so-called sacred and secular, between the holy and the hip-hop, I was reminded that among prominent African-American pastors the neglect is both in life and doctrine. We have made the ministry such a clamorous life that men and women gravitate to it not considering the cost of studying sound doctrine and the sacrifice of faithful living. Men like Walker seem to want to walk among this world's entertainment elite and to be counted among them. The result is often wrecked spirituality, unsavory innuendo, strange bedfellows (no pun intended) and sometimes false accusations. This is quite sobering to me as I remember CJ quoting Spurgeon, "Our character must be more persuasive than our speech." As Reformed pastors and teachers, we must realize that the truth of the doctrines we preach are all the more penetrating when they are backed by lives lived faithfully according to those doctrines before our wives, children, and church.
Nevertheless, Hezekiah Walker will be back. Whether the accusations are true or not; whether he and his wife reconcile or not; the church will welcome his doctrine and his life eventhough he apparently has not watched either. This actually says more about the church than it says about him, and it says a lot about him. Nevertheless, let us with sober intoxication drink from the cistern of humility and give diligence to our proclamation and practice that the truth of God is not blasphemed.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Piper: God Exulting Preaching!

Piper is infectious! No, I don't mean that he has some highly communicable deadly disease. Rather, he has a passion that when expressed makes those who tune in to him want to express a like passion. This was no more demonstrated than on Thursday evening as Piper stepped to the platform to deliver the message, "Why Expostional Preaching Is Particularly Glorifying to God." Whenever I hear John preach the thing that moves me most is that i truly get the sense that he believes what he is saying. It is not just an intellectual exercise, nor is it a pursuit of the accommodation of men. John says what he means and he means what he says. For this we can all be thankful. For this we can all take courage.

CJ Mahaney introduced John Piper with these words: "No one in modern evangelicalism has helped evangelicals recover the Reformer's emphasis on the glory of God more than John Piper." If there is anything that needs to be shouted from the roof tops of every American church it is that God is glorious and no one and nothing else is. If there is a message that I would preach to the predominantly African-American church today it would be that God is more holy, more glorious, and more serious, and less amused than the vast majority of these places understand. With prophets and bishops engaging in self-aggrandizing and the glory of God eclipsed by self-promoting pastors, God says "an appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priest (pastors) rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?" (Jer. 5:30-31) These are sobering words and Piper reminded us just how urgent is the call to proclaim the weightiness of God. Do our people understand that the end is coming? Do our people understand that God is more jealous for His glory than anything else? Do our people hear in us a valuing of God's glory in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Are we totally confident and satisfied in His lordship over our lives and all of creation? Do our lives and our preaching reflect the urgency of our call and say how much of God we want and how little of this world we desire? These are the questions I am challenged with as I listen to Piper. I say to myself, I can preach better. I must preach better. Eternity rest in the balance. For we must not be like so many, peddlers of God's word, but must be men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ (2Cor. 2:17). Thanks John, for being a fragrance from life to life to us (2Cor. 2:16). May we all strive to be so aromatic.

Friday, May 05, 2006

RC Sproul: On Justification by Faith Alone

RC Sproul is one of my heroes. I am blessed and thankful to be able to say that. I have learned as much from RC in print, in audio, and in personal conversation as I have learned from anyone. One of the most important lessons RC every taught me was how important it is that you turn your body on a pivot and not sway or shift your body on the back swing. Yes, as astute as he is theologically, he always impressed me with his knowledge of all things golf. My kind of man! But I digress. At the T4G Conference it was RC's charge to proclaim, once again, the indispensable doctrine of justification by faith alone. The organizer of the conference knew that no one in the past half century has articulated and defended this doctrine as feverishly and eloquently as RC. He was the right man for the job, and he delivered.
Justification by faith alone, said Martin Luther, is the article upon which the church stands or falls. While most in churches today preach for felt needs and emotional responses, RC reminded us that the heart of the gospel is justification by faith, and when that is lost or obscured what we have is what we have today - a weak, insipid, ineffective gospel where people are not justified by faith, but they are justified by death. This is particularly true among African-Americans.
Attend the funeral in an average African-American church and you will read in the obituary or hear from the remarks that the deceased professed Christ at an early age and was baptized. Therefore, we are to take assurance that he was saved and is safely resting in the arms of the Savior, regardless of his confession and lifestyle at the time of death. The reason that our churches can exist with such an understanding, such a dichotomy between biblical faith and popular notions of faith, is because preachers can preach with immunity a gospel void of justification by faith alone. Yet Biblical preaching, indeed Reformed preaching, has at the heart of it a justification that produces sanctification, both positional and practical. Could it be that the weakness we witness in the lives of Christians and the slow growth in sanctification is due to a lack of biblical preaching on the grounds of sanctification? Justification by faith alone is indispensable for our faithful living. Therefore we must insist that it is preached, that it is the warp and woof of our proclamation.
The war over justification is still raging. Regardless what some may say, the Reformation is not over. In fact, among African-Americans in our time, it is just beginning. The siren song of popular pulpits in our time is loud and seductive. Sheep are being lead astray with flattering words and flippant phrases. Yet the faithful ministers of God must continue to give a clear call and sound a mighty trumpet for sola fide (faith alone), that the true sheep of Christ may hear and prepare themselves for battle. RC has fought long and hard. May we, with like courage, take up the mantle.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Al Mohler: Proclaiming Christ in Our Culture

Al Mohler took up the mantle at the T4G and exhorted us to "Preach with the Culture in View." There are few men today who can speak so eloquently and even whimsically about the impact American Christianity must have upon the culture in which it finds itself swimming. This is a daunting task when one considers the extent to which our culture goes to make all capitulate to its agenda. Yet, if Christ is Lord of all (Romans 14:9), then we must be prepared, as faithful ministers of the gospel of His glory, to proclaim Him in our present context. However, the struggle is that we are far more influenced by our culture than we realize or are prepared to admit. Subsequently, too often we listen to the culture in order to find our agenda for proclaiming the truth of Christ to the culture. In other words, we ask the culture what it wants, and then we give it, thinking we are reaching it. Yet this is the height of folly. As RAM (R. Albert Mohler) so insightfully reminded us, the last person you want to ask what it means to be wet is a fish. What we are called to do is to study the Word of God and there discover what the world around us needs, and then give that to them. This is particularly of important to African-Americans.
When RAM was speaking, I could not help but say to myself that the American culture is a culture made up of cultures. In simplistic terms (overly simplistic I admit) there is the dominant culture of White America, and there are the sub-dominant cultures - one of which is Black America. Black America has long seen their culture as compatible with their Christianity. This is why to be Black in America has almost always meant to be Christian. Black atheists are an anomaly. However, if art is a demonstration of the values of a culture, then we must know that Black American culture today is as anti-Christ as is any culture the world has known and therefore needs to have the truth claims of Christ brought to bear upon it. However, this is our charge, not to get overly nostalgic about a time gone by and relish the days of our youth when our doors could remain unlocked at night or a key could be left under the door mat. Indeed those days are gone, but contrary to Bruce Springsteen, they were not Glory Days. Glory Days are ahead of us as we preach Christ and pray for His Kingdom to come on earth (Mt. 6:10). I rejoice to live in the 21st century, and do believe that God is raising up Reformed African-Americans for such a time as this. We have the truth, my brothers and sisters. Let the Reformed of the Lord say so! (Psalm 107:2 :-). And may our culture bow or burn to the glory of God.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


The Men's Fellowship at our church in Atlanta is beginning to read CJ's recent book "Humility: True Greatness." In meeting CJ, one is struck by his desire to be humble in a world that makes it difficult. I find in him a man who honestly sets forth the struggle in us all.
Humility comes hard, especially for those who believe they have something to say, and have others willing to hear. Recently, someone asked me who are the people who have been most influential my life. After giving the list (my mother, my wife, Ezra Ware, Barry Blackburn, RC Sproul, and Richard Pratt), they asked how these people influenced me and what did I learn. For brevity sake, basically I learned and am still learning humility. I learned and am learning when to speak and when to listen. These people were placed in my life for my sanctification. An important part of that sanctification is the tearing down of intellectual and spiritual pride. All them, at some point or another, taught me that I don't know as much as I think I do, nor should I be willing to express as much as I think I should. I have not been the best of students, yet God is graciously giving me time.

Preaching to the Choir

The other day I had opportunity to share with a fellow minister the impact of being at T4G Conference. After hearing my enthusiasm and getting a since for the subject matter, he expressed to me his concern that it was basically a typical evangelical exercise in "preaching to the choir." I expressed to him that such was not the case. Sure most of the men in attendance were predisposed to the convictions and theology of the speakers. Yet, as we were reminded, it takes all the courage and encouragement we can muster not to give in to the culture and compromise biblical ministry for worldly success. Everyday, preachers are bombarded with mail and email telling them how to grow their ministry and how to fill the pews by employing professional models and paradigms. One of the primary charges at the conference was for men to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might; to value the gospel above all things and Christ above all powers. This is not easy. We need exhortation and example. Thank God for men like those at the T4G Conference who are willing to do both.
To really understand the impact a conference like this can have, and to see why such is not simply preaching to the choir, here is a letter written by a prominent pastor to Mark Dever after hearing Mark speak on just these issues. It is an Encouraging Testimony

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Ligon Duncan: Preaching the Whole Counsel of God

Ligon Duncan, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, MS, gave the second address at the T4G Conference. He charged us to make sure we are "Preaching from the Old Testament." This would seem to be a harmless, even obvious, charge since we were Christian pastors who understood that we preach the Bible, right? Yet, upon reflection Lig (as he is affectionately called), reminded me how much of the Bible we do neglect in our regular exposition of the Word. Personally, I was brought up hearing and seeing the Bible preached, but it was a truncated presentation because 90% of the preaching was from the New Testament. Subsequently, I considered my calling to be one who preached first and foremost what Jesus said (the Gospels) and secondly what those who knew Jesus said about what Jesus said (the Epistles). Yet Lig reminded us that in the truest since, Jesus said it all. The Bible is the Word of Christ to us. Paul reminded Timothy, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching..." (2Tim. 3:16) therefore, "Preach the Word..." (2Tim. 4:2). It was not until my heart and eyes where opened to Reformed theology did I realize the necessity of preaching the whole Bible, the whole counsel of God. To this end, Lig told us to "Preach Christ from the Old Testament."

The Old Testament speaks of Christ coming to the earth. The Gospels speak of Christ on the earth. Acts and the Epistles speak of Christ continued work having ascended from the earth. The whole of Scripture proclaims Christ, therefore if we would be faithful to our Lord's work, we must be prepared to preach the whole of Scripture. Even in this, our Lord graciously gave us His example, "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). Thanks Lig, for your admonition and example.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Smokey and Sagging

The other day I was driving and I noticed a young man trying to run but was not very successful. He was finding out what most of us already know. You can not run very fast with one hand holding up your pants. As I watched him foolishly struggle to make progress I was reminded of the inaneness of it all. Believe it or not, the words to one of my favorite Smokey Robinson and the Miracles song came to mind. You remember the words:
Now there's some sad things known to man
But ain't too much sadder than
The tears of a clown, when there's no one around
When I watched that young man struggle needlessly I thought:
Now there's some stupid things known to man
But ain't too much more stupid than
A boy with his hand, trying to hold up his pants

T4G: Mark Dever "We Preach Better Than We Are"

Having gotten back from the T4G Conference, and having spent the Lord's Day in worship of God and fellowship with family, I have had time to reflect upon the conference and will over the next few days share a few of my thoughts. What I would like to do is to share with you some nugget of truth or insight from each preacher that had an acute impact on me. I will begin with Mark Dever.

Dever reminded us of this important truth, "We preach better than we are." In other words, following the admonition of Paul to have the Corinthians to be imitators of him (1Cor. 4:16), so too must pastors be willing to set their lives before their people as examples of faithfulness and consistency. Yet, all of us, if we are honest, will readily admit to shortcomings, failures, and faithlessness in various aspects of our lives. Often these shortcomings will grip us so, that we fail to preach with the conviction the gospel message and Bible faithfulness calls for. Subsequently, we may not be prepared to preach until we have come to perfection. Yet, Dever reminded us that "We must preach better than we are." We must be willing to say what the Bible says, though it says it first and often foremost to us. We must be willing to allow the convicting word of our sermons to fall upon us first as we prepare to have them, by God's power, fall upon our congregations.
"We preach better than we are," should remind us that though we seek to exemplify the word that we preach, ultimately it is the standard of our risen Lord that we are setting before our people. Their imitation of us is only in so far as we are striving to imitate Christ. In this, we are their servants, helping them to see their Savior. Or as Paul so rightly put it in 2Cor. 4:5: "For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake."