Friday, June 30, 2006

More on His Holiness

Studying the attributes of God should have the effect of bringing one to grips with his finiteness. Often our own significance is overblown, not just by the world but even more tragically in our own estimations. A genuine look into the biblical rehearsal of God's character and perfections is a wonder cure for this insidious malady. One of the reason why it cures us of our overblown self-estimations is that it reminds us of our inability to really know God. The more we search to know what God is and the more we discover who God is, the more we understand that we don't know what or who God is. Yet, though our knowledge is never full, our searching and knowing is not in vain because God rewards those who seek to know Him (Heb. 11:6). And what God has graciously revealed, though not exhaustive, is sufficient unto that reward. Here is a quote from Herman Bavinck that reminds us of this truth:

As the finite cannot grasp the infinite, God's names serve not to make know to God's being, but merely to indicate (in a measure and in a manner suited to our understanding) that concerning God which we need to know.

In other words, the Bible does not reveal to us all there is to know about God (see John 21:25). Rather, it reveals to us all we need to know about God. Until we have exhausted what has been revealed, we many need to lay to rest our prideful insistence upon new revelations. Just a thought.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

On Pilgrim's Progress

I have just begun a Summer Series on John Bunyan's classic work, The Pilgrim's Progress. During our Wednesday Evening Service for the Summer months at Southwest Christian Fellowship, I will teach through this incomparable piece of literature. If you are ever in the Atlanta area during this time, you are more than welcomed to stop by. Otherwise, I will post them in the side bar of this blog as they come available. Lord willing, I'll see you in the Celestrial City, if not sooner.

Knowledge of the Holy

What is God? Perhaps there is no more pertinent question in our time. It could be argued that no more needful doctrine demands to be explained and exegeted than the clear, coherent, biblical, and uncompromising Doctrine of God. Knowing who (or as the catechism states "what") God is in a time of smorgasbord theology and eclectic philosophy is perhaps the most challenging and yet the most needful pursuit of our day. There can be no doubt that fundamental to any talk about God must begin with who God is. It is to this end that the good folks New Life Fellowship Church presented their Annual Bible Conference with this year's theme being: Knowledge of the Holy: Understanding the Attributes of God. I have had the pleasure of being a part of this conference for the past few years, and I prayerfully and joyfully anticipate being a part of the conference for many years to come. However, the greatest pleasure I received this past year was not in my participation, but was rather two-fold:
One, while I thoroughly enjoyed traveling to the Chicago area and ministering among the conferencees and the members of New Life Fellowship Church, the greater joy was the encouragement I received from sitting under the preached word. And man, did Sherard Burns preach (any surprises there? :-). Louis Love kicked off the evening with a brief, but insightful, commendation of the study of God and His attributes. If there was any doubt as to whether or not a study of the Attributes of God is beneficial to the Christian church, Louis laid them to rest. And following Louis, Sherard rose to preach on the Immutability of God and nailed the coffin shut. Whether it was immutability, righteousness, or wisdom, Burns demonstrated the biblical and theological weight of God's attributes and reminded us that our lives and our minds are only significant in that they are set upon the one true God - who He is and what He requires. "Logic on fire" is what D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones called it. It is what we need more of from Reformed preachers.
Secondly, I was once again encouraged by the way in which those at New Life Bible Conference receive the Word preached. They do so with an active participation and a glad heart. I do not ever preach at a more receptive place. It is clear that the majority of these people are given a diet of faithful preaching and are discerners and examiners of the word. Here in lies one of the major contributions the Reformed Black community can make to the predominantly Black church in general. We must be people of the Book! We must recognize and even insist upon preaching that is grounded in the Word of God. And while we may fancy he who is able to turn a phrase, or to enlightened with a whimsical even humorous illustration or two, we must ultimately insist that our preachers be studied, not so much in the finer points of effective audience arousal, but in the finer points of theology and the Bible. This is the hallmark of a Christian Church - Bible-believing, Bible-proclaiming, Bible-living Christians. This is what the New Life Bible Conference is seeking to produce. Praise God for it and them.
What a wonderful time we had at the Conference. Those who were there will surely offer similar testimonies. I could say, "You should've been there." But that would be too clicheish. So, I'll just say, "Don't take my word for it, make plans to be there next year." Then you will be telling other people, "You should've been there."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Play it Again and Again and Again...

If you were being isolated on an abandoned island and forced to listen to the same music over and over and over again, what song would you choose? (Anyone who would choose a rap song at this point clearly has some deep-seeded masochistic tendencies :-). For me the question is quickly and simply answered, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in D minor. Without a doubt it would serve as the best, most-inspiring, most-comforting, and most-invigorating music I could have. I was reminded again of my affection for The Ninth as my wife and I traveled to Chicago for the New Life Bible Conference. Next to my wife and my Bible, Beethoven's Ninth is my favorite traveling companion. Those who have an appreciation for such incomparable music would understand my sentiments. I would argue that Beethoven's glorious Ninth Symphony is the greatest piece of human inspired music ever penned (I am not alone in this assessment, by the way).
The symphony was first presented on the evening of May 7, 1824 in the city of Vienna, Austria. It had been a much anticipated production. Beethoven was a senior citizen by 19th century standards and had not performed an orchestral academy in 10 years. Though he was widely regarded as the greatest composer in the known world, Beethoven was anxious about the performance and wondered if it would be received well enough to pay the overhead cost. Yet, from that night forward, the world of music would never be the same.
As Beethoven co-lead the orchestra and set the tempo, the audience frequently broke forth in rapturous applause. One eyewitness wrote: “Never in my life did I hear such frenetic and yet cordial applause.” In fact, the symphony was interrupted no less than four times by the audience’s exuberance.
And yet for all of the thunderous applauding, Beethoven was unmoved. You see, by this time in his life he was completely deaf. In fact one of the young soloist had to gently grab him by the arm and point him around to the audience, that he might see them applauding so voraciously, “Well done!, Maestro. Well done!" Completely deaf, Beethoven composed and conducted the greatest musicompositioniton ever conceived by human mind and heart.
Beethoven's Ninth has served as the inspiration and backdrop to much in Popular History. It has been the inspiration of music and musicians from classical to rap, from country to jazz. Its influence has almost been unparalleled, including serving as the score for countless movies and television shows and commercials. Besides, if you have heard the hymn, Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee you have heard part of the 4th Movement of the Ninth symphony. Once you hear it played rightly, you never forget it.
Lastly, the length of the modern CD was initially developed at 75 minutes because those who invented the CD wanted to make sure Beethoven's 9th could fit on it. I can think of some great music that has found its way onto compact disc, but none greater than Beethoven's ninth. Apparently those who created the CD in the first place, echo my sentiments. So send me to an island, and if I get to take the 9th with me, I would say, "Play it again and again and again...." What would you request?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Good Preacher, Good Theology

One of the most present-day applicable prophetic passages in the OT is found in Amos 8:11. Here the word of God reads: "Behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord God, "when I will send a famine on the land - not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord..." These words are glaringly manifested in our day. There are more preachers and churches than there has ever been, and yet it is harder than ever to hear the Bible faithfully and humbly preached. We are living in a time when we are finding men who are good preachers, but have bad theology. We are also seeing men with good theology, but just are not capable preachers. Yet, while the pickings are slim, God has not left himself without witnesses. All have not bowed the knee to Baal, and so we can be encouraged by those who are faithfully proclaiming the Gospel of the Cross and Kingdom of God. This past weekend, we had the blessed privilege of hosting one such preacher and sitting under his ministry. Pastor Lance Lewis, of Christ Liberation Fellowship in Philadelphia, fellowshipped with us in Atlanta, GA and preached a wonderful sermon from 2Chron. 30:23-27 on "The Need for True Revival." Check it out. It is good to know that there are still good preachers who have good theology.

Monday, June 19, 2006

He Became Wet!

This past week I went camping with my son and my youngest daughter. We had the most joyous, fulfilling, and exhausting time. We played golf, went swimming, built a campfire and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows on a stick. We pitched a tent and slept out underneath the stars. We listened to Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted Courage and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on a battery powered radio (I probably enjoyed the symphony more than they did. Being the biggest one in camp has its privileges). As we crawled into our sleeping bags for the night, we thanked God for his multiple blessings we so enjoyed that day and always. One of the blessings I thanked Him for was children and how beautifully and poignantly they bring God's grace home to me. It was graphically and unforgettably showed to me when we were fishing. Oh yeah, did I mention we went fishing as well.
While we were on the dock fishing, my daughter, who is 5 years old, was perhaps the most excited about the prospect of catching fish. She insisted on doing all of the preparation and casting herself. So, she took the pole and decided to put the line in the water, while I turned my back to tend to my own line (which must have had some type of ostieichthyes plague because all species were avoiding it). Suddenly I hear a huge splash to my rear and immediately wonder what type of fish could have made such a commotion. What did my son catch? When I turned around, I was amazed, not by what came out of the water, but by what went into the water. My daughter was off the dock and fully submerged. My son reached in and grabbed her and pulled her out. With shock on her face and bewilderment in her voice, she looked at me and kept repeating, "I didn't mean to...I didn't mean to...I didn't mean to..." The only thing that kept me from laughing (as I am now that I reflect upon it) was the speed with which this whole incident took place. It was only a matter of seconds. Needless to say, she was in no mood for fishing any longer. She wanted to go back to the campsite. She was wet and embarrassed and did not know what to do about either circumstance. With amazing care and love, my son offered the solution. He looked at his little sister and offered to jump in the water fully clothed so as to identify with her and to alleviate her embarrassment. Fully clothed, from shoes to shirt, he took the plunge. Her joy returned and mine was made full. Yet, my joy was full, not because my son submerged himself in the water for his sister's sake (that is enough to make any father proud), but because it reminded me that Christ, the Son of God, submerged himself in sin that He might identify with me (Heb. 4:15). He who knew no sin jumped into this world of sin, that we who knew only sin, might be made the Son-dried righteousness of God (2Cor. 5:21). My daughter was happy that her brother did that for her. She was not nearly as happy as I am knowing what Christ did for me. He became wet! Glory!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Last Words of Jesus

What think ye of the Seven Last Words of Christ? I am at a lost for words. Do you have any suggestions?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Power In The Pulpit

The 2006 Power In The Pulpit Conference, held at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is available online. Drs. Robert Smith, Hershael York, and Al Mohler were this years lecturers. You may find of particular note, the messages by Robert Smith. When you listen to Balancing Our Theology in Preaching, get ready for a ride. He is a most dynamic preacher and professor of preaching at Beeson Divinity School (did I mention that he is African-American? Do I need to? :-). Though the setting is a semi-formal lecture format, Smith has no problem or inhibition of turning his points into preaching moments. You may not agree with all his points, but he has a way of making you want to listen to him, anyway. That, I believe, is a mark of a good preacher. When people say about the preacher, "I don't agree with him, but I am interested in hearing him again," You know that God has given him a gift. May it be used for His glory. I believe Smith understands this. By the way, did I mention that he is a "black" preacher? Do I need to?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A People for God's Own Possession

Here is a wonderful message by Elliott Greene from Titus 2:11-15: A People for God's Own Possession. You may remember that Elliott recently joined the guys at Reformation 21 Blog. What you may not know is that Elliott will also be one of the preachers at this year's Pastor's Conference in Miami, FL. If you have not registered, do so today. Elliott is a faithful and diligent preacher of God's word. I encourage you to not only listen to this message, but also to make plans to greet Elliott and the rest of us in Miami in November.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Muggeridge on the Power of God

In my preparation for an upcoming conference, I have found the words of Malcolm Muggeridge to be quite accurate and insightful in spurring me on to think for deeply and profoundly about the Power of God in relationship to the Power of Humans. According to Muggeridge:

We look back on history and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter-revolutions, wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed, one nation dominant and then another. Shakespeare speaks of 'the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon.' In one lifetime I have seen my own fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, the great majority of them convinced, in the words of what is still a favorite song, that, 'God who's made the mighty would make them mightier yet.' I've heard a crazed, cracked Austrian proclaim to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last a thousand years; an Italian clown announce that he would restart the calendar to begin his own assumption of power. I've heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as a wiser than Solomon, more enlightened than Ashoka, more humane than Marcus Aurelius. I've seen America wealthier and in terms of weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together, so that Americans, had they so wished, could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range-scale of their conquests. All in one little lifetime. All gone with the wind… Behind the debris of our self-styled, sullen supermen, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Help(mate) Is On The Way

I don't know how she is going to do it, but my wife has begun blogging. Yes, I know that I called for more African-American Christian women to blog and to share their perspectives on the Word and this world, but I was not anticipating my wife heeding the call (maybe that says more about me, than it does her :-). Nevertheless, I am strongly encouraged and challenged by her commitment to share in the blogosphere. She maintains a busy schedule of care and nurture for five children and one husband. God has blessed our home with her servant's heart. I pray you will be blessed by her heart as well. She is being joined by some friends who will blog from time to time. I am excited about the possibilities of this blog and I look forward to what these women will bring to us and the kingdom of God. Check them out at Sarah's Daughters.

Online Seminary Lectures

Can't go off to seminary? Well, there is a seminary that is offering its classes to you. Believe it or not, Covenant Theological Seminary has a wealth of course lectures online at Covenant Worldwide.

Friday, June 02, 2006

TA is Blogging (yeah!)

Those who know me, know that I am an easy-going, likely-smiling, and happy-natured person. And yet, those who really know me (see wife and children at this point) know that I am not always such an easy-going, likely-smiling, and happy-natured person. Yet, I am always looking for reasons to accentuate the better angel of my nature, and today I have been given one. You see, my man, Thabiti Anyabwile, is blogging at Pure Church. TA is a brother of genuine passion for the church, and biblical literacy that the whole church in general, and the predominantly Black church in particular, is standing in need of. I plan to visit TA's blog frequently. I know that I will be the better for it. And the encouragement I will receive will cause the angel of my lesser nature to manifest himself less frequently. TA....DatsWhatIMTalkinBout!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Walking In Light

Most of you are probably not familiar with Reddit Andrews III, but you should be. He is the pastor of Soaring Oaks Church in Elk Grove, CA. He is one of my favorite preachers to listen to on the net. I commend his sermon from this past Sunday to you. It was taken from Eph. 5:7-14, entitled Walking In Light. When you listen to Reddit you will quickly learn that he is like a Boeing sitting out on the runway. He begins his sermons by taxying up, but once he is cleared for take off, all engines are firing, and away he goes. He is biblical, challenging, intelligent, and relevant. I am encouraged by this brother. I hope you will be too.

The Shape of Sola Scriptura Reviewed

On of the best books ever written on the nature and purpose of the Reformation mantra Sola Scriptura is the book by Keith Mathison entitled, The Shape of Sola Scriptura. Our brother Joshua Parker, of Totally Reformed, has written a good review of the book The Shape of Sola Scriptura by Keith Mathison. Check it out.