Monday, February 26, 2007

It was good to be afflicted...

Since last Thursday I have been down with the flu. I happens about this time every year. My mother keeps telling me that I need to get a flu shot, but I keep reminding her that we should reserve the flu shots for those who really need them, you know, the older folks. But I am beginning to realize that maybe I am joining the ranks of the older folks. Besides, with five active children and a ministry that has me visiting and speaking with people who have active children, I have become accustomed to working in and through sickness. Yet, this time, God made sure I was sat down. I have spent the last couple of days in the bed, and though it was hard not getting out to pursue my passions, I was reminded just how loving and lovely God is when He afflicts us. The Psalmist said, "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes" (Ps. 119:71). Uncontrollable sneezing, nasal congestion with headaches, nausea, and sleepless nights are not good things. And yet, they result in the good of me praying, meditating, and trusting in God. It is good that He loves me enough to do to me what I need, that I might know that He loves me. And during this bout with sickness God has particularly reminded me that He especially loved me in given me my wife.

Yesterday I was suppose to be at church preaching from Matt. 5:1-5 on the Beatitudes. As you can guess, I was not able to do it. I had spent all week with the first three beatitudes, had discussed them during our family devotion time, and had read several books on the subjects. I believe I was quite familiar with the beatitudes and quite confident in preaching them. And then I discovered one that I had taken for granted and had to be reminded of it. Perhaps you are not familiar with it (probably because it does not pertain to you), but I hope you will indulge this mostly healed preacher as he takes a little license and shares with you this new beatitude. It says, "Blessed is he who is married to Adriane, for he is beloved by a faithful wife." She has given herself to me during my sickness in ways of which I am not worthy. She has served me and our family and has not once complained or drawn back - ever asking if there is anything more she could do. Amazing Love, how can it be, that God would send such a wife to me. This almost recovered sinner is loved by God through a loving wife. This again is why I say "It was good to be afflicted."
...But it still hurts when I sneeze.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Youth Ministry to the Glory of God

The modern Youth Ministry Movement has lost its way. What started out as a noble idea, has grown into a problem that often feeds itself. Anyone who is actively involved in youth ministry, if they were honest, would have to admit that this is true. Nevertheless, they would also admit that they are at a lost for knowing what to do about it. Therefore, the modern youth ministry goes on. Yet, Voddie Baucham does not think it has to. He has is publishing a series of articles on Youth Ministry that I am convinced we need to read:

Youth Ministry I
Youth Ministry II
Youth Ministry III
Answering Objections on the Youth Ministry Issue
What's a Youth Minister To Do (pt. 1)
What's a Youth Minister To Do (pt. 2)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Happy Presidents Day

For our country today is a holiday. Today we take the time to recognize the invaluable contributions our Commanders-in-Chief have made to our beloved country. In particular we recognize the two greatest presidents we have had (and number three is so far behind that he is not worth mentioning in the same breath), George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. And for my money, Lincoln stands as the pinnacle of our highest political office. Was he perfect? Of course not. Any man who would aspire to and obtain the office of President would surely have his faults exposed, and Lincoln did. Nonetheless, in the realm of imperfect men to sit in the White House, Lincoln ranks at the head of the class. Here are a couple of resources on Abraham Lincoln that I would recommend this Presidents Day.
Lincoln's Greatest Speech. Of all the books I have read and listened to on Abraham Lincoln this is my favorite. It is my favorite because it deals with what I believe is the greatest presidential address ever given, Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, and it gives insight into the philosophical and religious influences upon Lincoln as he struggled to make sense of the Civil War. I believe you will be richly surprised by this book. Check it out.

Was Lincoln A Christian? I am not one to argue one way or another for the supposed spirituality of dead leaders. Those who do not like Lincoln will make the argument that he was not a Christian. Those who admire him will make the argument that he was. I find that after the arguments are made, Lincoln's accomplishments and his words to us still ring true (much in the save way as Martin L. King, Jr.). Nevertheless, if you are interested, Dr. D. James Kennedy has given a message entitled Was Lincoln A Christian? Part one aired on Friday and part two is airing today on Truths That Transform. If you have never heard Dr. Kennedy give one of his biographical addresses, you should do so. I believe he is excellent in his delivery of these messages.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Damnable Heresy

Desiring God posted an article by John Piper entitled, "Prosperity Preaching: Deceitful and Deadly." In the article Piper asks preachers not to develop a philosophy of ministry that is deceitful and ultimately deadly because it misrepresents the promises of God and the call of Christ. I commend Piper for the brief article, and once again Piper is willing to say some things that equally prominent white (reformed) evangelicals seem reluctant to say. However, being as familiar as I am with the prosperity gospel, and knowing family and friends who are deceived by this heretical teaching, I would suggest that Piper's words do not go far enough. While he is right in pleading with pastors not to teach prosperity, just warning those who read his material is not enough. We must we willing call it more than deceitful and deadly. We must be willing to call it what it is - DAMNABLE HERESY. And those who teach it - HERETICS.

While we debate about NT Wright and the various and nefarious perspectives on Paul, people flock to see Benny Hinn by the thousands. While we argue about the ecclesiastical errors of the Emergent Church and the exegetical fallacies of Open Theism, Creflo Dollar and Eddie Long are building worldwide empires on the backs of people being duped by the desire to be prosperous. We must ask ourselves the question, "what are the more pressing heresies of our day: the New Perspective Teachings or the Health and Wealth Teaching?" Look at any list of the most influential and popular preachers in America and you will find the list littered with Prosperity Preachers. Yet, you will be hard pressed to find on that list an advocate of the New Perspective on Paul. In fact, I would venture to say that most on the list could not even tell you what it is.

I am not saying that these other issues (i.e. New Perspective, Open Theism, Emergent, etc.) are not important. They are. I am saying however, that they garner far too much of the evangelical (reformed) debate and ink in light of their relative insignificance in broader Christianity. Therefore, I believe we need men like Piper to say what he said and more. We need other prominent (reformed) evangelicals to say what Piper has said and more. This is no light matter. And in case you believe I may be overstating the case, check out this horrific video from none other than Dr. Creflo Dollar himself. He is not ashamed to call it as he sees it, why are we?

What say you?


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Augustine Key to Reformation

In speaking of the necessary and hopeful reformation within the predominantly black church, our brother Scotty Williams has suggested that Saint Augustine may hold the key.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Samuel Rutherford this Morning

In my continual reading of The Letters of Samuel Rutherford this morning, I came across this wonderfully encouraging passage on temptation. Rutherford writes:

I find it most true, that the greatest temptation out of hell is to live without temptations. If my waters would stand, they would rot. Faith is the better for the free air and the sharp winter-storm in its face. Grace withereth without adversity. The devil is but God's master-fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

An Elder's Home

(If the link does not work, click on the "articles" tab. You should be able to find it)
One of the hot issues plaguing the predominantly black church is the issue of the Pastors/Elders and their families. We have not done a good nor faithful job in living out within the church the demands of Scripture upon the Elders and Pastors, particular as it relates to families. Our pulpits are full of men who have been divorced (a time or two or three) and whose children have long seen the hypocrisy of their fathers and have either joined in the charade or have rebelled against him. This is one area that definitely needs reform and Reforming. Here is an excellent article from Nine Marks entitled Unbelief in an Elder's Children - Practice. If we ever begin taking serious the Scriptural mandates for Elders and Pastors in 1Timothy and Titus, we would begin to see reform right before our eyes. But alas, too many of our people would not love to have it so.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

What manner of man is this?

I know I am in the middle of a brief series on Reforming the Black Church, but this is just too scary pass up. Did you know he was here? Make sure you check out the video.

Reforming the Black Church: Institution or Individual?

"The Black church in America is an enigma. It's an institution who existence is unlikely and unpredictable. How could African-American men and women embrace the same Christ that their oppressors professed? Despite the worst intentions of many and because of the best intentions of others, the Black church, as an institution, is arguably the most indomitable in American history" (On Being Black and Reformed, p. 46).

Those words grew out of the understanding that the predominantly white church and predominantly black church in America are inextricably tied together. Without the evangelistic efforts (good) and the sinful prejudices (evil) of the White church in American we would not have a "black church." It could be argued that there would be not African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church if the Methodist had not been racist in their practices. There would be no National Baptist Convention (NBC) or even Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is their white sister organizations had been operating in brotherly love and kingdom principled. But alas, they were not and thus we have a segregated church. The pasts of white and black Christians is tied together. And I believe so are their futures. This is why I believe to ask the question of reform in the one is the beg the question of reform in the other.

Now, in his second post on Can the Predominantly African-American Church be Reformed, our brother and friend Thabiti has written some hard and true indictments of the black church. Without a doubt, his assessment will be met with some opposition, and yet his thoughts do not come out of mid air, but are the result of experiencing these errors and examining them in the light of the Scriptures. When I read Thabiti's assessment I find myself agreeing with him, even though something inside me did not want to. Being a son of the black church, I love my heritage, and yet I know all too well the errors that have plagued our churches and Thabiti have hit many them square on. And yet, I remain hopeful, not because I think it is possible to Reform the predominantly African-American church but because I believe Reformation is possible and is happening in Black Christianity.

The Black Church in America is institutionalized, make no mistake about it. What I mean by that is that it has been long established, it has its traditions (good and bad - though mostly bad on the theological side) and has found success in accomplishing many of its goals. It is a self-sufficient entity and therefore, while it may be willing to adjust from within, it is not likely to make any sweeping changes because of theological pressures from without. Thus, to look on it at face value it may appear that reforming the black church in America is not likely. However, I would suggest that reforming the predominantly black church should not be the goal. The goal should be to bring Reformed Christianity to black Christians. If I thought the goal should be the reforming of the institutionalized black church (e.g. the NBC, AME, and COGIC), I would despair at such a monstrous task. But I don't see the task as reforming the institutionalized church, but rather that of reforming Black Christianity. I am convinced that the prospect of reforming Black Christians is not only doable, but has already been done. I am a living witness.

When I state the goal as reforming black Christians more so than reforming the black church, I mean that our goal should be the introduction of reformed theology to individual men and women, boys and girls, more so than the introduction of reformed theology to the established, institutionalized Black church. I believe that if we can, by the grace of God, get Reformed theology in the hearts and minds of black individuals, then we will either begin to see a change in the historical black church, or we will see another "black (reformed and biblical) church" rise up along side her. Whatever the case, the key is the individual not the institution.