Monday, July 28, 2008

Come Ye Sinner

Have you ever felt like not getting out of the bed on Sunday morning? I have. In fact, this past Sunday was one of those days. It had been a long and exhausting weekend. I had been going non stop day and night since Thursday and the restful moments were few during that time. When Sunday morning had finally rolled around I was exhausted. And as I looked at the clock and knew it was time to get up, I prayed, "Lord, give me one reason why I should get out of this bed and go to church this morning." As I lay there waiting on an answer, the words to this song came to my head, "Come ye sinners, poor and needy, weak and wounded sick and sore." As those words began to rang in my head, when I reached the chorus I heard myself say, "I will rise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in his arms." There and then the Spirit of God confirmed in me that to the company of the believers and to the Table of the Lord was where I need to go.

One of the rich benefits of having the Lord's Supper every week is that you don't have to wait any longer than a week for the experience of being nourished by His presence in administering the sacraments. And so, as I rose I knew that I would meet Jesus and not only would he embrace me in his arms, but he would nourish my soul through the bread and the cup. And I could not wait!

When we arrived at church, I asked the worship leader for a favor. I asked if we could sing Come Ye Sinners as our opening hymn. He looked at me curiously, yet agreed because he knew I must have a good reason for such a request. Indeed I did. I wish I could play for you the sound of the saints singing this hymn on this past Sunday. It was a wonderful preparation for our Communion time.

While I don't have us singing it on yesterday, here is the late Elder DJ Ward leading the singing of it at the Sovereign Grace Conference last year. While it probably won't minister to you like it did me yesterday, it surely will remind you that Jesus is still inviting us to come and find rest and strength in Him (Matt. 11:28-30).

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

View Him prostrate in the garden;
On the ground your Maker lies.
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Great Cowper Quote

One of my favorite pastimes is listening to books. I do understand that some folks don't have the constitution for such things, but I thoroughly enjoy it and my children have picked up on my habit and find it a most enjoyable exercise as well. I think I may enjoy them enjoying it as much as I enjoy it myself.

The book I am currently listening to is John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Jonathan Aiken. Newton is one of my heroes. His insight and experience with the grace of God is well known and encapsulated in his immortal words "Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound." One of Newton's dearest friends was William Cowper. Cowper was even more the poet than Newton. From Cowper we have received the timeless treasure "God Moves in a Mysterious Way - His Wonders to Perform..."

During the Abolition of the Slave Trade movement in late 18th century England, Newton published Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade, a first hand account of the wickedness and cruelty that was the detestable occupation. William Cowper was also asked to join in the fight against slavery by composing a poem that would prick the consciences of the people against the trade. I love Cowper's response. He said: "I can not contemplate the subject without a degree of abhorrence that affects my spirits and sinks them below the pitch requisite for success in verse."

I feel ya bro.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Experiencing the Presence of God

We are currently in a series on Worship by the Book at our church here in Atlanta. Along this theme, here is an excerpt from the chapter on Biblical Worship from Experiencing the Truth:

It is amazing to me that so many churches have implemented two distinct worship services. In this approach, the church hopes to appeal to the often conflicting worship styles of the parishioners. For those of an older generation or taste, they offer what is known as the traditional worship. The other service is geared toward those of the present generation or who have a more contemporary taste. This is referred to as the contemporary worship service. More and more churches are implementing this two service approach in the hopes of attracting, or better yet, keeping more people. While this is not a particularly prevalent occurrence among predominantly Black churches, we should be weary of this modern trend and seek to head it off before it reaches our doors.

How deprived we are if all of our songs and forms are contemporary and new. And yet how shallow and inadequate is our worship if all we have are contemporary music and lyrics. We must remember that Christianity is a “forward remembering” faith. In other words, while we are always looking forward to what God has promised us in the grand consummation, we are always remembering what He did for us at the cross. While we are always proclaiming the glories of the returning King, we are also remembering the glories of the resurrected King. Therefore, let us not jettison the past in favor of the present, and let us not neglect the present in favor of the past. Rather let us embrace them together, even in our worship. How enhanced our worship would be if we made sure that we included such songs as Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee sung to the magnificent arrangement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, as well as Fred Hammond’s Bread of Life, with its irrepressible urban beats. How glorious and worthy of our God and reflective of heavenly realities would our worship be if we were more diligent in making sure we have something old, something new, yet always careful to maintain all things true.
Admittedly, this is no where near an exhaustive treatment of the subject of worship. The Bible has a lot more to say about the who, what, why, and how of worship than most of us realize. Nevertheless, I do hope you have been able to get a glimpse into how Reformed theology could and should impact a worship service within the predominantly African-American context. I remain convinced that Reformed theology and the African-American Christian experience are not irreconcilable or antithetical. When properly understood and applied together they can form a vision of Christianity, even Christian worship, that would call the angels down to investigate these God-exalting, soul-stirring, hands-lifting, mind-renewing, life-empowering, grace-enabling, sin-overcoming, mercy-receiving, humility-mongering, servant-leading, righteousness-hungering, Bible-believing, Christ-worshipping, eternity-anticipating Christians, who happen also to be Black (p. 104-105)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Another Reformed Blogger

I am always thrilled to learn of brothers and sisters in the blogosphere holding down Reformed convictions. Today I was blessed to learn of another. I'm Speaking Truth... is from a brother who was in the Word Faith movement for 12 years (and you said you did not believe in purgatory). Thankfully, God has graciously led him out and into the more profitable and God-honoring way of historic, biblical, Christianity. And to top it off, he is a fellow Atlantan. God knows we need all the help we can get in this cauldron of false and foolish teachers.

So go over and encourage this brother to keep speaking truth with love as a good Calvinist should :-).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Dream Deferred

Langston Hughes once asked the question,

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Sadly we are seeing it as the children of Martin Luther King, Jr take to the courts to settle their squabbles over money. In the house of Dr. King it would seem that the dream is drying up like a raisin in the sun.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Decline Continues...

If you need anymore proof as to the legitimacy of Thabiti's thesis in The Decline of African-American Theology or further justification for our writing Experiencing the Truth, here it is:

Without a doubt the lines between the sacred and the secular, the holy and the profane have been so blurred as to not even exist in most religious African-American context. This saddens me because I am a son of the predominantly African-American Baptist Church and continue to believe there is hope, though there is so much to the contrary.

Now some will defend this brother and claim that he is being relevant and contextual. I would beg to differ and say that he is being common and vulgar (in the classical sense of the word). You see, it takes no great effort or spiritual insight to appeal to the fleshly desires and tendencies of people. Appealing to them at their base level will always garner a positive and enthusiastic response. Yet, the call for us as Christians is to realize that our hearts and minds are not to be set on things below, but on things above (Col. 3:1-2).

Most people have a hard enough problem trying to deal with indwelling sin and resist the tempting allurements of the world day-to-day, not to have the same tempting allurements presented to them on Sunday morning as worship.

Friends, according to Scripture our minds are to be renewed (Rom. 12:1-2), not just rearranged.
(HT: PureChurch)

Friday, July 11, 2008

CJ and the "Bruthas"

CJ Mahaney is making some good reading recommendations these days. Perhaps he is compelled because Thabiti welcomed him into the "bruthahood" at the Together for the Gospel Conference. Or perhaps, and more likely, he is finding these books worth his and everyone's time. You decide.

Voting for Obama? Why?

Why are Christians (of various ethnicities) going to vote for Barack Obama for President? The reasons are many. Why should Christians not vote for Barack Obama? The reasons are equally compelling. Eric Redmond has offered some helpful insights into why many Bible believing Christians (as if there was another kind) will cast their ballot for the Senator from Illinois. He writes:

While it might seem a contradiction for Christian African Americans to vote for Senator Obama, each of us votes with many contradictions in both the righteous and selfish hopes of having the best possible earthly government and society. (Read more...)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Truth in Signs and Shirts!

On vacation I came across some very telling signs and shirts:

Apparently terrorist threats in America is not a new thing.

I thought this was a fitting description of the Reformed blogosphere.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

New Gospel Coalition Website

I have the privilege of being a council member of The Gospel Coalition. The Coalition has launched a new website that seeks to be the one stop shop for all things members of the Coalition. I like it because one can find a wealth of sermons and articles from many of the coalition members at one place. Now I can listen to many of my favorite preachers by simply logging into one website. What a wonderful resource. Ben Peays and the other faithful laborers at the Coalition have done us all a wonderful service. So bookmark this page. It will surely prove to be a resource well worth your time.

Drive-In to Jesus

I could be wrong and just a bit obtuse, but something just does not seem right about any of these pictures. What do you think?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Back from Vacation!

As you have probably noticed, I have been away for quite some time. Well, thankfully, my wife and I (and some dear, close friends) just returned from a week long vacation to northern Michigan at the Garland Resort. The time with my wife and friends was a most roborant experience. Here are a few of the memories we will long enjoy: