Thursday, August 28, 2008

Clayton County Schools Fail

Most of you know that my wife and I homeschool our children. If you know this, it is not because I have championed the homeschool movement on my blog. It is our conviction that homeschooling best represents our values at this time and we find that it best allows us to develop the minds and character of our children according to our faith and convictions. Yet, I will be the first to admit that homeschooling is not perfect. We are not perfect parents or perfect teachers, nor do we have perfect students. Yet, for us we believe it is best and so we continue. We do not make it an issue of legalism and support the decision of other Christian to choose a different path for the education of their children. Nevertheless, I could give you list of reasons why we homeschool even as many could give a litany of reasons why they don't. However, today the list of reason for homeschooling in the county in which we live grew.

Today the sad news came down that the public schools in Clayton County GA, the county of our residence and the public school district in which we reside, have lost their accreditation. According to reports, Clayton County schools are the first in the nation in the past 40 years to lose accreditation, failing to meet eight of nine improvement mandates. (Read more).

This is tragic news, as many of the children in our neighborhood - children who spend many afternoons playing in our yard; children we have come to know well and to love are going to school everyday not knowing their future or the status of their education simply because the grown-ups, those who are suppose to be responsible, were anything but responsible and risked squandering the children's education for their 0wn personal, financial, and political gain. Though our children are not enrolled in the public schools, my heart still breaks for those who are. If this is not a strong argument for school choice, I don't know what is. I pray for the sake of these children that responsible grown-ups can get this thing together. God help them.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Banging it Out!

I come from a large family. I have 7 brothers and two sisters. In an African-American family that large you are bound to have some enigmas. Indeed we do. Meet my brother Larry. Larry is a gifted brother. He has a masters degree in English. Has taught at the college level. Has written two novels and several essays and articles for newspapers around Michigan. Here is the enigma. My brother Larry is also a convicted felon, serving life in prison for murder. I won't go into the details of his crime, but know that according to him, it was an accident and a crime of passion. He and the victim (his fiancee at the time) were the only witnesses to the crime so his account is the only one we have. Whatever the circumstances, Larry received life with the possibility of parole. Yet, even in prison he continues to muse on a variety of topics and continues to produce literature. In fact, every now and then he sends me an essay or a poem he is seeking to get into a local newspaper or off-beat publication.

This past week, I hit upon an idea. I decided to create a blog on which to publish a few of his articles. I invite you to take a peek at Banging It Out. My brother does not claim to be a Christian, though some of his writings have a spiritual element to them. Mostly, however, his writings are worldly and secular. In this they reflect his current state of mind. However, of late I have been reading a hint of morality and thoughts of the providence of God in his letters. Maybe the Lord is working on his heart. At least, let us pray that He is.

Nevertheless, my brother remains an enigma. Even while in prison he continues to produce and look forward to the day when he is paroled and get a second chance at making a positive impact on society. Until then, I admire the fact that he is still banging on that keyboard.

And a little child shall lead them?

I don't think the prophet had this in mind. Speechless!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Life 2008 Online

The audio for this year's New Life Bible Conference is online! (click here) The theme was "The Book of Galatians: What Difference Does the Gospel Make." I not only had the privilege of participating, but even more I was challenged and encouraged by the messages I listened to from the other brothers. I know we have a tendency to overstate these things and so I won't say that this was the best New Life Bible Conference I have attended. However, I will think it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dropping Calls

Don't give up on God. God has not given up on you. I was reminded of this recently as I sat and spoke with a young man who is going through a tough spot right now. It seems he is going through a kind of dead zone. You know, those areas around town where we seem to drop calls and we spend alot of time saying, "Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?" Well, it seems to him that God is not hearing him, as if most of his calls to heaven are being dropped. These dead spots in our lives can last for a little while, or they can seem to go on for long periods of time. And it may appear that God is not hearing, and our calls are not getting through. It seems we spend our time asking God, "Can you hear me now?" Here are two points of action we might consider during times like this:

1. Ask someone else for the use of their phone. We do this all the time don't we. When we seem not to have a signal, we ask someone else if they have a signal and then we may even ask to borrow their phone. In other words, ask someone else to pray for you and with you. Inform others that you don't appear to be getting through to God. Tell them to make a few calls for you. The biblical admonition to pray for one another and with one another is one of God's ways of getting us through the dead spots. It also reminds us of our need and love for one another (Jam. 5:16; Col. 4:3).

2. Keep moving - dead spots are not forever. Sooner or later, as you know, you will reach a place where you have a good signal. Don't just resign yourself to that dead spot, but keep moving until you find the area where you can make the call. God has not shut the lines of heaven to you. Nor is He out of service. Believe that He is willing and able to answer. You must keep moving in faith and trusting that one day you will get through because dead spots don't last always. Have faith in God! (Mark 11:22; Luke 12:28-32) . Be not dismayed because God cares for you! (Dt. 31:8; Isa. 41:10; 1Pet. 5:7)

Beloved, if God can raise Jesus from the dead, surely he can get you through your dead spot. So take heart and be reminded that the triumph of the gospel is also the triumph over apparent dropped calls to heaven.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"51" Things I Love About Politics

In their latest issue, Comment Magazine published an article I wrote last year about 50 Things I Love About Politics. As I reread the list, the obvious omission was any reference to Barack Obama. Surely if I was making the list today Obama's name would be included. I am not sure what number I would give him, but I would probably say something like:

51. Barack Obama. For those of us who do not agree with his position on abortion, we wait (but will not hold our breath) for the Republican party to set forth a viable African-American candidate for president. Until then, we disagree with, but we still are encouraged by the success of Obama's candidacy.

For what it is worth, here is the article once again:

When I was asked to set forth 50 things I love about the world of politics, my first thought was that I did not have 50 things I love about politics. However, on second thought, I realized that between things I love and things I love to hate, I had more than 50 things . . .

1. The Sovereignty of God. God changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings—Daniel 2:21.
2. My mother—thirty-nine years of public service as an elected local public official.
3. The President of the United States. Without a doubt the most difficult, public, and fascinating job in the world—wouldn't want it for anything.
4. The Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
6. The American Civil War (or "The War of Southern Rebellion"). America at its worse and yet determined to be its best . . . An awful war for a great cause . . My favourite period of American history.
7. Abraham Lincoln. The man met his moment, and no president ever met it better. (Read the entire article)

Books You Haven't Read

I must admit that I am probably the only reformed blogger who has not read Tim Keller's The Reason for God. Someone at church a few weeks ago asked me if I had read it. I said, unfortunately, no. Why? Well, its not because I am not interested. Anything Tim does is interesting to me. Tim is one of the preachers I have on my mp3 player, which I listen to as I do yard work. In fact, I have his messages, which are themed in the book. No, the main reason I have not read Tim's book is because I feel like I have. With so much about the book on the internet and so much of the book being discussed and reviewed; and video and audio messages about the book, I feel I have already read it. It may actually be the first virtual book in our collective reformed internet community mind.

For more on this idea, read this review from Comment Magazine of How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read. I am not advocating an end to reading books - no way. But I find it interesting that the internet is making it more and more possible for us to talk intelligently about books we have not read. Is this a good thing? Are we getting too much information about a book before we read it and thus not leaving much for our own investigation?

Monday, August 11, 2008

An Overlooked Gem

Do you have any books you've been hoping to read, but have not made the time to do so? I have quite a few. I often find myself consumed with a writing project, sermon preparation, research on a particular issue, or just being husband and father and thus some good-intended reading gets neglected. Yet, every now and then something in my stack of books just catches my attention and I say, "Let me just take a moment and skim this book to make sure I am not missing something I've been wanted to know." Every now and then when I do this I find an overlooked gem of a book and I don't put it down until I am finished. Recently this happened to me with the small, but insightful book Seeking God by Peter Jeffery.

Believe it or not, I have been looking for a little, non-intimidating book to give to new believers (or those who think they are) that will challenge them with their understanding of salvation and encourage them if they truly have been converted. Lo and behold, I had it on my shelf for sometime now, but did not know it. I would encourage you to get a copy of this book. It will not be easy to find (I have tried the normal book sources and they do not have it). Nonetheless, if you search the internet you can find a copy. I am pretty sure you will find your efforts worthwhile.

BTW, let me know if you find a place to get multiple copies fast. Also, do you know of any other little books that cover the nature of our salvation in a terse yet encouraging fashion?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Christ with no Christ?

Tragically I have witnessed in the greater Atlanta area new churches spring up and experience rapid growth. These churches have been established with the understanding that they are not your mom's and dad's church, but rather are committed to a "new thing." They claim to be doing church differently. Part and parcel to this difference seems to be a different gospel proclamation. Recently I listened to a sermon from the pastor of one of these places. The sermon was not very long, less than 30 minutes (I'm cool with that if the message is clear and biblical). But the tragic aspect to the sermon was that while his words were lauded and on occasion he was applauded, the message he preached proclaimed nothing of Jesus Christ. For nearly 30 minutes he stood up before a so-called church gathering and said nothing of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Correct me if I am wrong, but did not Paul say, "We preach Christ and him crucified?" Can we preach Christ and not mention Christ? Can we proclaim the faith and not proclaim the Author and Finisher of that faith?

Robert Smith in Doctrine that Dances writes:

As Jesus admonished that the Scriptures be searched because they testify of Him (John 5:39), preachers of Christian doctrine make Christ the heart of their preaching. If the Bible is read backwards, one will see that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). This means that in the mind of God, Calvary was a forethought and not an afterthought. God did not react to the fall of Adam and Eve, but rather He pre-acted before the the fall of Adam and Eve. The Old Testament proclaimed that Christ is coming. The New Testament announced that Christ has come and will come again. (p. 23)

raeme Goldsworthy in Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture writes:

Is it possible to preach a Christian sermon without mentioning Jesus? I want to avoid simplistic answers here. Perhaps I can put it another way: Why would you even want to try to preach a Christian sermon without mentioning Jesus? Is there anywhere else we can look in order to see God? To see true humanity? To see the meaning of anything in creation? (p. 115).

While the temptation in preaching will be strong to proceed directly from, say, the godly Israelite to the contemporary believer, this method will inevitably produce distortions in the way we understand the text. There is not direct application apart from the mediation of Christ....While, no doubt, the direct approach will produce nice thoughts and, to a limited extent, even edifying ones, we simply can not afford to ignore the words of Jesus that the Scriptures testify to him. (p. 116)

Christ without Christ? Friends, where there is no Christ, there is no church. This is a sad and growing trend around here. May we stand firm upon the gospel of Jesus Christ. And may we preach it from every text of God's revealed Word.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Sublimely Ridiculous!

There is the ridiculous, and then there is the sublimely ridiculous. After looking at this clip, is there any wonder why we need more churches. When this too often is the alternative, we must be all the more urgent to establish churches where God, not gimmicks, is the focus; and where people come to hear the gospel and not watch the goofy.

Too funny not to laugh. Too sad not to cry.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

15 years - Like a Rock!

Today my wife and I celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. By God's grace we are beginning to learn something about this thing called marriage. One of the things that we have learned is that there is much yet to learn. Yet, through it all, my wife and her love has been like a rock. And thus, my tribute to her is taken from Like a Rock by Bob Seger (a personal favorite):

15 years now
where they go?
15 years
I still love her so.
I sit and I wonder sometimes
How she still loves me.

Sometimes late at night
Oh, when we're bathed in the moonlight
She comes to me and makes it right
And I recall
I recall

Like a rock
I see it in her face
Like a rock
Even in my mistakes
Like a rock
Her love is still great
Like a rock

Like a rock
She's there thru thick and thin
Like a rock
She's a lover and a friend
Like a rock
And I'd do it all again
Like a rock

Oh, Like a Rock!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Grip of God's Grace

This week in Bible Study we examined the glorious doctrine of The Preservation of the Saints. Here are a few of the points we examined as we thought through the Bible's teaching that believers are secure in the glorious grip of God's securing grace. When thinking about the nature of our salvation, consider:

  1. The God of Salvation. Who is He that saves? Is salvation based in the Word of God? Will God go back on His word or forego His promises? Jonah 2:9; Jer. 31:3; 32:40; Isa. 43:3; Rom. 10:8-10; 2Cor. 1:20-22

  1. The Goal of Salvation. Why does God save us? What is the goal of salvation in this life? How are we to understand the term “eternal life?” Isa. 43:7; 45:25; John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47, 51.

  1. The Grip of Salvation. Do we hold on to God or is God holding on to us? In other words, “Who’s holding who?” Should I understand my salvation in my own hands or in the hands of God? Matt. 18:12-14; Jn. 6:39-40; Jn 10:27-30; Rom. 8:35-39.

  1. The Grace of Salvation. Can I out sin the mercy and grace of God? Does not the blood of Christ redeem me from all my sin? Rom. 5:17, 20-21; 8:31-34; 1Jn. 1:7.
We sang one of my favorite hymns, which sums up this beautiful doctrine so well:

A Debtor to Mercy Alone by Augustus Toplady

A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on,
My person and offering to bring.
The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Savior's obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view

The work which His goodness began,
The arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is yea and amen,
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Not all things below nor above
Can make Him His purpose forego,
Or sever my soul from His love.

My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains
In marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven.