Monday, December 31, 2007

Some end-of-year words from Scripture

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:11-14).

“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:7-8).

May the Lord bless you in 2008 with his peace and joy.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

“Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”

When growing up, there were two hymns that we sang in church which were set to the Welsh hymn tune, “Cwm Rhondda”: “God of Grace and God of Glory” by the American Baptist minister Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969) and “Guide Me, O Thou great Jehovah” by the Welsh preacher, poet and hymnwriter, William Williams (1717-1791).

Recently, I was comparing the words of these two hymns. It’s interesting how these hymns vary in the level of dependence upon God that they encourage. For instance, though it’s a fine hymn in many ways, if you read it carefully, you’ll notice that “God of Grace and God of Glory” expresses a kind of if-it-is-to-be-it’s-up-to-me philosophy:

God of grace and God of glory,
On Thy people pour Thy power;
Crown Thine ancient Church’s story;
Bring her bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of this hour,
For the facing of this hour.

Lo! The hosts of evil round us
Scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways!
Fears and doubts too long have bound us,
Free our hearts to work and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the living of these days,
For the living of these days.

Cure Thy children’s warring madness,
Bend our pride to Thy control;
Shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal.

Set our feet on lofty places;
Gird our lives that they may be
Armored with all Christ-like graces
In the fight to set men free.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
That we fail not man nor Thee,
That we fail not man nor Thee!

Save us from weak resignation
To the evils we deplore;
Let the search for Thy salvation
Be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Serving Thee whom we adore,
Serving Thee whom we adore.

Although Harry Emerson Fosdick, the author, acknowledges God as the source of wisdom and courage, it is clear that he sees the task of accomplishing God’s will on earth as being ultimately dependent upon the work of God’s people: “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage/That we fail not man nor Thee!” Fosdick’s God is dependent upon people.

It is even more interesting when you consider that Fosdick was a leading figure in the Modernist-Fundamentalist controversies of the 1920s and 30s, as a prominent liberal minister and the pastor of the famed Riverside Church in New York City.

Now, compare Fosdick’s hymn with William Williams’ “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”:

Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand;
Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven,
Feed me till I want no more,
Feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through;
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
Be Thou still my strength and shield,
Be Thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side;
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to Thee,
I will ever give to Thee.

In Williams’ hymn, the Christian is totally dependent upon God. God is the believer’s guide, source of strength, spiritual deliverer and sustainer, companion at death and focus of praise in eternity. Williams, it turns out, was a friend of Howell Harris and George Whitefield, and was a leader in the 18th century Welsh revival and a notable figure in Calvinistic Methodist history. Theology makes a difference in the words we sing.

I absolutely love the hymn tune, “Cwm Rhondda”. Composed by John Hughes (1873-1932), this hymn tune, when combined with great words, lifts my thoughts to heaven in a most powerful way. It matters not what mood I’m in, I feel better after hearing “Cwm Rhondda”. This is, no doubt, why for many years I considered “God of Grace and God of Glory” one of my favorite hymns; in the A.M.E. Church of my youth, it was the hymn most often sung to the tune “Cwm Rhondda”. On the other hand, “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” was most often sung to the tune “Zion” by Thomas Hastings (1784-1872) (an old tune that, by the way, I’ve never heard outside the traditional Black Church). Although “Zion” brings back many wonderful memories of good, ol’ A.M.E. congregational hymn singing (and works fairly well in a slow, gospel style), as a hymn tune it is not nearly as vigorous and stimulating as “Cwm Rhondda”.

So, it turns out that, when I was younger, I was drawn to “God of Grace and God of Glory” because of the music. With the passage of time, however, I’ve grown to appreciate more and more the depth of the words of “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”. Whereas I can identify with some of the sentiments of Fosdick’s hymn, I fully embrace the message of Williams’ hymn: I feel and know myself as weak and look to Yahweh (Jehovah) to hold me up and guide me, I know I can’t survive this life’s journey without the sustenance which the Lord provides, I so look forward to the “death of death and hell’s destruction”, and I hope, through Christ, to land “safe on Canaan’s side”.

Below is a great example of Welsh hymn singing that I found on YouTube. The version of the hymn that this group sings substitutes “Redeemer” for “Jehovah”, but I invite you to listen to their wonderful singing. After you’ve listened a while, feel free to join in with this great song of praise.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Am I “easy to read”?

While browsing blogs yesterday, I followed a link from Thabiti Anyabwile’s blog, “Pure Church”, over to “Christ Is Deeper Still”, the blog of Pastor Ray Ortlund, Jr. Pastor Ortlund has written some short, but soul-challenging posts; I highly recommend you check out this blog.

Anyway, today, I clicked over to “Christ Is Deeper Still” and came across the following post:

As a kid growing up, I didn't need an alarm clock most mornings. I woke up to the sound of my dad, down the hallway, singing in the shower. Every morning he sang heartily, cheerfully, with zero irritation to me, this hymn:

When morning gilds the skies
My heart awaking cries
May Jesus Christ be praised
Alike at work or prayer
To Jesus I repair
May Jesus Christ be praised

I never wondered about my dad. Never once. Never. I knew where he stood. Unlike so many others, he was not hard to read. He did not take a wait-and-see, keep-a-low-profile, play-it-safe approach to life. Jesus was too real and wonderful to him. He praised the Lord openly throughout the whole of his life, public and private. What a man!

I want to be unmistakably easy to read, beginning with my dear family.

When I read that, I had to wonder, “Can others say the same thing about me?” May God grant that we all become “unmistakably easy to read”, especially before our families and loved ones.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A cause for worship and rejoicing

While I’m on Winter Break, I’m trying to catch up on some of my reading. One of the books I’ve begun but haven’t had a chance to finish is Arnold Dallimore’s two-volume biography of George Whitefield. Since the school year started, I generally only read this work when my sons and I make our semimonthly trip to the barbershop, as I wait my turn to sit in the barber’s chair, or as I sit in the car waiting for my boys while they have their weekly piano lesson. I hope to finish Dallimore’s first volume this week so that I can get started on volume two before school resumes on January 7.

This morning, I was reading and came across this quote from Whitefield’s Journals, regarding election and predestination:

“Whatever men’s reasoning may suggest, if the children of God fairly examine their own experiences—if they do God justice, they must acknowledge that they did not choose God, but that God chose them. And if He chose them at all, it must be from eternity, and that too without anything foreseen in them. Unless they acknowledge this, man’s salvation must be in part owing to the free-will of man; and if so,…Christ Jesus might have died, and never have seen the travail of His soul in the salvation of one of His creatures.”

Before I came into a fully biblical understanding of election and predestination, I used to wonder about Christ dying for all when so many of those for whom He supposedly died go to hell anyway, in spite of the price He paid for them. In regards to those who ultimately reject Christ, I used to wonder to myself was Christ’s blood wasted on them. Now, thankfully, I understand that not a drop of the blood of Christ was wasted. All for whom Christ died will be saved. It makes perfect sense: Jesus came to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), He laid “down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). God “gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish” (John 3:16). In other words, those who believe are those for whom God gave his Son. Jesus said about those who do not believe, “You do not believe because you are not part of my flock.” Speaking of his “flock” or his “sheep”, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:26-27). Is it not clear that only those who hear and obey Christ are his sheep, and that it is his sheep—his people—whom he came to save and for whom he shed his blood?

Nevertheless, Whitefield continued in this quote I read today with a wise word for those of us who embrace the biblical doctrines of election and predestination and are adamant in their defense:

“But I would be tender on this point, and leave persons to be taught it of God. I am of the martyr Bradford’s mind. Let a man go to the grammar school of faith and repentance, before he goes to the university of election and predestination.” (Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth-Century Revival, Volume I [Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust], p. 570).

That’s a good word: “Leave persons to be taught it of God”. Let the Holy Spirit do His work. Don’t be known as a contentious Calvinist. Let God’s sovereignty in election be cause for worship and rejoicing, not a cause for divisiveness and strife.

Monday, December 24, 2007



That’s how I, and thousands of other teachers, feel at this time of the year. I’ve been so busy in the month leading up to Winter Break that I’ve not had any time to blog. Now that I’m home I have time, but I want to spend it with family, as I’m sure you understand. Before I go back to work, I hope to write more. For now, let me just extend to you my hope that you will have a wonderful Christmas. In all your celebrating, please don’t forget the Savior; give him the glory due his name.

Until I write some more, I invite you to peruse my archives over in the right margin of this page. Just click on the link to the month you wish to look at. I’ve been blogging for a little over a year now, so there’s plenty to read.
May the Lord bless you and yours this Christmas and into the New Year.

Monday, November 26, 2007

“Jesus, I’ll never forget…”

Although Thanksgiving Day is past, one can never run out of reasons to thank and praise the Lord Jesus. Of course, Jesus is worthy of praise simply because of who He is: He is the Lord and He is God. However, Jesus is also worthy of thanks because of what He has done for “poor sinners” like you and me.

It’s good to remember what Jesus has done...for you. Think about how far you’ve come. Think about what your life could have been had not Jesus saved you. Whatever you do, don’t ever forget what the Lord has done for you.

Speaking for myself: No one else has done more for me than Jesus. To no one else do I owe more thanks than Jesus.

This song, sung by the late Charles Taylor and the Charles Taylor Singers, expresses just how I feel: “You’ve done more for me when You set me free than anyone else could do.”

Thursday, November 22, 2007

For Thanksgiving

As we celebrate this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, here are two posts from the Desiring God blog to set us to thinking, and thanking God in response:

“Pray for More Thanksgiving”

For the sake of your children, stand firm upon God’s truth

As a Christian, I am often dismayed by the moral direction in which I see our society going. This shift in moral values is not good, and I’m afraid it’s going to get worse. The challenge for believers in Christ to stand solidly on the truth of God in the midst of the shifting moral landscape of Western society has never been greater.

One casualty of our society’s value shift is seen in the lives of our children. Unless you’ve been living an extremely isolated life, you know that young people are falling for the lies of Satan. The societal situation that the apostle Paul described in Romans 1:18-32 is here. When I read Paul’s words, I see a description of the world we live in today:

“18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

“24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

“26For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

“28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
This is an accurate description of the kind of society we live in today. And it is interesting to me that Paul describes God’s giving over of sinners to pursue their sinful desires as a revelation of God’s wrath. Did you see that? Read the above Scripture passage again. The fact that we see sin being flaunted in our society as never before is a sign that God's wrath is already being revealed against us.

This is why, as society increasingly gives its hearty approval to that which God has condemned, it becomes increasingly important for us Christian parents to stand firm upon God’s truth. Our children need to know what God has said and we’re responsible to teach them!

Also, Christian parents must get serious about prayer. Too many Christians, I’m afraid, do not take Satan seriously and are woefully “ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11). You had better know that Satan is real. We must pray with determination against the influence of the evil one upon our children’s souls.

In light of the sad trends in our society and their malevolent effect upon children, I encourage you to read this important post by Dr. Albert Mohler: “Never in the Closet…The New Face of Homosexuality”.
And pray. Pray that God might have mercy upon us and cause His face to shine upon us in a mighty awakening, before it’s too late.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

“We shall be like him, because we shall see him…”

Are you looking forward to seeing Jesus? I think that, perhaps, one of the sweetest truths surrounding Jesus’ second coming is that one which was expressed by the apostle John when he wrote, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

Think of that: “We shall be like him”. No more sin. No more sinning. No more temptations. No more struggles with the flesh. No more trying and failing. No more cries of, “Wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24). When Jesus comes again, “we shall be like him”: “without spot or wrinkle…holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

And, the reason we shall be like Jesus is because “we shall see him as he is.” There is something about seeing Christ in all his glory that shall transform us. Although this is true to some extent now (see 2 Corinthians 3:16-18), our transformation will be total when we see Jesus face to face.

It “has not yet appeared”, wrote John, “what we will be”. What we see now, when we look at other believers—and what they see when they look at us—is not what will be in that day. Brothers and sisters, we haven’t yet arrived. We’re not perfect. We still struggle with sin—do those things we ought not do and leave undone the things we ought to do. We’re not what we should be. Oh, but when Jesus comes again, “we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

Listen to some old-fashioned “whooping”, as Rev. C.A.W. Clark of Dallas, Texas wraps up this message reminding us that one day “we shall see him as he is…” (1 John 3:2).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Are you saved?

Christians should be deeply concerned for the lost—those who are outside of Christ, who have no saving knowledge of him. Often, when we think about the lost, we think of those outside the visible church, those who do not confess Jesus as Lord, those who may be agnostics or atheists, or those who may embrace another religion. When we think of the lost, we think of those who have immersed themselves in a sinful lifestyle: drug addicts, drunkards, prostitutes, gang members, serial rapists and pedophiles.

True enough, the category of “the lost” encompasses all those groups, but do we ever think of “good” people as being lost? Do we ever consider that some who are in the visible church, who have made public profession of the Christian faith, who believe in God and in Jesus Christ, could also possibly be lost?

The fact of the matter is, one can be in a church and active in that church, and still be as lost as can be. You can lead a “clean” life—don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t cuss, don’t engage in sex outside of marriage, etc.—and still be eternally lost. A person can believe in God, believe that Jesus is the Son of God, believe that he died on the cross and arose from the dead, and still die in his sins and spend eternity in hell.

How do I know? Because I was just that sort of person.

I was raised in the church. I never knew what it was like to stay home on Sunday morning. Unless I was really sick (you know—couldn’t move, confined-to-bed sick), I was in church on Sunday morning. That was how I was raised.

I not only went to church, I believed everything I was told I should believe. I’ve never struggled with believing the Bible, never had any doubts about it being the word of God. That’s what I was taught. More than that, my great-grandmother—“Grandma”—said the Bible was true, and if Grandma said it was true, that was good enough for me. When it came to accepting Christian doctrine, I’ve never been an unbeliever.

When it came to lifestyle, I grew up in a home where there was no drinking, and so I never picked up a taste for alcohol. To this day, I don’t drink. I never did drugs, I wasn’t sexually promiscuous, I’ve never smoked, I didn’t hang out with the “wild” crowd; I was just a good “church boy.”

But, I wasn’t saved.

Good church boy, but not saved. Didn’t drink, smoke, dip nor chew, but I wasn’t saved, either. I was in church every Sunday—never missed a week—but didn’t know the Savior. I believed the Bible, knew about the Bible and knew about God, but didn’t know God.

And that’s exactly the situation with untold multitudes today.

Some folks may be good people, relatively speaking—that is to say, compared to other people (compared to God no one—absolutely no one—is good, but compared to some others, these people are good)—but they don’t know God. Some folks give to charitable causes, are upstanding citizens in their communities, members of churches, civic leaders and in positions of trust and responsibility, but they are lost. They are lost because they don’t know God through Jesus Christ. They are lost because they are estranged from the household of faith, without Christ and, therefore, without hope. They are lost because they’ve never faced up to the fact of their utter sinfulness and their total helplessness and hopelessness outside of Christ. They’ve never come to realize that “all [their] righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6) in the sight of holy God, that no matter how much charitable work they do, no matter how many hours they give to community service, no matter how many Sundays a year they are in church, they are lost, under an everlasting sentence of condemnation and in desperate need of salvation. Salvation from what? Salvation from the wrath of God that is to come upon this world because of human sin.

I am so grateful—eternally grateful—for God’s sovereign work in bringing sinners to himself. You see, I grew up in a traditional church where the gospel wasn’t preached clearly or consistently. No one in church ever inquired about my soul. No one in church shared the gospel with me. I knew Bible stories and certain facts about the Bible, but had no personal knowledge of the gospel. No one at church ever explained the gospel to me. No one showed me that my soul was in peril. Why? First of all, I’m convinced, because very few people in my church knew the gospel. That’s the great travesty within “mainline” Christianity. But another reason no one showed concern for my soul was because I was a good “church boy.” I wasn’t guilty of any of any so-called “big” sins. I went to church. I stayed out of trouble. At the age of eight, I even joined the church, making a public profession of Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and was baptized. But, if you ask me now, I’ll tell you I wasn’t saved. No change had occurred in my soul. I had no love for Jesus Christ, and no love for God and his word.

I believe I could have comfortably remained in this state for the rest of my life: looking and acting on the outside like a Christian, but inwardly lost, unsaved and devoid of a true knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. The late E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973) described this state as being “horizontally converted, but not vertically…outwardly in, but not inwardly in…a cancelled-out person, neither here nor there” (E. Stanley Jones, A Song of Ascents: A Spiritual Autobiography [Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1968], p. 27). But, blessed be God, when I was sixteen years old, God sent his word to me in the form of a gospel booklet. I read it and, for the first time in my life, understood that Jesus Christ, on the cross, took my place, bore my sin, endured the Father’s wrath that I justly deserved so that, through faith in him, I could receive forgiveness of sins and bear his righteousness. “For our sake [the Father] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

What about you, dear reader? Are you saved? Do you know it?

Are you trusting in the finished work of Christ alone for your salvation, or do you think that, somehow, you’re good enough to earn your way to heaven? My friend, you’re not good enough. Not only are immoral sinners in hell, moral sinners are there, too. Not only are low-life sinners in hell, but respectable sinners are there, too. Not only are atheistic sinners in hell, but so are religious sinners. It doesn’t matter: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That includes me; that even includes you. Because we’ve sinned, we are guilty and under the sentence of eternal death, “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20).

There is only one remedy: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Listen to the voice of God—“he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Obey God’s command: “This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ…” (1 John 3:23).

When it comes to your eternal soul, don’t rest complacent. Forget about the approval of men and women. What does God think of you? What about your sin? How does your soul stand with God? Don’t ignore the question, because God won’t ignore your sin. Are you saved? Are you, truly, saved? God says, “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22).

Thankfully, God has made saving provision through his Son—the Lord Jesus Christ—available to all who will believe. Will you trust Christ?

Dear reader, the Lord Jesus is everything to me. That’s why I commend my precious Savior to you.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

100 observations about the Christian life

Dan Edelen posts “100 Truths in 30 Years with Christ”—observations about the Christian life that he has learned along the way. I think Dan brings up some excellent points that are well worth considering, praying about and putting into practice.

Psalm 27

I’d like to ask for prayer for myself and my family. I cannot be any more specific than to say the words of this psalm have been much on my mind:
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.

3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.

4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.

6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! 8
You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
9 Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! 10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.

11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. 12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
So, if the Lord lays it on your mind, will you please pray for us? Thank you.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Preaching “as a dying man to dying men”

Dr. Albert Mohler posts an article about the contemporary need to recover “a bold vision for biblical preaching”. Read this article and pass it on to your pastor and others who are charged with preaching the life-giving word of God.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

“Consider him”

Have you ever experienced what it means to have enemies? Do you know what it is like to be slandered or lied on, to have your words taken completely out-of-context and used against you? Do you know what it is like to be actively opposed and undermined?

If so, then you know what it is like to have an enemy. Now, before I go any further, let me explain that I’m not talking about someone you hate. There is no place in the Christian life for ungodly hatred. What I’m talking about is when other people, perhaps, hate you, when others set themselves against you. When this situation develops, what should you do?

First of all, I’m reminded that Jesus had enemies. People lied on Jesus. They snatched the Lord’s words out-of-context and used them against him. People spoke slander against Jesus and tried to malign his character…and Jesus was perfect!

By contrast, none of us are perfect. All of us are sinners. I know I deserve far worse than anything that others could say or do against me. I deserve God’s wrath and condemnation. I deserve death. I deserve hell. So do you. We’re all sinners before a holy God. Thought of in this light, the actions of others against us are not so bad after all. I believe it was George Whitefield who said, “What I know about myself is far worse than what anyone says about me.”

I’m also reminded of what the writer of Hebrews wrote to believers who were feeling discouraged because of persecution (Hebrews 12:3):

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

That’s the answer, isn’t it? “Consider him…” Consider Jesus. He had no sin, yet he suffered far, far worse than the personal attacks we may sometimes endure. How can we overcome the discouragement we may feel during these times? “Consider him…” Know that our Savior understands; he’s “been there”. Remember also that when we are suffering because of others, we’re being given an opportunity to follow in our Lord’s footsteps (1 Peter 2:19, 21-23):

“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Maybe you are enduring some kind of suffering at the hand of an enemy right now. I encourage you to consider Jesus. I know we sometimes want to fight back rather than suffer ill-treatment or unkind words from others. That’s why we must pray that God will teach us how to follow in Christ’s steps and entrust ourselves to the Father, “who judges justly”.

Consider him.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Is hell separation from God?

Read this, from the Desiring God Blog.

Regarding hell, consider what is recorded in Revelation 14:9-10:

“And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.’”

Those in hell, who worshiped the beast, are “tormented…in the presence of the Lamb.” Doesn’t this suggest that, in some way, God is present even in hell? Certainly this view would accord with the testimony of David, who wrote in Psalm 139:7-8,

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”

Consider, also, these verses of Scripture:

Deuteronomy 4:24, “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”

Isaiah 33:14, “The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: ‘Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?’”

Hebrews 12:29, “…our God is a consuming fire.”

These and other Scriptures suggest to me that one great reason hell is the place of torment that it is to the lost sinner is because God is there. How grateful we should be, who have been redeemed through the blood of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus bore the wrath of God on the cross, we shall spend eternity in the presence of God without ever seeing His wrath. We shall never experience the “everlasting burnings”.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Words spoken at a granddaughter’s funeral

Pastor John Piper’s daughter-in-law and son, Abraham, recently lost their baby girl who was stillborn at full term. I encourage you to please pray for the parents and family as they deal with this very sad loss. I also encourage you to read these words that Pastor John spoke at his granddaughter’s funeral. Seldom have I read such moving words.

“Emergent” heresy?

Let me confess from the outset that I don’t know a whole lot about “Emergent” or the “Emerging Church” movement. However, what I do know or have heard is not encouraging. This movement’s desire to take a fresh look at what Jesus taught and to present to the world “a new kind of Christian” seems to me to be nothing more than a foolish and misguided quest which will ultimately lead away from the saving message of the gospel and the truth embodied in Jesus Christ. Yet, there are many who seem to be quite taken with what the Emergent movement offers.

Master blogger, Tim Challies, has taken the time to read the latest book by Brian McLaren, an “elder statesman” in the Emergent movement, and write a review. Whether or not McLaren’s views accurately reflect the views of the movement, I do know that his writings are influential. I encourage you to read Challies’ review. If his reading of McLaren is accurate, I think McLaren is a writer Christians would do well to avoid.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

To preachers: Know what you’re preaching about, or sit down

Here’s something for preachers…and any professing Christian who would tell others of Christ. I found it while browsing blogs just a while ago. It is a quote from Charles Spurgeon:

“A man ought to know what he is preaching about, or else let him sit down. If I had any doubt about the matters I preach from this pulpit, I should be ashamed to remain the pastor of this church; but I preach what I do know, and testify what I have seen. If I am mistaken, I am heartily and intensely mistaken; and I risk my soul and all its eternal interests upon the truth of what I preach. If the gospel which I preach does not save me, I shall never be saved, for what I proclaim to others is my own personal ground of trust. I have no private lifeboat; the ark to which I invite others holds myself and all I have.”

—Charles Spurgeon, The Soul Winner, p. 173

(HT: Justin Buzzard)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Leaning on the Lord

Sometimes, I wish God had other ways and means of producing endurance and furthering sanctification than the offensive or frustrating actions of other people. But, if these people are God’s means of making me better, then thank God for them! God can use people to help you and me be more patient, more gentle, more quick to listen and less quick to speak. He can use people to cause us to pray with a greater sense of need and urgency. That’s good. Needy is a good state to be in when what you need is God. “Apart from me you can do nothing,” said Jesus (John 15:5)—and that’s true. We can do nothing of eternal significance, nothing which will please God, apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

I encourage you, as I encourage myself this Sunday night, to thank God for those people and situations that irritate and aggravate and try your patience and elevate your stress. Since God is sovereign, we know these things would not happen if God did not permit them. This means God has provided you and me with a special opportunity to lean and depend upon Him. Run to Jesus and demonstrate to your antagonists that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). When others act like the devil, pray for the grace to act like Christ. Lean upon the Lord, humble yourself before Him, admit your powerlessness and depend upon His strength. And stay right there: helpless, humble and depending upon God.

I’m a witness: God will help you. He has helped me.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Prayer request, and thoughts on the sovereignty of God

Please pray for our brother, Thabiti Anyabwile, his wife Kristie, their three children, their church, the people of Grand Caymen Island, and anyone else in the path of the possible category-5 hurricane that has been forecasted to strike that tiny island in the Caribbean sometime tomorrow night. Please pray that our sovereign God, who controls every storm, will mercifully spare life and property.

You can read Brother Thabiti’s meditation on God and calamity, here. The ways of God in the midst of calamity are, indeed, mysterious. Our puny minds can’t fathom these things. We can know this, however: God is Almighty; and He is in control.

That’s all I need to know.

If God is in control, then I know the devil is not in control. If God rules, then I know evil men and women don’t have the last word. And if I am in God’s hands, ultimately, I am “safe and secure from all alarms.” Our God reigns, He is sovereign, He is in control; and if, through Christ, we are resting in Him, we’ll be all right.
Psalm 47
1Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
2For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth.
3He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
4He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

5God has gone up with a shout,
the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
6Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!
8God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
9The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
he is highly exalted!

Pray that people, everywhere, would come to acknowledge and rest in this truth. And pray for the safety of our brother, Thabiti, and his family.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A godly way to complain

What should one do when you have seemingly legitimate reasons to complain? Is there a godly way to complain?

I don’t have a complete answer—and I don’t have time to flesh this out fully—but here is a thought that came to me the other day: If I must complain, I should complain to God. Consider these verses from the psalmist, David:

“With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him” (Psalm 142:1-2).

“Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17).

This, to me, seems the safest way to complain. If my complaint is legitimate, God knows and has the power to do something about my situation. If my complaint is illegitimate, God knows that too, and he will let me know about it. But, perhaps best of all, if “I pour out my complaint before him”, the less likely I will be to pour out something before others that will be inappropriately negative, and the easier it will be to project a positive attitude which will more clearly reflect the Savior.

If something or someone is bothering you to the point that you are tempted to complain, tell God about it—“pour out [your] complaint before him”. David said, “He hears my voice”. We must remember that the heavenly Father hears his children. He’s concerned; he cares. And God doesn’t have office hours; we can come to him at any time: “evening and morning and at noon”. He’s never too busy. His door is always open.

If we will take our complaints directly to God, we will see that our problems aren’t so big after all when seen in the light of his awesome greatness.

Friday, August 03, 2007

I’m still here!

I haven’t forgotten about the readers of this blog. I am just very busy right now. If God brings it to mind, would you, kindly, pray for me? I need much wisdom, patience…and sleep (notice what time I’m posting this). Thanks so much. If I have some time in the next few days, I will try to write some more.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Praise break

After listening to the video clip of Brother Taylor in the previous post, I just have to stop and praise God (excuse me, please):

Glory! Glory!! GLORY!!!! Hallelujah!! Wonderful Savior! Blessed Redeemer! My Lord and my God! Great God! Holy God! Worthy God! Hallelujah! Lord, I bless You! I praise You! I worship You! Hallelujah! You’re worthy to be praised! You’re WORTHY to be praised! Glory to God! HALLELUJAH!!

Oh my!

I think I’ll play that clip again!

I’m reminded of Psalm 145:

1I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
2Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
3Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.

4One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your might acts.
5On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
7They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

8The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9The LORD is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
10All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you!
11They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
12to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

[The LORD is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.]
14The LORD upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
18The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

21My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

Why don’t you try that? Let your “mouthspeak the praise of the LORD”. Get by yourself, if you have to, and open your mouth! Speak God’s praise! “Show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 KJV). “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so…” (Psalm 107:2a)!

Even if you have to praise God alone (because people in church will look at you like you’re strange if you say anything out loud), do it!

I said, do it!

It will do your soul good. And the Lord will be pleased.

Take some time out today, and praise the Lord Jesus.

“He’s my Rock, my Sword and Shield”

Read and consider these passages of Scripture:

Psalm 3:3; 18:2, 31; 28:7; 31:3; 33:20; 62:2, 6-7; 71:3; 84:11; 94:22; 95:1; 115:9-11; 119:114; 144:2; Song of Solomon 2:1; Ezekiel 1:16 and Revelation 22:16

And think on these words, also:

Job 14:14; Psalm 62:5; 130:5 and Galatians 5:5

Considered in the light of Scripture, the sentiment of this old gospel song should be clear:

He’s my Rock, my Sword and Shield,
He’s my Wheel in the middle of a wheel,
He’s the Lily of the valley,
He’s the bright and morning Star;
I don’t care what people say,
I’m going down on my knees and pray;
I’m gonna wait right here for my Jesus ’til He comes.

Now, listen to and watch the video clip above of the late Charles Taylor and the Charles Taylor singers, recorded in 1962. I think you’ll agree: Jesus is ALL RIGHT!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


It has been over a week since I last posted anything here. I hope everyone has been enjoying the video clips as much as I have (and, if you follow the links on YouTube, you can find many more clips of gospel music as it used to be in the Black Church). Don’t let the lack of activity on this blog fool you. Although it has been slow on the blogging front, life has been very eventful the past couple of weeks.

On Sunday the 15th, it was my privilege to preach again at New Life Fellowship Church in Vernon Hills. All this year I’ve been preaching through Galatians. This latest message was my fifth from Paul’s letter. The list of messages, so far (I’m planning on preaching once again from Galatians in a week-and-a-half—please, pray for me as I try to prepare), is as follows:

Galatians 1:1-10 (“Keep the Faith”); Galatians 3:1-6 (“The Heart of the Matter”); Galatians 3:15-22 (“The Law and the Promise”); Galatians 4:21-31 (“Two Sons, Two Mothers, and Two Destinies”); and Galatians 5:13-24 (“You Ought to Show Some Sign!”). I smile as I type these titles because, most of the time when I'm preaching, I forget to announce my title. I guess the title is just an afterthought in my mind; the text is what matters. Unfortunately, I don’t have the equipment to record in a format that is transferable to the web, so I don’t have any recordings to post.

My extended family experienced a tragedy early last week when my eldest first cousin, Adam, died as a result of a massive stroke. He was only 38 years old. I’m told he had high blood pressure. In the family picture that is in my profile (taken in 1971), Adam is the brown-haired toddler in my grandfather’s arms, in the center of the back row. Because of our proximity in age, and the relationship we used to have when, as children, Adam and his brother Gabriel used to spend summers here in Illinois with our grandparents (they both grew up in Massachusetts), I’ve felt very sad. But, what can you say? The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. We humbly submit to God’s sovereign will. Less than a month earlier, one of my mother’s first cousins in South Carolina, on my maternal grandmother’s side of the family, died of a massive heart attack. She was a senior citizen. Death is a somber reminder that life is not guaranteed. Some of us may live to see our children grow up, and see grandchildren and great grandchildren. Others of us may not even live to see 40. Do we need any other proof that we need to be ready to meet God? We know neither the day nor the hour when we shall be thrust into eternity. O reader, when death comes, I pray you may be found in Christ.

With the tragic and untimely death of my first cousin, last Friday was all the more special because, you see, last Friday was my 44th birthday. I thank God for letting me live another year. I thank Him for each day! Adam had just turned 38 in May. He never saw 40, and, here, the Lord let me see 44. I must thank Him. When I look back over my life and see where God has brought me from and what God has brought me through, I can’t help but thank Him for His abundant grace and mercy to a poor sinner like me.

Then, this past Saturday, my wife, Catherine, and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. In this day of rampant divorce, I bless God for 17 years, and I thank Him for giving me a “good thing” (see Proverbs 18:22), when He gave me Catherine. I don’t need to be jealous of any man, because I know I have a wonderful wife, and I’ve been blessed far beyond what I deserve.

I’ve also been trying to work my way through a long list of things to do before the school year starts. As you may remember, at the end of June I was offered and accepted a new teaching position. Getting the job was one thing, now I have to do the work! Pray for me. Classes start on August 16th.

So, I hope you can see that although my blogging has been light, life has not eased up at all. In fact, the pace has stepped up quite a bit. The good thing about it is I have been praying more and with more fervency. I deeply feel my humanness—my weakness, ignorance and inability. I sense deeply my need of moral and spiritual strength, godly wisdom, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Bless God! All I need is mine in Jesus Christ! He, alone, is my righteousness, wisdom and strength (see 1 Corinthians 1:20-31). My heart echoes the words of Charles Wesley (1707-1788):

Father, I stretch my hands to Thee;
No other help I know;
If Thou withdraw Thyself from me,
Ah! Whither shall I go?

What did Thine only Son endure,
Before I drew my breath!
What pain, what labor, to secure
My soul from endless death!

O Jesus, could I this believe,
I now should feel Thy power!
Now my poor soul Thou wouldst retrieve,
Nor let me wait one hour.

Author of faith, to Thee I lift
My weary, longing eyes;
O let me now receive that gift!
My soul, without it, dies.

Surely Thou canst not let me die;
O speak, and I shall live;
And here I will unwearied lie,
Till Thou Thy Spirit give.

The worst of sinners would rejoice,
Could they but see Thy face;
O let me hear Thy quickening voice,
And taste Thy pardoning grace!


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Church music as it used to be

The four videos below are mostly for me. You’re welcome to enjoy them, too, if you’d like. I’ll admit, some of the song lyrics might be lacking somewhat in theological accuracy or depth, but that’s all right because I know what they’re talking about. I know what they mean, and I share the sentiment. Just sit back and listen to church music as it used to be. These “contemporary” singers…they can’t touch this!

“I’m Holding On”
Sung by Dorothy Love Coates (1928-2002) and the Gospel Harmonettes

“On the Right Road”
Sung by Ruth Davis (1928-1970) and The Davis Sisters

“Jesus Is A Rock”
Sung by The Dorothy Norwood Singers

“He’s Everything to Me”
Sung by Bessie Griffin (1922-1989) and choir

Friday, July 13, 2007

The kind of preaching we need to hear today

“It is being said that the chief need of the Church today is to repent because of its ‘lack of unity’… We would suggest that before she repents of her disunity, she must repent of her apostasy. She must repent of her perversion of, and substitutes for, ‘the faith once delivered to the saints.’ She must repent of setting up her own thinking and methods over against the divine revelation in Holy Scripture. Here lies the reason for her lack of spiritual power and inability to deliver a living message in the power of the Holy Ghost to a world ready to perish.”

—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, given at the annual meeting of the Inter-Varsity Fellowship in 1954

HT: Irish Calvinist

Monday, July 09, 2007

Discerning the personal will of God (Part 3)

Some of you may think I had forgotten about this series I started some time ago (As a matter of fact, I did forget for a short while!). Today, I want to finally conclude this reflection on discerning God’s personal will for our lives.
When it comes to seeking guidance from God as to His will for my life, personally, I have learned to take comfort and find security in the fact that I am where I am right now by God’s providence—that is, according to His sovereign purpose and will.

I’ve related some of my life story and testimony before. One of the reasons I consider myself “a debtor to mercy” is because my life doesn’t fit the statistics. I’m Black (or, if you prefer, African-American), born in the early 60s to an unwed teenager mother. With such a beginning, statistics would indicate that the likelihood of my growing up to finish college and graduate school, get and stay married to one woman for 17 years (and counting), and be a father to two (apparently) well-adjusted boys, is slim. That is, according to the statistics. But statistics don’t factor in God! “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

What is true of me is true of everyone: All of us are where we are in life on purpose—according to God’s sovereign will and purpose. That should be a comfort to believers, because it means we are not at the mercy of sinful men and women or chance. On the other hand, the knowledge of God’s providence should produce fear in unbelievers, because they are in the hands of One who is “a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24; Isaiah 33:14 and Hebrews 12:29), who is able to “destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Either way, we’re in God’s hands, in God’s appointed place at His appointed time.

In my previous post on this topic of seeking guidance from God or discerning His will for our lives, I also mentioned that God has already revealed Himself through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He has given His people a word of revelation: the Scriptures, which are the word of God. If we want to know God, we must know Jesus. We must be “born again”. If we want to know God’s will, we must read the Bible. Everything you or I need to know, as far as God’s will is concerned, is written for us in the Book.
There is one other thing that comes to mind, however. It is the matter of open and closed “doors”. Sometimes, God guides us by opening up opportunities before us or by closing the door in our face, effectively blocking our path.

We see this concept of the “open door” spoken of, most often, in connection with the ministry of the apostle Paul:

“And when they [Paul and Barnabas] arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles”(Acts 14:27).

“But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me…” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9a).

“When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there” (2 Corinthians 2:12-13a).

“At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:3-4).

The open door was God’s indication to Paul and the other believers that the opportunity that lay beyond that “door” was God’s will for Paul. Similarly, sometimes God opens doors or opportunities before us as an indication that “this is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21). Please note, however, that these open doors or opportunities must be in harmony with God’s written word. Judge all things by Scripture. It is never God’s will for us to pursue opportunities to sin.

If God opens doors of opportunity to do His will, it follows that He can also close doors, as an indication that “this is not the way, don’t go there.” Acts 16:6-7 contains perfect examples of what I mean:

“And they [Paul, Silas and Timothy] went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.”

How did the Holy Spirit make His disapproval known to Paul and his companions? I don’t know! The Scriptures do not say. But, one way or another, Luke was able to write that the Holy Spirit “did not allow them” to go the way they had planned. In some way, God had blocked their path and closed the door.

Are some of your plans being frustrated? Have you been rejected again and again for some opportunity you’ve sought? Perhaps, God has closed the door. Maybe you’ve “been forbidden by the Holy Spirit” to go that route. This is not an absolute certainty, but this is a possibility that you should consider as you pray and seek God for direction. Sometimes our disappointments are just God closing the door, blocking the path, telling us to go another way.

It seems to me that the best way to discern God’s open and closed doors is in hindsight. Prior to my accepting the public school teaching job I was recently offered, I had applied to and was passed over by seven other high school districts. I was disappointed, to say the least, and keenly felt the rejection. But, lo and behold, after all those disappointments, God created a job opening I never expected. I applied to fill that vacancy and, soon, was called in for an interview. I was interviewed and offered the job the very next day! In hindsight, I see that God had closed the doors on those other school districts because. He had another opportunity in mind. When the time was right, God opened the door to the opportunity I was eventually offered.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

One way God makes our paths “straight” is by opening and closing doors. Sometimes our frustrations and disappointments are but God’s way of directing us into His will for our lives. But, child of God, wherever you’re at in your journey, know that you are in God’s hands.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Considering the claims of the cessationists

The Pyromaniacs (Phil Johnson) have posted a good article in support of cessationism. If you’ve read my blog for any time, you know that I am not a cessationist (I’m not a Pentecostal or Charismatic, either). I share the views, generally speaking, of those in the continuationist camp. That is to say, I believe that the so-called “sign gifts” (the utterance of wisdom, the utterance of knowledge, the working of miracles, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, various kinds of tongues, the interpretation of tongues, etc.) did not cease with the death of the apostles and the completion of the New Testament canon. Now, before you get the idea that I’m some wild-eyed, rolling on the ground fanatic (and those that know me realize how far-fetched that would be), the only reason I hold to this view is because I have never been convinced from Scripture that these gifts of the Spirit ceased. I have heard many of the arguments for cessationism (and I’m sure there are a many other arguments I have not heard), but I have found none of them convincing.

Until today.

It’s not that Phil Johnson or any of the commenters on his post produced any Scripture texts to prove conclusively the cessationist’s position. Rather, a few of the comments, particularly those by some ex-Charismatics, got me to thinking. On this issue of the gifts of the Spirit and Pentecostalism, you could say I’m still on a journey. At one time, many years ago, I was actually quite sympathetic to the Charismatic movement. Over the years, however, I’ve witnessed for myself some of the foolishness and nonsense that goes on in church in the name of “the Holy Ghost.” I’ve discovered that some people will believe anyone or anything that claims to speak in tongues or have a “word from the Lord” or acts like they have “the Holy Ghost” (there is a certain way to “act”, you know). Over and over again, I’ve seen and heard people elevate their experiences above Scripture and sound doctrine. Because of the utter foolishness of some Pentecostals and Charismatics that I knew, I was sorely tempted to swing my theological pendulum from being sympathetic to Charismatics to being totally against anything Pentecostal-Charismatic. It was only because I could not find any proof in the Scriptures that these things had ceased to be that I did not totally reject “sign gifts.”

What I read at The Pyromaniacs today, however, has seriously motivated me to rethink my position. Above all, I want my beliefs and doctrine to be biblical. I’ll change my mind in a second if I see that I’m out of sync with Scripture. I do not want to advocate anything that is in error. As I said, so far, I do not find any conclusive proof in the Scriptures that the sign gifts have ceased. However, as I survey the religious landscape, I see a whole lot of foolishness going on, supposedly under the power of “the Holy Ghost” (As God would have it, just yesterday, I got to the part in Arnold Dallimore’s biography of George Whitefield where Dallimore describes how John Wesley interpreted physical “manifestations” as a “sign” from God that he should preach against Predestination. And just to be sure that it was the will of God for him so to preach, Wesley cast lots.).

So, I encourage you to read Phil Johnson’s article on cessationism and the comments afterwards. Then let us together examine the Scriptures to see if these things are so.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The kind of converts we see today

I am slowly making my way through volume one of Arnold Dallimore’s biography of George Whitefield. There is something in this biography that I’ve noticed that bothers me a little bit. I’m sure others have seen the same thing: The conversions of Whitefield’s day, described in the biography, seem to be far removed from most of the conversions we see today. What really grabs my attention is how thorough they were. When people came to faith in Christ, their lives were genuinely and profoundly affected. For example, in the accounts of Whitefield, Charles Wesley and Howell Harris, it seems that conversion brought about not only a change of life, but a loss of desire for previous sins and the completely irresistible urge to tell others about Christ. Conversion made these men obviously and radically different from the people around them

I wonder is there something wrong with us church folk today? Are we burning with an irrepressible zeal for God? I must confess: Reading about the zeal of these men puts me to shame. What is the problem? I’d be inclined to blame the way the church today evangelizes and disciples the people in their charge but, then, I remember that Whitefield, Wesley and Harris came to faith in the midst of a church world that was not always friendly to the evangelical cause. It’s not like these men were a part of dynamic Bible-teaching, evangelistic, disciple-making churches. No, God saved them in spite of the spiritual state of the churches around them. He saved them almost without the instrument of the church. God, clearly, did the work of conversion in these men.

So, what’s wrong with us today? Where is this profound and supernatural work of conversion? Where are the radically-changed lives? Where are the Christians with unquenchable zeal and passion for God? Were these men just unusual? Are we living in more “normal” times?

One thing is for sure, the church is not producing the likes of Whitefield or Wesley or Harris today.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

“Arise, My Soul, Arise”

Arise, my soul, arise.
Shake off thy guilty fears.
The bleeding Sacrifice
In my behalf appears.
Before the throne my Surety stands;
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above,
For me to intercede;
His all-redeeming love,
His precious blood, to plead.
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears,
Received on Calvary.
They pour effectual prayer;
They strongly plead for me.
“Forgive him, oh, forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray,
His dear Anointed One;
He cannot turn away
The presence of His Son.
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled;
His pard’ning voice I hear.
He owns me for His child;
I can no longer fear.
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And, “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

—Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Mark your calendar for next year

To whet your appetite for next year’s Bible Conference sponsored by New Life Fellowship Church, I encourage you to read Tony Carter’s brief review at Non Nobis Domine. Also, Lance Lewis, at Blaque Tulip, has ten (eleven, actually) reasons why you should attend next year’s New Life Fellowship Conference. Finally, the conference gets an additional plug from Thabiti Anyabwile at Pure Church.

It was my pleasure, at this year’s conference, to meet face-to-face my brothers Thabiti and Lance. I’d only known them through the blogosphere. Online communication can’t take the place of fellowship that is live and in color. As you know, Tony and Thabiti, along with host pastor, Louis Love, were the conference speakers. I think everyone would agree that we were greatly blessed by the powerful and effective teaching of the word of God through these men.

Our brother, Lance, also presented to the conference a brief overview of the ministry of the Council of Reforming Churches. You know, it is amazing to see how God is causing an awakening to the Doctrines of Grace among small pockets of our Black brothers and sisters in Christ all across this country. It will be interesting to see where God takes this in the years ahead. Will this small stirring become a revival among Black Christian? I dearly hope so.

Be sure to mark your calendars now for the 3rd week of June 2008, and make plans to be in Chicagoland for the New Life Fellowship Bible Conference.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

“That I might faithfully follow his shining example”

I’m still thinking about fathers—increasingly rare in the Black community, yet so needed and so utterly necessary. Researchers tell us that fathers are disappearing in other communities, too. That’s sad and tragic. Children need fathers. Daughters need fathers. Sons need fathers. Especially needed are fathers who know God, who know the word of God, and who know how to pray—men who are spiritual leaders in their homes and godly examples their children can follow.
The article below, which I have reproduced in its entirety, was written by Mark Dever and posted a couple weeks ago over at Together for the Gospel, but I just happened upon it today, and I must admit, it moved me to tears. In it, Mark Dever quotes at length a passage from the autobiography of the 19th century missionary John Paton, in which Paton writes about his father.
Fathers, I pray that you would strive to be this kind of “shining example” to the children God has given you.


One for Fathers

by Mark Dever

John Paton was a Scottish missionary to the Islands of the South Pacific. He died 100 years ago this year. He was born in 1824. He went out to the Islands at the age of 34 in 1858. And there he labored for the rest of his long life. After 31 years, he wrote his autobiography. In it, he remembered the time—almost 50 years earlier—when his dear father had walked him out of his village, and toward Glasgow, where his future lay. And with 50 years having gone, Paton was still obviously affected by this man who so trusted in God, feared Him, and delighted in pleasing Him.

I started out from my quiet country home on the road to Glasgow. Literally “on the road,” for from Torthorwald to Kilmarnock—about forty miles—had to be done on foot, and thence to Glasgow by rail. Railways in those days were as yet few, and coach traveling was far beyond my purse. A small bundle, tied up in my pocket-handkerchief, contained my Bible and all my personal belongings. Thus was I launched upon the ocean of life. I thought on One who says, “I know thy poverty, but thou art rich.”

My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsels and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey are fresh in my heart as if it had been but yesterday; and tears are on my cheeks as freely now as then, whenever memory steals me away to the scene. For the last half-mile or so we walked on together in almost unbroken silence,--my father, as was often his custom, carrying his hat in hand, while his long, flowing yellow hair (then yellow, but in later years white as snow) streamed like a girl’s down his shoulders. His lips kept moving in silent prayers for me; and his tears fell fast when our eyes met each other in looks for which all speech was vain! We halted on reaching the appointed parting place; he grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly and affectionately said:

“God bless you, my son! Your father’s God prosper you, and keep you from all evil!”

Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears we embraced, and parted. I ran off as fast as I could; and, when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncovered where I had left him—gazing after me. Waving my hat in adieu, I was round the corner and out of sight in an instant. But my heart was too full and sore to carry me further, so I darted into the side of the road and wept for a time. Then, rising up cautiously, I climbed the dyke to see if he yet stood where I had left him; and just at that moment I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dyke and looking out for me! He did not see me, and after he had gazed eagerly in my direction for a while he got down, set his face towards home, and began to return—his head still uncovered, and his heart, I felt sure, still rising in prayers for me. I watched through blinding tears, till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonour such a father and mother as He had given me. The appearance of my father, when we parted—his advice, prayers, and tears—the road, the dyke, the climbing up on it and then walking away, head uncovered—have often, often, all through life, risen vividly before my mind, and do so now while I am writing, as if it had been but an hour ago. In my earlier years particularly, when exposed to many temptations, his parting form rose before me as that of a guardian Angel. It is no Pharisaism, but deep gratitude, which makes me here testify that the memory of that scene not only helped, by God’s grace, to keep me from the prevailing sins, but also stimulated me in all my studies, that I might not fall short of his hopes, and in all my Christian duties, that I might faithfully follow his shining example.” (Paton, Autobiography, pp. 25-26)

Sam Storms on “How we must come to God”

Here, then, is how we must come to God, whether to serve him or worship him or enjoy all that he is for us in Jesus:

Come, confessing your utter inability to do or offer anything that will empower God or enrich, enhance, or expand God.

Come, with heartfelt gratitude to God for the fact that whatever you own, whatever you are, whatever you have accomplished or hope to accomplish, is all from him, a gift of grace.

Come, declaring in your heart and aloud that if you serve, it is in the strength that God supplies (1 Pet. 4:10); if you give money, it is from the wealth that God has enabled you to earn; if it is praise of who he is, it is from the salvation and knowledge of God that he himself has provided for you in Christ Jesus.

Come, declaring the all-sufficiency of God in meeting your every need. Praise his love, because if he were not loving, you would be justly and eternally condemned. Praise his power, because if he were weak, you would have no hope that what he has promised he will fulfill. Praise his forgiving mercy, because apart from his gracious determination to wash you clean in the blood of Christ, you would still be in your sin and hopelessly lost. So, too, with every attribute, praise him!

Come, with an empty cup, happily pleading: “God, glorify yourself by filling it to overflowing!”

Come, with a weak and wandering heart, joyfully beseeching: “God, glorify yourself by strengthening me to do your will and remain faithful to your ways!”

Come, helpless, expectantly praying: “God, glorify yourself by delivering me from my enemies and my troubles!”

Come, with your sin, gratefully asking: “God, glorify yourself by setting me free from bondage to my flesh and breaking the grip of lust and envy and greed in my life!”

Come, with your hunger for pleasure and joy, desperately crying: “God, glorify yourself by filling me with the fullness of joy! God, glorify yourself by granting me pleasures that never end! God, glorify yourself by satisfying my heart with yourself! God, glorify yourself by enthralling me with your beauty…by overwhelming me with your majesty…by taking my breath away with fresh insights into your incomparable and infinite grandeur! God, glorify yourself by shining into my mind the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ!”

[From Sam Storms, Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007), pp. 204-205.]

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Discerning the personal will of God (Part 2)

I want to pick up where I left off yesterday. I ended by saying, “I’m not searching for God’s will. I know I am exactly where God wants me to be. And, you are exactly where God wants you to be.” Someone could possibly misunderstand or misinterpret what I’ve written, so I’d like to elaborate and, hopefully, clarify what I mean.

Am I affirming that if, for example, you are living in a habitual pattern of sin, or caught in some kind of scandal or, like a person I read about in the newspaper this morning, are a cross-dresser who wishes to change his or her gender, you are exactly where God wants you to be?

No, you are not where God “wants” you to be, in terms of pleasing God and bringing Him pleasure. In fact, in relation to God’s revealed will in Scripture, you are, indeed, “out” of God’s will. Sin is not right and God doesn’t condone it. However, in terms of seeking God’s direction, or His personal will for our lives, I don’t think we can escape the reality that we are where we are by God’s providence—that is, according to His sovereign purpose and will. Our lives may be out of our control, but none of us is ever out of God’s control. Everything, visible and invisible—every being, every creature, every molecule, atom and particle in the universe—is under God’s absolute and sovereign authority.

Too many people treat the will of God for their lives as if it is some hidden and mysterious secret that we need to discover before we can get on with the business of living. I don’t think this is a wise or biblical way to view the will of God. There are two important points we should always keep in mind: First, we need to know and remember that God has already revealed Himself through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. If we want to know God, we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, we should never forget that God has also given His people a word of revelation. It’s called Scripture—the Bible—the word of God. If we want to know God’s will, we must read the Bible. The Bible is God’s word to us. Everything you or I need to know about God and the right way to live is already written down for us in the Scriptures.

But, what about God’s specific and individual will for us as it concerns career or marriage or ministry or any number of choices we must make in life? Again, I think the starting point must be Scripture. Does Scripture command or forbid any choice we’re considering? If there is a command in Scripture concerning how we should live, we’re obliged to obey. On the other hand, if the choice we’re considering is forbidden by Scripture, we are not free to pursue that choice. What about a desire or impression that we that we feel led to pursue? Again, it seems to me, if that desire is not sinful or will not incline us to sin, we are free to pursue it.

But, what about a desire to pursue a specific position of service within the church? Maybe we feel called to serve in some specific way. Certainly, it is always good to serve, so sin would not be the issue. Here, the issue becomes one of qualifications. The question we should ask ourselves is, are we qualified, according to Scripture, to hold this desired position of service within the church? A classic passage in this regard would be 1 Timothy 3:1-13:

1The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer [i.e., elder, bishop or pastor], he desires a noble task. 2Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

8Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

When it comes to the desire to pursue an office within the church, the issue becomes one of qualifications. “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” The desire is good, but the desire is not enough: “Therefore an overseer must be…” Ability is not enough, either. For the office of overseer, with the exception of the directive that the aspirant should be “able to teach”, Paul’s list is not primarily about the ability to do the job. Godly character is the major qualification for office, not ability.

Above all, when it comes to discerning God’s particular will for our lives, our choices must be objectively informed and guided by Scripture.

(To be continued…)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

“The Godly Life” Conference CDs available

Last week, New Life Fellowship Church, in the northern Chicago suburb of Vernon Hills, hosted its annual Bible conference. Those who attended received a tremendous blessing through the rich teaching of Anthony Carter, Thabiti Anyabwile and host pastor, Louis Love, who all addressed various aspects of the conference theme, “The Godly Life”. Concerning the speakers, the comment was made that “the preaching…ranks right up there or even exceeds that of some of the national Reformed conferences around.” It was, indeed, good to have been there.

For the third year in a row, it was my privilege to have been the conference worship leader. The worship songs we sang ranged from classic hymns of the faith to good ol’ down-home songs, like some of our grandparents used to sing. My guess is this was the only Reformed conference in the world that started off its morning session singing, “I woke up this mornin’ with my mind stayed on Jesus”! Who says Reformed folks don’t have soul?!

Anyway, if you would like to hear any or all of the messages, New Life Fellowship Church has made them available on CD. You can obtain ordering information at the church’s website.

Willing to be hidden

Are you a believer in Christ who is laboring in ministry in some obscure place, feeling relatively unnoticed, overlooked or unappreciated? Recently, I came across this quote by George Whitefield* that is very much worth considering:

“He is unworthy the name of a Christian who is not as willing to hide himself when God commands, as to act in a public capacity.”

Maybe, for the time being, God has you hidden. Be grateful that God uses you at all—wherever He may choose to use you. Remember, He knows you—and He notices you. Be faithful.

The Gospel Coalition website

The Gospel Coalition website is up and running! Read the theological statements and articles. Listen to or watch the plenary speakers—D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, Crawford Loritts and John Piper—from the conference in May. Even check out the pictures! As this site is further developed, it promises to be a useful resource, helping the Body of Christ remain centered on the gospel.

Discerning the personal will of God

Yesterday I was offered (and I accepted) the position of choral music teacher at a nearby public high school! My family and I are rejoicing because I have been searching for a “permanent” job since January of last year—17 months! The offer of this teaching job also marks a personal milestone for me. Even though I’ve been a state certified teacher for 22 years, and worked over 17 of the past 21 years in the field of public education, it’s been over 18 years since I’ve actually held the position of “teacher”. I’ve been a “substitute” teacher, a “permanent substitute” teacher, a “teaching assistant”, even a “paraprofessional”, but I’ve not held the position of full-fledged “teacher” since 1989. Needless to say, when I completed graduate school 21 years ago, this is not how I envisioned my “career” in education unfolding.

In the past week, I’ve also been reminded of my “call” to ministry. Chances are, had my family and I not left our former mainline Black denomination 9 years ago, I most likely would have been the pastor of a church by now. The fulltime pastorate was the goal I set out in pursuit of some 18 years ago, when I first discerned that God was “calling” me to preach the gospel. To date, I have yet to reach that goal. Ironically, although I’m not a pastor, and have not been in an official pastoral role in 9 years, in many ways, I’ve served in a kind of unofficial pastoral role in each church of which we’ve been a part since leaving the denomination that ordained me. Even when I didn’t tell anyone about my ministerial background, I’d have people ask me if I was a student at the nearby seminary. It’s like they just assumed I must be a preacher. Occasionally, I will have people, out of the blue, ask me questions about the Bible. Well, thank God, He still provides opportunities for me to teach or preach His word, but the form my ministry has taken is not what I imagined it would be 18 years ago.

Which bring to mind this whole topic of discerning the personal will of God. Many believers want to know, like Saul on the road to Damascus, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6 KJV). We’re willing (or, at least, we claim to be willing) to do whatever the Lord says do, if He would only make His intentions clear to us. Some might even worry that they’ve somehow missed God’s will for their lives, and they set out in a frantic search to “find” the will of God.

May I tell you something? It is impossible to “miss” God’s will. If God is in control, then it is impossible to be “outside” of His will. Nothing happens to us that God has not permitted. If God doesn’t allow it, it won’t happen. Like the idea of someone dying “before their time”: If someone could die before their time, it would mean that, somehow, that person’s death took God by surprise. He had a time in mind for them to die, but they went and died “before their time”, without God’s permission. Nonsense! They died right on time—at God’s appointed time for them to die. In the same way, none of us can get “out” of God’s will, as if God is powerless to do anything with us. Instead of wasting time trying to “find” God’s “lost” will, our time would be far better spent being obedient to the will that God has already revealed to us in His written word. Our lives will be used by God and will be effective in His hands if we make it our business to be faithful.

So, does God have a specific plan for our lives? I believe He does but, it seems to me, our life path is rarely laid out for us in clear fashion. God doesn’t let us in on the details of our lives. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Therefore, we must trust God. He knows the way. Let’s face it: If God did show us the specifics of the path ahead, we’d never follow Him! We would be frightened off by all the trials, temptations, disappointments and failures that await us. God doesn’t tell us (most of us, at least) what’s going to happen in the future. So, we trust God, knowing that He knows the future, and knowing that His plan for our future is good, even if it does include trials, temptations, disappointments and failures.

That’s certainly what I’ve found. Even though I could wish that 21 years ago I had secured a teaching job like the one I was just offered, the fact of the matter is, 21 years ago I would have failed miserably. I’m a far better teacher today, knowing what I now know, having experienced what I have experienced, than I would have been 21 years ago. And, much of what I know today has been because of the failures and disappointments of yesterday. I would venture to say I’m a far better minister of the gospel today because of my “off-road” experiences of the past 9 years. And the process is not done! I’m still learning, still growing, still maturing. Disappointments and pain, in the hands of God, are worth it, in terms of what is gained in character.

So, I trust God. The increased responsibilities will present even more challenges that I know God will use to continue forming my character in Christlikeness (and I may have far less time available to blog). As far as the ministry of the word, I’ll continue to pursue whatever door God opens.

However, I’m not searching for God’s will. I know I am exactly where God wants me to be. And, you are exactly where God wants you to be. Trust Him. He is using your circumstances to shape you into the image of His Son.
(To be continued...)