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.