Wednesday, December 31, 2008

“Press on toward the goal”

The end of another year often is a time when people resolve to make some change or improvement about themselves in the coming year. Generally, I do not make resolutions because, like many of you, I fail to follow through on them. Nevertheless, the beginning of a new year does seem to be the perfect time to endeavor to make a fresh start, to try to do better, to move forward and make progress in life.

As Christians, we know that deep and lasting change is only possible through the work of the Spirit of Christ within. With that in mind, may I suggest we ask the Lord’s help, as we leave 2008 and look ahead to 2009, to be faithful in doing that which the apostle Paul did:

“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).

We can’t redo yesterday, however, we can do something about tomorrow. In the strength of the Lord, “press on toward the goal” of becoming more like Christ in 2009.

May God bless you and yours in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bible Reading Plans

Justin Taylor recommends a few Bible reading plans to help us in the New Year establish and maintain a daily discipline of Bible reading. Let’s resolve, with God’s help, to spend some time in God’s Word every day in 2009.

A matter of life or death

Since I’m home on Winter Break, I thought I would take the time to read Dr. Al Mohler’s book, He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008). I’m impressed by what I’ve read so far. In fact, I would even suggest that He Is Not Silent is an important book that deserves wide exposure within Evangelicalism. Personally, I wish every evangelical pastor would read and heed what Dr. Mohler has written.

Today, I was reading chapter 3 (“Preaching Is Expository: A Theology of Exposition”). At one point, after quoting Deuteronomy 4:32-40 and writing briefly about the historical setting of this passage, Mohler writes the following (p. 54):

Notice that even as it is a book of preparation, the book of Deuteronomy is not primarily a military briefing. It is not primarily about demographics and geography. Above all, it is about the Word of God. It is about the fact that God has spoken, and His people need to be ready to hear Him and obey. The intensity here is enormous, because the necessity of obedience is a matter of survival for Israel. You see, the entire theology of Deuteronomy comes down to the fact that God has spoken. Thus hearing and obeying is life, but refusing to hear and disobeying is death. Moses wants the people of Israel to know that life and death hang in the balance of their willingness to hear God’s Word and respond to it. It is a matter of life or death.

I believe that the central problem in our crisis of preaching today is that somehow we believe this has changed. We no longer believe that hearing and responding to the Word of God is a matter of crucial importance. That is the only plausible reason I can offer for why expositional preaching is in decline, or even absent, in so many pulpits. Before the decline in expository preaching, there was the abandonment of the conviction that the Word of God comes as a matter of life and death.

From where I stand, it sure seems to me that what Mohler writes here is very true. There really does seem to be a famine of “hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11) in the church in the West. I’m not a pastor and I have no pulpit from which to regularly preach but, the Lord being my Helper, I’m willing to do what I can to remedy this situation. And the first thing I can do is recommend that you get He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World and read it. If possible, buy an extra copy and give it to your pastor.

The second thing you and I can do is heed the message in the paragraphs I quoted above. The importance of hearing and responding to the Word of God relates to more than just preaching. It means you and I must be diligent to read and study God’s Word for ourselves, and respond with obedience in our daily lives. May God help us to be faithful.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Gloria In Excelsis

Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men. We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory, O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.

O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.

For Thou only art holy; Thou only art the Lord; Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father.

(from the Book of Common Prayer, 1662)

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled:
Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies,
With th’angelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Christ, by highest heav’n adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a virgin’s womb:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail th’incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings;
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

—Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Joy to the World

Joy to the world! the Lord is come:
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns:
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.

—Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

“Woe to me...”

This morning I was looking at the table of contents of Dr. Al Mohler’s book, He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008), with the thought of possibly reading it while I’m at home on Winter Break.

Pastor James MacDonald’s comments on the flyleaf stung me:

“I preach because nothing else can satisfy the urgency and passion that God has ignited in my heart for His truth and His people. The same should be true for you. If you can go sell cars or shuffle stocks instead of being a pastor and preacher of God’s Word, then go do that.”

I agree with the sentiment Pastor MacDonald expresses. Yet, I’m not a pastor and the opportunities to preach are rare.

After all these years, it sometimes seems like a dream or fantasy. But, it wasn’t a dream and I didn’t imagine it. Over nineteen-and-a-half years ago, God called me to preach His Word and shepherd His people. I didn’t choose this; the burden was laid on me. After all these years, I still feel that burden.

And, like MacDonald implies, nothing else has satisfied me. Nothing. That’s why his comment stung. For what does one do when all the doors have closed? “If you can go sell cars or shuffle stocks instead of being a pastor and preacher of God’s Word, then go do that.” I agree. And yet, I wish it were that simple.

The fact is I also have a responsibility, before God, to provide for the family God has given to me. 1 Timothy 5:8 is clear: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10 is equally clear: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

So, I work…doing something else besides being a pastor and preacher of God’s Word. In 1 Corinthians 9:16, I find where the apostle Paul wrote, “Necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” I think I understand what Paul meant.

And, it hurts so much.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Arminian Problem

Phil Johnson says,

“The more sensible option—and the biblical one—would be to abandon Arminian presuppositions and acknowledge that God declared the end from the beginning, and that He works all things according to the counsel of His own will.”

Read more, here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

“Yes, I Know Jesus”

One evening a few weeks ago, Catherine, my wife, was trying out the video feature on her digital camera and recorded me playing a couple pieces on the piano at home. The other day, I decided to post these videoclips on YouTube. Below is the clip of me playing the gospel song, “Yes, I Know Jesus”.

This song is very simple, expressing a couple simple truths: I know Jesus and He’s done so much for me. I wish you could hear a choir singing along (you can find a few choir renditions on YouTube, if you search around a bit). In lieu of a choir, here are the lyrics:

Yes, I know Jesus,
Yes, I know Jesus,
Yes, I know Jesus for myself.
Woke me up this morning,
Saw a brand new dawning,
Feeds me when I'm hungry,
Comforts me when I’m lonely.
Yes, I know Jesus,
Yes, I know Jesus,
Yes, I know Jesus for myself.

Yes, I know Him for myself,
And He’ll do just what He said…
Yes, I know Jesus,
Yes, I know Jesus,
Yes, I know Jesus for myself.

What is implied here is that you, the listener, should get to know Jesus, too. As the “old folks” used to say, “You gotta know the Lord for yourself!” Why? Not because He is so good (and He is!). That’s just a bonus. The reason you and I need to know Jesus is because you and I need Him! God is holy and we are not. We have rebelled against God. We are sinners. As sinners, we deserve and have earned God's condemnation, but God gave His Son to be the Savior of all who will trust in Him. As the Bible puts it: “For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

By the grace of God, I know Jesus. He has become my Savior, and He is my Lord. Do you know Him? Will you trust Him?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

“Take Me Back”, too!

Thabiti Anyabwile was going back down memory lane and posted this YouTube video of the late COGIC Bishop Gilbert E. Patterson singing Andraé Crouch’s “Take Me Back”. That song brought back memories for me, also. This Thanksgiving Day, I’m thankful for the Lord who has brought me such a long way. I’m thankful for the human instruments through whom the gospel came to me. I’m grateful for my great-grandparents and great-great aunt who never let me forget that I had to meet the Lord for myself. “Ye must be born again,” was a message I heard frequently from them. Thankfully, by God’s grace, I eventually came to know what they were talking about.

Take me back, take me back, dear Lord,
To the place where I first received You;
Take me back, take me back, dear Lord,
Where I first believed.

I’m also reminded of these solemn words from the Lord Jesus (Revelation 2:1-7):

1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’”

Saturday, November 08, 2008

It’s official

Yesterday, I received my first pair of bifocals. I guess that means it’s official…

…I’ve finally reached middle age!

Evangelical Politicking: A futile exercise

Lance Lewis has a thoughtful post regarding abortion and the recent Presidential election. I encourage you to read it and seriously ponder the issues he raises. In response to his post, I submitted the following response (which I’ve slightly edited for posting here):

After this latest Presidential campaign, I've come to the conclusion that Evangelicals have, to a great extent, been duped by the Republican Party. The Republican Party knows they have the Evangelical vote locked up. All they have to do is talk the pro-life talk, and Evangelicals will vote for them, regardless of whether or not they actually do anything that brings about real change. It is exactly the same situation as that which exists between the Democrat Party and the greater part of the Black community. What has Black loyalty to the Democrat Party done for the Black community? Very little, if anything. That's exactly where the Evangelical community is right now with the Republican Party.

I've also become convinced that Evangelicals have been wrong to focus so intensely on abortion. Abortions are not the problem; abortions are but a symptom of the real problem: the spiritual condition of the United States. We Evangelicals work ourselves into a frenzy about Roe v Wade, when the fact of the matter is, if the gospel we proclaimed was really going out with power (see 1 Corinthians 2:4), Roe v Wade would become a moot point. Few would want an abortion. There would be little demand for abortion. Those who support and promote abortion don't need the animosity and hatred of Evangelicals; they need the gospel. Those who are blinded by Satan don't need to be demonized by us; they need the gospel.

The way to end abortion is not through the exercise of political might. The way to end abortion is through the Spirit-empowered propagation of the gospel. The proof: Remember the powerful effect that the gospel had on 18th century society in England and the American Colonies in the days of Whitefield and the Wesleys? Cannot God do the same thing today?

In my opinion, the Evangelical politicking of the past 30 years (since the emergence of the "Moral Majority") has simply been a futile exercise in fighting spiritual battles with carnal weapons (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I never thought I would see this day…

…but, I thank God that He let me see it.

May God, in His great mercy, bless, keep and protect our President-Elect, Barack Obama.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What are you thinking about?

In this time of economic uncertainty, with the resultant anxiety that many feel not only in this nation but around the world, is there a word from the Lord?

Indeed, there is.

Any time we open the Bible and read, we can receive a genuine word from the Lord. Here is the word that came to my mind today:

3 You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
4 Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:3-4)

Someone may ask, “What do you think of this economic crisis?” “As little as possible” should be your answer. God will keep in perfect peace those “whose mind is stayed” or fixed on Him.

What do you think about? If your mind is fixated on the economy, your job, your home mortgage, your school loan or whatever, don’t wonder that you can’t sleep at night.

Fix your mind on God. How? Get in His word. Read it. Meditate on it. Think about God as He has revealed Himself in His word.

Another word from the Lord also comes to mind:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9)

Through His apostle, God tells us what to do: Rejoice in the Lord, pray, and think on those things that are excellent and praiseworthy. Question: What is truly excellent and praiseworthy? Is it not those things that pertain to God?

What kind of person is it who fixes his mind on God, rejoices in Him and tells God in prayer all about his troubles? It is the person who truly trusts God. Remember the passage from Isaiah that I quoted?

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.” Why? “Because he trusts in you.”

Oh, my friend, if you are worried and anxious about the economy, you must seriously ask yourself if you are truly trusting in God. There is no real security except in our Lord. “Trust in the LORD…for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

In His hands

For some time, what with all the partisan rhetoric surrounding the Presidential campaign, a thought has been on my mind that I’ve wanted to voice. It is this: When it comes to the well-being of my family, my livelihood, my personal sense of happiness and wholeness, I have never felt that I have been either helped or hindered because who was in the White House.

For instance, there are many within the Black community who consider the Reagan years to be bad years for Black people (and, right now, unfortunately, George W. Bush might hold that distinction). Nevertheless, I can’t say I share this opinion. I started college during Ronald Reagan’s first year in office and finished graduate school during his second term. I graduated from the university debt free, my great-grandfather having paid my way through college with the savings bonds he had accumulated during the nearly 30 years he worked as a janitor. By the time Reagan left office, I was working my first teaching job, earning a decent teacher salary, and had recently purchased my first new car.

God graciously and abundantly blessed me during the Reagan years.

On the other side of the political fence, some within Evangelicalism consider the eight years President Bill Clinton was in office to have been a low point in this nation. Yet, I don’t have particularly bad memories of the Clinton years, either. During President Clinton’s tenure in office I received full ordination to the gospel ministry and had the privilege of ministering to many people within my former denominational circles. It was also during these years that Catherine gave birth to our two precious sons. During this era, God also provided for the needs of our growing family by providing a custom-made music position for me at one of the top public high schools in our area, and enabled Catherine and me to purchase a brand new house (in which we still live) and buy two new cars (which we still drive).

God graciously and abundantly blessed us during the Clinton years.

Even under the current administration of President George W. Bush, with much of the country genuinely anxious about the economy, God has supplied our financial needs. We don’t have a lot, but we have all we need. God has been so good.

Here’s my point: Who won or lost the Presidential election never had anything to do with the well-being of my family. We’re in God’s hands. He has not changed, nor has He failed.

For this reason, I can’t help but wonder why some Christians speak and act as if John McCain winning the Presidency would either be the best or the worst thing to happen to our country, while other Christians speak and act as if electing Barack Obama would either be the salvation or the ruin of our nation. Our nation, its leaders, and our lives, are in the hands of God. Why don’t we speak and act as those who trust God to work in all circumstances to accomplish His good purpose?

At this point, I’m 99% certain for whom I will vote in November. Yet, if my candidate wins, I’m not expecting miracles from him; I look to God to supply my family’s needs. And, if my candidate loses, it’s not the end of the world: God is still on the throne, my family and my future are in God’s hands and, because that's true, we’ll be all right.

So, I ask again, why don’t we evangelicals speak and act as those who really trust God?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What about the babies?

Where do the souls of aborted children go after they are killed in the womb? Although the Bible does not address this subject directly, I think most theologians would speculate that the souls of aborted children go to be with the Lord.

If this is so, then what is more important: rescuing the “un-born” who are going to be with the Lord, or rescuing children already born into broken families and crime-infested neighborhoods with failing schools? Think about it: If the child’s family is in a broken condition, most likely that family is also without Christ. If the neighborhood in which the child lives is filled with crime and unrestrained evil, in all likelihood that neighborhood is, to a great degree, also without Christ. And, if a child can’t read because the schools have failed to teach, then that child can’t read the Bible, either.

Why is it that Evangelicals fight so hard to rescue a baby yet to be born, but expend so little energy, in comparison, trying to rescue children already born who, apart from the intervention of Christians, will most likely spend an eternity in hell?

I am against abortion. The procedure is sinful and wrong. But, am I to believe that God is more grieved by the abortion of millions of babies who were never born, who now live with Him in eternity, than He is by the seeming disinterest that conservative Evangelicals have in the millions of children already born who, through no fault of their own, are caught in a vortex of urban poverty and deprivation?

It seems to me that we Evangelicals are more concerned about the price of gas than we are about the souls of millions of children who live in the inner city.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Imagine if Evangelicals really trusted God

Let’s imagine. Let’s imagine that Sen. Barack Obama is as bad as many conservative Evangelicals say he is. And let’s further imagine that Obama handily wins the Presidency of the United States.

Imagine that the ban on “Partial-Birth Abortion” is overturned by President Obama, and unrestricted access to abortion is codified into law through his authorization of a “Freedom of Choice Act”.

Imagine that the balance of the Supreme Court settles significantly to the Left with President Obama’s appointment of one or two liberal justices.

Imagine that “gay marriage” gets official recognition at the Federal level, upheld by a now-liberal Supreme Court.

Imagine that preaching against homosexuality gets branded as “hate speech” by the courts of the land.

Imagine that all the moral and family values that we Evangelicals hold dear are undermined and abandoned by liberal President Obama and the liberal Supreme Court justices that he appoints.

Does that sound like an awful scenario? It is! What would we Evangelicals do if this imaginary scenario became a reality?

Maybe we’d have to trust God.

We certainly don’t do that now. The Evangelical movement in the U.S. has become little more than an arm of the Republican Party. The Apostle Paul told the church at Corinth to “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1), but American Evangelicals earnestly desire political power instead. We believe more in political might than in mighty prayer. Maybe it’s because we have become spiritually impotent that we turn to carnal weapons like political power so as to force “the heathen” to do what our prayers have so far failed to accomplish.

It certainly doesn’t seem that the U.S. is in any danger of another “Great Awakening”. The fact that gay “marriage” could seriously be considered as a legitimate alternative says a lot about how far we as an American people have fallen morally and spiritually. But, if this country is going down morally and spiritually, whose fault is that? Maybe the reason this country has gone down morally and spiritually is because Evangelicals have failed to preach and live the gospel. Certainly, the fact that Open Theism, annihilationism, universalism and the rejection of penal substitutionary atonement have gained ground in some Evangelical circles says a lot about how far Evangelicalism has strayed.

For the record: I don’t believe for one moment that Sen. Obama is as bad as his Republican and Evangelical detractors say. Do I agree with all his positions? No, of course not. But I do know Obama cannot be the personification of evil that some of his critics portray him to be. After all, he’s not the devil. Can’t we disagree with another’s positions without having to resort to lying, slander and exaggeration? Strident verbal attacks, like some of those made against Obama by his critics, quite frankly, make me suspect racism is as much a factor in their criticism as is Obama’s political positions.

Personally, I could live with an Obama Presidency. After all, I lived through eight years of Ronald Reagan and eight years of Bill Clinton. I was no better or worse off under either President. After all, my life is not in the hands of the occupant of the White House. My life is in the hands of the Lord.

I am beginning to think that maybe the best thing that could happen is that we Evangelicals lose the “culture war”. We have become intoxicated with political power and have abandoned trust in the Lord in order to pursue fidelity to the Republican Party. Perhaps what we need is for society to turn against us to the degree that we become a truly despised minority in this country. Maybe then we will stop trying to fight spiritual battles (the so-called culture war) with carnal weapons (Republican Party politics) and learn to trust God again.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Voddie Baucham speaks out

Voddie Baucham is the Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas. He has recently written a few provocative articles at his blog on the upcoming Presidential election, and the relationship between evangelicals and the Republican Party:
“Waking Up the Sheeple”

Read what Baucham has written. I guarantee it will make you think. In fact, it would be a good thing, indeed, if all Christians did a lot of deep thinking, praying and interacting with the word of God concerning this upcoming election.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Idolatrous Nationalism

I was bothered by something in particular which I saw and heard in tonight’s telecast of the Republican Convention. I heard some of what concerns me in Sen. John McCain’s nomination acceptance speech. Here is a small portion of what Sen. McCain said tonight:

“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn’t my own man anymore. I was my country’s.

“I’m not running for president because I think I’m blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God.”

Does anyone else besides me hear anything idolatrous in these words? “I wasn’t my own man anymore. I was my country’s”? “My country saved me”? I’m sorry, but my country cannot save me; Jesus alone saves. My country doesn’t own me or have the right of lordship over me; I belong to Christ.

Believer in Christ, “You were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23), and the United States of America did not, and could not, pay the price. Only the blood of Jesus could buy me.

What I witnessed on television tonight was a kind of idolatry. It was a flag-waving worship of the United States of America. And, many of us evangelical Christians are caught up in this idolatry. Let’s be real: That’s what it is! Is this acceptable to God? Idolatrous nationalism was on full display at the Republican Convention tonight, and it’s just not right.

The Republican Party may be “pro-life”, “pro-family”, and all that, but we are on the wrong road if we think of a political party or candidate as the hope for our nation. Be very careful, my flag-waving, Republican, evangelical friend. America is not first. God is.

Monday, September 01, 2008

“I am a debtor”

“Possibly he [Lloyd-Jones] had not yet thought much of the words of the Apostle Paul, ‘I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians…’ (Rom. 1:14), but he felt their meaning and the sense of responsibility which they express. ‘A debtor,’ he once said in a comment on that text, ‘is a man who is conscious of certain pressures being brought to bear upon him. He is a man who feels that he has got something to which other people have a right. Paul is a man who has got something to give. He has been given it by the Lord. He has received it; he has got it. It has transformed his life, and he feels that he must give it to others.’”

Iain H. Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years 1899-1939 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1982) p. 94.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

“What Difference Does the Gospel Make?” Online

Check out the audios from last June’s New Life Fellowship Bible Conference, “What Difference Does the Gospel Make?” with speakers Thabiti Anyabwile, Anthony Carter, host Pastor Louis Love and Stephen Love.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My ideal Presidential candidate

After listening last Saturday to portions of Rick Warren’s question and answer forum with Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, I wondered what my ideal Presidential candidate would look like. I imagine my ideal Presidential candidate would…

…support the overturning of Roe v Wade
…oppose the legalization of homosexual marriage
…oppose embryonic stem-cell research
…favor nominating men and women to the Supreme Court in the legal mold of a Justice Scalia, Roberts or Alito
…prioritize the creation of jobs and the improvement of our health care and health insurance systems
…be reticent to talk about his faith in public
…be willing to openly admit that white racism is one of the greatest moral failures (if not the greatest moral failure) of this nation
…support public education and public school teachers
…be willing to admit that invading Iraq was a mistake (no “weapons of mass destruction”)
…commit to balancing the national budget
…be willing to do what needs to be done to fix Social Security and Medicare
…support some kind of compassionate immigration reform

Obviously, the candidate I describe is neither Obama nor McCain. I think Obama is wrong about abortion and homosexual marriage. I think McCain is closer to being right on these issues, but I get the feeling he’s only saying what he thinks evangelicals want to hear. I’ve heard nothing from either candidate that would convince me they understand the gospel.

All of which means I still do not know for whom I will vote in November.

Monday, August 04, 2008


According to The Barna Group, “evangelicals” are those who “meet the born again criteria plus seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.”

I was raised by “evangelicals” but, it would have never occurred to them to use the word “evangelical” to describe themselves. If you had asked Pa Bill or Grandma to identify their religion, they would have told you they were “Christians”. Not “evangelicals”, not “Fundamentalist”, not “conservatives” or “liberals”—just “Christians”. If you asked what they meant by “Christian”, they would have probably said they had been “born again” or “converted”. The old folks who knew the Lord loved to tell you that they had been “born again”, “saved” or “converted”.

We have so many labels today. I don’t complain about that, because today it’s not good enough to just say “Christian”. All sorts of people, who would not be recognized as Christians by most Christian denominations 100 years ago, call themselves “Christian” today. So, unfortunately, labels are needed. You have to be very specific about what you mean.

Yet, it’s ironic that I rarely, if ever, hear evangelicals describe themselves anymore as “born again”, “saved” or “converted”. Have we become too sophisticated for biblical labels?

Politics, abortion and evangelicals

When it comes to politics, sincere believers in Jesus Christ can be found on both sides of the Republican-Democrat divide. This may be news to some evangelicals, because the Republican Party has had a lock on the white evangelical vote for at least the past 28 years, since Ronald Reagan’s first election. However, the Republican Party has never had 100% of the evangelical vote. And, we must remember, most Blacks have voted Democrat for at least the past 40 years, and many Blacks are solidly evangelical in their faith and theology (I’m assuming Black evangelicals are included in the Black voting numbers, since I don’t recall ever hearing of any polls of Black evangelicals as a separate group. I guess pollsters simply assume all evangelicals must be white. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve voted for the Republican candidate in 5 out of the last 6 Presidential elections since 1984.).

The political divide amongst Bible-believing Christians between Republican and Democrat still exists as we head towards November, and it seems this fact is about to cause some believers to become unhinged. As hard as it may be for some political conservatives to realize, there are theologically-conservative Christians who support Sen. Barack Obama. Supporting the Democrat candidate doesn’t make one less spiritual or less biblically-informed. There are good reasons not to vote for Sen. John McCain, just as there are good reasons not to vote for Obama. There are good reasons not to support the Republican agenda, just as there are good reasons not to support the Democrat agenda. It’s simply a mistake to wrap our Christianity in the banner of a political party (or in the American flag!).

I’ve been saddened, angered and/or discouraged as I’ve read some of the sarcastic, mean, angry, condescending and hateful things written by some evangelicals about those evangelicals who are not towing the conservative party line. Clearly, some of us evangelicals have put too many of our eggs in the Republican basket. The Republican Party is no more the hope of this nation than the Democrat Party has been the hope of Black people. Just like the Democrats have always promised the Black community more than they have delivered, so the Republicans have promised evangelicals far more than they have delivered. Folks, we need to look to God for change, not to a politician.

The apostle wrote, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God…” (Eph 6:12ff). The text makes no mention about taking up the weapons of politics or the Republican Party. There’s no mention about taking up an attack against fellow-believers.

Many evangelical Christians are up-in-arms about abortion and, hence, about Sen. Obama. In my opinion, more disturbing than the sin of abortion (and, yes, abortion is a sin) or Obama’s support of abortion rights, is the unkind, even sinful, attitude displayed by some believers towards anyone who disagrees with them in any way about anything at any time. I don’t expect righteousness out of the unregenerate. But, I certainly expect better from those who are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. Those who promote abortion, perform abortions and seek abortions (and those who have had abortions) need the gospel, they need to be the subjects of our prayers and the recipients of our concern. The world doesn’t need our hate.

The Bethlehem Institute writes that “abortion is primarily and ultimately an injustice against God.” That’s true! But, the same thing can be said about racism, about societal injustice towards the poor and the residents of our inner cities, about injustice (and hatred) towards foreigners, and many other sins against humanity right here in our country. ALL sin is an injustice against God! There is absolutely no justification for all the vitriol that is being spewed by some Christians over abortion (all while they say virtually nothing about other societal evils).
That kind of attitude is just not right; it doesn’t honor Christ, and reveals our trust is not in the Lord.

I don’t know how I’ll vote this November, but I do know this: I’m not looking to any politician for change. Meaningful and lasting change will only come from the Lord. Our only hope is that God would be pleased to pour out His Spirit on country. Our hope must be in the Lord.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Washington, DC, and the providence of God

Last Wednesday, my family and I returned from five days spent in Washington, DC—our first visit to this important and historic city. We had a wonderful time! There is so much to see and do, and we did not have nearly enough time, but we enjoyed everything we were able to experience.

In the span of those five days we walked to The White House and Washington Monument; visited the Lincoln, Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt Memorials; saw the World War II, Vietnam and Korean War Memorials; visited Arlington National Cemetery and the graves of John, Jacqueline and Robert Kennedy, the Tomb of the Unknowns (and saw the changing of the guards), and the Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial); we also went into the Capitol, the Supreme Court Building and the Cathedral Church of Saints Peter and Paul (the Washington National Cathedral). Finally, we also made a quick visit to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Whew!

The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.

Ethan looking serious in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial.

The Washington National Cathedral—an immense and grand structure, and the 6th largest cathedral in the world.

The following Sunday, we had the privilege of worshipping with the good people of Hillcrest Baptist Church of Temple Hills, Maryland, where Eric C. Redmond is the pastor.

Hillcrest Baptist Church (I copied this photo off the web)

After worship we had the opportunity to meet and talk with Pastor Redmond. I also had the delightful surprise of running into Michael Mewborn of Reformed Blacks of America who, with his family, is a part of Hillcrest Church. That Sunday also happened to be my 45th birthday and the following Monday my 18th wedding anniversary!

On my birthday, outside the National Aquarium in Baltimore: Ethan, Evan, Catherine, Mary (Carl’s friend), Carl and me.

Still going strong after 18 years!

So, you can see our trip was, indeed, eventful. However, that wasn’t all for, by far, the highlight of our trip was meeting, for the first time in person, my biological father, Carl Wilson! This was intentional. You see, I met Carl over the phone only three years ago (that’s another, long story). We have talked and corresponded ever since, hoping one day to have the opportunity to meet. This trip was our opportunity.

Some background: Like my mother, Barbara, my father, Carl, was also a teenager when I was conceived. As you can imagine, the news of my mother being pregnant was rather traumatic. My family had never met Carl, so it came about one day that he was invited over to my grandparents’ house to meet my family. Unfortunately, when my father arrived, my grandmother, in what must have been a fit of rage, pulled a knife on him and, literally, tried to kill him. Fortunately, my grandfather intervened, grabbed his wife and held her, while Carl ran for his life. Understandably, Carl stayed away from my family after that (The irony is he would have received an understanding, compassionate reception from anyone else in my family, had he a chance to meet any of them. Unfortunately, he never got that opportunity). Ultimately, Carl moved to Washington, DC, where he has lived for the past 40 years.

Last week, thinking about my life history, and about the spiritual state of my biological parents and my now-deceased maternal grandparents, I was reminded, once again, of the providence of God. God, working behind the scenes, sovereignly guides all things—including the minute details of our lives—towards His appointed end, to accomplish His appointed purpose. From the perspective of 45 years of life, I clearly see God’s hand of providence in my life from before my conception until now. Without removing me from my immediate blood family, God so arranged circumstances that I was placed in the one home in my family where I would be exposed to the gospel and nurtured in a Christ-ward direction: with my great-grandparents. So, even though I was an “illegitimate” child, born out of wedlock, I still grew up in a two-parent household, had a “father”—my great-grandfather, “Pa Bill”—and a “stay-at-home mom”—my great-grandmother, “Grandma”, was well-provided for and given the opportunity to go to college and finish…and, on top of that, I was exposed to the gospel! What more could I have asked for? God worked through bad circumstances to bring about good.

Why has God seen fit to bring Carl into my life after all these years? Perhaps God has a gospel purpose in mind. I don’t know, but it’s both comforting and encouraging to be reminded that my life is still in God’s hands, and God can be trusted.

“But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand…” (Psalm 31:14-15a).

I’m also reminded that our sin does not have to be the end of the story. Our sin cannot thwart the sovereign purpose of God. You and I should be glad about that! God’s plan is not derailed because of our sin and rebellion and disobedience. Our God is sovereign, even over our sinful choices, and He is more than able to work out His purpose in spite of us.

If you, like me, have sinned and messed up, first of all, you need to repent, turn to Christ Jesus as Lord, and receive the forgiveness He purchased with His blood on the cross. Then, be encouraged to know that your sin is not the end of the story. God has a plan, and His plans have never been thwarted. He has the power to bring good out of bad, to the praise of His glorious grace.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Soul Loves Jesus

These kinds of songs and hymns, sung in the inimitable style of the Black Church, move me like no others can. They “take me back”, causing me to reflect on the journey. Jesus has “brought me a mighty long way” (as the old folks would say), by His grace. I owe Him thanks; thanks is due Him. I thank the Lord Jesus for His life, His death, His rising again. My soul does love Jesus, but I love Him because He first loved me.

Listen…and reflect…and worship.

“At the Cross”

“Down At the Cross”

“Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross”

“Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior”

“He Will Carry You Through” (“Yield Not To Temptation”)

“Oh, How I Love Jesus”

“My Soul Loves Jesus”

“Truly Reformed”

Dr. Ray Ortlund writes on his blog,

“I believe in the sovereignty of God, the Five Points of Calvinism, the Solas of the Reformation, I believe that grace precedes faith in regeneration. Theologically, I am Reformed. Sociologically, I am simply a Christian—or at least I want to be. The tricky thing about our hearts is that they can turn even a good thing into an engine of oppression. It happens when our theological distinctives make us aloof from other Christians. That’s when, functionally, we relocate ourselves outside the gospel and inside Galatianism.”

Read the entire post…

On a related note, there is this post which I wrote almost two years ago: “A Christian, first”.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Blacks, Obama, and the Election

For those (and there are many) who wonder why conservative, evangelical, Bible-believing, pro-life, Black Christians would consider voting for Barack Obama, I would suggest you read this article by Eric Redmond. He put into words what I feel in my heart—and I’m sure I’m not alone in how I feel about this election, even if I can’t always put it into printable words. So, if you’re wondering what’s going on with Black folks, read what this brother has written, and read, keeping a fair and open mind about it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

“The Glory of Preaching the Bible”

Today marks the 499th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin (July 10, 1509-May 27, 1564). John Piper writes of how Calvin inspires him to persevere in the task of preaching the Bible. Read it, and pray that God would be pleased to bless the church in our day with real preaching—preaching which is deep and powerful and searching.

We are family…

Last weekend, my family and I were in Memphis, Tennessee for the Lovelace Family Reunion. Most of this branch of the family tree live in the South (Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia), although there is still a fairly large contingent of us in the Chicago area and in parts of Ohio. However, having been raised by Southern-born-and-bred people, I always feel right at home in the South. We had a great time.

This reunion was a gathering of the descendents of Robert and Harriet Lovelace, my great-great-great-great grandparents. As slaves, they arrived in Florence, Alabama in 1833. Most of those present at the reunion, including myself, come through Robert and Harriet’s son and daughter-in-law, Sam (1849-1921) and Mollie Rice Lovelace (1852-1926).
A few interesting facts about Mollie Rice Lovelace: Mollie was the daughter of her slavemaster, Mr. Rice, through his slave Sarah. Mollie was, what was commonly termed in those days, a mulatto: the offspring of one white and one Black parent. That, in part, accounts for the very light complexion of the older generations of Lovelaces.
Between 1871 and 1899, Mollie gave birth to 16 children by Sam Lovelace. Three died before the age of 3, but the other 13 all lived to adulthood.
Also, through Mollie Lovelace’s family, we can trace back to an African ancestor, Betty Rice—Sarah Rice’s mother and Mollie’s grandmother. Betty Rice (also called “Granny”), according to her own testimony, was a Hottentot. The Hottentot were a tribe from the area in and around what is today the country of South Africa. It is a testimony to the remarkable providence of God that captured Africans, like “Granny”, and their descendants not only survived slavery, but have thrived as a people.

Here is the only known photo of Betty “Granny” Rice:

Below is a photo of last weekend’s reunion gathering:

Finally, here are some photos of Sam and Mollie Lovelace and 12 of their 13 surviving offpring:

Back row (left to right): Cornelia, Mollie, Mattie Sue, Ella and Ada Lovelace. Front row (left to right): Jim Lovelace, Jim Hawkins (a cousin), Sam Sr., George, Sam Jr. and Albert Lovelace. This photo dates from about 1905.

(Left to right) Sisters Lizzie Lovelace Duncan (1874-1962) and Frankie Lovelace Duncan (1876-1946). Frankie is my great-great grandmother. Some trivia: These two Lovelace sisters, against their father’s wishes, eloped and married the Duncan brothers, Barney and Richmond (my great-great grandfather) on Frankie’s 20th birthday, February 5, 1896. All indications are both marriages were happy, and lasted until Barney’s death in 1945 and Frankie’s death in 1946.

Robert Lovelace (1871-1957) and Cornelia Lovelace Mosby (1895-1958).

Albert Lovelace (1892-1943), Ada Lovelace Ingram (1897-1953) and Andrew Lovelace (1899-1939).

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Gay pride?

This past Sunday, several big cities across the country held “Pride Parades” in commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall riots and in celebration of “gay pride”. Obviously, our world has changed but, in this respect, I don’t think it’s been for the better.

Why do there have to be pride parades? What is the purpose of advertising one’s sexual orientation? For example, I’m very happy to be married to my wife (soon to be eighteen years), but I don’t want to celebrate in the streets what happens in our bedroom. Why? Because it doesn’t belong in the streets! In fact, it’s nobody else’s business! So, why do homosexuals want to parade their sexual orientation before a watching world? The idea of parading one’s sexual orientation in public strikes me as bizarre, even narcissistic.

Also, why gay “pride”, as if homosexuality is some sort of accomplishment or badge of honor? Or is gay pride simply an assertion of one’s equality and self-worth because of past discrimination and oppression, sort of like the homosexual equivalent of the 1960s and 70s Black pride movement? Well, since basic male/female anatomy and reproductive biology demonstrates that homosexuality is not natural or normal, and human genetics proves that race is, literally, only skin deep (meaning there really is no difference between Blacks and any other race), it is almost insulting to compare homosexuality to race. To put it another way, Blackness is not a genetic anomaly; homosexuality is an anomaly. Don’t put my race in the same category with a trait that is unnatural and abnormal. There is no comparison.

For those of us who take God’s word seriously, homosexuality is not just unnatural, the flaunting of it not just narcissistic. Homosexuality is also sinful. Homosexuality is never, ever held in a positive light in the Scriptures. Rather, the word of God judges homosexuality as “contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:10-11). In other words, homosexuality doesn’t fit the gospel (and, it should go without saying, Christians should have nothing to do with it). Homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and such, are “dishonorable passions”, and the acts are “contrary to nature”, “shameless” and in “error” (Romans 1:26, 27). Before God, homosexuality is “an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13).

I’m not trying to be mean-spirited. This is simply what the Bible declares. I certainly don’t want to come across as self-righteous; I know I am anything but perfect. Before the word of God, I stand condemned, along with the rest of humanity. Nevertheless, my sins and imperfections give me no right to ignore God’s word. “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Romans 3:4). If God calls homosexuality sin, if he says it is shameful and dishonorable—even an abomination—I dare not try to dress it up and make it sound better than God says it is.

Please understand, I’m not naïve; I know homosexuality has been around since ancient times, mentioned in the Bible as early as Genesis. Over the years, I’ve known plenty of homosexuals (in and out of the church, by the way). So, I don’t have in my mind some wild image of homosexuals fed by homophobic hysteria. Most homosexuals I know (and have known) are likeable people. But, niceness doesn’t change the character of sin. Sin is still dirty in God’s sight.

Most people, I suppose, don’t believe nice people are sinners. Two states—Massachusetts and California—have legalized gay marriage, and probably more will follow suit. The United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church and, now, the Presbyterian Church, USA, have given their approval to homosexuality at all levels of the church. It’s not “politically correct” to oppose homosexuality. Some would consider what I’m writing here to be “hate speech”, worthy of censorship. But that’s because we care too much about what people think of us and don’t care at all what God thinks of us.

Nevertheless, I remind you, as I remind myself, Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4-5). It is God, Jesus reminds us, who has the authority to cast into hell. We’d better be concerned about what he thinks.

We live in a sad day. Especially when it comes to the subject of homosexuality, it’s almost like most of the Western world has been put under a demonic spell. We’ve not only lost our ability to discern right from wrong, but we’ve also lost the ability, it seems, to feel shame.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

“Though 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.” (Romans 1:32).

Sin is nothing to be proud of. Rather, we should feel deeply ashamed. We should not celebrate our sin; we should mourn. Unless we repent, we will most surely face God’s awful wrath.

Talk is cheap!

If you love me, you will obey what I command (John 14:15).

Love is proven by actions. It’s not that words are unimportant—they are meaningful and vitally important to the beloved one—but the proof of love is in the actions of the lover. This is true in all our relationships: the one who loves will demonstrate that love through acts of love. There’s an old saying: “Talk is cheap!” When it comes to love, talk is cheap. Words of love must be accompanied by loving deeds, if the words are to mean anything.

One definition of a Christian is “one who loves Christ” (e.g., John 8:42; Ephesians 6:24). Question: Do you love Christ Jesus? How do you know? After all, you can’t see Jesus or touch him. Just how do you love one you can’t see? Jesus gave us the answer: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Our love for Jesus is proven by our actions.

Jesus is the eternal Word—God in human flesh (John 1:1, 14). The Bible—both Old and New Testaments—is the word of God: “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). Therefore, to obey what Jesus commands is, in essence, to obey the Bible.

My friend, whether or not we love Jesus—that is, whether or not we are Christians—is not a matter of what words we say or sing; it’s a matter of how devoted we are to his word, the Bible. Do you love the word of God? Do you cherish the Scriptures? Is your heart’s desire to obey what God has said? If you love Jesus, you love his word.

Believer in Jesus, make it your business to get in God’s word. Read it, study it, know it and, then, obey it. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

Monday, June 30, 2008

Words of eternal life

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).

The news about humanity is not good:

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

This is the harsh truth about you and me.

Against this bleak backdrop shines the glorious light of the gospel—the “good news” about which Paul wanted to remind believers: “Christ died for our sins…was buried” and “was raised on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Why is this good news? I believe Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, states the case accurately when he says, “The heart of the gospel message, the whole reason the church exists, is that every one of us has sinned and separated ourselves from God. But God, in his tremendous and incredible love, has taken on flesh in Christ, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross in the place of every sinner who turns and trusts in him. And he calls us now to repent and to believe in him” [Mark Dever, The Message of the New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Book, 2005), pp 218-219.].

For people enslaved to sin, alienated from God and under an eternal sentence of death—people like you and me—the gospel is a message of liberation, reconciliation and life eternal. The gospel is the message by which we are saved. Good news, indeed!

Notice, the gospel is “according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4). It cannot be found anywhere else. Think of it: If God had not given us his word, we would have never known the gospel, and no one would be saved. This is why we must “hold firmly” to God’s word; our lives depend upon it. Within its pages are “words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Sunday, June 29, 2008

God’s unchanging, powerful word

You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you (1 Peter 1:23-25).

We live in a world of rapid change; very few things stay the same. However, there is one thing which never changes: the word of God. The sixty-six books which comprise the Bible are not today being added to; there are no new revelations from God. God has spoken! Neither does anyone have the right to remove (or ignore) any part of the Bible which is already there. In fact, God has given stern warnings against adding to or taking away from his word (e.g., Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19).

According to the apostle Peter, the Bible is “imperishable” (you can’t destroy it), “abiding” (it can stand up under any attack) and it “remains forever” (it is immortal). How do we know this is so? Because God’s word is as eternal as God is. The Bible lasts because God lasts. The Bible is forever relevant because God is eternally relevant.

Not only is the Bible unchanging, but it is a living book, alive with God’s power and authority, through the Holy Spirit. How much power? Enough power to raise dead sinners to life.

Without Christ Jesus, every human being is spiritually dead, alienated from God and lost without hope (Luke 15; Ephesians 2:1-3, 12; 4:18; Colossians 1:21; 2:13). Dead people can’t raise themselves. It is only through the word of God that people are born again and given spiritual life. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Without the Bible, absolutely no one can be saved. Through the preaching of the good news about Jesus, dead sinners live!

Dear reader, have you heard and believed the good news about Jesus which the Bible declares? Have you experienced the life-giving power of God’s ever-living word? Do you daily depend upon its relevant and trustworthy guidance?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Let’s spend more time doing this

What’s the most useful thing that evangelical, Bible-believing Christians can do for the Presidential candidates? Pray for them. Instead of criticizing, try praying for Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, praying especially for their salvation. Both men need Jesus, don’t you agree? Praying is something every Christian can do, and it’s a whole lot more effective than criticism.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Basking in the afterglow of the New Life Fellowship Bible Conference 2008

The 2008 New Life Fellowship Church Bible Conference was, truly, a blessing to our souls. The epistle to the Galatians was expounded each session, as we asked the question, “What Difference Does the Gospel Make?” All the speakers were greatly used by God to open up His blessed word: Pastor Louis Love (Introduction & chapter 5), Anthony Carter (chapters 1 & 4), Stephen Love (chapter 2) and Thabiti Anyabwile (chapters 3 &.6). On Sunday morning, our souls were fed God’s word as Dr. Hensworth Jonas of Antigua powerfully preached Romans 6:17-22, and after the worship service, our bodies were fed good food, provided by the loving people of New Life Fellowship.

A great weekend was spent singing and worshiping God, listening to the word of God, and sharing warm fellowship with the people of God. Information about recordings can be obtained here. Below, I have posted a few photos:

Anthony Carter

Stephen Love

Pastor Louis Love

Thabiti Anyabwile

Dr. Hensworth Jonas singing and accompanying himself

Yours truly, preparing to lead the gathering in song

Friday, June 20, 2008

What Difference Does the Gospel Make?—June 19-21

The theme for this year’s Annual Bible Conference at New Life Fellowship Church is “What Difference Does the Gospel Make?”—a study of the book of Galatians. The speakers are Anthony Carter, Assistant Pastor for Preaching and Teaching at Southwest Christian Fellowship, Atlanta, GA; Thabiti Anyabwile, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; and Louis Love, Pastor of New Life Fellowship.

The conference began last night with Pastor Love introducing the book of Galatians and Pastor Carter expounding the first chapter of Galatians. We benefited from some good teaching about the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If you live within driving distance of Vernon Hills, Illinois, it is not too late to catch the remainder of the conference tonight and tomorrow morning. From more details, time and location, click here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

“Thank You, God, for ‘Pa Bill’”: Father’s Day 2008

Today was Father’s Day and, as this day comes to a close, I want to pay tribute to the man who was “father” to me: my great-grandfather, William Gray—or “Pa Bill”, as all of us grandchildren and great-grandchildren called him. Pa Bill was actually my maternal grandfather’s step-father; he had no children of his own. So, for all practical purposes, from the time he and “Grandma” agreed to take me in when I was two-months old, I was Pa Bill’s son.

I would have to write a book to fully describe Pa Bill’s significance in my life. Until the end of his life, Pa Bill was my greatest supporter, and was a true father to me. For one thing, Pa Bill was present and involved in my life. He attended every piano recital I performed in, every concert and every graduation (junior high, high school and college). He took me to Sunday School and church (and was in attendance, himself), and was present both when I joined the church and when I was baptized. Although terminally ill with cancer, Pa Bill was also there when I preached my first sermon. For every major event in my life, until he died, Pa Bill was there.

Pa Bill taught me so many things: how to ride a bike; how to use a hammer, saw, planer, level, sandpaper, wrench, screwdriver; how to paint, how to smooth cement, how to cut grass and shovel snow, how to start a car, how to check the oil and un-stick a carburetor—I could literally go on and on. Ironically, Pa Bill also helped me learn how to read. Ironically, I say, because he could barely read, himself.

Although Pa Bill held no position of significance in the eyes of the world, he meant a whole lot to me. He was God-fearing, law-abiding, hard-working, dependable and honest—a real man a boy like me could look up to.

Pa Bill died almost 19 years ago, but his influence lingers on in my life. I hope and pray I can have the same lasting influence for good in my sons’ lives that Pa Bill has had in mine.

I thank God for giving Pa Bill to me.

“The glory of children is their fathers” (Proverbs 17:6b).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

“Proud” of my country?

This morning, in the Chicago Tribune, I read the following quote of Tennessee state GOP chair Robin Smith, about Michelle Obama (you may recall that Mrs. Obama stated, after one of her husband’s primary wins, that she felt “proud” of her country for the first time in her adult life):

“Her comments substantiated that Barack Obama and his wife don’t relate to the average American, who still flies the flag on the 4th of July, still gets chills when the Air Force planes fly over… It just feeds the narrative that they’re essentially out of touch with America.”

Personally, I found that comment insulting and condescending. Why? Because, I think I understand exactly what Mrs. Obama meant or felt when she made that oft-quoted comment. For one thing, Mrs. Obama and I share at least one thing in common: We are both Black. We have both experienced living as Black people in America. Am I, somehow, “out of touch with America” because I can relate to Mrs. Obama? I don’t think so. I am a native-born American. My family has been in this country at least 180 years (my best guess as to when my most recent African ancestor was brought to this country as a slave). My grandfather and my father-in-law were World War II veterans. One of my uncles served in the Peace Corps. This is my country and I don’t desire to live anywhere else. It is for these reasons—and because I understand where Mrs. Obama is coming from—that I seriously doubt Sen. and Mrs. Obama are out of touch with America.

On the contrary, I think Ms. Smith is out of touch with Black Americans.

You see, I grew up in an all-Black neighborhood (and it wasn’t a “ghetto”, by the way). I don’t recall many flags flying on the 4th of July, nor do I recall many (if any) Blacks relating to me how Air Force jets flying in formation overhead gave them chills. Does Ms. Smith think that Black people like those who lived in my old neighborhood were, somehow, un-American because they didn’t get goose bumps over the mere mention of the USA?

Do I love my country? Yes, I do. However, I also recognize that my country has been guilty of sponsoring or condoning or tolerating injustice towards people of African descent (and other ethnic groups, also) ever since we became a country. Further, I know that racism, racial discrimination and racial prejudice still exist in my country. Nevertheless, I do love my country. Why is it that some people equate love with lying? Can’t I tell the truth and still love? Does love for my country require that I not tell the truth about my country?

Do I think there has been no improvement in justice and race relations in our country over the past 232 years that we’ve been a nation? Of course not! There has been great improvement and advancement in race relations over the past 40 years. Racism is now illegal everywhere, and overt racial discrimination is rare. But, it would be less than honest for me not to admit that, in general, Black people are still not treated equally. Racism and racial and ethnic discrimination nowadays is, for the most part, covert and subtle, hard to detect and even harder to prove, but it still exists.

So, I think I understand why Mrs. Obama said she was proud of this country for the first time in her adult life. I certainly never thought I’d see the day when a Black man would become the presumptive nominee of a major political party. I think most Black people can understand and relate to Mrs. Obama.

Here’s the question, however: Can Ms. Smith (or anyone who shares her expressed view of the Obamas) relate to the average Black person?

Here’s another question: Why is it so important for the Obamas—or anyone else—to be proud of the United States?

I will gladly admit to anyone that I’m grateful for my country. I thank God for the United States. But, “proud” is not a word I would want to use. Why would I want to boast in the United States? What do we as a country have to proud about? We have much to be ashamed of, but why should we boast? If there’s anything good about our country (and, don’t misunderstand, there are many good things about this country), the credit belongs to God, and only to God. Therefore, we should not boast. Remember, “God resists the proud” (I know that truth applies to individuals, but does it not also apply to countries as well?).

I don’t believe that Mrs. Obama not being proud of her country before now is a problem. I think, perhaps, the problem is that those who were so offended by her comment are too proud.

Me and my big mouth

Below is the trailer about the upcoming Desiring God 2008 National Conference. However, the reason I’m posting this clip is because of what is said on here about the tongue. For someone like me, whose thoughts often leak out of my mouth, when they would have been better kept inside my head, this was a helpful and convicting reminder.

James 1:26; 3:1-12

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

HT: Abraham Piper