Thursday, December 31, 2009

My prayer for the New Year…

…from Charles Wesley (1707-1788):

Jesus, thine all-victorious love
Shed in my heart abroad:
Then shall my feet no longer rove,
Rooted and fixed in God.

O that in me the sacred fire
Might now begin to glow;
Burn up the dross of base desire,
And make the mountains flow.

O that it now from heaven might fall,
And all my sins consume:
Come, Holy Ghost, for Thee I call;
Spirit of burning, come.

Refining fire, go through my heart;
Illuminate my soul;
Scatter Thy life through every part,
And sanctify the whole.

My steadfast soul, from falling free,
Shall then no longer move;
While Christ is all the world to me,
And all my heart is love.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Don’t forget what you are

I read this over at Pure Church:

“There is only one human ‘race,’ yet there are two spiritual races—the race of Adam and the race of Christ. At the judgment seat of Christ, our biological commonality will be infinitely less important than whether we have been made new through faith and union with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection to share in His glory as a redeemed humanity.”

Read the rest, here.

He being dead yet speaketh

Good advice on listening to sermons from George Whitefield (1714-1770), here.

“Counsel to a young church planter” (and good advice for any ol’ pastor)

From Dr. D.A. Carson at the Gospel Coalition blog:

“The following post was first an email to a young church planter seeking counsel. He is planting a church in a rough area. Not a few of those who are getting converted have been living together, sometimes with children, sometimes for years, without getting married. His question, then, is what should be said to these couples where one of the pair gets converted, and the other, so far, does not. Should the advice be to get married? Or is that encouraging people to be unequally yoked?”

Read Dr. Carson’s advice, here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Even with a degree, you’re still black

I came across this article from the New York Times today. I just had to post a link to it because it struck such a very personal chord with me. That race plays a factor in one’s ability to get or stay in a job is no mere theory for me; it’s reality. It does, indeed, seem that even with a college degree, you’re still black in the eyes of some who refuse to look past skin color. I encourage you to read this article. You need to know this.

Whenever a Black man like me brings up race, someone white will complain that he’s only “playing the race card”. Granted, some Blacks are guilty of playing the race card, that’s true; but, if you ask me, it’s equally true that some whites accuse Blacks of playing the race card only as a way to minimize real concerns about the real racism that still holds sway in our country.

One of my greatest frustrations (perhaps other Blacks share my frustration; I don’t know, because I’ve never asked) is the fact that racism has become so sophisticated and subtle in present-day America that it’s practically impossible to prove most of the time. After all, we can’t judge people’s motives. We can’t see someone’s heart, we’re told. A Black person like me can experience it, life experience has taught you how to recognize it, but you can’t prove it, because it’s in the heart. If you mention the possibility of racism, you’re accused of impugning someone else’s motives. You become a “problem” that needs correction. Meanwhile, racism suffers no consequences; it survives and thrives, unexposed and unchallenged. “This has nothing to do with race”, the racially-influenced person will protest. But, it’s just like Grandma used to say, “What you do speaks so loud, I can’t hear what you say.”

The way I’ve learned to deal with racism is by learning to lean on my theology. I believe in a Day of Judgment. I believe that God knows exactly what’s going on. It’s just like the psalmist wrote (Psalm 33:13-15):

The LORD looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.

Pa Bill used to say, “He sits high, and looks low, and He sees the deep secrets of everyone’s heart.” Pa Bill (who could barely read, and so, rarely read the Bible) didn’t know just how biblically accurate he was! I tell you, if I didn’t know that God would take care of it in the end—if I didn’t know that there was a future day of reckoning—I don’t know that I would be able to forgive. But, because I know God is just and fair, and will right all wrongs in the end, I can forgive. I can also forgive because I know God dealt with my sins in Christ on the cross.

God knows, you get tired of being treated as if you’re less—less qualified, less competent, less intelligent, less trustworthy, less valued, less worthy of respect—simply because of your skin. You need to be a Christian to survive and keep your sanity!

“My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” Nowhere is that more true than in the church! Racism, favoritism, injustice and sinful bias will be in this sinful world until Jesus comes back, but it has no place among the people of God. Christian, make sure you do your part to insure that your church is striving to be a fellowship where all kinds of people can feel welcome, valued, included and loved (and I’m so sorry the mainline church has co-opted and corrupted perfectly good words like “welcoming” and “inclusive”. Know that I am in no way suggesting that the church be “welcoming” and “inclusive” in the sense of condoning that which the Bible clearly describes as sin. But, also know that skin color, ethnicity, single parenthood, poverty and lack of sophistication or formal education are not sins.). I’m grateful that my family and I have found such a church.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do you really believe God answers prayer?

I live in Illinois, and so I knew President Obama as my U.S. Senator before I knew him as my President. Based on his own words, some of his political positions and some of his political actions over the years, I have never believed that Mr. Obama is a true Christian (contrary to his public profession).

Like many Christians, I am troubled by some of President Obama’s political decisions. However, unlike many of my fellow believers, I reject the divisive, mean-spirited, almost-racist rhetoric of some of the loudest mouths on the Right (Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, et al.), and I reject the hostile and oppositional methods that flow from that kind of rhetoric.

I read that “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1). So, why don’t we Christians pray like we believe that's true? Rather than complain (like so many conservatives are doing), let us pray wholeheartedly for President Obama’s salvation. I believe the Lord Jesus can give him a new heart, and I believe a new heart in our President will result in a new way of thinking and a brand new worldview.

Do you believe God will do that, if we pray?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Spiritual Pride

“There is no sin so much like the devil as this…”

Read the entire quote, here.

HT: Ray Ortlund

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shout for joy!

Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise!
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
All the earth worships you
and sings praises to you;
they sing praises to your name.”
(Psalm 66:1-4)

I was glad to read this post by Justin Childers.

Now, I just wish I had the courage to actually put it into practice! Childers mentioned that prideful people do not shout. Timid and self-conscious people do not shout, either. So, whether overly-conscious of self or overly-conscious of others, either way, we keep our praise of God in check. May God free us to praise Him.

Also, follow this link to my church’s online sermons page. Find and listen to the message from Dr. Craig Williford, President of Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL, who was our guest preacher today. Dr. Williford preached on “Trusting In the God You Don’t Expect” from the book of Habakkuk. This was definitely God’s word to me today.

To tell you the truth: After hearing this message, I felt like shouting...although I didn’t dare (Pray for me!).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Around the blogosphere

With my mind filled with thoughts and concerns over life, work, ministry, vocation, etc., I have just not been in the mood this Fall to write or read a whole lot. However, I have been browsing the blogs. Here are a few things I have come across in the past couple of days that I think you will find helpful and edifying:

Three video clips featuring Dr. Don Carson:

How do I know God exists?

How do I know God exists? from A Passion for Life on Vimeo.

How can God allow suffering and evil in the world?

How can God allow suffering and evil in the world? from A Passion for Life on Vimeo.

How can God be loving yet send people to hell?

How can God be loving yet send people to hell? from A Passion for Life on Vimeo.

At the same site, I also found these clips:

Hasn’t science disproved God?

Hasn't Science disproved God? from A Passion for Life on Vimeo.

Don’t other religions lead to God?

Don't other religions lead to God? from A Passion for Life on Vimeo.

You can view all the “A Passion for Life” videos here.

Kevin DeYoung writes a good word the church needs to heed, titled, “Divorce and Remarriage: A Smokescreen and a Fire”

Finally, the Texas Department of Corrections has a website with the last words of over 400 death row inmates just before they were executed. It is sobering to read just a few. It brought tears to my eyes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Great, fatherly advice

By far the best advice I have received this year came from a dead man. I found it in the words of the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) to his daughter, Elizabeth, in a letter he wrote to her in 1948. In answer to her questions about how she could know whether or not it was the will of God for her to be an overseas missionary, Dr. Lloyd-Jones had this to say:

The one vital, all-important thing is to know the will of God. It is not as easy as it sometimes sounds. I was for over two years in a state of uncertainty and indecision before leaving medicine for the pulpit. But in the end it was made absolutely and perfectly clear and mainly by means of things which God did.

These are the rules which I would advise you to observe:

1. Never speak to anyone about it. Don’t tell people what you are feeling and discuss it and ask for advice. That always leads to still more uncertainty and confusion. Make an absolute rule of this at all costs. Say nothing until you are absolutely certain, because we are all subject to self suggestion.

2. Do not even think about it and discuss the pros and cons with yourself. Once more this leads to auto suggestion and confusion.

3. In meetings, etc. do not start with the thought in your mind, “I wonder whether this is going to throw light on my question or help in any way?”

4. In other words, you must not try to anticipate God’s leading. Believing as I do that God does “call” very definitely, and in a distinct and definite doctrine of a call, and a vocation is distinct from “the need is the call” idea, I believe that Good will always make His will and His way plain and clear. With reverence, therefore, I say leave it to God entirely as regards purpose, time and all else.

All you have to do is to tell God that you are content to do His will whatever it may be and, more, that you will rejoice to do His will. Surrender yourself, your life, your future entirely to Him and leave it at that… You must not go on asking God to show you His way. Leave it to Him and refuse to consider it until He makes it impossible for you not to do so.

Also remember…that “to be” comes before “to do”. That is where we all fail. Our business is to make ourselves such instruments as shall be fit and meet for the Master’s use. He always tells such people how and where and when He wants to use them. You prepare yourself and He will then show you what He wants you to do.

[Iain H. Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith 1939-1981 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1990), pp. 177-178.]

Over the past few months, I’ve grown to believe that Dr. Lloyd Jones may have been on to something when he said, “Don’t tell people what you are feeling and discuss it and ask for advice”. Sometimes, unfortunately, talking to fellow humans can be a waste of time, because they just can’t understand. Sometimes, only God truly understands. Loneliness is one means by which God can teach us to be totally dependent upon Him. Connected with Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ excellent counsel that “to be” comes before “to do”, I learn that my main business is to spend much time alone with God in prayer, depending upon God’s Spirit as I submit myself to the word of God.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Understanding and responding to homosexuality

Café Biblia has posted a very useful and biblically-informed article on homosexuality. You may read it here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

“Sexual Detox”

Tim Challies just completed what I think is a very needful series of articles on “sexual detoxification”. As Challies explains it,

“My great concern with young men today (which is really more a concern for their young wives) is that they may perhaps inadvertently or perhaps intentionally pornify the marriage bed. They may bring impurity to the pure, selfishness to the selfless. Having given themselves over to pornography, they have had their whole perception of sexuality altered, shaped by professional pornographers. They may be imposing on their young brides the impossible expectation of a porn star. With the vast majority of young men having been exposed to pornography (at least 90% according to recent studies), with a large percentage of them having been addicted to it and with many enjoying it still as they enter into marriage, they need to have their understanding and their expectations reset according to the One who created sex.

“Many young men need a kind of sexual detox before they are equipped to be the kind of pure, loving, attentive, sacrificial husbands that God calls them to be. In this series of articles I hope to help young men reorient their understanding of sex, both in the big picture and in the act itself, according to God’s plan for this great gift.”

The series contains 5 parts:

Sexual Detox I: Pornifying the Marriage Bed

Sexual Detox II: Breaking Free

Sexual Detox III: A Theology of Sex

Sexual Detox IV: Detoxification

Sexual Detox V: Freedom
Update: Tim Challies has posted two online guides which can be downloaded free.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Out in the blogosphere

Below are the links to some posts I've come across in the blogosphere over the past few days that I found edifying. I hope you also find them profitable.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The best kind of laughter

Lately, this has been the feel-good video I turn to when I want a good, refreshing laugh.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Holding on

In 1 Peter 5:8, we find these words:

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

The past couple of weeks I’ve been reminded of this verse and the reality that believers in Christ Jesus have a real adversary. How easy it is to forget that we have to contend with a real devil—he is not a myth. Of course, I can’t prove anything empirically. I have no photos, no eyewitness accounts or DNA evidence that I can produce. Nevertheless, I know the devil is real for two reasons: 1) Because the Bible tells me so, and 2) Because of the kind of thoughts, feelings and emotions my wife and I have been experiencing.

Currently, except for weekly piano accompanying responsibilities that I have at our church and at our local area’s community college, I am unemployed. This current period of unemployment is the latest chapter in a saga that has gone on much too long. My personal story is no secret to those who have known me long and have known me well, but it is much too long to share in detail here (if you really want to know, talk to me in person, when you have an hour or two to spare). Suffice it to say, years of significant disappointments and unanswered questions have had negative effects on both of us, to the point that both my wife, Catherine, and I have been struggling with negative thoughts and feelings.

Believing in the sovereignty of God over everyone and everything, I know the circumstances that have come upon my family have come from the hand of a loving God, who is also my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ. However, I also know these negative thoughts and feelings that Catherine and I have been experiencing are not of God, but bear the unmistakable marks of our “adversary the devil [who] prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”, whom Jesus called a “thief” who “comes…to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

The best book on trials and suffering that I know is the Bible book of Job. One thing we learn from Job is that it is possible for both God and the devil to be at work through the same events. Job’s story allows us in behind the scenes to see that the devil was at work in the catastrophic trials that fell upon Job. Yet, these same trials came about by God’s permission, enabling Job to correctly proclaim that “the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away” (Job 1:21). God had, in effect, taken away Job’s health, cattle and children. In the same way, even though the Bible teaches me that my family’s circumstances have come about by the will of God (God “has taken away”), it also teaches me that the discouragement, depression, doubt and despair that Catherine and I have experienced as a result of these same circumstances are from the devil.

It is no wonder then that Peter, speaking of our adversary, writes, “Resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:9a). Why should believers need to be exhorted to be firm in their faith? Because our faith is the object of the devil’s attack. The devil seeks to undermine our trust and confidence in God and God’s word. That’s what the old serpent did in the garden of Eden; that’s what’s been happening to me and my wife. At first, I thought it was just me. Then I found out Catherine has also been having a terrible struggle that she’s been keeping to herself. It turn out both of us have been tempted to doubt God’s care and love. Both of us have been tempted to doubt the efficacy of our prayers because certain prayers have gone so long unanswered. We’ve both been tempted in different ways to give up hope. Our faith has been under attack.

But, I read this word: “Humble yourselves…under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). So, this is what I will do, and will encourage Catherine to do: In humility, I will acknowledge that this current period of unemployment and the prior long years of career-related disappointments have come from the hand of our heavenly Father who loves us. I still don’t understand why, and I won’t pretend there is no anxiety about the future, but we have here in the text an invitation from our mighty God—a God who cares for us—to cast our anxieties upon Him. I won’t question God, because He knows what He’s doing; rather, I will choose to obey Him.

There’s something else we must do: “Be sober-minded; be watchful” (1 Peter 5:8). There is a devil, and he is real. Therefore, we need to be “sober-minded”—alert, aware and vigilant—and “watchful”, so that we do not fall prey to the enemy of our souls. The way we can obey God’s command in 1 Peter 5:8-9 is to purposefully, and stubbornly cling to God’s word. God’s word is true, regardless of what happens to us. His word is true even when we can see no evidence that our prayers are being answered. The Bible remains true even when the circumstances of life threaten to smother us to death. God’s word is true!

Maybe you find yourself in circumstances similar to me and my wife. I encourage you, as I encourage myself, to humble yourself under God’s mighty hand. God knows what He’s doing, and you can trust Him. God also cares for you. You can tell Him your concerns. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Get alone so that you can freely pour out your heart to God. Finally, be alert and aware of the work of your enemy. Don’t take the devil for granted; he is real, and he will literally kill you, if possible. Misery loves company, so the devil doesn’t want to go to hell alone, and multitudes are following him to eternal misery. If the devil can’t get your soul, he’ll content himself with rendering you powerless and ineffective in the Lord’s work. Don’t let him do it! “Resist him, firm in your faith.” Stand pat on the word of God. “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Romans 3:4).

Say, like the late Dorothy Love-Coates (1928-2002), “I’m holding on, and I won’t let go of my faith”. Enjoy this recording, and be encouraged.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Amazing Promises

Lately, I’ve been thinking about prayer. There are some tremendously amazing promises in the word of God, addressed to believers, in regards to prayer. They’re almost too good to be true.

But, they are true!

Below, I’ve printed several Scripture passages that never fail to grab my attention each time I read them. Even when you apply the necessary scriptural parameters and conditions, what God promises in these passages to the believer who prays is simply incredible!

I wonder, are we (am I) desperate enough for definite answers to prayer that we are willing to pray as if we really believe God’s word is true?

Read and meditate on the passages below. Then, “go into your room and shut the door and pray…”


5“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

7“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

16“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”


14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.


22And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”


1Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread, 4and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

5And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”


3Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

1 JOHN 3

18Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

19By this [i.e., our love] we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

1 JOHN 5

13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 14And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

“From within, out of the heart…”

Have you noticed all the fear, hostility and anger in the air of late? From the ongoing debate over national health care to the furor over the news that President Obama was going to address the nation’s schools, many Americans seem deeply upset.

I can imagine someone responding, “Of course, we’re upset! It’s because of all the [take your pick] liberal/socialistic/communistic/unconstitutional/anti-Christian/evil policies being forced upon this country by the Obama Administration!”

Apparently, it’s all the fault of President Obama.

Perhaps. But, I don’t think all this commotion is about policy. Whether at town hall meetings, on radio talk shows, at Internet blogs, or in reader comment sections in the newspaper, there is a level of public hostility, animosity and pent-up rage being directed at this President like I’ve never heard or read about before. Just last night, as our President was addressing a joint session of Congress regarding his proposals to overhaul healthcare, a congressman from South Carolina shouted “You lie!” Heckling directed at the President of the United States during a joint session of Congress by a congressman is simply unprecedented. That is, until now. No, this commotion is not simply about policy differences, conservative versus liberal, or because of a heightened sense of partisanship.

Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23). All this contemptuous language that we are hearing and reading about daily is but a reflection of the contempt, hostility and anger that, unfortunately, resides in the hearts and minds of many white people in this country. Some may object to my singling out white people, but haven’t you noticed that practically all of these angry people all across America are white? I’ve not seen any black people on the news, ranting and raving at town hall meetings, have you? Predominantly, we’re talking about angry white people.

Which brings me to this unavoidable conclusion: I think what is fueling much of this rage and anger is nothing other than latent white racism. It’s not the only thing, but it is playing a significant role in the furor.

Latent—adj., “present but invisible or inactive; lying hidden and undeveloped within a person or thing, as a quality or power.”

Some people seem to believe racism is mainly a thing of the past. They think, sure, there may be a few hate groups here and there, out on the fringe of society but, for the most part, racism is a dead issue. Well, first of all, there are more than just a few of these “fringe” groups, and the number is growing. But, secondly, the 13th, 15th and 24th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and several Civil Rights Acts, only made certain overtly racist acts illegal, and helped to dismantle the various forms of institutionalized racism that we had in this country. Racism, however, was never eradicated from our country, because racism is not a law written on paper, racism is a sin which resides in the human soul.

Having been “black in America” for 46 years now, I think I know a bit about racism. For the most part, the racism that we see in old black-and-white newsreels is gone. Racism today usually doesn’t parade around in white hoods, burn crosses on lawns, or lynch black men for being with white women (although it still, on occasion, hurls the “N-word” at black people). Today’s racism is much more sophisticated than the racism of the not-so-distant past. Today’s racism is very subtle and, therefore, hard to define. Because it’s so hard to pin down, it’s also very easy to deny. But, my sense, as a black man in America, is that the election of Barack Obama—an intelligent, highly educated and articulate “man of color”—as President of the United States has caused many white Americans to show their “true colors”, stirring up what has simply laid “hidden and undeveloped within”.

White America, the primary beneficiaries of America’s legacy of racism, has never truly acknowledged the sin of racism and turned wholeheartedly away from it. That has been the ongoing problem in the United States. White society just want blacks to forget about “it” and pretend it never happened, while at the same time they continue their practice of sophisticated, subtle racism. The Bible speaks of repentance. To repent is to turn around and turn away from sin. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13). Until there is a true turning away from racism by white America, there will never be true racial healing, and God will not heal our sick nation.

Jesus spoke what I believe is a relevant word regarding the racial tension that exists between whites and blacks, tensions which have always been present in our country: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). Black people in America, historically, have been (and, to a degree, continue to be) on the receiving end of racism. And, contrary to what some may think, the effects of racism on black people are real, not imaginary. My white fellow-Americans, when it comes to racial reconciliation, according to Jesus, the ball is in your court.

There is also a part that black Americans must play: We must be willing to forgive. Black Americans shouldn’t assume all whites are racist, because that’s not true. In every conflict with whites, blacks shouldn’t simply assume racist motives are at work. Too many of us carry around a racial chip on our shoulders. We have to let that go. Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). Personally, I’m not going to let white racism stand between me and God. If we black Americans are not willing to forgive, there will never be true racial healing, and God will not heal our communities.

I’ve stated it before: I do not believe that abortion or homosexuality are the greatest sins in America (they are sins, but not the greatest sins). For the most part, abortion and homosexuality are the sins of unregenerate or unsaved people (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Racism, however, is alive and well, unrepented of and without remorse, within the church, among those who profess allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. I firmly believe, next to unbelief, racism is America’s greatest sin because it is one of the sins-of-choice of far too many of us who claim to be Christians. It was so at the founding of this nation, and it still true today.

I’m not optimistic that racism will ever be eradicated. Until Jesus comes back and permanently rids this world of sin and all its evil effects, there will be racism. Nevertheless, there is something God’s people—Christians—can do: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). The church should be the one place where there is no racism. Christians have no business joining in all the angry, hate-filled, contemptuous speech that is out there. Stop listening to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and their ilk and, instead, get in God’s word. After all, we’re supposed to be followers of a “more excellent way”.
Photo: Bradley C. Bower/AP

Friday, August 28, 2009

“I have a dream”: 46 years later

Forty-six years ago on this day (I was just 39 days old), Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the march on Washington, DC. Although America has made enormous progress in 46 years, racism against Black people still exists, albeit in a more subtle and insidious form. That’s because racism is symptomatic of the sin which resides in the human soul. When Christ Jesus comes again as the Judge of all humanity, He will eradicate sin, ending racism forever. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Saved by the blood of the Crucified One

Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
Now ransomed from sin and a new work begun;
Sing praise to the Father and praise to the Son,
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!

Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
The angels rejoicing because it is done;
A child of the Father, joint heir with the Son,
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!

Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
The Father He spake, and His will it was done;
Great price of my pardon, His own precious Son;
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!

Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
All hail to the Father, all hail to the Son,
All hail to the Spirit, the great Three in One!
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!

Saved! Saved!
My sins are all pardoned, my guilt is all gone!
Saved! Saved!
I am saved by the blood of the Crucified One!

—S.J. Henderson

(You can listen to the tune here)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A matter of life or death

Somebody has said, “Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, cost you more than you want to pay.” I know that’s right…from experience.

But, here’s what God says:

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

The sins we allow ourselves to commit “wage war” against our souls. Sin strikes us at the depths of our beings. Sin is deadly: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Sin will take your soul to hell.

So, how should we respond to temptations to sin? We should run for our lives! Don’t hang around temptation, don’t think it over, don’t sample sin. Run! “So flee youthful passions…” (2 Timothy 2:22). But, God doesn’t want us to just run from sin. The Christian life isn’t as much about the avoidance of sin as it is about the pursuit of that which is pure and right and good: “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22, emphasis added).

Sin is deadly; it will destroy your soul. Rather than flirt with it, run from it. Flee, and then pursue. Run hard after God and the things of God. It’s a matter of life or death.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Family and my mother’s visit

To me, it’s always been a good thing to be with people I’ve never had to officially “meet” or be introduced to, because they’ve seemingly always been there. These are the people who are a part of my earliest memories, who’ve known me all my life, before I ever had a title or a position, before I ever had children or was married.

That’s why I appreciate family. I grew up with plenty of extended family. Grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents, aunts, uncles and a multitude of 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins were an integral part of my growing up years. Unfortunately, with the passage of time and the death of the oldest generations, and because we now live so far apart geographically, I rarely get to see my extended Duncan family (I do have an uncle who lives with his sons just a few miles away, but we hardly see him more than once a year, if that. But, that’s another story all together, too long to tell.).

You may remember my father visited for a few days back in March. I wrote about it here. Well, the first half of this week, my family and I were blessed to have my mother, Barbara, in town for a short visit. It was great for all of us to see her again, for the first time in several years, and to spend some time together. I, especially, enjoyed having the opportunity to laugh (my mother, like her late father, is gifted at telling funny stories) and share memories of family in days gone by.

Below are a few photos from my mother’s visit.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Friday, August 07, 2009

How Firm a Foundation

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
“As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.”

“Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”

“When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”

“Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.”

“The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”

—John Rippon’s A Selection of Hymns, 1787

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Corporal punishment and the discipline of God

I’ve been thinking about God’s discipline. From experience, I know God’s discipline is painful and sometimes severe, but it is always an expression of the Father’s infinite love for His children. In an era when fewer and fewer parents discipline their children, I wonder if, perhaps, many might balk at the idea of God painfully and severely disciplining His children. I was reared by folks who believed in physical punishment. I know what it means to have a parent “whup yo’ behin’” and even go “upside your head”. Because of that, I have no trouble embracing the biblical teaching about God’s discipline.

Now, don’t even bother to tell me anything about child abuse. I know what child abuse is and, as the recipient of my folks’ occasional physical discipline, I can tell you they did not abuse me. Grandma kept an old, worn-out belt in a kitchen drawer (she called it her “strap”) in the event she needed to dish out a spanking to me or my younger uncle (who is four-and-a-half years older than me). In no way do I believe it was wrong for her to use a belt. That belt never left any welts on anyone. And, yes, I did get slapped upside my head a couple times for talking back (I should have been slapped, in my opinion), but I didn’t suffer a concussion or brain damage, and no bruises were left on my head. In fact, I thank God for the few times I was physically punished. I say few, because, personally, I think I got away with too much. If Grandma and Pa Bill had worked on my behind a little more, or gone upside my head a few more times than they did, I think I would have been better off. Now, I’m aware that there may be some parents who have never used physical punishment in disciplining their children and yet have good, well-behaved and well-mannered children. I’ll admit that a talk and a time out might work with some passive, compliant children, but my experience and observation is that strong-willed, hard-headed children (like I was) need more than a mere talk; they need for a responsible adult to lay hands on them (and not just to pray for them!).

Those of you who might be quick to reject physical punishment as a method of discipline need to deal with Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 23:14 and 29:15. I am quite skeptical of any interpretation of Scripture that would make “the rod” a metaphor for discipline. I don’t believe such an interpretation is warranted in these verses, other than to appease the overly delicate sensitivities of contemporary Americans and Europeans. If you think I’m being extreme, then I also invite you to think long and seriously about what God said in Romans 1:29-32:

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 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.

Did you notice that among those deeds that God considers deserving of death is disobedience to parents? Did you see that? Have you ever considered that children and teenagers who disobey their parents deserve death? Think about that! Is God being extreme?

It is an understatement to say God takes our children’s disobedience and disrespect far more seriously than most of us do. We want to give our disobedient children a “time out”; God says they deserve to die. Who’s right: we or God? I say that if we saw our children more like God sees them, many of us wouldn’t be so squeamish about the need to sometimes employ physical punishment in the disciplining of our children. Loving physical punishment is an act of mercy with the goal of saving our children’s souls from a fate far worse than a spanking or a slap.

This is exactly what God does with His children. Sometimes God gives us a “time out”—sets us aside for a season so we can think on our ways—but, God also inflicts pain. How do I know? Because the Bible says discipline is “painful” (Hebrews 12:11). And, I can tell you from experience that God’s discipline hurts; it will make you cry sometimes, even drive you to your knees and make you cry out to Him for mercy. Yes, discipline hurts, but the writer of Hebrews wrote, “[God] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). God is trying to spare our souls from a fate far worse than the temporary pain of a spiritual spanking; He’s trying to save our souls from spiritual death (Hebrews 12:9).

Above all, God disciplines and inflicts pain because He loves His children. A good parent doesn’t spank his children because of hate; a good parent spanks out of love. I didn’t understand that when Grandma was spanking my behind or going upside my head, but after I became a parent I understood well what Grandma was doing. A parent inflicts physical pain upon their child because they understand that their child’s bad behavior and attitude will lead to misery later on in life. We spank because we want to spare our children from unnecessary grief. And, those of us who accept what the Bible says are also trying to save our children from eternal misery. Those sinners mentioned in Romans 1:29-32 not only deserve death here and now, but the text says God’s wrath is already revealed against them (Romans 1:18). They are destined for hell.

Best of all, God’s discipline is proof that I belong to Him. I don’t go around disciplining kids I’m not responsible for. If I see a child acting up in the mall, I don’t grab that child and spank him (though, I might think about it). I discipline my own children, because they belong to me and I’m responsible for them. In a similar way, God disciplines His own children. If you can’t say you’ve ever experienced God’s discipline, you’d better check yourself and make sure you belong to Him. God’s discipline is an evidence that we belong to Him; it is evidence of His love for us. Unlike some irresponsible parents, God doesn’t let His children run wild. Aren’t you glad about that? Aren’t you glad that He loves you enough to forcibly turn you from the way that is not right?

Read the entire passage from Hebrews (Hebrews 12:5-11) below, and thank God for His “severe mercy” towards you:

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Bible is still right

A troubling phenomenon I’ve noticed among some of us who profess to be Christians: Our faith and confidence in the Bible is conditional. That is to say, we believe the Bible as long as it doesn’t demand drastic change from us or condemn those we love.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon most often in the area of sexuality. For instance, someone will say they believe sex is reserved for one man and one woman in marriage until they meet someone they want to have sex with. Or, someone will say they believe homosexuality is sinful until their son or daughter “comes out of the closet”. When the Bible comes into conflict with their sexual urges or the urges of their loved ones, they either ignore the Bible or reason that somehow the Bible is wrong on the particular issue in question.

My friend, we don’t have the right to play around with Scripture this way. When our lives conflict with the Bible, it is not the Bible that is wrong; it is we and our loved ones who are wrong. You do no one a favor when you minimize the authority of Scripture in order to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16), which is another way of saying Scripture is the word of God. If you want to hear God’s voice, open the Bible and read! It is in the very words of Scripture that we hear God. Jesus (who is God) said His sheep—His followers (i.e., Christians)—hear His voice. Christians listen to what the Bible says; and, not only do they listen, said Jesus, but they do what it says. Christians obey the Bible. And, I’m not talking about coercion. No, Christians want to obey God’s word (Psalm 119:174; Romans 7:22).

Jesus, on another occasion, asked, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). If we will not do what the Bible says, then Jesus is not our Lord. “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Romans 3:4). Even if it condemns us and our loved ones, the Bible is still right. The way out from under condemnation is through complete surrender to the authority of the word of God.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

“Come, my soul, thy suit prepare”

Come, my soul, thy suit prepare:
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay.

Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For his grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.

With my burden I begin:
Lord, remove this load of sin;
Let thy blood, for sinners spilt,
Set my conscience free from guilt.

Lord, I come to thee for rest,
Take possession of my breast;
There thy blood bought right maintain,
And without a rival reign.

As the image in the glass
Answers the beholder’s face;
Thus unto my heart appear,
Print Thine own resemblance there.

While I am a pilgrim here,
Let thy love my spirit cheer;
As my Guide, my Guard, my Friend,
Lead me to my journey's end.

Show me what I have to do,
Every hour my strength renew:
Let me live a life of faith,
Let me die thy people's death.

—John Newton (1725-1807), 1780

Thursday, July 23, 2009

“Further In and Deeper Down”

Below are four video clips from a sermon preached by the late Dr. E.K. Bailey, founding pastor of Concord Missionary Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. Entitled, “Further In and Deeper Down”, the message is based on the Scripture passage in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The first clip begins somewhere after the beginning of the message, so the entire message is not here. However, what is here in these four clips blessed me. I hope these clips may be a blessing to you, too.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

A week of celebration

This week in our home was our week of celebration as it marked another birthday for me and, the following day, my wedding anniversary. I give God all the praise for both occasions.

First of all, I thank God for life. The older I get, it is with greater frequency that I find obituaries in the newspaper for those who were the same age or younger than me. The deaths of my contemporaries—along with thinning hair, arthritis pain in certain joints and an increasing need to use my bifocals (not to mention the annual prostate exams from my doctor!)—make me keenly aware of my own mortality. Therefore, it is with gratitude that I celebrate 46 years of life. Looking at this photo, I think I have held up well, by the grace of God.

I’m reminded each day that life is a gift from God. I thank God that He has let me live to see another day, to behold the work of His hands in creation (His “handiwork”), to praise Him in word and song, and glorify Him with my life.

I also thank God for my marriage. Catherine and I have been married for 19 years. I thank God for keeping us together. The Bible teaches, and I believe in, the sanctity and life-long permanence of marriage. According to the Bible, the relationship between a man and woman in marriage illustrates the relationship between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). I feel I could no more legitimately forsake Catherine than Christ could forsake His Church. I took seriously that vow I made 19 years ago to take Catherine as “my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, to honor and cherish till death do us part.” I would take that vow all over again today.

Unfortunately, like many American families, the Duncan family has been deeply affected by marital discord. My family is relatively small: only twenty people—parents, children and grandchildren—not counting spouses. Eleven of us are age 20 and over. Out of eleven, seven of us have been or are married. Out of the seven who have been or are married, four (over half) have been divorced. Between the four, there are seven divorces (plus one marriage which is over, except for the divorce papers). Obviously, our family has been deeply impacted by divorce, and I could go on for some time describing the emotional, relational and spiritual fallout of all these divorces. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16 NASB), and so do I.

Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.” I found a “good thing” when I married Catherine. I trust we’ve been good for each other. By the grace of God we made it 19 years, and I hope and pray that, by that same grace, we’ll be able to grow old together.

I’m also thinking about the generations that will come after us. Even now, I pray for godly young ladies to marry our sons and become our future daughters-in-law. I pray for godly grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I pray that Catherine and I can leave a legacy, through our children, of marriages that last, to the glory of God.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

And Can It Be?

Can you identify with these words of Charles Wesley (1707-1788)?

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray:
I woke—the dungeon flamed with light!
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.”

O follower of Christ, we are free! Sin has no more power over us! Here’s what God’s word says (Romans 6:6-14):

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

“My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.”

Hallelujah! We’ve been set free so that we “may belong to another”, even Christ Jesus our Lord (see Romans 7:4).

Having been freed from sin, we can sing with joy, “No condemnation now I dread…!”

Listen to this hymn, sung to that stirring tune by Thomas Campbell (1777-1844), and read the lyrics as they appear on the video. Consider what Christ has done for you who trust in Him. Then, I encourage you, play the clip again and sing along, rejoicing in our Savior’s amazing love.

I’d Rather Have Jesus

I was born again about 29 years ago. Although my Christian walk has not been without its ups and downs, after all these years I can still say, “I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.” Here’s George Beverly Shea singing the song he composed, recorded during the 1957 Billy Graham crusade in New York City.

Correction: Shea composed the tune (in 1932). The words were written in 1922 by Mrs. Rhea F. Miller (1894-1966).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Jesus, My Rock

“As it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’” (Romans (9:33).

Being reared by old Black people gave me a love and appreciation for the traditional Black gospel music they loved to sing. Here’s a recording of the old gospel song, “I Call Him Jesus, My Rock”, as sung by that great Black gospel music composer, pianist and singer, the late Doris Akers.

Mere jars of clay

“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:5-7).

These verses remind me it’s all right to feel inadequate, because we are inadequate! We’re also defective, broken and terribly flawed. We can never make ourselves good enough to be used by God. At our best, we’re still mere jars of clay. If God uses us at all, it’s only because of grace. All the power—and, therefore, all the glory—belongs to God.

So, as God gives opportunity, serve joyously, trusting in God’s “surpassing power”.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A question

I have a question. Really, I do. I have some ideas, but I’d like to know what you think.

In John 14:21 we have recorded these words of Jesus: “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

Jesus said that the one who loves Him will be loved by His Father.

So, here is my question:

Does God love everyone? Specifically, does God love the wicked—those who, without shame or regret, refuse to keep His commands and obey His Son?

And, if not, how do you reconcile Jesus’ words in John 14:21 with His words in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Like I said, I have some ideas, but I want to know what you think. And could you please back up your thinking with Scripture? I want Scripture proof.

Thanks. I look forward to reading your responses.

Time to get out

According to the New York Times, the Houses of Bishops and Deputies of the Episcopal Church “voted overwhelmingly” to pass a resolution recommending that “any ordained ministry” be made open to gays and lesbians. The House of Bishops also approved the creation of a liturgy to bless same-sex couples. You can read more about it here.

This is a sad, sad day for the Episcopal Church. Yet, not surprisingly, many are rejoicing.

What more reasons do those Episcopalians who take the Bible seriously need before they finally decide to get out of this apostate denomination? I don’t want to encourage schism, but it seems to me that there comes a point when remaining in such a denomination as the Episcopal Church is sinful.

I think the words of the Apostle Paul are very relevant in this situation (2 Corinthians 6:14-18):

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”
In my opinion, it’s time for those Episcopalians who still believe in the authority of Scripture to get out of this apostate denomination.

Jesus spoke about leaders like those Episcopal bishops and priests who voted in favor of these measures (Matthew 15:14):

Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14).
The “pit” is hell. And that’s where the leaders of the Episcopal Church seemed determined to take their followers.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Few Thoughts on Free Will

I hear so much talk about “God gave us a free will” from Christians. O, how I wish we knew our Bibles better! John Piper has a few thoughts on the subject here.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Seeking direction from God

Judging from the number of books, booklets, pamphlets and articles I’ve read or heard of over the years, it seems just about every Christian, at one time or another, wants to know the answer to this question: “What is God’s will for my life?” What the questioner is seeking is direction in making life’s many choices. The difficulty, of course, comes when the choices before us are not specifically addressed in Scripture. What college should I attend? What career path should I follow? Who should I marry? Sometimes we find ourselves absolutely stuck, unable to move, so uncertain are we as to what our next move should be. Of course, the major problem is, short of God speaking to us with an audible voice, it is usually extremely difficult to be sure when you have a definite answer from God.

Consider the following verse of Scripture. I think, perhaps, this verse holds the key to our dilemma of discovering God’s will for our lives:

“Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose” (Psalm 25:12).
Maybe the problem of discovering God’s will is actually the problem of an inadequate view of God. Perhaps, when we obtain a clear vision of God as the One who is to be feared, then we will see clearly the way He would have us to go.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Grieving as those who have no hope

I watched some of the Michael Jackson memorial on TV today (and I will probably see the rest of it, as I had to record the entire service for my wife who could not be at home at the time). In general, I thought the memorial service was a very tasteful and fitting tribute to a man who was, by all measures, an enormous talent, an entertainment phenomenon.

Yet, as I watched and listened, I could not help but remember the words of the apostle Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Yes, those who do not trust in the sinless life, sacrificial and substitutionary death, and bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ do, indeed, grieve in a different way from those whose trust is in the Lord.

Today, despite participants’ attempts at joy and celebration, it seemed to me a certain heavy sadness hung in the atmosphere of the memorial service. Those who spoke seemed to me to be reaching for any glimmer of hope, yet, despite their words, a heavy sadness remained.

This was the end. Jackson’s singing and dancing would be heard and seen live no more. There was no hope.

The implication in Paul’s words is that it is possible for Christians to also grieve as if they have no hope. Make no mistake about it, death is an enemy, and death is cruel. Grief, as a response to the death of a loved one, is appropriate and fully understandable. The grief that multiple millions around the world feel today for Michael Jackson is real grief—I don’t want to minimize it at all—but, when a true Christian dies, fellow believers need not grieve over him or her as if death is the end of the story. Jesus arose from the dead! We shall live with Him forever! This world cannot even begin to compare to the glory that awaits us in eternity! We have hope!

I pray that those sad people I saw on TV today at Michael Jackson’s memorial service would find true hope in Christ. I pray that surviving members of the Jackson family would find eternal hope in Christ. Death is a cruel enemy. Grief is real. But, those of us who have placed our trust in Jesus have hope that lasts. We don’t have to “grieve as others do who have no hope.”

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Seek Him

“Everybody wants blessing, of course; yes, but the peculiar mark of the child is that he is interested in the Person, he wants his Father, he wants to know his Father. He is more interested in the Giver than the gift, in the Blesser than the blessing. He begins to know something of a hunger and thirst for God himself; as the Psalmist puts it, his soul thirsteth for the living God [Psalm 42:2]…

“Seek not an experience but seek Him, seek to know Him, seek to realize His presence, seek to love Him and give yourself entirely to Him. If He is at the centre you will be safe, but if you are simply seeking for experience, if you are simply seeking for thrills, if you are simply seeking for excitement, well then, you are opening the door to the counterfeit and probably you will receive it.”

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, as quoted in Iain H. Murray’s David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith 1939-1981 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990), p. 235.

Worth the “bother”

“To the question, ‘If there will be Arminians in heaven why should we bother about this difference in theology?’ [Dr. Lloyd-Jones] replied personally:

“I think that is a foolish question. We ‘bother’ about it, to use the term, because the Scripture has a great deal to say about it. Not only that. Any child of God should be anxious to understand as far as he can. I will go even further. If I were to give my experience in this pulpit tonight, I should have to put it like this: I know of nothing that is so strengthening to faith, nothing which so builds up my assurance, nothing which gives me such certainty about the blessed hope for which I am destined, as the understanding of Christian doctrine, the understanding of the way, yea the mechanism of salvation. And that is why I personally ‘bother’ with it.”

Iain H. Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith 1939-1981 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990), pp. 233-234.

“Let the weight of the truth convince the people”

“Dr Lloyd-Jones certainly did not believe that discussion of the doctrines of grace should be carried on in an atmosphere of controversy. To present those doctrines in an argumentative way to evangelical Christians of a different understanding, or to make a direct attack on their beliefs and practices, is unlikely to be beneficial. He thought that A.W. Pink had made a mistake at this point and that in so doing he had lost an opportunity to influence numbers who were incapable of suddenly receiving meat in the place of milk. Reflecting on this in later years, he was to say:

“If I had behaved like Pink did, I would have achieved nothing. Nothing at all. I could see that the only hope was to let the weight of the truth convince the people. So I had to be very patient and take a very long term look at things. Otherwise I would have been dismissed and the whole thing would have finished.”

Iain H. Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith 1939-1981 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990), p. 232.

Forgetting the devil

“There is nothing which is quite so disastrous…as not to accept in its fullness the biblical teaching concerning the devil. I am certain that one of the main causes of the ill state of the Church today is the fact that the devil is being forgotten. All is attributed to us; we have all become so psychological in our attitude and thinking. We are ignorant of this great objective fact, the being, the existence of the devil, the adversary, the accuser, and the ‘fiery darts’.”

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, as quoted in Iain H. Murray’s David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith 1939-1981 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990), p. 217.

Friday, July 03, 2009

My “Independence Day”

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
—Psalm 40:2-3

He brought me out of the miry clay;
He set my feet on the Rock to stay;
He put a song in m soul today;
A song of praise, hallelujah!
—Henry L. Gilmour (1837-1920)

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
—Colossians 1:13-14

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
—Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Recognized by the devil

We find this scene recorded in the book of Acts, chapter 19, verses 13-17:

Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.

This fascinating passage of Scripture tells us that the demon in this possessed man knew who Jesus was. The text also says the demon recognized Paul. Jesus gives authority to his followers to act in His name (e.g., Mark 16:17a; 9:38-40), and Paul, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, had the authority from Christ to cast out demons in Jesus’ name. However, when the sons of Sceva came along, the demon wanted to know, “who are you?” It was as if the demon asked, “Who do you think you are?” The demon knew that the sons of Sceva had no right or authority to act in Christ’s name and, therefore, had no right to tell the demon to leave. Apparently, demons can distinguish between those who trust in Jesus Christ and those who do not.

Beginning in Genesis 3, and ending with his eternal destruction in the lake of fire in Revelation 20, we see that the devil and his demons are opposed to God. It follows that if the devil and his demons are opposed to God, they also oppose the children of God. Believers in Jesus are children of God (John 1:12), and if you are a child of God, the devil and his demons know who you are, and hate and oppose you, too.

Unbelievers are children of the devil (1 John 3:10), and what holds true for the devil holds true for his children in that the devil in unbelievers will hate and oppose the Jesus in you, if you are a believer in Christ. Isn’t this what Jesus told His followers? Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:18-20a).

So, believer in Christ, don’t be surprised when people dislike you, oppose and undermine you, or even hate you, for apparently no good reason of which you’re aware. Maybe—perhaps even subconsciously—they oppose you simply because you’re a child of God. In that, they’re only following the lead of their father, the devil. Whatever you do, don’t return their animosity. Rather, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45a). Pray sincerely and compassionately for their salvation and deliverance from the devil.

Monday, June 29, 2009