Thursday, December 16, 2010

They received the word with joy

This video is simply amazing: The Kimyal Tribe of Papua, Indonesia celebrating the arrival of the New Testament translated for the first time into the Kimyal language.

This video is also convicting, because I don’t love God’s Word as much as I should.

My heart echoes Tim Challies’ prayer.

“Have mercy on me, O God…”

HT: Tim Challies

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Danger of Covetousness

Yes! It worked!

With “a little help from my friends,” I was finally able to embed audio on my blog! Below is a recording of a sermon I preached back in August of this year: “The Danger of Covetousness”, based on Luke 12:13-21.

I thank God for Pastor Louis C. Love, Jr., and the very gracious people of New Life Fellowship Church, for giving me the opportunity to preach God’s Word.

May you be blessed as you listen.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Bind the “strong man”

“When we use God’s Word in accordance with his will, we have all the consent and power of the Almighty behind us. We therefore take the word of Jesus which commands us to bind the strong man…in order to spoil his goods (the souls of men held in his thrall). We shall find that when we exert ourselves to do this with an energy and devotion at least as keen as we apply to selfish pursuits, lo, people begin to respond to God’s Word, perhaps to our great surprise. It is not to be wondered at. The truth is that men’s hearts and lives are in fact in bondage to Satan (1 John 5:19), and when his power is broken, they are free to hear and heed God’s Word.

“This is a great secret; and yet many of us go on in Christian work year by year, dealing with men as if they were normally free agents willing and able to do what we say, or what they themselves will. They are not (Rom. 7:14-20), until God frees them in answer to prevailing prayer.”

From Towards Spiritual Maturity: Overcoming all evil in the Christian life (revised edition), by William Still (1911-1997), published by Christian Focus Publications, Ltd., pp. 77-78.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

“My Song Is Love Unknown”

A wonderful hymn about our Savior’s love:

“My Song Is Love Unknown”

My song is love unknown,
My Savior’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne,
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know.
But Oh my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way
And His sweet praises sing,
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King.
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of Life they slay.
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King,
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

—Samuel Crossman (1623-1683), 1664

HT: Ray Ortlund

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Albertina Walker (Aug. 29, 1929 - Oct. 8, 2010)

In memory of the great gospel singer, Albertina Walker, who passed away yesterday morning: Here is a clip of her singing, “Lord, Keep Me Day by Day”, a song made popular by the Caravans, the gospel group Albertina organized in the early 1950s. What is so precious about this clip, recorded several years ago (probably early ‘90s), is the gospel music history that is gathered in the room. Many of the participants you see were pioneering figures in traditional gospel music.

UPDATE: Embedding was disabled for this video, so you may view it here, instead.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Marks of Regeneration

I’ve been blessed especially this week by some quotes from J.C. Ryle (1816-1900). Erik Kowalker over at J.C. Ryle Quotes has been posting “The 6 Marks of Regeneration”, brief quotes taken from J.C. Ryle’s book, Regeneration. Bishop Ryle based these marks or evidences of regeneration on the 1st Epistle of John. I encourage you to examine your soul in the light of Scripture, and rejoice in those evidences of the gracious work of God that you find in your own life.

1. “A regenerate man does not commit sin as a habit.”

2. “A regenerate man believes that Jesus Christ is the only Savior by whom his soul can be pardoned and redeemed; that He is the divine person appointed and anointed by God the Father for this very purpose, and that beside Him there is no Savior at all.”

3. “A regenerate man is a holy man.”

4. “A regenerate man has a special love for all true disciples of Christ.”

5. “A regenerate man does not make the world’s opinion his rule of right and wrong.”

6. “A regenerate man is very careful of his own soul.”

7. Summarizing the 6 Marks of Regeneration

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Twenty years ago

Next to the salvation of my soul, I believe the best and most wonderful gift I’ve ever received from God is my wife. She’s not only an awesome mother to our sons, my best friend and lover, but, humanly speaking, a man couldn’t ask for a greater supporter and encourager. I am truly blessed. Happy 20th Anniversary, Catherine! I love you!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

“He Decided to Die”

(as sung by LaBarbara Whitehead and the Donald Vails Choraleers)

by Margaret Pleasant Douroux

When Jesus hung on Calvary,
People came from miles to see.
They said, “If you be the Christ,
Come down, and save your life!”
But Jesus, He never answered them,
For He knew that Satan was tempting Him.
If He had come down from the cross,
My soul would still be lost.

He would not come down from the cross just to save Himself;
He decided to die just to save me.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Out in the blogosphere

Justin Taylor recently posted a couple articles to aid us in our biblical and theological study:

“A Primer on Limited (or Definite) Atonement”

“Puzzling Pronouns in the Prophets”

He also recently posted a devotional piece, helping us apply the gospel in our day-to-day lives:

“The Gospel at the Grocery Store”

HT: Justin Taylor

New Life Bible Conference 2010: The memory lingers

What a wonderful time in the Lord we had at last weekend’s New Life Bible Conference, sponsored by New Life Fellowship Church, which meets in the northern Chicago suburb of Vernon Hills, IL. The theme was “In Christ Alone: The supremacy of Christ in the book of Hebrews”. The worship, the Christian fellowship and, most of all, the word of God preached by Anthony Carter, Thabiti Anyabwile, Hensworth Jonas and Stephen Love, truly blessed our souls. Next year’s conference will be held June 23-26, 2011, so put it on your calendar now and, if possible, try to join us here in Chicagoland for a glorious time in the Lord. Below is a video “slideshow” put together by Anthony Carter to give you some idea of what a great time was had by all.

2010 New Life Bible Conference: "In Christ Alone" from Anthony Carter on Vimeo.

HT: Anthony Carter

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

“I want to cross over to see my Lord!”

“Get Away, Jordan” by Dorothy Love Coates (1928-2002)

Get away, Jordan!
Get away, O chilly Jordan!
Get away, Jordan!
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord!

I promised the Lord if He would set me free…
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord.
I’d go until I find out what the end might be…
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord.

One day, one day I was walking along…
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord.
You know I heard a voice, but I saw no one…
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord.

You know the voice I heard sounded so sweet…
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord.
It came down from my head to the soul of my feet…
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord.

Get away, Jordan!
Get away, O chilly Jordan!
Get away, Jordan!
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord!

You know, one of these mornings—it won’t be long…
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord.
You gonna look for me, child, and I’ll be gone…
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord.

A few more risings and setting of the sun…
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord.
This ol’ battle be fought, the victory won…
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord.

You know the friends that I used to love so dear…
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord.
They’ve gone on to Glory and left me down here…
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord.

When my feet get cold, my eyes are shut,
My body been chilled by the hands of death,
Tongue glued to the roof of my mouth,
Hands are folded across my breast,
You don’t have to worry ’bout the way I fare,
God Almighty done told me He’d be right there.
Lift me on His mighty wings of love,
Carry my soul to the heavens up above.
Jordan may be deep and wide,
But I told mother I’d see her on the other side.

Get away, Jordan!
Get away, O chilly Jordan!
Get away, Jordan!
Yes, I want to cross over to see my Lord!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

“He’ll Understand and Say ‘Well Done’”

As we come to the close of another Father’s Day, I want to link to this YouTube video (audio, actually) of The Famous Davis Sisters singing an arrangement of the Gospel song, “He’ll Understand, and Say ‘Well Done’”, by Lucie E. Campbell. This happens to be the song I sang as a solo at my great-grandfather’s funeral in 1989. I sang it straight but, in this recording, the Davis Sisters, led by big sister Ruth Davis, turn this simple song into a rollicking Gospel number.

I hope the song encourages you. Remember, when our Lord returns, if we’ve been faithful, we’ll hear these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Stand By Me

At home, singing an old hymn by the Black hymnwriter, singer and Methodist pastor, the Rev. Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1933). If my memory serves me correctly, according to my great-grandmother, this was one of her mother’s favorite hymns.

When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me;
When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me.
When the world is tossing me
Like a ship upon the sea,
Thou who rulest wind and water,
Stand by me.

In the midst of tribulations,
Stand by me;
In the midst of tribulations,
Stand by me.
When the hosts of hell assail,
And my strength begins to fail,
Thou who never lost a battle,
Stand by me.

In the midst of faults and failures,
Stand by me;
In the midst of faults and failures,
Stand by me.
When I do the best I can,
And my friends misunderstand,
Thou who knowest all about me,
Stand by me.

When I’m growing old and feeble,
Stand by me;
When I’m growing old and feeble,
Stand by me.
When my life becomes a burden,
And I’m nearing chilly Jordan,
O Thou Lily of the Valley,
Stand by me.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Does God still speak?

This is interesting. Adrian Warnock is interviewing Dr. Wayne Grudem, and their conversation turns to the topic of whether or not God speaks directly to individuals. Just listen and consider, in light of what the Scriptures reveal.

Wayne Grudem on whether God's revelation has really stopped or not from Adrian Warnock on Vimeo.

HT: Adrian Warnock

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

“He’ll Do It Again”

“Just take a look at where you are now, and where you've been. Has He always come through for you? ...He'll do it again!”

“Wait for the Lord!”

Am I alone, or have you ever felt like this?

“Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire? Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light? There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. There the prisoners are at ease together; they hear not the voice of the taskmaster. The small and the great are there, and the slave is free from his master. Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water” (Job 3:11, 16-19, 23-24).

These are the words of Job, but have you ever found yourself in a place in life where you had no answers but only questions? “Why did You let these things happen to me?” “Why did I have to turn out this way?” “How did I ever get in such a fix?” “Why do You let me live?” “When will this end?”

Lots of questions, but no answers: That’s where I’m at right now, and where I have been for some time, in fact. Every now and then, reality breaks in and hits me pretty hard, and I start feeling sorry for myself.

That’s where I was this morning, and I came to these words of Job, recorded in Scripture. I think Job’s words expressed well the sadness of my heart. However, not only did I find in Scripture words to match the sadness I felt, but I also found relief for my sadness. It was almost as if God was answering the question posed by Job (“Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden…?”):

“Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God’?” (Isaiah 40:27)

Wow! That captured my attention! It was like God knew what I was thinking. Yet, it was not an answer to any of my questions. I wonder, have you ever noticed: If we spend a lot of time questioning God, we end up spending a lot of time just listening to our own voice? God doesn’t answer many questions—at least, not directly. Rather, instead of answering my questions, God points to Himself and says, “Remember who I am!”

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:28).

And to those, like me, who are in need, He offers Himself:

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31).

The Amplified Bible renders verse 31 this way:

“But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.”

God tells those who are weary, expect Him, look for Him and hope in Him. That’s what it means to “wait for the LORD”. And, if we wait for Him, He’ll show up. In the midst of our pain and sadness, when we’re weary of life and feel like giving up, He’ll change us, and by His Spirit renew our strength and power. Notice: There is no promise that our circumstances will change. Nevertheless, even though our circumstances may remain the same, by the Lords’ strength, in fellowship with Him, we’ll soar.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Merely academic or experiential?

If it is true that the Holy Spirit gives the Christian believer abilities and gifts of service for the building up of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:4-7) and enables powerful and effective service for Christ (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8), then, is it not a good thing to pray for the Holy Spirit to so equip and empower our lives? Is it not right to pray that our lives be conduits through which the Holy Spirit can flow for the benefit of others (John 7:38-39)? Is it not right to pray that our Christian service might be in demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power (1 Corinthians 2:4), so that we might be useful and effective, to the glory of God?

Such prayer, of course, is simply prayer for an experience of the Holy Spirit. Now, I know that any talk of experiencing the Holy Spirit makes some Christians nervous, but I firmly believe that God wants us to experience the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God. He is “the Spirit of God” and “the Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9). For the Christian, the Holy Spirit is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). So, prayer for an experience of the Holy Spirit is prayer for Christ’s active working in and through our lives. Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). In saying this, He was reminding us that we cannot accomplish anything of eternal significance apart from the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Christ—working in and through us.

It seems that many Christians have a complacent attitude toward the Holy Spirit. We believe the Holy Spirit came to the Church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), and we believe the Holy Spirit came into our lives when we trusted Christ, but what about our experience of the Holy Spirit in the here and now?

Did you know that our Lord Jesus encourages us to pray for the Holy Spirit? It’s recorded in Luke 11:5-13:

And 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, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and 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’? I 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. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If 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!”

The theological study of the Holy Spirit is called “Pneumatology”. For too many of us, the Holy Spirit is only a topic for theological discourse—purely academic. But, Jesus wants believers to have more than a merely academic knowledge of the Holy Spirit; He wants us to have an experiential and practical knowledge of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a Person—He is the Spirit of Christ—He is God—therefore, we can know Him and experience Him.

“If 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!” Prayer for the Holy Spirit will move our Pneumatology out the realm of the merely academic into the realm of the experiential and practical, and will move us from complacency to being vibrant witnesses to the risen Christ.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

“Because of His great love…”

Pay attention!

I am a Trinitarian. That is to say, I believe that God—the God who is revealed in Scripture—is one, yet three—One eternal God who exists or subsists eternally and simultaneously in three distinct, co-equal Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I have great appreciation for the historic definitions set down in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds and believe them to be faithful to biblical teaching.

In affirming the doctrine of the Trinity, I reject a teaching currently popular in certain Pentecostal, Apostolic and Word-of-Faith circles that maintains that God has “manifested himself as Father in Creation, Son in Redemption, and is the Holy Spirit in the Church.” This teaching--called “Modalism”—rejects the Trinity and asserts that God is one in His Person and has merely changed forms or “modes” at various times. Modalism is contrary to biblical Christianity, and was soundly rejected as heresy by the church around the year 262 A.D. (proving that “there is nothing new under the sun”).

Biblical Christianity rejects any theology which confuses the Persons of the Trinity. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father: three distinct Persons, yet one God in essence. It is important to keep in mind the distinctions between the Persons of the Trinity, as it will save us from much confusion as we read the gospel accounts. For instance, there is this oft-asked question: “If Jesus is God, then to whom was He praying in the garden of Gethsemane? Was He praying to Himself?” The answer, of course, is that the Son was praying to the Father.

Biblical Christianity also rejects any theology that makes the Son out to be anything less than very God. In a society such as ours, in which there are a multiplicity of religions, Christians must keep in mind that Jesus is fully God. In the person of Jesus—the promised Messiah born in Bethlehem to a Jewish virgin named Mary—the eternal Son became a man, without ceasing to be God. 100% God and 100% man: That’s my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. No one less than the sinless God-Man can save lost, helpless and hopeless sinners like me.

We must also remember that biblical Christianity rejects any theology which would reduce the Holy Spirit to some kind of impersonal force, presence or emotional feeling. The Holy Spirit is not some kind of pantheistic presence, or a good “feeling” that comes over one when the mood is right. On the contrary, the Bible reveals the Holy Spirit as God, who was active in Creation (Genesis 1:2), present in the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ (e.g., Matthew 3:16; Luke 4:1, 14, 17-21; John 1:32-33; Acts 10:38), and who was the power which raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11). The Bible reveals the Holy Spirit as present and active in the Church as the agent of salvation (e.g., John 3:5-8), creating faith, applying the saving work of Christ, indwelling and sealing the believer (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 1:13-14), and equipping and empowering for service (Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11).

Why do I bring up all this “heavy” theology? Because I am very concerned that far too many professing Christians, in far too many churches and denominations today, are riding loose with theology. The American Church, in general, is not in good shape at all, and some so-called “Bible-believing” churches aren’t any better. For years, I’ve observed a great theological complacency among many professing Christians, fueled in large part, I think, by a gross misunderstanding and misapplication of Jesus’ words, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Many of these professing Christians are highly reluctant to question any false teaching, lest they be guilty of “judging” (although, interestingly and ironically, I’ve run into a few over the years who will question and vehemently resist sound teaching). For years I have also observed an unbelievable amount of gullibility in some church circles, to the point that it appears some will accept any spiritual teacher who claims to be led by the Holy Spirit (or has the title “bishop”, “apostle” or “prophet”), especially if he or she also claims to speak in tongues.

Some, no doubt, would respond, “So what! What does it matter?” “Doctrine” is seen as a bad word today by a whole lot of people in the pew. Interestingly, the Athanasian Creed begins with this sentence: “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic [or “universal” Christian] faith; Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.” Really? Really! You see, doctrine matters. What we believe can spell the difference between heaven and hell.

The apostle Peter, writing near the end of his life, said, “And we have something more sure [“more sure” than what he and James and John personally saw and heard on that mountain where Christ was transfigured before their eyes, see Matthew 17:1-8], the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention...” What is this “prophetic word” that Peter was referring to? Read on: “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21 my emphasis). Peter said we “do well to pay attention” to Scripture. That’s why so many churches and individual Christians are in the sad shape they’re in today: They have failed to pay attention to the Bible!

O reader, doctrine does matter! We must pay attention to God’s written word! Our eternal destiny depends upon it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An addendum to my post on “Slavery and the Bible”

While the apostle Paul does not outright abolish slavery, he does pronounce it to be “contrary to sound doctrine”. See 1 Timothy 1:8-11 (emphasis added):

8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

Thank you, Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile, for pointing this out in your recent T4G message.

Read my post on “Slavery and the Bible”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Slavery and the Bible

I am of the conviction that the Bible is God’s word written, and is therefore true and authoritative. I don’t claim to understand everything in the Bible—in fact, I would say there’s more in there I don’t understand than things I do understand—but I still accept it all as God’s word.

The past few days, I’ve been involved in a heavy Facebook conversation with an acquaintance, who also happens to be a student at a major liberal seminary on the east coast, about the Bible, and whether or not it is entirely trustworthy. In our conversation, the issue of slavery in the Bible came up. You need to know that the Bible’s apparent endorsement of slavery is a major sticking point for many, especially Black people, when it comes to accepting the Bible as God’s infallible, inerrant and authoritative word.

Well, this morning, after thinking about our conversation and my previous comments, I decided to write once again to clarify and expand my views on this issue of slavery in the Bible. So that others, hopefully, may be encouraged to think deeply and biblically about this very sensitive and controversial topic, I’ve my latest comment below. I’ve never thought a whole lot about slavery in the Bible before now, because the issue never really bothered me, even though I’m a descendent of slaves. I’ve also never read anything about this topic. So, if you have any thoughts or insights on this topic, please feel free to comment.


You’ve forced me to think more deeply about this issue of slavery than I’ve ever needed to, and that’s good. Nevertheless, I still cannot come down on the side that would have man sitting in judgment over the Scriptures (and over the God who inspired them).

The regulations for slaves that God gave Israel (e.g., in Exodus 21 or Deuteronomy 15) describe a system far different than American slavery (or the Egyptian slavery that Israel experienced). Two things, in particular, stand out: slavery under the Mosaic Law wasn’t relegated to a specific race or culture outside Israel, and slaves were not involuntarily slaves for life and from generation to generation. The recurring refrain in the Mosaic Law is, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt”.

As un-politically correct as it sounds, I don’t think one can make a BIBLICAL case that slavery, in and of itself, is immoral. I don’t think you can demonstrate that from Scripture. What makes slavery immoral—and this would apply to American slavery (or modern day human trafficking, for that matter)—is how, and for what purpose, it is carried out or practiced. American slavery was an evil institution for the fundamental reason that it was based on racism—it targeted an entire race of people, for life, and from generation to generation—and it involved physical, spiritual and emotional brutality and deprivation for those so enslaved.

Although the Bible never commands the abolition of slavery, I do see in the New Testament the seeds for what eventually became the abolition of slavery in Europe and the Americas. Take, for instance, this passage in Philemon (vv.15-17):

“For this perhaps is why he [Philemon’s slave, Onesimus] was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother…both in the flesh and in the Lord. So if you consider me [the apostle Paul] your partner, receive him as you would receive me.”

Or, these verses in Galatians (3:26, 28):

“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

So, rather than endorse or give approval to slavery, I believe the overall message of the Bible undermines slavery, but not because slavery is wrong in and of itself. Rather, the Bible undermines slavery because in Christ people are made equals, and it is difficult to keep in slavery one whom you view as your equal before God.

This is poignantly illustrated in the life of Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (Are you familiar with his life story?). In short, Allen was converted to Christ after hearing a Methodist preacher. His slave master was so impressed by the change in Allen and how Christianity made him a better slave (and I can’t help but think of Ephesians 6:5-8), that he gave permission for Allen to invite a Methodist preacher to hold meetings at the plantation. As a result of the preaching that the slave master heard at these meetings, he, too, was converted to Christ. After he was saved, the slave master realized he could no longer keep slaves and allowed Allen to work and buy he and his brother’s freedom.

So, I believe the Bible ultimately undermines the institution of slavery. Have you ever considered that, perhaps, God prescribed slavery in the Old Testament as a concession to the culture of the people, similar to what he did with His laws on divorce (cf. Matthew 19:3-9)?

Additionally, as I’ve already stated [in a previous comment], I think we err in thinking of slavery as inherently wrong or evil, because if slavery is inherently evil, then it is also wrong to be a slave of God and of Christ. I know you think it ridiculous to make the comparison, but isn’t it interesting that God inspired the writers of Scripture to use the terminology of slavery? I think that fact is significant. As I stated before, whether we like it or not, we’re somebody’s slave—either a slave of sin, which leads to eternal death, or a slave of Jesus Christ, which leads to eternal life. Given the choice, I will gladly embrace my status as a SLAVE of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

“Don’t let them stop you from praying”

I wanted to share with you this video clip I came across recently. It’s from a sermon by the Rev. Timothy Flemming, Sr., pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, entitled, “Don’t Let Them Stop You From Praying”. Coming out of Daniel 6, Pastor Flemming brings out several encouraging principles about prayer that we would all do well to keep in mind. Before you view the clip, I think some explanation is in order. You will notice from the start that Pastor Flemming is very much a black preacher in the traditional mold. Personally, I like how he’s going at it, as this clip opens. Frankly, I wish my thoughts flowed as quickly and my voice had as much stamina, so that I could preach with the kind of fire and force that Pastor Flemming delivers. From the start, it is quite evident that his audience is caught up in the moment with their pastor, and they respond very enthusiastically and emotionally to what he is saying.

A disclaimer: I think that, perhaps, some in the audience get a bit too caught up in the high emotion of the moment. There is an exceedingly fine line between emotion and emotionalism. Emotions are good, they’re God-given and normal. I do not advocate divorcing our emotions from our worship. Neither do I believe in emotionless preaching. I certainly don’t disapprove of emotional responses to preaching. I believe the Bible condones celebration and rejoicing, clapping and shouting, dancing and leaping in the context of worship. In fact, I think it is exceedingly difficult to contemplate God, and His goodness and mercy towards us, and not react in some way or become emotional. However, near the close of this clip, as Pastor Flemming “shifts gears” and transitions into the closing “celebration” phase of his message*, you will hear a woman, somewhere in the audience, screaming. Briefly, near the end of the clip, you will also see a woman (the same woman?) jumping and thrashing about, as the women standing next to her try unsuccessfully to hold her down.

Because of the level of emotional reaction from some in the audience, I hesitated to post this clip. Coming from a traditional black church background, I’m not unfamiliar with the things I see in this clip, but I realize to some this kind of unbridled emotion will be shocking or offensive. I would encourage you to please try to look past the emotion and hear the message. There is a good message here that we need to hear. So, listen, and rejoice over the privilege of prayer that is our through Christ, and be encouraged to come daily before God’s throne of grace, like Daniel. Don’t let nobody or nothing stop you from praying!

*In some black preaching traditions, it is in the “celebration” that the preacher begins the “whoop”—a rhythmic, often sung, delivery of the words, sometimes punctuated with the audible inhalation or exhalation of air.

“The times, and our response”

Here is a timely word from Dan Edelen.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Together for the Gospel 2008 Live Album

There is nothing like the people of God lifting their voices in song to God. You can purchase this album here.

HT: Thabiti Anyabwile

Sunday, March 07, 2010

“Don’t waste your pulpit”

Pastors, don’t waste your pulpit. Please.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The cross, hell, and the glory of God

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction [between Jew and Gentile]: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).

Wayne Grudem, in explaining this passage, says the following:

“In the cross we have a clear demonstration of the reason God punishes sin: if he did not punish sin he would not be a righteous God, and there would be no ultimate justice in the universe. But when sin is punished, God is showing himself to be a righteous judge over all, and justice is being done in his universe.” [Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), p. 510.]

I think, in Dr. Grudem’s statement, we have not only an explanation for the cross of Christ, but an explanation for hell, also. Hell, like the cross, demonstrates that God is righteous and that there is ultimate justice in the universe. Both hell and the cross show forth the glory of God.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The only safe guide

“An individual man or woman must never follow conviction in regard to moral, religious, civil, or political questions until they are first tested by the unerring word of God. If a conviction infringes upon the written word of God, or in any manner conflicts with that word, the conviction is not to be followed. It is our duty to abandon it. Moreover, I will add that light on a doubtful conviction is not to be sought for in the conscience, but in the Bible. The conscience, like the conviction, may be blind, erroneous, misled, or perverted; therefore it is not always a safe guide. The only safe guide for a man or woman, young or old, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, priest or people is the Bible, the whole Bible, nothing but the Bible.”

—Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne (1811-1893), from his memoirs, Recollections of Seventy Years (pp. 233-234), written in 1888.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Afraid of the Holy Spirit?

Is your conception of the Holy Spirit too safe? Dan Edelen writes,

When the Holy Spirit shows up in power in a church, the status quo changes. Those people especially touched by Him, ones who were often sideline sitters, suddenly are empowered to take on new roles and responsibilities within the body of Christ. The old ways of doing church fall into line with God’s way. Distracting programs and costly plans end up abandoned. Miracles happen. The charismatic gifts break out. And on and on.

And that threatens a lot of people. Especially those in charge.
Read the entire article here.

The Smaller You Get, the Freer You Will Be

Tullian Tchividjian writes:

Interestingly, the world would have us to believe that the bigger we get and the better we feel about ourselves, the freer we become. This is why so many worship services have been reduced to nothing more than motivational, self-help seminars filled with “you can do it” songs and sermons. But what we find in the gospel is just the opposite. The gospel is good news for losers, not winners. It’s for those who long to be freed from the slavery of believing that all of their significance, meaning, purpose, and security depend on their ability to “become a better you.” The gospel tells us that weakness precedes usefulness—that, in fact, the smaller you get, the freer you will be.
Read the entire article here.

In Defense of Proselytism

Trevin Wax writes the following:

The furor surrounding Brit Hume’s encouragement to Tiger Woods to convert to Christianity shows us that the prevailing sentiment of our culture is adamantly opposed to the idea of evangelism.

As Christians, we must recognize that before we can make a robust defense for the Christian faith, we may have to clear the air by making a case for evangelism in general. After having listened to some of the remarks made about Brit Hume, I have compiled a list of common objections to “proselytism” and why each of them are unpersuasive.
Read the entire article here.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

“Jesus Christ offers Tiger Woods something that Tiger Woods badly needs”

Like I mentioned in my last post, I don’t have cable TV, and I’ve also not been following other blogs too closely the last few days. Evidently, however, what Brit Hume said about Tiger Woods and the Christian faith has sparked some controversy (no surprise there!). Check out this clip from Bill O’Reilly’s interview of Brit Hume:

Whether people like it or not, Brit Hume is right: What Tiger Woods, and every other human being on this planet, needs is the Lord Jesus!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Brit Hume on Tiger Woods

My family and I don’t have access to cable TV, and so I don’t see these shows, but I came across this clip on the web. Has anyone else seen this? I think what Brit Hume said was pretty remarkable. Watch this clip: