Friday, September 28, 2007

Bring Da Noise

7 Teams

4 Playoff Spots

1 Weekend

Bring Da Noise!!!!!

Hot Spot Alert

Over at Truth in the Innermost our good brother Quincy A. Jones (aka Q-D.O.G. of ChristCentric) is posting a helpful and on target series on the church’s greatest need. Here’s a sample

“The Lords' primary concern are those who are "doing the will of God" which translates into being submissive to His Law (Word) and hearing Christ's Words and doing them. We all know that we live out what we truly believe – thus the mind/heart shaped by the Word of God is of chief importance.

What is it that shapes our beliefs/convictions? – Doctrine!

How do we receive doctrine?? – Preaching/teaching!!

So, consequently preaching/teaching of doctrine (however and from wherever we receive it) is going to shape my Christian life in the most profound way. And according to the premium Christ puts on living out His Word – thus – the preaching/teaching that I receive will even shape my eternal destiny! If what I posit is true (and I challenge anyone to refute it) – the issue of preaching in the Church is of dire consequence.”

As the black church continues its downward spiral into an abyss of false and destructive doctrine I commend brother Q as one of those young reformed brothers who is worth listening to.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Midweek Grace - James 4:1-10

Stop acting like children!! How many times have we heard or said that to those who ought to know better? How many times have parents broken up fights over toys, games, candy or whatever? On a certain level, we understand that young children will act selfishly immature with the things they want or see. We must teach our children to not snatch things that aren‘t theirs, to refrain from hitting others and to learn the value of sharing. Wise parents recognize that not everything children want is good for them. A parent who gives his child everything he asks for whenever he asks for it will produce a selfish, entitled brat.

If we know this is true about our own children then why don’t we apply these principles to ourselves? Why don’t we realize that our sinful nature is still battling for control over our lives? Why can’t we see that everything we want isn’t necessarily good for us? How is it that we fall so easily into the materialistic traps our consumer driven culture creates for us? If that wasn’t enough, why don’t many who claim to follow biblical Christianity see how their corrupt version of the faith is exactly what the apostle James (who by the way was an authentic apostle) wrote against (cf. James 4:1-10)?

James 4:1-10 is an excellent diagnosis of the actual issues that affect so many of us. He begins by acknowledging the real spiritual war we face, which is the battle with our old nature. Our old nature wants to pull us back into a habitual lifestyle of foolish and destructive sinful choices. It wants us to chase after each new trinket and idea in a vain attempt to find real life. What’s so dangerous about this warfare is that we can actually believe that it’s God’s will for us to have whatever we want! Motivated by our own greed and covetousness we go to the Lord in ‘prayer’ demanding that He give us what we want right now. When He (like a good heavenly Father) doesn’t respond to our demands we become angry and competitive with those in our church.

James correctly identifies the root issue as one of spiritual adultery. Those who’ve bought into this way of living demonstrate their desire to be on friendly terms with this world. For them, this world is the place to satisfy all their deepest wishes, even if those wishes are contrary to God’s revealed will. Dear ones we cannot worship two masters. We cannot give our souls to both this world and our Lord Jesus Christ. Either we will live to get all we can out of this world, or we will follow the agenda of our Lord as we live for the world to come.

It’s time for us to grow up, stop acting like two year olds and focus our souls on drawing near to the only One who gives true life, Jesus Christ. It’s time for us resist our old nature, Satan and the forces of the world and live out genuine Biblical Christianity. It’s time for us to repent of our spiritual adultery, and stop loving this world with all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our minds and all of our strength. It’s time for us to stop acting like children.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance

Friday, September 21, 2007

New Spot

Hey ya'll, here's a blogspot worth checking out. It's called Black and Reformed by brother Lionel Woods and I've just added him to the roll call. He's got some good things to say and some troubling news happening in the Big D with Jakes and Evans. So check it out when you get a chance.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Jena Six

Today tens of thousands of African-Americans rode buses to a place called Jena Louisiana to support six black teen-agers who were initially charged with attempted murder following an assault on a white classmate. The whole thing began when a group of black students decided to sit under a tree that was a traditional “unofficial” gathering spot for white students. Some of their classmates responded to this ‘offense’ by hanging three nooses from that tree. That was followed by an assault on a white student by six (now known as the Jena 6) African-American students. Those students were arrested and charged with attempted murder and crime that if convicted would have resulted in them spending decades in prison. Though these charges have been dropped others remain.
One of the main issues is the apparent disparity in justice. Should a teen-ager involved in a school fight be charged with attempted murder? Would that had been the charge if the altercation involved two white students?
But there are other issues involved, ones that we’re all too familiar with. Once again simmering ethnic tensions that lie just below the surface of our society have boiled over. Once again the real divisions within our nation have been laid bare. Once again we have the opportunity to really sit down, talk this through and perhaps begin to find some answers. And once again that won’t happen. But in case we ever do here are a few talking points for the church to consider.

For my white (or Asian, Jewish, Hispanic, Indian or Arab) brothers and sisters out there please consider what I’m getting at. I’m not asking you to agree or accept the black viewpoint on this, but just to consider our witness within this context. Why do so many black folks feel so alienated in America? Why does this case resonate with us in such a profound way? Why would tens of thousands of people take time off from work and school to make such a statement? Is it possible that African-Americans are treated differently in the justice system or is it really our imagination? Part of my concern with our biblical witness is the tendency for some (though not all) white evangelicals to discount any real possibility of deliberate systematic racism. It’s as if we’re convinced that man is sinful and thus culpable of idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, greed, lying etc. but not systematic ethic partiality.

If you’re still having trouble identifying with the way many black folks feel and think about this please consider the following example. Imagine you live in a town where you are the minority and your children attend the local school in which the ethnic tensions woven into the fabric of your town play out in that school. Think of how you might feel if your child comes home and tells you that that some of his friends violated the space of the majority group and their response was to hoist posters of the burning Twin Towers. Now imagine how you might react when after a fight your child is arrested, sent to jail, charged with attempted murder and awaits trial before a Muslim prosecutor, a Muslim judge and an all Muslim jury. Are you sure that you’d be completely free from believing that ethnicity would play no part at all in the situation?
Another thing to consider. How would you minister to the families and protestors if you have the opportunity? Would you say that the young man got what he deserved, that black folks once again are over-reacting that they need to realize that we live in a nation of laws that must be obeyed? Could this be an opportunity to identify with those who aren’t in power or control as a witness of the gospel? How could you use this situation to speak to your congregation about the issues of ethnicity that plague our land? Could you lead them to think through these issues biblically or just fall back on conservative ideology?

For my black brothers and sisters. Are we really concerned with injustice or only injustice that involves unfair dealings with white people? Would our leaders have organized a march into a black neighborhood where a child was killed but no one dared come forward lest he or she be blacklisted as a ‘snitch’? If such a march were called would we go? While racism is still an issue in America do we run the risk of leading black folks to believe that all of our major problems and challenges are due to race? Again would we have been as nearly concerned with the Jena 6 if they had gone to jail for assaulting an African-American classmate? What responsibility do we have as the black church to pursue true ethnic healing and harmony? Is it enough to say that we’re the subdominant culture and therefore have the luxury of waiting for whites to make the first step?

Furthermore, how does the black church pursue unity with our other ethnic brothers and sisters in a time like this? Do we close ranks with other African-Americans or can we learn to both identify with our people and pursue ethnic harmony with our other brothers and sisters? Also this is this a good time for us to disciple our folks regarding the biblical response to racism. We can begin by affirming that violence, revenge and retaliation are never, never, never, never an option. It’s crucial during a time like this for us to point out that the young men who engaged in violence should receive some kind of punishment. Our primary responsibility is not to secure temporary justice for those of our ethnicity (however important that is) but to lead our people to embrace, believe in and order their lives after Jesus Christ. Part of the process of will involve developing and practicing a biblical approach to racism and injustice. This will especially serve us in addressing our congregations regarding ethnicity and injustice. When teaching on this issue will we merely parrot the standard liberal lines or seek genuine biblical truth?

Finally brothers, what is our responsibility to navigate the rough rapids of race in a way that demonstrates our unity, promotes the gospel, honors Jesus Christ and helps our society through this contentious issue? Will we just stand by, take our respective sides and watch our society continue to stumble in the haze of hostility or will we stand out, speak humbly and live boldly by standing side by side demonstrating the gospel’s power to bring unity despite our differences.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Midweek Grace - James 3:1-12

One of the highlights of growing up in West Philly during the 70’s was the Saturday matinée at the Capital Theater. The Capital was one those movie houses that were holdovers from another era. Perhaps at one time they like other neighborhood theaters showcased the latest Hollywood movies starring Bogart, Hepburn, Tracy and Grant. In the 70’s however Kung-Fu reigned and Bruce Lee was king. On Saturdays my friends and I would do our chores, gather our pennies and walk down to the Capital to see the latest high flying fighting fantasies of the kung-fu masters. Those cats were baaaaaaaaaaaad. Their bodies were trained fighting machines they launched as weapons at any opponent that dared challenge them. The damage done could be devastating. Their skills were supreme, technique breathtaking and artistry masterful. Yet, as skilled as they were in using almost every part of their bodies to inflict damage these brothers were nothing compared to the power of ungodly speech. In James 3 the apostle warns us of the severe and lasting damage ungodly words said in unkind ways can do.

James begins by warning those who would be teachers of God’s people of the stricter judgment God will exact upon them.
Essentially he’s saying that if you can’t control what you say and how you say it to God’s people now, you ought not be a teacher in God’s church. If God’s people come away from speaking with you feeling demeaned and belittled then you need to honestly check yourself concerning the call to teach God’s people.
Moving on James declares that a chief mark of true holiness in the ability to control one’s words and use speech as a balm of healing rather than a weapon of war. If you pride yourself in how you can break someone down, bludgeon them in an argument and send them away dazed and confused then you are regressing in holiness, destroying God’s people and literally causing grief and sorrow to the Spirit whose ministry is binding the Body together in peace and unity.
According to James unwise, unkind and ungodly speech can do sudden, devastating and lasting damage. Ungodly speech is the spark that rages through the emotions of its victim like an out of control forest fire. This is so self-evident is hardly needs explaining. All of us have been on the receiving end of this kind of savage attack on our dignity and humanity. We’ve all been made to feel small, insignificant and marginalized by someone whose anger has raged out of control like a raving pit-bull. Since that’s the case dear ones we must take special care not to cause the Spirit sorrow by using speech that demeans our brothers and sisters, feeds conflict and furthers division in the church.

Finally, James compares the destructive and constructive use of speech. On the one hand we can use our words, speech and tone as poison that can seriously wound our brothers and sisters or we can use them as a healing balm of encouragement, enrichment and life. We can either speak well of and speak well to our brothers and sisters (the way we speak of and to our Lord) or we can go on playing the hypocrite by blessing our Lord and then cursing (speaking ill and maliciously) of and to God’s people. Our speech can either be a refreshing spring of grace, wisdom and concern or a bitter river of condemnation and criticism. We can either have speech that resembles sweet, ripe and nourishing fruit or spoiled, rotten and useless fruit. Begin to pray and ask our Lord to refine your speech and tone to reflect Christ-like godliness so that the next time you have a misunderstanding, issue or conflict with someone, (and you will) whether believer or non-believer you’ll speak in ways that give grace and build up instead of tear down.
Brothers and sisters let’s leave the fighting to the kung-fu masters. Let’s not treat each other as two opposing factions bent on hurting and destroying one another. The Spirit who lives in you and me has called us to pursue unity and peace in the atmosphere of God’s gracious love. Let’s speak to each other as those commissioned to walk worthy of the high calling we’ve received, not as extras in a 70’s kung-fu move.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance

The End of Blackness Pt. 4

The Hot New Morning Spot in Town… featuring

Sunday Breakthrough Worship

A Fresh Word Weekly

Live Band

Exciting Children’s Ministry

Vibrant and Creative Praise.

Experience the lifestyle of Champions at the DreamCentre

No I did not make this up for the sake of sarcastic effect. The above was on the advertising postcard of a church in my neighborhood. For those who aren’t aware (or don’t want to admit) this is the face, theme, theology and direction of the black church. And it’s not pretty. Taking their cue from the new ‘super apostles’ these new dream centers cater to the covetous. And despite what some may wish us to believe, it is they, not white people, white evangelicals or even the Nation of Islam that represent the greatest threat to the black community and black people today. Say what? Okay LL you really are buggin this time. Maybe you’re still miserable after last night’s fiasco. And while it’s true that the Eagles played like pigeon poop I am sadly neither exaggerating or making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Over the last 15 to 20 years the Black church has taken a direct and determined turn toward a deviant, ungodly and destructive theology. This is the theology that many if not most of the black folks who fill the pews on Sunday morning accept and live by regardless if they call themselves Baptist, Pentecostals, Methodist or Bapticostal. And more and more it is this theology and the cultural focus that comes with it that characterizes what we know as the black church. Moreover it is this theology that dealt the final death blow to blackness.

The black church sprang up from the soil of slavery, injustice, inhumanity and oppression. It was this church that nurtured the souls of black folks during our inhumane treatment in slavery and told us that despite the toils and troubles of this life there was a God who loved us and would free us from this existence of misery. The cultural focus of this church was liberation. Following slavery and reconstruction the black church became our refuge for survival. Throughout the week we were viewed, treated and spoken to as if we were literally nobodies. But in the church we were brother and sister, elder and mother, deacon and trustee. Sunday was special because among other things it reinforced our collective humanity and focused our attention and hopes in the world to come, one that was free from segregation, lynching, and racism. The cultural focus of this church was survival. It was the black church that led the way toward equality and justice for the masses of black people. The church led the godly, non-violent yet effective charge to a new era for both black and white America. The church through preaching and practice (everyone regardless of ethnicity was invited to become a soldier for freedom) demonstrated the wisdom and godliness of an America where legal segregation should not and could not have a place. The cultural focus of that black church was equality.

But now a new Pharaoh has arisen. This new black church has moved our cultural focus from liberation, survival and equality to success. We’re no longer saints sojourning through this world on our way to the next, but champions who through faith declare what we want here and now. More than that however this church has systematically re-defined and recast what the Scriptures teach about God, the Scriptures, mankind, sin, salvation, holiness, the kingdom, the person and work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

But guess what? Just as secular black culture accepted gangsta rap as authentically black so sacred black culture accepted the new profit driven black church into the fold. We did so even though they preached that we should pursue prosperity instead of godliness. We did so even though they reduced the majestic, sovereign, supreme, holy God to little more than a divine mascot who exists to fulfill our selfish Madison Ave. manufactured dreams. We did so even though they exchanged the church’s mission to make active followers of Jesus Christ to one that revolves and is centered around our wants, whims and wishes.

You ask why is blackness dead. It’s dead because we sacrificed our most cherished institution on the altar of prosperity, success and self-fulfillment. In its place we’re left with dream centers run by self-appointed apostles who tell us to reach for success instead of cultivating faithfulness. Blackness is dead because culturally, politically and religiously we’ve reduced it to a mere desire for more money, more things, more pleasure, more comfort, more convenience and more human fulfillment.

Blackness is dead and like Humpty Dumpty all of our creative praise, breakthrough worship and fresh weekly words cannot put it together again.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance

Friday, September 14, 2007

One World, One Culture

Christ Liberation Fellowship strives to be a mono-cultural church. Does that surprise you? Much is being said and written concerning the issue, value, point and importance of culture. To some being intentionally mono-cultural is anathema. From their viewpoint the heavenly scene recorded in Rev. 7:9 should be reflected in local church’s on earth. Consequently, no church should strive to be mono-cultural.

On the other hand there are those who would applaud my stance. They assert that subdominant groups have a right and responsibility to maintain their culture. And since the gospel is universal, no group should have to subordinate their culture just to adhere to the faith. (an issue found in Acts 15) Moreover, it’s especially important for the black church to retain our culture since to jettison it for the dominant one would essentially kill our witness within our community. In fact some might say that the reason the Nation of Islam is so compelling to black men is that they offer an alternative cultural religion to the ‘white man’s Christianity’.

I have some understanding of where both are coming from having participated in promoting and preaching each position. And to some degree both are right and wrong. Say what? Don’t switch the dial just yet I haven’t gone po-mo. (or as they say on the Simpson’s ‘weird for the sake of weird‘) The infant church began as a somewhat multi-ethnic fellowship. (I say somewhat since the Jerusalem church consisted of Hebraic and Grecian Jews, not Jews and non-Jews see Acts 2:5 and Acts 6:1) As the church began to spread more and more into the Greco-Roman world congregations arose that incorporated both Jews and non-Jews. Despite their cultural differences there doesn’t seem to be any apostolic attempt to separate God’s people along ethnic lines.
Along with that however was the reality that as new groups were incorporated in the Body of Christ they weren’t required to relinquish those important (though transient) aspects of their culture in order to remain apart of God’s church. Believers of different cultures were expected to display humility and love while striving together to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

So then why is CLF striving to become a mono-cultural church? Won’t that exclude those who don’t easily fit within our culture or don’t wish to jettison theirs? In adopting a mono-cultural attitude aren’t we just as guilty as those evangelicals who view their culture as both sacred and normative and thus expected anyone who wished to be apart of their fellowship to fall in line? Not necessarily. Our challenge isn’t to pursue or cultivate a particular God given ethnic culture (which in some ways is quite easy), but to seek out the Christ saturated, kingdom centered culture that our Lord Jesus taught and modeled during His earthly ministry. You’ll recall that one definition of culture is people with shared beliefs and practices: a group of people whose shared beliefs and practices identify the particular place, class, or time to which they belong
Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

That’s not the only definition of culture, but it is one that suits our discussion at this point. CLF seeks to be mono-cultural not in picking out a particular human culture to emphasize but in aiming to embody the biblical culture that should mark out God’s people regardless of the other cultural aspects that identify them. But aren’t you going to have and display some form of human culture? You’re not really claiming to be acultural are you? No we’re not. It’s just that I hope that as we grow and develop our transient (though important) God given human culture doesn’t overshadow our Christ centered, kingdom focused culture.

“Isn’t this just another way you black reformed brothers seek to abandon your blackness and mimic white folks?” I hope not. But for the sake of discussion if we were to pursue being a black church what shade of black should we be? Should we seek to be the black traditional church, Word of Faith black church, hip-hop black church or Afrocentric black church? You see being the black church just isn’t what it used to be. The issue for us is this: do we emphasize our God given human culture and thus primarily identify ourselves in that way or should we strive to highlight the Christ centered, kingdom focused culture that should mark all of God’s people everywhere?

And should you be in the area you’re welcomed to join our quest. Whether your traditional or hip-hop black church. It doesn’t matter if your emerging from the WofF movement or want to flaunt your afro-centricity. You can be formal presby or informal Pentecostal. Emergent, submergent, baby boom or bust. We’d love some first, one and a half or second gen Koreans, Chinese or Hispanics. While we’re at it lets include some Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters, Arabs and Persians. Are Africans invited? They most certainly are along with Indians, Europeans and South Americans. West Indies, East Indies, Pacific Rim and Canadians. And in case I’ve missed anyone we’re even open to both Klingons and Romulans.

For us the issue isn’t primarily who you are (and yes that’s important) but what we’re becoming by the grace of God and power of the Spirit.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Midweek Grace - Acts 7.

For many of us history was not our subject of choice in high school. It seemed an interminable bore of long dead people, long forgotten dates and long irrelevant events that had no connection with the here and now. However, once and awhile a history teacher came along that made the subject come alive. He or she relayed the people, places, dates and events as if we were there and living through it ourselves. Of course, the best history teachers connected past events and people with today’s socio/political realities.

The first martyr of the New Testament church was one such instructor. Stephen was one of the first deacons of the church and was a man full of God’s grace, Spirit and wisdom. He also was a dynamic evangelist with an incisive, Christ-centered knowledge of Scripture. He put this knowledge to use as he witnessed of the risen Lord.
It’s what Stephen said about our Lord that aroused opposition and thus provided him the chance to give a scintillating account of redemptive history. Remember, redemptive history is the history of God’s people recorded and interpreted in Scripture that leads up to the redemption of all God’s people through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
What did Stephen say that provoked such anger among the people that they dragged him before their rulers for an impromptu trial? We’re not sure, but from their false accusations Stephen may had declared that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was the final and ultimate satisfaction for sin and thus there was no longer any need for ritual animal sacrifices. These statements of truth were twisted into lies that seem to center on three crucial issues: 1. Where does God dwell, 2. How does one obtain and maintain a right relationship with Him, 3. Who is Jesus Christ.

Stephen’s response is a riveting, Spirit-filled account of redemptive history. He begins with the story of Abraham the great patriarch of God’s people and the father of the faithful. Stephen points out that Abraham’s part in God’s story wasn’t confined to him getting a new place to live or to show us how to get the material things we want with God’s help. Instead God chose Abraham to be the father of a nation that after a period of time would live in their own land with the singular purpose of worshiping Him (see Acts 7:7). Despite the strength of the nations that surrounded Abraham, his apparent vulnerability and that fact that he was given this promise while still childless God was faithful. Abraham with Sarah bore Isaac. Isaac with Rebekah bore Jacob and Esau. Jacob with Leah, Rachel and their maidservants bore the twelve tribes of Israel. In time a famine threatened wipe out Jacob and his fledgling family.

But God was faithful. He preserved His people from starvation through their brother Joseph. Joseph, the one rejected by his brothers ends up becoming the instrument of their salvation. The people of God enter Egypt with 75 people (70 from Jacobs family plus five from Joseph’s who were already in Egypt). There they prosper, multiply and most of all preserved the knowledge of the One, true and living God for the world. However a new pharaoh who didn’t know or acknowledge Joseph’s contribution to his nation arose and brutally oppressed God’s people to the point of threatening a genocide (Acts 7:19).

But God was faithful. He preserved Moses His servant and through His sovereign care caused him to be reared in the palace of the king. One day Moses decided to check out how the boys in the hood were doing and witnessed an incident of police brutality. He intervened, killed the oppressor and hid the body. After trying to break up a fight between two Hebrews Moses learned that his crime had been discovered and has to run for his life into the land of Midian. Moreover, his people questioned his authority asking sarcastically ‘who made you a ruler and judge over us’. While Moses is gone and builds a new life his people continue to suffer from the harshness of slavery.

But God was faithful. After forty years He appears to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai within a bush that burned yet was not consumed. As Moses approached the bush the Creator of heaven and earth spoke to him and said ’I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob‘. Moses shook with fear. God would send Moses back to Egypt to rescue His people from the power of Pharaoh. Moses led the people out of slavery with powerful displays of signs and wonders. It was this Moses that solemnly told the people ’God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren’. (Acts 7:37) Despite their miraculous deliverance which included crossing the Red Sea on dry land, the people rebelled against God, His servant and His law. Through there own rebellion and disobedience God’s people aroused His anger and if God had been completely just would have endured His complete punishment. God however dealt with His people graciously instead of fairly. He gave them the tabernacle of testimony while they lived in the desert. The tabernacle made exactly according to the pattern God had shown Moses traveled with God’s people throughout their wandering assuring them that He indeed was present with them. At times it seemed with their rebellion and disobedience that God would finally reject and destroy them.

But God was faithful. He brought them into their own land and raised up a leader who gave them rest from all their enemies. King David became the shepherd of God’s people and through God’s power guided them to live in the land of promise safely. It was this David the poet of Israel who one day reflected on all the blessings the Covenant Lord had granted to him and His people. David wondered why he lived in a palace of cedar while the ark of God sat in a tent. Though David desired to build a house for God, the Lord promised He would raise up David’s son to build a temple for Him. God further promised that David’s throne would endure forever. David’s reign however was not without trouble. Through his own sin and the attacks of Satan his rule and legacy was jeopardized as the kingdom threatened to be torn apart.

But God was faithful. Solomon ascended the throne of his father David and began to build the temple of God. Upon its completion Solomon stood before the great God and His people and declared the wonders of God’s majesty by stating ‘"But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! (1 Kings 8:27)
That’s a fascinating question. Will God in fact live on the earth? Will He continue to strive with rebellious, disobedient people who reject His authority? Stephen rightly pointed out the people’s continued rebellion and stubborn hard-heartedness. It was about 500 years after the completion of Solomon’s temple that the building lay in ruins, God’s people were scattered to the nations and the throne of David sat empty. How was God going to keep all His promises, finally deal with the sin of His people without eternally judging them and at last live with His creation?

But God was faithful. Enter Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God. Jesus the Son of God, begotten, not made. Jesus who is very God of very God. Jesus who is the blessing and inheritance of Abraham. Jesus who like Joseph is rejected by His brothers, but ends up being the instrument of their salvation. Jesus who is the final deliverer of all God’s people setting us free from the penalty and power of our own sin. Jesus the prophet that God raised up who was like Moses. Jesus who is the shepherd of God’s people and the One who right now sits on David’s throne and rules God’s eternal, righteous kingdom. Jesus who finally and fully answered Solomon’s enigmatic question. Jesus who is the actual temple of God. Jesus who now lives among His people by His Spirit and therefore fills heaven and earth by His presence. Where does God live? Is He confined to a narrow parcel of land about the size of New Jersey located in the mid-east? No, God lives among His people who now make up the temple of the living God and offer our sacrificial worship through the living lamb Jesus Christ. How does God rescue the wicked, deal with sin and still uphold His holiness? Through the sinless life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. Who is Jesus Christ? He is the theme, subject, substance, point and culmination of Scripture, history, salvation, life and our faithful God.
Let the church say ‘Amen’!

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance

Friday, September 07, 2007

Black Like Us

You. . . are truly a blessing and the enemy is just trying to take you out but trust in know that you are coming into a fresh stronger anointing. Remain blessed and highly favored.

We release the favor of God upon your life for this very intense season of perfecting. Continue to follow God and be proactive as relates to the healing process both personally and matrimonially.
This is not the end but rather the beginning of the NEW Thing God has self-counseled to perform in your life.

I appreciate you sharing how you felt about your test. I must say that everyone has something that they may encounter but out of all of this God will get the glory and you shall be ok. You. . . are just being tested on how crazy your faith really is. I will pray for you. . .

We in South Africa are praying for you. . . , a mess becomes a message and a test becomes a testimony. In this "BE STILL AND KNOW THAT HE IS GOD" His Peace upon you both.

Yes ..I will be praying for u. May God show u through this test what's important in ur life. U will still be able to touch many lives. This is just a trash bag that you have to empty. Stay strong bless!!

I am praying for you …. All things work together for the good to them who are called according to His purpose. I will never give up the faith in both of you. God Bless you…

About three weeks ago inspirational speaker Juanita Bynum was allegedly beaten, kicked and stomped by her estranged husband Mr. Thomas Weeks III in an Atlanta hotel parking lot. Concerning the alleged attack The Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote ‘According to an Atlanta police incident report, Bynum said her husband "choked her, pushed her down, kicked and stomped her."
She told police Weeks "continued stomping" her into the ground until a hotel bell man pulled him away. Police also said Weeks threatened Bynum's life.’

Before we go on to discuss how this affects the wider church and our witness to our society and culture I must begin by clearly condemning any form of physical spousal abuse for any reason. No man at no time and for no reason is ever in any way justified from raising his hand and striking his wife. The prophet Malachi spoke of the Lord’s hatred for wife abuse. (Mal. 2:16) We can best understand this upon considering that the marital relationship is supposed to reflect Christ’s loving relationship with the church. It is both repugnant and unconscionable to even imagine Christ abusing the church and it is likewise repugnant and heinous for a man to physically beat upon his wife. Such behavior is grounds for immediate separation and without acute, prolonged and serious intervention, divorce.
And if one who claims to be a pastor or minister is found guilty of striking his wife he must immediately be removed from the pulpit, his ministry and once more apart from serious, acute and prolonged counseling never allowed to return. Would we do any less if he were caught in adultery?

Because of their high profile positions and marriage this incident has drawn national attention and in my view demands some kind of response from the church. And at this point I’m speaking particularly of the black church whether Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist and Reformed (small as it may be). We have to respond because Mr. Weeks and Ms. Bynum represented a large and growing (and at this time the most influential) section of the black church and we accepted that. Few ever questioned their theology, their claims, their methods or their lifestyle. It seemed to matter little to us that almost every time they took the stage they systematically violated each of the first four commandments. If that weren’t enough it appears they consistently broke the ninth command and instead of keeping the tenth actually elevated it, turned it completely upside down and declared that covetousness is the real mark, purpose and goal of salvation and life.

All the while we for the most part stood by silently. They were black after all. If they wanted to engage in the organized crime of weekly flock fleecing well who were we to judge. No, for the black church (including some within the black reformed community) theology is the white man’s distraction. An opiate that would lull us to silence in the face of the "real" problems blacks folks face in white man’s America. I hate to say it but it seems that for far too many of us ethnic strife with our white brothers and the larger white society is THE issue. It’s as almost as if we didn’t care that week after week our people (whom we claim to represent and care for so much) were being fed poison that would corrupt their souls and destroy their lives. I wonder how would we respond if a white person stood up and told black people to send them the mortgage and rent money to receive their blessing? It seems that we’re all too willing to call a spade a spade as long as that spade sports a white visage.

Do I sound angry? Good because I am. I’m angry because it appears that it’s alright for black people to be led into gross idolatry as long as the high priests and priestesses are black like us. I’m angry because if a white evangelical got up and declared that churches separated along ethnic lines was the will of God we’d jump all over him, call for his immediate removal and demand an apology and retraction. Yet over and over and over again false prophets can recast and re-imagine God in their own image to line their pockets and for the most part we utter not a mumbling word.

Finally, while I’m angry at the ‘ministry’ of Ms. Bynum I hope she recovers fully and that our Lord heals her from the emotional scars of this trauma. I also pray and hope that she will repent of her idolatry and follow the Lord according to the way of the cross.

But that’s not the reason I began this post with a list a of encouragements.
While I’m sure a great outpouring of sympathy and support have poured in for Ms. Bynum the above quotes were posted on Thomas Weeks III myspace page for his encouragement.

Pastor Lance

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Midweek Grace - Psalm 2

He didn’t look much like a king. He never seemed to carry himself as royalty did. I never saw him command any troops or servants for that matter. In fact he actually seemed to take joy in serving others. He most definitely did not engage in some of the questionable behaviors that other rulers did like cavorting with mistresses. Truth be told it appeared that the most sinful women in town felt comfortable in his presence as if they knew they were completely safe. He also didn’t keep the company of a king. Instead of surrounding himself with the rich and powerful he chose to hang around and befriend peasants like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. His closest followers weren’t drawn from the religious elite, but from working class folks.

That’s not to say he wasn’t powerful. He did things that no emperor, governor or king ever did. Not even the Pharisees demonstrated the power of the peasant-prophet from Nazareth. There was the time when blind (well he’s not blind anymore) Bartimeus heard him along the road and cried out with all his might to be healed and he was! I’ve heard of people with leprosy cleansed at his touch and of course everybody knows about his close friend Lazarus.

Then there was the teaching. It is said that he held the close attention of multiple thousands for hours simply teaching the way and word of God. His teaching wasn’t like the other religious leaders who are always quoting rabbi this and rabbi that to prove their point. He began his teaching by saying things like ‘truly, truly, I say to you’. It’s as if he was speaking on his own authority that could not be questioned! No doubt the subject of much of his teaching was the kingdom of God, which makes some of his actions so puzzling. I mean he could have easily raised an army of thousands, overran the Roman garrison at Jerusalem and had himself installed as king.
Here was a man who taught on his own authority, stood up to and confounded the Pharisees, healed at will, and demonstrated genuine compassion for people just like us. Yet, when the crowds tried to force him to grab for the throne he refused. For some reason this would be king just didn’t want political power. Doesn’t he know that our main problems are here and now? Isn’t he aware of the humiliation we endure because of the Romans? Does he not see that we’re dealing with real issues in the real world? Yeah the meek might inherit the earth in some pie in the sky future, but I for one am sick of being poor, sick of being oppressed and sick of being ruled by ruthless idiots like Pilate.

But then there was a day like I’ve never seen in Jerusalem. We were hanging in the temple when in the distance we heard the deafening sound of a huge crowd singing and shouting. As we ran out to see what was happening the scene before us was nothing less then breathtaking. It appears like hundreds if not thousands of people were walking while spreading cloaks and palm branches and shouting ‘Hosanna’ at the top of their lungs. I’ve experienced some wonderful things in my life. I recall the look in my wife’s eyes when we were first married and the joy I felt in my heart at the birth of our first child. But I’d never seen or felt anything like this. This… this was from God. Our women had the look of hope on their faces and even our little children were filled with praise. And our men… our men finally walked with their heads held high not fearing the religious elite or the Romans. In the middle of the scene there he was, the man who would be king. But unlike other times when he walked right among the crowds (remember I said he didn’t act like regular kings) he actually rode on a donkey! This was too strange. Here he was, the peasant-prophet of Galilee riding from the Mount of Olives straight into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey with people singing and shouting before and behind him saying ’Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! It was if he set out to intentionally fulfill the prophecy written in Zechariah. (see Zech. 9:9) We could almost taste the kingdom being restored to Judah.

None of this was lost on our religious leaders. They heard and saw what was happening and immediately confronted him for misleading our precious children. ‘Do you hear what they’re saying’ they demanded of him! He most certainly did and still most certainly accepted their worship! I thought surely he is the Son of David, the king of Israel. But then the week went on and our would be king lost. It seems he got into the religious leaders faces and corrupt business one too many times. One of his closest followers betrayed him and after a corrupt trial in a kangaroo court he was beaten, led up to Golgotha and crucified. The faces of our women that were filled with hope were now covered in grief, our children whose mouths shouted praises were strangely silent and our men who just last week walked with dignity once more bowed our heads in anger frustration and bitterness. Once more we all felt the brunt of Roman brutality as one of our own felt the sting of their barbarity.

I was thinking of these things when sitting in synagogue one day waiting for worship to start. Yes, I too heard the rumors about him ‘rising from the dead‘ but the only thing rising up around here are Roman taxes I mused. The service began and proceeded to the sacred reading and that’s when it happened. The attendant gave the scroll to the reader who began with the psalms. When he arrived at the portion that read,
"As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill." I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. (see psalm 2:6-7)

something happened to me. It was if all the things I’d seen and heard about him suddenly fell into place. He is the king spoken of in the psalms, the one the leaders conspired to kill. He is the king who Zechariah spoke about. The reading came to an end with the passage that declares
‘Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.’ (see Psalm 2:12)

There was no time to explain. I told my wife and children (yes all six of them) to get up. We were leaving. Yes, I was causing a small disturbance but that didn’t matter. I took hold of their hands and began to walk ( I was later told that I broke out into a run) to the area where his followers gathered daily for teaching, prayer and fellowship. I saw one of his closest disciples, ran up and falling on my knees with tears streaming from my face looked into his eyes not knowing how to articulate the truth that burned in my soul. The man looked at me with a mixture of joy and compassion and then taking me by the hand bid me to stand up and said ‘rise friend, we bow before no one save God’s last prophet, our great high priest and the eternal King. . . Jesus the Christ.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

2007 Miami Pastor's Conference

September here and you know what that means. Okay yes it's football season but I'm not talking about that. Yes, yes it's also back to school season but I'm not thinking of that either. Alright true enough September begins the annual church season but I didn't have that in mind either.

September means that conference season has begun! (although it seems to be a year round phenomena these days)

Anyway allow me to enlighten, invite, encourage and even pester you to consider attending the Miami Pastor's Conference. This event which is hosted by Rev. Ricky Armstrong at the Glendale Baptist Church is one of the best conferences I've had the privilege to attend. You not only get to spend some time in Miami in November, but you also get to hear solid, vibrant preaching on the things of the gospel, enjoy rich fellowship with other reformed brothers and sisters, be blessed by the awesome hospitality of the saints of Glendale and throw down on some of the serious food which is included with the price of registration. The conference dates are November 8th through the 10th. Mix master Mike Horton will be joining the usual (and suberb) suspects Anthony Carter, Ken Jones, Michael Leach and Ricky Armstrong to bring it sound and strong. So what are you waiting for? The theme. Oh yes forgot about that.

The theme for this year's conference is “What Is The Gospel?”
Which in light of recent web discussions is an excellent and timely theme. Based on some of the things I've been hearing I wonder if we in the black reformed community believe that there is one God who has committed us to proclaiming one gospel that leads to one salvation through His one Son and thus brings us into fellowship with one believing community made up of many ethnicities or if there are merely aspects of the gospel that we must take and apply to the felt needs and issues of 21st century black people? While you're chewing on that let me whet your appetite with the pre-conference workshop entitled 'African-Americans: Making The Case For Reformed Theology' led by A. Carter, K. Jones, M. Leach and R. Armstrong.

So get registered, start checking for flights and meet me in Miami!


Monday, September 03, 2007

The End of Blackness Pt. 3

Once you’ve gotten some education, landed a good job and are raising your kids out in the suburbs, well I don’t consider you to be black anymore.”

That’s a paraphrase of an answer to a question concerning affirmative action I heard some years ago. It was given by a veteran Civil Rights minister in response to a thirty something well educated African-American mother who phoned to ask why her children needed affirmative action since they attended suburban schools, were blessed with parents who graduated from college and all in all would have many of the same opportunities as their white counterparts who lived in the same area. Upon hearing her life situation the minister declared that in his opinion they were no longer black.

The point of this particular post isn’t affirmative action however, but the end of blackness. Debra J. Dickerson has stated that only those African-Americans who’ve descended from West African slaves are “politically and culturally black, as we use the term.” My last post on this subject asserted that the notion of cultural blackness is indeed dead. In this post I want to make the same point concerning political blackness.

To make a long, long story short the conviction of political blackness grew out of the meta-narrative of African-American enslavement and subsequent segregation. Whether it was the actual and legal Jim Crow south or the de facto but all too real John Crow north black folks were viewed, regarded and mistreated as 3rd class citizens. At one point in black history it didn’t matter how brilliant, educated, motivated, patriotic, and godly you were. What mattered was your blackness. For example, I remember talking to an older brother who spoke of his service in WWII. He served as a fire fighter and became quite skilled in doing so. However upon returning to Philadelphia there was no way he could land a job with the city fire dept. Why? Because he was black plain and simple. Up through the 1960’s there was a clear political reality for the vast, vast majority of black people who lived in America. But that reality is a thing of the past for we no longer live in a racist society. By that I mean that being black is not the single overriding factor that determines each and every important aspect of our lives.

In our drive to end segregation did we intend to put blackness to rest too? Yes, we did. We fought for a society in which our children would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Were we ashamed of who we were, where we came from and those who brought us through? Absolutely not. It’s just that we wanted to add the blessing of that strength to America with the hope that we’d be treated like all other Americans. To put it another way, the Civil Rights Movement set out to change the political reality that dominated black people toward the end that we would meld into the body politic of America. Now the consequence (intended or not) of that desire was that African-Americans would no longer be viewed as one monolithic group with one overriding political concern. Instead black people like white people would view their political fortunes based on their own personal circumstances. (I’m not saying that this is the only or proper way to approach politics only that it was one of the aims of the Civil Rights Movement)

What did we want? In one respect we wanted what most other Americans desire out of life. To live without the daily debilitating fear of the private terror that could invade our existence at the whim of any white man, to be treated with the dignity and respect due to everyone created in God’s image, to be given the same opportunities as all other Americans to pursue life, liberty and happiness, to have the hope that our children could one day obtain an education, land a good job, move to the suburbs, and send their children to good integrated schools. Did we mean to trade away our political blackness for this victory? Perhaps not. But all in all it was a small price to pay.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance

9 to 5

Happy Labor Day folks. The link will take you to a sermon I preached entitled '9 to 5' as part of an extended series from Genesis. The passage I spoke from was Genesis 2:15 ' The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.'

Pastor Lance