Friday, September 18, 2009

Divided by Politics

Hey out there. It's been a few months but I think I'm finally getting back in the swing of things. Let's start off the fall season with a topic it seems everyone is talking or thinking about. What's that you ask? No it's not fantasy football (although I do have a pretty good squad this year), it's politics.

I'm sure you've either gotten into or at least overheard a political discussion in the past few months. It seems that this country is growing more and more divided and hostile with each passing day. Most all of us have strong political opinions whether they fall on the left or the right. Below are just a few thoughts that I find helpful to remind myself just as a particular discussion is getting heated and I'm tempted to lose my religion just to score a few polticial points. Hope they're helpful to you.

My primary calling to my ethnicity and this country is one of witness, influence and discipleship. My main calling is to promote the King's agenda to all people. Am I particularly concerned with African-Americans? Yes I am just as Paul was particularly concerned with Jewish people (see Romans 9). But my concern for black folks doesn't and can never center on striving to see that we get our piece of the American pie. I must first concern myself with the souls of black folks for their souls will far outlast their sojourn in this country.

Does my concern for African-Americans lesson the concern I have and should have for others? Of course not, no more than Paul was less concerned about Greeks or Romans just because he yearned to see his own people embrace Christ. I am an American citizen and am therefore concerned for the overall well-being of this country just as I'm concerned for the overall well-being of those blacks who reside within it. However, just as I'm not primarily focused with the temporary fortunes of African-Americans so I'm also not devoted to America maintaining its military and economic dominance. While I wish no harm to America and certainly don't wish this or any country have to suffer undue hardships, I am not devoted to its continued world supremacy.

My real and lasting citizenship is in heaven. For now I live in a fallen broken world. And even if everyone whom I wished were elected and able to manage this country in the exact manner I believed it ought to be managed I'd still live in a fallen, broken country where things went wrong. I will only be completely safe, content, fulfilled, free from pain, sorrow or worry in the kingdom that is to come.

Those who oppose my political positions are not necessarily anti-black, anti-American or anti-Christian. I may believe they're wrong but that doesn't make them stupid, foolish or evil.

I really do have more in common with believers with whom I disagree politically than with unbelievers whose politics line up with my own.

Because I first and foremost represent the King and not a particular ethnicity or country I'm bound by His example and word to speak to, speak about and treat everyone with a measure of dignity, respect and kindness. And I must pay particular attention to how I regard and respect my elected officials. For me to belittle, demean or seek to humiliate anyone for any reason is to promote and endorse the very thing my King is against.

Regarding my political positions I could be wrong. I don't have all the information, cannot possibly with 100% accuracy predict the future, cannot be absolutely sure of everyone's motives and intentions and therefore should approach any political discussion with a measure of humility.

While I hope and would work to see that my politics reflect biblical principles I must admit that the application of those principles will differ depending on any number of factors. Thus a brother or sister in Christ who disagrees with my politics isn't necessarily unbiblical or even wrong.

I need to take the biblical mandate seriously and not put my trust in men no matter how sincere, competent and well-meaning I believe them to be. At the end of the day they are men.

The eternal kingdom of the living God is in no way dependent on a particular country for its inevitable growth and progress. If the U.S. dissolved tomorrow God's kingdom would roll on.

This is prime time for God's people. We live in a deeply divided country at a time of great uncertainty. What better time then to show the world what biblical reconciliation is. Since Christ reconciled His enemies by the cross I know we can show love and respect to those who differ from us politically. In the face of fear, frustration, uncertainty and division we present and proclaim Christ the one who drives away fear, has complete sovereign control of His world (and our lives), is a sure and certain hope for our souls and unifies men and women, blacks and whites, soccer moms and basketball moms, working income and middle income, city dwellers and suburbanites, and yes even republicans and democrats into one eternal family by His cross.

Finally, while I take politics seriously I do so with a grain of salt. I need to remember that the worst thing that could happen to me is not that my party fails to gain power, or that my people fail to take our place in America or that even America loses its worldwide influence, power and status. No the worst thing that could happen to me, my people or America is that we take this world so seriously that we completely neglect the world to come. That I'd be so convinced of the rightness of my arguments and the justice of my cause that how I spoke to and treated others didn't matter. The worst thing that could happen to me is that I would lose focus on the reality of the eternal yet to come and allow the reality of the temporary now to dominate my mind, heart and actions. The worst thing I could do is to so identify with black folks, or America or democrats or republicans that I actually replace the pursuit of God's eternal kingdom and agenda with the pursuit of their temporary agenda. The worst thing that could happen to me is that I pour all of my energy and efforts into a country destined for destruction and fail to tell the people of that country of a far better country with a far better destiny and far, far better King.

To Him Who Loves Us...
pastor lance

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

Come on in ya'll it's about to start. My cousins and I (all between the ages of 5 and 8) dropped what we were doing, ran into the living room, quieted our voices and together with our families gathered in front of the t.v. to watch the Jackson 5. We were mesmerized, enthralled, entertained and impressed all at the same time. And little Michael Jackson was the star of the show. Here was a kid just a bit older than we commanding the stage and giving hope (shortly lived for the vast majority of us) that we too could do the same. It's difficult to put into words what the Jackson 5 meant to me and most every other black child in the late sixties and early 70's. Their sound, dancing, songs, clothes and afros signaled one thing and one thing only. They were BAD!

For many within the Black community during that time the Jackson 5 were more than just a group of talented brothers from Indiana who happened to have one unqiue, extraordinaly talented brother. They were part of the Motown business phenomena that produced hit after hit after hit with multiple groups and singers. The same crowd that filled the Spectrum in South Philly to cheer the Jackson 5 returned for the Temps, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder and the Four Tops. Motown, The Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson in particular were an important part of our lives. They provided the soundtrack that helped get us through the 60's and into the 70's.

But things change, music progresses and little kid stars grow up and move onto other things. By the end of the 70's Motown moved to L.A., the Jackson 5 broke up and Mike went out on his own. My musical tastes in the the teen years veered from Billy Joel, to Earth Wind and Fire and other grown up acts. In the early 80's just as the black community was getting used to a new form of music called rap, Michael Jackson roared back and became the king of pop. Michael Jackson went from child prodigy to a legitimate on his own mega-superstar that did what few if any had ever done. He literally dominated the mid eighties making him one of the few singers who enjoyed significant success in three separate decades.

Much will be said about Michael's troubling and turbulent life. But before we evangelicals wax eloquent on another life that had everything but Jesus let's keep something in mind. From the time he was a small child Michael Jackson was pushed into the massive celebrity and fame. While we can lament how his life unfolded we should at least understand how it could have unfolded in that manner and be humble enough admit that we too would have had a difficult time had we been blessed with such once in a lifetime talent. And as far as I know most highly talented, very wealthy and famous people live and die without Jesus. I don't know Steve Jobs but my guess is that he was closer to death than many and yet I don't know if the man has repented of his sins and placed his faith in Jesus. But I'm pretty sure that most evangelicals who swear by their Macs don't think much about that as they fire up their machines, listen to their ipods and download apps on their iphones. True, Micheal's life and story were tragic, but judging from the rest of the celebrities in our fame saturated and ravaged culture it was not unusual. Speaking of the cult of celebrity let's be sure to check ours before we excoriate the world who swooned over Michael and stoked the fires of his double-edged fame. As much as we try and separate from the world we too like our celebrities and we do indeed celebrate when one of our own gains a bit of notoriety among the culture.

Sadly Michael Jackson's life was tragic and his death perhaps even more so. But remember saints but for the grace of God there go I. We usually invoke that phrase as we pass the homeless soul begging for his daily bread at a major intersection. However, it's probably more appropriate to think about it when we lose someone of Michael Jackson's stature. His life and death highlight our need for God's grace because apart from it we'd be just as lost regardless of whether or not we had all the other aspects of our lives together which as we know Michael did not. Michael Jackson entertained and impacted millions of people during his life. They will celebrate his talent and mourn his death. Should our Lord give us the opportunity to do so let's mourn with them and if given the chance to talk about his life be sure to remember that we too would be broken, confused and lost apart from God's marvelous grace found in Jesus Christ.

To Him Who Loves Us...
pastor lance

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The BLACK man did it

"It's a terrifying thing," she said, "for a community to hear that two black men in a black Cadillac grabbed a woman and her daughter."

Now that's an interesting statement isn't it. One would think that it's a terrifying thing for any community to hear that a woman and her daugther were grabbed and then shoved into the back of a car in broad daylight by anyone. But for reasons we know all too well the terror level jumps off the scale when an overwhelmingly white community (Bucks County PA is nearly 95% white) hears that two BLACK men grabbled a woman and her daughter. But the report wasn't merely confined to a few people in Bucks County. It seems that as soon as the police received a cell phone call from a woman who accused two BLACK men of abducting her and her child the report hit the local Philly area newscast at warp 9 and by the time the evening news cycle hit that was the big story for the 4 plus Million residents of the greater Delaware Valley. The 'liberal' media went into overdrive posting the young mother's picture, interviewing neighbors and telling her story. Bonnie's apparent abduction quickly hit the national news and for a day or so the hunt was on for the mythical BLACK men who brazenly rear ended Bonnie's vehicle and then supposedly got out of their Caddilac, pulled Bonnie and her child from their car, shoved them into the the trunk (not the back seat mind you) of the Caddy and then drove off. This all in broad daylight, (btw is there any such thing as narrow daylight) during rush hour at a busy intersection. And yet, no one else saw this. In a society where everyone and their 10 year old brat has a cell phone two BLACK men were apparently able to cause an accident, kidnap a woman and her daughter and no one else called the cops. And for reasons still unknown to me the police didn't seem to find that in the least bit odd.

For many Black folks the issue isn't just that Bonnie Sweeten played the 'BLACK man did it card' again, it's the ease of which it was accepted by the Bucks County police and news media. It was only after Bonnie's story began to unravel that some unsettling details began to come out regarding her recent activities much of which appears to involve embezzling money from the accounts of former close friends.
I'm bringing this up with the hope that we can learn something about ourselves, our society and our witness. We may have come a long way baby, but we still have a long way to go. 'But Lance, this woman committed an isolated incident that's now in the past'. We'll never get past race if you and others keep bringing incidents like these up to highlight our differences'. Perhaps. It's just that in this case the Clyde to Bonnie's caper included an eager police force and news media. Once the story broke the news media repeatedly declared that Bonnie had called from the trunk of a car driven by two BLACK men. After the truth came out all they seemed to say is the Bonnie committed a hoax. Perhaps I'm a concerned father about to send his BLACK teenage son to college and wonder what might happen if.... Perhaps we won't get past the issue of race/ethnicity unless and until we do actually talk about it. Perhaps if Bonnie was involved in a church where she regularly worshiped with, served with, got to know and love some BLACK men this ugly incident would never have happened in the first place. And perhaps the church should remember that the gospel cannot affect entrenched racial attitudes (whether they spring from blacks, whites or whomever) if we persist in being unwilling to even acknowledge they exist.

Whatever you think (and I'm sure I'll hear from some of you) there is one thing we can agree upon. Bonnie Sweeten set out to commit an act of fraud and knew that she could at least get a good head start by claiming that two BLACK men did it. And she was right.

Oh, and the quote that began this post. That was from Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry.

To Him Who Loves Us...
pastor lance

Monday, June 01, 2009

Suburban Myths Part 2

'In the 60's the government fought a war on poverty and poverty won'. I'm pretty sure you've heard that one before. It's usually the prelude to a homily on how the church either abdicated its responsibility to care for the poor or the government usurped that role for themselves. The line of thinking behind such statements is that God charged the church to provide for the poor and that government has no business fishing in that pool.

I believe this thinking is faulty on a number of levels. That doesn't mean that the church as the church (I'll explain in a minute) shouldn't engage in consistent acts of mercy toward the poor along with advocating for justice for the poor and less powerful. What did I mean that the church as the church should commit to consistent mercy? Simply that the church (either denominationally or locally) acts as the body of Christ, representing her Lord in the capacity of witnessing of His mercy and justice to the community in which she serves. That's different from saying that individual believers should do acts of mercy with the conviction that the church only acts in an official capacity when she gathers for the formal worship of our Lord.

The fact that I'm for churches advocating for the poor and doing acts of mercy doesn't mean however that I believe that suburban churches and believers should assume the responsibility of reversing the cycle of poverty that's gripped several generations of poor people who live in America's large cities. Why is that? To begin with it's unlikely that suburban churches would really put the resources needed to tackle the problem which is deep and complex. Most churches (whether urban or suburban) follow the normal institutional sociological pattern of using their resources on themselves. As they grow and develop they tend to hire and expend resources on people and programs that for the most part serve the needs and desires of the church. I'm not saying if that's right or wrong, just that it is. Since that's the case it would be nearly impossible for a single church to commit resources to serve their needs and the needs of the poor. Could a group of churches or denomination do this? Perhaps, but think about this for a moment. Over forty years have passed since President Johnson initiated the Great Society and well over ten have slipped by since President Clinton declared that the era of big government is over. In all that time few if any evangelical denominations or group of churches has stepped forth to grapple with the challenges of the poor head on. This may be a difficult point for us to accept because it means that even if the government retired from caring for the poor tomorrow we know that the church wouldn't immediately step up to fill the gap.

The myriad of needs that challenge the poor and less powerful are a another reason that the church is not equipped to fully address this issue. A child born to an impoverished black family today will face a daunting maze of challenges to rise from that status. The church would have to find a way to connect with that child and his or her family and begin to see to the proper nutritional, social, emotional and intellectual needs even before they began formal education. Being that home schooling is an unlikely option some other type of academically challenging education must be sought and to give you an idea of what that could entail my son's private Christian school will charge nearly a thousand dollars per month to educate an elementary child in the coming school year. Take a breath for a moment. I've merely mentioned an avenue to begin helping one child out of one family. I haven't even dealt with health care needs, a stable home environment, setting aside money for college, developing non-academic interest etc. Nor have I delved into how to serve the rest of that family, their immediate neighbors and community.

Aside from directly serving the poor and less powerful there are the many factors that impact them that the church would have to at least consider. These factors involve the entrenched disinvestment in America's large cities, the ever changing world economic landscape, the complexity of large scale economic systems and the difficulty in addressing the effects of long-term, generational poverty among others. Addressing the needs of the poor is far, far more complex than giving a family a dinner basket on Thanksgiving or a child a toy on Christmas. A substantial portion of America's population was caught in the grip of cyclical poverty long before President Johnson suggested the Great Society. That will not be reversed in a season, year or even perhaps a decade.

One more thought on why the suburban church will most likely not ride to the rescue of the poor. The prevailing line of thought among of many evangelicals with respect to the poor is that they must do what is needed to lift themselves from poverty. Many evangelicals believe in less government (except for the military and law enforcement sectors) because of their convictions that government is by nature inefficient and ill-suited to do much more than the basics of protecting the country from outside harm and insuring a general degree of law and order within the land. Added to this is the evangelical conviction that the problems of the poor have much more to do with unwise choices and personal irresponsibility. While I don't want to debate these things now I do think it's helpful to highlight that the mindset that believes the poor should take much more responsibility for their own lives may be less likely to want the church of which he is a member to expend resources to assist them to do so. For them the issue isn't should the government or the church help the poor, it's why aren't the poor doing more to help themselves.

There does however remain a way the church could potentially make a substantial impact upon the poor, but that's for the next post.

To Him Who Loves Us...
pastor lance

Monday, May 25, 2009

Suburban Myths Part 1

Just lookin' out of the window
Watchin' the asphalt glow
Thinkin' how it all looks 'hand-me-down'

Recently, Justin Taylor over at Between Two Worlds posted a link to an article that touched the age old (okay maybe it's not that old) suburban vs. urban debate. Part of the article states that for some it's cool to love the city and loathe the suburbs. As one who was born and grew up in the city, went to live in the burbs for a bit and have since returned to the city I thought I'd chime in on the subject. Some of you probably recognized the lyrics above from the closing song of the 70's show 'Good Times'. Many of us who were raised in poor black areas of America's large cities can readily identify with that song. Growing up in these areas I never met anyone from my family, friends, classmates, or anybody else who actually wanted to live in the city. As far as the city went the mantra of my parents, relatives and other adults in my life was 'get an education, get a good job and get out. My wife was the first black person I'd ever met who was raised in the city and still had a strong desire and determination to live in the city.

Over the last couple of decades much has been said about the mandate for Christians to move from the suburbs back into the city to bring the gospel to bear on the many challenges faced by those who live in the city. There has been however a fair amount of mythology that has also grown up around this subject. With that in mind then I'd like to do a short series of posts to expose and challenge some of these suburban myths.

Myth #1 - It is the church's responsibility to provide complete and comprehensive care for the poor. I call that a myth because while the church can and should certainly offer ministries of mercy toward the poor the entire problem of entrenched, generational poverty is not something we can or should try to solve on our own.

Myth #2 - White suburban evangelicals are indispensable to the recovery of our major cities, especially the poor black and Latino neighborhoods within those cities. I say this for three reasons. First, I don't want to ignore the ethnic dynamics of this discussion because it is still the elephant in the room. Second, I'm certainly not saying that suburbanites aren't welcome because they are (see next myth). Third I want to caution suburbanites against embracing a messiah complex with respect to the city.

Myth #3 - Moving into the city is the only way suburbanites can engage in effective ministry within the city. As Col. Sherman Potter would say 'that's horse hockey'.

Myth #4 - Ministry among poor blacks or Latinos is the only way suburbanites can participate in meaningful ministry. Trust me, having lived in the burbs I can tell you first hand that there are plenty of opportunities to serve the gospel among middle to high income suburbanites.

Myth #5 - The church can serve the poor most effectively by giving practical biblical advice and setting up practical anti-poverty programs.

In my view these are some of the myths that have grown up around the the urban vs. suburban ministry debate and thus must be addressed if we are to continue to work together to serve faithfully wherever our Lord has called us to serve.

To Him Who Loves Us...
pastor lance

Friday, May 08, 2009

Star Trek: Back To the Past

The Trek is back and you can bet your bottom dollar that this ain't yo daddy's Star Trek. The names remain the same but the feel you get from Star Trek: The Future Begins is most definitely different than the previous versions. As a life long Trekkie I considered it my obligation to see the latest incarnation of one of entertainments longest running series. So early this morning me and seven other Trekkies boldly went to a local IMAX theater to see if the wait was worth it.

And by and large it was. I'm not a movie critic and won't pretend to be one here. I can tell you that this Trek is good, well paced fare that will please Trekkie and non-Trekkie alike. You really don't need to know a whole lot about the original series (especially since more than enough ST lore is in our pop culture) to get a firm grasp of the film's plot. That said being familiar with ST will help with a number of the lines and subplots. One of the things I liked about this movie that was absent from all other TOS movies (TOS stands for The Original Series) is how the bridge crew (Uhurah, Chekov, Sulu and Scotty) actually did something other than sit there and say 'warp factor four captain'.
Kirk and Spock were portrayed with relish and in my view exactly the way an old Trekkie would have thought they'd be at the start of their five year mission.

One of the holdovers from the last few Trek films is the realization of actual, real evil. Star Trek was born with a belief in the basic goodness in humanity and by extension all sentient beings. The basic premise of the Trek is that eventually humanity and other sentient beings will evolve to a point where we will all live to explore the galaxy, cooperate with others and better ourselves. The first Trek was groundbreaking in that it featured an international crew that consisted of a Russian (remember this was in 67, the height of the Cold War) an African, Asian, Scotsman and others. TOS dealt with issues like war, racism and the existence of a supreme being. Though the Federation had enemies (the Romulans and Klingons) they were usually cast in a light that reminded humanity of what it once was. The idea seemed to be that even these folks would grow up, join the Feds and enjoy a peaceful, prosperous galaxy.

Apart from a few good episodes on other ventures within the franchise TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise usually stuck with the good guys vs. bad guys theme. The movies followed the same path. After a disastrous first try (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) the folks at Trek got with the program and gave into the all too human reality that there are real bad dudes who do evil things because they are evil. I'm sure Gene Roddenberry would have loved to make shows and movies that highlighted space exploration that featured the discovery of new life and how that facilitated the exploration of our own humanity. But that don't sell tickets which is why Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VIII: First Contact are still the most popular movies. (that Borg chica was creeeeepy)

The caretakers of the Trek either have realized or just given in to the fact that evil will be present even in the 24th century. With all of our supposed evolution, technological advances and history of our past mistakes in the end we cannot breed, education or reason our way to an existence that's devoid of real, actual evil. The villains Trek portrays may be from other 'races' but that may only be due to an unwillingness to admit that forty years after we boldly went where no man had gone before humanity is just as selfish, greedy and evil as it ever was. 1960's science fiction may have given us reason to put hope in the moral progression of humanity but 21st century science fact reveals a far different story.

So the future for Star Trek's continuing presence on the movie screen may have indeed begun. But one thing is for sure: we can boldly go as far as our warp powered ships will take us, but we will still not outrun evil. So take and escape and catch the Trek, but put your hope in Jesus.

Live Long And Prosper

Thursday, April 23, 2009

God's Dr. Phil

Say what? You didn't get your fill of Dr. Phil? Couldn't make it to Chi-town and the video of his excellent message just whet your appetite? No worries matey. The good doctor will bless the good folks at CLF twice this coming Sunday, April 26th. That's right twice! He will speak in our regular morning worship which begins at 9 a.m. (yes, 9 a.m.) and then at CLF's service of organization (it's a PCA thing and trust me, I don't even understand) at 6 p.m. So if you're in the Philly area and want to hear Spirit-filled, anointed, humble and insightful preaching stop by CLF (801 N. 65th St. Philly 19151) at one or both of these service to get your fill of God's Dr. Phil.

always joyful
pastor lance

Thursday, April 09, 2009

We... Are The Champions!!!

That's right ya'll. The Red & White got their bling and then did their thing.

Go Phitins!!!

Monday, April 06, 2009

A Tale of Two Peoples

Hey ya'll what's up? It's been a long, long time. I'm chiming in now because though things are still going full steam ahead I thought I'd relay an interesting conversation I observed yesterday.

It happened during a meeting of Fruit of the Vine Ministries. FVI is a missions ministry began by a member of CLF which seeks to partner with orphanages in Kenya. What fascinated me about the conversation was how similar it was to some things I had said when teaching a new members class just a few hours before.

It began when one of our Kenyan brothers explained why some of the Maasai people who live in Kenya called him a white man. At first he didn’t understand but then they explained that black Christians don’t come out to the bush and do mission work. In fact some of the Maasai used to say that come Sunday if there wasn’t a missionary available there would be no church, this despite the fact that there are millions of bible believing Christians just four hours away in Nairobi.
A second Kenyan brother echoed and further explained this phenomena. He dropped the knowledge that despite millions of Kenyan Christians and thousands of churches there is little mission mindset. He even jokes with his Kenyan friends who’ve been trained as doctors and nurses but lament the lack of work in Nairobi by telling them that there’s plenty of work, but not if you want a great paycheck.

To sum it up it appears that many Kenyan believers lack a mission focused mindset and Christianity.
This is where our new members class ties in. This week we spent time working through our mission and vision. To set this up I do my usual spiel about growing up in West Philly. In short I explain how the local news helped to shape my view of my community and fuel my desire to get an education, get out of the city and get into the suburbs as fast as my little brown legs could carry me. I go on to say how everyone in my extended family stoked this mindset. I cap this little commentary by noting how in my humble opinion far too many black folk long to live in a community built up by someone else. We seem to believe that it’s either impossible or just do hard to create the kind of community we’d like to live in and then feign righteous indignation when another group gentrifies it and we have to move onto to somewhere else. From there I explain CLF’s vision to participate in building a beautiful Christ-centered community in which we, our children and our grandchildren can live, thrive and serve.

What does this have to do with the price of tea in Chinatown?
Perhaps nothing. But one thing I noticed is how important theology is. (That’s right the dreaded ‘T’ word). If you feed a community of believers a steady diet of theology that focuses on their problems, success, prosperity and comfort you will produce a community of believers who actually think that mission is for those white people. Thus when it comes to building up their own communities so that in time those same communities become places of mission they either wait for the government or business or some other group. Remember folks everyone has a theology, especially those who proudly proclaim they do not. Everyone has a set of beliefs about God, scripture, Jesus, salvation, sin etc. These beliefs that shape how they live out the faith they profess.
And judging by the state of things among black folks in Africa and America we’ve got some work to do.

Always Joyful
Pastor lance

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


No I'm not talking about you. That the title of a new work from Dr. Rick Horne written for Christian parents, teachers and youth workers on the subject of reaching angry, unmotivated and disinterested teens with biblical counsel.
I'm recommending this book for a couple of reasons. First, I'm convinced that this book will prove a valuable tool as the church seeks to connect with a generation of young people who for a good many reasons are angry, unmotivated and disinterested. You can read more about the book here.

Second, I know the author. Dr. Horne has been a faithful member of CLF for several years. I've observed his humility and godliness up close and personal as well as his genuine love and care for young people. Everyone at CLF values the good doctor's counsel and we look forward to his weekly exhortation during the responsive reading of the Psalms. He also leads our adult Sunday school class and is doing a marvelous job taking us through the book of Revelation.

And it doesn't stop there. The good doc has also made a couple of guest appearances on holy, hip -hop projects.

So pick up the book and make good use of it in ministry and if you're ever in Philly on a Sunday please consider dropping by CLF to give a shout out to our dear brother Horne.

To Him Who Loves Us...
pastor lance

Friday, January 23, 2009

President and Mrs. Barack Obama

Like many Americans I experienced a swirl of emotions this past Tuesday while watching the inaugural events of President Barack Obama. And perhaps like many I ruminated on how his adminiatration and example will affect this country for at least the next four years.

Of the many images that stood out for me two in particular are worth mentioning. The first was during the parade when President and Mrs. Obama got out of the limo and walked together hand in hand greeting the crowd. I wondered how the image of an African-American president and his wife walking side by side to lead a nation in one of its greatest times of challenge impacted young black people. I hoped that young men especially took note of the respect and love our President has for his wife. I hope they see that seeking to marry a gifted, wise and intelligent wife is a sign of strength and character, not an signal of weakness. I hope our young brothers (saved and not saved) could envision themselves as embodying leadership not by seeking to dominate our sisters but by acknowledging and thanking God for a wife who will walk by our side (not behind us) as together we tackle the issues of our community, country and world. It was indeed a beautiful sight, one that I am blessed to have watched.

The other was the first dance. If you haven't seen it do yourself a favor: take a few minutes, grab a smooth cup of coffee, look it up on the net and drink it in. It was fabulous. The dance occured at the Neighborhood Ball to the Etta James song 'At Last' performed by Beyonce. Before the dance President Obama spoke to the gathered crowd and highlighted the beauty of his wife. Following that Beyonce dedicated the song and serenaded the first couple as they took command of the dance floor. It was a most tender and touching moment. The image was as striking as their parade walk but for a different reason. Here our president showed the tenderness every man should have for his wife. Coupled with the parade walk the dance demonstrated how men can at the same time draw from the strength, wisdom and intellect of our wives while showing the kind of tender affection reserved for marriage only. I couldn't help but hope that millions of young black youth were viewing that dance and thinking 'so that's what it means to be a man'.

Why did these two images make such an impression on me? I suppose that the older I grow the more I comprehend the power of man of God displaying that godliness in the way he loves and respects his wife. Among evangelicals there's always a great deal of talk about ministry, culture, witness and relevance. We discuss, debate and argue about what the gospel is, the extent of its implications and the wisest and most effective ways to engage the culture (whatever that culture is) with the gospel. Well here's a bit of advice for those seeking to be winesome, witty, with it, relevant and attractive to our culture. And I'm particularly aiming this to our brothers.

Get married.

Find a wife to whom you can pour your love into and show authentic Christ-like leadership by serving her interest, issues and real needs. Establish a relationship in which you cultivate her beauty, gifts, intellect and wisdom and invite the community into your home to see that. Show some young men that though they may not rise to become president there's nothing stopping them (but their own fears and insecurities) from praying for godly wise wife and showing the beauty, order and goodness of the gospel of our Lord. by loving her as He loves His people.

For those of us who are married it's time to put all that theology into practice by learning to authentically love our wives as Christ loves the church. That might mean putting down your latest theology book (sacrilege I know) and actually participating in an activity your wife likes. It will mean shedding the myth that the husband's 'role' in marriage is to tell his wife what to do and makes sure she submits to him. It means humbling ourselves, learning to live selflessly and being the kind of husband that does all he can to genuinely serve the interest of our wives and not wait around for them to serve us. In short it means becoming and living like a man and not a spoiled 8 year old child.

If your lacking examples of this take a look at our President. (even if you didn't vote for him)
And think about the fact that having a brilliant, beautiful, educated and wise wife doesn't in anyway detract from his manhood but actually gives him a platform to show America, black men and the world what true manhood can look like.

To Him Who Loves Us...
pastor lance

Friday, January 02, 2009

Pass The Courvoisier

So who passed the Courvoisier at your holiday party? Opps almost forgot this is a Christian blog and as such we don’t partake of such beverages in our celebrations. That’s cool, but it should be noted that cognac has made a comeback and that comeback is almost exclusively due to black folks.

Thanks to a few hip-hop artists the once stodgy upper-crust drink has landed on the tables and in the gullets of the black masses. What’s of interest to me is not the kind of liquor one used to celebrate whatever holidays one celebrated this past season, but of the pull that African-Americans have in the world marketplace. Here’s an industry somewhere in France that was languishing in relative obscurity until about eight years ago when Busta Rhymes told his crew to pass the Courvoisier. Since then and with the aid of other rappers cognac has found new life. You can call it the black factor. A product may be on its last legs and then in a quirk of fate a rapper takes a liking to it, tells his or her dutiful followers that this is now cool and voila sales a million.

Some will point out how this shows the enduring power of hip-hop culture to affect world culture and thus why the church should just throw away any and everything that smacks of tradition and go all in with a Christianized version of hip-hop culture. I personally disagree with this sentiment but that’s not the subject of this post. I want to focus on the double-edged sword wielded by black economic power.

Thanks to the pull of hip-hop a whole, whole lot of French cats are now doing quite well. Sales are up which means that they, their communities and their families can enjoy a better standard of living. That’s one edge of the sword. Black people in America may have the unique privilege of increasing the wealth of almost any other group of people in the world. Since we still get far, far too much of our identity from what we have instead of who we are there remains the possibility that some fortunate manufacturer of something will hit the blackpot and enrich his or her family, community and country from the pennies of black folks. That’s not all bad. There is nothing inherently wrong with one group of people supplying the wishes of another so that both benefit. France benefits by sustaining an industry important to their country and heritage and black folks benefit by enjoying the fruit of the vine at our Christmas/Kwanzaa/New Year parties. Of course one of the downsides is that the French can reinvest the profits from their product in any number of ways to benefit the rest of their society whereas black folks are limited to enjoying a few glasses of booze and then maybe recycling the bottle.

It’s the other edge of that sword holds some intriguing possibilities. What might happen if African-Americans began to wield that edge of the sword with much more purpose and precision? We could for instance decide to throw our collective economic weight behind a crucial product in a developing country and then seek to influence the country to move toward adopting basic civil rights for its people. For example the West African country of Nigeria has developed into a global economic player with its recently found oil wealth. But how much of that wealth is being reinvested for the good of the common Nigerian citizen? What could happen if black folks did a little research, determined which oil companies are responsible for refining and delivering Nigerian oil into our vehicles and then determined only to gas up with those companies provided they would work with the Nigerian government to improve the living conditions of all Nigerians.

I mean if Gov. Sarah Palin can get the Alaskan legislature to pass a windfall tax on oil profits to benefit the ordinary citizens of Alaska why can’t the Nigerian government do the same their citizens? And even if they didn’t want to cut checks to every Nigerian couldn’t they mandate a percentage of the profits be used to build and rebuild the infrastructure of their country? And all it might take is a few rappers filling up their Escalades at couple of select gas stations.

Impossible you say? You’re probably right. I mean we might have a better chance at having a black man elected president of these United States of America.

Oh well you know what they say… mind as well pass the Courvoisier.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

Hey ya’ll Happy New Year!!!

My hope and prayer is that each and everyone enjoys a blessed, joyous and peaceful new year in our Lord.

I’m still not back to full strength blogging (we’ll still be in impulse power for at least another month or so) but I did want to give a heads up on a few series that are rolling around my egg nog saturated brain these days. Lord willing I’ll get to them this year so here they are in no particular order:

President Barack Obama – I’ll take a look at his historic presidency from the perspective of African-Americans, the black church, and the evangelical church. My take will be to examine what his presidency can mean for our witness of the faith.

The ‘G’ word. 2009 will no doubt continue the national discussion on homosexuality and how that impacts the church. I however wish to focus on Greed the other ‘G’ word. I wonder why is it that bible believing Christians and evangelicals speak so little about the vice of greed and how that might contribute to where we are economically at this time.

Christian Democrats? Are you kidding or crazy? Can there be no truer oxymoron. This series will trace the reasons why so many believers tend to vote with the Democratic party.

Abortion what next? This will resume the series I began on how bible believing Christians and evangelicals can address the issue of abortion during President Obama’s administration.

Black and Reformed? How are black led reformed churches faring? Should we rethink what we’re doing and go in another direction?

The new cessasionists. Don’t worry this will not be yet another discussion on spiritual gifts. This series will explore why the church continues to have those who insists that Christ has divorced His bride, decided to renege on His promise to be with her until the end of the age and that of course we need to do something else to ‘reach the culture’.

The religion of Star Trek. This will be in honor of the latest movie (which by the way is scheduled for release on my birthday). As an avid trekkie I want to examine the cultural foundations of the mission of ST and show how an avowedly atheistic series is in fact a vehicle for religious indoctrination. For those who still disbelieve check out the mission scene from ‘The City on the Edge of Forever from season 1 of ST TOS.
How can I do this you ask? Remember that old Vulcan saying ‘Only Nixon can go to China’.

Last but by no means least the CrockPot Kings will be back. The CLF Fantasy league will gear up for another season and that means the Pots will once again go for the Golden CrockPot.

That’s all for now folks. Once again enjoy a blessed, peaceful and joyous new year in our Lord Jesus Christ.

To Him Who Loves Us
Pastor lance