Joy to the World – Pt. 3

joy-to-the-world.jpgThe third verse of this hymn, like all of the other verses, is rich with important biblical truth that we cannot afford to miss.  As Christians, we’re called to delight in God’s truth and understanding the content of verse 3 should cause us to delight in God.  Verse three says –

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found,

Far as the curse is found,

Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Sins, Sorrows, Thorns and a Curse

This verse is describing what redemption looks like. Much like what Part 2 discussed, the world is presently under a curse because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion. Part of the curse, pronounced to Adam in Genesis 3 says-

17And to Adam he said,“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it, cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life, 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken, for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

After mankind’s rebellion, part of the curse described is creation working against man. No longer would Adam’s work as a cultivator of the ground be easy and bear plentiful produce. His labor would be painfully hard and the harmony between man and the rest of creation would be strenuous.  Like Adam, we live in a world where our work is often riddled with proverbial thorns, not often enjoyed nor yielding the “fruit” we desire.  In addition, the very ground that Adam was supposed to rule would ultimately consume him. That is our lot without a redeemer.  We are born into this life under God’s curse for Adam’s sin with death and eternal condemnation as our lot (Rom. 5:12,18-19). As stated in previous writings, all of creation is under a curse longing for a liberator.

Cosmic Redemption & Everlasting Joy

That liberator is Jesus.  During Christ’s earthly ministry He often stated that the kingdom of God had arrived, yet it wasn’t always understood nor was it fully actualized. His ministry not only consisted of teaching His Father’s truths, but He also demonstrated authority over creation (Mk. 4:35-41), over disease (Matt. 8:1-3, Mk. 5:21-34)  and over death (Mk. 5:35-43, Jhn 11:1-44). His ministry was to demonstrate the in-breaking of the kingdom of God and provide glimpses of victory over Satan and the effects of sin – especially on man. In essence, Christ’s victory in His death and resurrection reversed the curse pronounced in Genesis 3.

At the second coming of Christ, which will bring judgment for the unrepentant, also brings salvation for His people. No more will the effects of sin rule and dominate the earth nor His people. His redemption will be consummate as far as the curse is found.  God and man will be reconciled. Man and man will be in unity in Christ. The new heavens and new earth will be in perfect harmony with man. God’s dwelling place with be forever be with man on the earth where there will be everlasting joy (Rev. 21:3-4). Sin and sorrows will grow no more as they will be non-existent.

Why This Matters at Christmas

While this season looks back at the birth of Christ, it is imperative that we understand why looking back is crucial to what lies ahead. If there was no birth, there could be no death. No death of a redeemer means we’re still in bondage to sin, under God’s curse and fit for His eternal wrath.  Christ came to die for His people that they might live forever in peace and joy with God! His second coming will complete God’s plan of redemption that was planned from before the foundation of the world! 

Merry Christmas!

Joy to the World – Pt. 2

jtw2Part 1 of this series briefly introduced the history of this celebrated and widely known hymn. What I found amazing was that Watts never intended for this song to be a celebration of Christ’s first coming, but of  His second coming.  Nevertheless, when we consider every aspect of Christ’s ministry, His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension and His return, the integration of these aspects is crucial and cannot be divorced from one another.  Therefore, during the Christmas season, it is entirely fitting to celebrate the  redemptive victory that Christ will accomplish.

The second verse of this hymn almost mirrors the idea of the first verse. It says-

Joy to the earth! the savior reigns;

Let men their songs employ;

While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

The Call to Praise

The first verse of this song is a call to praise for the coming of Jesus.  Similarly, verse two contains praise, but for a different reason. Praise ensues because in addition to Jesus coming, He will rule all of creation and His kingdom will be forever (2 Sam. 7:8-13, Dan. 7:13-14).  

Reason for Praise

Unless we understand what is wrong with the world, we will not see the reason to be overjoyed about the coming and ruling of Jesus.  Genesis 3 tells us what went wrong with the world – man rebelled (sinned) against his creator and God cursed man and all of creation as a result. Instead of a harmonious loving relationship, man’s relationship with God was broken and the created order was subject to disorder as well.  As previously mentioned, the Scriptures remind us that although  we and creation groan as a result of the curse, there is hope.  Romans 8:20-24 says- 

“…the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved.  

 In addition to that curse, the world is presently under the power of the evil one (1 Jhn. 5:19). Because of Adam’s sin, the devil is the ruler of this world (Jhn 12:31, 16:11; Eph. 2:2, 2 Cor. 4:4) So how will it be set free from this bondage to corruption? Who will do it?

There was an ultimate reason to Christ’s incarnation – redemption.  He came to destroy the devil and his works (Col. 2:15; 1 Jhn 3:8), absorb the wrath of God on behalf of His people (Isa. 53) and gather His people into a new family (Jhn. 10:11-16; Rev. 7:9-10)!  Christ entered humanity, lived as a man under the Law, and yet died as one who had violated the Law becoming a curse in the place of guilty man. And in His becoming the curse for us, He lifted the curse from all of creation. His redemption is cosmic! All of creation will one day be under the glorious rule of Jesus Christ. It is no wonder that Psalm 98 pictures Jesus as the celebrated Savior (98:1-3), King (98:6) and Judge (98:9).  At the second coming of Christ, there will be no more disharmony and disunity between God and all of His creation.  While in exile, the Apostle John was given a vision from Jesus concerning the future. Revelation 21 says –

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Sin and its effects will be forever gone. There will be a new heavens and new earth unaffected by sin. God and man will be forever reconciled. Death, mourning, crying and pain shall forever be gone. All groaning (Rom. 8:20-24) will turn to triumphant praise! This is the hope we have to look forward to! This is why the song says –

Let men their songs employ;

While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

All of creation will praise Christ eternally for his work of redemption from the curse and the works of the devil.

Our Response at Christmas

In light of this truth, may we rejoice at the birth of our Savior! Praise God for His indescribable gift! Rejoice because salvation has come and is coming!

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Merry Christmas!

Bearing Burdens and Racial Reconciliation

racial-reconciliation-1920x1000In light of the tragedies surrounding Alton Sterling and Philando Castile on July 5 and July 6,  I was asked by my pastor to write an article to our congregation that we might take more steps in understanding the racial narrative and how White Christians can better display the gospel toward their African American brothers and sisters. Here is what I wrote.

________________________________________________________________

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

(Ephesians 4:1, ESV)

By now we all have heard of the shootings by law enforcement that resulted in the deaths of two African American men, Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, LA and Philando Castile of St. Paul, MN, on July 5 and July 6 respectively.  These two men are just a small, but no less significant, part of a larger narrative of systemic injustice against African-Americans.  As a multi-ethnic church with a considereable number of African-American members and visitors, we must understand the impact these types of tragedies have and know how to respond. Particularly to my white brothers and sisters, but certainly not limited to you, I offer a few suggestions on how to respond.

First, do not ignore the data confirming systemic injustice and do not minimize or ignore the very real pain and hurt of those who have been affected by these types of tragedies.  As gospel Christians, we should be compelled to weep with those who weep.

Second, if you desire to understand the racial narrative more clearly, how to interact with your African-American brothers and sisters from a gospel centered perspective and why we collectively suffer in the types of tragedies, talk to us and take advantage of many resources available. Here are a few resources. I pray they are helpful.

Audio/Video

Articles

Books

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” – 1 John 3:14 ESV

In Him,

David Robinson

 

*image courtesy of veritascolumbus.com

Why We’re Still Talking About Racism…in the Church

preview_The_Church_and_Racism

In 1995, Southern Baptist officials formally renounced the church’s support of slavery and segregation. The institution of slavery in America, which Baptists in the south desired to maintain against the desires of the Baptists in the north, led to the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845. It was also this view of race that led Southern Baptists to oppose the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-20th century. However, this wasn’t just a reality among Baptists; this was true of Methodists and Presbyterians who experienced splits for the same reason in 1844 and 1861 respectively. In 2000, Methodists offered a public confession of guilt and renunciation of slavery at their annual General Conference. In June 2015, the Presbyterian Church of America offered its public confession of guilt concerning slavery and segregation at its 43rd General Assembly.

Some might be surprised to think that such confessions were necessary in light of what the Bible teaches about man. Regarding creation and value, the Bible teaches us about the dignity of all mankind from every nation stemming from being created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27; Acts 17:26). Regarding our moral state, the Bible teaches us about our sinfulness and the universality of sin (Gen. 3; Rom. 3:23). Regarding forgiveness and reconciliation, the Bible teaches us the impartial atoning work of Christ which unites man to God and to one another (John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:17-19; Gal. 3:28-29; Eph. 2:11-22). Regarding eternity, the Bible teaches us about the multi-ethnic eschatological reality that awaits God’s people (Rev. 5:9; 7:9). These are basic truths that should serve as a simple framework for how we view our fellow man. However, we are not yet perfected and comments made by well respected Christian apologist and debater, James White, served as a great reminder of this truth.

The Incident

On March 17, 2016, after White witnessed irresponsible and disrespectful behavior by a young black teen, he made several unjustified assertions about the teen’s upbringing and future based on his skin color and his present actions. His assertions were initially posted on his social media accounts, which he has now removed. You may listen to a summary of the issue here. The initial response from the African-American Christian community, including me, was of utter disbelief, and I think rightly so for at least two reasons. The first reason is that White’s assertions were hasty generalizations steeped in racist thought. After witnessing the teen’s behavior, White intentionally made it known that the teen was black and then stated assertions about the possibility of a lack of a father in the home, having children out of wedlock by different women and having multiple abortions. In a matter of a few seconds of observation White wrote this young man’s narrative based on statistics. Is this not hasty and unfair judgment? The second reason for disbelief is that much more is expected from him as a Christian, especially one so well acquainted with the Scriptures. There was no compassion or grace in White’s words.

Confronting White & His Response

As expected, White was publicly confronted by several African-American Christians. One confrontation I witnessed was thoughtful, yet direct. It reminded me that no Christian is above scrutiny and confrontation despite how influential he/she may be. Galatians 2:11-14 reminds us that believers may confront one another when the gospel is being compromised. White’s comments were out of step with the gospel because they were racist and judgmental and he deserved to be confronted. White was offered a chance to dialogue and learn about African-American culture and systemic injustice (not that systemic injustices caused the teen’s behavior). White’s response to the offer is what I found most disheartening. White dismissed his brother who confronted him and then charged him with ethnic gnosticism. Ethnic gnosticism is a form of gnosticism that states that those of a certain ethnicity can claim to have an experience or knowledge within it that those of another ethnicity cannot understand or have. In other words, one culture cannot fully understand the struggles of another culture simply because it is a different culture. White objects to this position and instead holds to the fact that all humans have the shared experience of sin. While I agree with White fundamentally – all humans are sinners, I disagree because every culture doesn’t experience the same effects of the common human sin problem. White’s arrogant unjustified comments and his dismissal of an approach for honest dialogue with a fellow Christian, who happens to be African-American, seems to be evidence of blindness to his own racism and paternalistic perspective. In addition, White addressed the issue via podcast in which he adamantly defended his position without the slightest hint of conceding to possible error.  His response is exactly the kind of behavior that reinforces the existing racial tension rather than relieve it.  I pray the LORD reveal the error of his thinking and his response and he would publicly repent.

Confronting Racism in the Church

Unfortunately, White’s response is far more common in the church than I’d like to admit. While strides are being made to address racism, it still needs to be addressed with much more frequency and comprehensiveness. If we are going to accurately reflect the gospel and its implications, namely the glory of Christ, racism must be confronted in the church. Apathy, aversion, dismissal and silence only further perpetuates the problem. Public confessions and conferences are good starts, but more must be done at the local church level starting in the hearts of pastors/elders as a church rises no higher than its leaders.  As long as comments like White’s are stated, we will still talk about racism in the church.

For my brothers and sisters in the majority culture, if you’re not quite sure how to address racism, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Understand the definition and nature of racism.
  2. Understand what the Bible has said about man.
  3. Understand that your perspective of race is not all there is. 
  4. Have believers of other ethnicities in your home.
  5. Have non-believers of other ethnicities in your home.
  6. Be willing to learn from people in minority cultures.
  7. Ask questions; don’t assume.
  8. Educate yourself about the history of racism and segregation in America.
  9. Educate yourself about the history of racism and segregation in the church.
  10. Have more than that 1 black friend. 🙂
  11. Pray for the LORD to reveal possible racism in your own heart.

Recommended Reading

Grace & Peace,

d.

*image courtesy of theworkofthepeople.com

The Gathering and Singing: The Focus (pt. 2)

choirPart 1 ended with a challenge for worship leaders in the black church to consider how their music set can bring the most glory to God by assessing solo singing, choir singing and congregational singing.   

Some of you may be wondering why I am taking the time to bring up this particular issue.  Others of you may be wondering if this issue is of any true significance.  Of course the music set of a corporate gathering has no effect on one’s salvation, but it does have an effect on our individual sanctification. I’d also argue that it affects the health and edification of the church.  I stated previously that the church gathers for three basic reasons – exaltation, exultation and edification.  For this to happen, every aspect of the service should seek to serve these three purposes, especially the music, not only lyrically, but also in delivery.  

As I’ve talked to many people who currently attend or who have had the opportunity to attend a black (or predominantly black) church, one aspect that always is commented on was how powerful the praise and worship set was. I usually chuckle because I know exactly what they’re talking about, having grown up in the black church.  I admit that hearing powerful singing and seeing the choir display particular rhythmic movements in unison is great to see, but that also is my biggest concern or critique of these types of music sets.   Due to the immense display of talent, the music set often becomes a performance (singing and the accompaniment) that often times rouses the emotions of the congregation apart from biblical truth. Emotions are often elicited usually through excessively repititious choruses, riffs and runs, physical gestures and extended instrumental showmanship. As this goes on, the congregation becomes passive spectators, rather than active participators. In these instances, the focus is on man and not God.  What was intended to be corporate praise (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) has become a concert.

My estimation is that congregational singing is the healthiest form of music worship for a corporate gathering. If you’re unfamiliar with the term or the concept, congregational singing is the practice of the congregation joining in the music of a church, either in the form of hymns or in the form of the office of the liturgy.  Congregational singing normally doesn’t require many people on the platform or stage.  Also, the musical accompaniment is intentionally lowered so the collective human voice of the congregation can be heard singing.   In doing this, congregational singing does quite the opposite of performance oriented singing as the focus is rightly on Christ and the church is edified, hearing itself singing praises to Christ.  Now I am not saying there are no uses for solos or choirs. I think music sets can wisely employ them, but it must be done in such a way that doesn’t blur the focus of Christ, but rather sharpens it.  

Some might object to all that I’ve said under the guise that I am not respecting deeply appreciated black forms of musical expression or an individual’s talent.  My push-back would simply be to ask if the music set serves to bring glory to the music team or if it edifies the whole church and glorifies Christ.  Think about it.  Let us strive to build up one another for the glory of Christ in our singing.

Grace & Peace,

d.

A Woman’s Place

woman preachingNow that I’ve gotten your attention with the title, I will proceed. 😉

In my ongoing desire to see churches function biblically and to see Christians think clearly, one area that we must think about, especially as African Americans or as black people, is the role of women
in the church and to some degree in civil society.

Let’s consider these questions:

1. Is a woman biblically permitted to serve in the church? If so, how? (Please provide Scripture references to justify your answer.)

2. Is a woman biblically permitted to serve as a pastor or co-pastor of a local church? (Please provide Scripture references to justify your answer.)

3. Is there a difference between preaching and pastoring?

4. Is it okay for a male pastor to give bible teaching opportunities to a woman to a congregation of men and women at a Sunday gathering or in a bible study setting?

5. Are there any consequences for allowing women to serve as pastors, co-pastors or teach a mixed crowd at a Sunday gathering or bible study?

These types of questions are issues that we should be thinking about when we consider how we think about the local church and what the Bible prescribes. Really, at the heart of this discussion is the glory of God displayed in the worth and in the roles of men and women (yes, genders are distinct and created by God) as God intended them in general, but specifically in the church for the purpose of this discussion. I readily affirm women are gifted to serve. This is not an issue of competence, but of design and purpose.

Concerning gender roles circulating in the church, the two opposing ideas are:

1. Egalitarianism
2. Complementarianism

As brief descriptions:

Egalitarianism states that men and women are ontologically (the essence of being) equal and therefore should function (roles) as equals. (i.e. Since women are equal to men, then a woman can do what a man can. If a man can pastor, a woman can too.)

Complementarianism states that men and women are ontologically equal, but have differing roles as men and women according to God’s design. (i.e. Even though men and women possess dignity as image bearers of God and are equal in essence, God has ordained that men lead and women serve in assisting roles in the life of the church.)

Complementarians root their argument in Genesis 2:18-25 and this is very crucial to understand the order in the church.

Whether or not you’re in a church that has an egalitarian philosophy of ministry, it’s important to understand these things so we can think more clearly and live as God intended in these areas.

I would love to engage with you on this topic!

Grace & Peace,

d.

The Gospel & Ethnic Reconciliation

Concerning the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott and likely several hundred other unreported cases surrounding the sinful treatment of black males, many of us wonder if ethnicity was the motivating factor for police brutality or the overuse of their authority or the lack of justice at the court level. Given the history of systemic racism, which truly is a product of personal racism, it’s hard not to think this way when we look at the disproportionate number of the arrests and imprisonments between young white males and young black males for relatively the same crimes. While I am all for punitive requirements being met for all criminals, it does seem like the scales unjustly lean a little lower on “our” side. Print So what are we to do? How do we, as Christians, deal with the issue of personal prejudice or racism and dare I say ethnocentricity? We all know that no law passed at the city, state and national levels will ever rid man of the sin in the unseen recesses of his heart. Since racism is a sin, the only remedy for it, as with all sin, is the gospel of Jesus Christ. First, I encourage my white brothers and sisters to take a humble posture of heart and listen to the minority narrative. I guarantee it will be worth your time. Secondly, I urge my black brothers and sisters continue to deepen your roots in the sweet soil of the gospel of grace to prevent responding to sin sinfully. For we all are not without sin ourselves.

From the first book of the Bible, but certainly not the only place, we understand that mankind (man & woman) was created in the image of God (imago dei) and therefore has inherent dignity. This very truth was the truth that under-girded the Abolitionist Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. Slogans like “Ain’t I a Man?” and “I Am a Man!” were birthed in these movements respectively.

Genesis 1:27 says –

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Iamaman

However, when biblical truth is silenced, even hated, in the public square, what can Christians do? What ought Christians to do regarding racial reconciliation?

Recently, the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) held a leadership summit in Nashville to address the topic of racial reconciliation, primarily in the church. Now if you’re familiar with the SBC, this might seem like a shocker. If you’re not familiar with the SBC, let me give you a quick historical overview. The SBC was started due to its desire that slavery be a lasting institution in America. Baptists in the south disagreed with and split from Baptists in the north for this very reason and formed the SBC. Even though the SBC issued a public apology and a confession of sin in 1995, many still look at the SBC with disdain. Some may wonder why any African American would join an SBC church. In fact, many black Baptist denominations were founded and formed because of this very reason and still exist today.

Perhaps you’re wondering how professing white Christians during these times could maintain such a low view of  the black man in light of the Bible’s teaching on the dignity of all mankind. I wonder the same thing too. But the pull of sin and the pressures of our culture have us all unfaithful at times, right? However, in an effort to sincerely glorify the wisdom of God in the gospel, the SBC is seeking to make strides to show forth the fruit of the gospel regarding this issue because only the church has the ultimate lasting cure for racism.

Since the church is the only institution that has the ultimate lasting cure, it should be the leader reflecting unity in diversity where there is a collection of ethnicities in a concentrated area.  Imagine the effect the church would have on the surrounding culture if it lived out the implications of the gospel in this way.

In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul details how the gospel has united Jew and Gentile to be one new man – the Christian (Ephesians 2:11-22). While their God given ethnicities were not done away with, their ultimate identities were now Christian. The same is true for believers of every hue. In light of this truth, how are we seeking to show forth the fruit of the gospel regarding racial reconciliation? What are some practical implications of the gospel concerning racial reconciliation? I can think of a few. Consider these.

1. What does our closest circle of friends look like?

2. Are we seeking to build relationships with Christians of different ethnicities?

3. Are we sharing the gospel with people who are ethnically different than we are?

4. When was the last time we had a person of a different ethnicity in our home?

5. How do we really feel about white people? Or any non-African American?

6. Do our churches reflect the diversity of the community it’s in? Or is it a mono-ethnic church?

7. If my church isn’t multi-ethnic, is it making strides to become one, if possible?

Consider this passage from Revelation 7-

9 After this I (John) looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Who is standing before the throne of God and the Lamb? God’s people from every nation, tribe, people and languages!  God’s eternal covenant community is multi-ethnic! This future reality is to be displayed here on earth in local churches when possible.

church-segregation

If you have some time, consider looking at the talks given by several members of the SBC addressing how the gospel cures racism and why Sunday at 11am should not be the most segregated hour in America.

The Gospel and Ethnic Reconciliation

For His glory,

d.

Longing for Something Better than Christmas

christmas decoNow that Christmas has come and gone and retailers are now focused on Valentine’s Day, how do you feel?

If you’re like me, you might feel a sense of sadness or a sense of deflation in your heart. Historically, for my family, Christmas has been a time of great feasting, fellowship and the reminder of the birth of our Savior. As a child, I would get up early on Christmas morning and bang on the bedroom doors in my grandparents’ home because the thought of waiting any longer to open my gifts was unbearable. Then after all of the gifts were opened,  grandma and her daughters would continue preparing Christmas dinner: turkey, potato salad, turnip greens, cornbread, rolls, and grandma’s good ‘ol country dressin’! It didn’t get any better in my mind!

Now as an adult, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, Christmas means even more to me. I still enjoy great feasting, fellowship, the emphasis on the incarnation of Jesus and being able to give gifts and seeing expressions of joy and appreciation on others’ faces. It is truly a joyful time. However, once it was all over, I had to examine my heart and ask why was there that sense of deflation. Christmas songs just don’t have the same attraction on December 26, do they? From Black Friday to Christmas Eve there is a media and economic frenzy to shape our minds, hearts and our finances to Christmas morn. But what about the downturn of Christmas? Once Christmas has peaked, how do I handle this deflation? Perhaps you’ve asked yourself this question. Maybe you haven’t.

Discussing this with my wife, I came to the conclusion that the sense of deflation came because I am longing for something better than Christmas. Everything that Christmas represents in my family is merely a shadow of the eschatalogical promises of the gospel. We celebrate the first advent of Christ, we exchange gifts as acts of love, we pray, we sing a hymn, and we gather around the table and feast and enjoy one another with conversation filled with fond memories and laughter. These are just tastes of what is to come for eternity.

The true fulfillment of Christmas is the second advent of Christ and His coming to gather His children who long for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:13) who will feast (Matthew 26:29; Revelation 19:6-9) and dwell with Him in the new heavens and the new earth where there will be no sin and incomparable joy in the presence of God.

The Apostle John reminds us of this great promise in Revelation 21:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

(‭Revelation‬ ‭21‬:‭1-4‬ ESV)

This truth, which is full of hope, is what I need to remind myself of not only after Christmas, but all year long. May this truth be your consolation as well!

d.

The History of the African-American Church

Matthew 28:19 records Jesus’ command to His disciples to take the gospel to all nations. This is known as the Great Commission. Obedience to this command is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant which God promised in Genesis 12, “3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This is a pretty significant promise!

The significance of this promiblack churchse and Jesus’ command is that it shows that there is one God of all peoples. From one man (Acts 17:26), Adam, God created every ethnic people group in human history. Through the promise made to Abraham, God promises to bless all the families (think clans within nations) of the earth. That promise to Abraham was fulfilled in Christ. Christ is the promised seed (Galatians 3:15-29) and the source of God’s blessing. Therefore, God’s blesses all nations and families in Christ. This is why Jesus commanded His disciples to take the gospel to all nations. Through the gospel God is re-gathering His people unto Himself!

So what does this have to do with the African-American slice of God’s church? Well, if you know the hardships of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement one might be led to think that God was somehow not for “us”. That is wrong thinking. We must understand that despite the cruel acts of men due to sin, God has a promise that will be fulfilled for all peoples – including marginalized and inhumanely treated people created in God’s image.

While “we” were treated horribly, God has entrusted the gospel to “us” and we have a responsibility to protect and proclaim the gospel. But in order to avoid error, be vigilant in faithfulness, and praise God as our Sustainer, knowing our church history is very important.

Via lecture, Ken Jones offers a concise history of the African-American church.

Click here >> The Development of the Black Church in America

Grace & Peace,

d.

Preparing for Sunday

gotochurchWhat do Saturdays look like for you?  If you’re like me, you probably think of Saturday as a day of rest or a day to do something relaxing or enjoyable.  There’s nothing wrong with that and after a long productive work week, we should enjoy the fruits of our labor.  Rest and leisure are good gifts that we should appropriately enjoy.  But should Saturday only be thought of as a reward to a long work week? Or should we also think of Saturday as a day of preparation for our Sunday worship gathering?

I wonder how much thought is given to preparing for Sunday morning on Saturday. Sure we give some thought to preparation by getting our clothes ready, putting the children down to sleep, or deciding what to eat for breakfast, etc. But how do we and how should we prepare our hearts to commune with the living God and our brothers and sisters in a corporate worship gathering?

If we understand the gravity of that last sentence, we’ll give more thought and consideration to how we prepare our hearts for Sunday.  If we have an unhealthy view of our Sunday gathering, our preparation will reflect that.  Historically, the church met on the first day of the week to commemorate the resurrection of Christ (Matt. 28:1-7; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).  So every time we gather, we are celebrating the resurrection of Christ. Not only that, but we also are coming together to be instructed how to live as sons and daughters of the kingdom, confessing our sins, making intercession for others, offering supplication, praising in song and pleading for the salvation of the lost.  Those things are not to be taken lightly, especially since the church is God’s means of displaying His glory in a unique way and is also the main institution for our growth.  Since all of this is true, how might we better prepare for the Sunday gathering? Here are a few simple suggestions that my wife and I are implementing, but by no means have perfected.

  1. Don’t make Saturday night a late night, whether you go out or stay home.
  2. Plan to designate a time to discuss the order of service or sermon text with your spouse or a fellow church member, if possible.
  3. Think about how you can be praying the point of the sermon text for yourself and for others.
  4.  Pray for every aspect of the Sunday service (praying, singing, preaching, and giving) and for your heart to be receptive to God’s Word.
  5. Consider whether or not if you have any unresolved conflict with anyone and seek to reconcile before attending the worship service.

As God’s graciously chosen ones, may we demonstrate the privilege and joy of being His children by being responsible church members who purposely prepare for Sunday.

Related Recommended Reading

Healthy Church Member What is A Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti Anyabwile

Grace & Peace,

d.