February, 2018

Lemuel Haynes

In January 1754, a five-month-old boy was orphaned by his parents. No one knows who the parents were, though most speculated that the child was born to a white mother and a black father. In the mid 18th century, this was simply not something that was supposed to be done. The child, Lemuel Haynes, was indentured to Deacon David Rose of Granville, Massachusetts. Legally, Lemuel was the property of Mr. Rose until he turned 21. But by all accounts, Lemuel was raised as one of the Rose family. Haynes would later recount, “[Deacon David Rose] was a man of singular piety. I was taught the principles of religion. His wife, had a peculiar attachment to me: she treated me as though I was her own child. I remember it was a saying among the neighbors, that she loves Lemuel more than her own children.”[1]

Haynes was included in the family work of farming. He was educated in the small school in Granville and in the regular family worship. He had a hunger for learning and devoured whatever books he could get his hands on. He made it his “rule to know something more every night than [he] knew in the morning.”

When he turned 21 he was freed from his indenture. It was the year 1774 and American Revolution was in full swing. Haynes joined the Continental Army and served until a bout of typhus forced him leave the military. He returned home to the Roses. As was the custom during family worship on Saturday evening, someone in the family would read a sermon to the family. Haynes read a manuscript of a sermon on John 3:3. Deacon Rose asked Lemuel if the sermon was from Jonathan Edwards or George Whitefield. When he admitted that it was his own sermon, the family encouraged Lemuel to pursue gospel ministry.

Haynes was very much a product of the First Great Awakening. He poured over sermons by Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. He memorized large portions of Scripture. He was trained by Daniel Ferrand of Canaan, Connecticut and William Bradford of Wintonbury, Connecticut. He was a brilliant student, and he had to be. No African-American had ever been ordained to gospel ministry before. In 1785 Lemuel Haynes became the first African-American ordained by any religious body in America. In 1804 Middlebury College awarded him an honorary master’s degree, also a first for an African-American.[2]

Haynes eventually was called to pastoral ministry in an all-white congregation in Rutland, Vermont. He served there for 30 years. Haynes lamented that Vermont was full of people sympathetic to both a deist and opponent to Christianity like Thomas Paine and Arminianism. New England at the time was prone to churches that admitted anyone to the Lord’s Supper, regardless of a profession of faith. It was also common for pastors to baptize the children of people who showed no credible evidence of faith. The essentials of the faith were often ignored in the churches. Haynes knew that “a clear understanding of the doctrines of the gospel were very necessary for ministers at that time.”[3] So he preached and wrote forcefully. Haynes mocked the Universalist preacher Hosea Ballou in a satire that was circulated throughout America and England. Haynes mocked the universalist idea to the lies of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Ballou was not amused but Haynes would not relent.

Haynes also wrote forcefully against chattel slavery in America. He celebrated the principles of the republican government formed in America while also rebuking the inherent contradictions of that same system enslaving Africans. He rebutted pro-slavery arguments with clear and faithful biblical responses in his address, Liberty Further Explained.[4]

Lemuel Haynes left Rutland after 30 faithful years of ministry. By most accounts, he was forced out because some in the church could no longer submit to a black man as their pastor. His final pastorate was in South Granville, NY along the Vermont border. He would die a few years later and be buried in the cemetery of the South Granville church. His final sermon was preached on 2 Cor 1:9, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” A fitting text for a dying minister.

Lemuel Haynes remained faithful to the last. He overcame incredible hardships and met each one with an unwavering faith and trust in the sovereignty and graciousness of his God. He penned his epitaph with the words by which he hoped to be remembered:

Here lies the dust of a poor hell-deserving sinner, who ventured into eternity trusting wholly on the merits of Christ for salvation. In the full belief of the great doctrines he preached while on earth, he invites his children, and all who read this, to trust their eternal interest on the same foundation.

[1] Lemuel Haynes and Thabiti M Anyabwile, May We Meet in the Heavenly World: The Piety of Lemuel Haynes (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009), 2.

[2] Haynes and Anyabwile, 7.

[3] Haynes and Anyabwile, 8.

[4] Haynes and Anyabwile, 10.

Fake News and Good News

Having lived in the despotic totalitarian regime of Belarus for a year after college, I’m always curious when other similar or worse regimes are portrayed in the news. With the Winter Olympics in full swing in PyeongChang, South Korea, there has been a tremendous amount of coverage given to North Korea. The theme of these 2018 Olympics has been that of peace. The North and South Korean teams have been competing together as a unified team. And there has been an inordinate amount of media coverage of the North Korean cheer squad and the sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Yo-jong. For some reason, the synchronized cheering of these North Korean women has several media outlets captivated with rapt and uncritical attention.

All of this coverage sent me to check out some more information about the North Korean regime. Having seen the way a cult of personality worked in the former USSR and in Belarus, I wanted to learn more about the leadership of Kim Jong Un. John Sweeney’s book North Korea Undercover is a harsh exposé of life under this dictator.[1] Sweeney describes his many experiences as an undercover economics professor touring North Korea. One of the chapters in Sweeney’s book is an incredibly graphic description of the mausoleum where the bodies of Kim Jong Un’s father and grandfather are displayed in a glass casket. In North Korea these men are revered as gods, their bodies presented as objects of worship.

Sweeney’s description of the embalming process that went into displaying these men is as amazing as it is disturbing. As he details the chemical processes at work in preserving the body, my mind raced back to my visits to the mausoleum of Lenin in Moscow, Russia. Since 1924 in a little marble ziggurat on Red Square, Vladimir Lenin’s body has been displayed in a glass casket. He is a permanent monument of the enduring legacy of Communism in the former Soviet Union. Sweeney notes that the North Korean officials recruited the same Soviet scientists and morticians who had embalmed Lenin. In fact, after Lenin a little cottage industry of embalming and displaying dictators has developed. Mao Zedong in China, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela are some of the despotic dictators who sought to continue to rule over their people long after their death.

These dead men are chemically made to appear to be resting and at peace. In their death they attempt to maintain an iron grip on the lives of their people. In reality these men are physically nothing near a real human body and spiritually, apart from an unknown and remarkable deathbed conversion to Christ, certainly not experiencing eternal rest and peace. And yet these totalitarian regimes must balance the stability of their nations on the appearance of their dead leaders’ vitality beyond the grave.

The silly naiveté of western media’s infatuation with the antics of a despotic North Korea during the Olympics and the lengths to which North Korea goes to prop up the cult of personality around Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un reeks of fake news. Sweeney’s book gives anecdote after anecdote of North Koreans who have only lived their lives under the influence of this kind of fake news. They have honestly never known the truth.

We would also have to be naïve to believe that we are never the victims of fake news. Much of the media we consume is carefully and subconsciously curated to reinforce our preconceived biases. Fake news is not relegated to the northern half of the Korean peninsula. We live in a world of fake news. But there is Good News. There is Good News that upsets and overturns the hopelessness of the fake news in our world. There is a radically disturbing and life-changing Good News in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead of a kingdom built upon the chemically preserved remains of a despotic leader, Jesus Christ offers a kingdom built upon the sacrificial death and resurrection of the Lamb of God. Instead of creating armies of Stepford Wives to robotically and mindlessly cheer on a regime, Jesus Christ offered to bring a fullness of life (John 10:10). Instead of a kingdom ruled by a man who would crush his people in order to maintain his grip on authority, Jesus Christ emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7), and was crushed for our iniquities (Isa. 53:5) in order to set us free (John 8:36). When the media offers us a hope built upon falsehood, we need to continue to turn to the sure hope of the Good News.

[1] John Sweeney, North Korea Undercover: Inside the World’s Most Secret State, 2016.

Annual Reports 2017

2017 Annual Report

Full of Grace and Truth

The Bible opens with these words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). It has been said that the rest of the Bible is just the outworking of this verse. I believe there is a great deal of truth to that sentiment. The Bible begins with God and the description of how God entered into a covenant relationship with his people. With these opening words, we are immediately confronted with both the origin of everything that was created and the gracious manner in which it was created. There is a God who desires, simply because of his good kindness, to make himself known to the people he created. The Bible builds up to the grand conclusion of this creation with a new Jerusalem in Revelation 21. This is a vision of creation where God is truly known by all his people and his glory shines in the place of the sun and the moon. Death, disease, and decay are no more. Sin no longer hinders and clouds the vision of God’s children in seeing their Father.

“Between these two moments,” Herman Bavinck argues, “lies the revelation of God in all its length and breadth.”[1] The thrust of this revelation is the divine covenantal promise, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” And the crowning apex of this revelation is the revealing of God’s own Son, Immanuel, God-with-us. God brought everything into being by the power of his word. The culmination in the new Jerusalem is the fulfillment of every promise of his word. So it makes sense that the highpoint of God’s revelation would be the Word made flesh. Bavinck then makes this incredibly important point about the Son of God, “That is why Christ, in whom the Word became flesh, is said to be full of grace and truth (John 1:14).”[2]

What is meant by this idea that Jesus is full of grace and truth? In John 17:17 Jesus prays that God the Father would “sanctify them in the truth.” Then Jesus immediately defines his terms, “your word is truth.” Jesus’ definition fits with our understanding of God’s creative work. We know what is true in the natural world by understanding that God created a world of order out of chaos. We can use the scientific method to test and given the same set of criteria, because our world is not governed by chaos, we can expect an experiment to produce the same results again and again. We can discover the truth. We must note, however, that we don’t create the truth. We discover the truth which God has created. God spoke the word of creation and the truth of what has happened. Jesus, as the very Word of God, is the manifestation of truth. He speaks what the Father calls him to speak (John 12:48-49). When Pilate asked the question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), he would have done well to realize that Truth was standing before him.

There is more to Jesus than just being full of truth. Because of our sin, if Jesus was just truth, the reality of Immanuel, God-with-us, would only bring condemnation. Our knowledge of God and his creation would only bring about a truthful awareness of the just judgment deserved for our sin. But God from the beginning has been full of grace and truth. The grace of God is exhibited in his revealing himself to us. In his revealing, he shares himself with us. There was no need in God that necessitated his revealing himself. God, simply of his own good pleasure, created and revealed himself to us. From the opening words of Genesis to the close of Revelation, he declares to his people, “I am your God and you are my people.” This revelation is nowhere more clearly displayed than in the person of Jesus Christ. The Word made flesh. This is all of grace.

God has always been full of grace and truth and this has been most clearly displayed to us in Jesus Christ. The application of this is really two-fold. First, this reality of God should cause us to glorify God. He is both the source of all truth and he has graciously revealed that truth to us. The generosity of God is on full display in his grace and truth. “God gives himself to his people in order that his people would give themselves to him.”[3]

Second, we should seek to express this same balance of grace and truth in our lives. Often we gravitate toward one or the other. Perhaps words of truth come easily to us. We are able to see right and wrong, and then we point it out. But truth without grace brings only condemnation and judgment. Or we might gravitate more towards grace. Overlooking an offense and extending mercy are much easier than confronting someone in their sin. Grace without truth leads ultimately to a soft condemnation. As God has always been full of grace and truth in his relationship with us, most prominently in Christ, we too must see our relationships marked by grace and truth.

 

[1] Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1977), 24.

[2] Bavinck, 24.

[3] Bavinck, 24.

Some Questions about Evening Worship

Some Questions about Evening Worship

The Session is moving forward with a plan to begin Evening Worship Services at CPC. We are looking at starting on the first Sunday of March. In this brief article, I’d like to address some questions I’ve heard and answer some objections you might have.

What? We’re having an Evening Worship Service?

Yep.

Why haven’t I heard about this?

Well, we’ve mentioned it up front several times and the Reflections articles in the bulletins have been explaining the biblical, historical, and practical reasons for an Evening Worship Service for the past 6 weeks. I encourage you to read those Reflections. Pastor Chris and I put in a good deal of effort to use that space as an additional and important way to teach and instruct you in the faith. Humbly, I believe some of them are quite good. But if you’ve read this far without being prompted, you probably already know that.

Is it going to be the same worship service as in the morning?

The Evening Worship Service will be a different service. There will be different hymns, prayers, and sermon. After we finish our series on the Ten Commandments in the Morning Worship Service, we will begin a series on the Book of Mark. In the Evening Worship Service we will begin preaching through the Book of Joshua.

The Evening Worship Service will be a little bit more stripped down than the Morning Service. It will be shorter. We won’t do the Lord’s Supper during the Evening Service (perhaps on occasion). Some weeks we have planned to incorporate an evening Hymnsing for worship. It is designed to be a time for us to gather to sing, pray, and hear the Word preached as we conclude our Lord’s Day.

Will there be a nursery or childcare?

That’s a great question, and we need to hear from you about this (particularly if you are a parent of little ones). We believe that the membership of the Church consists of all those who profess the true religion, and their children (WCF 25.2). Since children are members of the visible church, it is appropriate that children (all of them) are in worship.

Now, I get that sometimes Momma and Daddy need a break. That is right and good. And sometimes a nursery is necessary for some of our littlest ones. We have to find the right balance in training our children how to worship (they learn by watching and they can’t watch from a nursery) and in being gracious and caring for the needs of our parents. I would encourage you to consider having your children with you in worship. If you know you’re going to need a nursery or assistance, then please let us know. We want to work with you on this.

This is going to be so disruptive to my regular routine.

That’s not a question, but I know what you mean. I’ve gotten into a regular Sunday habit. And this will change it. But I have to ask myself this question, “Is there a better way for me to spend the end of the Lord’s Day than being with God’s People and hearing His Word preached?” I get that Sunday evening is a prep time for getting your week started. It is going to require some shuffling of your weekend. But this is good for you. It will pay of dividends for eternity. You know you need to exercise. You know you need to eat your veggies. You know this is good.

I like to use Sunday as a time for fellowship. Will this interfere with that?

Maybe. If your commute to church is long, this might curtail some of the hospitality you like to do on Sunday. But I think it also offers some great opportunities for fellowship in the church. I think of the conversations and connection that happened even after Pastor Chris’ ordination service. I saw the crowd and thought, “This is what Sunday Evening Worship will look like.” It got me excited. I hope we’re able to work in some potluck or chili dinners after worship. In the coming years, I believe we’ll see a growing need for a youth group that could meet before worship. I think Evening Worship opens up more avenues for fellowship.

I hear ya, but I gotta be honest, I’m still not sold on it.

I’m sympathetic to that. This is new. It is different. It is going to require something from all of us. But I challenge you to give it a try. Give it a couple of months. Once you get it into the rhythm of your weekly routine, I think you’ll realize that it just fits. It makes sense from so many different angles.

That’s all well and good, but I am not going to do it.

As we’ve mentioned in our previous articles, there is no explicit biblical command for Evening Worship. We believe it is implied throughout the Scriptures. We believe that wisdom would lead us toward this decision. But coming to Evening Worship is going to be on you. We will hold you accountable to your membership vows if you neglect coming to worship at all. But we will not formally discipline anyone for neglecting Evening Worship. We will encourage and try to persuade you to do so, but ultimately, the Session views this as a wisdom issue, not a “right or wrong” issue. We think you should attend. We do not require it as part of your membership vows. We hope you will want to attend.