The Family

The Family
Justice, Logan, Jacy Klaire, Joy, Josie Kate, Luke, Megan, Judah, Kerry, Jaxon

Monday, August 25, 2014

Too Many Racist Slaves

There are way too many Racist Slaves in the church.

I don’t care if you are Democrat or Republican.  Conservative or Liberal.  Rich or poor.  Baptist or Catholic.  The term “Racist Christians” should be an oxymoron.  How could a Christian that bases their entire belief system on receiving unconditional love from a forgiving Savior be a bigot towards someone else for ANY reason? 

I know some of my “white friends” will be embarrassed by me taking such a stance and calling out bigotry and preferential treatment.  Don’t get me wrong, those of you that know me, know I don’t give a hoot about “political correctness” and “social sensitivity”.  I do care about truth and freedom.  And too many of us are not living in freedom in this area of our lives.

Let me start by saying that I believe that race relations in our county have worsened more in the last six years than in any other 6 year period.  We had been on an overall improving state for a couple of decades with only occasional backslidings.  Under Holder and Obama, race has been more of an issue of division than it has been in 30 years.  Now I have all my black friends mad too.  But it’s not about politics.  It’s about reality.  Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and the New Black Panthers make their living and feed their power hungry appetites by creating racist tensions.  The problem is, their actions cause us Christian white folks to justify our own bigoted and racist attitudes without having to view it the way God does.  Black Christians feel they are justified in being bigoted towards whites because a “pastor” says it is okay.  Even in our churches we are not forced to confront our sinful attitudes because we are surrounded by people that feel the same way.  We use the sin of others- racism towards us- as a justification for our sin- so we keep ourselves in chains of bondage.  We become the slaves! 

Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. “ John 8:34

I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR WHETHER BLACKS OR HISPANICS OR OTHERS ARE RACISTS TOWARDS ME.  I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR EVEN A LITTLE BIT OF PREJUDICE TOWARDS OTHERS IN MY HEART.

As Christians we are commanded by Jesus himself to “love others”.  If He had said “love others like yourself” then there would not be a problem.  But He didn’t.  He said we are to love all people unconditionally.  We SAY we do that- but we don’t DO that.

We see that 72% of black homes have no father.  Instead of that breaking our heart and driving us to change that in our community, we allow it to justify our position that “they” bring it on themselves.  “They” are just using the system.  The family is broken in America and minority families are the most affected.  IT DOES NOT MATTER WHY! The very fact that we say “they” instead of “us” signifies there is a problem! 
 I hear people all the time complaining that “black fathers are not taking responsibility.  Black pastors not preaching against sexual sin.  The government is awarding broken families.  The government system is designed to do that so the Democratic party stays in power.  Republicans don’t support minorities…”  Forget all of that!  Do we love them?  Do we love those kids?  Do we love those single moms?  Do we love those men caught up in sexual sin?  Do we love the ones living in poverty due to poor choices, or poor systems, or poor government, or poor CHURCHES? 

If we TRULY love them, we would be there making a difference instead of building up walls of prejudice and bigotry.  We don’t need to help them so we feel better about ourselves.  We don’t need to help them so we look good to our country club neighbors.  We need to help them because we are going to stand before a RACELESS God one day and He’s gonna ask us why we didn’t take care of His children.  You gonna tell God it was the government’s fault?  “I didn’t want to be an enabler, God.”

Good luck with that. 

I say all of this because I had my heart ripped apart.  I was raised in the deep south.  I had good parents but unfortunately, white or black, in south Georgia we were raised to be bigots.  Some lived above that, but not many. It was and still is a way of life for many.

 Then I held my baby girl one day.  I looked into those deep brown eyes.  I stroked the black skin of her soft cheek as she smiled up at me and God broke my heart.  He brought to mind the words I used to say.  He pierced my conscience with the way I talked about people her color in years gone by.  The jokes I laughed at.   The criticisms I agreed with.  Filth.  Hatred.  Bigotry.  Godlessness. 

It broke my heart to think my daughter from Haiti would have to live surrounded by people like me.  She would be judged by her color even before a word was spoken.  She would suffer pain at some point in her life by hearing words of hatred from people like me.  I didn’t want her to be around white people who were bigots or black people that are racists.  I want her surrounded by Christians.  People who just love her because she is a child of the King.  I want her to hear she is beautiful from white, black, brown, or red people.  It’s not about the world we live in.  It’s about the church of Jesus Christ standing for what’s right and loving for the sake of Love.  How can I demand that for my daughter but not care about all the communities where I have friends that lead churches that don’t reach out to their underprivileged communities.

It’s time for the church to stand up to racism of every flavor and say it’s enough!  It’s time we decided “that as for me and MY house” we are going to love.  We are going to raise raceless children to serve a raceless God as we build His Kingdom.  He is worth it.  Let’s not be slaves to prejudice, racism, bigotry, hatred, preference, profiling any longer.  Let’s repent and ask God to change US so we can love according to who we are in Him.  We are ONE race as Christians, picked, chosen, adopted by God to be HIS OWN POSSESSION!  Let’s live that way!


“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

Friday, August 22, 2014

Christians Need to Quit Hating

In a country as liberated from the shackles of dark aged religious rhetoric and senseless prohibitions, we Christians need to reconsider our stance and be more inclusive.  Isn't that basically the message to the church today from our society.  All we have to do is to accept the modern version of marriage, a woman's right to choose, and quit being so exclusive of people just because they don't believe the same thing about God as we do and then we will be not be haters.  Those shifts in our positions would allow us to come along side the leaders in our communities and implement "change" and continue the peaceful advancement of moral and cultural unity.

So...let's see what steps we as churches and church leaders could take to reach such noble goals.

The problem we have with "a woman's right to choose" is the whole Ten Commandments "thou shalt not Kill" thing.  We definitely have to get rid of the Ten Commandments all together.  They are far to restrictive and absolute.  Who is God to tell us we can't murder, steal, cheat, lie, and blaspheme?  Step One- Throw out all restrictions of God and especially any references to the Ten Commandments.

The main obstacle to redefining marriage is the Bible.  We are going to have to change how we view the Bible.  Either we can just toss it out all together or we can just agree that it is basically a book of fables with moral recommendations but not absolutes.  We could even work together with those that are wanting to make a more inclusive religious book by taking pieces of all "historical religious writings" and make a book that does not teach right from wrong.  Then we could all be right.  Okay, step two- Throw out our Bible.

To include all people as just as right as us about God, Heaven, Eternity, the after life, and how we should live our lives here, we are going to have to stop talking so much about Jesus.  Jesus after all is the one that taught these things.  We as Christians can't keep teaching what Jesus taught if we are going to live at peace with all other beliefs.  Jesus himself did make the extremely radical and exclusive statement that HE alone was the ONLY way to God the Father and Heaven.  How could we possibly be all inclusive if the very foundation of our belief system is based on the teachings of someone so fanatically exclusive.  So it's settled, necessary step number three- Eliminate all references and teachings referring to Jesus.

Now... let's recap.  All we have to do in order to not be seen as haters and non-inclusive is follow these three simple steps:
  1. Get Rid of the Ten Commandments
  2. Get Rid of the Bible
  3. Get Rid of all teachings of Jesus
One other thing.  In order to not be seen as haters, we have to quit loving so much.  Loving someone so much that you want to see them find their destiny for which they were created and bring glory to God with their life instead of ruining it with sin and self indulgence is gonna have to stop.  We can't love people so much that we are willing to look foolish in order to tell them about salvation and the way to God the Father and Heaven.  That kind of love is standing in the way of unity.  That kind of love is too radical and sets a bad example for the future generation of atheistic secularists.  I know it will be hard, but if we just stop loving God, then we can stop loving his creation.  If we stop serving God, then we can stop serving others.  

So if we totally disregard EVERYTHING we believe, then and only then can we be embraced by society. So let's get to it.  We have lots of unloving to do so we won't be seen as hating.  And since Christian is a reference to Christ which reminds people of Jesus, we need to get us a new name too.  Any ideas?

***note- anyone not familiar with sarcasm and allegory may miss the point here today!



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Bi-vocational Southern Baptist Preacher/Optometrist/Missionary's Thoughts on Church

LONG BLOG POST AHEAD

A few months ago someone asked my opinion on church and the church in America.  BAD idea!  I had plenty of time to think and pray on this issue while in Haiti and this is my boiled down, able to post without being to offensive version of my answer.  As an eye doctor, I must advise frequent breaks for blinking to avoid low blink rate computer reading induced dry eye syndrome.  So grab a cup of coffee and bottle of Systane Balance over the counter tear drops and lets do this!

 “Church”

The church is the Bride of Christ for which He will gloriously return to redeem and carry across the threshold of eternity.  The church was established by Christ with specific intentions.  The church through the centuries has been the most powerful, most abused, and most misunderstood entity in history.  The true church is not a denomination, congregation, hierarchy, or structure.  The true church is composed of those souls who have forsaken themselves and their pursuits in order to follow Christ as forgiven and redeemed.  The purpose of the church is much debated.  The means to achieve the purpose of the church is even more debated.  I will lay out what I believe is a crude and simplified purpose and calling of the church.

The church’s purpose is the same as our individual purpose; to glorify God.  The end-all is God’s glory.  The church gives glory to God only when she is following the calling of God for the church.  The calling of the church can be extracted from scriptures in great depth but a simple breakdown includes three essential characteristics.

1-      Engaging-  The church is to engage the world around them in love.  There is a move today that calls for the church to “engage the culture”.  That movement pushes for the church to be more like the culture in order to engage the culture.  I disagree.  The church does not need to engage the culture, it needs to engage the individuals in the culture.  The church has to be purposefully reaching out in love to meet the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs of the world.  The engagement follows the great commission model to include the society in which we live but also all cultures throughout the world as God gives specific opportunities. The main focus of the church is not the members of the church but the members of society that can be impacted by the church.  We are to intentionally and diligently live in such a way personally and corporately that is a clear and accurate portrayal of Christ’s heart towards the world. 
2-      Evangelizing-  The church is to evangelize the culture through GENUINE relationships that are established by engaging our society and the people in our circle of influence.  We don’t evangelize with programs, and we don’t engage in order to evangelize.  We engage because we love and Christ called us to engage and love.  We don’t feed the hungry to make them a Christian, we feed them because they are hungry and WE ARE Christians.  If we learn to engage and love all of God’s children, we will have a longing to meet their needs.  We do not have to drum up false compassion or serve out of guilt.  It becomes our identity and what fulfills us.  As we meet needs, we share Jesus in a deliberate way out of love for the individual and a desire for them to fulfill their destiny of bringing God glory with their lives. 
3-      Assimilating-  After we have relationships and people accept Christ and begin attending church, we have to effectively assimilate them into the church body.  The traditional weekly services are established for this purpose.  The goal of assimilation should be three fold:
                                                              i.      Real Worship: Leading the people to understand that they are made to worship God.  Worship through exalting God with singing is one part, but also teaching worship through giving, worship through serving, and worship through surrendering.
                                                            ii.      Real Prayer:  The church does not pray today.  We have to help people to see the power and necessity of personal and corporate prayer.  That is not most effectively done by having a meeting where everyone shares what is wrong with them and then we make superficial requests to God for our needs.  Genuine prayer is entering into a broken state before God where He has total control to lead the time and speak to us as we learn to submit to Him.  A Christian that does not pray is useless to the Kingdom and will never discover the freedom that comes from intimacy with God.
                                                          iii.      Real Fellowship-  People need relationships.  Christian’s need Christian relationships that are genuine and transparent.  The church’s job is to create an atmosphere where the development of genuinely caring relationships are easily fostered and maintained.  Our lives are designed to flourish in community.  The goal of the church is to bring together individuals that can “do” life together and effectively engage, evangelize, and assimilate others.

The church today is so focused on “Programs” that they have lost the focus of the church.  There are countless ways to accomplish the above goals but the goals have to be clear to everyone and committed to by leadership if the church is going to break the mold of the typical American church of the last 75 years. 

I believe the church today has gone astray from the original intent of Christ and the model set forth by the New Testament church and 2000 years of church history.  In my evaluation, there are three main issues plaguing the modern church.  Of course there are a myriad of problems that are visible in individual congregations or denominations, but on a broader picture I believe there are three root issues that have led the church as a whole in Western society towards ineffectiveness.  They are listed in no relevant order.

1-  An insatiable desire to be entertained- In our society, entertainment is the premier idol.  We are entertained all day and seek it in every area of our lives.  From the ubiquity of television- you can get showers with built in TV’s, to the portability of phones and tablets, we are constantly able to entertain ourselves.  We watch TV while we eat at restaurants, we play video games on our cell phone while we wait in line, we have every sport on the planet we can watch, we worship country music stars and Hollywood celebrities.  As a culture we are overly addicted to being entertained. 

So then we go to church.  What do we expect when we get there?  We want to be entertained.  We want pretty songs by the choir and soloists.  We want eloquent messages by the pastor that in some way entertain us.  Even in churches where the pastor preaches “hell fire and brimstone” it is the same thing.  The people want to hear that and are entertained by the enthusiasm of the preacher. It is just a more traditional form of entertainment. 

So what is the real problem?  Empty lives.  We all have voids in our lives that hurt when we are forced to face them.  Entertainment allows us to escape those encounters with the voidThe void can be a relationship, a past hurt that was not dealt with, a longing, unrealistic expectations, or many other problems.  The issue is the pain that comes from facing the problem.  In a culture where pain and hardship are avoided at all cost, entertainment finds a welcome home.  We can watch Zombies eat each other’s brains and juiced up super jocks outrun each other, and by so doing, our void is filled. 

The bigger issue is that Christ wants to fill that void.  Christ is there to meet those needs, provide the healing, and fulfill the longings.  But as a church we have allowed the desire for entertainment to become the substitute for the real joy that comes from Christ filling the void.  I truly believe that Leonard Ravenhill was right when he said the entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy.

It is argued that due to the overwhelming desire and need to be entertained, that churches must change and conform to meet the culture and provide that or we become irrelevant.  Hence, most churches have concerts to start and polished orator to follow with multimedia and donuts thrown in for good measure.  I totally disagree.  I don’t believe that the joy that comes from an encounter with Christ is surpassed by superb entertainment.  I believe the soul’s desire for Christ’s joy can be appeased and temporarily cajoled by an enjoyable “religious” entertainment.   It’s not that the world is so accustomed to extreme encounters that they are bored by encounters with God.  It is that the extreme encounters we are accustomed to get us close enough to the real thing that we settle instead of pressing on to the real pinnacle of joy which is a true encounter with God that fills the void.  That can only be found in a church that is seeking God and His presence above all else.  The greetings, the music, the preaching, the ministries, and the programs all have to be focused to this end.

2- Us against Them-  Through the cultural forces behind ideas such as “separation of church and state” as we know it today, liberalism vs. conservatism, and the “politically correct” agenda, the church has allowed the culture to dictate our relationship to our society instead of it being based on the Bible.  The church as a whole isolated itself and formed a barrier of identity that is contrary to the foundations of our heritage.  We have become insecure in our true identity as the offensive force of history.  We have settled into a defensive stance of defending ourselves against them.  Our churches have not remained the equipping stations they were for centuries and have become fortified retreats that we occasionally sneak out of to do an outreach so that we can claim a little victory. 

The church was established to be a refuge for THEM.  A place where lost souls can find rest.  A place where the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed.  A place where believers find an easy place to use their gifts to minister to people in need. 

Through this shift, we have allowed ourselves to turn inward in a defensive posture and only focus on caring for our own.  It is definitely true that we need to care for our church members, but if we are creating a place of ministry, the ones with the gifts of service and hospitality, and giving, and teaching will be serving with joy and the needs of our own will be met as a divine by-product but not as the prime product.  We have to turn away from focusing all of our resources on keeping ourselves safe and comfortable and be willing to see those outside as our calling not our enemy.

3-  Acceptance of Debt-  A controversial issue in today’s church but I don’t just argue debt is wrong because the Bible says so.  I believe there are good arguments in that vein but there are other issues as well.  Debt puts dependence on man that should only be on God.

When a church has debt it inevitably becomes a source of contention in nearly every situation.  In churches where they are growing and expanding and running out of room, the congregation and leadership are eager to commit to pledges and commitments to pay off the debt in order to get that expansion done NOW.  After all, we want everything now.  The problem comes once the expansion is done and the excitement of that new building wears off and yet the debt and interest is still there to be paid every month.  The staff and the ministry leaders constantly see that debt as money taking away from the ministries that really need to be done if they are going to meet the demands of the growing congregation that now has room in the new facility.  Much attention is placed on getting the money necessary to pay the bills.  You have to cater to the individuals that are giving so the bills can be paid.  The ones giving feel they have a certain amount of leverage because they are paying for the debt.  It creates a carnal and worldly atmosphere that is tainted by an unholy attention to money and finances.  Instead of relying on God to provide money through giving for ministry and paying of those serving the church full time, we have to rely on givers and man to meet our hard costs or face foreclosure.  It is a weight that hinders church freedom and growth.  It hinders the pastor’s ability to truly help people who aren’t givers to be set free from greed because they only see the sermons on giving as pleas to meet the debt obligations.  Therefore, many in the congregations stay in bondage to debt and greed and selfishness because they have an easy psychological wall they can build up to fend off any conviction.  We cloak the need in spiritual terms of depending on God, and stepping out in Faith but the truth is the whole thing has a secular financial foundation and not one based on Biblical truth and sound spiritual wisdom.

Conclusions:
If the American Church is going to fulfill its destiny and be all that God has planned for her, we must recognize our condition and be willing to make changes.  If not, God’s plan to evangelize the world will take place, but He will use someone else. “Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.” 2 Samuel 11:1

Are we going to be like David and allow someone else to go secure the victory that was designed for us?  We all know what happened next to David.  Do we not see the church in America falling into the same type of sin?  Let’s suit up for battle as pastors and lead our churches out to war instead of hanging out on the palace rooftop tempted by what is not ours to possess!

www.Byne.org - Byne Memorial Baptist Church- Albany Ga