Protests and Prayer

I was asked for my input on a solution to the problems discussed in my most recent post. Here’s what I came up with:

How do we deal with this? I’ve taken all the free time I’ve had since venting my frustrations about this dialogue to come up with a solution to the problems we face. My value of my own views or opinions isn’t high enough for me to be under the delusion that things would change for the better if people would just do things my way or that I have all the answers. What I do know this: there has been a serious lack of compassion for people that are hurting. That’s what prompted me to speak up.

I look at all the bickering in response to news articles and opinion pieces and I see people that want to be right and to give the right answers, which is understandable, but in that they are forgetting the pain some people are facing because of this issue. In interacting with other conservatives, I was met with a pretty nasty backlash for even mentioning a negative experience I’ve had and why it’s important to me that someone with a public voice would take a stand (or a knee). It was made clear to me that many people want to pretend this isn’t an issue and that I should just keep my trap shut.

This message to be quiet wasn’t limited to me. The gripe with the BLM movement is that there is a lot of violence involved with the group and it isn’t being properly addressed by it’s advocates. That’s fair. That’s why I can’t support them myself. Colin took a knee and people are in an uproar about that. How peaceful and quiet can you get? The message was perpetuated: shut up and stop talking about this. Are we going to keep talking about how this message is being communicated or are we finally going to address the problem people are trying to express? We have to open our hearts to honest and tender discussion.

As Christians, we need to be able to differentiate cold truth from warm truth (terminology I just made up to express what I’m feeling, so bare with me). A cold truth is responding to the problem with statistics and bringing up other issues. Yes, black on black crime is a problem. Yes, fatherlessness in the black community is a problem. Yes, there are more black babies being killed at the hands of Planned Parenthood than there are being born. Is that really something you want to bring into the conversation with someone that’s already angry, fearful, paranoid, or consumed with pain?

Cold truth just incites more anger. Not only are people led to believe that white conservatives that spout this information just don’t care about them, but things are brought to their minds that make them more angry or fearful or whatever they were feeling before the exchange. There is no compassion or sympathy in cold truth. It just makes things worse.

What people need is a warm truth. They need people to come along side them and mourn injustice with them. As Christians, we remind each other of the gospel and of our identities as brothers and sisters. We have to be willing to do the hard work of having face to face uncomfortable conversations with people we disagree with and be willing to love them. We don’t have to agree with another person’s opinions on any given matter to show them love when they’re weeping. We need to be able to show each other a warm, personal love because love covers a multitude of sins, and in that multitude includes racism.

Colin is not a Christian. Unfortunately, the influential Christian voices have only reacted to situations like this instead of taking the lead and starting the conversations. Lots of people that are not Christians have been vocal about this, but they’re doing it in a worldly way (Ice Cube, Ice T, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Nas, and many others). These people have been publicly talking about racial injustice for nearly three decades and conservative America is just now kinda sorta acknowledging that there *might* be a problem. Christians with the capability to speak into the issues need to do it first and do it with the gospel.  We as the church can’t complain about people that aren’t believers behaving (or protesting) like nonbelievers when we’re not actively engaging the issues they’re tackling head on. I wonder how differently the reaction would’ve been if a prominent Christian got on both knees in front of this flag instead of a nonbeliever on one.

Advertisements

Bastard II

Around 10 years ago, I penned something I called “Bastard”. It was about the desperation I felt about the longing for a home I couldn’t seem to find no matter how far I traveled. It resonated with a lot of people. To this day, it’s the second most popular thing I’ve ever written, behind only the one about how I ended up in jail and why. Here we are a decade later. I have sense found my home, but my inherited family makes me feel like I’m still on that isolated island.

I’m a reformed Christian that’s black and conservative with some theonomic leanings. That makes me an oddity, especially when the environment I grew up in comes into play. Frankly put, all the black people that have a similar view that I have (both of them), I met online. So, that’s fine. With blacks and whites alike, there are differences that are not issues of salvation. I am okay with that. What makes me feel like the bastard child now has nothing to do with a difference of opinion, but of apathy. You white evangelicals (I used that broadly as I consider my white brothers and sisters that love me, support me, and challenge my positions), I really don’t feel like you love me.

I take a look at this fiasco surrounding Colin Kaepernick in amazement at how cold you are. He’s bringing attention to injustice persons of color experience and you make it about a flag. Honoring a song and a flag is more important to you than a person made in God’s image just like you. If it’s not, then why do you keep acting as if he’s committing treason against America? Why do you support Trump saying he should be fired or share posts that portray that in a positive light? Why do you not speak out against it if you don’t feel that way.

The answer is simple: you don’t care. You don’t care how many bodies are dropping in those streets. You don’t care about the open tears black mothers have been openly weeping in public for years upon years. You. Don’t. Care. What’s it going to take for you to weep with those that weep (Romans 12)? How many of us have to die on camera before you show a shred of compassion? I wonder if I’ll see it in my lifetime. As of right now, there’s not a lot of white family I’d feel comfortable talking to about this, and that’s not the way it should be.

You Christians who love your pledge so much: this flag is flying over the abortion mill where 60,000,000+ have perished. It’s flying over the courts that sanctioned the suits against the Christians that refused to violate their consciences. It flies over the homes and establishments over the most vile, disgusting, and racist people. Considering the principles this country was intended to be built on, that’s a disgrace to the flag .. but more importantly, this is against the law of the One who gave man his dignity and value.

You keep making this about a worthless piece of cloth that will pass away when there are things happening that dishonor God. Where is your loyalty? Is it with God? Or is it with God AND the flag? This might come as a shock to you, but America dishonors God DAILY. Those things DO NOT go hand in hand.

I’m sure someone is going to falsely accuse me of being a cop hater or something that can’t be proven. I’m okay with that. I’ve seen God open the eyes of people that have been blind to challenges that minorities face and that’s what gives me hope. They have embraced me and shown me love (shout out to YOU Midtown Church!) when they have seen my wounds and the aching of my heart when these things arise.

So I’ll end with asking you this: what am I supposed to say when white liberals say that you’re a racist? I know a good majority are not, but this apathy is impossible to defend. What am I supposed to say when time and time again, I see some secondary issue taking prominience over the life of someone made in God’s image? At the end of the day, I just wish I could feel like my white brothers and sisters gave a damn about any of this pain and that I could freely say that. It seems to me like they’d rather win an argument than show someone that’s in pain some compassion.

Then I turn around and look at the way some of my black brothers and sisters are addressing things and I can’t co-sign it because of methods that don’t honor God. In some sense, I guess I’m still a bastard.

 

A Dream

20727938_1507634295942150_4113561508335079741_n

This man is standing with his back turned to people that openly show hostility and hatred towards him. These people would likely have him dead at any given chance they could get away with it. There’s a man holding a anti-semetic sign in one hand and a confederate flag in the other while one man is giving a nazi salute and another is dressed in KKK garb. Yet, there he stands, not only with his back to them, but to protect them. That’s what a hero looks like. That is what love looks like.

It takes bravery to do what this man does for a living. His job is to lay down his life in service, whether it’s for someone with good intentions or not. This is what he does to regularly to put food on the table. Everything could potentially be taken away from him in an instant, but there he stands. It’s men like him that are going to turn the tide of bigoted attitudes towards people of color, not violent protests.

You cannot kill an ideology with hatred. An ideology in and of itself is something that’s immaterial. It exists outside of the physical world. It’s in a person’s thoughts and in a person’s heart. If you cause a person with a dangerous ideology, that doesn’t stop it from advancing in the thoughts and hearts of others. In some cases, the anger and hurt left in the wake of wars on harmful ideology can actually cause it to grow and advance, rather be silenced and defeated.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” – MLK

MLK is another modern hero, well known for refusal to engage with those that hated him with violence and hatred. What he did sparked a dream for generations to come to dream also. Hand in hand, putting to shame those that opposed him and his supporters in the past and for generations to come.

He looked into the eyes of enemies that persecuted him and saw them as men and women with lives of equal value and dignity. He envisioned a world in which we could live alongside one another sharing that brotherhood and he died for it, but his dream lives on to this day.

I believe the reverend drew from two things to anchor him in his resolve: firstly, Genesis 1:27, which establishes the equality of all men and women from the very beginning; and Matthew 22:36-40 in which Jesus answers what the greatest commands are: love for God and love for neighbor. Maybe 1 Peter 4:18 motivated him, in which Peter shares that love covers a multitude of sins. Regardless of what verses inspired him, his mark has been made.

Christians, this isn’t the first time we’ve had this kind of display rock the world. Think of the original 12 disciples. All of them less one died gruesome deaths. The only one that died a natural death lived his life scarred and outcasted. What did God do with the love they had for people that hated them? He set the entire known world on fire! No matter how many people were set ablaze alive, thrown into lion’s dens, or crucified, the spread of Christianity could NOT be contained. The very people that wanted Christianity stopped at all costs eventually became followers of Christ themselves. If you would like something in the current time that God has worked through this kind of love, He’s got you covered there too.

China, in which people are killed for being Christians, is experiencing a boom in underground churches. Under the looming threat of arrest and/or death, the numbers of professing Christians is growing instead of declining. The momentum is swinging in favor of the Christians so much that China is actually projected to become the biggest Christian nation in the world.

I’ve said all that simply to say that if you have a problem with hate groups, you not only have to call their evil to repentence and oppose it at every opportunity, but you MUST love them with equal fervor. That’s what’s going to kill hate fueled ideology. Love! Martin was right in his following in the steps of Christ. We’re only going to see a decline in open hatred by responding in open love.

If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering just how to effectively do that to people that don’t like you for whatever reason.

 

 

Refuge Bible Church

Refuge

Being a part of a church plant is both challenging and exciting. It’s much different from being a part of an established, well-oiled machine. There’s a grimey and messiness to everything. It’s hard work that requires a lot of patience and dedication. All hands are on deck. All hearts are lovingly sacrificing something. It’s truely a gritty labor of love where there are no faces in the crowd. These are some of the things I was weighing will I was going to make the transition to Refuge or not.

“Refuge Bible Church is a church family of Jesus’ disciples throughout the Metro Indianapolis area. We believe that Jesus is making all things new, and it is our desire to be a part of that redemptive mission.

Whether you are an atheist, agnostic, spiritual skeptic, doubter, curious about Christianity, or a committed follower of Christ you are not only welcome here but wanted. We strive to be an authentic community of faith, meaning that it’s OK to express doubts, struggle with faith, and that we will encourage each other to seek Jesus.

Jesus knew that we are all sojourners and asking questions and searching for fulfillment— that we are thirsty. He said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38)”

— From the website.

The catholic (universal) church has one mission: to make disciples. Various sects of the body accomplish certain tasks more effectively than others. Various visions are casted with varying levels of emphasis to accomplish The Great Commission. What I can see Refuge doing well at is authenticity, which is what makes this an exciting church to be a part of.

A naked culture is being cultivated here. It’s creating an environment where people are free to cast off the masks they’ve been conditioned to wear and just be free to show themselves for who they are: sinners in need of grace. In this church, we intend to learn to love one another well when not only when things are well, but when sin brings forth strife and struggle. Sanctification is a lifelong process. Life doesn’t become a neat little package where nothing goes wrong just because you’re a Christian, and we’re striving to acknowledge that fact and contend for the faith together.

With all the work that’s ahead, the most exciting thing to me is inviting people in to be a part of our family and seeing what it’s like to be loved in this way. There’s a deep longing in the hearts of man to be truly seen and loved for who we are. It sounds wonderful to say it’s possible. It’s comforting to share memes that offer up the idea of something like this. But, none of that is as rewarding as actually toiling for that alongside people that are on the same mission.

Refuge Bible is going to start meeting weekly starting this Sunday. This is for those of you curious about why I would leave an established church that I love. This is for those of you curious about what kind of church I’m a part of and what kind of church I’d reccomend to those that long to be in deeper community. Come and see!

There are two ways to join us: One is on Thursday night for food, fellowship, prayer and study. If you’re skeptical about going to a worship service and you’d like to meet people in a more casual environment, this one’s for you. We break bread in one another’s homes for this! For the rest of you, there is that invitation, and there’s also Sunday morning worship at 10:30.

If you’re looking for a church home, won’t you come and see what this is all about? Come and see what the beauty in the messiness of being seen is like. Let us learn together what it means to love one another as Christ loves the church.

Love Your Pastor!

How’s your pastor doing? What’s he struggling with? How is family doing? Is he loving his wife and kids well? Is his health okay? Does he have people he can confide in? Does he have consistent accountability to help sharpen in the areas of dullness and encourage in the areas of strength? Where are the messages he’s preaching coming from? How much is he wrestling with what he’s preaching about? These are all great questions to ask your pastor. Let him know that you love him!

Think about it. Whether the congregation you’re a part of is big or small, your pastor is making a lot of sacrifices (or he should be!!) The pastors I’m thinking of at least are always meeting with people. They’re counseling people, encouraging people, helping to teach others to lead, overseeing the direction of the church, and serving every which way. These men freely give so much of their lives away. Are we letting them know that they’re loved and appreciated for using the gifts God has given in them in the way they do?

It’s a good idea to make it a practice to give your pastor some encouragement when the time allows. I say this because of an article like this one I read a couple years ago. I couldn’t stomache the idea of losing someone I love like that without letting them know that they are loved and that I want the best for him and his family.

Here are a few things I would love to pull my pastor aside to share, for even just five minutes if that’s all that I had to work with:

  1. Tell him how you were encouraged or challenged by his preaching.
  2. Be affectionate. Tell him that you love him. Hug him. Pray for him.
  3. Tell him what he does well and how it helps you to process things.

And for goodness sake, guys and gals….. Please, PLEASE… It’s alright to have a conflicting view with something said or done, but be considerate. The time leading up to a worship service or the time immediately following it IS NOT a good time for negative criticism. Set up a time where the two of you can meet privately and discuss whatever the issue is. These men are already overly critical of their own prayers, the way they preach their own sermons, and whatever their shortcomings may be as it is. It’s not loving to make things more stressful for them at the time immediately before or after participating in worship, is it?

Lastly, be sure to thank his wife for her sacrifices as well. If this article is something that’s commonplace, she can be feeling isolated even though she’s surrounded by loving people.

I can’t stress enough how much better off the congregation is when the pastor is well loved. With the right encouragement, you get better preaching. With the right accountability, his family will have a better husband, father, and so on. You may even find a way to serve alongside him that stregthens the bond that you have and contributes to the overall health of the church.

I’ve shared some things I do commonly, but my thoughts aren’t the come all, end all. What ways can you think of to better love your pastor and his family? Be spontaneous and creative! Let us think of ways we can love one another as Jesus does.

Read more: The folks over at Desiring God have something to say about this too.

 

One More Light

A week ago, the news broke that Chester Bennington committed suicide. This tragic loss was a total blindside. Family, bandmates, friends, and fans alike were all taken aback by this. Why did this happen all of a sudden again? When he decided to take his own life, what did the lyrics to the newly released song “One More Light” mean to him?

If they say
Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well, I do

Ironically, this particular performance of the song was dedicated to Chris Cornell, who also committed suicide in similar fashion. This is sadly not unusual in the limelight. We see many stars living in a whirlwind of substance abuse, fortune, and fame. In recent years, we’ve seen the two aforementioned men, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Wayne Static, Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Lucy Gordon, Chris Benoit, Aaron Hernandez, it goes on and on. Meanwhile, there are people that are still living in a way that’ll likely bring about another young death.

If I had a chance to ask any of them one question, it would be this: what did you lack? Certainly, in this most recent tragedy, it wasn’t for lack of money. He just bought a two million dollar home before he took his life. Was it for lack of love? Certainly not. The home he bought has enough rooms to accomdate his wife and six children. Was he seeking some other companionship? The shock and grief shown by people that he’s friends with, people that’s he’s made music with, and people he’s toured with all indicate that Chester had someone to turn to in time of need. He had wife, six children, bandmates, and a legion of fans. This man did not lack love or adoration.

I read an article the day of his passing that blamed the death on the fans. Many of his own fans were harshly critical of Linkin Park’s new material. There was some negative press about the album as well. To coincide with this, there was an incident where plastic was thrown at the band during a performance of a song from the new album. The article suggests it was pressure and criticism from fans that drove him to do what he did, which I scoffed at. But, what if I was wrong to react that way? What if that did have something to do with it?

In “Free From It All” Lecrae raps “You live for their acceptance, you die from their rejection” when talking about an artists’ relationship with fans. What if that actually did weight heavy on Chester? His mistake would have been placing his identity in fallible humanity, which would not justify pointing the finger at his fans.

Ecclesiastes is playing right before our eyes over and over again. With all the money, all the fame, all the love, and all the pleasures this life could possibly offer, people still are not happy. They’re still committing heinous crimes. They’re still taking their own lives. Until we realize that this is not something we can throw money at and attempt to medicate, this is just going to keep happening. What good is at for a man to gain the whole world and still lose his soul?

Nail in my hand
From my creator
You gave me life
Now show me how to live

 

Made to Suffer

 

What would you say to someone that asked you where God was when they suffered a traumatic loss or some sort of violent tragedy? How would you show a reverent love for God and compassion for your grieving neighbor? How would you support what you’re saying with what God has revealed to Himself about us? This commenter disgracefully shows us how to disregard love, scripture, and compassion in one fatal fell swoop (S/N: reformed Christians that are young in their faith don’t seem to have a clue what compassion, grace, or sympathy are. It’s a serious problem, y’all. I digress….)

So, where was God? I immediately think of John 11:35, the shortest verse in the bible, “Jesus wept”. Jesus was weeping in this moment due to the passing of his friend, Lazarus. Isaiah 53, written roughly 700 years before Jesus entered creation, predicts Him in His humanity as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. His own family thought Him a madman, He had no home to rest His head, those closest to Him all abandoned Him when He needed them the most, and the people of own tribe were constantly plotting to have Him murdered. Jesus was witness to much disease and death, and also to the oppression of the tax collecting Jews and Romans.

The notion that God does not understand our pain is off the mark. Jesus felt it firsthand. It was so bad near the end of His life, that He got hematidrosis, a very rare condition where humans sweat blood. All the way back then, God was with us in the form of Jesus, entering into our suffering and showing love and compassion for us when we had none for Him.

So, is God not all powerful? Could He not stop the murderer, rapist, sexual molester, or other heinous criminal? Yes, God could stop all of that. We long for the day when all of the pain and suffering of the world is finally put to death itself. This is where Jesus in His divinity steps in, because there does indeed come a reckoning for sin. The debt owed for that sin is death (Genesis 2:17 / Romans 6:23). All of us fall short of God’s righteousness in some way, and because of the chasm it creates, we don’t have peace with God. In short, we all deserve the death penalty. None of us has offered God, who lacks nothing, something to deserve the blessing of life or the comforts of it. If God again wiped the world clean of all of us, it would still be justice, but He instead shows grace.

What is God doing about all this pain if He has the power to stop it and understands how it feels? God is 2,000 years ago entering His creation as the man, Jesus Christ and living the perfect life and offering up the perfect sacrifice, which was His own life. God is rescuing the rebels, the very people who hate Him and love sin, and reeling them in to be His hands and feet, the very ambassadors of the message of reconciliation with God. God is showing us that there will be justice and that our pain is not in vain.

Paul, a man who was at the execution of the first Christian martyr was used as a prime example of this. This man went from persecuting and killing Christians to writing the vast majority of the New Testament. That’s what Jesus is doing with and through the rebels. Paul, along with all the other apostles lived incredibly difficult lives. All but one faced execution, and yet they still went on empowered by what Christ has done in them and is still doing in the world now.

To anyone that would ask me where I think God is in their suffering, I say let me grieve for you and with you in your sorrow. Let me be there for you and try to comfort you. Let me attempt to meet you in your pain the way Christ came and met us in our pain all those years ago. Let’s not pretend there are simple answers and we should just smile through our sorrows, denying the limits of our humanity. Jesus wept in his Humanity, but in power, made a way for peace, justice, and restoration. He’s still doing that today.

This is but an overview: many that are wiser and more mature have already said a lot more than I have, but here are a few recommendations:

The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
Where is God When it Hurts? by Philip Yancey
Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller

If you have five minutes, watch this:

 

If you have an hour, watch this: