Living against the grain…that is what it is like to take a stand for Christ in a culture that does not see eye to eye with biblical faith. On Sunday at Providence, we took time to explain why the Bible is a trustworthy foundation upon which to build our lives. We can trust what He says, of course, but in order to live in the fullness of our new life in Christ, we must learn how to do what He says.
Healthy, new-born babies have a natural hunger that compels them to demand food. Their piercing cries in the night will long be remembered by their parents as a clear indication that the little one desired food. Their hunger and cry for food reminded their parents that a new life needs nourishment.
In the same way, when someone has been born of the Spirit of God, the natural, normal response to new life is to hunger for spiritual food. God’s Word is that food. A healthy, growing church is made up of people who have been born of the Spirit–or born again–and who have a real hunger for the Word of God. Just as physical food helps us grow to maturity physically, so spiritual food helps us grow to maturity spiritually.
Since God has revealed His will to His people through His Word, the Bible, it is essential for us to place ourselves totally under the authority of that Word. In order to grow toward maturity, therefore, we must come together as a church to ask ourselves week by week, day by day, and moment by moment two weighty questions: 1) Are you willing to do what the Bible says? 2) What does the Bible say?
The Bible calls His disciples the righteous ones of Christ. But they will be righteous only as they answer those questions correctly. Paul writes in Romans 2:13: “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” The second part of the verse should give us the answer to the first question. We must be willing to do what the Bible says if we expect to please God and so inherit His blessing in our lives. “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28)
On this point, we must be very clear. Our willingness to obey puts us under the umbrella of the authority of God’s Word as a rule of life. Therefore, all that is written in God’s Word is applicable to all of our lives. There is no room for negotiation. There is no room for compromise. If we are God’s people, we must be willing to do all that His Word requires of us.
What, then, does the Word of God say? That is the primary focus of our attention each time the body of Christ gathers. As a matter of fact, the role of the pastor-teacher according to Ephesians 4:12-13 is “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” I am called to teach and preach the Word of God to the end that the saints of God are maturing in Him through a knowledge of what the Bible says. What that knowledge requires is obedience.
So there it is. Will we do what the Bible says? Then, come, let us find together what it says, and then we will put it into practice so that the God of peace will be with us in all of His fullness!
Few people of color expect those of us who are not to ever understand. They know that their world seldom crosses into ours. To be white in a majority culture means never having to face the unspoken recognition that in spite of progress in some areas of racial concern, racism resides at or just below the surface all the time.
With the new trauma of yet another violent death facing the nation, the sense of powerless frustration…the boiling caldrons of anger…the inexplicable reactions…all point to a deeper pain than cannot be translated across racial lines. For that, I am grieved. So many of my strongest friendships cross those lines. So many of the relationships that enrich my life are limited because the world I live in and the world my friends of color live in are just not the same. I never think of being unjustly profiled. Few people of color ever spend a day without thinking about it.
I grew up and have spent most of my life in the South, surrounded by and loving the racial diversity here. Yet I have lived through riots in the late sixties and wept as friends lost family members in the streets. But I was never really afraid of what could happen because of the color of my skin. Tonight I read with profound sadness the thoughts of a good friend on what it means to be black in America, the fears of what still can happen and the feeling of impotence to do anything to guarantee that things will be different for your own kids. Many whites will respond to the tensions by focusing on the criminal acts of a few trouble-makers, but they will excuse themselves from the troubling considerations of what other factors are at work to generate such powerful passions of racial tension.
Please read this blog post by Thabiti Anyabwile. After many years serving as a pastor outside the United States, he has come back to plant a new church. Hear what he says and try to understand an experience of life in our nation that you cannot fully grasp unless you are from a minority group. And after you read it, I do hope you will have learned how to pray in a more informed manner and see the breadth of the racial problem with fresh eyes. To Thabiti, I say thanks again for your way of capturing heart and mind as you open eyes to see how great our need is for the healing grace and transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Come, Lord Jesus!
After several weeks of watch video of others, I finally got to participate! I challenged our own pastors at Providence to join me after our congregational worship and prayer time last night. While the kids and their parents enjoyed a little ice cream out in the courtyard, we got our buckets ready and joined the millions who have already gotten drenched for a great cause–research for ALS treatment. Sure there are many other causes, but this one is here…it is now…it has impacted our church…and we could do something! So why not?
Cathy and I wanted to join in personally so not only did I get the ice bucket treat, but we will make a donation to ALSA.org. But beyond that, we want to extend the effort and also make a donation to Alzheimer’s research, the horrible disease that took her Mom’s life a couple of years ago.
So, enjoy the silly video, and look beyond it. Someone had a simple idea and it struck a nerve and generated millions of dollars for a worthy cause! What a delight to be able to give and enjoy it so much!! Thanks to the folks at Providence who cheered us on!
Sometimes in the middle of global upheaval, the news gets so overwhelming that we compartmentalize our emotions from our thoughts. It is easier to deal with the pain if we disconnect it from actual people. We know about it, but if we do not know the people we can distance ourselves from their circumstances and inoculate ourselves from their hurts.
That is why pictures are so powerful. Every day when we see the faces of those in Syria and Iraq who are running for their lives, sorrow grips us. Whenever we see victims of ebola lying helplessly in huts in small villages, we cannot escape the images of real people staring blankly back at us. As real families hit with enemy fire appear in photographs from Gaza or Israel, our hearts immediately engage. Soldiers and civilians in Ukraine who have been hurt or killed are just statistics to us until we see their faces. Images are indeed powerful.
The biblical mandate to take the light and love of Jesus Christ to the nations remains cerebral and theoretical until we see those faces of men, women and children who live apart from Him. That is why when I travel, I try to take pictures of people as often as I can. Some are willing subjects, others caught from a distance with a zoom lens. But it is people in need who stir the heart. The commission of Christ should be enough. The love for His glory should compel us. The desire for His kingdom to grow and be populated with as many as possible before He comes again should sustain our mission.
But those faces…each one an individual created in the image of God. Let the Spirit keep us fresh in our mission and for missions because He commanded us to go, because we are passionate about making Him known, and because we pray for the expansion of His kingdom. But let us never lose sight of those images of people who need hope, the hope that only Jesus Christ can give!