Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Responding Biblically to Racism

By Bob Lepine
Events in Charlottesville remind us that ultimately the solution to racism comes when hearts are transformed.
Do not be overcome by evil (Romans 12:21a).
There may be other words that describe what we all saw take place recently in Charlottesville, Virginia. But at its core, the demonstration of racism and white supremacy was a bold manifestation of the worst of humanity. It was evil.
As we think about our response to these events, and as we talk with our children about them, our thinking and our conversations should be directed by what we read in the Bible.
1. Racism is satanic. The source of all racism and white supremacy is the person the Bible describes as the father of lies (John 8:44). Racism is demonic. It’s diabolical. To believe that one group of people has more value or worth than another is the spirit of antichrist.
What the racists in Charlottesville were espousing puts them in league with the devil himself. It also grieves the heart of God.
2. The sin of racism is a sin against God Himself. It is God who created us in His image, after His likeness (Genesis 1:27). Every person on earth is an image bearer of God. So to suggest that any group of people is in some way inferior or sub-human is to blaspheme the God who created them. It is to degrade His image.
Racisim or hatred is a complete contradiction of God's character, and hinders one's ability to even know Him. First John 4:7 says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." This is a great principle to teach our children.
3. This kind of evil is present in your heart, too. As we find ourselves appropriately enraged and grieved by what we saw on our TV screens this past weekend, we should be sobered by the reminder that each of us is capable of this kind of evil.
Jesus spoke about this in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:22). Beware of allowing your anger to stir in you a sense of your own righteousness. If you wind up thinking that you are in some way superior to the racists who were protesting, you will be falling into the same sin of superiority that they were manifesting.
4. Christians must publicly, humbly, and boldly stand against racism. Followers of Jesus should be at the forefront of the chorus speaking out against what has taken place. Especially when white supremacist groups claim that what they’re espousing is somehow a Christian way of thinking. There should be no equivocation on this. No nuance. We must speak clearly and forcefully in proclaiming that all men and women bear the imago dei—the image of God.
5. Overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21b). Outrage is one thing. But a culture is not transformed by feelings of outrage.
As David Nasser wrote this weekend, we should seek to turn our outrage into outreach. Ask yourself, What is one way I can tangibly express or demonstrate my love today for someone who is different than me? As one hymn writer reminded us more than a century ago, it’s not with sword’s loud clashing or roll of stirring drums, but with deeds of love and mercy, the heavenly kingdom comes. How can you turn your outrage into outreach today?
6. Be intentionally multicultural in your relationships. Our children learn about life and values and what matters most by how they see their parents live and the choices we make. We can tell them that God created men and women of all races with equal dignity and worth. And we should.
But do we spend time with friends who do not look like us? Are there any subtle ways we communicate that people who are a different ethnicity are somehow less valuable or have less dignity than we do? Are there proactive steps we can take this week to communicate to our children that just as God loves all people, so do we?
Ultimately, the solution to the problem of racism is for the hearts of men and women to be transformed by the good news that God has a great gift for all who will trust in Him. It’s the gift of grace—unmerited favor. It’s the gift God offers to unworthy, rebellious people. It’s the gift He offers to the racists who will repent and believe His message. It’s the gift He offers to the self-righteous person who thinks he’s better than others.
That gift of grace is a transforming gift. It makes men and women new people who are now alive to God as sons and daughters. It’s a free gift, given to all who will present themselves as slaves to God and to righteousness (Romans 6:16-18).
There is a day coming when racism will end, when a great multitude of people from every tongue and tribe and nation will gather together to join their voices to cry out, “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!” 
May God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
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We also recommend Russell Moore's article on this topic, "White Supremacy Angers Jesus, But Does It Anger His Church?" And for help with talking to your kids about racism, read "Teaching Children to Value All People."
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Copyright © 2017 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Bob is a senior vice president and chief creative officer at FamilyLife, as well as the co-host of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife's nationally syndicated radio program. He is the author of The Christian Husband, and the on air voice for “Today In The Word,” produced by Moody Radio, and for “Truth for Life” with Alistair Begg. Bob also serves on the board of directors for the National Religious Broadcasters.
Bob and his wife, Mary Ann, live in Little Rock, Arkansas. Bob also serves as an elder and teaching pastor at Redeemer Community Church.

Source: http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/life-issues/challenges/cultural-issues/responding-biblically-to-racism?spMailingID=11738045&spUserID=MTMwMzgzNTAxNDkxS0&spJobID=1221819992&spReportId=MTIyMTgxOTk5MgS2

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Does God Balance Blessings with Hardships?


“The universe always balances things out.”

As I sat there watching the TV, I shook my head. Of course, I don’t expect perfect theology from every TV show I watch, but this line in particular seemed to stick out. It was not a hopeful line.
God is good and only does what is good (Psalm 25:8; 119:68). That is because he is holy, righteous, and just (Exodus 15:11). We can trust that whatever he gives us is not a random balancing of the scales, or a rash response to something we’ve done. He is not an impersonal God who merely works to even out the blessings in our life. Rather, he is the God who gave up every blessing in heaven to take on human flesh and live in this fallen world so that he could endure the worst suffering on our behalf. And by his blood shed for us, he gives us the greatest blessing of all: eternity with him.
But not a week later, the shock did come. I heard an echo of the same sentiment, but this time it wasn’t coming from my TV screen, or from the mouth of a non-Christian friend. This time, it came from me. I was marveling over the blessings God had given me and how he answered longtime prayers in a big way. As I considered these blessings, my first thought was “I wonder what trial lies around the corner?”

When You Anticipate the Worst

It wasn’t exactly the same thinking as the character in that show, but it was similar nonetheless. I assumed that God needed to round out the blessings in my life with something hard, as though there were a limit to how many blessings he gives. As though there were a formula to how God works in my life. As though he were an impersonal God who gives out blessings and trials for no other reason than to keep the scales balanced.
I am an Eeyore by nature. I tend to see the dark side of things and assume the worst. I see the glass as half empty rather than half full. I tend to view God’s interactions with me as an angry father doling out punishment. And so it comes as no surprise that I would barely take the time to enjoy the gifts I’ve been given before I anticipate their being taken away.
But I don’t like living life that way. It sucks the joy right out of me. Not only that, but it’s wrong to think this way. It is inconsistent with who the Bible says God is, who we are to him, and how he works in our lives.
Perhaps you also tend to see the dark side of things. Maybe it is hard for you to enjoy the sweet sunshine today because you fear a storm will come tomorrow. When we find ourselves anticipating the worst, we need to remind ourselves of the truth. We need to transform our thinking through God’s word. Here are four ways the Bible describes how God relates to his children.

1. God Is Good

God is good and only does what is good (Psalm 25:8; 119:68). That is because he is holy, righteous, and just (Exodus 15:11). We can trust that whatever he gives us is not a random balancing of the scales, or a rash response to something we’ve done. He is not an impersonal God who merely works to even out the blessings in our life. Rather, he is the God who gave up every blessing in heaven to take on human flesh and live in this fallen world so that he could endure the worst suffering on our behalf. And by his blood shed for us, he gives us the greatest blessing of all: eternity with him.

2. God Gives Out of Grace

To those who trust in Jesus, everything God gives is an overflow of his grace, whether an answer to a prayer, a hard day, a dream come true, or a difficult trial. In each and every moment of our lives, God gives us whatever we need to make us more like his Son. In both the blessings and the trials, he is refining us and preparing us for eternity. There is a redemptive purpose behind every circumstance we encounter, and all is used for our good and his glory (Romans 5:3–5; 8:28–29; James 1:2–4; Titus 2:11–12).

3. God Is for Us

God is for us, not against us. He is for our good. He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), prepared good works for us to complete (Ephesians 2:10), saved us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8, 10), brought us from death to life through the Spirit (Romans 8:10; Ephesians 2:4–5), and enables us to walk in obedience (Philippians 2:13) — all abundant evidence that he is for us. And nothing and no one can stop the good he has for us. “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31–32).

4. God Is Not Out to Punish Us

We don’t have to walk on eggshells or anxiously await inevitable punishment. All God’s wrath was poured out on Christ at the cross. For those who are united to Christ by faith, there is no wrath left (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:9). In fact, for those who are in Christ, God loves us as much as he loves the Son (John 17:23).
We are children of God, and as our Father, God gives us just what we need (Matthew 6:25–33). Any hardship or difficulty that might come our way is the discipline of a loving Father to his children for the purpose of training us in righteousness (Hebrews 12:5–11).
The truth is, there is no two-sided scale that must be balanced. We can’t lump our circumstances into a pile of good things or bad things. Because we are in Christ, everything God gives us is ultimately good. So, whether a blessing or a hardship lies ahead in your future, both are a gift of God’s grace and will serve to transform you into the image of his Son. This means, rather than anticipating the worst, we can always anticipate good from our good God.
We are children of God, and as our Father, God gives us just what we need (Matthew 6:25–33). Any hardship or difficulty that might come our way is the discipline of a loving Father to his children for the purpose of training us in righteousness (Hebrews 12:5–11).
The truth is, there is no two-sided scale that must be balanced. We can’t lump our circumstances into a pile of good things or bad things. Because we are in Christ, everything God gives us is ultimately good. So, whether a blessing or a hardship lies ahead in your future, both are a gift of God’s grace and will serve to transform you into the image of his Son. This means, rather than anticipating the worst, we can always anticipate good from our good God.

Source: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/does-god-balance-blessings-with-hardships?utm_medium=feed&utm_source=feedpress.me&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dg-articles

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Why You Will Join the Wrong Church

by Sam Emadi


I guess I really don’t understand fully what a covenant is…versus a contract. The idea of a covenant, originated by Yahweh, is that it is a pledge that mutually binds the individuals involved to the commitment of future everlasting love especially when the chips are down. I feel like the point is, that fire will come. And the positive side of the argument here is equally poignant: “While our affections for our church and its members can be fickle, easily dissipating as soon as circumstances shift unfavorably, our covenant commitments never fade.”

Enough said…here’s Sam:
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“The most read New York Times article from 2016 had nothing to do with politics, culture wars, or comic book movies. Instead, the most-read article of 2016 was all about commitment.

The piece, titled “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person,” was written by Alain de Botton. In it, de Botton takes shots at our culture’s idea that the ultimate foundation for commitment in marriage is romantic affection, that feeling of compatibility that means the other person will finally fulfill my needs and make me truly happy.

We all know this is misguided, so much so that de Botton predicts every married person will eventually find inadequacies so severe in their spouse that it will prompt them to ask, “Did I marry the wrong person?” He humorously notes, the relational arc of a marriage leans away from idealistic romantic sizzle as “maddening children . . . kill the passion from which they emerged.”

CHURCH AND OUR CULTURE
As I read de Botton’s article, I couldn’t help but see how much of our culture’s view of love and commitment mirrors how many Christians view church membership. Many Christians’ broken relationships with their churches resemble patterns of the divorce culture and its attendant assumptions about authority, love, and compatibility.

Almost every Christian knows what it’s like to question whether they joined the “right church.” After an initial “honeymoon stage,” we begin to see our church’s problems with greater clarity than we see its strengths. The sermons start to seem too intellectual, or not intellectual enough. The church begins budgeting for ministries that don’t seem deserving of the dollar figure on the spreadsheet. The small groups don’t meet our needs in the ways we’d hoped.

More personally, the needs of other church members begin to encroach increasingly on our own personal freedoms. Some members sin against us—even without knowing just how deeply we’ve been wounded. Without even realizing it’s happening, we begin to wonder whether our local assembly is the “right” place for us. Of course, we remind ourselves that there’s no such thing as a perfect church—something we’ve even told our fellow church members. And yet, we can’t help but grapple with the nagging question: “Did I join the wrong church?”

“DID I JOIN THE WRONG CHURCH?”
The problem with this question is that it assumes church life shouldn’t be hard. It assumes the “honeymoon stage” should continue in perpetuity or that something has gone awry if we experience significant disappointment or hurt from our relationships with other members or the church’s leadership.

But these assumptions reveal a deep and unthinking commitment to consumerism: only if the perks of membership outweigh its inconveniences will we think it’s worth it to stick it out. Regrettably, many Christians seem trapped in a perpetual cycle of this type of cost-benefit analysis.

I’ve found that Christians most often push eject on their membership not because they’re upset at the church’s budget or because they disagree on matters of polity. Instead, Christians leave their churches for the same reason people leave their marriages: a lack of relational depth and affection. In other words, many Christians leave their churches because they just don’t seem compatible with the church or because the relationships leave them feeling a little dry.

Personal relationships, however, were never meant to serve as the foundation for our sense of church commitment. If we pursue relationships as the foundation of our belonging, we’re more likely to be inescapably trapped in the consumerism and “met-needs” mentality at the heart of our divorce culture. However, instead of valuing consumerism, the Bible roots our membership in the idea of a covenant, which offers an infinitely superior alternative.

COVENANT PRECEDES COMMUNITY
Tim Keller notes in his book on marriage that a covenant “creates a particular kind of bond . . . a relationship far more intimate and personal than a merely legal, business relationship. Yet at the same time, it is far more durable, binding, and unconditional than one based on mere feeling and affection. A covenant relationship is a stunning blend of law and love.”

When the Bible speaks about the church, it refers to it as a covenant community. Church members aren’t just part of a shared interest group. They’re covenanted to one another by a sacred promise to oversee one another’s membership in the kingdom and faithfulness to King Jesus (Matt. 18:15–20). The New Testament unfolds the details of that sacred promise: We regularly gather together (Heb. 10:24–25), bear one another’s burdens and sorrows (Gal. 6:2), encourage one another (Heb. 3:12–14), pray for one another (Jas. 5:16), and forgive one another (Col. 3:13). Many churches helpfully formalize these biblical instructions into a church covenant, a set of promises members make to one another when they enter into membership.
These covenant obligations are the foundations of our church commitment and should function as the backbone to church life. Covenant precedes community. We might even say covenant creates community. The covenant promises members make to one another blossom into the life-giving relationships our hearts crave.

Rooting commitment in our covenant promises doesn’t mean that church relationships are nothing but soulless duty. Instead, covenant commitments are the food that nourishes our relationships with other members. The more we hold ourselves to our covenant promises, the more our relationships blossom and endure through seasons of difficulty. Again, as de Botton perceptively notes in his article, “Compatibility is an achievement of love, it must not be its precondition.” The world argues that affection is pre-requisite to commitment. But the biblical picture is actually quite the opposite: commitment and service create affection.

I’m amazed at how this principle works out even in my own life. A few years ago, after a couple in our church had a baby, my wife and I signed up through the church’s member care ministry to bring them a meal. Our act of service, however, wasn’t rooted in a pre-existing relationship with this couple. In fact, we barely knew them. We simply wanted to be faithful to our covenant promises to “bear one another’s burdens.” Yet that service, rooted in our covenant commitment, ultimately blossomed into a sweet friendship between our two families. We weren’t expecting a relationship to bloom, but that’s what happens when you hold yourself to covenant promises, even with people you barely know.

COVENANTS CARRY YOU THROUGH SUFFERING
The reason God roots the most important relationships in the world—like marriage and church membership—in covenants is to ensure they endure through fire. Have you ever noticed how traditional marriage vows were designed to ensure couples prepare to love one another well in the midst of suffering? Couples pledge themselves to one another even in “poverty” and “sickness” until parted by death.

This same expectation of future trials also marks the promises church members make to one another. We pledge to “bear one another’s burdens,” (Gal. 6:2) and patiently bear with and forgive the sins of our brothers and sisters who wrong us (Col. 3:13; Eph. 4:32). If we make our covenant commitments the ground of our life and relationships in the church, we come to expect the rough patches and prepare to face them with godliness.

While our affections for our church and its members can be fickle, easily dissipating as soon as circumstances shift unfavorably, our covenant commitments never fade. As Keller notes, covenants are by their very nature oriented toward the future. They “are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love.” In some sense, the whole point of a covenant is to pledge our love and fidelity for the rough times ahead. Thus, covenants carry us through suffering. Once more, de Botton incisively notes, “Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.”

FOR YOUR OWN GOOD, STICK WITH THE “WRONG” CHURCH
Joining a church, like seeking a spouse, is daunting. Loving others makes us vulnerable and committing ourselves to a church immerses us in the needs of other sinners. Eventually, every congregation will find a way to get under our skin, frustrate us, or even wound us—and we will do the same to them.

Our relationships will ebb and flow, as will our affection for the church. But the solution is not always looking for a better fit. Instead, we renew our passion and reignite our sense of belonging by holding ourselves to our membership covenant—sacred promises that bind even the “wrong” people together.”



Samuel Emadi is a member of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky and a PhD candidate in biblical studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as the director of theological research for the president of the Southern Seminary. You can find him on Twitter at @scemadi.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Change!

When it comes to Christian ministry, it's important to stay on top of the times. Things are changing and we need to adjust our methods accordingly. The thrust of adjusting to change is learning how to prepare for a successful handover to the next generations. The death of any organization or movement is due almost in full part to the failure to adequately prepare for and make appropriate provisions for change. Here's a helpful lecture on how to understand, cope with, and implement change, by Dr. Joyce Baker of Dallas Theological Seminary.


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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Satan Eats Faith for Breakfast

by John Piper

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31-32)



"John Piper talks about the epic daily warfare for your faith. Satan wants to devour you, but the risen Jesus promises to pray for you. With Satan against you, and temptation around every corner, how do you know you will be a believer tomorrow morning? Piper reminds us from 1 Peter about the seriousness of Satan’s desire for you and the absolute security we have in Christ."

Source: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/satan-eats-faith-for-breakfast

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