Monthly Archives: August 2014

God’s Character

Have you ever known you were called to do something, and you were good at it?  As assured as you can be that you are right for this particular thing, we cannot escape our human instinct that manifests itself in a performance mentality—which is usually judged by numbers.   I remember Michael Ramsden, who is the European director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, once admitted that he had lived by this rubric, and then at some point had retreated from it.  Though his ministry was based around this numbers system, he says a turning point came when he was preaching in South Africa, at a golf club.   A prominent member of the club had arranged an evening meal. Hoping for 60 people to come, it turned out that 137 came. There were more non-Christians than Christians. The group was comprised predominantly high class business types.  Michael says that he was extremely excited about the meeting, but then minutes before it was time for him to speak, a colleague approached him and said that the meeting was a mistake—that this audience would not be receptive.

He said that he went on to give the worst sermon he has ever preached.  None of his points seemed to connect—no one seemed to be moved at all by what he had to say.  At the end, Ramsden gave an invitation—and he also handed out cards for people to critique what they just heard. 

He asked them to mark their card, on each respective question:  A to E. These people would essentially grade his sermon. 

Grade it:

 A = one of the best sermons you have ever heard

E = The worst.

The card also had a place for them to circle a statement.  From “I became a Christian tonight” to “Never invite me again.”  Ramsden says that after the meeting he couldn’t sleep.  He was intently concerned about what had just happened. 

The next morning at 7:30, the organizer called him.  Michael said his wife answered the phone and told him who was on the line.  He was hesitant when he put the phone up to his ear:

46 people ticked box A – ‘I gave my life to Jesus.’

48 people ticked box B – ‘I want to go to the Bible study.’

4 ticked box E.

Weeks later, most of the people from box B became Christians.   2 from box E did too.

Ramsden said he learned valuable lesson.  He decided that from that day forth,  to always give people the opportunity, no matter how I feel. He said, “My feelings are not a strong basis to operate this ministry from!”

He’s right you know.  It’s about trust—Trusting God.

 

There is a problem though.  Many Christians are not sure if they can morally trust God.  Non-Christians like Richard Dawkins, the Oxford biologist, would say our God is morally abhorrent.  He even goes on to say that the theology of the cross is abusive and sickening. Here is the thing—and I am not trying to exculpate Dawkins—but—if you don’t know God is trustworthy – you can’t trust him.

 

Well, is God trustworthy?  What is his true character?

In the book of Jonah, which is arguably one of the oldest pieces of Biblical literature we have, we see a remarkable story about God’s compassion. The whole city of Nineveh was saved.  Who was Nineveh?  Just know that they were considered an enemy nation to the Israelites—if for no other reason than they enjoyed using the skin of Israelites for lampshades.  Isn’t this remarkable that God would have mercy on them—and use an Israelite to bring the message to them?  You’d think that was encouraging.  Mass salvation of an enemy nation. So, just how does Jonah the preacher feel about it?

Chapter 4:1 – it displeased Jonah greatly – (literally gut wrenchingly exceedingly upset) and he was angry.

As Christians, we get displeased that revival doesn’t come.  Here is Jonah made that it has come.  He hated the people he was preaching to, but he knew God was gracious and compassionate.  In fact, you could say it this way:  The kind of God he was, is Jonah’s problem.

Often we can get angry and upset when we see the people who are our enemies forgiven and restored.  Doesn’t it sometimes seem like God is schizophrenic?  One the one hand he is loving and nice, and on the other, there is fierce wrath.  We need to not set them in opposition to each other, but see them in the light of each other.

In Jane Austin’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, there is a scene where Mr. Darcy says he loves her (Elizabeth) against his will, his better judgment, and his character. (Unsurprisingly she rejects him!)  If there are some people who know you (everything- the real thing), YET they love you – those are the most valuable relationships. To be known warts and all – and loved.  What could be better?

Here is the truth of the matter:  True love does not exist in the absence of judgment – but in the presence of it.  Think of a marriage where as you get to know each other and in the face of flaws etc., you healthily grow in depth.  As they get to know you and your faults better, the love gets stronger.

God really knows you. Do you have emotional stability that comes from knowing that God loves you despite your flaws? (Tis doesn’t mean God is happy with them or that we should excuse them). He knows it. God is not interested in covering things up. That’s not the path to true relationship.

 Have you ever said something stupid to a friend and made them upset or hurt them?  Lets supposing the next day you go to them to apologize.  It’s great when they forgive you.  All is well in the world, right?  But, consider if they say, “It’s nothing” – and walk away, and you know – it’s something! And now there is something between you. It’s not the same.  Things are estranged.  Or suppose we try to make up for it. We make a fuss. We try to serve them in some way to earn the forgiveness rather than look at the problem. We no longer have real relationship. Covering up wrongdoing (in that sense) becomes a barrier to relationship.

Isn’t that what we are after?  Restored relationship?

The word Compassion – comes from ecclesiastical Latin. It literally means ‘With Passion.’ It means to make a moral judgment and be moved from the depth of your being to do something about it. You have compassion when you say, “That’s wrong – we have to DO something!”

 

God is compassionate in this way.  He looks at the world and all its sin, and he is deeply moved to step in.  He goes to a cross, NOT to cover our sings—but to justify us by publically dealing with it.  He has to deal with the wrath of God.  God is fully merciful but also fully just.  He cannot extend mercy while at the same time undermining justice.  Justice isn’t served despite merry, it is served through it. 

Through Christ on the Cross.

The message is nothing other than that while we were still sinners, he found us! He had already paid the price, he has moved! He knows exactly what we are like, and what was required. And he’s with us.

We hear the phrase, “God loves you” so much, it becomes meaningless.  The truth is, God loves you and me because he knows exactly who we are—and what we have done.  He isn’t deluded.

We don’t have to pretend to be someone we aren’t with God.  He is already fully aware.  It isnt any help to myself or God to refuse to be transparent with him.  It also gives me transparency with others. I know I have been forgiven – because he forgave me.

There is only one basis for me to be forgiven:

If I have done wrong to someone – I should not be able to say ‘I’m forgiven’ – except and unless the other party is willing to forgive, and offers it – and through repentance I have received that forgiveness.

If that’s the case, it is not arrogant for me to say, “I am forgiven.”

We are dependent on him, his promise. God has said it! It’s dealt with. So I can be secure, whatever other insecurities I might wrestle with.  Are you totally assured as to the character of God? Are you utterly sure of him?  Are you utterly sure he really means his words of love and assurance? That he has chosen, called and loved you? That’s the reality!

Are you prepared to fail on that basis?

The basis on which I know I can fail, is that I know it’s not about me. I do and can blow it. When preaching or leading worship, it’s not about how many respond etc. I am okay of others reject me on the basis that God has accepted me.

We need confidence – to trust the God who transforms lives.

In all other worldviews God can be merciful, by passing over his justice. For us, it’s not at the expense of his justice, BOTH operate together.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

White Privilege

While I usually like what Matt Chandler has to say, I think he has ventured into territory that he should have left untouched; or at least he should have thought about his words before saying them.  Chandler explained recently that white privilege is not like blatant racism, and folks who live through it may never have a racist bone in their body—but it is racist nonetheless.  Seems harmless right?

Chandler noted:

“What is so deceptive about white privilege is that it is different from blatant racism or bias…A privileged person’s heart may be free from racist thoughts or biased attitudes, but may still fail to see how the very privilege afforded to him or her shapes how he or she interprets and understands the situations and circumstances of people without privilege.”

He goes on to say that most whites are unaware of their ubiquitous privilege.  He warns emphatically that thinking whites and blacks are playing on the same field is not right.

“The challenge with white privilege is that most white people cannot see it,” Chandler explained. “We assume that the experiences and opportunities afforded to us are the same afforded to others. Sadly, this simply isn’t true.”

This is the same sentiment fomented by the likes of Barack Obama who says that all Americans must have the same fair shot at success—the same opportunities.  Now, I have had all the same opportunities that Michael Jordan had.  The problem is, he has talent and I don’t.  Is this black privilege?  Have I been disenfranchised or not given a ‘fair shot?’  No.  It is a matter of his having skills that other people are willing to pay for.  Just because a black guy is interested in golf, should he be given a spot in the USGA U.S. Open next year?  No!  It seems that it is only in sports or entertainment that the left allows merit to rule.

Chandler then notes:

 “It has been my experience that there are few things that enrage a large portion of white people like addressing racism and privilege.  We want to move past it, but we are not past it. Clearly, we are not past it. So, let’s press in to it.”

By ‘press into it,’ Chandler clearly means that he is going to make statements about the Michael Brown situation in Ferguson, Missouri.  And by ‘enrage a large portion of white people,’ he clearly means anyone who disagrees with his comments.  What he fails to mention is that this talk of white privilege also enrages a large portion of black people.   Shelby Steele, Walter E. Williams, and Thomas Sowell have all written innumerable pages on the fact that white privilege is a myth.  Why doesn’t he include them in his ‘enrage’ statement?  Oh, it’s because they aren’t real black people.  They don’t count.  Right?

The Christian Post says this:

“When Chandler was asked on Twitter what white privilege had to do with Brown’s murder, he correlated the feelings of the community of Ferguson to the fact that the treatment just isn’t the same for those of a different community.”

What was Chandler’s response?  Well here it is:

“The facts are still being debated, and I am hopeful that justice will take place once those can be established, but the way white people tend to perceive the situation in Ferguson, Missouri and in situations like this is through distinctively white lenses.  We believe that our experiences, histories and benefits of our hard work are universal experiences for everyone. This is simply not true. I’m not a sociologist, but I’ve read enough, lived in enough places and have enough friends that I’m beginning to understand what motivates the frustrations and anger that can exist deep in the hearts of young black men.”

Here is what people do when they say things that sound wonderfully erudite, but at second glance are completely nonsensical.  He makes a lofty claim and then runs for cover by saying, “oh, by the way…I’m not a sociologist.”  Why is he using his position to make a public statement on such an issue if he isn’t going to claim some sort of authority or at least take responsibility?  He doesn’t do this in the books he tries to sell.  Chandler isn’t a sociologist, yet he makes the above statement anyways. He says what he thinks fits the narrative and then systematically exculpates himself by claiming he isn’t a sociologist.  This is utterly embarrassing.

To thoroughly confront Chandler’s diatribe, let me offer this thought.  If disparities do exist, and they do, isn’t there someone to blame?  Well, Chandler would say, “Yeah, without intending to, whites have caused it.  We are to blame.”  Who does Chandler propose is the solution?  Whites.  We must change the way we conduct ourselves in every area of life in order to fix the problem of white privilege.  from the eminently wise Dr. Thomas Sowell:

“No individual or group can be blamed for being born into circumstances…that lack…advantages.  But neither can ‘society’ be automatically assumed to be either the cause or the cure for such disparities.”

Whites aren’t responsible for it.  Blacks aren’t responsible for it.  It just exists.  And I am not arguing that is equals ought.  I am only arguing that one group cannot fix it; and in the same regard, neither are they the cause!  Trying to fix things externally does nothing.  Sowell isn’t speaking as a Christian, but his statement has more appeal to the gospel message than does Chandler’s.  Chandler is calling for external action, Sowell is saying that external action doesn’t work.

Let me just offer one instance of data.  Did you know that tests were done on IQ and general well-being of students on U.S. military bases in Europe?  Do you know what they found?  That white and black students were virtually the same in all measurable respects.  They were equally smart, equally articulate, equally well behaved, and equally poised for success.  Why is this?  For one, the whites weren’t exposed to the perpetual shame narrative, and second, blacks weren’t exposed to gangster rap and the bigotry of low expectations.  They were all expected to do their work, excel, and behave.  Period.   External factors didn’t shape them to the extreme that they do in the United States, and their true characters shone through.

Could it be that we bring this entire myth on ourselves?  Could it be that whites and blacks are…wait for it…equal?  YES.

It is being force fed down the throats of children in public schools. You know the shame narrative: Whites came to America, exterminated the Indians, brought in black slaves from Africa and beat them and treated them as animals, and then slave-owners wrote founding documents that called men equal—and it all culminates with riots and protests (opposed by whites) in the 60’s that eventually led to the first black president in 2008—though whites opposed him and continue to do so just because he is black.

What they are doing in the schools is taking large swaths of time and focusing in on singular events that further a particular agenda.  This isn’t teaching history.  This is perpetuating an agenda.  The agenda that the academic left have invested in, is this shame agenda.

Now, I fully admit—Indians did die.  We did bring slaves from Africa, horribly enough.  Some whites did oppose Obama because he was black.

While it is true in many places throughout history—and even now— blacks are treated like second class citizens, the data doesn’t support this ubiquitously like we are told.  In fact, some might even go to the extreme of saying that racism and discrimination fluctuate in parallel to each other.  You know something?  That is not what the data shows.  In fact, the unemployment rate of blacks was lower just 10 years after slavery ended than it is now.  I know such a statement will be flagrant at first read, but like Henry Rosovsky says,

“Never underestimate the difficulty of changing false beliefs by facts.”

John Adams said it this way:

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Secondly, I certainly recognize that America has seen injustice committed on its soil—and it needs to be pointed out and justice should be served.  Has it not been?  The truth is, I think, that a famous historian is right when she noted that, America should be willing to face its past—regardless how virtuous it looks.  What I point out when it comes to slavery is:  Slavery was a worldwide institution since the dawn of man.  It needed no defenders because it had no critics.  Eugene Genovese is right when he notes that

“Race relations did not determine the patterns of slavery in the new world…the patterns of slavery…determined race relations.”

There is nothing exclusively western about slavery.  Even Zora Neale Hurston, the celebrated Harlem academic and writer said —

“The white people held my people in slavery here in America. They had bought us, it is true, and exploited us. But the inescapable fact that stuck in my craw was: My people had sold me…. My own people had exterminated whole nations and torn families apart for a profit before the strangers got their chance at a cut. It was a sobering thought. It impressed upon me the universal nature of greed.”

Reflecting further, Hurston laments:

 “My ancestors who lived and died in it are dead. The white men who profited by their labor and lives are dead also. I have no personal memory of those times, and no responsibility for them. Neither has the grandson of the man who held my folks. . . . I have no intention of wasting my time beating on old graves. . . . I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negroes who hold that nature somehow has given them a low-down dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. . . . Slavery is the price I paid for civilization, and that is worth all that I have paid through my ancestors for it.”

Why didn’t those quotes make it into Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States?

Many think that slavery is an exclusively western institution.  Actually, the thing that is exclusively western however isn’t slavery itself—but the movement to end slavery.  Consider, what Orlando Patterson said:

 “There was no word for ‘freedom’ in most non-Western languages before contact with Western peoples.”

You cannot overlook the deaths of 300,000+ white northerners, who didn’t own slaves—who gave their lives to secure a freedom for the slaves that they were in no position to secure for themselves.  Many will counter with, “Those soldiers didn’t know they were fighting against slavery or they wouldn’t have fought.”  While the history seems to show that to be false, we must note:  Without slavery there wouldn’t have been a civil war and without a civil war, we would still have slavery.

Many also think that it is a movement way from the founding documents of our Country that ended slavery ultimately.  This doesn’t jive with the facts.  Did you know many feel the constitution is a “living document?”  Do you realize what they mean when they say this?  They are saying that the laws in the founding documents are not absolute.  Here is the problem, why is their view that the founding documents are not absolute–well, absolute?  Why do they have a view that is absolute, yet deny other views that founded this nation to be absolute.  In fact, the founding principles, specifically the Declaration of Independence were the documents that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. referred to when he cashed his promissory note.  It wasn’t a movement away from America’s founding that helped to further civil rights in America—it was a return to it.

In our history classes, we also learn that Columbus is saddled with the accusation of mass genocide of American Indians, even though—he never set foot on American soil, and he came some 300 years before America was born.  Maybe we would want to include in the long list of world genocides—the Europeans killed by the bubonic and pneumonic plagues that swept from Asia to Europe.  Neither of these are “genocide” in the way the term is meant to be used.  People unfortunately die as their immunities are not able to handle illnesses.  The native Americans were killed by diseases for the most part—why is that called genocide but the plagues in Europe aren’t?  We are led to believe that white settlers actually murdered through intentional violence, some 2,000,000 native Americans.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Did they or are they now talking about William Ellison in classrooms?  He was one of many black slave owners in the south who from all accounts, treated his slaves worse than white slave owners. Maybe we’d want to include the prosperity, amidst devastatingly challenging times by Sarah Breedlove, aka Madam C. J. Walker—who became the nation’s first female self-made millionaire marketing a line of beauty and hair products for black women.

Finally, in terms of the history of white privilege, I do wonder why these events don’t make it into the shame narrative:  The Norman Conquest, Irish Potato Famine, Decline of the Hapsburg Dynasty, Napoleonic and Czarist adventurism, and gratuitous speculations and insults about the intelligence of Europeans of Polish decent.  Why don’t those make the list?

I think that we need to examine the history and be more open minded when it comes to those of other races—But—why is it that when statistics show that black applicants for conventional mortgage loans were turned down at twice the rate for white applicants, the media went ballistic crying racial discrimination and white privledge—But when those same whites were turned down almost twice as often as Asian Americans — no one thinks that is racial discrimination?

Further—from personal anecdotal evidence—we are in the process of adopting a black infant.  Why is it that we are forced to watch innumerable movies perpetuating the Roots narrative (which the author Alex Haley admitted was a myth) and shaming us for being white and having the audacity to adopt a black child?  I would have little problem with it—IF—the same documentaries existed so that black couples who adopt white children could receive the same shame narrative.

Here is Walter Williams:

“What would you think if your 8-year-old came home and told you that “white privilege is something that white people have, meaning they have an advantage in a lot of things and they can get a job more easily?  You would have heard that at the recent 15th annual White Privilege Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, attended by 2,500 public-school teachers, administrators and students from across the nation.

The average parent has no idea of the devious indoctrination going on in classrooms in many public schools. What follows are some of the lessons of the conference.

In one of the workshops, “Examining White Privilege and Building Foundations for Social Justice Thinking in the Elementary Classroom,” educators Rosemary Colt and Diana Reeves told how teachers can “insert social justice, anti-racist information” into their lessons that “even little kids” can understand.”

Much of the public’s understanding of ‘white privledge’ comes solely from public school indoctrination.  If it is a fact, teach it.  The problem is, who is deciding that white privledge is a fact?  Is there a special caste of thinkers who have access to knowledge that we as common Americans don’t?

Shelby Steel thinks it’s a myth.  “I grew up in segregation, so I really know what racism is. I went to segregated school. I bow to no one in my knowledge of racism, which is one of the reasons why I say white privilege is not a problem.”

Steele claims,

“The real problem is black irresponsibility. … Racism is about 18th on a list of problems that black America faces. It is White peoples preoccupation with guilt and compensation such as affirmative action is actually a subtle form of racism,” writes Steele in his book White Guilt.

“One of the things that is clear about white privilege, and so many of the arguments for diversity that pretend to be compensatory, is that they advantage whites. They make the argument that whites can solve [black people’s] problems. … The problem with that is … you reinforce white supremacy. … And black dependency.”

“White privilege is a disingenuous idea.” 

He argues in contrast that what really exists is“ minority privilege.”

Steele notes,

“If I’m a black high school student today, there are white American institutions, universities, hovering over me to offer me opportunities. Almost every institution has a diversity committee. Every country club now has a diversity committee. I’ve been asked to join so many clubs, I can’t tell you. … I don’t have to even look for opportunities in many cases, they come right to me.”

Steele admits there are problems. 

“The fact is,” he adds, “we got a raw deal in America. We got a much better deal now. But we can’t access it unless we take … responsibility for getting there ourselves.”

So, what about responsibility?  It is hard to think that black culture writ large is taking responsibility when we consider the knockout game, the senseless killing of a WW2 veteran in a parking lot, or the killing of an Australian baseball player by black youth who were bored.  Further, we hear stories from both Philadelphia and San Francisco that talk about black students who beat up Asian students.

As Thomas Sowell laments,

“This is especially painful for those who expected that the election of Barack Obama would mark the beginning of a post-racial America.  While Obama’s winning majorities in overwhelmingly white states suggests that many Americans are ready to move beyond race, it is painfully clear that others are not.”

Sowell is right to continue,

“When black schoolchildren who are working hard in school and succeeding academically are attacked and beaten up by black classmates for “acting white,” why is it surprising that similar hostility is turned against Asian Americans, who are often achieving academically more so than whites?”

But, it isn’t just blacks doing this.  It is all troubled human beings.  We see the same phenomenon happening in lower class white Britain.  The white brits who do well are beat up by those who don’t.  It has nothing to do with race—it is all jealousy and a refusal to rise out of intellectual poverty.

 

I think, however, the white privledge myth has been most perpetuated through a lack of understanding the history of American success.  The clearest example of today’s misguided policies comes from examining the history of the American South.

The old South was a society that was three tiered.  Blacks and common white folks were dominated by white elites who played up racial tensions to keep power.  Did you know, “At the height of slavery, in 1860, less than 5% of whites in the South owned slaves. The eminent black historian John Hope Franklin wrote that “fully three-fourths of the white people in the South had neither slaves nor an immediate economic interest in the maintenance of slavery.””

Far from boosting it economically, slavery and the Civil War devistated the South—both in terms of capital and human capital.  Both blacks and whites were affected.

In 1938, FDR created a national commission to study what he termed “the long and ironic history of the despoiling of this truly American section.” At that time, most industries in the South were owned by companies outside the region. Of the South’s 1.8 million sharecroppers, 1.2 million were white (a mirror of the population, which was 71% white). The illiteracy rate was five times that of the North-Central states and more than twice that of New England and the Middle Atlantic (despite the waves of European immigrants then flowing to those regions). The total endowments of all the colleges and universities in the South were less than the endowments of Harvard and Yale alone. The average schoolchild in the South had $25 a year spent on his or her education, compared to $141 for children in New York.

Facts like these don’t disappear overnight and they do affect how culture progresses.  In 1974, a National Opinion Research Center (NORC) study of white ethnic groups showed that white Baptists nationwide averaged only 10.7 years of education, a level almost identical to blacks’ average of 10.6 years, and well below that of most other white groups. A recent NORC Social Survey of white adults born after World War II showed that in the years 1980-2000, only 18.4% of white Baptists and 21.8% of Irish Protestants—the principal ethnic group that settled the South—had obtained college degrees, compared to a national average of 30.1%, a Jewish average of 73.3%, and an average among those of Chinese and Indian descent of 61.9%.

It was convenient for policy makers and pundits to ignore these facts about white culture while advancing programs only to help minorities.  Whites were treated monolithically.

While some whites are successful, some blacks are as well.  While some blacks live in poverty, so do some whites.  While there are racist whites, there are racist blacks.

The human problem is the issue.  Man is fallen and cannot help himself through programs, laws, or ideas with no evidence for their virtue like “diversity.”  It is only when man is changed from the inside that the culture writ large will see any discernible change.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ferguson and Injustice

A reportedly unarmed male is killed.  The killing took place at the hands of a Ferguson, Missouri police officer.  That is all we know.  We don’t know if there was a confrontation, or if the young man provoked the officer in a threatening manner—or if the police officer is a card carrying racist targeting young black men—or anything.  All we know is a young man is dead and he was killed by a police officer.

The first issue that seems fairly obvious as controversial is the hidden identity of this police officer.  It is strange that the name of this officer hasn’t been released, along with any pictures of his injuries.  Surely if things happened in the way that some reports have suggested, this cop would have some signs of a struggle or a beating.  We have yet to see any.

On the other hand, people are quick to assume that the deceased was innocent and the perpetrator is guilty.  I don’t know if we have all the information in place to make such an inference.  Correlation as they say, doesn’t equal causation.  We are basically told by the media that the white guy is guilty, and the black guy is innocent.  This same media tells us that there are no white and black issues…well except when it comes to race.

What facts do we know?  Well, for starters, we know that peaceful protests have turned into all out riots.  This place has been demolished, not only by the citizens of Ferguson, but by people from out of town as well.  This has become an excuse for an orgy of theft, vandalism, the use of Molotov cocktails, and general mayhem.  The reason, they would tell you—is that someone was killed unjustly.  They are protesting for justice sake.  Very well.

The other fact that we know is that the Ferguson police have arrived on the scene as if they were taking on ISIS—well, except we don’t and supposedly won’t have boots on the ground in Iraq.  It looks like a Marine Corps assault unit.  We have tanks, riot gear, short barreled M-16’s, gas, and armored personnel carriers—oh you know—the usual stuff you see on a foreign battlefield.   Since when are police allowed to carry on in a manner that mirrors an elite fighting force—aimed at civilians?  I mean, in what universe do the police justify unleashing gas on a news crew?  What about the arrest of 2 reporters inside a Ferguson McDonalds?

Those are the facts—non peaceful protests and an over militarized and unnecessarily forceful police force.  Trust me when I say, there is enough blame to go around here for such a reaction.


The first question we must ask is about the nature of justice itself.  Consider: 

If you have never read the remarkable letter Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from a Birmingham jail, I urge you to read it. He wrote this letter from memory, with no resources to use. It is incredibly profound. One of the most emotional moments of the letter to me is when he says toward the end of the letter:

 “There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.”

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”

The church is failing in the culture—indeed. We expect the culture to live a certain way—and measure up to a certain standard (God’s standard)—but how can they? They don’t know him. Why would we expect them to be good, if they are incapable of being good? You and I are incapable of it apart from Christ.

Here is the problem—Jesus said:

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

 “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” [1]

 So, in this exchange, Jesus says, “Who do you (plural) say that I am?”  Notice that the response comes from the spokesman of the group, Peter.  He is not speaking only for himself, but for the group.  He correctly identifies him as the Christ.  When Jesus responds to Peter, he isn’t only talking to Peter, he is speaking to the group.  He calls him Peter or “petros,” which means single stone.  He then says upon this rock (petra), “I will build my church…”  A “petra” is a large mass of stones—like a slab or a very large rock.  A “petra” is greater than a “petros.”  No matter how good a leader one is, God always designs to use a collective group of believers to accomplish his will.  It takes a community of believers to fix injustices run amuck like this. 

 Now—the point I want to make in regard to this situation in Missouri is that, the passage says, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Basically, what Jesus is saying it, “If you are doing my work, hell will be losing.  If you aren’t doing my work, hell will be winning.”

If you look at the state of the church and the state of society, what would be accurate?  That hell is winning or that heaven is winning?  If we have tons of churches in every town, all these pastors, millions of deacons, lots of choirs, tons of programs—and hell is still winning—what does that tell you?  As Tony Evans says, “There must be a dead monkey on the line somewhere.”


We have become so conditioned in our society to look to government to solve our problems.  We are kind of like Humpty Dumpty.  He had a great fall.  This implies that he was resourceful enough to make it to the top of the wall.  But, what happens?  All the kings horses and all the kings men are called in.  There is no way that broken men can fix broken men.

The solution comes by way of Christ. We are guilty—we have indeed sinned. We are separated from God, and we are guilty. God is completely just, yet he is completely merciful. Now—if you think about it—this is a challenge for God: To be completely just and also completely merciful. As humans we extend mercy at the expense of justice, and we extend justice at the expense of mercy. We cannot have it both ways. We are guilty before a just God. What does he do? Well, he exercises both his mercy and justice. How? Through His son Jesus on the cross. He inflicts justice through Christ, therefore, giving us mercy. The debt must be paid. When justice is removed from a civilization, all hope is lost. God is fully just. He is fully merciful. God does not extend mercy to you and me at the expense of justice—but rather—through it—on the cross—through his son Jesus Christ.

As I think about the voluminous cry for equality—I can’t help but notice that we are already equal. We are sinful—and we need saving.

Consider what Oliver Sacks says in the book Awakenings:

“For all of us have a basic, intuitive feeling that once we were whole and well; at ease, at peace, at home in the world; totally united with the grounds of our being; and that then we lost this primal, happy, innocent state, and fell into our present sickness and suffering. We had something of infinite beauty and preciousness- and we lost it; we spend our lives searching for what we have lost.”

So how is our world responding?

We have reports that say that the Pentagon has fueled this escalation.  St. Louis County law enforcement agencies received twelve 5.56 millimeter rifles and six .45 caliber pistols from the Department of Defense between Aug. 2, 2010, and Feb. 13, 2013, a Missouri public safety official confirmed Thursday.  Want more?  Why don’t you take a look at this.  You could accurately say that the Obama doctrine of “No boots on the ground” is being followed.  Instead, they are putting “wheels on the ground,” and “gas in the air.”  This program called the 1033 program, was created by Congress in the 1990’s.  the motto?  “From warfighter to crimefighter.”  That sounds like some kind of a horror movie involving cyborgs.  Since the creation of the 1033 program by Congress in the early 1990s, the program has distributed $4.3 billion of excess equipment, ranging from innocuous office supplies to bomb-disposing robots and other advanced technology. The flood of military supplies — along with the continuing drug war and grant programs from other federal agencies that provide military-style equipment — has pushed the culture of police forces far from its law-enforcement roots. 

Feel good now?

What is most frightening is that until this incident, many on the left have been giving a full throated support for such armament by the police.  In fact, any American who argued that their constitutional right to carry weapons was indeed needed for occasions like this, or worse—were called conspiracy theorists.  Now, it seems all the left is doing is quoting the constitution!  The Atlantic, a left wing rag is incensed at this action by the police.  Newsweek, a left leaning publication, is now detailing the history on how “American police became an Army.”  The left wing’s venerable New Yorker is decrying the violation of innocent civilian constitutional rights by a militarized police force.

I hate to point this out, but this shouldn’t surprise anyone.  Do you remember a junior Senator from Illinois—who in 2008 promised that as president:  “We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.” 

Doesn’t sound familiar?  How about the video?  Obama’s civilian security force.   Now, granted, up until this point—in terms of fulfilling his lofty “hope and changey” campaign promises, this may be his first telling of the truth. 

Obama’s delayed response to this matter, amidst his vacationing while the world is burning has many people upset.  It is a fact that by years end, Barack “Eldrick” Obama will have overtaken the amount of golf rounds that Tiger woods has played since 2009.  All this while the economy is virtually dead, Obamacare is flopping, millions are out of the work force, and Islam is gaining a stranglehold on world politics.

To further confound and add fuel to this literal fire, there are also accusations of racial profiling by Ferguson police even before this shooting. While black residents accounted for 67 percent of Ferguson’s population, black drivers accounted for more than 86 percent of the traffic stops made last year by the Ferguson Police Department, according to a report produced by the office of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.  And the majority of the traffic stops (92 percent) that ended with arrests involved black drivers.

While this seems to be unfortunate—in nearly every other situation in society, the left argues that there should be proportional representation of all minorities!  Why is it when crime rates are released, suddenly proportional representation is not a virtue?  Despite the cries of racism—which have mainly been forwarded by the NAACP, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the perpetual race merchants have shown up on the scene; and, rather than receive a warm welcome, they have been all but attacked themselves.  It seems that the black community, who rightly decries injustice—at the same time—decries this faux sympathy for their community by those who are more concerned with their television persona than they are with really tackling issues head on. 

  To make matters worse, the NEW Black Panther Party is in the area and encouraging violence.  I think the black community at large—though we may differ on a variety of issues—are genuinely opposed to the inflammatory and continuous urging of the Black Panthers to enter into violence.  While they surely are making these decisions to riot on their own, it cannot help when those who have been ‘propped up’ as leaders in the black community are urging violence. 


What are the solutions?  This is  a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.  That cop didn’t wake up that morning thinking to himself, “I want to kill a black man.”  The victim of this violence didn’t wake up saying, “I want to challenge the police today.”  Until we know the facts we cannot know exactly what happened.  What we do know is that one life is over, and an entire community is affected.  On the other side, a police officer will forever have his life changed by this situation. 

I think one solution for now would be to end this over armament of the police.  Rand Paul, the Kentucky Senator, says to “demilitarize the cops.”  I think he is right.  I also think that the black community at large should refrain from looting.  It is a completely justifiable and rational position to be abhorred at both the rioting and looting, but at the same time be abhorred by the actions and methods employed by the police in Ferguson. 

I think the real solution is going to be a systematic and intentional move by the church writ large to invest in these communities.  We need to change men from the inside out, not from the outside in.  We can put all the structures in place, and all the laws in the world—but man will still be sinful.  Until we decide to take these matters seriously, we will only treat symptoms—we will never treat the root cause.

I understand that in saying this, I am forwarding what some would call a “constrained” view of humanity.  We are constrained by our fallen nature.  No matter what is done, our fallen nature cannot be fixed by man himself.  This is in contrast with the “unconstrained” view of humanity.  Man is inherently good here—and it is the society at large that contributes to his downfall.  If we fix the society, we can fix man.  If we can produce heaven on earth, man will be perfect.

When I stop and think about the statement:  “Why did an innocent kid die,.” My answer is, “no one is innocent.”  God alone is good.  We are fallen.  Since we live in a fallen world, we should expect to see things like this.  Be this as it may, it never quite prepares us for it, and we all notice that such a thing is evil.  Evil has three dimensions.  There is the fact of evil, the face of evil, and the feeling of evil.  No matter what side of this situation you fall on, we all recognize that evil has taken place.  A life is over. 

I understand that this is utterly depressing.  I truly feel that we are constrained by our sin.  The only solution comes by way of Christ.  Until we are ready to share that with a fallen man—the kind of things we see in Missouri from both the police and the rioters—and in terms of innocent victims being slain—will only get worse.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mt 16:13–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Root Problem

In one of his many splendid examples of spiritual health, Dr. Tony Evans talks about a toothache.  He and his wife Lois were on a cruise, when suddenly on the second day, he began to have severe pain in one of his teeth.  With all those buffets, a cruise is NOT the time to have a tooth problem!  Frustrated, he went to see the ship’s dentist and was treated for the pain.  It didn’t help at all; in fact, the pain worsened.  So, while docked at one of the ship’s destinations, and at the urging of his wife, Evans called his dentist in Dallas, Tx.  He explained the situation and told how the ship’s dentist had treated his pain.  The dentist then said something startling.  He said, “The reason your pain is persisting despite the treatment is because they were treating the wrong thing.  They are treating the symptoms not the cause.  Your problem is not a toothache, but rather, it is a problem at the root.  You have an infection below the surface that is causing the pain you feel.  If we fix the infection, we will cure the ache.”  The dentist faxed a prescription to the ship’s infirmary and Evans started on a dose of antibiotics.  By the next morning he was well.  Back to all night buffet!

 

Be honest:  Does this ever happen in our lives?  How often would you admit that we think our problems are on the surface when in reality—they lie deep within—at the root?  I think if we were brutally honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that we put on masks and paint on facades that will make us look well when in reality—under the surface, we are rotting!  Most people are experts at treating the symptoms (futilely), but are ignorant when it comes to treating the cause!  In fact, our society is made up of leaders who merely treat symptoms.  If you knew that your primary care doctor only treated symptoms but not causes, would you keep seeing him, or find another doctor? 

 

Our society frequently tells us that we can ‘fix’ things from the outside in and from the top down.  If we pass more legislation, further people’s rights, make things ‘fairer,’ or spread around the wealth; people will be better.  This is merely treating symptoms.  Instead, we need to be in the business of treating root causes: changing people from the inside out and from the bottom up.  C.S. Lewis talks about the good infection that comes when we meet Jesus.  Just like we infect people with germs so that they can be immune to disease, we need to busy infecting the world with the power of the Gospel! Unless man’s rotting core is healed, we can do all the cosmetic changes to the outside that we want; but in the long run, it won’t make any difference.

Rapture?

You know what I mean when I say, “rapture?”  I remember growing up hearing about an invisible snatching up of Christians by Christ before the tribulation–and how it would happen in the twinkling of an eye, and that one man would be left while the other would be taken.  I remember vividly watching movies like “A Thief In The Night” and Tim LaHaye’s series, “Left Behind” propagating this view.  On this view, there are two returns of Christ; one before the tribulation (an invisible one) and one after (a visible one).  Here is the question:  Does the Bible really talk about Multiple Returns of Christ rather than one?

Now, from the outset, I am not claiming that holding to either view is heresy.  I know intelligent thoughtful Christians who hold to both.  I just think it is important to parse through this and see if what many of us believe is plausible.  We should be concerned with finding out which view is plausible based on Biblical material.

In this invisible coming of Christ view, which I will call the “rapture view;” before the final visible coming of Christ to the earth, there will be an invisible return.  In this invisible return, Christ will snatch up Christians who are alive and take them out of the world.

Now, it needs to be noted that this is not a historical position of the Church.  It finds its roots in a gentleman named John Darby who wrote about it in 1827.  It was popularized in fundamentalist and evangelical churches through the Scofield Reference Bible.  Even some prominent evangelical institutions like Dallas Theological Seminary have been committed to this view for some time. In popular literature and film, we have seen a series books and movies by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, and a variety of other movies and books that carry this theme.

The problem is that this view has become sort of unconsciously absorbed by the church writ large and never has really been scrutinized.  I held to this view strongly before I did any research into it!  Even as I did research that seemed to lead me away from it, I was sort of kicking and screaming mentally that my view was changing.

Where do we begin?  In looking at the scriptures, we should begin with Mark 13:

 

And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake.[a] For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants[b] in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows,[c] or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

 


 

 

This entire discourse is called the Olivet Discourse.  It seems to me that a fair reading of this passage would yield interpreting these events not as an invisible coming to precede a second visible coming, but a second coming to follow the tribulation only.  From this we can say with confidence that it is clear that a tribulation will occur and that Christ will not return invisibly before it, but will return visibly after it.

So, where does the “rapture” view come from, if not from the Olivet Discourse?  it comes from 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[d] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

This passage is interpreted by many to be describing an invisible return of Christ.  However, in the following chapter, verse 1 is interpreted by this same group to describe the visible second coming to happen later!  They have split their interpretation to keep both the invisible and the visible return possible.  Is there robust exegetical evidence for such a position?

I just do not see any justification for a rapture view–or a view that holds to an invisible return of Christ.

Now, proponents of this view will say, “Ah, but look at 1 Thessalonians 4:17…’We who are alive shall be caught up.'”  They say that this refers to the rapture.  the problem with this view is that the Greek word used here is “apantesis,”  This word is used exclusively in Greek literature to describe people going out in a celebrative manner  to greet an incoming war hero, leader, or champion.  What this seems to say is Christ will be greeted with pomp and circumstance as he returns…visibly.  This is also what is taking place in Mark 13:27.

The Bible also shows us that it is at this event in which the resurrection of the dead occur.  This is what the Bible refers to when it talks about those who have “fallen asleep.”  We will not precede those who have fallen asleep, as Corinthians says.  Instead, the dead rise first.  This is the end time resurrection of the dead at the Second Coming.

John 5:25-29 says it this way:

25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

As previously noted, Paul speaks about it more in 1 Corinthians 15:

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory?     O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

From these passages we see that when Christ returns, death is destroyed.  Even if we go back to 1 Corinthians 15:22-26, we see that,

 “22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

Death is the final enemy to be conquered, and it is conquered at the return of Christ

Doesn’t this seem to go against the notion that Christ will make an invisible return and snatch people out, but death will continue to exist?

Going forward, we see in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8 that:

2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers,[a] not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness[b] is revealed, the son of destruction,[c] who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.

This is the same event recorded in 1 Thessalonians called the “parousia” or the coming of Christ. The return of Christ happens after the rebellion, apostasy, and man of lawlessness.

The same is said in Mark 13:14.  Here, the Bible alludes to the historical event in which pagans sacrificed a pig in the temple.  Mark is saying, when you see this happen, flee to the mountains. Paul says, that this man of lawlessness will perform lewd acts in the temple

The thing to note is that his isn’t an event before the tribulation, this is an event after.  Mark 13:27 talks about the gathering of saints:  “Gather the elect from the 4 winds.”  Paul even says in Corinthians, “in our assembling to meet Him.”  These are both describing the same event.

I am not arguing that anyone who holds to a rapture view is a heretic.  In fact, I am not even arguing that such a view isn’t compatible with scripture.  Obviously it is, or intelligent people wouldn’t hold to it.  What I am saying is that it doesn’t seem like a fair reading of the Bible would bring one to hold such a view.  To me it seems more likely that unless you read the scriptures with this view in mind before hand, the Biblical text itself doesn’t seem to indicate this event.

Where I think we find problem is when we take ambiguous prophecy and interpret our view of doctrine around it.  Rather, we should base our interpretation of prophecy on our solid doctrinal understanding.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,