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Racism at Books-A-Million (I Dare you To read This)

I don’t have to give a disclaimer.  I only do it to establish a common decency.  I do not identify with either the Alt Right or the New Left.  I despise Antifa as well as the David Dukes of the world.  I consider the KKK to be pond scum (that gives pond scum and insult).  I have little use for anyone who judges another person based on their skin color.  I teach my children that all human beings are created in the image of God.

I insistently teach my children that all human beings are created in the image of God. Blacks and Whites are equal.  We are all equally valued by God.

We do not talk about white pride in our home, although we are proud of our identity.    We are proud Americans.  Why wouldn’t we be?  America is great.  It is the greatest nation on Earth.  We talk often about American exceptionalism.  We talk about the uniqueness of America and her citizens.  Black people, brown people, white people, and a variety of others are all indissolubly linked to the making of our country. We celebrate that.

We celebrate that, unapologetically.

Because we celebrate our diverse origins and identity as Americans, we celebrate the Negro Spirituals and the fact that a true glimpse of divine beauty can emerge from horror, as well as the music of Tin Pan Alley, Motown, New Orleans, Chicago, California, and Nashville.

We love the Beach Boys, Elvis, Johnny Cash, and the Temptations.

I firmly believe that racism must be taught.  My children do not see any difference at all, in people, outside of appearance, between a Black and a White person.  My son, when given an opportunity to choose a baby doll, chose one skinh black sin.  He sleeps with him every night.  I didn’t teach him that.

I didn’t teach him that.

That being said, I was forced this week to bring up issues of race with my 6-year old daughter.

In what should have been a benign trip to Books-a-Million, my daughter and I overheard the words, “Donald Trump…hate…murder…racist..blacks.”   I had to fight the urge to set this utterly and undignifiedly uninformed employee straight, but I composed myself.  I could tell that my daughter carefully regarded these words, and then found herself taken aback.  It caused for her, a moment of cognitive dissonance.  She knows that in our home, all races are equal.  She knows that her Mom and Dad are both, NOT RACISTS.  She also knows that her Mom and Dad would not vote for a racist.  She knows that her Mom and Dad DID vote for Donald Trump.

I let it go.  Unfortunately, I could tell that my daughter carefully regarded these words and then found herself taken aback.  It caused for her, a moment of cognitive dissonance.  She knows that in our home, all races are equal.  She knows that her Mom and Dad are both, NOT RACISTS.  She also knows that her Mom and Dad would not vote for a racist.

But here is the clincher:  She knows that her Mom and Dad DID vote for Donald Trump.

Uh Oh!

Now, she is reasonable.  She can tell good from bad.  She’s young but shrewd.  She is well trained.  She has heard Trump on television.  She has heard my wife and I talk about him—often positively. Despite being 6, she has a pretty firm grasp on who this guy is.

Back to Books-A-Million:   After the comments she heard from the employee sipping on his Starbucks, typing on his iPhone, and wailing about corporate greed; next came the coup de grace:  She handed me a book she found that portrayed President Trump as a starfish with a sphincter for a mouth.  Out of his mouth (crevice) blew flatulence with words superimposed over a poof of smoke representing his breath.  She knew it was Trump because of the orange tint and the hair (clearly).  She asked me why he was shaped this way.

 

I explained to her, “Some people do not like PRESIDENT TRUMP.”  Then, she asked me in response to the comments about hate and murder she had heard.  “Daddy, why did they say those things about Donald Trump?”  I don’t know if it was cognitive or not, but she paired the hate she heard from the employee, with the parody and pictures she found in the book.  Most Ivy League students couldn’t perform such a feat.

Most Ivy League students couldn’t perform such a feat.

Call me a racist if you want, but here is what I told her: “Baby, some people are so bent on calling things stupid or racist, that they resort to calling people who they disagree with stupid or  racist—even if they aren’t stupid or racist.  They have been so effectively programed (by activists and politicians who benefit financially from stirring up racial conflagration) that they see it as a good deed to call these people these things.  To them, anything that doesn’t match what they have been programmed to think makes a light go off that says “Racist!  Racist! Racists!  Stupid! Stupid!  Stupid!”

I explained to her that I believe that the earth is millions of years old, but that I reject Darwinian theory.  I reject the view that says bacteria became bugs, bugs became animals, and animals became humans.  I reject it outright.  I told her, that among my peers, I am seen as anti-science (stupid).  I explained that the word stupid is invoked because Darwinian theory has a number of weaknesses that they cannot account for.  So, in defense of their view, they hurl the word “Stupid!”  I explained to her that the cries of Racism are simliar.

I went on to explain to her that racism is horrible.  I explained past and PRESENT slavery to her and told her about the history of America and its role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and its role in ending it.  When I finished, I told her, “These racial programmers do not want racism to disappear.” Jesse Jackson has no intention of helping to ERADICATE racism.

Do you doubt me?  Are you kidding me?  If racism were to disappear tomorrow, there would go Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton’s meal ticket.  There is lots of money to be made in agitating grievances.

FOLLOW THE MONEY.

I will take it a step further:  If most blacks in this country were persuaded to believe that most whites wish for them nothing but success (which is the truth), the Democratic Party would go extinct.  Gone.  Nonexistent—like the dodo bird.

But I am brought now to an uncomfortable question:  Can the racial divide in this country be healed?   I think the answer is “Yes.”  I am optimistic.  I think it will take a swallowing of pride on both sides, white and black.  It will take admitting that slavery, though horrific, did cause horror and untold pain for blacks (the very ancestors of our friends).  On the other side, I think it will take blacks admitting that no matter how bad slavery was, and how horrific their forbears were treated, that whites today have no responsibility (it wasn’t us…it was our forebears).

For better or worse, we are both here, on this soil.  We are both Americans.  We both salute the same flag, and bleed the same Patriot red.   Whites have died for the freedom of blacks, and blacks for the freedom of whites.  Can we not celebrate that?!

I am a proud Southerner, but I apologize for what my ancestors may have done—or may not have done.   This doesn’t mean I disavow my ancestors or my heritage.  I am proud to be from the South, on my Father’s side.  On my Mothers side, I am proud to be from the North.  There were anti-slavery soldiers, both black and white,  on both sides.  I celebrate that! What it means is that I acknowledge that man by his very nature is flawed.  My ancestors were no different.

When we realize that MAN that man by his very nature is flawed, we see the reality of the whole situation.  My ancestors were no different–they were flawed.  Sinners.  Many of my Ancestors were victims of The Norman Conquest, the Irish Potato Famine, Decline of the Hapsburg Dynasty, Napoleonic and Czarist adventurism, and gratuitous insults and speculations about the intelligence of Europeans of Polish descent.Despite this fact, I live my life.  I am proud to be an American.

Despite this fact, I live my life.  I am proud to be an American.  God has shown ME grace.  For that I am thankful.  I wish to share it with others, no matter the color.

Perhaps you can as well.

 

 

 

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Worship: Spirit and Truth. What it is and isn’t.

Ravi Zacharias is absolutely correct when he says of worship, “It is the sense and service of God.”  What does that mean?  I want to address today an issue that has become quite controversial in the church.  What is that issue?  Worship.

You hear countless sermons today on music—whether it be contemporary or traditional. Organs or guitars, choirs or praise teams—and how Christians are tearing each other’s eyes out over their particular tastes.  The truth is, music isn’t worship.  Anyone who tells you it is wants you to believe a lie.  Music can be used in worship, it can be a vehicle of worship—but it isn’t worship itself.
In Chapter 4 of the book of John, Jesus gives us an incredible picture of worship though the way he deals with a prostitute.  This is a very loose woman—basically—she wouldn’t be welcomed into most of our churches today (that’s for another day).  It is in this context that Jesus tells us about worship.  Present in the dialogue are a few issues:  First there is Hunger.  Jesus is hungry and the disciples have left to get food.  Jesus is thirsty.  He is at the well looking for something to drink.  We see racial tensions.  A Jew isn’t supposed to talk to a Samaritan.  We see sexual tension.  A man shouldn’t talk to this woman, and this woman shouldn’t be a prostitute.  It is in the midst of this madness that Jesus teaches us about what worship is. Why?  Quite simply, if we ever get God right, the stuff we spend so much time trying to fix, will take a whole lot less time fixing.
Jesus has confronted this woman with her sin.  He tells her in verse 16, “Go call your husband,” and in verse 17, she says, “I have no husband,” and then Jesus replies in verse 18 (my paraphrase), “You got that right—you have 5!”  So what does she do when confronted with her sin?  She does what nearly anyone does when confronted with their sin and the holiness of God:  She skirts the issue.  She dances around it.  She obfuscates.

She wants to move on to the subject of religion.

We need to look at a number of things that are important to realize when it comes to worship:

The first issue to understand is the importance of worship.  At the end of verse 23, Jesus says, “For such people, the father seeks to be His worshippers.”  Why is worship important?  It’s simple:  God is looking for it.  He is looking for authentic worship and sincere worshippers.  It is implied here that these worshippers that God is looking for are hard to find.  We have to realize this though:  Just because God is looking for them doesn’t mean he needs them.  He doesn’t need worshippers, he deserves worshippers.

Psalm 148 says:

]Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
Praise Him in the heights!
Praise Him, all His angels;
Praise Him, all His hosts!
Praise Him, sun and moon;
Praise Him, all stars of light!
Praise Him, highest heavens,
And the waters that are above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord…

When it comes to human beings, worship is a conscious choice.  When it comes to nature, worship is automatic.  God created you to be a worshipper, but he seeks you to see if you will fulfil the reason for which you were created—to worship God.  What is worship?

Tony Evans says, “Worship is the celebration of God for who God is and what God has done.”  It is all that I am paying supreme homage to all that God is.  The implication is that worship is recognizing above all, who God is.  We must recognize God as God.  When people worship, but don’t recognize God as God, he isn’t being worshipped.  Worship isn’t taking place.

What is the object of worship?  Verses 23 and 24 say: 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is [e]spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

God is the object of our worship—but not a God you make up.  He is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Many groups who say they are worshipping, but the God they are worshipping isn’t the father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This isn’t worship.  God is the father of all creation.  Even nonbelievers recognize that.  He is the Father of the saints.  We recognize that as Christians.  But it is the fact that He is the father of Jesus Christ that makes him unique.

If we miss Christ, we miss the Father.

God is also sprit.  You can’t worship God first with your body.  His essence is not corporeal.  This means his is not material.  He is a person, but he has no visible body.  He is an invisible person.  If you are going to worship him, you must begin in the invisible part of you.  It is possible to be physically in the place of worship, but not have the requisite heart of worship.  God is spirit, and he is dealing with the invisible realm, not the visible.

To put it simply, you may have the look of worship.  You may have the smell of worship.  You may have the right clothes on.  You may have the hand movements of worship.  You may even have the right hairstyle or clap on the right beat.  Get this right though:  If all God gets is your body, you are not worshipping God in spirit.  If you aren’t worshipping God in spirit, you aren’t worshipping at all.

Some people will tell you that they don’t feel that they have worshipped unless their body moves.  Ultimately, they are saying, “Worship is about how I feel.”  This is wrong.  Worship is about how God feels when we are done.   Unless your spirit moved, it doesn’t matter what your body did.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the physical can and should be an important part of our worship to God, but it isn’t the most important.  The most important is the spirit.

I see people all the time:  They stand up but don’t sing.  “I don’t like that song,” or “I don’t like that type of music.” When I see this, I want to remind them that God would say, “Hey!  I thought you were singing to me!”  To refuse to sing because you don’t like the song dismisses the fact that God may like to have that song sung to Him!  Who are you or I to choose?  Is the role of the choir to sing to you?  No!  Its purpose is to sing to God.  If you are only coming for you and to sing the songs you like, and to see things that you want to see—you aren’t worshipping God.  You are asking God to worship you.

The barometer is this:  At the end of the benediction, if God doesn’t applaud—something has gone wrong.  God is to be glorified, not us.

You see, God has intrinsic glory.  What does this mean?  Well, if you put a robe on a guy, he becomes a judge.  If you put a white coat on him, he is a doctor.  If you put dress blues on a man, he becomes a marine.  This is ascribed glory. If you take any of those men, and strip him down and put rags on him—he becomes a bum.  Ascribed glory is only given based on a set of circumstances—and it is temporary.  This is not what God is.  God is intrinsically glorious.  This means that His glory is and cannot be taken.  As wet is to water or blue is to sky, Glory is to God.  It is intrinsic.

The next issue is what could be called, the spheres of worship.  In verse 20 we see the woman say, 21 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”

What Jesus says is that first of all, worship is not a place.  Worship is a state.  It isn’t first about where you are, it is about who you are.  If your life isn’t a continuous act of worship, showing up on Sunday at a building with a steeple is worth nothing.

In 1st Corinthians, Paul says that “your body is a temple,” the church of the living God.  Put it this way, you don’t go to church—you are church!  If the spirit of God is in you, you couldn’t leave church if you wanted to. The question isn’t about what is happening at the local church house, the questioning is what is going on in your internal church—the one that is open for business 24 hours a day and seven days a week.  If you think that church is only on Sunday and ends at noon, then you are missing the point in a major way.  Worship is a way of life, not a place you go to.  Why wasn’t Daniel fazed when the edict was sent out that he couldn’t pray?  Today we would gather together and have a prayer service if our religious rights were challenged like that.  Daniel didn’t have to have a prayer meeting.  His life was a prayer meeting.

The reason many of us are messed up is because the only time we are in church is on Sunday.  If we could learn that being in church and worshipping really means us being the people God wants us to be, then we would always be worshipping.  We wouldn’t necessarily need a pastor or a choir—we would be the pastor and the choir.  When worship is real, you become alive.  It becomes like the engine or the car that drives your life!  It becomes your oxygen source.

If the only time we break into praise through song is on Sunday, or if the only time we open His word is on Sunday—or if the only time we fellowship with other believers is on Sunday—why is it any wonder that we are anemic Christians?   Worship isn’t a mountain or Jerusalem.  Worship is you!   It has to be you.  The spirit of God dwells in you!

What about the problems in church when it comes to worship styles?  I will tell you this:  Anyone who has no problem worshipping in private, will have no problem worshipping corporately.    Why?  You haven’t defined worship by a once a week meeting.  You have defined it by John 4—your relationship with God.  Daniel worshipped in private, that is why he could stand boldly and face the consequences of his actions—and beat them.

This is why the Psalmist says, “From the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same.  The name of the Lord deserves praise.”  Your life is worship.

It isn’t about reading a verse day.  It isn’t about a prayer you recite before a meal that you could say backwards and still not mean what you are saying.  No.  It is about saying, “God, I fall down at your feet and I adore you.  I sense your presence and I devote my life to serving you!”

When we understand that the meat we cut on our plate was derived from an animal that God made, or when we realize the tea in our glass was made from water and leaves that God made—when we realize the table our food and tea sit on was cut from a tree that god fashioned—we will be able to say, “God, I adore you.  You are worthy of all praise.”

The final issue is the essence of worship.  Jesus said, “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”  To put it clearly, if we are going to worship God corporately and privately, then our worship must be both authentic and accurate.  What do I mean?  It must be authentic in your spirit and accurate in his truth. Spirit refers to our attitude, and truth refers to information.

God is spirit.  What this means is that God is both an invisible, immaterial reality.  You can’t see him because there is no matter.  There is no matter because he is invisible.  Reality doesn’t require matter.  Because God is spirit, for us to link our spirits to his, there must be a person with a spirit who is pursuing his.  It doesn’t stop there.  The person pursuing him must be pursuing him as truth—as the truth revealed in scripture and in the flesh as Jesus.  What I am saying is that we cannot make God in our image and expect him to cooperate with our idea of worship.  We are made in his image, and we must worship God as truth.

The implication is:  The better you know God, the better you worship.  Truth exists.  There is the true One—God, and there is the true Word—the Bible.  We know God because we have relationship with him and because he has revealed himself in his word.  Unless we know God personally through the truth of his being, and know about God through the truth of his word, we cannot know him.  If we don’t know him, we can’t worship him.

This is why we see so many churches in America today—doing nothing.  Some people want an exciting service of worship, but they don’t want truth.  Some want all the truth, but they want no excitement in worship.  One is emotionalism and the other is dead orthodoxy. Both are wrong.

We are to worship God and serve him out of desire.  It is what we are made to do, and when we begin to know God, it becomes what we want to do.

If my anniversary came around and I bought my wife flowers and when I presented them to her I said, “Because you expect this, and because it is my obligation as your current husband, I got you these,” I guarantee you that they would be thrown back in your face.  We give gifts because we want to.  It is the nature of love to delight one’s self in the other.

This is a desired duty.

If we sense God without serving him, it isn’t worship.  If we serve God without sensing Him, it is drudgery.  God wants your heart and your hands.  Not just one or the other.

Many of us don’t get this.   This is why you see church members who are sanctimonious in the church building but snakes in the parking lot.  Many of these people act as if there is some magic spell in the walls of the church or some magic balm that has been applied to the pulpit.  No.  If we don’t start to worship outside of the church, we will never be able to worship him inside it.  If in the church we sing, “Have thine own way,” and then out in the parking lot we hear, “Get outta my way,” we have just witnessed a religious show that is neither based in spirit or truth.

As Tony Evans notes, “The fuel of worship is God, the furnace of worship is man, but the fire of worship is the Holy Ghost.”

Some of us may not be there yet.  That is ok—so long as we are willing to go there.

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