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When Violence in America Was Affirmed & Praised:  Understanding & Solving Racial Injustices

When Violence in America Was Affirmed & Praised: Understanding & Solving Racial Injustices

One man’s violent anti-government protests

is another man’s just war. 

First, let me say I DO NOT condone the rioting and violence that is occurring across our nation, following the murder of George Floyd at the knee of white police officer Derek Chauvin.  As someone who values that Jesus taught us to “turn the other cheek” I believe there are other ways we must respond, even in the face of gross injustice.  But I also understand that not everyone embraces Jesus’ teachings or His example in this regard, and even if we do, we can all become overwhelmed at gross injustice and feel like our only responses to such are protests and/or violence. 

Last night I broke a long standing rule I placed in effect several years ago, and I watched the news for a couple hours, viewing the rioting and protests Live as they were happening.  In the two cities I watched, Washington DC and NYC, the vast majority of the protesters/agitators were WHITE, not black.   

As I watched the rioting, one announcer made the point that our nation’s founding flowed out of the violent responses of its citizens to unjust laws by its government.  Most white Americans celebrate and applaud our nation’s founding fathers who rejected authority, and fought back, violently, to protest and overthrow an unjust government.  The Boston Tea Party was one such rebellion. I should note that the organization I founded eleven years ago in Chattanooga, took its name from that act of rebellion and violence. 

When I led the Chattanooga Tea Party for nearly a decade (which I no longer do, and I no longer consider the Tea Party movement to represent me), I and other leaders often took solace in these words that were integral to our nation’s founding: 

“…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends (Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness), it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it… But when a long train of abuses and usurpations…reduces them under absolute despotism,  it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…”

While our organization, and none of the other liberty movements I was associated with, ever took up arms, or resorted to violence, I can assure you that there were many in the movement who were more than prepared to resort to violence had the government stepped across an imaginary line.  If you doubt this, then explain why it was that gun purchases were skyrocketing during those years?  The consistent interpretation that conservatives held was that the 2nd Amendment was not for hunting or sporting but was to protect oneself from a wayward and unjust government.  Let’s also not ignore the fact that even now in 2020, white men armed with assault rifles and other threatening armament have recently been marching into state capitols around our nation.   

But back to violence in our protests.  Let me reiterate that I do not condone or agree with the violence we are seeing erupt across our nation.  As a Christian, I believe we are called to love, peace, and humility, and when others persecute us, our response should be identical to that of Jesus, and the twelve apostles.  None of us will ever be as violently persecuted as the Founding Fathers of Christianity (where all but one were martyred for their faith; that is the most extreme form of prejudice one can imagine).  And yet, not one of them responded violently.  This is the model every follower of Jesus should strive to emulate in our lives.  It’s a high bar, which I struggle with personally, in the face of injustices.   

As we watch and condemn what is going on, what would we have said if we were viewing the protests at the Boston Tea Party?  While there are significant differences between the two, there are also many similarities, including injustices by those in authority and with power.  So ask yourself, “What would I have done or said, if I was alive on December 16, 1773, viewing the violence of the Boston Tea Party?  Would I have condemned it or embraced it?  Would I have participated in it?”  Today, most Americans praise this act of violence and rebellion, that destroyed a million dollars worth of property. 

My intent for sharing these thoughts is not to provoke anger or incite emotions.  Rather, it is to challenge us to stop and think; to put ourselves in the shoes of others.   

When we judge a person simply by their external actions, we either condemn them or we embrace them, based on the cause they are fighting for.  If their protests and even violence affirm our worldview, then we gladly applaud them.  However, if their protests and violence are at odds with anything we’ve ever experienced, then it’s likely we will condemn them and find cause to belittle and hold them in contempt. 

If we are white Americans, it’s likely we’ve never felt that our life was hanging in the balance when we were pulled over in our cars by a police officer.   But many of my African American brothers and sisters have always carried such fear with them.  But not only is that fear for themselves, but for their children and grandchildren also.  Thankfully, I’ve never known that fear personally, or for my children. But it grieves me to realize that millions of our citizens do, primarily because of their skin color. 

Think about that.  Then consider that there have been a “long train of abuses” in the eyes and experiences of our black brothers and sisters.  Their life is not ours.  So until we can figuratively place ourselves in their shoes, we cannot fully comprehend the struggle, the outrage, and the deep rooted hurts they feel each time another man with black skin dies, whether at the hands of someone in uniform, or by a white man in the back of a pickup truck, or a false accusation is called in to 9-1-1. 

So what are the solutions to this existential threat to not only the future of our nation, but more importantly to the relationships we should seek to grow with those who are different than us? 

The Heart 

I believe first and foremost the solution is Spiritual.  The center of this struggle is not in the streets of Minneapolis or other cities, but rather in the center of our beings: Our Heart.  God says in Jeremiah 17:9 that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?” 

Even now, it’s possible that your response to my meager thoughts is one of outrage or rejection or condemnation.  If so, I believe its possible your heart is deceiving you.  Within each of us lies the potential to deceive ourselves into believing the problem is “the other guy; it’s not me.”  If that’s my response, I am deceived.   

Jesus said in John 8:7 “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”  He also said in Matthew 7:5 “First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” 

The point is, introspection is needed, first and foremost.  What part have I played, overtly or covertly, in contributing to injustices in our community or nation?  If you say none, then I applaud you and I would suggest you write a book so we can all learn from you. And there is no need to read further.  But if you feel any need to continue to examine yourself, here’s what I would suggest is next. 

Because the heart, the inner core of our being, is deceitful and wicked, we must regularly cleanse it.  This cannot be done overnight but requires a continuous effort to transform what is natural (those responses that are wrong) to the unnatural (those responses that are Christ-like).  The only way to do this is through a consistent time in God’s Word.  We read this in Romans 12:2: 

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” 

The Behavior 

As we begin to transfuse our minds with the healing power of God’s Word, our values, thoughts and behavior will be transformed.  Recently I read a short Bible Plan in the Bible app entitled “How to Love People You Disagree With” and it included these thoughts: 

What if… 

   … we exhibited patience? 

   … chose not to be offended? 

   … we quit taking everything so personally? 

   … we changed the degrading way we talk to others? 

   … we focused on what we did have in common? 

   … we chose the big picture? 

And I’ll add, what if we “loved our neighbor as ourselves?” which Jesus reminded us is the second greatest commandment.  These are a few of the fundamental behavior changes we must pursue. 

The Shoes 

Nearly a year ago, God led my path to cross with someone I had known for years, but never developed a close relationship with.  Ternae Jordan is an African American pastor in Chattanooga whom God intentionally brought me to, so that God could begin to incorporate the above principles in my life.  As we’ve spent dozens and dozens of hours together since last summer, my heart has softened as I’ve been able to, in a small way, “walk in his shoes.” Beginning to realize and better understand the dreams, hopes, fears, and frustrations that my brother and his family and friends experience, has softened my heart, and changed my thoughts.  I’m eternally grateful for Ternae, and as I think of what God has begun in our lives, I’m reminded of this verse:  

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 

Summary 

In closing, while the solutions are not that complicated, they are also not that easy.  Cleansing our heart (seeking forgiveness and transforming what we think and believe), changing how we habitually behave and respond, and walking in someone else’s shoes, none of these are natural.  But the history of our nation reveals that what is natural is not working.  So perhaps if followers of Jesus across this land began to pursue supernatural answers to the age old scourge of racism and prejudice, we might begin to see a mighty work of God in our midst.  And as we do, I’m hopeful that God will bring about healing and unity, to what has been hurt and division for more than 200 years.

Addendum: Verses to consider as we seek to “Love our neighbor as ourselves:” 

  • “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” James 2:1 
  • “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35 
  • “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 
  • “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” Romans 12:14 
  • “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 
  • “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 
  • “Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.” 1 Corinthians 13:6 
  • “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:9-10 
  • “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:4 
  • “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23 
Statues, Conflict & WWJD

Statues, Conflict & WWJD

“Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”  1 John 2:6

As Americans weigh in on the latest race relations battle, I can only imagine how satisfied Satan is, knowing that he has once again fanned the flames of division, racism and hatred in our nation. It seems that these skirmishes continue to flare up, no matter how many years we move away from the scourge of slavery that marked our nation’s past. 

So as iron and stone artifacts are receiving increased focus by newspapers, cable news, and social media, what seems to be lacking, at least for those who claim to be followers of Jesus, is WWJD — as in What Would Jesus Do?

There was a time when this slogan was routinely seen on bumper stickers, wrist bands, and t-shirts. And many continue to pose the question, WWJD, to test their actions and words. But the problem with using WWJD is that too often a person’s subjective evaluation can yield multiple answers, if Scriptures are not abundantly clear.

So I’ve been searching the Bible for answers to how Christ’s followers should respond to the calls for removing statues, flags and monuments. Rather than pragmatic or even patriotic approaches, I’m more interested in what Jesus would actually do were He here physically today. But as I considered the likelihood of a subjective response to this latest American problem, I became more intrigued with WDJS — as in What Did Jesus Say?  

If you grew up never knowing your father, but he left you a book with explicit instructions on what he valued and believed, such a document would be of great value as you encountered life’s struggles. 

You and I never had the privilege that the original twelve disciples had, to not only hear the words of Jesus but to also see Him live those words out day after day. So when Jesus told them, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” and the disciples then witnessed Jesus loving and forgiving those who tortured and crucified Him, they could see that what Jesus said directly impacted what He did. 

So whether it’s Jesus or you and me, our actions are driven by our thoughts and our thoughts spill out in our words. 

If you and I profess to be followers of Jesus, and we routinely ask WWJD, then what Jesus said, and He directed others to say for Him throughout the Bible, should be of supreme importance to us as we deliberate over how to respond to statues and racism, and those who are drawing lines in the sand. 

So let’s look at what the Bible has to say about how a follower of Jesus should respond to this latest racial skirmish. 

Dealing with Anger & Conflict

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”  Matthew 5:9

“But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.”  Galatians 5:15

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  Ephesians 4:31-32

“Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.”  2 Timothy 2:23-24

“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” 1 John 3:14-15

Looking to the Good of Others

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Matthew 5:44

“Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.”  1 Corinthians 10:24

“Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.”  Galatians 6:10

“See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”  1 Thessalonians 5:15

“We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.  Romans 15:1-2

Showing Grace, Forgiveness, Love & Unity

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Matthew 6:14-15

“Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.”  Matthew 12:25

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”  Ephesians 4:2-3

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”  Colossians 3:13

“So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.”  Romans 14:13

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.”  Romans 15: 5-7

The Lawsuit Analogy

“When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers! Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves? Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? But instead, one believer sues another—right in front of unbelievers! Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers.”  1 Corinthians 6:1-8

Final Thoughts

This last weekend our nation was reminded of the priority of life, unity and cooperation as Hurricane Harvey bore down on Texas, wreaking death and unimaginable destruction for millions of our fellow Americans.  Interestingly, my blog post last week entitled “Racial Strife: Finding the Antidote to the Enemy Within” dealt directly with such catastrophic events that can bring our nation together and what the two step solution is for this division we are facing. 

While most of us have not been directly impacted by Hurricane Harvey, our hearts, minds and prayers are with those who are struggling to survive.  So as I was communicating with some friends in Texas and viewing the scenes of catastrophic destruction, the following thought suddenly struck me:  Statues No Longer Matter

When an event like a hurricane, a terrorist attack or something similar occurs, our attention is immediately brought to bear on what is ultimately important. Likewise, if we are a follower of Christ, we should understand on an even greater scale that we have opportunities to make an eternal difference in the lives around us when we chose to live as Jesus did.  

As you and I consider the controversies playing out over statues and monuments, may we remember the words of Jesus and the scriptures, focus our attention on eternity, and then adjust our behavior to align with God’s principles. 

If you think others might benefit from this post, please consider forwarding it to them, including your pastor.  And feel free to share your thoughts with me.

 

Racial Strife: Finding the Antidote to the Enemy Within

Racial Strife: Finding the Antidote to the Enemy Within

If you’ve ever watched the movie Independence Day, or one of the many other films that have been made over the years about aliens attacking the world, you know there’s one consistent theme with all of them: There is a common enemy that seeks to annihilate mankind, and this common threat brings together people of every race, background, and even religion to fight the enemy. The myriad of differences of the people no longer matter. Rather, the people become united as one because without such unity they will surely die. 

 

Abraham Lincoln once said:

“American will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

The President who led our nation to battle the evil of racism, which resulted in the deaths of 620,000 Americans, had a front row view of the hatred that nearly destroyed our nation. And he ultimately lost his life because of that hate.  

Since the founding of our great nation, the scourge of racism has pulsated through our communities. If we are honest with ourselves though, racism flows in all directions. It is not limited to a particular race or skin color. 

But racism is not the root of the problem, any more than the spaceships of the aliens were the underlying threat to mankind. Rather, the aliens within the spaceships were driving the threat to annihilate mankind. 

Likewise, racism is merely the vehicle that carries the real threat: Hate.  We hate others because of their skin color, or their socio-economic status, or their geographic location in our nation, or the wealth they possess, or the education they were provided, or the President they voted for, or a host of other reasons. 

Pure and simple, Americans Hate. And the latest stage where we have seen that hate playing out is in the streets of Charlottesville as KKK and other white racist groups battled with BLM and other black racist groups. Sadly, if we’re honest with ourselves, hate is often present in our own hearts and lives. As we view the bloody scenes of men and women clashing in the streets, what wells up in our hearts?  Is it anger or sorrow?  Is it the desire for retribution or forgiveness?  Is it rationalization or condemnation?

Jesus said that we should be willing to forgive our brothers up to seventy times seven, symbolizing an unending flow of forgiveness. Yet, are we willing to do so?

Consider that unforgiveness is a sin that directly severs our relationship with God, as Jesus affirmed:

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Matthew 6:14-15

Later, when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied:

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

The antidote to the poison of hate is a two step process: forgiveness and love. This process requires a daily commitment on our part to insure that the enemy of mankind, hate, does not well back up in our hearts. Unless we commit ourselves to the discipline of forgiveness and love, the future of the union for which so many bled and died is at stake. But more importantly, the eternal destiny of our own souls hangs in the balance. 

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed this post, would you mind forwarding it to a few friends?  Thank you.

Husbands, Love Your Wives

Husbands, Love Your Wives

Guys, do you remember those courting days, when you and your wife-to-be couldn’t get enough time together?  Remember when saying “I love you” to your sweetheart was as normal a part of your life as waking up each morning?  Remember when she could do no wrong and everything about her was new, wonderful, and invigorating?  Remember the laughter, the fun, and even the silliness of those days when a note, a call, or a text absolutely made your day?

And do you remember that special day, when you stood before a crowd of friends and family, and made this pledge: 

“I take you to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…”

Well, if you’ve been married any amount of time since those days, it’s possible, if not likely, that the routine, burdens and grind of life has served to distort and distract all those initial thoughts, feelings and beliefs.  You may have even forgotten the words you enthusiastically recited as you began your new life together. 

Lori and I have been married for nearly 37 years and, while we have had our share of disagreements, and things have not always been rosy, I thank God that our love and commitment remains strong and unwavering.  Yet, over the years, I’ve had a number of close friends confide in me that their marriages were struggling and that the “D” word was even coming up in conversations with their spouse. Many guys I’ve known have expressed their discontent, anger, frustration and second thoughts about the lady who they felt 180-degrees differently about just a few years earlier. 

So what changed? How is it that something that was so hot became so cold; something that was meant “till death do us part” could now so readily be concluded?

There are a myriad of reasons and explanations for each one of these marital challenges.  But one thing that might be missing in most, is the choice to love. And that choice to love is illustrated beautifully in these verses in Ephesians 5:25-29:

“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.”

Note that inherent in Christ’s love of the church is a choice that He made: to give up His life and to care for His church.  No one could doubt Christ’s commitment to love.  But as great as that commitment was and is, what is even more astounding is the object of Christ’s love, the church.  Consider that the church is full of broken, sinful men and women, who routinely fail their Savior and turn their backs on Him. Yet, Christ’s love remains constant and immoveable, in spite of our frail and ugly selves.  

Now, using the illustration of Christ’s love for the church, we husbands are commanded to “love our wives.”  Period.  That command has no qualifier, other than we are to love her as our own bodies.  Furthermore, because of the illustration of Christ giving up His life for the church, we can also conclude that a husband should exhibit an unwavering commitment to sacrifice on behalf of his wife, even unto death if it were required.  But since it’s unlikely most of us will be called to actually die for our wife, perhaps we should just strive to love her when she might act unloveable, which might be possible.  (Of course, what’s more likely is that we husbands might be even more unloveable than her.)

Now this may be an odd sort of article coming from a guy who loves to write about politics, government, culture and philosophy.  But if you believe, as I do, that as the family goes, so goes the nation, then there is no more important topic than marriage and the family.  

My heart often grieves for the state in which we find our nation, cities and culture.  Sadly though, I believe that we are reaping the severe consequences of what we have sown via our rejection of God and His founding values upon which our nation was built.  And certainly there is no more important value than marriage.  

So if you are a guy who is struggling in your marriage, and if you seemed to have lost the love and commitment that you once had for your wife, I encourage you to reconsider, recommit and begin to evaluate the kind of love that Christ showed for you. If you will do this, and then find someone you respect to walk alongside you as you seek to restore your marriage to what it was always meant to be, then there is hope.  And where there is hope, there is potential that, with God’s help, and your willingness to follow His leading, your marriage can be healed.  

So keep keeping on. Do right until the stars fall. Love your wife. And look to the ultimate example of love.  Christ chose to love you, even while you were unloveable.

Drowning in Fear?  How to Find Peace in the Midst of an Electoral Storm

Drowning in Fear? How to Find Peace in the Midst of an Electoral Storm

were-going-to-drown

Has Campaign 2016 left you feeling like you are about to drown in a barrage of fear and moral corruption?  Have you experienced any of these emotions over the last few months?  Angst? Anger? Worry? Uncertainty? Nervousness? Fear?

As I’ve engaged in political discourse, I have seen these emotions permeating the discussions.  It’s clear that Americans are experiencing an extreme degree of angst.  The level of fear that is expressed by conservatives, republicans, independents, and democrats seems to be off the charts.  

Our future appears to have been boiled down to the choice that will prevail on November 8th.  While there are monumental factors at stake that are driving the choices Americans will make at the ballot box, there have been other seminal moments for our nation.

If you think back over your life, you can no doubt identify times when your future was dire and bleak.  Similarly, while our nation’s homeland has faced a relatively tranquil and prosperous series of decades, there have been periods in our history when citizens wondered if the Republic would survive.

I’m reminded of a passage in the gospels where the disciples were fearing for their lives.  The story is found in Matthew 8 and highlights one day in the life of Jesus.  Throughout that day, Jesus healed a leper, a paralytic child, a feverish lady, cast out a demon, and healed dozens of others.  At the end of this “day in the life of Jesus” where the miraculous became almost commonplace, Jesus led his disciples into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. 

Shortly after Jesus and the disciples embarked on the journey, a violent storm encompassed their boat.  The disciples, terrified by the tempest that surrounded them, and the waves that were crashing inside the boat, yelled out in utter hopelessness, to a sleeping Jesus.

“Lord, save us!  We’re going to drown!”

Consider exactly what the disciples were revealing with those chilling words.  First, they had completely forgotten what they had just witnessed earlier in the day, when Jesus performed miracle after miracle, reflecting His complete dominion over the physical and spiritual.  Second, consider that this supernatural Man had led them directly into the boat.  While they were unaware of what lay ahead, Jesus fully understood what that dark night held for them.  Finally, while Jesus knew there was a storm directly in their path, He also knew that the storm was not the object of that night.  Rather, a lesson that the disciples needed to experience and learn, was precisely what Jesus had in mind.

So Jesus awoke to the disciples’ screams of fear, panic, and hopelessness.  He saw it in their eyes, heard it in their voices, and fully understood their emotions.  But, He did not immediately deliver them from their greatest fears.  Rather, as the waves were swirling around their knees, Jesus questioned:

“Why are you fearful?”

Did the disciples not understand what the purpose of the last twelve hours had been?  Did they not remember that Jesus was the Son of God?  Did they fail to comprehend that He delivered dozens from physical and spiritual oppression?  Did they not realize the most obvious reality, that Jesus was in the boat with them?  Could they perish with the Son of God at their side?

Yet they so easily forgot, just as we so often do.  But notice Jesus’ next words.

“O you of little faith.”

The disciples had within minutes lost their trust in the very Creator of the universe; the God-man who had called them to follow Him, and told them things about themselves that only God could have know; the Nazarene who they were seeing live a perfect life, who had turned water into wine, healed the sick and lame, brought words to the lips of the mute, opened the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf.

Yet, fear gripped the disciples and they lost their faith.  And what was drowned out that night by the storms that swirled around them was not their physical lives, but more importantly their spiritual faith.  

But then, despite the fear and lack of faith by the disciples, we read these words:

“Then Jesus arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.”

If Jesus can halt physical storms can He not conquer the storms in your life, and our nation?  Of course He can.  And although there are clear biblical principles that instruct us to not simply sit back and do nothing, we also learn from Matthew 8 that what we are often lacking is faith.

Faith that believes. 

Faith that trusts.

And, as we learn in the book of James, faith that is revealed by our works, for we read that “faith without works is dead.”

Remember that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.”  The same Jesus that saved His disciples from drowning that stormy night, is the same One who is fully aware of the storms in your life, and our nation.  But will you and I acknowledge, trust, and follow Him, not just on November 8th, but more importantly on November 9th and forward?

In just a few days our nation will enter a new era.  It could be a very stormy and tumultuous period.  So we have two choices.  Will we turn to the ultimate answer for a stormy future and return to the only One who can guide us through these storms?  Or will we trudge on, in fear, disunity and hopelessness?    

Politicians, their Parties and ideological movements are not our hope.  There is only one Hope: Jesus Christ.  Let’s turn to Him as we climb into the boat that will traverse a Clinton or Trump Presidency.  It’s going to get rough, but we know that God Himself will never leave us nor forsake us.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”  Isaiah 26:3

Mark

Hey Kaepernick: Gratefulness is a choice

Hey Kaepernick: Gratefulness is a choice

kaepernick-gratefulness-is-a-choice

 

Why is it that some who possess the greatest this world has to offer are the most ungrateful, while some who have the least in terms of worldly possessions are the most grateful?

Specifically, I’ve watched the antics of Colin Kaepernick over the last several weeks and been amazed at the choices and behavior of a man whose life could only be characterized as a dream beyond one’s wildest imaginations.  With a stratospheric compensation contract totaling over $100 million, adoring fans, celebrity status, health, youth, a lifetime of opportunities ahead of him, and so much more, Kaepernick is blessed with an elite status that 99% of the billions of people around the globe cannot even begin to comprehend. 

Colin’s biological mother is white and his father is black.  But his mother, destitute and single, gave Kaepernick up for adoption to white parents.  No one could have imagined that this child, who was likely destined for a very ordinary life at best, would achieve the status he has attained.  Consider that Colin’s weekly compensation of nearly $300,000 is approximately six times the US annual median household income, and his annual compensation is nearly 300 times that same number. 

Blessed?  Unquestionably!

I have always subscribed to the biblical principal that “To whom much is given, much is required.”  And the truth is that just about any American has been given much, when compared with the other 7 billion citizens of our globe.  Yet, there are a few ultra-elite who have been blessed with unfathomably more than their fellow Americans.

The opportunities that are available to them to use their status and the platform they enjoy is exponential, with the ability to speak positively about the struggles plaguing our society and culture as well as engaging in uplifting meaningful activity.

Yet, all too often, their approach is one of condemnation versus uplifting.  Rather than playing a positive role model, they epitomize what is actually wrong with our society and culture.

There is a verse in scripture that says, “I have found that whatever state I am in, to be content.” 

In this passage, we read that the Apostle Paul was an elite of his society, in terms of education, status and as a citizen of Rome.  Despite his status, Paul often found himself maligned and persecuted, enduring oppression, injustice, incarceration, and actual personal harm.  Yet he made a choice to be grateful and content, in spite of his circumstances.  

Of course, Paul offers his secret as to how and why he was able to make such a choice two verses later when he notes: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Therein lies the secret.  It is not in our own strength that we can exhibit gratefulness.  But rather through Christ.  And when we do so, we can truly begin to peel back the deception that can so often lead us to false conclusions about our status.

As Americans we truly are blessed, despite whatever circumstances in which we might find ourselves.  This is not to say that we must simply roll over and accept unacceptable scenarios including injustice.  However, we also should not become ungrateful for all the blessings that are available to us.  But when we are tempted to resort to the negative, we can always seek Christ’s strength to express the proper gratefulness, regardless of our circumstances.

Mark