Doing some research for an apologetics (defending the faith) series I’ll be preaching starting January 2020, I stumbled across author and blogger Natasha Crain. Wow! She has a fantastic website crammed with resources for parents trying to help their children with answers to common questions either they have–or will have the first time they encounter a friend who does. The following post is a wise callout to Christians about what we discussed yesterday: be discerning who you follow.
Just months away from their wedding, the young couple looked stunned. They couldn’t believe what I’d just said. I say the same thing to every couple going through premarital counseling, but their surprise was not surprising.
“Someday in the future, one of you will find yourself attracted to someone else. Your marriage may be struggling–or it may be soaring. Don’t be surprised; be ready for it. Know ahead of time what you’ll do.”
I warn them so they won’t be ambushed. An ambush leads to delusional thinking. A starry-eyed husband might be deceived that he’s found his soulmate. A loyal wife may be horrified that she could even have such thoughts. Thinking the attraction itself is an evil–rather than an invitation to evil, some spouses pretend it’s not happening. Bad move.
Gary Thomas–Christian speaker and author of Cherish: the one Word that Changes Everything for your Marriage, gives advice on what to do and not do when it happens to you.
[Note, I first wrote this on my personal facebook page on May 31, 2020]
We can’t keep starting conversations on race this way. I’m speaking to me, and the majority of my family, friends, and congregation who are white. If we hold out any hope of convincing our African-American friends, neighbors, fellow believers–or even strangers, that we believe–or seriously care about their experiences of being avoided, excluded, suspected, arrested, and even executed when not guilty (see the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL), listening would be better than asserting.
“Yes but…, we don’t know what happened before the video. Yes but…, most police officers are not racist and do a good job. Yes but…, looting isn’t the solution to racism. Yes but…, I’ve never personally mistreated anyone of color. Yes but…., slavery was outlawed 160 years ago; African-Americans need to stop acting like victims. Yes but…, since we live in a sinful world we can’t end racism anyway.”
The issue is not really whether our “Yes but…” is false, true, or a bit of both. It’s that starting there is a tipoff that we’re not REALLY interested in listening or learning. Maybe we’re too confident we have a clear eyed view when in fact it could be that we have one eye–or both, closed.
[Moment of truth: I was tempted to include in this post a number of my own “Yes buts…” because of people I know and love who will object that I failed to make any clarifications. But because of Christ’s love, rather than justify and defend we can be part of improving America. Let’s sit down, be quiet, and listen to African-Americans tell us what it’s like to be black in America. Afterwards, be humble enough to admit, “I didn’t know.” Then link arms with them to be agents of change; or put another way, to be Christians.]
A 25 year-old unarmed black man goes out for a jog in the deep south and is accosted by 2 white men–one brandishing a shotgun, the other a handgun, who shout that they want to talk to him. If I had been Ahmaud Arbery and black I think the last thing I would have thought was, “Oh, here are two law-abiding citizens who simply want to sort out whether or not I committed a crime.” I’d have seen two white vigilantes whom I’d have suspected have a visibly low regard for their darker-skinned brethren, and that on this sparsely traveled street, my life may depend on me getting that man’s gun away from him.
I realize that authorities only this week got access to the video that many of us have watched and then vomited, but how can you have a dead man whom nobody says was armed, an admitted shooter, and no arrests for two months?
Yet again, it is hard to escape the bitter truth that in the US of A where a slave owner once wrote without a hint of irony that “all men are created equal”, 250 years later some are still more equal than others. It’s still hard to escape the conclusion that despite being given nearly 160 years to make a respectable attempt to right the wrongs of the capture, imprisonment, exploitation, killings and brutal treatment of Africans during our centuries of slavery, there’s less evidence than there should be that we Americans who are white believe that creed. God forgive us.
And God, bring us together: African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, Caucasian, Asian, Indian, Eastern European, or Middle Eastern. You painted that picture in heaven (Revelation 7:9-10). Would you do it earlier? Amen.
What if…, everyone who still has a job, gave part or all of his/her $1200 stimulus check to someone who doesn’t? What if, instead of banking that unexpected money or putting it in a retirement fund or keeping it for a future vacation, we gave it away to those in need? Or, gave it to a local ministry whose donations have plummeted? Or gave it to one of our missionaries whose support has taken a hit because some of their supporters can no longer help?
Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. 2 Corinthians 8:12-14.
Most had already gone to bed, some perhaps still reading in their staterooms when the ship shuddered violently. A chunk of what 3000 years earlier had innocently begun as accumulated snow, eventually broke off from a glacier in the Arctic Ocean. Several hundred feet long, what made the iceberg so deadly was its height–most of which was invisible. Rising just 50-100 feet into the air, it boasted a massive but unseen root that may have descended 1/5 of a mile beneath the waves. On April 14, 1912 it sent a ship marketed as “unsinkable”to the bottom of the sea in less than three hours, killing about 1500.
90% of an iceberg’s force lies hidden below the waterline where its mass and muscle stabilize the ice and serve as a crude rudder. Scientists recently estimated that the Titanic killer weighed 75 million tons. Despite its own size, a vessel of 52,000 tons plowing into it at full speed stood no chance.
While we race to understand and defeat an ominous virus stalking the world, America is on lockdown. With US cases at half a million and 20,000 deaths, we’re following state orders to stay home and wear masks. The most dire predictions suggest the nation’s death toll could reach 250,000. Many are worried–and not just about getting sick or even dying, but about how to feed their families if they can’t work. What does America’s future look like if JPMorgan turns out to be right and unemployment reaches 20% or more?
Though the official news is bleak–and what we’re hearing from friends and family may have us even more rattled, the virus could provide Christians with an unexpected gift: a diagnosis. Could this be a chance to discover what’s below the waterline of our faith so we can strengthen it if needed? The apostle Paul confessed that the terrible time he went through “crushed” him, “overwhelmed his ability to endure”, and that he “expected to die” (2 Corinthians 1:8). But looking back on those terrifying days, he realized that God had been up to something: “…as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). Good times can camouflage the tinsel strength of our faith, but often bad times are brutally honest.
Two months ago we were as oblivious to danger as the guests on the Titanic; enjoying good food, good drink, good friends, a great voyage. And then, impact. We have jobs but can’t work; schools but can’t attend; church buildings but can’t gather for Easter. And the most prosperous nation the world has ever known can’t find or make enough medical masks, ventilators, gowns, or even hospital beds. As you filed for unemployment, listen to the news, watch the battering your budget’s taking, get cabin fever, miss your friends and try to explain what’s happening to your 8 year-old daughter, what are you discovering lies beneath the waterline? Has your faith proven formidable and muscular, or does it appear to be a somewhat lightweight version of what you thought it was? In His great love for us, God sometimes leads us to relocate our confidence and satisfaction in Him–not in a life marked by smooth sailing on a glassy sea, but in one whose waters are littered with icebergs. This is a big one, but it could turn out to be the opportunity of a lifetime.
church segregating according to economics, but the rebuke applies to every way of separating people : “If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, ‘You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor’–well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?”
Some of you read the title and began to weep. You remember when your son was seven, or when your daughter was ten and you had such high hopes for them. You love the Lord and want to serve Him–and that’s what you wanted for him/her too.
But somewhere it all went south. Maybe it was in his late teens, maybe in her early to mid-twenties, but despite all that you’d done right as a parent, promises you’d heard from teachers saying X + Y always = Z, were broken.
The son of pastor and prolific author John Piper was on the run from Christ and his family for four years. I can only imagine the groan of grief that must have coursed through John’s heart when he joined his elders in excommunicating Abraham.
Having long since been reconciled to Christ and his family, Abraham has some wise counsel to offer other parents whose adult children are breaking their hearts. https://jimdaly.focusonthefamily.com/12-suggestions-for-loving-a-prodigal-child/
You collide with the gospel everywhere: your church, maybe your parents/family, your friends–even internet podcasts. Is it even possible in this age of hi-tech communications that there are still billions who have never bumped into the gospel. Ever. Nor will they. They don’t know any Christians, none live near them and no Christian knows their language. Who will love the Jat people, the Hui, the Pashtun, the Ansaris, or the Kap people enough that they will sell all, sell out, and set out to live among them so that these frontier peoples can learn that Jesus died for their sins too?
May 19, 2019 will be Keystone’s mission conference, “To Congo, with Love”. And on May 12 I will speak on being “On Mission for the Whole World”. Every day the number of people who don’t live near any churches or have any Christian friends–who have never heard the gospel, grows. A few years ago, it was 2.8 billion. Now it’s 3.15 billion. Praise be to God for indigenous missionaries evangelizing their own, but the need and God’s call for the West to serve the unreached, has not been cancelled. What if God called you?
Maybe you so idealize missionaries that you think sainthood-or near sainthood, is required. Mission biographers can contribute to this nonsense by portraying their subjects with an angelic glow. The stories of some past missionaries have been so polished that no one can measure up. That’s why Kathryn Long may have done the world a service by publishing “God in the Rainforest: A Tale of Martyrdom and Redemption in Amazonian Ecuador”. I think very highly of Elizabeth Elliot but as reviewer Madeline Arthington shows, she was just a regular woman that–thanks to God’s grace, was greatly used in spite of her very human flaws. https://www.imb.org/2019/04/22/after-jim-elliot-good-bad-ugly/