The Cure for Racism and Injustice

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Last Wednesday, the Lt. Gov. of Texas, Dan Patrick, said what many born-again, Bible-believing  Christians were thinking – that you can’t cure racism and injustice without first accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior. This opens the door to a change of heart and a change character which allows individuals to love their neighbors as themselves.

There are no simple solutions for the racism and injustice that has been exposed by George Floyd’s death, but spiritual revival is a place to start. This approach reminds me of the connection that is made in the first chapter of Proverbs between reverence towards God and wise living. In verse 3, the Biblical author claims the righteousness, justice, and equity can only be achieved through obedience to God’s Word. Justice and equity are values we all really need right now.

Verse 7 is the theme verse for the whole book of Proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (NIV). It is repeated again 9:10  and 15:33 to emphasize the connection between fearing God and living rightly. When someone starts with a personal relationship with God and does their best to follow the path of life laid out in the Scriptures, they are much more likely to live overcome racism and injustice, in their heart and in their community.

Verse 7 also underlines the chaos that comes from marginalizing God and ignoring His Word. Lt. Gov. Patrick also spoke of the efforts of some to “kick God out” of our country. Those who discount faith in Christ and the wisdom of God’s Word should expect turmoil, confusion, and violence – and that’s exactly what we have right now in our country.

Once again, there are no simple solutions for racism and injustice and America, but there is a cure. Those who change their hearts towards God and the Savior that He sent, Jesus Christ, will be uniquely equipped to love their neigbhors as themselves, regardless of the color of their skin.

Do you agree with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick? What other connections do you see between faith in Jesus Christ and justice and equity?

 

Why We Need Revitalized Churches More Than Ever

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It has been a turbulent year. The COVID-19 crisis caught us off guard and threw the whole world into a panic with a rising death toll, social distancing restrictions, and a slumping economy. The recent protests, rioting, and civil unrest sparked by George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis has proven racism and injustice are alive and well in our country. This is also a presidential election year, which means we will also be confronted with all of the political issues that divide us as we move close to November’s election.

The Church was always been an “essential” element of society, whether it was recognized as such or not. But now more than ever, we need strong, healthy, revitalized churches in America. We need churches to grow past their disunity and dysfunction so they can make an impact on the world for Jesus Christ and the gospel.

Here are three reasons why we need revitalized churches now more than ever.

  1. The reputation of the church is tied to God’s glory.

The local church gathers in God’s name and for His glory. Like the Israelites of old, New Testament believers belong to God and are called by His name (2 Chronicles 7:14). New believers are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

If the reputation of the church “stinks,” so does people’s impression of God. That is especially true in a neighborhood or community where a church is perceived as uncaring, quarrelsome, or snobby. An unhealthy church robs God of His glory.

  1. The church is a place to model healthy, diverse relationships.

All people are made in God’s image and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (Genesis 1:26-27). Those who have a biblical worldview should lead the way in loving those who are different than themselves. The church is an ideal place for those relationships to happen. In fact, if Christians can’t model healthy, diverse relationships in the church, what does that say about the gospel we say we believe?

  1. Strong, healthy churches are a blessing to the communities that surround them.

In Reclaiming Glory, Mark Clifton explains that one of the characteristics of a dying church is that “they cease, often gradually, to be a part of the fabric of their community.” Conversely, revitalized churches and the people who belong to them look for ways to meet emotional, physical, and spiritual needs within their community. This outward focus allows believers to showcase their reason for hope – the gospel of Jesus Christ.

These turbulent times provide a wonderful opportunity for the church to become the best version of herself. Christ Himself is calling churches all over our country to shake off their apathy and to put His Word into practice (Ephesians 5:26). Not just for themselves, or their children, but for the sake of the cities, towns, and neighborhoods in which they have been planted.

What reasons would you add for the need for revitalized churches? Please leave your response below. I would love to hear from you!

Three Lessons I’ve Learned from Putting on This Year’s Living Christmas Tree

79194436_2826686150717048_7076236130881896448_oThe church that I serve has been putting on a Living Christmas Tree program for 35 years. Even though some people feel like Christmas pageants and church-sponsored light shows are thing of the past, our program is still very vital. We have tweaked and changed it over the years for sure, but it still draws a large crowd in our community and gives us the chance to present the real Christ-centered meaning of Christmas.

This year’s Living Christmas Tree program wasn’t without its challenges, but it taught me three valuable lessons. The first lesson is that Christmas provides a great opportunity for the church to reach out to the community. People seem more open to new ideas and new opportunities during the holidays. It may just be sentimentality or loneliness, but it’s a door that’s open for the gospel.

The second lesson is that personal invitations are powerful. We purchase advertising and put up signs telling people about our program, but it’s the personal invitations that make a difference. I met many people this year who came because they were invited by friend, family member, or an acquaintance.

The third lesson is the power of collaboration and teamwork. It takes a lot of people to pull off a program like the Living Christmas Tree – from those who sign in the tree to those who help park cars – everyone is important. When people serve together, they grow together and develop a closer bond, which a great benefit to the health of our church.

In the end, the Living Christmas Tree is just a tool to help us share the gospel of Jesus Christ with our local community. It may not last forever in this form, but it’s still effective and I’m thankful for it.

Reasons Why I Love Ashland, Kentucky: Reason #4

600_358185062Yesterday, I picked up with a series of blog posts on the reasons why I love Ashland, Kentucky. Here is one more reason:

4. Natural beauty is all around

I’ve noticed something surprising when I’m away from home now: I miss the hills. I thought the hills would be an inconvenience and they are when it snows. But the hills, as well as the rocks, trees, and valleys give northeast Kentucky a magnetic quality.

My family and I have found natural beauty exploring our backyard and our neighborhood. We’ve found majestic trees, breathtaking boulders, and inviting streams, even some historic .

IM000138.JPGThere are 3 great state parks within an hour’s drive of Ashland and we’ve enjoyed each one of them. We’ve fished, floated, acoal mines
nd jumped in the water at Grayson Lake. We’ve hiked and we’ve sightseen at Greenbo Lake. And we’ve camped and caved at Carter Caves. And that’s just scratching the surface of the wonderful creation in the Ashland area.

Why I Love Ashland, Kentucky: Reason #1

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I believe that God calls pastors to communities as well as churches. You can’t have a healthy church without personal evangelism and local outreach. If is very difficult for a church to engage in these activities without the support of their pastor. In my experience as pastor, its hard to get excited about reaching beyond the four wall of a church unless you love the community where you minster.

In order to show my love for the area where I minster, I want to share a series of blog posts this week on the reasons why I love Ashland, Kentucky.

  1. The people here are warm and welcoming

My wife and I were both raised in the north. I’m from a small farming town southwest Michigan and she grew up in sprawing suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. We have lived a few places in our life together, some big and some small, but none with such kind and gracious people.

Our church family has been incredibly warm and welcoming, but it goes way beyond that. We have enjoyed a quick smile and an offer to help from shopkeepers, salespeople, and workmen. The teachers and staff at the schools where our children attend have been accepting and encouraging. Our neighbors are friendly and helpful and we have enjoyed a few cooks and block party together.

That is not say we haven’t encounter any grumpy people. But for the most part, the people in this hard-working little city have welcomed my family and I with open arms. For that, we are grateful.

Check back tomorrow another reason why I love Ashland, Kentucky.