The fatal nature of Ferguson and what we must learn.

fergLast night a Grand Jury in Ferguson Missouri released their decision not to indict a local police officer for shooting and killing Michael Brown, a 18 year old African American male, who by reports, at the very least obstructed justice after a robbery before attempting to surrender to the officer; or who at the very worst, having had a physical altercation with the officer, attempted to take his gun, beat him and charged the officer with the intent to harm him, in which the officer shot in self defense.
Anytime a young person dies it is a tragedy, in fact, anytime anyone looses their life, especially when it is possible that it could have been avoided, either by the actions of the one responsible for taking the life or by the victim not instigating the incident in which they loose their life , it is a very sad, tragic, and heart breaking thing. Having said that we mourn with Mr. Smith’s parents and family and those who are directly affected by this incident. We also understand that for three months a grand jury met, looked at the evidence, researched, asked questions and explored the legality of the police officers actions and the actions of Mr Brown preceding the shooting. Bottom line, there was not enough evidence to indict, much less prosecute the police officer. This is the system in which we live and we should not only respect it but as believers we are to yield and submit to it. It is a good and just thing that a magistrate can not just arbitrarily decide to prosecute someone for an alleged crime without it first passing the test of a Grand Jury of peers who represent the very people who will be represented by the prosecutor in such a trial. This is how it should be. Agree or disagree with their decision, we must be thankful for the system that protects citizens from unjust prosecution. This decision says much about the Michael Brown case and the actions of the officer in question, but that does not take away from the truth that bothers many people concerning this incident.

1) Racism is real. Although we have made tremendous headway in the last 50 years it is still            true that we can do much better.

2) Police and civic authorities must attempt to be much more proactive in race relations in communities that are on the most part represented by a law enforcement community that does not represent in its makeup the racial diversity of the community it serves.

3) There has been at times, incidents in our history, when race played a role in violence and harm caused on a racial minority community by the racial majority community.

4) Injustice and criminal harm is wrong, always! Just because someone wears a badge and carries a gun does not mean that they are incapable of committing a crime and using their authority to do so. When they do it must be prosecuted to the furthest extent of the law.

ferguson
All of these things are true, have been true and will always be true.    However, what we see playing out in Ferguson has less to do with that than we would think. The wanton violence, looting, criminal activity and insane behavior by many in that community does nothing but stoke the flames of racism on both sides of this issue and causes tremendous harm on a community that frankly has been through enough. The fact of the matter is that this was going to happen after last nights decision on some level because there are those who thrive on the insanity of lawlessness and there is always a reporter waiting to report and exploit that lawlessness for a good story. Just as it is wrong for those in law enforcement to commit crimes and use their position for ill gain or activity, it is also always wrong to propagate and deal in racial injustice as a means to your own end. There are also some other things that are patently wrong.

1) It is wrong to attack police officers who are simply doing their jobs. It is also unwise, it could cost you your life.

2) It is wrong to commit crimes in your community.

3) It is wrong to burn, loot and destroy the community in which you and others live and depend upon to make a living.

4) It is wrong to take advantage of a tragedy in a community in which you do not live, and exploit it politically through rhetoric or violence, to your own position or agenda.

5) It is wrong to commit crimes in which you will personally profit by stealing, looting or taking that which does not belong to you.

So what are we to do? As Christians we pray and we do the right thing. If the Grand Jury would have indicted this officer it would have been our responsibility to pray for the trial and that justice would be served one way or another. Had he been found guilty we would have prayed that he be punished justly for his crime. Since this is not the case, and there was not even enough evidence to go to trial, we pray that he and his family can somehow move on from this. We pray that Michael Browns family can grieve and heal and find God’s peace. We pray that the community of Ferguson can begin to move forward and learn from this and begin to address some legitimate issues that beset them and their local law enforcement agencies. As Christians we also need to face our own inner demons and ask ourselves if there s not a racial element involved in the way we perceive this whole horrid mess.  We need to accept the fact that because of our own fallen nature we might look into this whole tragedy with racially oriented lenses. If this is the case, then we need to repent and seek justice in any and every situation. Justice for the victim, and justice for the accused, and justice against those who would exploit a very sad scenario for their own good and their own gain.

As believers and Christ followers we must also cling with tenacity to the truth of the gospel! Which is through the reconciling work of Jesus on the cross,  not only is sin atoned yet I am reconciled to my brother and sister. I no longer see people as black, white or brown. I see them as blood washed children of God! The gospel reconciles and restores relationships that are separated by skin color or any other cultural or societal division. We must allow the gospel, nay, we must obey the gospel, espeacilly when it pertains to how we view and respond to issues of race and social justice.

I will close my thoughts with this. Last night on the news a young man was running out of a appliance store in Ferguson with a large screen television in his grasp. When asked by the reporter “What are you doing, why are you looting?” his reply was “This is justice, this is for Michael Brown!” Is it really? Do you really expect me to buy that? With very few exceptions no one believes that. In fact we know it to be what it is…the very thing you say you are protesting is what you are doing. It is crime, perpetrated on a community and a people because of racial division and sin. Lets call it what it is and accept it so that we can repent and move forward. Racial violence is wrong no matter what side of the badge your on. No matter what color your skin is. No matter what a Grand Jury says. As a people lets stop being the “pot that calls the kettle black”.

 

 

 

We are Family!

family
When I was a kid the Pittsburg Pirates had a World Series Champion baseball team that had the motif “We are Family” They even played a popular song by the same title every time they would take the field. This gave a sense of unity between the team and the fans and the city they represented. It said very simply, “we are one”, “we are in this together”, “we have each others back”. What a wonderful thing to be a part of a family. You might be surprised how many people long for this sense of belonging and unity and dare I even say ‘safety’ that comes from being in a family unit. Sociologist and criminologist tell us this is one of the reasons gangs are so prevalent. In a very strange and often times dysfunctional way they provide for young people the sense of unity and belonging that they may otherwise lack in their own private lives. I believe very strongly that this is the reason God gives us the local church. The local church is the place where God’s people can assemble together and connect together and quite frankly ‘do life together’. In our church in Post we have a tremendous sense of family and connectiveness (sp) in our midst. I don’t know that I have ever served folks that quite simply just flat out love each other the way we do. This is not to say that we are free of problems, we have them, every family does. However our problems are not something that we fear will divide us or cause us to turn on each other. Unfortunately, that cannot be said in every church. In fact, our problems actually cause us to strive harder and to seek unity and reconciliation all the more. God has really been working in our church. There are so many exciting things happening however, If you were to look at our church from the outside we really would not stand out. In fact, we are pretty typical of a West Texas County Seat First Baptist Church. We are fairly traditional with a mix of some of the new songs and techniques being used today, but all in all we do not stand out as man would count such things. Yet, we understand that our strength does not come from the things the world counts as important. We are bound together because we recognize the truth that we serve a God who has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. Simply put, He saved us. He has saved us from the wages of our sin. He has saved us from the penalty of death. He has saved us from ourselves and at the same time He has given us His life. We are family because of our understanding of the gospel and quite simply nothing else really matters. We celebrate this every time we are together. Every hug, every smile, every handshake, every committee meeting, every worship service, every cup of coffee in the kitchen. It is what the New Testament calls “Fellowship”. In our church people are being saved, we are growing, folks are recommitting their lives to the Lord and we are even adding staff – but none of this causes our joy, it is the result of our joy. October is Pastor Appreciation month but I must confess it is I that appreciates my church…my brothers and sisters in Christ…my family. It is a joy to just be a part. Spurgeon said it best when he stated to young preachers that if God had called you to preach never surrender to a lesser thing even should it be to become the king of the world itself. We are Family…today, and forever. Jesus died so it would be so. Let us rejoice in the truth of love and acceptance in the local church, and in those cases where it is not so, let us repent and cry out for forgiveness to the one who longs to make all things new!

revival

Last week I had the wonderful privilege of preaching a revival meeting at the Prairie Grove Baptist Church just outside of Mexia Texas. We had a wonderful time in God’s Word and the fellowship between the people of God was simply OUTSTANDING! The good people of PGBC are what I refer to as “salt of the Earth” baptist folk. They simply love God, love their church and love each other! They meet in a simple church building that has through the years seen folks saved, married, buried and blessed. They have lived life together, loved each other, cried together and learned to walk with Jesus…again, together. In the past 40 years or so they have only had two pastors. Their current Pastor, Bro Clifton Jones, who is my pastor and the man whom I surrendered to the ministry under, has been their pastor for some 17 years. You will not read about this church in recent church growth journals nor will you probably hear their pastor on the latest and greatest preaching conference platform, however I will tell you they are on to something at PGBC. You see, what we experienced during the week of revival meeting was not massive amounts of ‘decisions’ or experiential emotional demonstrations. We were not led into the so called magic of modern worship. In fact, what we experienced in worship led by Ronnie Warren and his wife Mary Lou, was the simple songs of our faith. What was our experience was simply the joy of Gods people meeting together, singing together, praying together and seeking Him…together. We experienced I believe the greatness of His love and His Word preached and taught. We laughed a lot, poked fun at each other a little, cried some and rejoiced much! We ate a lot of food, shared our meals together and complained just enough about the state of our world that we were clearly operating as baptists! The main thing is we experienced the presence of the Lord in the simple things of our fellowship together. I rather suspect this is what these folks share every week at PGBC. The joy that is in the journey of following Christ down the broken road of life. One dear parishioner stated at the end of the week that they were not so sure about revival but they were absolutely sure that they had a celebration! AMEN! I was blessed to be a part of this week. I am a better Christian and Pastor because of the ministry of the PGBC and her people. Isn’t that what revival is about? God’s people being refreshed and renewed in their walk with Him. The writer of the book of Acts stated it this way in regards to the early church. 

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

(Acts 2:42-47 ESV)

I am pretty sure that is what we experienced at PGBC! That my friend is revival…any way you cut it!

Discipleship, the provision that has been given.

disciplesOne of the greatest hindrances to discipleship and disciple making in the local church is this idea that “I can’t make disciples’. Why is it when we say “Discipleship” the first thing that people think is “Bible Study” Do not misunderstand me, bible study is a integral part of discipleship and part of following Jesus is certainly learning God’s Word and teaching others God’s Word. However, discipleship is not simply a 13 week bible study with a catchy name representing the latest and hottest book that is on the market. It is because of this understanding that many people feel they unable to be a disciple maker, mainly because of their unwillingness or simple inability to teach a bible study. Although I am not ready to sign off on the premise that they are unable to teach or lead in this manner. I do understand that not everyone is going to set out in that venue due to a sense of inability or perhaps even a conviction that they are not called to do so. However, EVERYONE is called to make disciples! Can I ask a question? Would God call us or command us to do something that He had also not equipped us to do? Of course the answer is a resounding NO. IN Acts 1:8 Jesus states very clearly the enabling catalyst that empowers and equips us to make disciples. It is clearly the power and person of the Holy Spirit of God. He is the real ‘Disciple Maker’ working through us to reach the Nations. I have a man in my church who served our country during the Vietnam war. He was a Green Beret, one of our nations most elite and best trained soldiers. His service to our country took him to not only a very remote part of the world away from friend and family, but it eventually took him to a North Vietnamese prison of war camp. He prevailed not only due to a deep faith and sense of Gods care and provision, but also because he had been trained as the best, by the best to do accomplish that which the ordinary citizen would be unable to do. Our nation did not send him into the Central Highlands of Vietnam to face a ruthless and cunning enemy without first enabling and training him to do so. Do you see the connection? God does not ask us to do the impossible without making it possible! The key is I think the Holy Spirit of God filling us and our surrendering to His rule and reign in our lives. Do you want to make disciples? It may simply start by your willingness to yield to Him and respond in obedience. The heart of a disciple maker very well may be found in the old invitational hymn “Wherever He leads I’ll go” Will you?

Discipleship, the question that must be answered

DiscipleshipTitleA couple of years ago I was able to take part in a event that would rock my world. I participated with the church where I served as pastor in a mission trip to Mexico in which we were to go and “help” and “encourage” a small local church in a community of roughly 5000 people. What happened was not on my agenda. Don’t you love it when God does that? What I discovered was a small church with little resources and whose people lived in relative poverty and what we as Americans would consider little means, who simply ran circles around my church in the area of personal and corporate discipleship. These wonderful brothers and sisters were not caught up in trying to grow a large church or attempting to be “relevant” or “cutting edge”, they simply invested their lives into the life of their community and made it their purpose to make disciples! Even their vernacular reflected this. They did not go “visiting”, they went “disciple making”, they did not have small groups, they gathered in “disciple” groups. Their pastor, who was not theologically trained and lacked the so called ministerial skills of American pastors (my tongue is firmly in my cheek) was consumed with the task of making disciples. He shared with me that it was not unusual for those who had received Christ within the same week they did so, to have been approached by a disciple making team and that when they came to church to be baptized they would actually bring two or three new believers with them that they had already began to disciple their selves! WOW! What did they posses that we do not and what were they doing that we seem oblivious to? It is simple. They understand the clear biblical call to make disciples. They also had no conceptional idea that they could not or should not do so. What was remarkable to me is that I had at that time been a pastor for 20 years and had missed this. My calling was not to grow great churches or lead great programs, but simply to invest my life into people and encourage them and help them invest their lives into others. This is what Jesus did plain and simple. He poured Himself into the lives of the 12 and commanded them to do the same. I am still in the process of figuring it out and as I find myself in a new ministerial assignment with the opportunity to help my new church develop a philosophy and culture of disciple making, I am excited about what God will do! In the next few posts we will be looking at and investigating what discipleship means and what it looks like. The question is simple and the choice is ours. Do we wish to be paid “religionest” and habitual practitioners of a western form of Christianity that if not un-biblical is at the very least extra biblical in many areas of its expression? Or do we want to simply obey the Lord and make disciples of the nations? To me it is a no brainer!

God working ‘destructively’?

Have you ever thought about God being a ‘destructive’ God? Strange thought isn’t it in light of todays theologically impoverished church culture in which we live. Now I am not talking about God wiping out all the bad guys because he loves us more than them. I am not referring to His activity in regards to the flood or Sodom and Gomorrah or even Ananias and Sapphira. What I am referring to is when God works in our lives destructively in order to work in a redemptive fashion for His greater glory. Thats right, God’s main concern in our lives is that He receives glory through our circumstances and our living out our days in light of His will and way for us. Throughout scripture God demonstrates this in the lives of His People. Joseph, Paul, Moses, Stephen, Job and even His precious son – JESUS. My job is to find God in the mess that is sometimes my life. I made this statement in a message on this topic, “I believe God is doing all He can to press the me out of me”. I know that God desires to chisel away anything that hides the image of Jesus in me. His Word states clearly that I am pre destined to be like Jesus.

Romans 8:28–29 (ESV)
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

It is obvious than all of these ‘things’ which are often so hard to understand is simply God working in me for His greater glory (Thats the ‘good’) in and that I will be like Jesus! Hallelujah!

Our church has been through some tough times here of late. It does not matter what and why, it is just enough to say that we have been challenged to the point of at times despair. This has been true in the life of our staff and in the life of our leadership. Yet, we see God purposing a greater work in us. We desire to be a deeper, more Christlike, suffering and even at times perplexed people who are doing nothing more than walking the broken road of redemption, looking through a stained and cloudy glass, waiting on the ultimate redemption of our great God. Why would we not suffer and be despised when the one who we claim to follow was rejected and despised of men? Our church is going to be just fine because we know God is far from through with us. We also know that we are not excused form the trials and the difficult stuff of life. God is growing us, He is stretching us, and at times He is actually working destructively in us so that we look more like Jesus! We are the clay – He is the Potter!

This is what it means when we say we …FOLLOW… Him.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

Great Easter Message!

Bro Johnny Hunt laid it down this past easter. Take some time and be blessed by this message. Click on his image to view his sermon page and listen to the 9:00 am Easter message!