The other day, I did one of the most interesting, fun (and probably some other adjectives) things I've done in a long time: a ride along with a Warsaw Police Department officer. He used to be my neighbor and one day asked if I'd like to come with him on one of his shifts. Of course, I said yes! And so on a Thursday evening from 5pm-10:30pm or so I got to go on patrol in a WPD squad car with one of Warsaw's finest. Here are a few miscellaneous observations from the time. (I loved it, by the way.)
Racial discrimination is not imaginary or a fabrication of the media or politicians. It is a fact. It may well be exacerbated and exaggerated by selective, inflammatory media reporting and camera hungry politicians, but it is not created by them. Racial discrimination comes out of proud, sinful hearts of men. (If you think it is imaginary, travel somewhere in our country or to another country where you are in the racial minority and see how it feels to have certain things assumed about you because of the color of your skin.)
Given this reality, should the church say anything about race and racism? It is the work of the church to proclaim the truth of God's Word. So, does God's Word have anything to say about the issue of race? The answer, of course, is yes. Quite a bit, actually. Here are a few examples. (This is NOT an exhaustive list. All references are from the ESV.)
Here are a few thoughts. They are not the only or the final thoughts or the thoughts to end all others. They are just some thoughts that I hope will be helpful and not hurtful.
First, scriptural principles regarding race we can draw based on the passages above (and others).
Now, a few thoughts on how to apply these principles.
Last Sunday evening, Pastor Jason Webb from Grace Fellowship Church in Bremen, IN (the church that planted GBC) came and preached for us during our Lord's Supper service. What a good word from God he brought to us that night! It was so good that I want to tell you about it. I was foolish enough to neglect to record it, so you can't listen to it, but you can read my limited thoughts on it in this post. I also managed to dig it out of the archives from when he preached that message at GFC and you can listen that iteration here. (What follows is a mixture of Pastor Jason's message and my own thoughts triggered by what he preached.)
In a day when the Lord's Day is largely marginalized and unimportant (and that's among Christians!), it was refreshing to be reminded of what makes for a truly good Sunday evening. Jason opened up John 20:19-20 to show us what happened on the night of the Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead. "On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord."
So what makes for a good Sunday evening? John 20:19-20 describes a pretty remarkable one, and we heard 4 things that made it so for the disciples:
It's interesting. When we treat the Lord's Day like it's our day so that we can do more of what we want because we think that will be good for us, we actually miss out on the real blessing of what the Lord's Day should be.
Be careful what you preach. You may have to practice it.
Some time ago, I preached on trusting in the Lord - not our skills, talents, money, houses, alliances, jobs, wisdom, strength, and for good measure I even threw in "the cloud." You see, I tend to trust in the cloud. I feel quite confident in my ability to survive a computer crash because I save most files to the cloud. They're not stored locally on my computer, so I can access them from any computer. But I noted as I preached that even the cloud can fail you. I know that. But even after preaching it, I still trusted the cloud.
And so this past Thursday night before going to bed, I turned on my (not quite 5 month old) computer. Except it didn't turn on. Stone cold dead. No indicator lights. No powering down after holding the power button down. No sign of life. Nothing. Did I panic? Nope. Was it because of my confidence that God was in control. Sadly, no. It was because: the cloud! Sure, earlier that day, I had put together about 7 or 8 pages (out of a usual 12 or so total) of my sermon for the coming Sunday. But I went to bed without qualms. I knew I could fire up my old computer or borrow Erin's and be back in business; finish off the last few pages of the sermon, clean it all up and be good to go for Sunday. I did get out my old computer that night so it could start updating since I hadn't used it in a few months. I was so confident and at peace, that I didn't even try find or open the sermon file that night or even Friday morning, for that matter. I was not pleased that a fairly new computer wasn't working, but figuring out the problem wasn't urgent, and it was still under warranty.
Some time around or after lunch on Friday I got on my old computer and went to the trusted cloud to fetch my sermon and start working on it again. You know that sinking feeling in your gut? The one you get when you're pretty sure something bad has happened, but you're not quite sure. Yup. Sermon wasn't there. I poked around and couldn't find it. I was not a boiling pot of rage, but I was pretty sad and stressed about how to get my sermon done. I'll spare you a blow by blow of my afternoon trying to get my computer on again to find the file, finally giving up (quite aware that all the time I spent running around doing that I could have been re-writing my sermon).
And so, the sermon I preached yesterday was not quite the one I originally wrote on Thursday. I am aware that losing 2/3 of a sermon on a Friday afternoon is not the end of the world. Unpleasant as it was, no big deal in the big picture. The point is more that all too often my trust is misplaced. Cloud = peace. No cloud = less peace. Something's wrong with that picture. We're supposed to rest easy in the arms of our faithful Savior who is always with us. If it takes a lost sermon to remind me of that, then good. Hopefully I will learn and grow. We can be thankful for our health, strength, friends, houses, jobs, wisdom, bank accounts, and yes, even the cloud. But if we ultimately trust in those things, we will be disappointed. We have misplaced our trust. That's something that we will never be able to say about faith fixed on our faithful God and Savior. In him our trust is never misplaced and it will never be disappointed.
(For those of you freaking out that you could have found my sermon for me, etc. Here's what I think happened. Thursday I was working at my "other office," Martin's, where I sometimes have trouble connecting to their network. I think that in the absence of an internet connection, files set to save to "the cloud" are saved locally on the computer and synced to the cloud the next time you are online. That' no problem, unless your computer crashes before the next time you connect to the internet. And it looks like the problem with the computer may be the power cord. Time will tell. I'll still use the cloud. But I hope my faith will more truly be in the Lord.)
Recently the Center for Medical Progress has posted a series of undercover videos exposing some of the atrocities being carried out at Planned Parenthood (PP) affiliates across the nation. If you have not seen them, they are painful to watch. It is disgusting and heart rending. But you should watch them anyway. The videos (and more are expected) have pulled back the veil on "pro-choice" rhetoric and euphemisms. And that leads me to what you'll find below. These are certainly not original thoughts, just a compilation of things I've seen from others and my thoughts. These will make more sense if you've seen one or more of the videos.
If it’s just a blob of cells or products of conception...
If it’s just a fetus...
If it’s really about women’s rights and women's health services...
If it’s not about the $...
Now, go through and replace the "If it's..." with "Because it's not..." and you'll have your answer to the "then why..." questions. Please don't be silent on this issue or bury your head in the sand as though you don't know what's going on. The veil has been pulled back. May God use this as a tipping point in our land to bring to an end the evil of killing the unborn. Make no mistake. This is the human rights issue of our time. May we be courageous to give voice to the voiceless. You can sign a petition calling for congressional investigation here.
Add further "If...then..." thoughts in the comments below or on the facebook post.
In the last couple of days, a video exposing a despicable practice of Planned Parenthood selling body parts of aborted babies exploded onto the internet via social media and some news sources. (Here, for example, is World Magazine's story.) Gut-wrenching as it is, you should really watch the video embedded in the story. It is pure evil. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services, calmly munches her lunch and talks about crushing babies in the womb in such a way as to preserve the more valuable parts to be sold.
Last night at the ESPYS (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards) the Arthur Ashe courage award was given to someone now known as Caitlyn Jenner, who you may remember as the great decathlete Bruce Jenner, for his courage in journeying from maleness to femaleness.
And last month the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges that effectively redefines marriage, making same-sex marriage legal all across our nation.
If you're looking for a woe is us, gloom and doom, the world is over response, look somewhere else. We are not the first Christians to look evil in the eye, wonder if our society is about to be swept away in judgment by a holy God, and we likely won't be the last. But I'm not going to sugar-coat any of this either. Babies are dying and people are making money off of it. People are rejecting God-given roles and definitions. Things in our land are not good, and I want briefly to point to a common source and an appropriate response.
What do Obergefell, Jenner, and Nucatola have in common? When the creatures reject the Creator, the rejection of his good standards and design follows. The theory of Evolution conveniently rids men of the Creator and therefore of any notion of obligation or submission to that Creator. That means his creation of man in his own image, male and female goes out the window. His definition of marriage (one man and one woman for life) can easily be jettisoned. No Creator? No need to listen to or follow the commands of the Creator. If God, the Creator, says the life of human beings is precious, it doesn't matter. If God says he decides gender, it is irrelevant. God defines marriage? No thanks, we'll come up with our own definition. But even in their rejection of God's truth, you see that they can't escape it. Gender re-assignment surgery implies that one's gender was already assigned (by God!). Planned Parenthood apparently argues that providing "fetal tissue" to scientific researchers potentially brings advances in treatment of diseases. It seems they claim to be trying to preserve life. Redefining marriage acknowledges the good gift of marriage. Even when you try to reject the Creator you accidentally affirm that his way is good and right and true.
So what to do? I suppose an entire post could be given to each of these, but here are a few suggestions.
I sometimes post hymn lyrics here and haven't done so in some time. So a hymn for today. We sang this last night in our Lord's Supper service, and it is a wonderful hymn for such an occasion. I hope you are encouraged to think on the impossibility of favor with God because of your sin, but the reality of favor with God because of the Savior. (This is #467 in the Trinity Hymnal; we sing it to the tune of Abide With Me.)
Weary of earth, and laden with my sin,
Tired of the links and headlines that claim to hold the secret steps to the perfectly grilled steak, curls that keep their bounce all day, well-adjusted children, clean tile grout, and a happy marriage? Yeah. Me too. But I was doing some pre-marriage counseling recently and found myself saying something I've said before: "If husbands and wives would just live by this passage, they would have a happy marriage." Interestingly enough, the passages that make me think that are not ones that speak directly about husbands, wives, or marriage. So what passages are they? You're dying to know, right? Waiting for that secret to a happy marriage?
Well, you may be disappointed. I'm not going to point you to an obscure verse you've never thought of before. There's no tricky exegesis or new way to translate a familiar verse. It's simply a matter of applying to marriage the truth about how believers are to live the Christian life.
Colossians 3:12-15 "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body. And be thankful." (ESV)
Almost don't even have to explain it, do I? Can you imagine if both husband and wife forgave each other like the Lord has forgiven them? Or if they did and said everything with kindness, humility, and patience? And put up with each other? And loved? And were thankful? That's a happy marriage. Or how 'bout...
Philippians 2:3-4 "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (ESV)
Wow. A house where nothing is done from selfish ambition, but the husband counts the wife more significant than himself and the wife counts the husband more important than herself. You'll be hard-pressed to find a problem in your marriage that can't be immensely helped by living out this truth.
And the temptation will be to think, "Yes! If he would just live by this truth, our marriage would be better." Or, "If she would just live out these verses, we would be on our way to happiness." But (and in this blog, I'm assuming both husband and wife are believers) resist that urge. Point the passage at yourself and by God's grace live out these truths; repent and seek forgiveness when you fail to do so; forgive your spouse when they fail in these things; and look to God for daily strength, grace, and forgiveness. I guess the secret to a happy marriage isn't so secret after all.
You know the movie, The Princess Bride, right? Of course you do. As Wesley and Buttercup make their way through the fire swamp, they encounter one of the dangers known as lightning sand, which is like quicksand only you sink faster. As you can see in the clip here, Buttercup assumes she's taking a step onto solid, trustworthy ground, but is quickly swallowed by the lightning sand. (Not to spoil it for you, but her sweet Wesley rescues her.)
I recently read something from Ed Welch that referenced quicksand:
"You will trust in something or someone; that's part of being human. You will trust in...your spouse, your wealth, your loved ones, your cunning, or your health--or you will trust in the Lord. Trust in things that are untrustworthy, and you are trusting in quicksand. You are trusting in things that cannot sustain the weight of your trust. And fear, of course, will be the result. Trust in the Lord, and you are secure." - Ed Welch
That, my friends, is profound. I have warned others and myself not to put our trust in other people, money, comfortable sturdy houses, etc. Trusting in good gifts from God rather than God is dangerous and idolatrous. But notice what Welch points out there. It's not just dangerous. It's not just foolish. It's not just idolatry. It is the very source of our fear and anxiety. If you trust in something "that cannot sustain the weight of your trust" you will fear! When we do that, we're trusting in things that cannot deliver us. So of course we're going to be afraid. Buttercup put her faith in what appeared to her to be solid ground (just like our false sources of trust appear trustworthy). But it couldn't support her. And neither can the things we trust in.
So I guess that's not actually all that profound. People have been saying it for years ("On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand"). But something about the way Welch put it struck me. It's not just bad to trust in something/one other than God. That misplaced trust actually leads to fear. When afraid, grasping for something other than the Lord will make us more afraid because that thing/person cannot support the weight of our trust. Only God can. May we trust in him alone!
(I've recommended his work before, but again, Ed Welch has some of the best stuff I've ever read on fear and anxiety. His book Running Scared is excellent in this regard. The quote above comes from a workbook that condenses Running Scared into a 7 week study called When I Am Afraid. I'm not all the way through the workbook, but I highly commend both works to you.)
One week from today will be Ash Wednesday, according to the liturgical calendar. Which makes me think. Why exactly is it called, Ash Wednesday? Ah, that's right. We remember the birth of Christ at Christmas, his death on Good Friday, his resurrection on Easter, and the time when he put ashes in the shape of a cross on his forehead 40 days before his death on Ash Wednesday. Got it. Don't remember that event in the life of Christ? Me either.
And, granted, there's no command to commemorate the birth, death, or resurrection of Christ, but the way we do those things is through ordinary worship - gathering together as the people of God to sing, pray, receive his Word, and observe the sacraments. Wonderful! But on Ash Wednesday, folks get together to do those things and smear ash on their foreheads. Jesus gave his church two beautiful gospel pictures - baptism and the Lord's Supper. Ash Wednesday adds a 3rd picture not ordained by Jesus or commanded by God. Adding things not prescribed by Scripture to worship is not wise.
I believe it is (as many observers of Ash Wednesday and the Lent season it kicks off point out) beneficial to think on our sin and our need for repentance; to actually repent. I believe that prayer and fasting are a good way to do this (though as I noted in a post several years ago, what typically happens in Lent is not really fasting). I believe that meditating on our sinfulness and need is helpful preparation for truly appreciating the resurrection of Jesus. But I also believe that Jesus himself gave us the perfect way to do that. It is by remembering his finished work in our observance of the Lord's Supper. Here we remember and have our faith fed by what He has done. Ash Wednesday and Lent dangerously try to reproduce in our lives what Jesus went through in 40 days in the wilderness which tends to emphasize what we do. Dear friends, Jesus underwent that experience in the wilderness so I don't have to! He earned acceptance with the Father because I never could.
The reasons some of my evangelical acquaintances give for observing Ash Wednesday and Lent, I understand and agree with. The method by which they seek to accomplish those ends, I do not agree with. A Good Friday service observing the Lord's Supper would be a far better, Christ-centered way to prepare for Resurrection Day.
Some miscellaneous musings from Pastor Aaron.
When I quote Scripture In this blog, unless otherwise indicated, the quotations are usually from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission.
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