Costly Courage: The What Pt 3

September 27, 2017
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Normally when you hear the phrase ‘corporate confession’ you have a distinct idea in mind. Well, that’s not what this is. When it comes to reconciliation, the first steps are not to confess sin. Rather it is to confess truth. Herein lies the rub in most reconciliation talks.

Who was this man in the garden of Eden? Why was he important?

All reconciliation talks find their way back to Genesis 1, and rightly so. Adam was made in the image of God. I think all Christians believe this to be true. The imago dei is alluded to often and placed on high. Why won’t folks acknowledge that the imago dei is important?

I happen to think folks are missing the target with that question. The doctrine of sin in the Church is traced back to Adam. This is an orthodox position. Adam is the forefather of every human being to ever live. However easy or difficult it may be to trace our heritage, everybody can agree that it all began with Adam. But are we giving Adam the same importance that God gave him?

Not really.

Because all humanity descended from Adam, we share the same imago dei that he had. This truth tends to be accepted in ethnic tribes alone and across cultural lines in personal friendships. Therein lies the crux of the matter. Adam being made in the image of God means he has value, dignity, and significance. Feel free to re-read that sentence again. After Adam sinned, his image of God remained although his relationship with God was strained to the point that Adam was unable to fix it himself. He needed a substitute.

Ever since the beginning of this country, the Christians who escaped Britain to come establish their own land with its own rules did so with theology that is not orthodox. They did not believe Blacks or Native Americans were made in the image of God. They did not believe Blacks or Native Americans had a God-given value, dignity, or significance. Further proof of this is found in the founding documents of this country. That position they took was then taught and put into practice through slavery, rape of the black women, dividing up of the family, and training up of their children. In other words, they shaped the next generation to devalue Blacks and Native Americans. That spread to subsequent generations which included devaluing more ethnic groups. This cycle turned on them as the groups being devalued began to devalue the white Christians and each other. Tyranny ensued in no time and honestly hasn’t stopped.

What’s all this got to do with reconciliation? We need a corporate confession that all ethnic groups are seen and treated as image bearers that have value, dignity, and significance. Until we, the Christian church, are able to practice that which we say we believe, reconciliation will never take the necessary first step needed to believe that Jesus purchased by tearing down that wall of hostility actually means.

May we begin now to corporately confess that every human being from any and all ethnic group have been given by God an image that has value, dignity, and significance. Amen


Costly Courage: The What Pt 2

September 25, 2017
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Growing up being the only black kid in many white classrooms has taken its toll on me. It has hardened me in many ways I never knew at the moment. Years later I have unearthed those emotions that are put on display in sometimes unfortunate settings with people unaware of my past fights and trials. Yet the one thing those classroom lessons did not create to my dismay is compassion.

The fact that I am a recipient of grace was never something I heavily thought of unless the preacher broached the subject. The irony of carrying around the prideful badge of Calvinism never translated into a posture of grace in my life. My ability to spout off the 5 doctrines with conviction were indeed costly, but never compassionate. Looking back, I realize that I was fooling myself into thinking that I was making followers of Jesus by making them into doctrine of grace card members for life. Not an ounce of compassion. However, what I have recently caste onto others was the very thing of which I was guilty.

During the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, Black men and women under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Phillip A. Randolph decided to hold up the American ideals in the face of their oppressors by asking a vital question that is still relevant today: “Ain’t I a man?” This question dripped with compassion and conviction. The two aren’t always mutually exclusive. Most social ill issues ought to drip with compassion and conviction. Sadly most Western evangelicals have only attached conviction to their pleas. So adoption and abortion are yearly championed in sermons. That’s usually the only type of elephant in the room White preachers are willing to point out.

If Americans are endued with certain inalienable rights from their creator, and I’m born in America, then ain’t I a man who has a creator with rights? How can the other elephants in the room of our society be addressed much like abortion and adoption? The answer is compassion! The compassion that human beings afford to others who are in need due to mistreatment, loss, or tragedy. The compassion that is bigger than the sometimes narrow Christian focus, but definitely not less. We have seen this after hurricanes and tornadoes ravage communities.

In terms of reconciliation, it’s key to note compassion ought to have outside the corridors of Christian buildings in various ways. Recalling the parable of the Good Samaritan, this stranger showed compassion for another stranger who was considered an enemy. Jesus felt compassion on the large crowds that followed him looking for signs and wonders, and he fed them. The early church pastors in Acts 6 evidenced compassion towards the Greek widows and placed 7 men in authoritative position to put compassion on display. The costly courage of showing compassion in this race of reconciliation is a battle of identification struggle. Meaning you won’t be allowed to identify with the same people and groups you once felt comfort with as soon as you visibly show compassion for the marginalized (read ethnicities). Though appealing to the covenantal promises of God may warrant you a listening, it can also result in division and an extra elephant in the room.

Costly Courage: The What

September 3, 2017
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Here’s what I came to know: to believe and champion the gospel of reconciliation requires a costly courage = call to conviction + show compassion + corporate confession.

Reconciliation is a relentless work. It requires lots of reading, studying, praying, listening, and meditation. A posture of humility comes with the package. What’s not mentioned in this work is the subtle onslaught of arrogance and one’s inability to consider the interests of others.

Yet there is a mandatory call to conviction. This call comes with a great sense of freedom and fear. Sometimes the two are intertwined. How so? Freedom can often feel like a fear of collateral damage. It’s one of the main things that scare folks in Christian circles. Just consider the history of the Western church. However, freedom is also a grace thing where believers can obey 2 Timothy 3:16. Fear springs out of the unknown part of obeying that verse.

Ever since Genesis 12, God has made it known that Abraham’s family was gonna bless all the other families and all the nations. So because God called a pagan from Ur to be a leader, the plan of reconciliation was made known to Abraham and the world as Paul wrote that “the gospel was preached beforehand to Abraham” in Galatians 3. What’s ironic is that everyone loves the story of Abraham and how he was promised offspring, land, and to be a blessing, but few realize that God gave Abraham a call to conviction through his covenant.

This same call to conviction is reiterated to Isaac and Jacob, in the Mosaic covenant, and in the Great Commission passages from Matthew 28 and Acts 1 and 15. Somewhere between the isle of Patmos and the reformation running throughout Europe, the plan of reconciliation got sidelined and altogether forgotten in lieu of doctrinal fidelity and tradition. But who’s going to issue a reformation of reconciliation? I submit it began with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, although it was clearly not done in the ‘right’ way with the ‘right’ language as shown by the lack of involvement by Western evangelical leaders.

Reconciliation is an historical call to conviction dating all the way back to Abraham. While George Whitefield turned reconciliation into a one-way path followed closely by Charles Finney’s long lasting stamp, the ministry of reconciliation we’ve been given has for the longest time been ultra-individualized that one’s familial family has hijacked their devotion to the body of Christ.

Does anyone have the courage to call others to a multi-directional reconciliation plan of the gospel that God set in motion?

Costly Courage

September 2, 2017
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A lot of talks have been given and hundreds of thousands of blogs have been written on this mere topic of racial reconciliation. I have done both, and I am tired. I have felt the apathy and have sensed my own arrogance. I have felt like giving up because folks were not responding how I wanted them to at the speed I wanted them to. Admittedly I have also had emotional brainstorming times where I’m looking for the right verbal formulas to convince my Black and White brothers and sisters in the Lord to ‘get’ it.

While mental and emotional bewilderment has set in like the early stages of arthritis, I stumbled upon something that gave me hope. A fresh breath of air that made me check my heart, remember what I have seen and heard from folks who made that transition to the bothersome way of living that comes once gospel reconciliation helps a person come alive in a new way. I was no longer confused; just impatient. I was no longer unhappy; just not praying for myself and others. I was no longer arrogant; just not expecting others to do what came so normal for me since we’re spiritual snowflakes.

Here’s what I came to know: to believe and champion the gospel of reconciliation requires a costly courage = call to conviction + show compassion + corporate confession. (This is the what)

Here’s how I came to know: 2 Corinthians 5 is a great reminding passage for believers that Jesus was sent to dwell on earth with a ministry that He has passed onto every generation of believers until He returns – one of reconciliation – where we plead for the nations to come to Christ on behalf of Christ to be made new and whole for the life to come with the many others along that same journey. This ministry mission Jesus passed down is not optional. In fact it is required and a responsibility. (This is the how)

Here’s why I came to know: a covenant identity -> covenant connection with the past -> covenant reconciled work formed at the cross = true for every believer. (This is the why)

It’s going to take me some time to cover this reformation of reconciliation in subsequent blogs, but with the Lord’s help I will finish this before December runs out. I welcome your feedback.

Are Our Efforts in Vain?

September 1, 2017
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I used to attend and serve in a church that is predominantly White. I now attend and serve in a church that is predominantly White with a twist. This new church is led by a Black pastor. One whom I have known for over 15 years. Both churches are considered evangelical, orthodox, reformed and Gospel centered. The main difference between the two is the church’s converging approach of justification and justice.

My old church definitely preached, proclaimed, and protected the doctrine of justification at every turn. There were even special sermon series dedicated to doing so. When it came to justice this church left much to be desired. My current church doubles down on justice since its inception. It also preaches, proclaims, and protects justification.

Is there an overall difference? Are our efforts in vain?

In the fight for making the gospel known with all of its implications brought front and center, the difference can be described as the body of an iceberg that’s not on top of the water. It’s most times never seen while also being pointed at by visitors or those who’ve remained on the sidelines watching the fight through pay-per-view lenses. And oddly enough this local body is predominantly White when counting members instead of attendees.

But the efforts given are valiant, not in vain. It’s not easy balancing the stigma of the gospel alongside the uncharitable label of liberalism often attached to social issues. And it could be several years until a local church situated in a diverse city is no longer predominantly White. But the fight must go on…especially when the Lord has called you to it. Engage. Encourage. Educate. Evangelize. Exalt Jesus and the plan of God.