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Costly Courage: The How

October 11, 2017
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Reconciliation is a required responsibility. A promising privilege. A graceful given.

Normally the talk of reconciliation is centered around the truth that God is making all things new, both creatures and creation. But there’s a crucial piece that comes beforehand that deserves our attention. “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others” is what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:11 to a congregation that was reeling. Here on earth, we are physically home in these bodies and yet away from the Lord. We are walking by faith, not by sight, and full of confidence.

But what is our motivation as believers in the new covenant working of God’s grace?

Paul says “we make it our aim to please him” (v9). Realizing that the Lord still has you here on earth as His made new representative, you make it your goal to please him. That’s your personal life goal. As it relates to the goal of others, you fear the Lord and try to convince them.

Why?
Paul says “the love of God urges us on” to consider bringing others to belong with us.

How are we to see the others?

Paul says “we [are to] regard no one from a human point of view” as we once did Christ. Assuming the others are of no eternal value. Assuming that God doesn’t place a great value upon their heads. Assuming that we are superior to them. They are now on the same level plane as us. They are made in the image of God. All of them. Even the ones who you may look away from or care to not acknowledge. And they will face eternity when they die. For God created every single person to live eternally – heaven or hell.

What’s so incumbently wrapped up into this way of thinking is this truth that John Calvin spoke to – if we can see mankind and not see ourselves in the mirror, we have erred. In other words, if you don’t see men and women just as valuable, dignified, and significant as you, you won’t care if they go to heaven or hell. You won’t care about persuading them. You won’t care about the love of God prompting you. You simply won’t care.

But God in his grace still allows us to please him even when our aim is off a bit. This is where costly courage comes into play. Society is always changing. Opinions are just as diverse as the weather and winds in every time zone of the world. Truth has never not been absolute regardless of what others may say. The gospel is just as alive today as it was many centuries ago. The courage to make truth known in these trying times has everything to do with our fear of the Lord and our fear of being accepted by people we deem superior.

So we choose to believe that it is from God that people are made new in many types of way. We believe this because Jesus is God and is faithful.

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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.


Newmanity and Gospel Balance

September 3, 2016
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In the Orthodox tradition, the gospel that’s been proclaimed consist of a personal salvation and reconciliation with God. This personal relationship language has hovered over the waters of Western Christianity for 2 centuries at least. Some could argue longer and I just might agree. The logic goes like this – sinners can have a personal relationship with God because Jesus died for your sins.

It sounds great and fair and honest and biblical. But that really depends on who you’re reading and listening to. Nowadays in the orthodox protestant lineage, the starting point seems to be Martin Luther and his 95 theses. Usually that’s an okay starting point depending on the subject. But what has gone unnoticed from the traditional gospel message is the lone ranger problem in the church that either resides inside the community on Sundays or inside their homes.

Paul gives a great description of the gospel he preached in 1 Corinthians 15. But that’s not the only place he describes the gospel he was faithful to give. He tells the other side in Galatians 2, Ephesians 2:1-22, and Ephesians 3:6. These passages help to give us a gospel balance. Atonement and reconciliation make up the gospel message. Yes the Son of God died for the sins of the world and yes the Son of Man reconciled the creatures and earth to God.

This is a big change from those who call for us to always go back to the Protestant Reformation where supposedly everything that was wrong was made right. Not so. Sorry reformation friends. Many things were wrong then and remained wrong after the movement swept through Europe. In my humble estimation the biggest wrong that remained was the fact that reconciliation happened vertically and horizontally due the substitutionary atonement.

Why is this a big deal now? As long as folks are getting saved by this traditional message, why try to fix what doesn’t appear to be broken? To that I say this, sinners who became saints at an honest confession and repentance have failed to live out the biblical reality the Bible speaks to about their entire lives. I truly believe that this imbalanced gospel has led to churches dividing over age, ethnicity, and culture. But knowing that we’re all reconciled to each other makes us see other believers as insiders of the same family instead of disconnected members of some other family of God solely because they attend a different church.

It’s time for the newmanity gospel folks to act like Jesus atoned and reconciled more than just us and our preferences.


A Good Salt Rub

January 1, 2014
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There’s this understanding of holiness that’s ever-present in Protestantism that is very one-sided. Be holy and avoid immorality at all costs. That seems to be the battle cry of the church. But you can’t do battle in a bubble, can you?

The bubble I speak of is the one where Christians strive hard after being like Christ just as long as we get to avoid any uncomfortable, dark, wicked, sinfully displayed environment where our holiness is tested. In other words, we don’t like getting rubbed the wrong way. We’ll do all we can to avoid it. So when Jesus told his followers, and preachers tell believers now, that you are the salt of the earth and light of the world, perhaps we need to re-evaluate exactly why the earth needs salt and the world needs light.

Jesus, in John’s gospel, describes the world in general and the ones whom hate God and Jesus as darkness. In fact, anyone who hates biblical truth lives in darkness. Indeed there are some who vacation in darkness to get a break from doing the right thing, but they too are only fooling themselves. This is the very world and people we encounter at family functions, our daily jobs, our churches, our hangouts, our stores, our gas stations…basically this darkness is everywhere. So in reality we only have two options: ignore the darkness and find ways to suffer through the darkness, or invade that darkness with your salty light. This earth needs to be changed and transformed to make much of God’s glory, but that can’t happen if God’s people aren’t faithful to give it a good salt rub while walking around in it as lights of reconciliation and hope.

Imagine this – you were called by God in sanctification to be consecrated to him and walk out the good works he prepared for you, and one of the good works is being salt and light. So as Jesus ascended having given his followers a mandate to make disciples and transform this world through his power and presence, he did so harkening back to our salt and light effectiveness that we were gifted with at the moment of our salvation.

So as this new year dawns upon us, I pray that we, the church, wrap our minds around the fact that we’re consecrated to God (holy), are called salt and light (by no basis of our own), placed into this realm of darkness to be lights of reconciliation and hope (gospel), and that this world needs a good salt rub.