The Southern Baptist Convention Takes On The Alt-Right: What Happened, Why It Matters, and What It Means For Us

I Am A Man

Last Wednesday, at its annual gathering in Phoenix, Arizona, the Southern Baptist Convention overwhelmingly approved a resolution condemning all forms of racism in America, targeting specifically what has become known over the past year as the “alt-right” white nationalist movement.

This was undoubtedly a significant moment for a body that was- tragically, but truthfully- born and built in the 19th century on an expressly pro-slavery position, and has a checkered history on issues of racial equality and justice.  At the same time, for those who have been paying attention not just to the SBC’s past but to its recent present and seeming future, the move shouldn’t be all that surprising.  Last week’s resolution marked the third consecutive year that the body has taken up the cause of racial reconciliation in its gathering, immediately following last June’s condemnation of the Confederate battle flag.  The convention is growing more diverse in more ways than one, and rising SBC leaders- while maintaining a steadfast commitment to biblical authority and traditionally held convictions- have proven increasingly eager to speak out prophetically on a broader range of social and moral issues, with none more prominent than race.

So why are we talking about this anyway?  Two reasons…

1- Southern Baptists represent America’s second largest organized Christian body, surpassed only by Roman Catholics, and are therefore a leading voice of influence among American Christians, especially in the Southeastern US.

2- Fellowship Church is affiliated with the SBC, meaning that we voluntarily hold to the convention’s statement of belief (Baptist Faith & Message 2000) and that we voluntarily contribute financially to the convention’s collective missions and ministry efforts across North America and around the world.

That being the case, I think it is vitally important that we (a) understand what happened last week in Phoenix, (b) identify why it matters, and (c) consider what it means for us as followers of Jesus gathered together in this community.  First, take a few moments to read the full text of the resolution for yourself…

RESOLUTION 10
ON THE ANTI-GOSPEL OF ALT-RIGHT WHITE SUPREMACY

WHEREAS, Scripture teaches, “From one man [God] has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live” (Acts 17:26); and

WHEREAS, The Psalmist proclaimed, “The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the LORD” (Psalm 24:1); and

WHEREAS, The Apostle Peter said, “God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him” (Acts 10:34–35); and

WHEREAS, Our justification before God is based on faith in Christ Jesus alone and not in our ethnicity
(Galatians 3:27–28); and

WHEREAS, Scripture proclaims that Jesus is purchasing by His blood believers “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9); and

WHEREAS, Throughout eternity we will gather with a “multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language” in worship of our risen Savior (Revelation 7:9); and

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message conveys that all Christians are obligated to make the will of Christ supreme in their own lives and in human society, opposing all forms of racism, selfishness, and vice, and bringing government and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love; and

WHEREAS, We know from our Southern Baptist history the effects of the horrific sins of racism and hatred; and

WHEREAS, In 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention repudiated “historic acts of evil, such as slavery,” committed “to eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry,” and “genuinely repent[ed] of racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously or unconsciously”; and

WHEREAS, In recent years the Convention has nominated and elected individuals from a variety of ethnicities, including electing our first African-American president in 2012; and

WHEREAS, In recent resolutions the Southern Baptist Convention called on “all Christian men and women to pray and labor for the day when our Lord will set all things right and racial prejudice and injustice will be no more” (2014); expressed continued grief “over the presence of racism and the recent escalation of racial tension in our nation” (2015); and urged fellow Christians to discontinue using the Confederate battle flag, acknowledging that it is “used by some and perceived by many as a symbol of hatred, bigotry, and racism, offending millions of people” (2016); and

WHEREAS, More than 20 percent (nearly eleven thousand) of our cooperating Southern Baptist congregations identify as predominately non-Anglo and for the last three years more than 50 percent of Southern Baptist new church plants have been predominately non-Anglo; and

WHEREAS, B&H Academic recently published Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention, highlighting our continuing need to root out vestiges of racism from our own hearts as Southern Baptists; and

WHEREAS, Racism and white supremacy are, sadly, not extinct but present all over the world in various white supremacist movements, sometimes known as “white nationalism” or “alt-right”; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13–14, 2017, decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil intended to bring suffering and division to our society; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we acknowledge that we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

It is critical to note that despite some initial procedural difficulties getting the resolution to a floor vote, support for this statement and the convictions it expresses was, by all accounts, unanimous among the near-5,000 voters present.  In other words, this is no “fringe segment” of the convention, but rather a solidly representative group of Baptist leaders and laypeople from across the entire nation.

This is obviously a significant statement saturated with Gospel truth and anchored deeply in God’s Word.  Before delving into why the “alt-right” movement is described above as not only racist, but also “anti-Gospel,” let me clarify what a convention resolution is and is not.  Given that all Baptist churches exist autonmously- that is, outside of any formal hierarchy- resolutions are non-binding on individual congregations such as Fellowship.  They are position statements, not orders.

In Baptist life, it is our opportunity- and let it be noted, our responsibility- to examine all such statements through a biblical lens and respond to them accordingly.  That being the case, how should we think about- and even more importantly, what should we do about- this strongly worded, much talked about resolution at an individual and local level?  Let’s consider this together…

  • Most significant (in my view) is the resolution’s incisive identification of “alt-right white supremacy” as not only inherently and thoroughly racist, but “anti-Gospel.” That’s a pretty serious charge, wouldn’t you say?  So does it hold up to biblical scrutiny, based on our understanding what the “Gospel” is?  I would answer, without hesitation, yes.  Here’s why…
    • The Bible teaches that all men and women were created in God’s image. This places all racial and ethnic groups of equal value before God.  None are inherently superior- or inferior- to any other.
    • The Bible teaches that the fundamental problem of our lives is sin– not the absence of a particular racial or ethnic identity, be it white or any other. All have sinned.
    • The Bible teaches God’s solution to our sin problem is seen in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. Even setting aside the fact that Jesus Himself was not white, it is critical to recognize the racial and ethnic universality of His saving work.  His sinless life is credited to all who believe, regardless of race; His sacrificial death is sufficient for all who trust, regardless of ethnicity; His victorious resurrection is a triumph for all who surrender, regardless of national identity.
    • The Bible teaches start to finish that God is deliberately building a church and a Kingdom that is global in scope, encompassing “every tribe, language, people, and nation.” His Kingdom transcends all earthly kingdoms and overcomes all earthly barriers.  Such a beautifully diverse Kingdom magnifies His glory supremely.
  • Thinking practically, it is not difficult to see how racist or nationalistic ideologies undermine the local church’s ability to faithfully fulfill her mission, or (in the positive) how potentially powerful it is when a local church commits to reflect and pursue the far-reaching, God-glorifying diversity which our Creator intended. Particularly in the tense, divisive days in which we live today not only in our nation, but across the globe, it is a phenomenal “counter cultural” witness to the watching world when the church is a leading voice and example of what racial healing, unity, and cooperation can look like through the power of the biblical Gospel.

That said, how can you put into practice individually- and how can we put into practice corporately as a church- the convictions expressed in this resolution?  This is admittedly a long haul conversation, not something that will be solved with a quick fix of any kind.  But here are a few ideas of stir our thinking today…

  • We must first recognize and repent of any racial or ethnic prejudice that exists within our own hearts and minds. So often, especially on hot button issues such as this one, we all too quickly look to point the finger at others without “keeping it real” about our own struggles.  I get that it can be incredibly uncomfortable to own up to your sin, but we simply cannot move forward with any integrity or influence without first getting our own house in order before God and before others.
  • We must also become- much as the SBC has done nationally- become a prophetic voice in our community as to the “anti-Gospel” of all racism, and in this cultural, specifically of “alt-right white supremacy.” Where we encounter it- be it within our own congregation, or in the community at large- we must be bold in confronting it as a grievous sin and pointing to the Bible’s clear teaching on the universality of the image of God, the problem of sin, and the solution of the Gospel.
  • We must work hard to understand- and empathize with- the unique challenges and struggles experienced by minority groups. I believe this happens through the intentional cultivation of relationships with those of diverse backgrounds, as well as a willingness to ask questions that may not have particularly easy or comfortable answers.  We simply must have the humility to listen to those who are different than us, and seek genuine understanding before self-justification.
  • We must always, always, always anchor our words and actions firmly in God’s Word, not our own opinions or the sway of surrounding culture. It is easy to get swept up in the emotional frenzy of a social media driven world, but our convictions as Christians ought to run much deeper than simply the controversy of the week.  As the SBC resolution demonstrates with tremendous clarity, this is without question a Gospel issue, and one that is undoubtedly worth fighting for.  But to do that faithfully, we must do the work necessary to understand why that is so- not just because it makes us feel good, or feel like we “fit in” to our cultural surroundings.
  • Most of all, we must maintain a steadfast commitment to our God-given mission- “to make disciples of all nations.” Racism and nationalism simply can’t be harbored in our hearts if that mission is going to be pursued and completed.  To reach all, we must love and value all- just as God does. To teach all, we must come eye to eye with Bible’s clear teaching on these issues- and be prepared to be “doers of the Word, not hearers only,” while calling others who identify as Jesus followers to do the same.  Further, we must commit ourselves to making the most of every opportunity for cross-cultural partnerships in this global mission, not viewing or treating our minority brothers and sisters as mission projects, but rather as mission partners.

It is a massive task to attempt to take on such a weighty issue in a limited space like this one, but my hope and prayer is that what you’ve read here today will spark in you a response of repentance (where it is needed), compassion (because it is always needed), and a humble, passionate commitment to engage this issue through a Gospel framework.  I encourage and challenge you to take some time this week to dig into the biblical teaching on this issue on your own.  Allow God’s Word to speak for itself, and be ready to receive it and put it into practice as it does!

If you have additional questions, or would like to engage in further conversation on this issue, I encourage you to contact me at tblount@fellowshipchurch.cc

Great and Greatly

To Wise Up…Look Up!

This simple statement inspired by Proverbs 1:7 is the driving truth behind our summer series “Wise Up.”  We are preaching on Psalms and Proverbs all summer and we invite you to read through these two wisdom writings through this reading plan.

Psalm 96 teaches us some wonderfully wise truths about worship.

It is wise to praise what is praise-worthy.
Whether it is in our worship of the one True God or in our appreciation for one another praise that which is praise-worthy is simply wise.  The wise person speaks the praise of that which deserves to whom deserves it.

Psalm 96:4 makes this point abundantly clear.  “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.”

God is not great because he is greatly praised.  God is greatly praised because he is great.
The wise person greatly praises the Lord because it is simply the only right response to the greatness of God.  If there were no other reason than his greatness, we should still praise Him, but not only is he great, he is good.

This week there has been much online and on-air chatter about who is great.  The NBA Finals has sparked some odd and strange dialogue.  The defeat of Lebron James and his Cavaliers causes some to denounce his greatness as a player while others diminish the greatness of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson because they all play on a team together.  The conversation about who is the greatest players will simply continue and the opinions will grow in number.  Why?  None of these players have a greatness that separates them in every way from everything else.  God is so great he is different.  He is unique.  There is literally none like him.   Not even close.

Yet, I would say the wise sportscaster or social media commentator would be willing to acknowledge each player for their individual talents.  Truthfully, they are all great basketball players.  The wise man is willing to praise what is praise-worthy.

God simply desires what God deserves.
God desires, and therefore demands, our praise.  Why?  He deserves it.  He desires it because it is right and he wants you to be right with Him.  He desires this so much that he gave his one and only son that if you would believe in Him you would not perish but have eternal life.

Praise that is honors what is praise-worthy includes works and words.
Psalm 96:6 instructs us to “Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.”
This literally means give God glory and strength.  The issue is that God is already all-powerful and absolutely glorious.  He does not need your glory or your strength – but he deserves it.

We worship the Lord honorably when our worship with our words matches the worship with our works.  We serve the Lord with words by “declaring his glory among the nations” and “his marvelous work among all the peoples.”  We honor him with our words when we “tell of his salvation from day to day.”  (These are quotes from Psalm 96:1-3)

We give to him strength by serving him with all our of our life.  God rebukes His people in Isaiah by telling them you “honor me with your lips, but your hearts are far from me.”  The heart that is truly for God leads to words from our mouths and works from our hands and lives that bring God the glory he deserves.

I have a challenge for you.

Greatly praise the God that is great.  Read the Psalms and Proverbs with us this summer.  Write a psalm and share it with us.  Serve the Lord with your hands and your heart.  Speak his truth to those far from him and sing his truth among those who love him.

Click this link to check out the sermon from Sunday on this passage.

 

Opportunities to Worship with Words –
Sundays 9 & 10:45 every Sunday.
Students grade 6-12 – Wednesdays at 6 PM.  (Although not tonight due to VBS)
Kids – VBS today and tomorrow at both campuses – Airline 9-11:30 AM / Prairieville 6-8:30

Opportunities to Worship with Work –
Geaux Day – June 24

The Happiest Place On Earth

Magic Kingdom

I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!”…Psalm 122:1 (ESV)

“We’re going to Disney World!”  Last Christmas morning, that was the big announcement in the Blount household.  In 147 days, to kick off our summer break, we would be spending a few days in what has commonly been called “the happiest place on Earth.”  Two weeks ago and four days ago, that countdown ended, and we took our long awaited trip…and it did not disappoint!  It was an exhausting week, to be sure, but one filled with so many special surprises and memorable moments for our family.  It did these parents’ hearts good to be able to enjoy this unique blessing with our kids.

So much can be said- and has been said- about what Disney does well, but the single thing that struck me more than any other was just how happy those working there seemed to be.  Despite the fact that they were working in very crowded conditions, and amidst the oppressive Florida heat and humidity, it was as though they counted it a genuine privilege to serve their guests- millions of them annually- with joy, passion, and excellence.  Add to this the staggering reality that it requires upwards of 75,000 cast members to keep the show running every single day, and their ability to build and sustain that kind of culture becomes all the more impressive.

Reflecting on our family’s experience as we returned home, here’s the question that I haven’t been able to shake since-
When was the last time I was as committed to serving God and others in the way that Disney’s cast members were committed to serving meSpecifically, when was the last time I showed up to Fellowship Church on a Sunday (or any other time, for that matter) with the humbling sense that I am even allowed and afforded such a great privilege?  When was the last time I approached my calling- which is of eternal weight and significance- with the same level of joy, passion, and excellence displayed by those hosting others on a temporary vacation?

You may have noticed those words- “joy, passion, and excellence”- and connected them to one of our Core Actions at Fellowship- look alive.  God’s Word makes clear that we ought to approach Him with such a spirit- “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!  Serve the Lord with gladness!” (Psalm 100:1-2a)- and additionally, that we ought to demonstrate the same attitude in our dealings with one another- “Through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13b).  When we do these things in these ways, God’s rightful glory is magnified- and others’ lives have the potential to be impacted for eternity!  Here are just a few simple, practical ways that you can look alive this week as you show up at Fellowship…

  • Pray before you arrive that God would prepare your heart to truly worship Him as He deserves and desires.
  • Participate fully and passionately in every opportunity afforded you- singing, praying, giving, hearing God’s Word, and responding to it.
  • Serve with a smile- whether that be in an “official” role on one of our Serve Teams, or simply as one actively searching out opportunities to meet needs in the lives of others.
  • Go above and beyond (there’s another one of those pesky Core Actions!) whenever, wherever, and however you can. Don’t just look to do the “bare minimum” for others- give them your best, in whatever unique situation you find yourself.
  • Introduce yourself to someone you haven’t met before- and take the time to really take an interest in who they are and what they’re all about. Don’t be hurried- look them in the eye, listen to their story, and ask God how you can best love them.
  • Look for reasons to be grateful instead of reasons to be critical.
  • Walk away asking God with an open heart, open mind, and open eyes and ears for how you can carry such a spirit into the remainder of your week at home, work, and wherever else you go.

There’s no question for our family- We left Disney bought in to the hype; it met and exceeded our expectations with very few exceptions.  I look forward to the next time I can visit.  And why is that true?  Because of the people who made it happen.  Next time someone shows up at Fellowship Church- or in your life Monday through Saturday as a follower of Jesus and a member of FC- will they be able to say the same thing?  Friends, we have much more to offer the world than just a great week of vacation memories.  Let’s look alive this and every week so that our great God might be glorified and our world might know and experience real life in Him!

Enthusiastically Excellent

I value customer service and enthusiasm with one’s job

I am constantly at coffee shops, restaurants, and books stores with an urgency develop relationships with people and because I am a pastor. Meaning all my work (if I let it) can be done within the confines of our church office building. This is a disadvantage to me unless I make myself leave the office and work off site. Now while I say this, I also want to say that this blog is not about the urgency for me as a pastor to be missional. I LOVE that I am called to that and cherish it. I want to challenged you in your work to do all things with excellence to the glory of God.

I am currently sitting in a coffee shop (I’ll spare you the actual one I am at) and I noticed a few things when I walked in

I was not greeted

There were no smiles on anyone’s faces

The enthusiasm was DEAD. I mean it…DEAD.

Even after I greeted the people behind the bar, there was this awkwardness and thick air, and I may have even heard under their breath “Dude stop asking me how I am doing and order your coffee, this isn’t chatting time!” (Okay I did not hear this, but that’s what it felt like).

Not long ago I was at a restaurant, and the service was horrendous. The place was not busy…our waiter (whom I have had before) didn’t look at me when I ordered. Even when I tried to be engaging, there was no interest. The drinks were barely ever filled back up. I was often forgotten about.

A few months ago I went through a drive through of a smoothie place and was stared at like I had just spit in their face, and all I asked for was a smoothie.

“Griff what’s your point? You’re just complaining about customer service! Big deal, it’s part of life! Sometimes it just sucks!”

My whole points is not to complain (like most of us do) about customer service…my point is this…

“Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God” 2 Corinthians 5:17 and “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically as something done for the Lord and not for men…” Colossians 3:23.

My immediate response to horrible customer service is always to ask how I can pray, or be a light of joy to them. I will never allow the frustration of terrible service take from my ability to be a light in a dark world. But, I will see the potential for human flourishing. I will tip what I’m required and only stay at 15% and not go up if it’s bad. I will at some level encourage and inspire those who struggle with this …to do all to the glory of God enthusiastically.

Maybe this describes you:

“I’m not actually in my career right now, this job is temporary so why even bother giving my all…

“I Just don’t enjoy what I do, it’s miserable and nobody likes me here, so I don’t like them either…

“I am an introvert with an extroverted job…I shouldn’t be expected to be outgoing and bubbly…”

“It’s just super early in the morning…I am not a morning person!”

“If you only understood my home life…You would know why I am such a grouchy person at work…”

Look I feel you. I don’t always feel like doing certain things either. I have been in student ministry for almost 9 years, and some days I still find myself tired, frustrated, fatigued, and just want my own personal time.

But you know what those two verses don’t give us? An excuse. A reason not to do things with excellence. A way out because our reasoning is more legitimate then someone else’s.

God is not glorified by our laziness and reasons we make to why we don’t do something with enthusiasm and excellence. He is not in support of it.

According to Jon Acuff, “Attitude is a choice.” I agree with that. YOU have the power to choose how you approach what you do daily.

So what do we do? How do our attitudes reflect “Do all to the glory of God” and “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically” in a biblical way?

  1. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything but in everything, through prayer, petition with thanksgiving…” – Philippians 4:4

Reasons to rejoice:

You’re breathing

You have a job

You have a personality

You have a smile

Be thankful for what you do have. That’s not cliché, that’s a reality you must embrace.

Jesus has given you a new life of peace and joy! If you don’t like your job or are not enjoying certain occupations, share the love of the Jesus with the people that you are around and make the place better!

Rejoicing can change culture.

  1. Do everything without grumbling and arguing” – Philippians 2:14

We are so privileged in our western culture. When our WIFI is broken, we complain. When our food didn’t come out like we wanted, we yell at the waiter or waitress instead of knowing the cooks are backed up with orders. Our perspective should be this: “Thank God you have breath to complain with.” Sometimes we label grumbling and arguing as venting…but keep it real…most of the time it’s gossip, grumbling, or arguing.

Turn grumbling and complaining into joy and laughter.

  1. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” – Proverbs 17:22

Enjoy life and don’t allow circumstances to dictate your joys direction. Don’t be dry. Don’t be unfriendly. A joyful hear not only benefits you, but all others around you. Be infectious with joy.

My prayer for you and me, is that we can rejoice, not complain or argue, and consider how joy impacts our souls and others as we move and have our being!

Go out there, and be Enthusiastically Excellent!

When doubt comes…   

Doubt is unavoidable part of living a life of faith.  Faith is not the absence of doubt.  Faith is the reality of certainty.  Faith is being “sure of what you hope for and certain of what you have not seen.”  Many believers take the words sure and certain to mean that they should never have disquieting or uncomfortable thoughts or questions about what they believe.

Faith, however, is the choice of will to believe any when you have a question.  Faith is certainty in the one you believe in even when you struggle to see them in and from your life.  Doubt comes to us all.  I spoke plainly about that this past Sunday as I preached from Matthew 7. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” 

After my message Sunday I received a great question via email.  This follower of Christ boldly proclaimed their faith and their certainty in Christ, but then admitted that they still have doubts at times.  Their question, however, was the right one.  “What do I do when I doubt?”  Now that is a great question and one worth answering and worth sharing.

What do we do when we doubt?

#1.  Do not fake it till you make it. Faith is not fake…ever.  Don’t fake it – face it.  Bring your honest questions, doubt, or fears to God.  Share them with other believers who can help you find answers in God’s Word. 

#2.  Go to the Word “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

God’s word reveals more than thoughts, but intentions. Through his Word God can bring us to the right place in our hearts as we also discover the right truths with our heads.  They go together.  Often when we doubt we try to feed the head but ignore the heart of we try to jumpstart the heart but we ignore the head.  We need to learn truth and lean into the truth in seasons of doubt.

1 John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”  It does not say so that you may think or that you may hope – but that you may know.  These things have been written.  The Scriptures exist so we can live in certainty not doubt.

Fill your mind with truth.  Memorize Scriptures that declare the grace and effectiveness of God in salvation.

Here are a couple of good verses to memorize when dealing with doubts. Hebrews 7:25  Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through                him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Romans 6:10-11  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives                to God.  Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

#3.  Learn more than your questions. Ask questions.  Seek out answers to those particular issues by asking season believers and reading intelligent and Scripture-honoring authors, but don’t just seek answers to your questions.  Seek the truth and the One who is True.  Some times we cause ourselves more questions if all we seek are specific answers.  We stop nurturing our personal growth and only seek to solve our current faith struggle.  That struggle is a part of a larger relationship with God.  Treat it as such.

#4.  Pray Spend personal time with God in prayer.  Do not stop doing the acts of faith when doubt clouds their significance.  You will not believe in the Lord more by ignoring him.  You will grow in your faith by pursuing him.

#5.  Repent I put this last because I want to spend the most time on it.  Doubt is never an isolated issue.  The majority of doubt is birthed out of disobedience.  Rarely do people struggle with doubt when they feel they are in a right relationship with the Lord.  Typically people who are struggling with doubt have experienced other spiritual issues in their lives.  Some times it is circumstances that are beyond their control, but the majority of doubt is birthed out a place of sin.  People living in rebellion against God are going to have a difficult time experiencing the peace found in the Spirit of the Lord.  You are asking God to make you feel comfort and peace and he is calling you back to Himself.  He has not rejected you.  He has not forgotten you – your name is still in the Book.  You simply are no longer in a position for his peace to reflect clearly upon you.

Repent.  Turn away from your sin. AND trust the goodness and grace of God.

Stop asking God for peace when you know He should bring conviction and restlessness into your life.  Sin will not condemn you again, but it will prevent you from experiencing the fullness of a right relationship with God – as it should.

#6.  Recognize spiritual warfare for what it is. The thief has come to kill and to steal and to destroy, but I have come that you might have life and that life to the full.  John 10:10

We have an adversary.  He is the accuser.  He is the prince of deception.  He wants you to live in doubt.  We face struggles that are not of flesh and blood but of spirits and principalities.  I do not encourage you to worry with what it is you face as much as I challenge you to call upon the One who has already faced every battle own your behalf…and won!

Satan’s greatest tool is doubt.  He asks the first question in the Bible, “Did not God say…”  His quest is to get you to say did not God.  Doubt is a distraction; not a death sentence.  Doubt cannot kill faith, but it can kill faithfulness.  When you feel doubt…fight.

One key weapon is this truth found in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  Take captive every thought with OBEDIENCE.  Do what you know is right even when you are not sure you feel like all is right.  Take captive the thoughts of doubt with actions of faith.

 

Doubt is something every believer faces.  Those who come out of such seasons stronger – face their doubts head on with the truth and in the power of the True One.

Every Graduate’s Guide

 

File May 18, 4 43 59 PM

When I put the cap and gown on again last weekend I sparked something I had not experienced in quite a while.  From all directions I got the question, “So, what do you plan to do next?” My answer is pretty simple.  “I am going to continue doing what I was doing before I graduated.”  I hope my simple response becomes an encouragement to all my fellow graduates and to all the hopeful parents that are asking the what is next question.  Let me explain…

My answer is not a 40 something’s resistance to change or that I am perfectly settled in life; my answer is rooted in a conviction that there are a few simple maxims that bring clarity to almost any situation.  One simple truth helps determine what to do in life, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”  Matthew 6:33   A second simple guide tells me how to do it.  “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23  When I became a Christ follower, I told God I was willing to go wherever He would take me; this launched me on an exciting journey.

As a young crazy 20 year old trying to make it through LSU I became enthusiastic about mirroring my character and actions after what I found in the Bible.  Honestly, through all of life that has changed, for the most part it stays the same.  Whether chemical engineer, dad, husband, friend or pastor I try to live with passion for a single purpose.  Through life I find myself at crossroads which force major decisions, but 99.9% of them are simple choices to do what I know to do “for the Lord and not for men.”

Take heart my fellow graduates and worrying parents alike.  If the pursuit of God’s purposes with an enthusiasm to do everything for Him was the plan; just keep doing what you have always done with confidence in the future.  If your purpose and passion was for anything else, it is still very simple — It’s time for a change.

Love Without Limits?

Line Sand

It is the wide love of God for us that leads us down the narrow road of love.

That’s the bold assertion that we made last Sunday as we launched into the last segment of Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount through our new series, The Right Way.  We zeroed in on the radical breadth of who God loves, how God loves, and why God loves- and what that should mean in the lives of those of us who have received that love through Jesus.  We learned that God’s life changing love is available to all– which means that ours should be too, including (but not limited to)…

  • Those of other racial, ethnic backgrounds
  • Those of other religious faiths (or no faith at all)
  • Those of other political opinions
  • Those of other economic statuses
  • Those of other moral convictions and lifestyles
  • Even those who have wounded us deeply

This list is undoubtedly uncomfortable to consider- and even more so to put into practice.  But as we said on Sunday, while it may be improbable, if the Gospel is true it is not impossible!  After all, if a holy God can love rebels like us (and the Cross of Christ proves that He has), then surely His love can flow through us into the lives of anyone in this world.

But this raises a tension for us, doesn’t it?  How are we supposed to love those with whom we deeply, profoundly disagree?  I’m not talking about petty disagreements, but the “heavy” stuff of life- matters like the sanctity of all human life; the nature of marriage, family, and sexuality; the appropriate response to social and economic injustice; the authority of the Bible; and the truthfulness of the Gospel.  How can we reconcile God’s command to love like He does without compromising core level convictions in the process?  Is this even possible?

I believe God’s answer to that question is a resounding yesbut to get to that yes, we’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.

I firmly believe that when it comes to the issue of “love”- and what “counts” as “love”- we’ve been sold a lie.  This is a lie that I believe originated in secular thinking, but has deeply infiltrated the thinking of many in God’s church.  What is it?  That love equals agreement, acceptance, and affirmation.  In other words, “If you love me, you’ll agree with me, accept me without hesitation, and affirm my choices without question.”  We see this kind of thinking play out most explicitly when it comes to questions of sexuality, but I believe it informs the way we think now about just about everything.

The lie itself probably shouldn’t surprise us.  But what is truly tragic is to the degree to which supposedly Bible believing, orthodoxy affirming followers of Jesus have bought it without question, and have abandoned centuries of consistent Christian teaching and veered into questionable- and I believe destructive- territory, all because they’ve adopted an insufficient definition of love.  What we must come to see is that a “love” that merely agrees, accepts, and affirms without question or evaluation is actually profoundly unloving– and ultimately ungodly.

The way I see it, we’ve missed the boat on this thing in two directions- both of which arise from this same poisonous root.  Some in the church have blurred the lines between right and wrong, between truth and error, between sin and righteousness.  Others, to the opposite extreme, have taken those lines- as revealed in God’s Word- and used them as weapons to insult, exclude, and elevate themselves over others in self-righteous judgment.  But in both cases, the same lie is in play- in the former case, if I love you then I must agree with you, and in the latter, if I disagree with you I don’t have to love you.  So what, then, is the alternative to these two “ditches”?  Again, as it always is, the Gospel is our guide.  Consider…

  • God makes the truth clear- and so should we. God doesn’t play “hide and seek” with us on issues of right and wrong.  While His Word may not address every potential nuance we face in life, it is decidedly not lacking in clarity on the big questions we face on a day in, day out basis.  It is critical as the people of God that we understand this revealed truth well and express it clearly as we have opportunity.  Now we must be humble here, recognizing that while God is infallible, we are not- which means that we need to keep pressing in for rich understanding and right application.
  • God demonstrates active love toward those who reject His truth- and so should we. At one time, all of us rejected God’s truth- apart from His gracious intervention, “there is no one righteous- no, not one!”  And yet God was gracious, kind, and compassionate toward us- so much so that He sent Jesus from heaven to earth to pay the price for our sin and provide us an opportunity to repent of that sin, and to trust and follow Him.  As 2 Peter 3:9 declares, “God is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  This heart ought to be reflected in the way we approach and engage with those who reject God- just as we once did.
  • God was willing to endure suffering to see others rescued- and so should we. This is the most stunning aspect of the Gospel- that the holy God of heaven would willfully submit Himself to unjust suffering so that His enemies could know His saving love.  Crazy as that sounds, that’s the standard that He sets for us too- not that we would literally go to the Cross to redeem those with whom we disagree, but that we would be willing to be misunderstood and mistreated for the sake of the Gospel.  This isn’t only true for those in hostile global contexts, but also for those of us in everyday life in a culture that is increasingly emboldened in its opposition to the truth revealed in God’s Word.  What if, instead of virulently fighting for our “rights” (although I am a big believer in religious liberty for all), we went the second mile to seek to understand our “enemies” and guide them toward true satisfaction and freedom in submission to our Creator?  There is no guarantee how that ends up, but the clear witness of God’s Word is that that’s our calling and responsibility.

To summarize, when it comes to the idea of “love without limits,” what we find is that there are limits to what we can in good conscience agree with, accept, and affirm– but that there are not limits to the actions we take to see those held captive by sin’s deception set free by the grace of God.  I want to encourage and challenge you today to consider which of the above “ditches” you are most prone to stumble into, and to instead walk in God’s supernatural strength to love others even when it is messy- just as you yourself have been loved by this God.