How activists against racism may be reinforcing it deeper into our culture.

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I watched a video the other day of a passionate young adult working to prove that racism is a very real problem that must be dealt with.  By the time it appeared on my Facebook feed it had been watched hundreds of thousands of times. 

Actually, he did a good job identifying problems that do exist and areas in our culture that need to be improved.  The problem is HOW he was making his viewers aware.  He basically said repeatedly in different ways, “You’re a racist!”  He was bold and passionate. 

Before we proceed let’s assume his information was 100% accurate and his heart was in the right place.

I still think he, along with many others, are making things worse. 

Here is why.

There is an important piece to the maturation process psychologically – identity.  Professional counselors and educators have been aware of this for a long time.

If an alcoholic is trying to improve, it’s one thing for him to admit he has a problem.  It’s something else to have him come home night after night to a spouse that calls him a “worthless drunk.”  Counselors long ago realized that berating and name calling doesn’t help.  In fact, it makes it worse.  Being made aware of a problem is very different than being told your problem is your identity… repeatedly. The wife may hate that he is an alcoholic– and at the same time reinforcing it IS his identity more deeply into his heart and soul! 

In education, it’s the same way.  If you have a young child who struggles with math, it’s one thing to identify there are places he needs extra attention; it’s another to remind him repeatedly he is “stupid.” You can absolutely point out an area in which he needs to improve, but ratifying in him that being “stupid” is a part of his identity will do more damage than good.  He may even actually come to believe it is who he is, accepting it even deeper into his identity. 

Moreover, social uniqueness (identity) is formed by what you are for AND by what you are against, from religion, politics, national identities, even artistic preferences.  Identity IS divisive and being unique is a basic human desire.  What’s important is HOW we approach uniqueness.  Racism (used broadly), by practice, is not only preferring a unique trait, but also believing the PEOPLE who have or prefer other unique traits are somehow less valuable or even worthless.  Our culture has ignorantly tried to throw out both sides of this by pretending to be blind to differences in general.  Trying to say there is no gender, color, intellectual or athletic gifting and the like is silly and limits the beautiful diversity of humanity.  For example:

People need to stop saying things like “kids don’t see color.”  Yes, they do.  They just aren’t bothered by the difference.  In fact, they can openly talk about it because a difference in skin color is a vastly inferior issue to the friendship they have.  What needs to be elevated is the priority of love.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

We don’t want to live blind to the complex beauty that is humanity, or be afraid to see differences in each other. However, the binding agent of this uniqueness is love. 

Lastly, abhorrent name calling, violent marches, and belittling trigger the primal fight or flight instinct.  There are countless articles and research papers showing that people struggle to learn when they are deeply angry or afraid.  Every well-intentioned video or article that provokes the primal fight or flight may be highly effective click-bait (meaning a lot of people see it) but will not help move hearts toward love and respect.  In most cases as your blood pressure goes up, your ability to reason goes way down. 

So, what do we do?

In my home: I will not label my kids as a racist, idiot, bully or the like. Even if I think their values are wrong. That’s not their identity and not who they have to become.  That said they are unique and absolutely can improve themselves in many ways.  Not everything they like or dislike will be right, but that has no bearing on their value as a person.  In Christianity, human value is not subjective but objective. I will teach them there is space to love people deeply and talk about differences, even debate them. As a Christian, I tell them all humans are made in the image of God and have immeasurable value– from the unborn baby to the elderly dementia patient, from those born in the heart of India to those born in the heart of Kansas– and we should treat all as Christ sees them over how we may feel about them.  So, in our home we may challenge each other’s ideas and prefer different music styles, but love remains.

Identity: People are eternally valuable creations of God. 

Objective: Teach my children to approach a complex world the way Jesus did. You can challenge people, wrestle with ideas and ideals, but you cannot take away their transcendent value.  You don’t have that power.

In our culture: The battle is won by education and in relationships. I decided to do a little “research” and spent an evening watching interview after interview on YouTube of people who overcame racism.  I couldn’t find one that overcame racism with more physical or emotional violence.  The victory was always won through relationships and education.  If the objective is to win HEARTS– tangible forgiveness, mercy, and love are far more powerful than taking up arms and stone-throwing. If you want to change hearts, don’t work to prove there is hate without also working to demonstrate how it can be overcome. Don’t divide people further, build a bridge to speak into their life.

There are a lot of people in this world I disagree with and I actually enjoy a well-mannered debate.  Yet, I do not have any power to remove someone’s value. Even if I disagree with them. In my opinion their value is assigned by the Creator. 

He loved people so much that he sent what was dearest to him, his son, to die, so that they may be rescued.  The very people he knew had wrong affections and values.

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I’ll let pastor King be my final thought…

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

picture: https://www.pexels.com/photo/portrait-dark-black-and-white-eyes-12087/

 

Our mixed up view of the favor of God.

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Our mixed up view of the favor of God. 

Several weeks ago our guest speaker Dr. Carl Shepherd made a profound statement:

“Most people are unhappy with their getting, and satisfied with their giving.”

We are obsessed with what we receive and offer little attention or strategy to what we give away. People are constantly praying that God will give them more instead of praying that He will help them give more away.

I think we have mixed up the way we measure the favor of God. We measure it by how much we get. 

This isn’t always a bad thing. God wants to give good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11). However, there is another piece to this puzzle. We are to also be a massive blessing to others with our time, talent, and treasure. In fact, we could be living a disobedient life all while God is allowing us to have incredible amounts of time, talent, or treasure (James 4:17).

We need to be discontent with our giving and more content with our getting. 

The goal of this life is not to acquire as much stuff for ourselves as we can with our time, talent, or treasure.  Biblical stewardship is making Jesus and His ways as famous as possible with these resources.

This is a huge problem in our world. Most people use their time, talent, and treasure to make themselves as famous as they can. I don’t care what popular culture says, this isn’t just selfish, it may actually be sin. (Luke 12:48, James 4:17, James 1:27)

Your goal in life should be to make Jesus as famous as possible with your time, talent, and treasure! 

Our prayer for more time, talent, or treasure ought to be like this, “Oh God, increase my capacity to give.”

My prayer for you as a counter-cultural pastor is this. (This is a dangerous prayer, people don’t like it!  Especially Christians who aren’t really Christian.)

God please don’t waste your gifts of time, talent, and treasure on those who hoard for their own self-pleasure.  I pray that you would bless beyond measure the talent, time, and treasure of those who desperately want to give to glorify you!

That is truly counter-cultural.

So what will you do with the limited time God has given you?

What will you do with the material resources God has allowed you steward for your short, finite life?

What will you do with the talent God has given you?

Please listen closely!  With no strategy in these areas something awful will happen.  The loudest cultural voices will steal your greatest asset and it isn’t your time, talent, or treasure.  It’s your heart. 

Please take a few moments and check this sermon out!

The discipleship information the end of the video is referencing can be found here: Catechumen

I will speak for her! Will you?

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I will speak for her!  Will you?

Have you ever met anyone that has been molested as a child?  I have.  The disgrace, loneliness, fear, and worst of all the feeling this atrocity somehow made them dirty and they can’t wash it off.

There is so much shame that many who feel shackled by this don’t want to speak up.   As the cloud of misery hovers over them they shut down, and that’s when the fighter in me begins to well up!  Deep inside and I just want to cry out, “I will speak for you! I will fight for you!”

One of the jobs of the ancient church was to be a voice for those who couldn’t speak for themselves.  Too many so-called Christians have abandoned this.  They have turned aside from the hard issues because they are too messy or too political.

We stand on the door of one of the greatest seasons of the sporting year, Super Bowl Sunday.  In the dark shadows of this incredible event lurks one of our worst annual atrocities, child prostitution.  Girls (and boys) stolen from all over the world are brought here to be sold as slaves.  As we celebrate, cheer, and plow through our chips and dip, lives are truly being torn apart behind closed doors.

Check out these global statistics from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Justice, International Labor Organization:

  • An estimated 21 million children, women, and men are caught in the cycle of trafficking.
  • Every minute, two children are sold into slavery.
  • The average cost of a slave is $90.
  • The average age of entry into the sexual exploitation industry is 12 years old.
  • Approximately 80% of trafficking victims are women, and up to 50% are children.
  • Total yearly profits generated by human trafficking is $32 billion.

Will you be a voice?

Will you speak for them?

I get it.  What do you say?  How do you raise awareness on something like this?  When does this topic come up in conversation?  Even if you did talk about it, what could you do?

Here are three things that you can do right now!

  1. Share this.  Facebook, twitter, email—I don’t care.  If it’s hard for you to say, let me say it for you!
  2. Be aware.  Keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to report.  It isn’t just the Super Bowl—it’s in our own backyard.
  3. Help support organizations that fight this!  Here is one you can use if you like. I want to do something really out of the box, know I personally get NOTHING from this.  Our church is in great financial shape, in fact our main campus is debt free and since nothing given has to pay for overhead (staff, buildings etc.), we can send every penny we receive through our missions fund to Emergency Aftercare Centers.  Here young girls will be rehabilitated, taught a skill as a means for income, and brought back into society.  For the next two weeks EVERYTHING donated at www.give.encountertrinity.com under the tab “SILENT NO MORE” is designated to give a voice to those who have none.  Will you join us?  Even if you can’t please pass this along!

So here is the real question…I know I will speak for her.  Will you?

*The picture is on behalf of http://www.worldhope.org the same organization that is starting the Emergency Aftercare Centers.

It takes more than food to feed the poor

It takes more than food to feed the poor.

A few years ago a good friend of mine noticed a homeless man begging on the side of the road. Now, any of us who have watched specials on television know that most of these guys are faking it, looking for a free hand out, right? A good Samaritan might give him a few bucks just to show him generosity. My friend decided to do way more than that. He picked him up and took him out to eat. After a long conversation over a McDonald’s meal, he learned that his destitute state was a reality. The problem was he had no desire to change. The conversation ended somewhat like this, “Sir, thank you for the free meal, I needed it. Honestly through, I just want money for liquor.” Well, how do you fix that? He is destitute and he doesn’t want to change!

Sometimes I think it’s too easy for us to believe that benevolence alone will change someone.

I do understand that people need their basic needs met before they can wrestle through higher levels of thinking. We all have studied Abraham Maslow and his infamous hierarchy of needs, the most basic being food and water. Yet we must not forget the most important issue of the heart.

Until there is a transformation of the will, any economic adjustment will be short lived.

What made Christ so different is his passion for people. He would meet their physical needs but quickly engage them at a much deeper level. He inspired divine ethics. I believe too often in our culture ethics and morality are used synonymously, when in fact they are very different. Morality is how people are living, while ethics is how people ought to live. Christ didn’t just acknowledge people’s physical and moral state, he inspired a whole new way to approach life. He delivered divine ethics.

I believe meeting physical needs is important. I also believe true transformation doesn’t happen in the stomach alone, it happens in the heart.

If we are truly going to engage the poor and help a needy culture, we must do more than just meet their physical needs. If you are really wanting to make a difference, join a church or missions organization that goes to the next level, one that mentors, engages, and teaches people. In that intersection of heart development and meeting physical needs, deep transformation can truly take place.

John 4:13-14 (ESV)

“Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”