Striking images hit me this morning. The recent string of cultural and racial clashes in our nation, the senseless killing of police officers, along with the ever-present terrorism world-wide have me wondering, “How can this be changed?”
Who will stop shouting, stop dividing and begin reconciling? There’s one answer – the Church will do this. She’s made for this. The church was birthed in racial strife, where Jews and Gentiles raged against one another until the gospel drew us closer together.
The Apostle showed us that reconciling the races is embedded in the Gospel. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
I prayed this morning surrounded by Hispanic, Chinese, African-American and many other races. I worshiped the Savior today with the backdrop of a group of students on their way to camp – too diversified to name the backgrounds. I called our congregation to prayer, and saw black and white, arms around each other, kneeling and weeping for the senselessness our culture, asking, “Lord, how long?”
We called the church to this. “When the cultural clashes are amplified, the prayer we pray must be intensified.” And pray we did. Prayers of repentance for racist attitudes. Prayers of compassion and grace for the families of the fallen. Prayers of protection for our police, and prayers of hope for our community.
Dr. Martin Luther King once said that the 11 o’clock hour is the “most segregated hour in this nation.” He had a point. We’ve must move beyond that – and we must do it now.
And once we’re beyond the walls of the church building, wherever we worship, we’ve got to live out the grace and love we talk about when we gather.
The church united will be more powerful than words, laws or protests. It’s already happening, if you’ll see it. And if it’s not happening where you worship, take the first step to change your church culture.
Dark days require light and salt. They require measured responses and wisdom from above, not below.
1. Pray for families of all those killed in recent days. For the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. For the families of Lorne Ahrens, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Smith, Michael Krol and Brent Thompson. I don’t have to know the outcomes of investigations to pray – God knows. Yes, pray also for the family of Micah Xavier Johnson.
2. Support racial reconciliation AND your police. You cannot tell me I have to choose between the two. No group is perfect. Racial reconciliation is a gospel issue – we’re all the same in Christ. Racism is sin. Police are part of a biblically recognized group in Romans 13. They protect and discipline because it’s necessary. As believers, it’s our calling to support both.
3. Pursue the true solution – the Gospel for our communities. Stop talking about the gospel solutions ONLY behind closed doors. Can’t we see where it needs to be applied? It’s the Gospel of PEACE – and we’re looking at the result of a gospel-less culture.
We should be determined to love all our brothers and sisters, reach out to them – love our officers and families and reach out and pray for them….speak up. Try to identify with what others are experiencing (in my case it’s my African-American brothers and sisters). Shine light and bring hope.
On June 26, 2015, the SCOTUS ruled 5-4 to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. This is not the first time SCOTUS has ruled contrary to Scriptural truth and natural law. It IS momentous. The landscape is changing and the cultural plates are shifting.
What’s happening in America is the result of the ever-widening gap between absolute truth and relativism. In America, our nation is redefining what we want to consider to be truth. SCOTUS did this Roe vs. Wade when devaluing life in the womb. The consequences have been wide-ranging and horrific, and this will always be a consequence as we step further away from truth. WE have no authority to define truth. GOD does, and already has. We look to Him to know and understand truth.
Christians are called to do two things above all else.
We are to love God first and foremost. This means we love not only God Himself, but His Word, His ways and His design. Loving God means respecting His infinite wisdom in His creation of the first man and woman and how He brought them together in what we know as marriage. This is His original design and it’s still “very good.” Jesus said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6 NASB) Christ-followers should love God’s design and His plan for them. These words never change, regardless of a ruling by 5 unelected officials – or anyone else. I’ll never stop speaking the truth of God’s word in the pulpit or in the public arena. Our church will continue to stand on God’s Word firmly. Truth is truth, regardless who believes it.
We’re also called to love our neighbors. Loving my neighbor is sometimes a challenge – especially when our values may be so radically different. But my neighbor IS my neighbor. It might even be my relative or friend whose values are so different. I need to be ready to love steadfastly. As believers, there may be times when our convictions will be mocked and ridiculed. We may be labeled as unreasonable and narrow-minded simply for holding to a biblical pattern for marriage. I want to go on record as saying and living out this truth: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” The world that God SO LOVES includes all of us. It includes every person of every color, race, gender, or action. The grace God has shown to me as a sinner who was by nature a child of wrath is the same grace that I’m to share with my neighbors, whoever they are. My neighbor needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ just as badly as I do.
So what are some practical responses?
1. PRAY for our nation and for those who live in America. If anything should make us more desperate for prayer, it is the widening gap in America between truth and cultural reasoning. This is not a slope, it’s a cliff that will hurt many in the days ahead. Prayer for our families and for the individuals this will impact is critical – and that’s all of us.
2. DISCUSS the issues with your family. Sit your kids down. Gather around a dinner table some evening with those you love with an open Bible. Tell them what the Bible says about loving God and His truth. Tell them about how we’re to love our neighbors and pray for those who do not believe God’s truth. Teach them a Gospel response.
3. Don’t be DISCOURAGED. I like the words of Russell Moore. “First of all, the church should not panic. The Supreme Court can do many things, but the Supreme Court cannot get Jesus back in that tomb. Jesus of Nazareth is still alive. He is still calling the universe toward his Kingdom.”
4. STAY ACTIVE to ensure religious liberty remains present. This is not a time to be silent to our elected officials. Fewer Christians are voting and speaking up, but our voice is so important! Stay active!
5. Stay on MISSION with the Gospel. Jesus took the good news of the Gospel directly to those who were furthest from it. He left no one out. He knew life wouldn’t be found in marriage or in relationships of any kind, but in His grace and forgiveness. Make sure your church is relentless about getting the Gospel where it’s rarely heard – in the lives of those who live around us. Make sure this is what you personally do.
And…Christian…the world (and your neighbor) needs you to shine now more than ever. As believers, we may be more different from the world than we ever have been – and that’s not a bad thing at all. Shine.
Proverbs 31 is about a great woman expressing that greatness in her context.
It is not just about mothers (although this woman was one).
It is about women. About wives. About influence.
Read Proverbs 31 without the context of modern day “home-building.” Before Pinterest, before HGTV and decorating. Before all that, were humble homes at best (unless you lived in some castle, which was NOT the situation of most). This is not to diminish those who prize the above. It’s just to say, it’s not about that.
Read Proverbs 31 through the context of mud walls in humble abodes. Read it through the context of a woman in tribal Africa whose day is not one of leisure and entertainment. Read it through the timeless and eternal truths of a woman from “any nation,” not just one nation. Read it through the eyes of women who couldn’t or didn’t have kids. Or whose kids were grown. Or who were unmarried. Or widowed. Or abandoned. This is not a truth that is just for one woman in one context. It is for, and it’s about all women who fear the Lord.
Here’s what it says about a great woman – about her character and life:
1) She values RELATIONSHIPS. v. 11-12 “Trust” is the key word. She’s trustworthy! The writer (Solomon) sees this woman’s heart, her commitment, and he says about her, “I trust her with anything.” Why? Because she does him good all the days of his life. That’s impressive. It’s rare. Spell that LOYALTY.
2) She demonstrates COMMITMENT v. 13-21 She’s committed in her time, her provision (she exercises amazing industry w/her resources), her servanthood is admirable, and her compassion is well-known. She’s committed to doing right for all those around her. My mom was one of the best businesswomen I’ve known. She was incredible. She used her abilities to bless those around her.
3) She radiates SIGNIFICANCE v. 21-25 She has this sense of self-worth – even when fashion was not “fashion,” she dressed with class. She gives her husband esteem just by how she carries herself. And HIS esteem is tied to HER conduct in this text (which is about the woman, not the man). He’s blessed to be around her – and he should know it. She faces the future with faith because she knows who she is. This woman is a “kept” woman – she’s kept by God. She fears the Lord, and this is her significance. Her significance is NOT tied to a job, wealth, children or house. It’s anchored to her relationship with HIM.
4) She dispenses WISDOM v. 26-27 This is the “Abigail factor” in Scripture – that great woman who stood between a fool and a king and gained respect. Her words and action prevented tragedy. She knows what to say and when to say it, and is not unwise in her discernment or influence. Her influence is wise and lasting. She never forgets to invest and influence all those around her. That’s why she is listened to. She has something to say. Something powerful.
5) She deserves REWARD v. 28-31 These verses sum up the above and say it all. Those within her sphere of influence – ALL of them – bless her. Whether kids, husbands, or fathers, they bless her. She needs to hear it because what she does is often unthanked, yet absolutely critical.
A godly woman’s influence is significant, powerful and unparalleled.
It’s Saturday on Holy Week. Jesus’ body has been buried. His followers have mourned and are still mourning. They are out of sight – hidden and grieving. this day is often called “Silent Saturday” because we know little that happens physically on this day, but…
…there is a spiritual roar taking place. It’s the deafening sound of death being ripped out of it’s foundation – sin. You see, with sin comes death. Sin is always attached to death and death is always attached to sin. To defeat death, one has to defeat sin, and none of us can do that. No on on earth can do that – no one has ever done that – until Silent Saturday.
On Silent Saturday, Jesus went and “made proclamation to the spirits now in prison…” (1 Peter 3:19) This is the roar. This is the startling sound that breaks the law of sin and death and rips the power of death from satan himself. This is what strikes fear in every demon of darkness and what banishes satan to the bottomless pit. And it’s what brings hope to every one of us who hates sin and death. It’s the roar of victory. The roar of resurrection. Jesus. Has. Overcome.
If death could have held Him, sin would have won. But it didn’t. It didn’t hold Jesus, and it can’t hold us – so long as we are IN Jesus. The resurrection is the trump card over the finality and hopelessness of death, and Jesus continues to shout life for us because of what happened on Silent Saturday.
It may be Silent Saturday, but what happens there should cause the believer to shout and sing and praise and worship the God who destroyed sin and death!
Good Friday. What a name.
When you and I wake up in the morning on Good Friday, we should remember that Jesus has been going through a series of rigged and brutal trials that will lead to His crucifixion later in this day, 2000 years ago. He will be accused, beaten, spat upon, ridiculed and insulted – all before being stripped naked and scourged to within an inch of His physical life.
He’ll be further mocked, then condemned by the crowd. Then, it becomes an unbearable walk to a hill outside of Jerusalem where Roman soldiers are waiting to take this grief to another level. He’s carrying the cross beam, and He is weakened by blood loss, sleeplessness and the awareness that He’s been deserted by nearly all. But He presses on. There’s a purpose to this.
He lays down. His arms are stretched out. The spikes create unrelenting pain as they force their way through His, bones and sinews into the wood, where they impale Him there. He’s lifted up on the cross, and it slides into the hole in the ground that will keep it upright. The jarring force of this creates an excruciating (the word means “out of the cross”) existence to the very end.
Before He dies…He forgives those who put Him there. He takes care of His mother. He allows the sin of mankind to be placed on His shoulders. He cries out with a loud voice, “Why has Thou forsaken Me?” and “IT IS FINISHED!”
There is a purpose to this. At that very moment, the wrath of God was satisfied. Appeased. The onrushing flow of judgment and condemnation of sin stemmed by the single greatest act of sacrifice the world has known. The just for the unjust. The innocent for the guilty.
Do you know what was happening on what many call “Maundy Thursday”? In the life of Jesus, the cross and tomb are now nearer than ever.
But this is no meaningless death – and no permanent tomb. But first, He prepares His disciples and then prepares Himself for the sacrifice of “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”
The Last SUPPER takes place in an upper room. The disciples are there, but thinking of a Passover meal. Jesus is thinking about THE Passover. THE sacrifice. “This bread is my body which is broken for you.” And then…”this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.” This makes little sense to the disciples at the moment – but after all is said and done, it comes rushing back to their minds and it’s crystal clear. Jesus IS the Lamb.
At the Last Supper they observe Him SERVE them. On His knees, Jesus washes their feet and gives them the command to love one another. They cannot fathom this kind of leadership – the kind that is humble, the kind that serves and loves. It’s so distinctly different from what they’ve seen before Jesus – but here He is telling them, “YOU do this.”
Then, the SURRENDER in the Garden of Gethsemane. Can you imagine sweating drops of blood? Can you grasp knowing the decision you were about to make would justify (or condemn) the sinfulness of mankind? Imagine knowing you were chosen to satisfy the WRATH of God on behalf of every person who ever existed. Jesus said, “Not My will, but Thy will be done.” Then, they came to take Him away.
Wednesday of Holy Week is often called the “Silent Day.” Two days before His crucifixion…the clock is ticking toward the tomb…and we find nearly nothing from Scripture about the activities of Jesus. However, if we look at what has already transpired, and what is about to happen, we can deduce that some critical things are happening.
Silence is what happens outwardly when people scheme and plan inwardly. Jesus was about to be betrayed by a kiss from Judas. He was about to be conspired against by the scribes and Pharisees, in conjunction with the Romans who occupied Jerusalem. While silence was taking place outwardly, hatred and resentment were building in the hearts of the residents of the city. Jesus will soon be lied about, beaten horribly and sentenced to death. He will be betrayed by one of his followers, denied by another three times. His followers will soon flee from his presence.
I sometimes wonder how Jesus could be so forgiving of those who hated and denied him so absolutely. Usually, I think about this when I am needing to forgive someone who wounds or betrays me. It happens to all of us at some time or another. What HE is going through on Wednesday identifies with what we sometimes go through. Is HIS forgiveness of those who plotted against him our inspiration for forgiving others? Because of what He is about to go through, we can forgive those who sin against us.
I believe silence also happens when people pray. We KNOW Jesus was a man of prayer. We KNOW He often went away to be alone. Two days before the day that will forever be known as the day of the redemption of sinful man – I have no doubt Jesus is praying. He’s burdened by what is about to happen. His character, integrity and physical health will be shredded to the max. He will bear the sin of mankind on His shoulders.
The Silent Day should remind us of the importance and the power of prayer. Whatever we must endure, we do it through prayer – just as He did. Prayer steals the will to carry out the tasks we’ve been assigned. He’s praying on Wednesday. Are you?
On Tuesday of the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, He’s focused on faith – and the future.
You can see it on the video blog here: https://vimeo.com/123657717
Passing by the fig tree He had cursed the day before, Jesus hears the comments from His disciples who seem surprised that the tree has withered – and He challenges their faith. It’s as though He’s wondering aloud – “do you even know Who I am?” Do WE? Do we realize the power of Jesus Christ and His very words that heaven and earth respond to? Do we grasp His greatness, and the privilege of knowing and following Him?
Tuesday is the day Jesus speaks on the future – and you find His “Olivet Discourse” in Matthew 24. It’s the most extensive prophecy of the end times we ever hear from Jesus. He foretells the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and simultaneously teaches of His return at the end of time. As Jesus moves quickly towards His death, He’s focusing on the end of the world. He’s revealing that we’re ALL heading toward the end of this earthly life – and ultimately the end of this earth!
He moves towards death on Tuesday, and we’re a day closer every day to our own. Are we ready? Have we lived life with purpose? Do we know the God we will one day meet?
Have you ever contemplated the unfolding of the events of Holy Week? What was Jesus doing in days leading up to the Cross? What was happening around Him that impacted the incredible significance of this event of the crucifixion?
See the video here: Monday of Holy Week
Jesus seemed concerned about three things on Monday: 1) The failure of religion to bring men near to God. Calling the Pharisees “white-washed tombs” on the week leading up to Jesus being placed in a tomb is key. He’s reminding us that man can take any religion – even one established by God Himself – and turn it into a self-serving, prideful exercise that is more characterized by deadness than life. Is YOUR worship dead, or is it alive? Is it Christ-focused, or man-focused?
2) Jesus is also concerned about FRUIT in the lives of His followers. This is the day that Jesus curses the fig tree because it has no fruit on it. The disciples who saw this were perplexed by why Jesus did it – but His purpose is to point out distaste for fruitlessness. It’s an indictment on Israel and her rejection of Jesus Himself. Today, it stands as an indictment upon unfruitful believers in Christ. Look on the tree of your own life? Is there spiritual fruit? Should Jesus expect to see fruit in your life as He examines under the leaves – or are there “nothing but leaves”?
3) Jesus cleanses the temple on this day – a strong testimony of His heart for PURE WORSHIP and His authority to purify worship. It’s clear Jesus had a passion for pure worship and a passion for prayer. “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Reconsider your worship this week in light of Jesus’ actions on Monday. Is it pure, or selfish? Is it about God, or about you?
On Monday, Jesus breaks down what is not worth keeping, and sets straight the path to the ultimate sacrifice – death on the Cross for mankind.
Thoughts from John Meador and insights from God's Word.