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Welcome to the DBG website for Christian blogs and articles written by Josh Buice.

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Providing Christian blogs, articles, and sermons on various topics from a biblical perspective.

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Lost Church Members

Lost Church Members

Have you ever been lost?  Do you remember what it was like as a child to look up and discover your parents were suddenly not next to you in the local store?  Do you recall being in a strange city or an unfamiliar neighborhood and you couldn’t find your way home?  In our day of constant high speed Internet on cell phones with built-in GPS capability, it’s almost impossible to get lost.  In fact, many teenagers and young adults have no idea what it’s like to be lost because of their map application on their smart phone.  They have never felt that sinking and lonely feeling of being lost in a strange place.

I’m fearful that many church members grow up with that same type of problem.  They hear sermons that talk about God in a generic manner.  They hear nothing of His true character from the Scriptures.  Many people go through church and never hear about sin, the wrath of God, the depravity of man, and our hopeless condition without Christ.  They hear about how good God is and about how He loves everyone.  How many people have merely repeated a prayer at the end of a worship service and been baptized without any genuine knowledge of sin and salvation in Christ Jesus?  How many people believe they are on their way to heaven but have never known they were lost?

Many preachers from history have shared startling statistical statements that should leave us trembling.  Billy Graham, on national television, once stated that he believed 85% of church attendees were on their way to hell.  Before Billy Graham, Jesus made a statement that is quite shocking.  Matthew records Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ [23] And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

That was my story – almost.  I was a lost church member.  I grew up in church.  As a boy, my parents were experiencing marital problems, and my grandfather took me to church each week.  One day, at 6 years of age, I repeated a prayer after a preacher and I was told that I was a Christian.  I only did what I had witnessed other boys and girls doing, and it was not a genuine act of faith.  I had no idea of sin and salvation in Christ.  From that point forward, I entered the church, was baptized, and lived as a lost church member.  I was often miserable.  I was in a perpetual fight with my flesh about what I truly wanted and what I knew I had to do in order to please my father.  It was not until I was 25 years old that the Lord saved me.  At the time the Lord saved me, I was teaching a Sunday school class in our church and totally fooled into believing that I was right with God because of what I did when I was a young boy.  My faith was more connected with the fact that I prayed a prayer rather than Jesus suffering in my place.

How many people in American evangelicalism are lost in their sin, but they have never been told the truth?  How many teenagers are lost, but their parents and their youth group leaders have never taught them the true gospel?  How many senior adults believe they are on their way to heaven, but in reality, they are on their way to hell?  Many people in the average church are on their way to hell.  That’s more than my opinion, that’s what Jesus said.  He said many would argue about their works before His judgment throne.  However, He will cast them from His presence.  They knew Him, but He never knew them.  This is a warning regarding lost church members.

Could this be you?

When was the last time you examined yourself to see if you are in the faith?

J.C. Ryle, in his commentary on Matthew 7:21-23 writes, “The day of judgment will reveal strange things.  The hopes of many who were thought great Christians while they lived will be utterly confounded.  The rottenness of their religion will be exposed and put to shame before the whole world.”   As you look into the pages of the Scripture what do you see?  As you read 1 John, does your face appear in the negative statements and warnings?  As you hear Jesus’ warning about false converts, do you tremble inwardly knowing that this is you?  If so, I plead with you to repent and turn to Jesus Christ.  Call out to God for mercy and have faith that Jesus died in your place on the cross. Have faith that He suffered under the wrath of God for you.  If you desire to be saved, you can come to God and He will take away your sin.  Will you repent?  Don’t postpone or hesitate.  If you’re lost – now is the appropriate time to turn to God.

Some Advantages Regarding a Plurality of Elders

Some Advantages Regarding a Plurality of Elders

Why should a church consider having more than one pastor?  Would more than one pastor cause leadership struggles among the group?  Although the Bible presents a clear case for a plurality of elders (multiple pastors serving one church), that doesn’t mean that it will automatically solve all problems within the life of the church.  Certainly a plural group of pastors could cause friction and struggles for power.  Anytime you place a group of sinners together, there is always the possibility for problems.  However, the advantages of having a plural group of pastors serving in the same church greatly outweigh the disadvantages.  Below you will see some key benefits to having multiple pastors serving the same congregation.

Plurality of Elders:  Biblical Foundation

All throughout the New Testament, the case for biblical eldership is presented as the natural leadership structure of the early church.  It may seem strange that no biblical author uses the “thou shalt” language regarding multiple pastors in the church, but the case is presented in a natural progression throughout the New Testament.  It becomes clear that the normal model of biblical leadership consisted of multiple pastors serving a single church.

Consider Paul’s address to the elders of the church at Ephesus.  In Acts 20:17-38, we see the full length address as provided to us by Luke.  The key point is found at the beginning of the address as Luke records, “Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him” (Acts 20:17).  Notice how Paul called the elders (plural) of the church (singular) together.  The Greek term used by Luke is πρεσβύτερος.  The context proves that the focus is not upon the older members of the congregation, but rather the leaders of the church.  Although the emphasis in this text is upon the warning Paul issued to these men regarding the wolves who would desire to enter the church, we must not overlook the reality of a plurality of elders overseeing the church at Ephesus.  Mark Dever writes,

“The Bible clearly models a plurality of elders in each local church. Though it never suggests a specific number of elders for a particular congregation, the New Testament refers to ‘elders’ in the plural in local churches (e.g., Acts 14:23; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18; Titus 1:5; James 5:14). When you read through Acts and the Epistles, there is always more than one elder being talked about.”1

Additional biblical examples include: James 5:14; Acts 11:30; Acts 14:21-23; 1 Timothy 5:17-20; Titus 1:5-11

Plurality of Elders:  Shared Accountability

A quick survey of failure among pastors will demonstrate the need for true accountability in ministry.  Just because a pastor is called by God to lead the church doesn’t mean that he’s bullet proof and immune to failure.  Many men who start the ministry don’t finish well.  Some fail due to moral problems.  Others fail because of a consistent track record of failure in leadership vision.  To put it quite simply, some men don’t have the ability to look forward and chart out a path for the church to move ahead and accomplish a vision.  After a series of failed attempts, many pastors are either forced out of their church or they simply walk away from ministry altogether.

This type of failure rate can be addressed through a plurality of elders working together to accomplish a ministry plan within the life of  the church.  From moral accountability regarding the use of money to accountability regarding relationships – a group of pastors can ask each other the hard questions and provide helpful critique that can eliminate harmful mistakes.

In addition to moral accountability, a group of pastors serving together can assist one another in pointing out the blindspots in leadership.  This could involve something as simple as planning the flow of the church service to something as complex as charting out a 10 year ministry plan for the entire church.  How many failed ministry plans are sitting in church closets collecting dust?  How much money and time has been wasted in planning such ministry visions?

Plurality of Elders:  Shared Responsibility

Ministry is not a one man show.  I recently returned from Ecuador where I spent 8 days in the Andes mountains with a small team from our church.  Our focus was to work with the church we planted 4 years ago.  I taught the pastor and church leaders expository preaching and church polity in the mornings and we went out and did evangelistic work in the afternoon.  At one point when I was focusing on the need for shared leadership, I told the pastor that he needs help.  He needs faithful deacons to help serve and other pastors to help lead.  I looked at him and said, “Lucas, you can’t do this all on your own.  It’s impossible.”

One of the great joys of my life has been watching our church move to an elder led church polity.  After a 4 year learning process, our church (which is 174 years old) officially became an elder led congregation last year.  Not only was it a smooth transition, but it has proven to be a delight for me in many ways.  Rather than occupying a CEO status in the church where I merely direct staff members beneath me, I am able to share responsibilities with other pastors in the church.

As we look at different areas of the church’s life, we are able to spread out the responsibility of oversight.  We share teaching and preaching responsibilities and we work together to plan, organize, and lead the church to accomplish a vision for God’s glory.  Alistair Begg writes, “Leadership in the church should always be shared – that is one reason that the apostolic pattern was to appoint a plurality of elders rather than a solitary elder in all the churches (Acts 14:23).2

As you examine the New Testament pattern of church leadership, it would be wise to follow the biblical approach rather than a modern leadership structure from recent history.  If you come to the conclusion that you need to move an existing church in that direction, I would encourage you to read as much as you can on this subject, pray, and slowly lead your church forward.  If you choose to move too quickly, it can disrupt the church and cause division.  Stability is your goal, and that’s what biblical eldership provides.  Begin a study with your deacons.  Wait six months and then preach a series on biblical church government within the church.  Perhaps you will want to consider taking the small groups of the church through a study on deacons and elders so that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities.  As you take small steps forward, do so with prayer, gentleness, patience, and teaching.

1. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Crossway, 2000, p. 215-216.

2. On Being a Pastor, Moody Press, 2004, p. 218.

See also:

Resources on Biblical Eldership from Desiring God

Biblical Eldership by: Alexander Strauch

Servanthood as Worship

Servanthood as Worship

SERVANTHOODI recently picked up a book by Nate Palmer titled, Servanthood as Worship – The Privilege of Life in a Local Church at a conference I attended.  I had not read anything by Nate Palmer before this book, but quickly I was sucked into the main premise of the book and before long, I had finished the first half without hardly blinking an eye.

The need for humility and servanthood in the church today abounds.  We Americans live and die by the sword of pride.  We often become so self consumed that we fail to look at the needs of others around us.  This cripples the church and suffocates genuine humble minded service.

I particularly enjoyed Palmer’s focus on the motivation behind our service.  Are we serving to be seen by others?  Are we serving to climb the ladder of positions within the church?  Are we serving to impress God?  These are all heart related factors that must be considered when it comes to our service within the local church.

As you will notice, Palmer pulls from baseball and other areas of life as a means of illustrating his point regarding service.  At one point, he talks about Brooks Robinson and how he played the game of baseball.  He points out that although he was a gifted athlete with exceptional skills, he would not have been capable of playing the game and throwing out baserunners if there was not a team surrounding him on the field.  All players need the context of a field and other players if they are to play the game.  In the case of the church, everyone matters.  All parts of the church context have their own level of importance and without the different parts being in place and functioning, the church would fall apart.

Although we all serve God from the particular giftedness that He has granted to us, we must always be reminded that our service is not intended to satisfy God’s holy justice.  Palmer writes, “We do not serve for salvation, but from salvation.  Serving is intended to magnify the gospel, not replace it.”

If we are all honest, we need this healthy reminder that Palmer provides for us in this short, yet impactful book.  We need to remember that serving God is not for the ultra spiritual in the church or for the professional ministers alone.  We are all gifted by God and the church functions to accomplish its mission through humble servants who long for God to gain much glory.  It would do us all well to pause our busy routines and look around us to see if we can serve someone else other than ourself and our own family for a change.  In so doing, we are not merely serving them, but serving God.

Nate Palmer and his wife, Steph, have three young kids and serve at GraceChurch Frisco in Dallas.  Nate has been a management consultant and now works for the software firm, SAP.  He holds an M.A .from Reformed Theological Seminary and his articles have appeared in Modern Reformation and Reformed Perspectives Magazine.

You can buy Servanthood as Worship – The Privileges of Life in a Local Church from: Cruciform Press

Are Short-Term Mission Trips a Bad Idea?

Are Short-Term Mission Trips a Bad Idea?

As one of the elders of our church who oversees and works directly with our mission projects, I have come to the blunt conclusion that many short-term mission trips are a bad idea.  Yes, you’re reading this correctly.  In fact, I have come to believe that many short-term mission trips are a complete waste of time, money, and energy.  Why would I suggest that many churches should consider canceling their summer mission trip?

Beware of Scams

Yes, scams and scandals come in every shape, color, and size.  The world of mission trip scams is alive and well.  There are reported cases of fake church buildings that have been erected, never used, and only occupied as a false image when the Americans visit in order to get additional “mission” money for their efforts.  Additionally, some groups have been known to exploit their children as a means of receiving relief funds as a result of the big hearted Americans who see their “needs” during their visit.  Unless the work on the field can be properly documented with trustworthy eyes and boots on the ground, beware of sending money and teams to random areas without a plan.

Not only are there scams on the field in third world countries waiting to take money in Jesus’ name, but there are scam artists in many churches too.  These people are unwilling to walk across the street and share Christ with their neighbor, but they are willing to board an airplane and fly thousands of miles from home in order to “win the lost” to Christ in the jungles of Peru.  Beware of the sightseeing tourist who wants to go see lions, tigers, and bears on the dime of faithful saints who sacrifice of their money to get the true gospel of Christ to other nations.

False Conversions

Unless your team from your church is properly trained and accustomed to the cultural practices and lifestyle of the people group that they will be ministering to, it’s quite possible that this team will bring a false report back home to the church.  When was the last time you heard of a mission team reporting 75 to 100 salvations in one village during one week of evangelism in Africa?  These false conversions happen because of two primary causes:

1. Improper Preparation:  Without the proper knowledge, it’s possible to lead many people to pray to receive Jesus Christ as Lord in a village in Zimbabwe without knowing that they are polytheistic in their religious practices.  Although they worship their ancestors, they want to be sure to have all of their bases covered.  Therefore, they’re happy to accept any deity figure presented, no matter if you present Jesus as God or the Easter Bunny – they will pray to either one.  Unless you know this up front through proper preparation, you will not know how to present the gospel so as to strip them from their false god worship practices and reveal to them the exclusive Savior – Jesus Christ.

2.  Flawed Methods:  I’ve been on the mission field and watched groups walking around door-to-door with little gospel cubes.  After they twist it around and tell a little story about Jesus, they quickly invite people to bow and pray to invite Jesus into their heart.  Not only should you stop telling people to invite Jesus into their heart, you should be careful when dealing with someone’s soul.  More times than not, people are willing to pray a prayer when directed, resulting in a false conversion that appears on a report and perhaps confuses the person into a false sense of security that may entrap them for the remainder of their life.

It’s a very common thing to have laborers on the field for years before they see a hand full of genuine conversions.  So, the authenticity of these inflated reports that often appear in nice PowerPoint slides during mission reports at the end of the summer should be questioned and scrutinized.  Additionally, if the mission teams are in it for the notches in their belt, they would do the church of Jesus Christ a great service by staying home.

Church Planting Is a Superior Model

Stop wasting time and resources through short-term mission trips.  Too often these trips turn into sightseeing adventures rather than actual gospel missions.  Rather than simply visiting a new country, talking to a few random people about Jesus, snapping some nice photos and then heading home – the church planting model provides a lasting source of gospel light long after the American team returns home.

This model is best served through an American church assisting while an indigenous pastor leads the church in the specified country.  Yes, American missionaries can be of assistance in the area of support, training, and equipping, but the most fruitful mission projects are those where the indigenous pastor is raised up by the Lord to pastor and lead the people.  As the mission teams visit, they have a point of contact, a plan to follow, and a reoccurring effort for years to come.

In closing, I want to be clear, I support mission trips and believe that God wants the church of Jesus Christ actively engaged in the work of local and foreign missions.  However, I do believe that many short-term mission projects are a massive waste of time, resources, and potentially dangerous for the people.  A biblical model of church planting and a perpetual support strategy from a local church is a good model to follow.  We must be careful not to confuse people with the gospel, empower scam artists in Jesus’ name, and return with an inflated report of false conversions.  Proper planning, strategy making, and church planting efforts will bypass much of the waste that occurs in the name of Jesus each year “on mission.”  Before you plan that summer short-term mission trip, make sure it will be well planned and thought through prior to jumping on the airplane with an eager group of Americans.

The Parent as Theologian: Family Worship

The Parent as Theologian: Family Worship

Parents Are Responsible For Family Worship

Suppose you were in the midst of praying as a congregation as your church went through the tedious process of selecting the next pastor who would lead you each week in preaching and teaching the Word.  If a man stood in the pulpit and had a pure heart and great zeal, but his ability to handle the Word was subpar and he couldn’t explain the Bible properly, you would not support him coming to lead your church.  Why not?  Although this man may have a great personality and you may connect with he and his family well, what you need is more than a good friend – you need a pastor.  The main objective of being a good pastor consists in his ability to explain the Word of God.  The pastor is expected to be capable of training and equipping people through his preaching of the Scriptures.  That’s what is expected in the church, but unfortunately, this isn’t so much expected in the home in these days.

The Theological Calling for Parents

Did you know that God has called parents to be more than friends and taxi drivers for their children?  In fact, we must go a step further.  Parents are called to a greater responsibility than teaching their children how to be an all-star ball player too.  It is the primary duty of the parent to be the Bible teacher for their children.  That responsibility does not fall upon the shoulders of the Sunday school teacher or the children’s ministry leaders in the church.  God did not design the youth pastor and other volunteers in the church to bear the burden of your child’s spiritual wellbeing.  The church is to come alongside parents in the task of discipleship, but ultimately, it’s the role and responsibility of the parent.  This is a sobering reality to consider.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 - “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

You may not be called to be a “professional theologian” in the sense of researching biblical truths and writing books, but as a parent to your child – you must seek to know the Word of God and lead your family in the footsteps of the gospel faith.  You may never take once seminary class, but you’re called to the task of becoming a Bible teacher in your home.  Family worship is the process of instructing your children from the Bible and praising God through prayer and song.  Teaching involves different aspects – including prayer and praise.  Joel Beeke defines family worship as “instruction in the Word of God, prayer before the throne of God, and singing to the glory of God.”  Think of shrinking the main aspects of your corporate worship time into a small segmented time in your living room with only your immediate family.  In Deuteronomy 6:20-25, the children respond by asking questions about the Scripture.  It’s during those times that you have time to dig deeper and point to the cross of Jesus Christ and explain the story of our redemption.

Today, like no other day in history, parents have a massive amount of resources available to them.  Family worship has really never been easier than it is today.  With smart phones, iPads, and other sources of technology, it has never been easier to choose a passage of Scripture and a song to sing in the home with the family.  Hymn books for the iPad and Bible apps make the work of preparation painless.  Two really good resources to use in your family worship include the iPad app for hymns (Baptist hymnal) and Look at the Book from the ministry of John Piper.  Even if you don’t want to use Look at the Book in your family worship, it can still be an aid to help you grasp the main point of the passage as you prepare to explain it to your family.

The Real Challenges

Jonathan Edwards once said, “Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church.”  Quite honestly, there are many times when my family gathers for family worship and it feels more like a wrestling match than a worship service.  We can’t read and learn about family worship from the lens of a sterile environment of peace and tranquility.  Family worship is difficult at times and more so when the children are young (like my present situation as my four children range from 9 years to 1.5 years).  Real challenges to family worship exist, but the challenges can be overcome with proper planning and organization.

The challenges to Bible reading may be met by more interaction with the text as opposed to straight lecture style.  Reading and asking questions or involving the children in the story can be helpful.  Additionally, choosing smaller sections of Scripture for the family worship time can be helpful – especially when you have short attention spans to consider.

The challenges to prayer often center upon keeping the children focused while the prayers are being prayed.  I often lead the prayer time and seek to model how to pray before the children.  I do allow them to pray too, and as they pray, I try to listen to how they articulate their needs and their praises toward God.  In recent days, I’ve been trying to teach the children to address their prayers to the Father in Jesus’ name.  While we pray by the power of the Spirit, our access to the Father is through Jesus Christ and I’m working to teach that truth to my children.  Likewise, I’m trying to teach them to move beyond cyclical repetitions as they grow in their knowledge of God.

In our home, the main challenge to our singing together involves the choice of song and my lack of singing ability.  This is where my wife plays a major part in helping lead us in song.  I typically follow her lead to stay on key, and the children follow as we sing.  At times I will choose a hymn and then allow the children to choose a song that we will sing together.  This seems to work well for us, but each time we get together for our family worship I try to remember the importance of flexibility.

The Lasting Fruit

Voddie Baucham, in his book, Family Driven Faith writes, “70-88% of teens, who profess Christianity, walk away from their faith by the end of their freshman year of college.”  That’s a troubling statistic that should catch the attention of all parents.  What are we as fathers and mothers doing to cause this trend?  The answer….not much.  The reason many children who grew up in the church walk away from the faith has to do more with what we aren’t doing rather than what we are doing.  When a family focuses on their faith on Sunday morning and then closes up God in a little box until the next Sunday morning, that spells disaster for the faith of the children.

As we live out our faith during the week and have times of family worship where we get together and read the Bible, pray together, and sing praises to the Lord, it will leave an indelible mark upon the children.  While Proverbs 22:6 is not a blanket promise, the general principle is true – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

What would happen in the home if a father and mother determined to have family worship each week with their children?  As they press through the challenges each week, it will lay a firm foundation for their faith in their home.  This will establish the truth in the hearts of their children and will cause them to see the reality of their parents’ faith.  The fruit will be lasting!  The aroma of Christ will permeate the air of the home.  The gospel will be central, and the children will not be able to rise up and cry – hypocrite!

The children will not be able to claim that their parents didn’t take their faith seriously.  No matter what challenges the children face on the university campus, they will remember the Bible being opened and explained in their home.  As they’re forced to make decisions, they will remember the Word of God that came to them in Word and song.  As they struggle to stand firm on their own, they will recall the deep moments of sweet prayer as their parents turned to the Lord for guidance, wisdom, and strength.  During those moments when their children are figuring out life and making big decisions, they will look back and remember their father’s faith like the tree that was planted and rooted by the streams of water (Psalm 1).  They will likewise recall their mother’s unwavering faith like that of the Proverbs 31 woman.  

Perhaps not all stories end well, and tragically, we know this to be true.  Some children walk away from the faith and never return.  But we know when children walk away from the faith and a home that was saturated with the gospel, regrets are few in the hearts of the parents who consistently labor to make Christ known in the home.  Likewise, the child who rebels has to walk away knowing the faith of his father and mother was the real thing!  It was no Sunday morning faith – it was genuine.

The Gospel and Racial Unity

The Gospel and Racial Unity

How Can We Achieve Racial Unity?

#BlackLivesMatter is a popular hashtag that has swept through social media outlets in recent months.  In recent years, we’ve been witnessing a rising tension among the different racial groups in America.  Racial unity is something we in America have struggled with for many years, and only in these last few years have we witnessed our country take steps backward rather than forward.  Last week, we all watched as the city of Baltimore was in a state of emergency as rioters and protesters burned cars and looted stores in order to gain the attention of leaders in Baltimore and beyond.  It looked more like the 1960s than 2015.

From debates over immigration, religious diversity, and the controversial police shootings, the nation of America stands in need of racial unity throughout the general public.  The media driven responses to the events of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and other similar incidents are not always helpful.  Young people are wearing t-shirts with slanderous statements that incite violence against police officers.  Cars are burning in the streets, rocks are flying, moms are crying, and the younger generation is watching.  With the political season starting to heat up, many people are starting to suggest options and solutions to these growing problems.  How can we achieve racial unity?

Diversity Among Political Leaders Isn’t the Answer

The election of Barack Obama as the president of the United States has accomplished many things.  First, his election has shattered the glass ceiling of racial advancement in American politics.  Today, we see a great and wide diversity of racial groups represented among political leaders in America, including the highest office within the free world.  Secondly, we have likewise witnessed under President Obama’s leadership a greater racial divide.  He promised to bring races together and to unite the multicolored American population, but that has not been the case.

What can we learn from this scenario?  We can learn that politics alone can’t solve the racial problems of America.  Diversity among leaders will not bring about racial healing.  President Obama has not provided such racial unity as our leader in America. Likewise, the city of Baltimore is governed by black leaders and that didn’t stop the citizens of their city from looting and burning buildings and cars under the statement of “inequality.”  The problem is not the color of the skin.  The issue is the condition of the heart.  Politics and political leaders are unable to change the color of the skin and they can’t change the condition of the heart.

Laws Matter

The laws that govern our land matter.  The leaders who enforce the laws and govern the people are important factors that we must not take for granted.  To point out inconsistencies and the need for reform in sectors of government and cities as a whole is not wrong.  In fact, it’s healthy to point out the problems and deal with the issues.  However, all responses to the problems we face must be acted out in harmony with the laws.  What isn’t healthy is to foster a thug mentality or a rogue and rebellious subculture that views the government and police officers as the enemy of the people.  Wearing t-shirts with rebellious and slanderous slogans about police officers isn’t the answer.

Not only is this unhealthy, it’s unbiblical.   The Bible is clear in Romans 13, the governing leaders are ordained by God.  Sometimes that’s mysterious to us when we see abuse and scandal, but we must trust that our God remains in control at all times.  The system of government itself is not the problem.  Sin is the problem.  Depravity is the issue.  The human heart is deceitful and full of wickedness. God uses the power and sword of government to govern the people in such a way as to bring about peace in the midst of different races and a pluralistic religious population.

A culture of anti-government or anti-police is not the answer to American racial division.  Not only is this not the answer, such a rebellious attitude dishonors the victims of systemic racism and it dishonors the God who established the government system from the beginning.  As Christians, we must be champions of societal unity.  As we look outside of the church, this type of societal unity comes through a solid governmental system that operates according to laws and seeks to care for the wellbeing of the citizens.  We must not teach our children that the “system” is the problem.  We must not perpetuate a culture of entitlement that leads our children to burn cars and buildings if we think that our message isn’t being heard.  An attitude of rebellion and lawbreaking will never deal with the real issues that drive racial division.

The Gospel is the Answer

Just because you’re born white and considered “privileged” doesn’t make you a racist.  Just because you’re born black and you live in poverty doesn’t make you immune to racism.  The fact is, racism exists on both sides of the fence.  The racial problem is rooted in the heart and is caused by the appetite of our depraved human nature.  Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden and he wasn’t white, but he was certainly privileged.  Due to the sinful choices of Adam and Eve, sin entered the world and humanity has been suffering ever since that day in human history (Romans 5:12).  All problems from fatherlessness, drugs, alcoholism, divorce, homosexuality, and racism are rooted in the sinfulness of our human heart – not the color of our external skin.

The problems of America will not be solved with political savvy, political correctness, or political tolerance.  The problems we face in racially divided America are not simply due to the color differences of our skin.  From Ferguson to Baltimore, we have problems that must be addressed.  The right voting campaign from the ultra-conservative political leader will not save us.  We can’t be looking for some political leader to fly in like Captain America and save the day.  It’s not going to happen.  I don’t mean to sound like I’m looking at the glass as half empty.  However, I do want to communicate the truth, and the truth is – politics and political leaders are not the true answer.  The Jews once looked at life through a political lens and they ended up crucifying the Messiah rather than following His leadership.

The real answer is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As Jesus Christ changes us, we will view the world through a different lens.  We will start to see that while there are real systemic problems for many black neighborhoods (poverty, high crime, violence, fatherlessness, etc) to overcome – the real issue is rooted in sin.  We may look at what some label as the privileged community of white America and identify racial biases and inconsistencies.  However, Jesus Christ can wash away the sins of the poverty-stricken communities of America along with the racism of the privileged class.

If the church of Jesus Christ in America desires to see genuine healing from these deep rooted racial divisions, it will take a firm commitment to Jesus Christ and the spreading of His gospel across the soil of America.  What would happen if we stopped using the church and the pulpit for political speeches and just preached the gospel?  Following the donkeys and elephants around the country will not solve the issues.  Attending Tea Party events will not bring about real racial healing. Saturating ourselves with rhetoric from talk radio or political commentators on the main stream news outlets will not bring about healing and unity.

Genuine healing will come as people bow to Jesus Christ as Lord.  As white people, black people, hispanic people, and the multiplicity of other races in America bow to Jesus Christ as Lord, we will experience real unity (Ephesians 2:11-22).  This Christian worldview will change how we view government, police officers, and systemic inequality.  Christ will govern our hearts, our lips, our voting practices, and how we deal with instances of inequality and racial division.  In Christ, we learn to value marriage and we place a high priority upon being a parent to our children.  Christ will help us value all life – no matter what color of skin the person has.  We will come to the realization that “black lives matter” because all lives matter.

In his famous I Have a Dream speech, Martin Luther King Jr. said:

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

In many ways we are still dreaming as a nation.  Although we have experienced great healing from the days of the civil rights era and great progress has been made, we still have a need for racial unity.  Our faith must not be in politics or men such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who often do more damage to racial unity than they accomplish.  Our faith must be in the Lord Jesus Christ.  He alone can bring about racial unity.  His eye is upon the nations and one day a people from every nation and skin color on planet earth will be gathered before his majestic throne worshipping Him (Revelation 5).  On that day, racism will be no more.

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Memorial Day Reading List
Barnabas Piper has provided a list of good Memorial Day reading choices to honor veterans.  You can check out his list over at The Blazing Center.

Can Women Teach in the Church?
A good theological discussion has recently taken place regarding the boundaries for women teaching in the church.  You can read the discussion on the 9Marks website.

Featured: Dr. Steven Lawson, from the 2014 G3 Conference