Sunday, August 13, 2017

Some thoughts on Charlottesville

As you can probably tell, I don't use this blog to do much more than post sermons. For my "thoughts" on various issues, I find it easier to post on Twitter (if I can do it in 140 characters) or Facebook. But my Facebook feed is private (and I think more people's should be), so my remarks there are only viewed by my handful of "friends." Because Facebook thinks it knows better than you what you want to see in your news feed, many won't see it even if we are "friends."  I've been asked by some to make certain posts public as I've spoken out about the thuggery on display in Charlottesville, "so I can share it." Well, I think the situation calls for more than a "share" or "retweet." Every Christian, and every American, really every human being, needs to used his or her own voice and vocabulary to condemn this evil. If, however, my thoughts in the subject can assist you in so doing, I have decided to copy and paste some of my social media posts about Charlottesville here for a wider audience.

1. This is why the Southern Baptist Convention HAD TO take a stand on the Alt-Right movement at this year's convention. This is what we voted to condemn. And I'm glad I was there to raise my ballot to condemn it.

2. This Alt-Right group we see in the news in Charlottesville and those like them around the country are a far bigger threat to America than North Korea. Christian, speak out against it in Jesus' name -- boldly, loudly, and frequently. And for God's sake, if you are on the side of the Alt-Right, please don't call yourself a Christian. I'd be happy to debate you on the issue. Bring your Bible. I will bring mine. And I've actually read it and believe it, so I have the upper hand.

3. If you can't clearly and unambiguously condemn the goings-on in Charlottesville without employing a handful of "buts" and "if onlys", then you may need to do some deep examination of your own heart. You may be harboring racial prejudices and ideas of ethnic supremacy that you are even unaware of yourself. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9. We don't even know ourselves as well as we think we do. So we must lay ourselves completely open before the Lord and ask for His examination of our innermost being, never underestimate our own depravity, and put no confidence in our flesh.

4. When I began to get serious about cross-cultural ministry, I discovered the concept of "folk religion." I first learned about it in the context of a West African group of people who followed their ancient and ancestral beliefs, but adopted Islamic terminology and practices and called themselves Muslims. Immediately I understood that America has its own brands of folk religion. One expression of it is "good-old-boy" religion -- it clings uncritically to beliefs, traditions, tendencies, and practices passed down from preceding generations, and glosses it all with a veneer of Christian vocabulary and an occasional drop-in visit at a local church. The heart, which is sinful from birth, goes unchallenged and unchanged, and the ancestral traditions take priority over uncomfortable biblical truth. This is not Christianity. This is folk religion. The battle against the false dogmas of folk religion is lifelong, but as we die to self, find our identity in Christ alone, and take our rightful place in God's family (the church), the long-cherished idols of ancestral folk religion are toppled and we are set free by God's grace.

Appendix: I use quotation marks around the word "friends" when referring to Facebook connections because I think Facebook has robbed the word "friend" of all meaning. To be a friend doesn't mean, "somebody I know," or "someone I used to know." It doesn't mean "somebody I met once," or "someone I like," or "a person I want to keep up with (for whatever reason)". None of us have as many real friends as we think we do. Difficult times and difficult issues will make that plain.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Keep Moving Forward (Joshua 1)

On August 6, 2017, I preached my final sermon at Immanuel Baptist Church as pastor. Lord willing, I hope that it is not my final sermon, or even my final sermon at Immanuel, but it is my final one as pastor.

As I considered what I should say in my final address, I concluded that the best thing I could do was "keep moving foward" in my Essential 100 series, and as God would have it in His good providence, the next passage was Joshua 1. It is a perfect text for the occasion, because it is all about the need to "keep moving forward."

At some point in the future, I will post the manuscript here for those who prefer to read it rather than listen to it, but for now, here is the audio for that message: