I Want Friends of Many Colors

“Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers? Malachi 2:10

“I’ve never hugged a white man in my church before.” The sweet lady had been a member of her church for decades and she had the biggest smile as she released me after a vigorous hug. She was physically feeble but her spirit was overflowing with passion and wisdom. She had tears in her eyes and I was immediately confronted with the potential impact of this night.

As I prepared to go up and speak I looked around at the crowd of black and white faces intermixed. It was packed and it was a beautiful picture of diversity and unity. It made my heart smile.

It was a start. A start of something much greater than a movement, more like a transformation. For way too long whites and blacks have segregated in their churches to worship the same Jesus. We have segregated to worship the one who calls all men and women equal. It’s not as ironic as it is sad. How can we ever feel ok with this? It’s nothing like what our Savior would do.

To make things more shameful, there is deep seated prejudice among many white “Christians” and bitterness and hatred among many black “Christians.” This cannot be the will of the Lord. This has to be called out and eradicated. There is no room for it among those of faith.

It infuriates me to see the prejudices until I look at myself more closely. Am I really much different in my actions? How many friends hat don’t look like me? Do my children hang out with kids not their color? Do I make any effort to get to know those of a different race? How can I claim Jesus as Lord over all His church and I only make effort to associate with one color of it?

It is a great thing when events like the other night happened, when two churches of different races come together to demonstrate unity. I preached my guts out that night. I proclaimed how it must go past the walls of that church or it was only smoke and mirrors. I preached it with great passion and intensity. Many made comment to me about my fervency that night. They assumed I got caught up in the moment and understandably so as it was pretty exciting. But that was not the reason behind my earnestness. No, that was because I was preaching to someone in particular who really needed to hear what God had given me… myself. I needed to be reminded that until I really cared enough to befriend those who were black in that service then I was just another part of the problem I preached against.

Christians will you take up this challenge with me? Will you make the first move and connect with believers of another color not to make a stand or statement but because you find them worthy of your friendship? I want friends of many colors. I think I am missing out on good friends who I can love and who can love me. I think my kids are missing out on good friends too.

I am sick of the divide and want to be part of the solution. I am sick of talking about it and doing little to remedy it. Join me. Jesus desires it. The church needs it. We need it.

Special thanks to my church and churches like Washington Street Baptist who have the courage to walk across the unseen line of separation and join together.

Why I Quit The Faith: An Interview with KIA

Over the last few months I have connected with “KIA,” a fellow blogger. He responded to my blog post about “Witnessing to Atheists.” KIA is a gifted poet and strong thinker. I was intrigued by his story, as he was once a minister. KIA has left the faith. I asked if he would allow me to interview him and he obliged me. I think it is vital that more dialogue happen between us Christians and those who think differently than we do. Here is the unedited, unabridged interview.

1. What do you consider yourself (Atheist, Agnostic, Other) and would you please explain what it means to you?

I don’t really know how i would Identify. as least not at this point in time. i don’t think i’m atheist because i still believe there ‘might’ be a god/gods, but i no longer believe we would ever know it if there were, nor would we be able to demonstrate their existence in the ‘real’ world. i guess for me, at least for now, the question becomes irrelevant. Who am i now? I’m just me, like i’ve always been. That’s who I am.

2. You were one time in the Christian Faith. Could you explain how you came to be part of the Christian Faith and how committed would you say you were to the faith?

Yes, I was a christian/disciple of jesus for 34 yrs, 25 of those in what i will refer to as ‘Avocational’ ministry of various forms. From teaching, evangelism (street and otherwise), international missions in two different countries and the US in the inner cities of the phoenix az area (gangs and kids pre-gang). I’ve led homegroups, led worship in small groups, outreach and church settings and have discipled men (my personal forte and passion for the last 20 years). I’d say i was about as committed and flexible a ‘disciple of jesus’ i’ve ever known without remaining a celebate, lifelong missionary in a third world country. I’ll match my ministry C.V. to anyone, anyday.

3. Why did you leave the faith? Would you describe that journey?

Evidence. Evidence had convinced me that i had been wrong about the very foundations of the Truth Claims and claims to Archaeological/Historical accuracy and the Textural Integrity of the Bible as a whole as God’s Word. to quote a verse slightly modified, “If the foundations be destroyed…” what is a christian to do but deconvert?

4. What is your take on Christians today? If you had then all gathered up in a room to listen to you what would you say?

My take on Christians today? I would hope they are like me, asking questions and searching for answers, even if those answers lead them away from what they believed as irrefutable and incontrovertible Truth. What would I say? Don’t be afraid to Think, read and question for yourself. Don’t ever stop growing in your knowledge and curiosity of the world around you and how you fit into it. Overall, Think for yourself and don’t let anyone tell you to just accept the answers you are given.

5. What advice would you give Christians on dialoging with those they disagree with?

Be respectful, diligent and courteous. listen and allow yourself to think thru the questions and the answers from both positions. “seek first to understand, then to be understood”. be open and ready to learn, but also ready to express and exchange what you hold to be true.

6. If Christianity is a farce why do you think millions and millions have followed it since the time of Jesus, many even to their deaths?

Millions of people believing something to be true, “even unto death” is not evidence of it actually being true. Realize, there are millions of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus who have also lived and died for the Truth of their beliefs. would you concede the same ‘value’ to their convictions that they are true beliefs? i’m not sure you would.

Thanks to KIA for taking the time to answer my questions. If you have a question for him I am sure we will respond.
You can also check out his site at https://recoveringknowitall.wordpress.com

Why the Church Still Needs Youth and Children’s Ministries

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Should students (K-12) be separated from their parents at church? This is a question of much debate among some. Those who argue that separation is negative for the family believe children need to see their parents worship. They learn by imitation, and, the way our culture is heading, students and parents already spend a majority of time apart from each other doing their own thing. Besides, there is something special about parents worshiping alongside their children. I see value in that.

Yet, my experience with this says children are mostly bored with “adult” talk and don’t engage in this setting. I think having times where togetherness happens should be a part of every local church’s planning, but more than ever, our churches need strong children and youth ministries that are intentional about engaging students in ways that train them as Christian warriors. It is beneficial for students to be with their peers learning about Jesus and what that means for their lives. Adults need that alone time with their peers as well.

Every pastor to students (children and youth pastors) worth his salt longs to do family ministry. Pastors don’t want to be “all things spiritual” to students. They are burdened for parents to step up and be the spiritual leaders. They long to walk alongside them in training their child spiritually. They don’t want to replace the parent, but they are experts in understanding how students tick. They know their needs are different than adults, and they know how to engage minds and hearts in a way students understand. Instead of hoarding this knowledge, they desire to help parents better engage their children spiritually.

Yet, most parents see student ministry as a replacement rather than a supplement. “Teach my child spiritually because I am not doing it at home” is how many parents in the church are approaching their child’s spiritual life. This is not healthy!  Student pastors are aware of this and long to see parents wake up to the reality that they need to be the loudest voice spiritually in their child’s life.

Our children are under attack. Everywhere they turn, their inexperienced eyes are bombarded with temptation, immorality, cruelty, and wickedness of every kind. There is no debating this is only getting worse. It doesn’t matter if you send your kids to public school or homeschool; unless you lock them in a room and keep them away from all technology and outside influence, they will face these things to some degree. Even if you manage to shelter them from most of it, eventually they will step into the world as young adults. No matter what, they will face the realities of this wicked world.

Good student ministers intersect the Word with life on a level students get. These ministers speak honestly and boldly about temptations that will be faced and help students be prepared to stand against them. They are skilled and passionate and, therefore, effective at not only training students but also working alongside parents to train their children to be in the world but not of the world.  The best student ministers do not oppose family ministry but embrace it by seeking to influence parents to better engage their children with spiritual truth.

I see four ways that motivate student ministers in these tasks:

  1. Teach the Word to students in an engaging and practical way that students can apply to their lives.
  2. Teach students to serve the Kingdom now and not wait until adulthood (which usually means they probably won’t serve then either).
  3. Engage parents on what is happening in their ministry so parents can utilize the information in spiritual training of their children.
  4. Equip parents to be the spiritual leaders to their student at home.

Thriving student ministries have no desire to isolate students form their parents. Instead, they provide a valuable service of walking alongside intentional parents who long to see their children know God and make Him known. Rather than dismissing student ministries and bringing families together for the whole time at church, Christian parents need to catch a vision for their role as spiritual leaders to their children and embrace student ministries as a helpful reinforcement to their own efforts with their children. Our children need godly parents and godly student ministries. This will lead to children becoming mighty warriors for God.

 

Last Week Of Jesus- Monday

Jesus Cleanses the Temple12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. Matthew 21:12

Mondays can be depressing. Jesus would agree. On this Monday, the beginning of His last week on earth, He is in His Father’s house. To His dismay, there are money changers and sellers of pigeons in the temple, making more than a buck off of people trying to worship God.

This angered Jesus. He went to see God’s people and what he saw was anything but a sign of sincere faith and worship. The word tells us Jesus got really mad. He had righteous indignation to the degree that he flipped their tables over and sent their things flying. Did I mention the temple would have been packed? It is the start of Passover week, the most Holy Week of the Jewish calendar. Jesus made quite the scene on this start of the holiday. As the sheckels flew, clattering on the floor, no one could miss Jesus message.

What angered Jesus to this degree? He could not take those using His Father’s name for their own selfish gain. He was angry to see them claim faith only when it benefited them. Today, we can be guilty of the same. We follow Christ when it is convenient. We will serve Him if it fits our schedule. We will worship Him if it is in a church setting. We will pray if it’s meal time. We go through the motions and pay our dues but are we all in, sold out to Him?

Jesus disturbed the temple. He kicked the anthill and sent the money changers and animal sellers running. We need to be disturbed by Jesus today. We need Him to unsettle us. To move us out of complacency into pursuit of Him. We need Him to stir up our affections for each other, to love more than we do. We need Him to break our hearts for the lost around us so that we are compelled to share. Jesus unsettle us today. We don’t want to be complacent!

As we start this week before Easter, may God renew in us a passion for Him. Don’t settle for anything less!

When God Seems Silent

I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me.    Job 30:20
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.            Psalm 22:1–2

Often in our life we  are not sure what God is up too. Things can get hectic and we are left wondering what God wants to say to us… if anything at all.

If we are honest about it we struggle to see God’s involvement in our daily lives.  You don’t like your job but you have no idea what to do about it and you feel like God has not opened any doors. You have some major health issues and you can’t find purpose in it and God seems silent on it. People around you are dying and you are coming face to face with your own mortality and God seems distant. You are single and want God to bring the right person into your life but it seems like God has hidden all the good prospects from you. Don’t you wish He would just write it on a cloud or send you a text message?! “Hey Dax, this is your God. Here is what I am doing right now in that situation of yours…” Just doesn’t happen that way does it?

Let’s get real here. We want God to swoop in with power and win our trust by making clear the good things He is doing in our circumstances. Yet He feels more like an absentee Father more often than not.

Here is my advice to you. Are you ready for it?  It won’t make a lot of sense but it is absolutely the response you should have.

Praise God even when you don’t know what He is doing.

That’s right… worship Him even when he seems to be silent. In uncertainty be certain about your affection towards God.

Chew on this idea…Absence heightens desire.

Maybe God’s silence is too move us to hunger more for His presence, to yearn even more for Him. If He were quick to answer every time we have a need, we most likely would take Him for granted and even hold him in contempt. That God feels somewhat out of reach should make us desire Him even more. Longing makes us seek. Seeking will lead to us finding.

Love Your Church Or Leave It

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Perhaps there is nothing more encouraging than to hear people talk lovingly about their church. Perhaps there is nothing more discouraging than to hear people tear down their church. Both of these statements ring true. Sure your church is not perfect. If you think it is you are either unaware of some things or you are in denial. Church is the people of Christ and where there are people, you will have brokenness and sin. But that in no way excuses us to speak negatively of Christ’s body.

If you can’t speak highly of your church then you need to do some soul searching. Maybe you are the issue. Maybe you are overly critical or you have an issue with one or two people and are judging the whole church on that. Maybe you only have half the story on a situation. Or if you are not the issue maybe your church has strayed from Christ and what He is about. If that is the case then you need to decide can you love it through this as you pray and influence it towards Christ? If not then it is time for you to find another church home that you can fully support. Venting your critical opinions to those in your community is Satan’s will for you. No way Christ is honored by it. It is a selfish act and hurts the kingdom.

Love your church. God sure does. Many of you do this well and I think God is glorified in you for it.

Here are a few specific ways you can express your love for your church.

Be honest with yourself and others that your church is not perfect.

When someone comes to me and says I know people in your church who do this or that, I do not collapse to the floor in devastation or lash out at those sinners. It confirms what I already know… people are sinful, including those who go to church. Like me, they are in process. I don’t defend sinful actions in our people but I do not condemn them or lose perspective that God is at work in them. I too am a work in process and don’t want to condemn them, in fear I would be condemned too.

Support your Leadership.

You should be an encouragement to your pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons. They too are not perfect and will make mistakes. Show them grace. Defend them to the community. Support them in their efforts to lead the church in the will of God. If you can’t then I bet you know what I am going to say… Check your heart and motive and then make a decision to support or leave.

Maintain Perspective. It is the body of Christ.

Christ loves His church. He died for it. There are no circumstances where he wants you judging it. As head off the church, Christ will hold His church accountable. We need to let Him do that. We do well to remember that this imperfect group of people is very valuable to Christ (1 Cor. 12:27).

Focus on the redeeming qualities of your church

I am sure there are many things about your church that are commendable. Areas where God’s hand is evident. This should be a focus of ours. Paul said to the church in Philippi… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phil. 4:8)

Buy fully into the vision of the church

Trust that your leadership has sought God and is following the vision He has given them through His word. If you are confident that this vision is not in accordance with His word then you should run from that church. I mean you are saying that they are not following God. The is a bold accusation! Be careful to make it.  Make sure you are not confusing worship style with vision or decor with vision or anything else that is not about the message.

When something happens that you can’t support then handle it biblically.

What if something happens at your church that you know is not biblical? If you have influence then approach the parties involved and directly speak to it. Don’t gossip about it or lash out in other ways. Go to that person(s) as we are instructed in Matthew 18. Bathe whatever action you are going to take in prayer. Make sure you go humbly and graciously. Trust God to lead you as you seek Him.

 

If we want the church to take notice of Christ then they must see that His body is healthy. Is there a greater witness to the lost than for them to hear you uplift your church? Love your church. They are your brothers and sisters. God demands that you love them if you are in the family.

WHAT DAVID BLAINE AND GOD DONT HAVE IN COMMON

David Blaine is a famous street magician who does some insane tricks you might have seen on TV. One minute he is levitating on the sidewalk (or at least it seems), the next he is apparently bringing a dead housefly back to life. Mind boggling!

Later we find out Blaine has tricked us. It is revealed that the fly was coated in dry ice. Flies hibernate in cold temperature, which creates the illusion they are dead. The dry ice caused the fly to enter that hibernation state. Blaine picks up the fly that his cameraman subtly placed on a windowsill while Blaine engages his audience. He brings the fly out of hibernation by blowing in his hands and thus warming the fly and thus, back to life. So it seems to his observers.

A lot of Blaine’s tricks amaze us but raising even an insect from the dead would take powers no mortal possesses. His illusions are cool tricks but nothing more than slight of hand or other explainable phenomena we are not privy too at the moment of the trick.

How powerful, on the other hand, is God? That he can take a body exhausted of any sign of life— a body dead not for minutes or even hours, but three days— a body already in initial stages of decomposing— a body long time dead and decaying and breathe new life into it. Now that is mind boggling power! No illusions at work here.

Ponder this. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in our lives. This is no magic trick. This is the real thing. And it is God’s power working in us to completely remove the sinful nature and empower us to live in victory. This same power will one day raise our body from the grave and transform it into a body that is both incorruptible and immortal.

Let’s not find ourselves so easily amazed by the illusion of a dead fly coming back to life and not be in absolute awe by a God who handles resurrecting power.

Believer, I hope you get a chance this Easter Sunday to sing about the power of the resurrection. Sing it unashamedly. I hope you hear about how God’s power raised Christ from the dead and is at work in your life. Embrace it. I hope you are challenged to walk in resurrection power. Live it.

Make Easter more than new neckties and cute dresses topped with a Sunday feast. Make it about the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is worthy of your worship. Exalt His holy name!

All our hope, our future, our very faith, centers around the truth that Jesus has been resurrected by the power of his Heavenly Father. Christ is risen! And that is our hope.

Here are three things I will consider this Easter. Use them if they are helpful to you:

1) I will make the day more about worship than traditions. Nothing wrong with new clothes and family traditions but lifting up name if Christ is your calling as a Christian.

2) I will pray asking God to help me walk in the victory that is mine because of His great power. I can’t walk like Christ on my own.

3) I will ask God to reveal things in my life that hinder me from walking in the joy of The Lord. This takes courage but I want to throw off things that hinder me.

The words of this blog were inspired by several verses of Scripture:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:10-12

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
Revelation 5:11-12