Another Shooting, Another Protest, When Will It Stop

Another Shooting, Another Protest, When Will It Stop

Here we are again, another African American man was shot by the police. This time it was in Charolette and unfortunately it cost the life of Keith Scott. I’m not sure of all the details surrounding this man’s death. I awoke the past two days of hearing of protests and finally took the time to see what was happening. I have friends who are both African Americans and police officers. I hurt for them both. The police seek to keep their respective community safe, while African Americans wants their voice heard. The violent protest shows the anger within, and I have a feeling even if the police made the right decision in this matter the anger will not go away. We keep saying we need conversations to bring reconciliation, but it is slow coming. So here we are again, another shooting, another protest, when will it stop.

As a white man, my eyes have been open to how I treat African Americans unintentionally and I have changed my actions. I’m more attentive to the breaking of their hearts in turn breaking my own heart for the situation they find themselves in because of their skin color. Yes African American relations have gotten better since MLK, but they still need to progress. I live in New Orleans where more than half the population is African American. My heart breaks for the poverty in my own city. My heart breaks every day when I receive an email from nola.com on the front page news that another African American was shot. My heart breaks the majority of the crime happening here is among those in poverty who happen to be African American. I keep praying the incidents surrounding Charolette right now would not happen in New Orleans. I’m thankful for the peaceful protesting our city has conducted. Yet here in America we have another shooting, another protest, when will it stop.

I don’t want us to become numb to this situation, especially me as a white man. There are souls hurting for the situation they are in, and I don’t want to overlook their pain. I grew up in a community where I was surrounded by four African Americans where only two of them were related. I don’t want this to be another passing story. I don’t care who you think was right or wrong before the police complete their full investigation. But I do care for those who are hurting where not a day goes by when a family wonders will this be the day someone is taken from them by a police shooting or arrest. I want to see change. I don’t want to see another shooting, another protest, and I want it all to stop! But that won’t come unless we all seek to bring the change from ourselves by stop being selfish of only paying attention of our own lives, and start paying attention to the lives of others doing everything we can to make their life and world a little bit better than the day before. I know change will not come overnight, and another shooting and another protest will come back again. But it won’t stop unless all races come together including you and me to bring about change individually, communally, and nationally. Another shooting, another protest, we can change it.

* Photo taken from NY Times.

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What is the Gospel?

What is the Gospel?

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This should be a simple answer for Christians, but sadly there has been much confusion about the gospel. We seem to bring out what the gospel effects in Scripture and in life to being the gospel. The focus of the gospel will turn to the story of Scripture or to the implications of the gospel. The story of Scripture can be summed up as God created, Man sinned, Jesus saves, and God restores (peace with God in heaven). While the story of Scripture is biblical, God creating is not the gospel. Yes, all things have been created through and for Jesus (Col. 1:16), but creation is not the gospel. Gospel means good news, but creation is not the gospel Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15. The gospel of John starts with creation, but good news comes to trump bad news and the bad news came after the fall in Genesis 3, not Genesis 1.

what is the gospelAnother focus on the gospel is the implications of the gospel. For instance, the gospel changes the way we live. One of those is racism. During the New Testament, there was hostility between Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles). The Jews even called those who were not Gentiles the uncircumcised. Name designation is hate, just like racism. But Jesus came to bring peace between us and God. There is no peace with God because of sin, but because of Jesus we can have peace with God. This peace transforms us to have peace with others. Christ tore down the dividing wall of hostility between the Jews and Gentiles to put hostility to death through the death of Jesus on the cross (Ephesians 2:11-16). Peace with others is an effect of the gospel, but that is not the gospel. Ending racism in one’s heart is good, but this is the not the good news that leads one to salvation. Not being racist toward someone can lead that person to salvation, but that is not the message we share. The gospel brings transformation, but the transformation is not the gospel. Peace with God comes before peace with others. The implications of the gospel are great when applied, but the implications are not the gospel.

So what is the gospel? The gospel is the story of Jesus. The story of Jesus points us to the person of Jesus and the works of Jesus. The gospel (good news) takes us to a person who made the way to fix the sin in our lives (bad news). The story of Jesus is as follows:

  1. Jesus came.
  2. Jesus died on a cross.
  3. Jesus was buried.
  4. Jesus rose from the grave.
  5. Jesus is coming back.

Simply put, the story of Jesus is Jesus came into this world to live a sinless life. While Jesus lived a life without sin, Jesus was betrayed by one of his own disciples and handed over to Jewish and Roman authorities to be punished to death, even though no one could find a fault in him. Innocently, Jesus was sentenced to die a criminal’s death on a Roman cross leading him to pay the penalty for our sins so we would have forgiveness of sins. Our sin is a serious offense against God with the wages of sin leading to death. This is why Jesus needed to die on the cross, so we would not bear the punishment for our sins and instead have our sins forgiven through the death of Jesus. It was at this moment that Jesus died on a cross. After Jesus died, he was buried in a tomb, but the story is not over. The tomb Jesus was placed in was on loan. On the third day of Jesus’ death, He rose from the grave! The stone in front of Jesus’ tomb was rolled away not so Jesus could escape, but so we would believe Jesus won the victory for our forgiveness of sins and fear of death. Jesus rose from the grave, is now with the Father, and is waiting until God’s appointed time to come back. Jesus is coming back, and when he does, it will be for another reason. Jesus came first to rescue us from our sins, but the return of Jesus will be to judge whether we have received or rejected Jesus. To receive Jesus is to repent of your sins and believe in Jesus as God’s Son to save you from sin. To reject Jesus is to see what Jesus did for you as hogwash. But this receiving of Jesus is not so you will have fire insurance, but so you would live the life you were created to live before sin entered the DNA of humanity. Jesus brings a change of life molding us to live like Him.

The story of Jesus is the gospel. Not the story of Scripture nor the implications of the gospel. The story of Scripture points to Jesus, but it is not the gospel. The implications of the gospel come from Jesus, but those implications are not the gospel. The gospel is Jesus and what He did to save us from our sins.

What Should Be The Next Trend In American Christianity?

If you were to google “Trends in Christianity” you would see a variety of tendencies. Trends will arise in the church’s relationship with culture, trends within the church, and trends within the culture. Trends will come and go like all trends do these days.The culture is constantly changing and we can see the evidence of this by how many iPhones Apple has released. The first iPhone came out in June 2007, and a new iPhone has been released every year since then. Even when the first iPhone came out, it was the phone to have. But since the passing of Steve Jobs, the other companies caught up and some are more innovative than Apple right now.

The point: trends will come and go in life. In the American Church, we have seen trends in contemporary music, missional living, gospel-centeredness, church planting, and discipleship. While these are good trends, there is one trend I pray and hope will come back to focus in the church: evangelism. Why does evangelism need to be the next trend? Well, when was the last time you shared your faith with a lost person? When was the last time you led someone to faith in Christ? When was the last time someone you knew was baptized?

No one likes talking about evangelism today because no one is doing it. The Holy Spirit convicts us to share Jesus, but we don’t like the conviction. We like what Jesus does for us, but not enough to tell others about Him. If Jesus is who we say He is, then why are we quiet? Why does evangelism scare us? Jesus lived a life without sin, died on the cross as an innocent man, was buried in a tomb, rose to live again on the third day, ascended to the Father, and is coming back in judgment. It is Jesus who saved us from our sins. It is Jesus who put us in a right relationship with God. It is Jesus who gives us a new identity. Yet, we struggle to tell others about Him!?!

A better question to ask is not how are we not telling people about Jesus, but why are we not telling people about Jesus? The how tells us what we are to do, the why tells us the reason we do it. So why would we tell someone about Jesus? We tell others about Jesus because only Jesus can save sinners from their sins, sinners must reject Jesus or receive Jesus in repentance and faith, and sinners will not be able to receive Jesus unless someone tells them the gospel. This is why we tell people about Jesus, but do you believe these truths to be true? If you believe them to be true, is your life an accurate reflection of it? To believe something is to practice it. If you are not practicing it, then do you truly believe these truths?

It is my prayer the next trend in American Christianity will be evangelism. Not only do I hope to see more discussion about it, but people practicing evangelism in their life.

Praying The Lord’s Prayer

Prayer is something every Christian has struggled with. I remember no one taught me how to pray when I first became a Christian, and people asking me to pray in public terrified me because I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, so one day I was eating out with friends from church and I start to eat without giving thanks (big sin in church culture). So my friends asked me to give thanks, and I just sat there in silence. Luckily someone else offered to pray in taking pity on me. People have shown me outlines of prayer since then, but to be honest they all sounded pathetic sales for getting people to pray (this is just my honest opinion of looking from the outside in). I have nothing against all the alliteration, acronym, or hand illustrations; they just seemed to offer a fake Christian life. If you use something like this and your relationship with God is growing, then good. But it didn’t help me. So I have not used an outline because they have not made my relationship with God real. It just seemed fake because it felt like I was talking to myself and not having a conversation with God, which is what prayer is all about.

Then God started to convict my heart recently about praying the Lord’s Prayer as I saw it was very similar to other prayers in the Bible. So God led me to create this outline of the Lord’s prayer and ever since creating this outline, my time with God has been rich, joyful, and empowering. Today I want to share it with you. I will share the outline first, and then give a few thoughts on each line.

Praying the Lord’s Prayer

  • Father
  • Sovereign ruler in heaven
  • Praise and honor to His Holy name
  • May the expressions of your kingdom and your will be lived out in my life and here on earth
  • Provide today my daily needs
  • Forgive me of my sins as I forgive others
  • Led me not into temptation, but if so tempted please deliver me from the evil one’s attack

1. Father

How would you describe God in one word? Many would say awesome, others glorious or almighty. These would be true, but we need to first see God as our Father because we approach God as our Father who is quick to listen to our voice and wisely gives us what we need for our good. The quicker you will see God as your Father, the quicker your time in prayer will become richer and joyful because you realize you are talking to Daddy.

2. Soveregin ruler in heaven

See the picture that Jesus is painting of God. Our Father God is in heaven, where He sees what is going in on all over the world including every detail of your life. His hands are working all over the world guiding the world in his good plan. God is in control of everything that happens and is not surprised by world events or the tragedies that come to your life. In the midst of all the good and bad times, God is in control.

3. Praise and honor to His Holy name

God is holy and is the only one worthy of praise. We praise and thank God for who He is and what He has done for us in Jesus the Christ, His Son. Recognizing God as our Father, the sovereign ruler in heaven who deserves all the praise and honor to His holy name sets our mind right as we bring our request before our God as we are putting our confidence in God to answer because we see who He is.

4. May the expressions of your kingdom and your will be lived out in my life and here on earth

I define the kingdom of God like this: the kingdom of God is the rule of God over his people in bringing people into the kingdom through Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection, and second coming resulting in the lives of his people to live in obedience to God. In shorter words, we want what God wants to be present here on earth. We want how the angels live in obedience to God in heaven to be true of us who live on earth. So we pray for people to be saved, for people to be living according to God’s way of life as revealed in His Word, and for the his activity in the world of the kingdom of God growing and manifesting itself in the lives of people.

5. Provide today for my daily needs

We do not get this today here in America as many of us already have food in the fridge and the pantry with no worry about the food disappearing. But just like Blue Bell Ice Cream, it could be gone in an instant and may never come back (praise God Blue Bell is coming back). We have needs that need to be met daily and that includes food. We ask God to provide for our physical and spiritual needs not to be answered in a few months, but now because we need it TODAY! Bring all of your personal needs before God and see how quick He is to answer your daily needs and not wants.

6. Forgive me of my sins as I forgive other

We are constantly sinning against God. There is no one else we offend when we sin. Our sins result in hurting others, but our action of sin is always against God. And sin causes a separation in our relationship with God. So we go to God asking Him to forgive our individual sins we commit against Him. God is faithful to forgive our sins, but we must also forgive others as He forgives us. And God helps us to forgive others when we realize it was a bigger deal for God to forgive our sins through Jesus than what someone else did to us.

7. Led me not into temptation, but if so tempted please deliver me from the evil one’s attack

There is nothing wrong with asking God to not lead us into temptation because battling those temptations can get rough. But we will be lead into temptation not because God led us, but because our sinful selves led us to those temptations. When we are being tempted by the attacks of the evil one the devil, we can ask God is deliver us from those temptation before they come. God always provides the way of escape when we are tempted. The issue becomes do we see it and run, or ignore it.

This outline over the past month has made my prayer life so much better and I hope it helps you as well. My time with God is so much richer and joyful because I see I am spending time with my Father who is in heaven. This outline was taken from Matthew 6 and I hope this is a blessing for you. Try this out for a couple of weeks and see how it transforms your prayer life.

What God Has Been Teaching Me About His Presence

It’s beneficial in the Christian life to share what God has been teaching you lately. Actually God is teaching me something else right now. But I want to share this with you because it has been changing my relationship with God. Understanding and realizing the presence of God in your life as a Christian is crucial. It’s one thing to know the Holy Spirit is living inside of you, it’s another to know how that affects your relationship with God. To sum it up, I accidentally found this clip of Francis Chan summing it up better than me in less than five minutes.

What are your thoughts on the importance of the presence of God in your life? What has God been teaching you lately?

Trinitarian Devotional Life

God’s desire for his presence to be with his people is a common theme throughout the Bible. In the beginning of the Bible, Genesis, we are told God walked with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8), but sin caused a separation between us and the presence of God. More could be said about God’s presence in the Old Testament with his people, but we see God’s presence with his people again in human form through Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. God walked among us in human flesh (John 1:14). But since Jesus ascended into heaven after his death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit is now with us (Ephesians 1:13-14). To put this all together, God desires to be with you and to have a relationship with you. And this relationship with God as we engage his presence is best seen in our devotional life. When we come to have our devotional/quiet time or whatever else you may call it, you desire to have communion with God. Communion is not just the Lord’s Supper, but it also means having an intimate relationship with God. And this is best seen in the doctrine of the trinity as we spend time with the God one God who has revealed himself to us as three persons.

We Commune As Adopted Sons and Daughters of God the Father

Romans 8:14-17 teaches we have been adopted by God. When sin caused a separation between us and God, it caused us to be a slave to sin. A slave during the Roman period was different from slavery in America. During the Roman period you were a slave to pay off a debt and not forced into slavery with no rights. Our debt as slaves of sin is we cannot pay anything to make our debt of sin go away. But through Jesus we have been adopted as sons and daughters of God. We have been given a new life and our relationship with God is secured because those of the Christian faith get to call God “My Father”. We get to approach God as our Father in our relationship with him. A Father who will be there for us.

We Commune Because of the Mediation of God the Son

Without Jesus, we would not even have a relationship with God. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 teaches Jesus became the mediator, the point person, in reestablishing the relationship between God and man. How did Jesus do this? He did this by dying on the cross for our sins and defeating death by rising from the grave. Sin caused a separation between us and God, but now the blood of Jesus covers the wrong we have committed against God and we now stand in God’s forgiveness. Death is the penalty of our sins, though we still die physically, we will be raised to new life to be with God forever because Jesus rose from the grave and God will raise those up from the dead who believe in Jesus for salvation (John 3:17-18).

We Commune Through the Presence of God the Holy Spirit

Because the Holy Spirit lives inside of us (2 Timothy 1:14), we have this constant access to God. 2 Peter 1:21 teaches this about the Holy Spirit: he shows us what is from God. We are able to speak to God and hear God through what the Spirit is communicating to us. Paul testified to having fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:13) because he knew the Holy Spirit as a person and not a tool for selfish gain.

How Does This Change Our Devotional Life?

When we see God as our Father, we know we will be in good hands of what we ask (Matthew 7:7-12). When we see Jesus as our mediator, we see we now have full access to God because of the death and resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 27:50-51). And when we realize the Holy Spirit is God’s presence with us, then we will find true joy (Romans 14:17). Can you say this is true of your devotional life? Are you engaging the presence of God?

3 Non-Biblical Reasons Why I’m Pro-Life

Abortion is always a hot topic. Most people from the pro-life camp are Christians and only focus on what the Bible says. While I could write on what God says about the value of life in a woman’s womb, I want to give three non-biblical reasons why I’m pro-life:

1. When A Woman Is Pregnant, It Means She’s Having A Baby

Logic stands that when a woman is pregnant, she is expecting a baby. When a dog is pregnant, you expect a dog to have multiple puppies. But for some reason we think when a woman becomes pregnant there isn’t a baby in the womb. Even Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary says being pregnant is having a baby develop in one’s body. We do not decide in pregnancy whether or not a baby is in the womb based on our choice alone.

2. The Baby Has Already Started to Develop at Four Weeks

The time women begin to realize they are pregnant is when they have missed their period. Usually women discover they are pregnant when they are two weeks to a month into the pregnancy. At four weeks, the baby has already developed the structures to form his or her face and neck. Also, the heart, blood vessels, lungs, stomach, and liver have started to develop by this time.

But let’s go past four weeks to eight weeks. At eight weeks the baby’s eyelids and ears are forming. Also you can start to see the tip of his or her nose, arms, legs, fingers, and toes. Then at twelve weeks you can hear the baby’s heartbeat along with identifying the sex of the baby. At this point it seems we have a human being, but many of the abortions occur during the first trimester.

But what about the second trimester? At 16 weeks the baby will begin to blink his or her eyes, his or her heart and blood vessels are fully formed, and the baby’s fingers and toes have fingerprints. This sounds like a human to me. Even at twenty weeks the baby yawns, stretches, and makes faces. I could go on and on about this, and all this was found in a two second search on WebMD. Or is the Mayo Clinic a better source for you? At any point during the pregnancy a woman could have an abortion, but at what point do we begin to see through clear evidence this fetus is a person?

3. We Believe Life is in Every Living Cell

NASA is looking throughout the universe for life on other planets. We are obsessed with the idea that we are not alone in this big universe. I am all for exploring our universe for the purpose of knowledge, but let’s be honest about this one truth: the world would flip out if life was found on another planet. But the type of life we would find would probably be a single cell which means life was found on another planet.

IF a single cell was found on another planet we would scream, “WE ARE NOT ALONE!” because life was found on another planet. But why is it that life can be found on another planet with it being valuable, but a single cell in a womb is less valuable? It is from a single cell in a womb that multiplies and forms into a baby. If a single cell means there is life on another planet, then a single cell in a woman’s womb means there is life.

What do you think about these reasons? Would you add any? Disagree? I would love to hear your opinions on this.