Now that I’ve been a Christian for 29 years as well as a pastor for 21 years, I have seen a lot of trends in American Christianity over the past few decades. One of the more disappointing trends has been the amount of hype surrounding certain books, movies, conferences, movements, Bible studies, and, even, “revivals.” I cannot recall how many times a of these various mediums were going to possibly usher in a revival which would transform our nation.
Let me mention a few examples. From each of these examples, God has certainly done a whole lot. People have been saved. Lives have been changed. I do not want to minimize that fact. Praise the Lord for how He used these tools to reach people!
In each of these cases I can recall Christian people enthusiastically suggesting, or hoping, that this particular “thing” would be the catalyst for national revival or spiritual awakening.
(1) 1990… A Bible Study… “Experiencing God” featured the teaching of Henry Blackaby, and consisted of a VHS video series matched with a workbook. The premise of the study is to find out where God is at work and to join Him there. Excellent counsel! But national revival from the study itself? Twenty-five years and counting… not yet.
This coming Sunday at Harvest Bible Chapel of Jacksonville is “Military Appreciation Sunday.” I am excited about this opportunity to give honor to those our active military and our veterans. I will be sharing a special message about the two kinds of war we are prepared to fight: the physical and the spiritual.
There are generally three views of war among Christians. Supporting Bible verses are appealed to for each view. The vast majority of Christians fall into the view I hold to, what is commonly called the “Just War” position. I fully recognize that there are many variations within each of the three views:
I believe a strong and prepared military is a necessity for our country. I also believe that we have biblical justification for being ready to fight:
1. Because there is evil in the world (Genesis 6.5; Romans 3.15-18; 2 Timothy 3.1-4).
2. Because God has established the right of self-defense (Exodus 22.2-3; Nehemiah 4.13-14; Luke 22.36).
3. Because one of the major reasons God ordained government is for protecting the people (Romans 13.1-4).
4. Because sometimes governments must act with force to stop injustice (Psalm 82.4; Ecclesiastes 3.8; Proverbs 24.6; Genesis 15.16).
Therefore, God has the government the authority to have a military:
> to protect us from harm.
> to enable us to live in freedom.
As Richard Grenier wrote, “People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
On Saturday, August 9th, 2014 two tragic deaths occurred that sent shockwaves across the country. At one minute after Noon, officer Darren Wilson approaches Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. An altercation ensures that results in the shooting death of the 18-year-old Brown.
That evening, 832 miles east of where Michael Brown had died, Kevin Ward, Jr., was living his dream by Sprint Car racing at the Ontario County Fairgrounds against NASCAR legend Tony Stewart. On lap 14 of the short dirt track, Stewart appears to spin young Ward in to the wall, causing a flat tire and, thus, eliminating the younger driver from the race. Ward breaks protocol and exits his vehicle, walking toward the vehicles circling the track under caution. He aggressively approaches Stewart’s car on the short track and ends up apparently hit by the tail end of Stewart’s car, which results in the death of the 20-year old Ward.
I was saddened this week to read about a young man getting killed in an accident at a coal mine in my home county back in southern Illinois. It brought back memories for me. When most people think about coal mines, they usually think about West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. I’ve learned that many people don’t realize that southern Illinois has one of the richest coal mining veins in the United States.
I can remember as a young boy going to spend the night at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house and Grandpa coming home from finishing the 2nd shift. He’d wake me up so I could join him for a midnight snack in the kitchen: Pringles and a bottle of cold Mountain Dew.
I also remember in grade school getting news of a classmate’s Dad being killed in the mine. One of my Dad’s best buddies had his face crushed in mine accident. Several surgeries were required to reconstruct his face. One of my best friends spent several weeks in a hospital recuperating after nearly dying in a coal mining accident.
I believe in education.* I truly desire for all children to have the opportunity and privilege of a good education. But let’s face it, the United States of America is not exactly knocking the ball out of the park when it comes to educating the masses.
What’s the problem? Is it curriculum? Is it funding? Is it standards? Is it lack of testing? No, none of these are the main problem.
Although we live in one of the best public school districts in the nation (it’s true, year in and year out, Newseek, Forbes, and others say so), we choose to homeschool. We do this for a very strategic reason: we believe that no one cares more about our children’s development than us, their parents.
This is the problem with education in America: parents.
Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. In that historic speech, King said:
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.”
As a nation we have come a long way. Sure, there are still examples of racism in the United States, but as a whole, we no longer judge a person by the color of their skin. Surely Dr. King would be pleased with the progress that has been made in this country.
But the problem is that we have also reached a point where we no longer judge someone by the content of their character. The spirit of the age is to not judge at all, with the ironic exception being judging those who do still seek to judge according to the content of character.
When Dr. King spoke of judging someone by the content of their character, he spoke from an underlying worldview that accepted the reality of moral standards. Our nation has jettisoned those moral standards, which makes it impossible to judge character.
America’s favorite Bible verse is the first part of Matthew 7:1…”Judge not” interpreting it to mean, in essence, “Don’t judge anyone for the content of their character.” Such an interpretation of that command completely contradicts Matthew 7:6, where Jesus says, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” Here Jesus clearly and strongly calls us to judge content of character.
Jesus fully expects us to judge the content of a person’s character, but He qualifies it with an admonition against hypocrisy and a mandate to be willing to help the person improve, as we see in Matthew 7:5…”First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” For Jesus, it’s not enough to judge someone without hypocrisy, we must also proactively seek to help that person.
Because we have rejected moral standards and because we are misinterpreting, and therefore, misapplying Jesus’s teaching on this subject, we also run the risk of descending back into a nation that judges others by the content of their skin. Both the negative half of Dr. King’s statement (not judging by the color of skin) and the positive half (judging by the content of character) must be embraced for racism to truly be put to death.
Dr. King’s dream will be fulfilled when a person is no longer judged by color of skin but rather is judged by content of character in a way that is loving and redemptive.