Lots of anger exploded in cities all over America last night after the decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson from Ferguson, MO over the shooting death of Michael Brown. Apart from the facts of the case and who did what, much attention has been given to the actions of the rioters and looters and the protestors and people who were upset with the decision. I have seen quite a bit of vitriol, mocking, and derision directed their way today from white Christians in social media who have reposted racial jokes and memes and have condemned them heartily. I do abhor violence and destruction of property and am praying for peace and for those whose businesses were destroyed. It is wrong and it should not be happening and those breaking the law should be arrested and brought to justice. There is really no discussion on that point. But, not all who disagree with what was decided are violent or want to do destroy things. Continue reading →
NASHVILLE (BP) — The unfolding Ferguson saga calls churches to “unify and pray for our nation,” the president of National African American Fellowship within the SBC, K. Marshall Williams, said in the hours after a grand jury reported its decision not to indict a white Missouri police officer in the shooting death of an 18-year-old African American.
“We need to be both an empathetic listening ear for the community and herald forth a prophetic voice for justice and compassion in a spirit of humility,” Williams, senior pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., said in a statement to Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.
The weeks-long crisis — from the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teen, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson to the grand jury report and a subsequent night of arson, violence and arrests in the St. Louis suburb — fueled Williams’ statement. Continue reading →
America has not failed us. We have failed America. “America” represents a set of ideals, a set of values organized into a polity and a promise. The thing about ideals and values is that we either live beneath them or we live up to them. What’s broken in the country is not the values and ideals, but the people who espouse but fail them. Last night Americans failed America.
We saw an American prosecutor fail the principle of “blind justice” by handling court procedure in a way most legal experts found a dereliction of duty. Over and over again we heard that the grand jury bar for an indictment is so low all it takes is a ham sandwich. Prosecutors who want to prosecute don’t “present all the evidence;” apparently, they present only that evidence that gets them the indictment and commences the trial. If that’s true, and I have to trust the majority opinion of legal experts since I’m not one, then Ferguson’s prosecutor failed to even live up to the low-bar ideals of his profession, much less America. Continue reading →
Allen M. Rea | Pastor
Dunn Memorial Baptist Church, Baxley, GA
The modern church appears to be looking for the movers and shakers. The church is obsessed with new formulas and methods. “Success” is the crown worn by those who have attracted the largest following. Church members desire chaplains to attend them and comfort them. They shy away from men of God who would proclaim the ultimatums of Truth to them. The admiration of godless ambition has gifted to the modern church a plethora of undisciplined complacent pew warmers. I say this only to state what I think is desperately obvious: we need revival.
I am not speaking of a revival that we plan. I am speaking of what the Blackaby’s refer to as a “fresh encounter with God.” This country has not seen a revival for over 100 years. We have no living testimonies of a revival! You may think: my church just had a revival and I attended! True revivals turn the world upside down; that is not something you attend but something you experience. If you left revival meetings unchanged, then you did not have revival. Continue reading →
The mood in Ferguson, Missouri, is tense, after a grand jury decided against indicting a police officer for the killing of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. The tension ought to remind us, as the church, that we are living in a time in which racial division is hardly behind us. That reality ought to motivate us as citizens to work for justice, but also as the church to seek to embody the kingdom of Christ.
We haven’t as of yet sorted through all the evidence the grand jury saw and we don’t know precisely what happened in this nightmarish incident. What we do know is that the Ferguson situation is one of several in just the past couple of years where white and black Americans have viewed a situation in starkly different terms. White Americans tend, in public polling, to view the presenting situations as though they exist in isolation, dealing only with the known facts of the case at hand, of whether there is evidence of murder. Black Americans, polls show, tend to view these crises through a wider lens, the question of whether African-American youth are too often profiled and killed in America. Continue reading →
Each year in November, the President of the United States issues a proclamation to announce National Adoption Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness of the need for adoptive families and to encourage citizens to become involved in the lives of children and youth in foster care. Here are nine things you should know about adoption in America:
1. Adoption has been and remains rare. Between 1973 and 2002, the percentage of ever-married women 18–44 years of age who had adopted a child fluctuated between 1.3 and 2.2 percent. Men were twice as likely as women 18–44 years of age to have adopted a child. Among ever-married persons, men (3.8 percent) were more than 2.5 times as likely as women (1.4%) to have adopted. Continue reading →
The grand jury has made a decision in Ferguson, now we have to make ours. How will we respond? | Ed Stetzer
In light of the grand jury decision handed down tonight in in the wake of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO, I think it is of utmost importance that all Christians, but specifically white evangelicals, talk a little less and listen a little more.
Or, put another way, maybe some need to spend less time insisting that African Americans shouldn’t be upset and spend more time asking why some are. Yes, this case reminds us again that the racial divide is clear, as a just released CNN poll demostrated.
I wasn’t in the grand jury room, and I don’t know the evidence, but many godly African American leaders are hurting and they are explaining why.
I think we should listen to them.
The issue of race remains contentious in our nation and in our neighborhoods, and many white evangelicals remain confused as to how they should respond. It is often difficult for those of us on the outside of an issue to fully grasp the complexity and the hurt of those from a different background. Continue reading →
The failure of the Supreme Court of the United States to hear the case regarding Virginia’s marriage amendment has sent shock waves through nearly every sphere of life across the Commonwealth.
We all became immediately aware of the effect that this non-decision would have on clerks of court across Virginia. They would be forced to make a decision. Obey God and lose their job, or obey man and acquiesce to the demands of an out-of-control government. Some clerks have resigned. Others have determined that their conscience would allow them to hand out the marriage licenses, but not perform “marriage” ceremonies for homosexual couples. So they have kept their job as clerk, but have relinquished their status as a celebrant.
The struggle became evident in county that neighbors the one in which I live. Continue reading →
Thick, black smoke billows from a burning car in Ferguson, Missouri. A grand jury has investigated the shooting of Michael Brown and has determined that the evidence does not offer sufficient cause to indict officer Darren Wilson for any crime in the shooting.
We often use the word “apocalypse” to describe events that are chaotic and destructive. Both adjectives certainly describe 2014 in Ferguson. First came the shooting. Then came the riots. Two other young black men have died in the Greater St. Louis are in the meanwhile. The Missouri National Guard had to intervene. The Department of Justice has begun its own investigation. Never has the Ferguson pot settled below a simmer since the day Brown died.
The root meaning of the word “apocalypse” is something along the lines of “unveiling.” For my part, the events in Ferguson have served as something of an unveiling. I had hoped that we were further along in racial reconciliation. I had hoped that our nation was prepared to resolve differences more productively. I had thought that police forces were generally more representative of their communities and that tensions were not quite so high as they obviously are at least in some quarters of our country. I disagree with so much of President Obama’s politics; I had hoped that the one silver lining of his term of office would be a greater harmony among the races during his sojourn at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A different set of facts have been revealed, as has my erstwhile naïveté. Continue reading →
When the most recent issue of First Things arrived earlier this month, I was surprised to see an article by R. R. Reno which encouraged pastors and ministers to stop signing government-provided marriage certificates.
“The Marriage Pledge” intends to preserve the church’s purity in recognizing true marriage for what it is and in disassociating from the government’s adoption of false and increasingly nonsensical views of marriage.
Reno’s reasoning is prompted by our contemporary context. He writes:
The new definition of marriage no longer coincides with the Christian understanding of marriage between a man and woman. Our biblical faith is committed to upholding, celebrating, and furthering this understanding, which is stated many times within the Scriptures and has been repeatedly restated in our wedding ceremonies, church laws, and doctrinal standards for centuries. To continue with church practices that intertwine government marriage with Christian marriage will implicate the Church in a false definition of marriage.
So what is the solution? Reno calls for a separation of civil and Christian marriage, and he encourages pastors to sign the pledge: Continue reading →
by Ken Ham on November 24, 2014
I have a very special true story to share with you today, and it involves a former Army Ranger. But first some background . . . .
When I began giving apologetics presentations on biblical creation in Australia (1970s), some people in the church were actually rather discouraging towards me. For instance, they would tell me that the teaching of evolution and millions of years was so pervasive in the culture (and the church) that it would be hopeless to have any impact.
I remember one person telling me I should just concentrate on “getting as many people saved as possible without trying to deal with such issues as creation/evolution, because everything would get worse anyway!”
I’m glad I didn’t listen to those naysayers over 30 years ago! In fact, I recall telling one person something like this:
If you start digging a coal mine with a teaspoon, it will take a long time to dig a hole. But the more people who start digging with you, the faster and greater the hole will become.
And then I started to tell people something like this:
God’s Word is like a major weapon. For me it’s as powerful as a “nuclear bomb”—the more that we can see people motivated to stand on God’s Word and proclaim the creation/gospel message, the more the impact can resound around the world.
I am often reminded that God’s Word uses a lot of military-type imagery to help us understand the real spiritual battle we are in—and how Christians need to be actively involved. Continue reading →
“We pulled up to his house and called his cell phone to let him know that we had arrived,” the eyewitness testified under oath. “As Trey came down the steps of his front porch, his wife waived goodbye to him. There were three of us in the van already—the defendant was driving, I was in the passenger seat, and the shooter was on the seat bench right behind us. When Trey opened the sliding door and saw the blue tarp draped over the seat bench, he joked, ‘Who’s the body bag for?’ We all laughed, but uncomfortably. For we knew what he did not—that it was for him. Then he shut the door.”
I heard this testimony while sitting in federal trial court as an extern at Office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY). Continue reading →
Confession time – many of you have followed the events in Ferguson, Missouri, a lot more carefully than I have. I have followed the story but not delved into every eyewitness report or followed the debates closely. I did, however, follow the news coverage Monday and watched the St. Louis County DA’s press conference. I have a few opinions and observations that I’d like to proffer for your consideration.
It is with great trepidation that I wade into this quagmire. Racial issues can be explosive, even on a Baptist blog. But here’s my take. Continue reading →
We are fast becoming a pornographic society. Over the course of the last decade, explicitly sexual images have crept into advertising, marketing, and virtually every niche of American life. This ambient pornography is now almost everywhere, from the local shopping mall to prime-time television.
By some estimations, the production and sale of explicit pornography now represents the seventh-largest industry in America. New videos and internet pages are produced each week, with the digital revolution bringing a host of new delivery systems. Every new digital platform becomes a marketing opportunity for the pornography industry.
To no one’s surprise, the vast majority of those who consume pornography are males. It is no trade secret that males are highly stimulated by visual images, whether still or video. That is not a new development, as ancient forms of pornography attest. What is new is all about access. Today’s men and boys are not looking at line pictures drawn on cave walls. They have almost instant access to countless forms of pornography in a myriad of formats.
But, even as technology has brought new avenues for the transmission of pornography, modern research also brings a new understanding of how pornography works in the male brain. Continue reading →
For a quick survey of the gospel in Leviticus, check out Four Things that Happen When You Study Leviticus for More than Ten Years and listen to John Haralson’s message on Leviticus 9. John is the author of this post on The Gospel and Leviticus.
About two months ago, our congregation embarked on new sermon series on Leviticus. Some people in my congregation chuckled, others furrowed their brows. “Leviticus, seriously?” One newcomer to our church had a slightly different take. He said to me, “Well, I’m going to stick around for this sermon series just to see what happens.” I put him in the same category of people who watch NASCAR races just to see the crashes.
Why we don’t study Leviticus–
I personally have never heard a sermon series on the book of Leviticus. In 14 years as a pastor, I have never preached a single sermon from the book of Leviticus. Continue reading →
Gratitude should fill the Christian’s life (1 Thess. 5:18; Acts 2:46-47), especially with Thanksgiving on the horizon. So why am I so prone to ingratitude? Genuine gratitude seems elusive.
We live in maybe the most prosperous country in certainly the most prosperous era yet of all time. And as people bought back into relationship with God by the merit of Jesus Christ, Christians should be even more thankful than anyone else. Besides, gratitude is fun! As G. K. Chesterton says, “Thanks are the highest form of thought, and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” We miss out on so much when we fail to live gratefully.
I think there are three big reasons why gratitude can seem so hard to find. Continue reading →
Thomas Kinkade is a polarizing figure. His art is beloved and hated. Some see the art as picturesque and hearkening back to a simpler time. Others see his art as gaudy and outlandish with terrible lighting effect. Whatever your own view, it must be admitted that an artist with paintings in thousands upon thousands of homes is vastly more influential than most. Here, we will examine Thomas Kinkade’s art from a few different angles.
The image featured in this post, “Sunday Evening Sleigh Ride,” exhibits a number of features of Kinkade’s art. Light is featured prominently. It is used in a kind of spiritual fashion–its warmth beckons from the church to the cold, snow-covered land around it. The viewer’s attention is not upon the sleigh itself, because the light is centered upon the place of worship: the church. Note also the fish symbol displayed above Kinkade’s signature. The image is one of familiarity–particularly for those who are most assuredly Kinkade’s audience: broadly mainstream protestants. Continue reading →
“100 years ago we sent missionaries to the nations to look for cities. Today you go to the cities and you find the nations.” -Ray Bakke
Today, President Obama is expected to reveal his plans for reforming our current immigration system–plans that most expect will be controversial. If you want to stoke emotions and heat up a conversation, you need only mention the subject of illegal immigration and step back. The sparks are certain to fly!
In the wake of this latest round of tense discussion over this issue, the folks at Lifeway released a survey that shows pastors significantly support some form of immigration reform. For many pastors, this is now no longer an impersonal issue, because many are starting to see the way it personally affects people they now know. I’ve discussed at length before why I believe our current system demands significant reform, but regardless of your position on this issue, followers of Jesus should be responding to immigration first on the basis of our Kingdom calling. Continue reading →
WASHINGTON (BP) — President Obama’s new executive actions to change immigration policy imperil the growing, widespread agreement on reform, said the Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist.
Obama announced in prime time Thursday (Nov. 20) his orders, which include most controversially a plan to protect an estimated five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The president’s actions came after years of his own contentions that he did not have the legal authority to make or ignore immigration law. He chose to act at this time after a comprehensive reform bill approved by the Senate in 2013 failed to gain a vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Obama said.
The president’s decision to act on his own is an “unwise and counterproductive move,” said Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). Continue reading →
Recently I had the privilege of writing the foreword to a new book authored by my friends Adam Barr and Ron Citlau. The book is entitled Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth (Bethany House, 2014). It’s a very good book. You should think about getting a copy. My foreword is below.
Hardly a day goes by when we don’t hear something about homosexuality. It’s all over the news and all over social media. It’s the subject of countless conversations, arguments, diatribes, rants, punditry, and commentary. You can’t help but wonder: Is there really anything left to say?
Actually, there is a lot that still needs to be said. Continue reading →