INJUSTICE FOR INJUSTICE?

Much like many of my generation, as a child, my mother use to repeat the phrase “two wrongs don’t make a right”. Obviously as a child, I really didn’t grasp the depth or even the full application of this phrase. Yet today, if we just look at the news, we see the most glaring illustration of this truth unfolding before our eyes over-and-over.

America woke up today to another day of some of the worst violence and rioting we’ve seen in quite some time in relatively small Kenosha, WI, where 19 year-old Jacob Blake was shot by police over the weekend. The violence seems to be a magnified version of the rioting that took place in Minneapolis in response to the ugly death of George Floyd.

Let me preface this with the following: I abhor injustice. I honestly do not believe anyone can be an honest, sincere follower of Jesus Christ and not be deeply affected when someone, regardless of their skin color or the circumstances, loses their life. And yes, it can be particularly shocking and grievous when the death comes at the hands of those who’s job is “to protect and to serve”. I will also take this moment to say that, YES – there is a problem with injustice in our legal system. While I might not agree with HOW we define many things labeled as unjust, and further – in many ways I would definitely disagree with what “JUSTICE” might ought look like. I won’t get into the statistics that actually paint a much different picture than the “open season on Black men” claim of the #BLM movement – what we have is FAR less a skin color problem and far more heart issue. We have seen some pretty brazen and senseless violence and deaths at the hands of law enforcement. And YES, the “system” has allowed many to go unpunished.

But we have seen a great deal of attention placed on police and the sad over-use of deadly force. The system IS changing. Unfortunately, we now live in a knee-jerk, emotion-driven society that doesn’t care to wait and give the justice system a chance to do what is right. Instead, a whole new form of vigilante “justice” has been born, primarily led by the #BLACKLIVESMATTER and #ANTIFA anarcho Marxists who’s immediately response to ANY possible unjust case: RIOT (though the media seems to want to call them “Peaceful Protests”, no matter how many people are hurt or businesses burned and looted).

In our most recent example of the shooting of Jacob Blake: nobody seems to be willing to give the prosecutory, police department, and the justice system as a whole the opportunity to do what is right. In the cries of “INJUSTICE”, these folks actually prevent justice from being had! Governor Tony Evers didn’t even wait for the body of Br. Blake to grow cold before he labeled this shooting as criminal and pronounced the officers involved to be murderers. GUILTY! And in his public proclamation, he has likely tainted any chance for justice to be done.

You see – while the system has a history of failures and missteps, the foundation of our legal justice system is suppose to be “innocent until proven guilty”. We have seen many police-involved cases where the initial, even damning video or witness testimony turned out to not tell the whole story. But even if the initial video of this particularly death turns out to be teh “whole story” (and evidence has already emerged that there is, indeed, more – even if not exculpatory). The point is, there has not been enough time passed to evaluate even the known evidence, much less give time for even a preliminary investigation. Yet almost immediately, massed took to the streets – and in two days, it appears that more damage and property loss has occurred in little Kenosha than happened in Minneapolis. Businesses and property destroy – that have no connection to the police. And this is being done in the name of “Justice”? Burning down a youth correctional facility? Burning an office furniture business?

The reality is – these so-called “protests”, are simply acts of injustice perpetrated as a supposed answer to injustice. This is NOT about Justice! And again, “two wrongs don’t make a right”. In Minneapolis, the officers involved in the death of George Floyd were not just suspended, they were terminated. They were arrested and charged – all in the matter of three days – a stituation being taken very seriously. Did this do anything to quell the violence, looting, and even deaths? Nope. Likewise in Kenosha, the dead man’s body wasn’t even in the morgue and the “protestors” – aka: violence-minded, hate-filled rioters, were already about their dastardly actions. This is NOT about Justice! This is all about unregenerate people burning, destroying, and bringing evil into an already hurting community. This is about destroying justice, adulterating justice, cheapening justice. And it must stop. Unfortunately, this is directly tied to America’s political far-Left. A pattern that was actually promoted by the previous President, and is being perpetrated by the political party that had its “virtual” convention last week, where they completely refused to even mention the massive damage and injustice perpetrated by #BLM and #ANTIFA mobs on cities across the country.

TWO WRONGS DON’T MAKE A RIGHT!

Preach The Word (even through tears)

I was privileged to participate in an ordination service for a young man who had recently been called a pastor of a church that had been without a pastor for quite some time. As is boilerplate, the charge was brought centered around the command to “preach the Word” from 2 Timothy 4:1-5. Sadly, you rarely hear spoken in these services (or even in seminary classes) that simply “preaching the Word” will bring grief. Yet I’ve had reminders of that truth in the last 24 hours.

A friend in another state, faithful expository preacher of the Bible – who holds no unscriptural view, who has never even been accused of preaching falsehoods, but instead – because of a broken local church ecclesiology (theology of church polity and power) – has been pushed out the door and forced to move from the parsonage, without pay to even afford another place to live. This man has been a faithful preacher of the Word. He has been honest and faithful to his call – but this faithfulness has also been the dagger that stabbed him in the back. When you preach in an expository format, you cannot easily skip over the controversial, uncomfortable, and “hard” stuff that many topical preachers conveniently just avoid. If you preach the Word, you will meet these difficult passages with honesty, love, and in a way that will very likely step on toes. And sometimes a church that has members rebelling against God in their personal lives will become offended and want more candy and less meat.

But add in the clear need for biblical discipline – such as a church member going on a well-publicized (in state-wide media) racist rant, or radical, community-rocking sexual sin (thing the incestuous forniaction of 2 Corinthians fame) then to get blocked by the church’s un-biblical church government – and you have a perfect storm to completely devastated a pastor and his family.

broken church

No sooner did I get some details on the above case (which is FAR from the first similar case I’ve become acquainted with among pastor friends), I got word of another friend in a somewhat different ministry position who also has been pushed out of his position via an extremely unbiblical and un-Christlike manner.

This is a sad pattern that, as I shared with my friends this morning, is nothing new and will continue to exist until Jesus steps foot on this earth. But I grieve for the damage done to these men who are simply pouring out their heart, giving of themselves in a very sacrificial way to glorify God and “preach the Word”, to make disciples – and to endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Much of this is rooted in an extremely dangerous theological perspective that many churches have, one that I heard hints of even in the ordination service I was a part of yesterday. While we who claim the Bible as our sole foundation and measure of faith and practice, we often take things to extremes. One example we find – we claim that Jesus is the “head” of the local church. We might even give verbal assent to a pastor being an “under-shepherd” to “lead” the church. Yet I have heard many times (and again heard it yesterday afternoon) that a pastor “serves at the pleasure of the church”. This always strikes me as completely incongruent with Scripture. It is about a maximum stretch to find a full-on “democratic rule” of the local church depicted or prescribed in the New Testament, but to find anything that remotely resembles a pastor being nothing more than a convenience to serve at the fleshly whims of the local church is exactly what brings us to the above mentioned recent cases, and these all are found in a very man/me-centered theology, which is an upside-down theology. It is a very small-view of God that actually places man ABOVE God. While Jesus is the head of the local church, and the church belongs unquestionablly to Him who gave His life for her – scripturally, we have the model and even command for the church to be “elder-led” – meaning God’s man (or men) are called to “rule” (we really hate that word). At the same time, the church does have a voice in many factors – but ultimately, a pastor is God’s man, called to be the primary lead – not as a hireling that can be cast aside when tastes and fleshly desires or feelings blow in a different direction.

But don’t we see this in many help-wanted pastor listings? How often do we see a church saying that they are looking for a man who holds certain degrees from prestigious institutions, who has decades of successful (by what standard?) ministry, yet never even mention that they are looking for God’s man – for the soul that the LORD Jesus Christ would be preparing to lead that congregation. As a seminary graduate myself, I appreciate the tool that seminary was (and still is) in my life and ministry – but the seminary does not make a pastor (or preacher). Wordly preferences do not dictate what God would have for the local church. And the sad reality of many congregations, filled with nominal or immature Christians, we have a recipe for disaster.

Does a pastor, who is faithfully dedicating his life, heart, blood, sweat, & tears deserve to be treated in any matter less than with genuine love, grace, and biblical processes? Understand that a God-called man sacrifices more than you could ever know. He isn’t going to brag about the hours spend in prayer and studying. He isn’t going to post a time card listing the miles and hours dedicated to helping that stumbling church member, that sick widow, or the questioning worry-wart. He won’t trumpet the inconvenience of going to a funeral home with a grieving family that doesn’t know how to put a funeral together. He doesn’t ask for lots of vacation time or leave unless there is no other option available. His phone is on nearly all the time, even when it means sacrificing family. And whether you know it or not: he is praying for you, usually by name every single day.

And in our current world of confusion and fear – he too is dealing with anxiety – and possibly measurable depression. Some who have been deprived of preaching time due to lockdowns or personal quarantine and illness, are struggling with simply not emotionally breaking down. These men… we pastors are not selfish when we pray for some return to “normal”, we are not uncaring when we have expectations that believers would act not out of fear but out of confidence in the LORD as a witness, a living testimony to a fear-paralized and broken world. When we desire the least-restrictive church operation possible, we are not seeking the illness or death of church members, but looking to make the facilities, ministries, and services accessible to the most people.

If you are a member of a local church, you may not realize it – but your pastor loves you. He has been entrusted with your spiritual growth and maturity – and tasked not with babying you and acquiescing to the world or church member preferences, but admonishing, encouraging, and yes, even bringing biblical church discipline when justified. If he preaches a message that spiritually slaps you in the face, don’t get mad, but instead get on your knees and thank God that the LORD and your pastor love you enough to speak the truth – then repent and pursue righteousness! Don’t launch a devil-inspired campaign of dishonesty and destruction in retaliation. And if we slip, if we fail – then remember the Biblical means of addressing that – in the spirit of love and reconciliation, walk and act in grace, covered by prayer, remembering that this pastor is a soul too –

Cast all petiness aside (Read and pray through Romans 14, especially the last 13 or so verses). And seek to walk in the truth of God’s Word.

Please pray for these two men hinted to in this entry – one in Missouri, the other here in Arkansas – and the many facing similar circumstances that I just haven’t heard about yet. If you have issues with your pastor – please pray both for him and for your own heart in the matter – and seek the biblical answer to the perceived problem. And act in LOVE, not vanity and flesh.

Numbness and Psalm 51…

Have you ever simply felt numb? The kind of numbness that envelops you like the cold depths of a lake as you sink ever-deeper into the cold grip of the waters? Yeah… I now am beginning to understand the concept.

For those who may not know – in April, I lost my mother, Judy Harris. In the midst of the insanity of a “pandemic” and widespread knee-jerk responses by government and IMG_2544 2people, along with the ongoing aftermath of her death – dealing with the probate of her estate and juggling two memorial services almost 900 miles apart, we then see an eruption of division, with Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA bringing violence, destruction, and fear to cities across the nation.

And then my father’s condition makes its final “bounce” – this time landing flat.  And just like that, in the course of just a few months, I IMG_8152have lost both parents. Preaching memorial services for both my mom and dad in a relatively short time was not on my ministry radar – but then again, neither was seeing our nation literally torn apart by politically-motivated manipulation of a virus, and a systematic attack on the very values that have endured and helped make the USA the nation that people still dream of escaping to.

I’m numbed by the apparent widespread apostasy of many popular Christian “leaders” who twist Scripture to endorse rebellion against God. I’m deeply saddened to see churches finding themselves faced with never meeting together again because of fear and widespread propaganda (again, politicizing of a pandemic).  I’m aching as I see loving people suddenly turned into veritable monsters over a piece of cloth over one’s face.  And I hurt for those who have long claimed to absolutely trust God, and who would acknowledge His sovereignty, well – except for this particular virus. Its as if some parts of God’s Word no longer apply? Is it not the same Bible that also tells believers that they are not given a spirit of fear? (2 Timothy 1:7)

I’m grieving not only for the loss of my own parents, but for a dear member of my 
112296745_10224032764792020_5060914239429042049_n84643334_10157023350568596_7312122881603796992_ochurch family, Sister Jeanie Greene, and more recently an old friend fromcollege, Michael Marlin who left behind a family that needed him.

And it all just grows ever-more numb – as I approach those I can with my “pastor hat” – a way of dealing with grief and frustration in a somewhat logical and spiritual way.  But that detachment from the personal side comes at a cost. Numbness. And the more that it all seems to pile on, the more numb and cold things become. And it would seem – that my old refuge of just a quiet place and my Bible just isn’t taking the numbness away like I had hoped.

Yet it is not as if I am without hope – for I still believe that Christ died for my salvation – that He paid the price for each and every one of my sins – and that His Spirit still dwells within me. Yet I also feel an immense pressure – to be something that I am rapidly losing grips on – a rock of strength for my family. A foundation stone for the church body the LORD has entrusted to my care. I’m not suppose to show weakness. I feel as if I must bottle up my grief, my pain, and my sadness – for the sake of those around me, for I’ve failed if I don’t still shine brightly with the Joy of Christ.  IN the midsts ot the numbness, I find myself grasping – grasping for anything to help me feel the joy of Christ in an overflowing, renewing, recharging way. Yet instead, I find myself having to try to restrain emotions that well up – that might cause me to lash out in frustration. And the cycle grows more rigid – and numb…

So I sit here in the coffee shop, reading, praying – and trying to “put on a happy face”… and then David’s cry comes to my mind.  A cry of one who also felt numb and distanced from the joy of God’s salvation.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from Your presence

And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation

And sustain me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,

And sinners will be converted to You.

Psalm 51:10-13

Of course, this Psalm wasn’t from a man who was passively experiencing grief and hardships – the distance he felt was because of his own sins, his own transgressions, his own rebellion – David had committed adultery and conspiracy to commit murder. Yet I cannot help but still feel as if my numbness, my bottled grief – isn’t in some way due to my own sinful failure to absolutely trust God and to dwell in His promises through Christ. I cannot help but feel as if I could somehow press a magic button, or say the right prayer, that suddenly I would feel all better and the numbness would ease. Yet it just isn’t that simple.

Tears? Or maybe finding a field away from everyone to just cry out at the top of my lungs…

And then I think – at the very center of David’s prayer in this Psalm – is the fundamental need that I too have, even if our circumstances are different:

Restore to me the joy of YOUR salvation.

Salvation belongs and comes from the LORD – it is His to give, His to comfort with, and His provision. In Him will I trust. And just maybe if I would grasp Psalm 91 and it’s reminders that God is my refuge and my strength – in Him is found real refuge and comfort.