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When Fear and Faith Collide

Ebola!

ISIS!

Ferguson, Missouri!

And _____!

It all evokes fear. Perhaps lots of fear. And the fear is somewhat understandable. After all, if you find yourself in the middle of a bad storm, a little fear is expected.  Yet…

Last Sunday I preached on the story of Jesus stilling the storm in Mark 4:35-41. I’ve preached on the passage before but this time was different because unlike before, I understood why the disciples became afraid. The text says that the storm on the sea was so fierce that the winds were blowing waves up into the boat. I’d be scared if I was on that boat . . . and I’d bet you would be too.

So what is Jesus thinking about when he questions his disciples about their fear and loss of faith? Maybe Jesus is speaking into something much deeper than just a severe thunderstorm. Maybe Jesus is taking the occasion to speak about the deeper issue of discipleship in those moments when faith and fear collide, where we allow one to drive the other away.

You see, when faith and fear collide, like they will later on for Jesus and his disciples when they enter Jerusalem for the Passover, our response speaks. Fear seems natural but those who let fear dictate the agenda will abandon the way of life Jesus calls us to embrace in attempt to assuage the fear on our own. With the fear of Ebola, we’re tempted to demand secure national borders rather than recalling how God expects his people to treat foreigners (read Deuteronomy lately?) much less care for the suffering should we encounter them. With the fear of ISIS, we’re tempted to champion the idea fighting fire with fire in another war rather than stopping to pray for them (read the Sermon on the Mount lately?).

But Jesus silences the storm, rebuking the win as he says to the sea, “Peace! Be Still!” The story in the Gospel of Mark leaves us with the question of who is Jesus? It’s meant to refocus our faith in the midst of fear.

Who is this Jesus but the Messiah, the crucified and resurrected King of Kings, Lord of Lords! The storms cannot and will not destroy us. Keep our focus on Jesus. Silence the profiteers of fear posing as news stations like CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and so forth.

Listen instead for the voice of Jesus and follow him. Together we will weather the storm!

Conversations On Racism and Injustice

This past Sunday afternoon I attended the “Town Hall Meeting for Justice For All” hosted by the Bridgeway Community Church in my town, Columbia, Maryland. The meeting was in response to the events taking place in Ferguson, Missouri following the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black man who was shot by the police. Even though there is 800 miles of Interstate 70 between Columbia and Ferguson, the issues that Browns death and the subsequent protesting have raised affect Columbia just as they affect every community.

The meeting itself was a great start to some courageous conversations that communities must start engaging in. Whites, Blacks, and Latinos all showed up for this meeting but the majority of the audience was Black. Pastor David Anderson served as a moderator taking questions the audience had for the five panelists that consisted of a school administrator, two police officers, a college student, and a local pastor. Of the five panelists, three were Black and the other two were White.

Black America and Fear

As you what has happened in Ferguson has brought to the forefront the problem of racism that still exists in America. Besides the problem of racism, there is a distrust of law-enforcement and a lot of frustration because of injustices that Blacks and other minorities have endured (and if you’re not sure what those are, I suggest you do a little more listening to some of your Black neighbors).

I went to this town-hall meeting to listen because I’m interested in what I can do to help facilitate racial reconciliation and be an advocate for justice. After all, as a minister of the gospel, the God I serve seeks reconciliation and desires justice, so… Any ways, I tried my best to just listen during this meeting and here’s a couple of things I heard:

  1. Negative Images of Young Black Males. During the meeting, the Black voice of the audience agreed that the Hip-Hop culture has created a caricature of the young Black male that contributes to the negative perceptions and that the Black community has helped perpetuate this image. I thought this is important because it tells me that when we hear the Black community saying there’s a problem, they are also willing to own their part of the problem too.
  2. Palpable Fear. There was a point when the audience was asked if those who are minorities raise their children to carry themselves in certain ways in public because of a fear of being mistaken by law enforcement and others as being up to criminal activity. This is the fear of how their children might be perceived when they’re hanging out, walking down the street, into a store, etc… and how might the police react if their children appear “suspicious”? As an observer, this fear was extremely evident in the response of the minorities present (who were in the majority there). And I must say, words cannot really express how sad this is because nobody should have to live in fear for their life or the lives of their children.
  3. Where are the Whites? As I said, the majority of those in attendance were Black. Now there could be a variety of reasons for this, so I don’t want to make too much of this observation. But I do want to say that the problems of racism, et al. is a problem for the entire community, not just minorities. White people, like myself, don’t have to engage in conversations like this because we’re not the ones who suffer from systemic racism. That’s part of our White Privilege. But the problem isn’t going away and if it gets worse (with the violent protests of Ferguson as a sign of what might be on the horizon), we’ll all suffer the consequences. So let’s all work together for the good of racial-reconciliation and justice!

Where Do We Begin

Working together for reconciliation and justice begins at the table, so to speak. That is to say, we have to start by talking and having a conversation together about these issues. As you know, such conversations are not always easy but we must have the necessary courage, humility, and love to gather at the table with others for some talk.

Now I’m not any expert but one thing I’ve learned as a minister is the importance of listening. Or let’s say, I’m learning the importance of listening and more importantly, listening first. Listening to understand before we speak is important because in conversations like this, there are tense moments of disagreement at times. Someone says something that we disagree with and our gut reaction is to respond immediately, countering…arguing. And then we’re just talking past each other, or shouting past each other like they do on what passes for nightly cable news.

Instead of that, Don McLaughin, who serves as the preaching minister for the North Atlanta Church of Christ, suggests that we learn to say “Tell me more” (you can listen to all he has to say about this and more on this podcast). If we don’t understand or don’t seem to agree with what someone says then by saying “Tell me more” rather than counter-reacting, we can here their point of view and what it is that has led them to feel this or that way. We may still disagree but at least we’ll understand better and we’re validating the feeling of others.

One Last Thing…

As a parting word, let me encourage us to begin a conversation. Maybe it’s with a friend of another race or ethnicity, or maybe that conversation starts by attending a town meeting on race and justice matters in your own community. Help your church to start having these conversations (churches should be leading the way in conversations about reconciliation but sadly, we’re not!). Learn to ask questions and listen… Imagine what could happen if we just start having conversations!

The Glory of the Son

Originally posted on Enduring Christianity:

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Six days later … Peter had confessed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:18). Jesushad revealed to his disciples that he was going to die and be resurrected three days later, which was not well received (Matt. 16:21-24). Jesus had taught his disciples about the cost of discipleship, which included self-denial and bearing one’s cross (Matt. 16:24-28).

Six days later … Now, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to a high mountain for an experience of a lifetime. At the top of the mountain, Jesus reveals his glory to them in a way they had never seen and would never forget. The text reads: “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white” (Matt. 17:2). The word transfigured (metamorphóō) means…

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Why me, God?

Originally posted on The Sharp End:

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I’m a nobody.

There’s nothing overly special about me. I’m not stronger or smarter than the average person. I don’t have some kind of special knowledge. I don’t love better than others. I don’t sin less than anyone. I’m abundantly average.

In fact, I feel like I am weaker than most. I don’t know nearly all that I want to know, and my wisdom isn’t very wise compared to those I look up to. I struggle with loving other people because of my innate ability to be selfish. Oh, and I sin – a lot. Maybe I’m less than average.

I didn’t always see myself like this. I used to think I was everything to everyone. I was God’s gift to the world, but then I grew up and the voices around me began to make headway into my own thoughts. I began to see myself in light of the…

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The Beauty of the Gospel

Originally posted on Resurrected Living:

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We are accustom to reading the Bible as truth, which it is, but if truth is the only thing we see then we are missing much of what the Bible has to offer. The Bible is also full of beauty. It reflects the glory we find in Jesus. To miss the beauty of Scripture is to miss the glory of the Son of God.

This beauty is found before the Messiah takes on flesh and is born in a manger. The Old Testament is full of beauty. The poetry in the psalms and the prophets contain echoes of better things to come. The Gospel of Luke begins with a story about a childless couple. The righteous prayers of Elizabeth and Zechariah are heard by God and he decides to act on their behalf. As Zechariah enters the temple, he is visited by an angel who delivers the good news. Zechariah…

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Give a Man a Fish

Originally posted on From Dust:

       Today is my turn for the post in the Compadres’ Summer Blog Tour. The Compadres is a group of Christian leaders, many of which have blogs, and so we decided it would be good to try and put our enjoyment of writing together for the cause of Christ. The theme we have chosen to go with is events in the scripture that glorified Jesus. I decided to take a stab at John 6:1-15, Jesus feeding the 5,000. Before reading this post, I would encourage you to go read these 15 verses.

       John 5 ends with a sermon by Jesus, and chapter six begins with Jesus leaving the crowd, and going to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus goes up on to the side of a mountain with his disciples, and as he looks up and out, he sees a large crowd…

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K. Rex Butts:

Here’s the first Compadres Blog, from Jeremy Schopper. Read on and be blessed!

Originally posted on Leaving the Noise Behind:

ImageI’m part of Facebook group called Compadres. The group is made up of wonderful Christian leaders. Many of the folks in the group are bloggers; so we decided to come together and share our blogs this summer – hence the Compadres Blog Tour. Each of us will be writing about the glory of Jesus Christ. What you read below is my feeble addition to this wonderful project. Blessings!

Here’s one of the things Unger’s Dictionary had to say about glory. “It is the exercise and divine display of what constitutes the distinctive excellence of the subject to which it is spoken; thus, in respect to God, His glory is the manifestation of His divine attributes and perfections, or such a visible splendor as indicates the possession and presence of these.”

Here’s what I think this means; when we talk about the glory of God we are referring to the things…

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