Taking a stand against wickedness: What to do?

Unrighteousness is being aggressive.  Evil is on the march.  The world, the flesh, and the devil are having a field day. What should God’s people do?

A lot of people who call themselves Christians disagree with Scripture’s answer to that question.

In most cases, this aggression takes very specific forms.  A new city ordinance discriminates against churches and makes it impossible to do ministry.  A perversion of sexuality has become acceptable and local authorities insist that it be taught as the norm in schools.  A decent public figure with traditional values is being targeted by wicked people and slandered.  The list is unending.

Many calling themselves followers of Jesus Christ would say, “Organize! Confront! No more Mister Nice Guy! Take the fight to the enemy!”  “Show them you can be as mean as they can!”  “We have the power of God on our side!”

“After all,” they will say, “Jesus took a rope and cleansed the temple!”  “Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.”

When God’s people begin name-calling, verbally attacking, and using the world’s methods, eventually someone will get a gun and go calling.  In recent years, we’ve had extremists in the pro-life movement shooting up abortion clinics and murdering doctors.

Never mind replying that “You and I are not Jesus” and “Neither are we Old Testament prophets.”  He has not sent us to do such things.

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Put yourself in the pastor’s place; what would you do?

I want to say a word about the pastor’s difficult situation. The hope is someone may decide to cut him a little slack when he does something you disagree with or does not come through the way you were counting on.  

You have no idea what tough calls pastors have to make.

As an example, take the Judge Brett Kavanaugh situation. This controversial appointment for the Supreme Court is sucking all the air out of newsrooms these days and dividing the nation. Few people are neutral.

Recognizing that this piece will still be on our website long after this crisis has been resolved and fades into history, I need to give a little background.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.  Kavanaugh is a staunch conservative, we’re told, and his rulings over the years on the bench seem to bear that out.  He appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, endured a few days of their grilling, and seemed to be set for confirmation, albeit from a nearly evenly divided Senate.  Then, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor, came forward saying that when she was 15 and Kavanaugh two years older, he sexually assaulted her at a party when he was drunk. He denied the charge.

So, on Thursday, September 27, 2018, Ford and Kavanaugh each appeared before the Judiciary Committee to answer questions.  She was “100 percent sure” that Kavanaugh was her attacker.  He was just as adamant that he was not.

And that’s where the matter stands as I write.  The American people seem torn as to who is telling the truth and what it means.

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A word to those who have been “hurt by the church”

And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds in thine hands?’ Then he will say, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends” (Zechariah 13:6). 

Wounded in the house of “those who love me” is the literal interpretation of the Hebrew there, according the footnote in my Bible.

It’s called friendly fire in military lingo.

Recently, after our article “Why professing Christians never attend church,” the responses poured in, positive and negative.  The latest note, however, prompts what follows.

A reader wrote, “What about those who have been hurt by the church?  Your article doesn’t address that (as a reason for believers dropping out of church).”

He listed several instances of people wounded by the church….

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Turning sarcasm into “sic ’em!”

“Jesus said, ‘No doubt you will quote this proverb to me, “Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” No prophet is welcome in his own hometown'” (Luke 4:24). 

John Fogerty’s group Creedence Clearwater Revival is unforgettable to anyone who has owned a radio in the last 50 years.  Two years ago, in an interview with Dan Rather, Fogerty was remembering a key moment in the 1960s.

The group was one of many bands to perform at a particular event.  As the final group to warm up, and thus the first band to appear on stage, suddenly CCR found they had been unplugged.  John Fogerty yelled to the sound man to plug them back up, that they weren’t through.  The technician did so reluctantly, then added, “You not going anywhere anyway, man.”  Fogerty said, “Okay.  Give me one year.  I’ll show you.”

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“Compromise: Only the strongest can manage it!”

“I implore Euodia and I implore Eyntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-13).

The First Baptist Church of Kenner, Louisiana is bordered on the western side by Williams Boulevard and on the east by Clay Street.  In between, intersecting the church property is the wonderfully named Compromise Street.  I have no idea why the city planners gave it that name, but I love it.  When I pastored that church (1990-2004), I sometimes called the attention of the congregation to this asphalted reminder of how intelligent people are supposed to work with each other.

God’s people are to agree. We are to live in harmony.  We are to represent Christ in the world and do His work.  By the very nature of who we are and what we are charged to do, we are required to compromise.

God’s people are to compromise. Constantly.

Don’t miss that.

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Minister: You were dismissed from your ministry position and you are angry

God to Jonah: “Do you do well to be angry?”  Jonah: “You’re dadgum right I do! I’m so angry I could die!” (Jonah 4:4,9; my silly little paraphrase) 

A reader reacted to our article on “How to be fired and come out a winner.”

“I was fired from my position. The work was going well.  No reasons were given.  What am I to tell the kids and their parents?”

I began with this: “First, it wasn’t your position.”

That must have stung.

I know the feeling, friend. And have witnessed it a hundred times among colleagues.  You go in to  a church and build the program.  You are “in your place,” doing the best work you’ve ever done, and can sense the Holy Spirit has been preparing you for this for many years.  And suddenly, they terminate you.

How can that be of the Lord?  Surely someone is out of line here.  Haven’t I been mightily used of God?  Hasn’t He blessed my labors?  Don’t the kids love me?

All of that may or may not be true.  But it’s almost beside the point.

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Wondering what exactly “freedom of the pulpit” means

“Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). 

Marshall Ramsey, editorial cartoonist for our Jackson, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, told recently of his conversation with a colleague on another newspaper.  They were lamenting the rapidly dwindling number of editorial cartoonists. Marshall said, “When I got into this profession, there were less than 200 full-time editorial cartoonists. I’m not sure what an accurate count is today, but I’ve heard it’s a couple dozen.”

As newspapers go the way of dinosaurs–my friends say we who still depend on them for our news are the real dinosaurs!–they keep cutting back on staff.  Editorial cartoonists seem to have been some of the first to go.

Anyway, the two cartoonists were concerned over something that had just happened to a buddy on the staff of the Pittsburgh, PA Post-Gazette.  He’d been fired because his cartoons were “too critical of the President of the United States,” according to his publisher.

Marshall notes, “Saying an editorial cartoonist is too critical of a politician is the worst reason to fire an editorial cartoonist ever.  Critical editorial cartoons are as American as mom, apple pie, and Ben Franklin (he is credited with the first American one).”

So, how are things in Jackson between Marshall and the Clarion-Ledger, we wonder.  In his 21 years here, he says, “I’ve never taken an idea from an editor (or anyone else).  I have taken suggestions that might make the cartoon better or might make me realize I’ve done something really stupid.  That’s how editors edit.  The ideas are mine.”

His editors at the C-L, he says, do not want a cartoon they agreed with.  “They wanted the best cartoon I could draw.”  (see addendum)

Okay, fine. That started me thinking.

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Is there another side to this issue?

“The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).

A friend posted the campaign video from a lady in Round Rock Texas who is running for Congress.  He said, “She’s got my vote just from the video.” So I clicked it open to see what MJ Hegan was saying.

According to the video, MJ Hegan, an attractive brunette perhaps in her late 30s, served three terms flying helicopters for the Air Force in Afghanistan.  During the last assignment, her helicopter was shot down and she was injured.  Doctors refused to let her fly again.  That’s when she found that the military, which had been so welcoming to her, now closed the door on further assignments.  When she worked to get Congress to address this, she found Washington’s doors closed.  Politicians refused to talk to her, she says, because she was not a contributor.  Her own congressman refused to meet with her. And that’s why she decided to run against him.  She is beating the pavement and knocking on doors determined to unseat the incumbent and take his place.

The video was sharp and witty and clever.  With nothing further to go on, it’s easy to see how someone viewing it could want to stand up for this lady.

But wait just a minute.

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When you suddenly realize the pastor’s sermon is missing something

My wife was commenting on a sermon she heard recently.  “It was a fine sermon in many respects.  It called for the right kind of actions and spoke of the Holy Spirit.  And then it hit me.  Nowhere does this person’s preaching deal with the gospel, mention Calvary, or call for repentance.”

She said, “I suppose the sermon works if everyone is saved and obedient and has a sincere desire to serve God.  But what if they aren’t?  What if we are rebels, what if our hearts are in rebellion against God? What then?”

“Preaching like this sneaks up on you,” she said, referring to what that sermon was missing.

Much has been said about the sermon delivered by the Episcopal bishop at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19.  Most of us enjoyed hearing the sermon, particularly because it was so American and so typical of the African-American tradition we’re familiar with but which presumably the British elite crowd is not.

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