Why race issues are so difficult for most Christians

“Work for the welfare of the city where I have sent you…and pray on its behalf. For as it prospers, you will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).

America is having a racial crisis.  Again.  Or, perhaps more accurately, the same crisis we have had for decades continues to the present day.

Here are some thoughts on the subject regarding the Lord’s people….

1) If you and I are of different races, we will see racial matters differently.

2) If your racial group is dominant and mine is in the minority, expecting us both to feel the same about racial matters is unrealistic.

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Every pastor ought to see a counselor occasionally.

“Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise in later life” (Proverbs 19:20).

You need a counselor.

Particularly if your work is demanding, the stress heavy, your schedule filled, and you’re finding the needs around you overwhelming, it would be good to sit down and unburden yourself with a friend with gifts for wise counsel.

I don’t mean a shrink necessarily.  Perhaps it’s only a friend who knows the Lord and His Word, and has insight into human nature with a gift for discernment.  Usually, that means a professional counselor, whether they call themselves “pastoral counselor” or “adolescent therapist” or something else.

Don’t get hung up on titles. And don’t be overly impressed by framed certificates on the wall.  Wisdom is where you find it.  “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…” (Psalm 1:1).

I tease preachers about getting pedicures.  I’m in favor of it, by the way.  Some of them tease me in turn, saying I have to turn in my “man card” as a result of my monthly visits to the nail parlor in our neighborhood.

But I’m serious in saying every pastor would benefit from seeing a counselor from time to time.

So you will know, I came to this position late.

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Compounding our mistakes: Lying and denying

“If I had decided to say these things aloud, I would have betrayed Your people” (Psalm 73:15).

I fear for the souls of those who write and speak of their hostility to the Christian faith, to declare their atheism, and to denounce Scripture.

What if they change their minds?

It has happened.

And yet, that “thing” they wrote is out there, wreaking its havoc, doing its damage, spreading its slander.  Meanwhile, the author would give anything to have not written it and to get it back.

What some do, I fear is, rather than going public with their regret and asking for forgiveness, they compound the error.

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Why I rejected sound advice

“Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).  “Victory comes with many counselors” (Proverbs 24:6).

Sometimes the poor relationship we have with someone may color our reaction to something wise they share.

The challenge is to listen to everyone, even our severest critics.  Taking their counsel on something of worth may end up being the first step in building a bridge of reconciliation.

This particular church member had rejected my ministry and was working behind the scenes to oust me from that church.

So when he made a suggestion that actually made sense, I was not in the mood to accept it.  Had he suggested we buy giant-sized blizzards at the Dairy Queen, his treat, I’d probably have scoffed.

Here’s what happened..

He said, “Joe, look at old Mr. Mossback.  He has no business being a greeter in this church.  The man could star in a horror flick.”

He was right.

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The hazardous art of predicting the future

“And it happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a certain slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortunetelling….” (Acts 16:16)

Some culture writers and half-serious columnists do it for fun, giving forecasts on life in the future.  Some, like meteorologists, work at it seriously to protect human lives. It helps to know the hurricane in the Caribbean may be headed our way or that the tornado season is upon us.

But then, there are those strange individuals who believe they are endowed with supernatural gifts of prophecy and fortune-telling.

If you have such a talent, I have a word for you.

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The pastor said, “No, we don’t believe the Bible.”

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)  and “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).

Let’s see what you do and I’ll decide for myself whether you believe the Bible.

My buddy Kris was commenting on meaningless questions some of our Facebook friends suggested should be put before pastor search committees (our previous article). Most, she said, are useless because they presuppose the answer.

Asking a search committee “Does your church believe the Bible?” is meaningless, because they’re all going to answer in the affirmative, and you’re no better off than had you not asked it.

“Wait a minute,” Kris said, interrupting herself. “I just remembered a time when my pastor answered that differently.”

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Things a believer decided long ago

“For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).

In the late 1980s when the country of Lebanon was trying to self-destruct and life was hazardous for everyone, President Reagan ordered all Americans out of the country. The edict included missionaries also. And that created a dilemma.

One of my missionary friends protested, “This is when we do our best work, in a national crisis when people are fearful and disoriented. They become open to the gospel. Please leave us here.”

Another missionary agreed. “Whether our lives are in danger or not, we settled this a long time ago, the day we accepted the Lord’s call.  This is no time for us to abandon these people.”

Matters settled long ago do not need constant rehashing.

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What hypocrisy looks like and why the Lord hates it with a passion

“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matthew 23:13,14,15,23,25,27,29).  “Woe to you, blind guides!” (Matthew 23:16,24,26).  “You serpents, you brood of vipers!” (Matthew 23:33).

The Lord has this thing about hypocrites.

He doesn’t care for them much.

You and I have learned something God hasn’t managed to do: to accommodate ourselves to those who say one thing and do another.

Take the beer company of St Louis, for instance. We read this and it sounds normal to us. It took a secular writer to point out the hypocrisy in their moralizing.

“We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code.” –Anheuser Busch, responding to recent scandals in the National Football League (TIME magazine, September 29, 2014)

Humor writer Ian Frazier nails the famous beer company for its duplicitous moralizing in the same issue of TIME magazine.

In recent weeks the NFL has been under attack for its mishandling of the serious misbehavior of players who, among other things, knocked out a wife in the elevator and was caught on tape doing it, and beat a four-year-old child leaving whelps and open wounds on his skin.

The famous beer company, known for its massive advertising throughout every sporting event available, takes the NFL to task for its pitiful reaction.  Such behavior is against Anheuser-Busch’s moral code and culture.

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If you’re not living the life, do not tell people you are a Christian

“If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

The politician convicted of racketeering tells the press that since Jesus is his Savior, he will be all right.

The businessman who taught a Sunday School class and gave millions to the Lord’s work is convicted of running a Ponzi scheme and swindling millions from people who trusted him.

The  preacher found guilty as a child molester insists that his faith in Jesus will see him through this crisis.

God’s people trying to get this right want to say to them, “Would you just shut up about being a Christian!  This is a time to keep it to yourself. You have not earned the right to go public with your testimony.”

Those who bring shame upon the Lord have no right to a public declaration of faith. Let them repent and “bring forth fruits meet for repentance.”

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Things that conspire to keep you humble–and why that’s good.

“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (I Peter 5:5)

You and I resist the proud, too, don’t we?  The braggart who takes all the credit for work the whole team accomplished is deserting his friends, turning them into enemies and setting himself up as a target for their animosity.

Not very smart.

The next time he seeks our help or invites us to join his team, we think hard about accepting.  We know how he works and it’s not good. We resist him.

Pride looks good on no one, least of all followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in particular ministers of the Gospel. Pride is one adornment we should all reject.

I wish I could stand before you this morning and say all the Lord’s people have this down pat, that pride (or egotism, however we want to say it) is something we do not have to struggle with. But the evidence to the contrary is all around us. Christians sometime are the world’s worst prigs, pharisees, egomaniacs.  And some preachers are the chief offenders.

Lord, help your people.

Humility, let us say, means not to think down on yourself, to put yourself down, to crawl and cower and, in the memorable words of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9:8, refer to yourself as a dead dog.

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