Humility and Race

In the last few months, I think we have all experienced new things. 2020 has been a tough year for most of us, if not all of us. First, with Covid-19 and now the racial tension that culminated with the brutal death of George Floyd. For this blog, I want to focus not on his death specifically, but instead on aftermath and response to his death.

 First of all, I must say that for the last couple of weeks I have been grieving. Perhaps not in the way you might think, but still grieving nonetheless. When I saw the video of the murder of George Floyd, I felt sick. In my gut, I could feel it was wrong. I could feel that it was an attack on the fact that he was made in the Image of God. I have grieved his death, but I have also grieved as a man who had no answers, and as someone who felt hopeless. Not long after these feelings, the protests started and then the riots. As a result, I saw many strong opinions from people on social media who were fighting with one another over who was right. I saw division and continue to see division like I never have in my lifetime. The division is heartbreaking, and I continue to lament the fact that our nation is so divided.  

 

Self Reflection

In the midst of this, I have found myself reflecting as well as praying that God would help me to know how to respond. I could stay silent and act like nothing is happening, but that did not seem right. I could blast other people for having a differing opinion than me, but I have never seen someone adopt my opinion simply because I told them how wrong they were. The only thing I could do was repent of my sin, evaluate the situation for myself, and speak to these issues theologically and from my own experience. 

As I reflected, I knew that killing anyone of any race was wrong. That was an easy one. People are created in the Image of God; therefore, every life is sacred. For anyone promoting the fact that all lives matter, I agree, and I think the vast majority of people would agree. However, I do not feel this is the point of contention for people who claim “black lives matter.” The point of contention is people who claim black lives matter believe that black lives do not matter (in the opinion of too many people), and they would like that to change. So much so that they are willing to protest and even riot.

Now, I want to be clear. I do not agree with rioting or violence. This is sinful, and it must be addressed as such. But when many of us see the rioting, we lose focus on the point of contention because we are against riots. When many of us see “black lives matter”, we lose focus on the point of contention because we believe “all lives matter.” This is what we must recognize if we are ever going to understand each other and stop talking past one another. 

 

Our Debating Flaws

For this reason, I want to address what I think are two major flaws in our debates:

1. The “you too” fallacy

2. The negative inference fallacy

 

The “You Too” Fallacy

The “you too” fallacy means that the point of contention is not addressed, but the one responding to the point of contention simply finds something wrong with the other side and addresses that instead. This takes the focus off the one having to defend their argument and instead shifts the focus back to the one making the criticism. 

For example, I may say to my son, “Your room is a mess! Can you clean it, please?” To which he would respond, “Your room is also a mess. How come you don’t have to clean yours?”  

In this example, my son does not address the issue at hand; he deflects and tells me I have the same problem. Now, I might have the same problem (and probably do!), but the point of contention (my son’s room is a mess) goes ignored because now the focus is shifted to my room instead. If the emphasis continues being deflected, the room never gets clean.  

I have seen a similar response from many people when they hear or see “black lives matter.” When people say that there is a racism problem in America, and black people are being treated differently by police as well as others, people might respond with “Yeah but how many black people have killed police officers?” or “how many black people have killed other black people?” or “Rioting is also killing innocent people”. We could pull statistics all day and see what the numbers are, but the truth of the matter is that when we respond with the “you too” fallacy, we fail to address the point of contention. If we do that, we will never understand each other, and our nation will never heal. In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” So if someone is hurting, hurt with them. If someone is grieving, grieve with them. Ask them why they feel the way they do. Enter in with them and feel deeply with them. Maybe you won’t agree with everything they say, but I bet you will have a better understanding of them after you do this. There is always a reason why someone feels and acts the way they do. Find out why and empathize with them as Christ has empathized with you.  

 

The Negative Inference Fallacy

This fallacy teaches that if proposition A is true, it must automatically mean that the opposite or opposing proposition (B) is not true. But that cannot be a true statement. Proposition A being true does not necessarily mean that Proposition B is false. For example, If I say that I love chocolate pie, it does not mean that I do not love pecan pie. I might not like pecan pie, but the fact that I love chocolate pie does not equal hate or dislike for pecan pie.

Similarly, if I say “black lives matter,” it does not automatically mean that white lives or all lives do not matter. It does mean, however, that people feel that black lives do not seem to matter as much as the lives of others, and change is needed.

So, in this case, I think a proper response to “black lives matter” is actually humility and seeking to understand why someone would say “black lives matter.”

 

Conclusion

I do not pretend to have all of the answers to this. The more answers I have, the more questions I seem to have. I do know that our background and experiences weigh heavily in determining our worldviews.

Throughout my life, I have had the opportunity to have many black friends, teammates, co-workers, and mentors. I am honored to know them and call them my brothers and sisters. I want them to know that I stand with them and seek to listen more than I talk. Perhaps humility can lead to healing and change in this nation and throughout this world.  

 

In Christ,
Jeremy

 

        

 

   

 

 

 

Am I a Legalist?

I hear so much today about legalism in the church.  I hear it more today than ever and perhaps it is for good reason in some cases. There are simply a great number of churches where it is difficult to find grace because they use discipline as a way to try to earn favor with God. These are the types of churches who look down their noses at anyone who isn’t living up to their standard of Christianity.  Because these churches operate under the facade that they have it all together, it is near impossible to find the grace of God in these churches. Even if they do not think they have it all together they believe what they do makes them appear more righteous before God than others.

For example, perhaps a legalist reads his Bible every single day and then thinks less of the Christian who has fallen behind in Bible reading.  Or perhaps the legalist finds his rhythm of fasting during the week makes him far superior to anyone who does not. I say this because I want you to know that I do believe legalism is a problem within the church, but I also believe many Christians have become so afraid of becoming legalistic that they have run away from prioritizing spiritual disciplines.  

So what is legalism?

Legalism is when people try to earn right standing before God based on their good works.  Many Christians have done this at some point in their faith journey and have found they could never be good enough to earn God’s favor.  Because of this, many have unintentionally adopted a gospel that suggests they should simply do away with any spiritual disciplines, such as Bible reading, quiet times, giving, tithing, Scripture memorization and so on.  In their eyes, because they are justified by grace through faith, spiritual disciplines are things legalists do. Discipline and obedience sound oppressive because they have failed so many times to be disciplined and have felt great shame because of it.   

Not FOR grace but FROM grace

For the Christian, at the time of conversion, God imputes to him the righteousness of Christ.  This means that all of our sin is forgiven and also that we have obtained the perfect record of Jesus Christ.  This is the only way we stand before the Father in perfection. There is absolutely nothing we can do to add to this great salvation that God has graciously given and there was nothing we did to earn it in the first place.  Salvation is a gift of God from first to last.

But the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is not the same as the imparting of the righteousness of Christ.  In other words, you stand perfect before God because of faith in Jesus, however, that is not the end. God has not only canceled your sin and imputed righteousness to your account, but he also enabled and empowered you to follow him.  He is not only your Savior, but he is also your Lord. And whatever your Lord requires of you, he is gracious to empower you to do it. Simply put, he gives both pardon and power.

Because of this, we know we do not work for God’s grace.  Grace is not earned, otherwise, it’s not grace. Grace is given freely through the finished work of Jesus Christ.  But even though we do not work FOR grace, we still work. We work FROM grace.

 

 

What does working FROM grace look like? 

So when we read our Bibles, we do it because of grace.  We love him and want to know more of his grace through his written word.  

When we fast, we do it because of grace.  We love him and want to know him more and see fasting as a gracious gift from God that allows us to meet with him in an intimate way.  Fasting graciously shows us how much we rely on food or Instagram, or TV to mask our hunger for God and bring false satisfaction to our souls.  

When we give, we do it because of grace.  We love him because he was gracious to love us and we want others to experience God’s grace through our gifts.  We also give sacrificially because we do not rely on money but upon God’s gracious provision. When we give, we are actually able to see his gracious provision which is God’s grace in itself.  If we never give then we will believe the lie that we sustain ourselves. When this happens we miss the blessing of seeing God’s grace in our lives.

When we memorize Scripture we do it because of grace.  These are the words of the very grace that saved us! Is it not gracious for God to give us a mind to enable us to absorb his word?    

When we show someone grace, we do it because we have been shown the ultimate grace of our Good Father who gave us his son Jesus Christ and all of the heavenly riches with him.  

 

 

But doesn’t discipline still imply a works-based religion?

Working FROM grace does not mean that our devotion to God will not take effort. Therefore, to many, it may seem legalistic.  Some people think if you have to exert effort then its automatically legalism. This is simply false. Many times we will have to be disciplined enough to spend time with God, fast, or memorize scripture.  But that does not mean it is legalism, it just means your heart is still bent toward sin and you are still in the process of becoming more like Jesus. He’s empowering you by imparting his righteousness upon you each day.  He’s breaking the power of canceled sin in your life, but this is not a quick process. Most all of us would prefer watching tv or scrolling facebook to doing any of these things. But God has given us the grace and power we need to overcome our laziness and apathy to turn to him.  When we make an effort to spend time with him, he meets us in our Bible reading, fasting, quiet times…etc. and he gives us grace and strength. So we are not working for his approval, but we are working to meet with our Lord and Savior and grow closer to him. 

Consider these passages of Scripture:

But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.- Deuteronomy 4:29

I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.- Proverbs 8:17

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.- Jeremiah 29:13

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.- Matthew 7:7

Draw near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.- James 4:8

 

 

 

Does this make God obligated to us?

So as you can see, God promises to meet with those who diligently seek him.  This may sound works-based, but it’s gracious of God that we even have the opportunity to draw near to him.  He has freed us and empowered us to draw near to him. Without his grace, none of us could seek him or draw near to him at all.  Also, just because we seek God does not make him obligated to come near to us. God can do whatever he pleases. But we don’t have to guess what pleases him.  I think Scripture makes it clear that it pleases him to come near to those who diligently seek him. In this, we find grace and it also gives us confidence that our diligence is not in vain.

Furthermore, this allows us to realize that our own devotion to God is nothing we can boast in. If we know that it is only by God’s grace we are able to seek him, then we will never look down our noses at others who aren’t in the same spiritual place as we are.  We will welcome the lost, the saved who are struggling with sin… and everyone from the legalists who think they have it all together to the (antinomian) one who believes they do not have to follow any of God’s commands because they fear legalism so much.

I pray that God would lead us to devotion to him and show us the depths of his grace as he meets us there. Help us in our unbelief that time with God and devotion to him brings greater satisfaction than anything this world offers.

In Christ,

Jeremy

3 Christmas Rap Albums You May Not Know About

Keep Tha C In The Center
A.H.M.A.D.D.

AHMADD is a close friend and mentor of mine who is a veteran in Christian hip-hop.  This album is a reminder that Jesus should be in the center of Christmas. AHMADD points to Jesus in the rough times, he reminds us of the reason Jesus came, and to keep Christ in the center in the midst of our Christmas celebrations.  My favorite track on the album is “The Story” as AHMADD raps passionately about the the birth of Jesus and how he came to save us as he says “Man was severed from the Father so he stood between.  Matter of fact, he hung between heaven and earth to pay a price so we could be redeemed.”

Because of my personal relationship with AHMADD, I can tell you he is a great man of God and is filled with the Spirit.  He is also the founder of MovementUp as well as the pastor of the Methodist Children’s home in Waco, Texas.  Click below and purchase this album to support this local artist.

The Gift: A Christmas Compilation
116

Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii, and Derek Minor are just a few of the well known artists on this album.  Most of the album covers well known Christmas songs such as O’ Come All Ye Faithful, Joy To The World, and Silent Night.  Of all 3 Christmas albums on this list, this one has the least lyrical rap content as it displays a great amount of singing throughout.  This is definitely different than any 116 album I have heard to date, but I think this is an album the entire family can enjoy even if some of the family doesn’t really enjoy hip hop.  Enjoy it this Christmas by clicking below to sample or purchase. 

Gift Rap
The Cross Movement

This is the oldest album on the list.  I remember listening to this when I was in high school!  This album gives deep biblical and theological content and is centered on Jesus. My favorite track on the album is “Different Kind of Christmas” as It deals with real issues such as dealing with the death of a loved one at Christmas, and the hope of Jesus Christ even in the midst of death. A close second is “Wisemen” that gives a modern twist to the narrative of the wisemen traveling to see Jesus on the first Christmas night.  Check it out below! 

My Top Family Devotionals For Kids

The Jesus Storybook Bible
Sally Lloyd Jones

I don’t think I will ever be able to recommend this book enough.  This book is so special because it shows how all of Scripture points to Jesus.  Many times in the lives of Christians, we see parts of the Scriptures as disconnected from other parts which is not how God wants us to see it.  He has woven together his story that fits perfectly together and points directly to Jesus as Lord and Savior. If you do not have this book, this is a perfect gift to give your kids for Christmas this year.  I recommend this book even for adults.  Click here for an adult friendly version.

 

Indescribable: 100 Devotions About God and Science
Louie Giglio

This is the book that I am sure my son, Jace, recommends the most.  This book shows how science displays the glory of God. It includes Scripture, interesting scientific findings, captivating artwork, hands-on activities, and closing prayers for each devotion.  This book truly displays how incredible and “indescribable” is our God.

The Big Picture Interactive Bible Stroybook
B&H Editorial Team 

You might think this just another version of The Jesus Storybook Bible, but it’s much more than that.  It is actually longer and more in depth. It is 321 pages long, packed with 83 stories from the Old Testament and 63 stories from the New Testament. What’s unique about this Bible is that you can download a free app that makes the stories jump off the page and come to life!  It also has a letter to parents at the beginning of the book that explains how the book works.  Furthermore, If your church uses Lifeway’s The Gospel Project curriculum for Kids, this is a great supplement for it. The most important thing about this book is that is has a “Christ Connection” at the end of each story that shows how each story points to Christ.

Have a toddler?  Try the toddler version.

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden
Kevin DeYoung

This book also shows that the overarching theme of the Scriptures is God’s plan to redeem his people from what was lost in the Garden of Eden.  It’s subtitle is self explanatory as the entire book hints that the Snake Crusher is coming to make things right again.   

A unique aspect of this book is that the author speaks of 2 significant themes.
1. Jesus is the second Adam. What Adam failed to do, Jesus did perfectly.
2. The “garden”.  The biblical story starts in a garden in Genesis 1 and ends in a garden in Revelation 22. As rebels, we were all removed from the garden and we all long to return.  The return to is only possible through the second Adam, Jesus Christ.

I hope you will consider buying one or two of these books for your children this Christmas!   I know they will be a blessing to the entire family.

If you have books that you recommend for children’s devotionals, please leave a comment.

You are loved in Christ,

Jeremy  

Is Christ Central in Your Home This Christmas?

Sometimes, as parents, we scratch our heads over how we can truly allow Jesus to be the central figure of Christmas. It seems strange to even say that because in reality, Jesus is the central figure of Christmas whether we acknowledge it or not. But I just wonder how many of our Christian homes truly allow him to be. I use the word “allow” because it’s not just going to happen. Jesus is not going to barge into your home and force himself to be central to your Christmas. If we are going to allow him to be central, we must not be passive, but proactive.

 

Why are we so passive?

I don’t think Christian parents are passive because they want to be passive. Nor do I think they are simply apathetic toward Jesus being central to Christmas in their homes. As Christians we are passionate about Jesus. We know he is the promised Messiah who came to save his people from their sin and reconcile them back to God. Without Jesus we would be hopeless! Everything we would ever need in our lives was lying in that manger on that first Christmas night. We know this! We give our very lives for this message we call the gospel.  So perhaps we are passive not because we are apathetic, but because we do not know how to be proactive.

 

How does Jesus become central?

So the question is, how do we take that passion for Jesus and use it allow Jesus to be the central figure of Christmas in our homes? Unfortunately, I do not have all the answers to this question but I do think there are some small things we can do that will take little work on our part.

My Merry Christmas

In a previous blog post I recommended a book called “My Merry Christmas” by Sally Lloyd Jones. In this very short, but meaningful children’s book, the author ties familiar Christmas symbols to the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus Christ. This is helpful because this actually allows Jesus to become central in your home this Christmas. I have said “central” many times in this blog and this is why: Many Christians have a list of priorities that read something like this:
1. Jesus
2. Family
3. Work

Although this looks good, this is not keeping Jesus central. Keeping Jesus central means he is number 1 in everything, not simply number 1 on a list of other priorities.  He is the priority! He is number 1 in our families, our jobs, our hobbies…etc. So when it comes to Christmas, it is no different. Many people keep Jesus first during Christmas, but have not yet allowed him to become central. For example, we may read the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke before we open presents on Christmas morning. But then little is said of Jesus for the rest of the day.

 

Jesus in everything

When Jesus is central to our Christmas, we see Jesus in everything. Everything we do or open points us to Jesus. The lights on the tree point us to Jesus as the light of the world. The green Christmas tree is a symbol of life that points us to Jesus being the one who gives us true life. The food we eat gives us satisfaction but ultimately points to the one who ultimately satisfies our souls, Jesus Christ. The gifts under the tree point us to Jesus as our ultimate gift given to us because God loves us so much. All other gifts will get old and go into the garbage one day, but the gift God has given us in Jesus will last forever.

For more examples of how to point your kids to Jesus using Christmas symbols, please click the image below to purchase “My Merry Christmas.” You can download the Kindle version for only $3.03 and use it tonight!

 

 

Making it Practical

Is your home Christ-centered this Christmas?  Are there some small adjustments you can make in order to allow Jesus to be central to your Christmas?  Perhaps before you open presents this year you will remind everyone of the true gift of Jesus Christ. Maybe when you are around your Christmas tree or looking at Christmas lights, you will remind your children that the lights represent Jesus being the light and he empowers us to be his light in such a dark world. None of this takes prep time, it only takes a commitment to be faithful in pointing your kids to Jesus.

 

God will use you!

I can almost guarantee you this will be awkward at first, but I promise God will bless your faithfulness as parents and empower you to do this.  He is not reluctant to work through you. He wants your home to be Christ-centered more than you do! So step out in faith and watch God go to work.  Think of the conversations you can have with your kids. Think of the legacy you can pass down to them when they have kids of their own. More than that, think of the impact you will have on God’s Kingdom as you point them to their Savior, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christ(centered)mas!

 

Jeremy

 

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