Tag Archives: Legalism

Less Labels; More Grace (Are You A Racist?)

First, a Dog Story

George and I in Walmart. He’s the world’s best conversation starter 😉

I have the sweetest, cutest, snuggliest, smartest, dog in the world. His name is George.

Before George came into my life, I had in mind the type of dog I wanted, and it wasn’t a big one; I wanted a Chorkie. I thought that’s what I got when I drove 2 hours into South Carolina to purchase him. At least that’s what I was told.

But this morning I was curious and did a little research. From what it appears, despite what the papers said, George looks a whole lot more like a long hair Chihuahua than a little boy dog who had a Yorkie daddy.  I think I was deceived.

So, through the course of conversation, one of our daughters asked me, “Are you OK with that?” With words of consolation, she then texted, “He has Yorkie coloring.” I replied, “Well, it’s not like I’m going to return him for a refund.”

Seriously, I have had this dog since August and have watched him grow, watched him learn, and felt my heart swell with affection. Do I get rid of him now because he might be a different breed than what I originally thought? Do I keep him because he might be the right color?

No! I love George! He’s part of our family.

Preference vs Prejudice

Folks, we show preferences all the time, and not only when it comes to selecting a particular dog bread we feel best meets our needs and desires. Preference is not a dirty word, nor a crime.

For example, I knew in advance of getting George that I did not want a German shepherd. I like German shepherds, but there’s no way I could keep one where we live – it would destroy the refinished hardwood floors! My preference was for a small, loyal, thinks-he’s-bigger-than-he-is little buddy, one that could meet me at the door without chewing it off the hinges.

Now, had I been offered a long-haired Chihuahua, I would have said “no.” Because of their typical “yappy” nature, their incessant shivering, and the whole “legally blond” thing, I preferred something more like a Yorkie (but Chorkies cost less). However, my prejudice (a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience) against owning a long hair Chihuahua proved unfounded. He is nothing like what I thought a long hair Chihuahua would be like.

“Breedism” and Racism

A pit bull bears it's teeth in this photo taken in New York City. A similar animal attacked a Michigan couple Sunday night, leaving them hospitalized with severe injuries.Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images

Credit: WHIO TV

But there are dogs I do not like – never have, never will. I do not like Dobermans, Rottweilers, or pit bulls. Actually, I can’t stand pit bulls. Frankly, I wouldn’t get too upset if you told me the whole breed had become extinct.

Honestly, not all pit bulls are bad dogs; some are very sweet. But in my personal opinion, none can be trusted and each one is a potential killer waiting to snap. You could, quite literally, call me a “breedist.” I think any other dog breed is better, despite any statistic or evidence to the contrary.

Racists and breedists are very much alike: Both hold prejudiced opinions of entire groups; they believe one group is inherently better than another; and no amount of logic or evidence can change their opinions.

Let’s look at some examples of what could be considered racist or breedist statements:

  • Never leave your pit bull alone with your child, not unless you want your child to die.
  • Never let your white daughter date a black boy, not unless you want her to get raped.
  • All dogs may go to heaven, but let one of those Rottweilers come in my yard and I’ll send it there.
  • Yes, God made all men in His image and Jesus died so all men could be saved, but if you bring in those black kids, don’t be surprised when things wind up missing.
  • See that big Doberman with the studded collar? He’s probably mean as the devil.
  • See that colored boy in the hoodie? He’s probably up to no good.

But now let’s look at some examples of what is NOT racism or breedism:

  • Ms. Brown was bit by a friend’s German shepherd several years ago. So bad was the bite that she required stitches to close the wound. Now, anytime she sees a German shepherd, a cold chill runs down her spine as she fights the urge to panic.
  • While at the counter paying for gas, a young African-American male in a blue hoodie stormed through the door and hit Mr. Jones with a bat, then robbed the store clerk before shooting him. Now, anytime Mr. Jones is approached by a black man in a hoodie he feels threatened.
  • The neighbor’s dog, a brindle-colored bull dog mix, often comes to our front door begging to come in and play with George. He’s a sweet dog, and he means no harm, but he doesn’t belong to us – he’s not our dog – and it won’t be two minutes before he “marks his territory” on our furniture. So, we say, “No!”, you can’t come in!
  • We should require better security at our nation’s borders so that people from other homes don’t waltz in through our front door like it was their own. We like invited guests, not assuming ones.

I’m tired of everybody throwing around the word “racist” when racism is rarely at play. For example, I’m NOT a breedist because I wanted a small dog more than a big dog (even though I was originally prejudiced against long hair Chihuahuas).

Also, because I pastor a church that’s attended by white people, I’m no more a racist than the pastor down the road who leads a black congregation. Where and how we prefer to worship should not be a necessary indicator of anything.

For the record, I do not believe I’m superior to anyone for any reason, including my skin color, my nationality, my sex, or my faith. I’m not a racist.

Who’s to Blame?

Yet when it comes to the fears or misconceptions we may have of each other, it might be a good idea to determine where all those prejudices are getting their start! Who promotes the stereotypes? Maybe it used to be where we grew up, but America is much more diverse and cross-cultured than it was back in the 1860’s and 1960’s.

Who regularly portrays negative images to sell a product? How many movies have you seen with cuddly pit bulls or Dobermans?How many Hollywood films have you seen where an innocent victim is attacked in a dark alley by three white guys wearing pastel-colored Izod’s? Many of the stereotypes that perpetuate prejudice are actually fueled by the same Hollywood studios that preach to us about bigotry and racism.

Check out this report: “What Hollywood movies do to perpetuate racial stereotypes.”

There’s always going to be the one who thinks himself superior to others, whether consciously or subconsciously, and much of that is going to be due to ignorance, not hate. For example, many early European missionaries to Africa felt their race was inherently superior to the “descendants of Cain,” yet they lovingly gave their lives to reach them with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

But much of what is labeled as “racism” today is, I believe, a manufactured commodity of the media culture; they create the fear, keep people ignorant, and feed off the perpetual misconceptions. The rest is nothing more than name-calling in order to shame, silence, or intimidate one’s political or social opponent.

Racism is wrong. Racism is a sin! But calling something a sin that’s not, in order to bring about a desired response by shaming people into fitting your personal template, whatever that may be, is nothing less than manipulative, tyrannical, cultural legalism.

So, why don’t we forgo all the name-calling and honestly get to the root issues that generate fear, distrust, and division. I’ve got a strong feeling most of us care more about each other than the other knows.

Less labels; more Grace.

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Filed under animals, Culture Wars, grace, legalism

I’ve Got a Mighty, Mighty Friend

Tough Times

All of us are living in tough and troubling times. For some of you, the road you’re on has far more bumps and potholes than the roads of others. Yet, all of us will agree that, wherever we are, the world is not getting any better.

Times are tough, and they’re only getting tougher.

But…

But, I have a Mighty Friend who is not affected by the whims of men or the winds of time. As a matter of fact, my Friend is the One who created man and started time.

Several years ago (2007) I wrote a song for my little girls to sing. Not long ago, while doing some stuff at church, I listened to a recording of the song …and shouted…literally, I kicked up my heels, pumped my fists, waved my hands, and shouted “Praise GOD!

Maybe you need some encouragement? Just read the lyrics I have included below, and if God is your friend, don’t worry (Matthew 6:30-34).

Mighty Friend

Well I may not be as tall as a building or strong as a big ol train
I may not be as smart as a scientist doing things I can’t explain
But I know the One who made the tallest mountain and can whip up a hurricane
And the very One who invented gravity says He even knows my name.
 
Well I may not know what’s comin’ in the mornin’, or what the day may bring
Good or bad, I’m not gonna worry, ‘cause Jesus knows everything.
So I’ll do the best with what God has given me as long as there is time
‘Cause the One that got the clocks a-tick’n told me it’ll all be fine.
 
When the devil acts like a bully, putting on a scary show
Before you run away and hide in a corner there’s something you need to know
The One who spoke the world into existence is standing by your side
And if you look close the devil’s knees are shakin’ cause he knows he’ll lose the fight
 
Chorus:
Cause I’ve got a Mighty, Mighty Friend who watches over me
And He’s the Mighty, Mighty Savior who died to set me free
Well I may not be the greatest at anything, but this one thing is so
The God that is the greatest at everything loves me, this I know.
 

© 2007, Anthony C. Baker (BMI)

Katie is going to hate me for doing this…

…but I am going to include the recording I was talking about. This was recorded back when she (Katie, the one on the far left) was only 10 or 11 years-old. It’s not Nashville quality, but it’s precious. So, as so many people say before they sing in church, “Don’t listen to how we sing, just listen to the words.”

“Mighty Friend”

Katie, Valerie, Alicia, and Haley

 

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Filed under Faith, God, music, Relationships and Family

I’m Going to Offend Somebody

Offended Anyone?

Have you ever offended anyone? I bet you have. Sooner or later, all of us will. We may say something we don’t mean, act carelessly, or speak the truth without love. Offenses happen.

However, there are times when simple words and phrases will set people off. For example, if you want to rile people up into a tizzy, just get on Facebook or Twitter and post any of the following words (your opinion doesn’t matter):

  1. Image may contain: 8 people, outdoor

    Yes, that’s me in the center kneeling. My dad beside me. We raced Fords. (1987)

    Grits, okra, and turnip greens

  2. Roll Tide! / Go Vols!
  3. “Only two genders”
  4. “It’s only a translation.”
  5. Rapture
  6. First On Race Day (Ford)
  7. Second Amendment
  8. “My kids will never do that.”
  9. “only between a man and a woman”
  10. Donald Trump

Seriously, use any of those words and it won’t take 10 minutes before people are arguing and fighting, calling each other names, questioning each other’s religion, and saying things like, “DON’T JUDGE ME!”

Nevertheless, we should do our best to “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). It should never be our intent to hurt feelings or make people angry. The apostle Paul instructed us to “follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).  So, as much as is possible, we should watch what we say, choose our words carefully, and do our best not to offend.

And, when necessary, we should apologize.

The Rock of Offense

On the other hand, there are times when we MUST offend. Sometimes speaking the truth is the only loving thing to do; anything less is an offense to God.

For example, the following words will not make many friends but are guaranteed to generate hate-filled comments from around the troll-dwelling universe. Yet, they must be said!

  • Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man can come unto the Father but by Him (John 14:6).

As a blogger, my words are read all over the world by people who hate the name of Jesus, and when I mention Him they go ballistic. I hate it for them, but how can I remain silent?

Jesus told the followers of John the Baptist,

“…Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. – Luke 7:22-23 

I don’t like offending people, but here’s the thing: if we let the fear of offending silence the Truth, how then can we “follow after the things which make for peace?” There can be no real peace without the Prince of Peace.

So, I guess I’m going to offend somebody.

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Filed under blogging, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, Faith, General Observations, Life Lessons, salvation

What Underground Churches Don’t Worry About

In a sermon I preached not long ago, I made mention of the fact that you never see “First Baptist,” “Methodist,” or “Community Non-Denominational” plastered above an underground church. When all one wants to do is worship God without being imprisoned or killed, denominational distinction is one of the least of their worries.

That led me to think of other things that an underground church might not worry about:

  • The color of the carpet
  • The font on the church bulletin
  • Whether or not they sing a hymn or a praise song
  • Whether or not the pulpit is made of wood or etched glass
  • Business meetings
  • Bible Versions
  • Post-graduate or seminary training
  • Projection screens
  • Padded pews
  • Pews
  • A family activity building
  • Gold or silver communion accessories
  • How long the worship lasts
  • What people wear
  • Parking

No, I don’t think underground churches ever have time to worry about all these things. They are more concerned with fellowship, encouragement, prayer, reading God’s Word in any version they can get their hands on, and keeping each other alive.

Does having things over which to argue make us more spiritual?

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, God, legalism, Uncategorized, worship

God-Centered, or Christ-Filled (Pt. 2)

Continuing from last time, let me conclude my thoughts on the difference between being God-centered and Christ-filled.

The Realization

When contemplated what I had asked of God (to make me characterized by a God-centered life), the mental picture of a wheel came to mind. It was the picture of a wheel with a center hub and spokes, much like a bicycle or wagon wheel. As I thought about this, however, something seemed wrong. Something seemed almost selfish.

You see, when you look at a wheel, especially the kind with spokes and a hub, it may not be obvious at first, but there are parts. In such a wheel I can distinguish the spokes from the hub, and the rim from the spokes. I can even see that there are spaces in between the spokes that are empty and not attatched or filled with anything – just empty. If God is supposed to be represented by the hub, the center of the wheel, then the wheel is not really all about the hub, but the wheel itself.

It’s about Jesus

The Apostle Paul told the Athenians (Acts 17:28) that in Jesus we “live, and move, and have our being.” In a letter to the Galatians he said “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20). It would seem to me that Jesus should be more than our “hub.” He should be our “ALL.”

That is when I thought of a different picture. This time I imagined a solid circle – a disk. Unlike the other picture where God was the center of everything, yet separate, here was a picture of wholeness. In this picture, if my life is this type of wheel, people won’t notice anything about me, just Christ.

All of the spokes (my life, my dreams, my habits and hobbies, my talents, and my desires); the empty spaces (the areas of my life that seem irrelevant); and the rim (the total expanse of who I am – my identity, my sphere of influence); each part is now inseparable from the life and power of Christ who lives within me.

May they see Jesus

So, I no longer want to be characterized as a man with a God-centered life. I want to be a man characterized by the life of Christ. When people look at me, I don’t want them to say, “Hey, that guy really knows how to serve God,” or “Hey, that guy really loves the Lord.” Even though there is nothing wrong with those things, how much better would it be if they could say, “Hey, I met this guy… at first I thought he was that man they call Jesus.

Remember, it was to the Church at Corinth that Paul said, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” There must have been some hearing this letter read who were deceived. Don’t be like them. Make sure your life is in Christ, and He is in you.

May your activities be “God-centered;” but your life “Christ-filled.” May the world see Jesus in you.

For Discussion:

Can you distinguish between a God-centered and a Christ-filled life? What characteristics would you expect to see?

Do you think someone could live a God-centered life and still be unsaved?

Your comments would be appreciated. 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, legalism, Uncategorized

God-Centered, or Christ-Filled? (Pt. 1)

The Prayer

Just the other morning I asked for the Lord to make me a “characteristic example of a life centered on God.” But as soon as I prayed that prayer, another thought came into my mind.

Maybe being “God-centered” is not enough.

God-Centered Living

You may be asking, “What is wrong with that?” Well, there is nothing wrong with living a God-centered life, generally speaking. On the other hand, there is more to being a Christian than being “God-centered.”

“Outrageous!” “That’s blasphemy,” you say. Well, is it? Stop and think about it for just a moment. Start with thinking about what being “God-centered” actually means.

Does someone have to be a true Christian in order to live a God-centered life? You may think so, at first, but there may be a few church folk fooling themselves. Don’t believe me? Read what Paul wrote to the Church…

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” – 2 Corinthians 13:5 KJV

Why would the Apostle tell church people to “examine” and “prove” whether or not they were in the faith? Could it be that there were some who were going through all the motions, but were never converted, never born anew? Could it have been possible that there were some doing all the right things, for the right reasons, but not right with God? He says that the answer to the test will be whether or not “Jesus Christ is in you.”

Can people live God-centered lives and still be lost? To help answer this question, consider the following people (names are fictitious). Do their actions guarantee salvation?

  • Bob goes to church every day the doors are open, including every other function on every other day
  • Henry gives 20% of his income and 10% of his time to the church. If there is a need, ask Henry for help.
  • Margaret goes to a Fundamental church, has the right translation of the Bible, and never wears pants – ever.
  • Mary would never say a dirty word, tell an off-color joke, or even permit foul language in her presence.
  • Sharon put aside marriage and gave her life to helping orphans on the streets of Mumbai, India.
  • Scott and Karen have Bible studies in their home, take the kids to Sunday School, and even have gold crosses in every room of their home, not to mention on their necks.
  • A rich young ruler keeps all the commandments (not just the Big 10) from his youth.

If these people were to examine themselves, as Paul asked, what might be missing? Colossians 3:23 says, “And whatsoever ye do, do [it] heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” Is it not possible that someone could do everything for God’s glory (live a God-centered life), but still die without Christ?

What are your thoughts?

Have you “proven” whether you “be in the faith?”

Do you know of Scripture that supports a “God-centered” life being proof of salvation?

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Filed under Christian Living, legalism, salvation, Uncategorized

Perfection Not Required

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” – Luke 18:11, 13

Looking for Perfection?

God doesn’t use perfect people; He uses REAL people. Yet sadly, within the church, there are many men and women who have felt inferior and useless because of sinful and broken pasts.

They are the people who sit on the pews, week after week, doing all they can to be faithful in life, but are forbidden to hold positions in the church.  

They are much like the Publican, men and women who know they have failed before, but want to be forgiven and start new.  They are not the ones that look down on others for mistakes they’ve made. 

Genesis of Dysfunction

A while back I read through the book of Genesis in a couple of sittings.  Reading a book of the Bible that way, especially in a different translation, can help you see the story from a new perspective.  This time I was just astounded at how messed up these people really were!  There was so much “stuff” going on that if it were today, it would make an episode of Jerry Springer look tame!

Consider, if nothing else, the sad story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. This was a seriously messed up family with real marital problems.  At one point, Leah and Rachel get into a jealous argument over a son’s mandrakes.  Just imagine you were a marriage counselor and listened in to the following story…

Reuben went out during the wheat harvest and found some mandrakes in the field.  When he brought them to his mother, Leah, Rachel asked, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”  But Leah replied to her, Isn’t it enough that you have taken my husband?  Now you also want my son’s mandrakes?”

“Well,” Rachel said, “you can sleep with him tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.”  When Jacob came in from the field that evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come with me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.”  So Jacob slept with her that night. – Geneses 30:14:16 HCSB

Check this out…

  • Twice Abraham told other people that his wife, Sarah, was his sister so that he would not be harmed.
  • Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him to traveling salesmen.
  • Jacob and Esau were seriously at odds.
  • Leah, poor thing, kept trying to have children so that her husband, Jacob would love her.

And there’s more!

  • Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, got him drunk on his wedding night and gave him the wrong wife – on purpose.
  • The son’s of Jacob (founders of ten of the tribes of Israel) lied to a bunch of men about making a covenant, then proceeded to slaughter all of them after they had convinced them to be circumcised.

It just goes on and on.  Messed up, I am telling you! MESSED UP!

Nevertheless,

God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”  How is this even possible?  

If God can use Abraham and his family with all their problems to bless the nations, then He can use ANYBODY!

 

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