I’m tired right now.
I’m tired of having to witness another unarmed—this time subdued—black man killed by some bad police officers.
I’m tired of saying that most black people aren’t “thugs” and that there are “good” blacks everywhere.
I’m tired of saying that not all cops are bad.
I’m tired of people thinking that I’m a “white” black dude who only wants to talk about how bad the looting is and not about the racial tension that caused it.
I’m tired of having to remind people that not every black protestor desires to see riots and destruction of business in their own community.
I’m tired of my white friends having to ask me how I’m doing because it’s happened again.
I’m tired of being told that since it didn’t happen to me, it shouldn’t affect me.
But I’m thankful.
I’m thankful for all the peaceful protestors who are using their freedom to speak out against injustice and evil.
I’m thankful for the black Christian voices that can keep me encouraged and remind me that I need to speak up and use my voice as well.
I’m thankful for the white Christian voices who are truly concerned and desirous to be there for us.
Im thankful for the white pastors who are literally taking action to help their churches be catalysts in reconciliation, even if they’re called social justice warriors or lose credibility with some in their theological camp.
I’m thankful that there are good police officers of all races—including white!—out to serve and protect the people of this country.
I’m thankful that many police officers and government officials have spoken out on the atrocity we witnessed this week.
I’m thankful most of all for the gospel which saves the souls of all who call on the name of Jesus.
I’m hopeful knowing that this will all be over some day.
I’m hopeful that God will use circumstances like these to strengthen and unite Christians all across this country.
I’m hopeful because Christ will come back and God will wipe every tear from the eyes of His children regardless of what their skin looks like.
I’m hopeful because the Holy Spirit is crying out with groanings too deep for words on the behalf of many speechless and hurting Christians.
I’m hopeful because Christ has given me rest and is interceding for me as well as my brothers and sisters in Him.
And I’m hopeful because I’ve read Revelation. I know the end already because God revealed it and promised to make all things new.
If you don’t know Christ. Get to know Him now. It’s not too late to trust in Him and His finished work. It is through the cross that Jesus paid for sin and broke down the dividing wall of hostility between all of His people. He died to make us all one in Him. He rose again so we could have life. If you want to see true change, seek the Lord and watch Him change you first. Then come join us as we fight together for justice.
An Array Of Emotions
We've seen a plethora of responses to COVID-19 and the worldwide fallout over the past several weeks. We've all been impacted and may even feel like we're on a roller coaster, shifting up and down with each new and seemingly contradictory piece of information thrown at us. While there is a lot to be joyful about in times of trial, sometimes we just don't feel the way we should.
Thankfully, God knows that intimately. Jesus took on flesh and felt more suffering than we could ever imagine. He is a brother (Hebrews 2:11) who sympathizes with our weakness and suffering, though He never fell into sin (Hebrews 4:15). The Holy Spirit is in His people and intercedes for us when we are too weak and unable to pray as we ought (Romans 8:26).
Are you angry? You may be angry at the governor or with the church leaders for how the worship service will look this week. Maybe you’re angry at God that He allowed this virus get out of hand. Maybe you’re angry because you feel that we’re being duped in a global conspiracy. Perhaps you're angry because you lost your job or the economy is being crushed. You might even feel angry because we're opening sooner than you think is wise.
Are you fearful? Perhaps you're anxious about your health. Maybe you have an immunocompromised loved one. Maybe you have a newborn or young baby and you fear what this virus could do to them. Perhaps you're nervous because others aren't wearing masks or don't seem to be taking this as seriously as we have been advised.
Are you overwhelmed? You might be caring for several young children. You could be the parent of older children who want to break free from the government restrictions. Perhaps you have an elderly parent or family member to care for. Maybe your job has drastically changed and you're doing difficult and confusing work. Maybe life was already overwhelming and this virus has thrown it completely off kilter.
Whatever the case, let the glory of God minster to your soul today.
God is Worthy of Our Worship
Pray earnestly right now that God would reorient your heart toward Him. Ask Him to open your eyes to His glory in the midst of this frustration. Psalm 33 is a call for His people to worship and praise Him—even in the midst of suffering. Praise "befits" those who have trusted in Christ for righteousness (v. 1-2). For this reason we can "sing to Him a new song" as we take a fresh look at glorious, ancient truths that have blessed us through the years and continue to bring us great joy (v.3).
God Word is upright and faithful (v. 4-5), powerful to create the universe (v. 6-9), powerful to restrain sinners (v. 10), and forever beneficial to those who are His (v.11-12). God's Word is worthy of our adoration and we need to let it draw us to a place of deep worship in our hearts and in our churches.
God is Still Here, Hope in Him
God doesn't stand far off as a distant watchmaker who set things in motion and just let it go. He "looks down from heaven" as He sits on His heavenly throne (v. 13-14). He sees the wicked and their vain trust in themselves and their inventions (v. 15-17). They technology and weaponry won't save them in last day. His caring and watchful eye is "on those who fear Him" and He delivers our souls from death (v. 18-19).
If you're struggling today, tell it to God and wait for Him. Long for the day that He returns and fixes all of this mess. It's coming! Remember, too, that right now "He is our help and our shield" (v. 20). He can help you repent of unrighteous emotions and use your righteous emotions in ways that will do good and not evil. Pray that your heart can be glad in Him because you trust in Him (v. 21).
Ultimately, pray that God's steadfast love could be upon all of His people as we hope in Him (v.22). God is bigger than COVID-19, corrupt governments, potential vaccines, media outlets, social media opinions, and anything else we can find. If we set our minds and souls on Christ and remember that in Him we are righteous and upright (v. 1-2), He will be our help and our hope (v. 20-22).
We all need the gospel right now. We must not take our eyes off Jesus, especially in the most challenging and stressful moments. How are you feeling? Where are you looking?
A Stroll Through the Neighborhood
As I walk down the street this morning, I see an empty neighborhood. There aren't a lot of cars out driving, and there aren’t a lot of people out having fun together. No cookouts, no yard sales, no birthday parties, and not much of anything else. Spring doesn’t normally feel like this, but the COVID-19 lockdown has us all stuck at home and waiting for some relief. It seems that many states are opening things back up, which has many people jumping for joy.
As I think personally about this whole situation, the thing I miss most is fellowship with other Christians. I miss the corporate gatherings each Sunday. I also miss the impromptu get-togethers with brothers and sisters in Christ. Right now I can’t have a bonfire and invite my friends over for scripture reading and discussion. Kim and I can’t invite another family over for dinner after Sunday morning worship. I can't meet with Jeremy on Tuesday at the Hub or pray with Joe on Wednesday morning.
Some have been quick to remind me that, technically, I can do all of these things. They're right. But out of love for others, respect for the government, and our own health, my family has decided to stay in.
Loving My Neighbors
While many people allow their Christian faith to be Sunday and Wednesday only, I hope this lockdown gives us a greater longing to spend time with people. Humans are not meant to be isolated. I think about God speaking that Adam was not meant to be alone (Genesis 2:18). While many of us have a spouse or children, several do not. I feel for our single Christian brothers and sisters out there who have lost many of the avenues of social connection in this tough season.
I've been thinking a lot about the command to love my neighbor, and how radically different that looks right now (Mark 12:31). I guess I could still go visit my neighbors and bring them food, but I could also be introducing them to a virus that I don’t even know if I have. Our church could set up a block party, give away food, hand out tracts, and preach the gospel, but that size gathering could spread the virus without proper social distancing. And who knows when the government will say it is wise to host such a gathering.
The reality is, I haven't visited my neighbors enough in the past few years, and it took being locked down to realize that. It took being locked down to get me to recognize the numerous families in my neighborhood who need to see the love of God. It took a global pandemic to open my eyes to the people I've been ignoring for the past five years while praying for God to send me somewhere with the gospel.
It may sound crazy, but coming out of this Coronavirus in the coming weeks is going to be a bitter time for many. Did I just say that? What could possibly be bitter about local businesses and restaurants opening back up? What could be bitter about getting back to grilling out and watching the kids play in the backyard? What could be bitter about our local churches and small groups gathering again?
Some people will face great anxiety. It is clear from the protests and social media clamor that many people are ready to get back to life as usual. Along with these people, there are plenty of others who feel the need to be cautious about opening things back up. And no, they haven't "bought in" on some government or media conspiracy to keep everyone afraid until the mark of the beast comes in the form of vaccinations. They simply see the nature of a deadly disease that has continued to spread even in the face of global lockdowns.
To think about life as normal in the midst of this pandemic can be terrifying for some people, setting their anxiety on edge. They may not be ready to get back to church as much as they deeply miss it. The immunocompromised and at-risk Christians get to watch everyone else get back to life while they continue to shelter in place. Pray for them. Pray that they wouldn't be overcome with anxious thoughts and fears of contracting the virus. Pray that they don't become angry or bitter about their circumstances. Instead of mocking them for being illogical or speaking as though they don't matter in the grand scheme of things, pray that they would cast their anxieties on the Lord who cares for them (1 Peter 5:7).
Some people will act recklessly. From skepticism to outright anger, some will refuse to wear masks or keep social distance. Others will go out of their way to reject anything that government recommends regarding social distancing. By law, they are totally free to do so in stores and in churches. We are a free nation governed by a constitution for a reason. However, as Christians, we need to remember the principle of Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24:
"'All things are lawful,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful,' but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor."
While we may think it's silly to wear a mask to Walmart or to church, we must be cognizant of the needs and desires of our neighbor. It may sound stupid to stand 6 feet away from people or not shake hands at church, but it could be what is good for our neighbor. It might be annoying to not sip that cup of coffee before corporate worship on Sunday, but it could be beneficial to others.
People don't wear signs saying, "cancer patient", "immunocompromised", or "lung issues". Also, seasonal allergies and asthma make some people more prone to coughing, sneezing, and getting respiratory issues during the next 5 months or so. We need to focus less on what's lawful and more on what builds up. In these days, it is especially important to live out Philippians 2 as we seek to live like Christ and count others as more significant than ourselves. Let us pray that Christians would reflect the love and kindness of Christ in the coming days.
In light of the bitter, however, there is so much sweetness.
We get to gather on Sunday mornings again. We will soon get to see many of our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ as we gather to worship with one another. No more Zoom burnout—we hope! No more preaching sermons to an empty room. No more watching the sermon from home and being distracted by the million things going on around us. No more singing into a camera with everyone muted so that we can only hear our own voices at home. No more internet connection issues making us look and sound like pixelated Super Mario using autotune. And no more blacked out screens with silent mics! (We know you're hiding!) Even if behind masks, we get the joys of being physically present.
I hope we don't ever take gathering together for granted again. It has been almost 8 weeks since we last did this, and I hope it has created a longing for more than just mere social interaction. I hope we are excited about more than just getting out of the house. I hope that we are overjoyed about the fact that the we get to be back together doing what the church does—gathering and going. While the going has never stopped, the gathering won't be paused (or Zoomed) anymore!
We get to gather in small groups again. We get to start having meals and get-togethers in our homes again. We get to send up prayers of worship, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication together. We can sip coffee—iced, whipped, or hot—while discussing work, parenting, marriage, and every other aspect of life from a Christian perspective. We get to open our Bible and start dwelling again on how we can reach our communities with the gospel that Jesus has commissioned us to share with the world. We get to be together.
Whether your local church has formal small groups or not, I hope you've missed being among other believers. I hope that you've grown a hunger for more than just consuming a Sunday sermon and a Wednesday night Bible study. I hope we've all developed a zeal to reach the lost in ways that have always been simple but often taken for granted. I hope you're ready to get back to living out the numerous "one another" passages with a renewed joy and vigor.
I know I am.
Are you ready to reopen? What are you most excited about? Are you nervous or fearful about anything? How are you praying in these times?
Image Credit: Photo by fauxels from Pexels
God's Glory Revealed in Christ: Essays on Biblical Theology in Honor of Thomas R. Schreiner is not for the faint of heart. I say that jokingly because there is plenty of Greek and Hebrew in this book. However, if you are a pastor or a student of biblical theology, this will be a great addition to your library. The contributors include scholars and pastors like Albert Mohler, Jr., D.A. Carson, James Hamilton, John Piper, Robert Plummer, and more. To say this volume is meaty is an understatement.
God's Glory Revealed in Christ is divided into 4 helpful categories:
1. Whole Bible approaches to biblical theology: This section is packed with helpful information, especially for those considering the various approaches to biblical theology and how they interpret the scripture to form their theology. These chapters provide overviews of the various forms of and systems of biblical theology such progressive dispensationalism, new covenant theology, etc.
2. Major themes and issues in biblical theology: These chapters help understand some of the broader themes in Schreiner’s work. The essays also expand on some of the issues and qualms facing biblical theology today. It was helpful to see how biblical theology helps interpretive challenges in the Bible, especially in the New Testament as it relates to the Old Testament and complex doctrines such as the Trinity. The chapter on pastoral ministry was golden. It definitely changed my perspective on pastoral visitation and the importance of ministering the word beyond just the pulpit.
3. Background issues and biblical theology: This was probably the most technical section of the book. It Is valuable in teaching the importance of background information with regard to biblical theology and New Testament interpretation. For most lay level readers, much of this will be outside of our scope at first. However, it is beneficial to be acquainted with these issues as we read and study theology. Jarvis William’s chapter on second temple Judaism was brilliant (though jam-packed with Greek!). It was great to see some of the connections he made, I certainly look forward to reading that chapter again!
4. Applications: Of course, this section is very practical and accessible even to those who don’t have a strong grasp of previous technical material. This section addressed transgenderism , the great commission, pastors as theologians, academic ministry, and the kingdom in today’s public square. I was further reminded that pastors and church leaders need to be well-equipped to teach the Word in season and out. We must never fail to see how our biblical theology will shape the preaching and practical ministry of our churches.
While all of this valuable information lies in the first 268 pages, my favorite chapter was on Schreiner as a father. His son's word echo those stated by his students and colleagues in previous chapters. Throughout the book, it is made clear that he is a scholar of scholars, and yet he is often described as humble, approachable, loving, and pastoral. Tom Schreiner is a family man who is sinner who has flaws just like everyone else, but he has an admirable life worthy of his work as a pastor theologian.
If biblical theology is your niche (like it is mine!), I heartily recommend this book. I especially recommend it to pastors who are seeking to grow theologically and become pastor theologians. God's Glory Revealed in Christ has given me a strong desire to check out more of Tom Schreiner's writings, especially on biblical theology.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to leave a positive review.