July Article – Pastor Greg

Racism: Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.  -Oxford Dictionary. 

What a year we are having. First a pandemic and now riots and upheaval due to anger over racism. As I have thought about what to write I wondered if I should even broach the subject. There are so many opinions, and extraordinarily strong ones at that. What does God say about racism? Actually, not very much specifically. Race or ethnicity is mentioned in the book of Revelation under the title of “nations” or “tongues” as those who are to be saved from these various people groups. The church is commanded to go to “all the world” and preach the gospel, not excluding any group. The two groups of peoples most often referred to in Scripture are the Jews, and everybody else (gentiles). We see languages created as a result of man’s rebellion at the tower of Babel in Genesis. So, God does recognize differences in language, culture and His special calling out of a particular group of people for His purpose. But the overwhelming truth of God’s word reveals that we are all of one race – the human race.   

When God created man He said, regarding what He had made, “it is very good”. God’s ultimate creation was man, not the universe, not the earth, nor any of the animals. God created man in His image (Gen. 1:26). Humans are the image-bearers of God, though that image has been marred by sin. People are precious to God and all people are special. This fact has not diminished nor changed. In fact, we see God doing everything necessary to redeem His creation and get His family back. 

So, what about racism? What is it? How should we respond to it? In a word, racism is sin. It is the outworking of the sinfulness of a rebel’s heart. Hatred is an inherent part of fallen man and has been with us since Cain killed Abel out of jealousy. It is pride, considering myself better than others simply because they are not like me. It is not new nor will it be eradicated until the sinfulness of man is finally removed when Christ returns. The idea of people being inferior to each other is a concept completely and utterly foreign to God’s design. Racial injustice should be condemned and eradicated. The goal of seeing all people equal and treating them on that basis is noble. The goal of removing racism in our institutions is worth our best efforts and energy. Lofty as these goals are, they fall short. We as believers should be at the forefront of seeing these changes made in our society, but if this is all we do, then our best efforts are insufficient.

The solution to man’s sinfulness is simple yet infinitely profound. Paul made that clear when he stated that “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). His ministry was that of reconciliation, stating that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. The Lord has given Paul (and us) that word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). The answers to racism do not lie with the world nor its lofty goals but with the message that Christ died to save sinners. Often this is not the answer that people want to hear, but it is the only answer that will effect real change. Our nation is one that has removed God from the public discourse. It has embraced the god of humanism and materialism. As a nation, the slaughter of millions of unborn children does not even warrant a glance except when it is highlighted by those who love life. Our nation is a pagan land worshiping at the altar of man. So, for those who know The Way, the Truth and the Life, we have a great opportunity. We are here on this earth with a commission to take the Gospel of the glorious light of Jesus to our own dark land. We must be bold and clear; our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). The stakes are too high to do otherwise. 

-Pastor Greg

Who Am I? (June Article) – Pastor Greg

How much time do we take looking at ourselves in a mirror? Why do we do that? Sometimes it is simply to make sure our hair is not messed up or to straighten a tie. Sometimes it is because we want to change something we might not like or to see how we look. During these times we often measure ourselves by what we see and then make a judgement about whether it is good or bad. We do this daily and at times it affects how we view ourselves and our place in the world. 

Our identity is often formed in a similar way, we compare ourselves with someone or something outside of ourselves and then make a judgement whether it is good or bad. We then feel good or bad by the judgments we make regarding our view of our self. 

I read an author, Dennis McCallum, who expressed it this way; “Suppose nothing existed in the universe except you. There you are floating in a transparent bubble in the midst of infinite, empty space. What would your identity be? What would you consider important? Suppose you asked yourself, ‘Would I be considered tall or short?’ Tall or short compared to what? Ideas like tall and short or smart or dense come from your perception of yourself relative to others. The point is your sense of identity depends on definitions and values that originate outside of yourself.”

The problem with establishing our identity this way is that our reference points are also relative and finite. How do I know what the standard is and what can be considered as real or true?

Often when you meet someone for the first time one of the first questions that is asked is “what do you do?” It is a question that we ask to break the ice and to get a point of reference regarding how to relate with this new person. Most of the time the answers will be, “I’m a plumber, or I’m a banker or I’m a teacher”. We state that we are what we do. While we would not say that is the total of our identity, it is a big part. When those things are gone through job loss or retirement or any other major life change, we can lose our sense of identity. Again, this reference point is outside of our selves. 

God is an external reference point, but He is infinite and unlimited, He is also universal or absolute rather than relative. What He says about you and me matters the most since He is that perfect fixed point. For the believer, God has declared a host of things that are true of you and that define you. His view is the true view regardless of how you or I feel or what others say about me. 2 Corinthians 10:12 says, “When people measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.” So the question is, what does God say about me? Glad you asked. Here are but a few of the things that God says are true of you.

You are in Christ, that means you are identified with Him. This took place when you first believed the Gospel and trusted Christ as your savior. The Creator of the universe views you as having the same standing before Him as his Son Jesus does! This was something that God did and is now true of you as His child. This is true because God says it is true. “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Romans 6:4-5) And His opinion is the one that matters. 

Another truth is that because you have been justified (declared legally righteous), you now have peace with God. This is something that will never go away no matter what you do since you did nothing to get it!  (Romans 5:1) As a result you are now looked on with favor and there is no condemnation! (Romans 8:1)

There are so many more truths about you and who God says you are. It is a journey of joy as you investigate God’s word to discover what He thinks. Our God is a creator God, He makes all things new. The old things have passed away, behold new things have come – and that includes you and me. So embark on a journey of discovery, look into God’s Word, and learn about this wonderful new creation called “you”.

-Pastor Greg

Garrison of the Heart & Mind (May Article) – Pastor Greg

Phil. 4:6-7

Ever think about something so much that you cannot think of anything else? There have been those instances that I have been so preoccupied by a thought or a concern, that I have lost track of time and it consumes all my mental energy. That is not good and is in fact destructive.  Many a foolish decision has been made in the heat of the moment of anxiety.  Michele and I had some dear friends that served on staff at New Tribes Bible Institute in Jackson in the early 90’s while we were students there.  They were older and had been missionaries for a long time.  One day Mrs. Schultz gave Michele a great piece of advice that we still use today.  “Never make a major decision in the middle of a crisis” What great advice!  That has helped us many times over the years.  Why? Because we do not often see clearly when our minds are occupied with the stress and worry of the moment. We need clarity. 

Being anxious is a choice.  Its true, otherwise we would not be told to stop being anxious.  (Phil. 4:6-7) It is a decision we can make, to be anxious or not.  The antidote?  Go to the One who can do something about your situation, ask Him for help (be specific) and be thankful for _________, fill in the blank!    It is not a formula, but an attitude of prayer and thanksgiving directed to God.  God in turn promises something for the one who trusts Him in this way.  He says through Paul that, His peace, which is not something we can ever plumb the depths of, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.  That peace is an inner tranquility that is based on peace with God because our sins are forgiven and what we experience when we commit all our cares to Him. This peace is also a contentment with our lot, no matter what it is. This peace transcends our ability to fully grasp by reason alone.  

A garrison is a military outpost that provides protection for an area. This is the idea that the word translated “guard” communicates, in Phil. 4:7. The peace of God shall garrison and mount guard over our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  A garrison reminds me of fort Mackinac and its purpose to protect the north trade routes of the great lakes.  It was originally built at Michilimackinac but in 1781 was moved to Mackinac island as the British felt it was more defensible. I love going there and seeing the fort sitting high on the hill in clear view of all who would approach, providing protection for those below and those on the water.  A garrison in Paul’s day had the same purpose to guard something of value i.e. a village, trade route or region.  This is the idea of God’s peace providing a protective force for our thoughts and emotions.  Many times, our thoughts of anxiety overwhelm us but when we take our requests to God He gives us a peace that is present regardless of the circumstances we face.  Not just happy thoughts but a tranquillité  that is ours as His Spirit communes with our hearts and minds regarding the rock solid promises He has made. 

So, we are not defenseless against the wild and clamoring anxiety that seeks to overwhelm us.  We have a God who is for us and has provided a garrison to guard our minds and our emotions in times of trouble.  We just need to choose to go to Him.