Category Archives: Love

A Housewarming Gift In Heaven

Nancy Gary Dick Backyard

MY BIG BROTHER

This past Friday morning, we got the news that my big brother had passed away overnight, near where he lived, in Alabama. When our big sister broke the news to our nearly 95-year-old mother, the words of comfort I offered her included: “Thank you for giving me as good of a big brother as a guy could ask for and thank you for pointing all your kids to Jesus.” My comfort during this time lies in knowing that that’s where my brother is now … at home in Heaven with Jesus. As a result, more than I would ordinarily, I’ve found myself considering what things are like in Heaven.

My Big BrotherChester Richard (Dick) Wiram is my big brother. Of course, there’s a lot I could tell you about him. If you’d like to know some of his biography, I recommend starting with his obituary, that appeared in our hometown newspaper. What I’d really like to tell you about, though, is a bit about the kind of guy he was and how he impacted my life.

BROTHERS?!

When he passed away, Dick was close to 70 years old. I’m nearing 67 so that means Dick got the first three years of his time here on Earth to himself, without the responsibility of being my big brother. If he was still here with us, I expect that he would refer to that time as “the good old days”.

Isn’t that the way it is with brothers? You can say and do things with each other that you couldn’t get away with if it was anyone else. But, you can do so with your brother because it’s usually done in jest and because of the love you share. Dick was great at that. I told my wife, Ruth; it seemed that Dick had done that by taking our Dad’s wry sense of humor and developing it to a whole new level. Continue reading

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Filed under character, commitment, Family, Heaven, Love, Making a Difference

You Will Not Surely Die?!

takei pastor post

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. - Genesis 3:4

Genesis 3:4 records Satan’s promise to Eve, leading to the fall of man. Obviously, it was a devastatingly effective tactic. So much so that it’s been an ongoing key element in the destructive strategy of “that serpent of old”.

Although I frequently see “the great dragon” raising its ugly head with this weapon in hand, I usually just shake my head and try to ignore it, thinking something like, “Anyone with half a brain, especially fellow-Christians, won’t be deceived by this”. However, when I saw the image shown above being used in this way, as a Facebook post a couple of weeks ago, there were so many disturbing aspects of it that I just had to speak out this time.

The Facebook post mentioned was by George Takei, the gay activist whose claim to fame is having portrayed the role of Mr. Sulu on Star Trek. Although there are disquieting factors beyond those contained within the post itself, I’ll start there. Continue reading

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Filed under Bible, Christians, divorce, Homosexuality, Judeo-Christian values, Love, Sin

Our Goal is Not Diversity; It’s Love

By: Trevin Wax

Cross-Posted From: KINGDOM PEOPLE - THE GOSPEL COALITION

trillia-newbell-unitedI’m thrilled to have Trillia Newbell on the blog today. Her writing has been published in numerous places including the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Desiring God, True Woman, The Resurgence, and The Gospel Coalition. She currently is the consultant on Women’s Initiatives for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lead Editor of Karis, the women’s channel for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Trillia is the author of United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity, so today she and I discuss what diversity looks like within the church and why ethnic and cultural diversity in and of itself should not be the goal to which Christians aspire.

Trevin Wax: Your book begins reflectively, first with a celebration of our society’s move toward integration in various aspects of public life, and then with a lament that “separate but equal” continues to exist in our churches. What are some reasons the church’s strides toward ethnic integration have been so slow?

Trillia Newbell: This is something I continue to explore. I spend a chapter in United dedicated to the difficulties most likely associated with the pursuit of diversity. The most obvious hindrance could be a sin of partiality.

James addresses our potential to gravitate towards those we believe are superior or that we would prefer above others (James 2:1-13). He is addressing a preference for the rich over the poor but I believe we can struggle with this tendency as it relates to ethnic diversity as well. We can simply prefer those more culturally like us to the extent of isolating those who are not. So, as a result we have homogenous churches because we aren’t relating to others outside of our own ethnic groups.

As far as other reasons, our history of racial tensions in the United States definitely plays a role. There’s an element of trust and comfortableness that must be established in any congregation and we are still working to apply the gospel to this issue relationally.

In regards to history, churches that have been long established may have a difficult time building diversity if they have been historically homogenous. Other reasons might be: church location, city demographics, and specific neighborhood demographics.

Finally, we might simply be complacent. It takes effort to reach out to neighbors, evangelize, and exercise hospitality.

Trevin Wax: I love how this book includes real-life examples of friendships you’ve developed across ethnic lines. You talk about your friendship with Amy (white) and Lillian (Chinese), and why your friends’ diverse backgrounds and experiences are one of the best parts of your friendship. Why do many Christians assume that it’s best to be “color-blind” rather than celebrate the richness of cultural variety God has given us?

Trillia Newbell: I think people use the term color-blind as a way to say “I’m not a racist.” They may want others to feel welcomed by them. The problem is, unless you are truly color-blind you do see color. What I think people ought to say instead is that they don’t differentiate or discriminate based on ethnicity.

God created us all with a variety of shades and backgrounds. We can celebrate this rather than shying away from it. We are his and his creation. This is a good thing. So I’d encourage us that we don’t need to say we are color-blind and instead get to know the unique ways the Lord has made each of us.

Trevin Wax: One of the most memorable parts of your book is when you say the “diversity” in general terms isn’t what we are supposed to pursue. It’s love. Explain what you mean by this.

Trillia Newbell: I’m so glad that you picked that up, Trevin.  It is the only real motivation for a pursuit of diversity. What I mean is, it would grieve me for the church to pick up yet another trend. Building diversity for diversity sake isn’t the aim of United.

Diversity is about love because diversity is about people. Jesus died for the Church (people). God sent His Son because He loved the world. A Christian approach to diversity is about getting to know and welcoming in brother and sisters in Christ, made in the image of God. So, to put the pursuit of diversity into action requires that we die to self and love our neighbors as ourselves.

Diversity has been made into a political term. But when Christians pursue diversity, it is (or should be) out of a desire to show the love of Christ to others. The gospel compels us to love others and it is the gospel that breaks racial barriers. We are much more the same in Christ than we could ever be different.

Trevin Wax: There are plenty of pastors who read books and interviews like this and say, “Yes, I want my church to be more diverse, but I have no idea where to start!” A recent study from LifeWay Research found 83% of pastors said every church should strive for racial diversity, but only 13% say they actually had a diverse congregation. It’s not as easy as just “welcoming” other ethnicities into a church that is predominantly one culture.

What are some practical things a pastor can do to begin to move his church in this direction, taking into consideration that it’s a long and arduous struggle that will not happen overnight?

Trillia Newbell: This is a great question and one I have received several times. I want to start by saying that I’m glad you acknowledge that it may not be easy. I have spoken with pastors who have had an easier time because they started their church on the onset with a mission to be multiethnic. But most pastors, it seems, develop a desire for diversity after a few years in ministry.

I’m currently running a series on my site, TrilliaNewbell.com, to assist pastors who desire to pursue diversity but don’t know where to start. I’ve asked other pastors to share their unique experiences and perspectives to equip pastors and congregations as they seek to implement strategies.

With that said, a few ways that pastors might begin to pursue diversity would be:

Develop a diverse staff
Share about a theology of race and diversity from the pulpit
Cultivate a love for all nations, tribes and tongues
Begin to invite others into your home
If you don’t have a diverse staff for various reasons, invite speakers that are diverse.
This only scratches the surface but perhaps it will inspire some. I also spend time in United addressing some of the hindrances to the pursuit of diversity. I hope, though, that pastors would take a look at my short series. You never know what the Lord could do if you try. He is faithful.

Trevin Wax: What do you hope your book will accomplish in the church’s ongoing discussion of how best to display our unity in the gospel?

Trillia Newbell: I’m praying that we would no longer fear the conversation. I wanted to make the tough discussion about race and diversity accessible to anyone. Perhaps reading about the experience of another person will help also bring the issue into light. If even a few people begin to ask questions and open up with their friends, I think that would be encouraging and worth the effort to write the book.

I pray United will inspire people to pursue diversity through friendships—it’s doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it. And I hope that for the person who has never considered how the gospel unites and transforms racial divide, that it would cast a vision for the beauty of diversity in the church and all of life. New convictions, greater awareness, wonderful friendships…that would be amazing.

And finally, local churches catching a vision and beginning to reflect that Last Day when all nations will be rejoicing together.

- READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE -

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Going To Heaven Alone

iron

REBUKED BY FRIENDS

When I express strong views on a sensitive topic, I’m not surprised when I get pushback from those who see matters differently. But, when I’m rebuffed by those who I think are friends, accepting me and my beliefs, it’s sort of shocking. I had that happen recently and it led me to do some introspection that I’d like to share.

The specifics of this recent occurrence involved a meeting I attended with a small group of people who I’ve worked very closely with for several years. Without inappropriately sharing intimate details of that meeting, let me just say that there was mention of another person who we’ve known through our work, who seemed to be going through a difficult time and that they were attending a Bible study being conducted by someone else we’ve known through our work. Hearing that was a pleasant surprise to me so I responded by saying something like, “I just hope (that person) is truly paying attention at the Bible study.” With that, I sensed a reaction that I later described as a unanimous rolling of the eyes by the other participants.

UNDERSTANDING THE REBUKE

Since my comment came just from my truly caring about the person we had been discussing, that added to my bewilderment over being chided as I was. So, the following day, I approached one of the other attendees to discuss this. In addition to getting affirmation of my sensing that unanimous rolling of the eyes, I was reminded that there are some settings where discussion of topics like religion and politics is just not welcome. And, beyond that, I was told that I was just more spiritual than the other attendees.

In reflecting on that one-on-one follow-up conversation, I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t really anything in it that I didn’t already know. And, in reflecting on my follow-up self-conversation, I remained sure of my caring intent with the comment that led to my rebuke. To me, though, the disapproval I had received from my friends clearly indicated the need for me to examine how I share my Christian faith in order that it’s received as intended. So, I determined to do just that.

FOCUS ON A SIN

In the course of making this examination, I thought of a point that I’d heard Pastor Brian Brodersen, of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, make in a teaching from 1 Corinthians. As a side note, I ended up going through 11 of Pastor Brian’s teachings to find what I was looking for. At first, that seemed like a nuisance but it turned out that I was richly blessed through a fresh look at much more of God’s Word than I’d had in mind. Anyway, I did find what I was looking for in Pastor Brian’s lesson, entitled “Tending to Our Own Issues”, based on the following Scripture:

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” – 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

The point that I had been thinking of was made by Pastor Brian in addressing the part of this Scripture that says, “I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.” Pastor Brian’s comments here were: “ … notice, first of all, that the issues of sin go beyond sexual immorality … notice the other sins included there … we have a tendency to isolate a specific sin and focus in on that sin to the exclusion of other sins … that’s part of the problem we have right now, in the current cultural situation, in regard to homosexuality. I think that we, the church in general, have over emphasized this one sin. If you think about it, as we share the gospel with people, generally, we don’t begin by talking about specific sins. But, with homosexuality it seems we focus in on that particular thing. That’s the wrong way to understand it. I was thinking the other day about the idea that so many gay people have in their mind … I’ve heard them say this, ’You think I’m going to Hell because I’m gay.’ The reality is, they’re not going to Hell because they’re gay. They’re going to Hell because they’re lost. They’re going to Hell because they’re a sinner. They’re going to Hell for the same reason an adulterer is and the same reason a swindler is and for the same reason a slanderer is … because they haven’t turned to Christ to have their sins forgiven.” Continue reading

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The Blessing Of Boxing With God

Your_Arms_Too_Short_to_Box_with_GodAre you familiar with the saying, “Your arm’s too short to box with God”? I guess I first heard that phrase sometime in the 1970s or 1980s but I wasn’t sure of its origin. When I looked into it, I was a bit surprised to learn that it came from a sermon, entitled The Prodigal Son, by civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson. It was published in 1927 in his book of sermons, entitled God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. Regardless of where it came from, its core message always seemed apparent to me … It’s ridiculous to disagree with God; you should just accept His will and get on with life. As a result of a Bible teaching I got to take in recently, from Exodus 32 and Exodus 33, I now see that my thinking this way has been off-the-mark and that it’s been very limiting to me in truly getting to know God.

GOD AND MOSES

The Bible teaching I mentioned was from Pastor Dave Rolph, of Calvary Chapel Pacific Hills. His lesson on Exodus 32-33 is from a series he is doing on Bible stories. This one is called The Heart of Moses. The story starts when Moses is up on Mt.Sinai receiving the law from God while Aaron and the people are below worshipping a golden calf they’ve made. When that happens, God switches from giving the law to Moses, to telling him he has a problem. The rest of the story covers what happened from that point forward and it focuses on the related interaction between God and Moses. Continue reading

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Why God? – The Right Place To End!

Empty Tomb

WHERE TO BEGIN

In my first “Why God?!” article (Why God? – The Right Place To Start!), I noted that this question typically, comes with crying out over hearing of some horrendously evil act in the world or a natural disaster or a friend’s life-threatening illness or a family member’s untimely death or some other form of suffering. I went on to offer encouragement that looking to The Creator is the right place to start in seeking answers to such questions and that He gives us the reassurance of His loving intentions.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

THE PATH TO TAKE

With the second article in this series (Why God? – The Right   Way To Go), I admitted that my honest answer to “Why God?!” questions about evil and suffering in the world is, “I do not know.” However, I pointed out that all the related answers we really need can be found in God’s Word. And, I indicated that in looking for these answers it’s important to start with the understanding that “… from the beginning it was not so.”

Tragically, it was the choice man made with the ability God gave us to love and specifically, the free will He gave us to decide whether to love or not to love that led to evil and suffering coming into His creation. With that understood, I drew attention to the fact that, though it was beyond us to recover from what is commonly known as “the fall of man”, even in His condemnation of that first choice of man, He revealed that He had prepared a path to redemption. Detailing that path and where it leads is what I have in mind with this, the last in my series of “Why God?!” articles. Continue reading

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Sizing People Up

mlk-content-character

A few months ago, I heard Pastor Dave Rolph start his Sunday morning teaching on Matthew 7-1:6 with an anecdote about people watching. Comments in his opening remarks included: “People watching. It’s fun. It’s really easy to read people and categorize them. But sometimes you can be really wrong.” To illustrate this, he told the following story:

One Sunday morning, when he was an Assistant Pastor at another church and he was with a group of Pastors who had gathered to count the Offering, he started talking about, Pastor Don, a widower on staff who had a new girlfriend. Other Pastors talked about how beautiful she was but Dave said, “Yeah, you know, but there’s something weird about her. The way she looks at you is kind of strange. You ever notice they always sit on the front row, like they just want to be seen? But the creepiest thing is, you guys, if you notice, when you’re up there praying at the pulpit, she starts to bow her head and then she just stares at you. She’s like obsessed with you the whole time you’re praying and then, right at the end of the prayer, she bows her head like she had her head bowed the whole time. That’s just weird.” Then, a couple of the other Pastors joined in agreement, saying, “Yeah, that’s strange!” Shortly after that, Pastor Don arrived to help with the counting. Of course, the other Pastors changed the subject and as they did that, Don mentioned, “My girlfriend, Leslie, because she’s deaf, …” With that, of course, the gossiping Pastors realized, as Pastor Dave said, “She sits on the front row because she reads lips! She stares at you while you’re praying because she’s reading your lips and she looks kind of funny because she’s just intently reading what it is that you’re trying to say.” Continue reading

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