It’s our time: Responding to Richard Spencer

Richard Spencer is coming to town and Gainesville is nervous.

Every time I hear the story of our nation’s racial past I struggle with understanding how so many people could stand by and do so little. Until I watch how deeply we struggle acknowledging our racial present. We have a problem, and it won’t evaporate with the passage of time.

So how do we respond to Richard Spencer and the fear-fueled hatred of the alt-right?

We are not calling you to complacency, inaction, or silence. We must resist hate and white supremacy in all its forms. We are just calling you to resist in ways that will demonstrate true power.

Use our heads.

First, don’t show up and physically protest. To do that you are walking into a trap that has been set for you. You are an extra in a play where Richard Spencer is the playwright. You are on his turf. He’s set this stage on many university campuses across the nation. Violence and even death have been his applause. You don’t have show up to the set. You don’t have to take cues from Spencer and company.

Think about it. If a handful of people show up to his gathering, its impact is quelled right then and there. The press would expose that type of hate for the powerless movement it is without real clout or sway.

If 3,000 protestors show up and violence erupts, hate is the ultimate victor and Spencer gets exactly what he wants: national/international coverage, a bolstering of confidence for his white supremacy base, and the impregnating of thousands of counter-protestors with hate.

Don’t fight hate with hate. Don’t give hate the momentum of a home turf contest. Don’t stoke the flame by walking directly into the publicity trap.

Resist this. Fight it. Do not give in.

Let me clear. Doing nothing is not an option. Saying nothing is not an option. But let’s do the right thing. And let’s say the right thing.

Pray.

Acts 12 tells the story of the apostle Peter being imprisoned by King Herod and surrounded by squads of guards in preparation for his public execution after Passover, “but the church spent the night earnestly praying to God for him.” Acts 12:5. How did this story end? An angel of the Lord arrived at the prison and set Peter free.

Who held the most power in this story? King Herod? The prison guards? No. The church in constant prayer.

Don’t roll your eyes too quickly. Prayer is not the only thing we do, but it better be one of the first things we do. Otherwise everything else we do is impotent.

Pray for God’s protection over our city, it’s leadership, and our law enforcement. They are laying their lives on the line right now. Pray for the kingdom of God to come in Gainesville as it is in heaven. Pray for the safety of the citizens in our city and our uninvited visitors.

We are called to pray for our enemies. You and I both know that Richard Spencer is a hurting, broken and fearful person who has placed his hope in sin. We know it because we were once hurting, broken, fearful people who looked for life in sin. But with the grace of Jesus there is hope and power and freedom. We are now free to resist hate, even unto death. We know the King! Pray and intercede for the salvation of Richard Spencer and his followers.

Pray for the Church. This is our chance to talk about race and injustice. This is our chance to get right what the church got wrong during the days of slavery, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement. This is our chance to come into agreement. This is our chance to forsake all of the unbiblical, colonialized versions of Christianity and return to the world-changing, counter-cultural masterpiece we read about in Scripture. I don’t want conservative Jesus. Or liberal Jesus. I want the real Jesus. But it takes humility to see Him.

Fast.

This is why believers from multiple churches all over our city are choosing a day to fast and pray this week. Ask the Lord to search our hearts for the ways in which these ills of racism and hate remain in us. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is true. If God’s people humble themselves and repent He will heal our land. Let’s be honest, our land is not healed.

Imagine what would happen if Christians did what nobody else in our culture does: humbled ourselves.

It would be a sign.

Protest.

The absolute best resistance is to counter-protest far away from where Spencer wants us to be. Where we engage not with him, but the white supremacy that he stands for through a unified front in ways that will not feed into his publicity stunt. Without physical protest, he loses and his voice is silenced.

Earlier this week we recorded a panel discussion trying to wrestle with the insidious nature of hate. Of racism and how it divides us. But also true reconciliation and what are some of the steps needed for moving forward. These issues of tribalism and racism are common to man. It has destroyed many nations and kingdoms before us. Law enforcement has asked us not to hold any large gatherings in any form of counter protest as this will lead to a significant security risk. Security for Spencer’s event is already costing our government and the University of Florida over $500K.

Instead of one gathering we are asking you to imitate the early church. Meet house to house with your microchurch, with friends, with neighbors all throughout the week and watch this video together. Talk about it. I strongly urge you to gather with people of other racial backgrounds and listen to them. Hear them out. Be slow to speak. Become meek enough to inherit the earth.

Boast!

Yes, things are tense. We acknowledge the clear and present danger. But something happened by 6:00 on Good Friday. The same Cross that tore down the wall of separation between God and humanity has the power to tear down the walls of fear and hatred and division. No more boasting in race; no more boasting in nationality. I agree with Paul: As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Galatians 6:14)

 

Peace. Authority. Hope.

These are words that I am speaking today with our family. These are not direct quotations, but rather Scripture turned into confessions.

Peace. What you meditate on you magnify. What you magnify will move you.

  • I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
  • You are the One who formed us; We will not fear, for You have redeemed us; You have called us by name, we are Yours. (Isaiah 43:1)
  • You command Your angels concerning us to keep us in all our ways. (Psalm 91:11)
  • But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head. (Psalm 3:3)

Authority. Use your words.

  • We are of God and we overcome, for greater is He that is in me than than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
  • I take the shield of faith and with faith in Jesus I quench all the fiery darts of the evil one against me. (Ephesians 6:16)
  • In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything in all of creation – not even a hurricane – will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

Hope. Eyes on Jesus, who took the Cross, then beat the grave.

  • Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us today … and He WILL deliver us … But if not, we still refuse to bow to fear and anxiety because our hope is in the name of Jesus. (Daniel 3:17-18)
  • I have been raised with Christ, so I seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. I set my mind on things above, not on things of earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)
  • I love you O Lord my strength. You are my Rock and my Fortress and my Deliverer, my God, my Rock, in whom I take refuge, my Shield, and the Horn of my salvation, my Stronghold. I call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. (Psalm 18:1-3)

Hurricane Hysteria

All eyes are glued on Irma.

There’s nothing quite like walking through the water bottle aisle during a hurricane threat. People who have lived on coffee and sodas for years suddenly become obsessed with H2O. Hysteria.

I get it. I have eight children. I have a family to protect. And I am tempted to go check the weather reports every 10 minutes like the rest of the world.

But it doesn’t work.

God made us for peace – even during a hurricane season. We’re not wired to thrive in the hysteria of anxiety, fear, and doom. Don’t get me wrong, an adrenaline rush of fear just might save your backside from an approaching lion, or tiger, or bear. But we humans have proven that we don’t quite know when to say when to our anxiety. And we don’t process information very well through this emotion. That’s where Jesus comes in.

Christians don’t deny danger; we just go to God first. Because whatever you meditate on, you magnify. And whatever you magnify will move you. So if you spend the majority of your waking day meditating on the weather report, you will magnify the weather. And the weather will move your heart – for better or worse. But if you find a way to do what David suggested –  meditate on God’s word day and night – then you will discover what David promised: blessing. Peace. Strength. (Read Psalm 1.) Imagine what would happen if kids saw parents who turned to the promises of God as often as they turned to the latest update on a hurricane named Irma. Imagine what would happen if the state of Florida watched people so controlled by God’s peace that they were freed to serve and share and help. Because we know God has our back.

Followers of Jesus do not act like threats are not real; we just look at those threats in the light of God’s hope, not the darkness of human fear.

I just came out of a conference call with the emergency staff of our county. The reports from the National Hurricane Center are alarming. There are very real measures to take. Shelters are filling up, streets need to be cleared, preparations need to be made. Cell phones need to be charged, valuables made watertight, and houses secured. Do it.

But do it in hope. Paul told the Thessalonians that on one hand we are just like everybody else: we grieve. Yet when we grieve we do NOT do it just like everybody else; we do it in hope. When we buy our bread, we do it in hope. When we line up for gas, we do it in hope. And when we look at the weather report, we do it in hope. And just maybe, we can shine in such a way that onlookers ask for a reason for the hope inside of us.

Because we have a Shepherd. He is sovereign. And we are not orphans.

Eyes on Jesus.

 

3 words I’m using to respond to this hurricane.

 

 

What’s The Big Deal About Resurrection?

It really happened.

The message of Jesus is a resurrection story. It’s not just another religious tale. This is not a myth. The way of Jesus is not a compilation of pleasant, moral teachings; it is historical. The Christian faith is not the exaggerated account and reconstructed ethics of an imaginary rabbi named Jesus; it is the result of a real human who lived a real life and then died a real death.

But he isn’t just a human.

And he didn’t stay dead.

The very fact that it is so improbable makes it all the more vital to consider.

Think about it. The original Christian leader, Peter, was a Jesus-denier. The first witnesses to the resurrection were women, in a first-century world that scorned their testimony. The movement started in Jerusalem, the epicenter of Judaism, where they began to worship a man who said you had to eat his flesh and drink his blood. To top it all off, the earliest believers were being tortured and killed for their claims of having seen the resurrected real-life body of Jesus. Not the greatest motivator to sign up for this new faith.

And yet it exploded.

How do you explain the birth and expansion of this faith if he did not rise from the dead? What do you do with the testimony of hundreds of people who had nothing to gain, and literally everything lose by making such resurrection claims? What if it’s true?

It means light beats darkness.

Life beats death.

Justice beats oppression.

Cancer is going to bow. Poverty is going to bow. Racism is going to bow.

All things become new.

It means it’s not too late for you.

It means there is more hope for you that you ever thought possible, because the very worst thing this world can throw at you is death. And Jesus beat it. Which means death may be able to snatch you from this world; but Jesus is going to snatch you from death.

Which means you don’t need to be afraid of anything.

Ever. Again.

Which means the word impossible has been fundamentally altered for those who believe Jesus. His earthly ministry is bookended by two impossibilities: a virgin’s womb and an empty tomb. I don’t know how bad your situation is, but, he’s got this. There is nothing he can’t do. There is no mountain he can’t move. There is no life he can’t redeem.

Oh redemption. What a delicious word.

Great news! Jesus lived the life I should have lived. And then he died the death I deserved to die. But early Sunday morning, just as he promised, he rose. And so will you, if you’ll just believe.

Let’s go change the world.

Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

I like honest conversations.

And I love the fact that God’s shoulders are big enough to handle our intellectual, emotional, and theological struggles. It’s why I am so drawn to the death of Lazarus (John 11).

On a holiday where billions will celebrate Jesus’ ultimate victory over death, I am reminded of the painful reality of living in the gap between the promises of God and realization of those promises.

Here’s the summary. The gospel writer goes out of his way to emphasize that Jesus loves Lazarus and his family. They were very well-acquainted with the healing reputation of the Messiah. By John 11 Lazarus is sick. Playing their friendship card, his sisters send word to Jesus, informing Him of Lazarus’ condition. You know, do your thing, Lord. Much to everybody’s surprise, Jesus does NOT come. Jesus does NOT heal. And Lazarus dies.

There’s the tension.

You could have stopped this. You could have fixed this. You could have prevented this. You could have intervened before bad became worse. And yet You did not. You stopped death for others; You prevented disaster for others; You saved the day for others. And yet You left us hanging. (And you love us?)

What do you do when God leaves you hanging?

It’s the question that has haunted me in recent years. Why? My God, my God, why? I’ve even invented my own angst-filled question-like emoji for my prayer journal in my moments of particular frustration. Why not me? Why not us? Why not help my child? Why not heal my sickness? Why aren’t you showing up? My God, my God, why?

If You would have been here, my brother would still be alive.

As the grieving sister Martha laid out her complaint to the Lord, Jesus made a promise: Your brother will rise again. To which she responded with a declaration of orthodox, albeit abstract piety:  I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day. But somehow we’ve all felt the impotent effects of intangible theology divorced from real life.

I was recently in a conversation  with a precious Muslim refugee. As the dialogue turned to the hope of life after death and my faith in Jesus, her response to my predictable evangelical pie in the sky was convicting: “To be honest with you, my deepest longing is for peace on earth. Is there any hope for salaam? My family is stuck in a war zone.” Great question.

Jesus, my brother is dead, and our hearts are broken. Is there any hope for peace on earth? I suppose I affirm the doctrine of a distant resurrection, but is there hope for broken hearts on earth? Lord, you’re too late.

And then Jesus drops the bomb. I am the resurrection.

I am.

I’m not sure why it means so much to me, but it has become one of the defining realities of my journey with God. Every time it feels like God is disappointing us with delay or disappointment (or silence!), you can be sure of this: He is about to reveal something new about Himself. I am the resurrection. I am the healer of broken hearts. I am the author of peace on earth (yes on earth) and goodwill toward humans. I’m actually starting to realize the gifts of God are great, but God himself is better.

Why does He allow death? Why the unresolved tension? Why are so many of us waiting in the valley of delay? I’m not sure. But I know this: He is creating a people stronger than death. Stronger than disappointment. Stronger than circumstance. He has a love stronger than the grave. He rules a kingdom that can NOT be shaken. Everything down here on earth is shakeable, which is why the plan has always been to bring up there down here. On earth as it is in heaven. Envy is shakeable. Comparison is shakeable. Worry is shakeable. Health is shakeable. But not Him. Not His kingdom. And not His people.

But my brother is dead, Lord. Not for long.

This weekend reminds me that it’s never too late. It’s never too hard. It’s never beyond his scope. It’s never beyond his reach. It’s never out of his control.

I thought it was game over. But it’s only Friday; Sunday’s coming.

See you at the Odome.

April Fools & Faith

We don’t know what to believe.

From the promises of a slippery salesman to the smooth words of a coercing boyfriend, life has taught us to be suspicious. It’s certainly not just April 1st, we live in a world where we have no idea when and where to let our guard down and trust.

It clearly didn’t start this way. All you have to do is watch a young child and it’s clear that our default setting is belief. Wide-eyed and vulnerable, a child enters life fully prepared to give the benefit of the doubt and take you at your word.

But life has way of beating the belief right out of us. Broken promises, hidden agendas, and the ubiquity of deception train up a child in the way she should not go as we learn to put up our guards and protect our souls from the dreaded shame – or pain – assigned to the gullible.

Doubting has become a virtue. Cynicism is a badge of respect. And yet cynicism is really just soul-laziness. It’s the easy way out. It’s the acquiescence to the peer pressure of the age to never get your hopes up. But the kingdom of God is released by faith, not doubt. And faith is substance of things hoped for.

Hope requires courage. If you will not dare to hope, you have no fuel for faith.

Make no mistake about it, we already believe. As Seth Godin comments on April Fool’s, we just believe the wrong things. Like the player who never settles down and marries the woman he knows is Mrs. Right, we roam and flirt from object to object, never fully committing. Never really believing.

Believing is really about listening to a word. In the absence of the right words from the right Source, we wander into the wrong words from the wrong sources. This was the essence of the original question toward Adam in the Garden of Eden. Who told you you were naked? We might ask similar questions. Who told you you were ugly? Who told you  you’ll never make it? Who told you you are unwanted? That’s why if you have attached your soul to those words and believe you are unlovable, unworthy, hopeless, and cursed, no one can talk you out of it. No one can make you believe.

Faith is always about a word. It is a fixing of our attention on that word. I spent most of my life thinking faith was feeling, and because I could not conjure up that feeling, I must not have the gift. But faith is not a feeling, it’s a focus on a word and the person who spoke it.

It’s why one of the primary assignments against your life is to keep your eyes off of the words of Jesus. Because if you saw what He says about you, you just might get your hopes up. And faith is the substance of things hoped for.

So on this April 1st I dare you to get your hopes up. I dare you to treat the words of God like a child treats a birthday promise. I dare you to major on the promises, listen to the promises, memorize the promises, speak the promises, pray the promises, and attach your life to the promises. Because if the Cross tells you anything, it tells you that God keeps His promises.

I’m a believer.

april-fools
April Fool’s Day

Promises

God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Jesus who called us to His glory and virtue by which He has granted us His precious and very great promises, so that through them we are able to possess all that He has provided. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

We ask of God, and He will give us nations for our inheritance. I believe the glory of God will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea. (Psalm 2:8)

We are redeemed from the curse of the first Adam because of the finished and perfect work of the second Adam, Jesus. (Galatians 3:13)

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)

When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. (Psalm 56:3)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)

I will live, move, & make decisions by faith and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

We fear the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. In every area we lack wisdom, we request it, & believe we receive it. In all our ways we acknowledge Him, & He will direct our paths. (Proverbs 9:10, James 1:5-6, Proverbs 3:6)

The blessing of Abraham comes to us in Christ Jesus. He shows us where to go to, He blesses us so that we may be a blessing to all the peoples of the world. (Galatians 3:14, Genesis 12:1-3)

Great is the peace of our children for they are taught of the Lord. (Isaiah 54:13)

The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need. (Psalm 23:1)

I am like a tree planted by the rivers of water. I will bring forth fruit in season. My leaves will not wither. Whatever I do will prosper. (Psalm 1:3)

We delight ourselves in the Lord and He will give us the desires of our hearts. (Psalm 37:4)

As we give, it will be given unto us: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. (Luke 6:38)

There is no lack, because our God supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory. (Philippians 4:19)

Jesus bore our sins in His body on the tree, therefore we are dead to sin and alive to righteousness and by His stripes we were healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

We can expect both forgiveness and healing because Jesus Himself took our infirmities and bore or sicknesses. (Matthew 8:17)

We present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit inside of us quickens our mortal bodies in times of need. We stand on this promise. (Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Romans 8:11)

I will not limit God because He will do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

We will bear one another’s burdens, remember the poor, and meet urgent needs. (Galatians 2:10, 6:2, Acts 4:32, Titus 3:14)

We will do nothing through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind consider others better than ourselves. We will look out not only for our own interests, but also the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

We overcome the evil one by the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, and by not loving our lives even unto death. (1 John 2:13, Revelation 12:11)

*These are not all direct quotes from Scripture, but written how I often pray them or speak them out. These are not exhaustive, but a few examples of how I attempt to bring God’s truth to mind, heart, and mouth.