Author Archives: rgwhitejr

What Does the Church Do Now?

Al-Qaeda & ISIS wreaking havoc. 38 gunned down on a beach in Tunisia. 27 killed in a suicide bombing in Kuwait. 30 killed by extremists in Somalia. Beheading in France. In our own country: church shooting in Charleston. Riots in Ferguson, Baltimore, other places. Look around. The culture surrounding the church is not getting better. Humanity is progressively getting worse. As it should. Such are the effects of sin.

Then this week we have the landmark ruling of the Supreme Court. Same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states. The bedrock institution for society, marriage, is now legally changed. We, the church, really thought it would never happen. Not in America. Not in a “Christian” nation. Not here. But it has happened. Now, the question is, “How will we respond?” Allow me to offer some thoughts…

3 Realities:

  1. This world is hostile toward God, the gospel, and ultimately, the church. We will likely face difficult decisions and have to make significant stands in the days to come. Remember: our battle is not against people. Our battle is against Satan and the forces of evil (Eph. 6:12)
  2. This world is blind to the gospel and goodness of God. 2 Cor. 4:4, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
  3. This world’s problem is not homosexuality, terrorism, racial hatred, greed, etc. This world’s problem is sin. The root issue we are battling is sin (Rom. 3:10, 3:23; 1:18). If not for the grace of God, I could be a terrorist, a murderer, a homosexual. So could you.

3 Reminders:

  1. God still reigns. Heaven is not shaken by a ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States. God is still absolutely sovereign. Ps. 33:10-11, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.”
  2. God’s truth is still the ultimate truth. The Bible is still the supreme directive for the church. When the law of the land contradicts the Law of the Lord, we side with the Law of the Lord.
  3. Our situation will likely grow worse. The church in America has enjoyed an extended season of unprecedented freedom and liberty. Seems now the church is entering a season where we will experience a progressive loss of freedom. We should expect pressure, and yes, even persecution in the days to come. This should come as no surprise. The Bible says things will grow increasingly difficult for the church (2 Tim. 3:1-4).

3 Responses:

  1. Rather than anger, outrage, or hatred, let’s respond in compassion. Let’s be careful to remember: the people Jesus expressed anger toward were the religious legalists of his day (see Mt. 23). He responded to the sinner in compassion. Hateful protests and shouting matches never provide a healthy platform for the gospel.
  2. Rather than caving to the culture, let’s impact the culture with the gospel of the grace of Jesus. We cannot in any way agree with or condone the decision the Supreme Court handed down this week, and we shouldn’t pretend we do just to avoid disagreement. In these days, we must speak clearly the truth of Jesus in a way that is received in a spirit of compassion. As Russell Moore wrote, “We must not only speak Christian truth; we must speak it with a Christian accent.”
  3. Rather than hunker down and wall-up the fortress, let’s invade the darkness with the light of the gospel. What does the LGBT (or the terrorist, or the drunk, or the prostitute…) need to know more than anything: That the God who created them wants them to know true wholeness and love that is found only by leaving their life of sin and entering into a relationship with Jesus. Who will tell them?

Church, now is not the time to retreat. We have a prime opportunity to boldly proclaim the gospel and advance the Kingdom. Let’s boldly and lovingly proclaim the grace and truth of the Lord Jesus. Stand up for truth, just don’t be a jerk about it. Let’s hold the line against sin, and let’s be careful to love people along the way.

-rw


What Difference Does the Resurrection Make?

The Easter story is the greatest story ever told. More than bunnies. More than eggs. More than chocolate. More than pastels. The Easter story is about God, and the Easter story is about you.

The Son of God became a man so he could die as the sacrifice for the sins of all mankind—past, present, and future. He was born in a borrowed stable in Bethlehem and buried in a borrowed tomb outside Jerusalem. He lived a perfect, sinless life, exactly the kind of life you and I could never live. During His ministry He performed all kinds of miracles and good deeds—healed the sick, fed the hungry, raised the dead, healed the lame.

He was the best teacher the world had ever known. No one would withstand the authority with which He spoke. His subject matter, in one way or another, always revolved around Himself.

He spurned the religious system of His day—a religious system that required men and women to do certain things and to not do certain things in order to be accepted by God. A religious system that had perfected self-righteous legalism. He came proclaiming a new system—the gospel—which clearly declared that you can’t do enough good and you can’t be good enough to be accepted by God. God demands perfection, and you’ll never attain it.

So, He said that’s why He came. To be the perfection you could never be. Rather than legalistic self-righteousness, He declared extravagant grace. He didn’t lessen the Law’s demands; He fulfilled them perfectly. He fulfilled them perfectly because you and I could not.

The religious leaders had enough and had him killed. He died the most agonizing death any human being would ever experience. He suffered the horrors and torment of Roman crucifixion, but He also experienced the deepest agony—being forsaken by God as he bore the penalty for the sins of mankind. For three hours on the cross, Jesus willingly received the wrath that was due you and due me because of our sin. And He endured it with joy. Why? He knew death was not the end. He knew Easter was coming. He knew the way was being made for us to have a beautiful relationship with God. He knew He was accomplishing the work necessary for our forgiveness and reconciliation with God.

He knew Good Friday was not the end of the story, thankfully. He knew Easter Sunday was coming. The resurrection makes the difference. So, dear Christian, we have joy. We have hope. We have life. We have a resurrected Jesus.


Down Syndrome Changed Our Lives

Today, March 21, is World Down Syndrome Day. Down Syndrome is also known as Trisomy 21, which means people with Down Syndrome have an extra 21st chromosome. March 21 is Down Syndrome Day (3/21…get it?).

Down Syndrome changed our lives a few years ago.

Myles

Myles on the first day of Pre-K this school year

Our youngest son, Myles, is packing that extra 21st chromosome. It’s a pretty long story, but we found out something was “wrong” with him when he was still in the womb. Ultrasounds and tests later, (may share that story at some time) we found out the official diagnosis was Trisomy 21. Down Syndrome.

Down Syndrome changed our lives. For the better. Challenging? Yes. Confusing at times? Yes. Uncertain here and there? Yes. Frustrating now and then? Yes. Would we trade our journey of Myles for any other way of life? Absolutely not.

God has used Down Syndrome to teach us about ourselves. He has taught us about one another. He has taught us about other people. He has taught us about the church. Most importantly, He has taught us about His all-sufficient grace as He lavishes this grace upon us in a myriad of ways. He is our loving Father. And He’s still teaching us. And a lot of times, He uses Down Syndrome.

-rw


When God Calls an Audible

Every so often and for reasons we can’t necessarily explain, God changes the direction of a preaching event – on the fly. Last night was one such example. I had a pretty fantastic sermon prepared (humbly speaking, of course). We were going to walk through 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 and consider aspects of a healthy church. It was actually part 2 of a sermon I began last week. Great introduction with a mind-engaging illustration. An outline that flowed from the text. Personal and corporate examination points that were in line with the text. Questions for us as a church to consider in response to the text.

Then, it happened. In my preaching experience, it hasn’t happened often. It has happened before, though. “It” is when God changes the direction of the preaching – when He calls an audible. Audible is a football term. Just in case you aren’t familiar…here it is: the quarterback steps up to the line of scrimmage to begin the play and sees something different in the defense. He calls an “audible” and changes the play for the offense. In the game of football, sometimes audibles work. Sometimes they don’t. God’s audibles always work.

So there we were, singing together as the church, declaring in song “We Believe” (you can listen to the song here – though, humbly speaking, our version was a little better). During that song, it happened. The audible. The Lord clearly led me to preach on the essence of salvation: believe. If there’s one thing I want to be prepared for it’s preaching. I don’t work well with minimal preparation time. I don’t like jotting thoughts down about verses and hoping they make sense through preaching. Preparation must be the pattern. I much prefer to spend time with the text, see what it is saying, and then simply say what the text says.

Personally, I don’t think the audible occurs all that often in preaching. God can lead us in planning our preaching just as He can lead us in the moment of preaching. He reserves the right, however, to call an audible at His discretion. He is the Sovereign King of the Universe, isn’t He? An audible is perfectly within His right.

So, I sat down while the Body continued worshiping through song and looked at some texts that address this issue of believing – John 20:31, Acts 16:30-31, Romans 10:9-17. Believe. Simply believe. Don’t complicate the issue. Don’t turn it into a formula. Believe. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved (Acts 16:31). I jotted some notes down on a piece of paper and preached. Not exactly the 4 to 5 page detailed outline I typically preach from. A scratch piece of paper and a Bible. Thankfully, the Word is authoritative. So, we preach the Word.

For reasons I may never know or understand, God led the preaching in a different direction last night. He called an audible. Maybe someone needed to believe for the first time. Maybe someone needed to be reminded of the simplicity of believing. Maybe someone’s belief was shaky and they needed to firm up their belief. Maybe someone needed to cry out like the father in Mark 9, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Thankfully, what we see as an audible is actually part of God’s plan. We see an audible. God sees His plan working out perfectly. May we be sensitive to the Holy Spirit when an audible becomes the plan.

Oh, and by the way, I have a well-developed and nicely-constructed sermon on 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 if someone needs something to preach this Sunday. It hasn’t been preached yet, so it can be original to you. Kinda.


The Joy of Waiting

We live in an instant society. Instant grits. Instant coffee (what a waste). Microwave popcorn. Instant messaging. Fast food abounds (most of which is horrible). We text so we can receive an instant response. We don’t want to wait. For Anything. Ever. We hate waiting. We want it now.

Waiting is, however, a biblical reality we experience as Christians. Consider the patriarchal journey of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God called Abraham to ‘go’ and He would make him into a great nation and bless the earth through him (Gen. 12:1-3). Time passes, and guess what? No child. Abraham and Sarah waited. God confirmed His promise at various times and in various ways, but still they waited. Finally, after 25 years and a few bad calls on their part, a child arrives – Isaac.

Isaac grows, is almost killed by his dad (read that crazy story here), becomes a man…but there’s no wife and, therefore, no child. Waiting. He’s 40 years old before he gets married. Waiting. He marries Rebekah, and another 20 years passes before she can conceive.

All this waiting while the grand story of redemption is unfolding seems pointless, but it isn’t. Waiting is actually beneficial for Jesus-followers. Consider a sampling of truths from Scripture about the reality of waiting:

  • Deepens our courage – Ps. 27:14  Wait for the lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord
  • Reminds us of our need for God – Ps. 33:20  Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield
  • Draws us nearer to the heart of God – Ps. 39:7  And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.
  • Makes His Word a reality – Ps. 130:5  I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope;
  • Places us in the blessing of God – Is. 30:18 Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.
  • Gives us spiritual strength – Is. 40:31 But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength
  • Reminds us this world is not the end – 2 Pet. 3:13 But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells

Waiting isn’t some pointless, passive waste of time. God uses waiting for a greater purpose in the life of the believer. We know His goodness, His grace, and His presence in ways we can’t imagine during seasons of waiting. Don’t despise the waiting. Embrace it.


Into the Unknown

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Gen. 12:1-3

“To the land I will show you” is a promise and a mystery. God promised Abram He was going to show him where to go. The implication, however, is that Abram is going to find out on the fly. What does a journey like this take? Faith. Crazy faith. Crazy faith that follows in obedience into the unknown. Notice a couple things here:

1. God doesn’t tell Abram where he is going. God doesn’t give Abram an itinerary or a schedule. No step-by-step or turn-by-turn navigation. No voice from the GPS saying “recalculating…recalculating” when he makes a wrong turn. Just this mysterious land that God will show him.

2. God does tell Abram what he is doing. The statement “I will” is repeated over and over in Gen. 12:1-3. God made the promises. God was faithful to fulfill the promises. He made a great nation. He blessed. He made his name great. He blessed those who blessed. He cursed those who dishonored. He blessed all the nations through Abram. He blessed all the nations through his offspring. His offspring was Jesus. I’d say that’s a pretty significant blessing.

The journey of faith is a wonderful mystery. Abram went into the unknown, not knowing exactly where he was going, but trusting in what God was doing. He didn’t get the plan or the agenda. He just believed. One step after another.

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By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went, not knowing where he was going. Heb. 11:8


Crazy or Obedient?

Genesis 12:4 “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him” 

At first glance, this statement is fairly basic and doesn’t seem all that significant. The Lord told Abram to do something, and he did it. Simple enough.

Simple enough, that is, until you check out what is going on around this statement. In verse 1, God told Abraham to make somewhat of a life adjustment. You know – just leave your family. No big deal. Oh yeah, leave your country. Leave your identity. Leave your familiarity. Leave your security. Leave.

Where does God tell him to go? That’s the crazy part! He tells him “I will show you.” No details. No plan. No GPS. Just go. God will take care of the rest.

So what does Abram do? He goes home, loads up his wife, his nephew, his workers and all their stuff, and rolls out. “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him” (vs. 4). Crazy? Yes. Obedient? Absolutely.

True obedience is taking God at Word and walking out a constant “yes” to His plan, even when we can’t see the plan. Abram believed God, took Him at His Word, and followed. Obedience.

Just as a side note, Abram was a mere 75 when God changed the direction of his life. Some retirement plan, huh?

-rw