Due to some conflicts, we are postponing our Advent Lunch and Advent Garden until next Sunday, December 7. See you for Sunday School and Church only tomorrow!
Attached is the bulletin for this coming Sunday — the first Sunday in Advent. 01 in Advent – 11-30-2014 (blog)
The man who wrote this article, which Fr. Harry commends to all, was written by one of the pastors who taught in our recent Adult Sunday School class on Marriage. He has much for us to think about.
In early August my wife and I, along with seven of our nine children, left for a month-long ministry tour in Africa (Kenya, Zambia, and South Africa). It was a couple of days before we got settled and had any access to media. As such, I was taken aback when I began to receive Google alerts, emails, and Facebook and Twitter messages either demanding that I comment on “Ferguson,” or condemning me for failing to do so. The only problem was, I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. Who, what, or where was Ferguson? Why was it such a big deal? Why was I being condemned (along with other “high-profile” evangelicals) for “failing to speak out on such an important issue”?
I eventually got up to speed. Or at least I found out what all the fuss was about. Over the next several weeks I viewed this issue from a unique perspective. I was an American in Africa watching an issue ignite ethnic tensions in my homeland. It was almost surreal.
Who Am I to Speak?
My first response to Ferguson was to say nothing. I was on the outside looking in. I didn’t know what happened. I didn’t know the communities or the issues surrounding the tensions. Second, I chose to remain silent because people were demanding that I speak—even condemning me for my silence. In this age of “I sure would love to hear your thoughts on” I get tired of the sense of entitlement with which people approach those whom they deem to be popular or high-profile Christians. No one is “entitled” to my opinion. Nor is my faithfulness to God determined by how quickly I respond to “relevant” issues.
As a pastor, I have a responsibility to my flock. If those for whose souls I care (Heb. 13:17) want help thinking through these issues, I am obligated to them. I have a duty to walk them through issues like these to the best of my ability, and with sensitivity to their particular needs. What worries me is that Christians in the age of social media care more what “popular” preachers have to say on issues like this (and whether or not they agree with other “popular” preachers) than they are about taking advantage of an opportunity to work through challenges in the context of Christian community. More importantly, it worries me that so many Christians view themselves primarily as members of this or that ethnic community more than they see themselves as members of the body of Christ.
The Plight of Black Men
Rest assured, I do believe there are systemic issues plaguing black men. These issues are violence, criminality, and immorality, to name a few. And all of these issues are rooted in and connected to the epidemic of fatherlessness. Any truly gospel-centered response to the plight of black men must address these issues first and foremost. It does no good to change the way white police officers respond to black men if we don’t first address the fact that these men’s fathers have not responded to them appropriately.
There is indeed an epidemic of violence against black men. However, that violence, more often than not, occurs at the hands of other black men. In fact, black men are several times more likely to be murdered at the hands of another black man than they are to be killed by the police. For instance, in the FBI homicide stats from 2012, there were 2,648 blacks murdered. Of those, 2,412 were murdered by members of their own ethnic group. Thus, if I am going to speak out about anything, it will be black-on-black crime; not blue-on-black. I want to apply the gospel and its implications in a way that addresses the real issue. If a few black men being killed by cops requires a national “dialogue,” what in the world does the overwhelming number of black-on-black murders require? If the police do not see black men through the proper gospel-centered, image-of-God lens, what does the black-on-black murder rate say about the way we see ourselves?
In addition to violence, black men are plagued with criminality. Low-income black communities like Ferguson know all too well that black criminals preying on their neighbors makes life almost unlivable. Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, I know all too well what it’s like to have bars on the windows and doors for fear that thugs will break in to steal or kill. I remember being robbed at gunpoint on my way home from the store one day. It was one of the most frightening and disheartening events of my life. The fear, helplessness, and anger I felt stayed with me for years. And it taught me an unfortunate lesson: the greatest threat to me was other black men.
The underlying malady that gives rise to all the rest of these epidemics is immorality and fatherlessness. We know that fatherlessness is the number one indicator of future violence, dropout rates, out-of-wedlock births, and future incarceration. And in the black community, more than 70 percent of all children are born out of wedlock! Fatherlessness is the bane of the black community.
Nor is this plague forced on us. It is as common as morning dew, and as overlooked as dust under a refrigerator. Where are the marches against this travesty? Where are the protestors who demand better? Where are the black “leaders” who . . . oh, that’s right, they have just as many illegitimate children as anyone else. Again, it is common knowledge that this is the most immediate root cause of the ills plaguing black Americans.
But What About Racism?
I have been pulled over by police for no apparent reason. In fact, it has happened on more than one occasion. I was stopped in Westwood while walking with a friend of mine who was a student at UCLA. We found ourselves lying face down on the sidewalk while officers questioned us. On another occasion, I was stopped while with my uncle. I remember his visceral response as he looked at me and my cousin (his son). The look in his eye was one of humiliation and anger. He looked at the officer and said, “My brother and I didn’t fight in Vietnam so you could treat me like this in front of my son and my nephew.”
Again, this experience stayed with me for years. And for many of those years, I blamed “the system” or “the man.” However, I have come to realize that it was no more “the system” when white cops pulled me over than it was “the system” when a black thug robbed me at gunpoint. It was sin! The men who robbed me were sinners. The cops who stopped me were sinners. They were not taking their cues from some script designed to “keep me down.” They were simply men who didn’t understand what it meant to treat others with the dignity and respect they deserve as image bearers of God.
It does me absolutely no good to assume that my mistreatment was systemic in nature. No more than it is good for me to assume that what happened in Ferguson was systemic. I have a life to live, and I refuse to live it fighting ghosts. I will not waste my energy trying to prove the Gramscian, neo-Marxist concept of “white privilege” or prejudice in policing practices.
I don’t care what advantages my white neighbor may or may not have. If he does have advantages, God bless him! I no more fault him than I fault my own children who have tremendous advantages due to the fact that they were raised by two educated, Christian parents who loved, disciplined, and taught them. Ironically, when I think about THAT advantage, I am filled with joy and gratitude to God for his faithfulness. People are supposed to bequeath an advantage to their children and grandchildren (Prov. 13:22). Why, then, would I be angry with my white neighbor for any advantage he is purported to have? And what good would it do? How does that advance the gospel? Especially in light of the fact that growing up with the gospel is the ultimate privilege/advantage! It is the advantage that has granted us all “American privilege”! Are we guilty for being citizens of the wealthiest republic in the history of the world? I think not!
As a father of seven black men, I tell them to be aware of the fact that there may be times when they may get a closer look, an unwelcome stop, or worse. However, I do not tell them that this means they need to live with a chip on their shoulder, or that the world is out to get them. I certainly don’t tell them that they need to go out and riot (especially when that involves destroying black-owned businesses). I tell them that there are people in the world who need to get to know black people as opposed to just knowing “about” us. I tell them that they will do far more good interacting with those people and shining the light of Christ than they will carrying picket signs. I tell them, “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’” (Rom. 12:19). And I tell them that there are worse things than suffering injustice. That is why we must heed Peter’s words:
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Pet. 3:15–17)
In the end, the best lesson my children can learn from Ferguson is not that they need to be on the lookout for white cops. It is far more important that I use this teachable moment to remind them that “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Moments before his death, Michael Brown had violently robbed a man in a store. A man doing the best he could to make a living. Minutes later, Brown reaped what he sowed, and was gunned down in the street. That is the sad truth.
My sons have far more to fear from making bad choices than they have to fear from the police. The overwhelming majority of police officers are decent people just trying to make a living. They are much more likely to help you than to harm you. A life of thuggery, however, is NEVER your friend. In the end, it will cost you . . . sometimes, it costs you everything.
Voddie Baucham is the pastor of preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas.
Friday evening (5:30 till ????) we will have Board Game Night. Bring your favorite board game and money for pizza. We’ll have everything set up for an evening of fun for any age! Hope to see you there!
The women of the church are invited to Terri Sebree’s home on Saturday, December 13, at 9:30 a.m. for a brunch fellowship. More details to come — but mark your calendars for a wonderful morning of fellowship!
Attached is the bulletin for this coming Sunday — The Feast of Christ the King. 24 Sunday after Pentecost – Christ the King – 11-23-2014 (blog)
From Karen Burns:
We received this message from Bob, a close longtime friend of ours. Please keep Bob and his family, and anyone involved in this issue, in your prayers.
I am sending this to friends who I know believe in the power of prayer. Most of you know what is going on here in STL, and our situation in particular, but some of you outside of STL or who we haven’t kept in close contact with, here is our prayer need… Our daughter, K, is a Missouri State Trooper, who has been on duty in Ferguson since the Michael Brown incident on August 9th. She has endured the “peaceful” protests (which includes screaming profanities, spitting, and death threats.) She has been able to handle this. However, as the time approaches for the Grand Jury to issue their finding (most agree it will not include an indictment), things are very much escalating. The New Black Panthers and others have been organizing and have made it very clear that their intent is to harm police. Law Enforcement is gearing up as if preparing for war, which all indications are that it will be. Wednesday night my wife spoke with K who said, “Mom, you have to be prepared that law enforcement officers will die during this.” I am asking each one of you to commit to consistent and fervent prayer – that K and all officers would be surrounded by God’s mighty shield and that not one hair on their heads are touched. That they would be given strength to endure this – physically, emotionally and spiritually. That their loved ones would feel God’s peace surround them. And specifically, pray for K’s new husband (they were married May 10th), and for our family – for the anxiousness surrounding us for her. I am asking you to put K and all officers on any prayer chains you have at your church, Bible Studies, etc. We are putting our trust in God, but admit to our human weakness of feeling terribly anxious for our daughter – now and in the months to come as the anger from this community will not end anytime soon. Even if and when the big drama winds down, we are concerned with every traffic stop she has to make. No longer is there a sense of respect for officers from a large segment of this community. We feel human helplessness but know our God is a mighty God, stronger than any earthly evil. We appreciate your willingness to do this. Thank you in advance and God Bless you and yours,
As the Grand Jury in Ferguson, MO, prepares to present its verdict, please pray for justice, peace, and the power of God for this situation.
Amanda Roberts and Joel Thompson will be performing on hammered dulcimer and cello at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center in Troy, OH on Tuesday, Nov. 25th at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free. The program will include original arrangements of traditional Irish and American tunes. Come out and enjoy a wonderful musical evening in a beautiful venue.
Just a reminder that there will be a bake sale following church this coming Sunday (November 16) with proceeds going to purchase Christmas ornaments for our brothers and sisters at Livingston Care Center. When the children present their Christmas Play on Sunday, December 21, these ornaments will be given out. Please plan to take come goodies home after church…and reminder — if you are bringing food for Sunday lunch after church, you probably don’t need to bring dessert!
Attached is the bulletin for this coming Sunday, November 16 — for downloading. 23 Sunday after Pentecost – 11-16-2014 (blog)
Attached is the Word which was received by Rosanne Brown on November 1, 2014, and shared by Fr. Harry at our Members’ Meeting the next day, as requested by a number of you.
Fr. Harry is currently out of town. If you have any pastoral care needs or concerns, please call Dss Candy (937-572-6682), Greg Herman – Sr. Warden (937-604-5550) or Jon Miller – Jr. Warden (934-367-6913).
Greta Jennings dropped a small white envelope with her name on it while at church yesterday. If you found it, please put it on the back table so that Greta can pick it up next week. If you have it, you can email Greta at RGJSYS@aol.com. Thanks, everyone!
Attached is the bulletin for this coming Sunday, November 9, for downloading. 22 Sunday after Pentecost – 11-09-2014 (blog) (2)
We are blessed with the number of people who have come forward as willing to serve in leadership positions for 2015. You will be asked to vote next Sunday at our Members’ Meeting following the service. Below are the choices for all except the Junior Warden, who is nominated from the floor at the meeting. Our current Junior Warden, Jon Miller, is eligible for another term. Fr. Harry has asked Greg Herman to serve another year as Senior Warden, and you will be asked to approve or disapprove that recommendation as well. Please pray about these choices as you consider, and before you cast your ballot.
Nominees for Vestry (Vote for 2)
Charles Roberts Terri Sebree Tim Taylor Duane Veley
Nominations for Synod Delegate (Vote for 2 – Highest vote will be Delegate, second highest vote will be Alternate)
Martha Berger Brenna Ruiz Pat Prenger
PS — Pizza, salad, and drinks will be provided — with a free will donation basket. Child care will be provided during the actual meeting.
Update for Day 123: An ancient psalm says, “I’m laid low in the dust. Revive me with your words.” While this is here referring to God and His Word, we feel revived with the words of Nat’s medical staff today as well:
Today Natalie got the words she has both longed for and dreaded; “You are moving to another hospital (UW Medical Center) on Monday, November 3rd! Be ready at 10:30am.” On the one hand this is the news we have prayed to hear…”you are making great progress and you are ready for THE FINAL HOSPITAL LEG of your journey back home and to health and recovery!” On the other hand, Kindred Hospital Seattle First Hill will literally have been Natalie’s home 24 hours a day everyday and night for 109 days by Monday moving time.
The Kindred Team has been so incredibly faithful, attentive, professional and kind to Natalie, her family and friends. In this hospital Natalie has gone from quadriplegia and no ability to breathe, with feeding tubes, IV’s, and a trach to now fully free and able to breathe, eat, talk and move her arms and legs and is now learning to stand from her wheelchair! So yes we all will miss the fabulous staff and patients, but we CELEBRATE this awesome new opportunity for Natalie to participate in one of the best, most extensive in-patient rehabilitation units anywhere! Kindred Hospital you done good! Natalie is ready in big thanks to you!
THANKS BE TO GOD!