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“I’m not a racist.”

I’ve heard this statement many times and it’s often followed by, “but…” which sometimes precedes a racist statement, opinion, or ideology. Author Dr. Ibram Kendi has challenged me to ask, “But are you an anti-racist?” Many of us can’t define what a racist is, thus, none of us claim to be “racist” or would ever want to be labeled a racist. But the opposite of “racist”, is not, “not racist”. The opposite of racist is “anti-racist”. We either endorse or oppose racial equality and hierarchy. We either endorse through inaction or support through our actions, systems that oppress and disfavor certain groups of people. We either allow racial inequities to persevere (as a racist), or we confront racial inequities, (as an anti-racist). There is no safe zone when it comes to racism.

Dr. King’s, Letter From a Birmingham Jail (April 16th, 1963), has impacted my life and ministry in big ways. In it he called out “white moderates” (specifically white pastors) for their lack of involvement and silence during the civil rights movement. He said the problem was not the KKK or the White Citizen’s Council but white moderates- people who claimed to be for racial equality and justice but refused to actually do anything or say anything, or felt the timing was not right. It’s possible to agree with a particular philosophy or movement but never get involved and actually do anything. So, are you a racist or are you an anti-racist? You’re one or the other.

Even today, we still have far too many “white moderates” who are not advocating and fighting for racial equality and justice. Dr. King wrote, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Sadly, this is true, and the oppressed need those who are not oppressed to speak out and to fight for them. Systemic racism demands that people in positions of power leverage their influence for the marginalized and oppressed. I know many followers of Jesus who are doing just that in our city. As a pastor I’m so encouraged to see more and more people in our church stepping into that space of racial equality, social justice, and reconciliation. I see business leaders, community leaders, volunteers, and advocates, bringing real effort and action that is dismantling and breaking down long-standing, systemic racism in our communities.

In his “I Have a Dream” speech (August 28, 1963), Dr. King said, “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” And now, nearly 57 years later, some of us are still waiting to move, waiting to jump into the fray and do something. We can all do something- a kind word, a new hire, a mentoring moment, speaking up and speaking out in a conversation with a friend, listening more intently, and seeking to understand. Others of us can leverage our position to change decades-long policies and processes to bring about systemic change that can turn the tide of racism in our sphere of influence.

Here we are, 52 years after his death, and it’s still time to act. Dr. King said, “Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.” The best way to honor Dr. King is by honoring the King who has set us free, through His life, death and resurrection. We are now free at last. In Christ we are free to love without any need for love in return. We are free to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. We are free to bring voice to the voiceless and hope to the hopeless. Are you a racist or an anti-racist? Now is the time to decide. Now is the time to act.

And the Angels were Silent – Saturday in the tomb

And the Angels were Silent – Saturday in the tomb

“He put Jesus’ body in a new tomb that he had cut out of rock, and he rolled a very large stone to block the entrance of the tomb.”  Matthew 27:60

How quiet it is on Saturday before Easter. How sad it is. How despairing it must have been for those who had seen their teacher, their friend, and their hope die right before them. All of creation held its breath to see what would happen next. All of heaven peered toward earth to see how we would respond. And God didn’t move. Not one word; not even a sign. Have you ever been there? You had great expectations that God was up to something big, something life changing, and then, nothing. Have you ever put all of your hopes in a person or in yourself, only to see them come crashing down before you? If so, you know how the disciples must have felt.

They ran away scared, because that’s what we do when we can’t control a situation or think there’s no way it will end well. We run and hide. They couldn’t believe it. Their Master was dead. He was really dead. It was all over. No hope, nowhere to turn, no plans.  On Saturday all they could do was run for their lives and hide out, hoping no one would find them. Have you been there? Maybe right now. Do you ever think God is silent? Do you ever pray thinking He’s not even listening? Let Easter Saturday serve as a lesson for every day of the year. God may seem to be silent, but in reality, He’s about to bring about His greatest work. If you ever wonder if He’s at work on your behalf, ponder the difference between Saturday and Sunday. Remember, God may seem slow, but He’s never late. He’s always right on time.

Pray:  Lord, I confess I have not trusted You in Your silence. I want You to work in my time and in ways that don’t require a lot of waiting and wondering, a lot of pleading and desperation. I realize when You are silent You are still at work and I will see your work, perhaps your greatest work of all. And when You are silent, I can show my greatest faith. I choose to trust in You today.

 

My Response to the Recent SBC Story

02.12.19 | Stories, Articles | by Jeff Warren

Many of you are aware that The Houston Chronicle has published an article called, “Abuse of Faith,” tracking many accounts of sexual abuse that have occurred in the Southern Baptist Convention over the past 20 years. It is both devastating and deeply disturbing that this evil has gone on in our denomination, with more to be published in the Chronicle’s series. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” We are heart-broken and grieve with the victims and their families. There is no doubt that a season of mourning, repentance and prayer is needed in this unsettling time in Baptist life.

At Park Cities Baptist Church, we must be clear in our commitment to the church’s God-ordained responsibility to be a place of safety, hope and healing – while also remaining uncompromising in our own policies and procedures for screening those who work with our children. All ministers are thoroughly vetted through background checks, employment history review and other rigorous assessments. Our church has, for over 20 years through the highly-regarded Children First program, vetted all volunteers that serve with our children and students.

Please also know that if you have questions or concerns, our staff is ready to help. Call the church office and we will be happy to talk with you.

I am calling you and our entire church family to join me in prayer this Sunday at 8:30 am in the Fellowship Hall. We will bring prayers of repentance, ask God to use us to end this evil, and commit ourselves anew to be watchful and to seek purity in every area of our lives. God, have mercy on us.

Dr. Jeff Warren
Pastor Jeff Warren

 

Life Lessons from (a 26 year old) Martin Luther King, Jr.

In December of 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white person on the bus she took on her ride home from work. And she was arrested. Parks was charged with violating Montgomery’s segregated bus seating law. Soon afterwards, the Montgomery bus boycott was organized and the “Montgomery Improvement Association” (MIA) came into being. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who was then a preacher at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, was asked to become the president of the MIA- because he had been the voice behind the boycott from the start. King accepted the presidency and soon became the focus of white racists opposed to equal rights for Afro-Americans and the civil rights movement in general. On Monday night, January 30, 1956, King was speaking at a meeting that had been organized to support the bus boycott- at Montgomery’s First Baptist Church- a full house, pews, stairways, walls, every seat in the house was taken.

The bus boycott was a couple of months long now. He was tired. The long walks, the threat of violence always against him. When they decided on the boycott, he delivered a speech that was amazing. And for the next 6 weeks he would preach and the people would listen. On this night, 2,000 people had piled into the church. They had gathered because they all knew that they were challenging segregation and white supremacy. This was a moment for them to come together. Consider too, that Martin Luther King was 26 years old.

While King was speaking, his wife and firstborn daughter, Yoki (Yolanda Denise), were home. Suddenly, a bomb, planted on the front porch of King’s residence, went off and blew out the windows of the house and causing significant damage to the porch of the family home. Pastor Ralph Abernathy kept receiving notes while sitting in the church and finally Mr. King asked what was going on and the pastor told him: “Your house has been bombed.” Not knowing if his family was okay, dead or alive, Dr. King stepped up with his normal public calm and asked the crowd to go home in peace, and he left out of side door and went home. But the people did not go home in peace (and who could blame them?). Instead, when King arrived he found a crowd of black brothers and sisters with sticks, knives, and guns in his yard – and a barricade of white policemen out front. This did not improve the crowd’s mood. A week earlier, Clyde Sellers, the Police Commissioner, publicly joined the White Citizen’s Council, which effectively made the Montgomery Police Department an arm of the Clan.

As he walked through the destruction of the front of his house, inside he found reporters, the police chief (Sellers), and the fire chief in his house. He found Coretta and his Yoki, shaken but unhurt. Members of his church were already there, surrounding Mrs. King and her baby. And outside no one was leaving, until they knew King’s family was okay. Clyde Sellers began to panic. He was scared as the scene outside was getting worse. Clyde Sellers asked King, “Will you speak on my behalf to the crowd?” Reverend King said, “Yes.” He stepped out on the ruins of his small white house and here’s what he said:

“Don’t get panicky. Don’t do anything panicky. Don’t get your weapons. If you have weapons, take them home. He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. Remember that is what Jesus said. We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love.”

I believe this incredible moment revealed, not only the character of this young 26-year-old pastor, but the power behind his world-changing work that was to come. He could have incited a riot. He could have justified violence against those who sought to kill his family. He could have refused to help the man who was joining forces to stop all that King stood against. He could have settled for a short-term win, while losing the long-term victory. He could have sought to appear “strong and courageous” by verbally taking down the chief and the authorities (and he clearly had the verbal skills to do), instead pointing to the One who was truly in authority. He could have sent the people home to fight another day, instead of teaching them how the battle would be won in the days ahead. His response serves as a model for us today.

Consider what Dr. King teaches us from this single event:

  1. True strength is seen in what might look like weakness.
  2. True leadership is found in what might look like abdication.
  3. True courage is revealed in what might look like cowardice.
  4. True victory is attained in what might look like surrender.
  5. True love is displayed in what might look like foolishness.

Dr. King taught us that true change is found by following the paradoxical ways of Jesus. May we all continue to fight for Dr. King’s Dream to become a reality, as we leverage our influence to come against social injustice and racial inequality.

How your goals for 2019 will ruin you.

Before you set goals for the coming year (and I hope you are), I want to help you focus on the most important step of all. It’s the one step that most people miss. You need one driving goal, one singular obsession that will guide all others. If you’re a Christian your singular goal for 2019 should be the pursuit of Christ. If it is not then your achievements in the coming year will lead to pride, then a judgmental spirit. And your failure to reach your goals will lead to defeat, and then shame. Studies reveal that four out of five of us will not stick to our goals and a third of us will not get out of January without breaking them. Let’s start by admitting it:

We clearly don’t have the power within us to do what we desire to do. Something is working against us.

With all that you may hope to do in 2019 (and will fail to do), I want you to focus on the main thing, the one thing that will actually change your life. You can set goals to lose weight, sleep more, accomplish vocational goals and relational aspirations, but none of these things will fundamentally change your life. Not really. Commit to focusing on a singular goal that will change you into the person you were created to be.

In a general sense, we know that putting first things first helps put everything else in its place. Most of us know that prioritizing our lives is important, particularly if we want to live balanced lives. But Jesus never talked balance. Jesus talked about an all-out pursuit of one thing. He said: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 If you don’t have one thing that you’re all about, you will be distracted by a million other things.

 

And what constantly distracts you will eventually define you. You must realize the power of a singular focus in your life.

 

Jesus said, Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” John 15:4 Abiding in Him means that you are at home in Him. It means that you are at home in His love. He goes on to qualify His statement: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” John 15:9 You must constantly remember His great love for you and His love must define you in all areas of life, in every pursuit, in every relationship, and in everything you do. The Christian life is the constant discipline of a Gospel remembrance. Which, by the way, is one of the most important reasons you attend church every Sunday. We’re prone to forget.

The apostle Paul understood the concept of a singular pursuit when he wrote about his own goals for life. He said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 The one thing He pursued was Christ Himself. He wanted to abide in His love, to remain “in Him”.

 

Remaining in the love of Christ is the singular goal of life and it drives all the others.

 

So, how do we do this? How will you live all of 2019 focused on this singular goal? When Martha was telling Jesus to get her sister, Mary, to help her with all of her goals, Jesus told Martha, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed- or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Mary chose the one thing that was needed. She was sitting at the feet of Jesus, taking in His love for her. If we are to abide in His love then we must sit at His feet as well. How do you do that?

 

The daily discipline of prayer and reading of Scripture are the primary practices  for anyone who wants to abide in the love of Christ. This is highest goal of the disciple because all of life comes out of that one relationship.

 

Set your goals, lose weight, read more, exercise and eat better. But don’t let your goal-setting ruin you. Seek Jesus first and everything else will find its rightful place. It’s all about prayer and the Bible; its the Spirit and the Word. It’s His grace and truth that will fill our lives as we pray and read His Word every day. And we read it in view of three questions: What is God saying to me? How will I obey? Whom will I tell? Join me as we commit to pray and read the Scriptures every day in 2019. Go to https://www.readscripture.org and schedule your start date for January 7th. Or start any time. It’s a 51 week reading plan through the Bible and it will take you chronologically through the story that points us to Jesus. You will find amazing supplemental resources and videos that will help you understand the bible like never before. And if you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, join us Sundays as we walk through “The Year of the Bible”- https://www.pcbc.org/article/year-of-the-bible/