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We’ve seen no shortage of examples of lack of unity this past week. Our nation is divided as African Americans and increasingly Police officers lives are being targeted. Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter. The undertones of racism that some would like to say have long since been buried in our nation have reared its ugly head. For those more politically minded, the Republican National Convention, the massive pep rally for the future presidential candidate, a supposedly unifying event was derailed at nearly the beginning by division over rules and how a vote about such rules should be taken.

It can be kind of depressing to see the division that exists in our country and the world as a whole. It can be discouraging as you turn on the news or visit your favorite news website to see the harm that lack of unity causes us. It’s not my desire to draw your attention to more of the issues that plague us today but to point us towards something we are a part of as a church that recently at its annual gathering sent a strong message of unity. Our church is a part of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). For many today in SBC congregations, you’re aware of this fact but know little of why it matters what our denominational affiliation is. It starts with a doctrinal agreement on our understanding of the Bible but from there it’s built on the premise that together we can do more for the furtherance of the Gospel than we can do separately.

Some people when they hear of the SBC, have negative feelings towards it. Let’s be honest, we are not a perfect denomination. Many Southern Baptist churches have been filled with racist and slave owners. It’s a stain on our past but something that we are working to make right, as we all recognize the gospel is not for the white man, but for all of mankind! Last month, the SBC held its annual meeting in St. Louis. It’s interesting as I look back now given the headlines in our nation at the things that the leadership were led by God to emphasize at the convention. Unity, racial and otherwise, was key to them as we move forward in an effort to bring our nation and this world to salvation.

In my efforts to encourage you, as a Southern Baptist, who probably did not have the opportunity to attend the annual convention I want to share with you a story, one that displays the unity that we have and the desire to make much of Jesus. The story that follows is about the SBC presidential election. Please do not bail on me now because I know you’ve heard more than enough about presidential elections but this story is different. It starts with 3 men who love Jesus….see I told you it was different! Each one of them running for president of the SBC, each one nominated by a well-known SBC leader, and each one likely qualified to serve the SBC in this capacity.

Here is where the story gets interesting. I was able to be in the convention hall for the vote. We all cast our vote for president. Sounds pretty normal so far but wait for it. As the votes were being counted in the background I began to hear rumors that it would be important to stay in the convention hall. Something was up with the voting, enough people I respected were saying stay in the hall that I wanted to see what was happening. The results came back with 1 candidate receiving about 10% of the vote and the other 2, JD Greer and Steve Gaines, each receiving about 40% of the vote. This is where things got real interesting. According to the governing rules, a president needed to be elected by 50% majority. So here we are in the hall, voting a second time between Greer and Gaines.

Unfortunately after this I had to leave so I wasn’t present for the rest of the story but what happened is unheard of. The results came back and both Gaines and Greer had 49% of the vote, with illegally cast ballots being the problem keeping us from getting a majority winner. At this point it became pretty clear that a divide existed. It was likely the young SBC vs. the old SBC rearing its ugly head. Greer was likely the candidate favored by the younger and Gaines likely being favored by the older. So what now? This doesn’t sound like a story of unity….but wait there’s more!

That night and on into the morning God orchestrated one of the most beautiful pictures of unity that could result from these circumstances. I don’t know all the details but I know both Greer and Gaines felt led to withdraw their candidacy so the other could be president and move forward unified. As word reached both of them, they met together. Greer expressed his strong desire to step aside and allow Gaines to serve as President. Gaines, in his desire for Jesus to be lifted high and for SBC unity, would accept the presidency. They prayed together and the next morning, both Gaines and Greer took the platform; Greer withdrew his candidacy and threw his support behind Gaines. He moved to elect Gaines by acclimation. The unified body of delegates from SBC churches around the nation elected Gaines.

These men showed us that one thing matters, Jesus and the salvation that comes through Him! May we all seek similar unity and be proud to be Southern Baptist as we move forward in building unity around Jesus Christ! If you’d like to know more about what happened at the Southern Baptist Convention, below you’ll find a video that summarizes what took place. It was an incredible gathering with emphasis on racial reconciliation, prayer, a desire for spiritual awakening, and UNITY centered on Jesus Christ! Together we can do more than we can do separately!

 

Posted by Jeremy Shirley with
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If you’re like me you would have to look across the landscape of America and confess that the level of hate in our nation unfortunately appears to be on the increase. We continue to be deeply saddened at the exposed racial hate that so many demonstrate towards one another. We feel the hurt and pain associated with the deep and bitter hatred some people have expressed toward Jesus Christ and those who follow Him as disciples, the seemingly out of control hate that is expressed through revenge on those that have been identified as the enemy, while all the while lifting hate mongers to positions of authority and veneration.

When the heart is filled with hate it often leads to that which the Scripture clearly forbids...murder.


“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” Matthew 15:18-19 (NASB)

Whenever murder takes place it is something that comes out of the heart...it is not placed into the heart. The book of Exodus records for us that you shall not murder.

"You shall not murder.” . Exodus 20:13 (NASB)

That doesn’t mean you can’t protect your family if someone is trying to hurt or kill. In the very same context of the Ten Commandments we read...

"If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. "But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. Exodus 22:2-3 (NASB)

It doesn’t prohibit the pursuit of a just and righteous war when necessary to protect the innocent and to stop evil. It doesn’t prohibit the killing of animals...for in the same context we read the instruction that the Lord gives for the sacrificing of animals. We know Jesus ate fish.

“You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you.” Exodus 20:24 (NASB)

It also isn’t a prohibition against capital punishment for in the same context the Scripture records the responsibility of the government to protect the innocent from the criminal.


"He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. Exodus 21:12 (NASB)

The Bible does make a distinction between killing and murder. Murder is intentionally taking the life of another person driven by the hate or by the greed or by the lust in the heart. We easily recognize this type of murder that is occurring far too often in our society and across the world. The hate and the anger in our nation are beginning to explode and we see it every night on the news.

But there is another kind of murder that sometimes flies right under the radar and it’s not so easily recognized and yet it is just as wrong. And perhaps you and I have participated. I know that at the very least we’re guilty of murdering Christ on the cross because of our sins. But what about stopping for a moment to consider that whole anger thing that we often engage in?

"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” Matthew 5:21-22 (NASB)

Look, there are some things we should hate in life...the same things the Lord hates...whether it is lying or any other sin that destroys the lives of people and leads to broken hearts and eternal separation from the Lord God. But we are not to hate people or have anger in our hearts towards them because the results are devastating in their lives, our lives, and results in the very tearing of the fabric of our society. Protect the innocent, protect property, stop destruction, stop injustice, and stop the unnecessary rousting...yes! But not with a heart of anger or hate.

What the Lord saying in Matthew 5...if your heart is an evil heart that is consumed with anger toward other human beings, made in the image of God, and you have contempt, or speak with contempt toward another human, regardless of their color, the Lord writes down in heaven, murder! You and I may never be tried in a human court but the Lord sees and the Lord knows what’s in your hearts and mine...and it’s wrong.

The problems in our society today that are brought on by hate, seen or unseen and hidden away, both coming out of the heart of hate will never be solved by the government. They will only be solved by you and by me when we start allowing the love of the Lord Jesus to fill our hearts and flow out of us towards all. It is our only hope. That’s who Jesus is...the Savior...the one who can forgive sin and change a heart and bring reconciliation and restoration to the heart and the land.

and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. . Romans 5:5 (NASB)

We can be a part of the problem or work on being a part of the solution and it starts with asking the Lord to take the anger and hate out of our own hearts. You and I can do something to help our nation. Rid the heart of hate and anger.

In Chuck Colson’s book Life Sentence he records a dinner meeting between himself and two new Christians as well as some other men and their wives. Billy Graham had called earlier and asked him if he could begin working with a new Christian, Eldridge Cleaver. Imagine the setting, here you have one Tommy Tarrants, formerly a leader of the most violent segment of the Ku Klux Klan and Eldrige Cleaver, one time leader militant of the Black Panthers. During the dinner those who had gathered shared their experiences with Christ. Colson, fearing that Cleavers wife, who at the time had described herself as a non-believing Jewess, was not eating because she was offended by the spiritual conversations taking place, he walked around to her side and said something to the effect that “you must think we’re all a little crazy?” She replied, “well, if you’re crazy, then the whole world needs to get crazy!” They enjoyed a sweet time of fellowship, the hate and anger was gone...replaced by the life changing love of Jesus Christ. It’s happened before...and it can happen again.

Let’s get honest and let it start with us. Let’s get crazy! With no hate in the heart or in the home we can be sure that we have done what we should...Left home without it!

 

Posted by Ralph Sawyer with

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