Showing items filed under “Jeremy Shirley”
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The closest thing I can recall in my life to experiencing even the smallest amount of racism toward my family goes back to when we adopted our 2 girls from Bulgaria. They have brown skin and black hair. They don’t match my wife and I who are white and blonde. We were at the gate in an airport about to board a plane when we were pulled aside instead of allowing us to board the flight like others in line. They took us and searched our bags and asked us some questions before allowing us to board. The reason they did it…our skin colors didn’t match so they thought something might be wrong so we got treated differently than other passengers. That was a mere 5 minutes of inconvenience and I found myself asking why would they do that to us? I recognize that some of, if not many of, those who are black in our nation have had to ask that question far more often than I for sure. I’m not trying to equate such a small instance with the lifelong challenges African Americans have faced. If anything, I’m trying to point out how little I, as a white person, understand the feelings of those who are black.

Racism is no doubt unacceptable; it’s disgusting. It hurts my heart that our country hasn’t been able to move beyond this unthinkable viewpoint that’s persisted since the early days of our country’s history. It hurts me personally to see others treated so poorly because my 2 daughters, who are Roma, came from a country where they were on the wrong side of racism. Roma people come from gypsies, a derogatory term for them in Eastern Europe. Gypsies by stereotype are lazy people who don’t want to work. Roma children don’t have access to the same schools as other Eastern Europeans. Roma children weren’t treated the same as other Eastern Europeans. Roma children weren’t wanted by Eastern Europeans. This is exactly why they were up for international adoption. We brought them to America, the land of the free. A place where they shouldn’t have to experience the difficulties of the early portion of their lives. Yet, my heart hurts as I’m reminded that America just isn’t that different. People aren’t that different. Great focus at this moment is on racism related to black people, police brutality towards blacks and systemic injustice in law enforcement and government in many places. While those things are of massive importance to deal with, we can’t lose sight of the big picture. It’s time to stand against these things and to listen to those impacted. At the same time, if we don’t keep the big picture in mind, I fear the cause will be lost. Here are some big picture things we need to think about to truly make a difference in these areas that so desperately need attention and change.

We will continue to struggle to solve the symptom which is racism, if we don’t solve the cause of racism. Sin is the cause. The fallen nature of man is the problem. The Bible is clear in Romans 3:23, all have sinned. There isn’t a single person: red, yellow, black, and white…and any other color that may be out there, that has not sinned. Sin impacts every aspect of our lives. Sin destroys. Sin separates. Sin is infectious. Sin is hated by God. Racism is one manifestation of sin in our lives. Systemic Injustice is a manifestation of sin in our lives. Looting and Destruction are manifestations of sin in our lives. This isn’t to demean the importance of this moment in our history when hopefully we can finally deal a death blow to racism. This is to say that if we cut off the weed of racism but leave the root of sin and unrepentance, the weed will grow back. It always does. Any gardeners out there know that a weed isn’t truly gone until the root is gone.

The narrow focus of some in this moment is exactly why we will likely continue to struggle to be able to truly get rid of the root. These issues do warrant focus no doubt, but we can’t lose sight of the big picture. Some of us are passionate about police injustice and brutality, racism, looting/destruction, terrorism…and the list goes on. I’m glad you’re passionate about those manifestations of sin…but when we begin to look at others who are also pointing out manifestations of sin and say…those things don’t matter as much. We lose sight of the root issue. Some people are so focused on trying to fix systemic racism and injustice, they say that the looting and destruction doesn’t matter. It’s not as important. They would say property is not equal to people in value. While it’s true that in God’s eyes people have more value than property, it doesn’t change the fact that God hates all sin. Are there different consequences for sin…sure…does God value people over property…sure…but that doesn’t mean God thinks any sin is tolerable for the sake of fixing something else. If we truly want to make a difference, we’ve got to rally around a common cause. It won’t be just racism, it won’t be police injustice or any other systemic injustice, it won’t be terrorism and it won’t be looting or destruction of property. Are all those wrong…absolutely, but by fixing one of them you don’t fix the root issue in our country. To fix the root issue, we need repentance. We don’t need to pray for revival, we need to pray for and ask God to help us repent. There are way too many of us marching on streets, throwing up all over Facebook and other forms of social media that haven’t taken time to repent recently, if ever. Don’t hear that as me saying we need to stop talking about racism, police injustice, or the looting and destruction of property. Do take that as a reminder that it doesn’t matter how many times you post on Facebook or how many marches you take part in, if our nation doesn’t repent of it’s sin, you won’t make the difference you wish.

Some of you are fighting so hard, you’re yelling as loud as your little fingers can type. You’ll argue and debate with the best of them. You draw lines in the sand, alienate people with your views all for the sake of justice. I hate to tell you this, but on social media, the people you generally impact are those who agree with you. They’ll gladly endorse your finger pointing and ranting. You lose the audience that you’re actually trying to impact. Look…bottom line here is let’s not lose sight of the real battle here; where the fight truly lies. Ephesians 6:12 says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood”. The big picture here that this verse talks about is, there are ongoing battles in the spiritual realm between good and evil. Do I think evil tries to use a bad cop? Yes! Do I think evil tries to use terrorist organizations or racist white people to make blacks look bad? Yes! Do I think evil uses corrupt or racist local prosecutors? Yes! Do I think evil tries to get white people to dismiss the idea that racism exists in our nation? Yes! Does that mean people who are doing wrong should be excused, absolutely not! But when you look at another human who has done wrong, we can’t lose sight of how they’re not truly our enemies. Those that think differently than you are not your enemies, even if they think sinfully. If you want to deal with the evil that’s impacting these people, you have to deal with the heart. If you want to deal with the heart, it’s going to take repentance that comes from the Gospel.

I can’t help but think about the book of Jonah. Read the book of Jonah. God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh to call the people to repentance. In Nahum 3:1, Nineveh was described: “Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims!” Nineveh was known for brutally treating people, from the government level, all the way down to the streets. Jonah didn’t want to go. He didn’t think they would repent. He didn’t think they deserved God’s word. You could say the same thing in a lot of ways about our country. We’re a country of blood…black blood. We’re full of lies…from the media, our government, and racism denying citizens. We’re full of plunder as terrorist and others riot and pillage our cities. We are never without victims…George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the list goes on. But what did God do? He sent Jonah to call the people to repentance. Skip the fish part and jump to when Jonah finally goes to Nineveh…what happens? Read Jonah 3 where from the king all the way down to the citizens they repent. Here’s part of what the king said: “Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.” The Ninevites humbled themselves, repented, and turned from their evil ways. Repentance brought on by the Word of the Lord changed a nation that treated people awful who were different than them. Stand against racism, stand against injustice, stand against terrorism but most of all stand against sin! It’s time to call our nation to repentance…but that starts in my heart and yours!

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Many of you will remember teaching a child the simple hand motions to “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors, and see all the people.”  That’s one illustration that definitely doesn’t ring true in this crazy time as we weather the virus called COVID-19.  It’s a time when we’re challenged as a church not only locally but really globally as everything we have come to expect from church is disrupted.  Everything we find comfortable, normal or even sacred just isn’t the same.  It’s times like this that should cause great reflection not only in regards to the moment we’re in but also when everything that is normal is stripped away…what’s left of who we are?  As a church, what’s left of who we are?  From there, we have to ask, is what we see after everything was stripped away what God desires of us as individuals and as the church or have we been exposed?

While we’re still in the midst of COVID-19 and none of us honestly know exactly when things will go back to “normal”, I think everyone realizes it’s events in history like this that alter life, that alter focus, that alter what we do.  This is a time when as the church, we can bemoan what we’ve lost or ask the Lord what we could be.  This is a time when as an individual, we can throw a pity party about our current quarantine situation, or we can ask the Lord how He might want to dramatically change us.  If we’re honest with ourselves, some of us have been exposed…not to the Coronavirus…but exposed to the reality that God needs to do some work on you during this time. 

I think the biggest thing to remember right now is that the church is still the church.  You remember how many times you’ve told a child or maybe others that the church isn’t the building, it’s the people.  That’s always been a true statement and it rings true more than ever right now.  By virtue of the Coronavirus, the church can’t be a building.  I fear that for some of us that we feel like we’ve lost our church right now.  While gathering digitally can’t replace…and shouldn’t replace…the physical gathering of the church…that’s not all that the church is.  We can’t tell people we’re “going to church” anymore.  We can’t invite someone and give them a ride to church anymore.  We can’t have big events where people will hear the gospel anymore.  We can’t physically serve people in our gatherings at the church anymore.  But if everything that the church is ends when the building is gone…were we really a church to begin with?  Were you really the church to begin with?  If you were called by God to do something…you weren’t called to how to do it, you were called to do it.  We have to continue to be the church, even in creative ways.

There are multiple facets to what God has called us to be as a church.  All of that hangs under the umbrella of the greatest commands to Love God and Love People.  For some of us this has been a time to refocus our relationship with the Lord.  Praise God for that time to learn to love God more than ever before.  At the same time, it’s created a massive challenge to how we typically love people.  We can’t even get near them right now.  So the question becomes, how are we going to love people?  We can’t just stop loving people.  To stop loving people would be to say God has made it impossible for us to do exactly what He told us to do.  That’s not consistent with who He is.  In our efforts to strengthen our own relationship with the Lord we need to plead with Him for direction on how to love people right now…not after restrictions and Coronavirus are gone.  Don’t take that as instruction to violate the government’s restrictions related to social distancing and gathering size.  We have to get creative, we have to improvise.  Maybe one of the best things God could do to His church is to break all the normal that we have, break all our ministries, break all our traditions and get us to rethink what it looks like to Love God and Love People.

The last thing we really need to put some thought into as the church is that the gospel can’t be quarantined.  The gospel needs to go out more than ever before.  It’s a time when people are in fear, when they’re losing their jobs, when they’re sick or potentially going to get sick, a time when they can’t go to the grocery and get what they need for their family, a time when sports are gone and when all the clutter of our calendars is gone.   The gospel must go out now!  I think one of the biggest questions for all of us as we reflect on our lives right now is who do I know that’s lost that I can I pick up the phone and call that I have enough of a relationship with to bare the weight of the gospel message?  For some of us, we quarantined the gospel in a church ministry or in our houses long before Coronavirus.  If we’re going to be the church, the gospel can’t be quarantined.  What a great opportunity to evaluate how intentional we are being in our “normal” lives to develop relationships with the lost in hopes of getting the gospel to them. 

I don’t believe God wastes moments.  I don’t believe for a second that this crazy time in our history was unexpected to God.  I’m confident that God didn’t just allow this to happen to inconvenience us.  Do I know specifically what God is trying to do through all of this…no!  At the same time, during this time when we’re all so concerned about being exposed to the Coronavirus let’s take time to reflect because for some of us we’ve been exposed as Christians who aren’t really acting like the church in certain areas of our life.

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