Overcoming Persecution

Smyrna in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) was considered to be “the flower of Asia” for its strategic planning, culture, education, science, and medicine.  It was also a place of great persecution for the believer.  Jesus warned the church at Smyrna they would experience persecution, arrest, and even death for the sake of Christ at the hands of people who claimed to be the people of God, but were in reality a “synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:8-11).

The persecutors accused the Christians of cannibalism (ignorance of the Lord’s Supper), sexual perversion (mistaking the Christian fellowship meal for an orgy), political rebellion (because they would not declare Caesar as Lord and would not petition Rome for permits to meet), atheism (due to the absence of pagan idols in their homes), and destroying Jewish homes (as they converted to Christianity). The persecution of the believer always involves some type of spurious and injurious accusation, for that is the nature of the devil, the accuser of the brethren. We should not think that we are immune to persecution because anyone desiring to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

To persecute means to pursue, follow after, aggressively seek after as a hunter searches to apprehend, capture, or kill an animal.  To be persecuted is to be viciously and relentlessly hunted because of the gospel.  Although there are a variety of types of persecution, including spiritual (oppression), life (martyrdom), financial (denying employment, advancement or benefit), mental (condemnation or accusation), emotional (fear, anxiety, and despair), relational (rejection and marginalization), and physical (affliction and infirmity) the purpose of the persecution is the same – to press the believers to compromise, to denounce their faith, and to give up.

The keys to overcoming any kind of persecution are revealed also in the Book of Revelation.  Jesus said, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11, KJV).  The first key is to know and understand the covenant that is the basis of your salvation.  The Christian is blood bought and blood washed, and ultimately and eternally safeguarded by the resurrected Jesus.  The sacred and irrevocable covenant means that no matter how bad the persecution or pressure, the Lord will eventually turn things around.

Second, we must continue to speak faith-filled words of our personal testimony and the truths of God’s word no matter how difficult things are in life.  By sticking to the word, we are harnessing the power of life and death that is in the tongue of the believer (Proverbs 18:21), and not in the persecution of the evil one. By sticking to the word, we demonstrate that the most prominent influence in our heart is the truth, rather than the persecution we are facing, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).

Finally, we must live as though we were dead, meaning dead to self, dead to self-interests, and dead to our propensity to want to direct our own lives while claiming that Jesus is Lord.  We may or may not face a literal life threat that so many of our brothers and sisters face daily around the world for their faith in Jesus, but we will be tempted to live our lives forgetting the sacrifice of Jesus and the example of service at the expense of self.  Given the condition of the world and the spiritual trajectory of our own nation, it’s never been more important for believers to overcome the persecution, live out their natural lives, and live them out for the purpose and glory of God.

The First Love Killer

The Book of Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ as the triumphant and victorious resurrected Lord. It is also an urgent and pressing message to the Church that the return of Jesus is imminent, and that the Church is not ready for that return. Jesus’ message to the seven churches of Asia Minor reflect his appreciation, encouragement, correction, and promise to the loveless church (Ephesus), the persecuted church (Smyrna), the deceived church (Pergamum), the seduced church (Thyatira), the slumbering church (Sardis), the faithful church (Philadelphia), and the lukewarm church (Laodicea).

Dealing first with the Church at Ephesus, Jesus commended them for their works, their perseverance, and their commitment and zeal to preserve doctrinal and leadership purity. He then corrected them for forsaking or leaving their first love.  The phrase, “first love,” refers to their early love for the Lord or the love they had when they were first converted and passionate about the things of God.  The concept of leaving that first love means they gradually departed from that deep, intimate, early love over time.

He challenged them to repent and remember the height from which they had fallen, described in the Bible as a people who had enthusiasm, passion, devotion, faithfulness, and spiritual sensitivity.  The condition of the Ephesian believers is not that different from the church world today, and similar to the condition of Martha in Scripture when she sacrificed being with the Lord for doing for the Lord.  We are called to serve, but we are also called to sit.  Like Martha, we get distracted, angry, upset, worried, and belligerent when we begin to lose our first or early love for the Lord.

It’s easy, however, for any believer to watch that first love become dampened or even killed over time.  We begin to lose our first love when we get so busy like Martha focusing on all the things we need to do instead of being like Mary who chose that one thing that is better, sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10).  We also lose our first love when we get out of God’s Word and presence.  The moment we sever ourselves from living contact we begin to lose that early love. We lose our first love as well by getting disconnected from the body of Christ through its expression in the local church.  The church is one of the few remaining sources of accountability, and without it we can find ourselves becoming hard of heart and indifferent to the priorities of the Lord. Finally, we lose our first love when we indulge sin, meaning that we yield willfully to its influence even when we know it is unscriptural. As Paul said, “They have lost all feeling of shame; they give themselves over to vice and do all sorts of indecent things without restraint” (Ephesians 4:19, GNT).  Simply put, sin kills our appetite for spiritual things.

The expectation of Jesus in addressing the church at Ephesus is that they would (a) remember what it was like when they first got saved and dig up that early love from the grave where they buried it, (b) repent or change their mind with a corresponding change of action and behavior, and (c) rededicate themselves to the one thing that is needed, getting back to their first love, their early love, their wonder, and their total infatuation with the Lord Jesus Christ.  He offers that hope to us as well if we are feeling like we have traded that early love for simple religious duty.  All we too need to do is remember, repent, and rededicate, but we need to do it quickly because his return is at hand.

The Ananias Anointing

The Scripture indicates that in the middle of his High Priest sanctioned rampage against the early Church, Saul of Tarsus had a supernatural encounter with the resurrected Jesus (Acts 9).  Falling down from the overwhelming force of God’s glory, Saul exclaimed, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul, now blind and infirmed, was taken into the city of Damascus to receive care.

The Lord then came to a man named Ananias in a vision and commanded him to go to Saul of Tarsus and lay hands on him that he might be healed and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Despite the threats Saul had made and his notorious track record of persecuting, arresting, and even affirming the execution of Christians, Ananias, whose name means “to be gracious and to show favor,” honored the call of God and went to Saul because the Lord had great plans for Saul of Tarsus. Jesus called him his chosen instrument to preach to the gentiles and to their kings.

The Ananias type of believer, or the Ananias anointing, is desperately needed in the day we live.  Like Ananias with Saul, they help to restore to God what was previously lost, allow God to use them to bring healing to those that are afflicted, help God’s people get filled with the Holy Spirit, and help raise people up for God’s service and glory. We need more individuals in the body of Christ who, like Ananias, will be dispensers of God’s grace and favor, refusing to pay attention to the anti-supernaturalist and cessationist who deny the present day ministry of the Holy Spirit.

How can you become an Ananias in this critical hour in Church history? First, you must yourself be born again and filled with the Spirit. You cannot impart what you do not possess. Second, you must be tuned in to the realm of the spirit so that you can pick up on the signals of the Holy Spirit’s direction.  Notice Ananias was told to go specifically to the house of Judas in Damascus on Straight Street where he would find a praying Saul who had a vision Ananias would come to him. Third, you must be fearless in the face of the ominous threat and intimidation so prevalent in the world today against Christians.  It’s not that Ananias didn’t feel afraid. He simply refused to be ruled by that emotion. Fourth, you must be obedient and simply go.  It’s amazing how often Jesus uses that simple command.  Finally, you must be deliberate to carry out the details of your assignment, including the who, the what, and the where.

When Ananias placed his hands on Saul he was filled with the Holy Spirit, healed of his blindness, received water baptism, and began to eat and regain his strength. The Lord is in need of bold believers just like Ananias to share the resurrected Jesus with the lost, confused, religious, bound up, and hurting of our world.  He has sovereignly chosen to use people to lead people to salvation, Spirit baptism, deliverance, and healing.  Ask the Lord Jesus to send you, and don’t be surprised when he says, “Go!”

Bamboozled!

Jesus made it clear that deception would increase in the end times.  In fact, he warned his disciples that even the very elect would be in danger of deception (Matthew 24:24). Paul also warned believers that deceiving and deception would increase in the last days (2 Timothy 3:13).  Many believers do not realize that they are the targets of deception designed to thwart God’s plan for their lives, and take them off the path He has ordained for them. That’s why Peter challenged believers to be self-controlled and alert because the enemy, as a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour or deceive (1 Peter 5:8). 

Satan is a master at customizing deceptions for believers based on their predispositions, weaknesses, attitudes, maturity level, and current life situation.  Much like a suit tailor will measure a man’s neck, chest, waist, arm length, and leg inseam, the enemy carefully crafts the perfect deception for each individual believer. The closer we get to the end of all things, the more the devil will be active in his attempts to bamboozle or trick, delude, mislead, and fool believers.

The people of God under Moses and then Joshua were told not to enter into any treaty with the people in the land they were to possess (Deuteronomy 7:1-3; Exodus 34:15-16).  The Gibeonites, who lived no more than ten miles from the camp of Israel, heard about the success of Israel.  They developed a preemptive ruse to trick Joshua and the other leaders into believing they had come from a great distance by presenting cracked and mended wineskins, moldy and stale bread, patched sandals, and old rags for clothes.  The Bible says the leaders sampled their provisions, but did not inquire of the Lord.

We can learn much from the negative example of Joshua and the leaders of Israel how to overcome the deception of the enemy, no matter how strategic, custom made, or diabolical.  First, the people had forgotten the instructions of God not to enter into any treaty.  The first step into deception is to willfully minimize, rationalize, or compromise the truth we already know.  The Lord had already made it clear not to make covenant with the people of the land through his Word and through his servant Moses.  Alarm bells should go off in our hearts when we find ourselves suddenly at odds with the Word and spiritual leaders God has placed in our lives.

Second, the Bible says the people sampled the belongings and provisions of the Gibeonites. This is a great example of sense based living where believers rely on their five senses rather than the Word of God and discerning of spirits, the spiritual gift whereby we can know the source of an utterance or manifestation (the human spirit, a demonic spirit, or the Holy Spirit).  Believers are deceived because they begin to give more weight to their experiences than they do to the Word.  A way can seem right to us and yet end in death and destruction (Proverbs 16:25).

Finally, Joshua and the other leaders failed to inquire of the Lord about the encounter with the Gibeonites.  No doubt, the Lord would have reiterated his command and exposed the ruse of the enemy.  Too often we start out in the Spirit, but then revert to our flesh thinking we can handle things on our own.  When we cut ourselves off from the presence of God, we cut ourselves off from his unlimited knowledge base (omniscience) that would prevent our deception.

Any believer can overcome the devil’s targeted deception against them by doing what they already know to do, by walking in the Spirit instead of the flesh or the senses, and by inquiring earnestly of the Lord when they feel confused or uncertain.  When we don’t do these things we become a willing participant in our own deception, and the problem with deception is we don’t fully comprehend we are deceived until the consequences begin to manifest.

The Know-A-Lot-A

Better Late Than Never is a hilarious “reality” television show chronicling the travels and antics of celebrities William Shatner, George Foreman, Henry Winkler, Terry Bradshaw, and funny man Jeff Dye.  In a recent episode, the group gave William Shatner a hard time for seemingly knowing everything about everything.  Winkler called Shatner a know-it-all.  Shatner replied laughing, “I’m not a know-it-all…I’m a know-a-lot-a.”

The laugh out loud moment underscores an important principle for our lives, especially our spiritual growth.  Too many believers, as they grow up in the faith, begin to act just like adolescents knowing everything and no longer respecting and receiving from the adults entrusted with their care and development.  They sound a lot like a know-it-all forgetting that being correctable and teachable are keys to breaking out of adolescence to become a steady, mature, and productive adult in the faith. The day we stop receiving is the day we stop growing.

It reminds me of a man in the Bible named Gehazi.  Gehazi was the servant of the prophet Elisha who was the servant of the prophet Elijah.  Elisha followed and learned from his mentor Elijah and received a double-portion of his anointing.  Elisha would go on to do great things just like his father in the faith Elijah.  But somewhere along the way of Gehazi’s training and development, he began to reject Elisha’s influence, guidance, and instruction.  The day Naaman was healed of leprosy, Gehazi wanted to receive a reward from the Assyrian general, but Elisha made it plain this was not a time to do so.  Gehazi rejected the counsel of Elisha, took the goods and money from Naaman, and instead of enjoying an even greater anointing and ministry, became leprous himself.  His future, his life, and his call were all compromised because he developed an unteachable spirit.

As growing believers, we should get to the place where we know a lot, but we should never get to the point where we know it all treating our fathers and mentors in the faith with contempt, and ignoring their counsel.  I have found in working with hundreds of young converts and disciples over the years, the most dangerous stage of the seven stages of spiritual growth (newborn, infant, child, adolescent, young adult, adult, and senior adult) is the adolescent stage.  Newborns need the milk of the Word, infants need great mercy and grace as they attempt to walk, children need strong doctrine to protect them from deception, adolescents need humility, young adults need faithfulness, adults need balance, and senior adults need to stay in the game.  Like Gehazi, if a believer is going to wash out, they most often wash out at the adolescent level becoming stiff-necked and uncorrectable. Ironically, most adolescents don’t even discern that they are in fact adolescents in the faith.

Make up your mind you’re going to continue to grow at every stage and level of your spiritual development.  Continue to learn, be used of God, and follow his path for your life, but do not allow yourself to become a could have been man or woman of God like Gehazi disqualified because you traded in your destiny for an adolescent chip on your shoulder.   A few years back, a great man of God called his sons in the faith to a special meeting to correct certain doctrinal and behavioral issues in those that counted him as a spiritual father.  One man refused to attend the meeting saying simply, “Let him teach what he wants and I’ll teach what I want.”  You don’t hear much from that man these days for it seems his upward trajectory was compromised by his know-it-all attitude and disrespect for the man of God.  Stay humble, teachable, gracious, and respectful.  Become that know-a-lot-a without becoming a know-it-all.

The Octopus of Offense

I don’t regularly repost the blogs of others, but the article by Ryan Johnson on the Spirit of Offense is too important not to share.  In the article (link below), he explains that, like an octopus, offense attaches itself to eight vital areas of life to control and destroy them, including the mind (can’t think correctly), vision (sight is distorted, filtered, and compromised), heart (actions become toxic), relationships (ones unrelated to the offense are destroyed), hearing (difficulty discerning God’s voice and direction), health (physical consequences of strife), time (life is cut short due to dishonor), and finances (attacks your financial situation).  Strife and offense are just not worth the cost.  You can find the article HERE.

 

Attitude Adjustment

The attitude on an aircraft is the orientation of the plane with respect to the earth’s horizon.  The plane can be banking left or right, and its nose up or down.  The attitude of the plane can be adjusted by the pilot regardless of the circumstances.  In other words, the attitude of the aircraft is dependent upon the action of the pilot rather than any storm or turbulence it may pass through.

Similarly, we control our attitude in life.  No matter what is happening or what we’re going through, we have the ability to choose our attitude.  Just like people have an IQ (their level of intelligence), an EQ (their dimension of emotional intelligence), an SQ (their level of revelation of spiritual things particularly the Word of God), they have an AQ, which is their ability to be aware of, take ownership of, and adjust their attitude.  We can be intelligent, be in touch with our emotions and the emotions of others, be growing spiritually, and yet be defeated because we refuse to tend to our negative attitude.

Paul told the Ephesians to “be made new in the attitude of your minds” (Ephesians 4:23, NIV), he challenged the Philippians to have the same selfless, humble, and obedient attitude of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5, NLT), and he questioned what happened to the positive attitude of the Galatians (Galatians 4:14, ISV). Paul understood that the attitude is a self-directed pattern or mental position that affects our expectation, energy, and outlook in life.   Attitude is not a reflection of what happens to us, but a reflection of what happens in us.  It is the greatest predictor of our success and failure in life.

The return of the twelve spies after being dispatched by Moses to scope out the promised land illustrates perfectly the impact of a negative attitude in life.  The spies, excluding Caleb and Joshua who had a right attitude, focused on the obstacles, talked the problem, spread negativity, and became self-fulfilling prophets of their own perspective.  The Bible says, “A man’s spirit (attitude) sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit (attitude) who can bear (Proverbs 18:14).  There’s nothing more powerful than a positive attitude, and nothing more devastating than a negative one. 

As a spiritual leader I’ve found that people, including Christians typically function in one of four attitude types.  First, some believers walk in a sweet spirit or an attitude that is tender peaceable, agreeable, pleasant, and edifying to be around.  Others are empowered and encouraged when they get around a sweet spirit.  Second, some believers have a salty spirit or an attitude that is opinionated, passive-aggressive, sarcastic, and critical.  Third, other believers have a spicy spirit or an attitude that is easily hot and bothered, reactionary, and frequently angered and offended.  Finally, some believers have a sour spirit or attitude that is prickly, bitter, downcast, and discouraged.

The good thing about attitude is we can, just like the pilot, adjust our attitude.  This requires first that we are aware of our attitude (sweet, salty, spicy, or sour), and that we monitor our attitude day-to-day because the attitude is not fixed or static.  Second, we need to analyze and honestly evaluate our attitude in light of the Word of God through self-accountability.  If you are having trouble with this, simply ask your spouse or good friend.  They can probably fill you in.  Third, we need to expose ourselves to spiritual disciplines and activities that foster an ongoing sweet attitude like time in God’s presence, His Word, public and private worship.  The Holy Spirit has a way of jerking us out of a lousy attitude when we spend time in the things of God.  Fourth, we need to give our attention daily to making a quality decision (one from which there is no retreat) that we are going to be positive and sweet and not salty, spicy or sour no matter what happens in life.

The Wheels on the Bus

A recent guest speaker at our church said something that pretty well summarized the ebb and flow of church commitment these days in the United States.  He said the local church was like a bus with people constantly getting on and people getting off.  His statement was designed to encourage churches and leaders about the commonality of the experience across the nation.  It got me thinking about why people, in this day where “I” is at the center of everything from our portable devices to our political theory, so willingly get off the bus God supposedly told them to get on.

Before I get the usual “the church hurt me” or “the church is unhealthy” routine, I concede up front that there are abusive churches and leaders, and church leaders and churches that are unhealthy.  I’m not suggesting that anyone should stay on the bus in that kind of environment. The fact is, however, church leaders and churches can do 1000 things right, and the first time they do something wrong or disagreeable to the bus rider, the rider gets off the bus citing abuse or a lack of love.  The fact is buses are no more or less dysfunctional than the people who ride on them.  Churches and church leaders are not abusive merely by virtue of doing their God-ordained teaching, leading, guiding, and decision-making.  Most of the getting on and off has little to do with the spiritual health of leaders or churches, and everything to do with a fatal flaw in the spiritual formation of modern American Christians: “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). This standard is for the driver and rider alike.

American believers get off the bus God told them to get on for a variety of reasons. Some simply do not like the direction the bus is going and they want to do the driving. They seem to forget that the church must operate form the perspective of the uni-vision (one vision), rather than omni-vision (all vision) or di-vision (two visions).  Many ride until they decide they have a better idea where the bus should be going. Others get off because they can’t sit where they want to sit, meaning they don’t get to do what they want to do or when they want to do it. Still others get off because they don’t like the rules on the bus.  Even though every segment of society has rules of operation and expectation for participation, some believers think the local church should be devoid of rules and guidelines.  Some choose to live at odds with the Scriptural standard and morality and hop off implying the church was somehow judging them when the rider, by virtue of jumping off, was the one doing the rejecting. Still others are seduced off the bus by the lusts in life and agendas inspired by pride. Some fall out with other riders and just want to get away from the conflict instead of applying biblical principles to the issue.  Some look outside and see a shinier bus passing them up with its perception of relevancy, innovation, or higher understanding. Many believers just want to ride the latest fad bus, or they erroneously conclude they are now too spiritual for their drivers and fellow riders, not realizing faithfulness is a much greater mark of authentic spirituality than one’s revelation level.  Of course, some jump off the bus simply because friends or others got off the bus. Finally, some just flat don’t like the driver. With all the analysis, statistics, new paradigms and models, and church growth methodologies, at the end of the day, right or wrong, so many riders get on and off based on the likeabilty of the driver.

As church leaders (drivers), we have to keep our perspective in this generation of bus hoppers.  We need to remember to keep on moving down the road resisting the temptation to park the bus because some folks got off.  It can be difficult not to become paralyzed with discouragement when it seems the people you did the most for and developed the most are the very ones who will jump off the bus. It’s to your credit that you, despite often being thrown under the bus, are not the one doing so to others.  Our priority needs to be picking up new people along the way instead of constantly pining over and grieving over the ones who jumped off.  We also need to follow the route assigned to us staying true to the God-given vision and mission of the house.  The integrity of the vision is not always authenticated by the number of people on the bus, but in the fidelity to the direction of the Lord. Finally, our focus needs to be on getting the riders who faithfully ride with us month after month, and year after year to their destination, instead of being defeated by those who got off.  Too often we as spiritual leaders teach and preach to bus riders who aren’t even on the bus instead of helping the faithful in their journey of discovering divine purpose, Christian maturity, and development.

 

 

 

The Dysfunctional Church

People today are looking for connection, and they will cross all kinds of boundaries and lines to find it.  They will hang out with people engaging in destructive behavior, or join groups, gangs, and criminal enterprises just to belong somewhere.  It’s interesting that no matter how dysfunctional the group, people will still join because of the connection they crave.

The Scripture says that, “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6, NIV).  According to 1 Corinthians 12:18, KJV, “God hath set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased him.” To set means to place, establish, arrange, or even ordain.  The Lord has a set and even ordained place and purpose for all of His people.  He determines the location for the believer as well as the function of the believer.  He has a set place and purpose for you too.

Every Christian needs to get and and get quickly the revelation that it is impossible, however, to bring hundreds of dysfunctional people together into the church and expect the church to be automatically highly functional.  We just can’t walk through the church door, and swoosh, instant function.  Why?  Because the curse from sin damaged everything in life, including our ability to relate, communicate, and belong.  But thanks be to God we have been redeemed from the curse so we can become functional in every social structure of our lives, including the church.

The first key to restoring function to the church is to be mindful of our own dysfunction.  People in the church, just like the rest of the world, struggle with a performance mentality, anger, drama, alienation, addiction, sexual looseness, pride, selfishness, trying to fix others, social backwardness, control, strife, jealousy and envy, pessimism, gossip, fear, deception, and many other types of dysfunction.  Our places of worship can never become functional unless we all become aware of our own dysfunctions.

Second, we need to be graceful to the dysfunction of others.  One thing I’ve observed over many years of ministry is that we want grace for our dysfunction and problems, and judgment for the dysfunctions of others.  The Bible says that the merciful are blessed.  The church is filled with people at varying levels of recovery from dysfunction.  Mercy empowers them to change, but condemnation helps to lock them into a pattern of destructive repetition.  We simply can’t reject others for their dysfunction without ignoring our own.

Finally, we must be faithful to the one who can heal the dysfunction.  The Lord longs to restore His people, but we must remain plugged in and under the means of grace or the place He has set us.  What many Christians do not realize, it’s the dysfunction, not the Holy Spirit, pushing you to leave your set place and faith family.  Many believers just do not stay set long enough to get healing from the dysfunction before that very dysfunction drives them from their set place and their restoration.

By being mindful and aware of our own dysfunction, gracious and merciful to the dysfunction of others, and by staying where the Lord puts us, we can expect the Lord to begin to bring healing to our dysfunction while he elevates the degree of function overall in our local church. The church is a hospital and not a showcase for perfection, so there should always be works in progress.  The key is to progress in dysfunction and help others to do the same.

The Color of Pee

I never met my Grandpa Heinz.  He died before I was born.  I have come to understand what he was like through stories told to me by my Father.  In the 1930’s, Grandpa Heinz impressed upon my Dad the importance of judging a man by his character and not his appearance, station in life, color, culture, or creed.  It is striking how much ahead of the times he was, both then and now.  I would have loved to have met him to discover more about this amazing coal miner from Illinois.

At a very young age, my Dad had the opportunity to live out the values he was taught while working for a Ford dealership. One day a black gentleman in overalls came into the dealership looking for a new car.  The snickering senior sales associates, no doubt judging his ability to purchase a vehicle by his skin color and appearance, decided to pass on this individual asking my Dad the rookie to assist him instead. 

Dad with the same respect and interest he would give anyone, showed him any car on the Ford lot and showroom.  Not satisfied with what he saw, Dad suggested he look at the Lincoln lot as well.  The brand new Lincoln in the showroom caught his eye and he requested a test drive.  The gentleman loved the car and decided to buy the vehicle.  Heading back to the office to prepare the necessary paperwork, Dad asked him how he would like to pay for the vehicle.  At that point the man pulled out a roll of hundred dollar bills, and said, “cash.”  The senior sales associates sat there stunned, not realizing it was their racist and classist attitudes that cost them a very significant sale, and something much costlier than that, a part of their soul.   

The origin of racism goes back to the rebellion of Satan in heaven.  The root of racism is actually the spirit of division that has resulted in enslavement, oppression, and ethnic cleansing.  People divide over skin color, culture, religion, geography, income, education, employment, and even church denomination.  A man who would bristle at the notion he was racist has little problem feeling superior because of where he goes to church.  A woman who would never think of using a racial slur, arrogantly walks the earth because of her birth place. All over the nation, and excused in the name of cultural preference, the most segregated hour of the week continues to be the church hour.

Haters come in all hues, but they are easier to spot when they reprehensively act out in violence.  It’s much harder to discern the latent spirit of division in the heart that would like to dominate us all.  Jesus said we cannot claim to love God while hating our brother.  Long before the enslavement of our African brothers and sisters, the ethnic cleansing of the Armenians by the Turks, the genocide of the Jews at the hands of Hitler’s monsters, the history of oppression and civil rights violations in our nation, or the inconceivable behavior of the white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA, people entertained thoughts and attitudes that when unchecked grew into persecution, discrimination, and violence.  It’s fine to post a meme of solidarity over the issue on Facebook, but what really matters is showing respect, born of transformed hearts and minds, to everyone in our daily lives.

Kevin Costner played NASA Space Task Group director Al Harrison in the acclaimed movie Hidden Figures, a story that highlights the role of African American women in the success of the U.S space program.  When Harrison learns his human computer, Katherine Johnson played by Taraji Henson, had been running a half-mile several times a day to the colored restroom, he tore down the signs differentiating restrooms and declared, “Here at NASA, we all pee the same color.”  Like racism, the only time when we don’t pee the same color is when we are sick.