Archive for June 2020

JUSTICE - What Is It?

JUSTICE - What Is It?

KEYNOTE SLIDES PDF: https://www.dropbox.com/s/zzyk26b47xmomcw/Justice_Keynote.pdf?dl=0

Message includes talks by Paul Scanlon to whites about racism.

Psalm 82:3-4, Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.

Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

It's important to understand that God's church touches our world in many different ways. People tend to have one view of the church or another. God's church as two primary functions in this world: We are pastoral and we are prophetic

1. Some may view Christ's Church as a place to come learn, to grow personally, become more Christlike, and to find purpose and happiness in life.

2. Some view Christ's Church as a place to reach out to the lost and hurting, to carry the gospel locally and around the world, behind prison walls, to support missions and relieve suffering.

3. Some view Christ's Church as salt and light in a dark world, to broken people, and as God’s agency for mercy and justice to people who are oppressed, orphan, and powerless.

4. Some view Christ's Church as a political party partner to advance God’s will by using godly and ungodly people in government. [Not a proper role for God’s church]

Justice is an important topic in our day. We hear a lot about injustice. We hear about the justice system. We see heartbreaking examples of injustice as well as justice being served. 

What is justice? What is social justice? If you Google the words “Christian” and “justice" see a lot of results expressing various perspectives. There is no definitive definition for social justice come but there are many narratives. Remember that a narrative is someone’s story or interpretation about reality.

For example, the narrative says that most black males are in some kind of trouble. The truth is that most African American males are solid people who do right thing. People push back with statistics, but statistics only measure was is wrong. I am a lifelong expert on being a black male among black males.

List of justice Scriptures: https://justiceco.org/resources/gods-heart-of-justice/scriptures-on-justice-mercy-oppression-and-freedom/

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Psalm 103:13 ESV As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

Proverbs 17:6, Children's children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their father.

Proverbs 1:8, My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother;

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Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already attained or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Isaiah 43:18-19 NKJV, “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert. 

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Lessons from Nehemiah: Building with Purpose, Passion, and Joy
 
Nehemiah 8:1, Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. 3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. 8 So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. 9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
 
As you may be aware, Nehemiah led the effort for select people to return from Babylon to Jerusalem to help people still living there who were in distress, to rebuild the wall around the city, and to restore hope and worship.
 
Through their effort and passion, the wall around Jerusalem was rebuilt in 52 days—which was an amazing accomplishment. This was a testament to the power of purpose and the effort of one man to make a difference. One person can always make a difference. Be that person.
 
In this text, we see the people gathered to hear the word of God, which was the law given through Moses. Something many had never experienced, which explains their emotional response to it.
 
As Ezra said, “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
 
Nehemiah and the people who came with him had been living in prosperous Babylon. The people in Jerusalem were in a difficult place and had many needs.
 
Regardless of how blessed you become in this world, do not forget your people and know that true joy comes from doing God's will. The Hebrew word for "strength" means "protection" and "safe harbor."
 
Having more is sometimes a lure to become complacent and captive to comfort. Nehemiah was the King's cupbearer. He was an important man in Babylon. But this was only a form of "comfortable captivity" which he refused to dwell in. Doing God's will brings strength through joy.
 
As with many instances of the word “joy,” it is associated with or contrasted to pain or challenge. There is always a story behind joy. Today, I hope to help you discover your joy story.
 
Here is part of Israel’s story:
 
Israel’s captivity in Babylon was not brutal captivity. When Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Chaldeans, conquered Jerusalem, he only deported the most prominent citizens of Judah: professionals, priests, craftsmen, and the wealthy. He left the others behind.
 
His intention was not to destroy the Israelites, but to use them to advance and build his own kingdom.
 
Nehemiah was born in Babylon and raised in exile. Nehemiah was a leader during the time when Israel was living in captivity. Nehemiah was instrumental in the rebuilding and reestablishment of Jerusalem in the fifth century B.C. following the Babylonian exile.
 
Nehemiah was a high official in the Persian court of King Artaxerxes I. Nehemiah served as the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1:11), which evidently put him in a position to speak to the king and request favors from him. Lessons from Nehemiah: Building with Purpose, Passion, Joy
 
Ezra Reads and Explains the Law
 
Nehemiah 8:9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
 
Nehemiah led the effort for a select group of people to return from Babylon to Jerusalem to help people still living there who were in distress, to rebuild the wall around the city, and to restore hope and worship.
 
Through their effort and passion, the wall around Jerusalem was rebuilt in 52 days—which was an amazing accomplishment. This was a testament to the power of purpose and the effort of one man to make a difference. One person can always make a difference. Be that person.
 
As Ezra said, “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
 
Nehemiah and the people who came with him had been living in prosperous Babylon. The people in Jerusalem were in a difficult place and had many needs.
 
Regardless of how blessed you become in this world, do not forget your people and know that true joy comes from doing God's will. The Hebrew word for "strength" means "protection" and "safe harbor."
 
Israel’s captivity in Babylon was not brutal captivity. When Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Chaldeans, conquered Jerusalem, he only deported the most prominent citizens of Judah: professionals, priests, craftsmen, and the wealthy. He left the others behind.
 
His intention was not to destroy the Israelites, but to use them to advance and build his own kingdom.
 
Nehemiah was born in Babylon and raised in exile. Nehemiah was a leader during the time when Israel was living in captivity. Nehemiah was instrumental in the rebuilding and reestablishment of Jerusalem in the fifth century B.C. following the Babylonian exile.
 
I realized that we have been in captivity to coronavirus COVID-19. If fact, our captivity was similar to Israel in that those of us who have not suffered from COVID have had a relatively comfortable captivity like Nehemiah and the Israelites living in Babylon.  They had homes and a community inside of Babylon. In fact, they probably had more freedom of movement than we had at a point during our shelter in place season.
 
The season of Nehemiah's captivity in Babylon prepared him to serve a greater purpose. Though he had no direct connection to Jerusalem, he always knew Israel was his homeland and Jerusalem was its capital city. Seasons of captivity or limitation always have a greater purpose.
 
Nehemiah had an interest that became a passion. That passion became a source of joy and strength. It came from an encounter with the Lord and through prayer.
 
There are parallels between Israel's captivity in Babylon in our captivity to coronavirus. We have to consider that part of God’s design for the season was to help us grow and grow closer to him. These seasons also provide and opportunity to purge out unnecessary things and to refocus. The old saying is, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
 
This is consistent with James chapter 1 which tells us guys design for trials. “Count it all joy.”
 
There has been another captivity with African Americans and black men in particular being subject to mistreatment and violence.  The current outcry against the murder of George Floyd, an innocent black men accused of no crime, but angered a white police officer. There is a captivity of expectation for black people to submit, to be subservient, and compliant. We are all aware of it. Some black folks just play along to get along.
 
Nehemiah was a man of great privilege in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. He used his privilege to serve the Lord, serve his people, and serve his purpose.
 
That was that source of his joy. Joy is not an emotion. Joy leads to good emotions, but joy is strength from the Lord.
 
Their enemies tried to discourage and discredit them, but they kept building
Their enemies conspired against them, but they kept building
Their enemies wanted to have a conversation in ONO, but they declined and kept building
 
Nehemiah 6:1, Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), 2 that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. 3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.
 
Sometimes when enemies cannot compete with you or defeat you, they will ask for a meeting to have a conversation and waste your time. How you use your time is part of your purpose and part of your joy.
 
In Nehemiah chapter 9 they experienced repentance and restoration of relationship with God
 
Nehemiah 9:36, “Here we are, servants today! And the land that You gave to our fathers, To eat its fruit and its bounty, Here we are, servants in it! 37 And it yields much increase to the kings You have set over us, Because of our sins; Also they have dominion over our bodies and our cattle At their pleasure; And we are in great distress. 38  “And because of all this, We make a sure covenant and write it; Our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.”
 
This was the restoration of the people of God with God. This was part of Nehemiah’s purpose and joy.
 
Joy comes out of the recognition of what God has done and is doing, such as when God’s people in Nehemiah’s day completed the wall around Jerusalem as they purposed to do.
 
Nehemiah 12:43, “Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off.”
 
Joy is not denial of your own pain or the pain of others. The joy of the Lord is your strength and perspective.
 
Joy is your strength because joy is from the Lord and anything He provides gives your strength.
 
Joy is your perspective because you focus on the right things
 
Reminder: God's design for the outcome of trials (including COVID) is to cause you to become "mature and complete, lacking nothing." Let "patience" have its complete work -- which is developing you while you wait on Him.
 
James 1:2 "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking nothing.”
 
Let your season sing!
 
Isaiah 55:12 "For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."
 
 
I began to realize that we have been in captivity to coronavirus COVID-19. If fact, our captivity was similar to Israel in that those of us who have not suffered from COVID have had a relatively comfortable captivity like Nehemiah and the Israelites living in Babylon.  They had homes and a community inside of Babylon. In fact, they probably had more freedom of movement than we had at a point during our shelter in place season.
 
The season of Nehemiah's captivity in Babylon prepared him to serve a greater purpose. Though he had no direct connection to Jerusalem, he always knew Israel was his homeland and Jerusalem was its capital city. Seasons of captivity or limitation always have a greater purpose.
 
Something about Nehemiah never visiting Jerusalem put the city in a special place in his heart and mind. Sometimes we learn to respect or desire the things that we don't have, more than people who have those things.
 
After hearing about the sad state of affairs in Judah, Nehemiah acquired the king’s permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and its fortifications. He is even given letters from the king to ensure safe passage and to obtain timber from the king’s forest for the gates and walls of Jerusalem.
 
Nehemiah had an interest that became a passion. That passion became a source of joy and strength. It came from an encounter with the Lord and through prayer.
 
Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem in 445 B.C. as the provincial governor of Judah.
 
The hurried work of repairing and rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls and gates was completed in just 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15).
 
There are parallels between Israel's captivity in Babylon in our captivity to coronavirus. We have to consider that part of God’s design for the season was to help us grow and grow closer to him. These seasons also provide and opportunity to purge out unnecessary things and to refocus. The old saying is, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
 
This is consistent with James chapter 1 which tells us guys design for trials. “Count it all joy.”
 
There has been another captivity with African Americans and black men in particular being subject to mistreatment and violence.  The current outcry against the murder of George Floyd, an innocent black men accused of no crime, but angered a white police officer. There is a captivity of expectation for black people to submit, to be subservient, and compliant. We are all aware of it. Some black folks just play along to get along.
 
Nehemiah was a man of great privilege in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. He used his privilege to serve the Lord, serve his people, and serve his purpose.
 
That was that source of his joy. Joy is not an emotion. Joy leads to good emotions, but joy is strength from the Lord.
 
Their enemies tried to discourage and discredit them, but they kept building
Their enemies conspired against them, but they kept building
Their enemies wanted to have a conversation in ONO, but they declined and kept building
 
Nehemiah 6:1, Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), 2 that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. 3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.
 
Sometimes when enemies cannot compete with you or defeat you, they will ask for a meeting to have a conversation and waste your time. How you use your time is part of your purpose and part of your joy.
 
I am not only referring to people, sometimes our own minds play tricks on us to pull us away from our purpose and our joy.
 
In Nehemiah chapter 8 they experienced a restoration to the law or a word of God.
 
In Nehemiah chapter 9 they experienced repentance and restoration of relationship with God
 
Nehemiah 9:36, “Here we are, servants today! And the land that You gave to our fathers, To eat its fruit and its bounty, Here we are, servants in it! 37 And it yields much increase to the kings You have set over us, Because of our sins; Also they have dominion over our bodies and our cattle At their pleasure; And we are in great distress. 38  “And because of all this, We make a sure covenant and write it; Our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.”
 
This was the restoration of the people of God with God. This was part of Nehemiah’s purpose and joy.
 
Joy comes out of the recognition of what God has done and is doing, such as when God’s people in Nehemiah’s day completed the wall around Jerusalem as they purposed to do.
 
Nehemiah 12:43, “Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off.”
 
Joy is not denial of your own pain or the pain of others. The joy of the Lord is your strength and perspective.
 
Joy is your strength because joy is from the Lord and anything He provides gives your strength.
 
Joy is your perspective because you focus on the right things
 
(Show a photograph of a junky place with something beautiful in the middle of it)
 
Reminder: God's design for the outcome of trials (including COVID) is to cause you to become "mature and complete, lacking nothing." Let "patience" have its complete work -- which is developing you while you wait on Him.
 
James 1:2 "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking nothing.”
 
Let your season sing!
 
Isaiah 55:12 "For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."

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