In the wake of the two grand jury decisions in which both cases involve the killing of a black man by a white police officer, we have seen an outpouring of anger, frustration and resentment that is not going away. Some have expressed their feelings violently. Others are protesting peacefully. Some believe justice has been served and we need to move on.
While it seems everyone has an opinion to share, with a few exceptions, many white evangelical leaders have remained incredibly silent. Because Jesus called us to be "one" we must address anything that divides us or causes disunity.
I share a close friendship of more than a decade with Pastor Jeffrey A. Johnson, Sr., of Eastern Star Church. Over the last several weeks, we have talked about these events that have reopened painful wounds in our nation. Here are a few hightlights of our conversation.
1. We feel the pain of real people.
First of all, we come together to jointly express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of Michael Brown Jr. and Eric Garner. We can only imagine the pain of the loss these families are going through. We want to let them know we love them and we are praying for God’s comfort and peace.
We are both sons, husbands and fathers. I have a 21-year-old son and Jeffrey has four sons under the age of 24. Michael Brown was someone's son. Eric Garner was a father and a husband. These are families who will not have their loved one at the table this Christmas. The officers involved are flesh and blood too, each experiencing tragic loss in their own way. Their lives will never be the same. We invite you to pray for these grieving families.
2. We condemn violence.
The circumstances regarding these deaths have been tragic and neither should have taken place. In the heart-wrenching case of Eric Garner, the video is so painfully clear we wonder how this case did not go to trial. In the case of Michael Brown, Jr. there are many extenuating and debatable circumstances. But none of us would agree with the violence and destruction that occurred in Ferguson in the aftermath of the grand jury's decision. No one's pain gives them the right to burn down someone’s business. Violence and looting is unjust, and more injustice only makes things worse.
It was Dr. King who said, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." The outrage over injustice is real, but it must be channeled correctly, in the voting booth, and in peaceful freedom of speech.
3. We are not getting any closer together.
Regardless of our personal views on the outcomes of each case, what we all CAN agree on is that we are a nation divided. Depending on our ethnicity, we are interpreting these events very differently. In the aftermath of Ferguson, BBC News analyzed the racial and social division on Twitter asking the question,
"Does Twitter encourage real conversation - or does it trap users in bubbles with like-minded people? Now an in-depth survey of tweets after the events in Ferguson shows not one but at least two online conversations - with little overlap between them...And when the two sides were talking, they weren't being very nice. They have very different backgrounds, said very different things, and often when they did talk to each other, they said very nasty things."
One thing is clear…we are not getting any closer together. We are talking past each other. Much of the collective conversation is not dialogue. It’s just more information being given to defend our own point of view, and at worst labeling and attacking one another, straining our relationships even further.
4. We MUST learn a new way of listening.
Our problem is, we all grew up experiencing the world differently. The narrative of how the world "is" makes perfect sense to us. It's all we know. Most of what we experience reinforces our own narrative of the way things are. It's much easier to live with our own story than to listen and understand the experience of others. When we cannot see something that we do not even know we should be seeing, we call it a blind spot. As Jesus said, “Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye?”
We are having a hard time seeing the log in our own eye! Things are not going to get better until we admit there are things we don't see and understand...until we admit there are even things we don’t know that we don’t know.
Until we get out of the box of only seeing from our own perspective there will be no change. We need to listen to learn! Now more than ever we must become sensitive to the experience of others. We need a dialogue were we don’t listen to defend our own point of view, but we just listen, without agreeing or disagreeing, to learn something we do not know.
As Ed Stetzer wrote the evening of the Michael Brown verdict, may we all begin to see more clearly the “context to this tragedy...the pain behind the problem...that we might acknowledge that injustice really does exist.”
5. We MUST love one another.
The command of Jesus to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself" is non-optional for the Christian. We must follow the example of Jesus, who humbled himself and took the place of the oppressed. Let us humble ourselves, considering the view of others over our own, looking out not only from our own point of view, but taking interest in the experience of others.
We invite you to begin a dialogue with someone from a different ethnicity and seek to learn from each other. Friendship changes the conversation.
For further learning:
Scott Ridout, President, Converge Worldwide, "Converge Responds to Ferguson"
Derwin Gray, Pastor of Transformation Church, Charlotte, NC, "Ferguson and the Cross"
Bob Roberts, Jr, Pastor of Northwood Church, Dallas TX, "Why the Church Can't Bring Peace to Ferguson"
Tony Evans, Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Church, Dallas TX, "My Reflections on Ferguson"
Bill Hybels, Pastor of Willow Creek Church, South Barrington IL, "The Dual Narrative Dynamic"
80 people spontanteously responded to the call to follow Jesus and were baptized this past weekend at the end over every service at Heartland Church. What makes it even more special? People made this decision based on conviction, not personal convenience.
My sincere thanks to the incredible team of people at Heartland Church who prepared...by faith. Before it became a reality, you worked many long hours preparing for people...by faith. You stayed through all five services to prepare for those who would respond...by faith. You labored for it, before you saw it. I love your faith because thats what it takes to LOVE PEOPLE WELL!
To everyone who serves, to all who give...this is what it's all about. You matter and you're making a difference. I love you. Thank you.
"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)
Dear Heartland Attender,
We are a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, multiplying church committed to love people well, lead them into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ, and launch them out to love people well.
Since January of this year, we added a 5th service at our 96th St Campus at 5:00pm on Saturdays. We did this because people matter to God, therefore they matter to us. In order to add this 5th service, it took MORE LOVE and MORE TEAMWORK. 50+ new leaders sacrificed to start serving to make this new service happen. Some of you sacrificed by leaving the 11:00am Sunday service to make room for new guests.
Thank you for your sacrifice and servant-leadership. As a result of God using your LOVE and our TEAMWORK, people came to know the love and grace of Jesus. Since January we've seen:
SO WHAT DO I NEED YOU TO DO?
Please join those who have made the sacrifice to leave the prime time of our 11:00am Service at our 96th St Campus. We have NO MORE ROOM again. We cannot accommodate new guests. I need the mature to make room for those who are lost but seeking Christ.
Please prayerfully consider attending during one of these times, since our Sunday 11:00am services is jam packed.
Thank you once again for being an “owner of the vision”!
LOVE. LEAD. LAUNCH!
Dear Heartland Church Family,
Can you believe it? Easter is only a few days away!
I'm looking forward to the flat out incredible Easter Experience we have planned for you and the friends you'll bring with you this year. The message, "Back For You" will be the kick-off message of a brand new sermon series called AFTERLIFE: What really happens after you die? Is there life after death? What will heaven be like? Everyone wants to know! Just check the NY Times and Amazon.com best-seller lists. 80% of Americans say they believe in heaven, but few of us have the slightest clue about what we mean. Resurrection Sunday is the best time of the year to answer these questions.
Here are four specific things that you can do as we prepare to celebrate Easter this this weekend:
1. Invite your friends! Did you know that many of your friends would actually attend church with you on Easter if you invited them? I still feel nervous sometimes when inviting them, but maybe it's the fact that we all feel a bit nervous when comes to things that are important to us. One good way to do this is a personal handwritten note inviting them to be your personal guest. Hopefully, you have a few of the Easter invitations that we've given out at church the last few weeks that you can hand out or send to your friends. You can also point them to our website also has the times of the Easter services - which are listed for you at the end of this e-mail.
Additionally, HEARTLAND NOW HAS AN APP! That's right! This would be a cool way to introduce Heartland to friend. Download from our website or the iTunes App Store.
2. Come to ANY service other than the 11:00am on Sunday! Our 11:00 service will be packed with many who are coming for the first time, without a friend bringing them. One of the things I love about Heartland is the way that our regular attenders selflessly attend one of our other services to make room for new people at these times. (If you plan on coming to our HSE Campus at 10:00am that would be great!).
3. Help out in any way that you can. If you see ANYTHING that needs to be done - a piece of paper that needs to be picked up, a person who needs a question answered, a restroom that needs to be cleaned - I encourage you to "just do it." Another of the great things about Easter at Heartland is the way that we all pull together to meet whatever is needed.
4. Personally celebrate the good news of Easter starting today. Just think of it: because of Easter our past is forgiven, our life is worth living and we have a future in heaven! Romans 3:22 says, "We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done." (NLT)
I'm looking forward to seeing you on Sunday!
Easter Sunday Service Times:
8:00, 9:00, 11:00 a.m. at the 96th Street Campus.
10:00 a.m. at the Hamilton Southeastern High School Campus.
Need Directions? http://www.heartlandchurch.com/locations
My coach Gary Rohrmayer writes, "One of the rewards of fasting is experiencing the satisfying presence of God."
That should not surprise me, but it does. Yesterday I experienced God in a powerful meeting with our staff as we shared one story after another of how God is changing lives. I will be sharing one of the most powerful and compelling stories of God's healing power this Sunday at Heartland.
All through the day I was very aware of the activity of God and His work in people. The highlight was dropping by a local store to buy some printer ink on my way home from work. I ran into a Muslim friend that I have been engaging for over three years now. About a minute into the conversation it was clear that the reason I was in the store was not for inkjet cartridges. I love when God has divine appointments in my path and I am sensitive enough to see them. My heart was singing for hours after that brief, but God-inspired conversation.
God is at work in the world calling people to know Him. He wants to include me in what He is doing in people's lives every day by set up these "divine appointments" to intersect with my life. My conversation yesterday again confirmed how much people are longing for the love of Christ. When it is genuinely expressed and actively spoken, people are so hungry to respond. I never have to push people towards Christ. I simply respond to what the Holy Spirit is already doing in them. Sometimes it a simply showing someone what a geninue Christ-follower looks like. Other times its sowing seeds of curiosity that generate spiritual questions. Other times God uses me to move a barrier that is blocking the progress of their spiritual growth.
I wonder how many of these divine appointments I have missed? One thing I know, fasting has such a powerful way of bringing clarity and sensitivity to my heart to hear the whispers of God.
Let Christ use you today. Ask Him to open your eyes to see people like He sees them. Ask Him for a divine appointment today. Let Him know he can use you in the life of someone He is already drawing to Himself.
Remember, share your stories with me. What is God doing in your life during these 40 Days of Faith?
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen"..."he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58:6,11
"Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." So the disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought him something to eat?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. John 4:31-34
"The rewards of fasting are not often instantaneous but are experienced overtime. They come as surprises, like in the midst of a worship service when my soul is stirred and strangely satisfied. Or when I am reading the Word and my inner being is lifted beyond this world with a fresh perspective. Or when I am in prayer and the groanings of my heart experiences a peace that is unexplainable. I have found the rewards ultimately lead to a more intimate and satisfying experience with the God who made me." —Gary Rohrmayer
Father in Heaven, today may I continue to experience the sweet, satisfying nature of Your presence and may I experience the refreshing power of Your abiding strength. Father, I want to be like a well watered garden, like a spring that never runs dry. Use me today for Your honor and glory. I am totally available to you. Help me to respond immediately to the impluse of your Holy Spirit. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Of all the sermons I've given in my life, this one was by far the most sorrowful to deliver. Early Sunday morning, an old hymn kept ringing through my head,. We used to sing it when I was a little boy in the Islands. I thought about it all morning and couldn't stop the tears.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.
—Frances J. Crosby, 1869
The Apostle Paul said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel." I pray you'll hear the heart of God and experience a fiery baptism of compassion in your soul.
Three weeks ago, the Easter cover of TIME Magazine asked the question, “What if there is no Hell?” The question was prompted by the release of "Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived", by popular pastor, Rob Bell, arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering—that in the end, love wins. (For a brilliant review of Love Wins, check out what George P. Wood had to say as well as his reviews on the book page at Amazon.com. Dr. Randy Alcon has written extensively about the controvery on his blog.)
I watched Rob Bell's promotional video for the book with my son. At the end, Nick said, "Wow, Dad, he asks some really good questions. He makes sense." I agree. Rob is a brilliant communicator. Then I had Nick read several passages of Scripture. He sat quietly for a while and said, "Dad, he totally contradicted the Bible!" It blew his mind because Rob had just been so convincing. Rob didn't fare so well either when he was put on the run by journalist, Martin Bashir.
In 2005, Newsweek ran a story that US troops in Guantanamo flushed a Koran down the toilet as part of their interrogation tactics to get captured muslim terrorists to cooperate. The story sparked riots in the Middle East resulting in more than a dozen people being killed. But in a stunning reversal, Newsweek later conceded that their source was faulty and they issued a retraction, apologizing for their error. It was one of the most dramatic examples in recent history of how important it is that we only rely on highly credible sources of information.
A lot of people’s theology is based less on Scripture and based more on their feelings, their traditions, and the movies.
What do you actually believe is the truth? Is Christianity more of an ethical habit of mind or is it a faith based on divine revelation? Do you actually KNOW what Jesus said will happen after you die? Do you know what Jesus said about the fate of every man and woman who will ever live? (It's not naturalism, nihilism, universalism, reincarnation or purgatory.)
Q: Are you willing to suspend your traditional beliefs and opinions about Heaven and Hell and discover what God says about the Hereafter?
This weekend at Heartland Church, I'm continuing a new series called, "HEAVEN, HELL & THE HEREAFTER," tackling one of the hardest polarities to reconcile for our postmodern generation: The mercy and the justice of God and what would happen if there is no Hell.
Don't miss it! 9:00 am, 96th Street Campus | 10:00 am Hamilton Southeastern High School | 11:00 am 96th Street Campus.
Here's last week's message to catch up: "WHAT IS HEAVEN REALLY LIKE?"
"You cannot know for sure where the Holy Spirit is going to act and bring renewal. You really can't. The Spirit, still, like the wind, blows where He wishes. And without issuing a weather forecast! Only one sign appears often enough to betray His intentions...the period immediately before some fresh outpouring of the Spirit seems to be marked by a burden for prayer in the hearts of a least a small core of Christians in an area. I have been impressed recently, in different parts of the country, to find groups meeting in just this sort of way. Expectantly, open to God for whatever He may have for them, for their town, for their congregations. I wonder sometimes where this may not prove to be the most significant of all the facts in the scene we have been surveying?"
—Poulton, John. A Today Sort of Evangelism. London: Lutterworth Press, 1972., as quoted by Gunstone, John. Greater Things Than These: A Personal Account of the Charismatic Movement. Leighton Buzzard: Faith Press, 1973., p. 77
One of the most common experiences for many of us as Christ-followers is the longing for more close and connected relationships with other Christ-followers in our community. We wish there could be a deeper sharing of the things of God. Not that we would abandon our own communities of faith. But wouldn't it be great if there were opportunities for seeking God's will more intimately, for personal praying, for telling and hearing the joys and struggles of walking by faith.
We want to be together more.
I am finding myself more and more longing to be with my like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ in our community. Too often we have accepted the necessary but somewhat artificial connection strategy of getting people into small groups within our individual local churches. I wonder what would happen if Christ-followers, regardless of their local church affiations, began to join together with like-minded Christ-follower who are already present in their neighborhoods and workplaces for the purpose of praying together, open to whatever God may have for them; be the functional body of Christ in that location.
"All together in one place"—it is striking the way the New Testament refers so often to the way the Body of Christ is supposed to function: Accepting one another, serving one another, praying for one another, forgiving one another, bear one another's burdens, love one another...
Sergeant Randy McFarland of the Fishers Police Department decided to take personal responsibility for his workplace, to be a catayst in the lives of other Christ-followers in the department. Representing several local congregations, officers began to meet for encouragment, study of God's Word, prayer for one another, the entire police department, and their community. Today four groups of officers meet and the number of officers attending is growing. The presence of the unified body of Christ within the Department is having a transforming effect on our entire town.
Kevin & Elizabeth Sliwa lead a small group of Christ-followers in their home. Orginally, their small group consisted only of those who came together through their local church congregation, but they began to sense an increasing sense of "holy discontent" about the spiritual condition of their neighbors. They group began to pray for the neighborhood. They began walking in the neigborhood, praying for the families who lived there. Eventually they had the idea that on the first Tuesday night of each month they would invite their neighbors for dinner and discussion about spiritual concerns. This is the third month they have done this and the impact is growing. There were about 30 adults from the neighborhood this past Tuesday who were asking spiritual questions about God, Christ, suffering in our world...it was incredible! Who knows where this will end up?
In both these cases, the work of God through His functioning body began with a season of a small core of people beginning coming together to pray, open to whatever God would have for them.
It's not complicated. When a group of Christ-followers, regardless of their denominational traditions, set their minor differences aside, and take on an attitude of loving co-responsibility for one another and the people in their sphere of influence, amazing things can happen. Read another great story here.
This is a move of God that is happening across our world right now and I want to be a part of it. Instead of saying, "What would Jesus do?", we realize that the risen Jesus is actively working in our world right now. Our prayer is be, "Jesus, What are you doing?" and then boldly join in, knowing his power and presence go with us.