What We Need to Learn From Ferguson

Last night, Monday, November 24th, 2014, the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced that the Grand Jury decided that there was not enough evidence to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown on August 9th earlier this year. Before Attorney McCulloch finished addressing the media, the streets of Ferguson and many other major cities erupted in protests. None matched Ferguson in the emotional violence and hostility that broke out between citizens and the local authorities.

Regardless of your opinion about Ferguson thus far, here are a few things we as followers of Jesus need to learn in order to be better citizens of God’s kingdom here on earth:

Racism is still alive in the United States.

The aftermath of the Grand Jury’s decision exposed the true colors of countless people. Reading Twitter feeds alone, anyone can see the racial barriers that still divide numerous communities in the States (there have been four million tweets using #Ferguson so far). Racial prejudice, privilege, ignorance and injustice are not simply nightmares of the past but are tragedies being painfully endured today. The reality of this characteristic of America cannot be swept under the wrong; it must be brought into the light, examined and thoroughly dealt with.

The justice system is once again in question.

We’ve been here before. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. O. J. Simpson. Rodney King. These cases like many others have been known to leak through the cracks and holes of our flawed justice system. Especially when race is a major component of a case, the integrity of the justice system seems to be questioned even more so. While our justice system is deemed more “fair” and “just” than other systems in the world, we must acknowledge that it is still a product of sinful humanity.

The integrity of authority lacks trust.

New York. Seattle. Oakland. Chicago. Los Angeles. Citizens of major cities flooded the streets to make known not only their questioning of the justice system but also of those in authority. Pastors and leaders among all followers of Jesus must recognize the call now more than ever to be above reproach. The manner in which we live in society will leave a legacy, good or bad, that will carry a tremendous weight of influence for generations to come. It is not our role or title that commands respect but instead the integrity of our character that graciously deems us worthy of respect.

Humanity craves justice.

News networks highlighted the crowds in Ferguson and throughout the U. S. raising signs that read, “No justice, no peace.” The world cries for justice. This desire has been embedded in our souls, the very core of who we are by God, Himself. Though the world may not realize it yet, we must show others that the longing for justice in our hearts is not a mere byproduct of evolution but an attribute of God Whose image we were made in.

America is not Heaven.

President Lincoln’s Civil War. Dr. King’s Civil Rights Movement. Our nation has had many pivotal moments indicating progress in racial equality. And yet here we are still far from equal.

No, we cannot expect perfection until the return of Jesus. However, we can be ambassadors and expanders of God’s kingdom, tools and instruments in bringing Heaven here on earth as Jesus taught us to pray for (Matt 6:10). Our “God of justice” (Is 30:18) wants “to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living” (Amos 5:24, NLT). We must not lose sight of the eternal kingdom that God has been and is currently establishing here on earth through His church in and throughout the world.

For more resources on racism and social justice, check out Timothy Keller’s Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just and John Piper’s Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian. Also, check out John Piper’s documentary Bloodlines.

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Music Spotlight: Citizens & Saints // Join the Triumph

I have a difficult time finding worship music that doesn’t have an outdated sound or corny lyrics. Thank God for bands like Citizens & Saints!

The Seattle-based band is back with an amazing follow-up album to their smash-hit Citizens (one of my favorite worship albums thus far). On their new record, Join the Triumph,  the  five-piece group broadens their sound, expanding into a horizon that draws from bands like The Cure, The Smiths and Tears for Fears.

This eleven-track record combines many new originals as well as a handful of hymns and a few covers by bands like Ghost Ship and The Sing Team. Of the originals, You Brought Me Back to Life and The Mighty Hand of God are my favorite. Among the hymns and covers, There is a Fountain and The Gospel stand out amid the rest.

One thing I especially love about Citizens & Saints is their ability to modernize the sound of hymns is unbelievable. Them, Kings Kaleidoscope and Ascend the Hill are a major part of this generation’s newfound interest in the age-old songs.

Blending their New Wave-esque sound with frontman Zach Bolen singing and often chanting of lyrics rich in theological depth and edifying truths, Citizens & Saints have delivered another must-have record for any music fan.

Check out the music video for their recent single You Brought Me Back to Life:

Here’s The Mighty Hand of God:

Check out Citizens & Saints on iTunes, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, like them on Facebook, give them some love on their website and be sure to go see them live this Winter if you get the chance.

Jesus Didn’t Die for You to Go to Heaven

Christmas is probably my favorite time of the year. The carols, the movies, Santa, the delicious food, the lights and decorations and of course celebrating the birth of Jesus. Aside from all these, there’s one thing that I absolutely love about Christmas:

Presents.

Yes, I sound like a selfish child but at least I’m being honest with you.

Every year, I’d wake up extremely early (I mostly didn’t sleep at all), run to my sister’s room and wake her up. Then, I’d race to my parents’ bedroom, jump on their bed and tell them, “WAKE UP!” After that, I’d sprint down the stairs and sit impatiently by the tree, waiting for my family to stumble their way downstairs, too.

Once we all gathered together around the tree, each of us would take turns opening a present until everyone had ran out. This was complete torture. All I wanted to do was rip the wrapping paper off of my presents and behold the gifts I had been given.

Presents and Jesus

Wouldn’t it have been odd if say an eight or nine-year-old child opened their gifts on Christmas morning and, after seeing the present under the wrapping paper, started glorying in how amazing the wrapping paper looked? They’d take their wrapping paper to school, call their grandparents to tell them how awesome their wrapping paper was and even slept with it clenched within their arms. Wouldn’t that be weird?

The wrapping paper isn’t the best part of a gift; the present is.

Heaven isn’t what’s awesome; Jesus is.

Jesus is Better

Jesus didn’t die to give us Heaven; He died to give us Himself. It just so happens that Heaven is where Jesus dwells.

If the present wasn’t beneath the wrapping paper, it wouldn’t be a present. And if Jesus wasn’t in Heaven, it would be Hell.

Prior to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God had every right to withhold His very presence from us because of our corrupt hearts. Instead, He chose to make a way for us through Jesus by His sinless life, sin-atoning death and sin-conquering resurrection. When we trust in His finished work, our sin no longer separates us from God but allows us to be with Him and His people forever in Heaven.

Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory.

Romans 5:1 & 2, CEB

Heaven is only awesome because Jesus is there. It is the wrapping paper that holds the present that is Jesus. Yes, the wrapping paper may be pretty but the gift is so much better.

What We’ve Learned From Our First Year of Marriage

By Tyler & Erin Saldaña

We said, “I do” one year ago today.

In front of over three hundred of our family members and friends, we vowed to commit our entire lives to each other. Here’s what we’ve learned in the past year:

  1. Love isn’t always easy. Sometimes we want to kill each other. And other times, we can treat each other horribly. Sometimes, it seems like it would be easier to just stay single your whole life, but then we remember that easier isn’t always better. Any good thing takes work. To have a good marriage, it takes both of us committing to put one another first on a daily basis.
  2. Being right isn’t the most important thing. Sure, we can fight to win the argument, but at what cost? Occasionally it’s more beneficial to lose the argument but win each other’s trust.
  3. Say what you really mean. Neither of us are mind-readers. When we have something that needs to be communicated, we both need to be up front and honest about our thoughts and feelings.
  4. Sex is a lot different than what we thought it would be. Don’t get us wrong: sex is amazing. However, it’s different than what we were led to believe. Sex is neither as glamorous as Hollywood makes it out to be nor is it as taboo as the church can sometimes preach. Sex is a unique and intimate time for us to connect with, serve and enjoy each other.
  5. Love covers a multitude of sins. Whether we’ve wronged or have been wronged by each other, love is the only thing that can heal what’s been hurt.
  6. It’s 100% worth it. The last 365 days have been filled with joys and sorrows, success and failure, laughter and tears. We are incredibly grateful for this past year and are excited for the many years to come!

I Support Our President

NOTE: For those of you conservative Christians who are reading this, thank you for taking the five minutes to read and actually think through my post rather than immediately unfollowing me and deleting my phone number from your Contacts.

I support our president, Barrack Obama.

Allow me to explain:

First of all, this is not about whether or not I agree or disagree with President Obama’s views on every single issue.

Second of all, this is not about whether or not I agree with what he’s done in office thus far.

Third of all, this is not about me identifying myself as a Democrat. To be honest, I don’t think that I agree with any party enough to associate myself with simply one.

I support President Obama specifically in one major way: prayer. And I support him for one major reason: God calls all believers to. In Paul’s letter to all the believers of Jesus who lived in Rome, he charged the Christians:

Every person should place themselves under the authority of the government. There isn’t any authority unless it comes from God, and the authorities that are there have been put in place by God. So anyone who opposes the authority is standing against what God has established. People who take this kind of stand will get punished.

– Romans 13:1 & 2, CEB

What’s interesting about Paul’s words to the believers in Rome  (Peter wrote similar words in 1 Peter 2) is that the persecution they were enduring would be unimaginably intense and appalling to the 21st century American Christian. Though I’ve heard some Christians in the U. S. cry “Foul!” and “Persecution!” often in the last six years, it is likely that they will never even come close to understanding and enduring such fierce and brutal persecution as our brother and sisters of old have had to face.

In regards to this passage, John Piper  notes that Paul “…is more concerned with our humility and self-denial and trust in Christ, than he is about our civil liberties.” Yes, we can disagree with authorities (it is highly unlikely that we will ever completely agree with an authority figure aside from God). Civil liberties nor safety nor acceptance by the world are guaranteed to Christians in this lifetime. What is guaranteed is that God will make us more like Jesus Who embodies humility, self-denial and trust in God’s sovereign will.

Regardless of what we may deem as persecution or an assault on our first amendment rights, let’s stop flooding social media with biased and hateful blog posts about our president (they only make non-Christians despise the church more). Let us cease to call him hateful and derogatory names. And most importantly, let us support our current President and the many to hopefully come in prayer as Paul encouraged the early church.