I don’t Live in Mayberry

There has been much division over the happenings of Ferguson, MO these past few months. For those who may be totally unaware, Michael Brown, an 18 year old black man was killed by a white police officer on August 9th, 2014.

Some believe that Darren Wilson (the cop) killed Michael Brown (the young man) in cold blood. Others believe that Darren Wilson was attacked by Michael Brown and in order to protect himself killed Michael Brown. Some would say we should just wait until the jury comes out with their decision.

While I do believe that the Justice System needs to run it’s course, I also believe that we need to assure that the truth is being fed to the jury and the general population.

Here is the testimony of eyewitness accounts from people whom didn’t even know Michael Brown: Tiffany MitchellMichael BradyPiaget Crenshaw and a couple construction workers.

The issue with Ferguson is that the controllers of the narrative should be the eyewitnesses not the Ferguson Police Department (who had been under investigation from the Department of Justice even before Michael Brown’s killing).

My fear is that the jury is likely being fed evidence in the same way that we are being fed evidence. The evidence is selective and much of it is untrue. So the question is, “Who controls the narrative?”

After the murder of Mike Brown, the Ferguson police chief makes the statement on national news that Mike Brown was killed within 35 feet of the police car. Yet in fact he was over 100 feet away. Why would the police chief not state the actual distance? Could he have been making it appear that Darren Wilson was indeed in danger of his life? It is definitely more believable why a police officer would fear for his life when there is a danger 35 feet away as opposed to 100 feet away.

Missouri State Representative Jeff Roorda also serves as Vice President of Shield of Hope- the charitable wing of the Fraternal Order of Police union. This organization has raised over half a million dollars for Darren Wilson. Why is money even needed? He is still on the payroll. He has yet to be charged with a crime and thus has no legal fees. These funds are not to help him in a time of need but rather appear to be payment for a job well done.

Jeff Roorda has often stepped in as a spokesperson for the St. Louis County Police yet he was fired from the police force of Arnold (St. Louis suburb) in 2001 for filing a false statement against a suspect in 1997 and then against his own police chief in 2001. Roorda later became police chief of another St. Louis suburb and a business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association.

Is this one of the people that we want controlling the narrative of what actually took place in Ferguson? One who has made it very clear that he doesn’t want police wearing body cameras?

A few weeks ago the St. Louis Post Dispatch released an article stating that there was substantial evidence that sided with Darren Wilson’s story. Most believe these so-called facts were leaked by the Ferguson Police Department. But under further scrutiny, it is obvious that the information leaked didn’t validate what they were in fact trying to claim. Watch Lawrence O’Donnell from MSNBC press the forensic pathologist.

Check out the statement following this report from the Justice Department: “The department considers the selective release of information in this investigation to be irresponsible and highly troubling. Since the release of the convenience-store footage, there seems to be an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case.”

Why is the Ferguson Police releasing selective information, even when it is untrue? Because they know that if you change the narrative, you win the people. Why was no police report filed after the murder, which in fact goes against Missouri law? Because they needed time to put a story together. Even with three months, their story is falling apart. Why? Because people are questioning the narrative.

How we view the police will determine whether we take what the police say at face value or dig deeper. I get nervous every time a police car is behind me. Why? Because I have had dozens of bad experiences with the police. Unlike many Americans, I don’t live in Mayberry. While there are many good cops in my neighborhood, there are many bad cops also in my neighborhood.

I’ve had a gun pointed at me about 6x in my life. Never by a stick up man. Always by a cop. You know how scary that is? Because I am white I know the cops can only get away with so much with me. They don’t have the same fear with black men. They do what they want as is seen with the following situations of which all happened recently.

Police in Beavercreek, OH kill John Crawford while holding an unloaded BB gun in Walmart.

Highway Patrol in Columbia, SC unloads on a man at a gas station.

Police in NJ arrested Marcus Jeter for “resisting arrest” and “trying to take his gun” but didn’t know that their setup was caught on camera.

Police in Brooklyn, NY brutally beat a 16 year old kid and are caught on video.

Silence lets injustice continue. We cannot remain silent. We must assure that police do not create the narrative they want to be told. We must not believe that every cop is a good cop. We must not believe that every young black man is a criminal. I side with the peaceful protests of Ferguson and call for my white brothers and sisters to listen to the anger and frustration of the protestors. Anger is not an evil. The Bible commands us to be angry. Yet let’s direct the anger into seeing justice played out in our cities across this country. Let’s see the end to senseless deaths of our black brothers and sisters at the hand of those who we pay to serve and protect.

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The Destructive Lie of Vocational Ministry

Let me make the case that we have believed three destructive lies of what it means to be a minister of the Gospel. It is the belief of these lies that keep the Church ineffective in reaching this world with the only message of hope that will truly set free.

Destructive Lie #1: Real ministry is only for those who are in vocational ministry

It is easy to glamorize vocational ministry. The thought of having a full work week of being devoted to doing the Lord’s work is appealing. You get paid to study the Scriptures and to meet with the people of God? You’re not bogged down by other “menial” responsibilities? “If only I was in vocational ministry, then I would be used mightily of God” is a destructive lie in the mind of many.

You will actually be hard pressed to find people in Scripture that were in vocational ministry. Abraham was a shepherd. David was a king. Paul was a tentmaker. Luke was a doctor. These are individuals that were used mightily of God in the midst of their everyday vocations. They didn’t make excuses. They didn’t sit out of the fight. They enlisted and they made a difference.

In addition, let’s be honest. The vocational ministers in Scripture weren’t always the greatest examples for us to follow.

Think of the priest Eli and his sons. The Scriptures say they were worthless men and that they did not know the LORD (1 Samuel 1:12), they treated the offering with contempt (1 Samuel 2:17) and they slept with the women who were serving at the entrance of the tent of meeting (1 Samuel 2: 22). Eli should have disciplined and removed his sons from their positions in the temple but instead scorned the LORD’s sacrifices and offerings that He commanded and honored his sons above the LORD (1 Samuel 2:29).

Think also of the Pharisees and scribes during the days of Jesus. Jesus called them whitewashed tombs. They appeared clean on the outside but within were full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. Outwardly they appeared righteous to others, but within they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:27-28).

I actually want to take a moment to give caution to those either pursuing, or currently in, vocational ministry.

My first caution for those in vocational ministry is to fight for humility. It is easy to misuse the power and authority given to vocational leaders for their own purposes. It is easy to became puffed up and instead of serving the people of God, the people of God become a means for them to be served. As the people of God looked up to the priests and pharisees, it became too easy for them to in turn look down on the people of God.

My second caution to those in vocational ministry is to fight for transparency. Fight to remain a part of the body of Christ rather than above the body of Christ. If your salary is dependent on your image, then the temptation is to portray an image despite the reality. When a marriage is struggling, the temptation is to hide behind a false mask.

My third caution to those in vocational ministry is to fight to raise up leaders to partner with you. While God does indeed call some to vocational ministry, He calls all to minister the Gospel despite vocation. This is a reality that must be instilled in the minds and hearts of the Church. Until then, we are fighting a war with only a small percentage of soldiers strapped up and ready for war. No war will be won like this.

The truth is: Real ministry is for those who have a love for God and people. It doesn’t matter if they are in vocational ministry or not. We need more Christian businessmen, lawyers, police officers, politicians, teachers and the such who know they are called to minister and live out the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ as much as their vocational pastor. Let’s not limit ministry to those paid by the Church.

*Stay tuned in coming weeks for further Destructive Lies of Ministry.


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Young Black Men

In my previous blog titled “Trayvon Martin” I had hoped to raise the question of what George Zimmerman saw that made Trayvon a “real suspicious guy” according to his police call.

Many responded with comments on my post that George Zimmerman couldn’t be racist because he took a black girl to prom, helped a black homeless man, tutored black kids and had a great grandfather that was black. I may respond to these specific “proofs” in a later blog.

But first, let me stick with the intent of the original blog. Maybe I wasn’t clear. Maybe people have their preconceived notions that need to be wrestled with some more.

To respond to people’s concerns, I do not believe that George Zimmerman was a flat out racist. Being racist would give the impression that a person hates someone else based solely on their race. I have no reason to believe this is the case with George Zimmerman. I believe that it was more than just the race of Trayvon that considered him to be a “real suspicious guy”. This is what I ask that we return our discussion to.

My guess of what made him a “real suspicious guy” to George Zimmerman was a factor of the following three things combined: Trayvon was 1) Young 2) Black 3) A Man. Each of these individually may not have caused much suspicion to George on that rainy night in February. But they were not individual realities. They were combined into one reality.

If George saw a black female walking through his neighborhood, he probably would not of viewed her as being “real suspicious”. If George saw a white teen, he probably would not of viewed him as being “real suspicious”. If George saw an older black man, he probably would not of viewed him as being “real suspicious”.  But George didn’t see those people. He saw a young, black man and he viewed him as “real suspicious”.

Sister, do you clench your purse tighter when you walk past a young black man down the street?

Brother, do you lock your car doors when you see a young black man crossing the street?

Police officer, are you more likely to pull over a car simply because it’s being driven by a young black man?

Store clerk, do you pay extra attention to a black young man who comes into your store?

These things are noticed and are painful to young black men.

Can we discuss the reality of this? Not just with Trayvon Martin but with thousands of young black men across this country? How do we create a culture that doesn’t view a specific group of our population as “real suspicious” but rather the following…

…“real promising”

…“real hopeful”

…“real valiant”

…“real courageous”

…“real brave”

What would you add to this list in describing young black men?

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Trayvon Martin

Let’s set aside the discussion for a minute on whether George Zimmerman should have been convicted of manslaughter. Or whether Trayvon Martin was the aggressor and George Zimmerman simply acted in self defense.

Let’s discuss an issue that is real and happening throughout our country even today.  An issue, that if not properly understood, will keep many of my white brothers and sisters from comprehending why our black brothers and sisters are so upset over the “not guilty” verdict of George Zimmerman.

First, let me state that I am thankful that George Zimmerman wanted to serve his community. I believe our communities and cities would be better off if everyone was a concerned citizen. Too often, it is easy to become focused with our own time and families, that we cease to become our “brothers keeper”.

My concern is this. What did George observe that focused his attention on Trayvon being a threat to his community? What caused him to call the police in the first place? What caused him to follow Trayvon? Was it that Trayvon was wearing a hoodie? (Well, it was February 26 in Florida.) Was it that he was a teen? (I’m sure this community had many teens who were law abiding.) Was it that he was ducking by buildings? (It was raining. Who doesn’t seek cover in rain?) Was it that Zimmerman didn’t recognize him? (Possible, but this still wouldn’t be a valid reason to believe that he was robbing homes.)

“Hey, we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy,” he told the police operator. “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining, and he’s just walking around looking about.”

What made Trayvon look like a “real suspicious guy” to Zimmerman? According to the police this was the fifth time in a year that he had alerted authorities to the presence of a black male he found suspicious. Now, I don’t know for a fact that he called the police because Trayvon was black. Nobody but George Zimmerman knows that definitively.  But he appeared to have no legitimate reason to claim that Trayvon was a “real suspicious guy”.

The question many of my white brothers and sisters are probably asking is, “What’s the big deal? Who cares if he was being followed? Who cares if someone considered him to be suspicious?”

Imagine being a 17 year old boy who has spent the past few years of your life knowing that every time you walked into a store, you most likely would be followed by an employee. Imagine driving to the mall with your friends in a different part of the city and having the police pull you over and harass you because you “don’t look like you belong”. Imagine walking through a neighborhood unlike yours and having a grown man, twice your body size follow you and ask, “What you were doing there”, as though there could be  no way you belong.

This is sadly the norm for young, black men. Many white/ hispanic Americans have the image engrained in their minds (through media, news, etc) that black males are always up to something illegal. They steal, sell drugs, fight, gang bang, and murder. When a young black male graduates college or does something good, he is an anomaly, he is not the norm. As parents well know, children often fulfill our prophecies about them.

If we treat someone as a thug, there is a better chance they will become a thug. If we treat someone as though they will never “make it” in life, there’s a better chance they probably won’t. If we treat someone as “real suspicious”, there’s a better chance they will give us a reason to be suspicious.

Not to say that Trayvon became the fulfillment of George Zimmerman’s prophecy. It is impossible to definitively know who threw the first punch or who was the aggressor. But could there come a day that you’ve had enough? That as a 17 year old boy, transitioning into manhood, that you are tired of people treating you like a criminal?

There is much more that can be discussed in this case, but I truly believe this is an appropriate place to start. For if George Zimmerman hadn’t determined Trayvon to be a “real suspicious guy” by mere outward appearance, there is one definitive point in this discussion. Trayvon would not have died as a 17 year old boy that day in February 2012. Who knows, maybe he would have grown to become a young black man that proved many of us white brothers and sisters to be false prophets.

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Introduction to Permanence View of Marriage

Every evangelical Christian would agree with the statement that marriage is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman. Yet some evangelicals would add that there are “exceptions” that can release an individual from this lifelong covenant. Anything ranging from abandonment, neglect, unmet expectations, abuse, and adultery are used for “exceptions” to end the marriage covenant.

Others would hold to a view of “permanence” which states that the marriage covenant that a believer makes is permanent and there are no exceptions that allow for a break of the covenant.  I personally believe this is the biblical view and best exemplifies the mystery of the Gospel (Ephesians 5:32). I am going to attempt to write on how I have come to this conclusion in my study of Scriptures. This will be a series of several blogs as it is important to look at the whole counsel of God. Without understanding the purpose of marriage, one will have difficulty understanding the permanence of marriage.

So please join with me as I endeavor to take a journey through the Scriptures over the next several weeks. I ask that you keep an open mind and feel free to add your comments.

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Has God Abandoned the Hood?

I have spent my entire life living in two inner city neighborhoods of Chicago (Humboldt Park and West Garfield Park). It is easy to believe that God has abandoned these two communities due to the poverty, crime, lack of education, absence of fathers and hopelessness.

While many would want to avoid these two communities, I have come to understand God’s sovereignty in determining the boundaries of my dwelling place. God has invited me to be His presence for those seeking Him. God has invited me into His mission for those feeling their way towards Him.

“And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:26-28)

Has God abandoned the hood? Of course not! Have Christians abandoned the hood? Sadly, in many ways we have. We have abandoned God’s mission for our momentary well being. We have focused on our desires before other people’s needs. We do not realize that our well being is tied up in the well being of those around us. We do not realize that we actually find life through death to our individualism.

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

Following are 5 simple ways that you can seek the welfare of your community (whether it’s an inner city neighborhood or not). This is not an exhaustive list, but my prayer would be that it sparks believers to understand God’s purpose for us in the exact places that He has sovereignly placed us.

After reading the 5 steps, feel free to give additional ideas that you may have. Let’s grow together as urban missionaries!

Step 1: Pray daily for your community
Take ten minutes each day to pray for the families on your block. As you see your neighbors, be purposeful in asking for prayer requests and then follow up with them on those requests.

Step 2: Spend time in your community
In today’s day and age when we jump in our car to go from here to there, this will take some intentionality. But let yourself be seen. Be friendly. As opportunities arise, get to know people. Walk your community, play basketball at the local park, shop at the local stores, eat at the local restaurants, volunteer at a community center or nursing home, worship at a local church.

Step 3: Asset map your community
Map out the resources available in your community and city. These resources might include job training programs, GED programs, sports leagues, after school programs, day camps, tutoring programs, and church service times. Include as much info as possible (Contact name & number, cost, address, etc). Print these lists out and distribute them to people in your community.

Step 4: Beautify your community
Pick up trash. Help your neighbors plant grass on their lawns. Begin a community garden that the block can own and enjoy together. Recruit skilled labor to do a service day in your community.

Step 5: Open your home to your community
Invite people over for dinner. Host a game night. Lead Bible Studies. If you have an extra room, invite someone in need to live with you.

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The Presidential Election and Abortion

For the Christian, abortion must be a leading topic that is addressed in the presidential discussion.  No matter which candidate one votes for, I am convinced that all Christians are concerned about the sanctity of life. As a result of our passion for life, it is easy to dig our heels in the ground politically and come out fighting on this topic, never considering the legitimate questions raised by the opposing viewpoint. So let’s begin with the questions.

The primary question the Christian Republican asks regarding abortion is, “How can we vote for someone who has no regard for human life? And would allow a mother to kill her baby?”

The primary question the Christian Democrat asks regarding abortion is, “How can we vote for someone who has no regard for human life? And limits life to simply birth with no concern for the quality of life after?”

Both are legitimate questions. From conception to death, life must be fought for. But the numbers are staggering. About 1.2 million abortions are performed each year in America. Thus, in a four year term of one US President, 4.8 million lives are taken before they even have a chance to fight for a quality life. This is larger than the population of Los Angeles (3.8 million), Chicago (2.8 million), Houston (2.1 million), or Atlanta (430,000).

Abortions are by far and large targeting the urban population, with most abortion centers (Planned Parenthood) in poor communities. Minority women constitute only about 13% of the female population (age 15-44) in the United States, but they underwent approximately 36% of the abortions (www.BlackGenocide.org). Has anyone ever asked the question, “Why?” At worst, there is a national eugenics movement following in the footsteps of Margaret Sanger. At best, there is the consensus that a child born to a poor family has less value than a child born to a rich family. That somehow the value of life is equal to the access of what wealth provides.

Have we forgotten that our Savior was conceived to a single, poor mother who was an outcast in her family and community? Can you imagine the shame this pregnancy brought on her? Can you imagine how difficult this pregnancy made her life? She would have been the perfect case for why women should have “choice”. Why bring this burden upon themselves and a forthcoming child? Yet, God brings promise in the midst of poverty. He brings salvation in the midst of shame. With God, the value of life is never found in a socio- economic bracket.

The argument has been made that the US President doesn’t determine whether abortions are legal or illegal. It is a US Supreme Court decision. True, abortion has been legal since 1973, while both Republicans & Democrats have served as presidents. Yet, the President elects Supreme Court judges, who decide on the legality of abortion. With the balance barely tipped on this issue, one judge can make a difference of 1.2 million lives annually.

In addition, does the fact that the President can/ or can’t determine the legality of abortion in America really make a difference? If 1.2 million handicapped people were murdered this year because they were a burden to society, would it affect our vote? What if they were 1.2 million Christians? Or 1.2 million African Americans? Or 1.2 million school aged children? Would we vote for a President that didn’t think the lives of a certain population were important? Is it simply because we don’t get to see, touch and hold a baby in the womb that we don’t deem her as an important life?

Should we be concerned with the poverty and cruelty a child could potentially be born into? My answer is a resounding yes! I will address the issues of poverty in a later blog post. But should we make the determination that the value of a life is somehow less because of the environment she would be born in? My answer is a resounding no!

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The Great Christian Divide

You would be hard pressed to find anything more divisive in the work place, extended family gatherings and the American Church than the presidential election. Most Americans have strong emotional ties one way or the other. Some opinions have been formed over study, some through tradition, most probably a mix of both study and tradition. Either way, it saddens me when Christians, who are united in Christ, allow themselves to be divided over a political party. I could hear the Apostle Paul, “For it has been reported to me that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. Each one of you says, ‘I follow the party of the donkey,’ or ‘I follow the party of the elephant.’ Is Christ divided? Was Obama crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Romney?” (1 Corinthians 1:11-13)

We live with a freedom to vote that most people throughout history have never experienced. This is a grace we have been given. Let’s make our best determination and take advantage of the vote we have been given, but a believer should never put their hope in any king above the King of Kings. 

When Israel called out for a king to rule them, God warned them of the dangers that would come as a result. “In that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” (1 Kings 8:18) Human presidents and kings will always fail us. They are not perfect and actually should point us, in their imperfection, to the only One who will never fail us- Christ Jesus!

What I will endeavor to do in following blog posts is to share my thoughts on this upcoming presidential election. I do not claim to know every political talking point, or even to know perfectly how to manage my own household. Yet, these are thoughts I have chewed on for several years. I am friends with both Democrats and Republicans. I have close relatives that are both Democrats and Republicans. I minister the Gospel in partnership with both Democrats and Republicans. I see flaws in both parties (and their alternatives). Elections to me have always been settled with choosing the best of fallen options and resting in a God that controls the hearts of kings and presidents.

Know at the end of the day that God raises up leaders for His purposes, not always for your plans. Moses probably would not have voted for Pharaoh if he had the opportunity. Yet, he never disrespected him. Jesus probably would not have voted for Herod, yet He submitted to Him. 

With that being said, I will write a series of blogs on various topics that I have wrestled with regarding this election. This is meant to spark a healthy discussion amongst the Church of the Living God. If you can’t refrain from healthy dialogue, I ask that you refrain from making any posts on this blog. I definitely intend on writing posts on abortion, the poor and the role of the government. What other topics should I address?

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Known Stories: Brian Dye

Above is a 3 minute video put together by Youth Specialties a few years ago. I believe it captures my life and passions well.

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