Max Lucado, Pastor Emeritus of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, has been my favorite Christian author for many, many years. Fifteen years ago, he was named as The Best Pastor in the United States and his incredible gift is best found in the comforting words that he has used in almost 100 books. The experts tell us that today there are more than 135 million copies of Lucado’s books in circulation all over the world, and, from a personal standpoint, I have read many of them.
Max has a soft, common sense approach to all things Godly. He is a masterful teacher, sound of principles and steeped in virtue. He answers most arguments by listening intently, smiling often, and using the words within his Bible as factual advice for any question or unsavory situation.
In my eyes as well as my heart, the Bible is the absolute.
Within the last week a collection of about 40 or 50 pastors demanded the resignation Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hamond. Jim is a close friend of mine and not one in the crowd of alleged churchmen knows anything about law enforcement - both city and county - and none seems to grasp that our sheriff’s deputies or city of Chattanooga police officers deal almost universally with our community’s worst-of-the-worse.
But what bothers me the most is that the Bible is clear on passing judgement: In the Bible’s New Testament, the seventh chapter of Matthew urges:
* -- Verse 7: Judge not, that ye be not judged.
* -- Verse 2: For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure mete, it shall be measured to you again.
* -- Verse 4: Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
* -- Verse 5: Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
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Who on earth gave an opportunistic group of pastors the right and the will to take on Sheriff Jim Hammond, to sit in false judgment, and to piously beg for photos from a laughing media in front of the Justice Building? Who authorized that? Most certainly their one-sided approach has been simmering for years. They have picketed the Sheriff’s offices several times in the past years only to come up with a sweaty shirt collar.
Jim Hammond, in the eyes of at least 90 percent who elected him, is doing a wonderful job. Yet the Sheriff no longer has the time nor the patience to be subjected to this pettiness. Please, what of the great number of those in our area scoff at their hapless inattention to black-on-black shootings. I only hope the state’s detectives can reveal where we have the proof of a “money train” that is the real reason for the chaos we have seen …
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WHAT IS THE ANSWER TO RACISM?
By Max Lucado
(NOTE: This opinion appeared on Fox News on May 31, 2020.)
Recent racially charged incidents including the tragic death of George Floyd have stirred ensuing riots and torn open the rawest of wounds – racism. Judging a person according to skin color is an ancient sin. For that reason, God gave this ancient solution.
In the earliest words of Scripture, God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth” (Genesis 1:26).
Embedded in these words is the most wonderful of promises: God made us to reflect his image.
No one is a god except in his or her own delusion. But everyone carries some of the communicable attributes of God. Wisdom. Love. Grace. Kindness. A longing for eternity. We are made in his image.
Sin has distorted this image, but it has not destroyed it. Our moral purity has been tainted. Our intellect is polluted by foolish ideas. We have fallen prey to the elixir of self-promotion rather than God-promotion. The image of God is sometimes difficult to discern. But do not think for a moment that God has rescinded his promise or altered his plan. He still creates people in his image to bear his likeness and reflect his glory.
Pop psychology is wrong when it tells you to look inside yourself and find your value. The magazines are wrong when they suggest you are only as good as you are thin, muscular, pimple-free or perfumed. The movies mislead you when they imply that your value increases as your stamina, intelligence or net worth does. Religious leaders lie when they urge you to grade your significance according to your church attendance, self-discipline, or spirituality.
According to the Bible you are good simply because God made you in his image. Period. He cherishes you because you bear a semblance to him. And you will only be satisfied when you engage in your role as an image-bearer of God. Such was the view of King David. “As for me, I will see your face in righteousness. I shall be satisfied when I awake in your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).
How much sadness would evaporate if every person simply chose to believe this: I was made for God’s glory and am being made into his image.
Would you let this truth find its way into your heart? You were conceived by God before you were conceived by your parents. You were loved in heaven before you were known on earth. You are not an accident. You aren’t a random fluke of genetics or evolution. You aren’t defined by the number of pounds you weigh, followers you have, car you drive or clothes you wear.
You are made in God’s image. Print that on your resume. You are a diamond, a rose and a jewel, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. In the eyes of God, you are worth dying for. Would you let this truth define the way you see yourself?
Would you let this truth define the way you see other people? Every person you see was created by God to bear His image and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. This means that all people deserve to be seen for who they are: image-bearers of God.
Imagine the impact this promise would have upon the society that embraced it. What civility it would engender! What kindness it would foster! Racism will not flourish when people believe their neighbor bears God’s image.
Why does God love you with an everlasting love? It has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with whose you are.
The fire of feuds will have no fuel when people believe their adversaries are God’s idea.
Will a man abuse a woman? Not if he believes she bears the stamp of God.
Will a boss neglect an employee? Not if she believes the employee bears a divine spark.
Will society write off the indigent, the mentally ill, the inmate on death row or the refugee? Not if we believe, truly believe, that every human being is God’s idea. And he has no bad ideas.
Parents and grandparents understand the implications of this truth. I recall when my daughter Jenna was pregnant with our first grandchild. She was round as a ladybug. Long before Jenna gave birth to Rosie, I loved our granddaughter. I’d never seen her, but I loved her. She’d done nothing to earn my love. But I loved her. She’d never brought me coffee or called me papa. She’d never sung me a song or danced for me a dance. She’d done nothing!
Yet I loved her already.
I would do anything for her. That is not hyperbole.
Why? Why did I love her so? Because she carries some of me. A small part for sure, but a part of me, nonetheless.
Why does God love you with an everlasting love? It has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with whose you are. You are his.
How can we respect our neighbors? What is God’s solution to angry racism that gives birth to violence and bloodshed? Government programs might help. Lectures might enlighten. But, in the end, God’s plan is the only plan: see every person on the planet as God’s idea.
And He has no bad ideas.
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Did you realize Jim Hammond, the sheriff, bears a likeness of our Jesus, just as each of our picketing pastors do?
July 9, 2020