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Wanted: Students With a Desire to Change the World

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By: Elisha Lawrence

I like to listen to the news.

I know that makes me a nerd.

I like to read books too so I’m doomed to that stereotype.

I like to listen to the news because I enjoy hearing about what is happening in our world. I’m drawn in to hear about the latest Supreme Court case or developments in nanotechnology.

I can hear about current events happening in Baghdad moments after it has taken place. That is fascinating to me. Knowing about things happening all over the world is genuinely intriguing to me, but it’s also exhausting.

A lot is happening in our world. And the reason most people don’t like to listen or watch the news is because reports of what’s happening in our society tend to be pretty negative.

Another bombing, another school shooting, another corrupt politician or sadly corrupt pastor. It’s exhausting, and it’s disheartening. We don’t want to live every day resigned to experiencing tragedy. We long for some good news.

We long for some hope in the world.

I have been reading the books of Daniel and Ezra over the past few weeks. One of the most amazing things to me is the way that God shows up in the midst of absolute madness.

Most people have heard of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3) or Daniel and the lion’s den (Daniel 6). They are incredible stories of God’s power to preserve his people. And yet they wouldn’t be possible without complete insanity happening all around those people.

In both cases, a mighty king makes a provocative law to promote the worship of themselves.

In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar tells everyone to “worship the gold statue” of himself that he set up or they’ll be thrown into a fiery furnace. (Dan 3:5) In Daniel 6, Darius makes a law that people can pray only to him or they’ll be “throwing into the lions’ den.” (Dan 6:7)

Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel don’t abide by these kings laws, refusing to worship anyone but the God of Israel. The first three are thrown in the furnace and Daniel is tossed in with the lions.

But in both cases, God delivers them from sure death.

God delivers them from insane narcissistic kings.

These kings have the power to destroy anyone who goes against their word and yet God miraculously overcomes them both. Hot flames and ravenous lions cannot defeat this God.

As I read these stories, I had a longing rise in my own heart. When I hear the news, my heart does sink many times. I hear about the brokenness of our world and all the tragedy.

When will rape and sexual abuse stop? When will misuse of power and taking advantage of the weak stop? When will the hungry be fed? When will the elderly be loved? When will the prisoner be visited? When will those without hope find ultimate hope?

As the school year begins and college students return, I am deciding to have hope for the future. I don’t base that hope on anything I’ve heard in the news. Instead, I’m counting that there is hope found in the God that I serve.

He can step into the midst of crazy situations and bring healing and deliverance. Our current cultural state is no worse than the one in Babylon in 600 B.C. God is the same God.

College students, I am praying for you. I’m praying the same prayer that Jesus prayed in Matthew 9. Jesus looked out at great crowds of people, like the ones that will enter MTSU this fall, and it says that “he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”

I’m praying that God would see fit to raise up students at MTSU who believe that God wants to change our world. I’m praying that God would graciously send some of those students to City Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

I’m praying that God would graciously use me to help equip students to work for meaningful change in the world. I’m praying that God would then send us out to be workers in his harvest.

College students, I want you to become teachers who are passionate about learning and helping kids understand the world that God has made.

College students, I want you to become missionary pilots that fly people to remote villages where the gospel has never been shared.

College students, I want you to enter the music industry with a vision to sing about truth with creativity and ingenuity.

College students, I want you to become lawyers who fight for justice for those who are oppressed and ignored by those with power.

College students, I want you to become church planters who are willing to go wherever God calls you to go and do whatever He calls you to do. And I want to do it with you!

There is hope for something great to be done in our generation. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb 13:8) Yes, there will still be bad news reported.

Jesus hasn’t returned yet. But why don’t we give our lives to be part of the good news that the world is dying to hear about? College students, I can’t do it without you.

Have your people call my people.

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in Race

Potholes On The Road To Racial Reconciliation

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By: Elisha Lawrence

Acts 14:22 — It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.

Paul told this to the believers in the towns where he just planted churches. These are the towns that Paul and Barnabas were run out of by jealous and angry Jews. In one of those towns, Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city but somehow lived through it.

Who wants to sign up to be a Christian?

Paul and Barnabas kept on going to place after place even though they met with opposition everywhere they went. The only reason they would do this is that Jesus is worth it.

Following the Lord will mean opposition. You might not get stoned by anyone and dragged out of a city, but hardships and misunderstandings are inevitable.

When I think about what’s happening in our world and the Church, I wonder what this means for us.

Where would we meet opposition?

Where is it that we’ll run into hatred and jealousy?

It’s interesting to note who was the source of the hostility toward the Christians. It was the Jews.

Jews were persecuting Jews. Jews were driving out and trying to kill other Jews. It didn’t start with the pagan Romans, although that would come later. It started with their own religious countrymen.

Now I’m not sure where opposition for City Church will come from. Indeed, the culture around us seems to be growing more intolerant of Christianity. There is a general disdain for the exclusivist truth claims of Christians and some want to silence Christian rhetoric altogether.

That’s a real danger.

But a conversation I had a few weeks ago alerted me to a possible source of suffering that I would not have anticipated.

I was sitting with a group of college students in Nashville at Watson Grove Baptist Church with their wonderful Senior Pastor John Faison. Pastor Faison welcomed us in for a few hours to discuss the roots of racism in America, particularly in Nashville. Pastor Faison is an intelligent, informed, and bold man. I feel privileged to have met him and learned from him. He's a Black pastor in a predominantly African American church. And he said something I hadn’t anticipated hearing. I’ll paraphrase here:

“If you are going to truly stand for justice, you may lose friends. You may get ostracized, but work with the Spirit regardless of where it leads.”

Pastor Faison wasn’t just speaking from historical study, he was speaking from personal experience. And he was echoing the words that Paul said to those young Christians in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch.

Acts 14:22 — It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.

The kingdom that God wants to bring on earth is often opposed. What's surprising, however, is that is that it is often opposed from within.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The greatest tragedy in life is not the deeds of evil men; the greatest tragedy is the silence of good ones!”

He is celebrated now as a Civil Rights hero, but in his day, he was greatly opposed by many Christians. We’d do well to expect a similar reception at points if we’re honestly going to move towards the type of diversity that the gospel encourages us to.

What my brother Pastor Faison was saying is that real diversity requires sacrifices that most people are not willing to make.

We may read that Christ came to die for people of “every tribe, tongue, and nation.” But are we willing to attend a school where our children might be the minority?

We may say amen to the “breaking down of the dividing wall of hostility” between different races, but are we willing to live in a neighborhood where we are a minority?

We may say we want diversity, but are we willing to listen to minorities to hear their experiences of injustice without lashing out in defensiveness or labeling it as political speech?

These are not easy questions for us. They aren’t easy questions for me. Yet they are necessary questions we need to be asking.

I am a white male. I don’t know the experience of a black male or a Hispanic female. Racism and racialization are massive issues in our country. I wouldn’t have said that just three years ago. At that point, all I noticed was the segregation on Sunday mornings. I thought having a diverse church service would solve the problem.

But the more I talk with minority brothers and sisters in Christ, the more I read about the history of our nation, the more I am painfully aware how short-sighted and ill-informed I was before the last three years.

City Church, I exhort you to learn, read, and be humble enough to admit where you have been wrong. To get where I believe God wants us to go with diversity and racial justice is going to take endurance, trust, and love for one another. It’s not going to be easy. We may even lose some friendships or be characterized as troublemakers.

Remember this:
Acts 14:22 — It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.

Reading Suggestions
Divided by Faith: Christian Smith, Michael Emerson
The Color of Law: Richard Rothstein
Removing the Stain of Racism from the SBC: Kevin Jones