social justice


I normally don’t write about what I see in movies, but after watching “Food Inc.” at Cine Theatre in downtown Athens, GA, I have to write about this one.  As a follower of Jesus I am convicted about how relatively little thought I have given to the subject of food, particularly where it comes from and who is part of the process.  It’s not that I haven’t thought about it at all, my wife and I had started buying organic milk and vegetables in recent months.  But I had not put all the pieces together, and this movie was a big step toward seeing the bigger picture.

If you don’t know me, it is important that you know that I am a carnivore extraordinaire!  When the film said that the average American eats over 200 pounds of meat a year, I said, “YES!”.   I generally make it a point to eat meat at least once a day and rarely go without.  I love to grill!  Some of you are right with me and others of you are probably revolted at my carnivorous appetite.  But those are the facts about me…and now on with the issues at hand.

After watching “Food Inc.” I am convinced that this issue is not a preference issue, but rather it is an ethical issue.  And for those who are followers of Jesus our Christian ethics must examine this important area of life.  Why?  Because we all eat – and many of us do so multiple times a day.  And all of this eating means that many people and animals are directly affected by the choices we and businesses make.

Of course the main issue is on the people side of things.  My conclusion is that people are heavily exploited when it comes to food.  Not just a few people, but masses of people.  Migrant workers are particularly exploited by the system.  I’m left just being angry about this part of the equation.  The source of the anger is compassion.  Remember how Jesus looked out at the masses with compassion.  Before going into other elements let me just say that if you don’t have compassion for humanity then you aren’t very much like Jesus.  If you are not burdened for the people and nations of the world, then you aren’t very much like Jesus.  You need to ask him for a new heart, new eyes, and new ears, so that you may see as He sees, and be compassionate as He is!

Here are the issues:

How does my food consumption affect the lives of other humans?  Can I change my eating habits in a way that helps people?

Should there be standards for how animals are raised and killed for food?  Does the Bible have anything to say about this?

How can I make those I feed safer based on how I buy food?

What should my perspective be on laws concerning immigration, the patenting of life, farm bills, and safety as related to the food industry?

Are there certain companies I should avoid buying from or owning stock in?

What other difficult issues come into play?

I’ll do my best to give some direction or at least point us to those who have a good direction on these issues.

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romans-3-part-2 click for sermon audio.  Recorded Sunday Feb. 15, 2009 during downtown community fellowship worship service.

Outline of Romans 3:9-22 (Conclusion of Section One: All have sinned and are accountable to God, Transition to God’s Salvation made available through faith.)

I.   All are under sin (3:9)

A.  Proof from OT Scriptures (Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3, Eccl. 7:20)

  1. There is none righteous, no, not one (3:10)
  2. There is none who seeks after God? (3:10)
  3. They have all turned aside and become unprofitable (3:12)
  4. There is no one who does good, no not one (3:12)

B.   Proof from OT Scriptures Continued

  1. Poisoned Lips (3:13) Psalm 5:9
  2. Mouth full of cursing and bitterness (3:14) Psalm 10:7
  3. Quick to kill, destruction and misery are in their ways (3:15-17) Isaiah 59:7-8
  4. Way of peace they have not known
  5. There is no fear of God before their eyes (3:18) Psalm 36:1

II.  What the law does (3:19-20)

  1. Condemns those under the law
  2. By it every mouth is stopped
  3. Gives guilt to the whole world before God
  4. The law cannot justify man before God
  5. The law gives knowledge of sin (informs man he is lost)

III.  The Righteousness of God is available (3:19-22)

A.  Apart from the Law

B.  Witnessed by:

  1. The Law
  2. Prophets

C.  Through Jesus Christ

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Just because it’s Valentine’s Day, doesn’t mean you can assume your wife prefers roses!

We woke up, got ready, and headed out for our first of two adoption training classes.  We stopped at chick-fil-a on the way and grabbed one of our favorite breakfast meals – a chicken biscuit with cheese and a cherry coke.  We were fueled up for our 9 AM to 4 PM class.

I must say that the hardest part of the training is hearing about all of the abuse children are put through – beatings and burnings, sexual exploitation, and emotional destruction.  My personal emotions run back and forth between sadness and anger.  One moment I want to cry, and the next I want to beat the ever loving snot out of something or someone.  To “be angry and sin not” is quite a challenge for me when I hear about these things.

After the training, we came home and Claire took a nap.  I took the opportunity to grab some last minute Valentine goodies and prepare dinner.  While at the store I ran into one of the college students  I play hoops with.  He saw me standing there with a hydrangea plant with a bunch of huge blooms.  We had a nice talk about relationships, and I got to drop a little wisdom and speak a little about God’s love to him.  We had a good time cutting up and laughing.

After dinner we relaxed and then went downtown to see “Step into Africa”.  It is 3500 square foot exhibit set up to put you in a village in Africa.  You step into the character of a child and live their story.  It was very well done and highlights the devastating affects of AIDS among children in Africa. You can see a very short video that tells you about the experience by clicking this sentence.

It was not a typical Valentine’s Day, but today we grew closer together, and I believe closer to the heart of God.  I am so thankful to be married to a woman who is so full of love and who has such a great capacity to give that love away! “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband” (Proverbs 12:4).

I was asked the question of whether it was better to adopt locally or internationally.  One argument used for international (particularly in famine ravaged areas) was that those kids are far more at risk of death.  I cannot disagree with that thought.  However, I do not think it is a matter of which is better but which are you capable of doing.

Often people say, “Well if I had the money, then I would adopt.”  And the truth is that there are a lot of us that don’t have $25K to $50K available for the typical cost of an international adoption.  And even many local adoptions have significant expenses related to them.

However, if you adopt a child who is in foster care, then the state actually pays you.  Until the kid is 18, their medical expenses are covered and you receive a per Diem that offsets the additional expenses you will incur by adding to your family.  You will also receive additional tax breaks, and educational supplements are available to help with college tuition.

So the excuse of, “I don’t have the money to adopt,” is taken away by adopting a kid out of foster care. For those who have a lot more jingle in their pocket or who find a unique an inexpensive opportunity, they have a green light to go for the international adoption.  The point of my original post was that the church in the U.S.A. has no excuse for all the kids who are currently up for adoption in the U.S.A. but who are not being adopted.

We should be about doing all we can every where we can because our neighbor is anyone we have the power to help!

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

In every state in the U.S.A. there are children who are in foster care who are up for adoption.  The parental rights of their parents have been terminated.  They are in need of a permanent home, preferably a home that is full of God’s love and truth.

In my state of Georgia there are thousands of churches that claim to be Christ-centered and tens of thousands of homes that make this same claim.  On Georgia’s My Turn Now website there are 185 listings of children that need to be adopted, 25 of those listings are sibling groups.  We can clearly see that there should be many more Christian homes available than their are adoptable foster kids.  Yet, many of these are at risk of going through life without a family.  Can you imagine to be in that sad state where your biological family has either failed you or died, and there is no other family in the whole world that will make you part of theirs?

Instead of there being a waiting list of kids hoping to be adopted, there should be a backlog of hundreds of Christian families in our state waiting and hoping for their turn to adopt one of these precious ones.  What is stopping us other than a lack of awareness, selfishness, and fear?

Are we really taking seriously the command of God to take care of the orphans? It would be a powerful testimony in your community if it could be said, “There are no orphans here because the church in my community has handled its business.”

May Jesus soften the heart of His church to the needs of the least of these!  May we stop asking the question, “God, do you want my family to adopt?” and start assuming His command to love our neighbors does apply to us in this area by asking the question, “God, is there a reason you have why we should not adopt, or is there a reason you want us to wait to do this?”

Take a look at the kids available in Georgia at My Turn Now.  A quick Google search is all it takes to find the kids in your state.

Romans 1:24-32 (some of the most unpopular verses in the Bible)

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are
whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

II.  The result of humans rejection of God – God gave them up: (1:24-31)
A.  to dishonor their bodies (1:24-25)
B.  to vile passions (1:26-27)
C.  to a debased mind (1:28-31)

The result of humans suppressing the clear things they know about God is given to us.  God “gave them up”.  What does this mean?  The greek word is “paredoken” and means “abandoned”.  So in other words God stopped restraining humans desire to sin and let their sin nature take its course.

Before we get into the specific results of humans dishonoring their bodies, living in vile passions, and having debased minds, let us remember Paul’s audience.  Rome at the time this is written was a terribly wicked place and would continue to become worse and worse until its fall.  We can say without doubt that the specific sins Paul is about to give were participated in by at least some of those receiving this letter.  We can see from the letter Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth (I Corinthians) a great example of this same thing.  Now much of their sinful activity would have come before their belief in Jesus but not all of it.  Paul takes the opportunity to point out to all what is wrong in the sight of God.

The result of rejecting God is to no longer have a basis for right and wrong but to live by selfish desires, emotions, pragmatism, and if it feels good to you in the moment – do it. We do not need to look but a few minutes on the news or at history to see the results of such godlessness…the pain that both the one who is sinned against and the one who sins endure.  On sanctity of life Sunday, why does the church even need to talk about the sanctity of life?  It is because the world has made life very cheap.  Today about 16,000 children will die from hunger related issues. Why?  We can even say that never before in history has so much been done or so much been given to help the poor.    Yet we continue to fall so short.  When we think of MLK day, why was there the need for a civil rights movement?  It is because the hearts of humans are corrupt and the minds of humans are debased.

Whether or not you or I have participated in all of the sins that are listed, no one can honestly read the list, examine their heart and their past, and feel good about the life they have lived.  Who among us has not been “disobedient to parents” or “gossips” or “full of envy” or “prideful”. Now it is important to note that the Greek words used here are in a present tense and give the idea that these things are the ongoing pattern of life – without repentance, without seeking forgiveness, without striving to walk in the ways of God.  So we can say that verses 28-31 are surely descriptive of most everyone at some point in their lives, but it doesn’t have to stay that way because the Gospel of Christ is the power of salvation to everyone who believes.

III.  The righteous judgment of God against ungodliness is death (1:32)

Note the strong statement given in verse 32 about those who approve of sin. We must call sin, sin, if we are to have any hope.  The list before us must first be dealt with in the local church and then that church can have a proper voice in its community.

Humans who have rejected a good and loving God, who have suppressed the knowledge of God, who have perverted justice and exercised evil are deserving of one thing and one thing only; and that thing is death.  By death we mean a termination of life on this earth and an eternal separation of one’s spirit from God Almighty.  If we know what we really deserve then we can be full of thanksgiving for God’s grace!

Since the beginning of the church, the church has been endured persecution.  The words of Jesus rang true then and ring true now, “If they persecuted me, so will they persecute you.”  Throughout the world followers of Jesus suffer for their faith.  They are forbidden jobs, lose their homes, are forced to live in poverty, are beaten, thrown in prison, and yes even murdered for their steadfast belief in Jesus.

Stephen was the first follower of Jesus to be murdered for his faith.  Acts 6:8-8:8, tell the powerful historical account.  Here is a quick summary.  Those from the synagogue of the freedmen (you are not “free” to disagree with them), could not find anything to accuse Stephen with so they paid false witnesses to lie against him.  In chapter 7, Stephen gives a very strong and powerful message.  Instead of repenting the people become enraged and charge at him, drag him out of the city, and stone him to death. Stephen’s last recorded words were, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”  We see in Stephen the same love and forgiveness Jesus displayed on the cross.

A young man named Saul was present and consented to the stoning of Stephen.  He then made it his life mission to destroy the church.  He created havoc by having men and women thrown into prison.  Through his remarkable conversion, we know him better as the Apostle Paul, the one who wrote a large portion of the New Testament.

A benefit of the persecution is that the spread of the church was hastened.  The believers fled to other cities, and they were not silent. They boldly spoke the Good News about Jesus and how eternal life is found by believing in Him. 

Today we hear and read about the awful persecution of believers in Jesus that take place in China, India, Saudi Arabia and many other places.  I encourage you to visit http://www.persecution.com to read some of the accounts there.  You will read about how after the Olympics the Chinese government has not reformed at all but is focused on persecuting Christians by beating them and putting them in prison and labor camps. You will read about the thousands displaced in India.  And you will read about a young lady in Saudi Arabia her father, who worked for the “Comission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice”, cut out her tongue and burned her to death when he found out about her newfound faith in Jesus.  Do we recognize the reality and what is at stake for our brethren around the world?

So how should this affect those of us who are not persecuted in these ways?

1.  Pray for our brothers and sisters throughout the world.

2.  Pray that those who are doing the persecuting would see their sinfulness and believe in Jesus.

3.  Be courageous to share our faith with the people around us.  (Last time a checked the police weren’t knocking my door down.)

4.  Be focused on the things that really matter.

  • Worshipping God with like-minded/hearted people.
  • Helping my brothers and sister in Christ according to their needs.
  • Sharing the Good News about Jesus even though the risk is great.
  • Growing in faith, love, and hope.  

When the church is persecuted the important issues rise to the top and the petty things go away.  It would be a good exercise for those of us who are not currently being persecuted to compare our priorities with those who are being persecuted.  It will help us to be reminded of the most important things in life and put our focus and energy there.

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