Bob the Tomato Speaks (kinda, not really, but kinda)

Below is a 17:52 minute video. Yes, I know that seems like a really long time to watch a video, but it is also a good, data-driven, balanced presentation to help us understand the systemic root level problems which are creating many of the racial tension issues our nation is struggling with today.

This video is by Phil Vischer, co-creator of the popular Christian animated series VeggieTales. He was also the voice of Bob the Tomato. He carefully, but quickly, narrates the history of race in America over the last 100 years.

Vischer used data to summarize, “The average black household has 1/10th the wealth of the average white household. This didn’t happen by accident, it happened by policy.

Vischer’s bottom line closing is simple; “I’m not here to tell you what the right solutions are, because I don’t know,” Vischer said. “I’m just here to ask you to do one thing; it is the thing that begins every journey to a solution for every problem. What am I asking you do to? Care.”

Here’s the deal, in my opinion, the racial tension in our nation falls at the feet of the greed, manipulative tactics, and self-centered focus of politics & politicians, city developers, community leaders, AND a silent Church. From a biblical worldview perspective, I believe the problem is spiritual/ theological, and therefore, the solution is also spiritual/theological. Doing things God’s way is ALWAYS the best way to do things. But Phil is absolutely right, the place to begin is to actually care.

Feel Like a Failure? God ALWAYS has a Plan

Failure. Have you ever experienced the kind of failure that you thought you would never be able to recover from, or maybe even where those closest to you told you could never recover? And maybe, it was so devastating that is changed your reality, and circumstances. And furthermore, maybe you are still paying a high price for your failure.

There is rarely a week that goes by I don’t receive a message from someone who has messed up in some huge way. One of the first things I always remind a person is that “everything Satan wants to use to destroy them, God will use to make them the person He wants them to be”. God is not done with them. And God is not done with YOU either.

We all need to deal with the issues and failures we are facing. We are personally responsible for our choices and the consequences of those choices. Taking personal responsibility is the first step on the path. God being willing to forgive, heal, and restore does not remove consequences or the need to take personal responsibility, it just means that God is wants to restore you.

Each of us has had those days when all needed to be reminded that the Bible is full of messed up people who God used for great things.

Noah was a drunk.

Abraham was too old.

Isaac was a daydreamer.

Jacob was a liar.

Leah was ugly.

Joseph was abused.

Moses had a stuttering problem.

Gideon was afraid.

Samson had long hair and was a womanizer.

Rahab was a prostitute.

Jeremiah and Timothy were too young.

David had an affair and was a murderer.

Elijah was depressed and suicidal.

Isaiah preached naked.

Jonah ran from God.

Naomi was a widow.

Job went bankrupt.

Peter denied Christ.

The Disciples fell asleep while praying.

Martha worried about everything.

The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once.

Zaccheus was too small.

Paul was too religious.

Timothy had an ulcer.

AND Lazarus was dead!

So today I’m sure there is someone reading this article and you think you are done because of something you’ve done; that your failure is beyond forgiveness or recovery. YOU are not done because God is not done. Do not walk way. Do not give up. God ALWAYS has a plan. It might be a painful journey, but God always has a plan.

I just wanted to remind you today that God is for you. God will use every single thing the enemy wants to use to destroy you, to make you the person He called you to be, if you will just let Him. Surrender to Him. Trust Him. I’m for you. They are many people rooting for you. This is not the day to give up. This is the day to dig in, come clean, get honest, embrace the pain, and begin your journey toward hope, healing, and restoration.

The Gospel in Five Minutes

This is the 5-minute version.

Scripture is clear, we are saved by faith in Christ, through grace, not of our works or good deeds. (Eph 2:8-9) We are not saved by believing in our mind, but when we believe in our heart. (Rom 10:9-10, 13)

Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

If not, is the Holy Spirit stirring you to place you faith in Him right now? IF he is, simply pray a simple prayer. Doesn’t have to be fancy. IF God is drawing you to Himself He already knows what He is stirring in your heart. But if you want a guide of what to pray, you can pray something like this;

Lord, I know I am broken. I know I have sinned. I know I need you as my Savior. I believe you died for me and was raised from the dead for me.

Jesus, today I choose to believe in you as the Forgiver and Leader of my life. I choose to repent of my sin and accept your free gift of salvation. Thank you for becoming my sin and dying for me on the Cross. Today, right now, in this moment, I declare; Jesus, you are my Lord. I will follow you. No turning back. I WILL follow you.

Holy Spirit, I invite you to live in & through me, to transform me and restore my brokenness according to God’s will for my life. Amen.

IF you just placed your faith in Jesus as your Savior, PLEASE email me to let me know so I can celebrate with you. tim@thecrossmatters.org

This is the 17-minute version for those interested in more explanation.

Be Light in the Darkness

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; so that it gives light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven.” (Matt 5:14-16)

Summertime in Illinois is sure to bring with it little creatures we call lightning bugs. During those few weeks a year, some fields are literally full of little, blinking bugs that intermittently flash with fluorescent light. Small children have captured them and put them in glass jars for generations. The children hope that placing enough bugs in the jar will provide a natural flashlight.

Most of us have tried to catch lightning bugs. It seems so easy when they are lit, but then their light goes out they are hard to see. Recently, it came to me that many Christians are like those bugs. Instead of giving off enough light that our works become evident to those who look on, we blink off and on without providing adequate illumination.

We live in a dark world! Darkness is crowding out most everything that believers hold sacred. The success of darkness is NOT due to its strength. Light will always displace the dark. Darkness succeeds due to the lack to consistent light. We are like those little bugs, going through life blinking on and off without ever shining brightly.

We need a true spiritual awakening! Just because someone attends a church and calls himself or herself a Christian, does not make them an actual follower of Christ. Many people consider themselves to be a Christian but demonstrate little evidence of a life-transforming personal relationship with Jesus. The point is that being a “Christ-follower” is much more than merely calling yourself a “Christian” or attending church or adhering to some religious code. Being a true Christ-follower implies you are actually following Christ, embracing His attitude, and committed to carrying out His mission. The problem is people calling themselves Christians but not evidencing their faith by walking out what they say they believe.

Our Lord has told us to shine so bright that our good works become evident. If we keep blinking every so often, the darkness will continue displacing us. If ever we needed to shine, it is now. As Paul said in Philippians 2:14-16; “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life….”

Conversations with Tim: Racism (June 9, 2020)

Conversations with Tim is exactly what it sounds like; I sit down with a friend or two and have a conversation and you are invited to eavesdrop in on our conversation. I think about it like we are at a restaurant having a conversation and you are at the next table over-hearing our conversation.

My guests in this episode are two of my friends from Chicago, Pastor Adron Robinson, Hillcrest Baptist Church, and Pastor Bryan Price, Love Fellowship Baptist Church.

Do You Understand What is Meant by “Systemic Racism”

Sometimes, maybe most times, what we need to diagnose, resolve, and overcome a problem is better understanding of the problem. One of the reasons I am engaging such a divisive topic as racism, is to help people understand the struggle black Americans face as a normal everyday part of their culture.

I can no longer sit by and just watch my black friends (and others) fight this battle alone. I am a nobody. I have a very limited sphere of influence, but I do have some influence. Sometimes my words will be misunderstood and twisted by others, but I do have a platform to use my words to shine a little light into the darkness of racism.

I choose to be a part of the solution by striving to be a difference-maker in my context by being an agent of peace, hope, and restoration. I choose to be light in the darkness around me. I choose to be thermostat (who changes the temperature of my culture), not merely a thermometer (who only reflects the temperature of the culture). I choose to give the rest of my life making a difference by doing good, being generous, and being kind.

What will you choose?

For today, will you choose to spend 4:23 watching this video that does a pretty good job of explaining what is meant when someone uses the term “systemic racism”.

How Well Do You Understand “Privilege”?

You have probably heard the term “white privilege” but you may not have a good understanding of “privilege” means (white or otherwise).

I am “privileged” in countless ways. I am more privileged than many, and not as privileged as some. I had a leg up or a head start or an advantage over people born into less circumstances than me. I am grateful for the life I was born into and the opportunities it has afforded me, some by chance, some my God’s grace, and other opportunities through work ethic and perseverance.

The video below gives a very clear understanding of the basic concept of “privilege”. The video is only 4:12 long. I hope you make time to watch it if you haven’t seen it already.

The world we live in needs to change. I see things through a biblical worldview. My theology colors every topic. I think its time we recognize the systems of the powerful elites in government and the business world are a part of the problem. Government is not going to fix racism and the real systemic inequalities that exist.

I believe the change we need across our nation begins in the local church. I believe the transformation we need to see will require the power of God and the humility and obedience of people who claim to follow Him. Our love for God needs to also be evidence in our love for others, especially those who are less fortunate than us, those who are marginalized, and those who have been dealt a tough hand in life.

We need to stand up any injustice in all its forms. I’m not going to apologize for the privilege I was born into, but I/we can choose to use the opportunities given us to help others.

This video explains the concept of privilege better than anything I have ever seen or heard. Please invest the 4:12 minutes to watch it.

Divisive Topics Stir Up Emotions

Yes, I know full-well that when I communicate on divisive topics it stirs up various emotions and responses in people, then they make assumptions about me and feel a need to express their displeasure, most times, without understanding what I am really trying to say or without trying open a dialogue with me to seek understanding and to be understood. Others will applaud and thank me for whatever I said they happened to agree with.

All of which just proves my underlying point; the root level issue is theological and spiritual. “Our battle is not with flesh & blood, but with powers, principalities, and rulers in spiritual realms.” (Eph 6:12). We need to stop listening to those who try to divide us or create fear in us or seek to leverage our differences for their personal gain or their agenda so we can begin productive dialogues that lead to reconciliation and healing. If we resolve the root level issue, the surface level issues (systemic issues, inequality, etc) we will be much more likely to be address and resolved.

The path forward requires harmonic unity and enough maturity and love to work the problem together. Someone wanting to bang the drum of their pet agenda will never be open to listen, understand, and even repent of their own hypocrisy. Just stop. Let’s stop being too arrogant to listen and seek understanding before we seek to be understood. Let’s stop allowing unkind, divisive, or accusatory words to come from our mouths. What we say reveals our heart; “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34).

Division, divisive rhetoric, and divisive narratives are clever tricks of the enemy mean to make wreak havoc, deepen the wounds, keep us from solving the real issues. I call it the “Divide Conquer Strategy”. I’ll explain more about that in a future article. But it works at every level of life.

We need to stop being unkind, stop personal attacks, stop allowing differences or even disagreements to make others the target of our judgement and wrath. When we allow ourselves to be unkind, to personally attack a person who we disagree with, etc, we are also allowing ourselves to unwittingly become a part of the problem. We become a feeder of the divisive culture that is tearing our nation a part.

I am going to talk about issues creating division in our nation whether it be the political climate, religious culture, community culture, or as in the current moment, racism. I have already had people thank me, and others seek to bully me into silence. Honestly, I’m not stepping up to communicate on this divisive topic for pads on the back from some people nor to create drama for other people. I am going to communicate only because I believe that is what the Holy Spirit is stirring in me. I have sat silent for too long.

I have sat by as long as I can without engaging in the dialogue in an effort to move the conversation toward a better place. I’m not going to say/write everything perfectly, but neither I am willing to continue being silent. I can’t just ignore what I see happening in our nation any longer without wondering if my silence is a form of compliance or even agreement.

We have to reject the divisive narrative so we can engage in productive conversation that leads to real reform of the real systemic and culture issues that oppress others. We have to talk about race, privilege, apathy, and complacency if we hope to build a bridge to a better future for all Americans. The equality we seek will never be attained through silence or silent bystanders. We have to get to know each other so we can talk to each other, so we understand each other if we ever want to see real progress.

So, no, I won’t say or write everything perfectly for every person. Sometimes communication is like two people standing on opposite ends on an elephant trying to describe their perspective. We have to realize there are other equally true perspectives and it is only when we put them together that we can truly understand what is in front of us.

But I will do my best to help us find a path through the chaos, to be light in the darkness, and to point all of us to the hope & peace that can only be found in Christ. I hope I can inspire you to have your own conversations with your friends and family. We each have a responsibility to stand up in the face of injustice. Wrong is wrong, even when it doesn’t happen to you or me. Someone has to stand up to defend against injustice or it will continue to go unchecked.

America is NOT Racist. Don’t Feed into the Divisive Narrative.

I haven’t made a blog post in a while. But I just feel I need to speak out to clarify what I consider to be a position balance, challenge, and hope. This will likely be long so bear with me.

America is NOT racist. Yes, there is racism IN America, but that is not the same as “America IS racist”. The vast majority of people in America are not racist. A racist America did not elect its first African American President a few years ago. America did that. If America was actually racist, that would have never happened.

The vast majority of Americans absolutely hate racism. Stop listening to those who try to divide us or create fear in us or seek to leverage our differences for their personal gain or their agenda. Even saying “Black Lives Matter” sounds like a good supportive thing to say, BUT it is also divisive. It is a clever trick of the enemy. If you say “Black Lives Matter” you are allowing yourself to unwittingly become a part of the problem. YOU become a feeder of the divisive language.

You say “Black Lives Matter”, someone else responds “Blue Lives Matter”, someone else responds “White Lives Matter”, someone responds, “Red Headed Lives Matter”. Where does that line of divisive reasoning end? It doesn’t. It only continues to create divisive rhetoric that never ends.

A white person should believe “Black Lives Matter”. Absolutely. But please hear me; there is an organized effort in both the natural (people, politics, etc.) and the supernatural (spiritual realms) that are seeking to push their agenda to magnify and exaggerate our differences to create and leverage unnecessary division in America so it can destroy America from the inside out.

We should all stand up against injustice (racism or otherwise), even more so the kind that happened to George Floyd, but riots and destroying property is also inexcusable. Busing people in, having outside organizations organize destruction under the ruse of a “protest” is also absolutely wrong. There are some people, organizations, and the demonic, pushing emotional buttons and leveraging the anger caused by injustice to create even more injustice and destruction. And those people, organizations, and the demonic, love it when American’s lose their minds and act like criminals.

Even if the technique used by the police officer to subdue Mr. Floyd is an acceptable technique (and I’m guessing it is), how the situation was applied in that specific situation was some version of murder in my personal opinion. There is no excuse for what I saw on video. However, I’m highly confident the 99% of good police officers, would agree and they are angry too. They despise what they saw and how that makes them all look to some people. I feel that way when a member of the clergy is caught in a sexual abuse scandal. I’m guessing educators feel that way when a teacher is caught in an inappropriate relationship with a student.

Police should be able to maintain peace and safety, and when that peace and safety is destroyed, they should be able to go back in an restore it for the good over the entire community, which means they will have to match and overwhelm the intensity of the mob. They can’t just say “pretty please” to someone intent on hurting them and destroying property.

Thinking police should just sit by and watch needless, pointless, destruction and crime occur is also wrong. That is not America either. They are there to protect those people, businesses, and neighborhoods. Let me encourage you to choose a position of balance instead of allowing yourself to be manipulated by the self-serving dividers among us.

I will stand by members of law enforcement every single time. We all should. I am grateful for their service, protection, and all they manage so I don’t have to worry about “it”. But when they are wrong, they should also face consequences to match their crime. I have no issue with that either.

I talk a lot about ‘harmonic unity”. My best illustration is asking my church family during a Sunday service to raise their hands based on their favorite choice in toothpaste. Then I talk about how we could split in multiple ways over what toothpaste to use. Obviously, the Crest users can’t stand those Colgate people! Hahahahahaha But even within the Crest camp there is division between those who want to use “extra whitening” and those who want to use “the original Crest”. Hahahahaahhahahaha

Harmonic unity would be; we will never all agree on what brand of toothpaste to use, but we can 100% agree that we should all brush our teeth. And we can also agree that if a person thinks we should not brush our teeth, they are absolutely wrong.

Americans are going to disagree on countless things, but we can all agree that all lives matter. And we can that also agree that if anyone thinks some section of our population’s lives don’t matter, they are absolutely wrong.

ALL LIVES MATTER. As the old children’s song says “red, yellow, black, and white, they are all precious in His sight”. Saying “All Lives Matter” is not racist, nor does it lessen the value or importance of black lives. ALL lives matter equally. “All lives matter” raises the value on all lives to equality. “All lives matter” pushes back against the darkness of disunity and division.

Racism does exist. There is no doubt about it, but it is also wrong 100% of the time. Racism is sin. It is an issue of the heart. It should never happen, but it does because people choose against God’s way of doing things (sin). Satan has been trying cause disunity and division from the very beginning. He did it in heaven even by being able to get one-third of the angels to side with him against God. Just let that sink in. His tricks have never changed. He is still doing the exact some things, using the exact same tactics. Satan’s lie from the very beginning has been “just do what is right in your own eyes, do what feels good to you right now, be your own God”.

Satan has been a liar and manipulator from the beginning. He stirs up racism. Racism is a spiritual problem. More laws, more trainings, more diversity programing, etc. does not fix issues of the sin and heart. We, America, needs to experience the transformational power of the Cross.

We need to stop “doing what is right in our own eyes” and start loving God with all our hearts and loving other people as a reflection of our love for God. We need to start treating others as we would want them to treat us.

So please, stop debating who’s lives matters or matters most. ALL lives matter, equally. Instead, as an example of harmonic unity, let’s choose to agree that racism in all its forms is always wrong, it is evil, and it is unacceptable. Let’s choose to also agree that those who use racism to create division and manipulate people is also always wrong. Stirring up people to destroy property, break-in to stores, burn cars, buildings, and commit other crimes is also always wrong in America. Let’s agree that if someone thinks racism is acceptable, that burning and looting is an acceptable form of protest, they are also wrong 100% of the time.

Lets choose harmonic unity to bind us together over divisive, evil people, creating division to destroy us. This is our home. Blowing up our country hurts all of us, especially those living in the communities where the destruction takes place. Wrong is wrong. Regardless of the motivation, it is still wrong.

I choose to be a part of the solution by striving to be a difference-maker in my context by being an agent of peace, hope, and restoration. I choose to be light in the darkness around me. I choose to be thermostat (who changes the temperature of my culture), not merely a thermometer (who only reflects the temperature of the culture). I choose to give the rest of my life making a difference by doing good, being generous, and being kind.

What will you choose?

Three Principles to Remember this Christmas

Christmas, meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, our Savior and Redeemer, has been turned into the most hectic commercialized season of all. Of course, the circumstances surrounding the census and the birth of Christ were pretty busy and hectic too. I want to encourage you in this article to not over-complicate Christmas.

There are three principles we should all remember as we enter the Christmas season; First, keep it simple. Jesus was born into some pretty sparse circumstances. The son of two poor Galileans, he lived a life of humility and simplicity that became a key element of his ministry here on earth.

Reflect Christ-like attitudes by focusing on the small things, being intentional in our personal relationships, and focusing on quality over quantity. Instead all the distractions Christmas has become within our culture. How many times have we bought the expensive gift only to watch the child enjoy the box more than the toy?

Second, be present. We give love to people at Christmas when we show up in their lives, serving and celebrating. One way we tell our families and friends that we love them is by giving them our focused attention. Attention says, “I value you enough to give you my most precious asset – my time.” When you give someone your time, you’re giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. You can always make more money, but you cannot make more time.

Third, give with delight. God uses giving as an antidote for materialism, and he loves it when we give with a delighted heart (2 Cor. 9:7). Jesus said there’s more happiness in giving than in receiving (Acts 20:35), but here’s an important point to remember at Christmas: Giving is a matter of willingness, not wealth. It’s attitude, not amount. Christmas is about heart, not possessions.

We’ve replaced true, heartfelt, delightful giving with a hollow materialism that keeps us all overspending during the holidays. Instead, we should give from our hearts. Expand your definition of giving beyond the financial. Imagine how much you could bless others if you simply shared your time and talents.

The essence of Christmas is that we simply and humbly give ourselves, just as God gave generously and sacrificially to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. This Christmas lets generously show up in the lives of others with our time, talents, money, possessions, and friendship.

Simple isn’t just beautiful; it’s powerful. You don’t have to cram your days full of activities, and you don’t have to make everything big, complicated, or expensive in order to enjoy Christmas. Keep your holidays simple, so you are free to serve those in need and celebrate with those you love.