Thursday, September 20, 2007

The "Jena Six" Case Requires the Wisdom of Solomon

The “Jena Six” Case Requires the Wisdom of Solomon

Jena, Louisiana has become a national hotspot after over a year’s worth of racial tension. In September 2006, latent animosity boiled over when a black high school freshmen asked if he could sit under what had become known as the “White Tree.” The next day, three white students hung nooses from the tree. When the principles’ attempt to expel the students was shot down by the Board, more racial friction erupted.

A little more than three months after the unconscionable noose incident, six Black students beat up a white student until he was knocked unconscious. After a three-hour hospital visit, he was released. When the town prosecutor initially charged the “Jena Six” with attempted murder, charges of racism rose again.

It would take the proverbial wisdom of Solomon to dissect the truth in this difficult situation. Clearly, a more strident response against the initial hate crime of hanging the nooses should have occurred. Shame on the school board for backing down. And while charges of attempted murder never were judicially appropriate in this case, those who minimized the attack also have some explaining to do. What would people call it if six white students punched, stomped, and beat one black student until he was unconscious?

But I don’t have the wisdom of Solomon to sort through all the claims and counterclaims to uncover the facts. What is needed is a modern-day Solomon, and not even the Solomon of the Bible, but a black man named Solomon Northrup who spent twelve years enslaved in Louisiana.

This Solomon had the ability to look at life without having the color of one’s skin color his perspective. He could objectively evaluate situations based upon foundational principles of justice.

Born a free black man in 1808 in Maine, at age 33 Northrop was kidnapped and spent twelve years enslaved near the Red River in Louisiana. A learned man and a successful businessman, he penned his own story in 1853. In his narrative, Northrup had no problem condemning cruel slave owners such as John M. Tibeats, describing his repeated brutality and malice.

However, Northrup could see beyond the color of one’s skin and even beyond religious hypocrisy and social injustice. Though recognizing the inconsistency of his white master, William Ford, a slave-owning Baptist preacher, Northrup still could note, “It is but simple justice to him when I say, in my opinion, there never was a more kind, noble, candid, Christian man than William Ford.” Northrup detailed page after page of Ford’s encouraging preaching and caring personal ministry to him and to other black men and women.

Solomon Northrup displayed the wisdom of Solomon that the people of Jena, Louisiana, and of all America, could use today. He had the discernment to recognize evil and call it such unashamedly. But he also demonstrated the ability to recognize good in others—even in others who were imperfect, even in others who were of a different hue, even in others who were treating him unjustly.

Nationally, pundits, people, pastors, and politicians are taking sides, pitting themselves against each another, claiming to have cornered the market on the truth of the “Jena Six” case. Yet, everyone seems to see the truth through colored lenses filled with preconceived notions, personal ideologies, and cultural baggage. Can’t someone step back, and see the big picture with the eyes of Solomon—of Solomon Northrup?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Reasons to Believe

Reasons to Believe

If you’ve visited or a major bookstore lately, then you know that all the rage in publishing is raging atheists raging against God.

Fortunately, Christians are not silent. Nor are the Scriptures.

Consider some of the following books to help you share and defend your faith.

Lay Level Books

1. The Twilight of Atheism, Alister McGrath.

2. The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel.

3. The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel.

4. The Case for a Creator, Lee Strobel.

5. The Case for Easter, Lee Strobel.

6. Reason to Believe, R. C. Sproul.

7. Christ Among Other Gods, Erwin Lutzer.

8. Jesus Among Other Gods, Ravi Zacharias.

9. The Return of the Village Atheist, Joel McDurmon.

10. Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis.

11. The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell.

12. More Than a Carpenter, Josh McDowell.

13. Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton.

14. Who Made God, Ravi Zacharias.

15. Letter to an Atheist, Michael Leahy.

16. The Real Face of Atheism, Ravi Zacharias.

17. Atheism Versus Christianity, Willow Creek.

18. Twenty Compelling Evidences That God Exists, Kenneth Boa.

19. The Dawkins' Delusion, Alister McGrath.

Going Deeper

1. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, J. P. Moreland.

2. Scaling the Secular City, J. P. Moreland.

3. Reasonable Faith, W. L. Craig.

4. There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind About God, Antony Flew.

5. What's So Great About God, Dinesh D'Souza.

6. The Dawkins Letter: Challenging Atheist Myths, David Robertson.

7. Faith of the Fatherless, Paul Vitz.

8. Letter from a Christian Citizen, Douglas Wilson.

9. Atheism Is False, David Stone.

10. God the Evidence, Patrick Glynn.

11. The Creator and the Cosmos, Hugh Ross.

12. The Fingerprint of God, Hugh Ross.

13. I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, Norman Geisler.

14. Darwin on Trial, P. E. Johnson.

15. Hard Questions, Real Answers, W. L. Craig.

16. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, F. S. Collins.

17. The Hidden Face of God, G. L. Schroeder.

18. Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, N. T. Wright.

19. Intelligent Design, William Dembski.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Clay Pot Named Paul Potts

A Clay Pot Named Paul Potts: To Dream the Impossible Dream

Paul Potts' mania has swept over Britain and most of the world. In case you’ve been sleeping this summer and are asking, “Who in the world is Paul Potts,” here’s an overview.

Simon Cowell, famous for his biting criticisms of contestants on American Idol, launched a British version this past year called Britain’s Got Talent. One of the first contestants was a gapped-tooth, portly, shy, unassuming middle-aged man dressed in a cheap suit named Paul Potts who works as a car phone salesman.

The Nervous Man in the Cheap Suit

In the video (view it at of his initial performance, the audience sees a nervous, shuffling, under-confident Mr. Potts waiting his turn. As he arrives on stage and nervously announces that he is there to sing opera, Cowell’s raised eyebrows and look of dismay advertise the fact that he and his fellow judges expect Paul to bomb big time.

Then . . . then Paul Potts opens his gap-toothed mouth and the sounds that flow out are unbelievable. Passion, melody, beauty—they all come tumbling out of this “jar of clay, this clay pot” named Paul Potts.

As the camera pans the audience, disbelief, shock, and awe can be seen on their faces. Similarly, as the camera shows Cowell and his two fellow judges, one begins to sense that something unexpected is budding.

Potts’ brief performance is marked by gasps and clasps from the crowd and highlighted by a lengthy and enthusiastic standing ovation as he concludes with a killer-wonderful hitting of the final note.

The Clay Pot Blossoms

A UK newscaster had this to say. “The audience saw a chubby little man in a cheap suit. Then he started to sing.”

The usually vicious Simon Cowell said it simply. “I wasn’t expecting that. I thought you were absolutely fabulous. And you’re selling car phones?”

Cowell’s sidekick noted, “What we have here is a lump of coal that is about to turn into a diamond.”

Potts moved swiftly through subsequent rounds of the competition and with a rousing, full-length operatic singing of Nessun Dorma he was crowned Britain’s best amateur talent. However, he’s an amateur no more. Cowell himself fronted the money to produce Potts’s first album, appropriately named One Chance.

And Potts himself, what’s his take? His back story includes being mercilessly bullied throughout his school years as the shy, fat kid, working dead-end jobs, and a serious accident four years ago. Then, in early 2007, he flipped a coin to decide if he should compete in Britain’s Got Talent. That one coin flip, that one chance, catapulted Potts to the top.

As Potts’ noted, “Before this, I felt so insignificant. After that first night I realized I am somebody. I am Paul Potts!”

And Who Are You?

What’s your impossible dream? What did God design you to be, to do?

What are you waiting for? A flip of a coin?

According to another Paul, this one the famous Apostle Paul, we are all cracked pots. But we have the treasure of the image of God in earthen vessels—and that treasure is waiting inside you ready to be unleashed.

Unleashed the hidden opera singer. Unleashed the hidden Sunday school teacher. Unleash the hidden poet, the hidden writer, the hidden . . .