When Heaven and Earth Collide (Book Review)

WhenHeavenandEarthCollideAlanCrossA while back I began reading When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus, by Alan Cross.  I ordered this book for several reasons:

*Alan’s wife has been a friend of mine since my college years (the early 90’s).  We were both involved with Baptist Campus Ministries at the University of Alabama.

*I started reading Alan’s blog years ago when some interesting things were happening in the Southern Baptist Convention (long story).  I don’t follow it as much as I used to, but I like his style of writing.

*Alan and I have similar backgrounds.  We are about the same age and were raised in the Deep South during the 70’s/80’s.

*The racial tension I’ve seen since moving back to the States is striking.  Things are certainly better than they were in the era of Jim Crow laws, but black people and white people are still deeply divided on some issues.


Alan Cross is a Southern Baptist pastor in Montgomery (AL), a city where some of the most significant (and violent) events of the Civil Rights Movement occurred during the 50’s and 60’s.  Here’s one example: First Baptist Montgomery was once surrounded by an angry mob of 3,000 white people who objected to the members’ involvement in civil rights protests.  They threatened to burn the church down, and may have done just that if the Governor had not (reluctantly) stepped in to protect the parishioners (this happened on the evening of May 21st, 1961).

Cross began to investigate the City of Montgomery’s history and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole.  He was haunted by questions like this:

How did we (the majority of white southern evangelical Christians) get it so wrong? Why didn’t we stand with our black brothers and sisters?  How could those who profess Christ be a part of the systematic racial injustices that were so deeply ingrained in the South?  What can we learn from our mistakes?  What would it (or does it) look like when we live out the Gospel and allow it to break down racial barriers?

I’ve asked myself some of the same questions and I really appreciated Alan’s insights.

One of his main observations is that Christianity was subverted by the culture: believers adopted the values of the society at large, even when those values directly contradicted the clear teachings of Scripture.  Unfortunately this isn’t the first time such has happened, and Alan points out other historical examples of similar tragedies (the German church during Hitler’s reign, for example).

The heart of the matter, Cross argues, is our tendency to look out for our own self-interests instead of laying our lives down for others and for the sake of the Gospel.  This still has implications for the American church, and Cross wonders if kingdom values are still being subverted.  One example he mentions is “white flight”–the tendency of white families (Christians included) to move out of neighborhoods once black families start moving in.  I’ve seen this phenomenon first-hand here in the Birmingham area.

I really appreciated the way Alan processed some difficult and uncomfortable questions in light of the Gospel.  I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is ready to wrestle with the issue of race from a biblical perspective.

When God Makes Diamonds


I preached from this passage in the Book of James a couple of weeks ago:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
-James 1:2-4

I’m not sure why I felt drawn to the first chapter of James, but I suspect I my listeners needed to hear this encouragement.  I know I did–I felt like I was preaching to myself more than anyone in the congregation.

James presents an uncomfortable truth in this text:  there are some qualities God can only develop in us through trials.  Enduring these tests will give us perseverance (“steadfastness”), which will eventually result in maturity (“perfect and complete”).

I wish this wasn’t true–I wish there was some shortcut to being more Christlike and more dependent on the Lord.  But the experience of millions of believers (including yours truly) confirms what the Word of God teaches in this passage.

As I meditated on this text I started thinking about diamonds, which are some of the most precious stones in the world.  My mind wandered back to my whirlwind romance and my quest for the perfect engagement ring for Mare Cris.  I did a little research to get an idea of how these beautiful gemstones are made.  Geologists universally agree that diamonds are formed under crushing pressure and intense heat.

Think about that for a second: crushing pressure and intense heat.  God uses the most hostile conditions imaginable to create the world’s most exquisite and valuable objects.

He also uses trials and suffering to produce something of eternal value: a saint.  Please remember this if you are in the midst of a painful test.

Facebook and Fidelity

2000px-F_icon.svgA few years ago I read about the negative effect social media is having on marriages.  A survey by a British legal service, for example, found that Facebook was involved in 30% of their divorce cases (it has been blamed for 20% of divorce cases here in the States).

Needless to say, I don’t believe social media is evil (it’s how my wife and I first “met”).  But I do understand the inherent risks of using Facebook and similar sites.  Many spouses are led astray by ease and anonymity with which they can interact with the opposite sex.

Here are some simple steps my wife and I have taken to protect our marriage and keep healthy boundaries in our online interactions.

1.  Complete Transparency:

My wife and I have complete access to each others’ social media and email accounts.  This is, in my opinion, the most important step we take to guard our marriage.  She is welcome to open my computer/tablet and look at any email, chat, or profile (the same goes for my cell phone).  I am free to do the same with her.  This is not something we regularly do–the point is not to have a “weekly inspection.”  It’s all about attitude–we both understand that having a private online world is harmful and dangerous.

2.  Boundaries in Communications with the Opposite Sex:

It is not uncommon for young ladies to email me asking for relationship advice (it’s the nature of having this kind of blog).  I do respond to their questions as a pastor/minister.  I also keep in touch with a few classmates, workmates, and former ministry team members of the opposite sex.  But I do not get involved in frequent, lengthy chats  with women.  A message here and there is fine, but daily, intimate conversations are reserved for my wife.

3.  Profile Picture:

A while back I decided that my profile picture on Facebook will always be one of my wife and me together (she does the same with her profile).  The reason is pretty simple: we want anyone to runs across our individual profiles to know we’re happily married.  This may not seem like a big deal, but I believe this first impression does send a powerful signal.

4.  Public Pages:

Another step I’ve taken is to put a little more emphasis on my public Facebook page.  This is especially helpful for bloggers or public figures who want a way to connect with people that is a little less personal.  My wife is an administrator on my page and can read any message that a follower might send.

More Ideas:

Some  may decide to be even more cautious with social media.  Mare Cris and I haven’t taken these steps, but they are worth considering.

Joint Account(s):

I know of some married couples that have decided to delete their individual accounts and just use a single account as husband and wife.


Another option is to simply deactivate your Facebook account altogether.

Hopefully I’ve given you some helpful ideas for guarding your marriage while using social media.  You may want to read Hedges by Jerry Jenkins for more advice on this topic.

Same-Sex “Marriage”: Helpful Links/Articles

I’d like to share some of the most helpful/meaningful articles I have read over the past week or so.  Many of these were written in direct response to the Supreme Court’s historic decision regarding same-sex “marriage.”

I have updated my post called The Gospel and Gay “Marriage.” It isn’t that much different than before but I’ve done a little bit of editing to (hopefully) improve it.  This has been one of the most frequently read post on my blog for several weeks.

Russell Moore explained Why the Church Should neither Cave nor Panic about the Decision on Gay Marriage.   I really like the way Moore addresses issues with grace and truth–he makes me proud to be a Southern Baptist.  One of the most striking things he said is that the church should be ready to minister to “refugees from the sexual revolution”–those whose lives have been damaged by sexual sin.  Moore actually has posted several articles and videos this week that are worth checking out.

Kevin DeYoung wrote an excellent post called Five Questions for Christians Who Believe the Bible Supports Gay MarriageHe later added 40 Questions for Christians now Waving Rainbow Flags. These are great questions for professing Christians who claim the Bible has nothing negative to say about homosexuality.

Carey Nieuwhof has written this post: Some Advice on Same-Sex Marriage for US Church Leaders from a Canadian.   He is ministers in Canada, where same-sex “marriage” has been legal for a decade. Note: this pastor’s last point is about judging.  I don’t think he is saying we should avoid preach against sin.  I think he is talking about the unfortunate way some Christians behave on social media, etc.

Denny Burk has written a post on Protecting Your Church Against Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Lawsuits. This post includes a free booklet with some sample bylaws, etc.

I also ran across a couple of articles written my men who spent a decade in the gay lifestyle and left it after coming to Christ.

The first one is entitled  I was the Other Man: an Insider’s Look at Why Gay Marriage Will Not Work.* Blogger and author Joseph Sciambra described the secret frustration and despair he encountered among “monogamous” homosexual couples.

“I believe God has something better for every gay man and woman that far outweighs the expected hopes and promises of gay marriage or even a gay life,” said Mattie Walk in Gay Marriage, Krispy Kreme Donuts and Freddie Mercury. Amen to that!

This will likely be the last post I write about this issue for a while.  As I’ve mentioned before, most of the broken hearts/lives I encounter are caused by other forms of sexual immorality (premarital sex, adultery, etc.).

*You may argue that this man’s testimony does not accurately represent the gay culture or same-sex couples.   It may not in all cases, but I think his experiences are a lot more common that than what the media would have you believe.