Pots of fake gold for centerpieces, gold-foiled chocolate coins for favors, and lots of
shamrocks and leprechauns as cake toppers. That’s what most people think of when it comes to decorating for St. Patrick’s Day. But most people don’t actually think of the man St. Patrick, and especially what he accomplished in life.
Something you might not have known, St. Patrick was far from a saint in his early
years. He was a self-professed pagan and only found the Christian faith after he was kidnapped at the age of 16 in his prayer life. I'm not sure where the leprechauns, rainbows and pots of gold came into the mix, but Patrick spent more than thirty years converting the Celtic Druids and building schools and churches across Ireland. The only item in the list I can make sense of is the shamrock. St. Patrick used it to teach the doctrine of the trinity. 3 leaves that make one, is like God, 3 persons that make one God.
Most people would be angry or depressed if we had found ourselves kidnapped, torn from our loved ones we may never see again. Yet Christ had so completely changed Patrick that when he finally got away, he felt compassion for the people group who enslaved him. St. Patrick ministered in Ireland for 29 years, baptized over 100,000 people and built 300 churches. The reality is, there is a lost and dying world wherever we are planted. How might God use you? You could be a world changer.
Cross the Line
The excitement is in the air and the signs are everywhere: people sporting their
favorite team’s jersey, heightened chatter in the news, at work, and at church, neighbors spying out the most coveted “man cave,” not to mention those dreadful lines at the
supermarket as the supply of hot dogs, chips and dip vanish as if we’re preparing for an invasion. Yes the Super Bowl is here. The defining moment between friend and foe is selecting whose side are you on.
In life we do the same thing. You may not be a sports fan but let me assure you, we all are cheering on our greatest hero. You can tell by the way we spend our money, who we hang out with, and what we do in our private time. You and I are definitely cheering for someone, but who is it?
So let me ask you a very important question, whose side are you on? When it comes to eternity you are either with Christ or you are against Him. There is only 2 teams and that’s either yourself, or him. Daily we are called to die to self and carry our cross. You either live for him or for yourself. So right now, what have you chosen?
Joshua 24:15, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve (…) But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
A New Year with small steps
Are you drawing up a list of New Year’s resolutions for 2020? Even if you’re not
making an actual written list, you’re probably giving at least some thought to what the New Year might hold for you.
Hopefully, the New Year will hold peace and happiness for you. But beyond that,
I’m hoping that 2020 will also be a year of spiritual growth for you. 2020 can be a year in which you grow closer to God by spending more time in His Word and more time in your private prayer life. These may seem like lofty-sounding goals, but they’re not as far out of reach as you might think. With the right initiative God does incredible work.
Remember that the farmer waits patiently for the Lord to bring the growth, but it
doesn’t mean he sits on his porch doing nothing. The farmer works hard, watering and weeding, repairing equipment, and completing all of their daily chores. When a farmer plants seeds and tends to his field, God brings the increase. With faithful devotion in prayer and scripture, the Lord will bring spiritual growth. God desires you take initiative in your spiritual life and grow. I recommend daily reading scripture and prayer.
2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
The Cradle, the cross, and the crown
There are three images that come to my mind when I think of Christmas, and I’m not
talking about Christmas Folklore. I’m talking about the real Christmas.
The first is a Cradle. In Bethlehem, was swaddled the hopes and dreams of a dying
world. The little tyke was lying in a manger, his hands grasping at straw. He was nestled amongst farm animals cooing to his parents. Soon those fingers would open blind eyes,
heal deaf ears, and his voice would boom with the power of God bringing the dead to life and preaching light in the darkness.
The second is the Cross. Those baby’s hands would one day heal the world and reconcile God to man. His healing hands would be pierced. His guiding voice would cry out on Calvary’s Hill, “It is finished!” There on Golgotha he would face death and soon rise as our victor.
The third is the Crown. His dying breath and resurrecting power bring meaning to his birth. Hope is found in the cradle. The King has arisen and the grave could not hold him. The next time Christ returns he will not be a babe in a manger. He will come in a blaze of glory and his crown will follow with him. Every knee will bow and tongue confess, “He is Lord!”
Cradle – Cross – Crown. Let these images speak to you. The power of Jesus who came as a babe is your hope. He will surely save your life.
Merry Christmas my friends!
Thanking God with a Thanksgiving
It is the custom of many Christians to bow their heads in public places and give
thanks for the food that has been placed before them. Yet, on several occasions I have had waiters and waitresses tell me they have never seen someone bow their head with their family and pray aloud. It is commonly something they have never seen in a restaurant.
Still millions never pause to give a word of thanks to God for their meal. Very few homes gather daily for a meal in the home and pray. Even during thanksgiving only a minority pause to thank God.
Psalm 100:1-4 records, “… Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! (…) Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”
The deepest roots of Christian thanksgiving go back before the Pilgrims set foot on American soil. It began two millennia ago at a place called Golgotha. At the cross Christ paid a debt that we cannot dream of repaying. This alone is reason enough we should thank God. But in case you’re struggling this year with a thankful heart, remember you don’t’ have to drum it up in your own power. Just walk in the Holy Spirit and God will produce a grateful heart within you. Find Him and you’ll find grace.
"A Biblical Homecoming"
There is nothing like a great Homecoming. Homecoming is all about returning to your roots. It’s when graduates return, school spirits are high, parades march in the streets, tailgate food galore, football games raise energy, and the week is closed with a celebration of food and dance for the students. Homecoming is a really fun time. It makes me wonder about the joy we will have at the greatest homecoming of all.
1 Thess. 4:16-18 reads, “ 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
You think our parties are grand? Can you imagine the Lord’s?
I love the lyrics in Mercy Me’s song, “Surrounded by You glory, What will my heart feel, Will I dance for you Jesus, or in awe of You be still, Will I stand in your presence, or to my knees will I fall, Will I sing hallelujah, Will I be able to speak at all, I can only imagine, I can only imagine.”
There is going to be a banquet filled with celebration. You’ve never experienced anything like it. I can’t wait for Homecoming! Come Lord Jesus!
Bring in the Harvest
Harvest time is just around the corner! So what better time to think about
Jesus’ words. Luke 10:2, “Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the Labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth Laboure’s into his harvest. (KJV)” Now is the very best time to jump into ministry if you’ve been thinking about it. With the Youth and Children’s program beginning this month, God has prepared a field that needs tending.
In John 4:35 he says, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (NIV)” Jesus is essentially saying, “It’s time you start opening your eyes and see the ministry opportunities that lie right in front of you.” God does not wish that the laborers should be few at First Baptist. He wants an abundance of us looking for opportunities to serve him. The field is before you and me. Let us go and reap. Serve God by serving others.
Fragile as a teapot serving our Lord
“ 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power
belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV)
Hidden within every believer is a treasure, a treasure of eternal value. What exactly? The saving
message of the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Now let me ask you something to consider. If you were to hide treasure, where would you put it? Most people store their treasure in secure national banks or in interest bearing 401k plans. Some put it in real estate. Others store their treasures in the old school method of steel vaults and safes, updated of course with a home security system. But who do you know that would hide their treasure in clay jars? Well, God does. And the fragile clay jar that he stores it in is you. His desire is that we, as frail as we are, would display the glory of God.
This last week First Baptist had the joy of showing the surpassing power of God to our community at the 4th of July parade. Setup began at 1:00pm and by 2:00pm we were handing out free hotdogs, snow cones, popcorn, and lemonade to the community. Our service and love through the years has become a staple in the community. Because of the love shed abroad through our church volunteers, the Bethany City relies and calls upon us for our service to the general public. It’s a privilege to pray before the parade asking God to bless our nation and those who have faithfully served our country. This year we were able to give out more than 200 free hotdogs. Through our acts of service God’s love is put on display and He receives all the glory.
Summer, however, is still not over. We’ve entered that point where you’re either an optimist or a pessimist. It’s the glass is either half-full or half-empty scenario. Summer vacation has reached the halfway mark. God still has plans for us and there are opportunities to serve before the summer is over. So if you missed our 4th of July outreach, we can still use you for several more events. Children’s camp is just around the corner. In fact, for some of you, by the time you receive this letter we will already be at Grand Oaks Baptist Assembly Camp. We are taking 13 children this year. Please pray for the spiritual life of our children and volunteers.
After children’s camp, we will begin our Vacation Bible School from July 15-19. This year we are trying something new. Instead of having the VBS opener on the FBC grounds, we are having a pool party out at Miracle Hills Ranch on Sunday, July 14 th from 5:00pm-7:00pm. We will provide hotdogs and a bounce house to all who come. So please be sure to invite other families. The VBS theme this year is “In The Wild: Amazing encounters with Jesus.” Our VBS closer will be held on Friday July 19th at 6:30pm at FBC Bethany.
If you are interested in helping, please contact the church office at (660) 425-8087. Still in the talks is the possibility of another teacher’s appreciation lunch. So please be praying for our church. If God lays on your heart possible ways we might better serve our community stop by or call the church office. God’s desire is that we love. Perhaps he might be leading you to step out in faith. Yes we
might be frail clay pots which are easily broken, but housed within us is eternal riches. There is great potential there. May we use it all for the glory of God.
By His Grace & For His Glory,
Toil, toil, toil, and trouble
“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore
my life again; from the depths of the earth you
will again bring me up.” (Psalm 71:20)
Can you relate to the Psalmist here? Have you ever been through troubles that are bitter to swallow? Maybe you’re even going through something right now. The Psalmist knows that in spite of everything he’s been through, God is sovereignly in control.
Notice what the Psalmist does not say. First, he does not blame Satan. Yes, Satan and demonic activity does cause havoc but only after receiving permission from God (Job 1:12). He also does not say God is incapable to do anything about his suffering. No, the Psalmist knows the power of God and understands the Lord’s sovereignty over his life. He thus concludes rightly, “you” God have made me see these troubles.
If God is in control of everything, including the bad, how do we cope with this reality? Perhaps you are going through or have been through something terrible and this is hard to accept. After reading this you’re thinking, “Well fine. If God causes all this murder, death, and trouble then he is no God to be worshiped!” Hold on a second there, before distorting God’s image I want to point out 4 truths about God’s sovereignty.
First, it does not say God causes sin. God permits sin and trouble but he himself does not do it or tempt others to do it (James 1:13). Also, God is not evil he is good. In fact God is the source of all that is good (Psalm 34:8). The Bible would have you taste, take a sampling, and you will see for yourself that God is good. You ask, “if God is so good then why permit sin? Can’t he just eliminate it?” If God didn’t permit sin the world would have perished with Adam in the garden. Instead, God shows us his love by patiently long suffering in spite of humanities moral evils. Our wretchedness does not stop His loving kindness. God permits sin in order to save us. He demonstrates love and forgiveness by keeping us around (Romans 5:8).
Second, God may bring about calamity in your life but he also brings about the good. You should not be developing a ‘one-sided’ judgement against God. You need to be fair when it comes to God about good and bad. Do not allow yourself to develop a resentful attitude with him. Kain did precisely this with his brother Abel. He was bitter and jealous that his own sacrifice was not as good as Abel’s. He murdered his brother. You could be walking around with the same twisted and warped mindset.
Kain misunderstood God when God told him to do well and he would be accepted (Gen. 4:7). God was not playing favorites with Abel. God meant well for Kain by giving his brother a greater reward. When you play the comparison game with others its dangerous. Don’t be warped in your interpretation of God because of something you did or didn’t get. Or being jealous over something another has. Remember that God brings about good in your life even when you don’t see it because your too busy being resentful and angry with God (Job 2:10). God brings about both good and bad, be fair in your view of him.
Third, he knows what’s best for you. The Bible says in Isaiah 55:8 (ESV), “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” God is infinite and you are finite. The impossible troubles you face God has folded into his sovereignty. This does not mean your troubles are meaningless to God. This is just the opposite. God uses those troubles to shape you. The testing of your faith produces character. You become steadfast, durable, and through it God perfects your faith (James 1:3). God knows what is best for you and will bring about trials to develop you. So trust him.
Finally, Jesus understands. I’ve been through some pretty awful experiences and I bet you have too. But no one compares to the painful experiences that the son of God unjustly went through. From rejection and betrayal to a brutal death upon the cross, your savior understands your pain. He is sympathetic as a high priest (Hebrews 4:15). He’s been there. And if Jesus has been there, you can draw near to a savior who will give you mercy and grace in your time of need.
Now that we have these points straightened out and we are thinking fairly about God listen to what the Psalmist said when we began. “From the depths of the Earth you will bring me up.” That is true. You will come back up again. The suffering you are going through will cease and he will bring about good again very soon. Perhaps by the end of the day? Perhaps tomorrow? Perhaps your turn around is just around the corner? And even if it’s not this side of heaven, one day all the suffering will cease and you will literally rise from the tomb to live again with Jesus. Good is coming your way. Believe in faith
By His Grace & For His Glory,
"The Hand That Rocks The Cradle - Mom"
Matthew 23:37 (ESV), “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and
stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
Whenever I hear Jesus’ words in this passage I think of motherhood. It demonstrates how he wanted to care for Israel the way a mother hen cares for her children. Truly the hen throughout history has been a symbol of motherhood. Sadly, in our day the hen has been degraded to an “egg machine.” Even worse, some people have treated their own human mother’s this way when instead we should celebrate them.
Consider the hen’s virtue to that of moms everywhere. In previous eras, she embodied the essence of motherhood. In the first century AD, the Roman historian Plutarch praised the many ways in which mother hens cherish and protect their chicks, “drooping their wings for some to creep under, and receiving with joyous and affectionate clucks others that mount upon their backs or run up to them from every direction; and though they flee from dogs and snakes if they are frightened only for themselves, if their fright is for their
children, they stand their ground and fight it out beyond their strength.”
The Renaissance writer Ulisse Aldrovandi described similarly that hens protect their chicks, “under the shadow of their wings, and with this covering they put up such a very fierce defense – striking fear into their opponent in the midst of a frightful clamor, using both wings and beak – they would rather die for their chicks than seek safety in flight.” He also noted how the hen will gather food for her chicks feeding them before they satisfy themselves. It was on this note Aldrovandi said, mother hens present, in every way, “a noble example of love for their offspring.”
Similarly, a godly mother is tenderhearted and caring for her young. She expresses her affection with every hug, cuddle, and Band-Aid on a scraped knee. She finds her inner ‘mama bear’ in defense of her children, even sacrificing herself if necessary. She provides for her young like a hen cares for her chicks. A child is vulnerable, frail, and innocent – mom stands in the gap.
The first Mother’s Day was celebrated in West Virginia in 1912. Mothers were meant to be recognized throughout the nation as an important part of our culture and lives. They are like a rare jewel and their sacrifices should not go unnoticed. They love their children during the worst and best of times.
I can still remember one of my early childhood mother’s days. The kindergarten teacher had us make pine cone stuffed with peanut butter and rolled in bird seed. We attached a string to it. I was supposed to present it to my mom on Mother’s Day but I couldn’t wait. I got home from school and ran to my mama shouting, “Look what I made you Mama! We can hang it in the tree. Its for you! Happy Mother’s Day!” My mom didn’t care that I couldn’t wait, she cherished the gift.
Now, I watch my own children interact with my wife. They are excited to give their artwork to mama and rarely can wait. They long for their mother’s approval and affection – a smile, a pat on the head, a thank you, and a warm embrace. They are filled with such hope and an inner need to be cherished. Who better than mom?
God created families and gave mothers a unique place in the family unit. They can love, give of themselves, work, cook, clean, wash clothes, put Band-Aids on scrapes … be the first one up in the morning or the last one down at night. They juggle a tremendous amount of responsibility. The reality is children demand a lot of attention and Mom needs to find the strength to face each day knowing that God and you love her.
This Mother’s Day, be certain to express your thankfulness for her sacrifice.
Ephesians 6:2, ““Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise).”
By His Grace & For His Glory,
"Relevance of the Resurrection”
Acts 2:22-24, 36 (ESV), “ 22 Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a
man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered
up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and
killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (…) 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
The resurrection is the capstone of Christianity. Without the work Christ accomplished
on the cross and his victory over death, no one is saved. It is Christ’s labor of love on the cross, nothing of our merit, which saves. It is for this purpose we recognize Jesus as both
Lord and Christ. Sadly, when most people call Jesus Lord, they fail to consider him as Lord of their entire life. If Jesus is your Lord then he is to be obeyed as such. All aspects of our lives must come under the dominion of Christ’s lordship.
Jesus is alive, he has risen, and he is Lord. It is my prayer you would know this with certainty and increase in maturity as you follow Jesus. This month our church will celebrate the resurrection and host “His Last Days” on April 18 th -20 th . Please pray for the many singers, actors, and volunteers who are involved. Pray that those who attend the event will walk out redeemed and edified. In our house of worship, we must beg God to open hearts and transform lives.
Remember, we serve a risen Savior so don’t be intimidated or ashamed to speak His name. Share the Easter message with friends and loved ones. Easter is the perfect time to invite friends and family to our events and worship services. The reality is, Jesus will soon return. Will our Lord find us faithful upon his homecoming?
“Death could not hold You
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring
The praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again
You have no rival
You have no equal
Now and forever God You reign
Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King.”
By His Grace & For His Glory,
- Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so
that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
We live in a day and age where people are unconscious of their personal resentment. Merriam Webster defines resentment as, “a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.” When a person holds on to hurt it leads to anger. Anger left festering becomes resentment and ultimately destruction is inevitable. Actions of ill-will result in the destruction of marriages, friendships, and family. It’s a real issue we Christians should be on guard against and it’s pervasive in our American culture.
Read the morning headlines, browse Facebook, watch local news media outlets and you’re sure to find someone outraged. Anger seems to be a common theme these days. Left unchecked, it leads to the most sinister of people, a person whose identity is their resentment. We know these sorts of people. They develop a victim identity, blame-shift, and have an excessive admiration of
We desperately need to remember love as defined by the Holy Scriptures. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” God would rather us be defined by our love. Arrogant, rude, resentful behavior does not reflect nor produce the righteousness of God. It’s simply not in the cards for the followers of Christ.
James 1:20 says, “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” You see, anger is deceptive. We can tell ourselves it’s ‘just’ but most of the time it’s actually selfish and sinful on our part. It is certainly an attitude we Christians should not abide in.
So what should you do if you have perpetuating anger? Let’s say you have followed the Matthew 18 process, diligently confronting and seeking reconciliation with others, but you still find yourself angry. How do you overcome your own resentment? How do you remove the festering rage bubbling in the corners of your heart?
The answer is quite simple; it’s the very same thing Jesus offered us… forgiveness. Forgiveness is to be a regular part of your prayer life. When Jesus taught this principle in Mark 11:25, not only did he demonstrate it, but he taught us it’s critical to our own receiving of God’s forgiveness. You need to forgive if you want God to forgive you.
The reality is, there are no perfect sinless people. The only perfect person known to man is Jesus. So when you look at your life, I mean really look at it, you’ll find personal sin. Every one of us has gone astray and turned from God. And even still, though we are enemies of God, Christ died for us anyway (Romans 5:10).
If Christ could die for you, an imperfect sinner, then perhaps you should extend grace to others. Matter of fact, the Bible demands that you forgive others.
So if you’ve found yourself bitter and full of resentment, its time you obey your savior and forgive. Its time you go to Him in prayer and freely choose to grant grace to all those who have hurt you.
Love in Christ,
Pastor Ryan Kunce
"Our Murderous Hearts"
Over the last 2 years ‘fake news’ has dominated the talking
points in the political sphere. For example, this week we witnessed two
reports: 1. A Buzzfeed report condemning the President. 2. A second separate
altercation between High School Students and a Native American man. Great deals
of people believe inaccurate reporting to be the source of the problem. Now I
don’t entirely disagree, but what if the problem is more sinister than ‘fake
Given the increasing hostility between both political
spectrums (Democrats and Republicans) how are we to tolerate living with each
other under the same nation? It seems these days we are more interested in
scandal, corruption, and hate than we are in reconciliation and crossing the
aisle. That being said, is the real issue simply fake news? Or could there be
something much more sinister at play?
I agree fake news is a real problem; it always has been,
just look no further than the snake in the Garden. But what I want to discuss
is the underlying motivations that lead a person to lie or deliberately
ignore/change the facts. Ready for the answer? Are you sure? It’s Murder.
Hatred has been bubbling on both sides of the political spectrum and the
resentment we possess is manifesting itself in all forms of malevolence and attempts
of assassination. When we paint or convince ourselves that a person is utterly
evil then we really have no qualm with self-righteously dispensing them. This
has led to immense dehumanization of people. Whether police officer or
The reality is we really know nothing, let me repeat,
n-o-t-h-i-n-g about the other person.
Both the liberal left and conservative right wants to
convince you that you do. Their hope is to get you not to suspend but rather
cast judgement. They are thriving finically off of our hatred towards each
other and it sadly selling quite well. I’ve never seen such a polarized
resentful America in my life and the media has absolved itself of
responsibility. Even I feel its effects on me.
In today’s culture, whether you support or refuse a border
wall your ‘opponent’ will paint you into a bigoted hate mongering person and
left unchecked you will return the favor. I personally must warn and ask you
church not to fall prey into these trappings. Satan has laid his snare. The
very battle for our souls is being waged. Sadly, many are believing the lies
and casting stones. Satan scoffs.
Let me ask you something, what if the person you hate most
in this world, including the political ideology they hold to, is not as utterly
evil as you suppose they are? Now yes, parts of their worldview is likely
reprehensible, but I ask is the whole? What if instead of evaluating a person
on 1 or 2 issues we stepped back and learn to properly judge the whole person.
If done correctly, likely you will discover both vice and virtue.
So how do you ensure you’re judging people fairly? I think
the first step it to admit, “I really know nothing about this person.” Even the
reporter trying to win over their evaluation really knows nothing about this
person except a few details. Sure, they may have dug up some dark detestable
skeletons and they are absolutely shameful, but I still can’t really say I know
a ton about the person’s life. So why is it that we pounce as we do? Perhaps it
is not really the truth we care about, it’s our resentment.
The fake news, the lies, the dehumanization, it’s all
stirring from one thing, hatred. The reality is we want to believe people are
utterly evil so that we may justify our self-righteous utter destruction of
them. It’s the very thing Jesus called murder. When a Christian brother hates
another he commits the sin of murder. In 1 John 3:15-16 John said, “Everyone
who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal
life abiding in him.”
Today I want to encourage you to step back from the
resentment. Learn to evaluate people fairly. Start by admitting, “I really know
nothing about you, and you don’t know much about me either. Maybe we should
talk.” If we can admit this, perhaps we can have a conversation. Something so
simple can dramatically halt are own murderous hearts.
Don’t let the media or others turn you into a spiritual
criminal. Follow your messiah and let him be the judge. Before you cast a stone
make sure you really know the facts. My first suggestion, doubt yourself in all
that you think you know about people, especially your enemies. Perhaps then we
can truly get to the bottom of things.
Love in Christ,
Leviticus 19:17, “You shall not hate your brother in your
heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin
because of him.”
Doing the Charlie Brown at Christmas?
Over Fifty years ago "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
was broadcast for the very first time on American television. Some network
executives wrestled with the message it contained. Several felt it would be
ignored while others worried about the ramifications of quoting the Bible -
that it would offend their viewers. Expectantly, quite a few people wanted to
see "The Peanuts" creator, Charles Schulz, remove the biblical
Christmas message. Schulz stood his ground and insisted it remain. To this day,
it has been a repeated success. It has been rebroadcasted on multiple major
television networks every year since 1965, thats more than half a century in
case your wondering.
Many of us can relate to Charlie Brown. When everyone around
you is burning wholes in their pockets and you find a tremendous cultural
pressure to spend, you might feel like him too. As Lucy Who said in "The
Grinch", "Doesn't it all seem so... superfluous?"
There is a rich psychological message in Schulz's
"Charlie Brown Christmas Special". In it the main character, Charlie
Brown, wrestles as a frustrated director of the children’s Christmas play. He
looks around and is discouraged by the pervasive commercialism during the
holiday. It causes him to question the very purpose of Christmas' existence. It
is truly a great question that would benefit us all to ponder.
As the Christmas holiday quickly approaches I imagine not
only a few of you have spent a great deal of money on the festivities from
presents, meals, travel expenses, and lodging. I'm in this with you, I feel the
strain on my account every year. It can lead us to asking, "Is this all
Christmas is really about? A bunch of food and more junk? Really, what's the
point?" Let's be honest with ourselves, if you're the sort of person who
annually celebrates Christmas, you to have done the Charlie Brown search.
"Why am I doing this every year?"
Anyway, as Charlie searches for the true meaning of
Christmas his wise and humble friend Linus quotes Luke 2:8-14, “For unto you is
born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this
shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the
heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on
earth peace, good will toward men” (KJV). Then Linus finishes, “That’s what
Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
The why is a significant question, and even more powerful is
the answer. Many Americans celebrate the holiday with egg nog, Christmas
Lights, and plastic Santa’s in the yard. But do they truly ponder the reason
for Christmas... Jesus our Immanuel, God with us. Even 'jolly old Saint
Nicholas', was a real bishop who deeply loved Jesus and gave to the needy, he
has all but become American mythology and folklore. But if you sat down with
him he'd tell you the real reason for Christmas is Christ himself.
You might ask then, "How could our culture drift so far
from the Christmas message?" More importantly, "how could I let myself
become distracted by commercialism and forget, its all about Jesus?"
During the season it’s good to ponder afresh God’s great
love through the nativity story. Born in a meager family with very little, no
inn, not even a crib. All but greeted by barn animals and a few shepherds. Our
hero would rise to conquer sin, Satan, and death itself. By believing in this
one, He is able to conquer your death as well. Jesus is alive, call to him,
believe in him. Your advocate awaits.
Midterm Elections Woes?
Voting is on the mind of almost every American this week. We
are concerned about Immigration, Healthcare, Birth Control ethics, Border
Patrol ethics, Gun Control, relationship’s with other governments like Iran,
and the nomination of Supreme Court Justices. Let me also not fail to mention
just how many are either frustrated or in love with the personality of the
presiding President. Some are wondering, “Is this the best America has to
offer?” Others feel like they may be forced to choose the “lesser of two evils”
Due to all these issues many of us are scared. We do not
know what the future holds. You might even be asking questions like, “What if
my team loses? If they do, what does that mean for tomorrow?” Some are even
afraid we are literally facing Armageddon. They cry, “The horn in heaven is
about to be blown.” Know this; I would be glad if it did! I want the Lord Jesus
to return. But even if all these fears do come to pass, it does not mean it’s
the end of the World and we certainly do not need to be afraid.
Imagine a world where we could call off all future
elections. No more rallies, campaigns, candidates, and voting. Imagine a world
if instead God directly picked the leaders. That would be amazing wouldn’t it?!
No more worries because God would perfectly select our leaders, right? You
would love every one of his picks, right? But what if I took a moment to push
back on you and say, “You might not like his picks.”
Has there ever been a president, senator, or representative
you didn’t like? I bet chances are, yes! But what if told you, God sovereignly
chooses the rise of leadership, even the ones you despise? What if I told you
the Bible teaches precisely that? The Scriptures teach that God controls
whoever was, is, and will be in charge of every nation. He alone causes leaders
to rise and fall. Knowing this, how might you live your life differently?
Let me start by saying Romans 13:1 still applies to us
today. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For
there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been
instituted by God.”
This is not some simpleminded Christian virtue written
during nonviolent times. When the apostle Paul wrote these words, Rome was
under the reign of Emperor Nero Germanicus. He was a tyrannical leader, one of
the most evil dictators of human history. He set his own city on fire and
framed Christians for the resulting carnage. He successfully led his nation to
hate and brutally torture countless Christians. Not only did he murder his own
family members, but he set Christian women and children on fire as human
torches to light his Palace gardens at night. Christians were fodder for all
manner of wild beasts in the Coliseum and the crowds roared with laughter and
applause. The apostle Paul himself was martyred under his leadership. You could
not fathom a more disturbed man let alone national leader, could you?
You might think the situation looks bleak in America but it
doesn’t hold a candle to what the first century Christians faced. Yet Paul
still penned Romans 13:1. So what should we remember in our own time?
1. Believers must submit to God’s appointed leaders.
So longs as the leader does not tell you to sin, you are
commanded from scripture to obey. It says, “Let every person be subject to the
governing authorities.” The Christian has no moral right to stir anarchy and
hatred against their leaders. They are instead commanded to submit. This is
probably not what most of your conversations sound like over morning coffee at
the Waffle House. “Just submit.” Likely, its stuffed with complaining even
though we should severely restrict it (Phil 2:14).
Scriptures further reads, “those that exist have been
instituted by God.” This means God Himself has appointed our leaders. The only
time we disobey leadership is if they directly ask us to sin. God is the higher
authority we appeal to in these situations (Acts 5:29). So whether you wanted
Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as President, God appoints the leader and we
are required to submit.
2. God’s plan includes ungodly leadership.
The end of verse 1 states, “those that exist have been
instituted by God.” Again this means whether the leader is godly or ungodly,
the Lord appointed them. See I told you, you might not like His picks at times.
God does and will appoint ungodly leaders to rule over you. Don’t believe me?
Look at the Pharaoh who enslaved the Jews only for God to utterly destroy him
and get the glory. Consider King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Consider King
Cyrus. Consider even King Solomon, one ungodly man with his many wives and
countless erected pagan alters.
Every leader of human history has been, and will be directly
appointed by God. This may be tough to accept, but remember even God controls
our mid-term elections.
We may wonder why God allows certain leaders to rise but we
are finite beings and can not possibly fathom his infinite calculations.
Remember, even Jesus teaches God controls leadership. In John 19:11 as Jesus
was being questioned during His trial, He said to Pilate, “You would have no
power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” Here our Lord
affirmed that Pilate, the man who allowed his execution, was sovereignly
appointed by God.
In the United States we may have the right to vote (that is
a wonderful privilege you ought to participate in), but the winner is appointed
by God. If your pick loses, you may be tempted to lose hope in the future of
our country. You may cave to some of the darkest fears and worries you can
possibly imagine. But as a believer you are commanded to not fear or worry.
Your Lord is, and always will be in control. If you should be struck by terror,
then to your knees fall and pray. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Lay your
burden down to the Lord and don’t pick it up again.
Remember, our redemption does not come by the government. We
already have a savior and it’s not the United States of America or any other
Government for that matter. Our faith alone is in Christ alone, the only
begotten son of God. He alone is victorious over death, sin, and our future.
The Three Most Powerful Words
“It is finished.” – John 19:30
Three simple words and perhaps the most powerful of all. On
this hinges the eternal destiny of the believer. Without these words where
would we be? If Christ had chosen to walk away… If these words were never
uttered… there would be no hope.
The Greek word tetelestai is translated “it is finished.” In
Greek the perfect tense signifies a past action, the effect of which continues
into the present. The nuisance we miss in English is that it ‘has been
completed’ and ‘is still complete’. There is a very rich sense of finality.
To help us further understand the meaning of these 3 words
scholars over the last few centuries have noticed this word “tetelestai”
popping up in all sorts of 1st century commercial papyrus (documents). Moulton
and Milligan, authors of The Vocabulary of The Greek New Testament, poured over
many 1st century receipts and contracts of the Roman world. This phrase
telesestai was found abbreviated at the introduction of these bills. It is an
accounting term symbolizing that the obligation had been completed. The debt
was paid in full. Our English New Testament reads, “It is finished.”
When Jesus uttered these words, he was declaring a victory
cry. He had completed everything the Father sent him to do. He had finished his
ministry, his suffering, and his sacrifice. Sin was dealt a fatal blow that
day. The debt was paid in full.
Philippians 2:7-11 reads: '7 but (He) emptied himself, by taking the form of a
servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a
cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that
is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Have we truly grasped that our sins led him to the cross?
Have we grasped that God desires us? Look at the extent to what he has done!
God left the glories of heaven above and became like us. He obeyed to the point
of death. He even suffered one of the most humiliating forms of death there is,
the Roman Crucifixion. What more could He do? Why would He go to such a great
extent? So that everyone of us would confess him as Lord. He did it for the
Father and… He did it for you.
I recognize how easy it is to tell everyone just how much
God cares, loves, and freely offers forgiveness to them. It’s even easier to
talk about how much Jesus loves his Heavenly Father. But it’s another thing
entirely different to talk about his love for ‘me’.
Yes, Jesus primarily embraced the cross to bring His
Heavenly Father glory, but that is not the only reason. If not for the Father
only then who else? John 3:16 tells us why, “For God so loved the world, that
he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not
perish, but have everlasting life.”
Don’t you see? Jesus died for you. Can you accept this? Can
you honestly say the words, “Jesus embraced the cross for me. The empty tomb
was for me. He is my savior.” Unfortunately, our sin, shame, and pride can
cloud the picture. It can make it difficult for us to accept this great
sacrifice. Some of us can go so hard on ourselves that we can’t see our own
value to the Lord. In our sin we can’t forgive ourselves nor accepts the Lord’s
forgiveness of us.
The reality is this: God, my friend, believed you were worth
dying for. So no matter what you may say or think about yourself, He says, “You
are worth it. You are valuable to me. I love you.”
Just let that thought sink in. Nobody else gets to tell you
of your value – not your job, your success, your loved ones, not even yourself.
Only God gets to tell you your worth. And you know what He is saying, “You were
worth dying for.” Give yourself a break from all the self-shaming. Just accept
that He thinks you’re worth dying for.
Please pray with me, “God how could it be that you think of
me? How could you find me worth anything? I have scorned your ways, spurned
your face, and squandered your gifts. Yet here you remain with your arms
wide-open for me. I have no words. Nothing I can say to this sort of love that
I don’t deserve. Thank you… Thank you for the cross and the empty tomb. Your
son is precious to me. I love you God. How amazing is the grace? How sweet is
the sound that you would save a wretch like me? Thank you for your forgiveness.
I accept that I am valuable simply on the grounds that you think I am. Help me
to live for you.”
Passing The Legacy of Christ
Last week I was saddened at the news of Dr. Billy Graham’s
passing. I have never heard a man speak with more confidence and fire in his
belly for Christ than Billy Graham. In so many ways I have wished to have but
one portion of the fervor he had in winning the lost to Christ.
Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., President of Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary said:
“An epic era of evangelical history has come to an end.
Billy Graham was not only a titanic figure in evangelicalism, but in world
history and perhaps represents the last of a kind. He dominated 20th-century
American evangelicalism and remained a major figure on the world stage
throughout most of the 20th century in a way that we can envision no evangelical
leader in our times. He was a man of deep conviction whose passionate heartbeat
was for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I couldn’t help but agree with Dr. Mohler when he said that
Billy Graham’s death marked the end of an era in evangelical history, that he
represented the last of his kind. But in all honesty I do not want this to be
true. I desire to still see the world turned on its head by the power of the
gospel message. To see nations swept with revival across the land, to see
America repent of her sins and faithfully turn to Christ. But is that a pipe
dream? Has a final era passed?
I don’t think God would want us to reflect on the past glory
years and then lose hope in the present. I believe that if anything, he would
want us to do the opposite. God wants you and me to look at future glory and press
on with gusto. Real glory is coming, it lies ahead. When I look to the past at
Billy Graham’s legacy I am excited to think that every faithful Christian plays
a part in the exact same legacy. For Billy Graham’s legacy was not his own, it
was founded on our Lord Jesus and then passed from one generation to the next.
Ephesians 2:19-21, “19 So then you are no longer strangers
and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the
household of God, 20
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ
Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being
joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”
Dr. Graham shared what he received. What will we do with
that received message? To think, every Sunday School class you study the word,
every Vacation Bible School you volunteer for, every potluck fellowship you
patriciate in, every meal you provide to the grieving, every sabbath day you
gather with the church, all of it is the exact same legacy Billy Graham
I’ve asked myself before why Billy Graham’s conviction to
share the gospel was so intense? What motivated him so boldly? I believe in the
power of the Holy Spirit he knew the future glory coming.
Revelation 22:12-13, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my
recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and
the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Grieve but don’t lose heart at the passing of Christian
brothers and sisters. Let us press on in this great legacy and make the
Christian heroines of the past proud. For one day you and I will be the dust of
the past. What will future generations behold?
Billy Graham famously said:
“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one's children and
grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one's life,
but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
May we now serve the Lord and pass this great legacy of
Christ on to ourselves and future generations.
I Want To Know What Love Is…
Tis our culture’s season of love. Local stores are flooded
with assorted chocolates, balloons, flower bouquets, stuffed animals, and
romantic greeting cards. A man can hardly escape the checkout line without
being drowned in holiday paraphernalia. If us married men stop by the store at
least once, we are without excuse on Valentine’s Day. Our wives want to know we
think of them, especially on a national holiday where we are supposed to love
on them. Definitely buying them a chocolate and rose lets them know we are. But
what I want to ask today is, what is love?
According to Dictionary.com they define love, “1. an intense
feeling of deep affection. 2. to feel a deep romantic attachment to (someone).”
Our culture tells us love is an ‘intense feeling’ of affection
and it’s also ‘romantic attachment’. This means when your feelings are no
longer intense and the romance is absent, so is the love. But is this really
I dare challenge our cultural definition of love. I
conjecture that what we believe to be ‘love’ is indeed ‘infatuation’. Note the
meaning of infatuation, “an intense but short-lived passion or admiration for
someone or something.” Does that not more accurately explain our culture today?
We are a culture of infatuation. Captivated today and then abandoned tomorrow.
Our cultural belief in love is quite shallow. Consider that
premarital sex is not only the norm but fully embraced. Hollywood is rife with
plotlines of a man in love (what I call infatuation) with a woman and before
you know it, they’re in bed well before their marriage. They do ‘love’ each
other so it’s okay, right? According to the IFS (Institute for Family Studies)
as of 2010 only 5% of new brides are virgins. That number is staggering and
breaks my heart!
Furthermore, IFS has found that the odds of divorce are
lowest with zero or one premarital partner. That means an active ‘love’ life
outside the covenant of marriage is unhealthy. It only increases risk of
psychological unhappiness and future unfaithfulness. Translation: parents
should never encourage their children to ‘test the waters’. This will only lead
your child to greater heart break and uncommitted relationships. Statistically
marrying a partner who has had no ‘love’ life (a virgin) will provide a much
happier and fulfilling marriage. Funny that God’s way is always better.
Consider also divorce in America. According to the APA
(American Psychological Association) about 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in
divorce. This would also explain why infidelity is a scourge across the marital
landscape. Partners claim that, “they are sorry but they ‘love’ (infatuated
with) somebody else now.” Why do I call this infatuation and not love? Great question!
Let’s look at the Biblical definition of love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV), “4 Love is patient and kind;
love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist
on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at
wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all
things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
According to the Bible love is patient. It does not hastily
rush into premarital sex. A young man loves his girlfriend best by protecting
her and keeping patient. He is kind to her and does not attempt to seduce her.
He is not envious of her. The same can be said of married men and women. They
are to remain patient and not covet other partners. Their eye must not wonder
accept only to their God given spouse. A Godly love does not quarrel or is
easily offended. It is not resentful but instead forgiving. A Bibilcal love
bears, believes in, hope, and endures with their spouse.
This definition of love is a far cry different than ‘intense
feeling or romantic attachment’. God’s kind of love is sacrificial and
obedient. The cultures love is shallow, superficial, and uncommitted unless
intense feelings are present. Biblical love is not temperamental intense
feelings, its action rooted in the gospel. Jesus sacrificed his life for us.
That’s the kind of love we need for each other. We must choose to sacrificially
love as Jesus did. He loved us who were not worthy. Our love towards our
spouses, children, and neighbors should look like this.
Our culture needs a much more profound definition of love
and the Bible gives us that.
Looking Back & Looking Forward
Happy New Year! As one year ends another one begins. I am
blown away at the awesome privilege I have had to serve our church family for
the last 5 years. I know, you can’t believe it either? What a real joy it is to
see so many of you blossom and bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. From tragedy
to elation, you have weathered many storms and have basked in the warm light of
the sun. Through all the highs and lows, you persevere and remain triumphant in
our Lord Jesus.
Ephesians 2:20-22 says of the church that we are:
“20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure,
being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also
are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV)”
That’s you, First Baptist. All of you make up the temple of
God. Our foundation is Christ and the mortar that holds us together is the Holy
Spirit. You, His bride, are dearly loved by the Father. What a privilege it is
to serve you.
As I reflect on the past and look forward to the New Year, a
flood of thoughts rush through my mind. Julie told me she found my first gray
hair 4 months ago. I first went into denial and then argued it was ‘light’
brown. Let’s face it, it was gray. Life isn’t slowing down for me. If anything,
I wonder sometimes if somebody hit fast forward and skipped a few chapters.
Yes, we are now already entering 2018; can you believe it? I remember
anticipating New Year’s Eve 2000 and the millennium bug – it was all supposed
to come crashing down yet here we are. Yeah that was 18 years ago… almost 2
Well, New Years should make us think about how we did this
year and what our plans are for the next. I’ve got to say I really enjoyed
2018. God significantly enhanced my personal evangelism skills and I only wish
for more. From missions in Texas and foreign missions in Haiti, to here in
Bethany, the testimonies are incredible. I’ve learned from our Lord to first
pray, and then ask lots of good questions as Jesus did. Now I wonder, what will
2018 hold for me? What will it hold for our church, and for you?
We have focused on who God is (theology), why we should love
our community (outreach), and how we should go about sharing Jesus with them
(evangelism and apologetics). Now, as we anticipate 2018, I sense a leading to
talk about true worship. What is it? God has pressed into my heart Luke 10:27,
“And he (Jesus) answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and
‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” What does it mean to love with heart, soul,
strength, and mind? How is loving your neighbor an act of worship to God? What
My prayer for 2018 is that we will continue to find ways to
proclaim Christ in worship, thought, word, and deed. I hope that the New Year
will be a time where we grow together in wisdom. I invite you to pray for our
church, for all of our opportunities and challenges, for our staff, and for all
of those in positions of leadership. I need all the prayers I can get, so
please pray for me! Know that I will be in prayer for you, for your joys and
struggles, your spiritual journey, and your relationship with God. Let us
proclaim Christ and trust that He is with us always!
Finding Your Awe Inspiring Moment
“Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o're the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains
Gloria, Gloria in Excelsis Deo
Shepherds why this Jubilee
Why your joyous strains prolong
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song
Gloria, Gloria in Excelsis Deo”
What inspires awe in you? What captivates you? What makes
you speechless? Is it the sight of your beautiful Bride gracefully walking down
the aisle? Yeah, that one got me too. Or how about the highest Summits of the
Colorado Rockies? I still remember drinking from a cascading waterfall cutting
through the mountain pass. Or have you seen the crystal blue waters of the
Caribbean? Trust me, the pictures don’t do justice the rolling waves along the
The night Christ was born was the most monumental,
awe-inspiring, opulently divine event of human history. God sent His only
begotten Son as a sacrificial lamb, for by this child’s blood we would be
healed. He would one day be crushed for our iniquities. There has never been an
event in history like this, the night the Shepherds witnessed. One angel
appeared on the scene declaring to them, “10 Fear not, for behold, I bring you
good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born
this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this
will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and
lying in a manger. (Luke 2:10-12)”
To witness a single angel must have been quite a sight. I
too would need to hear them say the words “Fear not”. But the shepherds did not
witness merely one angel that evening. Moments later a great multitude of
heavenly hosts appeared. And what were these thousands upon thousands saying?
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Yes they sang “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” – Latin for glory to
God in the Highest.
I imagine at this point the Shepherds’ knees hit the floor
and their faces firmly planted in the ground. For how could they be worthy of
such a sight? I myself would have had to lift my jaw at such a majestic sight.
I imagine Luke must have been hard pressed to adequately write the words.
Most people these days have fewer and fewer awe-inspiring
encounters with God. We are so incredibly distracted with busyness and
entertainment that few of us pause and take the time to enjoy God. I don’t know
about you, but the Holiday season is quite a busy time in my life. There are
Christmas parties, festivities, shopping, school activities and family travels
galore. It’s not just all the events but the distractions abound. From cell
phones to television we are losing our awe-inspiring moments before the Lord.
The whole reason for the Christmas season is to be captivated by the glory of
God and our wonderful Savior.
This Christmas, make an attempt to re-claim those
breathtaking moments with God. Strive to join the choir of Angels and worship
our Lord. Find once more your awe-inspiring moments with God. Do not settle for
an ordinary life in Jesus, rather make it extraordinary.
Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Merry Christmas & Glory to God in the Highest!
Celebrating 500 Years of Reformation
This last Halloween I was proud of our church to collect
more than 2,000 pieces of candy and hand out more than 430 Bible tracts to
children in our community. Who ever said Jesus and Halloween don't go together?
I was so proud of our First Baptist family who gathered and shared the love of
God with the children in our community. As I set here, I also wonder if anyone
else realized what was this October 31, 2017? Not just Halloween and are
evangelistic outreach, but it was the 500th year anniversary of the
reformation. 500 years ago Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the doors of
Wittenberg. Why does that matter to us? Glad you asked.
The church for a very long period of history lived without
the word of God in the vernacular (the common spoken language). The Catholic
church only supported Jerome's Latin translation of the Hebrew & Greek
Bible, known as 'The Vulgate'. His Latin translation was the only authorized
text. As time passed on it became a dead language no longer spoken by people.
The Catholic church refused to translate the Bible into the common tongue. Even
their Mass (worship service) was spoken in Latin. Sadly, many churches had to
request translations of the Mass and it too was often met with refusal. For
centuries, some have even suggested a millennia, this went on.
Due to this, nobody could read the Bible. If Bible
translations were made into the vernacular (say German or French) Catholic
authorities had these individuals burned at the stake, lynched, or hung. As one
of the few educated in society Martin Luther had access to the word of God,
able to translate Hebrew and Greek. Luther came to realize the Catholic Church
was advocating teachings contrary to the Bible. People were easily manipulated
by the Popes and church authorities.
Hence the the middle ages became known as the 'Dark Ages' -
because of corruption within the Roman Catholic Church. Popes were ruling as
kings, there was veneration of saints' relics, a forced celibate priesthood,
institutionalized moral hypocrisy, and selling of indulgences. None of these
are supported in scripture. Martin Luther's 95 thesis was written against the selling
of indulgences (the ability to literally buy your deceased love one out of hell
[purgatory] and into heaven). No where does the Bible teach such concepts.
Martin Luther took his stand against the church and protested. All of us who
are non-Catholic Christians follow Luther in this tradition. We are in protest
to the Catholic Church demanding that they change these false doctrines. We are
protest*ants, hence protestant churches. For we protest the catholic church.
The hallmarks of our faith that we still celebrate today,
which Catholicism does not, are known as 'The 5 Solas'. Sola Gratia (Grace
Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), Soli Deo Gloria
(Glory of God Alone), Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). We are saved by grace
alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We reject the catholic dogma of
'personal righteousness' + 'Christ' = heaven. No just faith in Jesus = heaven.
Works will follow the truly born again heart.
Martin Luther was summoned to trial at the Diet of Worms before
the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. He was to recant his 95 thesis and all his
other teachings against the church. Luther defiantly said:
"Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy
Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils
alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted
themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture,
which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and
will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor
sound. God help me. Amen."
As the faithful have said, "Before I let anyone take
from me the Word of God and ask me to deny my belief, I will kneel and let him
strike off my head."
Always reforming to the word of God,
What are you living for?
If you were to pull up a chair and have a conversation I’d
like to ask, “What are you living for?” I think the answer to that question is
revealing. Perhaps it’s to pay off the mortgage, maybe it’s to put the kids
through college, it could even be to grab the corner office and rake in the
cash. Yeah that’s the good life isn’t it… or is it?
At the end of life, you will discover that personal
happiness becomes too fleeting a goal. For all that you have will one day be
naught. You will discover it was never truly yours, your stuff belongs to God
and it was on loan.
The psalmist in Psalm 39:4 says, “4 O LORD, make me know my
end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! (ESV)”
Why do we do that? Why do we make the world center around ourselves? God
forgive us of our fleeting self-aspirations. Life is too temporary to make it
all about us.
What then are we to live for? Colossians 1:16 gives us that
answer, “16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible
and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things
were created through him and for him. (ESV)” Translation, we were created for
Christ. We were created for God’s glory, to enjoy an eternal relationship that
never perishes, yeah, that’s something to really live for. There is nothing
fleeting about that.
Psalm 115:1, “1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your
name give glory. (ESV)”
God reminded me of something Albert Mohler once wrote, “An
old preacher . . . told a group of younger preachers to remember that they
would die. ‘They are going to put you in a box, put the box in the ground, and
throw dirt on your face, and then go back to the church and eat potato salad.”
Someday this will be my fate. I will die and so will you. All that lasts is
what’s done for Christ. I only hope we lived for the glory of the Lord.
Everything else pales in comparison to the exceeding greatness of His power.
Psalm 90:12, “12 So teach us to number our days that we may
get a heart of wisdom. (ESV)” I began by asking, “What are you living for?”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this question myself. “What am I living for?” If
that answer is not God then it’s fleeting.
A passage of C.T. Studd’s famous poem records:
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
What is the meaning of life?
Could you comfortably answer this question? If you were to
ask leading atheists you would find no unanimity to their answers accept only
one – the universe according to them is purposelessness. To them you are an
accident, not just you but all life and living organisms for that matter. The
sooner you acknowledge this ‘truth’ the better off you’ll be in a merciless
cosmos which is survival of the fittest.
Atheist psychologist Susan Blackmore states, "The
pointlessness of life is not a thing to be overcome. It's something to be
celebrated now, because that's all there is." Richard Dawkins further
asserts, “Humans have always wondered about the meaning of life... life has no
higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of DNA... life has no design, no
purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”
Really that’s all there is… pointlessness… purposelessness…
nothing but pitiless indifference? I often wonder how these guys roll out of
bed in the morning. Not surprisingly you don’t hear words of encouragement from
secular humanists during times of national tragedies like September 11th or the
Boston Marathon bombing. You actually don’t hear anything at all for that matter,
we find them surprisingly tight-lipped. Why? Well since life is meaningless
accident, not much more can be said about someone who dies in an obscure corner
of the universe. No matter how you die, you’re just one animal amongst many and
that’s the circle of life. The universe is merciless like that.
The Bible, however, has much more to say about the meaning
of life than our atheist friends. There is a far greater hope we possess than
‘pitiless indifference’. You are not an accident, the world is not spiraling
out of control, and you do indeed have a purpose. Colossians 1:16 states,
“16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and
invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things
were created through him and for him.”
In other words you were created ‘by’ and ‘for’ God. This is
the very purpose of your life. One of the greatest answers I have found to
life’s greatest question is given in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It
asks, “What is the chief end of man?” Answer, “Man's chief end is to glorify
God, and to enjoy him forever.” You were created to worship and enjoy God in a
lifelong relationship with Him. This does not work vice versa. God does not
exist to serve your purposes but you exist to serve His.
You are not a random accident but specifically created and
highly valuable to a sovereign God (Matt 10:31). You are not one animal amongst
many, but are rather special being made in the image of God (Gen 1:26). You are
not some random chance the universe burped up, but God intentionally thought of
you long before you were born (Jer 1:4-5). Yes, there is indeed purpose to your
life. When you live out life’s ultimate purpose you will find life’s greatest
If you want to experience this joy then it starts with God.
He has created you to walk in a relationship with Him. The Bible teaches we
have all been separated from God by our sin. A chasm exists so deep and wide in
our relationship with the Lord that it’s impossible to cross on our own. You
need to be rescued and the only one capable is Jesus. He is the only sinless
person whose sacrifice on the cross gives us access to God. If you have not
gone through him, then now is the time.
If you have already surrendered your life to Christ then I
wish to ask you one question. Right now, what are you living for? I hope you
said the Lord.
To God Alone Be The Glory Forever & Ever,
Pastor Ryan Kunce
It doesn’t take long being a father to realize how much
children love sweets. I remember my Grandparents offering candy and my mom
would tell them, “No he doesn’t need any right now.” Well now that I’m a parent
I realize why and it’s not simply about calories. These kids have a ton of
energy and they don’t need anymore. If anything they could spare some for the
rest of us, amen?
This year we brought our kiddos to children’s camp and my
son stole my cake when I wasn’t looking. I was talking with Brad Walker and he
asked to sit on my lap. I said, “Awe sure buddy.” Being a good dad I felt so
proud. Here I was holding him thinking, this is really cool. Well, when I
finally went to take a bite, the little stinker had already eaten half of it
and the evidence was all over his sticky face and fingers. Afterward I had to
help him clean MY cake off himself. In all fairness I know, I talk way too
In a lot of ways sin is like that. According to the
scriptures we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of
righteousness (Romans 3:23). We are so covered in sin we are unable to save
ourselves. We cannot in any measure clean up the mess we have made. We need our
Heavenly Father to clean us up.
Recently I was reading through Matthew 8:1-4. In the passage
Jesus has just come down the mountain with a crowd following and runs into a
leper pleading, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” Notice, this guy
believed Jesus could cleanse him. Lepers were placed in a separate colony
quarantined from the rest of society for fear of others contracting the
disease. There are even biblical commands about staying away. But this leper
was willing to break those commands because he believed Jesus could heal him.
What I love about Jesus is that without hesitancy he
responds. He stretches out his hand and touches the guy saying, “I will; be
clean.” Immediately the leprosy was gone. Isn’t it wonderful to know that when
we come to our Heavenly Father He is willing and ready to cleanse us? Sure this
was a physical ailment that needed to be healed but the reason Jesus is healing
is so that we too would believe in Him, just like this leper did.
The simple truth is we are all like my son and the cake. We
snuck into what we are not supposed to and have made such a mess we need our
Heavenly Father to clean us up. Right now God is with you. If you were to
simply stop what you are doing and ask Him, I mean really ask Him in surrender,
He will cleanse you. It’s not just you He would cleanse, it’s your neighbor
My prayer is that you would talk with your heavenly Father.
Be real with him, get honest. The reality is He knows everything anyway. Ask
him to cleanse you and He will. I love that about God. He doesn’t hesitate. He
will reach right out and touch you and with 2 simple words “be clean” and you
To God Alone Be The Glory Forever & Ever,
"Is God Your Afterthought?"
This summer season has been quite lively with foreign
missions coming and going from our church family and I could not be more proud
of those who have surrendered to the call both in short and long term missions.
I think of the people we as a church family have already prayed for and sent:
Howard Gamber, Peyton Spurling, Morganne Sweat, Sharon Johnson, Paige
Petterson, Ryan & Julie Kunce (Haiti), Pam Fitzgerald (Alaska), Kim
Marshall (Honduras), and not to mention our youth street evangelism team in
Dallas Texas. It’s amazing how God has used these individuals in their
perspective mission fields and we certainly rejoice in God our savior for their
My greatest fear, however, is that we at First Baptist might
conclude our Lord works more powerfully abroad than at home. Nothing could be
further from the truth. Whether we go to foreign lands or not, everyone has a
mission field and is called to live a missional life for Jesus. So when it
comes to loving on our local community and sharing the gospel with friends I
want to remind everyone of something God had to show me this year. When we
serve the Lord we must remember that the Holy Spirit is vital to our efforts
and cannot be overemphasized. In fact evangelism is not about you involving God
in your outreach efforts, but it is rather Him involving you in His.
Rather than tell God what we will do, let us first go to Him
and daily ask, “What is it you want me to do today? How can I serve you? Lord
would you please show me who to talk to, serve, and what to say?” The
difference between telling God and asking God is the difference between
independence from rather than dependence on the Holy Spirit. It’s the
difference between self versus divine possession. It’s the difference between
usurping versus surrendering to Him.
Jesus commanded his disciples in Luke 24:49 to, “stay in the
city (Jerusalem) until you are clothed with power from on high.” The early
disciples began with surrender and I believe this is the way forward for every
believer. We need to first ask God for His will and then surrender to it. We
should not be making God an afterthought. We make him an afterthought every
time we make plans and then afterward ask Him to bless our efforts. That’s like
planning a night out at the movies and then remembering to ask your date if
they would like to tag along.
It’s not pleasant being an afterthought and trust me, God
does not like it either. The Lord does not enjoy being your sidekick. He would
rather be the hero. As one famously said, “He is not the copilot He is the
pilot.” He is not your Robin to your Batman, if anything he is Batman and you
are Robin. You get the picture. First surrender to Him and let him lead in
everything, yes even before you make plans.
We do well to remember that it is the Holy Spirit who opens
the eyes of unbelievers not us. Acts 16:14 speaking about Lydia coming to
Christ, “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”
Simply put, if God had not opened her heart she would have never heard Paul’s
message and responded accordingly. The same goes for us as well. If we walk
around in our power and wit we will not experience the miraculous work of God.
Even if we did we would be too foolish to notice, praising ourselves rather
than God who changed the person’s heart in the first place.
Remember it is the Holy Spirit who converts the heart, not
us. We must ask God for divine appointments rather than try and make our own.
It is the believer’s job to share but it is God’s job to do the saving. Notice
1 Corinthians 3:6-7 says, “6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the
growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God
who gives the growth.” God is responsible for salvations and we are merely the
tools in his hands. He is the superhero and we are the sidekick. So let us
first turn and ask God if we may participate in His work.
First Baptist Family, we must be desperate for God to move
and that means we need a life of prayer and surrender. Prayer is vital. Prayer
is not just a brief request for blessing but it is ongoing reliance and
communication with God to guide us. We need him to open the doors that we
cannot. We need him to remove the scales that we cannot. We need him to save
the souls that we cannot. So let us pray and ask the Holy Spirit to lead us.
May he give us divine appointments and us the discernment to know when it’s
Him. Oh that we may glorify him and not ourselves.
To God Alone Be The Glory Forever & Ever,
"The Writing On The Wall"
This last week I drove to Jefferson City for the Missouri
Baptist Nominating Committee meeting. I was reminded how much I love the
spring, it was one of those days you could roll the windows down, enjoy the
breeze, and look at the lush green trees teaming with new life. Upon arriving
at the Baptist Building (wow what a beautiful building by the way, think marble
floors and walls), I met a little less than 20 great pastors and lay persons
who stretch out across Missouri in our Southern Baptist churches. After
receiving our assignment, I decided to visit our Missouri State Capital
Building. That’s where my thoughts really begin.
As I approached the Capitol I could not help but notice the
oodles of children, teachers, and parental chaperones that flooded the
building. There were more than 2 dozen exhibits spread out across the capitol
to learn about US and Missouri State history. In the midst of the sea of
educators and students stood your ‘weird’ pastor taking pictures of the walls.
You ought to have seen some of the interesting facial expressions I received.
Here’s a guy taking pictures not of the exhibits, or of the historical facts,
but he’s snapping pictures of the walls. What a crazy guy right? Aren’t you
proud of me First Baptist? Seriously don’t answer that. Haha!
Well, strange as it may seem, I was observing a different US
history, one that seems to have been forgotten these days. I was taking
pictures of all the inscriptions etched into the stone walls of the Capitol.
These inscriptions were left by our forefathers so that we would never forget
them. They read things like “THE EARTH IS THE LORDS AND THE FULLNESS THEREOF”,
“RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTETH A NATION”, “LORD GOD OF HOSTS BE WITH US YET LEST WE
FORGET”, “WHERE THERE IS NO VISION THE PEOPLE PERISH”, and “IDEAS CONTROL THE
My how we have forgotten these ideas. We don’t hear that
sort of lofty speech much anymore do we? I think for many of us, Christianity
seems like something from a bygone era. How many Christian articles have you
read stating we in America are now a post Christian era? Doesn’t that make you
mourn? Don’t you wish times were different, more like the way they used to be?
I think Satan wants us believing Christianity is dead. But
the truth is, as long as you are born again, it is alive and strong. Rather
than us mourn how our culture is no longer what it used to be, may the voices
of the saints in the grave bolster our faith. When I saw these inscriptions
confidently displayed on the walls for all to see, I wanted to leap for joy. I
wanted to shout Jesus to every parent, child, and educator in the room. I
wanted to plead that every US Politician heed the inscriptions left for them on
In our own church history at First Baptist our ancestors
left for us this inscription: “The purpose of this church shall be to devote
ourselves to the intimate fellowship with the living God, to the welfare of
humanity, to the bringing of men and women to Christ through every open door
and with every helping hand.”
May the zeal of the saints, the apostles, and even the
inscriptions on the wall compel you to advance the Kingdom. Christianity is not
a bygone era. It’s alive and well, and it’s in you.
To God Alone Be Glory Forever & Ever,
Pastor Ryan Kunce
A Come To Jesus Meeting
When was the last time you had a heart to heart with God? I
mean when was the last time you really laid it all there – your sin, dreams,
hopes, failures, and burdens?
It’s easy to get into a ‘mundane’ prayer routine. You know
the kind of prayers I am talking about. Like the ones you shared as a child at
the supper table, “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for this food.
By his hands we all are fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread.” Yes, those kinds
of prayers. I’ve noticed even with me, praying over supper or at bed time can
get pretty repetitive, even rushed depending on the schedule. These prayers,
however, lack genuine communication with God. They are more duty driven than
In Matthew 6:5-6 Jesus has a lot to say about our prayer
"But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door
and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret
will reward you. "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites.
For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners,
that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their
Christ wants every one of us having an authentic prayer
life. Here he is not against public prayer (even the early church corporately
prayed see Acts 4:24-31 or 12:5-18), but he is against the kind that seeks to
enhance one’s reputation. We all too easily fall into this sinful type of
communication with the Lord. Like when we pray because we are ‘leading’ our
family spiritually rather than talking to God. If we are praying simply ‘to
lead’ and not commune with God, then it becomes about appearances. Our desire
to pray is motivated for others rather than for God. Remember the Pharisees
prayed for the sake of ‘leading’ others. We pray to genuinely talk to God and
hope others catch authenticity in the process.
The Bible does not stop on appearances but Jesus also
commands us to avoid empty phrases of repetition in the next verse. Matthew
6:7, “7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do,
for they think that they will be heard for their many words. (ESV)”
God does not want an automaton robot response. When our
prayer life sounds like a voicemail recording or another rerun of last night’s
television drama, it’s time to start asking ourselves some serious questions.
Questions like, “Do I really want to talk to God right now? Am I just doing
this for duty sake? Perhaps I am praying ‘to lead’ spiritually by example and
uphold ‘appearances’? Or am I praying because I simply want to lay it all out
there with God?”
If our prayer life is repetitious (like gentiles), then
there is a very real chance we have an empty, dead, lifeless prayer life.
Duplicating our prayers over and over again is a sign of a comatose communion.
In addition, if were praying for the sake of appearance then we have a prideful
prayer life (like Pharisees). God wants us praying simply for the sake of being
authentic. Five words of authenticity are better than 10,000 words of vain
It’s time we all ask ourselves some really hard, but good
questions about prayer. When is the last time I got real with God? How often do
I pause to talk to him, I mean really talk to him? Do I care to speak with him,
if not why? What’s holding me back even now?
Find the secret place, and come to Jesus.
To God Alone Be Glory Forever & Ever,
"A Christian Response to Transgenderism"
As a child I participated in both the Cub Scouts and Boy
Scouts of America (B.S.A.). I remember making home made ice cream with a coffee
can (definitely an essential life skill, amen?), learning how to start a fire
with flint rocks, sharpening blades, and cooking on a cast iron skillet. The
local Christian school and church sponsored the group so I participated with
several class mates. My own father took me on several outings and regularly
volunteered to help with my troop. But these days the B.S.A. have been the
source for many new debates. In particular, in the area’s of gay and
As recently as last month on January 30th Effie Delimarkos
the director of B.S.A. in an emailed statement said, "Starting today, we
will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the
gender identity indicated on the application.” Translation, the B.S.A. is now
accepting children born as girls who now self-identify as a male.
The Boy Scouts of America are not the only ones who have
recently taken up the cause for transgender rights. Last year we witnessed as
the Company “Target” announced employees and customers can use whichever
bathroom or fitting room corresponds to their gender identity. In other words,
it’s not based on your birth gender but whether or not which when you decide or
feel you are. Recently this week President Donald Trump rolled back the Obama
era guidelines as it pertains to transgender students in Public schools using
bathrooms. So this is the hot button in our current news and culture while I am
So what do we as Christians think about transgender rights?
Not to mention what should be our doctrinal statement as a church family? How
do we respond as the culture continues to barrage us with new and unfamiliar
territory? Are parents justified in choosing to view their son as a
"gender-creative child" - or, to put it plainly, in raising him as a
girl? Some Parents are indeed doing so as we speak. One couple is raising their
6 year old boy as a girl since that is what he was suppose to be. Where do we
turn for our answers?
As Christians, we must turn to scripture to have an
understanding about what the Lord’s position is on these issues and then align
ourselves with His. Furthermore, we also have a responsibility with our own
children to protect them from cultural confusion and encourage a healthy and
Biblical psychological development. All around us we are seeing a ‘complete
capitulation to the gender and sexual revolutionaries’ of our time. It is
critical that we as a church have an understanding and respond accordingly to
the times we now live in.
In Genesis 1:27 we see that God is the one who gave us our
gender and furthermore made us to reflect His image. “So God created man in his
own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created
them.” This means that gender is not decided by the creature but by the creator
who made them. Our genders come from the Lord and He calls them good. For us to
reject or reverse what God calls good is to in fact reject God and His good
plan over our lives. We indeed commit idolatry every time we stray away and
contradict that which the Lord has willed for us – when we exalt our wishes
over His. Therefore, we must reject the transgender movement position and
uphold it as sinful in the face of God who made us distinct. God decides our
gender not us.
At the same time we must also affirm that we live in a
fallen and broken world. As Focus on the Family acknowledges, “There is room
for confusion about sexual identity in certain individuals. We're also aware of
the existence of certain rare medical conditions such as Turner Syndrome(X),
Klinefelter Syndrome (XXY), Kallman Syndrome, Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome,
or Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (comprising an extremely small portion of the
population - about .018 percent).” To these individuals there is understandable
confusion that faces them. But to the remaining 99.999% of our population we
are born distinctly male or female.
Transgenderism is indeed a gender identity disorder. We must
teach our children that some people simply dislike the way God has made them.
In their frustration they wish to be the opposite sex. But since God is the one
who decides this, no one can truly change their sex. We are not ‘self-defining
gods’ capable of labeling our own identity – that is God’s position alone. We
also must teach them that God can heal those who are hurt and discontent.
Furthermore, we believe that all people are image bearers of
God. This not only includes you and me, but it also includes the transgender
person as well. We must strive to be patient and sympathetic with their
psychological plight. We must also condemn any acts of abuse or bullying
committed against them. Most of all we must believe that they can come to a
saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, finding renewal in His forgiveness. This is
why our Southern Baptist resolution was upheld in 2014 that says we
"affirm God's good design that gender identity is determined by biological
sex and not by one's self-perception. (…) We regard our transgender neighbors
as image-bearers of Almighty God and therefore condemn acts of abuse or
bullying committed against them. (…) We invite all transgender persons to trust
in Christ and to experience renewal in the Gospel."
I conclude this article in hopes of challenging us how we
treat those with the disorder of transgenderism. Southern Baptist Russell
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said: “We
should never mock or belittle those suffering gender identity disorders. These
are our neighbors to be respected and served, not freaks to be despised.” I
We must uphold God’s created design and choice for the sexes
as male female and at the same time be compassionate towards those caught up in
To God Alone Be The Glory,
"True Love Serves"
February is the month of love. Red hearts scatter the
grocery stores like a 2 year old met a bag of flour. Roses overcrowd the
entrances like people waiting for Black Friday. Not to mention there's enough
chocolate to fatally overdose a herd of black bears. It's literally impossible
for a man to tell his spouse he 'accidently' forgot about her on valentines
day. Yep love, that's what our culture focuses on this month, well that and
black history but this article is not talking about that, we're focusing on the
topic of love.
If you were to google the word love, right at this very
moment the first thing you would see is a definition of love that reads 1.) an
intense feeling of deep affection. Or as a verb 2.) feel a deep romantic or
sexual attachment to (someone). But what if I told you love is more than a box
of chocolates, roses, and a $50 dollar meal. We as a culture really know how to
cheapen what God has called us to do. The Bible does not refer to love as a
romantic feeling nor does it even teach the object of our affections is meant
only for those we like. If anything love is an action whereby we care for
people other than ourselves.
1 John 3:16-18 (NIV) teaches, “This is how we know what love
is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives
for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a
brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be
in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with
actions and in truth.”
Men, when the Bible says to lay down your lives for your
wife as Christ did the church (Eph. 5:25) its more than spending one night a
year with your bride reminiscing or manufacturing feelings. No love is action.
Love, gentleman, is you handing her the remote while you go and do the dishes.
Love is you folding the laundry while she soaks her feet in a basin. Love is
you finally hanging the picture on the wall that she's resorted to nagging now
for over weeks. You want to show her love, serve her. Don't cheapen it by
throwing money at her. Yes of course you should do that but only so long as
this is not your only pathetic attempt of love. She needs to be nurtured and
that's done by regular servant leadership.
With Grace & Love,
P.S. Don't you dare say Pastor Ryan said to skip valentines,
the chocolates, and the love letter in place of service. Rather what I mean to
say is do that and much more for her. Lay your life down for her. Count
yourself as nothing. Sacrifice your needs for hers and then you will be headed
in the right direction of Biblical love.
A New Day Has Come!
I pray the holiday season was refreshing for each of you. As
we begin a New Year most of us will take time to reflect and look forward to
what God has in store for us. This helps us realign and refresh God's purposes
for our lives. I like to ask myself, "How am I going to do things
differently than last year so as to fulfill what God has called me to do this
Answering this question is going to be different for each of
us. For some it might mean diet and exercise for good health, others investing
in a 401k plan, some seeking family counseling, others applying for a new job,
and for the few God wants you to be radically courageous with a new ministry.
I'm not certain what God's plan is for your life but whatever it may be, I
assure you He has one just for you. The word of God in Hebrews 13:20-21 says,
"Now may the God of peace (...) equip you with everything good that you
may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight."
God's desire is to see His saints equipped with everything
good, fulfilling His will. This means God has a plan for your life and He wants
you fulfilling it. We must diligently pray, search the scriptures, and share
with Godly friends in-order to discover what that will is.
As we launch into 2017 have you asked what the Lord's will
is for your life? Have you asked questions like, "God what areas of my
life do you want me to change? God how would you use me in 2017 with family,
friends, and even strangers? God what new habits do you want me to develop and
which old ones do you want me to break?" I believe by faith God will
shatter the chains of habitual sin, mend broken families, and restore the
spiritually wayward. We must ask how does God want to use us by faith in 2017.
A long time ago I heard a preacher on the radio say he ends
his morning prayer with, "God, whatever you are up to today, I want to be
part of it. Please use me." I really like that prayer and for some 10 plus
years I've been daily praying it.
May the New Year, 2017, bring about blessings for our
families and our church. God has new plans for us on the horizon. A new day has
come in the life of our church. God, may you bless us with wisdom and the
discipline to seize the day. May you bless the new pastor, Casey Joyce, his
family and his ministry that we are receiving this January. God, we desperately
want to know what your will is. We ask you to show us your will, we want to be
part of it in 2017. Give us the courage and fortitude to do what you are asking
of us. In the name of your only begotten son we pray - in Jesus name, Amen.
To God Alone Be The Glory,
Making a List and Checking it... twice?
I recently read an article posted by AOL Finance that said
holidays are a time of giving, receiving, and mostly overspending. According to
America Research Group, US shoppers will spend an average of $929 this season.
In addition, new data has been reported by T. Rowe Price confirming that
parents are spending an average of $422 per child. My first reaction was wow,
that’s a tremendous amount of money! I know very few people who could spend
that and stay financially comfortable. That’s when it dawned on me just how
many go into debt this time of year.
It’s one thing to budget Christmas money throughout the year
but it’s a whole other situation when we go into debt. God wants us to enjoy
Christmas, he doesn’t want us regretting it. In light of the Holiday Shopping
Season I thought I would offer up some Biblical wisdom as a means of
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but
everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” – Proverbs 21:5 (ESV)
1.) Avoid compulsive buying. Compulsive buying is
characterized by excessive shopping and buying behavior that leads to distress
and eventual financial catastrophe. We all must remember that our possessions
do not define us – Christ does. Unfortunately, all of the advertisements are
screaming the opposite this time of year. They are designed to make you feel
incomplete without their product. Bill and Sandra bought their child a
PlayStation 4 Pro so you ought to get your Sammy an Xbox One S. Only the great
parents do that. The ads want you to feel like your lacking so you’ll make
emotional purchases. Furthermore, stores design their floor layout so that you
see the hot items and compulsively buy them. Before you wheel your cart up to
the cash register I recommend you pray before buying. God has a way of
reminding us of what we truly need. I also think your spouse should be informed
about the check book, accountability really helps. Don’t buy the cultural lie,
all this stuff will never make you complete, only Christ can do that.
2.) Stick to your budget. If you set a limit before you
began the holiday shopping season then stick to it. Galatians 6:7 (ESV) says,
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he
also reap.” Consider this biblical principal in regards to your money. If you
sew to things that you don’t have, then months following you will reap the
consequences of financial debt. If, however, you keep to your budget, then you
will reap the reward of financial peace. My advice is to set a limit. Limit the
total amount you plan to spend as well as how much you will spend on each
3.) Give to the Lord by giving to those in need. The
beautiful thing here is often times you can do both at the same time. Scripture
teaches when you give to someone in need you are in fact giving to God. Jesus
said in Matthew 25:40 (ESV), “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to
you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
Ryan’s Translation: giving to those in need is literally giving to Christ.
Teach your children and train yourself to give to others in need. You can do
this in several ways. Consider supporting Christian agencies like Samaritan’s
Purse, Food For The Hungry, or the IMB through the Lottie Moon Christmas
Offering. Sign your family up to serve for the local food pantry or soup
kitchen. Help a stranger when you see them handing food back to the store
clerk. Adopt a family for Christmas and have your children dedicate a portion
of their allowance or old toys to other children. A bonus would be sharing your
testimony as you serve them, I call that evangelistic giving. All these things
count in my book as giving not just to man but to God as well.
4.) Joyfully Give to the Local Church. It’s easy this
time of year to neglect giving to our local church families. When all the bills
come rolling in, Jake wants his bluetooth hoverboard, and you need gas money to
get half away across the nation God often takes a back seat. When the money
isn’t there it simply is not there. This is why before you run out of cash; I
recommend first setting aside a portion of your budget to God and His local
church. Jesus loves the church, it’s his bride. He wants her financially taken
care of. The church is where discipleship, evangelism, and fellowship happen –
the very things Jesus loves. Churches are literally our local missionary hub to
our communities. Without financial support these agencies cannot function as
God calls them. As Dr. Allen President at Midwestern Seminary has often said,
“We all know the Bible says that where there is no vision the people perish.
It’s also true that where there is no money the vision perishes.” For the local
church to pursue its God given vision she needs your financial support. This is
why God challenged the Hebrews in Malachi 3:8, “Will man rob God? Yet you are
robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and
contributions.” God expects us to joyfully contribute to our local churches,
and when we do we are indeed giving to Him. To this day I have never once
regretted giving to the local church. If you do it, I bet you won’t either.
Let’s make Christ the center of Christmas. Let’s surrender
it all, including the checkbook. Rather than remorse over Christmas next month,
let’s be wise this month. God wants us to enjoy Christmas; he doesn’t want us
Christians & American Politics
"Pastor, where do you stand on these key issues?
Pastor, what should we as a church do about this? Pastor, what do you think
about this presidential candidate? Pastor how are you going to vote?”
We all have different backgrounds, perspectives, and
experiences. Not to mention that in this election year I’ve never seen more
people fueled by anger, fear, and angst than in any other election. I know that
in our church there is a truck load of differing opinions. This year people are
very passionate about their opinions.
In an environment like this I find it far too easy to anger
someone else who doesn’t share a similar viewpoint. Unfortunately, it feels
like in recent years I’m getting better at that than I’d like too. Just keep
reading and at some point I’m sure to upset you as well. I think of the
American Funk band War in their hit song, “Why can’t we be friends?” But my God
given task is to not be a people pleaser or a politician. As a Christian, my
soul purpose is to follow Christ’s teachings and to be a mouth piece of God to
a fallen world marred by sin.
In scripture God does not call us to a political party, we
are called to Christ. The funny thing is, when I think of all the political
issues floating around out there in America, it’s getting increasingly harder
to select a candidate who stands in alignment with all my Christian beliefs.
Consider for just a moment what the Bible would have us
stand for concerning key issues in our country. God would have us select
leaders first by their character (see 1 Timothy 3). A good leader has integrity
and consistently aligns their life with the teachings of scripture. Lies,
deceit, and infidelity have no place in a godly leader’s lifestyle. Jesus also
teaches that we should tend to the poor and be concerned for their well-being
(Matthews 25:35). The Bible also instructs we should be kind to the foreigner
(see Deuteronmy 10:19, Ruth 2:10). God would also have us be good stewards of
the Earth since Adam and Eve’s original mandate was to tend to the garden and
have dominion (Genesis 2:15). There is even scriptural teachings on the ethical
treatment of animals, though man is the only created being in the image of God
Caring for people further leads us to a theology that stands
for the sanctity of human life. We as Christians should speak on behalf of the
unborn, elderly, and those entrapped by slavery and trafficking. I would even
argue how men treat women and vice versa has to do with human dignity. If we
are image bearers of God then we must pay careful attention to how our
political leaders value human life (Genesis 1:27, Jeremiah 1:5). The Lord would
also have us defend the sanctity of marriage as between one man and woman
(Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6). In addition, we are called to be good stewards
of our finances. Greed can lead into ungodly amounts of debt, debt that God
says we must be committed to repaying (Romans 13:8, Psalm 37:21). Furthermore,
racism is an evil ideology that has no place in a Christian worldview. God
would have us racially reconciled through the power of the gospel (Galatians
The truth is no one political party stands up for everything
that I find in the Bible. It can be quite frustrating for me at times. Our
calling is first to Christ before it is to a political party. The problem with
today’s Christians is that they get behind one candidate and then defend them
religiously before they have consulted God in His word. I believe the Lord
wants us to first start with Him in scripture. It is after having a complete
Biblical worldview we can then evaluate our leaders according to the Bible
rather than our preferences.
This election year we are not going to have a candidate who
upholds all of the principles of scripture – I’m not sure we ever have. But
what must happen following the election is that we Christian’s continue to be a
mouth piece on behalf of God. Regardless of who is leader, we must stand on
behalf of the Lord and call both our nation and its leaders to accountability.
I often think of how John the Baptist did something similar when he called King
Herod to repentance for marrying his brother’s wife. As we move forward, it
must not come from a heart motivated by hate but one by love. May we pray for
our leaders, submit to them, and still pay our taxes.
Church In A Van?
“I don’t need church, most of my church happens in my van
outside. God has heard me worship and shed plenty of tears in my vehicle. That
van out there is my church. Church is full of hypocrites and I don’t need
That comment happened while I was in the office last week
and it came from a person who was dropping off packages to the church. I only
had so much time I could spend chatting with the lady, she was on the job, but
it really got me to thinking. Why do we need church? Furthermore, given all the
hurt we can inflict on each other, what’s the point of attending? Here’s a lady
saying she doesn’t need church and people are hypocrites anyways. God is for me
and that’s enough. But is it really enough?
When it comes to church life worship before God is supposed
to be both vertical and horizontal. Meaning that it goes up to God and out
amongst the people. When we gather we make up a body, a unit before God, a
collected temple (see Ephesians 2:19-20). But what do we do when the horizontal
gets… well… ugly?
The truth of the matter is we are all sinners. Disagree?
Then read Romans 3:23. We can’t forget that this includes not just my neighbor,
but it includes me too. Now adding to this fact, we all also have our own
passions, desires, and ideas. In my experience, usually the disagreements in
church are not over doctrine. Most of us in church are not arguing over the 5
points of Calvinism, eschatology, or ecclesiology. We are all on board with
Christ being born from a virgin, his miraculous healings, and even his death on
the cross and subsequent resurrection from the tomb. So what is it then? What
might cause our package carrier friend to despise church so much?
Well first it might be the sin issue, ours or even hers.
Maybe it was a deacon one time, a Sunday School teacher, or even a pastor who
did something to destroy her trust. Or on the flipside maybe she is walking a
life contrary to God and coming to church stirs too much conviction. I can’t
say I know for sure. But sense her reasoning was church people, and her truck
was more appealing, it got me wondering. What about times when it is not
When most of us disagree in church life, it seems to be over
methodology not theology. For example, when we church goers fight over using
our funds to hire a youth pastor versus constructing a new facility. Or when we
debate the merits of a choir versus a guitar and drum set. Or even the pros and
cons between publishing newsletters via the post office or electronically on
the new church website – which by the way someone may or may not have wanted.
The disagreement is over priorities. It’s arguing over methods. Both parties
actually want to worship the Lord, they are just disagreeing as to how to go
These preferences are not in and of themselves sin issues,
they can breed sin if left unchecked, but they’re not sin. It’s when a church
seeks to devour themselves and unity is destroyed that they turn sinful. It’s
when people who were once able to hold a friendly debate turn sour and fight –
accusations, slander, and gossip breaks out in the body. Then we have a sin
issue that first started with mere methodology and a difference of preferences.
When communication breaks down Christ gets lost. That’s the
real issue. Going to church is not about our methods and preferences, it’s
about us finding God. It’s about going to God in worship and finding him in our
Sunday School fellowships, corporate church gatherings, and even in our
neighbor. I don’t know about you, but when I hear a farmer share about the day
he lost it all and turned to God in surrender, that encourages me and shows me
how I too can trust God. When I hear how a nurse overcame her fear to share
Christ with a colleague that gives me confidence to try too. When I see a
mourning mother confide in her small group, that tells me God will listen and
comfort me too. I find God in people and the relationships we share. And that
my friend is what church is all about.
Going to church is not about us finding our own wants,
preferences, and desires, it’s about us all finding God together. Sure we might
disagree on how to go about it, but let’s all agree on this one thing. Let’s
seek God and find him with each other. It’ll make it awfully hard for a person
to say they hate church when they see us love each other in spite of our
preferences. When love not only overcomes but it defines our very being as a church
family (John 13:34-35).
What Many Christians Lack
If anyone has ever spent some time getting to know me, then
they know I love to read. Yep, I’m a bookworm at heart, but I was not born this
way I became this way. I love to talk about, devour, and apply the sound advice
I glean from them in my life. I know many people who say, “You can’t learn life
in a book you have to do it yourself,” but I often think these people are
making excuses not to read. Contained in books are a men and women’s life
lessons. Their trials and struggles can literally mature a person decades ahead
of themselves just by giving a listening ear. Yes, if I had it my way I would
be a lifelong student.
One of my favorite genres’ of reading are the practical ‘how
to’ books. I suppose that’s why I love the Bible so much, not to mention that
Jesus has done much of the ‘how tos’ for me – at least the big stuff. But I
remember 5 years ago setting in a preaching class with a pastor who I had
highly respected. After class I asked him if there were any books he would
recommend I read before becoming a Pastor. His answer surprised me. “Boundaries.
Get the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Too many
leaders, Christians, and parents struggle with defining God given boundaries.”
Many sincere and even dedicated Christians struggle with
knowing their own limits and when to establish boundaries. Setting limits can
seem unloving and even cause guilty feelings to surface in the life of a
believer. Boundaries, however, determine how we let other people physically
touch, mentally share our own thoughts and opinions, and even emotionally harm
or manipulate us. Due to many Christians feeling guilty about establishing
boundaries, they suffer much heartbreak and lack of control over their own
Even God has limits and boundaries. Many Old Testament
passages speak to how God establishes and desires justice in Israel. Defending
the innocent and speaking on behalf of the destitute are commanded in Proverbs
31:8, these are social boundaries. From the flood of the Earth, the confusion
of languages at the tower of Babel, to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
mankind was crossing the Lord’s limits and kindling His righteous anger – these
consequences for sin are what follow. God even draws clear boundary lines in
regards to His own worship in the Old Testament. In 2 Samuel 6:6-7 we see a man
named Uzzah touch the Ark of the covenant, the most holy of holies, and God
immediately strikes him dead.
Such boundaries carry over into the New Testament. In Acts 5
a couple named Ananias and Sapphira lie to the Holy Spirit about the selling of
property. They are then struck dead for this offense against God. In 1
Corinthians 11 we see that church people are falling sick, even dying for how
they are distributing the Lord’s Supper. Even at the Judgment seat of God in
Matthew 25 we see that God will separate the sheep from the goats. Clearly the
scriptures are teaching us that God is a God of boundaries.
If God is a God of boundaries then Christians must be a
people who uphold those boundaries and live by His righteous standards. Yet too
often, Christians struggle with establishing boundaries within their own life –
family, friends, spouse, children, work, themselves, and with God. We over
commit ourselves and then blame others for the stress when the fault is truly
our own. We must learn to take ownership of our choices, no matter how we feel.
From the parent whose 25 year old son flunked out of college
and now plays video games in the basement to the overworked employee caught in
bondage to their job, God wants us to establish boundary lines. People with
poor boundaries struggle with saying no to the controlling demands, pressures,
and even needs of others. The trick is knowing what you are and what you are
not responsible for.
Reading the book Boundaries was some of the best advice my
professor gave me. Now I hope to pass that along. Starting next Sunday,
September 11th 2016 we will begin a 9 week discipleship study on Boundaries. I
hope you might consider joining us.
For His Glory,
In light of our country and recent events, the term ‘racial
reconciliation’ has become a buzz word. In the past few months I have met
people, whether churchgoing or not, on opposing sides. One group desires to do
something about it and the other says there’s no need for it. Debate has broken
out on a national level between catch phrases like “Black Lives Matter” vs.
“All Lives Matter”. I have also been increasingly confronted by the concept of
‘white privilege’. So what are we as Christians to make of all this? Is
reconciliation still necessary? Is there a privilege between races in America?
Furthermore, how should we respond according to the gospel and the teachings of
The word ‘reconciliation’ in Greek is Katallasso which means
“to effect a change.” In particular, it is used in the New Testament to
describe the restoring of two groups who have been at odds with one another.
Reconciliation is not for the faint of heart, but when both groups are willing
it becomes a beautiful testimony to the power of God. Not only is
reconciliation encouraged in the Bible, but it is literally the gospel message.
Romans 5:10 reads, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by
the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved
by his life.” The gospel is Jesus reconciling us as enemies of God, back to a
saving relationship with the Lord. Translation, Jesus is a reconciler.
You probably learned this in elementary school but just to
remind you, the word ‘race’ or rather the human race is defined as a group of
people with certain common inherited features that distinguish them from other
groups of people, i.e. black vs. white skin. So if we put these two words
together the term ‘racial reconciliation’ is referring to the need for various
races (whether White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.) who are at odds with one
another to be restored in a healthy relationship with each other.
Before we go any further, the Bible does contain racial
reconciliation. Look no further than the savior Jesus Christ, a Jewish messiah,
and his gospel message to the world. Jesus suffered the cross in order to
reconcile both Jew and Gentile to God. Do we understand this? Yes, God’s son a
Middle Eastern Jew, loved all other races so much that he died for them. It
reminds me of the Sunday School song lyrics, “red and yellow, black and white,
they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
There is no difference in the sight of God (Rom. 10:12). In heaven there will
be tongues from every tribe and nation that will equally worship the Lord (Rev.
5:9). Racial reconciliation is both Biblical and modeled by our savior.
I know that speaking as a white pastor, I am unable to fully
understand what it’s like to live as a black African American in our society.
The same can be said of me regarding all the other races in America including
Hispanic, Asian, and the rest. The only racial identity I’ve ever experienced
is that of being a white American. So when I heard of concepts like ‘white
privilege’ these terms at first seemed foreign and almost offensive, until I
began to listen and understand.
Let us then consider current events in our media. For
example the bumper sticker war between ‘Black Lives Matter’ versus ‘All Lives
Matter’. When the first slogan cried throughout our nation it was to draw
awareness to the racial inequality that our African American brothers and
sisters are experiencing. The latter one then arose in rebuttal emphasizing
that all lives matter, that it’s unfair to make one group more special than the
other. I’m not writing to clarify which group is right or wrong, but I am
writing that we consider bringing about reconciliation, which means we listen
to the point of understanding our grievances.
Reconciliation begins with us first acknowledging that we
live in a fallen and broken world marred by sin. Sin is everywhere and in all
of us. It even affects our society to the brink of alienation of others based
upon their inherited features, features that they have no control over. Not
only does skin color come to mind, so does one’s age and even physical
handicaps. This happens around the world and in America. Preference is given to
one group at times over that of others.
Take for example the well-known field experiment on labor
market discrimination known as The Jamal and Lakisha study. In this study
researchers sent identical resumes to various companies all throughout the
United States. Nothing was changed accept the names on the resumes. One batch
had common ‘black’ names like Jamal and Lakisha while the other batch had
common ‘white’ names like Greg and Emily. The study revealed that one’s chances
for an interview by the hiring manager were significantly increased for the
‘white’ names over that of the ‘black’ names. This study was one of many done
to demonstrate the existence of white privilege.
When I heard this study it caused me to grieve. There is no
difference between us except the color of my skin. I had never stopped to
consider how that alone may have been advantageous in the job market. I read an
article by a Christian woman named Rachel Evans pleading for racial
reconciliation, who is ethnically both black and white. As a child she said she
was taught from both races. She writes, “I learned from blacks, at a very early
age, that whites were manipulative, selfish, always out for "their damn
selves" and not to be trusted. I learned from whites, at a very early age,
that blacks were violent, stupid, unacceptable human beings who were less
important than themselves and most of all, not safe."
When I heard this I began to understand that tensions like
what happened with the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson did not simply come
from nowhere. I’m not writing to indict or determine that case. My intention is
to bring about understanding so we can all seek racial reconciliation. What may
have made no sense to some has been simmering for a long time. America is
reaching a boiling point, a crisis.
Ms. Evans gave some sound advice about displacement in her
article. Perhaps we should all consider going somewhere where we’re the only
member of our race (in my case white) for miles around. Displace yourself by
attending their churches (whether all black, Hispanic, Asian, or White). Go
grocery shopping in their neighborhood. Displacement allows us to understand
and walk in the shoes of others.
How will we Christians seek the equity that God loves? How
does God want to use our white, black, Asian and/or Hispanic identity to
reconcile people to each other and to God? Our differences are not meant to
divide us, what makes us unique indeed strengthens the church (1 Cor. 12).
Remember, we are called in scripture to be a people of love and unity.
Just To Be Clear
Last month Julie and I traveled to St. Louis in order to
attend the National Convention. Don’t worry I’m not going to fill you in on all
the details; you can grab a ‘Pathway’ Newspaper for that. But what I want to
share is what happened to us. You see while there Julie decided to have her
haircut at a beauty salon. We have both enjoyed forging a friendship with a man
we will call ‘Nick’ and intentionally go to him when we are in town. He has cut
my wife’s hair since before we were married and he even styled most of our
bridal party including bridesmaids, groomsmen, and parents. Something you
should know about Nick is that he lives an openly homosexual lifestyle.
Knowing this we still choose to have him cut Julie’s hair.
Not only is he a nice guy but he is hands down the best hairstylist that has
ever touched my wife’s hair. Their simply is not a better beautician than Nick
and I let him know it. You should also know that we give him a very generous
tip when he is finished. So why tell you this story? Because it’s about what
happened while we were there.
During Julie’s hairstyling Nick asked my wife a few
questions. He began, “So your husband is a pastor isn’t he?” To which Julie affirmed
and then he inquired, “Well what kind of church does he pastor?” Julie told him
we were Southern Baptist and he rebutted, “Oh no! That’s the really bad one who
hates us isn’t it? What do you think of all those people, 49 I think, who died
in Orlando? Another Baptist pastor is going around saying he wished all
homosexuals would die that way.”
My awesome wife responded in the best way she could – with
outrage towards that Baptist pastor, whose name by the way is Roger Jimeneze.
Roger’s direct quote in his sermon was actually, “I wish the government would
round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in
front of them, and blow their brains out.” Nothing frustrates me more than a
pastor who encourages hatred and misrepresents the rest of us from the pulpit.
Julie in that conversation made sure Nick understood that his views do not
represent all of us Baptists. She also clarified that though we both disagreed
with his lifestyle we still love him and his partner.
The simple truth is I don’t care if your black or white,
young or old, gay or transgender, atheist or Muslim, even falsely claiming to
speak for God when you don’t, I am still going to love you. And when another
Baptist pastor or some other Christian responds with hatred I will not align
myself with their position. God calls us to love people and yes a homosexual person
qualifies, in case you were just wondering. Loving God and loving people, these
are the 2 greatest commandments according to Christ.
Like Nick I have questions too. Where is the Biblical love
behind murdering 49 people and injuring many others? Where is the love behind
saying you wished he would have killed more? Last I checked I thought the
scriptures taught us to lay down our lives not take the lives of others.
So in light of all these rapid cultural changes on both same
sex marriage and transgender issues what are we supposed to do? The answer is
to love them so much you tell the truth about God. We can befriend people,
reject their lifestyle, and still love them. The New Testament church had these
sorts of people around attending church service. Yes I just said that,
attending church. How do I know this? Well, look at what Paul says:
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV), “9 Do you not know that the
unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither
the sexually immoral or idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice
homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor
swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But
you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the
Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Did you catch what all was in that list (sexually immoral,
homosexuality)? Did you also catch where Paul tells the church, “And such were
some of you.” How do you think most conservative Bible believing churches would
respond if a transgender or homosexual person attended one Sunday morning?
Would it be rejection because it seems people like this were attending or at
the very least being reached at Corinth. I hope our churches would choose to
love and not shy away from teaching the scriptures. If you still cannot get
past loving the other person in spite of their lifestyle then let Jesus
motivate you here. Luke 6:35, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend,
expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be
sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Remember
we all sin, we all have our different temptations, and we all need Jesus.