Hate thought it won 17 years ago today. That’s what drove people to fly planes into buildings. And they thought they would destroy what they hated. Buildings came down. People lost their lives. For a few moments, it seemed that hate had won. As a senior in high school, I watched all the coverage, and I was numb.
It was a beautiful, crisp, fall like day in east TN when I got the news about what had taken place. The blue sky outside didn’t seem to fit what was happening in the world. And again, it seemed that hate would win. But then the unimaginable happened. People started to rally around one another. But it was bigger than that. They started to rally around each other, but at churches. This nation turned to God.
And hate doesn’t win when we come to God. People in crisis came to God all across this country, trying to make sense of what happened in NYC, Washington D.C., and a field in PA. And hate was defeated. At least momentarily. As lives got back to normal, people decided they didn’t need to rally to God any longer (human nature took over). Until the end comes, hate will always try to win.
Hate thought it had ultimately won some 2,000 years ago, on a hillside outside of Jerusalem, when Jesus Christ was crucified. Hate celebrated that day. The Son of God was killed by humans, and hate thought it had won the victory. And, from the outside looking in, it appeared that was the case. The sky grew dark. Jesus was dead. His followers were devastated. All hope seemed to be gone.
BUT! Three days later, Jesus walked out of that tomb, raised back to life through the power of God. He defeated death. He defeated sin. He defeated hate. And the best news we could ever have is that those defeats are permanent. Yes, death, sin, and hate will continue to think they can win and will try to bring us down. But Jesus defeated them through His death and resurrection. Those that place their hope and trust in Him, no matter how hard life gets, know that the victory is already won. And it’s not through their power, but through the power of the ONE who created everything.
Hate may think it can win. It may have thought it won on 9-11-01. It definitely thought it won when Christ was crucified. But it was ultimately defeated through the same act that it tried to conquer. Because of that, it can never truly win. Trust in Jesus. No matter how bad life gets, as Christ followers we have hope. The victory is set. The war is won. Stay faithful in the battle. HATE DOESN’T WIN!
Earlier this month was the anniversary of my dad’s death. Nineteen years since I’ve been able to talk to him. And I’m not writing this in an attempt to say “woe is me” because I don’t have a dad. I’m very grateful for the fifteen years that I was able to have with him before he died. He was a great dad, though not perfect, because none of us are.
So as I sit here and think about Father’s Day, I want to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. I miss him every day, but again, I am thankful for the time that I had with him and the lessons he taught me. He instilled a love and importance in me for my relationship with Jesus. He showed me what it meant to be a husband and a father.
But I was just fifteen when he died. I still had a lot of lessons to learn (and still do for that matter). As an only child, I didn’t have an older brother to help along the way. But I did have some other men that stepped into my life and made sure I had that father figure in my life. They never pretended or intended to take the place of my dad, but they made sure I wasn’t on my own either. So, as I say Happy Father’s Day today to all you dads out there, I want to take a minute to acknowledge some men that stepped in and helped fill a hole in my life. If it wasn’t for these men, I don’t think I would be the man or minister I am today.
Thank you Tom Berry, Tom Tucker, Barry Tolley, Curtis Booher, Clint Andrews, and my father-in-law Kevin Whitsett.
You all took an interest in me at different times and made sure that I had positive male role models to look to when needed. While I hope my dad is proud of me and who I’ve become, I hope the same from each of you. I wouldn’t be the Crosseyed Jesus Freak without you all!
If you read this and you know any of these men I mentioned, please share this with them. Most of them are not on social media.
I have never really done a video specifically for my blog before, but a few weeks ago I was able to set up a huge surprise for my wife with the help of Em. And better yet, we caught it all on camera. Kelley (my wife) and I had not seen Em in over three years, and Em flew into OKC to surprise Kelley. Hope you enjoy!
God did it again. I really shouldn’t be surprised, but He never ceases to amaze me. This past week was a little rough. It came at a time that I had purposefully taken some time away to reconnect and refresh my relationship with God. When I came back from that time, it just seemed like there was just some things working against me to get me down.
I was feeling a little discouraged in my ministry. Nothing big. But a few small things were popping up here and there and I let that distract me from all of the good things that were happening. Then, on top of all of that, NW Oklahoma caught on fire. It hasn’t really hit the Canton area, at least not yet. But there is devastation to the west of us. People losing homes, fields, farms, entire herds, and even a couple of lives, with no real end in sight unless we get some rain.
All of this just led to even more discouragement. That’s what I felt when I woke up this morning (Sunday). I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I just felt down. So I spent a lot of time asking God to help my attitude and to be able to preach with conviction. I didn’t want to let a little discouragement to cause me to just go through the motions, which I tend to do every now and then.
As our service ended this morning, and people were leaving, I finally understood why I had been feeling the way I was feeling. The enemy didn’t want me on my game today. He wanted me to just go through the motions or to phone it in. I had noticed while I was preaching that a couple of teens were in the back and seemed pretty emotional. At the time, I didn’t know what was going on, but I quickly found out.
They were both feeling the call to give their lives to Jesus and surrender to Him in baptism. After the service was over, I was able to talk with them about why they wanted to be baptized and to get things ready for tonight. They didn’t even want to wait until next Sunday. So as I write this, our baptistry is getting filled, and during our adult evening service tonight, we will have two new sisters in Christ and they surrender their lives to Christ through the act of baptism. (This won’t be published until Monday morning, so celebrate with us after the fact!)
That’s God’s perfect time again. That’s God reminding me that this is why I have given my life to serving Him. Watching these two girls come to an understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done for them makes all of the down times worth it. There is nothing better this side of heaven than getting to be a part of someone giving their life to Jesus. All the struggle, all the discouragement, all the restless nights are made worth it when we get to be a part of someone finally understanding that Jesus is the only thing that is worth anything in this life.
As I was talking with these two this morning, I congratulated them and then reminded them that this was the best decision that they were ever going to make in their entire lives. And that is all the encouragement I need to carry on in this calling of ministry that I have in my life. Even a Crosseyed Jesus Freak needs that reminder occasionally, so if you’re reading this and feeling discouraged in your walk with Jesus or in your ministry, take heart. There is a reason we do what we do. We have a Savior that loves us and died on the cross for us. That is the only chance that anyone has, so share Him with any and all who will listen! It’s all worth it in the end!
My heart aches. In fact, it is breaking for our brothers and sisters in a little town in Texas right now. I’m sure most of you have heard by now of the most recent senseless shooting to take place in our country. This time, a church was targeted, and the casualties are staggering. At the time I am writing this, there are 26 confirmed dead, and around the same number injured. The age range of those killed seems to be from 5 years old and up (Now reports are saying the youngest death was 18-months). And why?
I don’t know exactly why this particular person decided to open fire at this particular church. But I do know the answer to ‘why’. We live in a broken world. We live in a world that is consumed by our sinful nature. We live in a world where we try to handle things on our own, leaving God out of the equation. The evidence of this is all around. Most recently in Las Vegas, New York City, and now, a small community in Texas just outside of San Antonio.
This tragedy has another answer to it as well. It’s not just because we live in a broken world. It’s because, as Christ followers, we will be persecuted. Things like this, while tragic, should not surprise us. I’m not condoning this type of action. Not by any means. But Jesus told us that the world would hate us because of Him. John 15:18 states,
‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.’
So how should we respond? We have to put our trust in Jesus. We need to invite God back into the equation. And we should treat those that hate us because we follow Christ with the love of Christ. Easier said than done. I get that. But that is the way we need to respond. Jesus said in the next chapter of John 16:33,
‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’
Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Texas, and all those that have been hurt, whether physically or emotionally, by this senseless tragedy. Pray for the shooter’s family. Pray that Jesus may return soon. But also pray for ways that we can be a light in this dark and broken world. This side of eternity, there will be problems. There will be troubles. But we have Jesus’ promise and reminder that He has overcome the world!
It’s that time of year again. If you’re on any social media you know exactly what I’m talking about. November 1 rolls around every year and suddenly it seems that you can’t go ten minutes without someone you know posting what they are thankful for. Most that do this post one thing a day for the 30 days of November. Before I go any further, if you participate in this exercise I want to make this very clear; I am not saying that there is anything wrong with it. I actually enjoy reading what people post.
And I get why this is always done in November. We have a holiday called “Thanksgiving” during this month. We set this month aside to try and remember what we are thankful for, and that is a very much needed reminder in this world. There is so much wrong in the world today that we sometimes forget what we do have to be thankful for.
What I want to encourage you with, however, is we need to focus on what we have to be thankful for a lot more often than just the month of November. Especially as Christ followers. There is so much for us to remember. There is so much to be thankful for. Even when things are not going exactly the way we want them to or the way we think they should.
Paul, when writing to the Thessalonian church, put it this way;
“16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)
In all circumstances. That seems really tough doesn’t it? Does that mean when a loved one is sick we should give thanks? What about when it’s a holiday and you’re not able to be with family? Or you’ve lost your job and you don’t know how you’re going to keep paying your bills? Or you just keep seeing more and more evidence that we live in a broken world? The answer is “YES!” In all circumstances. How do we do that?
The answer is right in front of us in the rest of what Paul has written here. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks…for this is God’s will for you. We are able to be thankful in all circumstance when we are able to focus on Jesus. By looking to Him in every situation, being in constant communication with Him (prayer), and realizing that if nothing else, we have Jesus Himself to be thankful for. Living as a Christ follower was never promised to be easy. Don’t ever make that mistake. But Christ did promise to always be with us. And He promised it would all be worth it in the end.
There is so much pain in this world. We live in a broken world because as human beings we have tried to do things on our own instead of looking to God. So here’s my challenge to you; Look for things to be thankful for all year long. There is nothing wrong with focusing on thankfulness during November, just don’t forget that we all have so much to be thankful for all year long. Even the trials and hard times that we face are things to be thankful for. I’ll leave you with this thought from James 1:
“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I love Paul’s letter to the Romans. I find myself going back to it over and over again in my personal quiet times. There is just something about it that resonates with me. Recently, as I was reading, a thought stuck out to me, and I realized it is exactly why I do what I do. Before I get lost in that, let’s look at the section of Romans that I was reading through. Paul is making his plea for his fellow Israelites to come to faith in Christ. To be saved through the blood of Jesus. He wants to see them accept who Jesus is. Romans 10:11-13 reads;
11 For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame, 12 since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (CSB)
Paul is telling us that there is no distinction between Jews and everyone else, which is great news for us. Salvation through Jesus Christ is open to all! And that was a hard lesson for those of Jewish backgrounds to accept. But Paul continues his argument, and it is the next few verses that really stuck out to me. Romans 10:14-17 reads;
14 How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. 16 But not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. (CSB)
That’s why I do what I do. That’s why I write here on Thoughts from a Crosseyed Jesus Freak. That’s why I teach Sunday school, Bible study on Sunday evenings, and youth group for the teens on Wednesday evenings. That’s why I preach!
Jesus is our only hope!
This world needs Jesus. He is the only thing that can heal the brokenness of this world. Jesus is our only hope! And the world needs to hear about Him. Like Paul says, how can they call on Him if they haven’t believed? And how can they believe without hearing? And how can they hear without a preacher? God called me to preach His word. I didn’t choose this life. I accepted His call. And I don’t take that lightly.
There is nothing special about me. I’m an imperfect human being that tries his best to follow the call of God on his life. I’m not writing this post as a “look at me”. I’m writing this to remind us all that this world needs Jesus. He is our only hope. This world is broken and dying, and only in Jesus Christ, and His redemption of us on the cross, do we stand any chance.
So, if you are someone that Christ has called to preach His word, stand strong! And let me just say this. If you are a Christ follower, you have a story to tell. You might not be called to preach full time, but you can tell others about Jesus. You can show them that faith in Christ is the only way to navigate this world.
There is nothing special about the people who preach Christ. It is their message that is special. It is their message that is important. It is the gospel…the salvation offered to those that might give their lives to follow Jesus. That’s why I do what I do. Honestly, I could care less if anyone knows my name. It is my desire to step out of the way and let Jesus shine through me.
Every Sunday, those that lead our service where I serve gather to pray just before our worship service begins. It’s a practice that I started because I wanted us all to have our minds focused on God and glorifying Him. Part of my prayer is the same every time. “God, help us to lead well. Help us to step out of our own way, and let You shine through us. May it be your words that are heard this morning, and not ours. May everything we do this morning be for your glory”.
This world needs Jesus.
In other words, my prayer is always, “Help me to not make this about me. This is about You God, and You alone.” This world needs Jesus. There is no doubt about that to me. So, let me ask this. What are you doing to spread His word to those you come in contact with? Preachers, remember that it is not about us. It’s about pointing others to Him!
“He must become greater; I must become less.”
This quote is found in John 3:30, and is actually said by John the Baptist, referring to the person of Jesus Christ. I read this in my quiet time just recently, and it stood out. I was familiar with it before this, but for some reason it struck a chord with me in a great way this time.
John was the person that was sent ahead of Jesus to proclaim the coming of the Messiah. That is a very important job. It would be easy to think really highly of oneself when you are the one sent to proclaim that the Messiah is here. And people thought that John was either the Messiah or a great prophet of old. It would not have been hard for John to take some of that praise and the accolades that some were willing to give, and say, “I deserve this”.
But that is not what John did. In fact, he very straightforwardly stated that he was not the Messiah. In fact that happened in the same conversation where we see him saying “He must become greater; I must become less.”
It seems to be really easy these days to think more highly of yourself than you should. I know that’s a struggle of mine anyway. Preaching and teaching is something that I really enjoy, and God seems to have given me these things as strengths. And believe me, it would be really easy to start getting a little conceited about that.
What things are you really good at? Surely something comes to your mind when you read that question. But do you put those things in the proper place. That is where this conversation that the disciple John records about John the Baptist is so important for us. John the Baptist knew he had an important job, but the most important thing to him was showing Jesus for who He really was.
In other words, John the Baptist knew that the only thing that really mattered was Christ being exalted, even if that meant he was not as important as is human nature told him he was. And the same thing should be true for us. We should desire nothing above glorifying Christ. Use your gifts. Use them well. By all means. But do so not to exalt yourself, but to lift up Jesus Christ to others.
“HE MUST BECOME GREATER; I MUST BECOME LESS.”
May we all make that our goal in life.