“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (Dec. ’16 Newsletter)

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” or so the beloved Christmas song goes.  And for many that is a very true statement.  I love this time of year, although, I am still having to get used to the summer like temperatures (at least for this TN guy) around the holidays.  It is hard to believe that this will be Kelley and I’s third Christmas season here in NM, but it is. 

While I say that I love this time of year, and I do agree with the song I quoted above, I also realize that this is not always the most wonderful time of the year for many.  For those that do not have family to spend time with, or that have family too far away to get to spend time with, it can be a depressing time of year as well.  Believe me, I get that so much, because as much as I love this time of year, it is hard knowing that Kelley and I will not be spending it with our families either in OH or TN.

Then there are those that just recently lost a loved one.  Holidays are really tough in those situations.  In fact, I was reminded of that talking to Kell’s mom on Thanksgiving Day.  Her father passed away in December of 2014, and Kell’s mom was telling us that she spent almost two hours on the phone with her mom on Thanksgiving Day, because the holiday season is still tough on her not having her husband.

Another reminder of how tough this season can be sometimes is going on right now as I type these words.  I am not sure how many of you are following what is going on in my home state, but Gatlinburg, TN and surrounding areas have been severely damaged by some out of control forest fires.  In fact, just a couple of nights ago, Gatlinburg residents faced a mandatory evacuation, while hundreds of homes, cabins, and business were burned to the ground.  My family is all safe (they live about an hour and a half from Gatlinburg), but there are thousands that have lost everything, right before Christmas.  The town is a home away from home for so many that I know from East TN and OH as well.  I have spent many weekends in the Gatlinburg area in my youth as well.  To say the situation is devastating is an understatement.

I write all of the above for one simple reason.  While I love this time of year, it is a hard time of year for many.  We are reminded of family members that are gone now, and miss the family members and friends that we are not able to spend time with during the holidays. 

Whether this is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for you, or it is a difficult reminder of those that are either gone too soon or too far away to spend time with, I want to remind you of one simple truth that we should all hold on to: This is the time of year that we set aside to celebrate the coming of the greatest gift this world has ever seen, and that is the birth of Jesus Christ!

While this is probably not the real date of His birth, this is when we choose to celebrate and remember that Jesus sat aside His glory and divinity in Heaven, and chose to become human.  John records this in a beautiful way in John 1:14; “14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  Whether you are hurting or celebrating during this season, hold on to the fact that Jesus came, and He came for you and me!

I Despise Politics

If you know me at all, you know that I despise politics, in any form or fashion.  I rarely if ever engage in political talk with anyone, especially people that I do not know well.  Political arguments have been known to destroy good friendships, as well as turn into knock-down, drag out fights.  It just seems like nothing good ever comes from talking politics, yet all you see in our society at the present time is political ads, debates, arguments, and more…everywhere. 

I guess that is natural with the presidential election coming up in just over a month, but I have to admit, this is my least favorite time of the year, news wise, because all you see or hear is politically charged.

Well, like I said, I despise politics, but I am going to break for and write about the election coming up in just over a month.  Before you get too far ahead of me, I will not be “endorsing” anyone.  In fact, I really do not think that we have any good choice this year when it comes to the candidates for president, and I will not even name a single candidate by name.  You know who they are anyway. 

What I want to write to you this month is about all the doom and gloom that seems to be present on both sides of the election process.  Democrats are talking about how horrible it would be if the Republican candidate were to be elected.  Republicans are talking just as much about how horrible it would be if the Democrat candidate were to be elected.  Both are completely ignoring any third party candidates that have gotten into the race. 

Here is the problem as I see it.  I see just as many Christians talking about how horrible it would be if one or the other were to win the election.  The problem with that is it seems that they are putting all of their hope in a political party, instead of trusting in the only One that we can truly have hope in; Jesus Christ.

This world seems to be in a bad place.  But I have news for you.  A republican is not going to fix things.  A democrat is not going to fix things.  Only Jesus Christ, and people fully committed to following Him are going to fix the problems of the world.  I am not trying to tell you not to be involved in the election.  By all means, vote, but do not hang your hope in a political party.  In fact, scripture tells us that our hope is not on anything in this world. 

Paul writes in Philippians 3:19-21; “19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

Our hope is in heaven.  Jesus is the only hope this world has.  Never lose sight of that.  A fellow minister that I went to school with sent this out today on Twitter.  Ben Stroup wrote, “God isn’t desperate to ‘MAGA’ (Make America Great Again) nor is He ‘With her.’  The kingdom is about way more than one election in one country. Relax”.

The Church’s Job

We are beginning a sermon series all about discipleship on September 11.  This is a series that I am really excited about, and one that I think can help us all in how we interact with each other and those that do not have a relationship with Jesus yet.  In fact, I think we all need a reminder of this from time to time, the first part of discipleship is actually sharing your faith with someone. 

When we hear discipleship, our first thought is usually something about gaining deeper understanding of scripture, a better prayer life, or something along those lines.  Those things are definitely a part of discipleship, and something that we should all be striving for.  But we are called to make disciples.  Not just help each other that are already in a relationship with Jesus be a better disciple.  This is something that I am just now really starting to understand, and something that I think has the potential to change how we interact with other people that we come into contact with in the world.

Think about it.  Matthew 28:18-20 states, “18 Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”  We talk about this passage all the time.  You know what it is usually referred to.  “The Great Commission”.  It is Jesus’ final command to His disciples (and us) after His resurrection before His return to Heaven. 

All to often, however, I have missed the command here.  We talk about “going” and “baptizing” and many other things in this passage.  Or we focus on the promise at the end that Jesus will be with us always.  And that is a great promise.  One that we should talk about and should give us the courage to live for Him in this broken world. 

We seem to miss the “make disciples” part of this though.  I know I have missed it many times.  But that is the central command here.  Go and make disciples.  Not wait for them to come to us, not just help each other grow that already know Jesus, but go and make new disciples.  That can get messy though, because we are dealing with imperfect people that carry baggage of hurts and failures with them, along with our own baggage as well.  It does not give us a pass, however, from not attempting to follow this command. 

I saw a friend post this quote from John Ortberg earlier today, and it kind of brought all of this into perspective for me.  Ortberg wrote, “The mission of the church is not to go out into the world of disgust and shape it up.  It’s to go into the world with compassion and help it out.”  In other words, God has extended you grace, even when you did not deserve it, and His grace is available to others that are still mixed up in the world of disgust out there.  Our job is to help them find Jesus, not condemn the world for acting immoral. 

Paul put it this way in his writing to the church in Corinth; “12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.’” (I Cor. 5:12-13).  Our job is not to judge and look down at those outside the church.  It is to try to find a way to help them become a disciple, and that is what our 4-week series starting on September 11 is going to deal with!  I cannot wait.  Please invite your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors…anyone who does not have a relationship with Jesus yet.  Who knows, they might say yes.

It’s (Almost) Football Time in Tennessee! (August 2016 Newsletter)

I don’t know about you, but I am having a hard time believing that we are already through July, and that school is starting here in town in just a couple weeks.  Where has this year gone?  Even though it has gotten to us fast, I love this time of year.  There is almost a renewal of things.  Not to mention that (hopefully) we’ll start seeing some cooler temperatures soon.  A new school year is starting, high school football season is here, and in just a month’s time, I’ll be hearing those famous words that get my blood pumping UT Orange; IT’S FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!

If you’re not familiar, that’s a phrase that is said by the radio and loud speaker announcers at the kickoff of every Tennessee Volunteer home football game.  It’s the signal that the game has begun, and it’s time to pay attention.  Along with the phrase, I’m looking forward to hearing “Rocky Top” played and watching the Big Orange take the field through the Power T.  I’ve probably confused many of you if you’re not familiar with college football, or the Vols at all, but that’s ok, because there is a point to all of this, I promise. 

Tennessee is expected to have one of their best years in recent memory, and there is a lot of excitement surrounding this team.  There is also a little nervousness from the fans, however, because if something goes wrong, and the team disappoints, it could set the program back a few years.  In other words, this season, in terms of college football, is very important.  I’m extremely excited about the season, and no matter what happens, I will be a VFL (Vol For Life).

There is another reason that I love this time of year.  And that is you!  Our faith family, through the summer, is scattered.  We don’t get to see each other as often as we do during the fall, winter, and spring.  People are traveling, working longer hours (because of the daylight), and just generally busier during the summer.  We’ve had weddings out of town, people traveling for work and vacation, and many other things that have kept us apart.  It seems that every year, once school starts back, things settle in for the Church as well.  While school is starting the second week of August, we are going to launch our Fall sermon series a few weeks later.  This launch will be September 11, when we start a series about discipleship, looking specifically at the ways that Jesus discipled His disciples, and seeing how we can implement those same techniques as we try to build disciples today. 

I’m even more excited about this series than I am about Tennessee football!  And for those of you that know me well, you know that means a whole lot.  I believe that we are poised here at Central for a great “season” of ministry.  Things are coming into place, and it’s time that we fully trust God, get out of our comfort zones, and reach our potential that we have in regards to sharing Jesus with others.  That’s why we are going to be focusing a lot on discipleship, and the things that get in the way of discipleship in the coming months.  But just like the Vols, while the potential is high, this is a critical season.  I will share more next month about what our “game plan” is for this season that we are entering in to, but there are two things that I’m sure of that I’ll end with.  As the Wednesday Night Kid’s Ministry begins in August, and our Fall series starts in September, I’m excited to say, “IT’S MINISTRY TIME AT CENTRAL!”  More importantly, no matter what happens, if this season goes as well as we could ever hope for, or there are some disappointments along the way, I will be a CFFL (Christ Follower For Life)!  That is my prayer for you as well.  Let’s get serious about building disciples!

Harambe (June 2016 Newsletter)

I was really hesitant to write about this topic, but it has become such a hot button issue in the last week that I felt I needed to address it.  The truth is, some of you may not even be aware of the situation as it stands right now.  That is because it is taking place in Cincinnati, OH, and I am not sure if it has made the Current-Argus or the local news.  Because I have so many friends and family members in the Ohio and Tennessee regions, however, this situations has been hotly debated and talked about on social media.  In fact, I cannot tell you the last time I scrolled through Facebook and did not see something regarding the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo.  If you do not know what happened, let me briefly explain.

On Saturday, May 28, a four year old boy got away from his parents for a split second and climbed into the Gorilla enclosure at the zoo.  It was no easy feat, as he had to crawl down a 15-foot drop designed to keep the gorillas in and people out, but none the less, he got in.  It is the only time in the history of the zoo in Cincinnati that someone has gotten into an enclosure.  A 400-pound male silverback Gorilla named Harambe came toward the boy.  To make a long story short, in an effort to save the boy (the gorilla more than likely would have killed or seriously injured him, intentionally or unintentionally) the zookeepers decided that the best course of action was to shoot and kill Harambe.  Tranquilizers might not take work quick enough, and Harambe and the boy were both in a moat of water.  If tranquilizers did work, Harambe could drown, but he could have also fallen on the boy and drowned him as well.  So, Harambe was shot, the boy saved, but the events of that day have started a firestorm on the internet. 

Mike Edmisten, a ministry friend of mine that I have quoted before, wrote this on his Facebook page the day after the incident; “The internet in Cincinnati is about to melt down about the situation at the zoo yesterday.  As an animal lover and zoo member, the whole thing makes me sad. Very sad.  But let’s be clear about one thing…a child is worth more than a gorilla.”  That statement was the first I had heard of the incident, and that is when I started looking into it a little bit.  There are so many people that are furious that a gorilla had to die in order to protect a human child.  There are so many people that are coming out screaming that the parents of the child be held completely responsible for the death of Harambe.  There are animal rights activists that are completely up in arms about the whole incident.  Remember, this was a four-year old child, and there are people calling him a brat and holding him responsible for the gorilla’s death.

Here is the thing.  I am saddened by the fact that Harambe was killed.  It gives me no joy to know that a very rare and beautiful animal lost his life.  But given the choice of the animal dying or the child being harmed, there is no choice to me.  A child’s life is more important than any animal.  In the creation account  in Genesis 1, it tells us that God created the animals.  Then in Genesis 1:26-28 it tells us about the creation of mankind.  It records; ‘“26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”’(italics mine for emphasis)

From the beginning, we were put in charge of the animals.  Not to abuse them, but we are created in God’s image, while animals are not.  Human life is more important.  As for those that are basically wanting the parents crucified for this, just remember that accidents happen.  Should the child have been able to get into the enclosure, no.  Kids get away from parents all the time.  This just all goes back to the mentality that we have to blame someone for everything that happens.  Accidents happen, and that’s all this was.  A tragic accident.  From Mike again, and I’ll end with this, “I’m all for personal responsibility, but when did we lose sight of the fact that accidents really do happen?”

Influence (July 2016 Newsletter)

This past week, I have woken to the news that two very honorable and beloved people have passed away.  My guess, however, is that for most of you that are reading this, only one of these deaths has crossed your newsfeed or information pipeline.  Honestly, if it was not for my connection to Cincinnati Christian University, I probably would have only heard of one of them as well.  Pat Summitt, former head basketball coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols passed during the night between Monday and Tuesday, due to complications from her battle with Alzheimers.  Then, this morning (Wednesday as I write this article) I woke to the news that Wayne B. Smith of Lexington, KY had passed away.

Summitt is a TN and basketball legend, winning 1,098 games in her career as the head basketball coach of the Lady Vols.  It’s the most wins in NCAA basketball history.  She also lead the Lady Vols to eight National Championships over the years.  She retired from coaching in 2012, after being diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2011.  Summitt was known for her work ethic, and instilling that work ethic in her players as well.  I think the most impressive thing about Summitt’s career is the fact that every single player that played their full four years of eligibility under Summitt actually completed their degree.  Every Single One.  That is unheard of in the realm of collegiate athletics.  The sports world, and just about everyone in Tennessee is mourning her death, myself included.

But then I come to the fact that Wayne B. Smith has died.  I never met the man, but I know plenty of people that have.  In fact, I had a class or two during my time at Cincinnati Christian University in a classroom that was named in his honor.  The preaching classroom, where I delivered my first sermon ever, is named after Mr. Smith.  One of my professors during my time at CCU recently told me a short little quip about Smith.  Jon Weatherly told me that Smith used to say, “If you want to put up a plaque to honor me for my preaching, hang it over the copier.”  When I saw the news this morning, the name sounded familiar, and I clicked on the first article I came across describing his death.  What I learned reading that article brought me almost to tears, because I know the reward that he is receiving right now.  Wayne took Southland Christian Church in Lexington, KY from 152 attendees at its first service in 1956, to averaging more than 3,700 by the time he retired in 1995.  Today, Southland is the largest church in Lexington, averaging more than 12,000 on a weekend between their three campuses. 

It is not just how many attend Southland, though.  It is about the influence that Smith had on this world.  The ministers that he influenced that are now on the front lines of ministry today.  Or those that were influenced by those that were influenced by him.  I am in that category.  I never met the man, but many of the mentors and professors that I have studied under in the past were influenced greatly by Smith.  While again, I have never met him, I join in those mourning his loss, but also celebrate because we know the reward that was awaiting him.  Those close to him say that he often said he wanted to die in the pulpit, a sentiment that I have expressed as well.  And he came really close to doing that.  He spoke briefly Tuesday evening to a group of ministers, went home, and passed away peacefully in his sleep. 

There is a comparison to be made here between Summitt and Smith.  The news of Summitt’s passing shut down the sports world.  It even brought a statement from the POTUS about her influence.  And she had great influence.  When it comes down to it, however, Smith probably had a more far reaching and more eternally consequential influence, yet, you will not hear about his passing, or his life on national news.  In some ways that is a sad thing, but then again, if Smith is the kind of person that everyone makes him out to be, then I think it is fitting as well.  He would not want the attention.  I am not saying it is wrong to honor and mourn Pat Summitt; I just wanted to take a moment of your time and honor a man that has had a great deal of “Kingdom” influence.  May you rest in peace, Wayne B. Smith.  And I wish I could have been there to hear you receive those words we all long for at the end; “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

For more info on the life of Wayne B. Smith, please visit http://www.kentucky.com/news/local/counties/fayette-county/article86596192.html

Tobymac and Discipling (Newsletter April ’16)

Music has always been a big part of my life, but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve realized just how big of a role different Christian bands have played in my walk with Christ over the years.  I listen to Christian rock and worship music while I work out, while I read, and even while I write.  In fact, my Pandora radio mix is playing through my headphones while I write this article.  Christian music is one of the best ways that I connect with God, and am able to refocus my life when I seem to have lost my focus.  So, you could say that music is a huge part of my life. 

We can learn a lot from different Christian musicians as well.  The one that really sticks out in my mind first and foremost is dc Talk.  They changed the way Christian music was looked at, and they paved the way for some of the most influential artists to this date.  But there were others as well.  Rich Mullins really challenged the perception of what Christian music was.  Audio Adrenaline was right there with dc Talk as they paved the way.  Skillet and Thousand Foot Krutch have continued to push the envelope and have created a sound that is allowing them to be able to play to secular crowds, getting the message of Christ out to those that otherwise may never hear it. 

When dc Talk broke up, I was really disappointed, and in fact I still hold out hope that one of these days they will at least put a reunion tour together.  The three members of dc Talk have all gone one to be successful outside of the group.  Kevin Max is now the lead singer of Audio Adrenaline, Michael Tait is with the Newsboys, and Toby Mac has a solo career with his band called Diverse City.  16 of us will be in El Paso this Sunday evening to see Toby, and I can’t wait!  But as I was thinking about this concert this week, I realized something.  As much as music has influenced my life over the years, there are ways that these musicians teach us about Christianity even outside of the music they perform.

Toby Mac is the perfect example.  Let me explain.  This concert that we are going to this weekend, including Toby, has seven bands.  At least two of the bands that will be performing are where they are today directly because of Toby Mac coming along side them, mentoring them, and helping them get opportunities to grow in their music.  Capital Kings and Hollyn, in other words, have been discipled by Toby Mac.  And these aren’t the only musicians that he’s helped along the way.  Jamie Grace may be the most well known artist that was discipled by Toby during her early years.  My first experience with Jamie was at a show where Toby was headlining, and she was on the ticket because of him.

What am I getting at?  We can learn a huge lesson from Toby Mac, dc Talk, and all these other musicians.  When they see someone that is wanting to walk the life they are already walking, they aren’t afraid to help them out.  They aren’t afraid to come along side of them, give them advice, teach them, disciple them, and show them what it really means to be a Christian musician.  But at the same time, I think they make it very clear that the first step is being a Christian.  They know how to disciple and to teach others to walk for Christ.  To follow Christ.  And we need to be doing the same thing.  Those of us that have been following Christ for a while, not that we have it all figured out, need to be willing to come along side others that haven’t had as much experience following Christ, and help them figure it out.  My guess is that someone in your life at some point has discipled you, and you wouldn’t be who you are today if it wasn’t for that person.  Become that person to someone else, and give them the help they need to follow Christ better. God Bless!

Praying Audaciously…Now What (February 2016 Newsletter)

Last month, I wrote about praying audaciously, looking at Jesus’ prayers from John 17.  It ended with a challenge to prayer big, tough, audacious prayers throughout the month of January.  If you want a refresher of that article, you can click here to read it again.  This month, I want to follow up on that article.  We’ve talked a lot this past month about prayer, and have even partnered together to pray over all aspects of Central Christian Church for 24-Hours straight.  Prayer is an important part of our relationship with Christ, but we can’t treat it like prayer is the only thing that we should be doing.  One of the things that I have noticed in my own life, and in the lives of those that I am close to, we are either really good at praying, but not following that up with action, or we don’t take time to pray, but we’re really good at jumping to action right away.  Neither of those are the best that we should be doing.

Take for example the prayers of Jesus in John 17(click here for a refresher).  Jesus prayed and prayed hard at that time.  He was hours away from going to the cross.  Actually, all four gospels record some version of His prayer that night(Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22).  He not only took time to pray for His disciples and for all of us that would eventually come to know and follow Him, He was praying that God’s will be done.  He didn’t want to go to the cross.  In fact, Luke’s account of His time in the garden praying says that Jesus was so stressed over what He knew was coming, He was literally sweating blood.  It would have been easy for Jesus to pray, and just think that was enough.  To walk away because He did what He thought was enough, and prayed about something that was bothering Him.  We do that a lot.  But He didn’t do that.

He prayed and then He went out and did what He had to do.  He didn’t just leave it at prayer.  He put the physical effort in and He went to the cross.  And we should all be so glad that He did.  That was God’s will, and Jesus put in the work to complete the task that God had given Him.  If He had just left it at prayer, and then walked away because He didn’t think He needed to do anything else, the sacrifice for our sins would not have been completed. 

Other scriptures speak to this, but the first one that comes to mind when I was thinking through this was James 2:14-26.  James is talking about faith vs. deeds, but I think it can easily be seen as prayer vs. work as well.  So in other words, what is prayer without putting some work in at the same time.  Don’t get me wrong, God wants us to pray, and He is more than capable of handling the situations that we pray about.  Sometimes, however, by allowing us to work at the things we are praying for, He uses that to help us grow in those areas and in our faith. 

In the article last month, I mentioned an author and preacher by the name of Mark Batterson, and his book The Circle Maker, all about praying big prayers.  One of my favorite Batterson quotes, and I can’t remember which of his books it’s int (probably in multiple), is this; “Pray like it depends on God, but work at it like it depends on you.”  That’s my challenge to you this month, and it will be a main focus of our teaching times over the next few weeks as well.  Put the time in praying, but don’t be afraid to put the work in either.  God doesn’t want us to just sit idly by after we’ve prayed.  He wants us to do the work as well.

So, think about that big prayer or prayers that you’ve been praying over the last month (if you haven’t been praying those big prayers yet, it’s not too late).  Keep praying those prayers.  Pray bolder prayers.  Then ask yourself, “What can I do to help bring about the results of the prayers that I have been praying?”  And then do it.  Figure out what needs to happen on your end, keep praying, and then do the work!  Let’s all get out there and put in the work to reach this community for Christ.

Guilty (October 2015 Newsletter Article)

I’ve never been a fan of shows like Judge Judy but a clip appeared online this week that caught my attention.  It’s only about 30 second long, however, it caused a great deal of laughter between Kelley and I.  In the clip, the plaintiff is explaining what was in her purse that was stolen, apparently by the defendant.  She is going through the list of what she had to replace, and said that she had an ear-piece in the handbag.  Then, out of nowhere, in a move of stupidity, the defendant speaks up and says, “There was no earpiece in there ma’am” to Judge Judy.  And Judge Judy starts laughing hysterically.  This guy, not even realizing it, admits to stealing the purse.  In under 30 seconds, the case is over, the defendant has incriminated himself, and Judge Judy has awarded the plaintiff an award of $500.  The guy was guilty, but what made the situation so funny is that he accidentally admitted to the crime.  Who knows how the case would have gone if he had just kept his mouth shut, but he didn’t.  The man got what he deserved. 

We’re guilty too.  Romans 3:22-23 states, “22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”.  For all have sinned.  We are all guilty.  And honestly, if we think about it, if we were to go before God trying to hide that sin, we would mess up just like the defendant in front of Judge Judy.  We can’t fool God, and He’s going to know exactly what we did.  But the beautiful thing for us, as Christians, is that we don’t have to appear before God on judgement day alone.  We will have someone to fight for us.  Paul hints at this in a way in I Timothy 1:15-17, which reads, “15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Paul is saying that he is that guy on Judge Judy.  The one that has sinned and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he is guilty.  But Jesus has offered him mercy to show us all that His mercy and grace are available to us.  That should be comforting.  We don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing when we come before the judge.  We have someone that will confess us before Him.  Matthew 10:32-33 records Jesus as saying, “32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”  If we have confessed Jesus as our Lord and Savior before men, and not been ashamed of Him, He will confess us before the Father.  We have someone that will be our advocate.  In fact, to finish out what Romans 3:22-23 is saying, read Romans 3:24-26.  It says, “24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

I, for one, am glad that I have Jesus.  I will not be ashamed of the fact that He is my Lord and Savior.  I want to live that through my life.  And He will be my advocate in front of the Father.  I won’t have to try to keep myself from saying “there was no earpiece in there, ma’am”.  We all know I’m guilty, but Jesus’ blood has paid the price for my sin, and for your sin if you’ve confessed Him before others!  No more being ashamed of Him!

Stand Strong, With Love (September 2015 Newsletter)

This  world seems to be be getting crazier and crazier.  The political and social unrest in this country, and around the world, seem to be building to a powder keg.  I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but it seems to be building to a huge explosion.  Think about it.  On one side, you have the “Black Lives Matter” crowd not only protesting, but in many cases rioting and destroying their own neighborhoods.  Some of them are also calling for and celebrating the unprovoked shootings of police officers across the country. 

We’ve got groups like Planned Parenthood apparently selling aborted baby parts.  And how you react to this organization seems to put you on one side or the other.  You either completely support everything they are doing, or you are completely against everything about the organization.  Then you’ve got the county clerk in KY that is still refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.  Some are calling for her head, while others are hoping that she stands her ground.  I even came across a comment from a friend of a friend on Facebook the other day about this woman.  She thinks she should lose her job, but she actually went as far as saying that she would literally spit on her is she ever has the chance.

I get that some of these issues are far from black and white.  There is nuance to them, and we’re all going to have somewhat of a different opinion on each of them.  But I’m going to quote Ed Fannin here for a minute, and hope he doesn’t mind.  I recently heard him say something along the lines of, “Just shut up and love someone”.  It might have actually been, “Just shut up and get along”.  Either way, I think you get the point.  I’m not saying that we should stick to our convictions.  In fact, I pray that you will all stick to those convictions, especially the ones that are biblically based.  I can’t support anything that is considered sin, and I’m going to stick to that conviction.  But I can stick to that and still show love to everyone around us.  In fact, our ability to show that love to others, especially the ones that don’t agree with us, that shows that we are living out our Christianity. 

We can’t afford to have a “holier than thou” attitude.  We are no better than the next person.  In fact, we are all the same.  I want to leave you with a couple of passages, and I’ll just let them speak for themselves.

Romans 3:21-24, 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:9-14, 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.