Have you ever prayed to see God in your life? I’m not sure that we could handle Him! We know that God is a loving Father (1 John 3:1), and Created each of us with a unique and wonderful design. God’s nature is so above our own, we can’t begin to put Him into a form or shape which is convenient for us. When we pray, we must pray like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion: “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me—nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done (Luke 22:42).” God will do what is right according to His plan and design, not ours. Do we trust the Creator of this universe enough to strengthen us for the tests which lay waiting for us today? I do. I struggle with doubt several times a day, but in the end, I trust Him who knows eternity to guide me through the temporary struggles of today. The Apostle John who had walked and talked with Jesus Christ on earth, described the same Messiah this way in the last book of the Bible: “One like the Son of Man, dressed in a long robe and with a gold sash wrapped around His chest. His head and hair were white like wool—white as snow—and His eyes like a fiery flame. (Revelation 1:13b-14).” Jesus never changes His essence, but His appearance fits the occasion. In the occasion of our deepest hurts and needs, Jesus is the Great Healer. God knows that our greatest need is to be whole inside and out. Jesus revealed this truth early on in His ministry: “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17).” As we wrap up another Gregorian calendar year, remember that our time frame is based on our limited, temporal understanding. As you pray for God’s wisdom in the coming year, be ready and willing to see Him work in ways that don’t match your calendar, or expectations. Give Him room to be King of your life. Leave 2018 in God’s hands.
2,000+ years ago, 6,600+ miles away, the world received the greatest gift of all time. When I was younger, I thought the greatest gift was a remote-controlled car. I would lay awake at night in my top bunk staring at the ceiling fan which was only 10 inches from my nose, and I would imagine all the fun I would have with my new toy. Sometimes I received a remote-controlled cars, other times I wouldn’t. The fact is I only have a few remnants of the presents I received as a kid. I am not really a big fan of the Christmas season as we’ve made it in the United States of America. I struggle juxtaposing the nature of giving we’ve developed. The nature with which God gave His only Son, is not the nature with which most give gifts today. “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).” God gave us the gift which keeps on giving 2,000+ years later. We still have the chance to give this gift to others by leading the lost to be found in Christ. “How 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 (Romans 10:14)?” When we give the gift of testimony, we have to unwrap some pleasant and unpleasant scenes from our life. But in light of God’s salvation for us, and the chance of God’s salvation for the person we are talking to, it’s worth it all when even one person confesses Christ as Lord. “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).” The person who has been saved, is now charged with being both a disciple, and a disciple maker. Regardless of what you’ve ordered online, grabbed from the mall or picked-up from local stores; give the gift of Christ this year. Someone is wishing for the gift of salvation whether they realize it or not.
What would you do with a million dollars? My son Daniel said he would give some money to the church, and the rest he would use to create a restaurant that would cook foods from all around the world! That type of hypothetical situation frees the frustrated mind to wonder into fantasy. This same fantasy dynamic can be seen in the world of politics. While one political party develops an ideal platform to address specific issues, their candidates brings a dangerous, realistic dynamic to the mix. The personal lives of any political candidate should have a direct bearing on their credibility in their political career. The policy which politicians develop, are merely a reflection of their collective moral code. As another series of elections passes our nations historical timeline, we need to use it an opportunity to take elections seriously. Elections should never be about choosing the lesser of two evils, validating the confidence of people pleasers, or keeping the status quo. Elections are about selecting the leaders who are led by God. Just because a leader goes to church, or identifies with a religious agenda, does not mean they are led by God. Just like my six year old boy would like to think that a million dollars would fall into his lap, I would like to think that I would have the ability to select an individual of integrity for a political office. The truth is, God selects the leaders he needs, even in secular government. “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God (Romans 13:1).” There is no Biblical precedence which approves of a disciple of Christ refusing to obey a government official because they disagree with them on political issues. There are times in the Bible’s history when evil dictators, and foolish cowards were used as instruments of God’s greater story. “The Lord has prepared everything for His purpose—even the wicked for the day of disaster (Proverbs 16:4).” Whether we’re making decisions for our community, local church, or the direction of this blessed nation, we must not put God in the box of having to choose the lesser of two evils through us, as His ambassadors. Because we are His representatives, we have the responsibility to speak up when we’re given a voice, so that God is represented through His church. Don’t make the acceptable choice, make the right choice. We have the responsibility to represent Christ well. We have the privilege of trusting the election results to God’s working.
According to the American Auto Association, the average time span in which a driver is mentally distracted while using verbal input for mobile devices is 27 seconds. If one was driving a mere thirty miles an hour down city streets, this would equal a distance of 1,200 feet driven without full attention to one’s surroundings. How many kids might run out into the road without warning? What are the chances of a rushed commuter backing out of their driveway without checking both ways? These statistics don’t even touch the quantitative calculations for someone who is also visually distracted. Jesus addressed the serious dangers of seemingly innocent distractions when He said: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away (Matthew 5:29).” Jesus was delivering the Sermon on the Mount, and was highlighting the expected behavior of Christians. Jesus was not blaming body parts for our sinful choices, neither was He advocating for self-mutilation. Using hyperbolic language, Jesus warns us of the damages of sin. It would be better to do without a physical necessity than to give into the distractions the world sells to us as “harmless”.
In our times it would be better to do without an electronic device if there is a pattern of using it for sinful pleasure. We might need to trash certain books, magazines, or even stop going to certain places, if these activities are not the product of a conviction from God. God is not only targeting those filthy industries we would like to be rid of, He is calling all of our “harmless” distractions into question. Over 2,000 years ago, the Apostle Paul discussed innocent distractions and dangers using religious diets as a backdrop. There was an argument in the church between those who thought Christians we’re only allowed to eat and drink certain things, and those who were mature enough in the faith to accept everything with gratitude. Paul wrapped up the issue this way: “Whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from a conviction, and everything that is not from a conviction is sin (Romans 14:23).” Take time to call out your “justified” distractions by name. Become aware of them. Perhaps you might even ask the same question I am asking myself: Is this distraction worth it? There is even a chance one, or some of them may be outright sin. Take your list to the Lord, asking Him for wisdom. Search the Scriptures with an open heart and mind. He will guide you to truth through His Word and His Spirit.
The moving truck is reserved, and the boxes are being packed and stacked. In July of this year, Olivia and I were called to let go of our current ministry, and trust God to reveal the next step. God continues to be faithful in revealing His direction. “The one who calls you is faithful (1 Thessalonians 5:24).”Within the last month the doors have opened up for a ministry in the Common Wealth of Virginia. Despite all of the love we’ve received while ministering alongside the Cherokee County community, we need to establish a new atmosphere for personal growth. We continue to be amazed at the strong undertow of hospitality and generosity from this region.. I was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and grew up in the Wichita, Kansas area. Olivia and I started our ministry in the Johnson City, Tennessee area over 7 years ago. In 2013 we moved to Johnson University in Knoxville, TN (where I was born), to continue training and engaging in ministry. While continuing my education online, in May 2015, we made the 700 mile move to Columbus, Kansas. God has confirmed his direction through that move by His many blessings every step of the way. We have kept a detailed list of all the gifts, notes of encouragement, meals, visits and opportunities we’ve been given during our two and a half years in the Four State Area.
God guides our paths to cross with specific people for specific reasons during specific seasons. “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1).” We have learned and grown in ways which would have been impossible had we stayed on the Bible College campus. We grieved as we left West Side Christian Church in Morristown, TN, and rejoiced as we were adopted by Center Christian Church in Columbus, KS. Now we grieve while leaving Center Christian Church in Columbus, KS, and rejoice as we join the ministry of Dalton Hill Christian Church in Hillsville, VA. We plan to stay in contact as our ministry family grows across this nation. Calling is a significant topic in Scripture which does not get very much coverage these days. Ask that God reveals to you what you are supposed to be doing, where you’re supposed to be doing it, and who you are to be doing it with. God will show you the next step. “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path (Psalm 119:105).” Perhaps you’re positioned where you are because you’ve never questioned what the right direction is. Perhaps the place you’ve always been, is exactly where you need to be. Assuming is a dangerous game. I encourage you to ask God what He wants you to do today. Pray that God will reveal whether or not you’re walking in His will, or whether you need to make a change. God will speak if you’re willing to listen. I’m glad I listened years ago when God laid Center Christian Church on our hearts. I’m excited for what lies ahead in the unknown. I know God will bless us as we make the 900 mile move to our next destination. Keep us in your prayers. Thank you.
Integrity. No one is perfect, and yet there is a universal expectation for a moral standard. Why do we fight so hard to justify those we trust when they sin, and yet vilify those we don’t trust when they trespass the same type of boundaries? The answer to this is sensitivity. If we’re not careful, we get into a pattern of justifying our personal failures which we are acutely aware of, and become desensitized to our faults. Then we begin magnifying those same failures in others to comfort ourselves with the perception that we’re “not as bad”, as they are. One definition in Webster’s Dictionary which cuts to the heart of this issue, is its definition of Integrity: “The state of being whole and undivided.” We look around and see division on a local, and global scale. In families, churches, communities, and our nation we’re pointing fingers without examining ourselves. The truth is: we will not find unity with others until we have found unity with Jesus Christ. Until we are individually whole, we cannot construct a holistic community. “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the perversity of the treacherous destroys them. (Proverbs 11:3).” We look at so many politicians, and celebrities from all sides of the political spectrum under investigation for allegations of immorality. We are in need of a point of unity around objective standards. Can we all agree that there is an author for the moral code which tells us all that an immoral lifestyle is unacceptable? Even those who live an immoral lifestyle have to invest a lot of time into justifying, and excusing their sin. You show me someone who always has creative stories to explain the symptoms of sin, and I’ll show you someone who is making fools of family and friends. We need the integrity that only comes from the Holy Spirit’s filling and acting through the redeemed body of Christ. Pastor Dr. David Jeremiah summed it up this way: “Faith that is not evidenced by a life of integrity is not biblical faith at all.” Before you get all worked up about the double-standard in Washington or Hollywood, look no further than your own heart. Is your heart subject to the authority of Christ, or is it dictated by the whims of your pleasure? Pray that God will reveal any hidden sin in your heart you need to deal with, and He will gently show you. Confess that sin to Him, call it out by name, and Jesus will forgive you. Walk in the confidence and integrity which comes from knowing that Christ has forgiven the sins you’ve confessed to Him.
Jesus cares about your pain. Whether you are hurting for someone else, or you have a trial of your own, Jesus cares. This week reveals yet another level of evil which rests in the human heart. While Jesus walked among us 2,000 years ago, He cautioned His followers that the world they would live in would be full of dangers and death. There is a message of hope which emerges through the ashes: Jesus cares. His words of comfort to those in Sutherland Springs, Texas who lost their lives or loved ones in this horrendous act of murder would be: “Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:28-31).” In this passage, the One who can destroy the body and soul in hell is speaking of God Himself! God is the only one who has the ability, or right to condemn any one to eternal punishment. God is also the only one able to forgive the repentant human from the consequences of sin. Those who know Christ as Savior exit this life, and are ushered into the compassionate presence of their Savior in heaven. Those who survive with physical, emotional, and mental injuries have direct access to the Great Healer who weeps with those who are weeping. Jesus cares, and He calls us to carry on that legacy through the power of the Holy Spirit. In his first century letter to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15).” There will be time to have conversations about being alert and vigilant about developing solutions for protecting congregations and community gatherings. Now is the time to grieve. Until we learn how to lament, we will fail to improve on the past. During Jesus’ ministry on earth, over 6,000 miles from the United States, He took time to weep with those who were weeping. When a well-loved community member, and personal friend passed away, Jesus planned to raise him from the dead, first we read that He went to the graveyard, gathered with the weeping, and: “Jesus wept (John 11:35).” Jesus’ friend Lazarus would rise from the dead, but first Jesus wept. We must truly weep, so that we accept the brokenness of this world. Once we accept its brokenness, it is easier to accept God’s wholeness. That wholeness is only found in the holiness of Jesus Christ. The love of Jesus says: “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).” As disciples of Christ we must reach out both to the victims, and the perpetrators. We minister out of love to the families of the innocent and the guilty. Christ died for those who were in the church building, just as much as He did for the one pulling the trigger.
“My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight (John 18:36a).” The rage rests beneath the surface as we read yet another headline about a senseless terrorist act in the name of Allah. The Allah described by the Islamic faith, is not the same God described by the Scriptures we claim as disciples of Jesus Christ. As the Son of God, Jesus spoke with authority when He affirmed His message of servant-leadership time and time again. Despite serving the mighty Creator God, we who are baptized in the Holy Spirit, are called to participate in building the Kingdom of Heaven by taking on the role of a servant. Christ’s physical presence at the horrific scene which unfolded yesterday afternoon in Manhattan, New York, would have looked like the people rushing to the aid of the fallen. The presence of Christ now, looks like those who reach out to the families who have lost loved ones. Now, Jesus is seen through those who are coming alongside the grieving and healing to find wholeness in Christ. When Jesus walked the face of this earth He would use tragedies, such as this to remind His listeners to repent of their sins while there is still time. In passages such as Luke 13:1-5, the Master describes two horrific current events which had several fatalities, and then challenged those who thought they didn’t deserve death to “think again”. But when a passionate religious zealot violently acted out on behalf of who he thought God was, Jesus rebuked him in love and said: “Put your sword back in its place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword (Matthew 26:52).” God’s followers do not live by violence. True disciples live a life of servant leadership. Anyone claiming to represent the Allah of Islam, is confessing to worshipping an idol created by humanity. The “Christian” who justifies killing their neighbor for a “holy cause”, is also confessing the worship of an idol created by human imagination. We are called to serve the way Christ served. We who have responded to God’s of salvation from death, through Jesus Christ, are expected to serve. “By the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).” Our whole life is designed to serve God and others. Our life was destroyed by sin through both nature and nurture. Our life was bought back by the blood of Christ to serve God and serve others. This is what we were made to do. Rather than giving into the rage the rests beneath the surface, give into the love God has placed in our hearts. Minister to the hurting. Those placed in authority are called and designated to deal with the justice, and we must hold them accountable to do so, while we are ministering to the wounded. There are credible organizations who are helping those who are healing in the aftermath of this attack. There are also neighbors around you who are hurting in the aftermath of a tragedy they have experienced. It may not have made national, or even local news, but it rocked their world. Reach out in servant-leadership to meet the needs of your neighbors like Christ did.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2015 that suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. In a world which steps away from God’s design, we lose purpose. When we lose purpose, we lose hope. You can see where this is going. Those adults in training who are between 12 and 20 years old are perhaps hit with this “lostness” the hardest. This last Saturday (11/28/2017), there was a young man who attempted suicide by jumping off of an overpass onto a busy highway below. Instead of ending his life, he ended the life of the driver in the car he landed on. Forgive the morbidity, but this is reality. The quickest way to truth, is to remove the filters of convenience and call it out by name. Suicide is not a solution to guilt and grief. Choosing to end ones own life is a disseminator of anguish. The answer to the suicide epidemic facing us right now is not fearmongering that someone might go to hell for taking their own life. The only thing which sends a person to hell, is not finding salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ already gave His life, because none of us have a life worthy of giving for our own sins. God required the perfect sacrifice to cover the sins of individuals, not to mention everyone in the world. The unfiltered voice of Jesus tells us: “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).” Jesus already gave his life in the place of ours. While our lives were one giant leap of death into the unknown, Christ offered Himself as a refuge from ourselves and the consequences of our sins. He gave us a secure hope for life after death. He knew that we would always be in a losing battle with our temptations to: steal, lie, lust, hate, rebel, envy, murder others, and ourselves. God knew we could not be victorious without a King to lead us there. If you have a loved one who took their own life, or know someone who struggles with suicidal thoughts: call any one of the churches in the area including our ministry (Jesus Unfiltered #316-992-8970). We will introduce you to the Great Healer, Jesus Christ. We will also put you in contact with professionals who specialize in walking with you through dark seasons. When Jesus came to earth over 2,000 years ago, He introduced a light which pierces the deepest valleys: “Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:5, 6).” God has already paid the penalty for sins including suicide. Turn to Him for victory from that numb type of pain which leads souls to conclude that escape is the only answer. He is listening, and we are here to help you find Him.
The time comes when you decide not to say anything, and simply offer a reassuring embrace. There have been many funeral services in our area over the past few weeks. At first, my mind races with all the inspirational words I could offer to the grieving. Then, I am reminded that there is a type of pain so deep, that words cannot express or heal the wound. I remember learning at a young age that healing is not a “how” question, rather, it is a “Who” question. Christ is the only perfect Healer capable of gently, and correctly binding up our injuries. We are reminded that: “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3).” When Christ, the fulfillment, and manifestation of the Word of God walked among us, He went about healing those who were afflicted, and sick. He created us, and knows what we need to be made whole again. The truth is we will never be perfect until He returns. The truth is, we are told to: “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6, 7).” God wants to hear the cries of hurting, even when we cannot put words to our pain. When Christ left, He told everyone who was, and ever would be His disciple, that the Holy Spirit would live in those who belonged to God. That same Spirit offers a ministry of translation for our darkest nights, and foggiest days: “In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings (Romans 8:26).” In a time of grieving, presence is the most significant gift God demonstrates we can offer to each other. Clear your calendar, be available, and be present in times of grief.