A New Testament model of a loving church

A short passage in Paul’s letter to the Philippians reveals a model for what love looks like in the New Testament church. Paul only devoted a few lines (six verses) to telling the story, but he writes the report in a way that explains so much about the love in the Philippian church. A close study also reveals Paul’s concern for his friends in Philippi. 
 
You need a little background to better understand. The church at Philippi was the strongest and healthiest church in the New Testament known for its devotion to Paul and his mission. In Acts 16, we read how the church was founded upon glorious salvation stories and miracles of God’s deliverance from prison. Everyone from Lydia, a seller of purple goods, to the Philippian jailer and his whole family had witnessed the mighty hand of God on His church. The congregation met at the home of Lydia, the first Philippian convert.
 
The Philippian church was Paul’s favorite place to visit, and Paul was their beloved leader. He stayed in almost constant touch with them. They, in turn, supported Paul in all of his endeavors with their prayers and with financial gifts. The church at Philippi, more than anyone else, loved Paul and kept him encouraged on all his journeys. 
 
The story told in Philippians 2:25-30, had been in the making a few years before Paul’s writing this letter. The Philippians received word that Paul’s ship sank on the way to Rome. One can only imagine their despair upon hearing this news. Soon, though, the church received better news that Paul survived the shipwreck and was alive on the Island of Malta. Imagine their relief upon the reception of another letter from Paul, where He reported that he had arrived safely in Rome. Paul informed his friends that, though detained under house arrest awaiting his day in court, he was allowed to come and go and to receive visitors.
 
Upon learning of relative freedom, the Philippian church made a decision to send Paul a love offering to help support him during his detainment. They sent the gift by a brother named Epaphroditus, whom they intended to stay with Paul and help meet whatever other need he might incur. 
 
The plan to encourage and support their brother Paul began to fall apart shortly after Epaphroditus’ arrival when he fell gravely ill. He became so sick, in fact, that he nearly died. For a time, one would have had a difficult time telling who was taking care of whom as Paul became immensely concerned for Epaphroditus. Further complicating matters, when the Philippians heard about Epaphroditus’ illness, they were moved to despair. Epaphroditus, upon learning of his church’s concern for him, became worried for his friends. The whole ordeal added to Paul’s anxiety over his legal predicament. 
 
Let’s pause now, and attempt to sort out this drama. The Philippians were concerned about Paul, so they sent him Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus fell ill. His illness worried the Philippians, which worried Epaphroditus, which worried Paul. Finally, Paul decided that even though Epaphroditus’ coming was a source of encouragement, the added anxiety of having him in Rome with him was too much, so Paul determined to send Epaphroditus home.
 
Paul sent the letter to the Philippians back with Epaphroditus. In the letter, Paul instructed the church to receive Epaphroditus with joy and to honor him. Paul explained that Epaphroditus put everything on the line for the gospel, even his own life, and for that, he was worthy of honor.
 
If you ever wonder what brotherly love looks like, then look to this story of Paul, Epaphroditus, and the Philippians. This story is a model of what it means to share one another’s burdens. Here in Philippians 2:25-30, we see Christ-like sacrificial love fleshed out in living color. The sweet care shown by everyone involved shines a light on how we should care for one another.
 
I challenge you to care selflessly for someone today. Put everything on the line to demonstrate love to a brother or sister in Christ. Do you know someone under a heavy burden? Pray about how God might use you to help shoulder that burden. This is the kind of love that honors God and the kind of love that God honors. Jesus said that the world would know us by our love, so let’s love with abandon. Let’s love not just in word but also in deed.

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What happens when our love abounds?

The Apostle Paul prayed for his friends in Philippi that their “love would abound more and more…” The church in Philippi was already known for its love. They were staunch supporters of the Apostle Paul and his mission. They possessed a fellowship that was unmatched by any other church in the first century. For Paul, though, the abounding love they shared was still not enough. He prayed for their love to abound even more.  
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No matter how loving your church may be, no church is caring enough. Every body of believers can stand to grow in kindness, just as no individual Christian has arrived at the level of Christ’s compassion. Abounding love transforms the whole church body, and the lost world takes notice.
 
 
How will abounding love transform a church? According to Paul’s prayer, where love is multiplied, so is knowledge, discernment, and wisdom. Think about it, where love is lacking foolishness abounds. People act out on their emotions instead of the Spirit, which shades truth and fractures the fellowship. As love grows, the bond of love that bind us together also grows stronger. And as love abounds even more, we become more and more approving of what is excellent in the eyes of Christ. 
 
 
When abounding love gives way to wisdom and discernment, the church body begins to look more and more like the body of Christ. His word cleanses every spot, softens every rough edge, and removes every wrinkle. The local church is revealed as the pure and blameless and beautifully radiant bride of Christ in the midst of a dark and fallen world. She becomes a beacon of hope, a shining city on a hill that cannot be hidden. 
 
 
As love abounds with wisdom and discernment, leading to the church more accurately reflecting the bride of Christ, something else happens. The church bears fruit that comes through Jesus Christ. Righteousness abounds as more and more come to faith in Christ. The dark, lost, and love-starved world cannot resist true love reflected by the body of Christ. They are drawn by the extraordinarily supernatural love of Christ that shines in His follower’s affection for one another, and they just have to have it. They are won, not only by our love for them but by observing our love for one another. They know, by our love, that we are real.
 
 
What happens when love abounds in the church? Besides growth in knowledge and discernment, besides the body becoming more like Christ, besides a lot of people coming to faith in Christ, God is praised and glorified. He died for this very reason that we might know what love is and that by understanding what love is, we might also love one another. Nothing honors God more, and nothing more effectively brings a smile to his face than when our love abounds for one another. When we, His followers, love one another, we express our understanding of who He is and what He did for us. We show that we “get it.”
 
 
I pray as did the apostle Paul. I pray that “your love would abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil 1:9-11). I hope you will make this your prayer as well, for your church and all our churches. The world desperately needs us to love one another more passionately. If we seek the glory of God and His kingdom, then we must all grow in our love for one another. 

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The Philippian Hymn

If you have listened to very many sermons, then you have probably heard a pastor bring the lyrics of a song into his sermon to illustrate his point. Did you know that preachers have been practicing this technique since the earliest days of the church? In Philippians 2:5-11, Paul brought in the lyrics of one of the first hymns of the Christian church to add to his exhortation to the Philippians to be of the same mind.
 
The hymn celebrates the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. By studying the lyrics, we learn more about the deity, the humility, and the humanity of our savior. Most importantly, we learn of the mind of Christ that is in us.
 
The first couple of lines in verse 6 represents a celebration of Christ’s deity. He was “in the form of God” and possessed “equality with God.” By existing in the form of God and having equality with God, the pre-incarnate Christ was the same in essence and nature as God the Father. He was the visible representation of all the fullness of God.
 
Jesus was what we all want to be. He was God. Remember, this is why Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. For Adam, equality with God was a “thing to be grasped.” He desired equality with God, so in order to obtain and then exploit his deity to his advantage. Jesus, according to the hymn, however, possessing the deity to which Adam aspired, did not count it “a thing to be grasped.” Other translations say, “He did not count it robbery,” or “He did not count it to His own advantage.”
 
Instead of seizing on His deity for his own advantage, Jesus poured himself out. He spent His deity to save His friends. That “He emptied Himself” does not mean that he became any less God. Rather, He added humanity to His deity. He was God, but He willingly took on the role of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.
 
Rather than stand at a distance, He drew close to us. He put on our skin and was “found in human form.” He experienced every aspect of the human experience. He lived the human life of obedience to perfection. “He became obedient to the point of death.” He submitted himself to the Father’s will even up to the point of dying.
Paul, we believe, adds for emphasis “even death on a cross.” Jesus’ obedience was so radical that he chose not only to die but to die the most horrific death possible. The Jews believed that anyone who died on a cross was cursed. Jesus, the God-Man, took on the curse of our sin.
 
Jesus’ reward was that God “highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above all names.” The hymn implies that the latter office he occupied after his resurrection was even more significant than His pre-incarnate status, not in the sense that He was any higher, but in the sense that He became the conqueror of sin and death.
 
Jesus’ life and death were so obedient and perfect, and His reward so highly exalted that the time will come when all will grasp His greatness. On that day, all who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow the knee and proclaim Jesus Christ as the Lord. All of creation will recognize Him as the visible representation of Yahweh. They will proclaim Him as the author and savior of all creation.
 
The hymn celebrates that the proclamation of every tongue confessing Jesus Christ as Lord will bring “glory to God the Father.” Time will reveal that Jesus not only served us. Ultimately He showed Himself to be obedient to God the Father, who is the one who loved us in the first place.
 

Be encouraged today that you have a Savior who is Jesus Christ, and He is Lord. He loves you so much that He chose to come and live in your skin and experience life as a human being. Even though you have not been obedient, He was perfectly obedient on your behalf. He took on your curse and died. God raised Him up and exalted Him. If you have trusted Him and confessed Him as Lord, then there is a place for you in His presence in heaven for all eternity. Not only that, but having His mind in you, you are now free to love like Him, serve like Him, and practice radical obedience like Him.


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Let’s talk about mental health.

On Sunday, September 8 Jarrid Wilson, megachurch associate pastor, and outspoken mental health advocate tweeted a lament of the church’s silence on mental health disorders. On Monday, September 9, the next day, he officiated a funeral for a female suicide victim. On the following day, which happened to be suicide awareness day, we learned that Jarrid had taken his own life.

 

Jarrid correctly pointed out that for too long church culture has shied away from addressing this prevalent problem in our society. I believe he died, at least in part, to bring awareness to this issue. I’m not meaning to say he made the right choice, and I do not want to, in any way, glorify his actions. I do, however, get the altruistic reasoning behind his death. He didn’t feel that he was getting anywhere with his outspokenness on the issue, and he thought by killing himself he would bring attention to mental health problems in the Christian community.
 
 
The fact that Jarrid’s suicide was out of the Christian news media within just a few weeks proves that suicide is not the answer. Some people commit suicide because they just want a way out… a break from the hamster wheel. Others choose to die to bring attention to some problem or injustice whether it be bullying, or abuse, or the apathy of their loved ones who cannot understand their struggle. Most of the time these poor souls are buried, mourned by the ones who loved them the most, but the issues they hope to call attention to by their deaths go largely unaddressed. They die mostly in vain.
 
I am a Christian pastor who has struggled with clinical depression. God graciously worked through doctors and counselors and medications to help me. Through His word and His faithfulness, I am being healed and given joy in the midst of my major depressive disorder. The Lord has worked in me a will to live and speak out on this issue. I know that the only way I can make the difference He wants me to make is for me to make choices that reflect His character and love. For me, that takes suicide off the table.
 
Since I opened up about my struggle, so many people have come out of the shadows to let me know that they too wrestle with mental health problems. I have been greatly encouraged to know that I am not alone. I know, however, there are even more people who suffer in silence. I know because I was one of those quietly suffering while thinking that to admit my problem was to admit failure.
 
Studies estimate that 1 in 4 church attendees suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder, but few receive treatment. Those who go untreated either try to ignore that they have a problem or they believe with more faith, prayer, and Bible study they can overcome. The enemy will not allow them to consider, and their church leaders sometimes don’t care enough to point out, that God graciously uses doctors, therapists, and medications to help with mental health problems. Yes, only the Lord can HEAL a broken heart, but he does involve other good people in helping His children with all kinds of problems ranging from the common cold to major depressive and bipolar disorder.
 
If you think you may have a problem, then talk to someone. Start by talking with a good pastor who cares. Most formally educated pastors have at least some understanding of the practice of pastoral counseling. He will listen to you, pray for you, and share scripture with you. He will help you with some of your unhelpful thoughts and refer you to a more specialized mental health professional if it turns out that’s what you need.
 

Doctors, therapists, and Christian counselors will also help you. If your pastor recommends any combination of these helping professionals, then I would start with a therapist or a counselor who shares your Christian worldview (they exist). Therapists and counselors will give you tools to cope with the occasional blues and nagging anxiety. You may not even need medication, but if a trusted doctor recommends a medication, then understand that he or she has taken an oath to do you no harm. Good doctors do not prescribe antidepressant or antianxiety meds for frivolous reasons. Consider that this is one way that God helps hurting people. If you need medication and don’t take it, then you are doing yourself harm, and you’ll find other less healthy ways to cope.


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The difference in failing and being a failure.

Everyone has experienced it. You are rocking along, walking with the Lord, doing great, and things could not be better. Then, BAM! Life happens. There is a job change and a relocation, and you get out of fellowship with other believers. Or you discover your spouse has been unfaithful, or you mess up and find your-own-self in an improper relationship with someone. Or you mistreat a person you love. In general, you find that you have failed.
 
Once I heard a preacher say in a sermon, “The devil is the most passionate preacher of grace when he’s tempting one to sin, and he’s the most passionate preacher of condemnation after one falls into sin.” This is so true. We fall into sin believing that we will be okay, that God will understand, that we can be forgiven. Then, after we fall, we condemn ourselves as an irreconcilable, unredeemable, and miserable failure.
 
In the season following a moral failure, it is extremely important to check your thoughts of condemnation with Scripture. Is it fair to label yourself as a failure just because you failed? Is what you did so horrible that you are unredeemable and irreconcilable? Are you really disqualified to be a child of God? Is there another way to think about your situation and what you have done?
 
Scripture teaches us that there was only ever one human being who had the ability to live life flawlessly—Jesus. Jesus was able to live life flawlessly because He was born the son of God and born without sin. All other human beings were born the sons and daughters of Adam with an inherited nature bent toward sin and failure. We were all doomed to sin by the very nature of our birth. (Romans 5:12-14)
 
When you back up and look at scripture, you find that failing doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you a human being. If you could live life flawlessly, there would have been no need for Jesus to come live a perfect life, die on the cross, and be resurrected. He came because God loved you even while knowing that you would fail. (Romans 5:6-11)
 
Scripture teaches that no sin is unforgivable if it is confessed and repented. He cleanses sin, by His grace, through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ as a free gift to those who trust in Him. He casts sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalms 103:12). God has never done wrong. He is completely just and faithful to His promise. As such, His justice and faithfulness call for Him to forgive and cleanse the confessed and repentant (1 John 1:9).
 
Scripture also teaches that those who receive Jesus as Savior are born again as children of God and by the will of God (John 1:12-13). They are adopted into His household with the legal rights of inheritance to His Kingdom (Romans 8:16-17). Nothing can undo what He has accomplished by His great love for those who trust in Him (Romans 8:31-39). Certain failure may disqualify a person from certain areas of service in the kingdom, but no failure disqualifies a true Christian from receiving His love. No Christian is ever disqualified from being a child of God.
 
When Jesus is a priest whose holiness, and unstained innocence allows Him to save “to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him… He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24-26). By his great mercy, they are “born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading…” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
 
If you have failed, then the point is to acknowledge your failure, but don’t beat yourself up. Take your failure to the foot of the cross and leave it there. The cross of Christ is where Christian failures die and are forgotten. Then go pay a visit to the empty tomb. The empty tomb is the place were believers are assured that they have life. Understand that God is a master at taking the mess we make and turning it around for His glory honor and praise.
 

All that is required for His redemption is repentance. What does it mean to repent? To repent is to ask for forgiveness and determine to do your best, in the strength He provides, not to make the same mistake again. To be sure, you will fail again, but prayerfully you won’t fail in the same way twice.


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Let Go and Grow Old

Most people dread the thought of growing older. We resist it. We do everything we can to feel young, look young, act young, and stay young. Women keep their age a secret. Men style their hair to cover their bald spots. People spend millions on cosmetics and procedures to cover up the effects of aging on their faces. 
 
We fear growing older for a couple of reasons. First, we fear that when we become old we won’t matter anymore. Our culture marginalizes the aged, and there is nothing a human being fears more than being marginalized and unknown. Second, we fear growing old because we fear death.  Each year that passes is one more that we will never get back, and no one knows when their years will run out. 
 
For Christians, these fears are irrational. There never comes a time when children of God cease to matter or be useful in the eyes of their Heavenly Father. They never cease to be useful in His hands. Also, death does not exist for those who have trusted their lives to Jesus. For Christians, death is just a gateway into a new and glorious state of being that lasts for the rest of eternity. 
 
For too long people have minimized the benefits of growing older. A survey of elderly characters in the Bible teaches God’s people that age should be embraced by God’s people. Let me give you a few examples.
 

1. People get smarter as they grow older.

A common objection to the flood narrative in Genesis arises when skeptics question how Noah was able to build this huge boat according to the exact plans of the Lord. However, when you think about the length of human life at that time in history, you can imagine how technology could advance so dramatically. Genesis 5:22 tells us that Noah was 500 years old before he ever fathered any children. Imagine how much a man could learn in 500 years. Think of the modern-day genius, Steve Jobs, and imagine what he could have accomplished if he were given upwards of 800 years to learn and advance in his understanding.

 
Not everyone is a genius, but the longer we live the more we learn. The more we learn, the more intelligent we become. I recently read one author who declared this truth, “young people learn new things faster, but old people know more.” For this reason, aging is a process to be embraced, not avoided.
 

2. God affords the aged an opportunity to invest the next generation.

In Numbers 20:12, God revealed to Moses that he was barred from entering into the promise land because he failed to follow the Lord’s clear instruction at the waters of Meribah. Moses, however, was not left without a legacy. He did not cease to matter just because he would not live to see the promise land dispossessed from the Canaanites. God simply modified His mission for Moses’ life. In Deuteronomy 3:28, we learn that God immediately tasked him with preparing Joshua, his assistant, to lead the people after him.
 
The Bible teaches that all are bound to die because of sin (Romans 5:14-18), but this does not mean that we will ever cease to matter or be useful to the Lord. We, like Moses, were commissioned to invest our lives in the future of God’s people. We leave a legacy by making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to be obedient to Christ. The more time the Lord gives us on this earth the more opportunities He affords to invest in a legacy that stands to live for all eternity.
 

3. The elderly possesses the aptitude to intimately appreciate the love of God.

 
John 21:22 and the early church tradition leads us to believe that John was the only disciple to survive persecution and die as an old man in exile. Beyond the opportunity to live longer, what was John afforded by surviving into senior adulthood? He grew to understand more intimately the love of God. In the second chapter of his first letter, he wrote: “See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
 
Every day the Lord gives us is another day that we are allowed to experience the love of our Heavenly Father. The more we experience His love, the more we appreciate it. The more we appreciate His love, the better we are able to share it with others.

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What does it take to be a peacemaker?

Our God is a God of peace. He created a world of peace and harmony in the garden of Eden. When man disrupted peace with sin, He sent His Son to be the manifestation of peace on earth. He died on the cross to establish peace, then He sent the Holy Spirit to be the agent of that peace. Through the Holy Spirit residing in the hearts of believers, He wrought in them the fruit of peace, made them the ministers of peace. One day Jesus will return to finally restore creation back to its original peace and tranquility.
 
Jesus calling peacemakers blessed sons of God (Matt 5:9) should not be a surprise. Every family has a heritage and God’s family has a heritage of peace. Much like when people think of the Kennedy’s as a political family, the Rockefellers as an oil family, and Queen Elizabeth’s family as the royal family, the family of God should be known as the family of peace.
 

If we know that Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God,” then a peacemaker is what we should individually strive to be. Let’s spend some time, then, thinking through what it takes to be a peacemaker.

 

1. To be a peacemaker, one must first make peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

 
Apart from Christ, there is no peace with God. Scripture teaches that before we came to faith in Christ, we were enemies of God. We were dead in our trespasses. We were children of wrath like the rest of mankind. (Eph 2:1-3) We had gone our own way. The way of peace we had not known. (Roman 3:10-18) We do not find peace with God until our hearts are awakened and we place our faith in what Jesus did to reconcile us to God.
 

Having peace in one’s life does not begin and end with faith in Christ though. Peace comes through living by faith and obedience to God. To be a peacemaker, one must have peace in his or her life, and one cannot have peace if they are living in disobedience. Where willful secret sin is present, even in the life of born again believers, fellowship with God is strained making the enterprise of peacemaking difficult to impossible.

 

2. To be a peacemaker, one must lead others to make peace with God.

 
John Macarthur writes in his commentary on Matthew 5:9, “To preach Christ is to promote peace. To bring a person to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is the most peacemaking act a human being can perform. It is beyond what any diplomat or statesman can accomplish.”
 
To lead others to peace with God, we must humble ourselves. If we look down on others’ weaknesses and are blind to our own… if we discount our faults while elevating the faults of others, then we actually lead people away from the gospel and peace with God.
 
 Peacemakers boast in their absolute inability to save themselves. They glory in the strength and righteousness He gives. They acknowledge Him as the One who keeps them from evil. They make much of the mercy He has shown them and the grace He has gifted to them. Peacemakers speak of the promises He has kept in spite of the promises they have broken and in so doing, show the world the peace of God.
 

3. To be a peacemaker, one must lead others to reconcile conflicts.

 
Peacemaking involves helping conflicting parties see what they have in common. A conflict where no common ground can be identified is a rarity. All people are created in the image of God, valued by Him, and are neighbors at least in that way.
 
Once common ground is identified, the peacemaker must do the dirty work of dealing with sin both in his brother and in the enemy of his brother. At the root of every conflict is a festering cyst of sin that must be identified and mashed out. The process can be painful, so the conflict often gets worse before it gets better.
 

Finally, peacemakers mediate the process of bridge-building. Bridges are built over vast gulfs when hurts on both sides are aired out, acknowledged by the wrongdoers, and forgiveness is offered. Bridges have two sides, the same is so where a conflict exists. Very rarely is a conflict one-sided. Both sides must participate in building their respective side of the bridge.


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What is to be learned from the news of more mass shootings?

Last weekend two mass shootings occurred over the span of 13 hours and 1,600 miles apart. Thirty-one people are dead and dozens more were maimed and wounded. One shooter is dead and one taken into custody. 

 

The spin doctors on the right and the left are hard at work exploiting these recent losses to advance their own agendas. This close to a presidential election, we can expect that there will be a heated competition to put a label on these events. You can count on this, right now campaigns are testing labels on their focus groups to see which words elicit the most emotional reactions. Expect to hear more debate about “White Nationalist Terrorism” and “Domestic Terrorism.” What will ensue is another Black Lives vs Blue Lives vs All Lives matter.

 

Understand that by assigning these labels, politicians and pundits are trying to tell you what you should think about these events. By forming your thinking, they want to point you to who is to blame. Some labels will infer that the president is to blame, others that gun control activists are to blame, others that second amendment defenders are to blame. 

 

This political posturing is not helpful but only serves to polarize the nation even further. Polarization is not the answer to the problem. More vitriol is not the way to bring an end to these gruesome acts but only breeds more division. More division leads to more violence, not less. 

 

What is desperately needed in our country is for those who profess Christ to look at these events through the lens of Scripture. Scripture is truth, and truth, when believed, brings us together. Those who believe the truth of Scripture find peace and make peace. 

 

The recent mass shootings, when viewed from Scripture, illustrate that people are broken. We, like Cain, inherited sin from our parents, Adam and Eve. Like Cain, our inherited sin manifests itself in the form of hatred, anger, and violence. The Lord knows that the wickedness of man is great in the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually (c.f. Gen 6:5).

 

Romans 3 teaches us that the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every man. Paul, in this letter to believers, injects this truth by quoting from the Old Testament, “’Their throat is an open grave. Their mouth is full of bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery and the way of peace they have not known’” (Romans 2:13-17).

 

We like to think that people are generally good and incapable of doing horrible things like shooting up a Wal-Mart. This thinking does not line up with the truth of Scripture. Scripture teaches that people are bad, evil, violent, and hateful apart from Christ. We are all broken, and we all need Jesus.

 

Most would agree that murderers need Jesus, but what must be acknowledged is the truth that we are not much different than the murderers. The evil that led those shooters to kill resided in all of us at one point or another. The grace of God is the only thing that delivers us from the depravity of our flesh. 

 

What our country desperately needs is for every professed believer in Christ to cling to Him and to Him alone. Believers need to study their Bibles more than they study headlines, tweets, and social media posts. Rather than relying on politicians for peace, they should cast their anxieties upon Christ and receive the peace that surpasses all understanding, and then they should share the peace that they receive with others who don’t have it.

 

Jesus said that believers “are the salt of the earth.” If the world is headed to hell in a handbasket, then we are called to take responsibility. It is a dereliction of Christian duty to cast blame on others when we are not willing to share with the world the one answer to all hatred and violence. If we want peace on earth, a secure future for our children, and for God to bless America, then we had better be on our knees praying, and on our feet sharing the hope that comes from knowing Christ.


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Mission Week Update

July 18

I want to thank everyone who has been praying for and who signed up for Mission Week (July 28- Aug 2). The Lord has really been working to bring everything together. I am excited to share this news with you, give you some updates on each project, and let you know where we have further needs for volunteers. 
 

SES Project

Our team has been asked to paint all the bathrooms in the elementary school. Suzanne Hudson is taking lead on this project. We could still use some helpers even form people who cannot participate every day.
 
 

 Blessing for Teachers

This project started as an add on to the elementary school painting project but has since, by God’s blessing, morphed into something bigger and all on its own. We will be providing meals for all the faculty and staff at the elementary school, middle school, and high school. Patty Rogers is taking lead on this project along with Diane Roberts. I’m sure they could use a lot more help if you are interested.
 
 

Block Party in Finkbine

The block party team is fully staffed, and Larry is making plans. If you signed up to help with the block party, then he will be contacting you with instructions.
 
 

South Ms Regional Center (SMRC)

The team is full except we don’t have a leader yet and we could use a guitar player. Anyone interested? I’m sure some sort of rehearsal will need to be organized. Ann Kendrick is working on getting goodie bags together for the residents.
 
 

Basketball Camp

The event was posted to Facebook on Monday. The word “free” has generated a huge amount of interest on social media. We will need many more helpers. Even if you know nothing about basketball, we can use you. Love for kids and love for Jesus is the only prerequisite.
 
 
 

Bag Stuffers

Michelle Rogers will be leading the team of bag stuffers. If you signed up, then she will be contacting you about next week’s schedule. If you did not sign up but are interested in helping with this project then please touch base with her. Call the church office if you need her contact info.

 

Visitation

I cannot stress to you how desperately we need more people to sign up for the visitation. I know this is uncomfortable for many of us, but I promise it will not be as bad as you think. In fact, you are going to be surprised how friendly and open your neighbors are to getting a visit from people who love and care about them. I assure you that you do not need to be an ace evangelist to participate in this project. You just have to love Jesus and love people. Any person of any age and level of Bible knowledge can help. You could help just by smiling and being present because we will go out there as teams.
 
You will notice that there are many blanks on those visitation signup sheets. We need lots of people to help with this so that we can accomplish the mission the Lord has assigned to us. I am asking for you to take courage if only for this one time. You will emerge on the other side of the experience as a better more caring person. And if you have the worst experience ever, then hey… you never have to do it again. One strong push toward courageously going out in the name of Christ is all I am asking.

 

Pray-Give-Go

Please continue to keep these efforts lifted up to the Lord in your daily prayers. Be ready to take the opportunity to participate in the prayer vigil coming up in a couple weeks. Consider giving to the Mission Week fund. The more resources we have, the more ministry we can accomplish. Finally, if you’ve not signed up to go on mission with us, please don’t wait to respond to the Lord. If He is tugging at your heart concerning one or even more of these projects, then be quick to be obedient. 

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4 Reasons to Practice the “Billy Graham Rule”

 Last week, actions taken by a gubernatorial candidate to avoid being alone with a female reporter sparked a debate over what has been dubbed the “Billy Graham Rule.” The “Billy Graham Rule” is a principle that the famous evangelist developed in 1948 during a crusade in Modesto California whereby he covenanted with God and his fellow evangelists never to be alone with a woman who was not his wife (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/evangelical-history/where-did-the-billy-graham-rule-come-from/). Vice President, Mike Pence, is well known to practice this principle as well. 

 

I am also a practitioner of this axiom with only two slight adjustments. I have made two exceptions in my nearly 18 years of marriage and both were through much prayer and in mutual agreement with my wife. Also, my counseling ministry requires me to be able to meet with women one on one. I do so under the watchful eye of a security camera that captures on video (not audio) everything that happens in my office. 

 

Not only am I a practitioner of the “Billy Graham Rule,” but I am also an apologist. I counsel all the couples for whom I do pre-marital counseling that to be alone with a member of the opposite sex other than your spouse is never a good idea for the reasons I shall enumerate below. First, let me just say, I also make it a practice never to endorse any candidate for political office (my reasons for this rule is material for a different article). This principle for living, though, is at the forefront of the current water cooler conversation, and I want to tell you why practicing it is a good idea. 

 

1. Guarding the marriage bed honors God.

 
The Spirit instructs us in Hebrews 13:4, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” To hold the “marriage bed in honor” is to assign to it the highest value. Anything that you can do to keep it undefiled is honorable, wise, and prudent. Why does God tell His people to honor the marriage bed and keep it pure? Because God’s heart is to honor the marriage bed and keep it pure, hence the reasons for the prohibitions around sex and His judgment upon those that offend those prohibitions. God wants married people to enjoy intimacy, and for intimacy to be enjoyed it must be honored and set apart as holy.

 

2. Married people belong first to God and then to their spouse

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:2&4, “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” Here we see that God desires for a husband and wife to be joined together in intimacy, thus He grants both authority over each other’s bodies. He does this so that each spouse would submit themselves to their “own” spouse. As a husband, by my refusal to be alone with a woman who is not my wife, I am really guarding any temptation to defile the body that belongs to my wife.

 

3. Affairs are painful and destructive.

In my 12-year career as a pastor, I have witnessed the heart-wrenching destruction of many marriages because of extramarital affairs. These affairs do more than just destroy a marriage. They destroy people. Affairs destroy children. Affairs destroy workplaces, and they destroy churches. Faithfully practicing the “Billy Graham Rule” is an almost sure way to avoid becoming an instrument of destruction in the hand of Satan.

 

4. While it may seem that interactions with the opposite sex (not your spouse) are innocent, you must understand that most affairs begin innocently.

Hardly anyone who has an affair does it on purpose. Most affairs begin with a platonic relationship that develops sometimes over the course of several years. Just like in any other platonic turned romantic relationship, friendly talk leads to spending time together (eventually alone time), which leads to confiding in one another, and soon chemistry develops and love, or at least the feeling of love, is born. By making it a practice not to be alone with a friend of the opposite sex, you disrupt that formula that leads to an affair and ensures that you stay just that, friends.


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