PowerPoint

After spending the night on the Mount of Olives, Jesus enters the Temple area and begins to teach. The scribes and Pharisees drag before Him a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery. She is clearly guilty. These religious leaders cite Mosaic law, which calls for the woman to be stoned to death, and the men solicit the expert opinion of Jesus.

We know from John 8 that this “question” is anything but sincere. It is yet another setup. The hypocritical band of spiritual power brokers is attempting, as it happened often, to trap Jesus in a moral or legal catch-22.

Though we can’t know what Jesus wrote with His finger in the dirt, we do know that He cleared the crowd. And we do know at least one of the statements Jesus made to the angry crowd with their rocks in tow: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, the woman’s accusers departed. And Jesus is there on the ground with the adulteress. Christ is kneeling with a guilty criminal and a societal reprobate.

I am so moved by that particular posture. The Lord of heaven and earth lowered Himself to extend grace to a sinful woman, to restore her from her brokenness and shame, to rise to her defense, and to rescue her from condemnation. That is real power.

We live in a world where power is understood quite differently. Power is control. Power is manipulation. Power is prevailing over others at all costs, and exploiting their every weakness in order to prevail. Power is domination. Power is winning. Power is walking over others to elevate oneself, and to make it successfully to the top.

Not so with Jesus.

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has not made me a woman.” Jewish rabbis prayed that prayer every morning, and Jesus had no doubt heard it many times. Women were so devalued by men that they were regarded as property. But, much to the surprise of those who watched Him closely, Jesus elevated women everywhere He went. He showed us what it means to respect women as God’s image bearers and heirs of divine grace. He appointed women to first announce His resurrection!

Jesus taught us how to live, how to love, and how to lead. Each involves giving ourselves away, choosing to serve instead of to be served, and dying daily to the idol of self. Surely you and I must breathe in the strength of the Holy Spirit if ever we are to experience such life in Christ. That is real power.

As I drove away from the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention this afternoon, I was grateful to God that the world’s largest deliberative body took a decisive stand to protect the vulnerable among us, and to hold accountable those who might be tempted to exploit the weak or ignore the cries of the abused.

https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/motion-spurs-task-force-to-oversee-ec-review/

Those are gospel issues. And actions which embody Biblical justice and mercy remind me of none other than the Jesus who stooped to save. I believe that the SBC chose love over comfort or status quo today, and that is real power.

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Let Freedom Ring

Meet Byron “Tanner” Cross.

Mr. Cross has been reinstated as an elementary school physical education teacher in Loudoun County, Virginia. He had been suspended from his job at Leesburg Elementary School for speaking his mind about a proposed policy regarding gender and gender identity. The policy was aimed at requiring school staff to use students’ preferred pronouns.

Thankfully, Twelfth Circuit Judge James E. Plowman just ruled in favor of Mr. Cross and ordered the school district to restore his employment. Judge Plowman asserted that Loudoun County Public Schools had violated the teacher’s constitutional rights under the First Amendment.

What had landed Mr. Cross in so much hot water with the school district? Simply this: he refused to “affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion. It’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God.” Once Mr. Cross made that comment in a public forum, the district tried to dump him like a hot potato. Never mind that the district had solicited public input on their proposed gender policy. The school district’s principle argument for ordering Mr. Cross to stay completely away from school property had been the “disruption” caused by Mr. Cross at the meeting where his comments were made.

Our nation’s latest round of “new” sexual orthodoxy carries with it a brutal demand for absolute adherence. Christ followers should expect to feel the brunt of this demand with greater and greater intensity. You and I should be praying for the God-given courage to stand for moral absolutes (even the notion of such is under widespread cultural attack). We should contend for the rule of law, unequivocally. No government ought to be allowed to compel any person to articulate things which that person does not believe. In many ways, this boils down to a matter of basic human dignity. You and I must never forget that we always live under a higher authority than that of the state.

Mr. Cross may have been disruptive, but his controversial speech has been deemed constitutionally protected. Furthermore, the judge held that it was in the public interest for Tanner Cross to keep his job. That’s good news for now, and it’s true, because that one job means that Americans still have the right to question public policy, and to speak against it based on their personal religious convictions.

Friends, trust me on this, as it has been proven time and time again: the best way to preserve religious liberty is to exercise it! Some disruptions are good ones, and sometimes our silence in the public square is a selfish betrayal of the common good.

And never forget the incredible power of LOVE in all that we say and do. Though the fierce opinions of a rebellious human race must never dictate our ethics, sexual or otherwise, the litmus test of whether we love our neighbors is whether we love our enemies (Matthew 5:44).

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

The Fat Word on Skinny Cows

Spoiler alert: this is not about ice cream sandwiches, though admittedly I’m a fan.

I’ve read through the Bible about thirty times, which means that I’ve read through the Book of Genesis about thirty times, which means that I’ve read Genesis 41 about thirty times, which means that I’ve read the story of “Joseph and Pharaoh’s Dreams” about thirty times. Impressed by my logic and math skills so far?

So here’s the scoop (ice cream pun fully intended)! During my last read-through, I noticed a detail which I had not noticed before. (I’ll bet that happens to you on occasion.) The first time that the dreams are reported in the Scriptures, we learn about the seven “ugly and thin” cows, and the seven “attractive and plump” cows. You may remember: in the dream, the seven skinny cows ate the seven fat cows. We also learn that Pharaoh was troubled by his dreams. We also learn that Pharaoh could not find anybody who could interpret them. Enter Joseph, remembered for his interpretive prowess just in time by the chief cupbearer.

But here’s what I noticed for the first time: when Pharaoh tells Joseph about the dreams, the king includes another bit of information – which is new to us as the reader. Here’s the detail: after the seven skinny cows had feasted on the seven fat cows, “no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they were still as ugly as at the beginning” (41:21).

Call me a Bible nerd, but I find that intriguing! And it’s probably because I know that not a single word of Scripture is wasted. If it’s recorded for us, that means that God recorded it, and that means that we need to hear it!

I suppose it’s anybody’s guess why that detail appears in the story. It’s kind of a funny detail, because – in our mind’s eye – we’re already picturing ugly cows … only to be told that they’re still ugly! Even after chowing down on some scrumptious beef! I could have some fun with this and talk about “cannibal cows” or the first mention of Chick-fil-A imagery in God’s Word, but I won’t go down any of those roads – you’ll be relieved to know. (P.S. I once saw a Chick-fil-A directly adjacent to a Krispy Kreme, and I wondered for a second if that was the place Jesus was referring to when He promised to get it ready so He could take us there. But I digress.)

Could it be that this specific detail of Pharaoh’s dream was necessary to unlock the dream’s underlying meaning – the impending famine – for Joseph? I don’t know. You and I can’t know. At least not here and now. But we can know that there was a reason, and there is a reason, why it’s in the Bible. And that’s my point. You and I must come under the absolute authority of the Word of God. Even the parts of it which seem trivial to us. Even the parts of it which seem inconsequential to us. Even the parts of it which seem irrelevant to us. (That would include “archaic.”) Even the parts of it which seem superfluous to us.

Not a word of the Word is wasted, friends. All of it matters. And, somehow, it all points to Jesus Christ. I like to say it like this: Christ is the Hero of every page.

And make no mistake about it, fellow sojourners: our greatest point of tension with the chaotic culture which surrounds us is the Bible. They’re O.K. with “Jesus,” as long as it’s a Jesus whom they can create in their own image. But they have no use for the Jesus of the Bible. Hear me again, please: the world will not tolerate the Jesus of the Bible.

If they can have a Jesus who says that there’s no such thing as sin, then Jesus is welcome. But the risen-from-the-dead Jesus who shed His blood to atone sacrificially for the total depravity of the human race, that Jesus is not welcome.

If they can have a Jesus who says that “love is love” – in the sense that our culture clearly intends that line to be interpreted – then Jesus is welcome. But the Jesus who claims that sexual intimacy is a divine gift to be celebrated between a husband and wife within the lifetime commitment of a monogamous marriage, that Jesus is not welcome.

If they can have a Jesus who claims that there are many ways to God, then Jesus is welcome. But the Jesus who preaches that He alone is the only Way – that Jesus is unequivocally not welcome.

And, if Jesus is not welcome, you and I might not expect red-carpet treatment either.

I’m going to make a strong statement, so heads up: if we lose the Bible, we lose Jesus. That’s because the Son of God can’t be separated from the Word of God. It’s all His Word.

So chow down, friends. And chow down now. You’re going to need sustenance of eternal value in order to thrive in these “tolerant” times. Humble yourself before God’s Word, and feast liberally, regularly, and ferociously.

Because, unlike the consumption of a fat cow, the consumption of the Word of the living God will make us shine with the radiance and beauty of Christ.

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

The Midnight Roar

Eileen and I drove through some magnificent downpours this afternoon in Virginia. There was intense embedded lightning, and the straight-line winds were howling at times (here’s a pic of the weather system), but I use the word “magnificent” because I’ve always been a weatherman wannabe.

Yes, yes, I know, even my use of the term “weatherman” dates me. But I was the fifth-grader in the 1970s whose idea of a good time was to chronicle the regional atmospheric conditions, complete with hand-drawn maps, for an entire month. I was the ninth-grader whose realized fantasy was to create large-scale freezing rain in my own backyard. Sorry, Mom, for that mishap with the gutters! Weather was (is?) a serious fixation.

I guess I’m rather strange. “Rainy days and Mondays don’t always get me down.” I love the stuff! The darker the clouds, the better. Throw in some hail, and I’m all in! Of course, for maximum enjoyment, I will have to calculate the altitude of the cloud tops. “I love a rainy night.”

But my love for all things weather does not mean that I’ve never been afraid of a storm. Quite to the contrary. In 1988, in the middle of the night, my apartment complex in Raleigh, North Carolina, was struck by a deadly tornado. In fact, a child was killed in a building adjacent to mine. I was shaken to the core, as you might imagine (I’ll also include a few old pics from that November). So I have learned a very healthy respect for what we often call the forces of nature.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke report Jesus’ calming of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. While Jesus slept soundly, the disciples became understandably terrified. All that was needed was a simple “Peace! Be still!” from our faithful Lord. Christ’s rebuke was their release.

But Jesus doesn’t calm every storm, does He? I learned that in 1988, and I’ve relearned it many times since. We serve a God who, for our good and His glory, works providentially in every stormy situation, but that doesn’t answer every question of my heart … when floodwaters swirl … when wildfires rage … when tsunamis invade the shoreline. Whenever I just don’t (can’t) understand.

There simply is no wrapping our minds around some of the suffering of this world, some of which is caused by “nature” itself. There always remains some mystery in the midnight roar of the proverbial freight train (and, yes, in 1988 it sounded just like a train).

Storms far beyond the meteorological threaten to sink us, friends, and particularly to sink our faith. But here’s what I’m slowly learning: it’s not about the storm. Sometimes the storm passes. Sometimes the storm subsides. Sometimes the storm gets worse.

What it’s about is God. I can’t explain the unexplainable, and neither can you. And, sooner or later, the unexplainable is coming into each of our lives. Faith affirms in the storm that God is still good, God is perfectly in control, and God will give us what we really need. Calvary’s Cross is Exhibit A.

“The sun’ll come out tomorrow,” sang Annie. Yes, Annie, here or there.

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Love On!

Love. It’s powerful. It’s the most powerful force on Planet Earth!

But you and I are Simon Peter. When we’re provoked by a perceived threat, our first instinct is to draw our sword and strike. Peter meant well. Those soldiers bearing down on Gethsemane were completely in the wrong, and Peter was “right” in his desire to protect and defend his Lord. But Jesus, by His subsequent words and actions, made it crystal clear that the sword was not the method for the moment.

You’re likely not known for cutting off ears. Neither am I. But we’re quite likely to draw a sword of another kind, and cut off … understanding … communication … relationship. Let’s face it, we often fight back in ways which are more socially acceptable.

Thinking back to Peter and the ear-cutting incident, which is recorded in all four Gospel accounts, I’m reminded how much I need God to create in me the “clean heart” that I need for the moments of trial and struggle in my own life. It is my heart which always sets the tone and pace of my subsequent actions. My soul always seems to expose itself.

Sometimes you and I must put away our sword. Sometimes our highest calling is to forcefully display the highest level of self-restraint. Sometimes, if not all the time, love is our most potent weapon.

There are seasons when silence is golden indeed. There are seasons when needed strength can be found only on our knees. There are seasons when human reason simply fails us.

Everywhere we look, there are viable sources of angst. Nearly every state is reporting an increase in the suicide rate. Churches are struggling, and many smaller congregations are closing their doors. Even within once-comfortable communities, tensions and factions are mounting. People are reporting intense emotional struggles over the inability to find meaning and purpose in their work. America seems to be suffering from an existential crisis that is haunting nearly every segment of our society.

But even in the midst of our culture’s nervous breakdown, you and I have received a clarion call to love deeply, in Christ. Not even the languages of angels can calm these troubled waters, friends, but God’s love in and through us can work wonders. Fear and retaliation must not prevail, tempted as we may be to set the record straight in short order. We have enemies, no doubt. So we must look to our Good Shepherd to set before us the sturdy table of grace.

I believe that the Lord inspired me with these words a couple of nights ago. Some of you have already seen them on social media, but in any event I pray that they will be a dose of encouragement for you today …

The cultural headwinds are in our face, Church!

Our standards are mocked.

Our sisters and brothers are marginalized.

Our Savior is maligned.

Don’t fight with worldly weapons.

Our passion comes from heaven.

Our power shines in weakness.

Our perseverance defies common sense.

Don’t despise these times.

For this season you and I were appointed.

So hoist your sails, Church! Love on!

This is when the Spirit blows strong!

Love on!

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

When the Tigers Come

I’ve always been a fan of Les Misérables. I’ve seen it on stage more than once and enjoyed it immensely every time. When the movie was released in 2012, I remember marveling at the performance of Anne Hathaway as Fantine, and thinking to myself of her dual roles as actor and singer, “How can any one person be so incredibly talented?” And Hathaway sang every take live in the film!

As Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel comes to life, one song in Les Mis is particularly arresting: I Dreamed a Dream. The song represents a powerful moment of lament within the musical’s first act, as Fantine has been fired from her factory job and thrown out onto the streets. Feeling completely discarded by fate, she is remembering happier days, and wondering aloud where everything went wrong.

“But the tigers come at night with their voices soft as thunder, as they tear your hope apart, as they turn your dream to shame.” If you have a pulse, at least on some soul-level here on this sin-stained and fallen planet, you can relate. So can I.

There are many times in life when hope seems lost. Particularly as we sense the reality of our aging, we become vividly aware that many chapters of our lives will not end like a Disney movie. Dreams are fun to embrace for a season, but life quickly teaches us that fairytale endings are, well, for fairytales. How do we push forward when the tigers come?

My current preaching through Hebrews 11 has inspired me to relive a significant chunk of our Old Testament history, which has been quite heart-refreshing for me. Just hours ago, as I reread portions of Abraham’s life, I stopped to reflect upon the death of Sarah, Abraham’s beloved bride. In Genesis 23, it becomes crystal clear that Abraham’s story will be one of unfulfilled dreams. That’s not the totality of the story, of course, but it’s a part of the story that really matters. You and I can relate.

Sarah dies in the land of Canaan, and the Bible drives home the point that she will be buried there. Abraham, pushing through his personal grief, negotiates the purchase from the Hittites of a small parcel of land which becomes Sarah’s grave. Abraham and Sarah have been sojourners, and they own nothing. But this tiny piece of real estate becomes in the story a token reminder that the Promised Land will one day belong fully to God’s covenant people.

Lament is an important and necessary part of living. We tend to recoil at even the thought of lament, preferring instead to pretend that the yellow brick road is right under our feet. After all, who in their right mind has time to grieve? But grieve we must. Some important dreams and hopes continue to hang out in the “unfulfilled” column of life’s ledger. As Christ followers, that column might better be described as the “not yet” column, but that fact doesn’t always remediate the present moment of anguish.

Abraham is a nomad and a resident alien. He has no legal rights. But, by faith, he walks forward one step at a time. He politely suggests an appropriate burial site, and the Lord blesses Abraham’s interactions with the powers that be. By leaving their bones in Canaan, literally, our spiritual patriarchs spoke loudly of the hope they possessed in the promises of God. Keep in mind, friends, that there was nothing happening around them which made believing those promises easy at all. Nothing!

So fight the good fight, friends. Stay the course. Run with endurance until you cross the finish line. Some of our dreams for this life will pan out nicely. Others will wilt in the excruciating heat of life’s bitter trials and overwhelming disappointments.

I dreamed a dream. So did you. But who needs a fairytale ending here when we’re headed for a homeland that’s absolutely out of this world?

So get your jollies now, all you ferocious tigers. You’ll soon lay down with the Lamb.

One day more!

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

A Solace There

“What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!” Joseph Medlicott Scriven penned those simple but profound hymn lyrics in 1855.

The United States Congress, by Public Law 100-307, calls upon the U.S. President to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a “National Day of Prayer.” Today is that hopeful day, and our President has issued America’s annual proclamation.

But … a solace where? Though I greatly appreciate President Biden’s continuance of this time-honored tradition, I must admit that I am disappointed that his proclamation today never mentions God. Not even once is the Creator of heaven and earth referred to by name. I understand the desire of government leaders to be inclusive, which can be a noble objective under the appropriate circumstances, but I fear that we are attempting to honor “prayer” and “faith” without honoring God.

What is prayer? There is no inherent power in prayer! What is faith? There is no inherent power in faith! There is power only in the Sovereign God to whom we pray. There is power only in the object of our faith. Any other religious notion is sheer folly. Any day devoted to such folly would be better spent at a video arcade.

Today’s proclamation “celebrate[s] our incredible good fortune,” and well we should. America has been blessed beyond measure! But from whom has that “good fortune” come? It clearly has not come from us.

The proclamation of 2021 feels desperately humanistic, at a time when America’s secular humanism has been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Is the strength really in us? Is the hope really in us? Biden’s proclamation includes a reference to “the divine” in a quote from the late John Lewis, but the quote itself exalts humanity. Within that context, “the divine” is open to a world of possible interpretations blowing in the wind. Mr. President, we don’t need nebulous. We need God.

This omission of God is grievous to me, and from my little corner of Western Kentucky I call upon the leader of the free world to consider, and take to heart, the grave dangers of such an omission. Perhaps this was an oversight, but my hope is that President Biden will correct it with haste.

The drafter and signer of our Declaration of Independence, and the third President of these United States, Thomas Jefferson, humbly observed: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” Like every other chapter of our history, Jefferson’s private and public life was marred by sin. But he acknowledged a fear of God. We could learn from that example.

My hope is that President Biden will recognize this critical opportunity to be more precise in his language and that the Lord of every nation will breathe fresh hope into the hearts of a weary people. Before my critics assail me, I clearly acknowledge that this responsibility falls much more squarely upon this nation’s pastors than its President. And I publicly repent of my own equivocations as a leader and plead unto Almighty God that He would, by undeserved grace, restore my own soul first.

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Toward a Gospel Culture (Part 3)

Today seems like the day when I should wrap up, at least for now, my thoughts on the subject of gospel culture. So thank you for letting me share a few more of my ideas, and next week we’ll move in a new direction.

COURAGE. I’d like to unpack that word just a little, and challenge you to think about the connection between grace and courage. As you and I trust Jesus by faith, we are called to hold on to gospel truth with a steadfastness that makes us “immovable” (First Corinthians 15:58). We’re to be rock-solid in our resolve to follow Christ, no matter the price we may have to pay. Such courage is not of our own doing, ultimately, but it is a work of the persevering Holy Spirit in us.

So an outworking of grace in our lives is a holy determination to do what we’ve been put on this earth to do! That sounds exciting, and it is, but it also requires a great deal of courage. Courage to go the distance. Courage to stand strong in the face of fierce opposition. Courage to fight on our knees.

And here’s why I’m raising the issue of courage: it requires that we work together! No one can sustain a lifetime of Christian courage without having the support of the body of Christ. We weren’t designed to walk alone, but we were designed to pour love and blessing into each other along the way.

A courageous discipleship will require some risk-taking. But we’re willing to step onto the field of life and to engage fully in whatever challenge is before us because we’ve been bought by the blood of Christ! Our personal sense of worth and value doesn’t rise and fall with our “successes” and “failures,” because we’re drawing from an endless supply of amazing grace. Come what may, because of the cross, you and I are already approved. “It is finished.” In that environment, and only in that environment, can we love each other boldly and deeply — through and beyond the multitude of inevitable mistakes which will mark each one of our lives this side of heaven. 

Where a gospel culture exists, Jesus always comes first. So you and I don’t have to pretend to be something and someone we’re not, because we’ve traded self-assurance for Christ-assurance! Strange as it may sound, the place where everybody loses (dies to themselves) is the place where everybody wins!

That’s the church I want us to become, and to be, for each other.

Will you go there with me? Will you pray for, and heartily pursue, gospel culture? Will you love as you’ve been loved?

I’m imagining a place where we’re not the big deal, but where Jesus is. A place where we’re not the hope, but where hope permeates every fiber of our shared life together. A place where we’re willing not even to be noticed, but where Christ is arrestingly beautiful in our midst.

Sometimes my heart feels heavy, and my soul seems full of doubt and fear. It’s in those moments that I need you to hold up my arms, and to help me see again by faith that the finish line is just over the next hill. And I hope to provide for you, even on your weariest day, at least a small dose of that same peace and refreshment. That’s gospel culture, friends. So perhaps we can learn to sing to each other the words of the great theologian, Kenny Loggins: “Please celebrate me home.”

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Woke Coke

I approach this subject with some degree of fear and trembling, but here goes. American corporate life, like nearly everything else, has become uber political. We’ve seen it with Major League Baseball and its boycott of Georgia over election law reforms. Pantene is not just interested in beautifying our hair but is using images of same-sex parents helping a boy become a girl to motivate us to lather up, rinse, and repeat. Similarly, the Oreo cookie has gone all-in for the gay agenda. Burger King is warning that cow flatulence may be causing climate change (I find that interesting coming from “Burger” King). There are so many examples of this kind of corporate political activism that I could go on and on – but I’ll try to spare you the excess. Except to say that Coke, too, is woke. Quite ironically, I’m writing this from a beautiful church desk which was likely financed, at least in part, from Coca-Cola money.

Now Coke tells its employees to “try to be less white.” I get it. Perhaps it’s well-intentioned – it likely is. But it ends up dividing us racially, yet again. We don’t need any more of that.

For goodness’ sake, I’m all for everybody having the right to speak their mind. That sounds like freedom to me. That sounds like America. What I am concerned about, however, is that we all need a break from politics. And we all need some things to enjoy which are free from political rancor. I’d like to live in a world where I can sip my Diet Coke without having to worry about what kind of political statement I’m inadvertently making by so doing.

Here’s what I fear is happening. Your average Diet Coke sipper, like me, is feeling further and further disconnected from the products, services, entertainment, and sports we previously enjoyed, simply because we don’t feel the need for a constant lesson on how we ought to think. The incessant political diatribe is demanding, and exhausting.

I just want to enjoy a Diet Coke. In peace.

And, if you do feel the need to lecture me, Corporate Giants, don’t be so obviously hypocritical about it. Stop signing backroom business deals with China. I’ve been there, and I’ve seen the human rights abuses with my own eyes. Stop turning a blind eye to Muslim slave labor. Stop ignoring the sale of baby parts. Stop telling people who believe in the legitimacy of voter i.d. that they are wicked, while requiring legal forms of identification for people who board your airplanes or attend your shareholder meetings. Just stop.

Better yet, just let me drink my Diet Coke. Please. I actually like your product. I’m already sold.

Let’s get real, friends. No one out there is really “woke.” No one. Every human being participates in some form of denying or suppressing the dignity of another human being. Perhaps not as a group, but certainly as an individual sinner. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that hurting others is what we do best. There is only one who was oppressed, yet never an oppressor. So there is only one who was ever truly woke: Jesus.

Is there a real danger in all of this politicization of everything? I think there is, but that’s not even my main concern today. My main concern is that Americans need some things which can pull us together. Right now. “Out of many, one.”

I’m old enough to remember it. Are you? The ad cost only $250,000 to produce in 1971, but it was the most expensive commercial ever created at that time. I can still see it in my mind’s eye. I can still hear the winsome tune. It ranks 16th among the “Greatest TV Ads.” The million-dollar message brought people together, without putting anybody down. In fact, leaders from South Africa asked Coca-Cola to send them a version of the commercial without any actors of color, and the company rightly refused.

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to buy the world a Coke
And keep it company

I’d like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace throughout the land

That’s a song I hear!

I’m thirsty for a Coke that unites, not divides. It’s the real thing.

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Toward a Gospel Culture (Part 2)

Last week I introduced the topic of the importance of creating a gospel culture in the church. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about that. I certainly have. What I’d like to do today is to expand a little bit further on the subject.

As you and I begin to walk in the grace of Christ, and by that, I mean that we’re personally experiencing the freedom of grace and sharing it with others, everything changes. We find ourselves more mindful of our own sin, and less concerned with focusing on the faults of others. That in and of itself is a seismic cultural shift! But we don’t want to be mindful of our sin so that we can wallow in it, or loathe ourselves, rather we want to be aware of our sin so that we can do our part to repair our damaged relationships. Jesus offers us a funny but serious mental picture of a man who has a huge log sticking out of his own head, but he’s obsessed with removing the tiny splinter from the eye of his brother (Matthew 7:1-5). That’s where we find Christ’s “judge not, that you be not judged” in its proper context.

You see, friends, a gospel culture humbles all of us. When the good news of Jesus is being lived out in, through, and among us, we quickly discover that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. A gospel culture frees us from dangerous and destructive judgmentalism. That’s the power of experienced grace!

There’s a huge difference between hearing about something, and experiencing something. I’ve watched the Masters Tournament on television, but I’ve stood on the Swilcan Bridge. Which do you think I most remember? Hearing about grace is wonderful, because we begin to understand it. But, really experiencing grace sets us on the adventure of a lifetime! We begin to understand our new identity in Christ. We begin to understand the freedom of our salvation. We begin to understand the joys of radical obedience. We begin to triumph over our fears. We begin to love as we’ve been loved. We begin to worship God with all our heart. We begin to walk in victory over our past regrets and our crippling shame!

I’d like to quote a prayer by Scotty Smith: “Jesus, we’re thankful today for the healing truths of the Scriptures, and the liberating power of the gospel. Especially where shame lingers, doing its dastardly, disintegrating work. Indeed, the elimination of all shame is one of the things we’re most looking forward to when You return. Never again will we feel dis-graced, only fully-graced. Never again will we hide in plain sight, because of the wounds that took our voices, hearts, and dignity. Never again will we feel the contemptuous, paralyzing power of shame! There won’t be any desire to cover up, look down, or run away … O, blessed thought … O, glorious freedom!”

This side of heaven, you and I may feel at times like disfigured lepers who must hide the reality of our condition. The stronghold of our past mistakes can feel so intense that we feel compelled to try to disguise our disfigurement. But, now that we’re in Jesus, we can by faith hold our head up high! We sold our soul for a bowl of soup, but we’ve been bought back at a tremendous price!

Did you know that our Lord Jesus took upon Himself the full weight of your guilt, and mine? Did you know that Jesus obliterated the criminal charges that were justly hanging over our heads? Did you know that Jesus was disgraced so that you and I could be full of grace? Ah, the wonders of Calvary’s love! Sheila Walsh arrested my heart with two simple lines: “Grace was never meant to be rationed, something we nibble on to get us through tough times. It is meant to soak us to and through the skin, and fill us so full that we can hardly catch our breath.”

So let’s deeply desire that experiential freedom for one another. In the church, let’s help each other crawl out of the despair that marks a life trapped in the shadows, and let’s step into the healing and joy that can be found only in the burning brightness of the gospel!  

Romans 10:11 promises that believers in Christ will never be put to shame. I’m counting on that! And I’m calling on you to count on it with me! Let’s stand, together, on that promise!

Before this is over, I hope that you and I can hardly catch our breath.

Pastor Charles

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