The tragic scene early Wednesday morning was on L.A.’s Venice Beach, where the body of pro wrestler Shad Gaspard had washed ashore. Last weekend, Shad was caught in a rip current about fifty yards from the beach. A wave swept over Shad, and it was all over. He was never seen alive again.

As I read the story, my heart sank.

Because it was my story.

Except that I’m still here.

When I was 15, I was enjoying “Las Playas” in Acapulco, Mexico, swimming in the cold Pacific with my father and sister. We were having the time of our lives and paying little attention to the red flags dotting the hot, sandy beach. Red meant “peligro” (“danger” in English) – and for a sane person it would have meant “no swimming” – but what teenage boy doesn’t feel a certain sense of invincibility? In fact, if I had any real worry at all that afternoon, it was for my sister.

In the blink of any eye, a wave that I never saw coming crashed over my shoulders, and I was under the water. It felt like a thousand arms were grabbing me from every direction. The force was so intense that I knew that fighting it would be futile. And even though this all happened within a few seconds, my memories of that day and those moments are crystal clear. I suppose I’ll never forget those powerful seconds.

My life passed before my eyes, just like in the movies. It was exactly like that. I saw quick mental snapshots of who I was, and of a couple of things that were important to me, but I was absolutely certain that I was going to drown. There was no doubt about it. I didn’t even try to swim, or to pull myself up. It was like I was frozen and held motionless, except that I could tell that I was being moved further and further from the shore, because I could feel the momentum of the unstoppable pull through those dark waters. I even saw, in my mind’s eye, my obituary and the accompanying photograph in the newspaper. I could not breathe because my head never came above the water.

Until it did.

Three hundred and fifty yards offshore, the “undertow” (that’s what we called it back then) spat me out just as quickly as the fish that followed Jonah upchucked the reluctant prophet. Every powerful arm below me released me. I could breathe.

By then I had time to be afraid. I felt like I had been zapped by a sedative or a surgery, and I knew that I couldn’t swim all the way back to the beach. I could, but I felt like I couldn’t. Then I became convinced that a hungry shark would have me for an appetizer within minutes. (I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with those creatures.) But I swam. Slowly and cautiously.

Before long, I was visible to some lifeguards, who met me in the water. The trepidation eased. It was over.

No, it wasn’t over, and that’s my point.

In the mercy of God, He gave me more time. Time in fact that would be necessary for me to know Christ, and to profess Him as Savior and Lord. Time to reach legal age and go to college. Time to get married and have a son. Time to preach the gospel. Time. The Lord gave me more time.

Shad Gaspard did not survive the ocean, but I did. And we all know that was no test of physical fitness.

Perhaps more than anything else, the Protestant Reformer John Knox is remembered for his bold prayer: “Give me Scotland, or I die.” John’s prayer was not an arrogant demand, but it demonstrated the substance of the ministry to which Knox desired to spend the remaining energy of his life. All threats by opposing forces aside – he had been imprisoned and enslaved – John was willing to die for Christ’s truth.

If you’re reading this, you, too, have been given more time.

Make it count, friend!

Will God use you to revive a nation?

Will God use you to give hope to a tired church?

Will God use you to pray for those who need to experience forgiveness and grace?

It can get exhausting but don’t lose heart. The ultimate danger is that you and I will give up. We can’t let that happen, because there’s still time. Very valuable time.

When you think about it, please pray for Siliana Gaspard, Shad’s wife, and for Aryeh, their 10-year-old son who was swimming with his dad when the riptide struck. They need our prayers.

Every second counts.

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Is Wisdom Still Wise?

Confusing times, huh? Did you ever even imagine some of the issues before us?

The people on our streets don’t trust media or government. And they barely trust scientists and doctors, who are also falling in the polls. In our world where every issue has become politicized to the point of nearly unrecognizable, and when such a climate breeds nothing but widespread distrust, can you and I live as people who are wise?


Because of Christ.

I’m captivated by the last few verses of Romans, where Paul offers his “final instructions and greetings.” Rich. And the apostle says it right there (16:19): I want you to be wise!

The Apostle Paul did not write this epistle in a vacuum. He wrote it in deeply troubled times. Paul recorded these words so that believers living in chaos would be wise in every situation. Paul longed for his sisters and brothers in Christ to grow in God’s wisdom in some very specific ways …


This is the language of Paul’s doxology in 16:25. You and I need God’s strength because life can be very difficult at times. You know, pandemics and all. The strength with which we’re supplied doesn’t come out of nowhere, but it’s rooted in the person and work of Jesus.

Then check out 16:17-20. Divisions, and opportunities for further division, are all around us. Paul sternly warns the Romans about what will destroy their church. They have to stand against those who cause divisions and confusion in regard to matters of utmost importance. Paul understands that, when we lose the gospel, we’re powerless.

The gospel strengthens us because it strengthens our faith. God uses faith to produce in and through us wonderful fruits of righteousness. You and I are soul-strengthened by the good news of Jesus, and we must preach it to ourselves over and over again.


Check out 16:19 and 16:26. Why is Paul so excited about what the Lord will do in the lives of the people who will receive this letter? Simply this: Paul knows that the Holy Spirit will use the great doctrines of Romans to create transformed people – people who are submitted to Christ and working together for the glory of God.

A lifestyle of obedience to Christ sets us apart from the unbelieving world. Our obedience – not perfection, but a new direction of thought and affections and behavior – is the fruit that demonstrates that our faith is alive. That it’s real! That’s it’s true! But never forget that our commitment to the gospel doesn’t come without cost. And that our growth in grace doesn’t come without cost, because our old nature will try to bring us down. More than once.

But we persevere. And God meets us in our weaknesses. In fact, that’s where Christ shines brightest.


All you have to do is look at the very last verse of Romans, and it will jump right off the page.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our church family, and our calling together for such strange times as COVID-19. The 1960s was a period of great social turbulence in our land, but our Sovereign God used that season of unrest to raise up a generation of young adults who eventually became “the Jesus People” – a movement that started on the West Coast but impacted all of American evangelicalism. You see, sometimes the Lord uses prolonged and polarizing unrest to create in His own sheep a profound dissatisfaction with business as usual, and a stark realization that only Christ can truly satisfy the deepest longings of the human soul.

We need wisdom, friends. Gospel wisdom. You do. I do. We do. And it starts and ends with bowing before the only Giver of wisdom.

So let’s seek Christ for it, and light up this place with it!

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

The Only Perfect Season

Our own Pastor Russ Wilson is a passionate Miami Dolphins fan. Some of you are too. Coach Don Shula, the “winningest” coach in NFL history, left this life on Monday, May 4. He was 90. I remember once answering incorrectly a trivia question about “the only perfect season in NFL history,” and of course the correct answer was Shula. (For sports fans, that was 1972.)

This pic was from 1964 when the Baltimore Colts clinched a division title. In 1963, the year I was born, Shula had become the league’s youngest head coach in history. He was 33. Fast forward: an expressway, a couple of restaurants, an endowed chair of philosophy, and of course a football field, all named for Shula – that’s quite a legacy any way you slice it. 33 seasons and 347 games! That makes for a long, full life, doesn’t it? Dan Marino said of Coach Shula this week: “He embodied the definition of greatness.”

The only perfect season.

If you’ve ever thought deeply about that word “perfect,” you’ve also likely realized how few things we can describe as such. We may speak of “the perfect vacation” or “the perfect pizza,” but we immediately recognize that – when we do use the word like that – we’re not really referring to absolute perfection.

The wondrously good news of the gospel is that Christ has imputed his perfect righteousness to us. That’s an amazing truth! Our Lord hasn’t just made us a little better, or pushed us a little further down the field, or even gotten us within inches of the goal line … but He has freely given to us all of the merits of His own perfect life and death! In Christ, as His redeemed, we can stand before God perfectly acquitted. This startling transaction happened at the Cross, and was validated at the empty tomb!

That’s a very good thing because only perfect righteousness can stand in the presence of a perfect God. “In Christ” is my only hope, and yours. The life and death of Jesus is truly the only perfect season.

We’re not guaranteed 90 years, so now is the time to make sure that we’re right with our great Creator and King. Friends, that’s what I wanted to share with you today. The other Charles (Wesley) penned it like this:

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

 Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

We may never be carried on the shoulders of the players on our team after a great victory. Wonderful as that must be, a more important victory must drive you, and it must drive me. It’s the victory which Christ has won on our behalf: “It is finished!”

Yours for the victory,

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

The Power of Human Touch

I like to hug the people I love. I like to embrace people who are hurting. I like to shake hands when I meet a stranger. I like to be near other members of the body of Christ. These are not just marks of my culture, upbringing, or personality; they are marks of my humanity.

Does it matter that we’re physically disconnected right now? Dr. Dacher Keltner, who teaches psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, describes our handshakes and hugs like this: “They are our primary language of compassion, and a primary means for spreading compassion. In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.”


Scientists tell us that a release of the hormone oxytocin is a positive side effect of a good hug! Oxytocin helps us connect with each other, and helps us feel better in general. Many experts suggest that it even improves our heart health (and I don’t mean that figuratively).

And history reveals a wacko 13th-century experiment in which Frederick II, the reigning German emperor, became cruelly curious about what language children would speak if they were never spoken to. So Frederick singled out newborn babies in an orphanage and instructed nurses to feed them, but not to touch them or talk to them. Every one of those babies died. Died.

We need touch. We really do. That basic need is built into us.

You and I need touch because we’re created in God’s image. Enter Jesus, stage right. When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed (Matthew 8:1-3). This unnamed man with leprosy was putting everything on the line – breaking all of those Levitical rules – because he knew in his soul that Jesus could make him “clean.” The man understood, by faith, that Jesus could heal him of his leprosy.

I contend that there is something profound going on here: in a simple touch. Jesus wasn’t scared of the leper. Of course, the Son of God didn’t have to be afraid that He would come down with leprosy. He wasn’t paranoid that He would be forever regarded as “unclean” because of His carelessness. Our Lord Jesus was able to enter into this poor man’s pain and brokenness. His touch expressed His compassion. And I would submit that we’re wired for touch because we’re wired by God.

Our Lord would become an outcast, but not over this. In fact, the good news of the gospel is that Jesus isn’t afraid of our sin and shame! He doesn’t stay six feet away from us and make us yell out a warning when we’re nearby. Quite to the contrary, Christ graciously enters into our messes and willingly takes upon Himself the full load of the brokenness of our lives. And, thankfully, He doesn’t throw stones of judgment in our direction either. So, back to the Bible, instead of just saying, “Be clean,” Jesus physically touches this man who was starved for human affection. This touch wasn’t accidental, or incidental, but it was quite intentional.

You may be familiar with one of the film versions of Ben-Hur (based on the 1880 novel by Lew Wallace). Judah Ben-Hur’s mother and sister contract leprosy while in prison. They’re exiled to a leper colony and ask that Judah never be told that they’re alive – that he only remember them as their former selves. It’s a powerful illustration of the seriousness of leprosy in Jesus’ day, and a vivid reminder of the tragic toll that leprous-like skin conditions – and other highly contagious diseases – exact on human life, relationships, and civilization. When people are deprived of human touch, they lose something of what it means to be human.

You and I were made to touch, and to be touched!

Like you, I’m most grateful for all of the technological innovations which are allowing us to communicate – and to maintain a semblance of connection – during this strange season. But, friends, we’ve lost something significant. At least for now. COVID-19 has robbed us. I think it’s acceptable to grieve.

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Redeeming Rejection

All of us experience the pain of rejection. Maybe you’re there today. When Jesus sent out the 72, He told them to expect it (Luke 10:16). “The harvest is plentiful,” but you and I will not be welcome in every field.

And, let’s face it, rejection comes in all shapes and sizes. We may be rejected because of our fidelity to the gospel. We may be rejected because of our score on an exam. We may be rejected because someone doesn’t like the color of our shirt. We’ll have our fair share of all of it to deal with along the way. But, whatever form it takes, rejection stings.

“I am not enough.”

Generally speaking, that haunting self-talk is why rejection stings. Those four words can penetrate my soul and jump on me like a monster from under the bed! And, when they do, I tend to view every other circumstance in my life through that deceptive lens.

The feeling of rejection paralyzes me. “What do you mean I’m not smart enough?” “What do you mean I’m not good enough?” You and I feel smothered and trapped.

The feeling of rejection prevents me from moving forward. After a big enough dose of rejection, I don’t even want to try again. It simply hurts too much and moving forward just feels too darn scary.

The feeling of rejection pushes me toward the sidelines and out of the game because working through the pain of my rejection – well – just feels like too much work. You and I can feel benched for the entire season.

Expect it.

We’re reminded of that all over the Bible. When you and I carry the message of the Cross, it can cut like a sword (Matthew 10:34-39). Even our closest relationships can be severed by the truth of the gospel. This kind of rejection can feel pitilessly debilitating, but we can find comfort in that moment in our closeness with Christ (Matthew 5:11-12). “Rejoice and be glad!” We will pay a price for gospel faithfulness because we are living at odds with the world. In His goodness and grace, Jesus told us what to expect, but that doesn’t take away all the pain.

Don’t take it personally.

Easier said than done. Granted. Check out John 6. Jesus had some tough stuff to say, and many did not like it at all. Even the people who liked His miracles turned away. Do we expect different results? If people are turned off by the truth, God has simply not yet revealed that truth to their hearts. It’s not the right time, and only God controls the timing.

Submit your pain to God.

God created us for intimacy and for friendships, but sometimes even the best relationships can go south for a season. We’re dealing with sin, y’all, and it’s potent. It’s in me, and it’s in you, and it has infected everything. Pride and selfishness always stir the pot this side of Genesis 3.

And then there’s, just, life. “I didn’t get the job.” “She wanted to date other people.” “They liked another church better than ours.” “Nobody made room for me at the cool-kids table.” Ouch. But God’s Word reminds us that He heals our broken hearts … and binds our wounds … and never bails out on us. We have in Jesus a Friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

And, in addition to all of that, we must never forget that our Lord felt the bitter sting of rejection worse than anyone else (Isaiah 53:3). Our God understands rejection like no one else! His followers ran away in droves. His friends deserted Him in fear. The professed religious “faithful” brutally attacked Him and charged Him with crimes He never committed.

But none of that pain compared with the mammoth sting of this: on Calvary’s Cross, Christ was rejected by His Father. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (Second Corinthians 5:21).

Don’t waste your rejection, friends. Worship through it!

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Love Between the Lines

Yesterday a dear friend received a letter from her granddaughter announcing that she is “transitioning” from female to male. As the granddaughter embraces a new identity, she wants to be called by a new male name. As you might imagine, this is a hard pill for this precious family to swallow. In her brief initial response to this young woman, the grandmother expressed her undying love for her granddaughter. Wow, what was once only a theoretical possibility – somewhere “out there” in our culture – is now knocking on many of our own doors.

For my blog posting today, I thought that I would share with you my response to the grandmother. Perhaps this will help some of you who find yourselves in similar situations and conversations. (I have changed both names for everyone’s protection.)

Dear Beverly,

Amelia’s sin is just like everybody else’s: blinding. She is no worse than I. We all think that sin will grant us liberty and happiness, but it always delivers bondage and sorrow. We can trace it all the way back to the first lie in the Garden: “Did God REALLY say …?” Nothing has changed about the nature of our underlying rebellion against our Creator – only the context of it has morphed into new levels of weirdness. Now we’re attempting to redefine male and female, and add a couple hundred other gender options while we’re at it.

You can tell from Amelia’s letter that she thinks she’s on the road to freedom now. Only God can open her eyes. Even secular authorities on the subject admit that people who’ve “transitioned” end up with some of the highest rates of depression and suicide. Amelia needs her family now more than ever.

Gender dysphoria is a real and tragic psychological condition, but unfortunately, Americans have decided to treat it with life-altering medicines and radical irreversible surgeries. This is sad on every level, and it demonstrates the pervasive fallenness of the human race. Sin breeds ignorance. We now have top scientists and government leaders denying the most basic biology.

Can you even imagine a medical doctor prescribing diet pills for an anorexic, or performing gastric bypass surgery on an anorexic, because the patient “FELT like they were fat”? He would lose his medical license and likely be jailed, for good cause. I only mention this to demonstrate that this “gender transition” craze is not driven by science or healthcare, but by a twisted ideology that has gained so much political power that it can nearly silence anyone who dares to question it. Two years ago a distinguished professor at the University of Louisville was effectively fired because he, at a professional seminar, dared to question the ethics of this movement.

No one should be angry with Amelia. Our hearts should be broken for her. She barely knows me, but I have been praying for her every day since I first learned she was struggling with this. Only the Lord can redeem this situation, and Amelia needs the Lord – just like I do.

You are right to express to Amelia your fervent love. You love her as unconditionally as a person can love unconditionally, and how blessed she is to have a grandmother who loves her like that! That doesn’t mean that you refrain from speaking the truth to her, at the right time and in the right manner, but you speak truth under the umbrella of grace. The Bible reminds us that God’s kindness produces repentance and that supernatural kindness is what you want to model. Good job.

The rest of us should be on our knees. The world is growing darker by the day, and our children and grandchildren will face deceptions and temptations we never imagined.

Come, Lord Jesus!

I hope that is helpful for some of you, or that it at least gets us thinking more deeply about a critical subject. Thanks for any input you have as well.

For grace and truth, with you,

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

O the Blood

Has COVID-19 gotten your attention yet? Dumb question. Of course it has.

The story of God and His people is full of what I would consider to be high points. Just think about all the fascinating accounts in the Bible. Even the most familiar stories still speak to us! And perhaps no event recorded in Scripture was as game-changing as Israel’s Exodus from Egypt. God pulled out all the stops! He turned the Nile River to blood. He darkened the sun so that the land was swallowed up in perpetual night. He sent an infestation of frogs. Gross. (Even if you’re a frog lover, smelly dead frogs are gross.)

Who knows? Maybe some Egyptians thought the frogs were tolerable. So God sent an infestation of gnats. I grew up below the gnat line in South Georgia, where long summers could feel like an infestation, but that’s nothing like what the Egyptians experienced. Breathe too deeply, suck in a gnat or two, or ten. Again, gross. Then flies. Where’s the hand sanitizer? Oh, that’s right – there wasn’t any. These plagues went on and on, and from bad to worse. In all, God sent ten debilitating, devastating, and deadly plagues.

I’ll bet I’m not the only one who’s been thinking, within the last few days, about Egypt’s plagues. Just a guess. But let’s move on. The last plague was the most horrific of all! God swore to kill the firstborn of every creature in Egypt, including the house of Pharaoh (start reading at Exodus 11:4, and just keep going). So awesome would be the judgment that even the firstborn of Israel would perish unless the Israelites obeyed the commands of God. To avert that impending judgment, God commanded every household of Israel to select a male lamb without blemish, kill it, and smear the blood on the doorposts of the house. Then God said (Exodus 12:13): “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”

We must remember that God’s wrath was not against Egypt alone for its sin and idolatry, but against Israel as well. Against the entire human race in fact. God is no respecter of persons when it comes to the judgment of sin. His judgment was going to wreak havoc not only on the Egyptians but also on the people of Israel – unless they figuratively covered themselves in blood by literally covering their doorposts with blood. Think about that for a moment, and just let it settle into your soul. Just like coronavirus, there was a deadly pandemic in the land. It was a spiritual pandemic, and it was universal in scope and magnitude. And there was only one solution. Only one way out. Only one!

What did the blood of the lambs accomplish? It turned away God’s wrath and appeased His anger against sin. It satisfied God’s perfect justice. The blood of the lambs caused God to pass over each house …

But only for a time. Here I go, ruining the story! My goal is not to ruin it, but to reveal it. The lambs’ blood satisfied on the night of the Passover, but each year the sacrifices of the lambs would have to be offered again. Every year, those horrific sounds of the slaughter of lambs for sacrifices would have to be heard, over and over again. For this reason, the nation of Israel always longed for an unblemished male lamb that would take away their sin once and for all!

Could it ever be?

Yes! When our Lord Jesus Christ arrived on the scene, He was announced as the Lamb of God who takes away our sin and turns away God’s wrath that is rightfully aimed at us (John 1:29). The Bible makes it crystal clear (First Corinthians 5:7): Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed! The Israelites lived because of the blood of the lambs that were slain. And, if you are in Christ, you live because of the blood of the Lamb of God. In the blood of Christ, we have everything that we lost in Adam. The shedding of our Savior’s blood was monumentally significant because it represents the perfect, sinless life of Christ poured out for us (Isaiah 53:12).

But if all that needed to happen was for Jesus to shed some blood, He could have pricked His finger and painted some blood on the cross, or let some fall to the ground, and all would have been well. But the one final offering of Christ’s precious blood would require both His life and His death. You see, friends, the Lord’s redeemed do not receive a blood transfusion from God. We receive a life transfusion: His death for my death, His life for my life! All of God’s just and righteous demands have been fully met and satisfied. Imagine that. O the blood!

I posted this on Facebook last evening, but I’ll repeat it here and now: Holy Week. The greatest hope for the world came out of the world’s darkest hour. It’s intriguing that, at the same time, we’re experiencing the pandemic’s “worst” week. Could it be that God wants us to know that our only real hope is out of this world?

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Flattening Us

“Flatten the curve!”

That undoubtedly will be remembered as the mantra of 2020. (I’m just hoping it’s not the mantra of the decade, aren’t you?) And we’re starting to understand just how important flattening the curve really is – in some cases, it will be a matter of life and death. The goal, of course, is that we not dangerously overload our healthcare system at any one time.

I’m an amateur at all of this, but I think there’s some good news coming from Europe, finally. Though Spain passed another grim milestone yesterday – 10,000 deaths related to coronavirus – the rate of new infections in Spain has fallen to its lowest level since the COVID-19 crisis began. This is a notable improvement, and worth celebrating, and at least a possible indicator that the new-case curve in Spain is finally flattening. We pray that the rate of new deaths in hard-hit countries like Italy and Spain will follow suit in short order. And seeing what we hope is progress in Europe motivates us to practice social distancing here with a higher sense of purpose.

But I say all of that to say this: perhaps the curve isn’t all that’s being flattened right now. Perhaps the Lord is flattening us.

God is love. We get that. But rarely do we think about the fact that love demands discipline (Hebrews 12:3-11). Particularly in regard to my own life, rarely do I even consider whether or not some “obstacle” I’m up against is really the discipline of God. Perhaps the problem is my pride, which nearly always lies at the heart of my wrong thinking. Maybe I think I’m living so righteously that I don’t need any discipline. In any case, I need the correction of the Scriptures today, and particularly from this life-giving section of Hebrews.

We needed that reminder because we had forgotten. Again. Our God is not only the God of grace and love, but He is also the God of judgment and wrath. In fact, all of those holy attributes of His character and nature are inseparable. The Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin distinguished between God’s “proper” works and His “alien” works, but all of His works are His works, friends! He is Lord!

But here’s something we must never forget: though we live in a world which sometimes displays evidence of God’s judgment all around us, we – in Christ – are never under God’s judgment. Jesus took care of that for us on the Cross. Hallelujah!

A.W. Pink explained it like this: “There is a threefold distinction between divine punishment and divine chastisement. First, the character in which God acts. In the former God acts as Judge, in the latter as Father. The second distinction … lies in the recipients of each. The objects of the former are His enemies. The objects of the latter are His children. A third distinction is seen in the design of each … The one flows from His anger, the other from His love.”

If we are under the discipline of God, then, it is for our benefit and salvation. He is blessing us, always. As we know from the gospel, first and foremost, God’s posture toward us is always love and faithfulness. Even the rod of our Father’s holy correction is a rod of amazing grace.

I can drive to the river, but not to Tennessee.

I can cut my grass, but not my hair.

I can’t touch my face, but I can touch heaven. Hmmm.

Methinks there may be hidden perks in humble pie. Maybe you and I are being flattened so that we can be raised up for something far, far better …

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Coronavirus y Cristo

You’re probably aware of this, but the COVID-19 pandemic is going to hit our Hispanic friends particularly hard. Where the virus and its aftermath is already more visible than it is here in Western Kentucky, it is abundantly clear that Latinos are disproportionately impacted because of immediate job loss. The most recent numbers from New York City (my data is from the City University of New York, and the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy) indicate that 41% of the Hispanic population are part of a household where someone has lost a job.

Here at home, some of our precious Hispanic congregants who worked in the foodservice industry have already lost their jobs. Many of our restaurants were not able to convert quickly to curbside or takeout service, and – even where such was possible – employees had to be cut in many instances. And you can imagine what this is doing to our local hotel industry. Just take a glance at the empty parking lots when you’re in the Exit 4 area, and imagine the impact on Hispanics who desperately need some of those related jobs. I am so proud of Pastor Julio for staying on top of this situation on a daily basis, and for spiritually supporting our impacted sheep.

We tend to think of this virus as an indiscriminate attacker, and – medically speaking – I suppose that’s true. Financially, however, certain segments of society suffer more when COVID-19 comes calling. And I wanted to blog about this today as a gentle reminder to all of us to love our Hispanic congregation well for such a time as this. Where there is fear and sadness, there is always tremendous ministry opportunity in the name of Christ!

Please help me encourage this segment of our body of believers. We are una familia! Your care and concern, right now, could have an eternal impact.

Familia is among the strongest of values among our Hispanic friends. We all love our families, but for Hispanics there’s more to the story. The way our majority culture values independence, Hispanics value a constant community that cares for one another – particularly when there are biological or marital ties. This is best reflected in the idea many Americans have that, once someone is 18, they move out and make it on their own. But that is not assumed among Hispanics, and there are plenty of good reasons why Hispanic families tend to stick together much longer than that.

I share that with you as a bit of a challenge, because the value of familia is thoroughly Biblical. We, the church, are a family because our Lord delights in familial love – and has called us to model such love. In fact, we have been purchased by such love.

Wouldn’t it be more than wonderful if our Hispanic sisters and brothers felt such amazing grace right now? You and I could be the “other family” they never knew they had.

You are such a loving people. Thanks for being you!

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Extravagant Kindness

The place was Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky, but it can happen anywhere. What you’re looking at is a snapshot of a receipt for a meal of Chinese food. The meal price totaled $64.74. The tip was $1000.00. That works out to be a 1540% gratuity! The magnanimous tip was given by a generous person who was attempting to offset at least one small wave of the financial tsunami that COVID-19 has unleashed on folks who work in the foodservice industry.

Five hundred years before Jesus was born, someone asked Confucius: “Is there one word that may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” Confucius answered: “Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”

Some four hundred years before Christ, a popular philosopher in Athens commanded a crowd. He taught his listeners: “Whatever angers you when you suffer at the hands of others, do not do to others.”

And about three hundred years before Christ, the Stoics influenced many with their system of logic and their views on the natural world. The Stoics popularized this teaching: “What you do not want to be done to you, do not do to anyone else.”

So let’s move on in history. Roughly two hundred years before Christ, the author of The Book of Tobit – which is part of the Apocrypha – penned this particularly pithy version of the same mantra: “What thou thyself hatest, to no man do.”

I suppose that each of those life maxims contains some merit. But do you notice a common denominator? Each one is negative. All four statements remind us what we’re not supposed to do.

I don’t know about you, but I am so glad that Jesus didn’t parrot any one of these! Instead, in Matthew 7:12, Christ issued us a positive instruction: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” What my grammar school teachers used to call “the golden rule” is our passionate call to active and selfless and generous kindness.

It is radical.

You and I are called to consistently exhibit a gentle influence for the good of our neighbor, an influence which ripples on and on – even after we are gone. We may not become commanding leaders, or achieve notoriety because of our many achievements. We may not start a successful business enterprise, or make a ton of money. We may not make the news or hold a key public office. We may never write a bestseller, or earn a Wikipedia page. But our kindness should run deep and wide, and our kindness should be lavished liberally on our fellow human beings. You and I should be epic, but we should be epic in love.

It is far-reaching and all-encompassing.

Out of a love for the gospel which has rescued us, we are to overcome issues of disunity and division, by grace. The disunity and division are natural, but you and I have been saved by the supernatural and supranatural love of God. That magnanimous love lives in us, and that love expresses itself in kindness toward our fellow strugglers and sojourners. I don’t have to tell you that the fears of our neighbors are amped up right now. As I write, at our local hardware stores, they’re buying chains and padlocks to protect their property should mass chaos ensue. We can speak hope into that trepidation, by the power of the Holy Spirit!

It is countercultural.

If we want to bear lasting spiritual fruit in crazy times like these, we must “grasp and believe” (Martin Luther) that God is our Father. And that we are God’s children. These basic truths we must repeat to ourselves over and over again! Only the truth can free us from placing all of our trust in this world – or in its worldly accolades. The world is not our audience, and we play for an audience of One. Even if this diabolic microbe which is ravaging our planet removes from my life every sense of comfort and security, I will find that Christ is enough. And, when I finally get that straight, I can love as I’ve been loved.

This is the time for such love, friends. As you and I notice others who are struggling in the throes of this monstrous coronavirus pandemic – the dreadful tentacles of which are many – may we give ourselves away! The moment for simple yet extravagant kindness is upon us.

Pastor Charles

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