All This Time

Three-time Olympic gold winner Aly Raisman is retiring, at the age of 25. The amazing gymnast will not compete in Tokyo, but she will be there to “cheer everyone on.”

You may remember that Rio was Raisman’s most spectacular international meet. That was in 2016.

From the time she was a little girl, Aly dreamed of becoming a gymnastics superstar. Tragically, she was victimized by former national team doctor, Larry Nassar. Nassar groomed Raisman and other promising athletes by presenting himself as a friendly ear. You’ve heard some of the horrific stories, and the amount of abuse that took place at Nassar’s hands is in fact staggering. The USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal included assaults of at least 250 young women and girls, and one young man, dating back to 1992. If you want to know more of Aly’s story, you can check out her autobiography entitled Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything.

Upon announcing her retirement, Raisman gave few details about her plans, but she implied that her life’s work from here on would be an investment in others who’ve been sexually abused. I was glad to read those news reports. What might be considered a premature retirement for Aly just might become a whale of a blessing for many others who have lived in – or are living in – the darkness of abuse. I love it when God makes victims victors!

In 2012 Christian and pop singer Britt Nicole captured God’s grace in the midst of childhood vulnerability …

All this time
From the first tear cry
To today’s sunrise
And every single moment between
You were there
You were always there
It was You and I …

I know You’re for me
And You’re restoring

Every heartache and failure
Every broken dream
You’re the God who sees
The God who rescued me
This is my story …

You’ve been walking with me

All this time

You and I don’t always understand life’s shadows. They’re scary and real. But the God who created us is able to restore every broken moment for the glory of Christ, and for our good. We don’t always know how He’s going to do that, but we take God at His word (Romans 8:28). After all, whether we realized it or not at each step along the way, our Lord has been walking with us all this time.

Sometimes in life, “going for the gold” takes on entirely new meaning. Go for it, Aly! May our Sovereign God use the darkest hours in your past to shine the light of freedom into the lives of many who need your example of resilience and hope.

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Fromm Here to Eternity

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Jake Fromm in fact. He’s a junior who plays quarterback for the University of Georgia, and he’s one of the top quarterbacks in college football. Fromm led the Bulldogs to a 12-2 record this year. They went on to win the Sugar Bowl. What I noticed was a tweet by ESPN’s Holly Rowe: “For the New Year, let’s all be shining a light in this world like @FrommJake.” That caught my eye.

Ms. Rowe had come to the conclusion that Mr. Fromm is “the world’s most positive person,” and – when she asked the 21-year-old about the reason for his optimism – the response she got was this: “The Holy Spirit in me! I’m trying to live out the most godly life I can do. I’m trying to influence others and hope they can see Christ in me.” Apparently Holly was overwhelmed by that answer. Perhaps we should be too.

According to the Stanford Research Institute, 87.5% of people’s success can be traced to their positive attitudes. I certainly don’t champion “the power of positive thinking” in the sense that “positive thinking” has a power all its own; in fact, those ideas nearly always end up exalting self and promoting humanism at the expense of the gospel. But I am persuaded that there is great benefit in seeing each day through the lens of our kind and loving God’s sovereignty over the world around us. It helps us persevere when the going gets tough. It helps us respond more graciously (both internally and externally) to unexpected circumstances and out-of-the-blue changes that come our way. It helps us flee jealousy, resentment, and bitterness. It helps us forgive. Come to think of it, a big dose of optimism – under the Lordship of Christ – sure can go a long way.

Think about that for a minute. When you and I live consciously under the umbrella of the goodness of God and His constant care for us, we are healthier people. Christ-centered optimism makes us healthier people in nearly every way. Surely that must be part of our calling here on Planet Earth – where we’re created and commissioned to shine brightly amidst the darkness. In light of the public platform which the Lord is enlarging for Jake, I hope that his optimism is contagious for God’s glory. Your optimism, and mine, matter too.

Holly Rowe went on to write of Jake: “Honestly brought me to tears today with his positive, lovely spirit. Many blessings to this young man. @GeorgiaFootball should be so proud to have him leading this team.” I wouldn’t mind something like that being said about my spirit. Wouldn’t you feel the same if it were said about your spirit? Whatever work God has in store for us in this new year, let’s do it all with that spirit. Such a “positive, lovely” human spirit would give honor to the Holy Spirit, if I may say so myself.

It’s certainly not the Bible’s simplest book to interpret, but Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 includes a fascinating thought: “What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart …”

2020 is here. Eternity knocks. Whether you’re tossing a football or tossing a salad, the time is now. Right now matters forever. Light it up, y’all!

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Passion 2020

I won’t write much this week since it’s late at night after an exhausting but wonderful day. We’re here in Atlanta for the Passion Conference, and I’m sending a few pics so that you can taste the excitement of 65,000 young adults gathered at the Mercedes Benz Arena to worship Christ and ring in the new year!

The teaching has been inspiring, and largely focused on encouraging a generation which has grown largely disconnected from each other, despite the limitless “connections” of the social media age. This is the demographic which reports feeling record levels of isolation and sadness. You might think that we’re living in post-Christian America, and we are, but there’s been little evidence of that here at Passion. Instead, we’ve witnessed a throng of young people eager to worship, serve, and transform the culture with the gospel.

The worship has been powerful and energetic beyond my ability to describe here, so I’ll encourage you to seek out a personal report from somebody in our FBC contingency who made this journey with us. You will be blessed by what you hear!

I want to thank those of you who helped make this possible. Some of you funded your kids or grandkids. Others of you financed last-minute bus transportation. Others have prayed for us. As always, our church family has loved and provided, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I’ll close by wishing you a Happy New Year! Because of Jesus, the best is yet to come.

Pastor Charles

















Posted in Blog Posts

Upon His Shoulders

It’s not just a truth for Christmastime, but it seems especially glorious during this season of the year. Regarding the coming Messiah, multiple centuries before Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, Isaiah let it be known (9:6): the government shall be upon his shoulders.

Isaiah recorded this prophecy at least a century before Israel would be hauled off to Babylonian captivity. God’s people had experienced a long list of failed monarchs ruling over them, and the resulting fallout had been nothing short of dreadful. It was about to get even worse, though such was undoubtedly unfathomable to the folks in the pews. And, though the prophet was sitting amid the rubble of all of that chaos and turmoil, he could see by faith a time when God Himself would rule the nations with perfection.

You and I tend to get all worked up over current events. When it comes to politics, when our candidate prevails, we feel a sense of victory. But that hard-fought win all too often fades into a gnawing sense of disappointment on both sides of the aisle. That same lapse into futility can be observed when it comes to nearly every area of our lives, and to nearly every sphere of the world which we inhabit. It can feel like a transcultural slide into despair. Friends, Christmas reminds us that human solutions will always fall short. That’s why we need a Savior.

And, if you’ll allow me to drill down even further into the nuts and bolts of our souls, you and I tend to get bogged down in depression whenever the more personal challenges of life appear to be getting the best of us. Simply put, most of us don’t do well with overwhelmed. But Christmas reminds us that, though we are in fact more fragile than we ever imagined, One has come to carry our burden for us … all the way to the cross. And then we remember God’s promise through Isaiah that the weight of the world will rest on Christ.

Why was this baby who would be the Savior of the world born in Bethlehem, anyway? Because the then global superpower was hungry for even more tax revenue. So Joseph had to sign up and pay up. That’s just the way it works when you’re not in charge, whether you’re in Rome or in Reidland. When you’re not Caesar, you render unto Caesar. What does this remind us? Just this: no chapter of human history, nor any chapter of our own lives, is futile when Jesus is Lord.

And Jesus is Lord! Christ lived for us and died for us. And the cross is not the end of the story, but the empty tomb! Christ lives for us!

For some if not most of us, 2019 has been a wearying year. But take heart, friends: “the government shall be upon his shoulders.” To know that is to know more than enough.

Christ the Savior is born. Merry, Merry Christmas!

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Cool as Cruise


I’m simply not as cool as Tom Cruise. Know you’re shocked.

In 2020 we’ll be treated to Top Gun: Maverick – here’s a pic from the new trailer. “Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell” is reporting for duty on his Kawasaki Ninja GPZ900R – you may remember the bike from 1986. And don’t say I’m too old to be cool just because I can remember that. Tom Cruise is older than I – and he’s only a little more cool. Anyway, in the film, Pete will be the new flight instructor at the Top Gun school. This time, though, he’ll have to battle drones.

Did they think I wasn’t available to take this role? Honestly. At least they could have called and asked. We could have fully funded next year’s budget for First Baptist Paducah. And beyond. Oh well.

Young adults are leaving our American churches in droves, friends, and the tendency is to conclude: we’re just not trendy enough! Surprisingly, though, recent research indicates that Millennials want “real” over trendy. They don’t want us to be closed-minded – that’s for sure – and neither do the Gen Z’ers right behind them. But younger adults are looking for authenticity. Said differently, if we’re not as cool as Cruise, they don’t want us pretending that we are.

If we can’t explain every connection between the Bible and science, they don’t want us pretending like we can.

If we’re struggling with sin on a daily basis (and who isn’t), they don’t want us acting like we have it all together.

These generations despise hypocrisy and self-righteous judgmentalism. So should we, friends. So should we.

I’ve been thinking about this. Maybe there’s a difference between cool and cool. Maybe “cool” can be cool because it’s truly of value. It’s highly desirable. If that’s the case, then the gospel of Jesus is incredibly cool! In fact, I would go as far as saying that authentic Christianity – lived out among God’s people – is as cool as it gets! This would be the kind of faith walking that includes such rare commodities as truth-telling and forgiveness-offering and coming clean and all the other forms of radical grace that only Christ can do in – and through – us. Totally cool.

I rarely quote from Eugene Peterson’s The Message, but I’d like to now (Luke 14:1-6):

One time when Jesus went for a Sabbath meal with one of the top leaders of the Pharisees, all the guests had their eyes on him, watching his every move. Right before him, there was a man hugely swollen in his joints. So Jesus asked the religion scholars and Pharisees present, “Is it permitted to heal on the Sabbath? Yes or no?” They were silent. So he took the man, healed him, and sent him on his way. Then he said, “Is there anyone here who, if a child or animal fell down a well, wouldn’t rush to pull him out immediately, not asking whether or not it was the Sabbath?” They were stumped. There was nothing they could say to that.

Then our Messiah went on to tell the Parables of the Wedding Feast and the Great Banquet. Surely our takeaways would include these: 1) Humble yourselves before it’s too late; and 2) Stop making excuses, but go tell everybody that Jesus is Lord.

Maybe I don’t have to be cool because Jesus already is.

Maybe the coolest me is the me God created, and the me whom God is conforming to His own likeness, in spite of me.

Maybe the coolest of cools isn’t fighter-jet independence, but welcome-to-our-sometimes-crazy-but-joyful-in-Jesus-where-there’s-always-a-seat-for-you-on-our-big-ole-bus interdependence.

Off to find my Ray-Bans. Pray for me.

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Tranquil Joy

We know what the Bible says (First Thessalonians 5:18): Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Over and out. But how? How do we live out that “all” part? How?

All circumstances.

Writing as a senior fellow for the Hoover Institution, the psychological scientist and Stanford professor William Damon makes this observation: “If there is some desirable balance in life between appreciation and criticism – between a comfortable perception that the glass is half-full versus a resentful grumble that the glass is half-empty – we are living through a time when the scales are tipping in the direction of negativism. Given this, my sense is that football and the turkey will far eclipse any wholehearted expressions of gratitude on this particular Thanksgiving.”

Did you catch that? Negativity is everywhere, and gratitude is waning. If that’s what you’ve been thinking, you’re right.

And it’s not just culture-specific, but it’s holiday-specific too. A survey by the National Women’s Health Resource Center discovered that two-thirds of women report depression during the holidays. According to Healthline, here’s the deal: “The stress and anxiety during the months of November and December may cause even those who are usually content to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment.” And Dr. Kenneth Johnson, a psychiatrist at Columbia St. Mary’s, boils it down even further for us: “Depression is higher in the winter months in general, but the biggest cause of holiday depression is unmet expectations.” If I might say it another way: when it comes to one of the year’s big deals, we hype it up for weeks and then get sad when it doesn’t feel like it was supposed to when it’s all said and done.

And it’s not just culture-specific, or holiday-specific … it’s person-specific. For some people whom I dearly love, 2019 has been the most painful year of their lives. With no close seconds. How in the world can we give thanks under those kinds of circumstances? It’s clearly not easy to give thanks when mental illness has invaded. When death has claimed one of our children. When the relationship most dear to us has been stolen by adultery or abandonment. When all financial resources have been drained dry. And, yet, this is life this side of heaven.

If you’ll allow me, I’d like to stretch us all for a moment. If Romans 8:28 is still true – and it is – and “all things” are working for my good and God’s glory, perhaps this moment of profound sadness (whatever it may be) is part of the plan. Here’s what I’ve found about my own seasons of depression, friends: without them, my propensity toward jerk-ness is immense. (Is it O.K. for me to admit that?) Sometimes, at least, I know that God is creating empathy in me through my own sadness. I don’t like dark nights of the soul any more than you do, but I’m discovering that they’re abundantly necessary if I’m ever to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus.

Not only that, but – through our experience of pain – you and I are learning to make peace with the past. We’re having to actually trust God to cover our sin and shame by the blood of His Son, shed for us on that cruel-but-wondrous cross. And think about this: if we had nothing to consider to be “dreadfully wrong” with life in our present condition, would we really long for heaven? I have to tell you (again, I’m a little scared to admit this): I’m not sure that I would. I need to own my regrets. I need to own my sorrows. I need to own my “if only’s” – anybody else have those besides me? – because each one reminds me that the here and now is far from perfect – and that I’m not home yet!

We all want to settle in and have it all, well, nice. I get it. But this is life on a fallen planet last time I checked. Perhaps, by God’s grace, you and I can find blessings of eternal value hidden even in the putrid things. Don’t get mad at me for that last sentence – remember, it’s Romans 8:28 that’s driving us. And, if it is, then Thanksgiving does matter after all. Even this year. Even now.

The German pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945), is probably best remembered for his resistance to the Nazi regime. No doubt desiring more than all else to follow Christ, Bonhoeffer’s road was marked with pain and struggle. He wrote: “To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to make something of oneself on the basis of some method or other, but to be a man – not a type of man, but the man that Christ creates in us. It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the sufferings of God.” After his unjust arrest and two-year imprisonment, Bonhoeffer was transferred from Berlin to Buchenwald, and then to the extermination camp at Flossenburg. On April 9, 1945, one month before Germany surrendered, he was hanged.

That was some nasty stuff that Pastor Dietrich had to walk through to get to glory, but I think that our older brother captured it amazingly well: “Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.”

Tranquil joy. Count me in.

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Did Chick-fil-A Chicken Out?

Truth is, we don’t really know. Yet. I would agree that it appears that the company has bowed to the powers of political correctness.  Goodness’ sakes, who could argue with the good work being done by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army, and why in the world would anyone want to cut the funding of either group? Never mind answering that – I get it.

Technically speaking, Chick-fil-A’s new donations strategy (now limited to “education, homelessness, and hunger”) also means that several dozen other groups – groups that are not perceived as “anti-LGBT” – will not receive further funding in 2020 either. So, to give the benefit of the doubt, there is a possibility that the chicken giant’s new strategy was not targeted at the Army or the Athletes. And Chick-fil-A has declined to specify that the cuts were linked to the doctrinal position of either organization. Further, a company spokesperson would not rule out the possibility that the groups could receive donations in the future. There you have it.

But there’s been more than a nugget of negative emotion swirling around evangelical circles over the last 48 hours! We all know that Chick-fil-A’s sweet tea is the house wine for many a Southern Baptist, and you have to expect a certain sentiment of betrayal when something like this transpires.

I am a loyal Chick-fil-A fan, having delighted in that sweet chicken topped off with a tangy pickle since my ninth-grade year in McDonough, Georgia, not terribly far from their very first location. (Then they opened at Southlake Mall, and the rest is history.) I have always appreciated Chick-fil-A’s culture of kindness, respect, cleanliness, and getting things done right.

If you will indulge me, it will be my pleasure to share with you my concerns.

First of all, I’m very bothered by the idea that in America we now feel the need to economically cripple an organization with whom we happen to disagree. I totally understand that capitalism allows for economic pressure to be leveraged by consumers and other interest groups, but we’ve reached a dangerous place when people have to fear donating to a cause that doesn’t fit the mainstream morality party line. We’re there it seems. Simply put, it saddens me that Chick-fil-A has been threatened by their detractors for the last several years, and literally kept out of several communities – most recently the airport in San Antonio. Personally, I would prefer to enjoy my cup of coffee without having to concern myself with the politics of the owner of the coffee shop. That’s starting to sound like Mayberry compared to what we’re presently observing.

Secondly, I am brokenhearted that anybody perceived Chick-fil-A as “anti-LGBT.” A conviction around what is now referred to as “traditional marriage” has been central to every branch of Christianity – and an unquestioned truth claim for most everybody else, for that matter – for thousands of years. Not too long ago, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigned nationally on just such a platform. Nearly overnight, the tide has turned, and any traditional thought in the family department is a bigoted anathema. I’d like to quote Matt Smethurst of the Gospel Coalition, who tweeted yesterday: “Christians are not anti-LGBTQ people. We are for them. If we were against them, we wouldn’t share the life-altering love that we – sexual sinners all – have discovered in a bloody cross and empty tomb.”

Thirdly, I’m troubled by a quote from Chick-fil-A’s president and chief operating officer, Tim Tassopoulos. Referring to the company’s new policy via interview, Tassopoulos explained that, as Chick-fil-A goes into “new markets,” he wants “to be clear about who we are.” Really? One of the top three restaurant chains in the USA suddenly has to reinvent itself? I would say this, will all due respect, to Mr. Tassopoulos: You haven’t been beloved just because of your waffle fries. You’ve been beloved because of your corporate commitment to marriage and family. It was as refreshing as your diet lemonade. In your effort to prove that you’re not against anyone – a noble goal indeed – please don’t walk away from the organizations that serve on the frontlines for the very causes which you claim to champion.

Lastly, I have to check my own heart. Part of my sadness is my own pride and misplaced devotion. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness – it was never meant to be placed in a chicken franchise. Regardless of what we find out, or don’t find out, about the motivations behind Chick-fil-A’s unclear charitable giving guidelines, I can’t look to any company or organization to be who Christ’s Church alone is called to be. When I do, I will be disappointed every time. It’s just that simple.

What’s next: a hookah lounge at Hobby Lobby?

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

For King and Kanye

His lyrics tell the story. He used to say, of himself, “I am a God.” Now, says Kanye West: “Jesus is King!” Kanye, one of the most newsworthy pop artists of the last two decades, claims to be a bona fide Christian. Jesus is King! That’s the title of Kanye’s latest album, and the theme fits nicely with his recent concerts, which he now bills as “Sunday Services.”

In fact, Kanye West is one of the best-selling artists of all time, having sold more than 140 million records. He’s been described as a rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, and fashion designer. Since 2004, Kanye’s fame has been a bit of a bumpy ride, to say the least. We never knew what he was going to say – sometimes via unexplained outburst. He seemed to possess a penchant for controversy, and a passion for igniting a public uproar.

But all of that seems to have changed. Kanye, a father of four, has moved away from graphically sexual lyrics. He seems deadly serious about his faith. He seems undeniably to have experienced some sort of profound spiritual awakening. According to Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian: “He has had an amazing evolution of being born again and being saved by Christ.” That’s how you and I generally identify a Christ-follower, isn’t it?

We are initially thrilled by the thought of a high-profile Christian in the world of entertainment, where solid evangelical believers seem drastically underrepresented. At the same time, we’re dogged by worries about when and how the lifestyle of the celebrity will inevitably disappoint. We’ve come to expect that disappointment and disillusionment, because we’ve noticed a pattern among Hollywood stars who profess faith in Christ on the public stage, and it’s a pattern that rarely resembles genuine Christian discipleship over the long haul. So we’re a little afraid to get excited.

Don’t be. Here’s my best advice for you: get excited for Kanye!

We need to pray for Kanye. Many who hate the gospel want him to fail. Unfortunately, many who claim to love the gospel seem to want Kanye to fail – simply to validate their concerns. That doesn’t sound like a noble plan of action to me. The world doesn’t need any more Pharisees, and we have to fight the Pharisee in us on a regular basis. We’re supposed to be looking for good fruit – not bad fruit.

We need to ask God to send Kanye faithful teachers and preachers and shepherds and mentors and friends. Just like we would pray that for each other, or for anybody else who expressed an interest in the things of Christ. I can imagine a powerful, powerful ministry emanating from the life of a redeemed Mr. West, who might be uniquely qualified and positioned to help many of us to see that nearly limitless money and fame and popularity are never enough to satisfy the deepest cravings of the human soul.

I can’t tell you whether or not Kanye’s faith is real. I’m without access to the Lamb’s Book of Life. But I know that you and I are called to believe the best about each other: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (First Corinthians 13:7).

From his opening track …

                Every hour, every minute, every second

                Sing ‘til the power of the Lord comes down

                Let everything that has breath praise God

                Sing ‘til the power of the Lord comes down

                Praising the Lord, praise God in the sanctuary

                Sing ‘til the power of the Lord comes down

                For His mighty works and excellent grace and his mighty power, yeah

Go Kanye!

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

No News Is Bad News

It appears that CBS News this week fired an employee after CBS discovered that the employee, who was formerly a reporter for ABC News, leaked video footage which confirms a decision by ABC to cover up a critical story about Jeffrey Epstein. In case you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Epstein, he was an American financier and convicted sex offender who committed his indecencies via an elite social circle that preyed upon women and underage girls. Epstein was arrested in July of this year on federal charges for the sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York. In August he took his own life in his jail cell.

This recent development involving two of our major American news outlets deeply disturbs me. Jeffrey Epstein could have been stopped in his tracks three years earlier, but that did not happen, sadly. So ABC gets caught but seeks the help of CBS to punish the employee who brought the truth to light. And CBS dutifully complies.

Last I read, from the University of Pennsylvania, only six in 10 Americans can name any of the five rights protected by our First Amendment. So I will remind us all: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” (emphasis mine).

The First Amendment protects the media. There’s no doubt about that. And we must be willing to err on that side for the preservation of our democracy. But, friends, journalists are only “journalists” if they strive for accuracy. We desperately need the journalist’s independent voice – that’s for sure – but we also depend desperately upon the journalist’s commitment to integrity.

I know that I’m a pastor, but I’m concerned that our culture is losing the discipline of journalism. I like the definition of the role of a journalist offered by Andy Crouch: “to make complicated things clear, quickly, for people who could be doing something else, in the service of truth.” I would submit to you that a noble understanding of journalism, something along the lines of what Mr. Crouch has penned, goes hand in hand with the freedom of the press which is enshrined in our Constitution.

If the truth is not at the center of the news, is there really any news?

Certainly no conservative evangelical, but warmly embedded in my childhood psyche, Walter Cronkite (1916 – 2009) said it like this: “The ethic of the journalist is to recognize one’s prejudices, and biases, and to avoid getting them into print.” Pondering his own profession, and the vocation of journalism in general, Cronkite also remarked: “Our job is only to hold up the mirror – to tell and show the public what has happened.”

Walter Cronkite speaks during the Apollo 11 mission, broadcast by CBS-TV, July 1969. Photo made from television screen. (AP Photo)

And that’s exactly why the covering up of Jeffrey Epstein’s offenses alarms me. The public could not know something the public should have known. Something we needed to know. From the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics: “Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.” I can live with that. But it doesn’t feel to me like that’s what happened in this case. Especially when the withholding of critical information seems motivated by the valuing of Disney Dollars over vulnerable children.

In a season (that feels more like an epoch by now) when everything is politicized beyond measure, you and I need to be praying for a revival of truth-telling in our day. The world may feel “post-truth” on many levels, and it may seem unfashionable to speak of truth in such a way that objectivity still matters, but WE MUST TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUTH.

Jesus prayed for His own (John 17:17): “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” What more reliable word do we need? Perhaps it will be the Church at Paducah through whom the Spirit of the living God will reawaken in our day – and in our land – a passion for the truth.

“And that’s the way it is.”

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Faith Alone

This is the day, friends! On this date in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany. What happened after that changed the course of world history.

Pastor Charles in front of Wittenburg Castle Church

Before the fires of what we now call the Protestant Reformation were lit, the 16th-century church service was a mindless ritual and a lethal burden. Perhaps one could gain from the Mass just a little more grace – at least that was the hope of the blind parishioner – but the sad truth is that there was no saving gospel at the core of the priest’s ontological hijinks. You’ve heard me say it before, and I’ll say it again. There really are only two religions in the world: the undeserved grace of Jesus Christ, and some version of “I must save myself” works. Every world religion, every cult, and every pseudo-religious philosophy – apart from the gospel – falls into the latter category of deadly poison.

The Reformation recovered the truth: fallen sinners are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Hallelujah! Other Reformers would carry the ball – and the light – forward, but we must credit Luther with sparking the movement. Luther and the Reformation paved the way for us to enjoy the religious freedom which we now experience. May we never take that for granted!

Travel with me now to London. Over 200 years later, on May 24, 1738, John Wesley “went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans.” I stood on that very spot for the first time in 1988, but in 1738 Wesley felt his heart “strangely warmed” then and there. He was marked by the love of God like never before. Not long after, Wesley met with his Anglican community to pray and worship on New Year’s Eve, when “the power of God came mightily” upon them. This gathering of hearts in Christ, and around Christ’s glorious gospel, became the catalytic flame which would ignite the Great Awakening! It would be this warm-hearted evangelical faith which would shape substantially our American history.

In fact, the Protestant Reformation would propel a gospel awakening that would invade Europe, and overflow to the Americas and beyond. Our Sovereign God would propel His Word from the pulpits and pens of a Bible-rejuvenated church. Believers became passionate Christ-followers, and courageous compassion would become the mission of the true church into our own lifetime.

Today, I want to jumpstart your thinking about how many different and amazing blessings have come to us because of the Reformation …

We can understand what the church really is. There is no special class of sainthood or priesthood, for the ground at Golgotha is level. All have sinned and fall short. But we have an adequate and wonderful Savior! Every believer matters and is gifted for ministry. We’re all ambassadors of grace. We’re all missionaries. Christ’s enterprise of evangelism and missions is our calling and delight. There is an urgency about our calling which is as compelling now as it was in 1517.

People need the Scriptures in their own language. The Bible is not meant to be a closed book enjoyed only by a select few scholars. With the Reformation came widespread literacy. I don’t have to tell you what that accomplished for Western Civilization. And people need education. With the Bible’s being translated into vernacular languages, literature, in general, became accessible. With the Bible’s prominence at the center of church life came the modern concept of public learning. The Renaissance sparked interest in the natural world, but the Reformation told the truth about the God who created it all – and the cultural mandate which is ours in Christ to steward it all for God’s glory.

We, as God’s people, can celebrate all of God’s world! The Reformation transformed literature, science, and even art. Because the gospel became known and understood, it also became understood that an artist can paint a sunset as unto the Lord. All beauty is a reflection of the divine nature. There is no “secular” and “sacred” distinction. We’re losing this truth today, and I’m hoping that my blog posting will matter to you and to your children. Whether your kid wants to dress up tonight as a farmer or an astronaut, I hope you’ll tell that precious child that he or she can become that farmer or astronaut – and that it will be the world’s holiest vocation.

Just a couple more thoughts before I let you go, please. Here in the USA, our constitutional republic and democratic government flow directly from the Reformation. They’re based on the idea that every human being is God’s image-bearer, and that every person possesses inherent worth, dignity, and value. I think we can discern from history that there really is no lasting freedom without Christ. What we consider our “inalienable rights” didn’t just happen, but they came from a high view of the Bible. At the same time, if we understand the truth about people, we will concern ourselves with justice. Let’s not allow our country’s polarizing political climate to persuade us that evangelical faith is antithetical to social justice. Evangelicals have fought to abolish slavery, reform jails, improve working conditions, and protect the rights of the poor and oppressed. That’s because evangelicals understand that it’s all God’s world, and that its all under Christ’s rule – and all under God’s common grace.

These are the hallmarks of classic and authentic Protestantism, friends. This is our marvelous heritage. So, Happy Reformation Day!

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts