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

Posted in Blog Posts

Putnam and Providence

If you’ve seen the Johnny Cash story, Walk the Line, you remember the old prison. The same prison was featured in The Green Mile with Tom Hanks, the movie based on Stephen King’s novel.

From there east. Over a 50-mile path that can be mapped, with widespread damage stretching well beyond 90 miles. At least an EF-3 rating on the Enhanced Fujita scale. Like a monstrous, deadly swath barreling through Monday night. At least 22 dead.

Nashville and its neighboring communities are close to home, friends. We saw the severe weather just outside our windows here in Paducah, but it was nothing like Putnam County, Tennessee. Are you familiar with Putnam County? You drive through it on your way to Knoxville. Putnam County was named in honor of Israel Putnam, a hero in the French and Indian War, and a general in the American Revolutionary War. Its county seat is Cookeville.

Tuesday morning in Putnam County, 18 had perished. Parrish Burgess posted on Facebook: “Our worlds are shattered.”

Jessica Clark was in her 30s.

Amanda Cole was 34.

Hattie Collins was 3.

Dawson Curtis, a little girl, was 6.

Terry Curtis was 54.

Stephanie Fields was in her 30s.

Erin Kimberlin was in her 30s.

Joshua Kimberlin was in his 30s.

Sawyer Kimberlin was only 2.

Sue Koehler was in her 50s.

Todd Koehler was in his 50s.

Patricia Lane was 67.

Leisha Littenberry was 28.

Harlan Marsh was 4.

Bridgette McCormick was 12. She went by the name Ann Marie.

Cathy Selby died. Her age is unknown.

Keith Selby died. His age is also unknown.

Jamie Smith was in his early 30s.

In that storm-ravaged middle Tennessee community, Terry Curtis was a business owner known for “fiercely” loving his wife and family. Terry could have been any one of us.

Not one of the storm’s victims went to bed Monday thinking that night would be their last. Not one. That’s how life and death work, you see. We never know. But I’ll bet that if I did know that tonight would be my last, I wouldn’t waste my time checking Instagram. Nothing against Instagram, mind you. I just wouldn’t waste any time.

Death was a stranger to me until I watched my Aunt Lela wither away in 1983. Pancreatic cancer destroyed her body in no time flat. As the space between that dear lady’s breaths gained greater distance, I wanted death gone. But, in the end, only my aunt was gone. It would be the first of many such up-close-and-personal encounters with death for me, and I know well the sorrow that pangs the human soul when the mortuary van drives away under the cover of midnight blackness.

Jesus told us (Luke 12:35-40) to live ready: “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning!” Whether or not you and I are still here when Christ returns, we will soon give an account. We must be ready. Always ready. This present chapter is short, short, short.

And here’s the really strange thing. That same “death” which was once only our enemy is – because of Christ – also our entryway …

What delights await the Christian believer at the moment of death! One moment I’m a feeble sinner experiencing the craziness of this world, and – next instant – I’m crowned with a crown of righteousness and hanging out with the King of Glory! All because of Jesus. “It is finished!” No more loss, grief, pain, discomfort, confusion, weariness, or even regret. And no tornadoes! Not a single one on the radar screen. You and I will dwell in nothing but utter joy, as we revel in the beauty of our Savior forever and ever!

So live ready, but also live ready to rejoice!

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Concerning Corona

It started in Wuhan, China. Eileen can’t stand bats, so she’s not the least bit surprised that they may be to blame.

We now know that initial news and official reports from that part of the world were intentionally misleading. Among other more recent admissions, the Chinese government has just announced that more than 500 prisoners in five prisons in three provinces have contracted the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The South China Morning Post reports that the virus has sickened more than 80,000 people, and killed more than 2000, but who knows the real numbers in China?

By far, South Korea has seen the highest number of coronavirus cases outside of China. Within just one week, confirmed cases jumped from a few dozen to nearly 1000 there. The country had seemed well prepared for the virus, so the skyrocketing numbers have many asking how this happened – and whether a similar sudden outbreak could happen in other parts of the world. That answer is likely yes.

And here’s an even bigger problem: stringent travel restrictions imposed on inbound flights from China, aimed at containing the coronavirus outbreak, become “irrelevant” in a global pandemic. That conclusion was shared by a top U.S. health official just one day after the Trump administration braced the public for its eventual spread here. “When it was focused only on China, we had a period of time, temporary, that we could do a travel restriction that prevented cases from coming into the U.S.,” Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) told the press. Fauci went on to explain: “When you have multiple countries involved, it’s very difficult to do; in fact, it’s almost impossible.”

A new case of coronavirus was confirmed in the United States yesterday, as several other countries also reported new cases and deaths. And, the day before that, the Dow Jones industrial average endured its worst two-day slump in four years, directly related to fears of an impending pandemic. Among European and Asian financial markets, economic sirens continued to sound after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control warned of the inevitable spread of the disease here at home. A total of 40 American passengers on board the Diamond Princess have tested positive for the coronavirus, raising the number of confirmed infected in the U.S. to nearly 60. They remain in hospital isolation, and the virus has not yet spread to our local communities. But likely not for long. “Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in the United States,” Nancy Messonnier (Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC) told reporters. “It’s not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses.”

The disease has spread abroad to Australia and Europe. Iran is facing a serious outbreak of coronavirus, and from there it has spread to Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. It’s starting to get easier to name the countries where it hasn’t yet arrived, and I don’t have to tell you that this emerging situation is deadly serious, friends.

So how are you and I to think about all of this? Where is God when a dreaded disease is marching across the globe? How can I be full of faith, when I’m full of fear?

If I may, let me draw your attention to Matthew 8, where Jesus performs three miraculous healings in the first 15 verses alone. Christ heals: a leper; the servant of a Roman army officer; and the apostle Peter’s mother-in-law. From just these three examples, what can we learn about the heart of God, and how can my heart look more like His against the 2020 backdrop of coronavirus?

First of all, we see a deeply concerned Savior. We do not see a Christ who is so committed to the spiritual and the eternal that He’s unconcerned with the physical and the now. Moved with compassion, Jesus – on behalf of the afflicted – is willing to assault the depths of human disease. He does not lecture the sick in regard to the good providence of God despite their suffering, but He cares about their physical illness and pain.

Secondly, in all three situations (in the case of Peter’s mother-in-law, see the parallel account in Luke 4:38), Jesus responds to simple requests. “If you will, you can make me clean.” How marvelous is that! Needy people simply ask of Christ, and Christ responds in merciful action.

Thirdly – don’t miss this – Jesus is particularly drawn to help those whom the world would consider the lowest of the low. This was troublesome for the Jews, and particularly for the Pharisees. Think about how radical this really was! Christ healed a leper – a total societal outcast and untouchable. Christ healed a Gentile – one who was considered cut off from the promises of God. Christ healed a woman – someone who had no voice whatsoever among the religious elite of her day. A mere coincidence? Hardly. Nothing recorded for us is a mere coincidence. Christ was, and is, Love.

And, lastly, Jesus demonstrated His absolute sovereignty over everything. There was no scary organism beyond the scope of His attention. No out-of-control medical situation beyond His ultimate reign. No disease or suffering beyond the pale of His healing grace. No one hurting for whom He didn’t care, immeasurably.

So, we have our marching orders … 1. Care. 2. Pray. 3. Love. 4. Trust. When we’re doing those things, fear tends to fade.

Onward then,

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Multigenerational Melody

I’m ready to sing a new song.

I don’t have to tell you that, from time to time, our congregation experiences the stresses and strains associated with multiple generations coming together under one roof. And we’re not alone. But today I’m here to tell you that what sometimes feels like our Achilles’ heel is actually our greatest opportunity for experiential grace. How boring would we be if we all saw every issue from the same perspective! We are a family after all. And sometimes families choose to work through issues so that love can prevail. It’s well worth the effort.

And, if you will allow me, I’d like to offer my pastoral perspective in the form of seven proactive ways that we can be stronger together. Stronger! Together! Don’t you like the sound of that? I hope it’s music to your ears.

Never assume that a difference must be a “Biblical” difference.

Regarding the core of who we are – as gospel people – our message never changes. But our methods do change, and must change, and will change. More than once. At any point when we’re at odds with each other, we’re likely to decide that our “opponent’s” position is inherently “wrong,” while failing to recognize that the source of our conflict is not even a matter of right vs. wrong. Said another way, sometimes church conflict feels like theological conflict when it is not.

Everybody’s voice matters, even the one I don’t want to hear.

Simply put, we need each other. The Bible is replete with reminders to us that we should learn from one another. That’s how all of us grow up into spiritual maturity. As a body, we need every part. When every part does its part – that’s when our symphony is the sweetest.

Watch for moments to celebrate somebody else’s preference.

This can feel so unnatural for us at times but think of all the ways in which people have shown love to you simply by loving what you love. Maybe your spouse chose to enjoy a vacation suited more to your interests. Maybe a parent supported you in pursuit of a sport or activity, or even a career, about which they had no knowledge whatsoever. Maybe the Holy Spirit just brought to your mind a time when somebody in your life decided to sacrifice their preference in order to accommodate yours.

Savor the small-but-real victories which happen along the way.

Sanctification takes a lifetime. It’s one tiny step at a time. And sometimes it includes a couple of steps backward. So enjoy the breakthroughs … the sparks of selflessness … the signs of progress. Humility and peace often take time. So take time to notice any momentum in the right direction. Whether you’re old, or young, or in between, if you’ve grown in appreciation for those other folks (whoever they happen to be) – thank God.

Outdo one another in showing real honor toward each other.

We’re working toward something that is bigger than any one of us, and bigger than all of us. The word “harmony” in fact means “the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords having a pleasing effect.” I can’t strike the best sound on my own, and neither can you. But, together, we can produce a masterpiece. So talk each other up! Cheer each other on! Toot each other’s horn! Sing each other’s song!

Never give up working together for a splendid path forward.

What was once the intergenerational divide can be the multigenerational melody. Listen for it. Pray for it. Wait for it. And settle for nothing less.

Get back to the joy of CHRIST, who is our common identity!

As always, our Lord Jesus is our Hope. Our Unifier. Our All.

I’m ready to sing a new song. How ‘bout you? Christine Pohl says it like this: “There is nothing more Spirit-filled, in our polarizing times, than disagreeing with each other while resisting the force to demonize each other.”

And Paul said it like this (Colossians 3:14-17): “… put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

When it comes to our beloved church family, rest assured: we will never see everything the same way. And I’m so, so glad.

Sing on!

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Red Carpet Reminder

You may know John Rhys-Davies as Gimli from the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. He’s not just an actor, but he’s a rationalist. By “rationalist,” I mean a person who claims to base their most important convictions on reason rather than religion. Rationalism is a particular epistemological perspective known for its intellectual rigor.

Rhys-Davies, originally from Wales but residing much of the year in New Zealand, is also a self-professed “skeptic.” That’s why I find his recent red-carpet comments in Hollywood to be quite intriguing. While attending the Movieguide Awards, Rhys-Davies remarked that “Christian civilization” has made the world “a better place,” and that the world owes Christ-followers “the greatest debt of thanks.” Quite frankly, I find those observations both fascinating and convicting.

We normally don’t look to the Avalon Theater for kudos of any kind, but when the actor was asked about the use of his voice for an animated version of Pilgrim’s Progress, here are his words: “I find myself constantly defending Christians and Christianity.” He cited particularly the abolition of slavery as an accomplishment brought to the modern world by the widespread influence of Christianity. From the cruelly oppressive Roman Empire onward, Rhys-Davies linked the rise of democracy and liberty to the spread of the gospel: “I have a right to believe and not what the Emperor tells me. From that whole idea … the equality that we have has developed.”

And here’s the whopper from our rationalist friend: “To dismiss Christianity as being irrelevant is the detritus of rather ill-read minds.” Wow! That’s better Christian apologetics than most of us have heard all year.

That leaves me with one glaring question, friends: Are you and I living up to our reputation?

For over two millennia, fervent followers of Christ – inspired by the example of the teaching of none other than Jesus of Nazareth – have marched at the forefront of slow-but-steady efforts to alleviate poverty and suffering, cure disease and serve the afflicted, and advance knowledge and understanding among people groups where such seemed next to impossible. Our foremothers and forefathers were not known for copping out, but they ran when they were weary. They stood and fought for the freedoms of others when it was uncomfortable and undeniably costly. They ministered when they had nothing left to give.

We don’t get a pass just because the world doesn’t like us. God can raise up a defender for us, if we need one, and often from the most unlikely places. Anybody remember Gamaliel?

Truth is, the evangelical movement of the last three hundred years – with a focus on personal conversion to Christ through the preaching of the gospel – has brought about the greatest social welfare and the greatest government reforms the world has ever known. Rhys-Davies is absolutely correct! This is no time for us to slink off into the shadows while assuming that the world and its systems are a lost cause. We’re still salt and light!

You and I must never forget that Christianity’s greatest moment of triumph – ever – was a bloody cross. But, at the time, it was marked by neither joyful celebration nor public approval. Shockingly, those who appeared to be the gospel’s strongest adherents were nowhere to be found in that dark hour. You see, our faith is death first, and then resurrection! Our core doctrine is counterintuitive. Failure and success are inverted. The last are first. The King is crowned with thorns before He’s crowned with honor.

Perhaps the gospel of Gimli is worth a glance. Just maybe we have a sleeping giant on our hands.

Yours by grace,

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

END IT

I hope you can join us Sunday for what has become our annual “Shine a Light on Slavery” Day at First Baptist Paducah. Our morning worship service will be dedicated to creating awareness about the global crisis of human trafficking, as well as exploring how Christ’s gospel would have us respond. Sometimes the church is called to action. This is one of those times!

If you’re unfamiliar with why the “END IT” movement exists and is gaining steam, there are four important statistics which I’d be privileged to bring to your attention, based on current estimates from several different fronts in this battle for basic human dignity.

40 million.

The latest number I’ve seen is 40.3 million in fact. As I write this blog post, that’s how many people – each one an image-bearer of Almighty God – who are being held against their will. If human civilization has a dark underbelly, this is it, friends. I wanted to start with that gargantuan number just in case anyone reading considered this issue trivial or insignificant. The problem is enormous. And assessing the full scope of human trafficking is nearly impossible because so much of it goes undetected year after year. Experts label this “the hidden figure of crime.”

150 billion.

You probably guessed it: money drives this monstrous train. That’s the estimated yearly revenue, globally, that is generated by human trafficking and its multiple criminal tentacles. Now you know why fixing this is no easy task. But we can’t do nothing.

71%.

That’s the percentage of modern-day slaves who are women and girls. This crime forcefully exploits women, men, and children. Just as we seek to protect the unborn, we must seek to protect the born. When I was in D.C. with hordes of young adults recently, the thing which most struck me was their desire that the Church apply a consistent ethic to the moral issues of our day.

1 in 4.

At least a quarter of all modern-day slaves are children. If that stat doesn’t break your heart, I’m not sure what would. In fact, the average age at which a U.S. teen enters the sex trade is 13. Many victims are runaways who were abused as children. We’re talking about vulnerable children whose very personhood is being steadily eroded by a horrific industry specializing in sin and shame. Surely you and I – as the Lord’s redeemed – are called to care for those around us who are helpless, marginalized, and silenced.

I thought of one more number that may move you.

87%.

That’s the percentage of nations where slavery exists, despite the laws against it on their books. And I may be underestimating because the United Nations reports that human trafficking impacts every nation on Planet Earth. When you think about that, even for just a second, it becomes clear that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12).

I could use your prayers this week, that I would be able to capture both the heart of the problem and the heart of Christ. Thank you for being the kind of faith community that seeks to apply the saving gospel of Jesus to every sphere of creation and culture.

May Christ be exalted!

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Love 4 Peeps

Last week I had the privilege of joining with more than 100,000 others in Washington, D.C., to celebrate life. I came home refreshed by many things which I observed, most notably by the amount of young people who are thoroughly committed to protecting the sanctity of human life. In fact, 200 college students literally led March for Life 2020.

On the eve of the March, I was able to meet with pastors and other leaders – from across the nation – who are desirous to help evangelical Christ-followers embrace a worldview that is comprehensively PRO-life. By that, I mean that our desire is to model a love for all people simply because all people are created in God’s own image. This ought to translate into our profound respect for the unborn, the aged, and everyone in between. PRO-ALL-life.

Many of these young adults traveled thousands of miles to march with us. On top of that, there were swarms of kids, from high school students all the way down to toddlers accompanied by their moms and dads. Estimates are that at least a quarter of the participants were college-age or younger, with half the entire crowd younger than 30. An unbelievably young generation is embracing the pro-life ethic if my personal observations are anywhere close to accurate.

I enjoyed one particular conversation with a 21-year-old college student who explained to me that she had come to our nation’s capital simply because “life matters.” She declared herself neither Protestant nor Catholic – “non-religious” in fact – but was among a bunch of young people who now wear the label “secular pro-life.” They see disrespect for human life as human rights abuse, as well they should. Though this was my third March, it was my first time to take notice of this obviously enlarging constituency in America. It seems to me that science and technology have actually bolstered the pro-life movement.

I don’t live in a bubble, and I know that not every national poll among Millennials and Gen-Z’ers supports the pro-life optimism which I’m expressing today. But all I can do is share with you my personal observations and inferences. I’ve been called “perpetually glass-half-full” more than once, so I’m willing to own that. But I am encouraged, friends, and I want to encourage you. I believe that something good is happening. Perhaps it’s because I believe that a good God reigns over all of human history. Even now.

If you’re part of our church family, you know that we spotlight the global crisis of human trafficking every February in our END IT service. In my message on February 9, I’ll attempt to answer this simple question: “Why do we care?” My answer may surprise you, but I’ll give you a hint: if we’re going to celebrate the unborn, we ought to celebrate the born!

Next year I hope to take several of you – older and younger – with me to D.C. Marching with you would make it much more fun for me. You see, I’m PRO-YOU-too. So start saving your pennies, FBC college group …

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

In High Demand

I’ve been on LinkedIn for years. I guess I just like being connected. Though I don’t post anything there, I try to pay attention to trends.

So, just to be honest, I had to look up “blockchain” this morning. Since I’m being honest, I kind of get it – and I kind of don’t. Whew. Hopefully, this isn’t the feeling one gets when the world is passing them by! Anyway, blockchain is a hard skill that’s in high demand for 2020. Since I wasn’t even sure about my spelling of “cryptocurrency,” I don’t qualify. Obviously. I’m also “out” in the categories of cloud computing and AI. ‘Nuff said about all that. I’m feeling irrelevant. And some days it feels like irrelevance on steroids.

But what caught my eye also was 2020’s list of hottest soft skills. You interested?

Creativity.

Persuasion.

Collaboration.

Adaptability.

Emotional intelligence.

In that order.

So that’s when it hit me: Christ-followers ought to be good at all of these!

Our Father is the Creator of everything (John 1:3), and we’re made in His image (Genesis 1:27). Our gospel message is the very power of God (Romans 1:16). We’re called to “consider others better than ourselves” (Philippians 2:3). We are servants of all (First Corinthians 9:19). Can’t get more “adaptable” than that.

And please don’t write off that last one: emotional intelligence. Harvard Business Review reports that more than 3000 scientific articles have been written on emotional intelligence. We won’t even try to count the books. This one matters, friends. Our EQ matters. I won’t tell you what “EQ” means so that – if you don’t know – you’ll do some needed homework on the subject. Let’s just say: we are all thinkers and feelers.

It goes back to that whole image-of-God thing. My fellow pastors and I are still studying Peter Scazzero, who words it like this: “We are intellectual, social and emotional creatures just as God is.” Scazzero also says that most Christians are emotionally stuck. That can’t be good.

When we don’t grow up emotionally, we create distance between ourselves and others. We inflict pain on others, even those we love. We overlook our own sinful and selfish behavior under the pseudo-biblical guise of: “I don’t care about feelings, only facts.” Jesus said no such thing. But, when the gospel of Jesus has its way in us, everything changes. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Now it’s making some sense.

One more Scazzero quote, free of charge: “We have the Holy Spirit and God has already wired us for growth and change.” Let’s make this the year when we learn to love as we’ve been loved.

You’re in high demand for 2020! So shine, y’all!

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

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