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

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