Wounds of the Heart, Part 3

Have you ever been betrayed?

Scientists and researchers at UCLA and other places are documenting the links between emotional pain and physical pain. What impacts us at soul-level can take a severe toll on our bodies. But I probably didn’t have to tell you that.

As holy and powerful as God is, He knows what it’s like to be betrayed. The Old Testament, somewhat like a novel, reads like a series of: 1. God pursues His people in love; 2. God’s people enjoy His blessings; 3. God’s people reject Him, and abandon Him; 4. God’s people get into trouble; 5. God’s people ask for forgiveness; 6. God forgives and restores; and 7. Rinse and repeat.

So our Sovereign God knows what we’re facing when it comes to getting better – emotionally, and in every other way. In fact, He is the hope we’ve been looking for! Check out Paul’s testimony in Second Corinthians 1:8-11.

A broken heart is not likely to heal overnight. It’s not like getting a cavity filled. It may take months, or even years. We trust God with the timing, right?

But what I want you to wrap your mind around today is the good things that can come into our lives via a broken heart. Sometimes God uses these seasons of suffering to replace our pride and false identity with confidence in Him. Glory comes through pain. C.S. Lewis said it like this: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

So here’s what I want you to do …

Look back on that affliction of sadness that keeps dogging you. Maybe it was something that someone did to hurt you, or something that you did – and that you regret doing – and something that you can’t seem to move past (no matter how hard you try).

You’re going to take one step forward today – another step will come next week – but here is your one step for today: FACE YOUR FALLENNESS. Read, and reread (and reread) Romans 3:9-20. “None is righteous, no, not one.” This applies to you. This applies to me. This applies to our betrayers.

Thankfully, it does not apply to Christ. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

 

Pastor Charles

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La Lumière

We just touched down after a great week in France! Our friends, Randy and Jan Kent – and the team from Mission FPC: France Pour Christ, led by Jeannot Gauggel – could not have been more hospitable hosts. Because of the FPC approach to missions, we ministered alongside new friends from all over the world, literally. We came home with hearts which are full. We are grateful to our gracious God for the experience and the relationships.

We arrived in Nashville exhausted but invigorated at the same time. In days ahead we’ll be sharing more details with you, but I wanted you to see some photos of our ministries and missions. Our FBC contingency worked together exceptionally well, and I can honestly say that there was never a moment when I felt like we weren’t on the same team. I praise the Lord for His faithfulness in answering so many prayers for this trip.

Some of us made it up to the Alsace region – an area in northeastern France on the Rhine River plain – which is steeped in history. Bordering Germany and Switzerland, Alsace has alternated between German and French control over the centuries, and reflects a mix of both cultures. We met with Joseph, Natalie, and Roland, who are leaders of a congregation in the small city of Haguenau. The church has opened an outreach café to attract unbelievers (see pics of Jeremy and Sharon enjoying a raspberry smoothie, and our group around the table). We were more than impressed with their evangelistic fervor and creativity, and we’ll share with you some of that dialog a little later.

Our trip was capped off with our making the most of our 36 hours in Paris. We particularly enjoyed our guide, Claude, and his walking tour of Montmartre. The weather was perfect after a much-needed cool front invaded, and those memories became the icing on the cake.

As you may know from church history, the nation of France rejected the Protestant Reformation. As a result, much spiritual darkness fills the land. But God’s people are the light (Matthew 5:14) – la lumière – and our job continues to be to make Christ known: in postmodern France … and to the ends of the earth!

Thank you for praying us safely home.

 

Pastor Charles

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France Pour Christ

FRANCE FOR CHRIST!

We have most definitely been sent out into a culture that could be described as thoroughly postmodern and post-Christian. Evangelical churches of all stripes struggle to proclaim the gospel of Jesus in a nation where most people believe that truth is relative and that Christianity has no place in public life.

Christians in France are doing whatever it takes to build bridges into the lives of unbelievers. Our main job here is to encourage church planters who are doing that very thing. You can see that some of today’s activities focused on people at a city park, where unusually hot weather still allowed for some important gospel encounters. Creativity, without losing the claims of Christ, is the name of the game! We’ll have plenty of fun stories to tell you when we get home.

It’s late here, and I’m totally exhausted. Please pray for me as I teach from Matthew first thing in the morning. I’m focusing on the account of John the Baptist, and our need to press on in faith even in seasons when we’re assaulted by significant doubt. I’ll write again later in the week.

 

Pastor Charles

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Bonjour!

We made it to Europe! Thanks for your faithful prayers.

I’m writing on board our morning train to Epinal, France. We spent the night in Paris, and took in some of the sites. Enjoy the pics. The artistic Louvre photo is compliments of Talia.

Please pray for our new French friend, Julian. He’s traveling with us today, in the good Providence of God, and Jeremy and Julio are engaging him in gospel conversations.

Our devotion today was from John 1:12-13 and Acts 1:8. As we share Christ within a postchristian cultural context, and in every other venue, we need the life-giving empowerment of His Spirit!

I’ll write more from the mountains …

 

Pastor Charles

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Wounds of the Heart, Part 2

So how do we recover from the heart wounds of our lives?

Last week I mentioned that the place to begin is a place of honesty before the Lord. For example, if I think that the actions or words of another person have harmed me – perhaps even striking at the core of my sense of self-worth – then the place to start is by telling the Lord what’s on my mind and heart. Words are incredibly powerful. Just as words can inflict pain and breed hatred, words of truthfulness can establish trust and confidence. So we start by simply telling our Savior the truth. Remember: we’re not giving Him new information, but we’re choosing to walk with Him along the road of life. Our God delights in our choosing to draw near to Him.

What do we ask of the Lord?

For starters, we can ask Him to begin to convince us of the truth. Heart wounds, you see, deceive us. Lying is their native language, and their pain sometimes feels inescapable. So you and I need Christ to renew our minds, and to show us what is really true about who we are in Him. If we don’t seek Christ’s power for that kind of personal transformation, we may live the rest of our lives blaming ourselves for the wrongs which others have inflicted on us – or ensnared by bitterness and shame.

Let me offer a few truths for you to ponder until my next installment in this series (after my mission to France) …

  1. My heart wounds do not define me. It may feel at times like they do, but that is not true.
  2. I am made in the image of Almighty God. If you were here Sunday morning, we tried to make much of that glorious reality (Genesis 1:27). What better place would there be to start renewing my sense of identity and value?
  3. I belong permanently to Christ, who is redeeming and restoring me (Galatians 4:4-5).
  4. I am a co-heir with Christ of every spiritual blessing, even in and through my suffering (Romans 8:17).
  5. I am dearly and deeply loved, in spite of all my sin (Romans 5:8).
  6. IN CHRIST, I am forgiven for every sin: past, present, and future.
  7. What may have marked me – at least in my own heart – as a “total disaster,” the Lord intends to turn into a token of grace.

Sometimes it feels like we’ve boarded “the hot mess express.” Maybe so. But, when you and I begin to recognize the excellencies of our Captain, we can smile at every twist and turn.

 

Pastor Charles

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Wounds of the Heart

Last week I mentioned the inevitability of sadness in each of our lives. Even sad seasons which can tend to linger.

Sometimes life includes for us specific experiences which impact us profoundly, and which remain with us. Often these experiences stay with us because they have deeply imprinted important messages upon our hearts and minds. Some of these experiences are positive and wonderful, like the birth of a child. Who can forget the utter joy of that indescribable moment? Some of these experiences are nothing short of traumatic. Consider my earlier example … except this time the newborn baby dies. Profound sadness striking at the very core of Mom and Dad.

God has wired the human soul in such a way that we have a need to talk about the feelings which are “left over” from such life-altering events. But sometimes – especially when it comes to unresolved grief – we get shut down by others when we try to express what’s going on inside us. Normally the other person means no harm, but our pain is simply more than he or she can handle … and the resulting response toward us is something like: “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Have you ever been told that when you were trying to express yourself?

As Christ followers, we are called to care about the feelings of others. The Bible instructs us plainly (Romans 12:15): “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Many of the people whom we’re called to love are carrying around tremendous wounds of the heart. A heart wound is a like a physical wound in many ways. It is just as real. It may be invisible, but it shows up quite clearly in a person’s behavior – sooner or later. A heart wound is painful, and it must be treated with care or – like a physical wound – it will get worse. You’ve probably experienced a skin wound. You had to clean away any foreign objects or dirt so that the wound could start to heal. With a heart wound, the same principle applies. Maybe my own sin has contributed to my wound. If so, I will want to confess my sin to God so that real healing can begin.

Just like a physical wound often requires help from another person, so a wound of the heart – more often than not – requires that we let other people help us. James 5:16 connects our willingness to confess our sins to others with our experience of genuine healing in regard to those sins. That’s where James promises that the prayer of a righteous person has great power!

How might a heart wound manifest itself? Here are some possibilities I’ve observed over years of pastoral ministry …

  • persistent anger or rage
  • sadness that won’t go away
  • lack of enjoyment of life
  • persistent tension and no ability to relax, or insomnia
  • unexplained stomach issues
  • unexplained rapid heartbeat, trouble breathing, dizziness, or mental “fogginess”

Some people with wounded hearts don’t want to be around anything or anyone who reminds them of their trauma. Fear is often a big part of the “fallout” left over from a wounded heart. It’s often a fear that I’ll have to experience that same trauma again. Some people develop a difficulty remembering things – either the specific events of their traumatic experience, or in general. Some people obsess about their traumatic event, and find themselves plagued by the same nightmare over and over again. Sleep gets harder and concentration is dulled. Some people are simply exhausted. Some cry a lot … some never cry. Some turn to drugs or alcohol. If the trauma is particularly intimate – like rape or incest, or some injury that is inflicted over a long period of time, or something that results in severe devastation, or some intentional injury – the wound of the heart can be especially deep. Sometimes a person’s temperament makes a wound deeper – like in the case of a person who is simply sensitive by nature.

Our Lord Jesus experienced profound sadness in every way that you and I can imagine feeling abandoned or threatened, and Christ knows our struggles intimately. Here’s one Scripture I’d like you to take a look at if you’re struggling with sadness: Matthew 26:36-46. We see in this passage that Jesus called on His disciples to stand with Him in prayer, which they obviously failed to do. Christ experienced heart wounds, and He uniquely understands the brokenness of our souls! God wants us to be honest with Him about the wounds of our hearts. If you’re not quite sure about how to begin, please stay tuned. I’ll pick up right there next week.

 

Pastor Charles

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Still

As June bled into July, the latest chapter in an ongoing tragedy became more vivid. Dozens of people had risked everything in hopes of a better life, but ended up clinging to a capsized rubber boat. At least three babies, and over a hundred others, perished off the coast of Libya in one of the latest waves of the migrant crisis. Hundreds before them lost their lives as well, just this year alone. The crossing of the Mediterranean is perilous under such conditions.

When we read the New Testament (Luke 13:1-5, for example), we discover that when Jesus walked the earth – as at most every other time in human history – the reasoning of many was to draw a precise line between tragedy (of whatever stripe) and the specific sin of a specific person (or group of people): to declare a direct cause-effect relationship between the two. “You sinned this way, and so this calamity has befallen you.” Sometimes the Bible does record concrete examples of the direct consequences of sin, but you and I must be humble in our assessments where the Scriptures do not speak so clearly.

You may also remember the account of the man who had been born blind, recorded in John 9. The question was: “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” Jesus’ answer was, “Neither!” And our Lord went on to explain that this particular affliction was designed for the glory of God. Of course both the man and his parents were sinners, but his blindness was the result of a much larger problem of sin: universal sin. Romans 5:12 describes this.

Sometimes, when tragedy strikes, we try to hide the truth about God’s sovereignty in a misguided attempt to comfort the afflicted by so doing. But to hide God’s truth is to provide no real comfort at all. (And sometimes God’s truth is given to afflict the comfortable!) We hide the truth about God and His sovereign power because we mistakenly conclude that the best way to minister to the hurting person is to tell him that God has nothing to do with his pain. But that’s not true at all. God is sovereign over the world that He has made. He is sovereign over the events of that same world. He is Lord of all. He is Lord of heaven and earth.

How great is this God whom we serve! I love the way Moses expresses it in Genesis 1:16 – “He made the stars also.” When I read that, I’m quite sure that there should be three exclamation points at least: “HE MADE THE STARS ALSO !!!” Isaiah rightly asks (40:12): “Who has … marked off the heavens?” We know the answer to that question: God!

We can’t even calculate the distance across this universe filled with stars. We do know that the nearest stat – other than the sun – is about 4.5 light years away. Since light travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, the nearest star is over 26 trillion miles away. And that’s just the nearest star! “HE MADE THE STARS ALSO !!!” The universe in which we live is so large that we can’t begin to fathom its grandeur. And yet, God has numbered every star and holds each one in its orbit.

There isn’t a random molecule in this universe that the Lord has made. Now we have the technology to look deep inside the human cell, and we discover there that the ingenious design and function within that tiny space screams the glory of God just as loudly as the enormous celestial bodies! This is the God of the Bible. He crafts every snowflake individually. He is the God of the whirlwind, the earthquake, and the storm. He sends every raindrop to water the parched earth. He parts the mighty sea so that His people can cross safely on dry land. And … only when the time is right … He calms the raging waters with the mere sound of His voice.

Our Sovereign is to be adored, and He is to be feared.

And, yet, this Sovereign God weeps. John 11:35. The shortest verse in the Bible, but don’t miss it. Christ is so moved by the reality of human sadness that He cries with His friends. Sometimes you and I should weep over the tragedy, heartache, and sadness we observe on Planet Earth. It can be overwhelming at times. But we don’t weep because we’ve forgotten who’s in charge.

We know. And so does He. Not one sparrow falls without His knowing, whether the sparrow is in North Africa or Western Kentucky.

Be still, my heart. Only perfect love can quiet this troubled soul. Only Jesus. The Triune God is enormous in His perfections and power, and in His grace, even when I can’t understand at all.

 

Pastor Charles

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Glorious, Glorious Praise

As our choir ties up loose ends so that they can take a much-deserved summer break from weekly rehearsals, I want to thank all of you who make our worship arts ministries such a vital part of the life and witness of First Baptist Paducah. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. In recent weeks, all of you have worked overtime to make sure that Paducah has experienced the love of Christ through our ministries.

The evening with Sandi Patty was, well – to steal from one of her older titles – glorious! I can’t tell you how many people stopped me to tell me: “We’ve never heard anything like this!” Sometimes we’re tempted to take our choir for granted because we get to enjoy their talents nearly every week, but it takes a regional event to remind us just how blessed we really are. Sandi commented that she had never worked with a better team of musicians, and she was deeply moved by a couple of our choir’s own selections – especially when our vocalists knocked it out of the park (as always). If you were here, you saw Sandi’s warm embrace of Kendra, and her tears.

Then you went out to The Lakes of Paducah and shared your gifts with the residents of an assisted living community. You stood in the hot sun, with barely a breeze, and – again – lifted high the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. You loved on friends and strangers alike, and lifted their spirits. The owners, staff, and attendees thanked me profusely. But you deserve the thanks.

Is it O.K. for the senior pastor to be proud? If it is, count me in. I am so proud of you. Every instrumentalist. Every member of the tech and T.V. crew. Everyone behind the scenes making it happen. Those of you who decorate for these special events, and who use the visual arts to connect people to the gospel of Christ, are among my heroes.

I’m always intrigued by the fact that the first ministers filled with the Holy Spirit – in the record of Scripture – were artists (Exodus 31:1-11). Surely the Lord would have us – stationed in a community of artists – display for the world a vision of “arts for the glory of God!” May Christ grant us the creativity, passion, and joy that we need to shake up our city with His praise! As a congregation, you are gifted of God. May each and every ministry gift poured out by the Spirit on First Baptist Paducah point with vivid clarity to the King of kings and Lord of lords!

You are gifted to serve. In just the last few days, you have demonstrated with hands, feet, and voices. I am humbled just to get to be a part of it all. Thank you.

 

Pastor Charles

 


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The Unintended Complexities of Shenandoah Cuisine

The Red Hen is supposed to be a quaint little farm-to-table spot nearly 200 miles from D.C., but now it’s the center of controversy. Friday evening at about 8:00, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked to leave this Lexington, Virginia, restaurant because of President Trump’s policies. She offered to pay for her appetizers, and complied. She then tweeted about the experience.

Stephanie Wilkinson, who co-owns the restaurant, told The Washington Post that several gay employees at the Red Hen were bothered by Trump’s intentions to ban transgender people from military service. Apparently the employees asked Wilkinson to ask Sanders to leave.

In my opinion, we – as an American civilization – are entering into murky waters. We may have been lulled into thinking that this type of political climate is our new normal, but I contend that it is dangerous. Dangerous indeed.

Equality. Equal protection in the eyes of the law. American value and virtue.

Tolerance. Respect for differing opinions. American value and virtue.

Civility. Basic politeness when it comes to public behavior and speech. American value and virtue.

Check. Check. Check.

But personal destruction, trial by social media, and one-upsmanship until my political “enemy” is dehumanized.

Danger. Danger. Danger.

Let me be clear about something. I don’t like dehumanization on either side of the aisle. I don’t like Hollywood tweets suggesting that Barron Trump ought to be ripped away from his mother, and I don’t like far-right Twitter trolls suggesting that Mexican immigrants are thugs. Enough already. Grow up. Get a real job.

We’ve got to dial back some of this stuff, folks. To disagree with someone does not make the one who disagrees evil. Proverbs 18:17, for goodness’ sake.

The American ideal was never meant to be built on bullying. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it well: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Do we really want to live in a nation where we have to think about where we eat dinner when we visit our nation’s capital? Hasn’t Virginia, in particular, seen enough of that over the years?

In order to test Him, a lawyer asked Jesus a question (Matthew 22:35-40): “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

When you and I talk about the law of God (or the laws of our land, which we believe are ultimately rooted in the law of God) without demonstrating the love of God, we’re more like the people who killed Jesus than the people who follow Him. We who have received grace ought to show grace. It’s that simple. That’s the lesson for the “conservatives” among us.

Now here’s a lesson for the “liberals” among us: Please be liberal. Favor liberty over coercion. This is the Biblical and American vision: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (Second Corinthians 3:17).

And the lesson for all of us is this: BE KIND. That’s it! Be kind. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Perhaps the last eleven words of one of our childhood tales were packed with a double entendre: “And the little red hen ate the bread all by herself.”

 

Pastor Charles

 

 

 

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Of Bugs and Braggarts

I don’t recall a time when more people were suspicious of government. For that matter, I don’t remember a time when people were more suspicious in general. As you know from your newsfeed, many Americans now question the integrity of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice. The current climate of distrust is concerning, to say the least. Whether or not the distrust is based upon legitimate reasoning, the fact that we’ve landed here is unsettling for all of us.

It should come as no surprise to us that the truthfulness of time-honored government institutions rests on an increasingly shaky foundation the more that we, as a civilization, buy into the lie of moral relativism. We can’t have it both ways: “Truth can’t really be known. Oh, by the way, please tell the truth.”

This moral abyss around us sets up a personal struggle within us. Who can I trust? Does anyone really pursue justice? Is there no place where ethics and honesty are values for real? Can I take anyone at his or her word?

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the people (Psalm 33:10). That sure seems to be playing out right now. But, I’m happy to report, that’s not the end of the story! The very next verse is pivotal: The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

There it is. We have hope! God’s plans and purposes count forever. In the end, chaos will not win. “History” is “His story,” you see. William Ernest Henley did not get it right: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” The Lord replies: “Don’t kid yourself.”

New York Times best-selling author Raymond Arroyo just released his findings that “people tend to project their image and beliefs onto their image of God.” In other words, we imagine God to be like us – or we imagine God as we would prefer Him to be. The technical word for that is idolatry. It isn’t new, but it is sin.

Thankfully, no matter how hard we try to bring God down to our level, it just won’t happen. He is high and exalted (Psalm 97:9). He will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8). He is all Truth (John 14:6). As such, God’s character can’t be manipulated. He can’t ever do anything other than that which is absolutely best, including that which is absolutely best for us.

A newly-elected politician had just arrived in Washington, D.C., and was learning the ropes from a ranking Senator. As the two stood looking out over the Potomac River, an old log floated by. The older gentleman remarked, “This city is like that log.” “How’s that?” asked the younger colleague. His new friend’s explanation was this: “There are lots of bugs on that old log, and every one of them thinks he’s steering it.”

Remember that next time you’re tempted to despair just perusing the headlines. Truth may be hard to discern these days, but the Lord will have His way. We may or may not see peace on the Korean Peninsula – or sanity on Capitol Hill. But our God can be trusted entirely.

R.C. Sproul expressed it well: “I’m delighted that my future is not in the hands of the stars or the soothsayers … my confidence in the future rests in my confidence in the God who controls history.”

We are Christ followers. We choose to love. We choose to trust. We do not trust in vain.

 

Pastor Charles

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