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3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
Being hated and hating. That’s how the apostle Paul describes the natural trajectory of a life untouched by the kindness, love, mercy and renewal of God.
How can a person walk into an Orlando nightclub and start murdering people one by one just because of their sexual orientation? How can a person walk into a Wednesday night Bible study and prayer meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and murder nine innocent people simply because of their race? How can someone kill five Dallas policemen through sniper-fire who were protecting a peaceful protest –targeting them solely because of their race? How can someone walk into an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and murder innocent children and teachers?
These are but a few of the high-profile expressions of hatred and darkness of heart. They make me sad and angry and long for all things to be set right in God’s new creation.
There are many other expressions of hatred that occur on various scales all around us everyday. Everything from slander, gossip, verbal abuse to violence. Let’s call it what it is: the natural pull of this fallen world is into the abyss of being hated and hating.
But the good news is that in the midst of the darkness of hate stands the bold and bright light of God’s love, kindness and mercy that is available to all. And right along with God’s love is the renewing and reshaping influence of the Holy Spirit who is pushing us into the character of Jesus.
Will you be the peculiar one who will embrace the love of God into your own life and then ask, “how should the outrageous love, kindness and mercy of God influence my words and actions today?”
Events of the past several months have reminded me that generalizations about other people and groups of people are so very dangerous. These generalizations can look like racism, bigotry, prejudice or classism.
God doesn’t generalize and neither should we. God doesn’t hold us accountable as a group, as a team, as a race or a nation. He doesn’t look at people from Texas and paint us with broad, generalized strokes. He looks at each of us individually and we will all stand as individuals before the judgment seat of Christ. (Romans 14:12) We will be accountable in the last day on an individual basis and we should be held accountable in this day on an individual basis. If I’m at fault, hold me accountable but don’t blame all preachers because of my missteps.
Labels are libels. Life is more nuanced than generalizations allow. Generalizations tend to target people negatively who have nothing to do with past issues and misdeeds. Here is the action point: do not project your generalized attitudes toward any race – and I mean any race – or group, including policeman and preachers. This is not easy to do without a major work of the Holy Spirit’s love and discernment in your heart because this world will pull you in the direction of generalized hatred.
Racism, bigotry, pride, condescension and classism are ugly and unchristian. There should never be a hint of these among the people of God. I’m not so naïve as to think it will never happen, but when it does, it should be specifically and appropriately addressed and corrected. It breaks my heart to think that some of our brothers and sisters in Christ will find themselves under negative assumptions simply because of their race, ethnicity or socio-economic status.
Even the apostle Peter had to learn the hard way some of these very important lessons about favoritism and generalizations as recorded in Acts 10: But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean… I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
The church can set the pace and show the way as a community of robust inclusion. It is the will of God that we love and respect all people in our communities. It is the will of God that we open our homes, tables and hearts to one another and that we intentionally and proactively embrace fellow believers and “potential believers” who are racially, ethnically, generationally and socio-economically different from us. This will not “just happen” – we must and we can make it happen.
If your friendship group looks just like you and you live in the most diverse city in America and in a very diverse church, it’s time that you take action to open your own tables to those who are dissimilar in terms of race, age or paycheck and yet so very similar because of our common bond in Jesus Christ. Stop thinking that this is a wonderful concept and start making this a wonderful reality one conversation, one meal, one opportunity at a time.
It’s important that we talk to one another from a viewpoint of mutual respect and love. Philippians 2 teaches us to consider the viewpoints of others before our own. And so, when we love people, we try to understand life from their perspective and as we dialogue we move closer to one another in understanding. Good listening helps us to recognize people in their specific pain and their specific perspective.
And so, how shall we respond to the hatred that may be directed towards us for whatever reason? Shall we personally escalate the situation? Shall we personally return evil for evil? Read the Romans 12:17-21 counterintuitive teaching from Scripture and then read the quote below from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who in 1955 received his Ph.D. degree in Systematic Theology from Boston University: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
The gospel of Jesus Christ, teaching a message of grace, love and renewal, is our bold proclamation both within the church and from the church to the world at large. Love really can be greater than hate; prayer really can be stronger than evil; and hope really can be greater than despair.
Disclaimer: My views and opinions reflect my own personal stance and do not necessarily reflect the views of the First Colony Church of Christ.
Allow me to introduce you more fully to this Super Sunday’s guest speaker. Dr. Kent Brantly is a Family Medicine physician who served as a medical missionary in Monrovia, Liberia from October 2013 to August 2014. Dr. Brantly’s undergraduate degree is in Biblical Text from Abilene Christian University. He earned his medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine.
In the spring of 2014, Dr. Brantly found himself fighting from the front lines in the battle against the deadliest Ebola outbreak to ever occur and was appointed as Medical Director for what would become the only Ebola Treatment Unit in southern Liberia. Soon after, on July 26, he was diagnosed with Ebola Virus Disease, capturing media headlines around the world. He became the first person with Ebola to be treated in the United States when he was evacuated to Emory University Hospital.
At times, he felt like he would die as the virus ravaged his body. But he maintained his faith and prayed God would be glorified through his life or his death.
One of Time Magazine’s 2014 Persons of the Year, Dr. Brantly now serves as Medical Missions Advisor for Samaritan’s Purse and is the co-author, along with his wife Amber, of Called for Life, released last July and available for $20 in our lobby Sunday. He feels it his privilege and duty to speak out on behalf of the people of West Africa who continue to suffer from the scourge of Ebola and to serve as an ambassador for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Share the word and invite a friend to hear Dr. Brantly’s compelling and inspirational message this Sunday. 8:30am & 11:00am.
This was just a fun little photo made last Sunday (December 20) between church services of our family in the church courtyard. We have a wild, fun and easy-to-love bunch. Our grandchildren, left to right, are Jude, James, Jackson, Ben and Ruby. Jude and Ruby are 3, James is 5, Ben is 6, and Jackson is 8. GranMartha is timeless.
Happy Wednesday Everyone:
Allow me to start this Enote with a question for you: Would a good God ever ask one of his sons or daughters to sign up for a mission that’s going to create a huge amount of trouble and heartbreak in their own lives? I’ll let you decide the answer to that question tonight as we look at a prophet in the Old Testament who is kind of a hero to me: Jeremiah.
Jeremiah, in my opinion, is an ideal beginning point to our new UPLIFT series beginning tonight. This series is called: Fascinating Stories from the Bible’s Hall of Fame and Shame.
Jeremiah’s motto was pretty simple: I will get up. I will suit up. I will show up. I will do the next right thing. And I will trust God with the results.
Jeremiah had a lonely job. For more than 40 years, he cried out for the repentance of God’s people when that was the absolute last message they wanted to hear. God gave Jeremiah a formidable and unpopular assignment that many of weaker character would have jettisoned at the first signs of difficulty. But God’s assignment to him was a “fire in his bones” that eventually, but not quickly, produced “mercies that are new every morning.”
I hope to see you tonight as we are all inspired by the fascinating story of Jeremiah. We will even be inspired, through video, by a modern day hero who was born without arms and legs, and yet makes an incredible difference for Jesus Christ through his tenacious joy and purposeful life. His name? Nick Vujicic. And you gotta see him to believe him.
Before signing off, let me congratulate our own Ginger Hudson who was honored at last night’s Lifeline Chaplaincy Benefit Dinner with their annual Pastoral Care Volunteer Award. Ginger serves in the medical center every week as the presence of Christ to many through Lifeline Chaplaincy. And if you didn’t know, our own Dr. Virgil Fry is the founder and Executive Leader of that ministry. Also, through your tithes and offerings, you are the largest church supporter of that fantastic and needed ministry to the many who come to our medical center from around the globe.
Ginger joins our Terry Aven as two of the most valued pastoral volunteers in the Lifeline Chaplaincy medical center ministry. Honor to whom honor is due, says the Scriptures.
Hope to see many of you tonight as we have a full slate of Wednesday offerings in addition to our UPLIFT service in the East Room. Have a blessed week as you serve our great God and King. The Lord is good and His love endures forever!
Good Friday Everyone:
This morning I had the privilege of gathering with several brothers and sisters at the home of Jerold and Sherri Givens. We sat outside and had a time of mutual encouragement as we reflected on the impact of Christ’s sacrifice for us. We shared communion and prayed for one another.
We all agreed that we are a community of failures, but that the cross unmistakably declares that God’s grace, which is His love acting specifically upon our sin, is greater than our sins, our past and our failures. Name your shame, name your sin, but when you turn to Christ you can add these words: paid in full. Good Friday was the Greatest Friday ever.
Tonight in our Worship Center we’ll reflect on the cross in a Good Friday service at 6:30. And it will be personal. Jesus died for your sins and your sins put him there. Jesus died for my sins and my sins put him there. As John Stott has said so well, “Until you see the cross as that which is done by you, you will never appreciate that it is done for you.”
Tonight, the cross in the front of our Worship Center will be draped in black.
But not on Sunday.
On Sunday the cross will be draped in victory colors and I’m looking forward to celebrating Easter with you and bringing an Easter message called, “The Hinge of History!” Jesus really is who He said He is, He did what He said He would do, and He still offers what only He can offer.
I encourage you to INVITE others to Easter Sunday because when you invite someone personally you are letting them know that they are welcome here. So, text, Facebook, phone, email, tweet, or whatever – you know someone who needs a refresher on how the power of the resurrection dismantles every other power and sets us free.
I look forward to gathering with you this Easter Sunday morning (8:15; 9:45; 11:15) as we celebrate the wonder that “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!” Some of you may come with joyful hearts, some of you may come with heavy hearts, and we can all come with receptive hearts to receive a touch of Christ’s hope.
One of my favorite songs this time of year is the old hymn “And Can It Be” and I like the version by the group Glad. Listen to it as you watch the video link below and let the profound truths of this song wash your spirit. And when you come to verse three (“Boldly I come ..), don’t hold back. Don’t hold back your emotion, your gratitude or your worship.
Because He Lives,
Persecution happens whenever a believer experiences relational, social, physical, emotional or financial pressure to compromise their faith. It happens all the time. You’ve experienced it and I have too in varying degrees.
But some of our brothers and sisters around the globe are feeling the heat of intense persecution. How often do you think of them? Everyday someone is persecuted for their Christian faith in vicious ways.
I’m told that more Christians are being persecuted now that at any other time in history. What I do know is that the high profile killing of Christians has moved me to renew praying for the our persecuted brothers and sisters who are “people of the Cross.”
1 Peter 5:9 Resist him (the devil), standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
Jesus forewarned the church in Smyrna with these words: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Martyrdom doesn’t mean that Satan wins; it means Satan loses. Christians choose death over defection from Jesus. We remember those martyred for their faith and honor their conviction of choosing to die for Christ rather than deny him. As the book of Hebrews says of so many believers, “this world is not worthy of them.”
1 Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.