Canton North Carolina (NC)
LaPorte Texas (TX)
Portland Texas (TX)
by Jonathan Edwards
Centennial Colorado (CO)
WAS ST. PATRICK (389-456AD) A GOOD CATHOLIC?
A close look at the deadly church shooting, “Emmanuel” reveals ruthless sin, scandalous mercy, and divides that persist.“Only five of us were left after the massacre,” said Polly Sheppard.In 2015, Sheppard was in the prayer circle at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church when a 21-year-old white supremacist started shooting. The nation’s deadliest racially motivated mass shooting at a place of worship took the lives of nine Christians she had worshiped alongside with for years: senior pastor Clementa Pinckney and congregants Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and her best friend Myra Thompson.Four years to the day of the massacre, Emanuel, a documentary recounting their story, will open in over 1,000 theaters nationwide on Monday. Members of all nine victims’ families participated in interviews, along with survivors such as Sheppard, local reporters, the Charleston mayor, and the Charleston police chief. The film examines societal effects of racism—for this particular historic church and in the American South at large—before transitioning to the massacre and the victims’ loved ones’ subsequent acts of forgiveness.“This film is not just about racism—it’s about grace,” said director Brian Ivie, who worked on Emanuel for three years. “It’s a story of a group of people who decided they were going to bear the full weight of the wrong and still wish good upon the wrongdoer. That is the highest form of love possible, a love that Jesus Christ perfected.”Emanuel opens at a time when stories of people of color drifting away from evangelical churches due to increasing politicization of the gospel have made national news.“It’s a hard movie to watch, ...Continue reading...
This week, Terrie and I celebrate thirty-three years of ministry at Lancaster Baptist Church with the Anniversary Sunday and host the Spiritual Leadership Conference. (And I hope you're planning to join us!)Before guests arrive for the conference, however, I wanted to share with our church family some convictions regarding ministry that I am as convinced of today as I was in 1986. Last week, I preached a message titled “This I Believe” in which I shared four such convictions.Whether you are just starting out in the ministry or have been preaching the gospel for decades, remembering and holding to these truths from God's Word will keep you going during seasons of challenge and difficulty.These convictions aren't helpful because you believe them, but they are truths that help you when you believe.1. The Power of the GospelFor I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.—Romans 1:16Following Romans 1:16, one of the great declarations of the power of the gospel, the Apostle Paul describes the darkened, hardened hearts of a culture in need of the gospel. We see many of these marks of depravity in our culture today.Thankfully, at Lancaster Baptist Church, we've also seen the power of the gospel to change lives—one person at a time.The fact is that the gospel is more powerful than the dark hearts, false worship, vile affections, and reprobate minds described in Romans 1.If you don't believe in the power of the gospel, you will become discouraged or jaded in ministry. But when you believe that the gospel is the “power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,” you want to continue to preach it. You rejoice in every life it changes. And you never lose hope for those who still need salvation.2. The Potential of ChildrenBut Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.—Matthew 19:14One of the blessings of spending over three decades in one church is performing the weddings of those you prayed over on baby dedication Sundays. It is watching the spiritual fruit in the lives of young families who were once children attending Sunday school. It is seeing God shape new generations of biblically-committed, Spirit-filled, Christ-centered Christians in this world.But whether or not you've had the privilege of being in once place for a long period of time, the reality of potential in children is there. This is why a Christ-centered church must be a child-inclusive church that nurtures and disciples hearts for God.We must continue to bring children to church—by discipling parents who already come and by sharing the love of Christ with children whose parents are not yet saved.We must also teach children. Paul affirmed to Timothy, “that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Children face unrelenting indoctrination from a corrupt culture. We must point their hearts to Christ and equip their minds with the truth.3. The Priority of the Church But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.—1 Timothy 3:15The local church is a body of believers that is supposed to function as a place of teaching and building up (Ephesians 4:11–16), encouraging and loving (Acts 2:46), and holding sound doctrine (1 Timothy 3:15, Titus 1:9).As a family, the local church has challenges. If it has real people, it has messy people. That's just the nature of life and the process of sanctification for all of us. But the church is to be a place where sin is confronted (1 Corinthians 5:1–5) and the fallen are restored (Galatians 6:1–2).The local church is God's plan for reaching the world with the gospel (Acts 1:8). Above all, it is the place where Christ is to be given preeminence (Colossians 1:18).Although there are certainly times when those of us who lead in local church ministry become weary, remembering the priority of the church—to Christ who loved it and gave Himself for it, to those within our church families who need the church to grow into Christlikeness, and to a lost world in need of the gospel—reminds us of the greatness of any ministry that is part of the local church.4. The Provision of God's GraceAnd he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.—2 Corinthians 12:9God's grace is sufficient.It is sufficient for your family. It is sufficient for your financial challenges. It is sufficient for your trials. It is sufficient for your ministry. It is sufficient.When you face challenges in your life or ministry and consider if you can continue, the answer is always yes. Yes, you can.Because of God's grace.Because of the priority of the church.Because of the potential of children.Because of the power of the gospel.
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)When my firstborn son was a few months old, it was clear that he was not gaining weight like he should be from breastfeeding due to an undiagnosed condition. My wife and I felt helpless and were wracked with constant worry. As a father, I felt desperate, and longed to do anything in my power to help my suffering child. By God’s grace, we were eventually able to find the professional help we needed through lactation consultation, and our baby began a healthy weight gain.I am reminded of this time when reading of desperate fathers in the Gospels who, at their wits end, lay their suffering children at Christ’s feet, begging Him to help them. Although my own experience pales in comparison to the severity of the problems these biblical fathers faced, I can still identify with a father like Jairus frantically elbowing his way through the crowd and throwing himself before Jesus, beseeching Him to help his dying daughter (Mark 5:23-43). Or the father with the demon-possessed son, who kneels before Jesus and implores Him, “Lord, have mercy on my son…” (Matthew 17:15-18).I can picture the sweat on the brows of these fathers as they strenuously assert themselves for the sake of their children. With all their options exhausted, they make one last ditch attempt—some would have said foolhardy attempt—to save their offspring at the feet of Jesus. How does He respond?Jesus, in full union with His Father, reveals the true nature of God the Father’s heart in His response: mercy, compassion, and healing. We read that at the moment He speaks the word of healing, the afflicted are indeed healed: “…the boy was cured instantly” (Matthew 17:18); “And immediately the girl got up and walked” (Mark 5:42). What’s more, physical healing is just the beginning of God’s tender care for the welfare of His children.Caring for Our Children’s Spiritual WelfareChrist does not stop at mere physical healing; His mercy extends to great concern for our spiritual health as well. When the father of the possessed child pleads with Jesus to heal his son, Christ’s first response is to teach him the power of belief: “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). And for those who ask for the Spirit, Christ assures us that God cannot help but give more than merely “good” gifts: “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)In the same way, fathers who have a full understanding of love are just as concerned about their children’s spiritual welfare as for their physical health. As I try to teach my 2 ½-year-old son his prayers and speak to him about the love of God, I often find myself wondering about what kind of faith he will have by the time he leaves the house. Becoming a father has given me an expanded appreciation for all those fathers out there who worry about their sons and daughters losing their faith after they have struck out on their own or are in college. While I know it’s second nature for a parent to worry about their children, I also know that all God needs is an open soul, not a wise or mature one—He will fill that openness with His grace.Indeed, a father’s longing for his children’s physical and spiritual health is an image of the purest longing that God has for us.We Need a Renewed Emphasis on Fatherly CompassionHaving a father who passed the love of God on to me, and knowing that I will strive to do all I can to pass this faith on to my own children, my heart aches for those who have not had a father in their lives who has shown love to them. I have personally known those who have been deprived of the love of their fathers and have seen the spiritual wounds that this profound absence can cause.Tragically, there are many in our society who have difficulty relating to God as the merciful and healing Father that He is because of the lack of a loving earthly father in their own lives, whether from outright absence or from emotional/physical neglect or abuse that they experienced from their fathers.This lamentable state of affairs gives Christian fathers all the more motivation to exemplify and live out the true heart of our heavenly Father. Much has been said and written about how fathers must be strong leaders and firm maintainers of discipline in their families. This is certainly true, but it only tells half the story of the true heart of God the Father, and therefore the heart that all fathers must strive for.The tender care that Christ manifested through His merciful and healing touch and through beautiful parables like the prodigal son (Luke 15) are stirring examples of what a truly loving father must be: a clear reflection of God the Father’s tenderness, mercy, and compassion—guiding and nurturing his children towards discipleship in God’s kingdom. This requires what may seem on the surface to be a paradox: Fathers must have the manly courage to be vulnerably compassionate with their children in order to more fully exemplify the compassionate love of our heavenly Father.A Full HeartOne of the first instincts of a father is to provide for the physical needs of his children. This is natural and good—it clearly fits our nature as men. Vulnerability and tender care for the spiritual needs of our children may not come as naturally to us, but it is just as important. In order to impart the full heart of God to our children, we must be willing to stretch ourselves and exemplify both physical and spiritual nourishment to our children, just as our Heavenly Father gives abundantly to all who ask Him (Luke 11:11-13).This Father’s Day, may we all find true rest and comfort in the healing and merciful embrace of our true Father in heaven, who unreservedly pours out His fatherly mercy, healing power, and grace to all His children each day.
David lusts, rapes, attempts deception, and kills—and yet God's grace is big enough to redeem him.
According to Scripture, the people of God have a higher purpose.Last week, I ended last week’s Elusive Presence essay by saying that thinking of the church primarily in missional terms is a mistake. Specifically, I said, “I believe it is an unbiblical view of the church. And I believe it is an unhealthy diet for the church.” To grasp that first point, I will begin by looking at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians to ground my biblical exposition. While Ephesians it is not a systematic theology of the church, Ephesians is where Paul outlines most deeply and consistently a theology of the church.Paul begins his letter with hardly any warm up; he jumps in by outlining a breathtaking view of history, in which the role of the church is central: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:3-10, NRSV).Note Paul’s understanding of the mind of God (if we can talk in such terms) before the creation of the world: “Before the foundation of the world,” he says, God’s first and ...Continue reading...
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