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Death Be Not Proud

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.”

– John Donne

Death is an ever pressing reality in our world today. From the war torn Middle East to our home in America, death seems to reign supreme in our world. No one can escape it. Everyone is affected by it. So how should a Christian react to death’s proud presence in our lives? For the Christian, we have a paradoxical view on the realities of death. Paul told the Galatians that, “to die is gain” but the reality is death does not feel like gain. We feel little “gain” when a loved grandparent passes away. We feel little “gain” when thousands are slaughtered in a mass genocide. We feel little “gain” when a small child struggles daily with the pains of death until finally Death overcomes it’s victim. What then should our reaction be? Is this God’s will that Death should viciously take and take, until there is nothing left?

In Genesis 3 we witness an event that would change our world forever. God’s warning to Adam was clear, “the day that you eat of (the fruit) you shall surely die.” The Great Deception of Man not only brought sin into the world, but this event introduced us to our long time enemy Death. Death then is an effect of sin, it is the fruit of a fallen world. The first reaction a Christian should have toward Death is that we should detest it. We should loathe death, and the reality of death should cause us to loathe sin even more. Where there is no sin, there is no death. Death is a constant reminder that we live in a fallen world.

Death has been Conquered:

Death, however, should not cause us to question the Sovereignty of God. God is the Creator, and death is just a creation. Death may be a consequence of man’s sin, but death is limited by God’s grace. It is God’s will that we live in a fallen world, and death comes along with that, but God has not left us to struggle with sin alone. When a Christian is face to face with death, we should hate sin more, but praise God for his graciousness. God is well known for using evil for good, and that’s exactly what he does concerning death. Is God not gracious in taking a Christian early to heaven? When we realize the superiority of being in the continual presents of God, we realize that God uses the horrific reality of death as a tool of grace. God shames death by taking what death has meant for evil and using it for good. We also know that God ultimately defeated death by the cross. The resurrection was God’s confirmation that Jesus has indeed bridged the gap between man and God. Death has been defeated and is now on a timer. When Christ returns to usher in the consummation of his church, death will be done away with for good, sin will be no more, and we will see Christ face to face. This is the reason Paul could say that for him, “to die is gain.” For a Christian, death is just a passage we take to live with Christ forever more. Death leads us on to heaven to see our reward. We should not fear death, but should instead boast in our God who has defeated death.

Jesus is the only ailment to the stings of death:

Still death is a hard pill to swallow. Thank God that he is the Great Comforter. When we experience the stings of death, we must run to our Heavenly Father and be comforted by his great love and grace. We must trust his sovereign choice in death. He is not in a dualistic battle with death. He is all powerful, and his hands are not tied by any created thing. So if we think lightly of God we will think heavily of death, but if we esteem God to his rightful place, and acknowledge that he is God, then the fact that death has been defeated will become a reality in our lives, and we will cast ourselves before our loving Creator, who through his sons’ substitutionary death accomplished our salvation, and worship him.

These realities should cause us to join with John the Apostle who said in Revelation, “Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.”

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Better Ballplayer than Pastor?

Confession:

I realized something this week. I’m a better NBA Basketball player than I am a pastor. Yep, you read that correctly, I’m a better National Basketball Association Basketball player than I am a pastor. If you know anything about my life, then you know I’m barely 6 feet tall and I have a love for sweets that causes me to be a little too out of shape to jump at least in real life. You see, in my video game I’m a 6’8 athletic machine. I’m the lead scorer in the NBA and a five, yes FIVE, time NBA Finals MVP. I just signed a 5 year, 22 million dollar contract with the Indiana Pacers, and, boy, my life is good! The only problem with this is that it’s not real life.

This is My Problem:

In real life, I’m a 22 year old brand new pastor and husband. I’ve learned something this week. Being an effective Pastor is hard. Being a loving husband is tough. Reality hit me like a rock. Life is hard. Monday morning I hit the snooze button five times, finally turning off my phone, and sleeping another hour. I went to my office to start on my sermon for Sunday only to come up with nothing. I wrestled for about 15 minutes with my text not knowing where to begin. After getting frustrated, I got on twitter to keep up with SEC Media Days. Then my wife came in to remind me we needed to go 35 miles away to the nearest Belk to shop for our niece. Groaning, I reminded her I was “busy” at work. After rereading the text and still finding no direction, I called it a day, went to our living room, and entered my fantasy world as an NBA Player. I wish I could say this was a one time event, but Tuesday I did almost the same thing. Whenever being a pastor got difficult I fled to the comfort of my fantasy world.

Being an NBA Player is Just Easier:

Now I’m not saying video games are of the devil. I’m not the water boy’s famous Momma. What I am saying is that when life got hard and I had the choice of fight or flight, I flew every time. I wish I could say I discovered this dangerous error myself, but the Lord wouldn’t allow me that chance to boast. Instead, he had my beautiful wife, Jordan, point it out to me. She came in one night while I was playing for the third time that day and said, “You really are playing Xbox a lot lately. You could be doing more productive things.” I knew all too well that what she was saying was true. You see it’s easier to play video games or watch T.V. or go fishing or do anything else in the world than to work to be a better pastor or husband.

This is Our Problem:

But I don’t think I’m the only one with this problem. In fact the Apostle Paul talks about straining forward in his sanctification, or his process of becoming more like Christ. Because of the sinful nature that we’re born with becoming more like Christ is not an easy process. Paul says this is Philippians 3:12-14 “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” You see, Paul tells us here that life does get hard, but because, “Christ Jesus has made me his own” I strain and fight against my laziness and slothfulness and my sinfulness to what lies ahead: the prize of full salvation. The prize that guarantees that one day I won’t be struggling with my weaknesses because I’ll be perfected in Christ.

By The Grace of God:

Yes, I may be a better NBA player, but I want to work toward what actually matters in life: becoming a better Pastor for the people Christ has set before me, and more importantly becoming more like Christ my Savior. By his grace, I know He’ll accomplish this work in me, not because I’m faithful – but in spite of my faithlessness – because He is faithful.

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Christian, Movie, Society, Uncategorized

Noah?

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah seems to be the next big event that has Evangelical Christians parting quicker than the Red Sea.  Christian blog FINALLY have something to write about.  Should we go?  Should we boycott it?  Should we storm the gates of Hollywood Bibles in hand, ready to protest in the streets?  Before we start sharpening our pitchforks, here are a few quick things to consider.

1. Hollywood is not a Christian entity.  Hollywood is not Christian, nor do they claim to be.  What did we expect?  The Bible tells us that spiritual things are foolishness to those of the flesh (1 Corinthians 2:14).  Hollywood didn’t promise us an exegetically correct film that stands for Christian values.  So let’s not act surprised here.  If we get upset at the LGBT organization for acted “shocked” that evangelical Christian organizations support the biblical view marriage, then we can’t respond the same way when a non-Christian organization isn’t as biblical as we want.

2. The Story of Noah isn’t as “picture perfect” as we’ve made it.  Go to any church nursery in the South and what do you see?  A depiction of the story of Noah, complete with smiling animals and Noah smiling from ear to ear.  Like so many stories in Genesis, we’ve made them into cutesy stories, but the reality is these were real life events involving real life people.  God the Just was judging the sinful mass of humanity for the crimes they had committed.  Noah and his family were graciously saved from this judgment.  As the rains poured down, the reality of God’s judgment probably hit Noah and his family with a force.  Their neighbors stood outside the arch condemned because of their wickedness.  This isn’t a story that is exclusively the children’s bedtime story we’ve made it.

3.  Let’s make lemonade.  When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?  This is the situation we find ourselves in.  Lost people are flocking to this movie based on a Biblical event that is a perfect depiction of the severity of sin, the righteousness of a Sovereign God, and the grace and mercy of that same God upon those he loves.  What makes more sense, condemning the movie or using this a springboard to present the gospel?  There is a judgment coming, Christ is our perfect Ark in which we can escape the righteous wrath of God upon our wickedness.  There is no other shelter.  No other covering.  Let’s proclaim this with a voice that drowns out the sound of other’s complaints.

4.  All things are permissible, but not all are beneficial.  This movie will not condemn you to hell, but we do have to approach any movie with discernment.  Even “Christian” movies should be approached with discernment.  For example, the movie, “Heaven is For Real” is coming out soon.  To take our views about heaven from a film based upon a four year olds experience instead of looking to the Bible is just as bad as accepting the movie of Noah as the way it really happened.  Let’s check what we’re affirming by comparing it to the Bible.  Whether or not you go see Noah or not is your prerogative and in between you and God.  However the bigger issue is whether or not we decided to be people that exhibit grace toward a lost generation or whether we just want to argue about it between ourselves some more.

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Uncategorized

Is Drinking a Sin?

I normally don’t billboard the fact that I’m a minister in public (by billboard, I mean I don’t wear a t-shirt that says “Youth Pastor” on it). Not that I’m ashamed of my profession or religion, but because I try to build a relationship with someone before I drop the “Minister” bomb. When I do finally drop the “M” bomb, I get the strangest reactions. The most frequent reaction comes at a surprise. The reaction is a question: “Well you don’t think drinking is a sin, do you?” Instead of answering this question (that’s right, you’ve been mislead) I think as evangelical Christians we should ask ourselves a different question.

A Different Question

Why is this a lost person’s first reaction when finding out we’re Christian? Yes, part of the problem is the fact that non-Christians don’t think in spiritual terms (these things are foolishness to them) but we can’t just blame them and not examine ourselves. As Christians, specifically Southern Baptists, we’ve done a great job at telling our society what we stand against, but I think we might have fallen short in telling them what we stand for. Let me clarify, I’m not suggesting that we take an accepting roll when it comes to sin, but what I am suggesting is that we start preaching a gospel that transforms. When we preach against drinking or smoking cigarettes or gambling, we’re only dealing with the symptoms. There is a deeper problem.

The Real Problem

The real issues here is that the sinner is dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). He does not respond to any spiritual stimuli so therefore he has no desire to act like a saint, nor does he have the power to act like a saint even if he wanted to. What he needs is not a lecture on the wiles of gambling, but a new heart. He needs a gospel that transforms. After Christ makes alive a lost person, then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we as the church can help them conform their life to biblical teachings. When we try to clean a person up before they come to church we’re essentially teaching a works-based salvation. We must remember the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 1:9, that God saved us, “not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace”. So often when the focal point of our preaching is against something we end up setting up the person trapped in that sin as our enemy. We look at the teenage unwed mother as irresponsible and foolish instead of having compassion on them. We see a drunk instead of a human being who needs the grace of God. Maybe we should take a page out of our Savior’s book. Did he compromise sin in his conversation with the woman at the well? No. Did he give her a 45 minute sermon gracelessly condemning her lifestyle of lust? No! He did, however, preach to her a Savior who could change her life! Oh, the difference this made in her life! May we strive to do the same in our culture today!

The Challenge

The challenge we have is a very ambitious one. What if we lived in such a way that lost people asked us a different question? What if when they found out we were Christians they asked us, “Do you really believe in the saving power of Christ? Do you really believe that God cares enough to show us grace?” Yes, we do believe in a God who saves and we believe it enough to preach Christ and him crucified to all we know. 

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