If Jesus Came To McDowell County

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10 ESV)

If Jesus came to McDowell County I am convinced he would not call a meeting of local pastors. I don’t think he would attend a Wednesday night prayer service or Sunday morning worship. I don’t think he would make house calls to long-time church members.

However…

I think he would go to McDowell County jail, talk with an anxious inmate awaiting trial, confront his sin and invite him to follow Him.

I think he might go to McDowell High School, eat lunch with students and share how he is the sum total of all their longings and desires.

I think he would knock on the door of a single mom, rock her child to sleep and tell her how he can fill her lonely heart.

I think he would intercept the drug dealer (he may pull out the whip on this one!), confront him with his sin and invite him to become a fisher of men.

I think he would head to Mount Mitchell, look down on McDowell County, and weep over the 65% who are lost.

But Jesus isn’t coming to McDowell County. He sent you. He sent me.

Backing Down or Stepping Up?

It’s Wednesday and I’ve decided to include an excerpt from a book I’m reading. This week it’s Counter Culture by David Platt.

Elizabeth Rundle Charles, commenting on Martin Luther’s confrontation of key issues in his day, says:

It is the truth which is assailed in any age which tests our fidelity. . . . If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proven, and to be steady on all the battle fronts besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.

Here’s the question to ponder: where are you backing down when you should be stepping up?

5 Symptoms of a Contagious Christian

contagiousIn 2014 fear struck West Africa and the rest of the world with the outbreak of the ebola virus. Officials scrambled to get a handle on this monstrous disease. Thousands died as the virus spread quickly. The ebola virus is spread through direct contact with blood or bodily fluids. The danger lies in the reality someone isn’t contagious until they begin to show symptoms. By then it is often too late. They have already infected another person.

What if Christianity were that contagious. What if the news reports of West Africa and Western North Carolina included stories of how Christianity was spreading rapidly, thousands being converted as they come into direct contact with other believers. What “symptoms” are necessary for Christianity to once again be an outbreak? Here’s my list:

  1. Passion.  So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (Acts 5:39-42 ESV) The apostles rejoiced that they were beaten for preaching the gospel!
  2. Compassion.  And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:35-36 ESV) Jesus was touched to the spleen (the word “compassion” is derived from the word “spleen”) by the harassed people around him.
  3. Mission.   And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49 ESV) Jesus looked at his earthly mom and dad and told them he had to follow his heavenly Father. He was a boy on a mission even at the age of 12.
  4. MessageAnd I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2 ESV) John Newton stated this succinctly, “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”
  5. Method.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23 ESV) There was a method to Paul’s madness. Every effective ministry has an effective method. While the message never changes, the methods must change.

If you were examined by the Center for Disease Control for being a contagious Christian, would you have all the symptoms?

Counter Culture

Just last week I purchased David Platt’s new book Counter Culture. I’ve only read the introduction. It’s worth sharing (and it looks like it’s going to be a worthy read.)

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What if Christ in us actually compels us to counter our culture? Not to quietly sit and watch evolving cultural trends and not to subtly shift our views amid changing cultural tides, but to courageously share and show our convictions through what we say and how we live, even (or especially) when these convictions contradict the popular positions of our day. And to do all of this not with conceited minds or calloused hearts, but with the humble compassion of Christ on constant display in everything we say and do.

Isn’t this, after all, the essence of what it means to follow Christ in the first place? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Talk about countercultural. In a world where everything revolves around yourself–protect yourself, promote yourself, comfort yourself, and take care of yourself–Jesus says, “Crucify yourself. Put aside all self-preservation in order to live for God’s glorification, no matter what that means for you in the culture around you.”

And isn’t this, after all, the main issue in any culture? Maybe better stated, isn’t he the main issue in any culture? What if the main issue in our culture today is not poverty or sex trafficking, homosexuality or abortion? What if the main issue is God? And what might happen if we made him our focus instead? In a world marked by sex slavery and sexual immorality, the abandonment of children and the murder of children, racism and persecution, the needs of the poor and the neglect of the widow, how would we act if we fixed our gaze on the holiness, love, goodness, truth, justice, authority, and mercy of God revealed in the gospel?

Well said. I’m sure I’ll be sharing more.

Everyone in Everything

…just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:33 ESV)

Taking Scripture out of context is dangerous. If you read 10:33 without reading 10:31, you will become the quintessential chameleon–blending in everywhere you go, pleasing everyone you know, becoming whoever you’re with. So here goes verse 31:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)

If God’s glory is your highest aim, pleasing others can be your second aim. You will please God and others. If God’s glory is your highest goal, then pleasing others can be your second goal and you won’t become a “people pleaser.” For Paul it is a question of motive. Why does he please everyone in everything?

“…that they may be saved.” 

Paul glorifies God and pleases others hoping that it will result in the salvation of others. This is why a believing wife will respect her unbelieving husband–not seeking her own advantage–but hoping that he may be saved. This is the reason the father of a wayward child will appear to capitulate–not seeking his own advantage—but wishing that his son may be saved. This is why a friend will bend over backward to help an unbelieving friend–not seeking her own advantage–but praying that her friend will be saved.

Who is your everyone? What is the everything you can do so that he or she may be saved?

Why the Hope of America is Graduating This Weekend (Part Two)

Assaults. Bank robberies. Profanity. Women fearing for their safety. Who would have thought that the late 1700’s looked like this in the very young United States. Change was on the horizon and its source was as surprising as the moral demise of the young nation. J. Edwin Orr continues:

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Then, suddenly, at the turn of the century, the nation made a spiritual about-face that affected every level of society–from the frontiers to the college campuses. The beginning of this dramatic change can be traced to Hampden Sydney College in Virginia. In 1787, with the moral climate there deteriorating rapidly, five non-Christian students decided to hold a prayer meeting to ask for God’s help. They locked themselves in a room, for fear of the other students, and kept their voices down so they would not be caught. However, the other students discovered them and tried to break down the door.

The president rebuked them saying, “You don’t mind cheating, you, don’t mind stealing from rooms, you don’t mind the lying and the profanity you get on this campus, but you object to a prayer meeting. Well, I do not!” He then knocked on the door and said authoritatively, “This is the president of the college speaking. Will you please come out?” The students unlocked the door and came out not knowing what to expect. President Smith said, “Gentlemen, come to my study, we’ll pray there together.” This prayer meeting marked the beginning of American campus revivals during the Second Great Awakening of the 1790s and early 1800s. Not only did half the students at Hampden Sydney College turn to Christ as a result, but the revival also spread to local churches and to other schools, having similar effects.

Who would shave thought that a much needed revival for a nation faltering early in its history would have come from college students? What about James Madison or Thomas Jefferson? God used unknown college students to bring a wave of revival that affected an entire nation.

Orr continues:

In college after college, students formed similar Christian fellowships. At Harvard, Bowdoin, Brown, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Williams, and Andover, students began to meet and pray. The students at Brown formed the College Praying Society which met in a private room “for fear of disturbance from the impenitent.” In December 1802, at Harvard, seven students formed the Saturday Evening Religious Society, which also met secretly. At Yale, president Timothv Dwight regularly preached apologetical messages in chapel, hitting the relativistic philosophy of the day head-on with such talks as “Are the New Testament Documents Reliable?” As a result of the Christians’ prayer and Dwight’s powerful presentations, one third of Yale’s student body accepted Christ in 1802.

I am convinced that America’s hope will walk across the stage this weekend…not across the political stage next fall. Yes, we need a godly president. We need God’s man or woman to lead this country. However, both Great Awakenings in the United States have found their roots in revival among college students.

Will you be that student? What will happen on your campus this fall?

Why the Hope of America is Graduating This Weekend

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23 ESV)

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This week hundreds of students will graduate from McDowell High School–hundreds of thousands from schools across the United States. What could happen if the thousands of Christian students graduating this week showed up on college campuses this fall with an agenda: to rock that campus for Christ. In order to better understand this, let’s step back in time to 1790. J. Edwin Orr, longtime professor at Fuller Seminary, shares this:

In 1790 America had won its independence, but it had lost something as well. In the wake of the Revolutionary War, French infidelity, deism, and the generally unsettled condition of society had driven the moral and spiritual climate of the colonies to an all-time low. Drunkenness was epidemic; profanity was of the most shocking kind; bank robberies were a daily occurrence; and far the first time in the history of the American settlement women were afraid to go out at night for fear of being assaulted.

Surprised! Colleges were seedbeds of apostasy and debauchery. Orr continues:

A poll taken at Harvard revealed not one believer in the whole student body. Conditions on campus had degenerated to the point that all but five at Princeton were part of the “filthy speech” movement of that day. While students there developed the art of obscene conversation, at Williams College they held a mock communion, and at Dartmouth students put on an “anti-church” play.  In New Jersey the radical leader of the deist students led a mob to the Raritan Valley Presbyterian Church where they burned the Bible in a public bonfire. Christians were so few on the average campus and were so intimidated by the non-Christians that they met in secret. They even kept their minutes in code so no one could find out about their clandestine fellowship.

America seemed to be on a hopeless trajectory toward devastation when 1790 happened. Tomorrow we will talk about how a group of students impacted an entire country. Wow!

Why Lebron James Works so Hard

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV)

lebronjames23Last night the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors in an overtime thriller. It is quite an accomplishment to beat the Warriors in their own house, especially without the assistance (or literally assists) of Kyrie Irving. It was an impressive win. James had 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. The Cavs won game 18 of their last 20. What a game!

When we watch games we’re only privy to a sliver of the action–what we don’t see is the daily regimen athletes endure. Paul, writing here of the Greek games in his day, says every athlete exercises self-control in all things. Athletes in the ancient games were required to practice 10 months (and no nothing else but practice) before the games. Today, athletes prepare four years before the Olympics. Sometimes that preparation is for a 10 second sprint in the 100 meter. At other times it is for the best attempt at the triple jump. Four years is condensed into 18 feet!

They do it to obtain a perishable wreath. In Paul’s day the “medal” was a wreath made of leaves. It withered and died. Today it is a gold, silver, or bronze medallion. It will one day melt when the earth is consumed in fire. It is perishable too. Lebron is playing for another championship ring–two are not enough. How serious is he? Recently he shared his daily diet routine:

  • Meal 1 (6.25am): Whole wheat bagel with 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1/2 cup of strawberries, 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • Meal 2 (9.30 am): 1-cup orange juice, 1 banana, 1 scoop protein power with 1 cup of milk (low fat).
  • Meal 3 (12 noon): Lean roast beef with whole-wheat bun. Lettuce, tomato, 2 tablespoons of mustard, low fat cheddar cheese, and a 1-cup milk (low fat).
  • Meal 4 (2.30 pm): 1/2 cup blueberries, 1-cup low fat natural yogurt, 1/2 glass milk, and one granola bar.
  • Meal 5 (5.00 pm): 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup milk, 1 cup orange juice, an 1 cup low fat strawberry yoghurt (with or without 1.2 tablespoon of honey)
  • Meal 6 (8.30 pm): 11/2 cup small broccoli, 1/2 cup rice, 1/3 cup orange juice, 3 oz chicken breasts, sliced water chestnuts (4 ounces) and 1.2 tablespoon virgin oil

Now you’re feeling bad about that doughnut you just finished eating.

Paul says that we compete for an imperishable wreath. Our wreath is not our entry into heaven. It isn’t even hearing God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It is others. Don’t miss this. He says, “lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” In verse one Paul called the Corinthian believers his workmanship and the seal of his apostleship.

If you’re a parent of teenagers, they are your imperishable wreath. If you’re an employer, your employees are your imperishable wreath. Teachers…students. Coaches…athletes. Doctors…patients.  Neighbors…neighbors. You get the picture.

Do they matter to you as much as a third championship ring to Lebron?

Rescue Station or Country Club?

Consider the following quote from J.D. Greear’s book, Jesus Continued:

hand“In every age, the church faces the danger of degrading itself from a movement to a place, from a conduit of God’s mighty, rushing wind to a sacred place where we seek serene, spiritual moments; from a rescue station to a spiritual country club.” (page 49)

What the church is not.

The church is not a building. If it were, and it happened to be destroyed by fire, the church would no longer exist. Since the church is not a building, you don’t go to church on Sunday. You are the church Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The church is not deposit account from which we make withdrawals when we need God. If it were, worship would be all about what I could get rather than what God has done. Church services would be little more than customer satisfaction events appeasing those who attend.

The church is not a country club. If it were, you could buy your way in and sign yourself out when the club voted on a rule you didn’t like. Your position in the club would depend on your ability to pay the club’s bills.

What the church is.

The church is a movement. It is dynamic, not static; changing, not stagnate. It got its start with a mighty rushing wind that swept through the upper room, swept the disciples off their feet and into the streets of Jerusalem and to all parts of the known world.

The church is a conduit. Through it flow the grace of God, the Gospel of the cross, the compassion of the Savior. Through God’s church, grace flows in and grace flows out. When grace ceases flowing out, the church ceases to be the church.

The church is a rescue station. As soon as someone is rescued, their attention turns to the dying people around them. They want to rescue others. For 2,000 years the church has rescued the perishing.

Who is within your arm’s reach today? Who is drowning in sin crying out for a Savior?

Our Impossibility: God’s Possibility

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. (Luke 19:1-3 ESV)

Luke makes three observations about Zacchaeus that don’t seem to jive:

  • He was a chief tax collector. He was hated, disregarded, despised, reviled. He trained others to be turncoats. You might say he didn’t only do drugs, he sold them. He was the chief tax collector.
  • He was rich. In Jesus’s encounter with the rich young ruler in chapter 18 He revealed the difficulty rich people have in entering the kingdom of heaven.  But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:23-25 ESV)

And then there’s the third observation…

  • …and he was seeking to see who Jesus was. The hated, cheating tax collector was interested in Jesus.

Don’t underestimate the drawing power of Jesus. Don’t miss the rest of the rich young ruler story:

Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:26-27 ESV)