Christmas Eve Candlelight Service – December 24, 2018

Our annual Christmas Eve celebration of Jesus’ birth ended with candlelights and the singing of ‘Silent Night.’

The Word Became Flesh – December 24, 2018

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory—glory as of the Father’s only Son—full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

“The Word became flesh…” Each of these words is chock full of life-changing significance. While a column like this can only touch the surface of their meaning, I hope the following reflections will serve to increase your love of our Incarnate Savior this Christmas.

The Word… From the first verses of Scripture, we learn that the God of Israel is One who speaks (Genesis 1:1-3). God reveals not only information about His identity but also declares what is good and pleasing in His sight (Genesis 1:4). To hear and obey God’s Word is to believe that what God says “proves true” (Proverbs 30:5) and that God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalms 119:105). What God says to us shapes the course of our lives together as God’s people. Indeed this Word is not far from us (Deuteronomy 30:11-14), and the Word is described as “coming” to the Lord’s prophets, who in turn proclaim God’s Word to God’s people (see Jeremiah 1:2; Ezekiel 1:3; Hosea 1:1; Joel 1:1). While flowers, grass, people, and everything else in God’s creation will shrivel and fade, “the Word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 4:8). But this Word is more than a concept to be analyzed and dissected. On the contrary, this Word is ultimately a Person—God the Son, who was in the beginning with God and who is, in fact, fully God. “Through him all things were made…” (John 1:1-2).

…became flesh… Although this same Word was “in very nature God, He did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Rather, he emptied himself by taking the very form of a servant, being made in human likeness…” (Philippians 2:6-7). Without ever ceasing to be God the Son, the Word became a human being—Jesus of Nazareth—and was born of the virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit. As a result, the Son knew the full breadth of the human experience. He was like us in every way—except He did not succumb to temptation and sin (Hebrews 4:15). His hunger and thirst were just as real as ours, even as His tears of sorrow were just as painful as ours. Most importantly, His shed blood—though infinitely precious—was just as real as ours.

…and dwelt among us… Because the Word became flesh, salvation is both possible and available! In the Word we have more than the perfect leader or teacher; we have Someone who is uniquely capable of saving us from the just penalty of our sins. In the Word made flesh we have more than a fellow traveler on the path of life; we have a High Priest who can offer to God what we could never offer ourselves—namely, a pure and undefiled life.

Hallelujah! What a Savior! Merry Christmas!

Your Pastor,

Monday Youth Lunch – December 17, 2018

At our last Youth Lunch before the holidays, we served barbecue chicken, homemade fries, baked beans, chips and Christmas cookies to 56 students from Leesville Road High School – our largest group so far!  The meal was prepared and served by our Associate Minister of Families, Trevor MacPherson, and two members of the church – Dottie Fogg and Beth Obenschain.  The Youth Lunches will resume in 2019 – date to be announced.

Christmas Concert – December 16, 2018

On Sunday evening, December 16, our Chapel Choir and Orchestra presented “A Celebration of Christmas.”  The Choir met for final instructions before the concert with the director, Dr. Ernie Rushing, and they were joined for a few minutes by a special guest.  The concert began with familiar Christmas songs sung in a street scene and was followed by a more traditional performance of sacred Christmas songs.  Afterward, we enjoyed a reception and fellowship with our many guests.

(You can click on the pictures to see a larger version.)

What God Can Do with a Stump – December 13, 2018


A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse, and a Branch from his roots will bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1).

Evidence of the world’s brokenness is painfully apparent. Surely we can resonate with the cynicism expressed by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow when he penned the following lyrics during the Civil War:

“And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong, And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’”

It seems as if our holiday festivities cannot escape an ever-threatening “yet.”

With the Nicene Creed we confess our hope that the same Jesus who “for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and became incarnate through the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary” will come again one day. Yet we’re also tempted to believe, “Where is this coming he promised? For ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4).

With Isaiah we confess that peace on earth is possible because the “Prince of Peace” has arrived (Isaiah 9:6). Yet we’re also tempted to believe our conflicts—both personal and global—are simply intractable.

With the angels we confess that the birth of Jesus, our Savior, is the source of “great joy for all people” (Luke 2:11). Yet we’re also tempted to believe joy is something we can only experience in fits and starts depending on how we’re feeling on any given day.

With the Gospel of John we confess that God’s love for the world is such that “He sent His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Yet we’re also tempted to believe (and we often act as though) God’s love is something to be earned or lost depending on our own efforts.

Is there any escape from this “yet”? According to the Holy Spirit speaking to us through Isaiah, this “yet” can be pictured as a stump, i.e. an impasse, an insurmountable obstacle, a dead end. God had promised to provide a dynasty to rule Israel in David’s stead. Yet centuries of civil wars, invasions, and exiles had caused this promise to look like a pipe dream. The God of Israel, however, is in the business of bringing forth life from the stumps left in the wake of our sin. Indeed, there is no “yet” that can stand in the way of the glorious truth announced 2,000 years ago: “Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). It is a truth to be received humbly, celebrated joyfully, and proclaimed boldly. It cannot be improved upon or negated by our circumstances. May we, therefore, give thanks for what only God can do with a stump!

Your Pastor,

Children’s Christmas Musical – December 2, 2018

On Sunday evening, December 2, our Children’s Choir presented their musical “Angels Say What?!”  They prepared for several weeks and concluded their preparation with a final dress rehearsal.  Before the musical, they played two Christmas carols with bells and chimes, and a trio of choir members performed a Christmas Medley on their violins. Our thanks to the children and their director, Ernie Rushing, for their musical contribution to this Christmas season.

(You can click on the pictures to see larger versions.)

Setting the Stage for David’s Successor – November 28, 2018

“This child will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give to him the throne of David, his father, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32-33).

According to our 2018 calendars the Advent season will begin on Sunday, December 2. Yet believe it or not, we have actually been celebrating Advent for months now. How so, you ask? To read 1 Samuel is to read about the precursor of the Lord Jesus’ arrival, namely, David. Indeed, we will never fully grasp the significance of the nativity unless the grasp the significance of David. The story of Jesus is tightly intertwined with the story of David. Check out these additional references to see for yourself:

  • This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1, NIV).
  • Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah (Matthew 1:17, NIV).
  • In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary (Luke 1:26-27, NIV).
  • He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (Luke 1:69, NIV).
  • But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20, NIV).
  • So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David (Luke 2:4, NIV).
  • Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord (Luke 2:11, NIV).

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of David, he stepped onto a stage centuries in the making. Faithful Israelites during the first century were not just watching and waiting for any king; they were hoping and praying for God to provide none other than a king like David. As we make our annual trek back to the manger in Bethlehem, therefore, we need to know both what God promised and what God fulfilled in the birth of King Jesus.

Like Israel in the days of Samuel and Saul, as well as Israel during the days of Caesar Augustus, our world desperately needs a King who will reign with justice and righteousness. We need none other than the One who is called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:6b). May He reign forever and ever—starting in our hearts!

Your Pastor,

Ordination Service for Trevor MacPherson – November 18, 2018

Our Associate Minister of Families, Trevor MacPherson, was ordained to the Gospel Ministry at Morning Star Baptist Church in Hickory, NC on November 18, 2018.  The service was led by the church’s pastor, Rev. David E. Roberts, II.  During the service, Trevor was prayed for by our pastor at Tabernacle Baptist church, Rev. Dane Hadley, by all of the ordained pastors attending, and by his mother, Ms. Beverly Snowden.  Several members from Tabernacle traveled to Hickory to participate in the service, including special members from the Tabernacle Student Ministry.

Our congratulations to Trevor on this milestone in his ministry, and our prayers for God’s blessing on him as he serves in our church and community.

(You can click on the pictures to see a larger version.)

Operation Christmas Child Dedication – November 18, 2018

We dedicated 112 boxes for Operation Christmas Child in the Nov. 18, 2018 Worship Service. Our thanks to all of those who contributed items in these boxes which will be distributed to children around the world through the holiday season.

Thanks Be to God – November 15, 2018

I am a wretched man. Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:24-25a).

What’s your personality type? If you don’t already know the answer, there are a bewildering number of tests you can take to find out. These tests will analyze you and categorize you (and further subcategorize you) according to your dominant traits and predispositions. Some assessments will even prescribe certain careers that best align with your personality. While these techniques can be exceedingly helpful in identifying our strengths and overall patterns of behavior, they can present a danger Christians need to avoid.

Sometimes our efforts to understand ourselves can lead us to become trapped inside a static framework. We can think, “I am the way I am, and there is no changing that,” or “people are the way they are.” At its worst this mindset contributes toward fatalistic attitudes. For example, “I’m stuck. The die has been cast. I’ve made my bed, so now all I can do is lie in it.” But usually the peril is far more subtle. Without even realizing what we’re doing, we gradually develop habits that solidify our preferred self-understanding. We justify our actions—whether good or bad—using what I’ll call the “I couldn’t help it” standard. According to this standard, we say what we say (or don’t say) and we do what we do (or don’t do) because we can’t change who we are.

Disciples of Jesus, however, need not rely on the prevailing notions of therapeutic psychology to learn who we are. We believe the Living God has said clearly and authoritatively that radical change is both necessary and possible. In other words, change lies at the heart of the gospel. Apart from Christ we are enslaved to the power of sin. Although we might not be as bad as we could be, even the very best we could offer to God would never earn His favor or grace. Consequently, we are fully deserving of God’s just penalty for sin, namely, eternal death. Yet Jesus, the One who knew no sin, absorbed the judgement we deserved so that God’s righteous anger toward sin might be satisfied and so that we might become the righteousness of God (see 2 Cor. 5:21).

This change comes about through the new birth, whereby the Holy Spirit changes the believer from the inside out. Even though perfect righteousness before God will be impossible to attain in this life, the Spirit is fully able to finish what He begins in us (Phil. 1:6). Don’t succumb to cynicism; instead, trust the Lord to make you more and more like Jesus ever day.

I hope you have a lot to give thanks for this year. Above everything else, though, I pray you’ll take time to thank God for the saving transformation available to us through Christ.

Your Pastor,

Children’s Choir – November 11, 2018

The Children’s Choir led in our Worship Service today with lively music and wooden sticks!

Wherever the Spirit Chooses – November 1, 2018

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. Thus is everyone who has been born of the Spirit (John 3:8).

When I say “born again,” what comes to mind? Most of us, especially if we have any background in an evangelical church, will imagine a high-pressure sermon (“If you died tonight, where would you go? Heaven or hell?”), saying “the sinner’s prayer” and “accepting Jesus” into your heart, walking down the aisle (popularly know as an “altar call”), and being baptized. I praise God for the ways he has used these longstanding means to draw people to Christ and bring about their new birth. It is the nature of sin, however, to manipulate even the best things—including God’s Word (see Genesis 2:2-5). Consequently, I need to warn you about a grave danger that can creep into our understanding of what it means to be born again.

Far too many people have had the gospel presented to them in rigidly formulaic terms. It typically goes something like this, “hear the gospel+say the sinner’s prayer+walk the aisle+get baptized=salvation.” The problem is not the sequence; the problem is the way the sequence is packaged. As a result, two errors come into focus.

First, we risk believing salvation comes down to what we have done instead of what God has done for us. In other words, we’re tempted to think that because we’ve said a certain prayer or taken certain actions, God is thereby obligated to save us. Yet Jesus says the new birth is not subject to human control. Like the wind, the Spirit blows wherever he chooses. Although we can see where the Spirit has been at work, we cannot force the Spirit to do anything. God brings about the new birth, not us.

Second, we risk confusing birth with growth. We think because we have followed the prescribed formula we have sufficiently responded to the gospel. Our ticket to heaven has been punched, we believe, so now we just need to get as many people as possible to get their tickets punched as well. But the new birth is only the beginning of a lifelong process of having the Spirit make us more and more like Christ. We need the same Spirit who gives us new life to help us develop into mature Christians. Sadly, too many Christians remain “mere infants in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). They genuinely love Jesus, but they lack the wisdom and perspective to faithfully follow Jesus through life’s tumultuous trials.

Even though the exact nature of how the Spirit transforms a rebellious sinner into a redeemed child of God will remain a mystery, we can be assured of the fact that the Spirit’s work is unmistakable (see Galatians 5:22-26). I hope you’ll join me in praying for the Holy Spirit to move powerfully throughout our church family and beyond.

Your Pastor,

You Must Be Born Again – October 17, 2018

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless someone is born of water and Spirit, he or she will not be able to enter the Kingdom of God. What is born of flesh is flesh; and what is born of Spirit is spirit. You should not be shocked at my saying to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5-7).

Getting-to-know-one-another questions are pretty predictable: Where are you from? Do you have siblings? Career plans? Favorite food? That’s the kind of thing I was expecting to hear while Scott and I were cooling down after running laps around the Havelock High School track. Since Scott was a 6’8” scholarship-bound senior on the basketball team, I was humbled that he would befriend a lowly freshman like me. We were both active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and he knew my Dad was a pastor. Nevertheless, as we crossed the 200 meter mark on the track, he asked me a question I will never forget: “Have you been born again?”
Some of us might consider that question to be too personal and bordering on intrusive. We consider “are you a Christian?” or “where do you go to church?” to be far safer questions. Our fear of confrontation makes us shy away from Scott’s pointedness. But lately the Spirit has impressed upon my heart both the indispensability and the urgency of this question. It is, after all, the key thing Jesus said to Nicodemus.

Using the “good person” index, Nicodemus ranked highly. He was a man who sought to do right by God and people. As a Pharisee, he not only knew God’s Word, he devoted his life to upholding its commands in scrupulous detail. He even recognized Jesus as a unique teacher from God (John 3:1-2). Yet Jesus told him the primary issue was whether or not the Spirit had brought about a new birth in him. Without embarrassment or apology Jesus said there is no access to God’s Kingdom without being born again.

Despite the distance of nearly two thousand years, the basis of entry hasn’t changed. Nothing short of new birth will suffice. To make it personal, I might say, “Jesus, I’ve given my utmost to ‘rightly divide the Word of truth.’ I’ve faithfully called people to repent and believe the gospel. I’ve been ready ‘in season and out of season.’ Surely that shows how much I love you.” In response, I hear the same response Nicodemus received, “Unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God…”

I pray the Holy Spirit would lead Tabernacle to become a church where being born again is seen for what it is, namely, the most critical issue any person will ever face. Likewise, may the Lord save us from becoming a church of Nicodemuses—merely filling the pews and going through the motions of religion.
What does it mean to be born again, you ask? To be continued…

Your Pastor,

The Disciple’s Encounter – October 3, 2018

Every day they met together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with joyful and humble hearts, praising God and having the favor of all the people (Acts 2:46-47a).

What are your expectations for worship services? If we were to survey our congregation, I suspect we would find a bewildering number of different responses. Some of us key on the music. We expect to know the songs, and we expect them to be performed with excellence. We wonder about the sound and size of the choir—is it improving and growing? Will there be special music that adds variety to the service? Others key on the sermon. Will it be interesting and relevant to my life—or dull and boring? Will the preacher be funny and entertaining? Will it be finished in time for my lunch plans? Still others key on the social dimension. Who is here? Who isn’t here? Why is that person in my pew!

To some extent these are human thoughts that will inevitably cross our minds at some point. We can’t help it. Yet if these remain our only expectations for worship services then we have gravely missed the point of worship. We may enter a worship service having our expectations shaped “according to the flesh” (i.e. by what we want, how we want it, and when we want it), but we must guard against continuing to think along those lines.
How different were our spiritual ancestors in the book of Acts? They understood in a profound way that worship is all about God—not us. We tend to think of ourselves as the audience and whatever happens on stage as the show. In reality, however, God is the primary audience. Everything we say and do in a worship service represents an offering to God. When we sing, we’re singing to God. When we pray, we’re praying to God. When we give our tithes and offerings, we’re giving to support God’s work in the world. When I preach, I’m hoping to preach in a way that honors the God who called me to preach. While my words are addressed to the individuals sitting before me, I try to remain keenly aware of how the Holy Spirit is present and working.

Above every other expectation we may have for worship services, this one should be paramount: we yearn to encounter the living God. The same God who brought the world into existence has purchased our redemption through Christ Jesus and promises to meet us when we come before him in worship. “Where two or more gather in my name, there I am with them” (Matt. 18:20). This is a mind-blowing truth that filled the earliest disciples with unwavering joy and praise. May the Spirit reshape our expectations so that we see worship in the same way—as an awesome opportunity to experience the glorious greatness of our God.

Your Pastor,

The Disciple’s Partnership – September 19, 2018

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42).

Admit it: if I say the word “fellowship” you immediately think “food.” Food may not be the only thing we associate with fellowship, but the two things are no doubt inseparable in our minds. Why is this? At least part of the reason is because eating food at church has become so ingrained in our church culture (especially in a Baptist church culture!). It’s one of the things we do as often as we can together. But there’s also a far more important reason to associate fellowship with food.

Eating food with other people—no matter how different the individuals might be—illustrates a key element standing behind the biblical concept of koinonia, (i.e. fellowship). The root comes from the word koinos, which is often translated as “common” or “shared.” Thus, koinonia pertains to what we have in common with each other. Sharing a meal, moreover, tends to have a leveling effect as we become keenly aware of what unites us as human beings. We ALL need food for survival.

Yet sharing a meal with other believers symbolizes far more than our common humanity. It teaches us and reminds us of our shared partnership in Christ. Every individual who has been born again through the Holy Spirit’s work is grafted into the Body of Christ. As a result, here’s what we have in common:

  • We share the same basis of entry.  Admittance into the company of the redeemed cannot be inherited, bought, sold, earned, or taken by force. It can only be received. We all enter the same way, namely, through the shed blood of Jesus on our behalf.
  • We share the same responsibility.  We are all responsible for ensuring Christ’s church is growing in healthy ways. Although we might have different gifts to contribute, we’re all responsible for contributing what we can.
  • We share the same mission.  The church exists to reach those who are not currently members of the church. We’re called to do everything we can to take the Gospel to the farthest corners of the earth. Missions work is not optional for the believer.
  • We share the same hope.  Ultimately, we are citizens of heaven, not earth. Consequently, we put our trust in Christ and long for the day when our Father’s will is done “on earth as it is in heaven.”

While food has always been a key draw to bring believers together, let’s make sure we know fellowship isn’t limited to the food. The food merely represents our partnership. It’s a partnership I pray we never take for granted. We need each and every member of the Body.

Your Pastor,

New Choir Robes – September 9, 2018

The Chapel Choir members wore their new robes yesterday morning for the first time,  The combination of the recently-added wall projections and the navy blue robes provides a new and different look to the front of the Chapel for our Worship Services.

(Click on the picture to see a larger version.)


The Disciple’s Power – September 6, 2018

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And every soul was in awe at the many signs and wonders being done through the apostles (Acts 2:42-43).

“Did you know we have prayer warriors in our church?” That’s how my ninth grade Sunday School teacher began his lesson one week. “We do,” he said with a believe it-or-not confidence. Since I grew up in a church filled with military personnel, especially gung ho Marines, I felt sure I knew what a “warrior” looked like. But what he said next puzzled me: “A couple of them are sitting in that little office down the hallway.” He pointed to a nook where our two Sunday School secretaries diligently collected attendance sheets and offerings. I knew them as Mrs. Ruth and Mrs. Eunice, two saints whom I can best describe as “sweet little old ladies.” While I certainly held them up as models of mature Christian discipleship, I struggled to consider them as “warriors.” Nevertheless, my teacher described how those dear sisters in Christ had “prayed him through” several tumultuous trials. I discovered I had a lot to learn about the power of prayer.

As evidenced in Acts, our Christian ancestors were convinced prayer is never a waste of time. They believed prayer represented one of the church’s most essential tasks. Indeed, prayer has left an indelible mark upon all the great revivals of history. John Wesley, one of the key leaders of what is known as the First Great Awakening in the 18th century, was known to say he thought very little of a person who didn’t spend at least four hours in prayer every day!

How different is our usual practice today? Far too often we flippantly and reflexively offer our “thoughts and prayers” after any crisis or tragedy. We see it as a mere formality, as something to express our concern. But the kind of prayer demonstrated by the apostles in Acts is far more aggressive—far more warrior-like.

The fundamental problem, I believe, is that our prayers today are almost always defensive prayers and rarely, if ever, offensive prayers. We typically pray in response to something that’s happened, instead of praying proactively. When we pray exclusively defensive prayers we’re implicitly denying what God’s Word promises about prayer—“the prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b). Our spiritual growth and health as a Christian will always be a reflection of our prayer life. Don’t leave this power untapped; it’s freely available to every disciple. Ask! Seek! Knock!

As your pastor, I want you to know I’m praying God would bless you, protect you, and equip you to serve Christ wholeheartedly. I also want you to know how much I appreciate your prayers for me and my family. May the Lord encourage our prayer warriors and raise up more!

Your Pastor,

Church Cookout – September 5, 2018

Our cooks grilled hamburgers and hot dogs outside while we enjoyed eating them inside.  A fun evening of good food, fellowship, and water activities events for the children.

(Click on the pictures to see larger versions.)

The Disciple’s Privilege – August 22, 2018

All the believers were together, and they kept everything in common. They were selling their property and possessions and giving the proceeds to anyone who was in need (Acts 2:44-45).

Giving has played an integral role in the Christian faith from the start. How can we explain this? There was no budget, and there were no pledges toward a budget. There was no stewardship campaign. There was no fiery sermon on the requirement to give a tenth of one’s income (i.e. the tithe). There was no pleading. There was no begging. Yet our Christian ancestors, as recorded in Acts, gave with lavish enthusiasm. Why?

I believe at least part of the reason is because they took the following truth to heart: God doesn’t need our money; it’s already his—all of it. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof, the world and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). All that we have and all that we are belongs to the Sovereign Lord who brought the world into existence. So, if God doesn’t need our money, does that mean we’re absolved from any responsibility to give? On the contrary, this is why the believer must give!

God doesn’t need our money, but he has temporarily entrusted us with whatever we have so that we can make Kingdom-building investments. These investments, in turn, reflect glory back onto the One who gave the “seed money” (cf. Matt. 25:14-30). Such is God’s economy. The disciple’s privilege, therefore, is to pour as much as we can into God’s ordained instrument for carrying out the Great Commission, namely, the Church. In keeping with his character revealed throughout the Scriptures, God has graciously chosen to use a perennially-flawed organization filled with broken vessels to bring about his Kingdom on earth. So how can we exercise this privilege?

1. Give regularly (1 Cor. 16:2). As evidenced by the column to the right, summers can be brutal for churches. God’s Mission doesn’t take a summer break. The expenses required to support ministers, ministries, and missionaries are yearlong. May we give accordingly.

2. Give cheerfully (2 Cor. 8:1-5). Don’t give because of guilt or angst. That’s not the point of this column. Give because you have the privilege to give. Give because of what you’ve been given through Christ—salvation from the penalty of sin and eternal life.

3. Give generously (2 Cor. 9:6-11). We worship a God who is unfathomably generous in mercy and grace. So much so that Christ Jesus, the Son of God, became not only a human being but a forsaken human condemned to die a tortuous death. “Although he was rich, he become poor for your sake, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9b). I pray our giving would mirror at least a fraction of the generosity we’ve been shown in Christ.

Your Pastor,

The Disciple’s Diet – August 8, 2018

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles…(Acts 2:42a)

It’s no coincidence that immediately after Luke reports the conversion of over three thousand people he describes what these new disciples were taught (Acts 2:41-42). This is the sequence we find in the Great Commission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Thus, sound doctrinal teaching lies at the heart of what it means to be a church that is growing in healthy ways.

But, let’s be honest, many of us equate teaching with tediously theoretical issues. The word “doctrine” itself may turn us off because we associate it with a disproportionately intellectual faith disconnected from the practical problems of life. Some, for example, might say, “Why can’t we just keep it simple. Love God and love your neighbor. Isn’t that what Jesus was all about? Let’s not make it more complicated than it needs to be.”

While the Lord Jesus provided us with a helpful means of prioritizing our biblical interpretations around loving God and loving neighbors, he was not giving us a free pass on wrestling with the whole counsel of God. Such reductionistic views of the faith are founded upon the ever-shifting sands of human opinion, not the Rock of our salvation. God has been gracious enough to preserve and to deliver a robust body of teaching contained in the 66 books of the Bible. Not only that, he has promised the ultimate Author—the Holy Spirit—will continue to help us understand what we need to know. To be sure, there’s a lot we don’t know and will never know in this life. Yet we can’t allow what we don’t know to keep us from studying and obeying what God has clearly stated in his Word.

When Jesus was starving in the desert, Satan tempted him to cave in to his human craving for food. In response, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3— “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:1-4). As Jesus’ disciples today, we’re called to digest the same spiritual diet. It’s the same diet that has nourished disciples for two thousand years! To disregard it by only sampling meager portions on the weekends will inevitably result in scrawny, underdeveloped disciples.

Mature, muscular discipleship comes from regularly feasting on the abundance of God’s Word. “Solid food is for the mature, for those who through diligent practice have learned to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). Let’s pay more attention to what we’re consuming spiritually. It will make all the difference between feeling famished and feeling “strong in the Lord.”

Your Pastor,