Scripture speaks of the power of Christ. The power of the cross, the authority of Jesus, the power of the gospel etc. all speaks to the power of Christ. While you may consider the power of Christ the manifestation of miracles, supernatural knowledge or signs, the reality is that the apostles make the claim that the power of Christ most glorious is the transformed heart of the believer toward truth and love for the brethren. Teaching through John’s writings gives us a constant reminder of this fact. That there are many who “live” in a manner they feel is worthy of Jesus Christ in their own eyes, but when they refuse fellowship with others, they, in turn, are displaying “unregenerate” powerlessness. 

Paul speaks to the Corinthian church about the power of Christ. He says that he will know if Christ is in them if they heed the authority of his writing and instruction. Mainly, that they forsake themselves and “COMPLETE” all the restoration between them. This means that they will be intimate, together, free, and in fellowship. 

2 Corinthians 13:11–14 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Several hours, if not days can be expended on this holistic reality. But for now, let’s say this. One of the primary expressions of regeneration is that we are sealed by the same Spirit. God the Holy Spirit in us brings our unity and because of this, there is NOTHING that can separate us from the Lord and from each other. When factions come between the church and cause people to scatter, it is always wicked. Sometimes it is due to ignorance but most of the time these things happen because of an active and living flesh. IF we have the same Spirit within us there is nothing that would cause divorce amongst the brethren.

In the end, this teaching is extrapolated continually throughout the New Testament through the instruction and commandments for every Christian to be subject to the Word, the Elders of the church, the Assembly (that is the church, only when it gathers) and exercising the gifts God has given them for the benefit of the assembly. We can feel justified in doing “home” studies and “online” sermons, but in reality, that type of existence as a believer is a continual rebellion against the teaching of God. So, in the sense of the text, true regeneration produces a complete unity that nothing will stop and to say otherwise is to refuse to love the brethren, thus, according to John, the Love of God is not in us. 

We may see that all the works of the law, all the dressing of worldly “righteousness” and all the prayers, pleadings, purity and the like are not the measure of the Power of Christ in us. But it is the evidence of TRUTH by the LOVE we have for each other. Love well beloved by the grace that is YOURS in Jesus Christ!  Amen.  While this is not exhaustive, it is truth. Are you listening?

angerxmasIt never fails, for many during the holiday season comes the “Jerry Springer” show right to their front door.  It really is a fact and for so long I wondered what made relational conflict so abundant during the time when people are off of work, enjoying friends and family and receiving so much in way of food and gifts.  Then one day it hit me, the reason that “domestic” issues arise so often in the this season is because people are actually together.  So there it is, the answer to the life-long mystery of why fighting is greater during the holidays… because when sinners get together, they compound exponentially their sin quotient.  What else can you expect?  I mean, when one dog is playing in the yard it’s fun but throw three more in there, well someone is going to get bitten or run over.  Sorry for the silly metaphor but in all reality, the reason that the holidays bring less than joyful relational conflict is because I believe that being around others brings out the TRUENESS of our character and heart.

It is simple and easy to maintain good relationships when you email, text, tweet, card, share, facebook, and other things sporadically throughout the year.  The sad reality is that without the power of the gospel in our lives, all of us would spend our days in silent or showcased aggravation and animosity.  The good news is that Christ empowers His people to walk in unity and power and forgiveness.  When one claims to be in Christ but cannot walk in holy affection, it really calls into question as to whether that “one” is truly born again.  We can all blame others on our feelings and sad times and say that “we don’t know what it’s like to have an uncle like that” but the root of the problem is sin.  It is at the core of every human heart and until the gospel of Jesus Christ reaches that heart and the spirit of God transforms that heart it will always have problems.  For believers though, we are able to overcome such things as we bear the sins of others, forgive those who sin against us and realize that no one has sinned toward us as grossly as we ourselves have sinned against God.

He alone is holy and we are not.  But, we are made righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ who makes certain that all who believe are free from the bondage and consequence of sin in the face of God’s wrath.  Therefore, we are able to work through differences, heartaches, bad times and bad holidays.  When you feel that urge to break into the Christmas Spirit of throwing a fit and saying that one thing that shouldn’t be said, remember that Jesus remained silent when He was accused of sin.  He became sin that we might become the righteousness of God and for that we are forever made right and able to forgive others.  Seek peace as long as it is up to you and hold fast to Jesus who made you.  Make this “Christ”mas truly about the Christ by portraying His heart and attitude in our dealings toward others.

Romans 12:9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

For His Glory,

J

“It doesn’t get any better than this…” I thought as I looked at my infant daughter surrounded by my four other children and bride of 18 years. Something wells up inside when I see the glorious beauty of my family and in the best of humility, I praise God for them and for His grace to afford me such joy in their lives and learnings. Holding an infant is one of those rare opportunities that few people actually do experience. I know for my other four children, their infant stages are a blur, mainly due to my double time activity schedule and pressure of ministry and the hail storms of expectations I placed on myself during those seasons. But this time it’s different. We are not burdened under a yolk of worldly expectations, but under the yolk of Jesus Christ. Therefore, this season in life is superb and grand in the scheme of them all and for this I am very thankful.

On the other hand, as I peel through the layers of what it all means and discern whether my esteem is idolatry or Christ-centered gratitude, it struck my heart, that this is NOT the best of times and that even though it comes easy to say that “it doesn’t get any better than this” I have fallen prey, just a moment, to the wrong point of focus. I know can hold my family and look wonderfully and joyfully into the reality that is God’s gracious mercy in them and say, “It Surely is gonna get better than this!” I have to think through this carefully so all can follow my thoughts. No better place to start than the beginning…

A Wedding

That wonderful Spring day in 1996 was the first time that I felt such things when as the doors of the vestibule opened for my eyes to gaze upon the bride of my soul.  Her beauty lodged glory into my heart that quickly grew in my throat as I was unable to swallow and I thought, “It doesn’t get any better than this…”  All the dreams and hopes and visions of what will be and for the most part, sans a few pebbles (and larger stones) along the way, it has be greater than I could ever have imagined.  But in all reality as Christ has revealed Himself more and more I see that the fullness of joy that came that day is a taste, a very very small taste of the complete and eternally full joy that will come when Christ and I are together along with my bride and my family, not as we are today, but as siblings in the same body!  The marriage of man and woman is a myopic pointer to the day of Christ’s return for His bride for whom He died.  My bride stood, and still does, at the door of that church in all beauty and splendor and one day, I too will stand as she stood, not just in dress and intention, but in pure righteousness.  It does get better than this, but this is good because it shows us just what we have yet to see! (Ephesians 5:25-)

Birth

Now having five children may seem like excess, but among our circles of friends across the globe, we are the minimalists and are about 40-60% complete as some would say.  But just in my introductory thoughts, the birth of a child is an amazing thing.  It reveals so much about the majesty of God’s power and how He alone can put all things together. (Col 1)  The miracle of life is so much more than just being well loved and having great and deep affection for a child; it bears the image of its Creator, a God who gives birth, not just physically to His creatures, but Spiritually as well.  Scripture teaches us that through suffering comes glory.  This is true in the whole of Biblical history and most specifically, it is true for the Christ, the Son of God who came to die in order to perfectly save sinners who were already dead.  Six weeks ago today we had just ended a 21 plus hour induction with cesarean and the fear at times was overwhelming and inexplicable. God’s grace carried us through and through all the suffering, all the darkness, all the fear, all the “dashed” dreams came LIFE.  A new life, not just one working out kinks and trying to be better or different, but NEW.  Completely fresh, a new beginning in this world.  I reflected on all the other four births and likewise, they all came the same way, though with different circumstances, they all had the same song: suffering yields life.  Jesus Christ came to suffer to bring life and the apostles tell us clearly that we who are in Christ will suffer like He suffered but in the end: Glory.  See 1 Peter chapter 1 for more on this.  In this way, my wife suffered so that life could emerge.  Jesus saves His own through His flesh and blood.  How amazing our God is to help us see His glorious good in our suffering.  We come out on this side, joyfully aware of this little blessing of life and joyfully aware of the grave suffering that our Lord endured for us.  “Light Momentary Affliction” prepares us for a weight of glory.

Rejoicing

So now the glorious part of all of this.  “It doesn’t get any better” fits really well here.  I smile, my wife smiles, my son smiles, my three other daughters smile and life is grand.  3 AM…. not so grand, but we still smile at the prospect of going through all of this again.  But no matter how good it is, it is only a small picture, a snow-globe of the real that we are just shaking through awaiting the full joy.  We are amazed at the love we have for this new child when we thought that there was no more love in us 🙂 we find more.  The birth of our new baby has rekindled the superb affections we have for our other children and each other as husband and wife and if we are not careful, we will lose sight as to why: so that we can see the love of God for us in a deeper way as His children.  The love God has for us is immeasurable in comparison and it blesses my soul to realize that the amazing love that I feel toward my children is nothing compared to the love that God has for us revealed gloriously in Christ Jesus who came to live righteous and holy and die willingly in order to justify us before the Father.

What does it all mean?

It means that no matter how good it is, it is only a small fraction of nothing of the goodness of the true One to whom it all points!  God’s faithful and certain promise to save His children and His amazing “great love” with which He loves us cannot be fathomed.  So until that day when we stand with Him and our Lord Jesus Christ and see for ourselves, we must look ever so carefully at the small glimpses of such things.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:16-21, ESV)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can beagainst us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39, ESV)

A few days ago at breakfast at Denny’s my son, who is four, sat down and tore the corner off of his place mat and placed in my hand. “Here daddy, I thought you might want this.” He said. This might not seem like a big deal but it’s an example of how we learn by what we see.

About a month ago we were at this same Denny’s and I was on the phone with a friend in VA and used my place mat for some notes and phone numbers. After the call, I ripped the corner containing my notes, folded it and put it in my pocket.

Amazingly, the last three times we have eaten at Denny’s, my son and middle daughter have torn the corners of their placemats and placed them in the middle of the table. It wasn’t until today that I realized they thought it was the appropriate thing to do.

It’s it strange how sometimes we do many things that ‘seem’ right but are actually learned habits with no real reason.  It’s just like the story we’ve all heard about the daughter who cut the end off of the ham before cooking it.  Her daughter asked her why she did that one day and she replied she didn’t know but her mother did it.  Calling her mother, her mother didn’t know but her mother did it.  As she called to ask her grandmother the grandmother replied, “Because my pan wasn’t big enough and I had to cut it to fit.”

Funny how a purposeful habit, tradition or behavior can be useless and often wasteful when it comes to the future.  If we are not sure as to ‘why’ things are, chances are we are just cutting our ham or ripping our mat for no reason.

Our faith, our fellowship and the like can often fall victim to these kinds of ‘routine’ religious habits.  No real rhyme or reason behind them, we just do them because…. uh, we just do them.  How can we expect the body of Christ to be a ‘city on a hill’ if we don’t even know what time it is?  If we are not able to even identify the purpose of our existence we are not going to be fruitful.

There may be some worldly fruit like numbers, money and great participation, but for the spiritual fruit of true life change, it will be very dim and hard to identify.  It’s time that we all reflect on why the Church exists.  Not to ‘change’ but proof of change!  The body must be healthy to continue the work for our Lord.So everything you do today, ask yourself if it still seems necessary to the purpose and calling of your life.
Is your faith stale or is your life ‘alive’ because of the OVERFLOW of Christ in it?  Are you just going through the motions or are you moving because you cannot stop?  Are you in the Word or is the WORD in you?

There is a difference.

Joe Rogan: Live! download

East Bay AerialOver the past few weeks God has done some amazing things. He has closed many doors that I thought were going to open to us and opened some doors that I could have never imagined. As a South Georgia boy now in Virginia, I would have never dreamed of being in Northern California.

Praying for over a year for God to place us in the midst of a people who needed to hear the truth, He has called us to the East Bay area of Northern California to begin a work among the culture.

Please pray for us as we venture into this unknown chapter of our ministry. God has always proven Himself trustworthy so I am putting my will and plans in His hands. Pray for the people who have a heart for Christ to be available and passionate about making disciples. Pray for God’s focus and vision on the cities that we will be obedient at any cost.

Pray for our current church, its leaders and the people who are staying behind to continue the ministry in VA. May God truly continue to bless them beyond their dreams.

It’s been a wonderful tenure here in the Valley and I can attribute God’s work during this season of my life preparing me for the next. I don’t see this as an end to our ministry in VA, but an expansion. As we continue to pray and seek God’s will, we appreciate your steadfast prayers as well.

Stay tuned as we continue to ‘stay stupid…”

James

I will never forget those early days of dating when my wife and I first met. It seems like yesterday and now more than a decade has passed and it’s hard to believe where God has brought us. Don’t let the title of this article fool you. True Love never gets old, but it does get older.

Today is my wife’s birthday and I thought I would take a moment and share some things I have shared with others on relationships over the past few years. I can honestly say that Robyn is my best friend in the earth. She and I have always had fun no matter what ‘venture’ we were entering. It’s a great place in life to have your best friend as your bride. It makes life so worthwhile knowing that the person you will be with your whole life, is someone you love deeply beyond explanation.

So when I say, Love Gets Old… Dear – You are getting old and you are my love! So the statement is true. The great thing about being married is that you don’t have to worry about someone loving you. You can SEE love all around you. Last week I kept our four children for four days during the week while Robyn traveled to California. Now I am a very active and involved father and husband and I don’t allow Robyn to take all the responsibilities of home nor do I expect her to manage everything. But, when it comes to the children, she is the primary care giver as I am the primary go-ask-your-motherer… 😉
I have kept and tended to my children for years, but never all of them for that long during the school year. Let me share with you a brief schedule that SHOWS me my wife loves me and now that I have experienced it, I love her even more for who she is!

To wake up at 4:30 AM to prepare lunches, breakfast and get clothes together is a chore in itself. Now I often wake up early and sit down to read or write, but there’s something extremely physical about preparing children for school.

At 5:30 I woke the children, helped them get dressed, fed, teeth brushed, hair done and go over any homework or test work that may be necessary.

Then by 7:00 I would have their backpacks loaded, lunches done and paperwork ready to roll. We load up (would actually have to wake, feed and dress the younger two, but I had help) drive to school and return home around 8:15.

Arriving home I began to feed, change, dress, clean, brush, detail etc the other two children. Then when all that is said and done I would begin some laundry from the night before. By 10:30 both kids are in need of something else to drink, or need mediation from a fight or skirmish.

Every 20 minutes it seemed that there was something to do, then by 11:00 I had to begin the process of preparing lunch. After lunch, we cleaned up, brushed up and then loaded up in the van at 2:00 to pick up the girls. This seems simple except that most days we can’t find the shoes or socks we were wearing just a few minutes before leaving. Couple that with a timely poured cup of kool-aid in the carpet and you have yourself and adventure.

Back home it’s homework, snack, cleaning, laundry then preparing supper, baths, pj’s, laundry and then bed. Once it is all still and quiet I sat down to study. Exhausted from the day, I just went to sleep. Most nights went well except for two where we had one wet bed and a 2AM rise from the baby of a fever and a runny nose. How to get anything else done?

Why tell you all this? Because THIS IS LOVE. My wife for 9 years has tended to all of this on top of tending to me (for over a decade) and volunteering in the church, a political organization and holding together many successful consulting relationships. THIS IS LOVE.

I guess the only way I can show my love is the simple things like taking out the trash when I had rather read. Or listening when I had rather speak. All-in-all I know this: My love for my wife along with much more respect and appreciation grows daily.

To see the woman that God has molded her to be and even though she’s older, she has many more years to go. There is no real way I can show her how much I appreciate her and all she does every day, but I can say this – there is no one else in the world that I would rather spend my time with except my Savior – so a close second is pretty good.

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I am not the best of husbands but I can say that I have the best as a bride! Happy birthday girl, you are an incredible, brilliant, engaging, witty (not funnier than me), awesome wife, mother and most of all; a Godly friend that I am looking forward to growing old with! It will be zune enough!

I love you… (All you guys out there… I am from the deep south, so watch it!)