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August 2017

GOD LOVES THE PEOPLE YOU DON’T LOVE

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

Charlottesville is, from inception through tragedy to aftermath, only the latest in a long line of incidents revealing how conflicted and divided our nation has become. Phrases like “we, the people”, “one nation under God” and even “United States” no longer seem to describe us very well.

God’s Word warns us that those who engage in enmity, strife, dissensions and divisions will not experience the blessings of God’s Kingdom. (Galatians 5:19-21) Yet that is the only way the two political parties that control our government want to operate. And that is all we see on our television news shows, all we hear about on talk radio and all we read about on internet blogs, whether they are simply reporting or, more often, promoting and provoking controversy.

Who is responsible for this mess? Who has the ability to turn things around? The answer to both questions is the same: the Body of Christ.

The Body of Christ is responsible for America because our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to disciple this nation. (Matthew 28:18-20) At the very heart of our assignment is the need to show forth the love of God to everyone He loves – and He loves everybody! (Matthew 5:43-45; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 4:8)

Approximately 80% of our nation’s population identify themselves as Christian. Politicians can’t get elected without Christian votes. Most shows can’t sustain the ratings to stay on the air without Christian viewers. Christianity is the largest “people group” in America, larger than “white”, “people of color”, “conservative”, “liberal”, or any other so-called special interest group. If we were doing our job together: if we were loving each other, loving our neighbor, loving the stranger in our path, and loving our enemies by blessing them and praying for them, then everything would marvelously change for the better.

Brothers and sisters, God loves the people you don’t love. For some of you, that means God loves the people you hate. For others, it means God loves the people you don’t care about, one way or the other.

God lives in each of us through the Holy Spirit, and from that vantage point, He has watched while we yoke ourselves to political pundits who revile those who disagree with them. (1 Corinthians 6:10) He has watched while we express distain for either Hillary Clinton or President Trump. (Matthew 5:22; 1 Timothy 2:1-2) He has watched as some of us side with the black man who is shot while others side with the officer who shot him, and grieved over our failure to understand that He loves them all. (Ephesians 4:30 – 5:2)

He has also watched many of us walk by the homeless and the addict without giving a thought to how we might help them. (Luke 10:25-37)

There is no sin greater for the Church than the failure to love. If we don’t have love for others – selfless, serving, unconditional agape love in both word and deed – then we are nothing, have nothing, and gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13; 1 John 3:18) Without love, we walk right along with the rest of the world in darkness. (1 John 2:9-11)

The good news is that we can walk in this love. It is not too late. The Holy Spirit is ready and willing to pour the agape love of God into our hearts. (Romans 5:5) I recommend these four steps.

First, go before the Lord and let the Holy Spirit convict you of sin for the lack of love in your life. Repent!

Second, recognize how much the God who lives in you loves you, and love Him back.

Third, realize that the God inside you loves all these other people around you just as much as He loves you. They are made in His image. Christ paid the price in full for their sins. They are all either His child or someone He wants to become His child.

Fourth, join God in His love for them.

I can join God in loving people who practice Islam, people who practice homosexuality, and people who are on the political “far right” and “far left”. I don’t agree with or encourage their beliefs. Love without God’s truth is not God’s love. But I can truly care about them and value them because God does. Truth without God’s love is not God’s truth.
It starts with you and me. Let’s join together in loving the people God loves, and see what happens!

God bless you, and God bless our community.

JOIN THE LORD IN ADORATION!

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“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28)

Christian life is a life of relationship and purpose.

By relationship, I mean that Christian faith is about relationship, not religion. It is about a relationship of love with the God who first loved us and sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins so that we might be reconciled to God and have everlasting life. (John 3:16; 1 John 6:19)

By purpose, I mean that just as God expressed his incredible love for us through His purposes in sending Jesus and His Holy Spirit, so we are to express back our love for God by fulfilling the purposes the Lord has for us. (John 14:21, 20:21) Jesus joined His Father in all He saw His Father doing, and we are to join our Lord Jesus in what He has done and is doing – loving our neighbor by declaring the Gospel to the poor, powerless and spiritually blind, and by setting free those who are oppressed and in bondage. (John 15:19; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Luke 4:18) The Great Commandment says we are to express this love with all we are – heart, soul, mind and strength. (Mark 12:28-31)

“Adoration” is a good modern English word for this type of love. Both the Free Dictionary and Dictionary.com define “adoration” as: “fervent and devoted love”, “reverent homage”, “the act of worship”, and “the act of paying honor to God”. We are to adore God and to adore those who God adores.

These biblical truths are always important to remember, but today, my friends, they are also a set-up for an extraordinarily important announcement. On October 1, 2017, every Christian and every Christian congregation in our region will have the opportunity to wonderfully express their adoration of the Lord and their neighbor by participating in Adoration 2017.
Adoration 2017 began as a profoundly simple “only God can do this” vision given by the Lord to Thomas Cook, a recent ETSU graduate. Bring 1,000 churches together in unity to worship and pray. By the hand of God, it has blossomed into an awesome movement spearheaded by a terrific team of young faith-filled adults and supported by both university leadership and a strong cast of area spiritual leaders.

Please, please explore the website, Adorationlife.com, so you can become as informed and excited as I am about their insight, dedication and organization. The new ETSU football stadium will be the site for this 6 PM gathering of 1,000 churches. In addition to worship and prayer, and the witness to the lost created by 1,000 churches expressing the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, there will an educational focus on how Christians can unite to respond to the horrific prescription drug abuse epidemic that plagues our Appalachian region. Adoration in relationship and purpose!

There is nothing remotely like Adoration 2017 happening anywhere else in our nation. Everywhere else, secular college campuses are known for their lack of faith and worldliness. National polls report that young adults are leaving the Church in droves. Christian congregations are still primarily “doing their own thing”.

But here, in our humble hills of Tennessee and Virginia, we have an opportunity to reverse all of that by supporting the young Christian leadership that our Lord has raised up, and by doing something God has been asking His people to do for a long time. Come together and glorify Him.

In the midst of all this incredibly good news comes the bad news. Despite the hard work of the Adoration 2017 team, and despite front page coverage of this amazing event in the Kingsport Times-News and other area newspapers, there are presently only 91 churches signed up in support, and there are only 60 days to go.
In any other circumstance, getting 91 churches together would be deemed an outstanding feat, particularly since these 91 come from 22 different counties, but God wants 1,000 and He has more than enough congregations in this area to accomplish His goal.

I earnestly ask every Christian who reads this column to do these five things. First, check out http://adorationlife.com/about/supporters-list/ to see if your congregation has signed up in support. (You will be amazed at the church names that are missing)

Second, if your congregation has not signed up, speak to your church leadership and get signed up! The Adoration 2017 team needs your affirmation.
Third, use your Facebook and other social media accounts to get the word out throughout East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, and beyond. Every voice is important in this call to rally together!

Fourth, commit to personally attend on October 1 if you are able. And fifth, commit to ongoing prayer that Adoration 2017 will be all God has envisioned it to be!

God bless you, and God bless our community.