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Doug Tweed

GOD ALMIGHTY LIVES IN HIS CHILDREN

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“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you…. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you….

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:15-17, 19-20, 23)

Christians are called to be not just conquerors, but “more than conquerors”. (Romans 8:37). Spiritual forces of evil should not prevail against us because our Lord disarmed them and has all authority over them. (Matthew 16:18-19, 28:18-20; Colossians 2:15) All things are possible for us who believe because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. (Mark 9:23; 1 John 4:4) God is able to do abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine through His power at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

All of this is the Word of God. But for all or almost all of us, it is not the reality of our day-to-day lives as Christians. My friends, something is wrong. And it is not the Word of God that is wrong. It is our lack of knowledge and faith in the Word.

God declared, in Old Testament times, that His people were being exiled and destroyed for lack of knowledge. (Isaiah 5:13; Hosea 4:6) From the time of the Book of Hebrews to today, most of us under the New Covenant remain “unskilled” and ineffective because we are “dull of hearing” and immature. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

God’s divine power has already granted to us all the things we need for glorious and godly living. (2 Peter 1:3-4) “All the things” means many “things”. However, there is only room in this column for me to list the one “thing” I believe is most important and most ignored. God Almighty lives in His children! (1 Corinthians 3:16)

All Bible-believing Christians know sin separates us from God. (Genesis 3; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 5:12-14) Because God is the only source of everlasting life, the “wages” of separation include death. (Romans 6:23) To be saved from death and restored to everlasting life, we must end separation by being reconciled back to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Reconciliation required that the sin barrier be removed by the blood of Jesus, and it was. (1 John 2:2) It also requires that we choose to return to relationship with God by submitting ourselves in faith to Jesus as Savior and Lord. (Romans 10:8-13)

Here, in God’s radical concept of reconciliation, is where it really gets exciting.

When we come to our senses like the prodigal son and return to God through Jesus, the heavenly Father runs to embrace and kiss us by sending His Holy Spirit to live in us. (Luke 11:13, 15:11-24; Mark 1:8; Acts 2:38) By receiving the Holy Spirit, we are “born again”, “born of the Spirit”, and “born of God”, becoming God’s children. (John 1:12-13, 3:3-8)

Being a child of God is obviously awesome! But we must understand it is also the total opposite of being children or offspring of any earthly creature, including mankind.

For every earthly creature, the offspring begins life connected to the “parent” and then matures over time to become an adult who is separated from and independent of the parent.

But for children of God, our new birth starts by ending separation, and maturity comes not by increasing independence but through ever-increasing intimacy and trusting obedience.

I urge everyone to read John 14-17 and then read it again, and again. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one. Through the Holy Spirit, we are being brought into that oneness, both in identity and purpose.

Our mind, body and soul are works in progress, but our spirit and the Holy Spirit have already become one. (1 Corinthians 6:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:23) This “umbilical cord” will never be cut. And the more we know, trust and obey God’s Word, the more the Father and the Son will also make their home in us and manifest through us. (John 14:21, 23)

The Holy Spirit is not just “the Spirit of our adoption”. (Romans 8:15) He is the “Spirit of the Lord”, the “Spirit of Christ”, the “Spirit of our Father”, and the “Spirit of glory”. (Genesis 1:2; Philippians 1:19; Matthew 10:20; 1 Peter 4:14) Through Him – God the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity – God Almighty lives in His children.

As we come to truly know this, the scriptures at the beginning of this column will finally make sense and become reality in our lives.

God bless you, and God bless our community.

WE ARE SACRIFICING OUR CHILDREN TO IDOLS!

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“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13-14)

“… [T]here they sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing. What an incredible evil …!” (Jeremiah 32:35 NLT)

Please prayerfully consider these grave inconsistencies.

Over 11 % of all babies in America are born medically premature. This includes James Gill, Amilla Taylor and Lyla Stensrud, all successfully born very prematurely at 21 weeks. Praise God for the resiliency of life and the progress of medical science!

Yet on January 22, 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and others celebrated passage of a law authorizing the killing of perfectly healthy unborn children at full term (37 weeks) or beyond.
We are all sickened by assaults on pregnant women that harm or kill their unborn children. 38 states, plus the federal government, have criminal laws addressing “fetal homicide” or “unborn victims of violence”. But when abortion is legal, the killing of that same unborn victim by the mother and her doctor is called “reproductive rights”.

The greatest of many tragedies created by our national opioid addiction crisis is the birth every 15 minutes of a child with “neonatal abstinence syndrome” (NAS): babies addicted in the womb by their mother’s substance abuse during pregnancy. But when abortion is legal, that same mother is fully authorized to kill that same unborn baby.

Every Christian can read in Psalm 139 how God forms each baby in their mother’s womb. This correlates perfectly with the science of eugenics, where we learn how each human “zygote” (fertilized egg) is a marvelously unique and complex combination of the DNA of the mother and father.

Note: This science of eugenics clearly establishes the unborn child is from the very outset a different person than the mother, not an extension of the mother’s body.

Every Christian can also read how the unborn child, John the Baptist, at about 24 weeks, leapt for joy in his mother’s womb when he heard the voice of Mary, the pregnant mother of Jesus. (Luke 1:41-44) Here too, modern science has verified that unborn children feel pain at well less than 24 weeks. Many prenatal care experts recommend soft belly stroking and music at that age or earlier because of the positive response the unborn child can have to such stimuli.

Web.md.com is one of several websites where you can see a slide show of week-by-week fetal development from conception to birth. This is obviously life, and the slides quickly establish, just like the science of eugenics, that this is at all times human life.

In fact, when you look closely, abortion advocates don’t really justify their position by arguing this isn’t human life. They simply argue there are things more important than that life.
In Old Testament times, ungodly people did “incredible evil” by sacrificing their children to the idol Molech. Likewise today, we sacrifice our children to three all-too-familiar modern idols we deem more important than those children.

The first idol is “Personal Convenience”. We didn’t want this child. It’s not the right time for me. I can’t afford a child right now. It will interfere with my plans, my education or career.

But you cannot simply “return” an unborn child “to sender”.

The second idol is “Sexual License”. We want to have sex whenever we want in any way we want, without consequences.

But you cannot throw an unborn child’s life away in the same manner you dispose of a used condom.

The third idol is “Feminism”. There have been several valid issues addressed by the feminist movement. Women are made in the image and likeness of God, and are invited along with men to be joint heirs with Christ. (Genesis 1:27; Galatians 3:28-29) All women should, among other things, be free from sexual harassment or abuse, and have equal opportunity in the voting booth and workplace.

But the so-called “right to choose” to kill your unborn child is not freedom. It is a degradation of the maternal instinct that no man has and that makes all women special.
Men share in the responsibility. The mother’s health is important. There is grace for those who have been involved in abortion but repent. There are occasional extraordinary cases that require special consideration.

But overall, the only godly answer to an unwanted pregnancy is for the mother to carry the child to birth, with help from the father, their families, the Church and/or the government, and then place the child with one of the many loving couples out there who want to adopt. We must choose a gift of life rather than a sacrifice of children.

God bless you all, God bless our community, and God bless the children.

GOD’S WORD ADDRESSES THE ISSUES OF HOMOSEXUALITY

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“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
“…God is love….” (1 John 4:8, 16)

The moral values of a person are shaped from childhood on by the culture in which they live. The moral values of a Christian, however, are to be shaped by the Bible: the Spirit-inspired written Word of the one true God who created us, loves us, and sent His Son, Jesus, to save us from our sins. (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Psalms 1 and 119; John 3:16) Christian parents are supposed to raise our children accordingly. (Proverbs 22:6; Matthew 19:13-15)

The morality of homosexuality has, for millennia, been addressed by different cultures in different ways, with some cultures openly embracing its practice and others harshly condemning it. We have, in present times, diversified our descriptions: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). Embracing these practices has, in the United States, become the cultural and political norm. So, what does God say?

God’s first and most important revelation is that He loves both the people who struggle with but are drawn to homosexuality and those who enthusiastically practice it. They are made in God’s image and likeness, but have brokenness, just like the rest of us. They have many diverse abilities, talents and gifts. God values them very much, and Christ died for all their sins just as He died for mine. (1 John 2:2)

God’s second most important revelation is that Christians are to love all the people He loves, including people who practice homosexuality. (Matthew 5:48) Without love, we are nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2) And He requires this love be in truth and deed, not just talk. (1 John 3:18)

Historically, the Church’s treatment of people who struggle with or practice homosexuality has been unloving. Rejection, oppression, and degradation will drive people away from Jesus, not to Him. Eventually, like African-Americans and other persecuted minorities, they discover there is power in unity and become the “us” that stands against “them”. It is very possible the Church’s historic failure to love is now reaping what we sowed. (Galatians 6:7)

God’s third revelation is that most of the sexual sin in our nation has nothing to do with homosexuality. Adultery, pornography and promiscuity are rampant in America and in the Church, and have produced a hyper-sexualized culture where chastity is the sexual orientation deemed most abnormal. (Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:28; Hebrews 13:4) Woe to us as hypocrites when we point the finger of judgment at people committing a sexual sin that does not tempt us while making no true effort to remove these “logs in our own eyes”. (Matthew 7:5, 23:13-30)

God’s fourth revelation is that the desire or temptation to practice homosexuality is not, in and of itself, sin. (James 1:13-15) There are many reasons why such desires might develop: sexual, physical or emotional abuse, particularly as a child; dysfunctional parenting; peer abuse because you didn’t fit the cultural expectation of “masculine” or “feminine”; or the simple urges of amoral lust. And while we are all fearfully and wonderfully made, we are also all imperfect when we come into this broken world. (Psalms 51:5, 139:14) Scripture recognizes that some people are “born as eunuchs”: without the typical heterosexual drive and, thereby, for a life of chastity. (Matthew 19:12)

God’s fifth revelation is that the practice of homosexuality is sin, and therefore, not God’s plan for anyone’s life. (Genesis 1:27-28, 2:24, 19:4-13; Matthew 19:4-5; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:21-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

Several church denominations have now declared the practice of homosexuality to be morally acceptable. But Christians don’t get to make the rules. We just do our best to learn and follow them. (Romans 14:21) God’s Word reveals the practice of homosexuality to be wrong-doing, and true love does not rejoice at or give approval to wrong-doing. (1 Corinthians 13:6; Romans 1:32)
The individual tragedy in all this is how homosexuality can hold a person in bondage, particularly in our hyper-sexualized culture. But Jesus came to set the captives free. (Luke 4:18)
The cultural tragedy is how the promotion of homosexuality and the removal of God’s plan for marriage are scriptural signs a culture is moving deeply into darkness and toward destruction. (Genesis 19:1-25; Romans 1:18-32)

My brothers and sisters, what does that mean for a Christian community that joins in what the culture is doing?

The upcoming Tri-Pride Festival in Kingsport and the present turmoil in the United Methodist denomination are just the latest evidence that our Christian community has come to the Valley of Decision. (Joel 3:14) I have never in my life tried so hard to speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15) Will you prayerfully and lovingly follow God’s Word, or follow the world? (1 John 2:15-17)

God bless you, and God bless our community.

THE CHURCH NEEDS TO GROW UP!

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“And [Jesus] answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” (Mark 9:19; see also Matthew 17:17 and Luke 9:41)

Jesus is loving, kind and patient. We need, therefore, to really pay attention when He expresses His exasperation with His disciples, particularly when it is reported in three of the Gospels.

Jesus sent His twelve disciples out with the authority to both proclaim and demonstrate the Kingdom of God. (Luke 9:1-2; Mark 6:7-13) But after initial success, they came to a time of failure. The people to whom they were witnessing had no belief in the Kingdom they proclaimed because there was no demonstration of Kingdom power – no difference between what the crowd saw in the disciples and what they saw in themselves.

This is not the only time Jesus expressed exasperation with His disciples. (Matthew 16:8-12; John 14:9) It is, however, a time when Jesus explains two reasons for His exasperation. They had little faith, and they forgot to pray. (Matthew 17:20; Mark 9:29)

My friends, if Jesus was exasperated with His disciples then, just imagine how exasperated He must be with us.

There were twelve of them, plus some very faithful women, and then 120 of them at Pentecost. (Acts 1:15) They changed the world. We have over 200 million professing Christians in the United States and, for the most part, the world is changing us.

Just to give a few examples, national studies by Pew Research Center and Barna Group indicate most of our young people are leaving the Church. Only a small percentage of younger people and less than a third of all Christians believe in absolute moral truth. And pornography use is epidemic in the Church at all ages, with both genders, and among pastors and priests.

The Church needs to grow up! We need to finish our milk (mostly formula) and begin feasting on solid food. (Hebrews 5:11-6:3) Here are some basic steps we can take [and please read the scriptures]:

First, we must learn to love unconditionally. (1 John 4:7-21) If we don’t have love, we are nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2) We must love God, love each other, love our “Good Samaritan” neighbor and love our enemies. And it must be love in truth and deed, not just talk. (1 John 3:18)

Second, we must have faith not just in God, but in the Bible as God’s written word. (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Matthew 5:17-19, 28:20) Faith means becoming hearers, studiers and doers of God’s word. (Psalm 1 and 119; James 1:22-25). Remember – if the Bible doesn’t have authority over your life, Jesus doesn’t have authority over your life. (Matthew 7:21-27; John 14:21) Christians who abandon scriptural authority at the behest of humanism and political correctness are taking another bite from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 3:1-19)

In pursing this second principle, never neglect the first principle. Faith works through love. (Galatians 5:6) The truth must be spoken in love. (Ephesians 4:15)

Third, we must imitate our King, who washed His disciples’ feet, and emphasize humble service, not self. (Matthew 16:24; John 13:3-17) All Christians are called, gifted and sent out to bear fruit for His Kingdom. (John 15:5-8, 20:21; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-16) If you want to be first, be last and servant to all. (Mark 9:35)

Fourth, stop putting your trust in “chariots and horses”, that is, in politics or wealth. (Psalm 20:7-8; Luke 12:15-21) Instead, seek the Kingdom and treasures in heaven. (Matthew 6:19-33) Only God can heal our land, and He will do so if we who are called by His name humble ourselves, turn from “OUR” wicked ways, and pray. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

I believe if we prayed together, God could even lead us – white, black, Hispanic and Asian – to vote together and bring sanity to our government. (Mark 9:23, 10:27)

This leads to the fifth principle. The average Christian prays (talks with God) about five minutes per day, less than 1% of the time we spend looking at phone, computer and television screens. If, as God’s house of prayer, we begin to faithfully and unceasingly pray God’s will, we will see incredible results. (Mark 11:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; John 14:12-14; 1 John 5:14-15)

Finally, we all must be filled with and led by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:4-8; Romans 8:14; Ephesians 5:18) Read the Book of Acts. Read the four Bible chapters most of the Church is ignoring: John 14-17. When you are finished, read them again, and again, and believe.

Too many Christians are just waiting for God when, in reality, God is waiting for us to grow up and become what these many scriptures call us to be. (2 Peter 3:12) Hasn’t He waited long enough?

God bless you, and God bless our community.

“THANK YOU” IS MORE THAN GOOD MANNERS

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“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm100:4-5)

Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday. I recognize it is not an official Christian holiday like Christmas and Easter, but we probably behave more like Christians on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year.

It is so easy to get sidetracked on those other holidays. Christmas, the day chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus, finds most of us preoccupied with shopping for gifts, decorating houses, and a guy who comes down chimneys most homes today don’t even have.

Then on Easter weekend, when we are invited to focus on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, far too many of us get distracted with chocolate bunnies, hiding eggs and finding new outfits to wear.

So praise God for Thanksgiving, a day when we manage to stay on track with the reason for the season. We gather as family and friends and give thanks for family and friends. We take time out of our busy lives to gratefully remember our other blessings – all those things we take for granted most of the year.

We “feel good and eat good” on Thanksgiving. A lot of us even take naps we don’t normally take. And it won’t be because turkey contains tryptophan, the so-called “drowsy” drug. In actuality, turkey contains no greater quantity of tryptophan than other meats we consume.

The real reason so many of us feel good and even nap on Thanksgiving is the God-given power of “an attitude of gratitude”. “Thank you” is more than good manners.

You remember how we learned as children to say, “Thank you.” Our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and older sisters constantly reminded us. “What do you say, Doug?” “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.”

“Thank you” was something I first learned to say simply because I was supposed to say it. I appreciate that lesson in manners and wish more children today were taught it. But I appreciate even more the lessons I have since learned about thanksgiving from scripture verses like Psalm 100, Psalm 136, and Philippians 4:4-7. These scriptures help us see the four-step pattern of gratitude’s power.

First step: We remember good things that have happened in our lives – blessings we received and challenges that were met. This frees us from being completely stuck in our present problems and worries.

Second step: We thank God for those good things that have happened. In remembering all good things come from God, we turn our attention on Him, give Him the credit He deserves and clothe ourselves in an attitude of humility and dependence. Properly dressed, we can now enter His gates.

Third step: We remember God provided those good things because God is always good and He loves us with a perfect, never-ending love. This turns our focus from the good things of the past to the good God of our present and future – a God worthy of our continued praise and trust. We enter His courts.

Fourth step: Strengthened in our hope, we can begin to taste a divine peace and joy that comes in spite of our difficult circumstances. We can boldly and reverently come before God’s throne, presenting our present burdens to Him with thanksgiving because we know we are still the sheep of His pasture. The Good Shepherd of yesterday, when we received past blessings and met past challenges, is the same Good Shepherd today, tomorrow and forever.

Thanksgiving triggers four simple steps that cover a vast amount of territory because they take us from darkness to light. They take us from focusing on our self and our problems to focusing on God. Powerful!

The apostle Paul, who knew a great deal about both blessings and hardships, said this: “Be thankful…. Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:15-17)

What Paul was saying, I believe, is that every day should be a thanksgiving day for all of us. In a way, that will be good for me because it gives me 365 favorite holidays each year. On a deeper and more serious and sacred note, that will be good for all of us and all of those we love because saying “thank you” to God is more than good manners. Much more.

God bless you, and God bless our community.

LET’S STOP SCRATCHING AND START HEALING OUR “ITCHING EARS”

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“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Paul’s second letter to Timothy is his last letter. He had, by his own words, fought the good fight and finished the race. (2 Timothy 4:7) On the eve of his departure to be with Christ, Paul passes the baton to his young protégé in ministry with some final instructions.

Paul warned Timothy (and us) in this letter that in the days to come, two great challenges would arise within the Church.

First, there would be people professing Christianity who are lovers of self, money and pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) And we have experienced examples of that throughout history. Today’s sex and greed scandals in the Protestant church and the still-not-fully-revealed pedophilia/cover-up scandal in the Roman Catholic Church are just the latest examples.

Second, Paul said the time would come when Christians would turn away from the sound teaching of truth to scratch their “itching ears” with teachings that, while false, affirm their own passions, preferences and life styles. My friends, that day has clearly arrived!

It has long been said that people hear what they want to hear. In 2009, the American Psychological Association published research revealing people were twice (and often three times) as likely to select information that supported their own point of view rather than consider information that would support an opposing idea.

The biblical description of this phenomenon was provided long before 2009 by Jesus in speaking about His own Jewish people:
“For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:15)

What was a serious problem for God’s people then is a serious problem for God’s people now, and it applies to both our lives within the Church and our lives in the world.

As to the world, where all Christians are ambassadors for Christ, look at the performance of our politicians and media during the Kavenaugh hearings, and how many Christians zealously flocked to one side or the other based on our own political views. Whether I switched from Fox News to CNN, or switched talking from one neighbor to another, it was as if I was living in two completely different worlds at the same time.

We are turning on the news outlets that cater to our point of view. At the same time, those news outlets, whose owners and reporters also have “itching ears”, are crafting both what they report and how they report it to harmonize with our existing point of view. This secures their viewing base and ratings, which makes them their money.

In the same fashion, the speeches and ads of our politicians are crafted, usually with half-truths, to appeal to the things we presently favor or fear the most. They know that will increase the likelihood we will not even listen to the other side.

To my knowledge, no one is simply reporting “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.

Within the Church, the most blatant example of “itching ears” is the liberal theology that no longer embraces the sovereign right of God, rather than man, to reveal through scripture what is good and what is evil. (2 Timothy 3:16; Genesis 3) I have written several articles on this.

But even in the Bible-believing Church, the “itching ears” problem is rampant.

We all want to hear about grace, unconditional love and everlasting life. We eagerly embrace theological positions that are in harmony with our social and political positions just like we embrace worship styles that offer our kind of music. And we choose our churches and preachers accordingly.

How many churches out there are emphasizing, “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Jesus?” (Luke 9:23) How many are emphasizing “Love your enemies in truth and deed by treating them the way you want to be treated”? (1 John 3:18; Matthew 7:12) How many are in love holding people accountable when they fail to do these things? (Galatians 6:1-2; Hebrews 10:24-27)
The answer is “not many” because that doesn’t scratch “itching ears” and keep people in the pews.

My friends, let’s stop scratching our itching ears and let God heal them. Jesus is the Truth, and we need to zealously pursue truth. It is the truth, and not what we “want” to hear, that will set us free. (John 8:32)

God bless you, and God bless our community.

O, COME LET US ADORE HIM

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“O, come let us adore Him, O, come let us adore Him, O, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.” [“O, Come All Ye Faithful”, English translation by Frederick Oakley (1841)]

We normally refrain from singing “O, come let us adore Him” until we get close to our annual Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus. But God has birthed something in our greater Tri-Cities region that deserves celebration now. God has birthed Adoration 2018.

In my 24 years of full-time Christian ministry, I have never seen a ministry more exciting or important than Adoration. It started with Adoration 2017, and many of you will remember that story.

The Lord gave a profoundly simple “only God can do this” vision to Thomas Cook, a recent ETSU graduate. Bring 1,000 churches together in unity on the ETSU campus to worship and pray.
By the hand of God, that vision blossomed into a campus grassroots movement spearheaded by a terrific team of young faith-filled adults and supported by both university leadership and several area spiritual leaders. Jesus Christ was glorified in an extraordinary worship service on October 1, 2017 in the ETSU MiniDome, with 265 churches represented and over 2,000 people praying and worshiping together.

As Paul Harvey would say, however, that is not the end of the story. Now we need to hear “the rest of the story”.

On October 2, 2017, Thomas Cook and these other young Christians could easily have said, “Great result!” “More churches coming together than other ministries have achieved, on or off campus”. “It’s time to pat ourselves on the back and get on with our lives.” But they didn’t say that.

Instead, these remarkable young Christians looked at each other and said, “God asked for 1,000 churches, not just 265.” And so Adoration 2018 began.

The purpose of this article is to urge each and all of you to support Adoration 2018 with your prayers and both your personal and congregational participation. Please let me tell you why.
As practicing Christians, we have yearned to see the Lord honored again on our college and university campuses. God is doing that with Adoration, and we need to join God in what He is doing. (John 5:19) With our active support, Adoration could become the catalyst for movements of God at other campuses across the nation.

We have yearned to see a new generation of Christian leaders rise up in America. God is doing that with Adoration. Their leadership team is almost entirely made up of college students and very recent college graduates. More young leaders are being recruited and trained every month. But this new generation of leaders will be hard-pressed to sustain their efforts if our generations do not step up and come alongside them. (Malachi 4:6)

We have yearned to see our region’s churches unify around common goals and show the world how we can stand and bear fruit together. God is doing that through Adoration by seeking to bring 1,000 churches together for worship and by networking church efforts for Adoration’s outreach ministry, Restore Appalachia.

We have yearned to see our area churches reach out beyond sanctuary walls to minister to the needs of our communities. God is doing that through Restore Appalachia: an effort to educate, exhort and enable churches to effectively address the horrible opioid epidemic in our land.

We have yearned in these increasingly post-modern times to see the Jesus of scripture lifted up. God is doing that through Adoration with a foremost focus on glorifying Christ and a faith statement that is biblically sound. When a voice like that rises up in America, we must lift up our voices in “Amen!”

Please go to the Adoration website: adorationlife.com, for more information. This year’s unity worship service is scheduled at the ETSU MiniDome for 6 PM, Sunday, October 21. Check on the website to see if your congregation has signed up to have a representative there. If that has not yet happened, do all you can to make it happen.

In addition to a representative of your church, plan personally to come and worship on October 21. Bring family and friends. We want to at least double our attendance and gather 4,000 to glorify the Lord.

Please use your Facebook and other social media to help us get the word out. Despite newspaper stories, radio coverage and thousands of phone calls, there are still many churches and people that do not know about Adoration, and everyone needs to know!

Consider making a financial contribution to Adoration 2018 on their website. These young people are all generously volunteering their time, but they don’t have the personal finances to fund the costs.

Finally, please keep Adoration and their team in continuing prayer. They are doing things that can truly advance the Kingdom of God, so they are under relentless attack from the enemy. Our prayers can bring God’s protection and blessings to them.

In the end, the song says it best. O come, all ye faithful! Come let us adore Him!

God bless you, and God bless our community.

LIVING WATER HAS BEEN DISCOVERED ON EARTH!

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“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?’ …. Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:10-14)

Scientists are excitedly calling last week’s discovery of a liquid water lake on Mars a “game-changer” in the search for life on other planets. I read countless science fiction books in my younger years and still love Star Wars movies. So my first reaction to this announcement was, like the scientists, to imagine the discovery of some living spore on Mars and how that could re-stimulate our imagination as to intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

These thoughts about water and possible life on Mars quickly turned, however, to consideration of a much greater discovery made 2,000 years ago on our own planet, Earth: the living water from Jesus that brings eternal life!

The life our scientists seek on Mars is, in the Greek language of the New Testament, called “bios” – the physical, temporary life of all plants, animals and humans. Earth has plenty of water and is saturated with “bios”. Science has been unable to find even the smallest speck of “bios” anywhere else.

On the other hand, the Greek word for “life” used by Jesus in John 4 is “zoe”. This is the life that comes to people in right relationship with God – the life that is abundant and everlasting because it comes through the living water that is God’s Holy Spirit. (John 3:3-15, 7:37-39, 10:10)

The great tragedy of human history is that we have plenty of living water available to us on Earth just like we have plenty of natural water. God has poured out His Holy Spirit “on all flesh”, that is, so as to make this living water and “zoe” life available to every person on the planet. (Acts 2:17; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9) But while our world is teeming with “bios” life, “zoe” life continues to be the narrow way found by few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

Non-Christians remain trapped in a spiritually dry “bios” life because they do not believe living water and “zoe” life really exist. They don’t believe because when they look at the lives of the Christians around them, they see lives that are about as dry as their own. And we Christians live these dry “bios-like” lives, despite having sincerely believed in Jesus, because we have not yet truly embraced everything Jesus means when He speaks at John 4:10 of “the gift of God.”

According to 2 Peter 1:2-3, God’s gift to us includes everything (I repeat, “everything”) we need for “zoe” living. Let’s make a list of what we Christians have been given:

1. Our eternal, all-good, all-powerful Creator God gives us His perfect, unconditional love. We are each fearfully and wonderfully made in His image and likeness. Although we were born broken into this broken world, He is restoring us to His original design step by step, including the restoration of love, truth, peace, and joy in our lives.

2. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in full payment for all of our sins. Jesus was then resurrected in glory with all authority in heaven and earth, including authority over the forces of spiritual evil that seek to destroy us.

3. God sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in each of us forever. By this, we are born of God and become His children, invited to live in intimate love with Him forever.

4. God is ready every day to empower, lead and speak to us by His Spirit. To make sure we are not deceived by false spirits, He have also given us the Bible, fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, so we can learn the incredible truth about who God is, who we are, and what life can and should be.

5. Finally, God has given us each other so we can all belong to a loving, healthy family on earth, able through His power and the gift of prayer to continue the good works Jesus did, including things beyond our ability to ask or imagine.

My friends, the abiding spiritual awakening our nation and world needs is really just a matter of Christians waking up to who we are and what we have. Living water has been discovered on Earth! Let’s dive in and drink, and begin living the “zoe” life for which we were created!

God bless you, and God bless our community.

UNDERSTAND THE TIMES AND KNOW WHAT TO DO

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God will, on occasion, interject a special scripture message into what would otherwise seem a boring repetitive list.

In the genealogy list of Genesis, God reveals Enoch, who walked with God and never died – God just “took him”. (Genesis 5:21-24)

In the genealogy lists of 1 Chronicles, God reveals Jabez, who, being more honorable than his brothers, had awesome prayers granted – blessings, divine protection and the enlargement of his territory. (1 Chronicles 4:9-10)

In the genealogy of Jesus, where tradition would require only fathers be listed, Matthew names five mothers – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary, each of whom adds a unique flavor to the heritage of our Lord. (Matthew 1:1-16)

And in the 1 Chronicles list of Israel’s tribes who gathered to make David their king, God describes a very important ability that was demonstrated by the tribe of Issachar. They had understanding of the times and knew what Israel needed to do.

Israel was in crisis. (2 Samuel 1-5) Their first king, Saul, had initially led them to victories over their enemies. But Saul failed to honor and obey God. The Philistines won a great battle, and Saul died.

The hero David returned from exile and was made king by his tribe of Judah. But the other eleven tribes of Israel were convinced to make Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, their king. For seven years, there had been infighting and a divided nation unable to face the Philistines. Now Ish-bosheth had been killed, and these eleven tribes had a decision to make.

Scripture does not describe in detail the role that Issachar’s understanding and knowledge played in bringing the other ten tribes together to make David king, but we certainly know it was the right decision. United under King David’s godly leadership, Israel quickly defeated the Philistines and every enemy. Jerusalem was conquered and became the City of God. The Ark of the Covenant was brought there and placed in a tent with continuous worship and prayer. King David and his subjects would enter and experience the manifest Presence of God. The size, wealth and power of the kingdom exploded!

My friends, the United States is in crisis. In addition to a long list of existing problems, we face a future where the dark side of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, cyber warfare and human genetic engineering may take this crisis to unimaginable levels.

Our nation needs a “tribe” who understands the times and knows what needs to be done. The “tribe” I wish to address is the Body of Christ in our Upper East Tennessee / Southwest Virginia region.

We all see the problems. What we must understand and fully accept is that there is no political solution. There is no scientific solution. There is no philosophical solution. There is only a God solution, and that solution is called “revival”: the spiritual awakening of the Church.

We also need to understand what the Lord is already doing in our region to bring about this spiritual awakening.

For decades, small groups of people have been crying out to God. About twenty years ago, more community impact ministries began to arise as people stepped out of their sanctuaries.

“Celebrate Recovery”, Coalition for Kids in Johnson City, Of One Accord Ministries in Rogersville and, most recently, Shades of Grace in Kingsport are just four of many wonderful examples.
Now God has accelerated, birthing Adoration 2017 (now, Adoration 2018), the Will Graham Celebration, the Holy Friendship Summit (now, Holy Spirit Collaborative), the multi-week Bristol tent revival, and the still ongoing Greeneville tent revival. In every case, God is moving, the Body of Christ is uniting, the love and Lordship of Jesus is being lifted up, and people are being saved, healed and set free.

At the same time, more and more churches and groups are experiencing God’s presence as they initiate regular gatherings for intercessory prayer.

I know of no other region in the country where God is doing so many things with so many people in so many ways, and there is a reason for this. God wants to ignite an abiding revival in our region that He can use to model and ignite revival in America.

What all of us need to do is, “JOIN GOD IN WHAT HE IS DOING!” (John 5:19-20) If we are not part of the solution, we remain part of the problem. (Matthew 12:30)

Sign up for Adoration 2018. Take your Will Graham, Bristol or Greeneville revival experience and do something new with it. Engage in the Holy Friendship Collaborative or another community outreach. Join a prayer group or start a prayer group. Cry out for revival! And exhort your family and friends to do likewise.

2,000 years ago, Jerusalem missed the time of God’s visitation, and Jesus wept. (Luke 19:41-44). Let’s not repeat their mistake.

God bless you, and God bless our community.

WE MUST HAVE BOTH TRUTH AND LOVE

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“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.” (2 John 1:3)

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)

I don’t use Facebook but my wife Christie does, and she recently shared a friend’s posting of a YouTube video titled “Reclaiming Jesus”. The text of the declaration made in the video can be read at www.reclaimingjesus.org.
In this declaration, church leaders from various mainline, African-American, and liberal wings of the Church express their deep concern about the state of our nation. Several sound biblical principles are included, but while neither people nor political parties are ever named, the core motivation for the declaration is clearly to oppose the policies and practices of President Trump and, in doing so, stand apart from his evangelical Christian support.

As one who spends most of my time with charismatic and evangelical Christians, my initial instinct was to immediately counter-attack this declaration.

They speak of the need to protect the vulnerable but yoke themselves to the promoters of abortion. They speak of protecting people based on “identity” – a subtle expression of support for homosexual and transgender lifestyles that are clearly contrary to scripture. (Genesis 1:27-28, 2:23-24; Romans 1:26-27) They speak of the need for truth but, in pluralistically calling everyone in the world a child of God, walk away from the biblical truth that it is only by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior that you become God’s child. (John 1:12-13, 3:3-6)

This tendency to counter-attack was, however, offset by the fact that I have both beloved family members and friends who support most if not all of the views expressed in this declaration. They do so in part because they do not completely share my passion for the divine authority of scripture. But they do so primarily because they rightly believe God calls us to love.

Herein lays the great divide in the Church today.

On one side of the Church, it is all about love. God is love. (1 John 4:8, 16) God loves everyone and we are to love everyone. (Matthew 5:43-48) We express that love through acts of generosity, kindness and social justice. (Micah 6:8; Luke 10:30-37; Matthew 25:31-46)

On the other side of the Church, it is all about truth. Jesus brought truth and confirmed the divine truth and authority of scripture. (John 1:17, 16:13-14; Matthew 5:17-18; Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 3:16) Jesus is the truth, and no one can be saved or set free except through Him. (John 8:31, 14:6)

Note: the “truth” side of the Church professes both truth and love. But too often, we act and speak or actively support those who act and speak in arrogant, unloving, judgmental, callous or demeaning ways. This violates the very scriptures we seek to uphold. (Matthew 5:21-22, 7:1-5; James 4:6)

Our right to support law and order, constitutional integrity, appropriate immigration control and biblical sexual morality does not absolve us from our responsibility to truly and visibly love the people on the other side of these issues and acknowledge them as people of significance and value.

Likewise, the “love” side of the Church professes both love and truth. But “truth” has become relative instead of absolute. The Bible is culled to see what parts we want to keep and what parts are no longer intellectually appealing, socially acceptable or politically correct.

What we get as a result is faith in the Jesus we want rather than the Jesus who was and is and is to come.

(Revelation 1:4) We dine again at the tree of knowledge of good and evil, deciding for ourselves what should be right and wrong rather than having God reveal sin and righteousness to us. (Genesis 3:5; Deuteronomy 12:8) We take authority over the scriptures that reveal the Lord rather than the other way around. Who then is lord?

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if you don’t get anything else out of any column I write, please get this. God calls us to both truth and love. If I have great biblical faith and understanding of the truth, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2) On the other hand, if I discount scriptural authority and affirm people in their sin or unbiblical beliefs, I hurt the people I am trying to love because love never rejoices in wrongdoing and always rejoices in the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:6)

Love without truth is not God’s love. Truth without love is not God’s truth. As the Body of Christ, we must have both or we will really have neither.

God bless you, and God bless our community.