Christian Writing


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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.


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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.


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“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15)

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers [and sisters].” (Romans 8:29)

Over the years, I have unfolded and heard other people unfold the Christmas story in many ways. The stable and manger, the angels and shepherds, the Persian magi and the working-class Jewish couple, the many prophecies fulfilled: for us as for Mary, there is so much to treasure and ponder in our hearts. (Luke 2:19)

However, I have never before now felt so led to focus on the awesome scriptural revelation that Jesus was the “firstborn”.

Luke reminds us that Jesus was Mary’s firstborn son. This is an important reinforcement of the essential truth that Mary was still a virgin. (Luke 1:26-38; Isaiah 7:14) She had not yet had other children and she had not yet known a man sexually. (Matthew 1:18-25)

Liberal Christian theologians discount this biblical revelation because it is supernatural, contrary to science, and in their opinion, unnecessary to the story. As to the supernatural element, I will for the sake of space urge all of you to read the terrific new book by Lee Strobel, “The Case for Miracles”. As to the issue of necessity, I urge you to remember that the Lamb of God, like the Old Testament lamb of Passover, had to be unblemished. (Exodus 12:5; John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:17-19)

Biblical theologians call it the doctrine of atonement. If you don’t believe it, you don’t really understand Jesus. It is best summarized in scripture at Romans 5 and Hebrews 9. All mankind since Adam and Eve have sinned. Sin separates us from God, the source of life, and therefore leads to death. God loves us and wants to save us, but just as sin could not be ignored or allowed to remain in the Garden of Eden, sin cannot be ignored or allowed into heaven. (Genesis 3:22-24; Revelation 21:4, 8) Sin must be dealt with and paid for by someone without sin, and no man born of man qualified. But “God so loved the world ….”

John 3:16 leads us to the equally important revelation that Jesus was not just His mother’s firstborn. He was also His Father’s firstborn. The collaborating testimonies of Colossians 1:15-20 and John 1:1-18 reveal that in the beginning, long before the baby Jesus laid in the manger, He was with God, and He was God, and the firstborn of creation through whom all things were created.

There is great mystery here. Is the Son of God “begotten” when God speaks the Word that brings creation into existence? Do we say God is love because the Father, Son and Spirit have loved each other even before the beginning of creation? For now, we know many things only in part. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

But we do know from these scriptures that all things were created through the Father’s firstborn, and that when creation was broken, the Father’s firstborn was sent into creation to reconcile all things back to God and “make all things new”. (Revelation 21:5; Philippians 2:5-11)

This leads us to our third important revelation. After the birth of Jesus as her firstborn, Mary bore several other children, both sons and daughters. (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3) And the reason the heavenly Father sent Christ to earth as His firstborn was so the Father could have more children to be brothers and sisters of Jesus for all eternity! (John 1:12, 3:3-8; Romans 8:29)

Please pause in amazement with me to see how the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb correlates to the way in which followers of Jesus are born of God. Gabriel told Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you”. (Luke 1:35) Jesus later told His disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” (Acts 1:8)
Just as Jesus arrived on Christmas as both God and man, something totally new to creation, so we also truly become “new creations”. (2 Corinthians 5:17) We are still works in progress but already born again as God’s children because God now lives in us! (John 14:23, 17:22-23) This is not religion. This is reality.

When you look in the manger this year, I invite you to first see the baby Jesus: the firstborn. But then look deeper and see yourself. See your loved ones. See all of those who are not yet in the manger, and then go lovingly share the truth of Christmas with them.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!


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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.


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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.


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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:, 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.


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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.


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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.


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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
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.


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“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:7-11)

In 1913, Katharine Lee Bates penned the lyrics to the prayerful song, “America, the Beautiful”. A century later, we are challenged by what she saw.

Our crown of brotherhood has slipped into political and cultural polarization. Our alabaster cities are plagued by mass shootings and renewed racial tension. Our welcome to freedom-seeking pilgrims has become an outcry of confusion over how to deal with both illegal and legal immigration.

Our liberty conferred by law and self-control has deteriorated into an “anything goes” morality. Our selfless love of country has become “What’s in it for me?” Even our love of spacious skies and purple mountain majesties has turned into staring at our smartphone, laptop and TV screens, because virtual reality has become more attractive than reality.

Unless something happens to change our nation’s direction, things will only get worse. And our “finger of blame” politics will not provide any solution. Neither a conviction of Hillary Clinton nor a conviction of President Trump will help because our whole nation needs to be convicted. And our nation cannot be convicted until the Church is convicted.

I hear Christians of all types speak about the Holy Spirit – the seal of salvation, the fruit or the gifts. But I rarely hear anyone speak of the Holy Spirit’s mission.

The mission of Jesus on earth was to reveal the Father, die for our sins, and rise from death in victory with all authority in heaven and earth. As He completed His mission, Jesus explained to His disciples how the Father would now send “another Helper” to be with us forever. (John 14:16)

Just as Jesus, the first Helper on earth, was God (God the Son), so this second Helper on earth would be God the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit’s mission would build on the mission of Jesus because they are both part of God’s overall plan to restore the Kingdom of God on earth. (Matthew 6:10)

The mission of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. The Greek word translated as “convict” is “elencho”, which means: to convict, persuade, or expose in order to bring about repentance and change.

God became man to fulfill the mission of Jesus, and now God requires men and women to fulfill the Holy Spirit’s mission, which coexists with the mission of the Church to make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19-20) We cannot accomplish our mission without the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:4-8; Zechariah 4:6) Likewise, because the Holy Spirit is poured into our clay jars, He cannot accomplish His mission without us. (Acts 2:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:7)

Conviction concerning sin is persuading people that sin is destructive, separating you from God, and that faith in Jesus Christ is the answer to sin. The Holy Spirit can do this through our fervent prayers and loving proclamation of the Gospel.

Conviction concerning righteousness is persuading people that righteous living in trusting, Spirit-empowered obedience to God’s Word is healthy, helpful, hopeful, joyful, love and peace-filled. The Holy Spirit can do this through Christian lives that demonstrate this truth. (Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 2:9-12)

Conviction concerning judgment is persuading people that good can overcome evil and destroy the works of the devil. (Romans 12:21; 1 John 3:8) The Holy Spirit can do this through Christians who know how to grasp the keys of the Kingdom in Holy Spirit power and the authority of Jesus’ name. (Matthew 16:19; John 14:12-14)

However, the Holy Spirit cannot convict this nation of sin through a Church that embraces sin or just refuses to talk about it. The Holy Spirit cannot convict this nation of righteousness through a Church that is selfish, worldly, unloving, divisive, or fearful. The Holy Spirit cannot convict this nation of judgment through a Church that doesn’t submit to the authority of God’s Word or believe in all the gifts the Holy Spirit came to provide.

The spiritual history of America includes powerful transforming movements of the Holy Spirit at the beginnings of the 18th century (First Great Awakening), 19th century (Second Great Awakening), and 20th century (Pentecostal and Charismatic awakenings). All of them involved conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment, first in the Church and then in the nation. All began because enough Christians saw the darkness around them, cared deeply, and united in persevering prayer.

It is now the beginning of the 21st century. Holy Spirit, convict the Church! Convict me and all who read this column!

Then, America, God can use His Church to “shed His grace on thee”.

God bless you, and God bless our community.