This past Sunday, I shared Grace Fellowship’s Dream Statement. This is the dream that birthed Grace Fellowship in July of 2004, and it is the dream that continues to sustain us as we move forward in faith.
Grace Fellowship’s Dream Statement
It is a dream of hurting people encountering the grace of God through the life of His church.
It is a dream of God’s people gathering to experience genuine, life-changing worship.
It is a dream of creating an environment where the unchurched can discover what being a member of the body of Christ really means.
It is a dream of a church with a passion to see the unchurched enter into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.
It is a dream of a church equipping its members to share the good news of Jesus with the aim of leading the unchurched into a personal relationship with Him.
It is a dream of a church committed to the Great Commission and expressing that commitment by giving generously to missions causes, by actively participating in local and international missions, and by helping to start new churches in areas needing a Christian witness.
It is a dream of a people who fully embrace others regardless of their race, age, or social standing.
It is a dream of the people of Greensboro, Greene County, and the Lake Oconee area being positively affected by the grace of God through the life, ministry, and worship of God’s people.
I must admit that I did not make it to a Krispy Kreme location on Saturday to get my free Original Filled doughnut as part of KK’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, but my good friend Amy Ferman was sweet enough (no pun intended) to pick up one Chocolate Kreme filled and one Original Kreme filled for me (and the same order for my wife). In other words, I ate them a day after they were made — not the ideal taste test, but I’m not sure when I’ll get to either Athens or Milledgeville to get one fresh.
I came home having received the much-prized doughnuts at church. They remained undisturbed on my desk (except for a quick whiff) until I got home. I fixed a pot of coffee, settled into my recliner, and began the test. My verdict = YES! I’m not sure how the doughnut scientists pulled off this culinary masterpiece, but the doughnuts (even a day old) were superb – beyond what I had expected – and I had high expectations.
Admittedly, my doughnuts didn’t exactly match the picture above. I think the Chocolate Kreme filled was closer to the picture and had more filling than the Original Kreme filled, but neither had the perfect ring of filling inside the whole of the doughnut.
My wife asked me after I consumed them both (Original first followed by the Chocolate) which I thought was better. Although I thoroughly enjoyed them both, the Original Kreme was my favorite by far. I’d buy that doughnut every time I stopped in a KK… every – single – time.
If you didn’t try on Saturday, you missed your chance for a free one, but it is worth $1.09 plus tax, and you might was well get a cup coffee or a chocolate milk to make the most of your experience.
Disclaimer: I received no compensation from Krispy Kreme (monetary or otherwise) nor am I an official spokesperson for Krispy Kreme -- but I'm open to either. 🙂
This past Sunday, a church was surprised to have the President of the United States show up during one of their services. David Platt, Pastor Teacher at McLean Bible Church, wrote in a letter to the church about the circumstances of this unusual situation: “At the end of my sermon at the 1:00 worship gathering, I stepped to the side for what I thought would be a couple of moments in quiet reflection as we prepared to take the Lord’s Supper. But I was immediately called backstage and told that the President of the United States was on his way to the church, would be there in a matter of minutes, and would like for us to pray for him.“ (The complete text of his letter to the church can be found here – https://www.mcleanbible.org/prayer-president )
I admit to you that I have never had this happen to me before! Few pastors have. Certainly, I have had elected government officials attend a service. Unlike the stop-in visit from President Trump, all of those who visited the churches I’ve pastor have stayed for the service. I have typically acknowledged their presence, thanked them for their service, and encouraged the congregation to pray for them, their families, and all our elected leaders. Since these elected leaders are often in the public eye, if they visited more regularly, I try not to highlight their presence to allow them to participate in the service without distractions. I cannot even imagine being told off-stage that THE President was on his way and requesting prayer!!!
With his Bible in his right hand and his left hand on the President’s back, David Platt offered a prayer for Donald Trump. The link above also has a video that shows the entirety of Trump’s appearance and Platt’s prayer. Please take a moment to view it. I think you’ll find that the prayer was politically unbiased, saturated with biblical truth, and fitting to the moment.
I do not know David Platt personally. I have read his books. I have heard him preach in person. I have viewed videos of his teaching. And I supported his efforts while he served as President of the International Mission Board. I respect him as a person, as a brother in Christ, and as a fellow pastor. My impression of what took place this Sunday is that David Platt did exactly what I hope I would do. He successfully avoided making Trump’s appearance a political rally, and offered a thoughtful, meaningful prayer for the leader of the free world — at the request of the President.
This nation is deeply divided in its opinion of our sitting President. Some see him as a man who can do no wrong. Others see him as a man who can do no right. And still others are willing to acknowledge that he’s a human being who is not always right and not always wrong – in other words, he’s a mixed bag like the rest of us – with the exception that he serves in the highest office in the land. Praying for President Trump SHOULD BE what we are doing regularly, just as we should pray for whoever the President is regardless of whether we agree with his or her political stances or not. This is our biblical mandate – “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
You may question President Trump’s motives for dropping in unannounced and requesting prayer. You may believe it to be a calculated tactic to endear himself (or in some cases to further endear himself) to the evangelical community. Perhaps, you’re right; but the criticisms (some of them quite harsh) of David Platt are short-sighted. This was one of those unexpected “opportunities” that pastors often have to face on Sundays, although, admittedly, his was an unexpected opportunity on steroids. He wrote about that in his statement, as well – “Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that we didn’t see coming, and we’re faced with a decision in a moment when we don’t have the liberty of deliberation, so we do our best to glorify God. Today, I found myself in one of those situations.”
His written statement to his congregation has been labeled by some as an apology. He does acknowledge that some may have been hurt by the choice to pray over the President, but he also goes on to state that what he did was non-political and thoroughly biblical. Although my opinion may not rate high, I commend David Platt for doing what he did and how he did it. In my view, he handled it with grace and truth.
If you agree with President Trump’s policies and positions, pray for him. If you disagree with the President’s policies and positions, pray for him. If you have mixed feelings about the President’s policies and positions, pray for him. But what if you (as many evidently do) have intense feelings of dislike for the man who currently holds the office of President? What if you think he is the embodiment of everything you despise? Well… pray for him. Did not Jesus instruct us to love our enemies and to pray for even those who persecute us?
Arguments go back and forth on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. The internet is a virtual town square where opinions can be expressed and issues debated. Sadly, this often turns to rage and ranting generously seasoned with foul language and personal attacks.
If you’re a Christian, you can still enter the fray to offer opinions and debate issues, but let us do so as we are guided by God’s Word –
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. (1 John 4:20)
It’s okay to debate issues. I’d argue that believers need to enter the public debate on important issues such as sex trafficking, abortion, euthanasia, poverty, immigration, racism, sexual harassment, pornography… the list seems endless. But when we enter the virtual word of Tweets and Facebook posts, let’s enter this world full of “grace and truth.” Let us not use the same sensible discretion when posting that we do when having face to face conversations. Let us remember that rage does not enhance our argument, nor does the use of harsh and abusive language. Why do good judgment and civility seem to disappear when voicing opinions on social media?
Let us be people who reflect the Christ we claim to worship. Yes, there were times when Jesus got angry. Anger itself is not a bad thing. But Jesus’ reputation was not of an angry prophet whose breath smelled of brimstone. We can become angry over issues and injustices. We can state our opinions in person or online. But we must always remember that we are not Jesus. We do not have His insight and understanding. We too often react based on emotions putting both our hearts and minds in suspending animation while we give full vent to our rage.
I leave you with these wise words from James, the brother of Jesus – “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10)
I finally got to try all three of the summer fruit doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. So… here’s how it turned out.
The pineapple was my least favorite of the three. If you’ve ever had the pineapple topping that goes on ice cream, this was what the filling reminded me of. On a scale of 1-10, I’d give this a 3.
The strawberry was better. The insides tasted like strawberry jam. Like the pineapple, the frosting on top didn’t do much to enhance the flavor. If I’m going to go with strawberry, I think I’d rather than a tastier frosting or the flavor in the dough itself. I give it a 5.
The key lime was BY FAR my favorite, though I must confess I like key lime almost anything! The filling was good. Again the frosting on top didn’t add much to the flavor, but it didn’t mess it up. I’d buy this one again… and again… and again. My grade on this one is a 9. (The hot glazed gets a 10 every time!)
Maybe next time I should do a video taste testing. That would give me an excuse to go back to Krispy Kreme … like I need one. 🙂
A person’s worth is not determined by their race, their ethnicity, their sexuality, their occupation, their income, their behavior, or their religion. Each person is made in the image of God, and, therefore, each person has incredible value to Him.
When we disagree with others, even over important matters, we must never fail to recognize the inherent dignity and worth of our “opponent.” When we belittle or dehumanize someone or a group of people, we are not honoring the Creator.
This does not mean we have to water down God’s truth or compromise our values. It does mean that we live each day with the awareness that our battle is not against flesh and blood. We need to recognize our true enemy and be willing to fight our battles in the spiritual realm first.We are not called to agree with everyone.
We are not called to go along with every new cultural wave that comes along. We are called to love everybody always.
John’s gospel tells us that Jesus came full of grace and truth. Let that be our starting point today.
Children need discipline. They need guardrails and direction. They will disobey. They will rebel. They will be disagreeable, irritable, irritating, and sometime make you want to lock yourself away in a bedroom closet for a couple of hours. Children are children, and they need parents or guardians in their lives to set appropriate boundaries and teach acceptable behavior.
Will they push against those boundaries? Yes, but their pushing is part of their growing process. The challenge for you who love those children is to create a safe, loving environment that also teaches responsibility and obedience without being overbearing and crushing the child’s spirit and creativity.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to every challenge, because every child is different. If you have more than one child, you already know that! What worked like a charm with one child blows up in your face with the next. But there are some principles that seem to work across the spectrum. Here are four common sense necessities for disciplining children.
1. Discipline with the End in Mind
Discipline is never fun for the one giving it or the one receiving it. We’d rather not have to discipline a child, but we know its necessary for their future and our sanity. We don’t discipline just for the sake of doing it; we discipline with an end in mind. There is something that we are trying to achieve that is worth the effort.
Our desire is to nurture and develop our children so they can grow in maturity and wisdom. What kind of child do you want to unleash on the world as an adult? Some parents spend a lot of time and energy on the physical development of a child, hoping she or he will become a first rate athlete. Some parents invest their energies on insuring their child is a straight A student with the opportunity to go to a great college and land a high-paying job. But do we stop and ask what kind of character we want our child turned adult to have?
What is your vision for that future person? If you want your child to grow up to be honest, responsible, kind, generous, and faithful, then your task is to create an environment where he or she is exposed to those characteristics and learns why those are important values in your home. These conversations need to start as early as a child can begin to process that information. As they grow older, you can begin to ask them what type of person do they want to be. It’s interesting that a child is often asked what they want to be when they grow up, but rarely who they want to be. Maybe that should change!
2. Communicate Clearly, Consistently, and Persistently
Communication is a necessity for any relationship to be healthy. Without communication, there is misunderstanding, disappointment, and often chaos. It is one of the leading issues that comes up in both marriage and pre-marriage counseling sessions.
There are three areas where clear communication is needed. First, you need to set easily understandable boundaries. Your child needs to know exactly where the lines are and what will happen if they cross those lines. Be clear about your expectations and about the consequences, but make sure you’re willing to back up your “threats.” The only thing worse that not have clear expectations and consequences is having them and not following through.
Second, be clear about why a particular behavior or attitude is important for them now and later in life. Discipline may involve punishment, but it is more than that. It is not an angry outburst followed by a punishment. Discipline is the loving, careful, thoughtful, intentional correction of a behavior for the purpose of correcting a child and pointing them to a better choice.
Third, be clear about your motivation. You are acting out of love. You want the very best for your child’s future, and discipline is part of that process. To be totally truthful, they may not get it at the moment, but as they grow older, they will begin to grasp why you had to set limits in their lives. Most mature adults appreciate the loving guidance that parents offered.
3. Discipline in Proportion to the Offense
Too often discipline or punishment is a spur of the moment event that happens in a fit of anger or hurt. Discipline, as we said, needs to be more purposeful. Sometimes that means waiting to dole out the correction. The reason for a delay may be to consider what is appropriate given the reason for the discipline. The punishment or correction should be in proportion to the level of the infraction. This may require parents to come together and discuss what is appropriate. This becomes more important as the child gets older, and it can be appropriate to ask an older child was she or he thinks is just given the circumstances.
Is there ever a time when an offense is overlooked? Yes. Sometimes an act by a child comes with its own consequences. You may determine that those consequences are enough. You should practice compassion, grace, forgiveness, and restoration. This requires wisdom on your part. To never discipline a child is not wise. To discipline without mercy can be just as bad. Just make sure your child knows why you are doing what you are doing, and at the center of that “why” should be love.
4. Stay the Course
Discipline is not easy. That’s why many parents choose not to do it consistently. Don’t be one of those parents!
Children need boundaries. Children need accountability. Children need discipline, and they need it to be applied consistently and reasonably. It is not something that can or should be done off the cuff. It requires thought, discussion among the parents, wisdom, sometimes outside counsel, and consistency.
Children are smart. They see when you are taking the easy way out, and they’ll be more than happy to take advantage of the opportunity. Children are sensitive. They know when you are loving and careful in your discipline, and when you are haphazard. Children are vulnerable. They need a protector, a guardian, who keeps them safe, sets boundaries, and loves them on their best days and their worst days.
I would also encourage all parents and guardians to be actively involved in a local church. The church will reinforce the values that you are teaching, but it can also provide a support group for you. A church family can be a safe environment to ask questions, share your struggles, and seek wisdom. The church can point you to truths contained in God’s Word and encourage you as you bring godly principles into your discipline at home. The church does not take the place of what happens in your home, but it can be a resource and source of strength for parents.
[Grace Fellowship has developed at Grace@Home Resource Center located near their front entrance. Please come by to check out the resources available for individuals and families.]
These Scriptures can help you and your family stay focused as we move from Palm Sunday to Easter. Please note that some Bible scholars may have a different specific timeline, but the events of that week leading to the resurrection are consistent.
Palm Sunday –
Matthew 21:1–11, Mark 11:1–11, Luke 19:28–44, John 12:9–19
Matthew 21:12–22, Mark 11:12–19, Luke 19:45–48
Matthew 21:23–26:5, Mark 11:27–14:2, Luke 20:1–22:2, John 12:37–50
Matthew 26:6–16, Mark 14:3–11, Luke 22:3–6
Matthew 26:17–75, Mark 14:12–72, Luke 22:7–71, John 13:1–18:27
Matthew 27:1–61, Mark 15:1–47, Luke 23:1–56, John 18:28–19:42
Easter Sunday –
Matthew 28:1–20, Mark 16:1–8, Luke 24:1–53, John 20:1–21:25
Daylight Savings Time won’t be a problem today. I don’t have to worry about over-sleeping in the morning, because I am already up at 4:52am (formerly 3:52am pre-DST). In fact, I’ve been awake since around 3:00am. It wasn’t the plan, but it is the reality.
After rearranging myself and the covers and the pillow a few times, I finally resolved that I was awake. Then came the inner griping – after all, griping out loud would only wake Nancy up. There was no need for both us to be awake. After my little pity party, my mind drifted northward – to my sister and her husband.
My brother-in-law Keith is in critical condition after he suffered head trauma in an accident on Friday night. His skull is fractured and he has bleeding on his brain. My sister Susan is by his side, weeping, praying, and hoping that he’ll pull through this. I can’t imagine the heartache she is experiencing now, but I put my little gripe session on hold to join her in her prayers. I invite you to do the same.
Events like this are not-so-gentle reminders that the things that bother us so much one moment become infinitely insignificant in light of life and death situations. As I continued to pray for Keith, Susan, and the family, the Lord brought to mind others who are hurting. I took the time to lift up prayers for them, as well.
Here’s the bottom line – Life is filled with little annoyances and major heartaches… AND life is filled with moments of pure joy and times of incredible peace. Through both, God is faithful, He is near, He cares, and He joins us in both our joys and sorrows. He has also given us people to bring a loving physical touch to us.
I hated waking up way too early on Sunday morning, but it’s a small thing… and it became an opportunity to pray for God to intervene in the lives of the hurting, the grieving, the hopeless, the struggling, and the lost.
We would be wise to spend some time each day reflecting on those things that are most important, telling the people in our lives how much we love them, and confessing how self-centered we can too often become. Life is precious, death is certain, grief hurts, and eternity is a long time. Let’s live as if we actually believe those things are true.
I am grateful for the comfort that Scripture brings – especially on those days I feel especially broken or when life seems to have gone off the rails. In those times, I can remind myself of what it true and solid. Verses like…
“When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” (Psalm 56:3)
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)
And, of course, this verse is one that I frequently repeat to myself in times of confusion or when facing conflict – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
All of these verses are true. All bring comfort. Each one is worthy of being committed to memory so that it will be present the next time we have “one of those days.”
Sometimes a verse from God’s Word is exactly what we need to pull us out of the ditch and put our feet back on the path, but we’d do well to consider the context in which these verses were written. In other words, the Scripture may speak to us in our moment of need, but it also spoke to a person or a group of people in the time which it was written. Knowing that context may help us understand God and His ways better.
For instance, consider Jeremiah 29:11. If we take time to read the chapter, we’ll see that those words are part of a letter that the prophet Jeremiah wrote from Jerusalem to his fellow Jews exiled in Babylon. The exile followed the conquest of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem by the world’s super-power at that time. And that super power had carted off many of Judah’s citizens to its own land. A great number of Jews were now living in enemy territory.
Jeremiah gives his exiled countrymen words of hope. God had not forgotten them. All was not lost. They would come home. But these words are nestled within a stark reality – they would be in exile for 70 years before returning. This meant that nearly every Jew then living in Babylon would die in Babylon, never seeing their home country again. It wasn’t exactly the word they were hoping God would give them.
Jeremiah goes so far as to tell them to settle in for the long haul. Build your houses. Plant your gardens. Let your children marry. Get a job or start a business. Pray for the place where you’re living and work for its betterment. You’re going to be there a while. And Jeremiah warned them not to listen to those who were saying that their stay was only temporary, that any day they’d pack their bags and go back home – that just wasn’t reality.
This is not what the people would have wanted to hear. They had been led off to foreign soil, to a different culture, among a people who spoke an unknown language. They had abandoned their home and many of their possessions, and they longed to return and get back to life as usual.
Jeremiah’s message would not have been welcomed, but in the midst of the gloom and doom, he speaks hope – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Despite how it may feel, God has not forgotten you. God has a plan. You have a future.
We tend to want a quick fix – just like those Jewish men and women in exile. We become impatient with God. We want to escape the desert. We want to get out of our storm. We shout, “If God’s got a plan, then let Him get on with it. Doesn’t he see I’m struggling here? Doesn’t He care?” Yes, He does see. Yes, He does care. He has a purpose. He has a plan. It’s true that His thoughts and our thoughts don’t always mesh. His ways are sometimes so much higher than ours that there is no way we can understand what’s happening.
But in the midst of the struggles and pain and confusion, God speaks to remind us – “I am here. I do care. I have a plan to bring good from bad, the best from the worst.” And He invites us to trust Him…