What To Do When Your Nation is Dying… 2 Corinthians 4.1-6

american-flag---tattered

The following is the manuscript of my sermon from Sunday, June 28, 2015:

In 22 years of ministry, this is only the 2nd time I have changed a scheduled message. The first time was following the events that took place on 9/11. That week changed the history of our nation and the world. I perceive that the events of this week will change our nation and the world in far more dramatic and fearful ways. My heart is compelled to address from my pulpit the spiritual calamity that has been thrust upon our nation this week. It is a pending disaster of our own making – but a disaster, nonetheless.

Everything changed this week. And yet, nothing really changed. Not yet. Though many of us were shocked, the sun rose this morning in America, despite the Supreme Court decisions handed down this week…

And yet, I have a gnawing and persistent feeling in my soul that our nation has now crossed a line and established a destination from which there can be no return. I believe that we have inexorably set ourselves on a course to abandon the presence, protection, and power of God Almighty without Whom we could have never come so far among the history and nations of the Earth. Such a path requires this Bible-believing American pastor to make clear the belief, distinction, and intention of his own ministry as well as that of the church God has given me to pastor.

First, let me say to our church members here at Redeemer that although we adopted a Constitution and Bylaws just last Sunday, we will vote to amend that Constitution to reflect the spiritual and legal position of our church concerning what the US Supreme Court has legally termed, “Homosexual Marriage.” In a Biblical economy (which is what we endeavor to create here at Redeemer) those two words are incongruous. The state has now annexed the right to authorize unions between whomsoever it chooses, but it is my absolute conviction that marriage is the gift and plan of God to and for humanity. Thus, God does not participate in unions that are clearly, unmistakably condemned in His inerrant Word, the Bible. True marriage takes place only between a man and a woman. I intend to lead this congregation to make and take a clear stand on that principle. Perhaps America can survive for some period of time without that distinction. But the Church will not survive for one minute if it abandons God’s Word and plan. Our constitution will reflect, in some wording, the following:

1) We will neither authorize nor recognize homosexual unions at Redeemer. 2) We will not participate in those unions, (3) nor will we allow those living in such unions to enlist in the membership of this congregation. (4) Our pastors and staff will minister with the support and expectation of the congregation that we will never participate in such a union, whether legal or not. And we will (5) state in our documents that we will not veer from our belief that marriage only takes place between ONE man and ONE woman.

I want to speak to you today on this Subject: What To Do When Your Nation is Dying”

2 Corinthians 4: 

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Hear me today: It is not that I have decided to pull away from my weekly teaching of the Scripture in order to address the social issues of the day. Quite the opposite – I believe that the Scripture IS the social issue of the day, even if rejected by the culture at large.

In this text, Paul is encouraging and even chastising the believers within the early church to stand firm on the path to repentance that is based upon both TRUTH and MERCY. He speaks of ministry being our occupation, mercy being our motivation, truth being our inspiration, and the gospel being our vindication.

That early church was growing and thriving in an evil world – a world that couldn’t even perceive the truth of God, much less understand it. Two thousand years later, we find ourselves living in that same world. The early church at Corinth was weak in the faith because they didn’t know the principles of the Word of God. The American church is in precisely the same conundrum.

There are many today who believe we are now “POST-CHRISTIAN AMERICA.” I believe that AT BEST we have been post-Christian for decades now. And let me emphasize that NATIONS are not Christians. People are Christians. The idea that a nation could be Christian is a theological nightmare that dates back to Constantine in the year 312. It was a bad idea then, and it is a foolish sentiment now. Regardless of whether or not you agree with that premise, there can be little doubt that we now live in an America that has largely rejected the doctrines of Christianity and has consistently abandoned the underpinnings of the Biblical fabric upon which much of our national source documents were penned.

This week, God’s plan for the family didn’t haphazardly fall into a dusty ditch; It was willfully beaten, stabbed, choked, murdered, and left on the interstate for all to see its mangled carcass. This was no accident. It didn’t just happen while no one was watching. No sir. Years of personal abandonment of God’s Word and plan for humanity finally made its way from your house and my house to the White House and even into the hallowed halls of the highest court on Earth. They are to blame. We are to blame. I am to blame. And YOU are to blame. So, what do we do?

Paul tells us FIRST…….DON’T LOSE HEART, v2.  While the SCOTUS ruling this week proves that we as Christians are now legally in the minority, that does not mean we are alone. You are never alone when you stand for the Lord even if the whole world leaves you. Jesus will never forsake you when you stand for Him.

And it is wrong to think that we are at war with the 3.8% of American Homosexuals who sought this ruling. Jesus loves them. And He loved them enough to give His life to pay the ransom from their immorality. Paul reminds us in verse 2 that WE TOO had an old life of shame from which we walk in repentance. If Christ can save me, He can save anyone. It is the culture which has declared war upon us. That does not mean we have to retaliate. Rather, we are called to respond. Who gave us a better example of how to respond to hatred than the Lord Jesus?

God never promised any believer would have religious liberty. Historically, the gospel has flourished in times of persecution. As Americans, we are really the only people in history who HAVE had religious freedom in any real capacity. Those days are coming to a close, though and we should not lose heart even when all seems to be collapsing around us, spiritually.

Paul also reminds us to DON’T LOSE HOPE, v2. I believe that the real enemy of Christianity in America and around the world is the MEDIA. If you don’t believe that the media of this world is controlled by the evil one, you need your head examined. In Ephesians 2.2, Paul said, ““And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”

The argument of that passage and this one is that THE PROBLEM in our world is due to the fact that the GOSPEL is HIDDEN to those who are perishing without it. Why should we be surprised that LOST people act LOST?

The problem isn’t political. Our political leaders have become little more than street prostitutes who pander to whoever will pay them most. We don’t need more Republicans. Or Conservatives either, for that matter. Now, God knows I’ve never voted for a Democrat, haha. And if I need to turn LEFT, I just turn RIGHT twice. Politics aren’t the ANSWER to the problem. They are part of the CAUSE of it.

For some strange reason, we in the church expect that people will live by a gospel that they have rejected. They have rejected it because they don’t understand it. They don’t understand it because they don’t want to. They don’t want to because it doesn’t seem palatable to them. It isn’t palatable to them because their hearts are spiritually dead and because their conscience hasn’t been quickened. That’s where we bear some blame. Paul says that we are to “walk not in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

Don’t lose hope. God is in control. Are you worried that America will fall?

IT WILL. “The kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of Our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11.11) 

Sometimes we get the idea that it is America against the rest of the world. That may be true, politically. But spiritually, here’s the truth: IT IS THE RULER OF THIS WORLD AGAINST THE RULER OF ETERNITY. And in the end, all humans will choose a side. Which side they choose will determine not only the course of their eternity, but also the direction of their path in life. The ruler gets to set the values. And so our dilemma. The ruler who is setting the values in America is the television. And your grandfather’s preacher told you to turn it off and open your Bible 50 years ago.

That is the biggest issue I have with the SCOTUS ruling as an American. In a democracy (or even our representative republic) the values are supposed to be set by the populace. Constitutionally, the states should have been free to allow the voters to debate this issue and decide it at the ballot box. That ability was literally STOLEN by five justices of an unimpeachable court. Their decision is the law of the land. Forever.

A ruling hierarchy has now replaced the electorate. I do not believe we shall ever return from this path. It is not the government which is corrupt. It is the men in government who are corrupt. Corrupted not by lack of education or intelligence, but by sin. Read v3-4 with me…….

It’s not that they are mean. They are blind. And now, in America, the blind are truly leading the blind. But don’t lose hope. The One we follow saw the end before He created the beginning. He will see us safely home!

1) Don’t lose heart. Christ died for the ungodly. That means He died for you and for me and for them. God’s throne hasn’t been moved one millimeter by the Supreme Court. Stand up for the truth of God’s Word and be counted a humble and faithful servant of Jesus during these difficult times. The trouble we are experiencing now is only a precursor to the true persecution that Christians will doubtless face in the future. Stand on truth. Walk in love.

2) Don’t lose hope. The revival America needs begins with you. And even if that revival never comes to America it can come to you. Don’t expect lost people to act saved. Only Christian people can have Christian values. Do what you can to share those values and to walk in repentance. Allow Jesus to deal with your own sin before you confront the world. Trust God to lead your life and then lead your family to follow Him with reckless abandon.

I believe there is a third truth in this passage that is especially relevant to our struggle today. Here it is: 3) DON’T LOSE HEAVEN, v4-6.

Paul makes it simple: The gospel is the glory of Christ. And Christ is the image of God. The heart of Christianity is in view here as we interpret these verses. The gospel (good news) is that there is Jesus. And the great news is that Jesus is God. The one who will ultimately judge this world is the very one who is totally willing to forgive this world!

Like many students of Scripture, I understand that homosexuality is not the end-it-all sin. It is yet another perversion of human sexuality that is on par with adultery, fornication, and pornography. It is always easy to bash someone who struggles with a sin that you don’t struggle with. We have done that well in the modern-day church. We have been quiet in the pulpit about adultery that is rampant in sight of the whole congregation all while seeking the “amens” that come with the whole “Adam-and-Eve-not-Adam-and-Steve” thing. May God forgive us. Perversion is perversion and God does not favor one brand over another. There are few innocent. In fact, I don’t know anyone who is.

The problem with what happened at the Supreme Court in America is not homosexuality. The problem is that our culture now has a legal mandate to NOT REPENT of immorality. Rather, we are to embrace it. The rights and convictions of the millions of religious people have been transformed legally into the unimportant embracing of a fairy tale. Our convictions cannot be held in public life to any measurable standard. And this Supreme Court decision will allow for the rapid acceleration of America’s moral degeneration. We will legally redefine all sin. Oh, I know it doesn’t seem that way. Yet.

But if you think that the media and the gay community will stop with this “win” then you are insane. They will now do everything possible to silence any dissent toward that lifestyle. The Christian worldview will be henceforth cast aside at almost every opportunity as “outdated, hateful, bigotry” that impedes the “progress” (President Obama’s word to describe the ruling) of “normal” American life. AND THE SUPREME COURT RULING HAS NOW MADE THAT LEGAL. No longer will states and voters be able to determine the course of the nation. Now, those in power will make those determinations for us. And those in power will be chosen by those whom Paul says have been “blinded by the god of this age.” 

Repentance has now been buried in a shallow grave on American soil. There is no need to repent of anything that is “right,” right?

The Word of God universally pronounces judgment on any nation that would reclassify evil as good, darkness as light, and bitter as sweet (see Isaiah 5:20). As a nation, America now resides squarely in the crosshairs of God’s judgment. I am horrified to think that His finger is on the trigger as I speak today.

So, now, let us come to the heart of the matter. And the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.

Have you repented of your sin? As our culture has increased its velocity on the path to hell the church has sat by and said, “Believe, believe!” We have failed to share the other side of the coin of salvation. One side pleads with us to believe and the other side commands us to repent. You cannot do one without doing the other, spiritually!

It is easier to get to heaven from America than probably any place on earth. There are churches and preachers and Christians everywhere who can point the way. Americans are without excuse when it comes to the gospel. You have to reject the gospel here in order to free yourself from its influence. And yet it is also easier to go to hell from America than perhaps any place on earth. And it gets easier every day.

Today in America, God has been relegated to the position of “senile old grandfather” who watched as the universe sprang into existence on its own and who has no real clue what’s going on. He changed his mind on moral issues back in the 20th century and wants you to figure it out on your own and He’s really pulling for you along the way. In fact, He wants you to be rich and happy on your journey. Try to work Him in if you can and He will bless you. And God bless America. And. All. That. Nonsense.

No sir. No ma’am. The God of Christianity is The Almighty. He is Holy. He is Immutable. He is not pleading for your heart. He is demanding your unconditional surrender. Whatever is surrendered to Him will alone be saved from this world. All else will be consigned to an eternal burning garbage dump in a never-ending hole in all-consuming darkness.

Don’t miss heaven thinking you are part of a Christian nation. You never were and you never will be. Nations don’t believe and repent. People do. God requires men everywhere to repent and surrender to Him. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. With that surrender to Him, HE will transform your life and set you free from your painful past and poisonous perversion.

Thousands of years ago, God set a rainbow in the sky to remind Himself to withhold His anger and also to show a man and his family that He had been merciful to them when He poured His wrath upon the earth. It is shameful to admit what people in our nation think nowadays when we see a rainbow. What used to be a symbol of mercy is now a symbol of abomination and mockery. But God will not be mocked forever. Especially not by a nation full of spoiled brats and punks who have been loved and protected like no other people in history. He will deal with us. And we may well never hear the shot that killed us.

When you go home today, open Google maps and do a search for “Sodom and Gomorrah.” You will find pictures of a seaside with two unmistakable areas of scorched earth with a sodium content that makes the ground there uninhabitable forever.

THAT is what God thinks of immorality. THAT is how God responds to people who mock Him and His Word. THAT is what happens to a nation that rebels against Him. THAT is what happens to people who are so delusional that they can no longer repent.

The Bible says TODAY is the day of salvation. That means TODAY is the day of repentance. And we are the people. And this is the place. And now is the time.

May God save America. Only He can. 

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Pallets, People, and Preaching

Trash Pallet Mountain

Trash Pallet Mountain

Pallet Wood Coolers
Pallet Wood Coolers

Recently, I decided to add an old-fashioned wooden wall to my man cave in the new house. I wanted that weathered, rustic look to accompany the hunting and fishing theme in my cool little hangout. Such a wall would be the perfect background for a big-screen TV and surround system for watching football games or rainy-day movies. After spending some time on Google, looking for ideas, I was directed to a site called Pinterest, where this whole journey began. Don’t take my man-card away just yet! Give me a moment to explain.

Pinterest showed me countless pages of projects that could be built with useless old shipping pallets. Having spent many beloved years in Hazlehurst (south Georgia), my mind wandered back to the town’s timber mills and my friends employed there who explained how those mills worked. I remembered taking tours of the mills and learning how pallets are made. My visit to Pinterest reminded me of learning years ago that pallets are made from the rejects of the lumber world. When a forest is cut for timber, the large and valuable wood is quickly taken to the specialty saws, where it is fashioned into beautiful lumber to be sold in the expensive markets. On the other hand, all the little, scraggy, insignificant, crooked, and twisted trees are doomed to the sad fate of being milled into shipping pallets – where they will face a brief and brutal life of servitude before eventually being burned in someone’s scrap pile.

Pallet Adirondack Chair

Pallet Adirondack Chair

It took little time to realize I had discovered a new hobby. I immediately loved the idea of redeeming that old, useless wood. As a pastor, nothing is more appealing than seeing something pulled from the trash heap and made useful again….something that was rejected by the world and destined for the fire being saved, resurrected, and repurposed. That will preach! Redemption is the greatest concept in this universe, if you ask me. It is when we seek to be used by God in His redemptive plan that our hearts are most like the heart of God.

Nevertheless, it is no easy task to redeem an old shipping pallet. There is an inestimable amount of nail pulling, straightening, trimming, beating, sanding, and shaping required of the Redeemer. Those pallets have been spitefully assembled with hundreds of twisted, high-powered nails, which have hatefully split and warped the wood. Years of subsequent abuse by the world have gouged and scarred them deeply with marks of bitterness and neglect. They have been cracked and marred by forklifts, trucks, and careless people who never gave them a second thought. They have been ruined by people who failed to have vision for how beautiful that wood could be if it were only treasured and cared for. Where someone else saw firewood, I saw a chair, a table, a cooler, or maybe even some picture frames.

It wasn’t that we saw different things, but rather that we saw the same things differently.

Please listen for a moment as I now share with you the gospel of the pallet. The story of a pallet is also the story of both preachers and people. I am that pallet. So are you. We were growing crookedly in the swamps of this sinful world before being cut down in our failure. We were bound to a cruel life of slavery to sin. Hewn and hacked deeply, nailed and beaten, bruised and battered, abused by the world and then discarded as useless. Designed only to be used by others and then rejected when no longer deemed valuable. Ultimately and inevitably we were destined for the fire.

I have chosen to be involved in God’s great plan of redemption. Only He can redeem the busted staple-infested pallet of a sin-sick soul. But I can be a tool in His redeeming hand.

Redemption is in my heart. I have a goal and a purpose when I walk to the scrap pallet pile. I want the most hideous and brutalized pallet in the whole pile. You see, my purpose cannot be accomplished by use of the straight, perfect, and unstained lumber of Lowe’s or Home Depot. That wood doesn’t need me. Anyone can do well with that which is easy. When I build with that wood, no one can ever see the heart of craftsmanship and passion that I so long to display.

Rather, I have decided that the ugly can be remade to be even more beautiful than the pretty. I have purposed in my heart that the crooked can be made straight. I have set my eye on turning the wretched gouges and painful nicks of abuse into badges of character, glory, and honor. I will work diligently to reclaim the rejected. I will not give up before my prize is repurposed and perfected. I will never stop my work until the pallet I have chosen has been redeemed. I will then love and share what I have recreated, and I will treasure the glory which comes among friends from being a craftsman who loves to save the useless and the perishing.

My new hobby has taught me more about the heart of Jesus than any seminary class I ever took. My passion for the gospel has been more stoked in my little woodshed than by any conference I have ever attended. In sessions with those warped, twisted, despised, and defiled wooden pallets I have learned what the Artisan of this universe, Jesus Christ, is doing in my life.

And I love it. It makes me love Him. There’s no one He cannot save. There is no life too useless for Him to redeem. Nothing can ever be too broken for Him to restore. There is nothing that can stand in the way of His strong hand. His work never fails and His calling never relents. If He sets His loving eye upon you, you will be redeemed.

That truth has set me free. It has set me free from the insatiable desire to please others and live for things which are perishing. I have been ransomed from a cycle of personal kingdom building, number counting, and glory seeking. My value now rests completely in the hands of the One who has chosen to make me valuable. My purpose in life is to see His purpose in my life accomplished. I am redeemed, and now I want more than anything to be involved in the redemption of others. I can now preach with the absolute assurance that Jesus walks the aisles during my sermon. While I teach them, He teaches me! While saving them, He is shaping me! So I preach now without hype and with calm confidence. I do so knowing that He sees what no one else could ever see. He is willing to do what no one else could ever do. He is able to accomplish what no one else could ever accomplish. I live to serve the Redeemer who is making me a redeemer.

And I just can’t wait to see which pallet He picks when He visits the scrapyard called Redeemer Church this Sunday.

Pallet Picnic Table and Benches

Pallet Picnic Table and Benches

The Heart of Redeemer – Part Two

In 1985, while I was in the ninth grade, the nation was in a buzz about the newest Michael J. Fox movie, Back to the Future. I never paid much attention to the movie, as the only part of it that every really interested me was the amazingly beautiful Lea Thompson. What can I say? I was in the ninth grade. It was fairly dumb movie, in my opinion….the whole helping-your-mom-to-love-your-dad-instead-of-loving-you thing just seemed a tad creepy to me. I wasn’t interested in it, except for the amazingly beautiful Lea Thompson. Oh, I already mentioned that. Moving on.

While it is impossible to go back to the future, maybe it is possible to reach the future by going back to the past. That sentiment is the heartbeat of Redeemer Church. We want to reach the future by looking to the past. Two thousand years into the past, to be precise. We want to return to the mindset of the church as it existed on day one. Our model is found in Acts 2:40-47, where the church is formed at the conclusion of the first apostolic sermon.

In seminary, I was always bothered by the “evolution” of the New Testament Church of our day back into an Old Testament temple model that often looks nothing like the church of Acts 2. I was even more bothered by why no one could (or would even try to) explain to me what I perceived to be such a denigration. I realize that man is incurably religious, and I attribute that to the reality that human beings have been created imago Dei. The image of God in us, though defiled, makes us empty without Him. We need to worship. So, we build a temple. People come to the temple, pay homage, and then go right on with their lives. That’s what they did in the Old Testament. That’s largely what’s done today.

That isn’t the church God built in Acts 2. Rather, He built a people, and indwelled them with power, glory, and beauty. It was much more a community than a cathedral! The first church wasn’t a place to go – it was something to be. It changed the world two thousand years ago. And I believe it can still change the world today!

The Acts 2 model had three characteristics that we will diligently pursue at Redeemer. Those three characteristics can be further divided into ten marks:

 1. It was DRIVEN by the power of God’s Word (v40-42)

There was inspiration (40), Confrontation (40), and Invitation (41)

 2. It was DOMINATED by the presence of God’s Spirit (43-45)

There was fear (43), friendliness (44), and family (45)

 3. It was DISTINGUISHED by the participation of God’s People (v46-47)

There was intimacy (46), intensity (46), influence (47), and increase (47)

At Redeemer, we will seek to emulate these three characteristics and evaluate our ministry by these ten marks. As a dear pastor friend of mine says, “We want to be a first century church in a twenty-first century world!”

Almost three weeks to the day before he was assassinated, President John F. Kennedy made this statement: “Most presidents leave office feeling their work is unfinished. I’ve got a lot to do and little time remaining.” At the time, no one in the world understood how prophetic his statement really was. He didn’t have much time left. At age 43, I am beginning to understand his sentiment. We don’t have forever. We only have today. That’s why it is so very important that we give our lives wholly to that which we love. For me, I love the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though it is not always easy, though the world may persecute, slander and malign, though it may cost me everything, I choose to give what time I have left in this world to serve Christ and prepare His Bride, the Church, for His coming.

 

The Heart of Redeemer, Part One

Redemmer  BLACK BANNER

 

Back in March of this year, the Lord began to lay on my heart what I would soon understand to be His calling to plant a new church. I never would have imagined such an assignment and up to this very moment still feel quite inadequate and unprepared to attempt such a task. Still, I have an unshakeable peace that Jesus has sent me to Morgan County and that my work here has just begun. Arriving at that assurance has been both the most difficult journey and greatest blessing of my ministry. There were no expectations, conversations, or manipulations. There were no contacts. No committees. No connections. I stand on the certainty that God alone has personally arranged this next phase of my ministry. That certainty is perhaps the most rewarding spiritual discovery of my life.

One by one, my friends, heroes, and mentors have prayed with me and affirmed this calling, offering support and suggestions that have blessed me immeasurably. However, one statement has been made to me with shocking regularity by friends in ministry. I have heard this phrase, in different forms, often: “I envy you.”

Wow. That’s what I think every time I hear that statement. Wow. How could that be? How could so many pastors and ministers today feel that way about the church?

I believe the answer to that question is the basis of the calling God has given me to Redeemer Church. For the past three months, I have had opportunity to visit many churches in Georgia, whether preaching or just worshipping. Some of those churches have been fantastic and life changing. Others have…..not. It has been an informative study for me to be able to attend other churches and just watch. What I have discovered when combined with my own recent experiences has changed the way I think about church.

A simple truth has emerged in my quest: eventually, churches tend to become organizations. You can sense it when you walk through the door! God’s plan for the church is that it is an organism. Alive. Engaging. Dynamic. But it seems that many, if not most, churches today are static; more interested in systems than sanctification. More concerned with the regulars than with redemption. More self-aggrandizing than sacrificially selfless. More geared to making the powers-that-be happy than the down-and-outs holy. The world has noticed – and is increasingly shunning the church. My heart aches for those who are being lost in this generation.

How does that happen? How does a church founded with the highest of spiritual intentions end up becoming so man-centered, system-driven, politically governed, and inward focused? The more difficult question follows: How can it ever be changed once it has assumed that model?

I’ve learned that my pastor buddies have been implying that it is difficult, if not nearly impossible to really effect change in an established church today. I acknowledge this to be a generalized, non-absolute statement. But consider this: The average tenure of a pastor in America today is three years. Youth pastors generally last eighteen months. While conveniently dressed in many different explanations or accusations, those brief tenures can quite often be explained by an incompatibility between the minister and the church “powers” in the area of change. We all want to change until it is we who have to change!

God willing, I want to lead Redeemer to be different. How? By keeping it simple. How simple? Three words: love, lift, and lead. We will seek to Love the Lord, Lift the Fallen, and Lead the Saints. Our vision is to be disciples and make disciples. We will seek to embrace prophetic ministry while battling political machinations. We will seek to elevate redeeming above ruling. We will seek to be guided by Spirit and governed by the congregation. We will try to honor the spiritual needs of the many over the stolid desires of the few. We will work daily to keep it simple!

Coming up….. Part Two….. “Back to the Future”

 

My New Job…

The interminable transition/reformation/vacation has finally come to an end. Praise the Lord! Now, it’s back to reality. Kind of.

On Wednesday, May 8, I accepted the call to be the Pastor of a church that didn’t yet exist, meeting at a place not yet secured, with a membership not yet determined, drawing a salary not yet acquired, beginning on a date not yet established. No building, no budget, no staff, no pulpit, no copy machine, no office, no microphone……no clue! How’s that for reality?

Truth is, I’m more excited than I’ve ever been! Living for four months out of the pastorate was one of the most difficult – even if rewarding – periods of my life. I have come to the point where I can honestly thank God for all the things I’ve experienced during this time. My perspective on life, family, and ministry has been changed forever. These months have been a true sabbatical for me. I’ve never received more love, support, and encouragement than I have while in the valley. Yet all of that pales in comparison to the transforming presence of God, who has spoken to my heart and revealed Himself to me in ways I could never have previously imagined.

But now it’s time to get back to work. I have a fire in my soul to get back in the pulpit – if I can find one, that is.

The Lord has led my family, some friends, and me to begin a new church plant in Madison, Georgia. There are already many wonderful churches in this county, but we are convinced that Jesus has a specific call on our lives for this opportunity. God has performed some true miracles to bring this to pass. We did not seek it. We do not yet understand it. But we cannot deny it! I’ve never been more dependent upon the Lord, nor more confident in His calling. I have found the simple joy that Jesus promised – and it is awesome beyond description!

We have been led to call the church, “Redeemer.” I love that name for God – used 162 times in the Bible to describe God as the One who transforms brokenness, disaster, and heartache into peace, joy, and hope. My life’s desire is to experience and proclaim that redemption. It’s time to preach! Trust me – both barrels are loaded. I can’t wait!

These are exciting days for the Darsey family. We’ve never been more unsettled. At the same time, we’ve never felt more secure. Pray for us, praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!

 

 

 

A New Hope

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The first Star Wars movie hit theaters when I was 7 years old. Like almost every young boy on earth, I quickly longed to be Luke Skywalker, who was cinematically introduced as the only hope for the redemption of the universe. As the trilogy unwound, Luke matured into a legendary Jedi Knight who did ultimately become the hero of the galaxy. Through his triumphs and his failures, Luke ultimately discovered that the true hope of the galaxy was not him, but rather the force which indwelled him. His path to becoming a Jedi Knight was a spiritual journey in which venerable Master Yoda continually reminded him of the need to empty himself spiritually and unlearn what he thought he knew. In the end, the lesson is learned and Luke succeeds through surrender. Not by surrendering to his enemies, but by surrendering to the indwelling power of the force, which guided him to peace, serenity, and victory.

For 3 decades, Star Wars has inspired people who instinctively feel trapped in a world seemingly under the control of a dark power but who also instinctively know that there must be a force which can eventually lead to redemption.

Before you read on, stop at the door and check your self-righteous desire to rebuke me for being a pastor who draws or deals theological implications from Star Wars. I like theology and I like Star Wars and I probably like you. Star Wars is not the destination, but the vehicle for my pontification today. These are not the droids you are looking for. Move along.

I have recently become Luke Skywalker. I have begun a quest that has taught me to appreciate the power of hope and the prospect of redemption. As it was for Luke, this was for me an unwanted journey. I sure wasn’t seeking it. I felt betrayed by those who promised to love me, kicked off of the spaceship and left to die on a cold, wintry, dark planet of which I had no knowledge or experience. Some friends were lost. True friends were revealed. But in the end, most folks in the universe went on as though they didn’t even notice what happened to me. I was more shocked by the latter group than the former two.

For months I staggered, wondering as I was wandering. Never have I felt such hurt, betrayal, loss, and emptiness. But God never left me. As I have learned to sit in silence and listen to the lessons of the Master, He has comforted me, challenged me, and changed me. My valley has been filled with unspeakable peace – and with a new hope – hope that God desires to do more through me in my future than He has in my past. That hope has led me to the greatest truth I’ve ever discovered. Would you like to hear it? It’s very simple – you probably won’t even be impressed. Here it is: I – am – not – the – hope – of – this – universe. I not only don’t have all the answers, I don’t even know all the questions! You may have already suspected that I wasn’t very important. I wish you would have shared that with me sooner. For years, my own pride has kept me bound to the lie that I’m somehow the hero of the story. Boy, was I wrong!

I’ve learned that the man of God has no value, importance, or ability apart from the force that guides his life. Jesus Christ holds the beginning and the end and He controls this universe. He is the force that guides all things and binds them together. On my unexpected journey I have personally come to trust the Holy Spirit enough to surrender to His will for my life. You may think you have. Truth is, you will never truly know until who you are and what you do has been stripped from you and it’s just the Lord and you. In that moment, you will discover who you really are. In that moment, God can forge you into a warrior who is so filled with the power of the Holy Spirit that you will be willing to win by surrendering yourself.

The climactic moment of the Star Wars trilogy takes place in the final battle when Luke Skywalker finally understands that he can only win through surrender. Luke is confronted with a new realization that will change him and make him a vessel for the full power of the force. He learned that the most powerful enemy we face is the pride of our own hearts. I have learned the same lesson. I now want to empty myself of myself daily and live in the power that only God can provide. I want to see what the full force of God can do in and through my life. Does that make me a Jedi Knight?

Well, Here We Go…

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I am now officially a blogger! It is hard to believe that the world has existed for this long without my opinion, but it’s time to make that right. So, here I am.

If you are seeking rantings, ravings, ramblings, and revelations from a Reverend, then you’ve come to the right place.  Follow along as I investigate, castigate, remonstrate, commiserate, pontificate, and aliterate.

I will use this place to share about my story, ministry, family, and general views on life. I’m the Pastor of the newly-formed Redeemer Church of Madison, Georgia. For 21 years I have been married to my beloved Jodi Elliott Darsey and we have two children: Christian (19), and Kaylee (15). We also have a dog, Belle, who insisted upon being mentioned here. God has been so good to me and it is exciting to have the great privilege of sharing my life with all of you!