Encouraging the Encourager

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(DISCLAIMER – this does not reflect my situation at my congregation of the Granny White Pike Church of Christ.  This is a response to some discouraging news I got this past weekend from a friend in ministry, who was let go from his job during this holiday season, in the middle of the school year, and doesn’t know what he’s going to do.  I felt called to write this today for those ministers going through a rough season in their lives, and for members in their church on how they can encourage.)

Discouragement.

All of us go through it at times.  Some, more than others.  I suppose when I was growing up, I always looked at our preacher (often times it was my dad) and thought he always had it together.  I never suspected anything was ever a problem.  I thought the Church was a safe haven.  I thought, to be real honest, that preachers were perfect.  It never crossed my mind they would get upset, get discouraged, or struggle at all, because it was there job to build others up.

I now know that is far from true.  Being a minister now, I can vouch that it is extremely easy to get discouraged.  My personal theme for the year is “Encourage One Another in 2014”

I’m part of a few mentor groups with other ministers.  Sure, I have my own struggles, but they are mostly of my own accord and worry.  I love my church family, and I feel loved and encouraged and supported.  However, the stories I hear from other guys in this line of work break my heart.

One guy was telling us about when he and his family were preaching in a small rural church.  The congregation provided a parsonage.  The minister and his family went away on vacation for a week, and when they returned to their home, all of their stuff had been boxed up and placed out on the porch and in the yard – with a note “The elders have decided that it is time to get a new minister.  Please see  Beth (the church secretary) to get your final paycheck.  Good luck in all you do.”

That was it – no “let’s have a meeting about your job” or face to face conversation stating why – just a gutless firing while the family was away.  You may think that’s not the norm, and for the most part you’d be right – however, there are things like this going on all around the nation in churches today.

This past weekend – a friend of mine was called into a meeting by the elders.  With no warning, with no prior meetings about his performance, with no “let’s talk about how you can do better” conversation, he was told to leave.  He’ll have to either weather the storm through the rest of the school year for his kids, or make the decision to move his kids in the middle of the second semester.

Ministers of all types have accepted their job knowing that with it comes certain struggles.  Some guys are one upset person away from losing their job.  Some guys are continually belittled.  Some guys, even though they give it their all, are never told an encouraging word.  And the result – fewer and fewer people are wanting to go into the field of ministry.  In fact, it seems like every week or so I see a friend of mine I know on social media who is getting out of the field.

I have many people here at the Granny White Pike Church of Christ who are encouragers.  People who come up to me after a lesson, and don’t just say “Great job” – but rather they talk about the lesson with me.  They share how “the point you made about” really touched them, or was something they really needed to hear.  I love these conversations.  They motivate me to continue.  I love getting emails and Facebook messages about how my lesson helped people.  It motivates me to better.

I have a group of elders here who show all of our ministers great support.  They provide for us, pray for us, share with us, take us to lunch, are there for us to share frustrations, are wise beyond others I know, and offer words of wisdom.  However, I know that not all ministers have the same luxury.

So this morning – let me share with you some of the things my members/leaders do to help encourage me that you can do for your own ministers:

Encourage your ministers – all of them.

– Support their projects.
– Pray for them.
– Attend their classes.
– Listen to their lessons.
– Write notes to them, thanking them for specific lessons.
– Pray for them.
– Take them to lunch.
– Volunteer to watch his children so he and his wife can go on a date night.
– Share what they talked about in church on social media.
– Pray for them.

In what ways do you encourage your ministers at your congregation?  What are some other ways we can let ministers know how much we appreciate their work?

At this time – I want to send a special shout to my great congregation, the Granny White Pike Church of Christ, for always doing such a great job of encouraging.  My prayer for other ministers is that their congregations will do the same.

Image from kalexanderson via flickr

Hello, My Name is Church

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Go read this article, and then come back to see my thoughts:

I believe that “church” in general often gets a beating when it doesn’t deserve it.  Yes, there are churches that do a poor job, that focus on themselves more than God and others.

Churches aren’t perfect, but we do worship a perfect Savior.  Recently at our congregation, we’ve had a young mother start bringing her child to worship.  The father is not against church, he just hasn’t found a reason or motivation to attend.  For some, the desire to be a part of a church family is strong, for others, it means nothing at all.

This year, if you’re not attending anywhere, make it a goal to attend a local congregation.  If you’re in the Nashville area, I invite you to attend the church I work with – the Granny White Pike Church of Christ.  Find a place, visit, and if its not a good fit, move on to a different place – but please, don’t give up on church, because Jesus hasn’t given up on you.

If You Want to be Somebody…(The one about being a popular preacher)

I remember years ago, sitting at “Youth In Action” in Birmingham, AL as a 10th grader.

YIA was a classic youth rally event, bringing people from all around to a the convention center in Birmingham.  It was right after Christmas, and I enjoyed every minute of it – from the drive down to the singing in the atrium to the walk across the street for the classes and keynotes.  I went many times, with Johnny Markham, Scott Freeman, Jason Bybee – and each time I learned great and wonderful things.

I remember very vividly one night, I was listening to Jeff Walling speak.  As he spoke, I was drawn into his masterful storytelling, his vivid descriptions, and powerful insight into the scriptures.  After he was done, I leaned over to my friend Jason, and told him “One day, I’m going to be a keynote speaker at Youth In Action just like that.  That’s my dream.  That’s my goal.  If I want to be somebody, I’ve got be a keynote speaker at one of these events.”

Fast forward 20 years.

I still have not been a keynote speaker at YIA, or Winterfest, or anything for that matter.  I have had the opportunity to speak at the Faulkner Lectureships and the Lipscomb Lectureships, but my Alma Mater – FHU, has not yet considered me.

Yesterday, I spoke at the Faulkner lectures to a crowd of well over 18 people.  There were maybe 20.  And I was discouraged.

At that point, I felt like a nobody.  Down the hall, rooms were filled to the brim of people known wide and far.  Down the hall, there was standing room only for certain speakers.  But other rooms were just like mine.  Filled with empty seats instead of people listening.

Now, I get the opportunity to speak many times a week to many people.  My wonderful church family at GW is 300-350 strong every Sunday morning.  I get to teach classes multiple times a week.

But when I go somewhere that I’ve never been heard of, shockingly, no one comes.

I’ve been told that in order to get more gigs as a speaker, to have more people come hear you, to get invited to more lectures – you have to self promote.  But one of the things that I’ve learned since that day I leaned over to my friend in Birmingham that night after the message was spoken – I refuse to self promote.

Because the message isn’t about me, its about God.

Sure, I love to see my blog posts get read, and to get numbers on my stats, and to have so many “likes” on my Facebook posts.

But the message isn’t about me, its about God.

Its sad that when I think about my favorite preachers – its usually because of their style, their voice, their delivery, the ability to capture my attention – but rarely is it because they connect me to God in a deeply personal way with their message.  Its usually personal preference.

In the preaching world – there’s a lot of “politics”.  Who do you know, who do you hang out with, are you popular, how big is your church, how popular is your church, do you say the right things regardless of scripture….the list goes on and on.  But I often find that the best messages I hear are the ones from people I don’t know.

I realize that if I want to be somebody in the preaching world, I have to become a nobody, and let God rule my message, my delivery, my style.  I can’t worry about why people aren’t calling me left and right to be a guest speaker.  I can’t worry about why I don’t demand a crowd of thousands to listen to my words.

All I can do is be who I am – a servant of God with a message.

And what I’ve learned is this – it feels really awesome when people come up to me on Sunday morning and say things like “That one really spoke to me,” or “Wow, were you listening in on my struggles this week, because that really meant the world to me” – and I wouldn’t trade knowing the fact I’ve helped one person for multitudes of people in my audience.

The most moving stories in evangelism as you read through the New Testament are the ones that don’t involve the crowds, but the individuals.  Jesus and the Samaritan Woman.  Jesus and Zacchaeus.  Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch.    Interactions between Jesus and the twelve.  The stories move us because they are personal, they are relational.

And for that reason, I really don’t care if I speak to 10 people or 10,000 people – so long as I can develop relationships with those I meet along the way.

Our youth minister, Scott Tillman, spoke yesterday as well before the entire crowd at the Faulkner lectures in the morning Keynote. He did a stellar job, and said something that will stick with me for a while.  He reminded us that the only thing he believes we will take with us to Heaven is our relationships.  And I think that’s true.

Its not about your place at the table, its about your relationship with those you feast with.

Sure, I’d still love to keynote at one of those grand events, but for now, I’m perfectly content preaching the word to my GW family, and those I come in contact with daily. I will strive daily to please God – not man.  I will strive daily to reach as many as I can.  I will strive daily to grow the Kingdom.   May God bless us as we figure out the best way to be somebody for Him, instead of somebody to the world.

The Parable of the Weeds

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The parable of the weeds has the potential to make us a bit uncomfortable.  That’s because it tells us two very important things that we sometimes have a hard time understanding.

First, it tells us that whether we like it or not, no matter how good we are, we’ll be growing up with weeds.

Second, it reminds us that in the end, there will be a harvest.  It goes like this (from Matthew 13:24-30):

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  

When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’

The parable of the weeds does a good job of explaining why evil exists.  Have you ever wondered “Why does evil exist if God is a good God?”  I believe the answer to that is found in this parable.

In Matthew, Jesus really demonstrates how He has brought the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.  Once ruled by the evil one, the Kingdom is entering with Jesus, and Jesus has left that Kingdom with us.

But when Jesus brought the Kingdom, there were obstacles in the way, namely Satan and his weeds.  The weeds mentioned here are known as “darnel” or false wheat.  They look the same until the ears mature, and until harvest time you can’t tell them apart.

When the grain matures, you see the real wheat bend over from its weight.  The false wheat, when it matures, shoots straight up and is darker in color.

While the darnel has been growing alongside the wheat, it has wrapped its roots around the real wheat, so pulling up the weeds would pull up the wheat.  To add insult to this, the fruit of the false wheat is poisonous.  If it got mixed in with the real wheat while making flour, it could make the whole batch of flour toxic.

This brings light to the topic of “why are bad things still happening if the Kingdom of God is here.”  The answer to that is the only way evil can be completely wiped off the face of the earth is through the judgement and end of the world.

God delays in bringing judgement on this world though because he knows that the evil ones have wrapped their roots around all of us.  Also, God’s delay in judgement is completely gracious on His part.  He is giving more people time to repent and to come to Him.  We’re reminded of that in 2 Peter 3:8,9

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

While the sin that has been brought into the world can be blamed on Satan, we need to remember that Scripture tells us that Satan’s activity never jeopardizes God’s sovereignty, and it also never removes the accountability that we have on our own.  We only sin if WE choose to sin.  I Corinthians 10:13 tells us

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

I’ve never really liked doing the old fashioned “hell fire and brimstone” type sermons – but you just can’t really avoid it in this parable.  The truth of the matter is this:  Heaven and Hell are both very real – and Jesus describes the two places here.

Hell – Jesus says – is reserved for everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  What will happen to them?  They will be thrown into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Oh, but the righteous – he promises – get this – radiant glory.  Those who do God’s will by becoming disciples of Christ.

The harvest is coming.  I can’t stop that, nor do I want to stop that.  One day, Jesus will come and bring together all the good wheat, those who have dedicated to living their lives for Him, and take us all home to be with Him – for eternity – and Jesus promises us radiant glory.  I know I can’t be alone in saying that sounds so much better than what is reserved for the weeds –

Why I Love Granny White (The Church, not the Person) Part Deux – The Age Factor

This is NOT who we are!

This is NOT who we are!

One of the common misconceptions about the Granny White Church of Christ is that we are full of really, really old people. I hate to spoil your impression – but today, I want to tell you who the Granny White Church of Christ really is – today in 2013.

Since I have been here, I have heard all sorts of comments from all sorts of people from Nashville (all of these true, I’ve actually heard these things from real people spoken directly to me…) –

“Its great they’ve finally got a young family to go there”

“Did you drop the average age to 80 when you got there?”

“I’d love to visit, but I’m looking for a place that has a program for our children.”

“I don’t care for a worship service that only sings older songs.”

“My grandparents told me not to go to Granny White to church when I came to Lipscomb because they are an old church that doesn’t do anything contemporary or modern. In fact they told me to go anywhere BUT Granny White, because people there are stiff – we used to call them the ‘Frozen Chosen’”

The list could go on and on. I just have to finally put an end to all of this.  I would just laugh it off, but exterior opinions based on false beliefs hurt people.

First of all, Granny White Church of Christ is the name of our location, and that is all. We could easily be called anything else – but please don’t the name of a place keep you from coming in the doors.

Second – Granny White is a loving, committed church family, and just like any family, we have all generations represented.

Or in other words, we’re not just old people.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we have older people, just like EVERY church. But we also have young families, singles, teenagers, children, middle aged families, babies, pretty much every age demographic you could imagine.

In fact, I guarantee you that if you come to be with us, there will be someone who is your age here in our family.

We have a thriving youth group led by one of the coolest guys around – Scott Tillman. He and his wife, Michelle, along with about 10 other volunteers, lead our youth group.

In fact, we’re a family of about 330, and we have 70 kids in our group from grades 12 and under.

We have a thriving young families ministry, led by Jeff Wilson, entitled the “Ark Builders” group.

We have a thriving children’s ministry led by Jeff, his wife, my wife,  and several other volunteers.

We have a young professionals group that averages anywhere from 20-30 people on any given Sunday. This is made of singles and young marrieds without children.

We have groups for our older members as well -“Oasis” and “Gran-Timers”- for our members who are older.

We’ve got a nursery and everything for babies – and we have plenty – so don’t think everyone will be surprised when your baby cries, because we’re used to it!

I understand that in the past, this congregation was comprised mainly of older people, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all!  But this congregation has grown, expanded, and now has people of all generations.  We welcome anyone.  We have a place for you to work, to worship, to grow, to love and be loved, and most importantly – we teach the truth.

Even if you never grace our doors, I hope that you will understand that GW is a place for everyone.  We love all, and embrace any age person that walks through the doors.  I hope you’ll join us and see for yourself who really makes up the family at GW!

Why I Love Granny White (The Church, not the Person)

Over the next few days/weeks, I want to share with you the many reasons why I love my church family. I am currently serving as the preaching/executive minister for the Granny White Church of Christ. For anyone outside of our immediate area, that name probably sounds rather odd, but we are named aptly for the street on which our building is located, 3805 Granny White Pike. Even though it sounds like it, we are NOT named after a person!

I know that many of you worship with, serve with, and work for wonderful church families. The purpose of these posts are not so I can tell you how much better we are than you. My purpose is really to inform you of the great work this church family is doing.

On September 12, 2011, my family started a new chapter as we moved “home” to Nashville from the West University Church in Houston, TX, and began working with the Granny White Church of Christ (often referred to as GW).

It was hard to leave the dear friends we had made in Houston. The West University Church of Christ is a small congregation in the heart of Houston, struggling to find members due to its urban location, but working hard to further the Kingdom of God.

Long story short, when offered a job here, after much prayer, we took a job at GW and moved to Nashville. We began our ministry, and have been growing ever since.

Over the next few days/weeks, I want to explain to you more why we took this job. I can assure you – I would never pack up my family and make such a big move if I didn’t fully believe in the place, and I fully believed after I met with the elders, members, staff, and friends of the GW Church of Christ, I would not have moved here.

What I will leave you with is this – the people are GW are scriptural, loving, friendly, and on fire for God. There are some amazing things happening here, and we’d love for you to come and be a part of it.

You can always visit our site at http://www.grannywhitechurch.org. For our members, feel free to comment on the blog, facebook post of the blog, or reply to the twitter feed for why YOU love GW.

A Call for Unity??

I may not make it out alive after this, but I hope everyone can read this and gain some insight from it. Ultimately, I am so tired of division in the Church, from both sides, and I’m ready to do something about it.

I recently attended one of my favorite places in the world, Malibu, California, for the 69th annual Pepperdine Bible Lectures. This was my third year to attend, and on top of it being the most beautiful location in the US for a Bible lectureship, it is one of the more diverse and challenging of all the yearly events.

The problem is this – when I mention I am going to the Bible lectures at Pepperdine, many, and I mean many fellow Christians immediately place judgement on me. This has happened for the past few years, and again happened this year. I get comments such as “I can’t believe you’re going to such a liberal place” or “I thought you were more solid in your faith” or I even got a “How can a member of the Lord’s church even consider going to Pepperdine for such an event?”

I’ll be honest, there are some things that take place at the Pepperdine Bible lectures I wish did not happen. There are some things I wish were not said. I’m not going to mention them here, because then certain individuals could use that as ammo against said lectureship without ever having attended, and they could twist my words to say something I never said.

The thing is this – the very people who are appalled I am going to such an event are getting lambasted from the other side. They’re getting mocked as traditionalists who are clinging to an ancient style of evangelism and outreach, and for viewing the Bible as legalists instead of recipients of grace. Traditions, heritages, our entire past is getting pushed aside for a new style of preaching and teaching, and a new style of worship.

The problem is that both sides look at each other and think they are doing it wrong. The right looks at the left and will find a scripture to prove just about everything being done in the “progressive” world is wrong. The left looks at the right and makes a mockery of an old fashioned style that “just doesn’t work” anymore.

I work for a congregation that probably has more diversity than I’ve ever seen as far as the spectrum of right vs. left, traditionalist vs progressive, conservative vs. liberal, etc. And you know what? Since I’ve been here, we just get along fine.

We have an older generation raised by the Gospel Advocate and straight forward preaching. We have a younger generation wanting technology and narrative preaching. We sing new and modern hymns, and we sing the classics. On Sunday morning, we have a scripture reading from an older cherished version and a newer more contemporary version. We clap after a baptism, but we don’t clap during our singing (not that there’s really anything wrong with it, its really a respect issue more than anything).

We had a whole lesson on homosexuality one Wednesday night with a combined adult class. We had a whole quarter where the class was “Youtube and Your Faith” and had a whole quarter where the class was singing songs of praise. We still had a traditional straight up Bible study as well.

We don’t sing a song during Communion, but we sing one right before, and almost immediately after the last person takes the cup, because its just not worth making someone upset. But we also want to appeal to the senses of those who do use emotions and feelings in their worship through a desire to sing a song at that time.

We use pictures of the cross, images on the power point, and words on the screen of the scriptures being read.

And after all that, guess what? At the end of a service, it takes us over an hour to get people out the door because we love being together.

We love being together because what binds us together is not whether we clap or not. Its not what songs we sing. Its not what version we read. Its not if we sing during communion or not. We are bound together because Christ died for us.

Why oh why must we as Christians continue to be divisive in a culture that is already looking down on Christianity. We are being attacked from every spectrum, why must we attack each other? The reason we come together is because of Christ. Christ begged God for us to be able to be unified. He knew 2000 years ago that we would nitpick and fight. Over what?

A version?

A new or old song?

Clapping?

The list goes on and on.

To my brothers who are to “more to the left”, please stop bashing our heritage, and please stop bashing our “conservative” family. They aren’t doing anything wrong, unless they are judging you, and in that case, be the bigger person and just leave it alone. Our heritage is a treasure. Be proud of who are and what we’re doing for Christ.

To my brothers who are “more to the right”, please stop assuming what others are doing just based upon the name of the congregation, or university, or whatever else you use , are wrong. You sound ridiculous when you say “I heard from my sister who has a friend who used to go there 10 years ago that they are letting women play instruments in the band during communion.” If you have a genuine concern for their souls, its best not to throw it out on Facebook, but contact one of their elders and ask them. Or maybe even better, pray about it and seek God’s counsel.

Let’s stop creating more and more and division, and seek a way to be more and more unified. I could say more, but I think everyone knows where I’m coming from. I’m sure there are some from both sides who will find what I’ve just said to have fault in it, but that’s okay. I still love you! Let us seek unity. Its what Jesus wanted.

The Big Announcement

There is never an opportune time to make announcements such as the one I need to make today.

Today at the West University Church of Christ, I announced my resignation as their Associate and Worship Minister.

Saying goodbye to those you love is one of the hardest things to do, and I find that to be doubly true as I face the task of saying goodbye to the wonderful members at West U. After nearly three fruitful years of ministry at West U, I have been called to be the Preaching Minister of a congregation in Tennessee starting at the end of September.

This was not an easy decision to make. Being the Associate and Worship Minister at West U is more than a job – it is a place of spiritual community and growth, as well as a place where I have grown as a Christian, a Father, a Husband, and as a minister.

2 months ago, this was not even on our radar.  We were moving forward with our work here, recuperating from our VBS and getting ready for the next big thing.  I am accepting this job because there is no doubt in my mind this is what God is calling us to do.

Since I started preaching at the age of 14, I always dreamed of what it would be like to be able to do that full time.  After having served as a youth minister, campus minister, family minister, worship minister, associate minister and life group minister, God has finally seen fit to place me in a role where I will be able to do just that.  I owe the preparedness I have for this job to the West U congregation, Calvin for letting me speak, and the elders for giving me so many opportunities and seeing the potential in me.

For the next step in my journey, God has seen fit to provide me a congregation to work for in Nashville, TN, which is only 20 miles from where I grew up and where most of my family lives still today.  I will be serving as the full time Preaching Minister for the Granny White Church of Christ, located right next to Lipscomb University.  

While living here in Houston, our closest family member has been nearly 800 miles and a 13 hour drive away, you have stepped up and become that family to us.  The West U congregation has been a family to Kristen, Josie and I.  Josie learned to crawl while we were interviewing for this job.  They have cried with us when we lost loved ones.  They have prayed for us while we were separated during mission trips.  They have helped us in more ways than they will ever know.

We will love and miss you, and you will always have a special place in our hearts.

For those of you at the Granny White congregation, we look forward to our work together.  We look forward to joining you soon.

Love Without Limits

Recently, my grandfather passed away.  While at the visitation and the funeral, gathered around family, we were all reminded that he never had anything negative to say about others.  He didn’t speak in an angry way.  He loved life and loved others.  This was an excellent lesson he taught us, but one that Jesus taught as well.

Its easy to love people who treat you well.  However, how do you love someone who doesn’t treat you well?  The kid in school who makes fun of you?  The boss who takes credit for your work, or blames you for things going wrong?  Those people are a bit harder to love.

Jesus tells the Pharisees in Matthew 5:43-48 they are to love their neighbor, but also love their enemy.  The King James goes on to say “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”  We know Jesus wants us to love our neighbor, that’s for sure.  He tells us over and over again.  However, the Jewish Rabbis taught that their “neighbor” only applied to fellow Jews.  This worked out well because the Jews pretty much hated everyone else.  The Romans actually accused and charged the Jews with hatred of the human race.

The problem is that the Old Testament, or no where in the Bible in fact, tells us to hate our enemies.  There are places in the Old Testament where God hates evil, and may not care for the evildoer, but he never commands his people to hate their enemies.  We are to shower them with unconditional kindness.

I heard a story about Wade Boggs, former third baseman for the Boston Red Sox.  He hated playing at  Yankee Stadium while playing for Boston, not because of the Yankees but because of one particular fan.  This fan would heckle him, yell out insults and profanities.  One day, Boggs had listened to this enough.  He walked over to the area where this guy was, looked at him, and asked “Are you the guy that is always yelling at me?”.  The fan responded “Yeah, what are you gonna do about it?”

Wade Boggs took a new baseball, signed it, and threw it up for the guy to have.  The guy never heckled Boggs again.  In fact, he became one of his biggest supporters.

That’s what we are urged to do with our enemies.  Find a way to show them love, especially the love of Christ in all we do.  God is going to bless everyone on this earth, whether they believe in him or not.  He sends the rain and the sun to bless even his enemies by common grace (vs 45).  We need to love people without discrimination like God loves us.  We also need to love our enemies because we need to show there is no greater love than Christian love.

To Tell the Truth

Paul Harvey told a story that I remember my dad using in sermon illustrations as a child.  Four teenage boys were late to school one morning because they were goofing off and having fun.  They walked into their first period class with about 5 minutes left, and solemnly told the teacher that they were sorry they were late, and that they had stopped to change a flat tire.  The teacher looked at them and smiled sympathetically, and said it was too bad they were late, because they had missed a test.  However, she was willing to let them make it up.  She asked the boys to go to the four corners of the room, and she handed them each a blank piece of paper.  She told them the make up test consisted of one question, and if they got it right, they would pass the test.  The teacher then asked the question – “Which tire was flat?”

Jesus commands us to be truthful.  In Matthew 5:37, he says to let our yes be yes and our no be no.  In the preceding verses, he has told the Pharisees to stop their complex system of swearing and making oaths, because they were time and time again finding loopholes to get out of them.  For example, if you swore by Jerusalem, it was not binding, but if you swore towards Jerusalem, it was not binding.  This was not based on any law God had made, but again, it was a loophole they had created for themselves to get out of keeping their word.  They had a whole system that allowed and rewarded dishonesty.

We do this time and time again.  We say that we’ll pray for someone, and we never intend on doing it.  We say we’ll be there for a person, but when push comes to shove, other things are more important.  We do what we can to sell ourselves as true Christians, but when faced with actually doing it, we get out of it by creating our own loophole.

Jesus is encouraging us at this point to live a life that we would not be ashamed of in any way, especially in our speech.  Live a life so that if all the things you said and did were being written down, you wouldn’t have any problem with someone going back and reading it.  Do you think that would drastically change your speech?  Ephesians 4:25 tells us that we shouldn’t lie to each other, especially because we’re all in this world together, and we should work together for the good of the Kingdom, not against each other.  Colossians 3:9 tells us not to lie to each other because when we became Christians, we put that lifestyle behind us.

Its also not enough just to tell the truth, we must be truthful in our actions as well.  Our actions must match our language.  Otherwise, we lack the integrity to back up the truth we speak.  Nothing can be more powerful than when the world hears a Word of truth lived out in our lives.  The words you speak are amplified by the life you live.

Ultimately, we walk in truth if we walk in the path of God.  Every time God spoke it was truth.  Everything Jesus said and did, it was truth.  If we are made in his image, and we are to strive to live like Jesus, shouldn’t we do the same?