"Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up." James 4:10
As the social fabric of our country slowly rips at the seams, our attention distracted by an ever-increasing need for belonging expressed through tribalism and hatred, I have marveled at the nationwide attention being given to EPC Missionary Andrew Brunson. For 27 years, he quietly and faithfully served Christ in Turkey, pastoring his church and loving the Turkish people. Two years ago, he was falsely accused of subversive activity and imprisoned. If you've spent any time reading Scripture, prisons and jails are often places where God shows up, and He certainly did in Andrew's. Finally freed last Friday, the nation was transfixed by a humble man who expressed no bitterness or hatred toward his captors, no hint of anger, but only love for God and country. Then as the nation watched, he humbled himself again and knelt before the President, laying hands on him and praying for him, his wife Norine joining in as well. It was a transcendent moment of ministry in which God brought honor and glory to Himself through the sufferings of a faithful servant. The Kingdom influence that Andrew will have in the coming years will as great as any current Christian leader – all because he was innocent, but willing to suffer for the sake of Christ.
GENDER ISSUES: Part of what has been tearing at our national social fabric are issues related to gender, especially a growing "battle" between men and women. MeToo, the Kavanaugh hearings, Harvey Weinstein and others have sparked a new courage among women to speak out and be heard regarding past abuse or violence against them. It pained me during the Kavanaugh hearings to read the stories on social media from women whose painful pasts had been brought back to the surface yet again. This social change is welcome and needed, but we must be very careful that we don't adopt what our culture is pushing us towards: creating a sense of belonging by fostering hatred. We want to belong. We want to be accepted, so we are told to unite based on who we are against, not by what we are for. In the beauty of God's created order, He made us as men and women. As men and women, we reflect the image of God to the world. If it's only one, then God's image is diminished. He possesses qualities and characteristics of both, so if we allow our culture to make men the enemy - to make men evil - then we all lose. The current rise of female dystopian literature in which men are to be avoided because they are a threat to women's future hope and happiness is heartbreaking. Men, we must do better. Some men do despicable, horrid things to women and justice must prevail in those situations, but let's not make all men the enemy. Let's honor one another as we love each other as part of God's created order.
A STAR IS BORN: Leigh and I saw it over the weekend, and it was one of the greatest movies I have seen in a long, long time. It was an experience, not just a movie. It sweeps you up, makes you feel both the agony and love expressed by the characters. I saw a tweet by Anne Hathaway that expressed it well. She said we often move on too soon from movies that impact us – that A Star Is Born is one that we should linger on for a time as its themes wash over us. Lady Gaga was phenomenal - beyond description. I had very high expectations, and those were far exceeded.
Mark your calendars for my FACEBOOK LIVE session on Thursday, October 25 at 7 pm during which I will discuss our church vision and transition process. We are beginning to share some elements with small groups within the church for feedback and discussion, all pointing to an initial roll out in January.
4 ROOTS FARM AND AGRICULTURAL CENTER: it is shocking to know that 975,000,000 pounds of fresh produce is wasted – put in landfills – each year, especially when so many in poverty don't have access to basic nutrition! For that reason, I am thrilled to learn about 4 Roots, the marvelous idea from John Rivers and the 4 Rivers Foundation, with a big assist from Dr. Phillips Charities. DPC is helping redevelop the old packing district (OBT, Princeton, John Young Pkwy) and contributed 40 acres of land to 4 Roots. The plan includes a working farm, education facility, plus a production and distribution center that will help some of the wasted produce get to where it is needed. 4 Roots produce will go into Orange County Public Schools and Adventist Health hospitals. Keep your eyes out for more developments in the next 12 to 18 months.
Thanks to Chris Beck and Carla Shehane on the FPCO Creative Team, my book Everlasting Life: How God Answers Our Questions about Grief, Loss and the Promise of Heaven is now back in print! Available at amazon.com.
POLITICS AND WORSHIP: As the election looms ever nearer (vote!), I get asked why I don't talk politics or have candidates speak in worship. My answer is pretty simple. The primary task of Christ's Church is to lead her people in the worship of Almighty God, the ONLY ONE worthy to receive such. Diverting from that worship for any reason distracts us in that experience and ultimately diminishes God in the process. There are plenty of avenues for Christians to engage in politics and well we should. I just don't believe worship is the proper venue.
Why does #7 matter? People need Jesus. Political leaders and political ideologies can't heal or reconcile or forgive what is wrong in the human heart. Last week, Britain named a Minister of Suicide Prevention in the wake of an unprecedented increase in the suicide rate in that country. We are seeing the same in the United States. People are hurting, searching, lost – so in our worship, we give them Jesus.
To my UGA friends, all your goals are still ahead of you. One loss to LSU doesn't hurt. Auburn is going to fire Gus Malzhan as their season tanks. Only injuries can stop Bama – and Texas is back. Hello top 10! Hook 'em.