One of the blessings that has been East Point Church over the years has been our relationship with the parachurch ministry Campus Outreach. Early in our vision as a church, we established the desire to support and grow with missions, both local and abroad. Consequently, it has been our pleasure to partner with and support Campus Outreach at the Atlanta University Center through the Johnsons (Mwamba and Nyema) and the Thedfords (Pascual and Sharon). They not only serve on the campus, but are also faithful servants in the local church. We are blessed and benefit greatly from what God has done and is doing through them.
Abroad, we also partner with and support Campus Outreach in Johannesburg, South Africa through the Byrds (Timothy and Naia). In fact, Tim and Naia were with us this past Sunday and once again shared the vision of Campus Outreach Johannesburg with us. It was great hearing Tim talk about the vision and impact the ministry is having on students at the universities and as they leave and enter the workplace. Campus Outreach seeks to glorify God by building laborers on the campus for the lost world. Timothy and Naia are doing just that. In the video is a brief update on recent happenings in their life and ministry.
I want to encourage you to consider giving to Tim and Naia Byrd. They are doing a good work in South Africa. Your prayerful support of them will allow them to continue their mission and bless you as you actively participate in what God is doing in the world. You can learn more about the Byrds and how you can pray for and financially support them by going to www.missionalmindset.com.
Unfortunately, as Christians we are people given to introspection. Some of it is self-imposed. Other times it is imposed upon us by the expectation of others. This introspection often leaves us questioning if we have done enough. How often have you wondered, “Did I pray long enough? Have I fasted often enough? Is my quiet time deep enough? Am a serving and giving enough?” Whenever you are tempted toward introspection and ask those “enough” questions, you should hear God answering, “No you haven’t done enough. But it’s alright because, Jesus is enough!”
In other words, you should read your bible, but don’t trust in your Bible reading; trust in Jesus! You should pray, but don’t trust in your prayers trust in Jesus! You should fast, but don’t trust in your fasting trust in Jesus! By all means serve and give, but don’t trust in your service or your giving; trust in Jesus. Whenever your conscience tempts you toward self-centered evaluations or Satan tempts you to despair of your lack of diligence, say to self and Satan, “I got Jesus, and that’s enough!”
The simplest way to say it is that twenty years ago today my wife and I exchanged wedding vows in a small Baptist church in Idlewild, MI. And for these past twenty years God has been good and faithful in providing all we need to live and love together.
Recently someone asked me if I could share with him a couple of principles that have proved most beneficial in marriage these past twenty years. Without a doubt, what growth and joy Adriane and I have been pleased to experience is due to more than just two principles. To boil it down to such a number would undoubtedly be an oversimplification. Nevertheless, I took the challenge wanting not only to encourage my friend, but also to remind myself of those things that have been of significance as Adriane and I have grown in love and grace together. Therefore, if I had to boil it down to two:
2. The Golden Rule. In Mt. 7:12 our Lord said “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” This has become known as the Golden Rule. We try to impress it upon our kids at a young age. However, it may be the most important principle married couples could ever live by. I find it particularly important in the area of forgiveness. If you are married, sooner or later (and more sooner than later), you will need to either forgive, be forgiven, or both. No marriage will thrive and be happy without it. Therefore it is important that you be willing to forgive as you desire to be forgiven. Over the years, we have learned this again and again. He who forgives today, will need to be forgiven tomorrow. The more freely you give forgiveness, the more freely it will be given to you. And the happier the two of you will be in the grace and forgiveness of Christ.
Wouldn’t be awesome if a happy and healthy marriage could be boiled down to only two principles? Unfortunately, it can’t. Nevertheless while a happy marriage may be more than these, it is not less than these. These past twenty years have been happy because my beloved wife has not for a day neglected to live out these two principles before me and God. I love her today more than I ever have. And while I am not always the best at showing it, her devotion to me makes me all the more pleased to try even harder for the next twenty years.
Not only has God supplied us with all we need to love him, but for these past twenty years he has graciously given us all we need to love each other. And while I only counted to two, one of my favorite country songs actually counts to four. In the song Four Walls, my man Randy Travis sums it up well when he sings:
We’ve got everything that we need, each morning we wake up – Four walls…Three words…Two hearts…One love
Once again this year I was able to get in some good reading during my vacation. One book that caught my eye and maintained my attention was Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff.
Those who know me know I was born and raised in a small rural town in northern lower Michigan. Our town (or more accurately village) was literally a blinking light and a corner store. If you blinked, you not only would miss the blinking light, you would miss the whole town. Most of the year, there was not much to do. In fact the most exciting news was when our cousins and our seasonal friends would come up from the “big city” during the summer. The big city, of course, was Detroit.
Detroit seemed like a world away, and indeed it was. It was not only separated from us by a near four hour road trip, but it was an altogether different life. When I was a boy Detroit was the embodiment of everything exciting. It was where the best music came from. It was where the big fancy cars were made. It was where Coleman Young was mayor. It was home to the Detroit Tigers. No one had to tell us that Detroit was once the richest, most prosperous city in the country. Even us country boys (as they called us) knew that Detroit was special. Back then it was.
Today, Detroit is a shell of itself. Like other parts of the country, Detroit has suffered (perhaps more than most) from government corruption; union and corporate greed; job loss; mortgage scams; out of control criminality; foreclosures; a poor educational system and much more. In fact, recently Detroit became the largest city ever to file for bankruptcy. Many have considered Detroit dead. In his book Detroit: An American Autopsy, Detroit native and news reporter Charlie LeDuff chronicles the death and destruction that envelopes his city, and yet also reminds us that the once great city still has a heart beat. Don’t count her dead just yet.
I have enjoyed reading LeDuff’s chronicles of life in Detroit. LeDuff is rough. His language and attitude is pure inner-city Detroit and he, nor his interviewees, hold back much in this regard. While the language is course in places, it is heart-breaking to read of how this once proud city has been raped and pillaged by the greedy and criminally-minded officials and executives. Yet it is encouraging to know that there are yet people in the city seeking to make a difference. LeDuff has written a provocative and a real Detroiter account of his city. Detroit may never again be what she once was. Still, LeDuff reminds us that Detroit may look like she is down, but she is still breathing. There is still hope for this once prosperous city.
Here is a brief interview with Charlie LeDuff on Detroit and his book:
The greatest threat to the church is not the homosexual lobby and government approved same-sex marriage. It is not the proliferation of abortions and government sanctioned abortion mills. It is not even Islam and all its militancy. No, the greatest threat to the church has been and continues to be false preachers and teachers who distort and pervert the gospel in the name of Jesus (see Gal. 1:6-10 and Acts 20:29-30).
(excerpt from the sermon Called Away From Grace Pt. 2)
Some of the brothers at East Point Church and I are reading a good book on preaching entitled Doctrine That Dances by Robert Smith Jr. In the book, Dr. Smith reminds us over and over that faithful preaching seeks to engage the mind and the heart, the intellect and the emotions. Yet, before the desired effect can be had on the people, it must be had on the preacher. The word preached to the pew must first be preached and digested by the preacher. This is always the blessed challenge of those who would be faithful in the discharge of the call to preach. To this end, Dr. Smith helpfully illustrates the importance and relevance of keeping the preacher fueled so his words can be used of God to fuel others:
The challenge for preachers is to have a word from God for themselves! Wouldn’t it be unimaginable and unthinkable for a gas truck to be stranded on the side of the road? A gas truck has two tanks, one for the station it is delivering gas to and the other for the fueling of its own engine. The gas truck might be full of gas for its regular deliveries, but it is not going anywhere because it won personal gas tank is empty. Preachers of the Word cannot afford to run out of gas because their own spiritual vitality is at stake. They cannot entertain the possibility of even running on fumes. The result is personal dryness and emptiness.
Amen! And may the Lord be pleased to keep our tanks on full.
On July 4, 1776 the thirteen colonies, which would eventually form the United States of America, declared themselves free from the British Empire. They made this declaration public in the now famous document, “The Declaration of Independence.” In declaring our freedom, the authors wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This was a radical declaration for the time.
Galatians has been called the Declaration of Independence for the church. Commentator Leon Morris called it “Paul’s charter of Christian freedom.” In fact, in Galatians you can hear Paul saying, like the writers of the Declaration of Independence, “In Christ all men are created equal (Gal. 3:27-28), and have been endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life (Gal. 2:20), Liberty (Gal. 5:1), and the pursuit of Happiness (Gal. 5:16).”
Galatians is the epistle of freedom because in Christ we have been set free. Free from sin. Free from the condemnation of the law and guilt. Free from worldly pursuits and desires. In fact, this freedom is a radical freedom, brought about through the dispensation of radical grace in Christ Jesus. To those who would demean, deny, or destroy the gospel of grace, The Epistle of Galatians is Paul’s Case for Radical Grace.
Lord willing, here is how the sermon series (beginning Sunday, June 30) will break down. Hope to see you in the house. But watch out! You might get a little radical grace in your face!
Galatians: The Case for Radical Grace
1. Introduction: A Calling of Grace (1:1-5)
2. Called Away From Grace (1:6-10)
3. Called by the God of Grace (1:11-24)
4. Gospel Calling Confirmed (2:1-10)
5. A Gospel Confrontation (2:11-14)
6. From the Law and Back Again (2:15-21)
7. By Faith or By Flesh (3:1-9)
8. We Live by Faith (3:10-14)
9. A Promise Unbroken (3:15-18)
10. From Law to Faith in Christ (3:19-29)
11. Adoption: Our Gospel Inheritance (4:1-6)
12. The Sacrifice of Sonship (4:7-20)
13. Coexistence is Not Possible (4:21-31)
14. The Gospel of Freedom (5:1-4)
15. The Offense of the Gospel (5:5-12)
16. Liberty, License, and Love (5:13-15)
17. The War Within (5:16-18)
18. The Works of the Flesh (5:19-21)
19. The Fruit of the Spirit (5:22-26)
20. Bear With Me (6:1-5)
21. Sowing and Reaping (Gal. 6:6-10)
22. Conclusion: The Boast of Grace (6:11-18)