TRC Folks Grinding out Obedience

We don’t “toot our own horn” a lot at Three Rivers Church. In fact, chances are you’ve heard of some work or labor in our city and did not know it was TRC or TRC people leading the way. I want to recognize you TRC!

A big shout out to Three Rivers Church. While many people like to Tweet and post on Facebook about their many spiritual accomplishments while, truthfully, doing very little other than building themselves up in a narcissistic ploy, you grind away at engaging your domains.

Yesterday, I posted on our FB membership page a need for us to get together a team to walk in support of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), that Jim and Bonnie Moore so selflessly pour their heart and soul into, and you responded by making it happen. No other church has joined that effort. You did!

We don’t do “ministries” at TRC for people to consume. We teach “domain engagement”, in which we seek to equip our people to engage their “glocal” domains to heal and proclaim the good news of Jesus and his kingdom and release folks to go and obey Jesus, and TRC, you work hard at learning it and doing just that.

The result? Out fellowship is responsible for some of the most community changing, city engaging, life transforming healing in the state of Georgia, and for that matter, in the United States. You don’t know it, but people feel your presence. People know who Jesus is because of that hidden service. I want you to be recognized.

Global Impact…Restoration Rome Restoration Rome

NAMI NAMI

HGUSA Higher Ground USA (Adventure with a Purpose)

Just to mention a few.

These are people who have started and operate their own business/org or organizations started and operated by TRC people or organizations meaningfully affected by TRC people’s involvement.

Three Rivers Church…I love you, and I’m proud of you.

Keep grinding away in the hidden places. Jesus sees and knows, and he’s rewarding your labor with fruit.

 

I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life…

7 “I AM” Statements of Jesus

John 14:6

I AM the way, and the truth, and the life…

Last Saturday, my friend Nadeem Hamid, came and lectured to and interacted with TRC members on the topic of “The Theology of Islam”.

Through Nadeem’s presentation, our interaction and some good questions, we learned how to engage someone of another faith, and our distinctives became super clear.

Someone actually asked Nadeem if he believes we worship the same God. Nadeem replied that Jesus is the big problem for Muslims (paraphrase). It’s not a disbelief in Jesus, as they actually believe him a prophet, returning to help bring the world to Allah and to be read and obeyed. What is attributed to Jesus’ in word and actions in the New Testament keeps a true Muslim from seeing Christians as worshiping the same God.

Jesus, however, left us no doubt who he is.

Point: Jesus is THE distinctive for us. Jesus either attracts or repels. One is either for Jesus or against Jesus.

Matthew 12:30-31 (ESV) “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

These 7 “I AM” statements put Jesus into the category of either Lord, God, Creator, King of the universe OR liar OR crazy and deranged OR both.

John’s intent, and experience with Jesus is clear:

John 20:30-31 (ESV) Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Jesus is the “I AM”. We have come to believe and we worship King Jesus as God with no other to share his glory.

Setting: On approaching our passage, John’s narrative moves to slow motion over the last few hours of Jesus life from chapter 13 on.

Passover: Jesus has just been observing the Passover with his closest disciples.

Spiritual Warfare: There is intense spiritual warfare happening. Satan has put it into Judas’ heart to betray Jesus. Judas is mulling over how to do that rather than listening to Jesus.

Servant Leadership: Jesus is setting the example of service by washing his disciples feet.

Hardship: Then Jesus reminds them of the cross that’s coming… “Truly, Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” John 13:21

Hardship: Then Jesus drops more cross on them… “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, where I am going you cannot come.” John 13:33

John 14:1 begins to sink in now. These disciple’s hearts are troubled. This festive meal has not turned into a sad occasion.

John 13:31-14:7

What do we see? What does it mean?

  1. Being with Jesus is better, and his people have come to delight in being with Jesus. John 13:31-38
  2. Comfort is found by trusting in Jesus.

John 14:1

“Believe in God; believe also in me.” (2 imperative statements, can also be indicative)

Indicative – Belief in God is belief in me.

Imperative – Believe in God. Believe in me.

Both have the same theological implication that Jesus is God.

The imperative jolts the saddened disciples from their funk to an action.

These guys would have to let go of social norms, family ties and geographical familiarity to trust Jesus, so Jesus commands them to trust him as they trust Yahweh.

This command has the effect of getting their focus off of their feelings and back onto the mission.

  1. With the Father there is abundant room for all who will trust Jesus to “abide/dwell”, and Jesus goes to the cross to make access.

John 14:2

“Monei” is not “mansion”. It’s the genitive / feminine / noun of “meno” which means to remain or dwell.

In John 15, Jesus will use this word many times to teach us about the “Radical Life”…abiding in, remaining in, the Vine.

In the Father’s house there is abundant room for remaining in Jesus.

  1. Jesus GOES to the cross to make our access, and he ascends to “general” the task of bringing all who will repent and believe to abide with him, AND he sends Holy Spirit so he is with us until he bodily returns.

John 14:3

Some argue that this verse is about Jesus’ second coming. Some argue it is about Jesus sending the Spirit as he promised later in chapter 14.

Yes and yes!

  1. Jesus is how one abides with/in the Father…the way, the truth, the life.

John 14:4-6

“Way, truth, and life all have relevance, the triple expression emphasizing the many-sidedness of the saving work. ‘Way’ speaks of connection between two persons or things, and here the link between God and sinners. ‘Truth’ reminds us of the complete reliability of Jesus in all that he does and is. And ‘life’ stresses the fact that mere physical existence matters little…Jesus is asserting in strong terms the uniqueness and the sufficiency of his work for sinners.”[1] 

How do we obey?

  1. Put all your eggs in Jesus’ basket.

As the disciples would have to let go of so much to follow Jesus, Jesus didn’t fail to take care of them.

Luke 18:18-31 (ESV) And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

  1. We must preach, teach, explain, and hold firm to Jesus as God and the only way to God the Father.

We saw an example of how to do that with Nadeem Saturday.

  • We embrace and clearly communicate our distinctives.
  • We trust Jesus’ message to be enough to save.
  • We don’t deny our distinctives, but we enjoy them and herald them with gentleness and respect.
  1. Experience Jesus as the “Way”…(Connection between God and redeemed sinners)
  • Take advantage of interacting with the Creator/God/Father/King/Ruler of kings on earth. Jesus has brought us to the Father.

John 16:25-27 (ESV) I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

When we know/see/interact with and delight in Jesus we do so with God the Father.

John 14:7-11

  1. Experience Jesus as the “Truth”…(Complete reliability of Jesus)
  • Put yourself in positions to have to know the reliability of Jesus when we obey his commands.
  • Learn to view all of life through the lens of the person and work of Jesus.

Matthew 6:19-24 (ESV) 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV) 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

  1. Experience Jesus as the “Life”… (Life is more than mere physical existence)
  • Make some decisions that have eternal payoff because you are listening to and obeying Jesus and there may not immediate gain. Watch and experience supernatural life.
  • Proverbs 11:24 (ESV) One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
  • William Wilberforce dedicated his life to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, and only on his last day on earth did he see it legislatively abolished.

 

 

 

 

[1] F. F. Bruce, “The Gospel According to John,” in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 569-570.

 

My Need and God’s Provision

We will be leaving as a team from TRC to go trek in the Himalaya with a brother and serve the people in some outlying villages. Public square, living out our command from Jesus to love God and love neighbor, make disciples, heal what’s broken, etc.

We’ve been doing this kind of work since 2002 in some hard places. The Lord has sent TRC people all over the world to engage their domains for King and kingdom. When we go to serve along side of them and shepherd them, I get to go be pastor/domain engager/ambassador. I love it!

However, what most people see as crazy, risk taking, fearless, go anywhere, do anything preacher is not what is happening on the inside. I’m super aware/discerning of spiritual things…warfare. But I’m also super susceptible to it. It’s like Aslan told Jill Pole in “The Silver Chair”, before he sent her from his country to Narnia, that although she heard, understood and remembered clearly up in his country, it would be harder down in Narnia. She would easily get confused, forget and be tempted to stop reciting the signs. When I’m cruising on easy street, following Jesus is easy. When I prepare to go into dark places, I get “bumfuzzled”. I can’t tell my head from my feet (figuratively). Things I’m never afraid of all of a sudden become fears. Darkness settles in over my soul. I’m super emotive. I’m down. I seem to not be able to pray. My bible reading is not landing.

Once, on the way to the airport alone (learned a lesson, Jesus said to go by 2, so I quite disobeying and going alone), it had been a hard departure for the boys…they were begging me to stay for fear I would get killed and not come home…it was raining hard and extremely dark outside…I pulled over on the side of 278 on the way to the ATL, and prayed for help, and almost turned around to go home.

When in this state, I can’t tell Holy Spirit from a dad gum tree.

I used to just pass this kind of stuff off as me being weak. However, on that trip in which I almost turned around, I had the most overt spiritual warfare I’ve ever encountered…audible demonic attack in words that used to be simply thoughts in my head. And this happened almost the entire trip. God in his grace, did what he promised by Holy Spirit reminding me of truth, helping me tak authority over the demonic, and learning that all that darkness and confusion before leaving was the enemy seeking to thwart the work of the kingdom. I realized at that point that I was not weak, I was being assaulted by the Evil One and I was being a victim not a victor in Christ.

I learned that prayer for the Lord to gain the win over that for me actually works. Imagine that! Asking for Jesus’ stuff, and him giving it. Imagine that!

You know what’s sweet? When warfare flares like that prior to trips,  Jesus has got my back. How? Charismatic women! Women who attend Charismatic fellowships. Awesome!

Without fail, the Spirit prompts a few people without me telling them a single thing, and they begin praying for me. Why? Because I’m a goober and will hardly tell anyone I’m struggling. So, the Lord, being gracious to his son, puts it into the hearts of some ladies who walk in the Spirit to pray for me. How do I know? They either find me providentially and tell me when they “happen across my path” or they seek me out and tell me. Then I understand that the Lord had my back, and was doing good to me. I understand what it means for the Lord to pro-vide…he sees the need before, and makes the way to meet the need at just the rigt time. That makes my trust in Jesus soar!

What of this?

  1. I’m thankful for Charismatic women who follow Jesus.
  2. When I’m battling hard and wonder where the Lord is, he’s working for my good while I’m completely unaware.
  3. I want to walk with the Holy Spirit they way these ladies do. I’m growing in that.
  4. What’s wrong with most of my tribe that we don’t get this?
  5. Without prayer, we often are defenseless victims rather than victorious warriors. God has chosen prayer as a means of advancing the rule of Jesus. When we don’t pray, we fail to do the most productive work we can do.
  6. Pray for me and the team. I/We need you to pray. Don’t let us down. Listen to prompting in your soul and obey. That’s Holy Spirit moving you to action.

I hope this encourages some, and moves some to pray and so partner with us deeply.

If you are one of those people who seek me out, I don’t want to ruin your reward from Jesus by outing you. You know who you are, and your obedience to Jesus will be richly rewarded now and in the kingdom. Thank you for caring to obey the Lord, and loving this old southern baptist Silver Creek boy.

Fight Racism Like it Matters

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This picture is quite a few years ago. We were enjoying our worship experience in Athens, GA at the sanctuary called “Sanford” (jest sort of…don’t get fired up).

My boys are late middle/high school now. We’ve seen a lot, heard a lot, and experienced a lot. Much of that experience has been fantastic. Like once when traveling on Marta in downtown Atlanta from a stage production of the Lion King, an African-American  man was looking at us, staring at us actually, for most of the ride. I learned why soon. When we arrived at our stop, he followed us off of the train. He kindly and gently grabbed my arm and said he had a word from the Lord for us. He said that the Lord had told him to tell us that we would be blessed for what we have done (that is adopting a child of color). I’ve never forgotten that moment. The Lord Jesus sent that brother to us to comfort and affirm our willingness to wade into the fight.

Some of it has been hard, and hard to parent through. Like the time a man in a store asked if “that” was mine…referring to my black son. Oooh. Man, it was on like Donkey Kong. Hard stuff.

The curse of the fall, it’s effects in and on image bearers, conflict within over ingrained sin and the truth of God’s word, and its sinister covert/overt attacks make for tough days.

Because these days are getting harder in our nation due to the racial divide, I made a statement before preaching last Sunday that I want to reiterate: All people who want to come after Jesus are welcome at TRC. Anyone opposed to any color or background or sin coming after Jesus because of their color, background or sin may leave now or repent now. Just as there is no room for active adultery or idolatry or any other unrepentant sin, there is no room for racism in our fellowship and the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 2, for that matter, the whole of biblical revelation, makes it clear that representatives from all nations will be gathered around the throne of Jesus worshipping him and living in the renewed earth together without sin forever. That truth, that vision of the end must drive our practice now. Even deeper, the bible identifies all humans as image bearers of God, therefore, making all humans supremely valuable…from the unborn to the person with a different color skin…to the person not viewed as “normal”…to the person of a different faith.

Our pro-life must be all-encompassing.

The racial divide is as deep as it’s ever been, and events are just bringing to the surface what has already been there. We need to respond. I hope pastors prophetically spoke to such in every gathering last Sunday…Something tells me they didn’t. That’s likely due to lack of knowing, caring or fear. None of which is acceptable. If they don’t know how to prophetically speak to things, they simply need to read the prophets of the Old Testament or how Paul corrected the sin on Peter’s part in Galatians 2 etc., then speak likewise to sin in our day. Simple. Hard, but simple. Hard because people will treat us like those in that day treated the prophets, but Jesus said that would happen, so we at least know to expect it.

I hope every person following Jesus can apply their biblical worldview appropriately to the race divide clearly manifest in our country, but I’m afraid that’s just not the case. Either sin or ignorance or misplaced loyalties (which is sin too) keeps many from valuing the kingdom over the world. Neither of those is good, and it’s particularly bad among those calling themselves “Christian”.

We have to do better. The Christian subculture is sick, and the source is sin, and the remedy is repentance.

We have to speak out against all sin, and speak for righteousness in all things…all things…

Do I get it right all the time? NO! I’m head sinner. I’m a fool. I fail. I lack faith. I say swear words too much. I want “things” like boats, trucks, guns, sports more than holiness. I lead in sin. I’m good at it! But, I’m grieved over my sin, and I lean on the Spirit making more like  Jesus, and he’s working on me. He’s teaching me and making me to love righteousness more than sin little by little. Repentance gets easier and easier.

So, Christian, be holy as God is holy.

Hebrews 12:14 (ESV) Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Our justification and our pursuit of holiness are opposite sides of the same coin. We are not justified by works, but we work because we are justified. So, lets pursue racial reconciliation like we pursue freedom from other sin.