Aletheia Charis

~ Aletheia Charis Gordon: born 3/9/17 at 9:34 am, 7 pounds, 4 ounces, 20 inches~

If you read our post almost 19 months ago, you know that Chelsey and I really love the naming process in regards to our kids. Round two was no different from the first. We love the opportunity to have one of our first acts of leadership of our children be giving them a name that we pray they will aspire to live up to.

We don’t do so to apply pressure to them from the get-go. Yet we know that can be a risk involved. But if we understand parenting properly, we believe our job is to lead them to Jesus before we lead them anywhere else. The gospel of Jesus teaches us that we all fall short of the glory of God in our own efforts. But reconciliation comes from faith in Christ’s work on the cross, dying for our sins and inadequacies, and his resurrection from the dead to eternal life. We want our kids to know that the only way they can live up to their names is to put their faith in Jesus and take on his righteousness.

One of the most important aspects of the gospel is the understanding that we do not measure up before God. But Jesus did, and his righteousness is applied to those who believe in him and declare him as Lord. Only then can we fulfill the purposes we were created for.

We named our second daughter Aletheia Charis.

Like our firstborn, both names have their roots in Greek. Aletheia is the Greek word for truth. In a culture that questions the reality of truth or at least questions whether we can know truth, we want her to know both that truth exists and that she can know it. We know this because God the Father sent his Son, Jesus, as the truth. The Son was at creation with the Father, and all things were created through him. He is the truth. He is the one we depend upon. Truth never depends upon us, our feelings, emotions,  or experiences. Truth is found in the God of creation and salvation. More often than not, we will find ourselves suffering from the unknown. But we know the God of truth, the one who is light in the darkness. We are going to tell Aletheia she will be tempted to look to herself or other sources for truth. But every time she utters her own name, she will have the reminder that there is truth, and it has one source.

John reminds his readers in his gospel and his letters that he is an eyewitness and ambassador of the God of truth as revealed in and through Jesus. There is no hope, no light, no way, and no salvation outside of him. The beautiful truth is this. Even though we are sinners and the whole world is affected by sin and evil, the Truth came down to us, taking on flesh. He lived in our skin. He died in our place. Then he rose to our amazement, and he is coming again in our future. That is truth, and it is good news!

Charis is the Greek word for grace. We have his truth because of his grace. The word is closely related to the word for “gift.” If you understand grace, you understand why! And grace goes further than just a gift. Grace implies that there is not one thing we could ever do to deserve this gift. Our rebellion against God has us deserving his wrath. But his grace comes to us to open the door to salvation in his gospel of truth.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14 (ESV)

God doesn’t owe us the truth of the gospel. But by his grace he has given us the truth. We want her name to remind her to walk in the steady combination of truth and grace, though not 50% of both. Rather we pray she aims at that perfect intertwined nature of truth and grace that points others to her creator. We pray she is full of gracious truth and truthful grace. To withhold truth in the name of grace is not godly grace. To speak truth without grace is to miss the God of that truth. We are praying she is a beacon of truth and grace to those around her. For that to happen, she needs to encounter Jesus through the gospel of truth and grace that brings salvation.

Some may ask, “Why Greek?” Aside from the fact that we think the names are beautiful on the tongue, we go back to the New Testament language as a reminder of God’s steadfast love and eternal promises that reach beyond our generations in either direction. Jesus is known as the Ancient of Days, the Alpha and Omega. The original language reminds us of that eternal truth.

Aletheia Charis will have her dad’s initials. It will be a constant reminder that it is my job as her father to love and lead our family with grace and truth. That’s a tall task that I can only complete through the power of God in me. I will make it my aim to show my family the truth and grace of God. I pray that I can faithfully say to my family as Paul said to the church at Corinth, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Though the “G” in ACG may one day be dropped for a new last name, it is our prayer that she will marry a man full of Christ, full of grace and truth.

Prayer for Aletheia Charis:

Our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we ask you to reveal yourself to our little girl. Thank you for entrusting her to us. Please give us the wisdom and guidance to bring her up in your ways. Use your Holy Spirit to draw her near to you at an early age. Protect her from the evil one. Please save her. Please form her into the image of your Son who has been revealed to us full of grace and truth. Give her a passion to forsake all and follow him with her whole heart. Use us to point her to you. We are humbled that you chose to entrust her to us, though we know she is yours. Use her how you see fit for your glory and for your name’s sake.

In Jesus’ name,



Dr. King and Me

Seven years ago, I sat in my college cafeteria after the annual Martin Luther King Jr. chapel and displayed my ignorance as I complained about celebrating a man who had several alleged character flaws. I remember saying something like, “I mean, I am all for civil rights. I want equality for all people. But couldn’t we pick somebody who had a little less of a sketchy past to be the one we commemorate every year?” To me, there was nothing inherently racist about this statement. To me, I was simply speaking truth to a taboo subject.

On that day during my freshman year, I lost one of the first friends I made on campus. The friend sitting across from me was a black man. How he managed to keep calm, while I spewed my ignorance can only be explained by the grace of God in his life and God’s mercy in mine. He skillfully and calmly changed the subject eventually, and we moved on. But when he confronted me later, I apologized that I had not been sensitive in what I said. But I still had no concept of how badly I had hurt him with my words.

To be honest, as I have grown from that day, I still don’t know that I will ever understand how badly my words cut him. The reason is because I have never been in his shoes. I know that one of the ways that I hurt him was by complaining about a man who stood up for what he believed in and lived sacrificially and peacefully to bring about change in a world of embarrassingly wide-spread prejudice and injustice in our nation. Without even realizing it that day at lunch, I still represented that same prejudice 40 years after Dr. King was assassinated. See, many of the freedoms that my friend did enjoy were direct results of the boldness and courage of Dr. King. And there I was complaining that we had to remember someone who left such an invaluable legacy to the citizens of this country…all because he was not perfect.

Many of you reading this have already begun to hate college-freshman-Andrew. Some of you still probably wouldn’t like me (I have not yet attained, but I press on toward the goal). But there are some of you probably reading this thinking, “Wait! I don’t know why what you said was so wrong. I have said (or believe) the same thing.” And I ask those of you in this latter category to bear with me with an open mind. I believe the ideas you and I once shared to be ignorant and highly damaging to interracial relationships, especially among believers.

Before I explain why we all should be celebrating the life of Dr. King, I ask you to be honest with yourself as I had to be in answering this question: Am I trying to explain away the character of this man so that I don’t have to do the messy work of putting myself in the shoes of my black brothers, sisters, and fellow citizens to really understand their lives (this includes other minorities, but it was revealed to me specifically in my interactions with black Americans)?

Black Americans can extensively document discrimination that has taken place against them or those close to them in their lives to this day. But I was too proud and too busy to listen. I never once asked my friend what he thought on this day. I simply assumed that my thinking was his thinking because it was “rational” by my calculations. And to this day, I know little to nothing about his life and his family. Why? Because I was too blinded to ask him questions while also offering a safe environment for him to answer honestly. By speaking against Dr. King that day, I was speaking against my friend. What I missed in 2008, I pray that we will not miss out on in 2015.

Why celebrate MLK Jr. Day?

This man exemplified turning the other cheek like our Lord Jesus because he believed that standing up for the oppressed must be done in a way that followed the example of Christ. He believed that peaceful boldness was the right alternative to violence. He stood up because his nation did not exemplify the values she claimed to stand upon.

We should celebrate because Dr. King’s boldness inspired thousands to stand up for the oppressed and thousands more to identify and destroy their own prejudices. He truly believed that the gospel had the power to reconcile people in a way in which the kingdom could be reflected in relationships here on earth.

We should celebrate because though he was not a perfect man and had alleged character flaws, the character flaws of those God used throughout Scripture to do great things are not “alleged.” Their sins are explicitly stated. Just look at the list of people that are given to us in Hebrews 11. Just to name a few: Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and should we even start on David?!

What’s the point? Sin is absolutely inexcusable from God’s standpoint. And all of these famous people of faith sinned. But there was One. There was one who lived in sinless perfection out of complete obedience and faithfulness to his Father. And through his death, our sins were paid for. Forgiveness became available. As I look upon the goodness of the gospel and the horrors of my sins, I am compelled to see people in a new perspective. One man’s sin does not make him equal to the sum total of those failures. Christ’s blood covers those who repent and believe just as it covered Abraham, Moses, David, and me.

The gospel urges us to rejoice in the way God uses people. It urges us to stop, listen, and try to understand those who are different than us, specifically those who are hurting or oppressed. The gospel urges me to stop using someone’s sin as an excuse to downplay everything he stood for publicly. The gospel urges me to shut up for a few moments and listen. May God use me in spite of my sin. And, Lord, please keep me from sin.

Head in the Clouds

Many of us have heard the term, “He’s so heavenly-minded that he’s no earthly good.” Obviously this phrase is aimed at those people who are disconnected from their communities, using the guise of religion to excuse their lack of action. In reality, the culprits have the wrong view of heaven and are disobedient to God’s word.

Really, if one has a right view of eternity and heaven, it is impossible to be so heavenly-minded as to remove their usefulness upon this earth. In Colossians 3:1, Paul commands those who have been raised with Christ to seek things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God rather than on the things of earth.

He is not instructing a strict separation from their humanity. Here in chapter 3, Paul explains what is earthly: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry; anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk from your mouth, and lies.

The new man we are to put on may surprise some. To be heavenly minded is not to put on our wings and halos and snub our noses at those “worldly people.” Rather, look at the list of “heavenly-minded” things: compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, forbearance, Christ-like forgiveness, love, unity, and being filled with God’s word to help and correct one another–all highly relational qualities.

To be heavenly-minded is to be of eternal earthly good. See, when we care about others and we display the love and message of Christ to others, we are putting their eternal interests ahead of our own physical lives. When we die, certain aspects of our lives will die (prestige, occupation, money, other possessions, etc.), but others will live on. Any honor or praise we garnered for ourselves will be meaningless as we stand before the throne of God. But when we bear witness to Christ through our words and actions, we have an opportunity to effect someone eternally, long after we die.

When we choose to be heavenly-minded, we are choosing to forsake those things that will die when we die in order to live for those things that cannot die.


What do we do with this? How do we set our minds on things from above? First, we need to recognize that we are always setting our minds on something. Take an inventory throughout the day of where your mind is seated. What takes up the most of your thoughts? Take those thoughts captive. Examine them. See if they are things that help you life up the name of Jesus to those around you.

Second, we all make plans of sorts. Plans can be formally made in the form of a day planner or a 5- or 10-year plan. Sometimes, we just have a checklist of things we want to finish before the day is out. Making plans is a valuable way to be a good steward of the time and resources God has given us. But our plans are not immune to falling for “earthly things.” Look over your plans. List out your goals. Then test them for their eternal value. Do you want things that would define you as a faithful witness to Christ after you die?

To the parents reading this, my mom and dad taught me to do this for kids as well. All parents make goals or plans for their children. Then they teach their kids to value things that will help them reach those goals. What is it that we want for our kids? Are we more concerned with them gaining the whole world while ignoring their souls?

The starting point for thinking in a heavenly-minded way is always by studying God’s word. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word…I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9 & 11). God has given us his word for our growing in the knowledge of him and what he wants for the world.

As you read scripture, reevaluate your goals and aspirations in light of what you learn. Find out what God is passionate about. Are you passionate about those things? The only way to learn them is by reading and meditating on his word.

Finally, Paul bases this whole passage–in addition to the rest of Colossians–upon our identity in Christ. Remember these three things from verses 1-4. First, we have been raised with Christ to live for him rather than for ourselves. Then, the Lord we follow is at the right hand of the Father, in the seat of all power. Thirdly, our hope is in his future appearing, where we will be revealed with him in glory. Death and oppression are two of the greatest fears for people. But our identity is hidden in the one who raised from the dead and has all power, never abusing it. This gives us the freedom to set our minds on the things above without fear of what we will lose on this earth.

Today, set your mind on the Risen Almighty, in whom all hope is found.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” -Jim Elliot

Bible Reading in the New Year (Pt.3)

This is the final installment of a group of posts I began last week concerning Bible study in the New Year. I hope that these posts might give you some practical tools to discipline yourself unlike the typical New Year’s resolution. In this post I will share examples of how I structure my time in the word.

In “Bible Reading in the New Year (Pt.2)” I explained that I try to go through one book at a slower pace to listen to what God is saying at the verse and paragraph levels, while at the same time reading larger chunks of scripture to try to grasp what God is saying through the overall flow of a book and scripture as a whole. Here is what that looks like for me:

3-4 days a week I am in a book (James currently) studying smaller chunks of the Word. I try to be going through a book rather than randomly picking a new passage each day. This helps to really get to know the purpose and flow of the book. I read the passage once, then go back through it again. This is how I set up my page for taking notes:

Bible Study Notes

The other 3-4 days, I read a chunk of scripture. This is often 3-5 chapters. Currently I am going through Isaiah. Take notes about the main themes, repeated concepts, and what you’re learning about God and his people through the passage.

You can decide how this looks, but I usually do not go back and forth everyday between small passages and large ones. Normally, I let the structure of the smaller passages dictate when I break from that to longer reading. For instance, maybe I want to get through a chapter in James before I go back to Isaiah for a few days. Maybe you will want to split it between the first half of the week and the second. It’s up to you.

In all of this, I cannot over emphasize the importance of prayer in this process. Each day, open with a prayer of praise to God, confession of sins, and a request for insight and wisdom from your Bible study that day. After studying and meditating on the Word, pray that God would help you apply it in meaningful ways throughout your daily life. Look for opportunities to specifically plot out how you will apply it, and ask God for his help.

Memorize the Word. “I have stored up your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). This is one of the best ways to understand the passage. It will also bring the passage to your mind throughout the day to fight off temptation with the Word of God like the example of Jesus in Matthew 4 in the wilderness. Start with one verse at a time. or even work through a chapter over a longer period of time. Repetition and being full of the Bible will help shape you in a Christlike way into a person who bears the fruit of the Spirit.

For memorization I use note cards, repeated writing, and multiple readings of the passage. There are also helpful apps available for your devices. I think the app FigherVerse is particularly helpful.

Submit to it! Look for specific areas of your life where you can apply what you are learning. God’s Word will push you to grow and change. But if you are not submitting to that growth and change, you will soon come to believe that you do not need it and will fall away. But if you submit to the Word you will experience this type of clarity:

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Bible Reading in the New Year (Pt.2)

This is the second part in a quick series on establishing habits and rhythms of reading and studying God’s Word in a meaningful way. Our New Year’s Resolutions often bite the dust early, but how can we change that trend when it comes to Bible reading? Yesterday, I wrote about several reasons why we should read and study scripture regularly. Today’s post will hopefully provide you with some practical ways to develop good habits this year in the Word.

How do I get into a routine of reading and studying the Bible?

“Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7b-8).

Routines can be of great value, but sometimes, actually training or disciplining ourselves to establish them is difficult. I hope this section is extremely practical for anyone who is just starting to set aside a time and a place for Bible reading and prayer all the way to the one who is established but needs some encouragement. How can we discipline ourselves for godliness?

1) Find a place. One of the important things about studying the Bible is finding a place where we can shut out distractions. If you are going to hear from God, the last thing you need is to be hearing from the TV, radio, and iPod all at the same time. So find a place where you can avoid distraction. Keep it consistent for a while, but be willing to switch it up on down the line.

2) Find 5 minutes. If you are not regularly in the Word, and your day is jam-packed; don’t try to start with getting up an hour earlier than you always do. That is a recipe for failure by way of the snooze button. A very wise man once told me to set my alarm just 5 minutes earlier for a week or two or even a month. Use that time to read a passage and meditate on it as well as prayer. Your body will not miss the five minutes of sleep, and you will find you desire more time in the Word. Then after a set period of time, add 5 minutes. Eventually you will be in a routine of up to a half hour, hour, or more.

[Aside: Do I have to do it in the morning? Of course not. But I find that there is too much value in the morning to justify moving it to another time during the day. I want to open my day with God being the first voice I hear in a world of news, sports, Twitter, and Facebook.]

3. Meditate. I’m not referring to some mystical search for inner peace. But sit with the passage asking what God is teaching the original audience about himself and about mankind. Then seek out applications for how you can apply what you are learning. Pray that God will open your eyes to the text and its meaning. The meaning in scripture can be difficult and deep, but it’s never hidden.

4. Choose what you read with purpose. I will go into some more specifics of my practice in the next post. However, in short, I try to make sure I am doing two things in my study of the Word. First, I want to always be studying on a verse by verse basis, walking slowly through a book. Secondly, I want to be reading chunks of scripture to help myself see the bigger picture of God’s revelation as a whole. You can decide what days work best to do which. But try to build some consistency. God is teaching us things in each verse and paragraph as well as in the flow of his revelation on a large scale. For the days you read longer portions, there are plenty of Bible-in-a-year plans out there you can easily find via Google or apps like YouVersion.

5. Find a Friend. We are not walking through the Christian life alone, and reading God’s Word is no different. Find someone in your life that you can trust to challenge you to stay in the Word. This person should be able to ask you at anytime what God is teaching you. This will challenge you to both be in the Word and be able to answer the question well. If you are married, stick with your spouse in this or a close friend of your same gender. When two are paired, and one falls, the other can pick him/her up.

In the coming days, I will add an example of what my routine looks like. Remember, this is very important to our spiritual lives. But start small, and commit to grow.

Bible Reading in the New Year (Pt.1)

Today many people will go to the gym for the first time in 11 months. Others will have a brand new diet to commit to long term…you know, at least 3 weeks. And many of us will commit to reading through the Bible this year. Some of us will make it a week or so longer on our Bible reading resolution than our diet and exercise plans. Some of us, starting in Genesis, will make it to Leviticus and will get bogged down in the Law before quitting.

Getting in the Word daily takes discipline, but it is vitally important to our lives (Psalm 1). What better time to establish new habits and routines than January 1? But how do I make this resolution stick? Over the course of 3 posts, I will suggest (1) why we should be in the Bible on a daily basis followed by (3) how to establish these rhythms, including (3) examples from my personal practice.

Why is it important to read the Word daily?

If asked, almost every professing Christian would say that it is important to read the Bible regularly. However, fewer could explain why. I would venture to predict that those who cannot explain why they should be reading and studying the Bible would be the same ones who struggle to do it on a regular basis if ever.

In Psalm 19, David begins by praising God for how he has been revealed in creation. The glory of God is clearly displayed for us all in the wonders of creation. In verse 7, David takes a turn from creation and dives in to worship of God for his Word. “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7, ESV). David understood that though the “heavens declare the glory of God” (v. 1), God’s Word reveals his glory as well. See, creation fills us with wonder. But it should fill us with greater wonder that the God who created all of that would desire to have a relationship with us. What’s more, he reveals the way to have that relationship through his Word.

David rightly knew that the Word of God holds the message of eternal life. The Word teaches us how to live as God’s people. God does not leave us guessing. Since the God of the universe has chosen to speak to us, through the Bible, are we compelled to listen? Don’t we want to hang on every last word? If you need convincing, try reading Psalm 1 or the great song of the Bible, Psalm 119.

When God speaks, his power is put on display. Through reading his written word and humbly accepting it, we are yielding ourselves to his power to transform us more into the likeness of Christ. We open ourselves up to be the people he has called us to be in terms of holiness and evangelism. We learn the heart of God so that we might love what he loves and hate what he hates.

If you believe that God is glorified through creation, you have to see him from his Word!

The Bible is sufficient for the Christian life. This means, we do not have to rely on God to audibly speak to us or add to what he has already revealed in scripture. In 2 Peter 1, Peter says that it is by the knowledge of Christ and his promises. These are found in scripture. James teaches us to look into scripture to evaluate ourselves and to live in light of what we find (James 1:22-25). God’s Word is sufficient for our lives, and God wants us to know him through the words he has spoken.

I hope this post will set up the two to follow. We should not just be sitting under preaching of the Word. Rather we should be mining the depths of God’s revelation. Tomorrow I will post some help in establishing some patterns. Later, I will add a 3rd post with some examples of how I read and study God’s Word.

Until then, I invite you to check out this post on how NOT to read through the Bible this year here.

Empty for Christmas

I am hopeful you will see this as a little more than just another “Reason for the Season” post. Those posts usually (and correctly) point out that Jesus is the reason for the season, and we must not get so caught up into the consumerism and entitlement of our society and take a moment to pause and thank God for his Ultimate Gift. Again, all of that is due this time of year. But I want to share a further reflection.

Jesus is more than just Christmas, right?

Jesus is more than just pause-worthy before our big feast, right?

Jesus’ birth is more than just one in a few billion, right?

He must be more, but what does it all mean?

I want to focus on a thought from Philippians 2 where I believe that Paul expresses beautifully what it meant and still means for God to become flesh.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. -Phil. 2:5-11, ESV.

I think Paul is reflecting on the first  coming of Christ in order to draw out a way of life for those who are following Jesus. It’s truly beautiful. Let’s look at what Christmas was before we look at what it means. Christmas was the event in which God became man.

There have been many well written books, articles, and posts out there about the theological and practical implications of the Incarnation. If the Incarnation is false, we lose the rest of what we stand for. You can read more on this here. Yet, I want to focus on just one aspect: The Son of God “empties” himself to humility (even shameful humility on a cross) out of obedience.

The importance of Christmas is what occurred when God literally and truly became man, sacrificing dignity while maintaining perfect deity. He emptied himself of all privilege and prestige that comes with being God. Other places, we see that God did this out of love for us (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Here Paul tells us that Jesus’ humiliation -becoming man and dying on the cross- is the reason the Father has highly exalted him and given him the name above every name.

Christmas begins the earthly “humiliation” of God that leads to his glory renown (v. 11). God is always worthy of all glory, but it is fully displayed to the world in Jesus Christ. The Incarnation assumes that we have no hope outside of God’s intervention. The Incarnation proves that it pleased God for this to be the way of salvation. The Incarnation sets the tone for how Christians are to think and then act.

This Christmas, let me ask you something: When we were all headed for hell because of our sin, did Jesus ask, “Why should I die for those liars, thieves, adulterers, and murderers?” No. The plan was to save sinners. That’s just not fair though! God should never have to suffer just because we messed up and chose to sin! But yes, yes he did. He did not have to suffer and die because of any external obligation. Jesus chose to suffer, because it was decided before the foundations of the world that we would be chosen in him to be holy and blameless, adopted as his sons for full inheritance (Eph. 1:3ff).

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” As people of Christ, the incarnate God, we have no choice but to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. That means as a believer I don’t get the luxury of fighting for what I have earned. It means I am willing to lay down what is “due” me for the sake of others as obedience to Christ. Jesus said that if we wish to follow him, we must take up our cross and follow him. First and foremost our witness to Christ’s example is to display the gospel in word and deed. In our culture, we sometimes interpret “cross” as “soapbox,” “rights,” or “privilege.” But Jesus, the only one with the right to take up any of those three, denied that path for cross-shaped humiliation and beckons us to follow.

You are not God. I am not God. We cannot be anyone’s incarnate Savior. But we can be what God calls us to be as a voice for the voiceless. First and foremost our witness to Christ’s example is to display the gospel in word and deed. We should also be advocates for those who are being oppressed in his name. And we do not do it because we have to. We do not do it because we are the ones oppressing them (though I am far from blameless here). We do it because, Jesus was born as a vulnerable babe, wrapped in cloths, and placed in an animal feeding trough as a foreshadow for his ministry and death. We do it because Jesus said we were to follow his lead and bear witness to what we have seen in him.

If you want to send a shoe box to a kid on the other side of the world, awesome! If you want to donate to a shelter, do it! But I want to encourage believers this Christmas season to be open to potentially messy relationships with those who are oppressed or needy. Let’s empty ourselves of any privilege we think we “deserve” this season. We do not deserve it, but even if we did; Jesus gives us a higher example to follow.

Please share your thoughts or even some tangible opportunities for other readers to take and run with to follow Christ in emptying ourselves for others this Christmas.


What’s in a Uniform?

As an avid soccer fan, I have understandably been glued to the action in Brazil for the last month or so. Many of you know that there is a tradition in “football” for competitors to exchange jerseys at the completion of a match. This will often happen between players who competed hard specifically against one another the pitch for the 90 minutes. This gesture is a sign of respect for the opponents. It is often a great honor to see a world class player offer to trade his shirt with one of a young up-and-coming star. The uniform represents a certain quality or brand of play.

Many teams and coaches talk about a change of identity or character that comes with putting on their uniform. To stick with soccer, during the last month, many people who could care less about the sport for the better part of four years saw the 23 American players as their representatives to the world for this short period of time. Whether it’s a team or a place of employment. The uniform represents a certain identity or stigma.

The senior pastor of the church in which I serve recently became a chaplain in the Army National Guard. Is there a realm in which donning a uniform comes with any more responsibility, symbolism, or expectation than a military uniform? When one puts on a uniform, he/she is expected to live up to the reputation of the organization he/she represents, serves, plays for, fights for, or leads.

In my personal study of the book of Colossians, I was reminded of this metaphor of the uniform. In chapter three Paul calls the church at Colossae to “put on” the new self they have in Christ. They are to live and represent the new identity that comes from having been raised with Christ. There is much to be said about the context, but to keep it brief, we must remember that Paul’s message to the Colossians has been centered around their spiritual identity and how it has been affected in Christ. “And you, who were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (1:21-22 ESV). Paul then brings their new identity in Christ to bear in their personal lives.

One’s spiritual identity is directly related to their everyday life, according to Paul. In chapter two he uses the metaphor of a daily walk to explain that since our sins are nailed upon the cross, we have a new identity to live in. We should be deeply rooted in Christ’s work of cancelling the debt of our sin, freeing us to live in him. In chapter three, he uses the metaphor of “putting to death” our former sinful way of life and “putting on” the life of our new calling.

Paul emphasizes in 3:12 that we have been called by God, chosen and loved. Since we have been raised with Christ, we must be focused on the things above rather than the things of earth (3:1-3). The preceding list of sinful behaviors to put off are all actions motivated by self-gratification, personal gain, earthly wealth, competition, and reputation. These are the things of earth. But the things above are all focused on others because of Christ. Here’s the list

  • Compassionate hearts
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Meekness
  • Patience
  • Bearing with one another
  • Forgiving ones who wrong us. Why? The Lord has forgiven you.
  • Love. Why? It binds us together in harmony…allowing God’s peace to rule in us.
  • Be thankful
  • Let the Word of the Lord dwell in you richly. Why? For teaching and admonishing.
  • Everything you say or do should be in the name of the Lord Jesus with thanks to God the father through him

The resurrected life means we have joined a new team, a new army, a new organization: the heavenly kingdom ruled by the risen Christ. Though, my analogy of the uniform maybe anachronistic, I think it properly fits Paul’s theme. When we pull on our new uniform, we are expected to take off the old one. We have been transferred to a new kingdom. Our expectations are different because our goals are different.

Our calling is to the things that are eternal. The late Howard Hendricks used to say something along the lines of this: “God will only take only two things out of this world; his Word and people. So let’s spend our time investing God’s Word in people.” To be about the things of God is to be about both sharing God’s message of salvation and reconciliation with people and embodying it through humble love and forgiveness.

Paul wanted the Colossians and subsequent readers to put on the uniform that comes with our calling. I get the sense that Paul is implying that we already wear the uniform if we call ourselves a Christian. Therefore, the command is to live a life becoming of that uniform. Paul’s description of that life is very telling. Each of the things named takes the attention off of ourselves and selfish motives for life, placing the emphasis on humility and love leading to unity and peace as the body of Christ that is firmly rooted in the message of God’s Word. These are the “things above.”

This brings me to my conclusion and application from the text. The name on our Jersey is Christ, the Risen King. Our lives are no longer about advancing our own happiness. Instead, we know we find our satisfaction in Christ alone. The world tells us that we find meaning in how we feel about ourselves. We are tempted even as Christians to think that if we do all the Christian things (whatever those are), we will find true happiness and satisfaction. If only we would be faithful Christians, then life would go well for us.

But that is not the goal of King Jesus. His goal is to bring glory to his holy name through the person and reconciling work of Jesus (1:19-20). In that new identity, we can live lives that are truly fulfilling. We still wait to ultimately stand with him in glory (3:4), but we are already wearing his uniform and are expected to live accordingly. We are to live with others in mind above ourselves because of what the gospel motivates us to do.

How does the gospel work as our motivation? We were once alienated from God with no hope to be reconciled to him. We had sinned against an infinitely holy God, deserving infinitely holy judgment. But in his gracious, surprising love he chose to take that punishment on his shoulders in the form of his son dying on the cross. This is the beauty of the gospel. We could do nothing to rectify our plight. But God made a way back through faith in his son.

Once I realize that I cannot boast in my own salvation (Eph. 2:8-10), I realize that I have absolutely no excuse not to show the same patience and love to others around me who wrong me. My uniform says that I will live for Christ and promote his unity to fellow believers. How foolish it would be to live differently. When I indulge my selfish desires, I am openly showing the world that I prefer the jersey I used to wear, which leads to death.

I encourage you to join me in a practice. List out the 20 people you interact with the most. Whether you like them or not. Whether they are believers or not. Then begin to evaluate your interactions with them. Do you live for their best interests or your own? How do your actions affect them? Would you be described by them as loving, seeking peace through patience and forgiveness? If not, take some time to repent of that sin to God and to those people. What’s that you say? That would hurt your pride? They have sinned too greatly against you? The fact that you are wearing Jesus’ uniform is proof positive that all things (reconciliation between God and sinners and people with one another) are possible when God is present…Don’t use the truth that all things are possible with God, wrongly, to prove that you can “really be somebody” or “can do whatever you put your mind to.” That is just not the Bible’s teaching. The Bible’s teaching is that when you say, “I just can’t,” regarding forgiveness between yourself and others, you are theologically mistaken about the power of Christ’s death and resurrection in your life.

Paul knew that the easiest way to identify and mortify pride in our lives is to be thankful (3:15). When we choose thankfulness, we are choosing to take the emphasis off of what we think we deserve and realize it is all a gift from God. When we look at it that way, we no longer see our enemies as people to retaliate against. Rather, we can see them with compassion as a potential recipient of the same grace and love we have been shown by our God in Christ.

Paul knew that none of us are perfect. But as God’s chosen ones, we are free to pursue a type of holy living where we wouldn’t feel guilty to say that all we do or say is in the name of Jesus our Lord (3:17). The basis for our Christian living is supposed to be God’s word anyway (3:16). When you look at how you interact with those 20 people, are you confident to say that all you do or say to them is worthy of the “name of the Lord?”


Grace and Peace,



Response to Graduation Situation

I would like to take a moment and support Coach Leon McCoy…but it may not be what you think.  I spoke with David Bailey last night to hear from the McCoy family what is going on and to see how THEY feel about this whole thing. I would like to also ask you to consider a few things with me as we move forward as a community. I do not think that we have been representing Coach well in a lot of the posts to social media. Coach Bailey and I agreed last night that most people rallying against the school’s graduation coordinators’ decision are well intentioned, but most likely misinformed.

I would ask that we all consider a few things to see if we are representing Jesus well in this whole situation. That being said, let’s talk about a few things:

Coach McCoy: In talking to Coach Bailey last night, he expressed to me Coach’s deep disappointment in the reaction and the backlash directed toward the principal, superintendent, and the school board. Any role they played in the change of tradition was within their God-given responsibilities to uphold the law in the sphere that is the school. This is something that Winfield has been able to do for a long time without any repercussions. Coach thanks God for that opportunity to affect the kids, but he knew this point was coming. In fact, Coach Bailey directed me to the news release that the school put out this morning. Here is what they had to say:

“In order to dispel some misinformation regarding the graduation ceremony for Winfield High School, the Superintendent of Schools, Chuck Hatfield, and Coach Leon McCoy issue the following joint statement:

Mr. Hatfield states:

‘Let it be clear that neither the Putnam County Board of Education nor I, the Superintendent, have had any involvement in the planning of Winfield High School’s graduation ceremony. Unfortunately, whether we agree with a law or not, all public schools, including Winfield, are in the position of making decisions that must comply with the law. This decision is not about anyone’s personal thoughts, feelings, or beliefs.

‘Leon McCoy has had a huge impact at Winfield High School, and I have supported him and consider him to be one of my dear friends. Whether I support him or not, I have to uphold the law.

‘In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that prayer at a function organized by a school, even when designated as voluntary is a constitutional violation.’

Coach McCoy states:

‘I want to do what is right. As Christians, we have been in the past, able to express our views, but we can’t forget about the law. If we are breaking the law, we have to make adjustments. This is not a decision of the Board; this is the law. I hope people out there will take my lead.

‘This is not about me or Mr. McGrew or the Superintendent. I have confidence in the administration at Winfield High, the Board of Education, and the Superintendent, as I always have. If we are fortunate enough to get young people to follow our leadership, we thank God for it.

‘I hope people respond to this action we are taking and do what is best for our kids. The focus of this graduation needs to be only on the graduating class of Winfield High School.’”

I asked Coach Bailey if this accurately represented what Coach thinks; it does! He wants this graduation to be about our kids and not him.

If our kids want to have him speak to them, they have the right and the ability to set up a baccalaureate service and ask him to speak. This would focus a lot of the energy out there (a lot of it negative) and turn it into a positive alternative. I know there is already a baccalaureate service planned for Tuesday night. I am not sure if Coach has been asked to speak or not, but this is one such opportunity. Ironically, this is taking place the same night as the protest in which many are planning to try to urge the school to break the law.

This leads to another talking point that is important—What is persecution? When do we break the law for our faith in Christ? First of all, on principle, we should never break the law to do something that is legal in another context. For example, the school is not legally allowed to have a prayer, voluntary or not, at graduation. This is not a violation of freedom of religion and speech. Rather it UPHOLDS freedom of religion and speech. This is because public schools are government funded and to protect freedoms of all beliefs, we have something called separation of church and state. This was a brilliant protection of religious rights. Whenever the church is endorsed by the government, it becomes weak, mainstream, and political more than evangelistic; or it becomes oppressive to others for their beliefs which is the very thing the forefathers hated about the Church of England and the persecution of many Protestants.

So if it is illegal to pray at graduation, but perfectly legal for Coach to pray and even preach to kids in a non-school-sponsored service or event, then we should not fight the school. Coach’s freedom is for him to speak his own opinions and views when he does not REPRESENT another entity that disagrees with him but when he represents himself.

In Matthew 22:15-22, some people thought they would trip up Jesus by asking whether or not they should pay taxes. Jesus asked them whose image was on the coin…it was Caesar’s face. He told them to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.  The school functions belong to the state. But the state has not told us that we cannot worship. It has just told us that the graduation speech is not the time to worship, especially for just one religious view. Jesus said this not at a time when Jews and Christians had a good relationship with their government. Rather to them, the Romans were tyrants. But Jesus, and later Paul in Romans 13, said we are still to submit to the authority over us because it has been given to us by God. The only time to break the law is when the government tells you that you are not allowed to proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection in ANY sphere. In that case (which we are by no means close to) you preach it from the rooftops and accept the consequences, like the Christians did in Acts and went to jail for it…in that case we follow Peter’s lead and say, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

1 Timothy 2:1-2, we are to pray for our leaders so that we may live peaceful and godly lives. In 1 Peter 2:13-17, Peter tells believers to submit to human institutions for the sake of the Lord, whether it is the king or smaller governors (again in the face of tyrannical Roman rule). Peter says by following their leadership, we silence ignorant and foolish people. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).

Coach McCoy is not being persecuted or stripped of his rights. He is just being told that the school cannot legally sponsor his sharing of his Christian beliefs. It is godly and Christ-like for Coach and the rest of us to comply with this and to stop being hateful to those who have no choice. It would be better for us to spend our time thanking God for the influence Coach has had on so many people and looking for avenues to share our faith in Christ with others legally…they are out there. The day the government tells me that I cannot preach the gospel to my church or share my faith with someone who is willing to listen to me is the day I go to jail, not kicking and screaming but praising God that he has given me the opportunity to share in Christ’s sufferings. Not being asked to speak at graduation is not sharing in Christ’s sufferings. When they tell us we cannot hold church services any longer, Coach and I will be singing “I’ll Fly Away” together in the cell as we lead worship from prison. Christ’s first followers had countless worship services in jail. I would have no problem adding to that number. But let’s not go for the wrong reasons. Peter says in 1 Peter 4 that people should be rejoicing for persecution they receive when they are suffering for the name of Christ. But in verse 15, he reminds us to not rejoice in suffering when we do evil things like murder, stealing, doing evil, or meddling. In other words, let’s not make this something it’s not. And it is not persecution as long as it’s legal to worship.

Many of you know I hate facebook. But I felt that the firestorm was on facebook, and that it was appropriate to post a response. I do however refuse to get into a keyboard battle. I am more than willing to discuss any of this with you if you have any questions, just not on facebook.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Andrew

Colossians 1 and Good Friday

I am not a blogger, yet today I blog. I have been blessed in my study of the Word recently, and would like to share a few brief things that God has taught me, praying that he would choose to bless you as well.

This week I began a study in the book of Colossians. I have been struck once again by the description Paul gives us of Jesus in chapter one. We read in verses 13 and 14 that It is by the Son that we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The following verses are a great confession of who the Son is and what we are to understand about him as “saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ” (Col. 1:2). Verses 15-18 explain that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. “The Son” is how the Godhead has chosen to be seen in the world. All of creation is to view its creator in Christ. Not only did he create all things, but all things were created for him. He is the heir of all of the glory brought by creation, the “firstborn” of creation. There is much to be said about this and also how he is the sustainer of all things and is the head of the church. But I want to point out the next phrase in verse 18. He is also the “firstborn from the dead.” He is literally the first to be eternally resurrected from the dead showing his power over sin and death, just as the previous verses showed his power and supremacy over material and immaterial creation. What we see in verse 18 is that the Son is not only the king of the universe currently affected by the curse of sin and death, but he is also the heir to the throne of eternal life!

These three verses are followed by a tremendous statement for our faith, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (1:19). It glorifies God that this is how he is to be seen. When we ask the question, “What is God like?” we are to look to the person of Jesus Christ, not just in the gospels but as the living Word of God, the creator of all things. The Son is literally and figuratively the “answer” and “fulfillment” of all of God’s promises. We should see God as creator, rightful king, beginning of all, worthy of all glory, the head of his people, the risen Lord, and supreme above all. That is how God is pleased to be seen and pleased to live.

But he doesn’t stop there. He is also pleased in another way. Look at verse 20, “and through him to reconcile to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” It glorifies God that the Son is a suffering Savior, because the end goal is peace with his creation once again. On Sunday, we will celebrate Jesus as the first born from the dead to celebrate our hope in eternal life. But we could not have eternal life without pardon for our sins. If peace must be made, then before the payment was paid, there was no peace.

This passage reminds me that my sin was so great that it put me at enmity with God. I won’t exegete verses 21-23 right now (maybe next week), but the gist is that our sin made us hostile to God. But the way in which we could be reconciled is if the God of verses 15-18 would pay the price for our sin so we could be bought back. It is cheap to think of Easter as a time of happiness that our ticket has been punched to heaven, if we do not realize that our sin caused that ticket to even be necessary. We were bought with a price. Romans 6 tells us that we need to crucify our evil desires and sin because that sin has been paid for. It glorifies God to be seen as the saving-from-sin God in Christ, even if it meant public humiliation brought on by the very people who needed saved. He spared on expense.

Today, I pray that I would have a better sense of who God is in Christ. Who I was before Christ has no right to stand before the God of Colossians 1:15-18. But praise God that he is the type of God who spares no cost to save sinners and establish his peace, shalom, once again.

Over and over, we talk about legalism and its danger to the church. It is surely a poison to the church. But I think we over-compensate at times, excusing our sin. Legalism is the idea that we have merited any favor we receive from God on the basis of our actions. But if we view God in the right way, we understand that it was our sin that alienated us from God and nailed Jesus to the cross. A right view of God will make us hate our sin, the appearance of sin, and the prospect of sin as a possibility. It drives us to our knees pleading with God to keep making us more like his Son. A proper view of God and the cross will make us more worried about keeping God’s law, but not because it earns us anything. Our standing was completely earned by Jesus. However, we strive to keep God’s law because it is the way to the beautiful shalom which God intended for us and which we will fully experience in the New Heavens and the New Earth. This is not legalism. This is LIFE, zoe, as God intends for it to be.

This Good Friday, I pray that God gives me a better view of himself. By doing so, I will have a better view of myself and my sin. Lord, thank you for being glorified to make peace with me by the blood of Jesus, though my sin had broken that peace. It has been paid for. “My sin…not in part but the whole is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.” Keep me walking in your truth, as I am raised to walk in newness of life.

Looking to Sunday…