Thankful to Who?

Tis the season when the most oft asked question is, “What are you thankful for?” I think we’ve somehow missed the point of thanksgiving and gratitude when we reduce thanksgiving to simply a list of things we’re glad we have. You hear it as well. “I’m thankful for my family, my health, my country, my freedom, my dog, my provisions, etc.” Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong at all with being thankful for these things and more. But simply acknowledging the things that I’m glad I have is not thanksgiving.

You see, true gratitude is biblical. It’s so ironic that there are atheists, irreligious and practical pagans all over the country who will acknowledge or celebrate Thanksgiving this week in some way never realizing that the attitude of gratitude is 100% biblical. Makes me laugh under my breath slightly. So if gratitude is biblical, then we must look to the Bible for its definition and examples of its true expression. And here is what we discover about thankfulness when we open the scripture. True biblical thankfulness is never about merely listing your blessings. True gratitude ALWAYS expresses thanksgiving to the one who is responsible for our blessings. Thanksgiving is not about the what but the who. I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds (Psalm 57:9-10).

Do you recognize today that “every good and perfect gift comes down from the father of lights” (James 1:17)? It doesn’t matter who you are, there is nothing you have that God has not given to you. Your blessings are not the result of your goodness, charm, ability, capability or strength. It doesn’t matter what you believe or if you believe in anything at all. This one fact remains. A good, loving, sovereign, holy Creator holds you and your life in the palm of His hands, and every good thing and even the bad things which God uses for good are His blessings to you.

This Thanksgiving, rather than naming your blessings, give thanks to one responsible for your blessings.


Puerto Rico 2019


Recently, Rona and I traveled to Rincon, Puerto Rico to serve along side of some wonderful people in the Church Without Walls. We are very excited to see how God may allow us to partner with Followers of Christ all over the island to see disciples multiplied and the kingdom expanded.

Soma Distinctives

No church has had greater impact on New City Church through the years than Soma Church in Tacoma, WA. We are forever indebted to the leaders of Soma for modeling for us what true, faithful discipleship looks like in the local church. Up until now we have only sought to use Soma as an example and encouragement for how we disciple and live as the Body of Christ. However, as we constantly seek to live and serve more faithfully it seems that it would be wise of us to take steps to join more closely and identify with Soma Church in a more intimate way. Conversations have already been initiated to explore the possibilities of New Church Church becoming part of Soma Church in Anderson, SC. Please look over the distinctives found in the above link and put March 3 on your calendar. Tommy Rutledge from Soma Asheville will be with us to discuss more about Soma Church and its mission and vision.

My Paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer

My holy, sovereign, transcendent Father, please honor your name in my life and through my life today as You cause Your kingdom rule and dominion to grow and expand until all the earth is filled with Your glory as the waters cover the sea. May my life be the vessel through which You continue Your work in creation to bring life on earth into ever increasing likeness to life as it is in heaven until finally in the day of Your return the two are reconciled and all things are made new.

Today would you provide for me the resources needed to represent You faithfully and help me to trust your definition of  “needed” and help me to be satisfied and overjoyed with what you chose to provide. Because I am forgiven and my debt against You has been cancelled may forgiveness flow through me to those who have and who may wrong me today.

And Father, the evil one will seek to ambush me today by using my own lusts and propensity to sin to fan the flames of my love for self-worship. Christ, intercede for me the way you did for Peter that I may not fall into temptation and after I have resisted in the power which You provide use me to encourage my brothers.

My King, enable my heavenly eyes to see beyond the counterfeit, deceptive treasures of the shadowland to behold Your unfolding glory in a world that aches for Your presence. Lift me higher than I am capable of desiring. Fill me fuller than I am capable of imagining. Come Lord in power and might. Vanquish the evil one along with all traces of his mutiny.

But until that day may the sweet aroma of Your life in me awaken the senses of dead men as You assemble Your glorious bodying and fit it for the new Eden.

Today, O Lord, may Your kingdom come and may Your will be done.

Mission Motivation 

I have long been concerned (well “concern” may be a little pious on my part) or at least aware that many times our motives for mission may be a little suspect. Whether in the local church setting or in the context of the church’s international effort, Christians must constantly allow the light of God’s Word to expose the motives of our deceitful hearts and then be willing to have our thoughts brought into new submission to the Spirit of Christ. You will have to evaluate your own motives and even discover your own examples of such self-righteous display. I simply want to point you to a statement made by the Apostle Paul which serves as an ever-present sieve through which my own self-seeking motives are filtered. Paul identified the very purpose for which he had received “grace and apostleship” was that he might be used to “bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles.” That’s a blog in and of itself but I am struck by the next subtle phrase, “for His name’s sake” (Romans 1:5). Every beating that was endured, every church planted, every night without food, every bold message that was proclaimed was motivated by Paul’s love for Christ and the apostle’s unwavering allegiance to the Redeemer. Without question, Paul loved the people he sought to reach with the Gospel (1Thess. 2; Rom. 9). However, in the face of such rejection and persecution I doubt that Paul always found sufficient motivation in his love for those who so fervently opposed him. How often would Paul have reminded himself that the objective of bringing the Gentiles to humble obedience and submission to the Gospel was “for His name’s sake?” In Peter’s post-resurrection restoration, Jesus asked him, “Peter, do you love me?” After affirming his love for Christ, Jesus identified how Peter’s love would be demonstrated in the world with this simple command: “Tend my sheep” (John 21:17). Peter’s motivation for tending the sheep was to be his love for Christ, not his love for sheep. Now this is not to suggest that love for people is not a prerequisite for serving and reaching them with the Gospel. Certainly, we should love those who are groping in darkness, but that love must spring forth from the overflow of our love for Christ and it can never be reversed. The church’s missional effort and energy is “For His name’s sake” and for no other reason than for His glory. John Stott understood the need for proper mission motivation when he said, “The highest of all missionary motives is neither obedience to the great commission (important as that is), nor love for sinners who are alienated and perishing, but rather zeal – burning and passionate zeal – for the glory of Jesus Christ.” Father, may my zeal for your glory drive me to be a living demonstration of Your grace for the world to see.

Worthy Walking

As I steamroll down the track toward the half century mark in my life I am discovering that even now I am constantly having my belief system (worldview) overhauled. So much of what I believe to be true about God, life, salvation and heaven are as much the result of cultural songs and casual cliches more so than faithful, diligent study of God’s Word. I am teaching through the Book of Ephesians to our church on each Lord’s Day, and I must confess that I am being challenged and transformed more through preparing to teach than I expect anyone to ever be from hearing me teach.

This morning as I looked at Ephesians 4:1 I was struck once again by how the Bible never presents our Christian faith and identity as being about a future, heavenly existence as I have been taught growing up in a church culture. The Christian message has been “the world is a bad place and God will destroy it. Also you are a sinner who will die and go to hell unless you invite Jesus into your heart in order that you might go to heaven when you die!” This is not the biblical message of what it means to belong to the family of God.

The message which is predominately being shared in many modern church settings has become a message about death rather than the good news about life! Yes, of course I understand that death must be dealt with, but it has been dealt with through Christ’s death on the cross. Now what? As unintentional as it may be, from the very first evangelistic encounter with a potential convert we communicate that salvation is all about what happens when a person dies. How many times have we used this gem of a phrase, “If you were to die today, do you know that you would go to heaven?” We should be asking, “What happens if you live another 50 years? Will you continue to live as an enemy of God who lives for your own glory or will you repent and believe Christ to bring your life under His eternal rule?”

Modern salvation theology focuses on death and the life that follows (even this teaching is less than biblically sound). Biblical theology focuses on the story of the Giver of life and how our daily lives can be transformed by His power as we are adopted into His family to participate with Him in his eternal work of causing creation to flourish for His own glory.

In Ephesians, Paul certainly affirms the believer’s hope of a glorious eternal inheritance but NEVER at the expense of discarding our present call to walk as though eternity had already begun. Paul in Ephesians presents salvation as a present vocation deeply embedded in a creational purpose. Ephesians is about here and now, not there and then!

We have divorced the Christian message from the present and we wonder why teenagers graduate high school and leave the church in droves? We scratch our heads over the decline of the traditional church, which many of us cut our teeth in and we fail to understand why so many people who once professed faith in Christ seemingly live now with no regard for Christ or His church. Our church culture is simply reaping the rotten fruit of decades of poor theology. When we make salvation all about life after death we should not be surprised when people live as though God is only important in the life after death.

As Paul exhorted the Ephesians so I “implore you to walk in a manner (TODAY) worthy of the calling through which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1). If that is to happen “the eyes of your heart must be enlightened” so that you understand the great mission to which you have been called to participate. Apart from such knowledge you will drift through life with a dead hope based on unbiblical presuppositions about eternity which will inevitably lead you to believe that this life is all about you and you will live accordingly. Instead, I remind you that “God has made us what we are. God has created us in King Jesus for good works that he prepared ahead of time as the road we must travel” (Eph. 2:10, The Kingdom New Testament).


Election Day

This day eerily has the same kind of feel as a day in which you are waiting for a sick friend to breathe he’s last breathe. Our beloved republic which was born on blood drenched fields and framed by men of conimagesviction and service now hangs in the balance. The naive might charge me with being melodramatic but the nation of me
n like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Reagan is even now only a faint memory and if the truth be known in the minds of most not even the memory exist anymore. We’ve become a nation that stands and cheers repugnant, vulgar entertainers but sits when our national anthem is played. Babies are murdered each day and legislators and justices make and redefine laws to protect those who participate in the slaughter. We are a nation that calls good evil and evil good. Those who have a mind to work are oppressively taxed while those who refuse to work enjoy government supplied cell phones and free lunches.

Even as I write this people are lining up in polling places around the country preparing to cast their lot for a person who will become the leader of the United States of America. I also will vote today because men for generations have shed their blood in order that I might cast a vote today.  But I must admit I have never been less optimistic than I am in this moment that there is any life remaining in our once great nation. Regardless of the outcome of this election today the very options before us are indicative of a society that has lost its way and like Israel we demand a king like us rather than submit to the authority of the God who gave us life.

Today my children will say the pledge of allegiance and then they will accompany me to a voting booth where I will vote for a person who I have no confidence in to lead a nation I deeply love. But don’t mistake my pessimism for hopelessness. I am a patriot who would give my life for my country but the Bible offers perspective that must be heeded by every follower of Christ. I am a resident of the United States of America and my red, white and blue roots run deep. But I am citizen of a “better country.” I am living as an “alien” in a “foreign land” that becomes more foreign to me by the day. And like Abraham I am “looking for the city whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10). The same city which Abraham saw by faith, I still long for today. He desired “a better country” and so do I. Not just any country but “a heavenly one” which speaks to the quality of the land not to its location. The Apostle John caught a glimpse of this city as he peered into the future and “saw the holy city coming down out of heaven” (Revelation 21:2). Neither of the candidates on the ballet today will create anything more or less than a man-centered regime in which they become the power brokers for a brief moment in history.

The only election in my true country was held before the world was made and the only ballet cast was submitted by the Maker of the world when He chose a people to represent Him in His creation. Presently, He is “making all things new” and one day He will come to dwell among His chosen people in the world He created for His own glory and in that day Obama, Clinton, Trump and all of humanity will bow down before Him. And finally it will come to pass that “His glory will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). I will cast a vote today but the one that matters most has already been cast. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus.