Why The Resurrection is so Important for Christians

Happy Easter!  

On Sunday, some of us will join Christians around the world will gather together with family, friends, and their congregations (with proper precautions, no doubt) to celebrate Jesus’s physical, bodily resurrection, which is a pillar of the Christian faith. Some would argue that it is the central tenant of the faith because there would be no Christianity without it. Think about it with me. 

In First Corinthians 15:3-5, the Apostle Paul summarized the Christian gospel message in this way: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” He followed this summary statement with a list of appearances that Jesus made to a variety of groups after he rose from the dead. According to the list, he appeared to Peter, and to his disciples, and to 500 of his followers at one time, and lastly to Paul himself while Paul traveled on the road to Damascus. These eyewitnesses validate the reality of Jesus’s physical resurrection, which is a reality that is essentially important for Paul. Here’s why. 

Notice how Paul connected the death of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins to his burial and to his resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. For him, there is no good news about God’s forgiveness of our sins, there is no hope beyond this life, without a resurrection. He was well aware of the Bible’s message of salvation. He understood God’s great love for the world. He recognized the reality of Jesus’s death on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. He was convinced that Jesus’s death was a substitution for his own life to satisfy God’s judgment on him for his personal sins. He knew that was the case for the Corinthians too, and it would be the case for all those who would read his words throughout the rest of time. 

But, he also realized that the power of sin is death and that as long as death remined unconquered all hope for humanity would be lost. Our great enemy would always and finally win. And this is the reason why the resurrection is such great news! When Jesus conquered death and rose from the grave, he broke death’s stranglehold on men, women, and children. It has no more power over those who trust Jesus with their lives! They’ll live eternally with God in the remade heavens and earth. 

This is why Easter is so important to Christians around the world. It’s the very reason we have any hope in this life. 

Sunday is going to be a great day for our family and our congregation as we celebrate our Savior’s resurrection from the dead. We’d love for you to join us!

***This article was originally published in the March 31, 2021 edition of the Chester News and Reporter from Chester, SC.

Jesus, The Creative Genius

One of my favorite Bible stories is when Jesus healed a blind man in John 9. In it, Jesus and his disciples walked by a man who had been blind from birth. The disciples asked Jesus an important question for their day in age — “Teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered with, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” 

After this interaction, Jesus made some mud with his saliva, put in on the blind man’s eyes, and told him to go wash it off in a nearby pool. The man did as Jesus had told him. When he came out of the water, he could see for the first time in his life!

It’s a wonderful story of healing, of the power of the God of the Bible, of the love and grace of Jesus, and of the fullness of life being restored. It’s also a beautiful story God’s willingness to employ his creative genius to provide a solution to an impossible problem. 

You may be wondering how a story about Jesus healing a blind man is a story about the God’s ability to solve insurmountable problems creatively. If you are, you are asking a great question. Historic and biblically based Christian teaching answers that question for us in two ways. 

First, it tells us that Jesus is God in the flesh, meaning that he is both God and man – 100% God and 100% man – in the same person. He’s unique. There was no one like him before him and there will never be anyone like him again. Therefore, when Jesus fixes a problem, God fixes it. 

Second, biblical teaching is clear that God created all that there is. Genesis, the first book of the Bible, begins with the statement, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” John introduced his version of Jesus’s life story with a similar proclamation, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” God is a creator. He is, in fact, the creator of all things. 

So, when Jesus healed the blind man, he created a solution to an impossible problem. There was no hope for the man to receive his sight outside of the miraculous and creative work of Jesus. This is what Jesus does. He graciously fixes the world’s problems in his power to recreate all things in the same way he created them at the beginning. He does it in your life, and he does it in my life. The challenge for us is to trust him enough to allow him to do it. If we do, we will see the works of God displayed in us.  

** This post originally appeared in the Wednesday, March 3 edition of The Chester News and Reporter of Chester, SC.

How Do I Pray For Our Leaders?

As our political environment has gotten more and more charged over the past year, I have been asked multiple times how we are to pray for our political leaders. The place to which I often turn when answering this question is 1 Timothy 2 where Paul wrote the following to Timothy: 

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV). 

In this passage, Paul gives great wisdom that is as helpful to us as it was to Timothy when it comes to praying for our leaders.

The first thing we are to do is: pray for them. Make it a habit to actually pray for your leaders, those at the local, state, and national levels. Sometimes we ask questions like, “How do I pray for my leaders?” because we know we are supposed to pray for them and feel bad because we aren’t actually doing it. There’s no shame in that, per se. It’s just our reality. We don’t pray for them because we don’t know how to do it. However, we can’t know how to pray for them until we actually do pray for them.

A second thing we are to do when praying for our leaders is pray that they’ll govern in a way that enables all men, women, and children to live “peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way.” This is where Paul gets specific. We are to pray that our leaders will lead in a way to maintain the freedom we need to be able to live our lives in honor of our God, lives that are peaceful, quiet, godly, and dignified.

The third and final thing that Paul tells us to pray for in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 is for our leaders to provide clarity and protection so that we can live at peace and proclaim the message of the wonderful love and mercy of God in Jesus Christ. There can be no peace without clarity or protection. When things are unclear and truth is determined by agendas chaos reigns (not to mention looney conspiracy theories), and chaos is the opposite of peace. Similarly, protection from our enemies and those things that harm us creates the environment in which we can enjoy our freedoms. Security produces peace.

So, I encourage you to pray for your leaders at the local, state, and federal level. Pray for them to govern in a way that enables all people to live peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way. Pray that they will govern with clarity and provide protection for all of us. 

May God be pleased to answer our prayers today and every day. 

**This post was written for the Wednesday, February 3, 2021 edition of the Chester News and Reporter in Chester, SC. It was also published on the seventeen82.com blog.

Thankful For What We Know

Good morning friends, 

Earlier this morning, I watched a video from Rev. Donald MacDonald, minister of the Portree Free Church Congregation on the Isle of Skye and current Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland. In it, he spoke about all the things we don’t know right now as we continue to live in this pandemic. We don’t know: 

  • How long this pandemic will last. 
  • How effective the vaccine will be. 
  • What the lasting impact of the pandemic be on our health, our society, other people, and our churches. 

We have no idea about any of these things and countless others facing us at the moment. However, we do know some very important things. Rev. MacDonald pointed out four things we know, in particular. 

  1. We know how a virus behaves. — A virus spreads from person to person and some viruses get really good at it. This coronavirus is one of them. 
  2. We know how people behave. — We like to get together and we like to have personal and physical contact. We don’t like rules and restrictions either. 
  3. We know that our God is sovereign. — This pandemic hasn’t caused a crisis for him nor has it led him to panic as it has some of us. He sovereignly rules over it as he does everything else. 
  4. We know that God knows what we need. — He knows our situation intimately. He knows our fears, our struggles with our health, our emotional (in)stability, our mental health needs, our financial concerns, and our spiritual needs. He also abundantly meets everyone of those needs in ways that you and I will never fully understand. 

So, in the months ahead, let’s resolve to focus on the things we do know and be thankful for the ways in which God has, is presently, and will continue to provide for us in his goodness and grace while continuing to practice proper social distancing to restrict our physical contact with one another. There is great peace in trusting our Lord to be the provider and lover of our souls that he has revealed himself to be. He will carry us through this whole thing in his perfect time. 

You guys have a great day! May God bless you richly in his grace. 

Here’s the link to Rev. MacDonald’s short video, if you’d like to watch it. 

https://youtu.be/OXqJ-3PrcGk

In Christ, 
Clint 

Pursue Excellence For God’s Glory

If you know anything about Coach Nick Saban’s leadership style, you are familiar with the two primary themes that he drills into his players. First, they are to “trust the process.” For Saban, the process is far more important than the outcome. Second, they are to do everything – even the smallest things – with excellence. I’ve heard numerous clips of Saan shouting, “You have to be excellent in everything! If you practice with excellence, you will play with excellence!”

Does it work? In college football, yes. The results speak for themselves. Saban’s team, the Alabama Crimson Tide, won their sixth National Championship in the last eleven years on Monday, January 11 in Miami. The win was the Saban’s seventh overall and the school’s eighteenth. These are remarkable accomplishments. 

Saban, like most other coaches, is quick to say that he is not simply concerned with winning football games. His goal is to develop young men to be productive citizens, good husbands and fathers, and valuable employees. He understands that life is more important than football and that the vast majority of his players will not make their way onto NFL rosters, and even those that do, need the life skills he can teach them. 

As a Christian, I think there is good wisdom in Saban’s twin emphases – trusting the process and being excellent. Now, I don’t know anything about his faith commitment or the source of his process-focused coaching and life philosophy, but I’m convinced they line up well with the wisdom for life we find in the Bible. 

The Bible’s authors repeatedly challenge us to live lives of excellence to the glory of God in the present as we wait for our eternal reward. Consider these examples from the New Testament. 

  • “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So, run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24.
  • “So, whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31. 
  • “Let you light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16.
  • “…so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.” Titus 3:8. 

The purpose of each of these statements is to encourage us to live lives of excellence because everything we do should be done to bring glory to the God of Heaven, the one who has guaranteed an eternal reward for all of those who place their faith in Jesus and walk with him. The outcome is secure; so, let’s pursue excellence in everything we do while undergoing to process to get to eternity. 

**This post originally appeared in the Wednesday, January 20, 2021edition of the Chester News and Reporter in Chester, SC.

Third Wednesday Day of Prayer — January 20, 2021

Good morning! 

This year we have decided to designate the third Wednesday of each month as a day of prayer for our nation, our culture, our community, and our churches. The genesis of this decision came from a call to prayer from the Moderator of the General Synod of the ARP Church, Rob Roy McGregor, which he issued earlier this week in preparation for President-Elect Biden’s inauguration and in response to the tumultuous events that have shaken our society over the last year.

We know that the only hope we have to find peace in this world is the intentional movement of the Lord Jesus Christ to pour out his Holy Spirit on the hearts of men and women. We desperately need a fresh wave of revival in our land. He has done it before and he can do it again. Revival, however, MUST begin in the hearts and minds of the Lord’s people, his Church — those who call upon him for salvation and claim to follow him with their lives. 

For this week’s prayer guide, I have adapted one that I wrote and distributed to our congregation on Thursday, January 7, 2021. You will notice that I have added two principle request to the ones I mentioned then. They come directly out of 1 Timothy 2 and were drawn to my attention by Moderator McGregor’s email requesting that we set January 20 aside for prayer.

That said, here are the specific requests that we ask you to bring before the throne of glory.

  1. For revival in the hearts of the men, women, and children of God;
  2. For revival to start in Chester, SC and then sweep across this land;
  3. That the witness and mission of Christ’s Church and of those who call themselves Christians to be the same humble, compassionate, and loving witness and mission of Jesus and his apostles that we find in the New Testament; 
  4. For proper self-examination (1 Cor. 11), repentance of sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ;
  5. For peace in Washington, DC and across this land as civil authority is lawfully transferred from one administration to another ;
  6. For unity in Christ among Christians and national unity among all Americans;
  7. For the end of all injustice;
  8. For the governing authorities to govern in a way that enables all men, women, and children to live “peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way” (2 Timothy 2:2); and,
  9. For the protection of life and liberty so that men, women, and children may hear the good news of the gospel, place their faith in him, freely worship him, and witness to his goodness, glory, and grace.

Your prayer can be short or long, in private or in public. We simply ask that you stop what you are doing and unite with us in prayer at 11 am. We know our God hears and answers the pleas of his people. 

Also, we will be broadcast a short prayer service live online from our Sanctuary at 11 am. If you are available to pause your day at that time, please tune in. Here’s the link: https://livestream.com/chesterarp/events/9492963.

We hope you’ll join us in prayer today!

Prayer for Our Nation

Good morning!

We, at Chester ARP Church, ask you, wherever you are, to join us at 11 am today (January 7, 2021) as we pause to pray for our nation, our culture, our communities, and our churches. Americans are divided, and the shocking events of yesterday at the Capitol are sadly just another example of that division.

We know that the only hope we have to find peace in this world is the intentional movement of the Lord Jesus Christ to pour out his Holy Spirit on the hearts of men and women. We desperately need a fresh wave of revival in our land. He has done it before and he can do it again. Revival, however, MUST begin in the hearts and minds of the Lord’s people, his Church — those who call upon him for salvation and claim to follow him with their lives.

Psalm 85 gives us a guide to humble and contrite prayer for revival. It is posted below.

We ask that you specifically pray for:

  1. Revival in the hearts of the men, women, and children of God;
  2. Revival to start in Chester, SC and then sweep across this land;
  3. The witness and mission of Christ’s Church and of those who call themselves Christians to be the same humble, compassionate, and loving witness and mission of Jesus and his apostles that we find in the New Testament;
  4. Proper self-examination (1 Cor. 11), repentance of sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ;
  5. Peace in Washington, DC and across this land;
  6. Unity in Christ among Christians and national unity among all Americans;
  7. The end of all injustice.

Your prayer can be short or long, in private or in public. We simply ask that you stop what you are doing and unite with us in prayer at 11 am. We know our God hears and answers the pleas of his people.

Would you join us where you are at 11 am to pray for our nation, our culture, our community, and our churches?

Psalm 85

            [1] LORD, you were favorable to your land;

                        you restored the fortunes of Jacob.

            [2] You forgave the iniquity of your people;

                        you covered all their sin. Selah

            [3] You withdrew all your wrath;

                        you turned from your hot anger.

            [4] Restore us again, O God of our salvation,

                        and put away your indignation toward us!

            [5] Will you be angry with us forever?

                        Will you prolong your anger to all generations?

            [6] Will you not revive us again,

                        that your people may rejoice in you?

            [7] Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,

                        and grant us your salvation.

            [8] Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,

                        for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;

                        but let them not turn back to folly.

            [9] Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,

                        that glory may dwell in our land.

            [10] Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;

                        righteousness and peace kiss each other.

            [11] Faithfulness springs up from the ground,

                        and righteousness looks down from the sky.

            [12] Yes, the LORD will give what is good,

                        and our land will yield its increase.

            [13] Righteousness will go before him

                        and make his footsteps a way. (ESV)

Be Better This Year

It’s that time of year when everyone of us is making and desperately trying to keep our New Year’s Resolutions. Some of us will no doubt have more success than others because we most likely chose more realistic resolutions. 

I have four primary goals this year. They’re simple: read more, write more, enjoy good food and drink more, and laugh more. That’s it.

You know, I’ve tried developing more detailed and specific resolutions for the year. One year, I was going to read a book per month. Another year, I planned to lose 20 pounds. And then, there was the year I decided that I was going to play golf at Pebble Beach. 

Let me save you from the guessing game as to whether or not I accomplished them — I did not. I fell short. I made a good effort at reading a book per month in January but failed to complete one in February that year. I lost some weight the year I pledged to lose 20 pounds but put it back on between Thanksgiving and Christmas (which we all do, don’t we?). And playing golf at Pebble Beach? That dream died the second I found out that one round cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $500. 

By now, you are probably asking, “What is the point of this article?” Great question. 

I want to encourage you to think about 2021 in terms of getting better rather than completing a list of arbitrary and somewhat unrealistic resolutions. That’s the goal in life anyway, isn’t it? Be better today than you were yesterday. Be better this year than you were last year. Therefore, set some goals that will enable you to be better in 2021 than you were in 2020. 

Take my four goals for an example. Here’s how I think they will make me better. 

  1. Read More — Reading expands our minds. Reading takes us to places, times, and settings that we ordinarily would not know. Reading enlarges our vocabulary. Reading forces us to think critically and completely. 
  2. Write More — Writing is the best way to develop free-flowing thoughts and detailed arguments. Writing causes us to process our thoughts fully. Writing leaves an historical record of the events and ideas floating around our minds and lives. 
  3. Enjoy Good Food and Drink More — Good food and drink two of God’s greatest gifts to us. It’s pleasurable to sit at a table and to partake in a meal that was prepared with skill and care. Good food and drink also brings people together (and we could all use that after 2020). 
  4. Laugh More — Laughter is good for our souls. It is beneficial for our physical and emotional health. It also builds and strengthens relationships, making laugh-filled friendships essential to our lives. Who doesn’t want to be around someone who laughs with them?

And there is one final thing that all of these goals will make me do in 2021, and that is: slow down. Reading takes time. Writing takes meditation and time. Enjoying good food and drink requires that I set aside many of the distractions that occupy my mind. Laughing more demands that I give more attention to friends and family so that I can find the humor in their stories and actions.

So, I challenge you to leave your resolutions open-ended this year. Set the goal to be better in 2021 than you were in 2020. Expand your mind, record your thoughts, share some good meals, and be pleasant to be around. And, you’ll have a great year. 

Happy New Year!  

** This article originally appeared in the January 6, 2021 edition of the Chester News and Reporter in Chester, SC.

Remembering, Preparing, Waiting on Christ’s Return

In his first post of the new year on the seventeen82.com blog titled, “Growing as a Christian,” Pastor James McManus wrote about the importance of growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ from 2 Peter 3. His post encouraged my heart and I trust that it will encourage yours should you read it. 

If you will allow it, I would like to jump on the James Train in this post and draw our attention to the beginning thirteen verses of 2 Peter 3 where Peter gives us a three-fold philosophy for living faithful lives in light of the impending return of Christ.

Let me set the stage. 

By the time we get to the beginning of 2 Peter 3, the Apostle has written (for the better part of two letters) to a group of congregations full of Christians and Christian families who have been “grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6). They were marginalized by their society, led astray by religious leaders they trusted, and exiled from their families for their commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. They were in a tight spot. 

Knowing this (because he, himself, faced persecution in Rome), Peter sought to stir up their “sincere minds by way of reminder” (2 Peter 3:1). He reminded them first of the words and “predictions of the holy prophets” as well as “the commandments of the Lord and Savior through their apostles” (2 Peter 3:2), for they spoke God’s inspired word (2 Peter 1:21). He reminded them second that the prophets and apostles predicted that scoffers and false teachers would rise up in the last days following their own sinful desires and would try to convince others to follow them in their pursuit of godlessness (2 Peter 2:1-3; 3:3). He reminded them lastly that their only hope rests in the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel as it is revealed to them in the words of the apostles and prophets. 

After stoking the fire of their memories, Peter focused on one particular promise they found in the Scriptures — Christ Jesus will return. 

Central to understanding Peter’s message to his beloved congregations is the concept of the last days. For him, the last days is the time between Jesus’s ascension into Heaven and his subsequent return when he will completely establish his eternal kingdom after the heavens and the earth have been made new. This means that the present era has a beginning (the Day of Pentecost) and an end (Christ’s return), and the Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee (Eph. 1:13-14) that it will all come to be as he testifies to our spirits of the reality of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, ascension, and eventual return. Specifically in 2 Peter 3, Peter grounds his confidence in Christ’s return in the fact that Jesus came, lived, died, rose, and ascended in the exact way the prophets had predicted. Therefore, he and his readers could be certain that the predictions of Christ’s return would in fact come true in due time. 

Armed with this faith-filled confidence, they could withstand the pressure of the scoffers and endure the hardships they faced from their persecutors. All they had to do was to wait patiently on the Lord to fulfill his promises, trust him with their lives, and prepare themselves to welcome him and his eternal kingdom. 

Now, at first sight this instruction from Peter appears too ethereal, but it is imminently practical. Patiently waiting on the Lord’s return gives purpose, meaning, and direction to our lives. If we know that there is a definite end with reward for those who remain faithful to Christ and punishment for those who do not, then the decisions we make and the actions we take are eternally consequential for us. The conviction that Christ will return shapes our lives as we prepare ourselves for his return, a return that will come like a thief in the night (2 Peter 3:10). Because of this reality, waiting patiently on the Lord, trusting him with our lives, and preparing ourselves for his return are the most practical things to which followers of Christ can devote themselves. 

As I conclude, I will draw your attention back to the opening paragraphs of this post where I said that Peter gives us a three-fold philosophy for living lives of faith in light of Christ’s return. Here is that philosophy, and I commend it to you.

  1. Remember the words and promises of God found in the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:1-2).
  2. Wait patiently on Christ’s return for it is sure to come in the Lord’s perfect time (2 Peter 3:8-10).
  3. Prepare yourselves for Christ’s return because it is imminent and could come at any moment (2 Peter 3:11-13). 

May God bless you richly in his grace as you pursue him and elevate others to his glory as you wait for his certain return. 

Keeping The Faith

My beloved NC State Wolfpack beat Wake Forest Saturday night in thrilling fashion. After the game, running back Ricky Person, Jr said, regarding his breakout performance, “I’m speechless, honestly. I’ve battled through a lot of injuries throughout my career. I just kept faith in God, my teammates encouraged me on a daily basis, everyone. It was a long time coming for this moment…”

In a similar vein, Sunday’s winner of the 2020 US Open Golf tournament, Bryson DeChambeau, recently explained his belief in his new training regimen which was designed to drastically increase his body mass in an interview published in Golf Digest.

Based on their words, both of these athletes properly understand the concept of faith. They both know that faith, by definition, always has an object. It is “in” something or someone. Person stated it directly Saturday night when he said that he “kept faith in God.” His faith is in God. It wasn’t his faith alone that carried him through the obstacles. It wasn’t his faith alone that overcame the injuries to his hamstring and Achilles tendon. It was God that did it. His faith attached him to God and enabled him to rest in God’s strength while working tirelessly to get back to the playing field. The same is true for DeChambeau, except his faith wasn’t in God but in his process and training. 

The Bible talks about faith in the exact same way. Biblical faith is grounded firmly in the Lord Jesus Christ, who famously told Martha, at the tomb of her brother Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). He gave her hope in the midst of her grief. Later, the Apostle Paul claimed the same hope for himself through faith as he testified that he lived his life “by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20) 

In both of these instances, faith was the conduit through which God’s power and hope ran to the individuals. Let me use an example to explain. 

You have power at your house. You use it all the time. You heat water with it. You cook with it. You wash clothes with it. You turn lights on at night with it. You watch TV with it. You surf the internet because of it. You also know that the lines that bring that power to your house are not the power source. It comes from somewhere else. 

The same is true for faith. Faith functions as the power lines do in that it is the way you and I receive the power, hope, blessing, grace, and mercy of God in our lives. God is the source of all things and he gives them to us by faith. 

So, let me encourage you to exercise your faith in the good and gracious God of the Bible so you may receive his life and his power each and every day. 

This post originally appeared in the Wednesday, September 23, 2020 edition of the Chester News and Reporter of Chester, SC.