Be a Tree, Not a Weed

tree.jpg

 

Psalm 1:3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

This verse applies to all people, but especially to young people. Most researchers and commentators consider people born between 1980 and 2000 to be the Millennial Generation. I love this generation. I believe they have unique challenges and opportunities due to many factors, not the least of which is the growth of technology during their lifetime. I have three children born between 1989 and 1995. It amazes me that they do not know what it is like to be without cell phones, the Internet, Google, and social media. 

As a dad to three millennials and a pastor to many, I am genuinely excited for you. You have many opportunities that past generations never had at your age. Your world is quite different, your options limitless. But along with great opportunity comes great responsibility. 

I imagine every generation faces its own challenges that are unique to its place in time and culture. But particularly for your generation, because of the exponential speed of information available to us, there is a great temptation to take shortcuts to success. We are the instant millionaire, streaming video, Internet, Snap Chat, Instagram, and YouTube culture. Everything is bigger, faster, and more accessible, but not necessarily better. So here are a few ancient tips from King David that will help you establish a life that lasts and is significant like a tree, not fleeting and short-sighted like a weed.

  • Commit to being before doing

Don’t pursue “style over substance.” This is dangerous and can potentially be fatal. As a young person you must heed what the Bible says about personal and spiritual growth. Growth takes time and commitment. Jesus placed much more emphasis on who you arein him rather than what you dofor him. Jesus dealt rather harshly with the “style over substance” crowd. That is particularly important to practice in a social media culture.

  • Make a commitment to character first.

The Apostle Paul wrote that we should “lay hands on no man suddenly.” He was talking about not being too quick to appoint someone for a leadership position before they had a chance to grow and mature in their faith. He did not mean they had to be perfect, but that they needed to focus on growing in character and spiritual maturity first. That does not mean that there is an age barrier to leading or to spiritual maturity. There is no “Holy Spirit Junior” for younger people. Disciples are doers! I believe that Christians must begin serving in a ministry in the local church as soon as possible. His point is that you must develop character and spiritual maturity before you are put in the spotlight. This kind of thinking is the antidote to an entitlement mentality. 

  • Make a commitment to personal growth.

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. The only exception to that rule is Jesus Christ. As Christ-followers, we must make a commitment to spiritual and personal growth. I believe this means that we must pledge ourselves to spiritual disciplines, to learning and education, to reading, and to developing our minds, bodies, and personal lives. It is easier than ever to take shortcuts. But character matters. 

  • Make a commitment to The Church. 

Notice that I capitalized The Church. Jesus died for The Church. As a believer, you are a part of The Church. But that is not enough. We also need to be a part of the local church. It is easy in our time to watch and listen to church online and never really become a part of a local body. While online community is great and certainly has its place, we are designed to live in Christian community with real people. Believers crave the closeness and intimacy of genuine, transparent relationships. God, in his wisdom, has designed a perfect vehicle for you to experience this – the local church. There is no perfect church and every church has flaws. But until you make a commitment to die to self and commit to a body of believers, you will lack the true support mechanism you need to grow close to Jesus. Don’t be a “free agent Christian” who bounces around from place to place. Enjoy the benefits of church by embracing the responsibilities of being a part of the local church. 

  • Make a commitment to serve.

Studies show that millennials are up to ten times more likely to be depressed than their grandparent’s generation. I believe this is, in part, due to the “me first” philosophy that permeates our culture. When we have an attitude of entitlement rather than an attitude of service, we tend to get depressed because that goes against God’s purpose for living. 

In Luke 15, the prodigal son wallowed in misery and self-loathing because of a “me –first” mentality. Our culture thinks this is the way to happiness. But the “me-first” attitude led him to waste his life and opportunities. The road to the “me-first” life is a road to nowhere. It leads to dissatisfied living. We know that Jesus came to serve, not to be served. He served those who needed him most and those who hurt him most. 

  •   Be ancient and modern at the same time. 

I believe Jesus calls us to live out his purpose in the culture where we live. We must engage in the culture, love the people in it, and live above it at the same time. By being ancient, we follow Jesus, his wisdom, his ways, and live by the ancient and infallible truths of God’s Word. By being modern we engage the culture, embrace being fully human, and enjoy the beauty of God’s blessings while influencing the culture for Christ. 

You have great opportunities in this culture no matter how old you are. You can be great! But don’t buy the lies of enemy. Building the kind of life God wants for you takes time, commitment, and grace. Commit to become a tree that produces long-lasting fruit rather than a weed that is here today and gone tomorrow.  

 

The Problem with Easter


Easter19_ServiceTimes.jpg

 

I believe the biggest problem with Easter for many followers Christ is that it is not that big a deal to them. I am not suggesting that most Christians do not understand the importance of the first Easter. I believe followers of Christ must have a basic understanding of the gospel in order to be saved. They believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and they believe the finished work of Christ is necessary for salvation. The problem is that the further away they get from the time of their conversion, the more Easter becomes white noise. Once again, I do not suggest that they have no fondness for Easter. After all, many go to church, give, serve, and participate. It is just that it gets increasingly easier to lose the awe and wonder that is the gospel. It is easy to get so busy with things that pertain to Easter, that we forget about the essence, meaning, and wonder of how the God of the universe, God the Son, would leave heaven, become human, and not only die for our sins, but become them and absorb the wrath of the Father for all the sins ever committed or that ever will be committed by every human ever. 

The longer a person follows Christ, the more central Easter should become to him or her. But the truth is that while most believe it is important,many of us don’t prioritize it with our actions. We treat it flippantly sometimes. Can you imagine missing your child’s first birthday, or graduation from high school, or wedding just to take a vacation, a trip, or a cruise? I can’t. Yet, the most important event in the universe we treat as optional sometimes. Even if we don’t skip it, we can become very casual about the most important event in history. Nothing comes close to the meaning and importance of Easter. Without it, there is no salvation, no eternal life, no heaven, no abundant life here on earth, no joy, no peace, no forgiveness, no reconciliation with God, no purpose in life, and no hope. Yet we can get so busy doingEaster that we forget to remember Easter.

Here are four things I want you to consider this Easter:

1.    Reorder Your Focus

 Isn’t it easy to get so busy that we forget the true meaning of Easter? I want to challenge you to take time to focus on all that Jesus did for you when he died and rose again. I am not just talking about the physical and material blessings in your life. Those are important, but not the most important. Think about what Jesus did for us. Without Jesus, there is no salvation, eternal life, heaven, abundant life here on earth, joy, peace, forgiveness, reconciliation with God, purpose in life, or hope. Easter is a perfect time to renew your focus and thankfulness.

2.    Commit to Evangelism

Easter is the greatest time on the church calendar for bringing people to Christ. More people get saved on Easter than any other time during the year in most churches. Make an effort to be a part of that this year. Giving, serving, and participating is important and helps reach people, but inviting someone who needs Jesus is even better. Just imagine what you will feel like when you invite someone to church and he or she receives Christ. It will be incredible!

3.    Be Gospel-Centered

Easter is a great time to build your life around the gospel of God’s grace. You don’t earn, merit, or deserve salvation. Why would you think that the rest of your life should be built on your own good deeds? The truth is that the gospel is necessary to become a follower and it is necessary to grow as a follower. 

4.    Celebrate More

Sometimes I am guilty of not celebrating enough. I set goals and I work, plan, and sweat until I reach them. As soon as I reach the goal, I immediately shift my focus to the next one. That is not good. Celebration is a big part of God’s story. He and heaven celebrate every time a lost person is found. I have been to some pretty big celebrations in my life, but can you imagine what a celebration in heaven is like? I have to imagine that our best celebrations pale in comparison. The point is that we need to celebrate more. God is pleased with it and you are encouraged by it. 

I have examined my heart about Easter. There are some things I need to do better so that it does not become just another event on the church calendar. I hope you will examine your heart as well. Let’s make this Easter a really big deal. 

 

Why Children’s Ministry Must be a Priority



AvalonKids.jpg

 

At Avalon Church our vision is bringing people, wherever they are, into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. We are about reaching people. We are about reaching people wherever they are. The church is to be a place that reaches people who need Jesus. It is a hospital for the sick, a lighthouse to protect us from the rocks, not a country club for insiders. Part of “wherever they are” includes children’s ministry.

Did you know that over 80% of people who receive Christ do so before their 16thbirthday? Think of that statistic. It is incredible. It also shows how incredibly important children’s ministry is. Here are a few reasons why you should serve in Avalon Kids:

1.    It is the most effective way to reach people for Christ. 

If you are serious about fulfilling God’s purpose to bring people to Christ, then children’s ministry is an obvious choice. It can make the greatest impact of all. 

2.    Children are a priority. 

Children are important to all of us. Their growth, health and development are priorities. But the greatest priority is their relationship to Jesus Christ. Children are important to us at Avalon Church. In my opinion, it is the most important ministry in the church. 

3.    Children’s ministry allows you to make an incredible impact. 

Think of how important the impact you make on a child is. You may influence a future president, senator, inventor, entertainer, athlete, business owner, doctor, lawyer, parent, missionary, or pastor. Think about that for a moment. Someone influenced Billy Graham. What if you influenced the child that would one day reach your grandchildren for Jesus?

4.    Children’s ministry brings out your creativity. 

Your creativity was given to you by God. You may not think you are very creative, but when you influence children, you become more creative and you think differently. 

5.    Children’s ministry helps you learn. 

One of the greatest ways to learn something is to be forced to teach it. It causes you to think. When dealing with children, you are forced to think outside the box because they ask so many questions. Sometimes they ask questions you don’t know the answer to and sometimes they ask questions that force you to restructure how you say things. That helps you know it better!

6.    Children’s ministry is fun!

Many people think that children’s ministry is no more than baby-sitting. Nothing could be further from the truth. Children’s ministry molds kids in the image of Christ and it is down-right fun!

7.    Children’s ministry gives great rewards. 

I have been in ministry long enough now to reap the rewards of seeing children become adults and follow Jesus on their own, not just because parents make them go to church. It is incredibly rewarding to have people come back and thank you for investing in them many years ago. 

I want to challenge you to pray for our children and our volunteers. They are the lifeblood of Avalon Church. Perhaps you will consider investing into our kids. While it is true that they are the future church, it is more accurate to say that they are the young church of today. 

 

Think Your Way to Success

man on mountain.jpg

Roger Bannister, a British doctor, knight, and neurologist, died about a year ago at 88 years of age. Bannister is famous for becoming the first person to break the “four-minute-mile,” a feat at the time that was considered physically impossible. But on May 6, 1954 he ran the mile in 3:59.4. It was a record that did not stand very long. Several runners over the next year broke the four-minute barrier. Today the world record for the mile stands at an astonishing 3:43.13. 

What is outstanding about Bannister’s amazing accomplishment is not the physical accomplishment, but the mental accomplishment. To be sure, running a mile in less than four minutes is an amazing physical feat, but it was the mental achievement that launched him to his goal. He had to break through mental barriers to reach his potential. I believe the same is true for you. We must break through our doubts in order to reach our God-given ambitions. Here are five keys to breaking mental barriers and doubts.

Faith Fuel

Obviously, one must have faith in order to reach a goal. We must believe in the mission and in ourselves in order to break through. This is true from a physical perspective, but it is particularly true from a spiritual perspective. Faith in God, His Word, His Plan, and His Promises is not the same as believing in oneself or self-confidence. We must go from self-confidence to God-confidence. Nevertheless, faith is the starting point. If faith is critical, then we must learn to fuel our faith. There will be times when our faith is weak. The key here is to fuel our faith with the Bible and God’s promises because, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” 

Perseverance

Perseverance gets a bad rap in our culture. I am an extreme grace guy, because I believe God’s grace is exceedingly abundant and powerful. It is the finished work of Jesus, not my efforts, that makes me whole and delivers me to the place I need to be. But perseverance is a fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit grows patience, faithfulness, and self-control in our lives. Perseverance is a critical component of successful living of any kind. When seeking to overcome mental barriers, we must persevere, just like Roger Bannister did. 

Mind Fuel

What you put into your mind determines how you think. How you think determines how you believe and live. You must get the right kind of fuel in your mind. When trying to overcome a mental barrier, it is essential to fill your mind with good things. Read good books that educate and encourage you. Listen to podcasts. Read blogs. Get training. Make sure that you connect with the stories of people who have already had success. These kinds of things fuel your mind and give you the strength to continue. 

Encouragement

The Bible says that King David encouraged himself in the Lord. Encouragement is essential. I have never seen a greatly discouraged person achieve his or her goals. Encouragement comes from filling your mind with God’s promises in the Bible, repeating them often, prayer, and surrounding yourself with the right people. If you surround yourself with doubters, naysayers, and negative people, you will get discouraged. Find someone who will speak truth and encouragement into your life. 

Support

 Support comes from having the right people in your life, as we just discussed. To take it a step further, you must have the support of a team. The saying, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” may be a cliché, but it is true. Strong support is necessary for you to succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be willing to receive counsel. Be willing to talk to a mentor. Open yourself to the support of others and you will be more empowered to overcome the mental barriers that keep you from your dream. 

 

Remember the Why

vision2.jpg

 Remembering why you do what you do is essential to the success of any organization. The what and how are important, but the why is the most important. This is true of restaurants, technology companies, and car dealerships. It is especially true of a church. 

At Avalon Church our why is bringing people, wherever they are, into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. We exist to reach people for Christ. We exist to reach all kinds of people, even those who do not look like us, live like us, or believe like us. We exist to bring every person we reach into a growing relationship with Jesus.That is why we say, “Your next step is your most important step.”  

Here are a few things to remember about our vision:

  • We must stick with it at all times and in every ministry. The path to reaching the vision - the programming and plans - will change from time to time. The vision, however, must always stay the same.

  • We must own it. It takes a team. Everyone must do his or her part. My goal is for all the members of Avalon is to own the vision so we can live it together.

  • I have to repeat it often because vision leaks. Just ask people who come to our church to articulate the vision and you might be surprised at what you hear. It bears repeating…often.

  • It determines our philosophy of ministry. Everything we do must be seen through the lens of our vision. Every ministry. Every program. Every event. Vision drives everything. That is why we do church the way we do - music, programming, and preaching. 

As we approach Easter @ Avalon, I hope you will remember why we do what we do and why we ask you to get involved. This is a great time to carry out the vision together so we can reach many people for Christ. 

5 Commandments for Easter at Avalon Church 

Easter19_ServiceTimes.jpg

Each year I try to remind you that we must be at our best for Easter @ Avalon. Easter is approaching quickly, and we are getting ready for a great move of God at Avalon Church. Since Easter is the time of year when more people visit church and more people get saved than any other weekend, we must be on our “A Game” at Avalon Church. With that in mind here are 5 Commandments for Easter.

1. Thou Shalt Not Ignore a Guest (or anyone else).

We must all take responsibility. Reaching and connecting people requires that all hands be on deck. This is not just for our Guest Services ministry; it is for all of us. We are better together! Having a good attitude will help our guests take their next step. So, let’s be friendly, helpful, and welcoming. We are preparing and working for a great move of God, so let’s show everyone that we are prepared. 

2. Thou Shalt Not Say, “I Don’t Care.”

It is OK not to know the answer to a question, but it is never OK to say, “I don’t know.” Instead of pointing or shrugging, make sure to walk a guest to Next Step Central, the restrooms, the children’s area, or wherever they need to go. It is critical for people to feel loved and cared for when they arrive. Your actions say I care about you. If you don’t know the answer to their question, then take them to Next Step Central. Offer to help carry their things. This lets people know that we truly care about them.

3. Thou Shalt Not Sit on the Sidelines.

Easter is the most important time of the year for Avalon Church. More people will come to Christ on Easter weekend than any other time of year. We need you to be involved. Invite people. Hand out invite cards. Invite friends, family, and neighbors. Commit to join us at the Good Friday service at 7:00 PM for prayer and communion. Attend Saturday at 6:00 PM and bring a guest. Attend and serve on Sunday at 9:30 and 11:15. Serve somewhere. Let your leader know that you are available. If you don’t normally serve, this is a great time to start! 

4. Thou Shalt Own It.

Owners take responsibility. Since you are Avalon Church,you must take responsibility and be involved. This is not just for the staff or the leaders. It is for everyone. This is a huge team effort and we will see a great move of God if we all get involved. Your language is important too. Don’t say “they” or “them” but say “we” and “our.” This is your church. Pray for it. Love it. Own it. I am asking every person who attends Avalon Church to say, “I care.” 

5. Thou Shalt Expect God to Do Something Big.

Jesus said, "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”(Matthew 21:22) Join me in praying and believing God for great things at Easter. Let’s pray for 100 people to be saved on Easter Weekend! That only happens if we all get involved and we all pray in faith. 

I am praying for a God-sized Easter. Let’s all pull together and watch God do something big!

 

 

Affair Proof Your Marriage

couple-kissing-in-the-snow.jpg

 

This past Sunday I talked about the Principle of Intimacy and how to protect your marriage. This is a follow-up blog to the message. 

 

In 32 years of fulltime ministry I have observed that the percentage of Christians who have affairs is not significantly different than the percentage of non-Christians who have affairs. Whether you are a Christian or not, having an affair is a bad idea. Here are seven principles that will teach you how to avoid this devastating mistake.

1.     Be aware of your vulnerabilities.  

Ego and a lack of self-awareness lead to a dangerously susceptible mindset. We must be aware of our vulnerabilities if we want to avoid having an affair. The Apostle Paul warned us to “consider ourselves lest we also be tempted.” One of the first steps to avoiding an affair is to acknowledge your vulnerability and build boundaries. 

2.     Be aware of the effects of an affair. 

Affairs are devastating and painful. They devastate families, children, and finances. Affairs are crippling emotionally and create future trust issues. It is impossible to duplicate the “feelings” of an affair over a long-term relationship. It also violates a sacred trust. Hebrews 13:4 states, "Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband."

3.     Understand God’s purpose. 

Every command in the Bible is rooted in God’s love for us. They were never meant for your pain but for your protection, pleasure, and joy. Sex was God’s idea and He made it for His purpose and our benefit. 1 Timothy 4:4 states, "For everything(even sex) God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected, but all is to be received with a prayer of thanks." (GN)

4.     Increase your emotional intelligence. 

1 Peter 3:7 states,“In the same way, you husbands should live with your wives in an understanding way…” This is very practical for married couples. Peter was saying that it is possible to learn about the emotional needs of your spouse. It does not need to be such a mystery. 

5.     Prioritize your commitment. 

Anything that is neglected gets worse. This is true of your health, your finances, your business, or your golf game. It is especially true of your marriage. Don’t be guilty of thinking that you never have to work on your marriage. It, like everything else in life, is vulnerable to inattention and carelessness. I believe the most important commitment in marriage is your commitment to God. You are meant to be in church together, to give together, and to serve together. Being involved together in regular worship, service, and small group community is critical. Do people who do these things ever have affairs? Yes, but not nearly as often. Committing to God’s values means worshipping and obeying him. Psalm 119:9 states, “How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word and following its rules.”

6.     Guard against temptation.

You must establish the kind of boundaries that will keep you from giving in to temptation. Temptation is not a sin, but exposing yourself to constant and needless temptation is unwise. One of the best ways to avoid having an affair is to work on your sex life in your marriage. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:7,"Do not cheat each other of normal sexual relations, unless you both decide to abstain temporarily to make special time for prayer.  But afterwards you should resume relations as before, or you will expose yourselves to the obvious temptations of Satan."

7.     Confess your sin. 

The beauty of the gospel is that Christ traded his righteousness for my sin. No matter the sin, forgiveness is available in Christ. Confess the sin of neglect. If you have had an affair, stop it, get help, get accountable, and confess it to God. One of my favorite verses in all the Bible is 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

You can have a blessed marriage. You can’t have a perfect marriage, but you can have a happy and blessed one. Work on these principles and you will affair-proof your marriage and be well on your way to the kind of marriage that God blesses.  

Showing Honor

honor.jpg

Romans 12:10 states that we should “outdo one another in showing honor.” I love that. We should go out of the way to honor others. Remember, honor is given, while respect is earned. Showing honor is something that we should practice no matter how we feel about a person. 

I spoke about the principle of honor on Sunday. When I think about people who deserve honor and who have played an integral part in the success and growth of Avalon Church, the list is very long. I think about the families that helped us start the church from day one. There are a couple of families that are still here serving and making a difference. In fact, one of our staff pastors, Justin McIntyre, was a teenager when we started the church and his family was one of the original founding families. Neil and Bonnie Gardner were also there at the beginning and they are serving as short-term missionaries in Indonesia until May. I believe that our elders and deacons deserve honor for their commitment and involvement. Our staff deserves honor for all of their contributions. Our volunteers especially deserve honor because they make this place run. All the generous donors deserve honor. Without them, none of this is possible. I could mention many others. 

One person that I believe deserves special honor is my wife, Kim. So often the lead pastor or the founding pastor gets a lot of accolades, whether it is deserved or not. But I can honestly say that our church would not exist without Kim and her tireless involvement and her tremendous sacrifice. She is not only the co-founder of Avalon, I believe she is the heart behind our church. She has worked tirelessly for thousands of hours when no one was looking. She has carried the burden, the love, and the passion for this church day and night, week in and week out. She has encouraged and supported me more times than I can count. I can truly say that if not for her, I would have quit a long time ago. She shares my burdens and pains, cheers me up and cheers me on, loves the people of Avalon deeply, prays, leads, teaches, encourages, prods, and invests in others. She has a heart for the hurting and the down-and-out. I have never seen a person who truly cares more for those who could never pay her back. She is a leader, a true Christ-follower, an example for all, a tireless worker, a true friend, an encourager, and, best of all, she is my wife. I would not trade her for a thousand others. Thank you, Kim. As King Lemuel wrote in Proverbs 31, “your price is far above rubies.”

Celebrate the Win with Us!

positive attitude.jpg

No matter who you were rooting for in the Super Bowl, we all shared in a big win at Avalon Church on Football Sunday. It was a great day in every aspect. First of all, we saw 20 people receive Christ as their Savior and 10 people follow Christ in believer’s baptism! What a win that was! In addition, the energy was great, the attendance was tremendous, and your participation was off the charts. I want to say a HUGE thank you to our panelists, Chris Edwards, Josh Gordy, and Robert Edwards. Your stories were uplifting and Christ-honoring. I can’t wait until next year!

Of course, the win for us is not just special days but every Sunday. When people take their next steps – salvation; baptism; joining the church, a small group, or a ministry team; reading the Bible; praying; growing in generosity; inviting others to church; stepping into leadership; and many other steps – we all win. I want to thank you for your faithfulness. Without your faithfully taking your next steps every week, we would not experience what God is doing in our church right now. The best is yet to come!

I hope you will join us this Sunday at Avalon Church. I will continue our series God’s Rules for Better Relationships.I will deal with the principle of honor. This is a huge need in our culture today. How can you bring honor even when you don’t feel honored? What does God promise to do for you when you honor others? You won’t want to miss this important and helpful message.  

I love you and I will see you on Sunday!

 

Pastor Ritchie 

 

 

Don’t Miss Football Sunday at Avalon Church!


FootballSunday_Promo.jpg

 

On February 3rd we will have one service at 10:30 to celebrate Football Sunday at Avalon Church. Our purpose is simple: we want to use Super Bowl Sunday to reach people for Christ! Since this Sunday is a big day in the American culture, we want to leverage it for Jesus. 

Here is our plan. We will have a BIG combined service with lots of great music and fun. We will hear the testimony of a current NFL player (on video). We will also have live testimonies on stage of three football players who will share their stories. They will talk about second chances, being prepared for opportunities, and what to do when God changes your plans. You will get to meet former NFL players and Super Bowl champions. And to make it even more fun, we will have a former Georgia Tech player and a former Georgia player. We will have opportunities for photos, autographs, and lots more. In addition, we will have a kicking contest for the kids in Avalon Kids and will give away fun-sized footballs to every kid in Avalon Kids on that Sunday. 

We will have lots of fun and you will definitely want to be here. Let’s remember that our purpose, however, is to reach people and see them saved. So, make sure to invite as many people as possible on that day. 

 

How to Help Others Get Through What They are Going Through 

Prayer+and+Bible.jpg

Every person will deal with a loss at some point in his or her life. It is inevitable. At the very least we will deal with the loss of a loved one to death, whether it is the unexpected death of someone we deem too young to die or the loss of a loved one who lived a long and fruitful life. But other losses cause us to experience pain as well, like a lost job, a divorce, a breakup, a missed opportunity, or even losing a house or apartment. 

Whenever things like this happen people have questions. Where was God during this? Why did he not stop it? If God is truly a loving God, then how could he allow this to happen? During times of loss and mourning Christians have a responsibility to minister to hurting people in the church and the community. Here are a few ways you can help others during times of grief.

Be There

Sometimes it is hard to know what to say. Often, we feel awkward and don’t do or say anything. The Bible explicitly tells us that we should, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”(Galatians 6:2) What is the law of Christ? It is the commandment to love each other. One of the ways you express love for people is to be there for them.That is what sharing a burden means. Words are important but not as essential as being present. Even if you don’t know what else to say, that is enough. 

Pray with Them

Psalm 62:8 says, “Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.”God not only answers prayer in times of trouble, he expects us to pray during tough times. God is a refuge. A refuge is a safe place, a harbor, or a retreat. You may not understand the reason for the loss but praying aligns your life under God’s protection and will. This produces a sense of peace and grows your faith.

Patiently Answer Their Questions

Do not get frustrated with people when their faith seems weak during a tragedy. Help them look back to God. Don’t use Christian clichés that seem insensitive and uncaring. I do believe all things work together for good for those who love God, but I think you need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in your language. Just because a person has questions does not mean that he or she doesn’t love God. Questions about why God allows bad things to happen are legitimate. There are answers from the Bible to these questions. Respond sensitively to these questions and don’t assume he or she lacks faith. 

One thing that may help is to remember that God created mankind with a free will. God is responsible for the fact of free will and we are responsible for the acts of free will. God always has a purpose. Just because we can’t see the purpose does not mean that there isn’t one. The Psalmist wrote about people who trust God during difficult times when he said, “He is not afraid of receiving bad news; his faith is strong, and he trusts in the Lord.”Psalm 112:7

Acknowledge that You Don’t Have All the Answers 

I recently read a quote from a Christian leader that said, “People would rather follow a leader who is always real rather than one who is always right.”Don’t be the pompous know-it-all. That frustrates rather than helps. Learn to let people know that you have questions too but that you trust God because of his goodness. The prophet Nahum wrote, “The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.”Nahum 1:7

Point them to the Cross

The cross of Jesus Christ is the ultimate answer to human tragedy. The crucifixion of Christ was the most outrageous act of evil in world history. Humans murdered God the Son. Yet, at the same time it was the only possible solution for sin and the greatest act of love the world has ever known. It enables us to be forgiven, declared righteous, and redeemed back to God. It will ultimately lead to the redemption of all of creation back to God’s original purpose. Christ’s death and resurrection defeated sin, death, and hell. One day, death, evil, sorrow, pain, and tears will be no more. But until that day we have a Savior that empowers us and embraces us during our suffering. That is possible only because God the Son lived a fully human, sinless life, died on a cross as our sacrifice, rose from the grave, and is coming again. When you point people to the cross, you remind them that Jesus suffered evil actions against himself and that he understands what we are going through. 

2 Corinthians 1:8-10 “We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.”

No matter what loss we experience, our hope is found in Jesus Christ. Reminding others of his love for us is the best way to help people recover and find joy in the midst of difficulty. You can offer hope to the hurting. 

 

 

How to Read the Bible (and Love It) in 2019

man-reading-Bible.jpg

 

Most Christians want to feel connected to God but struggle to stay consistent reading the Bible and praying. Sometimes that is a result of being too busy. Many times, it is because we have good intentions but poor plans. In my opinion, it is often because we do not fully understand how to make reading the Bible and praying meaningful and enjoyable. Things that we enjoy we do. Try going on a diet that starves you. You will grit it out for a while but living a life where you are always hungry is not sustainable for most people. Why do you think so many people lose weight only to put it back on again? 

Although you may need more discipline in your life, (who doesn’t, right?) chances are that it is not more discipline you need but more enjoyment in your devotional life. Think of it like a relationship. Would you feel like your marriage was strong if you only did things together as a couple because you were disciplined and had a daily checklist? I doubt that kind of relationship would last very long. You may need some discipline to get started, but you need to enjoy each other’s company eventually or your relationship will die. 

Here are a few thoughts on how to connect with God regularly through prayer and Bible reading and how you can learn to love it. 

  •  Think of it as Soul Fuel.

Why do you want to read the Bible and pray? If it is simply because you feel guilty or the preacher told you to, then you will probably not get much out of it. Before long, you will begin to feel like something is wrong with you because you don’t enjoy it. Most likely you will continue in the cycle of frustration that keeps you thinking that you must not love God very much because, if you did, you would not struggle so much. 

If, however, you desire to connect with God and grow closer to him, then that changes the dynamic. If you know that you are going to meet the God of the universe, then that gets you pumped up and ready. It changes your motivation and your thinking. I have often heard men say they don’t read the Bible because they don’t like to read. Yet they will read for hours to learn stats so they can win their fantasy football league. The problem, then, is not that they don’t read the Bible because they don’t like to read, but because they think they can’t understand the Bible. They probably did not learn the why of the goal before they set their goal. Identifying the why changes the dynamic. Once you discover the goal behind the goal it motivates you. You must find enjoyment. I rarely hate eating. In fact, it brings me a lot of joy because it satisfies my appetite and fuels my body. 

  • Plan it or you won’t do it.

This is very important. You have to put the “big rocks” into your schedule first. If you want to connect with God, then you have to see it as a priority in your life. It will probably require that you change your schedule. You can’t treat a priority like another add-on. This is true of any goal. You won’t exercise if you don’t treat it as a big rock in your schedule. Neither will you read the Bible and pray regularly if you don’t prioritize it in your schedule. 

  • Set yourself up for success.

This is where many people stumble in their devotional life. They set goals that are unreasonable. They fail to take into consideration their own rhythms and the unique way that God created them. I like reading the Bible and praying to start my day. That is my best time and I am definitely more consistent if I plan it at the beginning of my day. But if your rhythm is that you are not awake until after you have been up for two hours, then you are not actually reading the Bible but just changing your sleeping position. It is possible that you need to go to bed earlier so you can start your day earlier. But it is also possible that you need to change your schedule at lunch or when you get home or your routine before you go to bed. 

The point is you need to set yourself up for success. Find out what connects you to God best and do it. You do not have to do it like everyone else. I highly recommend using www.youversion.com or the Bible App to set yourself up for success. 

  •  Tell someone about it. 

Sharing it with others helps you celebrate the win. Tell your spouse, a friend, or a small group member what you have been reading. Text a friend. Tell them what God is speaking to you about. Ask them to share with you what God is doing in their life. By including others, not only are you celebrating the win, but also, you are speaking into the lives of others. This kind of fellowship is encouraging to you and them. 

I hope that you will find yourself closer to God in 2019 than you have ever been. You can connect with God through consistent Bible reading and prayer. I believe it is going to be a great year for you!

 

Conquer Stress This Christmas Holiday

stressed-woman-wearing-christmas-hat.jpg

 

Have you ever pondered why Christmas is filled with so much paradox in our culture? Christ’s birth is second only to his resurrection in the amount of joy it should bring people all across the world. The angels announced hope, peace, and great joy to all people because God came to be with us. Even the commercialization of Christmas is festive with all of the decorations, gifts, and parties. Yet studies show that during the holiday season people feel more loneliness and stress than any other time of year. Christmas began with God giving the greatest gift of all and we celebrate by giving gifts to those we love. Yet we can see the embodiment of greed in the way we overspend and over shop. It is called “Black Friday” for a reason. You might get bruised badly if you don’t get out of the way of a crazy-eyed woman near the sale rack. 

I’m no scrooge. I love this time of the year. I love the gifts, the parties, the decorations, the family gatherings, and the celebration. But if we are not thoughtful and intentional, we will get sucked into the absurdity of stress and strain during the time that is supposed to be filled with peace, hope, and joy. Here are a few tips on how to conquer stress and live in peace this Christmas. 

Serve Intentionally 

I have found that serving someone in the name of Jesus is wonderfully stress relieving. Serve in your church. There will be many people who visit your church this year who don’t have a relationship with Jesus. Your serving will make an impact and will contribute to someone coming to Christ. That is a gift that will last forever! 

Do something for someone who is truly in need. You will find that far more satisfying than serving copious amounts of food to glutinous, ungrateful relatives. You will find great joy in serving someone who can’t do anything in return for you. 

Give a Gift That Matters

Everyone loves giving gifts to their children at Christmas. That is a wonderful tradition. But why not talk to your family about taking some of the money you plan to spend on each other and help a needy family? It instills character and gratitude. You will discover this act of generosity will take your focus off of your situation and will put it on the less fortunate. That helps especially if you have lost a loved one or have a painful memory associated with Christmas. Your heart will grow more thankful. When we are truly thankful it helps us overcome the stress that comes from feeling sorry for ourselves and turns your heart toward God. It is hard to feel grateful and stressed out at the same time.  

Take a Trip

Taking a trip to grandma’s house is wonderful because connecting with family is important. But why not take a trip to a homeless shelter or a rescue mission? Seeing the plight of others can be powerful and will affect your attitude in a positive way. Talk with your family about the many blessings you have. Pray for a missionary. Look at their pictures on Facebook and pray for their family and the families of those they are trying to reach. It will help you keep things in perspective and it will be a blessing to them. 

Pray Together

Take some time this Christmas to pray together. Don’t get caught up in the way the world thinks. Remember why we celebrate Christmas. Don’t let Christmas be the only birthday celebration that you forget about whose birthday you are celebrating. 

Christmas can be stressful if we forget why we celebrate. God sent his messengers to announce that Christmas brings hope, joy, and peace. Don’t fall prey to silly stress this year. Remember why Jesus came and you will conquer stress this year!

 

 

How to Have More Joy and Less Worry This Christmas Season

gifts.jpg

 

I love Christmas! From the time I was a child it has been my favorite time of year. I love the decorations, the music, the traditions, and the festivities. Of course, the entire purpose for the season is the birth of the Son of God, the Savior, the Messiah, Christ the Lord. Many Christians seem to forget that the gospel is designed to bring joy to its hearers and to the cities and communities where it is proclaimed. The Good News produces joy in our hearts, attitudes, and even at a cellular level. Yes, joy and laughter are good for your body!

The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 100 that we are to “serve the Lord with gladness.” Too many Christians seem to think that God told us to serve the Lord with duty, anger, resentment, hatefulness, weirdness, or sadness. I don’t know about you, but I want more gladness and less sadness. So, what does it mean to serve the Lord with gladness?

1. The Christian life is a happy life. 

You can’t justify wrong behavior just because you think, “God wants me to be happy.” Christians, however, have so many reasons to be happy. As a pastor I have observed many who think that sinful behavior leads to happiness but is does not. The happiest people I know are Christians who have committed themselves completely to God. 

2. You can overcome bad circumstances. 

Joy is contagious. It is not based on your circumstances but on your relationship with Christ. One of the evidences of being filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit is that you have joy. Joy prevails in spite of bad news when you know that Christ is with you. Jesus has already won so, let’s crank up the joy this Christmas! 

3. Contentment is a choice.

Be careful about seeking greener grass. It may be greener because it is over a sewer. When you keep your eyes on the Lord, you learn contentment and rest in who you are because of who God is. Serve the Lord and be contented!

4. Delight is better than dissatisfaction.

I love what the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 37. “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Contentment. Satisfaction. Fulfillment. These all come from delighting in the Lord and serving him with gladness.

5. It is OK to smile. 

Cheerfulness is a good thing in spite of how some Christians act. It is OK to smile and be nice. You do not need to throw rocks at others. You don’t have to be mean and angry. Serve the Lord with cheerfulness!

6. Pleasure is created by God and is good. 

This may come as a shock to some people, but God came up with the idea of pleasure. It is OK to enjoy life. Think of all the pleasures God created for us to enjoy so that we would worship him more. Seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting are not just meant for survival but for our pleasure. Enjoy beauty and serve the Lord with gladness!

Express joy this Christmas. Even if you feel a little discouraged, you can have joy when you remember that God is with you. Jesus has won. He has a plan for your life. He has blessed you so much. Think on these things and be glad!

Pray for our Miracle Offering on December 2nd

Miracle-Offering-2018.jpg

Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NLT)If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done. 

Too many times we put off until later what God leads us to do right now. Now is the time to act and take a step of faith! I think this is true for the Miracle Offering. Don’t wait! Do it now! 

God clearly promises to bless us when we are generous. The beauty of giving God’s way is that God truly wants this for you not from you. God blesses me when I give. This is stated over and over in the Bible.  God blesses those who give to His work.  A good example of this is in the book of 1 Kings. Elijah was a prophet of God. There was a famine in the land. Elijah asked a woman who was down to her last meal to do something for him.  He said put God first, make a meal for me, and watch what happens.  

1 Kings 17:8 "Elijah said, ‘Don't be afraid. Go ahead and cook that "last meal" but bake me a little loaf of bread first and afterwards there will still be enough food for you and your son.  For this is what the Lord says, "There will always be enough flour and oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rains and the crops will grow again.' So she did as Elijah said and she and Elijah and her son continued to eat from her supply of flour and oil for many days.  For no matter how much they used there was always just enough left in the containers just as the Lord had promised through Elijah."           

So there really isn’t a bad time to learn this faith lesson. The best time to give may be when I'm flat broke and need God's help to get out of debt or to get out of financial trouble. God truly wants us to trust him in the middle of our own personal famine. When I put God first He'll take care of my needs. I cannot out give God.

Pray for our Miracle Offering on December 2nd. God has a miracle waiting for you if you will trust him!

I love you and can’t wait to see you on Sunday!

Pastor Ritchie Miller 

Take Time to be Thankful

rawpixel-769319-unsplash.jpg

This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. I think every day should be Thanksgiving for a Christian. If you are like most of us, you are probably really busy getting ready for a family gathering over Thanksgiving dinner. We buy stuff, cook stuff, decorate stuff, try to finish our list before the end of our workday, and make plans for a trip to see family. The one thing we often fail to do is take the time to be thankful. We even get impatient with the long-winded prayer before we stuff our faces and waddle to the couch to watch football between naps. (Here is a practical tip for all the overeaters: wear pants with an elastic waistband. It pays to be prepared!)

In all the hustle and bustle, take a few minutes this week and write down ten things you are thankful for and then share it with someone. We all have way more than ten things to be thankful for. Here is my list:

  • Jesus 

  • Salvation

  • My amazing family

  • The amazing people of Avalon Church 

  • I am thankful I got to start and pastor Avalon Church

  • Good friends that have helped shape my life

  • Health

  • Freedom

  • That God has provided a house, food, and clothing for me while many in the world are in need

  • The future – I am excited about what comes next!

What will you put on your list? 

 

Two Important Things I Learned in Six Months of Parenting

quote-canvas.png

[Guest Post by our Family Ministries Pastor Brady Ellis]

Something I have learned during my career in ministry is that you can never truly understand what it's like to go through certain seasons in life until you actually experience them for yourself.  Six months ago, I embarked on a season called parenting.  In over 12 years in family ministry, I have seen many moments of parenting. Some have been good, and some have been less than good.  In those moments, I have learned not to judge.  As the famous quote says, “Just wait till you have one of your own.”  I now have my own, and I have had two important realizations in these six short months.

 In our nursery, we have a simple piece of wall art from Hobby Lobby. Every morning after I wake up my son Liam and get him dressed for the day, we read this piece of wall art. It says, “I AM the son of a King who is not moved by the world, for my God is with me and goes before me. I do not fear because I am HIS”.  This has become one of the most important parts of our day.

The first realization that has become so much more apparent to me (no pun intended) is that speaking life into a child’s spirit starts before they are born and should continue on as long as we live.  Although I want Liam to be a lot of things in his life, before he knows what he is, I want him to know whose he is.  That starts by speaking to his spirit.  Although he may not understand the words I speak from a cognitive perspective, I do believe his spirit is very much learning and receiving things already.  Every week I take time to do this.  I will say, “You are brave, you are wise, you are a son of God, you are strong, compassionate, loving, joyful, etc."  When I say these things, I say them to speak life into the spirit inside of him and into all of the characteristics that God has placed in him.

In this world, we are overwhelmed by people, places, and things.  Much of our time is being pulled at by things like someone who needs us, our job or home responsibilities, or our technological devices.  Every moment of our life is being consumed by these things.  This is because our time is the most valuable thing we have.  There is a saying, “The greatest gift you can give someone is your time.  Because when you give your time you are giving a portion of your life that you will never get back.”  

This leads to the second thing I have learned. It is something that on paper I knew to be true, but now that I am living it, I understand like I never could have before.  Time is fleeting, but memories will last forever, especially with the help of technology.  The way we laugh and smile with each other is something that we only have a limited amount of moments to enjoy.  The time I spend with my son will always be time well spent.  Already the first six months of his great life have flown by.  It is hard to remember how little he was as I took him into my arms for the first time. But, I will always remember the first time I got him to truly laugh, and in turn, had me laughing uncontrollably.  I remember the first time I read him a bedtime story and he was absolutely enthralled with it.  Memories are made by moments and moments are only created by time spent.  A photographer once said that on averaged it takes 2,000 photos just to get 20 that are good. Not even great, just good. I believe moments are the same way.  It takes a lot of moments, some good and some bad, in order to create great moments.  So, I give Liam my time in order for us to create moments we will never forget.  

There is another part to this realization about time and moments.  How I spend my time with my son also teaches him what is important to me, which in turn will most likely become the things that are important to him.  I want my son to grow up seeing that the most important things in my life are the ones that draw me toward a relationship with God.  I want him to see that time in fellowship with believers is important, that my personal relationship with God and his word are important, and that my wife and family are the most important things besides that relationship with God.  What we spend our time on tells our children what is most important to us.

When it comes to being a parent, there are things that we can never comprehend the importance of until you are put in the situation.  In the short six months I have been a parent, I have realized a lot. To me, the most important thing I have realized is how I can be a father that points my son to his creator.

Brady Ellis

The Number One Reason Why People Who Want to be Generous Can’t

generosity.jpg

 

You are probably thinking that the number one reason why people who want to be generous can’t is because they can’t afford it. That may seem obvious, but I believe the real reason is different. If you have been around me very long, you have probably heard me say something like, “You can’t afford NOT to give.”I base this fully on God’s promises to supply our needs, to bless us when we give, to lift the curse off our money when we tithe, and to rebuke the things that devour our money when we trust in Him. 

The reality is that most Americans are in such deep debt that they have lost hope. Most don’t think they could survive a $1,000 crisis. The average American is over $16,000 in credit card debt and the average student loan exceeds $50,000. No wonder so many live from paycheck to paycheck. Is there any wonder that there are over 1300 verses in the Bible about money and possessions? We need God’s help and God’s perspective. 

As with every part of the Christian life, money management begins with faith. While you may think that I am referring to the faith to tithe and trust God to give, I believe it must start further back than that. It begins with the faith to manage our money, our desires, our expectations, and our contentment. If you are so far in debt that you are about to lose your house, your apartment, or your car, it probably feels oppressive when a pastor challenges you to give. 

Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” That is why I say things like, “Generous people are happy people” and, “We want this for yournot from you.” The blessing of giving begins with understanding that God owns everything, and we are simply the managers of what is His. 

What is the number one reason most people think they can’t give? I believe it is a poverty mentality.The poverty mentality has nothing to do with how much money you have. You can be rich and have a poverty mentality. Even if you make lots of money, you will never have enough to cover every eventuality. The poverty mentality means that you perceive there is never enough. Even in a time of amazing abundance we tend to convince ourselves that there are not enough resources to accomplish our God-given dreams, to give, or to be secure. We limit our potential by lacking faith and believing in scarcity rather than abundance. As a follower of Christ, we have no right to believe that there is not enough. The Bible is abundantly clear that God owns it all. Jesus is not short on resources and everything in the universe has Jesus as its goal and belongs to him. He owns it all because the Father has given it to him - all the resources both human and financial. He has the power to supply ALL OUR NEEDS according to Philippians 4:19; “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

I truly believe that most Christians have a desire to give and be generous. Many have a faith problem rather than a desire problem. There are always more than enough resources if we look to the Heavenly Father. God is the one who owns the resources and he has the will to provide. He loves you. He has promised to supply all your needs. Notice that he supplies “according to” not “out of.” If you were to ask me for money because you have a need and I decided to help because I have the ability and desire, then I have two options. First, I could supply your needs “out of” my resources. That means there is a limit. I have decided that there will be a limited amount of money I will give you because I am giving to you “out of” my bank account. On the other hand, if I agree to help you “according to” my resources, then I have just given you carte blanche. You can expect that I will meet your needs all the way to the limit of my resources. God promises to meet our needs “according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” He has no limit on his resources. 

I believe that bringing the full tithe is the starting point for conquering the poverty mentality. Of course, committing to this faith endeavor will cause you to look at ALL of your money God’s way. It takes faith to believe God owns everything. It takes faith to believe that you can get out of debt. It takes faith to believe that you can build margin in your life. But it also requires action!  Faith without works is dead, according to the Bible. The beginning point is to ask God to give you the faith to tithe AND to manage all of your money as if God owns it all. There is help available. There are many resources to help you learn how to conquer debt and build margin financially. If you struggle with a poverty mentality from time to time, I hope you will consider these things to help you start believing in God’s abundance.  

  • God owns it all. He has more than enough to meet your needs.

  • God loves you and wants to bless you. If earthly fathers love to meet the needs of their children, how much more does our perfect, righteous, amazing Heavenly Father love to meet our needs?

  • I must act in faith. I must trust his promises and goodness.

  • I must center my focus on God’s loving nature and believe that he will supply.

  • I must stop living in fear with a scarcity mentality and realize that there are more than enough resources to meet my needs. 

  • I must change my actions and get a plan. It would be irresponsible to continue to live with unbearable debt and HOPE that a raise or a sudden windfall would solve my financial problems. There is hope! But you can’t continue to live the same way, do the same things, and spend the same way and expect things to improve magically. 

As you begin to acknowledge, practice, and believe these things, your faith will start to transform your thinking. When that happens, then there is nothing you can’t do! You can get out of debt, build margin, and find financial peace. By asking God for the faith to manage all your moneyis the starting point for discovering the promise of Jesus: It is more blessed to give than to receive. 

 

 

 

If You Won the Lottery, Would You Be Happier?

kid2.jpg

 

A lot has been said in the news and on social media lately about the record-setting lottery. While we all have probably fantasized about winning millions of dollars, it brings up a very important question. Do you find your happiness from your circumstances or do you have contentment and joy in Christ? Here are a few things I have learned about happiness and contentment:

 

  • Happiness can’t be bought.Having lots of money may pay for the search for happiness, but it sure can’t buy it. We all know or have heard of people with lots of money and little joy.

  • Happiness is a choice.I get to choose every day. Happy, mad, glad, or sad. My choice.

  • Happiness is a journey not a destination. We must learn to enjoy the journey and smell the roses along the way. 

  • Happiness can’t exist without contentment.The Bible tells us that godliness with contentment is great gain.

  • Money can change your zip code but not your attitude. 

  • Comparing my life to others is a waste of time and a sure-fire way to discontentment.

  • When I take time to enjoy beauty, pleasure, and the simple things, I am much happier.

  • I need to take Jesus Christ very seriously and lighten up on everything else.  

  • Some people will never like you. Be OK with that and you will be much happier. Winning the lottery might even make it harder to know who your real friends are.

  • The greater my purpose and the more passionately I pursue it, the happier I am.

  • I need to laugh a lot. Laughter is free, and it is the best medicine. 

  • Being happy is a lot better than being mad. 

  • No one is in charge of my happiness but me. 

Now if you actually win, your tithe should be made out to Avalon Church, 1467 HWY 20 West, McDonough, GA 30253. Just saying. 

What Would Jesus Say If He Had a Cable News Show?

kristopher-roller-188180.jpg

 

The current political climate in our country makes it easy to descend into the depths with our rhetoric. In fact, it is hard not to spew venom and call political opposites despicable names. But how should a Christian engage with a culture that has lost all civility and collegiality? What would Jesus say?

I have strong core values and beliefs that are rooted in the Word of God and my relationship with Jesus Christ. We live in a country that affords us extraordinary liberties. I believe that you should exercise your right to vote and engage in the political process. Otherwise, you have no right to complain. But what about our language? What does the Bible say about the way we speak to each other?

First of all, they called Jesus some awful names: liar, lunatic, demon-possessed, traitor, heretic, a devil, and a blasphemer. They followed it up by crucifying Him on a cross. No matter what names He was called, He always spoke the truth in love, commanded us to love our neighbors, and even shocked the world by saying that we should love our enemies. That would be a good starting point for Christians engaging our culture. What else can we learn from scripture about our tongue?

James 1:26 states, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”The concept of a worthless religion means that it is not genuine. It is deceptive and hypocritical, and thus in vain. The point is that we can damage the effect of the gospel with the things we say. Our words can easily contradict our beliefs. 

According to Solomon, reckless talk creates chaos. Irresponsible talk makes a real mess of things…” (Proverbs 13:17)This is true in political discourse, in marriage, with your children, with your friends, and at work. If I am irresponsible with the things I say and the way I say them, then I am throwing a potential grenade in the middle of all my environments. 

What’s more, God says that he despises gossip, sowing discord, and creating divisions among the people we are supposed to love and serve. 

Proverbs 6:16-19 “There are six things that the Lordhates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

Psalm 101:5 “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy…”

What Kind of Talk Should Christians Avoid? 

·     Hurtful words – So often we speak words that are meant to cut and hurt. Sometimes this comes from a bitter spirit and other times it comes from our own hurts and hang-ups from our past. Sarcasm can be skillfully used for good sometimes between people. Most of the time, however, it is simply meant to hurt. The Bible tells us that our words should build each other up. 

·     Words spoken in anger – Many times we hurt the people closest to us by bursting out in anger. Guard your heart and your words so that you do not lose control and damage those you love with angry words. Something that is spoken in anger can be forgiven, but it takes a long time for that wound to heal. Avoid posting angry, hurtful, demeaning words on social media. Think about the effect it will have on the gospel before you speak or write it. Defend your beliefs without rancor.

·     Lying – Lying is the most irresponsible of all the words we speak. The Bible says to speak the truth in love. You can speak the truth without personal attacks.

·     Unguarded words – These are words that are sexually inappropriate. I believe that Christians should set the example in the workplace and the public domain. Sexual harassment would never take place at any time or anywhere if we simply followed what the Bible says about our behavior and speech. Guard your words and guard your heart so you can avoid any impropriety.

·     Unforgiving words – We must always remember that no matter what has been done to us, it is nothing compared to what we have done to God. Do not speak unforgiving words but make it a habit to speak some of the sweetest words ever spoken – “I forgive you” or “I am sorry, please forgive me.” When we are forgiving and kind, it disarms people who want to argue.

Proverbs 31 speaks of a woman whose “price is far above rubies.” One of the values it extolls about her is that she has “the law of kindness” in her speech. God’s Word commands us to be kind to each other. It does not say that we are to be kind only to the people we like or those who are kind in return. By applying what God says about our language to our political discussions, we will be more like Jesus and shine brighter in the darkness.