Pastor Chad's Itinarary

Monday, January 21, 2019

To Make Christ Known

"Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:14-16). 

I leave Wednesday morning traveling to Birmingham, Alabama to meet up with Bro. Wes Graff. We will fly out early Thursday morning for a nearly 24-hour flight (Birmingham-Atlanta-Detroit-Tokyo-Manila overnight-Cagyan De Oro) to the Philippines. We will serve alongside missionary and church planter Barry Carpenter and the other pastors (for more info. click here Expositors International Ministries) by teaching, preaching and evangelizing while there. As the time draws nearer, I am finding myself a bit more nervous than the past trips. There are so many things that can go wrong when you are traveling nearly 10,000 miles away from home. What if I forget my Passport? What if I leave sermon notes behind? What if I forget the books? What if I forget fill-in-the-blank? Not to mention, I have to be mindful in what I pack since it’s 20 degrees today in Tennessee and it will be 90 degrees over there. There are many factors in making a journey such as this, but in the grand scheme of things, none of that really matters in light of my command given to me as a disciple of Christ.

I was reminded of my marching orders, as I finished reading the gospel of Mark during my Bible reading this morning. Although many scholars universally agree that this section of scripture (Mark 16:9-20) was added by a second-century scribe; I still find them very weighty as I read them. The text records a very familiar scene. Jesus appears to the eleven disciples and joins them for a meal. We can see the picture of Christ communing in the presence of His disciples. It is here we are told that Jesus not only communed with His disciples, but He rebuked them for their lack of faith concerning His resurrection. After He rebukes the disciples, He leaves them with the marching orders known as "The Great Commission." Christ commanded the disciples to "go into all the world and proclaim the gospel"— literally, proclaim the good news, to "every tongue tribe and nation" (Rev.5:9-10).

As I read this imperative given by Christ, I was gripped by the seriousness of this command, as I prepare to leave for the Philippines. I was moved by the fact that there are those who are still underneath the wrath and condemnation of their sin because they have not believed (John 3:36). Paul wrote, "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching (Romans 10:14)?" Therefore, I make it my aim to go into the world preaching and teaching the gospel, whereby men, women, boys, and girls may hear, repent, and believe upon Christ.

With that said, I want to state a few thoughts for such a desire to make Christ known here in my "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

1. I desire to make Christ known because He has made himself known to me. 
Jesus appeared and communed with His disciples. He made himself known to them. He fellowshipped with His disciples. They loved Him because He first loved them (1 John 4:19). They enjoyed spending time with God the Son who died, was buried and rose again for their justification. When a person truly knows Christ, they will desire, long, and strive to spend time with Him. Those who truly know the forgiveness, grace, and mercy of God in Christ will want others to know the same as well.

2. I desire to make Christ known in fear of being rebuked (disciplined) by God.
I don't fear God in some sadistic manner; rather, I fear Him in reverence and love. The disciples were rebuked due to the fact that they failed to believe in what they had been told concerning His resurrection. Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief. When Christ's disciples fail to make Him known to others, they are acting in unbelief in a large sense. Therefore, we want others to know and believe upon the One who was resurrected so as not to be disciplined by our Father. I do not want to make my Father unhappy in any way. I long to keep and obey His commands, for they are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).

3. I desire to make Christ known because God has His elect all over the world.
The Bible is clear: God has His elect, whom He has "chosen before the foundation of the world” to be His trophies of grace (Eph.1:3-6). When I go out to share the gospel, I am confident God will work through the proclamation of the gospel to either regenerate the elect or harden the rebel. God has people from every tongue, tribe, and nation, who, upon hearing the gospel, their spiritually dead souls will  be regenerated, giving them the gifts of repentance and faith to believe upon Christ. God uses the means of gospel proclamation to bring about the end in the salvation of His elect. 

4. I desire to make Christ known because God is glorified through gospel preaching.
What is the chief end in preaching? God's chief end in preaching is for His name to be glorified. The Triune God of the universe is most glorified as His characteristics of holiness, mercy, grace, love, and faithfulness are being revealed in the message of the gospel. I love Whom I preach. I love God because He first loved me and made me a new creature in Christ. God has no greater gospel. He has no greater love. He has no greater purpose than to glorify Himself through His servants proclaiming this message to others. 

In closing, I would ask if the Lord brings me to your mind to please pray for me and Wes as we travel. Pray for strength to endure the flights. Pray for strength to teach, preach, and evangelize for the week and a half we will be there. Pray for our families while we will be apart. Pray for our local churches while we are away as well. SDG.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Not without Hope: God's Sovereignty Amidst Broken Vows

Today's guest blogger is Jessica Cleveland Thoms. Jessica lives in middle Tennessee where she currently teaches high school English. You can usually find her writing, shopping, attending concerts, laughing at her own jokes, loving on any animal she can find, and purchasing unnecessary items covered in glitter. She and her husband, Tristin, are both members at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Orlinda, Tennessee, and this is her final post in a three-part series on marriage. You can read more of Jessica's writing at Grace for Sparrows.

At 1 AM the night before my first day of the fall semester, my husband turned our bedroom light on and sat on the edge of our bed.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that he is one of the strongest men I’ve ever met in my life.  He has overcome more challenges than anyone I know and has the mark of God’s power and protection all over his life and testimony.  Very little causes him true pain because of this, so when he broke down that night, I knew that something had pierced his soul.
For the first time in our five years of marriage, I watched as my strong, resilient husband openly wept as he begged me for forgiveness for his affair, which he then confessed was never just emotionally-rooted as he had previously claimed.
He cried out to God for forgiveness.  He knew I would leave him for this and would be seemingly justified in doing so.  He had lost over forty pounds in mere weeks.  He was physically sick.
He was a shattered man—not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
I blacked out when he first started speaking; in fact, I was so absolutely sick that I had to ask him to start over so that I could truly process everything.  I had just survived the last few weeks of intense emotional turmoil and thought we had rounded the corner—after all, as devastating as everything was, it could have been worse.  This new revelation confirmed my worst nightmare regarding his infidelity. It ripped every scab open and dumped salt into it.  I admit that I have never wanted to die more than I did in that moment.
During the summer of my senior year of high school, the incredible counselors at the Concoxions Ministries youth camp Seesalt performed sections of a nightly skit that ended up being a modern reenactment of the Prodigal Son parable.  One of the most memorable experiences from that week was the finale of the skit on stage: after several dead ends and missed connections at an airport, an exhausted son finally saw his long-lost father in a terminal, and as Coldplay’s “Fix You” played in the background, they wept as they embraced and reunited after what seemed like an eternity at the end of that week.  Watching such a visual representation of Christ lovingly embrace His chosen children after they make a mess out of their own life over and over again has cemented that scene in my memory forever.
Much like the father in that skit, as I sat on our bed and took in the gravity of everything my husband confessed, I couldn’t say or do anything except hold out my arms to a destroyed man.  We embraced and sobbed together in utter brokenness for hours. 
This night was just the beginning of a long and deeply painful road full of biblical counseling, confessions, rebuilding, and forgiveness.  Believe me, we aren’t done yet; in fact, I don’t think we will ever be “done.”  God’s grace has sustained us, reconciliation has taken place, and progress has been made, but marriage is never an accomplishment that can be perfected and checked off a to-do list.
If you have been following this blog series, or even if this is your first read, I’d like to take the opportunity to share some things I’ve learned in the time since these events so that it may help others who have been in or know of someone who has been in such a place also.  I’ve had plenty of people scoff at me and shake their heads or tell me I was a fool, and that’s okay.  It comes with being an obedient Christian.  Here are just a few of the many things God has taught me through the trial of adultery:
1.     Others’ sins can and should become an effective tool for convicting us of OUR sins, thereby drawing us closer to Christ.
I am ashamed to admit that I’ve spent more time with Christ in the last few months than I have in the last couple of years combined.  Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night longing for the Word. I can listen to praise music and hymns and understand lyrics about pain and brokenness, and now I truly know what it feels like for the Lord to “bind up my wounds” (Psalm 147:3).  Despite my overwhelming grief, I have found Jesus to be so gentle—in a way that I never understood before such intense sorrow. I also examined my own many shortcomings and made a conscious effort to fix those instead of choosing to be selfish and play the victim, which is new for me.  My husband stated that my Christlike attitude and meek spirit in the face of his brazen selfishness and sin is what convicted him of his sins the most and drew him back to both God and me.  He wanted me to react like the rest of the world (think setting his stuff on fire outside) because it would’ve solidified and “justified” his sin in his mind.  A Proverbs 31 woman who loves the Lord is a thing to be cherished, and her beauty is far more enticing than that which is superficial/skin-deep to those who truly love God.  This is not something that girls just post in their social media bio.  It’s a biblical truth.

2.     Never EVER think that you’re so advanced in your walk with Christ that you’re bulletproof against “big” sins.
Friends, Satan’s got your number.  If you don’t believe me (and you should because it’s in the Bible), get slightly cocky about a sin you think you’ll never struggle with and watch what happens.  Were there warning signs that our marriage was in trouble before the affair?  Absolutely.  Did we both purposefully and intently place barriers and accountability in our lives and ramp up our relationship with Christ in order to deter us from sin in moments (months) of weakness?  That’s a hard no, and that’s a painful lesson that’s been very difficult to grapple with.  I’m not saying that doing that would’ve 100% prevented my husband’s infidelity, but it sure would’ve been a biblical step in the right direction.  Instead, we both chose to focus on what wasn’t right in our marriage and became self-serving. The true purpose of marriage requires us to continuously die to self.  We both failed to do that, and though the Holy Spirit does indeed give true believers the power to not sin, it becomes very easy to choose sin when we’ve started to ignore what the Bible says and do what we want in every other aspect of our lives.  Before this, if you had asked me what sin I would never commit, I would’ve probably said adultery.  I no longer have an answer for this hypothetical question.  As long as I am in this pathetically weak human shell and Satan is still at large, I’m liable to do quite literally anything if I grieve the Spirit and worship myself.  You’re not special because you’ve been saved longer or know Jesus better.  Do not underestimate the Enemy (1 Peter 5:8). We must remain vigilant.  Our marriages, testimonies, and very souls depend on it.

3.     Jesus wept with others who hurt, and so should we.
One of the many difficult things about my job as a teacher is that you have to be “on” fulltime.  It’s the biggest and most underpaid acting gig in the universe.  On my first day of in-service this school year, I was running on three hours of sleep and had just been given the most devastating news of my life less than ten hours prior. I then had to sit in meetings upon meetings about why my department’s test scores were so low and how we could be better this year.  I had truly ignorant (and emotionally defunct) coworkers telling me I should be more excited about a new school year and that I needed to display a more team-player attitude because I wasn’t all shouts and giggles about new strategies being implemented for state testing goals and other new directions within the school.
Friends, it really doesn’t take much to read a room and figure out when things are wrong in someone’s life if you pull your head out of your own bum and actually look around.  It took mere minutes for some coworkers to judge from my expression that I was dying.  Before casting judgments about someone’s attitude or lack of enthusiasm, it would behoove you if you are a Christian to not only empathize with that individual, but to then use that opportunity to talk to and be Jesus to them.  When that VERY small handful of coworkers actually stopped to notice that something was off, I told them the truth.  I have nothing to hide from anyone.  I was just empty and had nothing left to give anyone or anything else, not only that day, but for the majority of the entire semester.  In hindsight, I probably should have taken the semester off (probably the entire school year), but I pray that God used me despite my utter exhaustion.  You’ve heard that you never really know what people are going through, and I’m telling you it’s true.  Teachers often use that mantra as a reminder of how to treat and approach their students, but you should also (perhaps even foremost) use this same mantra to notice, love on, and pray for others who are in the trenches beside you in the day-to-day.  Shattered people can’t help other shattered people.  It is your duty as a Christian to have your priorities straight, even and especially at work.  You are a Christian first and an employee much later; seek out and minister to the broken.  I would not still be standing if God hadn’t given me an army of prayer warriors who ministered to me daily during these events (and continue to do so today).

4.     Everyone has some sort of idol. Find out what it is and deal with it immediately.
I think we tend to lump God’s commands on idolatry in a corner.  We’re not a barbaric nation that bows to tiny carved gods or offers sacrifices, so we’re good on that, right?  Let me share with you some of the idols I worshipped until God revealed them to me through this experience: perfection, freedom, selfishness, self-truth, individuality, money, acceptance, comfort, education, my husband, my time.  I would even go so far as to say that the greater percentage of Americans in the church idolize and worship entertainment, comfort, and even their own children.  Darrell Bernard Harrison once said that “what makes a thing or person a ‘god’ is not who or what the person or thing is, but the value or worth we ascribe to that person or thing. In other words, it’s what the person or thing means to us that makes it or them an idol to us.” I had made a god of my marriage—my perfect marriage—my perfect Christian marriage. I justified it by saying it was one of God’s greatest “blessings,” which is not untrue, but this buzzword is quickly thrown at things we know are gifts from God and it eventually eases our consciences when we hold on to them a little too tightly. I made a god out of making the right moves in life.  I made a god out of doing everything “by the book” and avoiding what I perceived to be poor life choices that other couples made, thereby avoiding the stress they brought upon themselves (i.e. embracing comfort).  I made a god out of a trial-free life.  I made a god out of doing the right thing and subtly thinking it would be smooth sailing for me because of it.  Hear me loud and clear, reader— THIS IS NOT BIBLICAL.  Our health and wealth, prosperity gospel-loving culture is a liar.  It. Is. Not. True.  God does not care about your “happiness” or you being comfortable (see “The Marital Slaughterhouse” for the truth about happiness).  If this were so, Jesus would’ve told us to take up our comfy chairs and bask in our own happiness and truth.  He didn’t say that.  He said to take up your cross and follow after Him (Matthew 16:24).  A cross isn’t comfortable and happy.  It’s an execution tool—a literal death sentence. He cares about your pursuit of holiness and you dying to yourself, and that rarely comes about when you have a six-figure income and everything is always hunky dory.  Kill your idols and whatever part of yourself that makes you think you and your desires are the center of the universe.

This will probably ruffle some feathers, but you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell for a truly successful and biblically-solid marriage if you don’t understand what being married even means in light of Scripture.  At some point in your life, the world is going to rip you apart, and you’re going to need an army of resources.  If your church/pastor/leadership isn’t biblically-rooted, or if you’re not even a part of a church, may God have mercy on your souls.  It’s not if, but when.  I beg you—do NOT be arrogant enough to think that this couldn’t happen to you.  I never in a thousand years would have ever dreamed that I would be affected by marital infidelity.  My husband never did either; in fact, he has been so deeply disturbed and disgusted by the ripple effects of his sin that he has taken drastic measures to set up barriers for himself in the aftermath.  I knew that my husband was truly saved and would acknowledge the sins he committed, but I really thought it would be months or years down the road after our divorce had finalized and he got tired of “playing house.” To my shock, God’s timing worked much sooner.  I truly believe that the biblical foundation that had been laid in our five years at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church is a large reason for this.  My husband had listened to half a decade of Truth; he knew what he needed to do because of our leadership’s consistent faithfulness in proclaiming the Truth.  I will never be able to express how thankful I am for our church’s unwavering adherence to Scripture.  It has saved our lives in so many ways.

6.     Sin, trials, and adversity should not be hidden as they have been within the church for so long. They should be shared because they provide an even bigger platform to tell everyone about Christ and His glory.
That’s the best part about all of this. These evil acts and intentions have forced me center-stage in a small town for a public response, where I have ONLY BY GOD’S BOUNTIFUL AND UNENDING GRACE been able to forgive the sins committed against me.  I have been able to tell countless women who were praying for me or who knew about the situation about how I was able to forgive my husband and love him ten times greater than before his affair.  I now have women contacting ME on social media asking, “Can you tell me how you were able to forgive him?”  This is not for me to glory in myself, for it doesn’t have a single thing to do with me.  Apart from the grace of Christ, I shudder to think what my evil-loving flesh would have me do.  Instead, all of this sets up the perfect opportunity for me to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I’m able to delve into how Jesus loves me forever and forgives me every single time I fail Him (which is daily, FYI).  When you truly understand this and understand that the REAL purpose of marriage is to reflect the relationship between Christ and His Church, it becomes quite obvious: if we really believe what we say we believe as Christians, we MUST forgive, especially our spouses, even for seemingly “unthinkable” acts like infidelity.  I have been able to meditate on the book of Hosea and place myself in the prophet’s shoes. At one time, I would have been appalled at the fact that Hosea not only married a prostitute, but that he took her back after she had left him to have children by other men.  Of course, this is a parallel of much more than a troubled marriage between two people—it’s the story of the one True God Who continuously forgives and redeems His people, no matter how often we play the harlot or bed other gods and idols.  God saw our evil nature and knew that we would never be able to keep His perfect Law—that perfect Law that we tend to worship and long for so much—so He sent His Son, Who was 100% man and 100% God, to die for sinners like you AND me on Calvary.  Jesus became sin for us despite being completely perfect and innocent, and God even raised Him from the dead on the third day, conquering death and sin forever.  If you don’t truly know Christ, I beg you to repent, turn away from your sins, and place faith in Him, for He is the only way you and I have eternal security and salvation.  He casts our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and He gives us the ability to NOT sin after we have trusted Him through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 6).  Do not grieve His heart a moment longer—rush to the foot of the cross and be made whole.  I don’t want you to think that this is easy and that I have all of the answers either.  Admittedly, it was much easier to forgive my husband because he was repentant; it has been difficult to forgive the other woman because she is not.  I trust that the power of God will enable me to do this within His perfect timing.
You may think that I’m absolutely crazy after reading this, but I assure you that if you have been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ, you will understand.  It’s only “folly to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
I close this blog series with the words of Joseph—someone else who understood the great power of God’s forgiveness and how we must be imitators of Him to those who curse us (Ephesians 5:1-2, Matthew 5:44).
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20)
If you have been following this series, I want you to know how much your support means to me.  If you identify with my story and are hurting, know that I am with you.  Sin is never ever committed in a vacuum—it has ripple effects that you cannot even begin to fully understand (I’ll give you specific examples if you ever want to talk about it one-on-one).  There are many, MANY days where I still hurt.  Strange things trigger me and my emotions.  I was borderline suicidal during the first week of school earlier this month.  I didn’t want to celebrate or decorate for Christmas (and didn’t).  I still haven’t decorated our new home because a part of me still grieves that we even had to leave our first one.  There is still pain, friends, and there will likely be various waves and stages for years and decades to come.  Grieving over infidelity is much like grieving over a death in some ways.  Though everyone is still living, what once existed is forever changed, but not without hope.  We must cry out to Jesus.  He knows about every last tear you’ve (I’ve) cried.  He hears your (my) breaking heart.  He is with us right now.  Run to Him—He is able to do far more than we expect or fathom.  He has been so, SO good to me despite and through my pain.
If you take nothing else from these posts, let it be this:
There is truly NOTHING that can happen to you that can’t be used for the glory of God.  You just have to trust that He IS sovereign and let Him use you.
My husband and I are living proof that despite our foolishness and pride and self-serving tendencies, the scars of our sins can still proclaim the glorious grace and power of Jesus Christ.  We were blind, but now, we see.

--> May He be glorified forever and ever in our story for generations to come