Living Out the Gospel

“Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!” (1 Peter 4:7-11, The Message)

The Message translation is hit-or-miss in my book. Sometimes, it misses the mark in capturing the original intent of the author and gets too loose with its paraphrasing. But when it’s on, it’s dead on. Like this passage form 1 Peter 4.

That’s the gist of the gospel right there, spelled out in black and white. Faith isn’t genuine unless it shows itself in good works. Love isn’t genuine unless it goes beyond mere words and takes hands and feet toward the less fortunate in very tangible ways.

It’s not just social justice without addressing the spiritual need for salvation, and it’s not just a call for repentance without meeting their physical needs. It’s both.

Most of all, it’s about loving people in the same way that God in Jesus loved you. Of course, that’s impossible by merely human standards. It only becomes possible when you serve out of the overflow of God’s love.

As my favorite pastor put it, when you receive God’s love, it’s like trying to contain the ocean in a thimble. When that love of God spills out onto those around you, that’s the basis on which you’re loving people with God’s love and serving them from the overflow and not from your own resources.


A Little Love Goes a Long Way

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love” (Linus Van Pelt, A Charlie Brown Christmas).

I keep thinking about Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. Yes, I realize that it’s August and still unbearably hot outside. Yet, I can’t help thinking about that classic Christmas special that airs every year without fail.

It’s the scrawny little sapling that that round-headed kid picked out of a lot full of shiny aluminum trees, just barely a branch with a few twigs on it and even fewer needles. Most people wouldn’t give it a second glance and 9 times out of 10, it ends up in a trash can.

Yet all it needed was a little love to flourish and grow.

That same applies to lots of situations and people. A little love goes a long way with a lot of people and in a lot of places.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just the act of acknowledging someone’s existence. of being a witness to their life, and simple words of encouragement can be the difference between despair and hope, death and life, damnation and salvation.

Even the smallest gesture has the power to turn around someone’s day (and possibly even someone’s life). You never know. I do know that the smallest act is still better than the grandest intentions never acted upon.

I’m also thinking about the kids at the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home, many of whom are starved for affection and attention. They need to know that they are valued and worth the effort of loving. Many of us are the same way.

There’s a saying from the Jewish Talmud that goes like this: “Whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe.”

Saving a life always starts with a simple act of love.



Ten Years Later

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing” (Ephesians 2:1-10, The Message).

Recently, I ran into a former fellow Kairos greeter that I hadn’t seen in a while. It was great seeing a blast from the past. It also got me thinking.

This fall will mark ten years since I started greeting at Kairos. Outside of school, the only other activities that I’ve done consistently for at least ten years are breathing, eating, sleeping . . . you get the idea. Ten years is a long time.

I’m thankful for Kairos. I’m thankful for Mike Glenn who helped get it started way back when and for Chris Brooks who is carrying the torch onward.

I’m thankful that I am not who I was ten years ago due in large part to the ministry and teaching of Kairos.

I’m thankful for the many people who have crossed my path in that time and for the numerous little footprints they’ve left in my heart. I don’t see most of them anymore, but I remain grateful for each one of them. I am a composite of all the best parts of everyone I have ever met.

I’m thankful that God isn’t done with this ministry. I see that what might have looked like an ending was really only the beginning to another chapter with better things still yet to come.

Kairos is proof that all God needs is a place to start– even the most hesitant and reluctant of agreements– and He can transform anything and anyone for His glory. There really is no such thing as a lost cause in the economy of God’s grace and mercy. There is a place for anyone and everyone who wants to turn around and follow Jesus. It’s never too late for anyone to be who God in Jesus created them to be.

That’s still the story of Kairos. That’s still my story. That’s the story that I hope we will be telling for years and years to come.



Every Little Thing Matters

“Lord, when I feel that what I’m doing is insignificant and unimportant, help me to remember that everything I do is significant and important in your eyes, because you love me and you put me here, and no one else can do what I am doing in exactly the way I do it” (Brennan ManningSouvenirs of Solitude: Finding Rest in Abba’s Embrace).

That’s it.

As Mother Teresa once said, there are no great acts, but rather only small acts done with great love.

To put it another way, when done out of the right spirit, out of a genuine and abiding love for Jesus, everything you do and say can become an act of worship. Even cleaning toilets or scrubbing floors. All those menial tasks that don’t have much inherent value can be living prayers if they’re done as an offering to Jesus.

That makes all the difference in drudgery and delight, between surviving and thriving.

Maybe you’re not exactly in the high-profile career you thought you’d be in by now. Maybe you’re not pulling down the big bucks.

Then again maybe your job is to make a difference in the lives of those people in your office. Maybe your best gift is to be quite possibly the only positive light to someone who otherwise only exists in darkness.

Maybe you don’t have to go to seminary and get ordained to have a ministry. Maybe your ministry is you showing up every single day and giving your absolute very best for eight hours.

Maybe if you’re faithful in the little things over time, God will entrust you with bigger things down the road.

Or maybe you’ll get to the end of your life and realize that all those little things done with great love really were the big things after all.


Get to Vs. Have to

Something my pastor said today in his sermon at The Church at Avenue South made me think of something another pastor from Fellowship Bible Church said.

Most of us, including me, have from time to time looked on the different aspects of Christianity as a drudgery– as in I have to read my Bible, I have to pray, I have to share my faith with others.

That’s the wrong perspective.

Maybe instead you should see your life of faith as a delight– you get to read your Bible, you get to pray, you get to share your faith with others.

Those who serve best are the ones who love best, and the ones who love best are the ones who know more fully than anyone else that they are loved best.

Once you begin to grasp the infinite love of Abba Father for you (and it’s something that not even in eternity will you ever fully get to the bottom of), then what He asks of you is no longer a chore and a drudgery, but a blessing and a delight.

It’s not a time issue. You always make time for what you love. It’s a heart issue. What truly matters to you and where does God end up on that list?

I write from the perspective of someone who’s not nearly there yet. I also speak as someone who is daily being transformed into that kind of person who can fully live out of the knowledge of being the Beloved.

Fear is a poor motivator. Eventually, you get tired of being afraid. Love, however, is the fuel that never runs out. As much as you are loved, you can love others, and the more you love others, you find yourself receiving even more love in return.

Those who live loved will live to serve. Those who live blessed will live to look for opportunities to bless and be a blessing.

The end.



Getting Out of Yourself

I overheard someone say that this time of year can be the most difficult and depressing time for a lot of people.

The holidays, Christmas and New Year’s, are over and the real world has started back up in earnest.

Maybe you’re one of those feeling blue. Maybe you feel like everyone else has gone back to their lives and forgotten about you. Or maybe you feel like no one has ever noticed you.

Maybe you’re fretting about where you are in life and wondering if you’ll always be stuck there.

You spend a lot of time, maybe too much time, thinking about yourself and your problems.

The solution? Is it to get over yourself?

I think not.

I think the solution is to get out of yourself. Go and serve others who are in a worse position than you.

I volunteer at Room in the Inn, a ministry that gives homeless men a place to sleep and a warm meal on bitterly cold nights.

I don’t say that because I’m so sanctimonious and holy. I say it because I’ve often been the one who needed an adjustment in my perspective.

Here are men who have way less than me, who are dealing with struggles and issues that I’ve never even dreamed of, yet many of whom have a way better outlook on life than I do (most of the time).

Often in serving, you seek to bless only to find yourself the one being blessed. You seek to minister and find that you are the one being ministered to instead.

Those who complain and who are bitter are usually the ones who aren’t serving. The ones who are serving find they have little time to spare for griping and cynicism. They also find that you can never outgive God or bless more than you are blessed, and that has a way of changing your outlook.

Also, sometimes depression can be more than just being discouraged. Sometimes, it’s a chemical imbalance issue. Never be ashamed to get help. Never be ashamed to confess what you’re going through to trusted friends.

Remember that God is with you in this to the very end. And beyond.


Saved People Serve People

“Anyone God uses is always deeply wounded.  On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas, or honors, but for scars” (Brennan Manning).

It’s that simple. If you’ve experienced the love of Jesus in a real and tangible way, you can’t help but share that love with those around you. Like Mike Glenn says, you can’t hold the ocean in a thimble, and one person can’t contain all the love Jesus pours out on him or her without some of it spilling out onto those he or she comes in contact with.

Tonight, my friend Michael Boggs spoke about the passage where Jesus took off His outer garments and washed his disciples’ feet. That was His demonstration of what real leadership looks like. He said that the one who wants to be greatest must be servant of all.

Michael said something that convicted me. He said that in the end, Jesus won’t look at you and see titles, treasures, or trophies. He will look to see how dirty your towel is. He will see where you ministered to the least of these got your hands dirty in the process, because real tangible love is often messy.

Jesus kept the wounds in His hands, feet, and side to show us that in the end we won’t be known by our vast wealth or network or influence but by our scars.

You don’t get scars from sitting in a comfortable chair living out your perfect suburban life with a perfect wife and perfect kids in a perfect setting forever. You get scars by stepping away from everything that’s familiar and comfortable and going to meet Jesus in His most distressing disguise as a refugee or a homeless person or any of the least of these that are often ignored and overlooked.

Shameless plug: if you’re looking for a safe place to serve in the Nashville area, consider being a greeter for Kairos at Brentwood Baptist Church. It’s a much-needed ministry and a great way to get your foot in the door, ministerially speaking.

Whatever you do, remember the example Jesus set when He washed His disciples’ feet. That’s what true leadership and service look like.

The end.



One Year Ago (Almost)

It was a year ago that we officially launched The Church at Avenue South. Well, technically, it was a year ago tomorrow (if you want to be all nit-picky and exact). On September 7, 2015, a group of 115 stepped out in faith based on a vision they had of reaching those in the Berry Hill/Melrose area.

In some ways, it seems like only yesterday, yet at the same time, it seems much longer. So much has happened since then in the life of this growing congregation. We’ve seen both kids and adults give their lives to Christ. It’s been an amazing ride so far.

We’ve run into a good problem. We’re running out of space (again). It looks like at some point we may have to add a third service.

I don’t know why, but I’m still amazed at what God can do with mustard-sized faith. Even with the tiniest amount of consent, God can move those mountains of stone and turn those hearts of stone into hearts of flesh that beat in synchronicity with His own heartbeat.

Who knows what the next five years will bring? Or the next ten?

I’m grateful that I’ve been a part of it from the (almost) very beginning. I saw the building when it was a gutted shell. I look around now and I see a fully-functioning church building that serves the community and becomes a place where God takes on human hands and feet to serve those in need.

I keep thinking about what Jesus said in John 14. After all His ministry and miracles, He said that whoever believed in Him would not only do these works that He did but even greater ones. That seriously boggles my mind.

I’m not sure I completely understand what He meant by that, but I do know that we only limit ourselves by limiting God. God is more able to do incredible things than we are to believe that He can do these things.

I for one can’t wait to see what the next 12 months will bring to The Church at Avenue South.


Belmont Move-In Day, 2015 Edition


I’m sore. I don’t think I’ve been this sore in quite some time, but it was more than worth it.

I got out of bed at the most ungodly hour of 5:40 (on a Saturday, no less) to drive to Belmont Heights Baptist Church. From there, several Kairos folks and I went to the Patton-Bear Dorm to help move freshmen into their dorm rooms.

I’m feeling every bit of those six flights of stairs I climbed more times than I can count. I’m also feeling satisfaction over the knowledge that we helped to ease the stress and trauma (mostly to the parents of the freshmen). What would’ve taken all day for them took approximately five minutes.

I met four new canine friends who just happened to be hanging out at Belmont near where we were working. One was a rescued Boston Terrier who had the distinction of having one blue eye. I can’t fathom who would get a dog only to neglect, abuse, and abandon it. But I am glad he’s found a good and loving home at last.

Most of service in the Kingdom of God is being faithful in the details and small stuff. We earn the right to have our gospel message heard when we walk the extra mile with people and help them carry their burdens (in this case literal burdens). We gain an audience when we first listen to what they have to say.

I counted in my head and this makes my fourth year of toting boxes up and down stairs and seeing the faces of grateful freshmen and their parents. I also figured that most of the freshmen I helped the first time are probably getting ready to graduate in May of next year.

God willing, I plan to be back for my fifth year in 2016. Maybe by then I’ll be in better shape. Maybe we’ll get assigned to a dorm with less floors.


Another Night of Worship

I always love when Kairos has their Night of Worship.

There’s more emphasis on music, which is something that Kairos does well on just about any given Tuesdays but especially on nights like these.

The theme was My Brave Is. Basically, it’s facing whatever you’re most afraid of and realizing that God in Jesus has already overcome it. It’s knowing that Perfect Love casts out all fear, including that one that’s been gnawing at you for years.

The weather cooperated magnificently. What started out as a stupid hot and humid day turned into a lovely breezy summer night after some rain swept through the area. It made for a fantastic After Hours gathering where plenty of hot dogs and shaved ice got consumed (and corn hole was played by all).

I need nights like this. I need worship. I need to get my mind off of me for a little while and onto Something Much Bigger and Better.

Worship is like the reset button on my WiFi router. It’s like rebooting my laptop every so often. It basically reorients my life around the True Priorities after I’ve allowed it to get seriously off track.

Worship reminds me that I’m not in control and that it is not up to me. This God who is worthy of all the songs ever sung about Him is more than up to taking care of me and my problems and getting me where I need to be.

After all these years, I still love volunteering as a greeter and welcoming the people as they enter the building. I wonder if sometimes faces like mine might be the first friendly, non-threatening faces some people have seen all day. Who knows what difference even something as simple as a smile might make in someone’s life?

So, it was a good night. Even the little bit of rain at the end couldn’t dampen my spirits.

My brave is that God will not fail to make me who He always meant for me to be (even if I still don’t know what that is) and will finish what He started in me so very long ago.