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There has been a lot of talk lately about Arkansas Act 1002, a law passed by the legislature that prohibits local governments and state agencies from instituting mask mandates. There are those who are in favor of the law, and there are those opposed to the law. Some people have been very vocal, either in their support or their disagreement. These voices have, at times, crossed the line from healthy and passionate discourse into unhealthy and un-Godly name-calling, belittlement, and just plain rudeness.
There’s actually another 1002 that applies here – Luke 1002. Luke 10:2 is a verse where Jesus is preparing to send the disciples out into the surrounding towns to share the Gospel and he tells them, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” What a powerful reminder for us during these difficult and polarizing times. There is a great harvest out there waiting to be reached with the Good News of Jesus Christ, and God is calling us to go and shine his light and share his love. It’s hard to do that when we don’t start conversations about important topics from a place of love and grace, ready to listen as much as speak and respect opinions that may be different from our own. I love what Paul tells the Colossian Christians: “Live wisely among those who are not believers; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (Col. 4:5-6). These verses prompt me to ask myself: Have my conversations been gracious and attractive? Have I missed an opportunity to draw people to Jesus by my tone, my arrogance, or my spirit? The harvest will be left on the vine if we don’t find a way to reveal his love and his offer of salvation in a way that is pleasing in his sight. As John tells us in 1 John 4:12, “If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”
So please, as you are debating Act 1002, don’t forget Luke 1002. Don’t forget to be gracious and attractive in your conversation, and don’t forget that God’s love is brought to full expression in us as we find a way to love each other, even when we don’t agree. This will be critical not just for our witness to the world but also our witness within our walls here at Central in the weeks to come. I’m sure you’re aware that the CDC has put out new guidelines regarding the wearing of masks indoors (regardless of vaccination status) due to the rising number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from the Delta variant of the COVID virus. We are aware of this new guidance and are monitoring it closely. Our Board of Trustees, the body with fiduciary responsibility when it comes to policies affecting our campus, have called a special meeting for next week to consider these guidelines and what they might mean for Central. Please be in prayer for this group, for your pastors and staff, and for our church as a whole as we seek a way forward that is God-honoring. We will be keeping you up to date on anything coming out of that meeting, so be looking for an email next week.
It’s finally here. After a year-long delay, the 2020 Summer Olympics begins tomorrow in Tokyo. Over the course of 17 days, the world will be treated to world-class athletes competing in all kinds of sports, both those we are all familiar with and those most of us have probably never heard of – The Madison, anyone?
At our house we love watching track and field, gymnastics, and swimming. Another favorite over the years has been the Opening Ceremony. Although I don’t always understand everything that’s happening, the beauty and the pageantry are always impressive. One highlight for me is the lighting of the Olympic flame. Who could forget Muhammad Ali’s courageous lighting of the cauldron while battling Parkinson’s disease, or the flaming arrow flying across the sky in Barcelona? In case you have forgotten, here’s a cool two-minute recap of the torch-lighting through the years:
The slogan of the 2020 Summer Olympics torch relay is "Hope Lights Our Way.” I like that; in fact, I like it so much I might just steal it! What an awesome way for us to think about our journey with Jesus. In Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays this prayer for us:
I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
It is the hope of Jesus that lights up the darkness and keeps us going when things get rough. It is the hope of Jesus that reveals a way forward through the murky waters and serves as a beacon guiding our steps. As you watch the lighting of the Olympic flame Friday night, whatever cool way they choose to do it, remember it is the hope we claim in Jesus that truly lights our way! Take care, God bless, and see you Sunday as we turn to the Old Testament for the second prayer in our, “Before We Get Started…” series. You won’t want to miss it!
Together on the Journey,
My wife, Ashley and I have been here at Central for about a week now, and so far, so good! We had an amazing first Sunday, much of which can be attributed to the outstanding music ministry in both the Classic and Contemporary worship services. It is clear to all who enter the Sanctuary or the Great Hall that the Holy Spirit is present, and we were certainly filled with the Spirit on Sunday.
Anytime you move cities, change jobs, and transition into a new role, there will be things to adjust to, and this one is no different. There are new people to meet, a new staff to work alongside, new policies and procedures to learn, not to mention new restaurants to try! I hope you know what an amazing group of pastors and staff you have here at Central. I have already been so impressed by their collective love for the Lord and heart for the church. I also hope you know how grateful Ashley and I are for the warm welcome we have received from all of you. We loved meeting many of you this past Sunday, and we can’t wait to meet even more in the weeks ahead.
Speaking of Sunday, this week we begin a six-week focus on prayer. Before we get started on this journey together along with our journey through the Bible as a church (beginning August 29), I really want us to have a heart that is prayer-focused. As we look at six different prayers in the Bible, my hope is that we will be drawn into a life of prayer ourselves. So often we get busy with life and prayer gets pushed to the back seat, relegated to a quick grace over a meal, a rushed “Now I lay me down to sleep…” at kids’ bedtime, or a collective recitation of the Lord’s Prayer on Sunday mornings. I know for me, things are pretty hectic right now – my calendar doesn’t have a lot of white space! In seasons like this, I need to be even more intentional about my prayer and devotional life. These six prayers from the Bible will reveal to us six individuals who made prayer a key part of their lives; my hope is they will inspire you and me to do the same.
If you need some help getting started, let me offer you two suggestions. The first is the best book on prayer that I have read: How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People, by Pete Grieg. The second is the prayer for this Sunday, the first in the Before We Get Started… series. It’s from John 17:1-26, and it’s a prayer that Jesus prays on that Thursday night just before his arrest. Why not begin reading it today and prepare your heart for what God will do in you and for you this Sunday morning? See you then!
Together on the Journey,
With this entry, we come to the end of our blog series focusing on The Apostles’ Creed. By no means have Dr. Jan Davis and I covered everything there is to say about the creeds. Innumerable volumes have been written on these foundational beliefs of the Christian faith. In fact, the creeds themselves do not say everything there is to say about the Christian life and faith. In ancient times, these summary statements of the faith were used to instruct candidates for their baptism, which took place on Easter. The statements of belief would be posed as questions. For example, candidates would be asked, “Do you believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary?” and they would respond, “Yes, we do so believe.” They would then be asked the next question from the creed, “Do you believe Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, died and was buried?” Again, they would answer, “Yes, we do so believe.” Following this series of questions, the candidates were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
For this last blog entry, the focus is on the Church’s belief “in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” The creed has already affirmed the belief that on the third day Jesus rose from the dead. This is important, because as the Apostle Paul wrote, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being: for as all die in Adam so will all be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, NRSV). In sum, what happened to Jesus will happen to us. We, too, can live with this great anticipation that we will be raised from the dead. Pastor and scholar Matt O’Reilly observe, “For Paul, hope is all about the resurrection of the body. Why? Because that’s what happened after Jesus died. And Paul sees Jesus as the prototype for Christian hope.”
The belief that we will be raised bodily has great implications for how we understand our ultimate destiny. Oftentimes, we mistakenly believe that the final destination of the Christian is heaven. However, that is not the complete story of the Christian faith. Certainly, those who die in Christ are in a place so wonderful that Jesus calls it paradise (see Luke 23:43), but heaven is not the final destiny for the believer. Our ultimate destiny is life everlasting in the presence of our Triune God in the New Heaven and New Earth (see Revelation 21-22). This is what the early Church proclaimed to the world.
I like the way N.T. Wright articulates the full Christian vision of resurrection as being “life after ‘life after death.”’ Wright makes the observation that in the first two centuries of the Church the focus of the great teachers of the Christian faith was squarely upon the resurrection. He boldly states,
“Resurrection” doesn’t mean “going to heaven when you die.” It isn’t about “life after death”... It’s about “life after ‘life after death.’” After you die, you go to be “with Christ” (“life after death”), but your body remains dead. … What is promised after that interim period is a new bodily life within God’s new world (“life after ‘life after death’”). I’m constantly amazed that many contemporary Christians find this confusing. It was second nature to the early church and to many subsequent generations. It was what they believed and taught. … God’s plan is not to abandon this world, which he said was “very good.” Rather, he intends to remake it. And when he does, he will raise all his people to new bodily life to live in it. That is the promise of the Christian gospel.
When the candidates for Christian baptism were asked, “Do you believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting?” they answered, “Yes, we do so believe” with a clear understanding that God’s rescue and renewal mission would culminate in bodily resurrected believers from all tongues, tribes, and nations who will dwell in the presence of the Lord forever in the New Heaven and New Earth. May we all answer with hearts full of faith, “Yes, we do so believe."
 Timothy C. Tennant. This We Believe! Meditations on the Apostles’ Creed. (Wilmore, Kentucky: Asbury Theological Seminary, 2011), 13-15.
 Matt O’Reilly. The Letters to the Thessalonians. (Franklin, TN: Seedbed Publishers, 2020), 39.
 N.T. Wright. Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. (New York: Harper Collins, 2006), 218.
 Wright, 218-19.
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