Longing for Home

Written By: John - Jul• 01•15

When the world seems to be turning upside down I find myself longing for Home more and more.  That longing points us toward the reality of Heaven.  It is a longing that every man and woman has, but not every man and woman finds the proper fulfillment.  Some choose to try to fill that void with the things of the world, but the world will never satisfy the longing because the longing was created within us by the Creator of all things.  I love the way CS Lewis puts it,

A man’s physical hunger does not prove that a man will get any bread; he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic.  But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes from a race which repairs its body by eating and inhabits a world where eatable substance exist.  In the same way, though I do not believe (I wish I did) that my desire for Paradise proves that I shall enjoy it, I think it is a pretty good indication that such a thing exists and that some men will…”

Weight of Glory, pages 32-33

We were created for intimacy with our Creator.  Sin caused our grandparents, Adam and Eve, to be cast out of the Garden, but we will one day enter the Garden experience with Him again.  G.K. Beale put it like this,

Who will open the way back into God’s tabernacling presence?  Are we endlessly condemned to our lives east of Eden?  Jesus opens up the way back into God’s presence by the sacrifice of His body (Heb 10:19-20).  As a result, the life-giving waters that flowed in Eden now flow in and through those who believe in Jesus, becoming ‘a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (Jn 4:13-14).

God Dwells Among Us, pages 27-28

As the world turns upside down I long for the One who will turn it right-side-up!  As man continues to “exchange the truth about God for a lie” I will continue to focus on the Gospel.  As the Whitehouse lights up in rainbow colors and as Facebook profiles join the rainbow parade, I will remember that the rainbow came as a sign from God that He would not destroy the earth again by water.  I will remember that the Flood came as a result of God seeing that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  I will remember that while God promised to never destroy the earth through again by flood–He did not promise never to judge again.  Judgment is coming and we must preach the Gospel until He comes.

I will also remember that as with Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you (me), but you (I) must rule over it.”  I cannot allow myself to point out the sins of others without crucifying my own sin.  I must, in the words of Paul, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”  I must remember that I too once walked in darkness and that I was brought into light only by the grace of God.  I must show that same grace to those around me because God will give grace to all who call upon me. I must be salt and light because I have no other purpose for being on this planet.

Happy Birthday Kim Thweatt!

Written By: John - Jun• 30•15

 

IMG_0628 copyToday is my beautiful wife’s birthday! I can say that second only to my salvation, Kim has been the greatest gift God has ever given me.

We met off and on over a couple of years, but when God finally had us in the right place at the right time we both knew with a few weeks that we were meant for one another. The writer of Proverbs said, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised…” Can I take a few moments to praise the woman God gave to me as a friend, a partner, a lover, a wife, and the mother of my children?

I can say this will full assurance…I have never met a person who loves Jesus like Kim Thweatt. The summer we worked at Lake Forest Ranch was an amazing summer. Of course I noticed her physical beauty, but the glory of God radiated from her and still does. I’ve had people question me…Can she really be that happy? Can she really be that in love with Jesus? Can she really be in private what she is in public? The answer is a resounding YES! I’ve lived with her for over 21 years and I’ve watched the joy of the Lord grow day by day. She has had her moments—can you think of anyone married to me who wouldn’t have her moments?!—but I can tell you she is everything in private that she is in public.

How can I describe my bride? I think I’ll borrow from the Apostle Paul and describe her with these words:

Love. Never have a met someone who loves life like Kim. Never have I seen someone who loves her children like Kim. Never have I experienced pure love like I experience with Kim. Above all else—she loves Jesus like no one I have ever met. I do not know a more loving person than Kim.

Joy. I’ll never forget the moment she gave birth to Hannah, our first daughter. It had been a long and hard labor…I thought I’d test that joy for a moment by asking her, “Are you ready for another one?” Her eyes lit up, her smile grew, and she said, “Yes!” I’ve watched Kim take joy in the little things, the big things, and everything in between. She is the only person I know who has been stopped in the Publix parking lot, by a total stranger, and asked, “What makes you so happy?” I’m not sure he was ready for the answer, but I can tell you it is all Jesus. I do not know a more joyful person than Kim.

Peace. We’ve lived a blessed life, but it has come with its own share of trials—the surgeries for our daughters and income issues that come with ministry, but Kim has demonstrated the peace of God in more ways than I can explain. There is just a clear understanding in her heart—God is in control and He will take care of us.

Patience. How can I better demonstrate her patience than to say she has put up with me for 21 years! Kim has a unique ability to wait for God’s timing. She is the least materialistic person I know. She will wait for furniture and clothes because she wants to take care of her family. One year I bought her a dozen pairs of shoes for her birthday because I was tired of seeing the same pair day after day. Kim displays more patience than anyone I know.

Kindness. Wow. Can you name a kinder person than my wife? I’m not blessed with great amounts of mercy, but she is kind with the kindness of Jesus. I do not know a kinder person than Kim.

Goodness. Kim came to know Jesus at an early age and fell in love with Him and never grew out of that! She didn’t sow her wild oats because she loved Jesus. Why do we see the goodness in her life? She is full of Jesus and it shows. She is good in what she watches, in what she listens to, and in how she treats others. I do not know a good-er :) person than Kim!

Faithfulness. If you have a friend in Kim you have a friend for life. She is faithful to her God, to her husband, to her children, and to everyone around her. I have never worried about where Kim is or what Kim is doing—she is faithful. I do not know a more faithful person than Kim.

Gentleness. Great example—a couple of weeks ago I was chasing KJ through the house, trying to get her in bed—she stubbed her toe on the kitchen door-frame and was crying. I said, “KJ, you stubbed your toe—get to bed.” Kim, tenderly got her to bed, put ice on it, and loved her to sleep. You can guess how I felt when I found out she broke her toe! Thanks God for the gentleness of Kim in the Thweatt household! She is the most gentle person I know.

Self-Control. Once again, let me picture her self-control like this—she has been married to me for over 21 years and I’m not dead! Seriously, she is diligent and determined and strong and in control through the Spirit’s power.

Proverbs 31 talks about a woman like Kim and says, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” I do not have the time or space to do diligence in praising my wife, but this will have to do. I’ve not mentioned her hospitality, her beautiful voice, her ability to lead worship, and her ability to teach, but I will say I am indeed most blessed among men because God allowed me to marry Kim Thweatt. Happy Birthday Kim Thweatt!

Statement on the recent Supreme Court decision.

Written By: John - Jun• 29•15

Yesterday I made the following statement regarding the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all fifty states.  I must give credit to Dr. Albert Mohler for the idea behind the everything has changed and nothing has changed.  You can read his statement here.  The rest is from the heart.

Dear Church,

I know that you share my burden over the direction in which our Nation is headed…especially in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday. In a real sense, their ruling has changed everything. The Nation whose pledge has the words, “One nation under God,” has rejected God’s view of the very foundation of society. The Nation on whose money we find, “In God we trust,” has instead chosen to trust in secular wisdom and to call good what God has called sin. The Nation of whom someone once said, “America is great because she is good,” has now joined the ranks of the secular and the pagan nations across our world.

It didn’t happen suddenly…the shift has been slow and steady, but the proverbial snowball is now rolling and apart from a major move of God we are in for troubled days. Everything has changed.

But in another sense nothing has changed. Here at FBC we will continue to focus on the Gospel because in this place God is Supreme not the Supreme Court. We will continue to devote ourselves to the clear teaching of the Word of God because God is the Authority—not the law of man. We will continue to love the sinner and show them the grace God showed us, but we will not back down…not one inch…from the clear teaching of the Word of God.

From this point on we will, in the words of Joshua, “choose this day whom we will serve…” I can say that “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord,” and nothing is going to change that. Peter and John were asked to stop preaching Jesus and they responded, “Whether it is right before God to obey you rather than God, you decide, for it is impossible a for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”

From this point on—the members of this Church will continue to be Christians before we are Americans, before we are Republicans or Democrats, and even before we are Southern or Alabamians. We will be patriotic and we will be good citizens out in the world in which we live, but in here we will pledge allegiance to God and we stand upon His Word.   We will continue to pray for our Nation and we will be thankful for those who have given their lives for our freedom, but as we see that freedom slowly erode we will remember that to say, “My Nation right or wrong is like saying my mother drunk or sober.”

Our first allegiance is to God. The Word is our standard, God is our Lord, and we will bow our knee only to King Jesus, and the Cross will wave higher than any flag.

Everything has changed and in a real sense nothing had changed…we will keep being followers of Jesus and we will keep living the Gospel in a world that is increasingly becoming like the world in which Jesus and the Apostles lived. We will not despair because man doesn’t get the last word. We will not give up because we are not those who shrink back and are destroyed…we are of the stock that presses on and knows that Jesus reigns and He is coming back and He will right all wrongs and restore this world to that which it was supposed to be.

So with that said—we must pray and then we will go back to Acts and see how Paul faithfully lived even in the presence of ungodly rulers.

A few more thoughts on the removal of the Confederate Flag.

Written By: John - Jun• 26•15

Since my post on the removal of the Confederate Flag I’ve heard from several people. For the most part the comments have been positive, but the overwhelming point against the removal of the flag has been along the lines of, “Removing the flag won’t remove the racism or the hate.”

That is true. If we suddenly removed every Confederate Flag in the world, racism would still exist, but I think the removal of the flag from places like the State Capital will go a long way toward a future where, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” It would be a good start toward a future where black men and white men won’t feel the need to kill someone because of the color of their skin.

Let’s be honest…the only thing that will change racism is to change the heart and the only way we can change the heart is with the Gospel. Paul is an amazing example. Before he was saved he hated the Gentiles. Most likely he said the daily prayer, “God, I thank you that I was not born a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.” (Doesn’t that bless your heart!) To put it plainly, Saul was a racist. He hated the Gentiles because they were not Jews.

BUT GOD changed his heart. The one time hater of the Gentiles became the Apostle to the Gentiles. He would go on to say, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It is only the Gospel that can change a racist heart.

I don’t think everyone who flies a Confederate Flag is a racist, but I do think a child of God should do everything they can to not cause anyone to stumble. Once again, the cross is our standard for Christian conduct and as children of God our citizenship is first and foremost a Heavenly Citizenship. The Cross waves higher than either the Confederate or American flag in the life of the child of God.

Thoughts on the Confederate Flag’s Removal

Written By: John - Jun• 24•15

Confederate FlagI’m a son of the South. To be quite honest I’ve always looked at the Confederate Flag as a matter of Heritage and not hate. While I readily admit the Civil War involved disagreement over slavery—it was more about the rights of the individual states. I have family members who fought for the South and in every other war our nation had endured.

I spent the majority of my childhood in two places. My father retired from the United States Air Force and we spent a few years stationed overseas, but the majority of my first 15 years were in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Mississippi isn’t known for its racial reconciliation, but living on the Gulf Coast was different. Some of my best friends were African American and both my mother and father taught me that we were all created by God and were equal in His sight. I’ll be forever thankful for those lessons.

In the middle of my 9th Grade year we moved to Boaz, Alabama. I can safely say I experienced more culture shock there than when I first stepped off a train in Beijing, China. Sand Mountain was a different world for me. I left the Gulf Coast for the hills of Alabama and it wasn’t only the geography that was different. With the exception of two African American girls the school was white, but the lack of racial diversity didn’t take away the racial bigotry. In fact, I encountered a hatred that shocked me. I remember talking about some of my African American friends back home, my shock that someone would hate someone they had never met, and I was called a “Nigger lover,” by a few in my class.

Let me say, that was not the attitude of every student, but racism was alive and well on the Mountain that once had a billboard telling African Americans, “Nigger, don’t let the sun go down on your back.” I saw it in the schools and as I grew and began to pastor I noticed it in the churches as well. I remember a deacons meeting in a church where I served as Student Minister. I was responsible for a Mission every Sunday—we took the church bus to the place where the majority of African American’s lived and bused them to the Mission.

We always struggled to get workers and I suggested we take them to our church where they could join the Sunday School classes that already had Sunday School teachers and I’ll never forget on of the deacons openly stating, “I don’t want them in our church,” and asking me if I’d want one of my daughters to marry one. I was shocked…more at the inaction of the pastor and other deacons, but I couldn’t believer racism manifested itself among the “spiritual leaders” of the church and that it went unchecked.

I’ve encountered it again and again as I’ve pastored churches in Alabama. Racism isn’t limited to the South and it certainly isn’t limited to white people, but it is real, it is a disgrace, and it is sin. You can’t state it any other way—racism is a sin. We are all created in the image of God, we are all sinners in need of grace, and we all come from the same two people—Adam and Eve. Racism has no place within the people of God.

Paul spoke of how we are to treat one another. In 1 Corinthians he dealt with eating food sacrificed to idols and said we are to watch out for our weaker brothers. He said, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” He was willing to give up his own person rights for the good of another.

I’ve seen the Confederate Flag as a matter of heritage—it honors my Southern forefathers, but many have taken that flag and turned it to a symbol of hate. If I were an African American, how would I view the Confederate Flag? If I were an African American I would associate that flag with those who wanted to keep my forefathers as slaves, but even more I would associate it with those who are known racist. There simply would be no other way to see it.

I’ve heard the arguments—if we have to take down the flag…what about the Malcolm X shirts, what about the Black Panthers…, but those aren’t flown over the Capital Building. Quite honestly, it is time to move on. It is time to do what we can to make sure that we are not causing our brothers and sisters to stumble. I think we can honor the men and women who fought in the Civil War. Men like Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson were godly and torn between their Nation and their State and we should honor their lives, but at the same time we should move on as a Nation.

As a son of the South and resident of the State of Alabama, I applaud my Governor in taking down the Confederate Flag from the State Capital grounds and I hope other Southern governors will follow his example. As a person who lived in the state of Mississippi for the first part of his childhood, whose parents were born and raised (you are raised and not reared in Mississippi!) there, and as one who has all of his grandparents buried there—I hope you soon change your flag.

You see, whether it is the Confederate Flag or the American Flag—the Cross stands higher than the flag in the life of a Christian and I don’t want anything to stand in the way of the Gospel.

I’d suggest you read the following from   Dr. Russell Moore

“More real than the chair I am sitting on!”

Written By: John - Jun• 17•15

Can you relate with the following quote?

“There have been times when the felt presence of God was more real to me than the chair I am sitting on;

when the Word ricocheted like broken-back lightning in every corner of my soul;

when a storm of desire carried me to places I had never visited.

And there have been times when…

When I identified with the words of Mae West, ‘I used to be Snow White—but I drifted;’

When the Word was as stale as old ice cream and as bland as tame sausage;

When I mistook dried-up enthusiasm for gray-haired wisdom;

When I dismissed youthful idealism as mere naiveté;

When I preferred cheap slivers of glass to the pearl of great price.”

Brennan Manning

I can.  I’ve tasted the first part and found it intoxicating and have lived far too much in the second half.

One Step at a Time!

Written By: John - Jun• 16•15

I remember the first time I committed to run a full marathon. At that time I was running two to three miles a day and for some reason I let Ryan Whitley talk me into training for 26.2 miles. The key to training for a marathon is putting in the miles, but it goes beyond the physical—the key is mental preparation.
I can remember running to the point that I felt I could not go one more step. I’d play tricks with my body—I would identify a marker a few hundred feet ahead and says, “Ok, if you can get to that mailbox you can walk…” Of course when I would get to the mailbox I’d identify another marker and keep pushing my body, but there were times when my body overruled my mind. It was as if my legs just said, “That’s it…we are through,” and no matter what my mind said they just started walking on their own!
The key was to keep going a little more than the week before. For example—you don’t start with a 20 mile run. You start with three and then you move to five and five becomes seven and seven becomes ten and ten becomes thirteen and so on…the more you run the more you can run. Sooner or later your mind is able to say to the body—you ran this far last week…you can run a little further today. Physical preparation is essential, but it really comes down to the mental preparation.
I found the same thing to be true in football. A good coach will know how far to push his players. There were times when we felt we could not run one more sprint, but the coach knew we could and he would push us to the brink of exhaustion. Why? He did it so that you would be able to keep pushing in the fourth quarter when everything in you wanted to quit. I remember the first day of practice at Samford. The morning practice didn’t seem too bad and I remember thinking I’ve got this…I’m ready for this.
That afternoon we came to the end of practice and the head coach lined us up on the goal line. We ran 100 yards up and 100 yards back. If we all ran hard he moved up 10 yards and we ran 90 yards up and 90 yards back. He did that over and over again until we got to the 40-yard line and I literally lost count of how many we ran. When that day was over and I really didn’t die—I knew I could make it. It was both mental and physical.
The Christian life is fought in the mind. We are told to set our minds on the things above. We are told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We are told that we have the mind of Christ. We may feel as if we couldn’t pray one more minute, but we find ourselves praying more and more. We may feel that we can’t read one more chapter, but we find ourselves hungering and thirsting for His Word. We may feel that we could never miss a meal, much less fast for days, but we find ourselves fasting 7 days, 21 days, and ever 40 days. As we grow in the Spirit our minds grow and our bodies follow.
I hope you can look at your life today and marvel because you would have never pictured yourself doing what you are doing a few years ago. I hope that is true of you because you are growing and walking in His Spirit. I want to encourage you to dream big dreams spiritually and to set out in Him one-step at a time. Live in the present so that you’ll be able to amaze yourself with your progress in the future!

Chinese Big Adventure #3!

Written By: John - Jun• 08•15

Thank you for your prayers. We finally arrived home from a 12-day trip that turned into a 13-day trip from China. It was a great trip and I learned several lessons.

First, travel overseas never goes as planned. We flew from Birmingham to Atlanta to Los Angeles to Guangzhou to Wenzhou China and we returned in exactly the same way.   Five of the flights involved significant delays and one of the flights, the big one home, was missed. We stayed in more cities than I can count, more hotels that I would prefer to never visit again, and ate in restaurants where the owners took our pictures because we were the first ‘foreigners’ to ever visit. It was quite the Big Adventure.

Second, the Chinese people are beautiful, friendly, kind, and generous. We were an attraction regardless of where we went, but the people were always wonderful. We were fed well, we were taken care of, and we had a wonderful time getting to know the men and women with whom God allowed us to minister.

Third, China is huge. I am overwhelmed every time I go there. We went to one city—I seriously cannot tell you the name because I could never really get the pronunciation, but we called it Scooter City because of the thousands of scooters, but some of the folks referred to it as a small city…when I pressed for a number I was told it was only a couple of hundred thousand. That’s pretty big, but when you consider Guangzhou City has three times the population of the State of Alabama, you get the idea. The day after we arrived in Wenzhou we went on a road trip that was the equivalent of driving from Pell City to Dallas. As we drove, I was amazed at the number of people, the sky rises, and the construction that seemed to be taking place 24 hours a day.

Fourth, the government is in charge. Make no mistake—capitalism is alive and well in China, but there is no question as to who is in charge. We saw several churches that no long have their cross at the top of their steeples, one that was torn down, and another that had to tear down parts of the building. It was a sad reminder of the freedom that sways by a thin thread. We were able to minister in several places, but we were also aware of the need for discretion.

Finally, the church is alive and well and the Kingdom of God is advancing. We were able to teach in one church where upon arrival we found out that we were the first ‘foreigners’ to ever visit. That was humbling, but even more so was to know that in that city the Cultural Revolution resulted in the killing of every single Christian with the exception of one man. We met his wife that day, but the man behind the ‘revolution’ is dead and gone and the church is still growing.

We toured a cave where Mao and his Red Army hid out…as we walked through the cave I couldn’t help but think of the irony that Christians from America were walking where the man who sought to wipe out every trace of Western influence once hid. We went to a building that once housed the office of Mao, but was used to start a church several years later. God works in amazing ways.

God is doing amazing things among the Chinese people. His Kingdom is advancing and He is bringing up a mission force for which the world will be a better place. I am thankful to have been able to go back and I hope to go back again soon. Keep the Chinese Christians in your prayers. They were genuinely shocked and moved by the fact that we are praying for them…let’s not forget to continue.

Abba Father

Written By: John - May• 18•15

Posted a song yesterday by Jonathan David and Melissa Helser…loved it, but this one…wow!  Can’t say enough about the truth of this song!

No Longer a Slave!

Written By: John - May• 17•15

I love this song!