Do You Believe in Christmas?

BC“T’was the night before Christmas…” When we hear that expression (the night before Christmas), we usually begin to swell with anticipation of Christmas morning. These are the words that have been uttered for nearly 200 years in the eager expectation of a Christmas celebration. Clement Clarke Moore wrote that seemingly immortal poem on Christmas Eve in 1822. The following December, the poem was published and it ultimately swept across our nation. Today, when we hear those words, the night before Christmas, we are caught up in that suspenseful tale of Christmas Eve where “no creatures were stirring, not even a mouse.”

However, Clarkes Christmas story which depicts a household waiting for Christmas to arrive has a notable point of view. Clarke writes as one that had already experienced Christmas before. There is an anticipation of a wonderful celebration because this family already had known that the first Christmas had come. Christmas had come, so a day had been calendared to celebrate. Christmas had come, so an event was anticipated. Christmas had come, so hope and joy had settled upon all the house (including the mouse).

Well, when we talk about the “night before Christmas,” I want us to consider the night before the first Christmas. In other words, I want us to reflect on what it was like before Christ.

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We are Free, We are Family, We are Forever His

Jerome kearns slide This morning the director of Butler County Job and Family Services presented in our morning worship the critical need his agency has regarding the number of families needed in providing care for children at risk.  Mr. Kearns spoke for several minutes outlining several ways the faith community could help in mitigating the harsh realities of families right here in Butler County.  The statistics are more than telling, they are alarming and completely overwhelming. Unicef reports that there are 153,000,000 orphans worldwide. There are 20,000,000 orphans in Africa alone due to HIV. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in their Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System, there are over 101,000 orphans/children waiting to be adopted here in the states. In our back yard, Butler County has nearly 100 children waiting to be adopted.

Typically, they are waiting for years. If a child waits 3 years, he could move 3 or more times changing schools 5 times. If a child waits 15 years, he could move 12 times. For many cases, the waiting never ends. Children grow into adolescence which gives way as they become adults. Many children time out of the system with no family to go home to.

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Heroic Men

Heroic logpThere is a lot of noise in the world today. There is a continuous barrage of racket that constantly clamors for our time and attention. We are inoculated with a consistent stream of information. We are inundated with breaking news, status updates, commercials, advertisements, billboards and junk mail. The incessant use of Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat, Instagram and YouTube keep the volume blaring. As a result, we struggle with silence. The once coveted quiet moment is no longer appreciated. In our modern culture, when stillness comes and silence settles in, we get restless. We get uncomfortable. We prefer the noise.

Perhaps, this is why we struggle to hear. We are listening to so many things that we are struggling to really hear what must be heard. All the noise distracts us. The sights of pop culture deter us. The sounds of this world dissuade us and we are never unplugged. We awake every morning and turn on the TV or radio while running through our favorite social media. That morning program is not just a part of our routine, it’s the noise we need to get us going. Like the necessary morning coffee, it grabs our attention and takes hold of our focus.

Think about it, as we prepare for our daily deadlines and responsibilities, how much time in our day is spent in quiet solitude? When was the last time you had such a moment? How many have the discipline to rid themselves of the noise which lingers, to quiet their restless spirit and resolve themselves to purposely pursue the things of God?

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City of Houston Subpoenaed Pastor’s Sermons

imagesThe title of this post is correct.  The the city of Houston Texas has subpoenaed local pastors sermons in a targeted witch hunt.  High profile pastors that oppose the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance known as HERO have been singled out in an attempt to smear their character.  This highly controversial measure dealing with gender and sexual identity is the latest front of the ongoing social battle raging across the nation.  Most conservative evangelical churches refuse to compromise their faith by denying the teachings of the Bible regarding the homosexual lifestyle.  Therefore, this is the latest yet unprecedented attempt to bully and intimidate the church.  The city of Houston is clearly trampling on the separation between church and state in a flagrant disregard for the self evident right of religious freedom recognized by the First Amendment.  Below is an appropriate response by the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Church.


Russell Moore2During the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy traveled to Houston to assure Baptist ministers there that he was, in fact, committed to religious liberty and separation of church and state. The fear was that he, as a Roman Catholic, might not recognize those principles. He did. Turns out, the Houston ministers should’ve been less worried about the Vatican and more worried about, well, Houston.

Reports coming out of Houston today indicate that city attorneys have issued subpoenas to pastors who have been vocal in opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a measure which deals with gender identity and sexuality in public accommodations. The subpoenas, issued to several pastors, seek “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

I am simply stunned by the sheer audacity of this.

The preaching of sermons in the pulpits of churches is of no concern to any government bureaucrat at all. This country settled, a long time ago, with a First Amendment that the government would not supervise, license, or bully religious institutions. That right wasn’t handed out by the government, as a kind of temporary restraining order. It was recognition of a self-evident truth.

The churches, and pastors, of Houston ought to respond to this sort of government order with the same kind of defiance the Apostle Paul showed the magistrates in Philippi. After an earthquake, sent by God, upturned the prison where Paul and Silas were held, Luke tells us that the officials sent the police to tell Paul and Silas they could go. Paul replied. “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned men who are Roman citizens and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly. No! Let them come themselves and take us out” (Acts 16:37).

A government has no business using subpoena power to intimidate or bully the preaching and instruction of any church, any synagogue, any mosque, or any other place of worship. The pastors of Houston should tell the government that they will not trample over consciences, over the First Amendment and over God-given natural rights.

The separation of church and state means that we will render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and we will. But the preaching of the church of God does not belong to Caesar, and we will not hand it over to him. Not now. Not ever.

John Kennedy taught us, rightly, to ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country. Our country deserves our allegiance. But no government can set itself up as our god.

Remedy: Receiving the Gospel Cure

RemedySeveral hundred years ago, a great nemesis arose against the church in an attempt to silence the gospel witness of Christ. This adversary’s hatred of Christians was hot and his disdain for the church was strong. This formidable foe was unrelenting in invoking fear and trepidation upon Christian believers tempting them to compromise their faithfulness and quiet their visible response to Christ.

This opponent of the church was no back ally thug that crept about in dark shadows, rather this man was prominently positioned within the ruling class. He was extremely intelligent and highly educated. He had connections to high ranking officials. He had clout among those with authority and power. With his own drive, determination and ambition, he ultimately had a capacity to inflict great harm upon the followers of Jesus.

Therefore, he was bold in his action, daring in his vices and he made no effort to hide his destructive agenda to eliminate the church from this world. Therefore, much blood was shed and he tasted it in broad daylight for all to see. This man was not just a menace; this man was a monster that attempted to exterminate the church from the face of the earth!

Some people are pliable and easily molded, but not this man. His personality was cut from hard stone and iron. He would not bow to the established party line; he was inflexible and adamant regarding his own perspectives and religious positions. Therefore, his will was an unbridled force of destruction that no one could tame. So no one dared to stand in his way.

The whole idea that Jesus came to die on a cross was preposterous notion to him. The thought that Calvary was the answer to man’s problems (the remedy) was ludicrous. To believe that God would die on a tree was ridiculous blasphemy and anyone that suggested such was a heretic and they needed to die.

However, on one particular blistering hot day on a mission to put more Christian believers to death, Saul (better known to us today as the Apostle Paul, Saul once the greatest rival of the church), got saved.

Every conversion to faith in Christ is a miracle. When someone who is born in sin, shaped in iniquity, blind to truth, deaf to the gospel, dead to Christ and determined to go his own way comes face to face with the Risen Lord and enthrones Him as his personal Savior it is a miracle. However, when someone so antagonistic to the gospel comes to faith, it seems as if it is a miracle of a different degree.

Humanly speaking, everything was against Paul being converted. He was saved in spite of his heartless personality, in spite of the violence he perpetrated and in spite of the vindictive response to the message of the church. He was saved although he could not be reached with reason. He was saved though he was driven by burning hatred. Although he was “set in his ways” and possibly the last person we would ever think could be reached, Paul was saved.

The good news of Jesus changed everything and when Paul received the gospel cure he discovered the remedy. Jesus is the answer to all that ails you in life.  That is how Paul could boldly declare in the first chapter of Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.” (Romans 1:16)

Packing Love for Foster Care Children

Below is another article that appeared in the Dayton media market regarding the incredible gesture of students from LIFT camp and Cedarville University.  I hope this inspires you to go do something and impact your community with the love of Christ.

Lift logo2

CEDARVILLE — More than 800 high school and middle school students, attending LIFT camp at Cedarville University this week, are making a difference in our local communities.

On Thursday at Cedarville University, more than 100 suitcases were given to children in the foster care system from Butler County. There are 455 children in the foster care system in Butler County and 130 are waiting to be adopted.7-18-cedarville-foster-bags_21264

Cedarville University is partnering with LIFT camp and Butler County Children’s Services to raise awareness for foster care children and families. Butler County Commissioner Cindy Carpenter and a representative from Family Services of Butler County attended Thursday’s services, along with many foster care families and children who will be presented with the luggage.

With Butler County foster children in attendance, Cedarville University President Thomas White detailed the University’s full-tuition scholarship for one foster student. Cedarville began its foster student scholarship last year with Trina Jones of Xenia being awarded the scholarship.

Cedarville President, Dr. Thomas White, feels strongly about adoption. He and his family have been personally engaged through the adoption of their daughter Rachel.

“Adoption is at the heart of the gospel,” says White. “The Gospel allows orphans to become heirs and slaves to become sons of God through Jesus Christ.” Additionally, White said, “Through Cedarville University’s Foster Care Scholarship, we answer God’s call to care for the widows and orphans by providing a student with an education from a biblical worldview and welcoming them into the Cedarville family.”

On Wednesday evening, the Lift camp students raised $3,400 to purchase suitcases, and some students chose to give the suitcase they brought to camp this week for the cause. “Most of these [foster care] children are packing their belongings in trash bags and moving an average of 12 times over the course of 15 years.” said LIFT camp regional director Rob Rosenbalm. “This reality has moved us to do something.”

LIFT camp has been hosted by Cedarville University for 15 years and is sponsored by LIFT Student Ministries of Dallas, Texas. The camp averages 800 students each year who gather for one week to engage in Scripture and minister to the community in various ways. LIFT Student Ministries has served nearly 50,000 students nationwide since 1994 years.


The Love of Christ on Display

This was a fabulous moment that made headlines in our community.  Below is the local front page article that appeared in the weekend paper written by Denise Callahan.


Hooking up churches with Butler County Children Services appears to be a match made in heaven.

Usually, when social workers come to remove a child from a home, belongings are packed in garbage bags. About 800 students who were attending LIFT camp at Cedarville University near Dayton this week raised about $3,400 to buy 130 suitcases for foster kids in Butler County. Some even chose to donate their own suitcases and will return home with their belongings in trash bags.

“They said we’re going to donate our luggage and we’re going to give some money for luggage for these kids because they have to put all their stuff in garbage bags when they are yanked out of their homes,” Children Services Executive Director Jerome Kearns said. “We’ll give them something they can call their own. So all these kids that are up at Cedarville at camp are taking their clothes in garbage bags, because they gave their luggage to these kids.”

The connection between a camp for middle and high school kids at Cedarville University and Butler County foster kids germinated when Kearns held a series of community meetings at the start of the agency overhaul process in February. Pastor Rob Rosenbalm at the Fairfield West Baptist Church attended the meeting of faith-based organizations Kearns and his executive team held. He also is the regional director of the LIFT camp.

His church held a series of “Summer Slam” fun events at the church for about 100 foster children, families and others from the community this week and the LIFT camp kids came to help.

Cedarville University President Thomas White said about 20 foster children came up to the university Thursday night for the suitcase presentation.suitcase

“It was an amazing night,” he said. “It was a great, amazing time.”

White said the event was also an opportunity to let the foster children and others learn about the relatively new scholarship program the university offers for foster children in Ohio. Last year, the university awarded the first full-ride scholarship to Trina Jones of Xenia. The scholarship is worth about $120,000 and includes everything.

Rosenbalm said the LIFT camp kids took off with the suitcase idea as soon as he mentioned it. Other than making sure the foster children don’t have to tote their whole lives around in a trash bag, he said it was also a way to help raise awareness of the whole foster care and adoption issue.

When the faith-based organizations met with Kearns, they all were excited to help the agency with recruiting foster and adoptive families and mentoring. There are currently 455 children in foster care. Rosenbalm said he has been meeting with Kearns and others to get a handle on how the whole system works so he can educate and encourage families to become part of the system.

“We want to recruit, we plan on recruiting, we want to make sure we raise up those who can be parents within the foster care system. We want to raise up adoptive parents as well,” he said. “It is clear to me it is a compassionate response that I believe many in the faith community would be willing to journey in, if we take the time to faithfully explain it.”