Why I Celebrate Covenant and Death Today

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Eleven years ago today, Jason Albright, along with some other amazing men, stood next to me as I made a covenant with my wife to live together in marriage no matter what came. Little did I know how much I would need my new bride’s support 10 years from that day, on our tenth anniversary, when Jason Albright was tragically hit by a car and killed, leaving his beautiful bride and his perfect little daughter behind.

Jason was one of those guys that was a friend for life. It didn’t matter that we didn’t live in the same city, it didn’t matter that we didn’t live in the same state, if either one of us needed anything the other would have been there, no questions asked, he was like the biological brother to me that I never had. We talked on the phone all the time and he was a genuine source of encouragement and friendship for me especially in the last few years with all of the high highs and deep lows that come from planting a church.

On January 18th, 2013, he had pulled over to the side of the road trying to heroically help another young lady, whom he didn’t know, who was involved in a scary car accident and having problems. As he was helping her out of her car and tending to her needs to the best of his ability, another car flew through the accident scene and hit Jason and another man. Jason rolled up over the hood of the car, through the windshield and was killed.

In that one moment, Amy & I’s tenth anniversary was completely outweighed by, the absolute, tragic, heart breaking loss of one of my best friends. I just couldn’t believe it, it was completely surreal. You aren’t supposed to die when you are in your early thirties with a great marriage, job, newborn and life. Nothing about it was fair. I cried for weeks, every single day. If I think about it too long now, I’ll start crying again, this blog post is not helping my effort. I can’t even begin to fathom the depths of grief that Jason’s wife felt and feels every day in his absence. I pray for her and their little girl almost every single day still, a year later, and would ask you to do the same.

January 18th will for the rest of my life be a complicated day, but also a day of celebration. I celebrate the goodness of God to me in giving me a partner, a friend, a lover, someone to share life with, and Amy is as good as they come. My wife is a display of the grace of God to me in my life. The reason we can have a great marriage, and take a crazy adventure together in an initially strange and foreign city and plant SouthCoast Church in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale is because of the resurrection of Christ and His grace towards us. I would have quit already if it wasn’t for Him. The other reason that I can celebrate today is because of the resurrection of Christ. The hope that I have is not some fairy tale, its not some feel good story, its that Jesus overcame death, even the death of one of my best friends by overcoming the grave and rising again.

Today, more than ever, that resurrection is a declaration, it is a source of hope for me. The resurrection is so amazing that even in Jason’s death, Jesus became more real to me. To be honest, I had never NEEDED the resurrection like I did in that moment. Don’t get me wrong, I NEEDED it theologically, I understood what it meant, I understand that its the crux of Christianity. But that day, I NEEDED the resurrection. I NEEDED it to encourage me and build me up. I NEEDED it to keep me from feeling hopeless and drowning in a sea of questions asking why and being angry at God. I NEEDED it because I NEEDED to see Jason again. My heart still longs for his friendship and encouragement. I NEEDED to hear his infectious laugh again. I NEEDED his encouragement when I am discouraged and fighting for faith in this church planting adventure. As goofy as it may sound to some of you, I NEEDED it to celebrate with Jason when OUR Seminoles won the National Championship a week and a half ago. I NEEDED the resurrection not only theologically, but emotionally and relationally.

Even though many of these celebrations cannot be experienced fully in life right now, they fall into that beautiful gospel truth that we as followers of Christ live in the, “already, but not yet” stage of life. We get to experience God’s grace, glory, love, eternity, etc., but not in their fullness. We still live in a broken world, marred by sin and death. I know that I will get to celebrate and experience all these little things again, with Jason in heaven for eternity. That hope, that truth, makes his loss bearable. I am able to go about my life, celebrating the joys and beauty that God gives me everyday without allowing the sting of his death to make every experience one that I must experience without his friendship, but something that I can authentically celebrate.

The reason I can celebrate today, is because the grace of God, that came through the resurrection of Jesus, has given me a beautiful marriage. The reason I can celebrate today, is because the grace of God, that came through the resurrection of Jesus, has given me the hope, that Jason and I’s story isn’t over, and in fact, it never will be. We get to spend eternity together. You can’t make me a better offer than that.

As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 15:55, quoting the prophet Hosea, “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where O Death, is your sting?” Jesus resurrection removed the finality that up until that point had been death. Because of the resurrection, death is no longer death, its actually a place of birth for followers of Christ. A birth into a new and better life, that Jason is currently experiencing because of his faith in Jesus Christ. Jason’s reality is not a Hallmark card claiming he is in a better place, looking down on us, watching over us. That’s just what people with no hope in Jesus tragically tell themselves to make themselves feel better about the finality of death. Jason’s reality right now is joy and perfection. His reality is his infectious laugh making the other saints laugh, playing practical jokes on Peter and teaching Moses our patented pelvic thrust from our classic youth group song, Pharaoh, Pharaoh. He is reveling, basking and worshipping in the glory of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and I can’t wait to join him when the Lord decides to take me.

Tolerance vs. Love

It’s ironic that the people whom preach tolerance the hardest tend to be the least tolerant. That’s what happens when tolerance becomes your idol. Tolerance has become the holy grail in American culture. My pastor in Washington D.C., Mark Batterson says, “We live in a culture where it’s wrong to say something is wrong, and I think that’s wrong.” 

I want to propose why I think that Biblical ethic for “tolerance” is far superior than what our culture promotes as tolerance. Most importantly it is far more loving.

In our culture’s framework, you “tolerate” only until someone disagrees with you, then you demonize them. They become awful, close minded, people who can’t think for themselves. You are by definition at this point, not tolerant of that person. The irony here is that people only have tolerance for those that think like them, or live like them. 

In a Christian worldview, where love is the highest ethic, here is what scripture instructs us with. Regardless of what is done to me, or how someone may disagree with me, my response should always be love.

One of the most challenging verses in all of scripture says this, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another” – Romans 13:8a. This verse has challenged me more than maybe any other verse in the Bible. Here is how a Biblical ethic of love, not tolerance operates.

You steal from me, my response should be……………love.

You offend me,  my response should be……………love.

You reject me as a person,  my response should be……………love.

You hurt me physically,  my response should be……………love.

You disagree with my beliefs,  my response should be……………love.

You take away my “American” freedoms, my response should be……………love.

You sue me, my response should be……………love.

I could go on and on. This is why a Biblical ethic is so superior. There is nothing you can do to me, that I am not still required to show you love. Its the ultimate “tolerance.” I not just simply am commanded to tolerate you, but I am commanded to love you, despite that you disagree with me, despite that you offend me, despite that you take away my “freedoms.”

The Biblical ethic always takes it one step further. If you are a follower of Christ, don’t do what our culture says and simply “tolerate” people who are different from you, that’s not real love. Tolerance is conditional love. We are called to a much higher standard.

The reason we can do this, is because my sin against God far outweighs anything that anyone could ever to do me. As Romans 5:8, says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus loved me despite how my life offended Him, despite how rebellious I was. Because I have been shown such great mercy and love, my only response in the way that I treat others, by the supernatural, empowering grace of the Holy Spirit, despite what they may do to me, is to love them.

An Open Letter to the AFA and Christians Everywhere

As most of you know I am a Christian and a pastor, so I have plenty of thoughts about the shootings in Newtown, CT, but wanted to take a few days to fully process everything.

After listening to many soundbites from both sides, there is one well known Christian organization that deeply concerned me and angered me from some of the things they were saying. This organization is called the American Family Association, that according to their Mission Statement exists “to inform, equip, and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture, and give aid to the church here and abroad in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission.”

I do not personally know anyone that works at the AFA and I am sure there are some wonderful people there, but I was deeply concerned about some of the comments coming out of the AFA and Mr. Bryan Fischer after the Sandy Hook school shootings in Newtown, CT. I am sure Mr. Fischer means well, I am sure he is a wonderful man and I have nothing against him. We have the same big thing in common, is that events were horrific and terrible and we want kids to be safe. What we disagree with is how that actually comes about.

I tried to go the Matthew 18 route and I tweeted Mr. Bryan Fischer two times to try and contact him privately. He, as best I can tell, works for the AFA and hosts one of their radio shows. I tried to talk to him personally about my thoughts on his comments to which he never responded. I also tried to contact the AFA on their website, but when I put in the “captcha” code multiple times, it just wasn’t working. I could not contact them via their website, so I wanted to share my thoughts online.

I am going to share a few quotes from Mr. Bryan Fischer on his radio show in the context of his thoughts on the shootings.

  • “God is not gonna go, where He is not wanted.”
  • “We have spent 50 years telling God to get lost, telling God we do not want you in our schools.”
  • “We’ve kicked God out of our public school system.”
  • (God’s perspective according to Mr. Fischer) “Hey I’ll be glad to protect your children but you’ve got to invite me back into your world first, I’m not gonna go where I’m not wanted, I am a gentlemen.”

These quotes are incorrect to me on many levels and ultimately offensive to the integrity of what I believe is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Fischer said “God is not gonna go, where He is not wanted.” This is contrary to the nature of the gospel. The story of the gospel message is that Jesus came to a people who did not want Him, who did not desire Him. His very birth was met with King Herod trying to murder him. If what Mr. Fischer said was true, the incarnation, the story of Christmas doesn’t exist. This quote is completely contrary to the very nature of the gospel. God did not come here because we wanted Him, He came here because He wanted us.

The one that actually angered me is when He said, “Hey I’ll be glad to protect your children but you’ve got to invite me back into your world first, I’m not gonna go where I’m not wanted, I am a gentlemen.”

First, on a philosophical level, this is complete nonsense. What then do you say to the people that were gunned down at New Life Church in 2007 in Colorado Springs, CO? What do you say to the Amish School Children murdered in their “Christian” school in 2006 in Nickel Mines, PA. What do you say to the kids murdered in 1999 at the See You At The Pole Rally in Fort Worth, TX at Wedgewood Baptist Church?

If prayer alone would fix this problem don’t you think it would not have happened at churches and Christian schools.

Secondly, we come back to the very nature of the gospel, God has never and will never treat us as we deserve. He treats us as we do not deserve, with love, mercy, grace and kindness. He treats us with compassion and care when we rebel and live contrary to how He calls us too. If you think Mr. Fischer, that God will only take care of our children if we “invite Him back into our world” than you have a deep, deep misunderstanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christianity, in this worldview, is nothing more than a transaction, its nothing more than a, “if I do this, than God does this for me,” transaction. This type of theology breeds legalism, it breeds self-righteousness. I sure hope for the safety of my child, who attends a public school, where “God is not present,” that God will still protect him. I sure hope that the basis of God’s protection is not on the governments stance on prayer in schools, but on the love and compassion of the God that I serve.

Thirdly, how can you presume to know that the deceased principal was not a believer who everyday asked God into the school and to protect the children? You, by your very own logic are saying that just because prayer is legal in some places than that is the only type of prayer that is effectual. How do you know that people are not praying for safety in schools? I pray that my boys would be safe in their schools every single day. Jesus trumps laws 100% of the time. I don’t care if people say I can’t pray in schools. When I go into my sons public school to visit him, I walk up and down the hallways of that school praying for my kid, praying for the other kids. I may not be allowed to pray in public, in his public school, but that doesn’t stop me and I don’t think my prayers are any less powerful. I also don’t think if we let “God back in schools through prayer” it would make these problems magically go away. 

The problem ultimately, is not, God in or out of schools to the conservatives. The problem ultimately, is not, gun control to the liberals. The problem is that we as human beings are sinful and depraved. We, as human beings, need God to intervene in our nation, in our culture.

A little persecution sure hasn’t hurt the Chinese church. It is growing at unprecedented rates. Most missiologists say it is the greatest revival in the history of the world, where 25,000-35,000 people per day give their lives to Christ in a nation extremely hostile to the gospel. The point I’m trying to make is not to wish persecution on the American church, what I’m trying to say is that sometimes our Biblical values get too intermingled with American values of freedom, liberty and the “right” to pray or do Christian things publicly.

We as the church do not need to be on a culture crusade for every issue under the sun. Some things do need to be outlawed in my opinion, but thats not what I’m taking about right now. I’m trying to talk on a more macro level. We need to be loving people, preaching the gospel and making disciples. Thats how these problems are ultimately fixed, not cheap sound bites on both sides. One on one, in the hearts of men and women around the world. Will this fix every problem? Of course not, as long as people are alive we will be sinful and we as humans will do other hurtful things towards other humans.

People still break the law even though we have them in place. We will still have public shootings even if God was “allowed back in school.” You can’t stop it. Its not as simple as changing one law. “God being out of school” is just a reflection of the culture we live in. 

Let’s love Jesus, love people and do what God commanded us, which is to reach the lost and make disciples, not legislate our way into morality and change. When the hearts of men and women change, we won’t have to fight for legislation, it will happen naturally because its a reflection of the culture. 

Please, Mr. Fischer, be more cautious about what you say on the radio, I believe the type of theology you are espousing is dangerous to Christians and non-Christians and it doesn’t help the way we look as followers of Christ to people who are not believers.

I would also like to apologize on behalf of Christian leaders and pastors to the people that we lead and influence for the many Christian responses that are a misrepresentation of the gospel. My prayer is that this shooting motivates us even more to love the unlovable, to care for the people who are going through tough times, and focus on what really matters. 

Christians & Politics

Yesterday I exhorted the pastors and leaders, today its the lay persons turn. We are a few months away from electing the next POTUS and we are about to be waste deep in the always politically charged election year. Every 4 years in America we turn into these ravenous creatures that start lots of fights on Facebook, burn bridges with friends all to put our hope and trust in a leader that we will never meet, who will realistically not really fight for half the stuff we believe in. 

Where I would like to exhort Christians is in two main areas. First, don’t put your hope and trust in an earthly leader, put it in Jesus. Now I know you have heard that before, but unfortunately like many other issues, we are educated beyond our level of obedience. We know it in our heads, but we don’t live it our in our lives. Its amazing to see people get so enraptured by their particular candidate and they just think, “If I put my hope in this person, my life will get so much better, our country will get so much better, the world will get so much better!”

Its not true, we all long for change in our lives, but the truth of the matter is, no matter how hard you campaign, no candidate is going to change your life. Change starts on the inside and moves out. Put your trust in the leader that can actually change your life regardless of who is in office, Jesus.

Secondly, as a pastor it grieves my heart to see people completely give their lives to politics (not in the vocational sense, in the sense of how it captures your heart), make extreme sacrifices and completely neglect their local church. I would like to firmly remind you, that we are a citizen of the kingdom of God far before we are a citizen of our particular country. The two don’t even come close in their importance if you were to compare them side by side. We will acknowledge this intellectually, but it doesn’t change our behavior. This is where the problem lies. 

We lose sleep over particular issues, we send out email after email of forwards bashing a particular candidate, we tweet about it ceaselessly. Meanwhile our neighbor next door, our co workers, classmates and friends are on their way to hell and if we are honest, our actions show that we do not care for them at all. This is completely backwards and sinful. The only answer is to repent of our sin, and give our lives to the kingdom of God fully. 

I am not saying don’t be involved in politics, vote, I sure will. Campaign if you like, but watch what your heart gets caught up in, watch where you begin to put your hope and trust in. If you find yourself being more discouraged about the state of our republic more than your heart being burdened by the things of God than you need to repent of where you put your trust, politics has become an idol. 

An Exhortation To Political Pastors & Ministry Leaders

Over the last few years, I have gone through an evolution in regards to what I choose to vocalize as a pastor especially when it comes to politics. I am a very opinionated person and pretty much have an opinion about everything, from the color of the carpet, to complex political issues.

I would like to exhort pastors and ministry leaders to think a little bit differently when it comes to politics. I have made a conscious decision in what I choose to say publicly. As a Christian first, pastor and minister of the gospel second, my primary goal in life is not the success of this republic (United States of America for you internationals reading this) that I call home. I love America, I don’t think patriotism is sinful, I think its actually Biblical, but that’s another post, but we have to be careful about what we say.

As preachers and teachers our goal is to communicate the life transforming truths of the gospel and see those truths penetrate the hearts of mankind without any stumbling block. As Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians 6:3, “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.” I have stated many times publicly in our church, SouthCoast Church, and will continue to, that our church is not affiliated or aligned with any particular political party. We are functionally apolitical. 

This, in my opinion is vitally important for a few reasons, but one massive reason. I see many pastors tweeting about a particular candidate and his or her views on things and critiquing them. When you align yourself publicly with a particular candidate or ideology you are functionally, potentially ostracizing people from the gospel and placing a large stumbling block in your community. We all know how divisive politics can be and I would be mortified if I knew some lost people did not come to my church and experience Christ because of my outspoken political views.

Pastors, as scripture says in James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” We have to be even more careful than the lay person about what we say and how we say it. Even if you have a small church like me, people still watch how their leaders react to divisive political issues, because you represent Christ and your local church.

This doesn’t mean that you do not speak out about particular sins and issues that have fallen in the political sphere, you need to. We need to be a voice for the voiceless. I believe that we are cultural prophets calling people out of sinful, cultural practices. We are the preserving salt in our culture. That is a deeply Biblical issue close to the heart of Jesus. You just have to be gentle, careful, loving and very specific and intentional about how you say it.

I exhort you pastor, in this politically charged season whether you vote for Mitt Romney, President Obama or another candidate, don’t confuse your politics with the gospel. 

My Pop Weakness

If you know me, you know I am a man of many theories. As a musician and someone who has listened and played many different styles of music over the years, it has refined my musical palette.

I am a self proclaimed music snob. For one to keep up with one’s musical snobbery, you have to talk bad about mainstream music because only cool people with good taste who are real musicians listen to the stuff no one has ever heard of. (Hopefully you are picking up on the sarcastic overtones)

But here is my theory, every musician and music snob has at least one pop weakness. That artist, that when you hear the sugary sweet sounds of that pop music, you just can’t help but smile and enjoy the music. Now most musicians and especially pastors would never do this, but I am secure in my musical taste and my identity in Christ, so I am going to share my pop weakness.

Who is this pop artists that captures my ears every time I hear them? Katy Perry! I must confess, I love Katy Perry’s music, I know its not all Christian, and this is not the time to talk content, but she is my official pop weakness.

Maybe one day she can be one of our worship leaders at SouthCoast Church!

Jesus & Obamacare

Today, the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare. I have opinions for days on Obamacare and the role of the United States government in the role of its citizens lives. I have spent much time studying and forming opinions about how best the government operates and how what role it is to play in our lives according to scripture. But today, I am not here to talk about Obamacare. Old Ross would have done that, but not the new and improved version, but that’s another blog post as to why. If you ever want to have an off the record discussion about politics, I’m wide open, send me an email and I’ll stick it in my calendar.

I want to talk to you about how to see real change occur in our country and in the world. If you study movements in history, spiritual movements, social movements, they always come from the bottom up. Major social movements never start from the top and move their way down. They may eventually move their way down if they get in power, but they started small.

If you want to see real change in our country or in the world, IT WILL NOT COME FROM WHOEVER YOU VOTE FOR!!!! If it came from the top down, Jesus would have been a president, but He wasn’t. Don’t give into the political machine that feeds you about this person on the right or the left is going to be the savior of our country. It is a massive lie!

Isn’t it funny how every election is billed as the most important one. I hear it every year. If you want to see REAL CHANGE in this world, as a Christian, pray, reach the lost and make disciples. Why does it come this way? Because no government law has the power to change the hearts of men. Only Christ does that. When Christ changes hearts, then the laws of the land will reflect the reality of Christ in people’s lives. Give your life to what really produces change, the gospel and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

I’m not here to make a political statement, just an exhortation for believers of Christ and leaders to put their hope in the right things.


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The views are expressed on this blog are my personal views and not the views of National Community Church or Every Nation Ministries.

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